Monthly Archives: December 2009

Were you dreaming of a rage xmas?

When I wrote the post below, I wasn’t.

I was mildly interested. But now it has happened. 🙂

Well, thats what zeitgeists are for I suppose.

This rage is entirely congruent with our times  …  deepening recession, the failure of capitalism at the Copenhagen climate talks, the armies of Imperialism sinking deeper into into  a quagmire of Afghan blood …

Celebrate the Solstice, the midwinter, the Christmas … love the people around you … and prepare to express all your rage and your  joy;  rage against capitalism,  joy for life.  Lets fight to turn the tide in this centuries second decade…


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Have you got the rage against the corporate control of culture?

One little bit of xmas cheer this year is the facebook phenomenon “RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE FOR CHRISTMAS NO.1″. When I first saw this group a few days ago, it had 11,000 members. Today it has nearly 400,000 and hundreds more are now joining every few minutes! The idea is for everyone to buy an online copy of Rage Against The Machines ‘Killing in the Name of” after December the 13th, thus making this top the charts as the UK’s xmas no.1.

The group was founded with the question. “Fed up of Simon Cowell’s latest karaoke act being Christmas No.1? Me too… So who’s up for a mass-purchase of the track ‘KILLING IN THE NAME’ from December 13th (DON’T BUY IT YET!) as a protest to the X-Factor monotony?”

What are we to make of this phenomenon? Rage Against the Machine are an explicitly anti-capitalist rock act who target the hypocrisy of the system and associate themselves with left-wing activist causes and movements. Their angry, punky, heavy metal-rap mix is the perfect soundtrack for expressing anger and contempt for conventional bourgeois society. (It must be especially good if you are an alienated teenager, – they came after my time – we had to make do with likes of the Pistols or Sabbath). And of course, ‘killing in the Name of’ is the very quintessence of the genre, especially with its tremendous final chorus, which would make a most refreshing xmas no.1: “Fuck you, I won’t do what ya tell me…”

What kind of rebellion is this? It is a rebellion both against and also within the confines of popular culture and its commodified form. Lots of people are genuinely pissed off with the bland and anodyne slosh that TV and Music companies have elevated into a dominant and stifling hegemonic form. This music seems to reflects the increasing power of corporations over every aspect of life. RATM have been chosen by the denizens of facebook-land as a weapon against this.

Of course, this very rebellion is within the terms set out by the dominant culture. It reflects the cultural power the X-factor has, dominating the daily discussions of millions of working class people with its populist pseudo-democratisation of the entertainment industry. It should therefore come as no surprise that people should rebel within this same framework, targeting these dominant forms within the realm of popular culture. And the rebellion can happen within the structures of neo-liberal commodified society. Facebook and online music retail industry. Facebook has started to generate profit, with an anticipated revenue of 710 million USD for next year, as it encloses 350 million users, or some 5% of the global population. Then there is the commercial music download site. Finally, “killing in the name of’ is on the Sony corporations catalogue, who also own exclusive rights to Simon Cowell’s artists, so Sony wins either way.  Is this what democracy now looks like? Voting in TV talent shows, or rebelling via buying a music download, to influence the xmas number one? I’m not sure if this is progress or regress!

Nevertheless, many people feel throwing a quid to the corporations is a small price to pay, if it gets you a small voice to express cultural discontent and engage in a bit of mildly subversive joy this midwinter. It kinda cheers me up, somehow.

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Climate protests, capitalism and the working class movement

Considering normally climate demos only attract a few thousand, last saturdays protest in London and elsewhere of 50,000 was massive. This is because A) the capitalists and their governments look especially incapable of addressing the issue at the moment, around the Copenhagen summit which seems doomed, even from a ‘bourgeois climate politics’ perspective. and B) the ideological right are fighting back with a massive campaign of denial and conspiracist wingnuttery thats gaining ground. In this situation people are more motivated to take to the streets, hence we get 50,000 rather than the usual 5,000.

But what next?

So far we haves had a strategy of protest… i.e we started with the idea of making climate change an issue, ‘raising awareness’. protesting to ‘make the politicians listen’, to make them ‘do something’. But then the capitalists started to ‘do something’ – carbon trading, biofuels, nuclear power, etc. Its now clear to many that there is no capitalist solution.

Therefore we also have a strategy of transition  – a practical grassroots and locally oriented movement trying to make the ‘transition to a low carbon economy’. This is inevitably attempted in a petite bourgeois way, through allotments, local trading schemes, etc. There is also the ‘climate justice’ movement with its more systematic anti-capitalist / anti-imperialist critique – although this at the moment remains confined to the ‘activist milieu’.

What about the workers?

And we have only just started to develop a programatic response from the working class movement – so now we have the trades union demand for millions of new green jobs, the TUC’s ‘just transition’ project etc. Of course the problem here is the existing weakness of the working class movement, (especially in the UK) after our decades of defeat and retreat.

Vestas workers occupy factory - green trades unions demands are growing

The solution? I don’t think the working class movement will be rebuilt on a purely syndicalist or economistic basis. Workers fight when they see their resistance forming part of a wider political picture – when they have some form of coherent political perspective en masse (however flawed and contradictory that perspective may be). The collapse of left reformism / stalinism / social democracy in the face of neo-liberal globalisation has weakened grassroots working class resistance.

Thus the working class movement will only be rebuilt as part of a new political response to the failures of neo-liberal capitalism – a response that includes addressing climate change and ecology. When socialism re-emerges as a mass project it will be shaped by these questions. The emergence of environmental consciousness is one of the distinctive features of our epoch. Thats why the next socialism might be an ecosocialism.

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Corus: Occupy! Nationalise! Save Jobs! We still need steel for the green new deal!

Breaking news:

Corus to axe 1, 700 jobs on Teeside.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/dec/04/corus-1700-job-losses

A massive blow to the North east, and a damming indictment of new labour, who are presiding over the final destruction of industry in this land.

OCCUPATION!!!!

Occupy to prevent closure?!! Yes!

What the Visteon and vestas workers did, now needs to happen on a grand scale on Teeside. Such a titanic battle could galvanise the working class in Britain and even tip the balance of class forces.

Re-Nationalise it!

As Keith Hazlewood, national officer of the GMB told the press: “What a terrible contrast between the 1,700 workers losing their jobs on Teesside and the multimillionaire bankers continuing to gorge themselves at the expense of the taxpayers.”

And we need steel for the green new deal! What else are wind turbine towers to be made from?

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