Music Notes January 2013

January 31, 2013 at 10:23 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Here we go, here we go…

1. How to Destroy Angels An Omen EP

Saw Nine Inch Nails at the first Lollapalooza festival in 1991. Hated them. Never impressed with their work. Having said that I love this band, who of course, sound nothing like NIN. This release is eve more atmospheric and spooky than the previous release. Very nice.

2. Tame Impala – Lonerism

Historically I’ve not been much for psychedelic freak-outs; I prefer the stripped down sound. However, Have to admit that all the buzz about this one got to me. Quite seductive.

3. Ice Cube – Everythang’s Corrupt

Think back, long before Ice Cube was a cuddly commodity in family friendly features like Are We There Yet? Yeah, think back when the cops really really hated him when he spat lines like “crazy motherfucker called Ice Cube in a gang called…” well, NWA. this sounds just as angry. Guitar by Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Watch the video here.

4. LCD Soundsystem  – Shut up and play the Hits

I mentioned this when it was released as a film last year, but the home release adds the entire concert.

5. The Liminanas – Crystal Anis

Psychedelic pop-rock from France. Very groovy.

6. The Strypes- You Can’t Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover

Ah, remember the days of the British R &B boom? Remember when R&B meant bands like the Stones or the Yardbirds. Skinny English boys who worshipped American blues musicians who were more or less unsung heroes in their homelands. Not any record made by an African-american artists which can’t be labelled rap. Well, if you crave that old-school sound, meet the Strypes. Nice B0 Diddley cover.

7. The Rolling Stones – “One More Shot”

The other new song on the new Stones comp. Not as strong as Doom and Gloom in my opinion, but it will probably convince some people that the Stones are still relevant. The song isn’t terrible, but it sounds like a lot of the stuff the Stones churn out.

8. David Bowie – “Where are We Now?”

I was as excited as everybody else when I heard Bowie was releasing a new record. Even more so when Mojo gave it a plug. Yet…I have to say it doesn’t thrill me. It kind of meanders and there’s no real pay off. I’ve heard it quite a few times, but it doesn’t reach me. Do I need my hearing checked?

9. Thau and the Get Down Stay Down

Love the name. Folk-rock from California by way of Virginia. Playing Lee’s Palace in March. Sunny day sounds.

10. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods

It’s funny how some things sit undisturbed and when you play them, you think, “Why aren’t I listening to this all the time?” The final album from Sleater-Kinney. Louder and crunchier. Give it a listen. My copy came with videos!

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Palma Violets in Toronto – A Brief Review

January 25, 2013 at 3:03 pm (Uncategorized) ()

Nothing says trying to relive your youth like heading out to a downtown bar on a work night to see the latest English buzz-band. But there I was. Still, it was the Horseshoe  Tavern (one of the best places to see live music in Toronto),  it was Friday the following day (so almost the weekend), and the word about the  Palma Violets was so good,  it seemed like a good idea.   

I missed the opening band Always, but caught the last three songs of the second opener Decades. The band played a  melodic pop that reminded me of early eighties Canadian new wave. The half-full Horseshoe responded appreciatively. 

Then onto the main event. The Palma Violets formed in England in 2011, but it was last year that their star began to rise. The New Musical Express championed them as the band to watch. Now, between the ages of 14 and 17, I read the NME every week; religiously. I loved the paper, and it’s still worth  a read (I just subscribe to the newsletter now), but one of the annoying things about the paper is the build-them-up-knock-them-down syndrome. Maybe that’s what Palma Violets are in for soon, but for now they are definitely buzz-worthy. Based on the live show and a 7 inch single, “Best of friends,” the band created an intense buzz. so much so that they’re touring North America without a full length album, and pointedly at the horseshoe show not even a merch table.


Very quickly, the Horseshoe was full. I had already staked out my spot near the front of the stage, so when the band came on stage at 11:00 I was ready to be impressed. But the first song didn’t do it for me. It was good, but ramshakcle in its deliver. Good, but not exactly transcendental. “That was just for practice” muttered bass player Chilli Jesson. Oh yeah? Yeah, because suddenly they were “on” and each song (sorry no song titles from me not even could help) seemed better from the last.  The band played a kinetic garage punk, but with keyboards, rolling drums, and extended guitar parts, the band showed it wasn’t afraid to flirt with psychedelic and even prog sounds. And we responded.

The band played a tight forty-minute set with no encore (the price you pay for seeing new bands,- they only have so many songs), and things were done by quarter to 12. I’m not sure if Palma Violets will last or whether they are simply the flavour of the month; I will predict though that their first album, our on Rough Trade records in February, will be quite amazing.

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Change Horses – A Text by Anselm Jappe

January 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm (Uncategorized) ()


Anselm Jappe has been involved in the German publications, Krisis and then Exit! in which Robert Kurz had also prominently figured. Jappe has written a volume on Guy Debord as well as an important volume on the commodity form, Les Aventures de la marchandise. Internationalist Perspective

Change horses

Anselm Jappe

“When communist artisans gather together, it is first doctrine, propaganda, etc.., which is their goal. But at the same time they acquire thereby a new need, the need for sociation, and what seems to be the way became the goal. One can observe the most brilliant results of this practical movement when we see the French socialist workers together. Smoking, drinking, eating, etc.., no longer there as pretexts for meeting or joining. The assembly, the association, the conversation, which are also the aims of sociation are enough, the brotherhood of man is not for them an empty phrase, but a truth, and the nobility of man shines in these figures hardened by work ” (1)

When Karl Marx wrote at age 26, the 1844 Manuscripts, one of his most important texts, he lived in Paris and attended the associations of workers where they spoke [of] socialism. He has always attributed great importance to this first meeting with men who intended to practically overthrow the bourgeois order. In the paragraph quoted here (which is inside a section devoted to the degeneration of needs in capitalist society), he made a tribute – not only to their doctrines (which he would soon begin to savagely criticize), but also to their spirit of brotherhood. In their daily lives, in their simplest acts, they were already living in a different way from the society that they intended to fight.

Various studies have confirmed the extraordinary richness of the milieu designated as “proto-socialist”, especially in the time of Louis-Philippe. Rather than “workers” in the modern sense, they were essentially trained craftsmen with a highly developed sense of independence that came to them as a result the memory of their former conditions now threatened by the progress of modern industry. Marx subsequently distanced himself from what he termed “utopian socialists,” and theorists like P.-J. Proudhon, who remained close to the state of mind of the artisan workers. Marx then pointed out that almost all societies passed through the throes of capitalism before reaching communism. But at the end of his life he had to admit (in his famous letter to Vera Zasulich) that there were already communities practicing collective ownership of the means of production and which could form the basis of a future communism: It’s a matter of agrarian communities like the traditional Russian (Mir).

Apart from the question of the importance of pre-modern societies for going beyond capitalism, what appears here is the possibility that the opposition to bourgeois capitalist society is instantiated by human beings profoundly different from that society, its modes of life and its values. Beings who, even if they are exploited and oppressed by society, already practice among themselves, elements of life they want to achieve in the future by a collective struggle. Many revolutionary movements in the peripheries, (2) also a good part of the anarchist movement, have been born of this situation of exteriority in relation to capitalism. It was then seen as an invading power from outside. The anarchist movement in Spain which found its climax in the 1936 revolution drew its strength from its roots in the everyday culture of the popular classes largely marked by pre-capitalist traditions. Contempt for wealth once basic needs were met, and aversion to work, especially to industrial work, was the foundation of this mentalité (3). It was often rather a refusal to enter into capitalist society rather than from an effort to leave it or to improve it. More than a century before, the Luddite riots in England had the same goal: not to become workers. At the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, factory owners in England verified with despair that to give work to a Highlander — a resident of the savage wilds of Scotland — in a factory was like “harnessing a deer to the plow.”

Even today, the spread of the lifestyle of capitalist production often encounters strong resistance in areas and environments that are still strangers to it. These resistances should not be idealized, because sometimes they defend strong patriarchal and hierarchical orders based on the absolute primacy of the community over the individual. But they demonstrate that capitalism can find oppositions which are not immanent, that is that did not arise from capital’s own terrain. The latter was the case with the main currents of the labor movement. The Social Democrats were limited, very quickly, and explicitly, to only demanding a fairer distribution of the fruits of capitalist production. The Leninists said they would completely overturn this mode of production. But to get there, they said, we first must go through capitalism, modernize the country, learn from the enemy. As we know, Lenin saw in the German postal system a model for the construction of socialism. Consequently, he advocated the importation of Fordism and Taylorism – the “scientific management” of work – into the Soviet Union. In his notes on “Americanism and Fordism”, Antonio Gramsci, whom we often see as one of the most important sources for the renewal of a critical social alternative to state socialism, also was equally enthusiastic about Fordism and the assembly line – not only because of the increased production they made possible, but also for their beneficial effects on the moral life of the workers. Labor discipline, said Gramsci, would make them lose their vices like sex outside of marriage and laziness!

The radicalism in the methods used should not make us forget that the Leninists in all their variations, as well as leftists, Council Communists … and also the majority of anarchists cannot be situated outside of the framework of a society based on value and commodities, money and abstract labor. To the contrary, the work ethic was often brought to its climax by them. The left denounced the exploitation of labor and the conditions under which it took place. But it completely set aside the foundations of Marx’s theory: it is not the nature of human life, but the characteristic of capitalism alone, that social activity counts only, regardless of its content, as the simple expenditure of undifferentiated time — what Marx calls “abstract labor” — that this time constitutes a ghostly “value” and that it represents itself finally in money. Just as the “science” of bourgeois economics, the left in all its modes considered value and abstract labor, commodities and money, as eternal factors of social life – it was thus, for the left, only a matter of ensuring a “fairer” distribution of that value.

Similarly, industrial production and productivism were highly approved of by all the whole of the left 3 (with the only exceptions being a part of the anarchist movement, some artists, like the Surrealists, and thinkers such as William Morris). The identification of happiness with commodity consumption was little criticized by the left before the 1960s, and has remained marginal even after that. The gradual occupation of all areas of life by commodities and labor included the spread of human attitudes such as efficiency, speed, discipline, self-sacrifice into the domain of labor and the narcissistic conception its own role in life. The left often tirelessly welcomed all “modernization.” Briefly, anti-capitalist opposition of the twentieth century largely “alter-capitalist movements”: opposition immanent to capitalism and its core structures which fought over how best to manage the labor of society. The difference between “radicals” and “moderates” on the left concerned, then, the form of intervention rather than its content. Worker’s self-management of the factory, just as polluting and just as dependent on success in the market place, was its hallmark.

During the past several decades, environmentalism and feminism, “alternative” lifestyles, and more recently, movements like « no growth» have called into question the model of life propagated by industrial capitalism. But we know that the “revenge” of “artistic critique” over “social critique” 4 has also had, perverse effects: it assists in the restructuring of capitalism, by refocusing its critique so as to achieve a more flexible and individualized style of management, and remaining — albeit unintentionally, within a perspective immanent to capitalism. But it is especially in the worship of the work-fetish that capitalism and its alleged opponents demonstrate their real membership in the same universe. Save for a few, and often incoherent exceptions, almost no one can imagine a society that is no longer based on the need to sell his labor-power to live – even if you can not find buyers anywhere. Technologies have replaced human labor to such a degree, that — in all sectors and worldwide — work has lost its role as the primary productive force. But the goal of capitalist production is not concrete wealth, but the accumulation of value – which is created through the utilization of labor-power and, which with surplus labor (unpaid labor) generates surplus-value. And it is not any kind of labor that creates value, but only labor that reproduces the capital invested in it by the standards of global productivity. That is why even millions of new workers in China do not permit an anemic capitalist accumulation to revive. Profits obtained even by some economic actors, especially in the field of finance, no way shows that capitalism as a whole is in good health.

To put it very briefly, the main problem today is not only the exploitation of labor (even if it exists, and more than before), but the fact that increasingly large strata of the population have been made “superfluous” by a production which dispenses with human labor. It is ridiculous to imagine providing “work” for all those made “superfluous”. Rather, it is necessary to begin to imagine a society that does not use its productive potential to satisfy the quest for a ghostly and fetishized “commodity value”, but which uses this potential to meet human needs.

The crisis of capitalism is also the crisis of its traditional adversaries. With the gradual end of labor, and therefore of value and of money “value” that results, all the oppositions that refer to or want to make better use of those categories lose their relevance. It is the same for those who want to conquer state power to transform it into a lever for
emancipatory transformation. 4

To extricate humankind from capitalism, you must first be separated from all its bases, even those that are in one’s head. This is harder than you might think, even if aware of the urgency of this task seems more prevalent today than fifteen years ago. All the members of modern societies have grown up and lived in conditions where almost every element of life assumes a commodity form, and where we get what we want through the money earned by labor (one’s own or that of others, labor present or past). The idea of having a great deal of money is so obviously desirable, just like seeing the government make better use of “its” funds. However, having to face a generalized devaluation of money and of work can make one literally dizzy and very scared. However, it is also on the basis of the recognition of the new situation created by the crisis that we can begin to imagine a post-capitalist society that does not reduce itself to being just another version of the one we already know.
October 2012

1 Karl Marx, 1844 Manuscripts (Economics and Philosophy), tr. E. Bottigelli, Social Publishing, Paris, 1972, p. 107 & 108, the chapter on “Understanding human needs in the regime of private property and under socialism.” Translation modified (in the first sentence quoted, Marx speaks of artisans (Handwerker), not workers, as translated by Bottigelli, and only then begins to use the French word “worker”).

2 I would refer to my article “The Rise and limits of revolutionary romanticism” (about several works of M. Lowy and R. Sayre) Book Review (Paris) No. 2, November 2011.

3 See “De ‘La lucha por Barcelona, at El elogio del trabajo’. The anti-capitalist anarchists and anarcho-syndicalists Spanish thirties “in the economy Exit No. 4, 2012, 4 Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, Gallimard (“Essays”), Paris, 1999.

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I Sing the Body Electric

January 21, 2013 at 5:25 pm (Uncategorized) ()

I was reading Walt Whitman yesterday, and I came across this rather lovely passage in “I Sing the body Electric.” You can read the entire poem here.

I have perceiv’d that to be with those I like is enough,
To stop in company with the rest at evening is enough,  
To be surrounded by beautiful, curious, breathing, laughing flesh is enough,  
To pass among them, or touch any one, or rest my arm ever so lightly round his or her neck for a moment—what is this, then?  
I do not ask any more delight—I swim in it, as in a sea.  
There is something in staying close to men and women, and looking on them, and in the contact and odor of them, that pleases the soul well;   
All things please the soul—but these please the soul well.  

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Anthem for Doomed youth

January 16, 2013 at 2:28 pm (Uncategorized) ()

One of my New Year’s Resolutions (yes, I still make them) was to read more poetry, and as I was in a sombre mood this morning, Wilfred Owen  fit the bill.

I’ve been an admirer of Owen’s work since I was about 15 when a teacher had us read his poem “Dulce et Decorum est, ” and have posted his poems elsewhere on this blog.  On the weekend, I was reading something about the Republicans’ plans to block Chuck Hagel’s nomination as secretary of defense. The phrase “chickenhawk”, a term new to me,  was used and it reminded me of this poem. Who speaks for youth?

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

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New Magazines

January 16, 2013 at 1:14 am (Uncategorized)

New magazines, new magazines.

For those of you who like hard copies, I now have the new issue of Internationalist Perspective. The issue is still available as a PDF at our site for those so inclined.

Also, this week, the new issue of the New Inquiry is out. This issue of the web magazine deals with weather and starts with the old joke: Everyone talks about the weather but no one does anything about it. They also quote Ulrike Meinhoff’s line, “Everyone talks about the weather…we don’t.” Easily worth $2 of your hard-earned cash.

Not politics, but I like it anyway. The new issue of Mojo. When I was coming of age musically, one thing was sure Fleetwood Mac sucked. OK, I used to say that about country music, Led Zeppelin and disco too (still not overly fond of the last o that list, but there you are).  OK, the bluesy Peter Green Mac are quite amazing, but I hate Rumours. Except that the new Mojo has a tribute CD which is actually pretty good too. Damn!

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Banned Words 2013

January 6, 2013 at 10:09 pm (Uncategorized)

The Sunday New York Times magazine pubs a “meh” list each week, but Lake Superior University in Michigan publishes an annual banned words list. This is more specific to annoying bits of language; overused, cliches or meaningless. worth a look to see whether or not you agree. The current list has comments, but here are this year’s winners.

  • fiscal cliff
  • kick the can down the road
  • double down
  • job creators/creation
  • passion/passionate
  • YOLO (You Only Live Once)
  • spoiler alert
  • bucket list
  • trending
  • superfood
  • boneless wings
  • guru

You can also view past lists.

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New Rules for the New Year

January 6, 2013 at 9:52 pm (Uncategorized)

Bill Maher’s New Rules bits are usually funny. Here’s the New Year edition

New Rules for the New Year

2012: I call it the year in “meh.” Not the worst we’ve ever experienced, but nothing particularly great to say about it either. Like being a socialite, but in Tampa.

I am looking forward to 2013, however, because I love the odd-numbered years — they’re the ones without congressional elections, Olympics, World Cups or weird extra days tacked onto the calendar by so-called scientists. Odd-numbered years are chill. They’re the 3 p.m. of years — that small sliver of time when lunch is digested and it’s too early to think about dinner and you stand at least a fighting chance of getting something done.

In that spirit, here are the New Rules for the new year:

NEW RULE Now that their end-of-the-world prophecy has proved to be complete baloney, the Mayans must be given a job predicting election results for Fox News.

NEW RULE Sometime during the 2013 awards show season, “Gangnam Style” must be given an award for the shortest amount of time between my finding out what something is to my being completely sick of it. Besting the time of 7 hours, 12 minutes, set by “The Macarena” in 1996.

NEW RULE Congress must make it a tradition to drive off the fiscal cliff every year. And I mean really off the cliff, like Toonces the cat drove that car. This way Republicans can learn that lower military spending won’t lead to China invading. And Democrats can learn that no one cares what the Commerce Department does anyway.

NEW RULE No more mixing politics with pizza. The filthy rich founder of Papa John’s, John Schnatter, said he’d cut his employees’ hours to avoid the costs of Obamacare. This is where I’d normally suggest boycotting Papa John’s, but that’s like telling people to boycott sadness. Nobody eats Papa John’s because they like it. They eat it because Domino’s won’t deliver to crack houses.

NEW RULE The winners of next month’s Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show must later compete against the winners of “Toddlers & Tiaras” — so we can get their handlers in one place, lock the doors and let the kids and dogs run for their lives.

NEW RULE The New Year’s Eve ball drop must be moved to one of the two states that recently legalized pot, so we can hear the crowd sing in unison, “Should old acquaintance be… what are the words again?”

NEW RULE Second-term Obama must have a few laughs by acting out the Tea Party’s worst fears. He must order Air Force One to fly everywhere upside-down like Denzel and replace Bo the White House dog with two pit bulls named “Malcolm” and “X.”

NEW RULE Drugstores, supermarkets, department stores and all other retail establishments must stop asking me to join their “club.” A club is a place to have a few drinks. What you’re offering me is two dollars off a bottle of NyQuil. And that’s nothing like being in a club. Unless I drink the whole bottle at once.

NEW RULE You can’t run for president if you don’t know how old the world is. Quizzed recently, Marco Rubio answered, “I’m not a scientist, man.” As if you have to be Galileo to Google, “How old is the earth?” And when asked his thoughts on evolution, Chris Christie said, “None of your business!” Which is what you say when someone asks you if you made a baby with the maid. Fellas, if you and your party want to be taken seriously, you don’t have to recite the collected works of Stephen Hawking — just stop regurgitating the Facebook page of Sarah Palin.

NEW RULE If we must sit through a 30-second ad to see your Web site, you have to take down all of those banner ads, which no one has clicked on since 1997. Please — I’m trying to watch a video of a nipple slip from last night’s episode of “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Let’s not cheapen it.

Bill Maher is the host of “Real Time With Bill Maher” on HBO.

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Riots in Egypt

January 1, 2013 at 5:43 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

Just published on the Internationalist Perspective blog

The end of 2012 saw Tahrir Square to be, as it was a year ago, a theater of violent popular confrontations. Is it “back to square one”?

The “Arab Spring” that began in late 2011 constituted real movements of revolt against the existing governments, responding to the economic hardships of the working classes, living conditions in general, and the oppression of authoritarian regimes. These movements brought together in a heteroclite mix sections of the “middle” classes and parts of the proletarian class. The claims put forward by the movement reflected the inter-class character of these assemblages and ranged from a radical challenge to demands for democratic reforms. Of course, the ruling class, to block the deeper questioning of the roots of economic, social and political dysfunction preferred to give as sacrificial lambs to the protesters, the “corrupt leaders” and to propose the organization of “democratic” elections….

We know the results: in many countries, parties with religious affiliations have emerged as “less corrupt” factions of the ruling class, probably less subservient to the dominant economic powers – former European colonialists and the United States – or simply representing “alternative” policies. These are the reasons that should be taken into account so as to understand the breakthrough of these Islamist fractions.

As IP has already emphasized in its press, Islamist parties were far from winning unanimous support! On the other hand, actions continued within the proletarian class: strikes, sabotage, demonstrations…. For the proletariat of the North African countries, the electoral process was not a response to the conditions of exploitation and social misery; the coming to power of pro-Islamist factions, even less so!

It is in this context that we must situate the strikes and protests which continue in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and in the latter country, the violent clashes in recent weeks. The ruling class presented the elections as a solution called for by popular acclaim; “democracy” had led to the current policy choices, in short, everything seemed to happen for the best in a world order restored to calm and order.

The recent riots in Egypt have shown, on the one hand, the weakness of the electoral base of the “Muslim Brotherhood”, on the other hand, a process of disillusionment for those who expected better days from those elections; and finally, further dissatisfaction for those who were never satisfied with this charade of democracy. Today, it appears that from the military power to the power of religion, the population has gone from the yoke of the plague to that of cholera, i.e. that the solution to the economic crisis, to the degradation of living conditions, to the coercive pressures to keep the lid on the social cauldron, has not been found in the replacement of one faction of the ruling class by another.

The current period is one of confrontation, and raises this question: Is the future in reforms or a profound change that can only emerge as a questioning of the very foundations of this global capitalist society? This crucial question has been the one that has traversed all the movements of the years 2011-2012: from the “Arab Spring” to the movements of the “indignados” or “occupy”. Experiences around the electoral process, reformist proposals of all kinds, and the disillusionment that has now occurred are so many ways to put that question on the front burner.

We should not see the riots in Egypt as a peculiar phenomenon, as a result of the blunders of Mohamed Morsi. We must put them in the continuity of questioning that is inter-woven throughout the world, linking the “Arab Spring”, the “outraged” in Europe, the American  “occupy” movement, Canadian students, Indian and Chinese workers …

A perspective for a new society can only emerge from these experiences of questioning and repeated disappointments. In this, we can only emphasize the positive side of the recent riots in Egypt: they reflect the movement of disillusionment and, hopefully, will open the resumption of questioning about “what is to be done.” Another positive element is the global circulation of experience. We have seen how the “Arab Spring,” “outraged,” “occupy” … had spread like wildfire to communicate the heat of protest from country to country. It is clear that the current Egyptian experience will leave traces in countries facing similar disillusionment after the electoral process.

The logic of the capitalist mode of production is being attacked everywhere: on the political front, as we have mentioned, on the economic front as the crisis shows that major structural flaws grip the system and demonstrates day after day the basic impasse in which it is mired. These elements fuel each other and heighten the questioning we see today. All of them feed the movements discussed in this article as well as the proletarian strikes and actions that continue around the world. The progressive unification of these challenges, of these experiences, of that questioning, is what fuels the process of the development of the political consciousness of the proletariat. Because, in the end, it is the proletariat, by its special position in the functioning of  the capitalist mode of production, both essential to this functioning but intrinsically antagonistic to it, that contains the ability to block the continuity of production and therefore the maintenance of the present economic, political and social, system.



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