Music Notes March 2010

March 31, 2010 at 10:21 pm (Uncategorized)

This month’s music notes.

1. The Soft Pack – The Soft Pack

This year’s pick to click. Featured on a number of bands to watch for list, San Diego’s The Soft Pack (formerly the Muslims) produce crunchy, melodic pop-punk. Not the second coming, but quite enjoyable for the time it’s on.

2. Buzzcocks – Another Music in a Different Kitchen

Recently re-released with lots and lots of cool extras. For your hard-earned dollars you get,  the original album, the relevant singles, a Peel session, and another album of demos and a live show. About half of it never before released.

Very nice package. For the completest, it’s marvellous.  The second and third Buzzcocks albums have been re-released in this format too.

3. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Layer upon layer of groovy electronic sounds from their second album. Playing Toronto next month. I bought a ticket, so  we’ll see how it goes.

4. She and Him – Volume 1

I suppose I’m fairly late in discovering this one, especially since Volume 2 has just appeared. Catchy alt-folk sounds. I’m not so crazy about M. Ward, but I have a little crush on Zooey Deschanel. I was slow in trying to buy tickets for their June Toronto show, so I missed out, but I can still listen to the record again.

5. LCD Soundsystem -Drunk girls.

New single! New single! Listen to it on Pitchfork.

6. The White Stripes – Under Great Northern Skies

Their first live album, along with a documentary of their Canadian tour. With the White Stripes the quality varies wildly. I haven’t liked their last few records, as Jack has seemed more preoccupied with his other bands, but this is a great fiery record. Full of energy. Haven’t had a chance to see the DVD yet.

7. Mojo

A plug for the old magazine. I used to read the New Musical Express when I was a kid. When I moved to Canada, I read Trouser Press. Later on it was Spin. In the nineties I read Flipside and for a while Maximum Rock n Roll. For the last three years, it’s been Mojo. Like the free CD each month. It’s exposed me to a lot of new things. This month its the 13th Floor Elevators, Peter Gabriel, Serge Gainsbourg and lots of reviews. The CD? Dream pop, featuring … 

8. Galaxie 500

Slower! Quieter! All the Galaxie records hare now available again. Each one has a bonus CD (already available elsewhere) of Peel Sessions, Live cuts or rarities. If you don’t know them, it’s worth it. Hypnotic.  

9. Shirley Bassey – Greatest Hits

Yeah I know Goldfinger, Big Spender, but man what a voice she has. 73 and still working. I don’t care, it’s the voice that’s true.

10. Codeine Velvet Club – I am the Resurrection

You’re either foolish or brave to cover the Stone Roses, especially such a magnificent song as this one. don’t know much about the band, but I love this re-imagining of the song. Get it at nme.com

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TV Notes

March 28, 2010 at 10:14 pm (Uncategorized)

But enough of all the politics, what’s on the box? 

Sometimes I think I watch too much TV; however, sometimes I get the feeling that I’m not watching enough. There’s just so much good stuff out there.

1. Flight of the Conchords

I finally got around to seeing season 1 of this HBO show on DVD which features the stories of  “Formerly New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo.”

The basic set-up is Bret and Jerome, who are New Zealanders but often mistaken for Australians,  are living in New York trying to make a career in the music business. The only problem is that both of them are fairly talentless (actually the only person less talented than them is their witless manager Murray.)

Each episode also features several songs performed by the band. The songs are usually commentaries of what is happening in their lives and are usually hysterically funny. I wonder how they sound without the visuals. Easily worth 26 minutes of your life.

2. Dollhouse

I’ve waited almost two months now to post what will likely be my final words on Dollhouse.  The last few episodes, and especially the final one, were about as good as you could expect given the short time frame, but they still felt, well,  rushed. When the final episode began, I rewound it a couple of times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. True to form, Fox messed with the show until the end, by not showing the first half of this episode, epitaph 1. (It’s included on the DVD).

The final episode was fairly interesting, even if you hadn’t seen the rest of the series: Post-apocalyptic drama and all.  Ballard’s death was a shock, but  since he was the character we cared least about, it wasn’t too terrible. (I think we all felt worse about Topher) .

But there it ends. It was a good show which got better with age, and hell, when you compare it with everything else on TV, maybe it was a great show; however, if you’ve watched Joss Whedon’s other stuff, you couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed.

And so I did what any person might do. I returned to familiar territory.

3.  Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1.

A return to the start of the Slayer saga is always a joy. Ooh, how young there were; how nerdy Willow was; how thin Xander was; how bitchy Cordelia was; and so on.

As with the beginnings of any show, there’s a certain hesitancy, a certain immaturity in the characters and the writing, but there’s also something there. Yeah, yeah, high school is hell, but that’s the beauty of it. Look at the episode “The Pack.” After Xander is possessed by a hyena spirit, Buffy complains to Giles about the change. Giles notes, “he’s turned into a sixteen year old boy.” Drily delivered, but so lovely.

And the beauty of the first season is, the show just gets better.

  4. Caprica

Well frack me! I watched a couple of episodes of Battlestar Galactica, but for one reason or another, I never became a regular viewer. Caprica on the other hand sucked me in right away. Close to our future, but yet not. Virtual reality, religious terrorism, racism, and corporate crime. Apropos of nothing, no less a person than Captain Sensible once said he thought the essence of a good song was that it was still a good song when it was played unaccompanied on an acoustic guitar; I think that’s probably true for a story too: a good show has to have at its heart a good story. And Caprica does. It’s the future, but it’s a drama fraught with ambition, family love, hate, and power.

5. Sanctuary

I was watching something on the Space Channel a few weeks ago, and an ad for Sanctuary came on. Huh? Monsters, Vampires, super-powered heroes, Why aren’t I watching this? and then I was. A little like Torchwood, but quite cool anyway. I’ve only seen the first few episodes, which are creature of the week themes, but I’m looking forward to the longer story arc.  

6. Damages

A little like 24 in that if you miss an episode you’re completely lost. Damages Damages seeks to be fortunate in attracting a-list actors with little or no effort – the marvellous Glenn Close, . But more interesting is the habit of putting actors into different roles. Ted Dansen and Martin Short, both known for comedy have serious roles, and both have been completely credible. Martin Short in particular is tremendous as an oily lawyer  

In the current season the villain is a Ponzi scheme operator ala Bernie Madoff. Tom Shays, Patti Hewes long tine associate turns up in a dumpster. Two bullet wounds, but drowning is the cause of death. As the episodes unfold in Damages peculiar non linear time frame, we wonder, did Patti do it?

7. Doc Martin

Arrogant big city doctor develops fear of blood and moves to small town with its colourful local cast. Almost falls in love with local woman, and almost learns a thing or two. Well, not the last part. Martin Clunes as  the titular doctor rarely learns anything from the locals, but it’s the kind of hokey British comedy drama that people lap up (me too).

 8. The I.T. Crowd

Two nerds and a computer illiterate shoe-obsessed manager run the IT department of Reynhold Industries. Another UK comedy which isn’t quite as good as it could be. The IT aspect often seems to play second fiddle to the quirky personalities of the three principle characters. Good, but could be better. The IT Crowd features Katherine Parkinson from Doc Martin.  

9. The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin

Reggie Perrin was on when I was a kid, but somehow I never watched it then. The show was produced by the BBC and featured Leonard Rossiter, late of Rising Damp, as Reggie Perrin a 46-year-old executive with Sunshine Desserts. Perrin is bored with his life and retreats into Walter Mitty fantasies about how his life show be. He becomes increasingly erratic in his behaviour before staging a suicide and re-beginning his life under a new identity. Somewhat dated, but still worth a chuckle.

10. Ben 10

My son’s favourite show. Ten year old Ben Tennisson is on a camping trip with his Grandpa  and his cousin Gwen. He discovered a crashed alien ship, and an alien bracelet, called the omnitrix attached itself to his wrist. Ben now has the ability to transform into anyone of tem aliens with accompanying powers (the aliens change over the course of the show). He later learns of an intergalactic police force called the Plumbers of which Grandpa Max is a leading member. His ex-wife is an alien who later passes down power to granddaughter Gwen. Goofy enjoyable fun courtesy of the Cartoon Network. (Buy the Lego,   that’s fun too)

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Internationalist Perspective #53

March 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm (Uncategorized)

The new issue of Internationalist Perspective is ready.

The issue includes articles on the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, Afghanistan, discussions of class consciousness and reification, the second part of an analysis of Venezuela, and an editorial on global trends.

The articles should be up on the web site within the week, but contact IP if you’re interested in a hard copy.

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The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle part…?

March 25, 2010 at 10:24 pm (Uncategorized)

Ann Coulter and the Sex Pistols? Not as strange as it might sound at first.

Ann Coulter was recently in Canada for a three-date speaking tour at the University of Western Ontario, the University of Ottawa and the university of Calgary.  After a, ahem, spirited session at the UWO, Coulter received an email from the University of Ottawa provost  essentially asking her to mind her manners.

Coulter seized upon the email to cry censorship, placing herself in the role of free speech advocate, the victim of a hate crime, etc. Coulter was able to generate a considerable amount of publicity for herself and her remaining dates, suggesting a double standard for conservatives and liberals, and wondering if muslims ever received such treatment (answer: well, Ann if you were in charge they likely would… Coulter might also remember UK MP George Galloway who was refused entry to Canada a little while ago)     

As it turned out, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Crowds who turned out to protest her appearance at the University of Ottawa led to the cancellation by the organizers, and fresh accusations of censorship.

 Free speech, largely an illusion as real access to public discourse is strictly regulated,  means everyone gets to have their say – even the hateful, but also the protesters. In fact, authors , entertainers , provocateurs  agent provocateurs? Oh I give up, people like Ann Coulter need a reaction. Without the outrage where would Ann Coulter ? (probably where Andrew Dice Clay went after people stopped paying attention to him)

Of course, I realise the irony of writing about this, but it struck me this morning, how eerily similar Coulter’s shtick was to the lessons set out by Malcom McClaren to build up the Sex Pistols. In case anyone’s forgotten there they are: 

 Lessons:

1. How to manufacture your own group

2. Establish the name Sex Pistols Ann Coulter

3. Sell the Swindle

4. Do not play, don’t give the game away

5. How to steal as much money as possible from the record company of your choice

6. Become the world’s greatest tourist attraction

7. Cultivate hatred. It’s your greatest asset.

8. How to diversity your business. What a business.

9. Taking civilization to the barbarians

10. Who killed Bambi?

Malcolm would be proud.

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Alex Chilton by Paul Westerberg

March 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm (Uncategorized)

There have been a lot of great articles about the contributions made by Alex Chilton including Mojo  and the Guardian. There’s even a wonderful clip on Chilton with the Box Tops available. This one appears in today’s New York Times 

Beyond the Box Tops

HOW does one react to the death of one’s mentor? My mind instantly slammed down the inner trouble-door that guards against all thought, emotion, sadness. Survival mode. Rock guitar players are all dead men walking. It’s only a matter of time, I tell myself as I finger my calluses. Those who fail to click with the world and society at large find safe haven in music — to sing, write songs, create, perform. Each an active art in itself that offers no promise of success, let alone happiness.

Yet success shone early on Alex Chilton, as the 16-year-old soulful singer of the hit-making Box Tops. Possessing more talent than necessary, he tired as a very young man of playing the game — touring, performing at state fairs, etc. So he returned home to Memphis. Focusing on his pop writing and his rock guitar skills, he formed the group Big Star with Chris Bell. Now he had creative control, and his versatility shone bright. Beautiful melodies, heart-wrenching lyrics: “I’m in Love with a Girl,” “September Gurls.”

On Big Star’s masterpiece third album, Alex sang my favorite song of his, “Nighttime” — a haunting and gorgeous ballad that I will forever associate with my floor-sleeping days in New York. Strangely, the desperation in the line “I hate it here, get me out of here” made me, of all things, happy. He went on to produce more artistic, challenging records. One equipped with the take-it-or-leave-it — no, excuse me, with the take-it-like-I-make-it — title “Like Flies on Sherbert.” The man had a sense of humor, believe me.

It was some years back, the last time I saw Alex Chilton. We miraculously bumped into each other one autumn evening in New York, he in a Memphis Minnie T-shirt, with take-out Thai, en route to his hotel. He invited me along to watch the World Series on TV, and I immediately discarded whatever flimsy obligation I may have had. We watched baseball, talked and laughed, especially about his current residence — he was living in, get this, a tent in Tennessee.

Because we were musicians, our talk inevitably turned toward women, and Al, ever the Southern gentleman, was having a hard time between bites communicating to me the difficulty in … you see, the difficulty in (me taking my last swig that didn’t end up on the wall, as I boldly supplied the punch line) “… in asking a young lady if she’d like to come back to your tent?” We both darn near died there in a fit of laughter.

Yeah, December boys got it bad, as “September Gurls” notes. The great Alex Chilton is gone — folk troubadour, blues shouter, master singer, songwriter and guitarist. Someone should write a tune about him. Then again, nah, that would be impossible. Or just plain stupid.

Paul Westerberg, a musician, was the lead singer of the Replacements.

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Toronto Anarchist Assembly

March 20, 2010 at 3:11 pm (Uncategorized)

Tis the season for bookfairs.

The Toronto Anarchist Assembly takes place April 10, 2010. Visit their blog for contact details. With a bit of luck, I’ll be tabling there.

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Alex Chilton Remembered

March 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm (Uncategorized)

Alex Chilton, former singer with the Box Tops, singer-songwriter-guitarist with Big Star died March 17 of a suspected heart attack. A truly outstanding talent is gone.

In an interview with Mojo last year, Chilton stated he didn’t really think Big Star had made any great records and he was puzzled by the fuss about them (the interviewer strongly disagreed – me too!) But it was part and parcel with Chilton’s somewhat erratic career.

Chilton became a star at 16 when he sang lead on the Box Tops’ single “The Letter.”  Although the Box tops had other hits, Chilton became increasingly frustrated with the group, as he and his fellow band members had little control. The group broke up in 1970.

And then came Big Star. Look up seminal in the dictionary and you’ll find a picture of Big Star. Possibly only the Velvet underground are name dropped as often. Big Star recorded three albums, #1 Record, Radio City and Third/Sister Lovers.

After Big Star broke up. Chilton’s career faltered, the magnificently sloppy Like Flies on Sherbert notwithstanding. (there’s also the Cramps first album.) In the early eighties, Chilton was washing dishes and cutting lawns to get by.

Chilton’s career revived in the mid-eighties when he began touring again, as well as recording, but often covers songs. 1987’s High Priest contained more covers than originals, but they came to embody his new style.

I saw Alex Chilton perform twice. Once in 1987 at the El Mocombo and again a year or two later at the Horseshoe Tavern. We sat, we stood, we cheered. We hoped for Alligator Man, we hoped he’d do the falsetto on Little GTO. We begged for No Sex and Bangkok. We were not disappointed.

I’m going to dig out those records today and remember.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day from James Connolly

March 17, 2010 at 12:27 pm (Uncategorized)

Always liked this quotation from James Connolly.

If you remove the English army to-morrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain.

England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs.

England would still rule you to your ruin, even while your lips offered hypocritical homage at the shrine of that Freedom whose cause you had betrayed.

 

“Socialism and NationalismShan Van Vocht, January 1897

Now, if you want to write and say that this is not what Connolly actually believed, or that he changed his mind, go ahead, but it doesn’t take away from the idea here.

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DISCUSSION MEETING OF INTERNATIONALIST PRESPECTIVE IN PARIS ON “OBAMA, THE BANKRUPTCY OF THE PROVIDENTIAL MAN

March 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm (Uncategorized)

 Text for IP public meeting at AGECA 177, rue de Charonne, Paris 11ème, beginning at 3:15, Saturday March 20 2010.

During several discussion meetings, we focused on the economic crisis, its depth, its roots and its consequences.

 Today, we want to come back to the assessment of the Obama government, not because we would have imagined that anyone in our milieu would be astonished by the current assessment, but to approach an aspect which we did not sufficiently address due to not enough time: its ideology.

Indeed, the economic crisis constitutes a factor that has an impact on the proletariat. This impact can be that of the abatement, the discouragement and a turning in on itself. But, if it is accompanied by a questioning about the reasons for the crisis, a refusal of the acceptance of its logic and its effects, this impact can then contribute to the development of class consciousness. Thus, after questioning the economic crisis, it was logical to reconsider the way in which the ruling class was going to try to defuse the possibility of a questioning by the proletariat. And for this reason, the themes of the Obama campaign and his election even were going to make of him a providential man on the ideological level. Moreover, it also should be stressed that this ideological impact largely went beyond the borders of America. The election of Obama impassioned and mobilized indeed all the desperate petits-bourgeois throughout the world.

The Bush era had been marked by the fight against terrorism and its effects, namely, the engagement on the military terrain of many American troops. And if the invasion of Iraq had seemed to confirm American supremacy, the management of the presence of the troops on the Iraqi and Afghan ground had been transformed quickly into an inextricable quagmire. Coffins of G.I’ s returning to the country, as well as the pharaonic sums absorbed in the military budget has made dissatisfaction swell. In the same way, if the American nation were found united against a common enemy after the attacks of September 11, the priorities of daily needs quickly rose to the top and the lack of attention and means devoted to dealing with the increase in unemployment, to impoverishment or to the disaster victims of New-Orleans contributed to this wave of dissatisfaction vis-a-vis the comprehensive policy led by Bush. A change of discourse thus was essential in an urgent way.

Obama is the man we all awaited: he promised us a world where imperialists tensions would be more regulated by diplomacy rather than military engagement; an economic crisis which would be taken in hand, which would punish the greedy and corrupt bankers, or the incapable economic leaders who would be summoned to render account (GM); the financial world “would be regulated”; greater attention would be devoted to the most disadvantaged, to the victims of the crisis, a plan of social coverage would be finally set up and, on which Clinton had broken his teeth, Obama would manage to overcome the resistances of Congress and the Republicans; the image of America broken by the detention conditions of Guantanamo and the scandal of Abu Grahib would be restored by the punishment of the bad elements and the closing of the prison at Guantanamo. And finally, the supreme and delicious promise: all would become possible again, through the famous slogan “Yes, we can,” that splendid distillation of the burning American dream and of an infantile illusion of absolute power. The persona of Obama himself, of black race, was only the confirmation that all is possible. In short, Obama promised another capitalism, the kind that we all dreamed of: a clean and reasonable, controlled and tolerant capitalism. To the faultfinders who started to wonder where the world went, torn by its economic and warlike contradictions, to the revolutionaries posing the question of the historical perspective and the emergence of a new society, Obama came to give this answer: Yes, another capitalism is possible. And the proof was the response that we had all awaited, which was that Obama was elected, both in the United States and by the enthusiasm of segments of population throughout the world.

Obviously, from discourse to practice, things are not so easy. But Obama does not separate his goodwill and his determination. Simply put, he added a little water to his wine; he has to take more time, he must face the resistance of political enemies.

Because, as regards the regulation the banking system and finance, we can recall the warning statements of the new guru of American finance in connection with the fact that the bankers have once again returned to “their bad habits.”

On the economic level, Obama had been committed to restarting the US economy and reducing the budget deficit. Let’s remember, this deficit had reached the record level of 10,6% of the GDP and is supposed to be brought back to 8,3% within the framework of the next budget. The US president also wants to reduce the federal deficit by half from by the end of his first term in 2013: all that being made possible by an economic recovery and a rise in tax revenues. Alas, the economic indicators remain well below the hopes of Obama, and unemployment went beyond the 10% threshold last October.

On the imperialist level, the promise of military disengagement has only entailed a transfer of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, this latter constituting a quagmire about which one can only wonder how America will arrive at disengagement without too much of a humiliation. In addition, the American troops also seem to be always short-sighted, continuing to make mistakes in their targets, and thus increasing the opposition of the local populations and so, risking still more the possibility of political solutions. The new American policy is thus always put on hold: no settlement is in sight in the Near East where Israelis and Palestinians are currently no longer interested in the larger world context. The humdrum routine continues – of course more gently than in the Bush era – with Iran, regularly summoned to accept control of its production of uranium; and the Obama government simply seems to wait until the internal tensions will make the Iranian president fall like ripe fruit. On the terrain of human rights, the charismatic US president had the “audacity” to privately receive the Dalaï Lama. Nevertheless, his audacity is replaced by a greater pragmatism when he is reinforcing commercial agreements between the United States and China, two nations closely dependent on one another on the commercial and financial level. Lastly, to come back to Guantanamo, some prisoners were indeed paroled to certain countries that volunteered to take them, but that has been very limited. In short, the “Yes, we can” has come up against the limits imposed by the capitalist system, and the regulated and pacified capitalism that Obama promised has little by little given way to a more global questioning of its real perspectives.

For several years now, IP has stressed that the use of the ideological weapon is no longer done through grand themes of mobilization that would divert the populace from real concerns, but rather as a response to facets of daily life, and the concerns that arise from it.

Therefore, what we must denounce, as a contribution to the ongoing political reflection, is that today ideology consists in taking into account all the questions that are posed by the proletariat, and providing them with answers that do not question either the logic of the functioning or the thinking of capitalism. Thus, vis-a-vis ecological concerns, Obama – like the majority of the leaders of the planet – makes the commitment to invest in alternative energies and to subject themselves to international conventions. In front of the social grumbling arising from the degradation of conditions of work, from the increasing opposition to military engagement, there too, the ideological speech is not to divert attention, as was the case before, but to give “answers” about the very source of the dissatisfaction. And this way of responding to the questioning about the perspectives for the future, if it has materialized today in the election of Obama, is not new. For a number of years, the ruling class has resorted to such a formula. One such example was capital’s response to the alter-globalization movement. Born in a nebulous anti-globalization and anti-capitalist mélange, the alter-globalization-movement was a response to this questioning about the need for another world. Other currents, like that of a “green” capitalism, have constituted an ideological effort to respond to real concerns about the functioning of the economy, again within the logic of capital. Similarly, the development of “fair trade,” which has really taken off, and which is a mix of ecological preoccupations and the good conscience of the petits-bourgeois, has taken center stage to replace any questioning about the ferocious exploitation exercised by capitalist production. There is thus a particular use of ideology that is no longer a mobilization on themes of diversion, but rather ideological adaptations (and sometimes practices, since “fair trade” constitutes a truly new commercial niche as does renewable energy, a real windfall for the creation of new markets) to respond with to questions about future perspectives. It is in this context that it is necessary to situate the discourse of the Obama campaign and the enthusiasm that it generated throughout the world.

But there is also a double potential for the intervention of revolutionaries. Too often, we were satisfied, either to look with contempt at certain tendencies like those of fair trade, or to limit ourselves to just denouncing them as false alternatives. Nevertheless, insofar as they indicate concern and the ambient questioning, we have to take them into account and to show why they represent only a better management of the system and thus, not a real perspective for any change in its functioning. In addition, these alternatives show their limits more or less quickly. There too, the situation contains a potential for revolutionaries: to put on the agenda the question of overall functioning of the capitalist system, its uncontrollable tendencies and the perspective for the emergence of another kind of society.

 It is to resituate this double potential, and to examine how we can concretize it in a credible and comprehensible way in our intervention, that we wanted to again take up these issues from the angle of an assessment of the policy of Obama.

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On the situation in Chile After the Earthquake

March 16, 2010 at 4:17 pm (Uncategorized)

This account of self-activity in Chile after the earthquake has been posted on libcom and a few other places. It’s worth reprinting.

 By now, it is well-known that many people did the common sense thing and entered the centres in which provisions were being stored, taking no more than what they needed. Such an act is logical, rational, necessary and inevitable – so much so that it appears absurd even to debate it. People organised themselves spontaneously – giving out milk, nappies and water according to each individual’s need, with attention paid in particular to the number of children within each family. The need to take available products was so evident – and the determination of the people to exercise their right to survive was so powerful – that even the police ended up helping (extracting commodities from the Lider supermarket in Concepción, for example). And when attempts were made to impede the populace in doing the only thing that it could possibly do, the buildings in question were set alight – it’s equally logical, after all, that if tonnes of foodstuffs have to rot instead of being consumed, that they are burnt, thus avoiding infection. These incidences of ‘looting’ have allowed thousands of people to subsist for hours in darkness, without drinking water or even the remotest hope that someone might come to their aid.

Now, however, in the space of just a few hours, the situation has changed drastically. Throughout the penquista (Concepción) metropolis, well-armed, mobile gangs have started to operate in expensive vehicles, concerning themselves with looting not just small businesses, but also residential buildings and houses. Their objective is to hoard the scarce few goods that people have been able to retrieve from the supermarkets, as well as their domestic appliances, money and whatever else they may find. In some parts of Concepción, these gangs have looted houses before setting them alight and then fleeing. Residents, who at first found themselves rendered completely defenceless, have started to organise their own defences, taking it in turns to do security patrols, erecting barricades to protect their roads, and, in some barrios, collectivising their commodities in order to ensure that everyone gets fed.

I don’t intend to “complete” the square of information gleaned from other sources with this brief account of events in the last few hours, more I want to bring everyone’s attention to the nature of this critical situation, and its relevance from an anti-capitalist viewpoint. The spontaneous impulse of the people to appropriate what they need to subsist, and their tendency towards dialogue, sharing, agreement and collective action, have been present since the first moment of this catastrophe. We have all seen this natural, communitarian tendency in one form or another in our lives. In the midst of the horror experienced by thousands of workers and their families, this impulse to living as a community has emerged as a light in the dark, reminding us that it is never late to start again, to return to our [natural?] selves.

Faced with this organic, natural, communistic tendency, which has given life to the people in this time of shock, the state has paled, revealing its true self: a cold, impotent monster. Moreover, the sudden interruption of the demented production and consumption cycle left industry owners at the mercy of events, forced to wait, begging for the return of order. In short, a genuine breach opened in society, in which sparks of the new world which inhabits the hearts of common people. It was necessary, therefore, urgent in fact, to restore the old order of monopoly, abuses and the prey. But it didn’t come from the highest spheres, but from the very bottom of class society. Those in charge of putting everything back in its right place – that is to say, imposing by force the relations of terror which permit private, capitalist appropriation – have been the drug-trafficking mafiosi, embedded within the population at large; the upstarts within the upstarts, children of the working class, allied with bourgeois elements in order to ascend at the cost of the poisoning of their brothers, the trade of their sisters’ sex and the avid consumerism of their own children. Mafiosi – that is to say, capitalists in the purest form: predators of their class, lounging in 4x4s, armed with automatic pistols, prepared to intimidate and even displace their own neighbours or residents of other barrios, with the aim of monopolising the black market and making easy money i.e. power.

 That these mafia elements are natural allies of the state and the boss class is manifested in the use of their undignified misdeeds in the mass media in order to make the already demoralised population enter into a panic, therefore justifying the country’s militarisation. What scene could be more prosperous for our bosses and politicians – walking hand in hand – who see this catastrophic crisis as nothing more than a good opportunity for good business, squeezing double profits out of a work force that is bent double by fear and desperation?

On the part of the enemies of this social order, it is meaningless to sing odes to looting without defining the social content of such actions. A group of people – partially organised, or united by a common goal, at least – taking and distributing the products that they need to survive is not the same as armed gangs looting the population with the intention of making their own profits. What remains clear is that the earthquake of Saturday 27th didn’t just hit the working class terribly and destroy existent infrastructures. It has also overturned social relations in this country. In a matter of hours, the class struggle has emerged – warts and all – before our eyes, which are perhaps too used to television images to be able to capture the essence of the course of events. The class struggle is here, in the barrios reduced to rubble and gloom, fizzling and crackling at the bottom of society, forcing the fatal crash between two classes of human beings who in the end find themselves face to face; on one side, the social men and women who search among themselves in order to help each other and to share, and on the other, the antisocials who pillage them and shoot at them in order to begin their own primitive accumulation of capital.

We are here, the opaque, anonymous beings, constantly trapped in our grey lives – the exploited, the neighbour, the parent, but ready to build links with those who share the same depression. On one side, the proletariat; on the other, capital. It’s that simple. In many neighbourhoods of this devastated land, in these early morning moments, people are starting to organise their own defence against the armed gangs. At this moment, class consciousness is starting to be enacted materially by those who have been forced – in the blink of an eye – to understand that their lives belong to themselves alone, and that no one will come to their aid.

By an anonymous comrade

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