For me, one of the best things about last weekend’s FAST FORWARD festival was seeing two comrades I organised with in the early- to mid-1990s. We’ve been involved in different political projects over the intervening two decades, we live in different cities, different countries even. But every year or so I encounter one or the other of them. At some demonstration or protest. At a conference. Maybe a social event where there’s a bunch of politicos. I like the fact that we share political histories stretching back a quarter-century. I like it that I know these people who keep turning up, on the streets (or in the fields — I’m thinking of the summit protests of the counter-globalisation movement and climate camps), in our political meeting spaces, like bad pennies. Enoch Root types. The radical. Enoch the Red. It’s definitely to the credit of Plan C, FAST FORWARD and its organisers, that these bad pennies were attracted to the festival.

I’m working on the layout of a new edition of Victor Serge’s Birth of Our Power, so I’ve just been reminded of how Serge opens his autobiography. I remember reading it about 30 years ago and those lines really struck a chord. There’s something in that notion of “an impossible escape”. Our idea of what’s possible at any moment is shaped by our immediate conditions: most of the time it feels like tomorrow is going to be exactly the same as today. But every now and then something happens and you find yourself popping your head out and seeing an entirely different terrain.

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Like much of the planet’s population (if the media is to be believed) I have done a certain about of reflecting and even mourning over the past week or so. Of course I am glad that Nelson Mandela did not die in prison. But at the same time I cannot help feeling a certain nostalgia for that time when he was incarcerated on Robben Island — at least for that part of my life, the 1980s, when I’d become aware of him, his plight and the broader struggle he was part of.

A couple of us recently traveled to Dublin to speak at the “Struggles in Common” conference organised by our good friends the Provisional University. While we were there we did a talk at the Seomra Spraoi social centre, for which we created this rather fetching poster. For this event we tried out some material which later ended up in our Rock ‘n’ Suicide article. The talk was well received and led to some really great discussions but looking back at the poster it’s apparent an important theme was lost between this talk and the subsequent article.

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Political organisation in post-crisis UK

A version of this article will appear in the forthcoming issue of arranca, no. 47

 

The year is 1973. David Bowie, in the guise of his persona Ziggy Stardust, is on stage at London’s Hammersmith Odeon. It is the end of a hugely successful sixty-gig tour. The figure of Ziggy Stardust has deeply affected many – the cultural movement of Glam he has sparked is an important moment in loosening gender roles. Yet just before the final song of the night, ‘Rock’n’Roll Suicide’, Ziggy announces: “Not only is this the last show of the tour, but it’s the last show that we’ll ever do.”

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The concepts and words used typically to describe and understand our realities are inadequate to the task of interpreting, and accompanying, those societies in movement.

It is as if the capacity to name has been trapped in a period transcended by the active life of our peoples. Many of the assumption and analyses that shaped us during the struggles of the sixties and seventies have become, to borrow a phrase from Bruadel, “long-term prisons”. Quite often, they stifle creative capacity and condemn us to reproduce what already known and has failed.