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As all that is solid melts to air and everything holy is profaned...

Monday, December 31, 2007

Occult rock - Black Widow

Here is a blast from the past…

Mandrake of Oxford (run by my old friend Mogg Morgan) have just posted the following in their newsletter about Black Widow and their notorious song ‘Come to the Sabbat’. I remember hearing this about 1974 - a Black Sabbath loving school friend had a copy of their album… we didn’t think much of it, not very heavy metalish… but then we weren't too impressed by The Stooges either back then.

A few years ago I found the song - track 15 -on a Best of Progressive Rock cd which came out in 2000. Now you can buy a whole video of these early precursors of Psychic TV.

I still think the song is pretty crap- 'leaden' and 'turgid' are the words that come to mind. Blood and Roses did it so much better.

Here is Mogg's piece -

Black Widow Live
Available from Mystic Records www.mysticrecords.co.uk (cat number 82356644792)

Here is the show that caused so much controversy in the 1960s press and with audiences, got this cult group banned by the BBC and from touring in the USA.
For many years now, the Album Sacrifice and especially the single 'Come to the Sabbath' has been the unofficial anthem of the pagan movement.

Almost forty years ago, I remember buying my first ever album (Black Sabbath/Paranoid) then being told by friends that what I really wanted to hear was Black Widow - far more edgy. Trouble was no one could get a copy, and everyone confused them with Black Sabbath - the rest is history for what is called the most unfortunate of bands.

The release of their well crafted album, whose underlying concept and accompanying stageshow benefited from the imput of the infamous Maxine and Alex Sanders (the whole story is told in Maxine's new autobiography Fire Child - see above) . Trouble was it also coincided with the Sharon Tate/La Bianca murders. So all in all the album sunk without a trace and Black Widow eventually split.

But steadily over the years, their albums, especially Sacrifice, continued a twilight existence. But no one really knew what they were like live and what was that infamous stage show?

Clive Jones, the talented saxophonist and flutist remembered that one of their singles was filmed for the German equivalent of Top of the Pops. For many years he worked to track down the original producer, and was eventually promised a remastered copy of the film. When it eventually arrived, he was stunned to discover that the DVD included the entire stage show, which had been done as a warm up in the afternoon before the broadcast. Clive has had no memory of this, perhaps its another example of the old saying "if you can remember the 1960s, you weren't there".

This DVD and accompanying CD is a fine piece of Rock and indeed occult history. And what a wonderful undiscovered classic is on offer here. Filmed in black and white you get the full ritual opening, then the invocation of the Ashtoreth, whose look is clearly modelled on the original concept created by Maxine Sanders as documented in her autobiography. The story moves to the 'demoness' as she attempts to seduce and possess the magician, then the battle and final 'licence to depart'.

The Black Widow vocalist, musicians and dancer all look great. The whole performance is very dramatic, real and physical with the incense burning and the building of power tangible. Furthermore, it is a very aesthetically pleasing stage show.

It's a really great Rock film, it's a really great Pagan film, with the added bonus of live versions of all the tracks, all of which are longer and musically richer than the studio album.

Black Widow Live Stage Show DVD plus live bonus CD - circa 15.99 UK Pounds (12.99 if you order before end of January) - got to do it really. [Mogg]

PS: Very well worth checking out is the Black Widow official website www.blackwidow.org.uk also the Mystic Records UK website www.mysticrecords.co.uk and 'Pasi' and 'Black Widow' pages on myspace.

Crass get wired

From Wire magazine January 2008
Click on pic to enlarge and read.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

The day we nearly died

To be broadcast on Channel 4 on Saturday 5th January 2008 at 7:30pm


“This was more dangerous than the Cuban Missile Crisis” declares an interviewee in Flashback’s dramatic new Cold War drama-doc airing on Discovery Times on September 19th.
This major film represents 18 months extensive research into the events of November 1983 when leading figures in the Soviet Union thought they were about to come under nuclear attack from the West. And it follows the Soviets as they prepared for a full scale nuclear retaliation against an unsuspecting United States and western Europe.

“We may have been at the brink of nuclear war and not even known it,” declares Robert Gates, a key interviewee for the programme. Gates was deputy director of intelligence of the CIA at the time. The interview with him was recorded by Flashback in October 2006. In the following month Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense and is now one of the most powerful figures in the United States.

This film is a story of double agents and spies working deep undercover. It is a story of two superpowers accidentally heading towards nuclear Armageddon. It is a gripping story and the first ever telling on TV of an almost unknown Cold War incident. In the US the film is called SOVIET WAR SCARE 1983 and it runs for 2 hours on Discovery.

In the UK it is called 1983 – THE BRINK OF APOCALYPSE and it runs for 90 mins. It will be shown on Channel 4 in early 2008. The film includes interviews with senior US military and CIA figures of the day. It features interviews with senior KGB officers from the Soviet Union and with members of the Soviet strategic nuclear forces who were mobilised in November 1983.
Producer-Director – HENRY CHANCELLOR

Line Producer – CHERRY BREWER

Executive Producers – TAYLOR DOWNING and SAM ORGAN

1983 – THE BRINK OF APOCALYPSE is distributed by Channel 4 International.
To be broadcast on Channel 4 on Saturday 5th January 2008 at 7:30pm

Friday, December 28, 2007

Dangers of history

This is is from a talk given by Ian Paisley at Wigtown Book Festival earlier in 2007 - in which he re-asserted the reality of the Wigtown martyrs' deaths. See
http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~dfsgal/Wigtown/mrtyrs-04.htm for more

It wasn't quite fire and brimstone, but Dr Ian Paisley's first visit to Wigtown in 22 years still got a few sparks flying. Around 300 packed into the Wigtown Book Festival marquee in the town square to hear Northern Ireland's First Minister give a sermon from the gospel according to Paisley.

For that's exactly what the audience got for the first half hour of a revealing lecture, wherein he railed at those who purveyed the view that the Wigtown martyrs' executions were a myth - and praised Sinn Fein for keeping their part of the bargain to ensure devolved government returned to Northern Ireland.

Dr Paisley set Margaret McLauchlan and Margaret Wilson ,and the covenanting movement in general on a pedestal, claiming their sufferings in the late 17th century ensured the freedoms Scotland and Northern Ireland enjoy today.

As 'Bloody Claverhouse' got his come-uppance for murder and rapine in the name of King Charles', it was obvious that for Dr Paisley his visit to Wigtown was more than another diary date.

For the die-hard unionist, grizzled politician and peacemaker at last, this was a pilgrimage to a place which, through the graves of two women in Wigtown's old kirkyard, was akin to a shrine.

Peculiarly for a man renowned for austere Presbyterianism, Dr Paisley eulogized the martyrs with such reverence it made one feel had the two Margarets been members of the old Scottish church, sainthoods would have been in order.

In hushed tones he took his audience through the women's grisly but courageous deaths at the stake. He could have been speaking of Joan of Arc, the only difference being that for France's saviour fire was the tool of death, not water.

Denigrating the martyrs' executioners, he said: "Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLauchlan have obtained in our time and in the time of our fathers a celebrity such as their accusers, their judges, their persecutors and their cruel murderers never dreamed of.

"Bloody Claverhouse was more than bloody, he was baptised by hell itself - he was an Iscariot. I believe that the blood of the martyrs is the seed that has brought a blessing to my country and to yours."

He laid into Sheriff Napier's work for casting doubt on the martyrs episode, the author "who had written this book to try to cover up the bloody deeds of Bluidy Claverhouse and his friends" and challenged his listeners to remember the two Margarets' sacrifice.

"Ulster, the Province that I love and you in Scotland owe our freedom to these women and others who fought the battle in their day and who refused to bow the knee to false religion, and were determined to do as God would have them do," he said.

That rather one-sided interpretation of Scotland's less than happy state in the late 17th century was not universally shared by his audience.

To applause, one elderly lady reminded Dr Paisley that the same narrow-minded Presbyterian church government was responsible, either directly or indirectly for the massacre of Glencoe, the burning of thousands of innocent women at the stake as 'witches' and the enslavement of thousands in the plantations.

"It would be unfortunate if we just took one story, and not all the stories from that time," she said.

From http://www.gallowaygazette.co.uk/news/Paisley-praises-Sinn-Fein-in.3270561.jp

The full article contains 1197 words and appears in the Galloway Gazette newspaper. Last Updated: 05 October 2007 10:53 AM Page 1 of 1

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Making history out of the ruins

This was written for Kill Your Pet Puppy but - maybe has a bit too much on Galloway Levellers and not enough punk. It is now Boxing Day and I am listening to The Cure/Ponography[1982] and Siousxie and the Banshees/ Peel Sessions [1978/1986]

1.Christmas Eve 2007. Started cooking some of the stuff for tomorrow. Listening to “Classic Trance Nation”, a 3 cd Ministry of Sound compilation. Thinking about history. Got a pile of books beside me, like “1715 The Great Jacobite Rebellion” by Daniel Szechi and another by same author (professor at Manchester Uni) on George Lockhart of Carnwath who was a Scottish Jacobite in same period. All part of background reading for my Galloway Levellers research.

2.The way I see it, the online archives of Kill Your Pet Puppy reveal a similar ‘forgotten history’ to that of the Galloway Levellers. As the Galloway Levellers are to the history of Scotland, so KYPP is to the history of punk.

3.Who were the Galloway Levellers? By most accounts, a bunch of revolting local peasants who spent a few months in 1724 going around the countryside knocking down (levelling) stone walls built for landowners who were enclosing the land to rear cattle to be exported to England. And why not? Just a bit of 18th century direct action, though not entirely non-violent, since the Galloway Levellers allegedly had a few hundred muskets. These were on display when they confronted 50 or so landowners in April 1724 - an event which left the landowners to put in a panicky call for military back up. Six months later there were enough dragoons to create an armed stand- off. The Levellers blinked first and about 200 were arrested, though most were allowed to escape and only a handful ever had their day in court. About 30 ended up getting sued for damages in January 1725.

4.Had there been a bloodbath, would have made the history books, but with no fatalities and no mass hangings, ends up as a footnote to 18th century Scottish history. It also happened at least 40 years too early. After 1760ish there was a huge wave of enclosures and evictions - now called the Lowland Clearances and which probably had bigger actual impact on Scotland than the later Highland Clearances which were made famous by Karl Marx who put them into Volume One of Capital. In 1830 there was a wave of rural revolt across southern England from Sussex to Somerset (I blame The Mob) which was violent direct action, with threshing machines broken up and barns full of wheat burnt. These were the called the Captain Swing riots and were similar to the Ned Ludd urban riots of the same(ish) time. But -apart from the Galloway Levellers a hundred years earlier, there was never any Scottish equivalent to such resistance to the rise of capitalist farming.

5.For a few years now, I have been trying to work out why the Galloway Levellers revolt was so unique - and why it didn’t end in a bloodbath. I think the Jacobites are the answer, which is why I am ploughing through the hefty academic texts mentioned above. (You can tell they are academic - 250 pages of writing and 100 pages of footnotes and references). The landowners who really pissed off the peasants were Jacobites. Not the famous ones of 1745 - Bonnie Prince Charlie and Culloden - but the south Scotland/ north England ones of 1715 who were defeated in a battle at Preston in Lancashire. What the Jacobites in 1715 (and 1745, also 1708 and 1718) were trying to do was restore the Stuart kings to the English/ Scottish throne. Which goes back to king Charles Stuart I having his head chopped off in 1649 and his son king James Stuart II /VII getting kicked out in 1688 in a Glorious Revolution.

6.In south west Scotland/ Galloway the end of Stuart rule was welcomed - for complicated religious reasons, the region had been anti- Stuart since 1638 (with a brief respite during rule of Oliver Cromwell) until 1688, with thousands killed in various civil wars and uprisings. When the Jacobites tried it on again in 1715, thousands volunteered to fight them. These volunteers were organised by the governing/ ruling group who had seized power in 1688/9 and who would have been kicked out/ killed if the Jacobites had won. So when a few of the surviving local Jacobite landowners started evicting their tenants in 1724, I reckon there was not much official enthusiasm for holding back the wave of popular direct action against these Jacobites.

7. O.K, I could go on and on about this, but where is the link to punk/ KYPP? Um… I guess that what I have found from doing this proper history - which could end up as a book one day and already has attracted the interest of various professors of history - is that important bits of history can get overlooked. Only when a real effort is made to do the research, to go back to the original (primary) sources and poke about a bit, can such neglected bits of history be brought back to life. Far too often, all that happens is that events get skimmed over. It is easily done if the source material is obscure, hidden away in local archives and local histories. It doesn’t help if the story (narrative) is complicated and doesn’t fit with the bigger picture, with the clichés of history. [ X Ray Spex song : I am a cliché, for younger readers]

8. But why should there be history by cliché? Its ideology, innit. If you know your history of punk, you will know it got written about and presented almost from day one as a set of clichés. 1976 as Year Zero being one, but there are plenty more. Punk made by unemployed kids living on the dole in tower blocks off the Westway another. What is amusing/ infuriating is the way such journalistic inventions then became the reality of punk as since written about endlessly as part of ‘cultural / media studies’ creating a semiotic fog. Which is why the content of KYPP online is so startling. Here is the raw material - the pages of KYPP, the flyers, the photos of people and places, the music - made accessible.

9. But as I have found with the Galloway Levellers, access to the raw material of history is not enough on its own for forgotten events and situations to become part of history, to be made into history. There has to be a shift in the ideological clichés before what is there can be seen. With the Galloway Levellers the reason they seem to float around in isolation from Scottish history as cliché is recent events. To make sense of the Galloway Levellers, you have to understand the Galloway Jacobites and to understand them you have to understand the Galloway Covenanters and their 17th century struggle against Charles I and II and James II/VII. But just a few miles away from Galloway is northern Ireland. In northern Ireland that part of history was never been forgotten. It was celebrated and fought over and led to a thirty year war which killed nearly 4000 people - including people in England. The whole British cabinet was nearly killed by one bomb in Brighton.

10. So although every other part of Scottish history, including mediaeval Galloway, has been revised and re-written over the past 40 years, that of 17th century south-west Scotland has not. All just a bit too close to current events and so not history. Perhaps now, with Ian Paisley and Martin McGuiness sharing power in Northern Ireland Assembly , the story can be told.

11. And punk? Again the history cuts too close to the bone. Although the Thatcher Tories won the UK election in 1979, it was only after they won again in 1983 (with a boost given by the Falklands War) that the political shift to the right was secured. And although Blair’s ‘new’ Labour won in 1997, there was no change of direction. It is only now, as the economic prospects for 2008 look very grim - capitalism in crisis again- that doubts begin to emerge. The long new Labour economic boom looks like it may have been an illusion - a south sea style bubble blown by ever rising house prices and smoke and mirrors financial jiggery pokery. If the house of cards falls down, recent history will get re-interpreted and punk restored as the voice of prophecy, crying in the wilderness. Was it not a way to make something out of nothing? Punk as a material culture was impoverished, but out of poverty it created an enduring culture of resistance to the commodification of everyday life - to the spectacle.

12. If economic crisis melts all the seemingly solid ‘progress’ of the past 20 years of economic growth to thin air, then punk will be re-invented . Re-invented, not revived. Re-invented in so far as the physical/ material conditions which existed circa 1978/ 85 will re-exist : - mass unemployment ( lots of people with nothing else to do)and a collapse in property values (lots of empty spaces within which to do nothing I.e. be creative).

23. That’s all folks.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Tom Vague on Situationists

The Boy Scout's Guide to the Situationist International:
The Effect The S.I. Had On Paris '68 And All That, Through The Angry Brigade And King Mob To The Sex Pistols by Tom Vague

Constructed Situation: a moment of life concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organization of a unitary ambiance and game of events.

Situationist: having to do with the theory or practical activity of constructing situations. One who engages in the construction of situations. A member of the Situationist International.

Situationism: a meaningless term improperly derived from the above. There is no such thing as situationism, which would mean a doctrine of interpretation of existing facts. The notion of situationism is obviously devised by anti-situationists.

Psychogeography: the study of the specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour on individuals.

Psychogeographical: relating to psychogeography. That which manifests the geographical environment's direct emotional effects.

Psychogeographer: schoolteacher who hacks up his pupils...Sorry! One who explores and reports on psychogeographical phenomena.

Derive: a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of transient passage through various ambiances. Also used to designate a specific period of continuous deriving.

Unitary Urbanism: the theory of the combined use of arts and techniques for the integral construction of a milieu in dynamic relation with experiments in behaviour.

Detournement: short for: detournement of pre-existing aesthetic elements. The integration of present or past artistic production into a superior construction of a milieu. In this sense there can be no situationist painting or music, but only a situationist use of these means. In a more primitive sense, detournement within the old cultural spheres is a method of propaganda, a method which testifies to the wearing out and loss of importance of those spheres.

Culture : the reflection and prefiguration of the possibilities of organization of everyday life in a given historical moment; a complex of aesthetics, feelings and mores through which a collectively reacts on the life that is objectively determined by it's economy. (We are defining this term only in the perspective of the creation of values, not in that of the teaching of them.)

Decomposition: the process in which the traditional cultural forms have destroyed themselves as a result of the emergence of superior means of dominating nature which enable and require superior cultural constructions. We can distinguish between an active phase of the decomposition and effective demolition of the old superstructure - which came to an end around 1930 - and a phase of repetition which has prevailed since then. The delay in the transition from decomposition to new constructions is linked to the delay in the revolutionary liquidation of capitalism.

You'll find the term 'Situationist' liberally sprinkled throughout contemporary agit-prop/pop culture. A lot of people name drop it but what it actually means and where it comes from is never properly explained and mapped out for people. This particular effort is going to be no exception to that. However "Situationist" is most definitely not some arty term that Malcolm Mclaren dreamed up to con people. It goes back many years before Talky Malky's reign of terror and had already been used to far greater effect.

The term came to the attention of certain sectors of the British populus, 5 years before Malcolm Mclaren borrowed some situationist ideas for the Sex Pistols, when on the night or January 12th, 1971 the country, and more specifically the house of Robert Carr, Ted Heath's Secretary of State for Employment, was rocked by two bomb explosions. Old Blighty had, of course, already felt the anti-imperialist anger of the I.R.A. in a similar way. But this was different. The IRA used bomb attacks for very specific purposes; troops out and home rule. The Carr Bombing was undoubtedly connected with Carr's controversial industrial relations bill, but the people responsible were not part of any traditional revolutionary group. All Special Branch had to go on was a communiqué from an organization calling itself "drumroll." "The Angry Brigade- Robert Carr got it tonight. We're getting closer."

Special Branch had heard or them before, but always dismissed them as (relatively) harmless anarchistic cranks. After the Carr Bombing they took them rather more seriously, asking themselves if this was the beginning of something big - the Revolution that people had been predicting throughout the 60's? Special Branch informants and files on political groups were useless. In fact the only real clue they had was a list of targets included in an earlier communiqué: "Embassies, High Pigs, Spectacles, Judges, Property." The third from last term "Spectacles" intrigued one enterprising Special Branch sergeant, who started visiting Liberatarian bookshops and sifting through underground magazines and literature.
The enterprising Special Branch sergeant found that the word Spectacle was a popular slogan, used by a Paris based group known as Situationists, to describe capitalism, the state, the whole shooting match. Owing as much to the Surrealists and Dada as Marx and Bakunin, the Situationists starting point was that the original working class movement had been crushed, by the Bourgeoisie in the West and by the Bolsheviks in the East; Working class organizations, such as Trade Unions and Leftist political parties had sold out to World Capitalism; And furthermore, capitalism could now appropriate even the most radical ideas and return them safely, in the form of harmless ideologies to be used against the working class which they were supposed to represent.

Unlike the Special Branch sergeant, Malcolm Mclaren obviously did'nt do his homework properly (Or maybe, schoolboy prankster that he is, he did'nt care about the exam results as long as he became a personality cult). However in 1957 the soon to be Situationists did not accept this as the way things would remain, not if they had anything to do with it. In opposition to this process they formed 'the Situationist International': a group consisting mostly of artists, intellectuals and the like (it has to be said), which set out to develop a new way of interpreting society as a whole. (Prior to the S.I. the Lettrists, who predated Punk by almost 30 years sporting trousers painted with slogans).

On the surface the Situationists appear as extremely cynical fatalists. They began by condemning as redundant and articulately destroying anything that came before them. Everything from the Surrealists and the Beat Generation fell in their wake. Yet they had a fundamental, utopian belief that the bad days will end. Their criteria was basically, "if we explain how the nightmare works, everyone will wake up!" An inevitable optimism absent, by the very fact of their existence, from traditional political groups: who always operate on the premise that people are too thick to decide for themselves.

This was how (and why) leading Situationist, Guy Debord formulated his theory of The Spectacle. He argued, in their journal ('Internationale Situationniste') that through computers, television, rapid transport systems and other forms of advanced technology capitalism controlled the very conditions of existence. Hence the World we see is not the Real World but the World we are conditioned to see: THE SOCIETY OF THE SPECTACLE (the name of Debord's book). The Spectacle's audience is the lumpen proletariat, the bourgeoisie, even the bosses now merely look at the Show: Real Life: thinking about it as spectators, not actually participating or experiencing it.

Debord saw the end result as Alienation. Separation of person from person; crowds or strangers, laughing and crying together but ultimately isolated from everybody and everything. The Spectacle makes spectators of us all, because we've been conned into substituting material things for Real experiences. However, Debord felt this feeling of alienation could eventually break the stranglehold of the Spectacular society. People were already rebelling against being kept apart by mass culture/ commodity/ consumer society. In the early 60s thousands of young americans questioned their role in middle morality America and dropped out in the anonymous tenements of Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco. In 1965, in the Watts suburb of Los Angeles, thousands of black kids burnt down their schools and factories.

To Debord these unconscious revolts against the Spectacle were evidence of it's vulnerability. It wasn't as invincible as it seemed. But before the Spectacle could be overcome it's safety net, Recouperation, had to be dealt with: to survive Spectacular Society has to have strict social control. This is retained, without much fuss, by it's ability to recouperate a potentially revolutionary situation. By changing chameleonlike it can resist an attack, creating new roles, cultural forms and encouraging participation in the construction of the world of your own alienation into the bargain.

For example alternative lifestyles can be turned into commodities. The Haight-Ashbury hippies were eventually packaged off into commodity culture, as, of course, the London punk rockers were a decade later. And, with a lifestyle safely recouperated, after a certain amount of time it can be dusted off and sold back to people, inducing a yearning for the past. The Spectacle had gone that whole step further. For those bored with the possession of mere things, it was now capable of packaging even the possession of experiences: package holidays, community schemes, pop culture.

Spectacular Society is made complete by the recuperation of the environment in which all this must be experienced: The Recouperators realized that people would no longer accept the damage the growth of the Spectacle: heavy industry: was doing to their physical surroundings: the world. Hence environmental recuperation or "Urbanism." This consists of replacing disordered urban-sprawl with more manageable structures; factory-towns, new-towns, shopping-malls, super-markets. Huge areas designed solely for the purpose of work and the creation of profit, with total disregard for the needs or the people forced to service it. The workers kept apart in 'new architecture, traditionally reserved to satisfy the ruling class...for the first time, directly aimed at the poor: 'Dwelling Unit, Sweet Dwelling Unit.' Rabbit hutches designed soullessly to isolate and instill formal misery.

The Situationists' answer to "Urbanism" 'was the reconstruction or the entire environment, according to the needs of the people that inhabit it. Their answer to modern society was to be nothing short of the "REVOLUTION OF EVERYDAY LIFE" (the title of the companion book to 'The Society Of The Spectacle' by Raoul Vaneigem). Unlike traditional revolutionary groups, the Situationists were not concerned with the improvement of existing society, or reforming it. They were interested in destroying it completely and pulling something new and better in it's place. No half measures. No gestures. No immediate solution.

The Situationist programme began where art ended. They argued that mechanization and automation had potentially eliminated the need for all forms of traditional labour: leaving a gaping hole, now known as leisure time. Rather than fill this hole with 'Specialist Art', the Situationists wanted a new type of creativity to come out of it, which would be inseparable from everyday life. This new environment has to be brought about by the 'construction of situations'. Never an easy one to grasp that. Basically it's confronting the Spectacle with it's own irrelevance;

"To make the World a sensuous extension of man rather than have man remain an instrument of an alien world, is the goal of the Situationist Revolution. For us the reconstruction of Life and the rebuilding of the World are one and the same desire. To achieve this the tactics of subversion have to be extended from schools, factories, universities, to confront the Spectacle directly. Rapid transport systems, shopping centers, museums, as well as the various new forms of culture and the Media, must be considered as targets for scandalous activity."
Areas For Scandalous Activity; Strasbourg University, 1966.

So by appropriating a bit of Marx, a bit of anarchist practice, plenty of Dadaism (Situationist practice owes more to Groucho Marx than Karl), even some Rimbaud, and by refusing absolutely to have anything to do with traditional hierarchies and the transfer of power from one ruling elite to another, the Situationists were ready to become a social force. By the mid-60's they were looking around for opportunities to intervene in existing radical situations; in order to speed up the inevitable collapse of the Spectacular Society.

Their first major opportunity arose in 1966 at Strasbourg University; a notoriously inactive careerist student body but with a leftist student union. 5 Pro-situ students infiltrated the union and set about scandalizing the authorities. They formed an anarchist appreciation society, appropriated union funds for situationist inspired flyposters and invited the SI to write a critique of the university and society in general. The resulting pamphlet, "On The Poverty Of Student Life (Ten Days That Shook The University)" was designed to wind up the apathetic students by confronting them with their subservience to the Family and the State. And it was none too subtle about it;

"The whole of (the Student's) life is beyond his control, and for all he sees of the World he might as well be on another planet...Every student likes to feel he is a bohemian at heart; but the student bohemian clings to his false and degraded version of individual revolt. His rent-a-crowd militancy for the latest good cause is an aspect of his real impotence...he does have marginal freedoms; a small area of liberty which as yet escapes the totalitarian control of the Spectacle; his flexible working hours permit adventure and experiment. But he is a sucker for punishment and freedom scares him to death: he feels safer in the straightjacketed space-time of the Lecture Hall and the weekly essay. He is quite happy with this open prison organized for his benefit...The Real poverty of his Everyday Life finds it's immediate phantastic compensation in the opium of cultural commodities...he is obliged to discover modern culture as an admiring spectator...he thinks he is avant-garde if he's seen the latest Godard or 'participated' in the latest 'happening'. He discovers modernity as fast as the market can provide it: for him every rehash of ideas is a cultural revolution. His principal concern is status, and he eagerly snaps up all the paperback editions of important and 'difficult' texts with which mass culture has filled the bookstore. Unfortunately, he cannot read, so he devours them with his gaze.'"

The pamphlet went on to dismiss the university as "The Society for the propagation of ignorance...high culture with the rhythm of the production line...With out exception the lecturers are cretins...bourgeois culture is dead...all the university does is make production-line specialists. But on the positive side, it pointed out that away from student life, in the Real World, working class kids were already rebelling against the boredom of everyday life;

"...the 'delinquents' of the world use violence to express their rejection of society and its sterile options. But their refusal is an abstract one: it gives them no chance of actually escaping the contradictions of the system. They are it's products - negative, spontaneous, but none the less exploitable. All the experiments of the new social order produce them: they are the first side-effects of the new urbanism; or the disintegration of all values; or the extension of an increasingly boring consumer leisure; of the growing control of every aspect of everyday life by the psycho-humanist police force; and of the economic survival of a family unit which has lost all significance.

"The 'young thug' despises work but accepts the goods. He wants what the spectacle offers him - but NOW, with no down payment. This is the essential contradiction of the delinquent's existence. He may try for a real freedom in the use of his time, in an individual assertiveness, even in the construction of a kind of community. But the contradiction remains, and kills (on the fringe old society, where poverty reigns, the gang develops it's own hierarchy, which can only fulfill itself in a war with other gangs, isolating each group and each individual within the group). In the end the contradiction proves unbearable. Either the lure of the product world proves too strong, and the hooligan decides to do his honest day's work: to this end a whole sector of production is devoted specifically to his recuperation. Clothes, records, guitars, scooters, transistors, purple hearts beckon him to the land of the consumer. Or else he is forced to attack the laws of the market itself either in the primary sense, by stealing, or by a move towards a conscious revolutionary critique of commodity society. For the delinquent only two futures are possible: revolutionary Consciousness, or blind obedience on the shop floor."

However existing student rebels, such as The Dutch Provos, the British 'Committee of 100' and the Berkeley students got the thumbs down: Basically for fighting the symptoms (Nuclear Arms/ the Vietnam war/ Racism/ Censorship) not the disease: And specifically for their tendency to sympathize with western society's apparent enemies; China especially whose cultural revolution pamphlet considered "a pseudo-revolt directed by the most elephantine bureaucracy of modern times." (it did begrudgingly have a good word for the Committee of 100's "Spies for Peace" scandal: where, in 1963 the anti-nuke movement invaded secret fallout shelters reserved for the British government.)

Summing up, "On the Poverty..." outlined the solution as confronting the present social system with the negative forces it produces;

"We must destroy the Spectacle itself, the whole apparatus of the commodity society...We must abolish the pseudo-needs and false desires which the system manufactures daily in order to preserve it's power."

Using appropriated union funds, 10,000 copies of the pamphlet were printed and handed out at the official ceremony, to mark the beginning of the Strasbourg academic year. There was an immediate outcry. The local, national, and international press condemned it as incitement to violence, which of course it unashamedly was. The Rector of the University said they should be in a lunatic asylum. The students responsible were expelled and the student union closed by court order.

The presiding Judge pronounced; "The accused have never denied the charge of misusing the funds of the student union. Indeed, they openly admit to having made the union pay some 650 pounds for the printing of 10,000 pamphlets, not to mention the cost of other literature inspired by the 'International Situationniste'. These publications express ideas and aspirations which, to put it mildly, have nothing to do with the aims of a student union. One only has to read what the accused have written, for it is obvious that these five students, scarcely more than adolescents, lacking all experience of real life, their minds confused by ill-digested philosophical, social, political and economic theories, and perplexed by the drab monotony of their everyday life, make the empty, arrogant and pathetic claim to pass definitive judgements, sinking to outright abuse, on their fellow students, their teachers, God, religion, the clergy, the governments and political systems of the whole world, rejecting all morality and restraint, these cynics do not hesitate to commend theft, the destruction of scholarship, the abolition of work, total subversion and a worldwide proletarian revolution with 'Unlicensed pleasure' as it's only goal.

"In view of their basically anarchist character, these theories and propaganda are eminently noxious. Their wide diffusion in both student circles and among the general public, by the local, national and foreign press, are a threat to the morality, the studies, the reputation and thus the very future of the students of the University of Strasbourg."
Areas For Scandalous Activity; Paris '68 And All That.

"This work is part of a subversive current of which the last has not yet been heard. It's significance should escape no one! In any case, as time will show, no one is going to escape its implications!"
-Raoul Vaneigem, "The Revolution Of Everyday Life"

At first the events in Strasbourg didn't seem to have much effect. But in the following months the ideas and tactics of the Situationist International (or at least a fair old bit of discontent, fueled by the Strasbourg pamphlet spread like wildfire through the universities of France.
In the mid-60's the French University system was heading for trouble anyway - largely due to overcrowding. The government tried to deal with the crisis by setting up overspill colleges in the provinces and slum-outskirts of Paris. This made matters worse. One of the Paris overspill colleges in particular, Nanterre, situated amidst waste disposal tips and the spanish immigrant ghetto, was almost perfect for intervention. There was already a strong feeling of alienation amongst the students; uprooted from their former teeming cafe lifestyle in the Latin Quarter and dumped in council flat style blocks; separate residential blocks for males and females, no recreational facilities, everything controlled by a faceless centralized bureaucracy in Paris. It was all straight out of Debord's Society of the Spectacle.

However Nanterre did have one of the few Sociology departments in France and, at the beginning of 1968, a lot of radical students were concentrated there. In due course a list of reforms was drawn up. Quite reasonably they wanted to specialize in subjects of their own choice, but that wasn't all by any means. They deliberately pressed on with claims they knew would be rejected, and all talk of reform was soon forgotten: As they used to say, be realistic demand the impossible.

The students involved became known as 'LES ENRAGES' because of their theatrical nature and the violence of their demonstrations (the name originally comes from an 18th Century revolutionary group led by Jacques Roux, who ended up being guillotined by the Revolutionary Tribunal). To support their reforms they began disrupting lectures, breaking down all communication between lecturers and students: then escalating the ensuing disorder by spreading rumours that plain-clothes police had infiltrated the campus to compile a black-list of trouble-makers. The SU protested. The situation was developing.

The first major incident occurred when the Minister of Sport came to open a new olympic-swimming pool. A vandal orgy had been planned for the opening ceremony and the minister's route was sprayed with graffiti. But nothing happened until the minister was about to leave. Then, so the story goes, a red-haired youth stepped out from the crowd and shouted;
"Minister, you've drawn up a report on french youth 600 pages long but there isn't a word in it about our sexual problems. Why not?"

The minister replied, "I'm quite willing to discuss this matter with responsible people, but you are certainly not one of them. I myself prefer sport to sexual education. If you have sexual problems, I suggest you jump in the pool."

To which Danny Cohn-Bendit countered, "that's what the Hitler Youth used to say!" and immediately shot into the headlines and secret police files (if he wasn't in the latter already.)
Les Enrages capitalized on this development by parading up and down the hall of the Sociology building, with placards displaying blown-up pictures of alleged plain-clothes police. One of the staff complained and tried to enforce the college ban on political demonstrations. There was a scuffle and the Dean called the police.

This was just what Les Enrages were waiting for. Within an hour 4 truck loads of armed police were let into the University by the Dean. Les Enrages threw everything they could lay their hands on at them, luring them into the University so everybody could see exactly what was going on. The Police were no longer a rumour, they were very much fact. Moderate students duly joined in to drive the police out of the University. Provocation had drawn repression, which in turn had rallied mass support. It was a classic Situationist victory.

Les Enrages continued to build on this emotional reaction to the authorities repression, until 3 anti-Vietnam War bombings took place in Paris. 5 members of 'The National Committee For Vietnam' were arrested. On March 22nd, as a protest against the arrests, a group of Les Enrages and some anti-Vietnam war demonstrators occupied the administration offices at Nanterre and decided to get a real Movement going. "THE MOVEMENT OF MARCH 22nd" was to have no organization as such, no hierarchy and no hard and fast programme. Obviously it was political, but it did'nt follow one political doctrine. There were anarchists, Marxists, Leninists, Trotskyists, all manner of -ists, and of course, a bit of Situationist in there somewhere.

Dany Cohn-Bendit soon established himself as the principal spokesman; describing himself as 'a megaphone' for the Movement and 'an anarchist by negation'. He said he despised authoritarian Marxist-Leninist hierarchies almost as much as capitalism itself but, "I don't live in Russia, I live here, so I carry on the fight against the French Bourgeoisie." Cohn-Bendit and the situationists wanted a horizontal, federal organization of Workers' Councils, who act together but preserve their autonomy, Direct Democracy. The hard-line Leftist factions did'nt always share this view but the Movement was held together simply by a desire to change society.

They had no illusions of overthrowing Bourgeois Society in one foul swoop. No Revolution. The plan was to stage a series of revolutionary shocks. Each one setting off a irreversible process of change. The March 22nd Movement acting as detonator but not attempting to control the forces it unleashed. They realized such a revolt could not last, but at least it would provide a glimpse of what was possible. If they failed it was just a matter of time before another situation developed in another place in another way.

Anyway, at Nanterre the threat of The March 22nd Movement and what the Dean described as "a real war psychosis", led to the University being closed down and Red Danny and some others being summoned before a disciplinary tribunal. On May 3rd hundreds of left wing students gathered at the Sorbonne, the originally overcrowded University in Paris, to protest. The Rector of the University became worried, especially when he heard that a group of right-wing students were gathering nearby. He rang the Minister of Education and together they decided to bring in the police, despite what happened at Nanterre.

Silently groups of students were bundled into police trucks. Then, as the first load was being driven away, shouting and jeering broke out from the assembled crowd. Someone threw a stone through the windscreen of the truck and hit one of the police. The students surged forward and tried to liberate their comrades (woops!...friends). Tear gas was fired and the violence escalated: The police beating innocent by-standers and street fighters alike. The students setting light to cars and tearing up paving stones, iron gratings, traffic signs, anything that could be hurled at the police.

The rioting spread throughout the Latin Quarter and at the end of the day 597 people had been arrested and hundreds more injured. The Authorities heavy handling of the situation had provided tens of thousands of young parisians with something concrete to release their pent-up anger/ frustration/ alienation/ resentment on. The cry of 'Liberez nos Camarades!' went up and the students held their ground for a week; during which more and more young people joined their increasingly militant demonstrations. Finally, on May 11th, M. Pompidou withdrew the police from the Latin Quarter and said the case of the arrested students would be reconsidered and the University reopened.

As news of the Events spread, via TV-footage of the burning barricades and street battles, thousands of young people from, not just France but, all over Europe made for Paris. Many of them from affiliated student groups but also individuals drawn by something relevant to their own situation. Amongst the English contingent were John Barker, Anna Mendelson and Christopher Bott, who would put the ideas they experienced into practice back home and go down in history (as well as literally) as part of "The Stoke Newington Eight" Also, if you believe the story, Malcolm McLaren was given a guided tour of the barricades by his art school buddy Fred Vermorel and returned to put the ideas in practice in a different way.

"A good time to be free," was how Christopher Bott described it, "Imagination was seizing power" ' The Sorbonne was transformed from an institutionalized bureaucratic conditioning centre to "a Volcano of revolutionary ideas". Everything was up for debate, everything was being challenged. Day and night every lecture hall was packed. Passionate debates on every subject went on continuously. The spirit of Arthur Rimbaud had returned. The Paris Commune had become a reality. Nothing like it had been seen before anywhere.

This is how another english student described it in 'Solidarity': "First impression was of a gigantic lid being lifted, pent-up thoughts and aspirations suddenly exploding, on being released from the realm of dreams into the realm of the Real and Possible. In changing their environment people themselves were changed. Those who had never dared to say anything before suddenly felt their thoughts to be the most important thing in the world and said so. The helpless and isolated suddenly discovered that collective power lay in their hands...People just went up and talked to one another without a trace of self-consciousness. This state of euphoria lasted throughout the whole fortnight I was there."

It was then that the inspiration for the Sex Pistols best lyrics and t-shirt slogans was written, on the walls;


But while the Sorbonne became the hip place to be in '68, all the Centre Censier members of the Situationist International, Les Enrages and some others were forming 'The Council For The Maintenance Of The Occupations. Their aim was to set up Worker/Student Action Committees to maintain the many sit-ins and strikes that had spread from Paris to the rest of France.

By May 21st, 10 million french workers were on strike, most factories were occupied, the french transport system had come to a standstill, everybody from pro-footballers to film directors (though not Polanski) were supporting the students. But nobody seemed to know what to do next: they had taken over the factories; the means of production and thrown open the doors to the institutions. But where to from there?

The SI and Les Enrages at the Centre Censier tried to show how it could be followed up by producing leaflets on self-management and workers' councils. Whilst, at the same time, denouncing the leftist recouperators who were trying to take the credit and manipulate things for their own party political ends. The Communist Party, who refused to acknowledge any individual revolutionary activity actually by the people, were having decidedly unproductive dialogue with Cohn-Bendit. Dany the Red ended up calling them "Stalinist Filth" and the big Communist Trade Union, the CGT, refused to back the Revolution because it wasn't under the control of their central committee. The same story as the Spanish Civil War where the communists blew it because it wasn't on their terms. But at least they did'nt back the elections called for by the opposition.

De Gaulle formally (and characteristically) called on the Army. On May 28th he made a secret flight to Baden-Baden in West Germany, where General Massu, the Commander of the French troops, was stationed on NATO exercises. The following day he returned to Paris with Massu's assurance that the army was still loyal enough to support him in any confrontation. First he called M. Pompidou and his Cabinet to tell them he was going to dissolve the National Assembly and call an election. Then, at 4:30 that afternoon, he addressed the Nation and basically lied that the Country was threatened by a "communist dictatorship" to rally support for the Republic. Promised to give greater powers to the Prefects of the Provinces and, that if necessary, he would have no hesitation in calling in General Massu and his troops (as if anyone thought he would have anyway). Vive La France!

And that was it. Of course it worked, the old communist bogeyman was all that was needed to whip up enough patriotic fervour to get the Centre to join with The Right and recouperate the situation. Extra petrol rations and free coaches were laid on and they came from all over France to La Place De La Concorde (De Gaulle's face?), for a carefully orchestrated march to The Eternal Flame at L'Arc De Triomphe; the symbol of Nationalism. In the elections that followed De Gaulle was returned to power by the biggest majority in recent french history... well and truly recuperated.

Despite the millions on strike and the hundreds of thousands on the streets, it was always true that the Movement was basically the work of an intellectual elite and at the end of the day the silent majority couldn't be lured away from the capitalist carrot. They did'nt understand the intellectual repression felt by the students and their theories were all so much idle rubbish compared with the day to day reality of earning a crust. But having said that, De Gaulle had been lucky. Maybe not so lucky next time. The students had succeeded in bringing out the discontent in French Society at the ever increasing distance between the bureaucrats and those whose lives they control.

The physical recuperation took several months: State property had to be reclaimed, slogans painted over and foreign students deported; including Dany Cohn-Bendit and John Barker. But with France back in the grip of a right-wing, nationalistic fervour (which it has never really shook off to this day), the show was over. (The Situationist International itself, which had already split in 2, was further decimated by various expulsions, resignations and scissions until it's eventual demise in 1972 - It seems that half the fun of having an International in the first place is so you can expel people). From this point on the action moved with John Barker and chums, to England. A certain group of germans also incorporated some situationist ideas and, in America, groups such as the Yippies, Motherfuckers, SLA and The Weathermen (but by 1969 the hippies had been recuperated to such an extent that there wasn't anywhere much to intervene in America).

The legacy of May '68 was to be felt for some time yet. The nights on the barricades and the exhilaration of new ideas had proved to the people there that revolution/ change was possible, not only possible but inevitable, and that capitalist society was in it's death throes. The situationist idea of intervening in a situation, with deliberate and systematic provocation, as put into practice by the 22nd March Movement, had been proven to work very effectively and very dramatically.

Where Paris had succeeded and the most important lesson of May '68 was final proof that the traditional revolutionary groups were now as outmoded, institutionalized and oppressive as the capitalists in power and were just as much slaves of the Spectacular Society. Final proof, that since the halcyon days of Marx, Bakunin and Lenin, they too had been recouperated and indeed become recouperators in their own right. They lost face to thousands of young people when they came out in their true colours, against the anti-hierarchy, self-management notions of the 22nd March Movement. And especially when it was proved, contrary to communist dogma, that self-management does in fact work. Why not let the people decide?

"People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life, without understanding what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal or constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth."
-Raoul Vaneigem, The Revolution Of Everyday Life.

Galloway Levellers in cyberspace

Have written up about 16 000 words of my Galloway Levellers Research Project - need at least 40 000, but will end up with more since less than half way through. Worried about losing it all if computer blows up - happened to a previous one when a near by thunder storm did something weird to hard drive. So have saved data via Google 'Docs'

Think viewable at





or not.... - tested link and second worked but not first. So it goes

Friday, December 14, 2007

Capitalism still in c..c...c...crisis

From today's Guardian. (Ah, but which day! And which year?)

The mentions of '1973 oil shock' below are interesting - the crisis which that created screwed up Ted Heath's Tories - helped by a miners strike- and led to election of an old Labour government in 1974 -who ended up having to rattle a begging bowl before the International Monetary Fund in 1975... and -if you believe Jon Savage/ England's Dreaming, through economic determinism created punk... and certainly gave Bowie's Diamond Dogs (inspired by Orwell's 1984) an extra edge

Now read on...

PS - this links to 'Fetishism of Commodities and the Secrets Thereof'

The Bank of England warned last night of a "vicious circle" in which frozen credit markets dragged down the economy as stocks tumbled following Wednesday's announcement of coordinated central bank intervention in money markets.

Share prices in London fell by almost 3% as dealers judged that the £50bn extra liquidity being provided by central bankers to seized-up money markets would not mark the end of the credit crunch.

By the close, the FTSE 100 was down 195.6 points at 6,364.2 with bank shares among the biggest losers. Barclays dropped 6% to 532.5p, while HBOS was down 8% at 762.1p.

Shares and bond markets were also hit by data from the US showing the biggest rise in factory gate prices since the oil shock of 1973 and a stronger-than-expected increase in retail sales last month.

Producer price inflation surged to a 34-year high of 3.2% in November because of a record rise in petrol prices, in turn caused by a peak in crude oil prices. Back in 1973, factory prices were also being pushed up by strong oil prices, which more than quadrupled in six months.

The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof

Listening to the sound of the underground - Androids of Mu and now Good Missionaries live off the Kill Your Pet Puppy (KYPP) ‘Links n Downloads’.

Also been looking for reviews of The Mob “May Inspire Revolutionary Acts” and found one which made a good point about how the roughness and rawness of it contrasted favourably with the ultra clean (germfree) music of today. A point lost on another reviewer who couldn’t get past the lo-fi warts n all sound. [Waiting for the words of wisdom says Mark P in my ear]

But that was punk. Punk was do it yourself. If you didn’t do it yourself, then you weren’t punk. If you never found your clothes at a jumble sale (you had to get in quick before the grannies beat you to it), never tried to make a collage of graphic images, scribbled the words to a song, at least thought about forming a group with your mates, or write a fanzine or swopped badly recorded tapes. Or… at least made some kind of effort to create rather than consume - then it wasn’t punk. That is what the ’may inspire revolutionary acts’ line came from (in the notes I wrote for the Mob cd) - thinking of it as a Parental Advisory sticker to go on the front “Warning : this record may inspire revolutionary acts”.

Revolutionary as in DIY… seizing the means of production and distribution ? That is a bit ‘Fordist’ as they use to say, at that Marxist level the best that could be achieved a network of co-operatives which is anarcho-syndicalism I think. Which was a bit of a challenge for a bunch of kids (most punks really were bored teenagers).

Revolutionary as in taking Situationist theory and practicing it on the streets of London in 1981 rather than Paris 1968. Different city, different psycho-geography. It is easier to see now, now that the great consumer led economy has just about used itself up. Now that the fetishism of commodities has become the bland face of spectacular capitalism. Consumer fetishism. Consumer fascism (a Pop Group line? We are all Prostitutes) How about a bit of Marx?

A commodity appears, at first sight, a very trivial thing, and easily understood. Its analysis shows that it is, in reality, a very queer ting, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties. So far as it’s a value in use, there is nothing mysterious about it… It is as clear as noon-day that man [ or woman] by his [or her] industry changes the forms of the materials furnished by nature, in such a way as to make them useful to him. The form of wood, for instance, is altered by making a table out of it. Yet, for all that, the table continues to be that common, every-day thing, wood. But as soon as it steps forth as a commodity, it is changed into something transcendent. It not only stands with its feet on the ground , but, in relation to all other commodities, it stands on its head, and evolves out of a wooden brain grotesque ideas far more wonderful than “table turning” ever was. [table-turning = spiritualism]

Apparently, this bit of Marx was too weird for Marxists… they couldn’t understand how people could become possessed by their possessions, could imbue them with power and autonomy, could never imagine in their darkest dreams the future as a shopping mall - and what would Lenin or Mao have made of the way things are now? Still notionally Communist China has become the coal powered industrial workshop of the world, churning out cheap goods for a ‘West’ where nearly all of us are capitalists, living off the interest on our inflatable houses. Until the wheel stops turning and all that is solid melts to air.

The mystical character of commodities does not therefore originate in their use value…A commodity is a mysterious thing simply because in it the social [ subjective] character of men’s [and women’s] labour appears to them as an objective character stamped upon the product of that labour , because the relation of the producers to the sum total of their own labour is presented to them as a social relation, existing not between themselves, but between the products of their labour… In the same way the light [reflected] from an object is perceived by us not as the subjective excitation of our optic nerve, but as the objective form of something outside the eye itself….

More Marx, you can see he is struggling to get a materialist grasp on the mystifying commodities which we create but then fail to recognise as our creations, believing they exist ‘magically’ as separate, objective entities. As Facts. As Things. Things we then desire to possess (re-possess) - to buy back in our free-time what we produce in our work-time. So strong is this will to possess these mystical subject/objects we voluntarily give up our free-time to earn more to buy more - but in so doing, produce more so can never ever catch the rainbow coloured commodities which even haunt our dreams, dreams we daren’t remember. The day the world turned day glo, you know?

There is a definite social relationship between men [and women], that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relationship between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relationships with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s [and women’s] hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities. This Fetishism of commodities has its origin .. In the peculiar social [ subjective] character of the labour that produces them.

Independent beings endowed with life, arising out of a mist-enveloped world. Strange games they would play then, wondrous beings chained to life, in solemn perverse serenity. If the Marxists had taken Marx’s mystical musings on The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof where would the magical mystery tour have taken them? Closer to Debord, closer to the Golden Dawn (immersed in Crowley’s uniform of dream reality). Closer to punk.

What do I mean by that? Not sure. Something like - we are alienated from our creativity. If we are, then no economic re-structuring is going to help - junk in, garbage out (oh by jingo)

The categories of bourgeoisie economy consist of such like forms. They are forms of thought… The whole mystery of commodities , all the magic and necromancy that surrounds the product of labour as long as they take the form of commodities, vanishes therefore so soon as we come to other forms of production. [ Marx then gives an example of such an other form of production - “ a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour-power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community”. And “ The life-process of society, which is based on the process of material production, does not strip off the mystical veil until it is treated as production by freely associated men [and women], and is consciously regulated by them in accordance with a settled plan.”.

Marx again. In which he seems to be saying that a revolution which is just the existing world turned upside down is not enough. The only ‘real’ revolution is one which would completely change our social as well as (which are the same as) our economic relationships - only then could we see the futility/ stupidity of our existing ‘forms of thought’. Which is a bit of ‘ you can’t get there from here’.

Or maybe…. Perhaps through some form of prolonged and intense derangement of the senses, the dizzying swirl of fetishised commodities could be stayed on its course long enough to glimpse behind the wall of sleep, rouse us from our spectacular trance -spectacle as hypnotising flickering sequence in which unmemorable moment replaces unmemorable moment in seemingly seamless perfection. The spectacle of commodities like a groundhog day, a time loop which has replaced the actual movement of history - the history of our everyday lives, the history we make everyday but forget each night slumped before the computer screen (television for our new age)

Break. Stop. Cut the time loop. Punk.

Ha. Not the only way to do it. But it was there. Here. Memorable. Punk was a sufficiently intensely lived experience to be memorable, not to be forgotten as swiftly as it happened. We were not alienated from our creative construction of our lives. Lives, not commodities. The word magick keeps trying to creep into - but magick as in Marx’s usage rather than - for example - Crowley’s. I bring my hands together to illustrate my point. It is a jump - it is a reverse reading of Marx - he is saying commodities are like mystical entities, I am saying mystical entities are like commodities. Am I? Too neat a reversal (On the philosophy of poverty -becomes- On the poverty of philosophy - it is a rhetorical trick)

It’s the ‘forms of thought’ bit in the above Marx quote - how real are the many £ billions summoned up to combat the current banking crisis? How real is the crisis? A lot of it is do with ‘confidence’ - that what seemed like money earning mortgages, what was believed to be real one day, now are no longer. The solid has melted into air and panic is setting in. So out of thin air magically, mysteriously, mystically £10, 20, 30 billion (UK alone, similar figures in US, EU) are showered on a bunch of bankers. But how real is this money? It is only real so long as we believe it is - and if ‘market confidence’ is not restored it will vanish like fairy gold, leaving only ashes / dry leaves in the vaults.

In a parallel universe (the Barbelith Temple, google it) the reality or otherwise of ‘post-modern magic’ is fiercely debated. To invent an example, the question is asked “If I set up an altar to My Little Pony and make dedications, offerings, evocations to said plastic toy, will it become a ‘real goddess’ in the way that Epona was/ is a real horse goddess?”

This creates much argument. The po-mo mages can’t see (using an iffy interpretation of chaos magic theory) why not. The more ‘traditional’ or serious mages think its daft -if not down right stupid. The gods/ goddesses/ magical entities they work with have been around for thousands of years and have an apparently independent existence/ identity - are autonomous. Now yer average materialist (Marxist or otherwise) will snort at this kind of ‘mystical nonsense’. Spot the problem? Enki, or Thor, or Isis or Papa Legba aren’t really real - but the £10 billion of three-month funds the Bank of England released at 2 pm on Wednesday 12th December 2007 is real really money. [See Guardian front paged blogged below Fortean Times/ Crowley cover].

But Enki, Thor, Isis and Papa Legba have been about long before money ( and fetishised commodities like My Little Pony ) was invented. They are no less / no more immaterial than money. Weird, huh?

It is getting late so I will try and wind this up. Money may not be really real, but in this world as it is, it is difficult to get by without any. On the other hand, about 90% of the commodity fetishes which flow through this world as it is (as made by our alienated selves) are junk. JINGO Deadly junk, since their production is destroying the complex pre-existing physical/ biological environment upon which we all depend for our survival.

Part of the ‘mystification’ the construction and consumption of commodities creates is a denial or refusal of this fact. Take the expansion of Heathrow airport. Utter madness, but economic logic dictates it MUST BE BUILT. The economic logic is not even coherent - if rail travel was encouraged, demand for flights to Europe and within UK would be cut so there would be no need for expansion - and carbon emissions would be less. Extend this principle - cut out all the crap, the junk in garbage out, all the magic and necromancy of fetishised commodities…and the world economy would collapse…but then it is collapsing anyway… whatever. Think punk, think DIY and do it. Remember minimalism?

The other part of the mystification of the ‘world as it is’ is the mystification magick. I am going on experience here, but in wandering around here trying to peel back the layers of history, I reckon the goddesses, gods, spirits, entities etc are part of the deep structure of reality - the forms they take are culturally constructed, but behind the myths lies a non-human reality. Think of the way a river shapes the land through which it flows - gives life to the land through accumulation of silt on flood plains, takes life through the floods which carry the silt, wears the rock away, endlessly cycles and re-cycles water into oceans, clouds, rain, snow, ice, thunder, lightning… Or the usually slow but sometimes explosive processes of geology. The ebb and flow of plant and animal life.

These are intensely physical forms, they existed before ay human ever walked the earth and will continue long after we are become fossils. Then beyond - the life and death of planets, stars, galaxies, the constant creation and destruction existence and non-existence of sub-atomic entities, the quantum ocean, the great sea of space and time.

Non-duality. Find it when I go for a walk around the fields I know, the sense of individual self fades away, the ‘I’ is absent, only a ‘0’ is. It is a clarity of perceiving, timeless.

But then the self and its world/ this world returns - having melted into air the I becomes solid again. No longer mystified by commodities…

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Immersed in Crowley's uniform

I'm closer to the Golden Dawn...

Should I kiss the viper's fang?

Or herald loud the death of man...

Or go to http://www.killyourpetpuppy.co.uk

and find Blood and Roses / Love Under Will in the Links and Downloads (way, way down)

Global Capitalism in Ccrisis....again

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Roseberry Avenue Peace Centre

See below for details....

Save Roseberry Ave Anarchy Centre!

It is proposed that this article be deleted because of the following concern:
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The 'Peace Centre' was a loosely organised squatters collective that opened in 1983 on Rosebery Avenue in Northeast London. It was called the 'Peace Centre'as it was owned by the left-wing Greater London Council who had designated 1983 to be 'Peace Year'. Regular benefit concerts were held in the basement. The centre was raided in the night preceding the first 'Stop The City' demonstration by riot cops expecting a bomb factory. Many of the original squatters grew tired of arguments between vegetarians and vegans/animal rights activists. Some were involved in subsequent squatted community centres such as the Bingo Hall at Highbury Corner (now The Garage music venue). The centre was closed in 1984 when the vacant office building it occupied was redeveloped.

The centre had a completely open-door policy with regard to who lived there with literally anyone being able to walk in off the street and live there for free. The full-time squatters' rooms adjoined a large communal room where visitors came and went and parties took place. On the ground floor there were free bookshops and, for some time, a vegan cafe which supplied free food for residents, visitors and local homeless people.

[edit] See also

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Guy Debord: The Resurrection