We in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) have been approached by a group of hundreds of people currently incarcerated in Alabama who are launching a nonviolent prison strike beginning this Sunday April 20th to demand an end to slave labor, the massive overcrowding and horrifying health and human rights violations found in Alabama Prisons, and the passage of legislation they have drafted.
This is the second peaceful and nonviolent protest initiated by the brave men and women of the Free Alabama Movement (F.A.M.) this year building on the recent Hunger Strikes in Pelican Bay and the Georgia Prison Strike in 2010. They aim to build a mass movement inside and outside of prisons to earn their freedom, and end the racist, capitalist system of mass incarceration called The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander and others. The Free Alabama Movement is waging a non-violent and peaceful protest for their civil, economic, and human rights.
The perspective of yet one more nationalist clash at the gates of Europe, in Ukraine, doesn’t seem to displease the world’s masters and those who write for them.
Things are going differently, at least until now, with the revolt gripping Bosnia-Herzegovina. This movement began in the first week of February with workers’ demonstrations against the consequences of privatisation and an increase in unemployment. These demonstrations took place in Mostar and especially in Tuzla, an industrial city with a long tradition of struggle dating from the “socialist” era. Tuzla was also one of the rare places where the nationalist madness had little following, even in the worst moments of the war of the 1990s.
One witness to these demonstrations noted, “We see lowpaid or unpaid workers standing shoulder to shoulder with strikers occupying workplaces whose managers have taken off with the cash box, lots of unemployed, and a few students waiting for unemployment, joined, of course, and in the front lines, by angry young people.” The revolt spread to other cities, finally involving all Bosnia-Herzegovina; there were even a few solidarity demonstrations in Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. If the Ukrainian scenario seems to satisfy the old bourgeois maxim that every revolt leads to new forms of oppression, the example of Bosnia-Herzegovina shows, to the contrary, that it is the social content of a struggle that limits or enlarges its possibilities.
For two months now, mobilisations, strikes, occupations and experiments in self-organisation have flourished in this Balkan region. This determined and creative movement has essentially constituted an action-based critique of nationalism and the political class in power, while seeking new forms of representation. The reorganisation of social life is in fact a necessity, given the long process of destruction of the local economy and the impoverishment of society that neoliberal newspeak calls “the policy of privatisation”.
In Bosnia-Herzegovina, this policy was initiated around 1989, under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (it’s worth remembering that the chief economist of the World Bank at that time was the same Joseph Stiglitz today recycled as a master thinker of a left in search of a master). Privatisations and restructurings proceeded to devastate hundreds of thousands of proletarians, soon transformed into easy prey to the inter-ethnic butchery of the 1990s.
Raising awareness about cat welfare is a good look for your husband’s upcoming campaign strategy. Don’t you think supporting government action on missing and murdered indigenous women in this country would be a better look?
— Hailey King, the 21yo university student who interrupted Laureen Harper (wife of Canadian PM Harper) during her opening speech announcing her “Just for Cats: Internet Cat Video Festival” last night. Laureen responded, “We’re raising money for animals tonight. If you’d like to donate to animals, we’d love to take your money…That’s a great cause, perhaps another night. Tonight we’re here for homeless cats!” [source] (via randomactsofchaos)
Clearly, the notion of ‘interpretation’ to which Marx refers is a variant of the idea of representation. For the idealism criticized here, the world is the object of a contemplation which seeks to perceive its coherence and its ‘meaning’ and thereby, willy-nilly, to impose an order on it. Marx very clearly discerned the interdependence between the fact of thinking an ‘order of the world’ (especially in the social and political register) and the fact of valorizing order in the world: both against ‘anarchy’ and also against ‘movement’ ('Je hais le mouvement qui déplace leslignes’, as Baudelaire was to write)… He also saw very clearly that, from this point of view, the ‘old materialisms’ or philosophies of nature, which substitute matter for mind as the organizing principle, contain a strong element of idealism and are, in the end, merely disguised idealisms (whatever their different political consequences). This enables us to understand why it is so easy for idealism to ‘comprehend’ materialism and therefore to refute it or integrate it (as we see in Hegel, who has no problem with materialisms, except perhaps with that of Spinoza, but Spinoza is a rather atypical materialist…). Lastly, he saw that the heart of modern, post-revolutionary idealism consists in referring the order of the world and of ‘representation’ back to the activity of a subject who creates or, as Kantian languages has it, ‘constitutes’ them.
We then come to the other side of idealism, where it is not a philosophy of representation (or, if one prefers, a mere philosophy of the primacy of ‘ideas’), but a philosophy of subjectivity (which is clearly expressed in the decisive importance assumed by the notion of consciousness). Marx thought that the subjective activity of which idealism speaks is, at bottom, the trace, the denegation (the simultaneous recognition and misrecognition) of a more real activity, an activity that is more ‘effective’, if we may venture the expression: an activity which would be at one and the same time the constitution of the external world and the formation (Bildung) or transformation of self. Witness the insistent way in which the vocabulary of the act, of action and activity (Tat, Tätigkeit, Handlung) recurs in the writings of Kant and, even more markedly, of Fichte (this is, in reality, where the ‘philosophy of action’ extolled by the Young Hegelians comes from). Witness also the way Hegel describes the mode of being of consciousness as an active experience and the function of the concept as a labour (the ‘labour of the negative’). All in all, then, it is not difficult to derive the following from Marx’s aphorisms: just as traditional materialism in reality conceals an idealist foundation (representation, contemplation), so modern idealism in reality conceals a materialist orientation in the function it attributes to the acting subject, at least if one accepts that there is a latent conflict between the idea of representation (interpretation, contemplation) and that of activity (labour, practice, transformation, change). And what he proposes is quite simply to explode the contradiction, to dissociate representation and subjectivity and allow the category of practical activity to emerge in its own right.