Music Notes – June (2)

June 30, 2008 at 10:14 pm (Uncategorized)

Forgot this one. If you go to the Spiritualized site, you can get some bootlegs, demos and outtakes.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Music Notes – June: Free stuff

June 28, 2008 at 2:49 pm (Uncategorized)

Ain’t nobody that don’t like gettin’ something’ for free. Everyone likes free stuff. Even if it’s crap, at least you didn’t pay for it.

So here’s a few good things for free.

Nine Inch Nails By entering your email address, you can get the new album Slip for free and a tour EP.

2. DFA  One of my favourite labels at the moment. Occasionally a little too dance, and not enough punk, but still challenging. Listen to their remix of Le Tigre’s Deceptacon – amazing.  You can download DJ mixes from their site – nice for parties and long drives

 3. Billy Bragg I’ll admit, my love of the bard of Barking has waned over the years, but subscribers to his email newsletter got a live recording of one of hjis 2007 shows. Includes “Old Clash Fan Fight Song.”  

4. Chumbawumba. Everyone’s favourite anarchist pop-stars, now recast as an indie folk group. Lots of MP3 downloads at their site.

5 Carbon/Silicon Well, it looked good on paper. Mick Jones from the Clash and BAD, and Tony James from Generation X. The results, well, listen for yourself.  A bit like those Clash songs you didn’t like so much.

6. Pete Molinari/Damaged Goods Pete is one of the most talented country-folk-blues singers around right now. Damaged Goods is his label. Subscribers to the newsletter get nice stuff. Last month, it was a live EP/MP3. Very nice. Subscribe and you might be able to get it. 

More as I find things. But if anyone has recommendations…

Permalink Leave a Comment

Review: Communicating Vessels

June 28, 2008 at 2:30 pm (Uncategorized)

This review appears in the new issue of Internationalist Perspective

 Review Communicating Vessels: An Anthology of Essays

In 1848, Marx wrote in the Manifesto of the Communist Party that under capitalism, workers were reduced to simple commodities, appendages of the machine. Now, over 150 years later, not only humans’ labour power, but almost every aspect of existence, has been enslaved by the law of value. Internationalist Perspective has written about this transformation in our analysis of the transition from the formal to the real domination of capital. This transition has seen an increased commodification of society, a greater separation, a deepening alienation.

Even those who have sought to apply Marx’s critique have sometimes fallen victim to this tendency by dividing his ideas into categories: the economic, the political, the philosophical, the artistic, etc. Any authentic revolutionary current today must advance a critique which strives to overcome this separation, and a welcome addition to this struggle is the recent (2006) anthology of essays from the journal, Communicating Vessels. In the introduction, the author, Anthony Leskov, writes that some may view the book as “incoherent theoretical and literary cross-dressing…” However, he insists that instead, “it is the result of seeing links between various vision of the world and literary and poetic visions that present a fundamentally new way of approaching said world.”

While the anthology contains nothing which has not appeared in the magazine, it is an excellent introduction to the politics and style of the Communicating Vessels, as well as valuable collection from some of the hard- to-find issues of the journal (especially since Communicating Vessels does not have a presence on the web, nor does it intend to do so). Included in the 200 page book are original and reprinted essays, poems, drawings, reviews and personal reminiscences from the publication’s history.

Communication Vessels first appeared in 2001, taking its name from a 1932 book by surrealist author Andre Breton, which in turn borrowed its title from a scientific experiment. Prior to Communicating Vessels, Leskov was involved with the Black Star North zine, an anarchist publication published in Portland, Maine in the late 1990s. Since then, the author’s perspective has shifted. In issue nine of Communicating Vessels while reviewing Murray Bookchin’s Anarchism, Marxism and the Future of the Left, Leskov noted he was not an anarchist because anarchism provided “too nebulous of an understanding of social reality…Communism understands this society – its rule, its exploitation, its extraction of surplus value from proletarians etc – as being dominated by capitalist social relations which seek to subordinate all human activity into its exchange nexus.” This perspective is further detailed in the introduction to the anthology where points out, “I have a strong attachment to a non-sociological and non-deterministic interpretation of Marxist methodology.”

To apply a Marxist methodology which avoids treating Marx’s writing as Holy Writ (many latter-day “Marxists”) or as a quaint theory (the academy) is a goal with which we can certainly identify. And this perspective is certainly present in Leskov’s choice of material.

Communicating Vessels: An Anthology of Essays contains the lengthy essays, including “Caught between Two Worlds: Russia, Spain, Modernization and Today’s World”, “New Orleans the City that Disaster Built”, “Capitalist Development and the rise of Modern city Planning”, “The Perplexities of Middle Eastern Development” In each case, the essays are clearly and intelligently written with a strong pro-revolutionary perspective.

The anthology also contains several pieces by names familiar to IP readers: An abridged version of Gilles Dauve’s essay “Alice in Monsterland,”; Juan McIver’s study of the Spanish Civil War and the work of Federico García Lorca, the Spanish poet and playwright murdered by Franco’s soldiers in 1936; Paul Goodman on “the spirit of war.”

Of interest also to IP’s readers is the section dealing with Jean Malaquais, author of the left-communist novel World Without Visa. The anthology contains an overview of Malaquais’ life and career, as well as a reprint of an interview from the French magazine Informations Ouvrieres, a poem, an excerpt from Malaquais’ war diaries, and his essay on hipsterism.

Yet, all of the above should not give the impression that Communicating Vessels is “merely” a political review. The anthology contains not only original poems and drawings, but also discussions on French song by Ken Knabb of the Bureau of Public Secrets, original works on literature such as “Aeschylus and the Oresteia Trilogy” and Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.” One of the stated concerns that Leskov expresses in his introduction is “the disregard people have for history.” In this collection, he also seems to argue why shouldn’t people have the “classical education” (the term is used guardedly), a sense of poetry, of art, as well as the critique of political economy?

Of course, Leskov already knows why this is not happening. The disappearance from memory of these things is not an accident brought on by TV and mass culture. It is central to the development of the disposable commodity economy. Leskov quotes the Chinese Tang dynasty poet Tu Fu to good effect: “The busy world, fickle as a lamp flame/Hates what has had its day or is decayed.”

Communicating Vessels: An Anthology of Essays is a valuable addition to the pro-revolutionary milieu. It raises important issues and its playful eclecticism makes for an entertaining and stimulating read. It should be widely read.


Communicating Vessels: An Anthology of Essays is available for $12 (including postage) from 35 NE 15th Avenue #127, Portland, OR 97212, USA

Permalink Leave a Comment

At the anarchist bookfair (1)

June 15, 2008 at 5:45 pm (Uncategorized)

I wrote this for the Hamilton anarchist bookfair which took place yesterday. I’ll probably write a report later.

“At the Anarchist Bookfair”

In the spring of 2000, I received an email which called for interested organizations to participate in an anarchist bookfair in Montreal later that year. I knew a couple of the organizers, and so even though I wasn’t an anarchist, I decided to apply for a table. At that time, I was publishing a magazine called Red & Black Notes, a title which described my sympathies for the red of Marxism and the black of anarchism. I was approved for a table, but to this day, I wonder if it was the latter part of the name which got me the table.

The bookfair, as far as these things can be judged, was a great success. I received a small table, and for about eight hours, I sweated in a small hall with a great number of equally sweaty people, discussing radical ideas and even managing to sell enough materials to cover my gas money. As it turned out, there were only two tables with a strong Marxist bent; mine and the local supporters of the left-communist International Bureau for the Revolutionary Party, Internationalist Notes. The following year, I again applied and received a table, and ever year since. I’ve attended all nine of the Montreal bookfairs, and am now pleased to be a part of the Hamilton event. Let’s hope it will be as successful.

Why come to an “anarchist” bookfair? Perhaps it’s raining or there’s nothing on TV; perhaps idle curiosity. Perhaps there’s an interest in changing the world, or meeting others with a similar perspective. Anarchist bookfairs have become a growing concern. The Montreal Anarchist bookfair sees upwards of 1,500 people come through its doors each year, and while today’s even is unlikely to see that many, whose to say it isn’t possible?

In many ways, though, an anarchist bookfair is an unusual event. For much of its lifetime the “orthodox” Marxist tradition obsessed with parties and vanguards, leaders and followers, saw itself as the most vital segment of the radical critique of capitalism. To the others, the anarchists and the left-communist revolutionaries who rejected the Bolshevik model, there was nothing but scorn. How ironic then, that anarchist and radical bookfairs have bloomed within the radical community, while the orthodox Marxists have to be content with talking to themselves in their increasingly shrunken meetings.

The bookfair seems to have several purposes. First it’s a place to connect and reconnect with radicals of various stripes. Represented at the bookfair today are left communists, anarchist-communists, industrial unionists, anarcha-feminists, prisoners’ rights activists, anti-poverty activists, and many more besides. Collectively the organizations and individuals represents hundreds of years of experience in the class struggle. But bookfairs and gatherings are also places to reach out to new communities in struggle. Some of those attending the bookfair today will come to learn more, and some will eventually take up the challenge.

Unfortunately, for much of the left, and principally the “old left” such gatherings represent only an opportunity to spread their gospel. Success is measured by sales of quickly forgotten newspapers, and contact numbers of possible recruits.

I participate in an organization called Internationalist Perspective (IP). This group began in the mid 1980s after its members left a somewhat larger organization called the International Communist Current (ICC). At first IP was called the External Fraction (EF) and published a magazine called Internationalist Perspective. In its early years, the EF carried with it many traces of its origins within the ICC. As the organization grew older, it re-examined its views, keeping some, modifying others, and dropping others still. In 1994, the EF drew a balance sheet of its activities to that point, but also changed its name to that of its magazine.

In its publications today, IP talks about the need for a “renaissance of Marxism.” Essentially we believe that Marxism is a living theory. It’s not a Holy body of writ to be handed down from one generation to the next. I believe that theory is something which must continually be questioned, re-examined, and re-questioned. At today’s bookfair, there are some who think the question of organization of the working class will be solved through a revitalization of the unions. There are those who think that this task will require revolutionary unions. And there are even those who think that new organizations of the working class in workers councils are necessary, and that the old organizations constitute an obstacle to that development. I’m not an anarchist, but I welcome the openness of the comrades who organized today’s events.

Discussion is healthy. Discussion is good. Get in touch. Keep in touch.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Hamilton Anarchist Bookfair

June 12, 2008 at 12:16 am (Uncategorized)

Don’t forget: This Saturday  is the Hamilton Anarchist bookfair.

Westdale Highschool
700 Main Street West,
Hamilton, Ontario

10:00 – 4:00

Come and say hi


Permalink Leave a Comment

Internationalist Perspective

June 8, 2008 at 6:49 pm (Uncategorized)

The new issue of Internationalist Perspective has been out for a couple of weeks, and the issue is gradually starting to appear at the web site. (So far only the editorial is there). The new issue has an editorial assessing the siginificance of May 68 with forty years of hindsight, a piece on the class struggle today, a very readable article on value-creation and economic crisis, a long analysis of Marxism and the Holocaust, and a review of the anthology produced by the Communicating Vessels journal.

Permalink Leave a Comment


June 5, 2008 at 2:05 am (Uncategorized)

I know this probably makes me a nerd, but I don’t care. I’m simply glad Joss Whedon is back on television.

Permalink Leave a Comment


June 3, 2008 at 9:43 pm (Uncategorized)

I realize the last two posts have been death notices. Ooops. Have to be a bit brighter in future I think.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Bo Diddley

June 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm (Uncategorized)

The New York Dolls, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Doctor Feelgood, the Lurkers, Maureen Tucker, the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Pretty Things,  Chris Isaak, George Thorogood, and probably a few more. A quick thumb through my record collection yields the above covers of Bo Diddley songs.

Bo Diddley, who died yesterday of heart failure aged 79, will be remembered for numerous important contributions to music.

The first time I heard Bo Diddley’s music, probably sometime in the mid-70s when I was about 12, I was struck by the sound.  Sure it was recognizable as blues (even to poor English youth whose only knowledge of blues was through bands like the Rolling Stones, and the 70s pub-rock R&B of Doctor Feelgood), but it was the beat, the percussion which struck me. It was almost instantly recognizable in the sounds of others: would Marc Bolan have had a career without Bo Diddley’s shuffle? (Of course, he would, but you know what I mean). Dozens of other musicians also liberally sampled Bo’s work. 

Listen to “Pills”, and then remember the driving cover by the New York Dolls, and later the Lurkers. Listen to “Say Man” and you can imagine the back and forth insults as 1950s rap. Listen to “Who do you love?” (which my son prefers to imagine as who do you know?), and you have a record to last for decades.

While punk, which was one of my formative influences in music, proclaimed a “year zero” philosophy, Bo Diddley was one of those who escaped, and influenced another generation of musicians.

Gone but not forgotten.    



Permalink Leave a Comment