Open Threads

Open Threads is an open blogging platform, for debate and exploration of ideas among communists and radicals. Content presented here is contributed by Kasama site users.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Posted by on in Uncategorized

In the final section of my recent article, The Solstice, I raise “the party” as a key conceptual question in the era of riots. The attempt built on previous efforts by the likes of Bruno Bosteels, Gavin Walker, Jodi Dean, Jason Smith and Endnotes, all of whom have recently returned to concept of “the party” in an attempt to sever the term itself from the often repeated equation of party and state or party and delusional leftist sect. All of this has, meanwhile, been occurring in an atmosphere where intellectual forces as disparate as Slavoj Žižek and Tiqqun have been calling for a return to “the party,” at least in the abstract.

But this level of theoretical abstraction has also led to a confusion of the term in practice. For some American Tiqqunistes, “Building the Party,” has meant nothing more than the eternal lifestylist tropes: squatting a house, dumpstering food, and maybe at some point going “back to the land.” For Žižek, Dean and Bosteels, meanwhile, the separation between “the party” and social democratic experiments such as SYRIZA remain vague, tending to reinforce the mistaken equation of “the party” with electoral politics.

In order to avoid these errors, I attempted to explore the multiple and contradictory components of “the party” and, rather than referring to it only in the abstract, intended to link these components directly to examples in the present. An unfortunate side-effect of this, however, has been the risk of abbreviating the concept itself by only exploring its present formulations. I explore the process (by no means that unique) of general social partisanship made more volatile in an age of riots, but I do not explore the process (much rarer) of a thoroughly communist partisanship. The reason for this is simple: there is no actual communist party today.

Posted by on in Uncategorized

The following is the third and final part of a three part series investigating the recent resurgence of right-wing mass movements across the world. The first section, available here, gives a brief overview of this resurgence. The second section, available here, looks in detail at what I argue is the most developed of these right-wing movements, found in Thailand. This third and final segment returns to the questions raised at the beginning, exploring them from the perspective of the "age of riots" hypothesis and the theory of the "historical party."



The People vs. The People

In the fall of 2010, while the country was still under a state of emergency after the crushing of the Red Shirts, I was living and working on an organic farm an hour or so outside Bangkok. The farm was owned by an expat who had some marginal connections to Santi Asoke, since they ran the most extensive organic agriculture network in the country. But the expat himself had a house off-site, and I was living alongside and working mostly with the farmhand family, who—like the undocumented workers constructing a new railroad down the street—were migrants from Isan, with some family in Laos. They spoke a Laotian-inflected dialect of Thai that, I discovered later, was a clear marker of class and ethnic status, in the same way that a strong Hispanic or redneck accent can be in the US.

The Thai family was paid better than many others in a similar situation, such as the railroad workers. But, after remitting a certain percentage of their income to relatives in the north, they were still unable to afford childcare, meaning that their oldest daughter, at thirteen, was forced to stay home from school to watch the younger children while both parents worked. If they were lucky, the oldest child might be able to find a job in the next few years, and her wages could be used to pay for one of the two youngest to go to school.

In Late October there was massive flooding in the area and I went with a team of volunteers to help emergency-harvest a cassava field that had been partially destroyed. The owners of the field were middle class Thais, friends of the expat, who not only had money to purchase the land to farm cassava, but also ran a small business on the side. They drove an enormous diesel pickup, similar to the ones I was familiar with in the American heartland—though in Thailand they have decals that read “Long Live the King” rather than “God Bless America”—and the glove compartment was stuffed with name-brand snacks for the family’s three children, slightly older than the children who lived on the farm, and all currently in school, despite the fact that both their parents worked.

After ripping several small mountains of cassava from the mud, the volunteers ate lunch with the family at a noodle-shop around the corner from the small, suburban farming plot. Across the street, stray dogs with distended bellies dug through the flood-turned soil. The mother of the family explained that, after lunch, we’d have to load the cassava into the pickup to take it to a processing center, where they’d pay a sum based on the weight. Someone asked if the family made much money from the cassava and the woman shook her head. They hardly made any profit from it at all—the land itself was just barely paid off.

Why do you plant the land, then? Someone else asked. The woman smiled. In broken English, she explained that her “great king Bhumibol” had asked Thai people to farm and become self-sufficient, and that this would help make the country strong. She explained that the government was very corrupt, and this created a dependence on foreign powers. But, led by the king, “good Thai people” could return to their cultural roots and rejuvenate the nation.

Posted by on in Uncategorized


The following is the second part of a three part series investigating the recent resurgence of right-wing mass movements across the world. The first section, available here, gives a brief overview of this resurgence. This second section looks in detail at what I argue is the most developed of these right-wing movements, found in Thailand. The third, available here, will return to the questions raised at the beginning, exploring them from the perspective of the "age of riots" hypothesis and the theory of the "historical party."



“A Country is a Company” – Thaksin and the Corporal State

Thailand is a country marked by a sharp rural-urban divide, with a poor rural hinterland, particularly in the Northeastern Isan region, providing a cheap source of both agricultural resources and migrant labor for the wealthier urban core. It’s also a country with a deeply divided ruling class, with factions tied to the military and the crown (which is the largest single landholder in the country and the richest monarchy in the world), others tied to run-of-the-mill neoliberal interests, and still others having turned (after the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997/98) to a populist quasi-Keynesian capitalism. Each class fraction also frames its particular model of exploitation in anti-Western, anti-imperialist rhetoric, contrasting the decadence and corruption of the US-backed global economic order with the virtue of King and Nation. Power shifts generally signal some further fracturing of this ruling class or a shuffling of its allegiances. And such shifts occur with relative frequency: Thailand has experienced more coups than any other country in modern history.

 The following is the first part of a three part series investigating the recent resurgence of right-wing mass movements across the world. This first section gives a brief overview of this resurgence. The second will then look in detail at what I argue is the most developed of these right-wing movements, found in Thailand. The third will return to the questions raised here at the beginning, exploring them from the perspective of the "age of riots" hypothesis and the theory of the "historical party."



After nearly three years of repression, the cycle of revolt that began with the Arab Spring in 2011 has met its winter on the Ukrainian steppe, in Italy’s mountainous north, and on Thailand’s Chao Phraya floodplain. This winter sits now at its pivotal solstice. It’s unclear if it will spread and, if so, how far. What is clear is that the left-wing mobilizations of the early 2010s have each been systematically suffocated, with most as of yet unable to consolidate many substantial gains. Even in Egypt, the heart of the last sequence of struggle, the revolution still sits in a violent gray area, with leftist militants drawn into alliance with the police and the military. As a member of the “original” Egyptian Black Bloc made clear in a recent interview:

After a while, these fake Black Bloc members even started negotiating with the head of police and the Minister of Interior, and they agreed to work together against the Muslim Brotherhood. Even friends of mine were involved in this, they said that now the army and police were on their side and that they would give us justice. They were traitors to the revolution and traitors to our friends who died. They forgot about everything we fought for.

In Greece, Golden Dawn made international headlines after gaining six percent of the vote in 2012. And Golden Dawn itself is only the most prominent of many revanchist parties sprouting up across the EU, most of which have, since the crisis, been capable of winning small but significant electoral victories while recruiting angry, white crisis-era youth into their ranks. But Golden Dawn and most other European far-right organizations, such as the French National Front or British National Party, though capable of gaining some seats in parliament and often attempting to intervene in recent political turmoil, have ultimately been incapable of leveraging the austerity-era struggles in their favor.

In the past few months, however, all of this has changed. In Italy and Ukraine, we have seen far-right movements gain a limited mass base—not only exploiting political faultlines to their benefit but actually calling new, if limited, mass movements into being. And in Thailand the monarchist and nationalist right-wing has broken the détente established in 2011, again mobilizing its base into a series of anti-government protests that may in the near future result in another coup—protests that, more importantly, have been explicitly mimicking the appearance of the past few years’ left-leaning occupations and blockades.


[Note: the bulk of the following essay was written before John Steele had his piece, "Some remarks on Bloom and Contend: A Critique of Maoism," put up on the Unity and Struggle website. My own response, below, shares the same core elements as Steele's, and I, therefore, hadn't intended to finish it, finding Steele's shorter article sufficient.  Ultimately, though, I elaborated the rest of the piece below out of separate inquiries and debates on Chinese history happening elsewhere, as a sort of draft of a more focused essay on the subject. Though still framed below as a response to Chino, the larger goal is to begin an investigation into some of the questions that Chino's piece has raised. It should not be read as a simple one-for-one critique of Chino's piece, nor as a polemic offering a cut-and-dry counterposition.]

Mao or Maoism?

A recent piece by Chino (formerly Ba Jin) of Unity and Struggle has again raised the question of contemporary communists’ appraisals of Chinese revolutionary history.  While Chino’s piece claims to be a critique of Maoism as such, it is not.  The author does not address Maoism as a whole, only Chinese socialist history.  The difference is a subtle but important one.  Chino’s piece can be seen, somewhat, as a critique of the historical roots of Maoism, which only took on its specific name and character around the time of the Cultural Revolution, and mostly took on this character outside of China.  “Maoism,” then, was very much a foreign export—speaking more to the appropriation of certain doctrines and spectacles from Chinese revolutionary history by radicals elsewhere.

And that is a broad elsewhere.  The Maoisms of Latin America remained distinct from the Maoist influence on Black Liberation in the US or the Maoist student groups in France.  There are shared characteristics, but these are not necessarily discernible through an examination of Chinese revolutionary history—and particularly not one that emphasizes the early revolutionary years and ignores the majority of the “long” (’66-’76) cultural revolution, which was the primary vehicle for the later export of specifically “Maoist” theory, aesthetics and mythologies. What did these “Maoists” take from the Chinese experience and what did they leave? This is should be a key question in any critique of Maoism, yet Chino leaves it unanswered.

These various Maoist histories are largely exhausted.  In most places, Maoism not the name for a vital communist politics today, even if there are a few select lessons and tools that might be salvageable. There are, obviously, living exceptions to this in places such as India, Nepal and the Philippines. Chino’s stated goal is, then, a worthwhile one.  Maoism itself needs to be excavated, explored and properly buried. It is an understudied topic.  A one-to-one conflation of Maoism with Chinese history, however, actually prevents this burial from taking place—or, more accurately, buries one corpse in another’s grave.

That said, it is an equally important endeavor to excavate, explore and properly bury Chinese socialist history itself.  This is not only useful for the lessons and tools that  we might extract from the process, but also for the concrete insight it can give us into the capitalist powerhouse that China has become. Chino’s approach, however, detracts from both projects, weakening the historical critique through an overemphasis on textual, aesthetic and ideological dimensions, while also overburdening the theoretical critique with history’s obtuse weight.

In what follows, I take Chino’s piece to be exploring these historical questions, rather than critiquing Maoism as such, since the piece lacks any discussion of Maoism’s extension (and in fact creation) outside of China. By contrast, the essay discusses many points of history at length and in substantial detail.

Posted by on in News & Analysis

In the past few days, conservative "Yellow Shirt" anti-government protestors have begun occupying ministries in and around Bangkok.  Many outside of Thailand don't know much about who these protestors are, what they want or the political context in which they operate. 

Below, I've reposted a quick, acerbic and straightforward article from Thai Red Socialist, the website of Giles Ji Ungpakorn.  Formerly a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok,  he was forced to go into exile in 2009 after being charged with "Lèse Majesté" (insulting the king) for opposing the Yellow Shirt military coup in 2006.  He is founder of "Turn Left," Thailand, a supporter of the socialist "Red Siam" faction within the Red Shirt (UDD) movement, and a member of the British SWP.

This article does not include a chronology of recent political events in Thailand, but it refers to a few important touchstones that the reader will need to know:  The 2006 "Yellow Shirt" military/royalist coup against the elected populist prime minister (and telecom billionaire) Thaksin Shinawatra.  The 2010 "Red Shirt" protests, in which the urban and rural poor occupied a central shopping district in Bangkok for about a month before being violently ousted by the military.  And the 2011 election of Yingluck Shinawatra (Thaksin's sister) after the legalization of the Pheu Thai party (the third incarnation of Thaksin's original political party).

Over the next week, I'll try to post a few articles that detail some of this history and explain more of the complexities of Thai politics.




Who are the Thai anti-government protesters and what do they stand for?

Thousands of crazed middle-class royalists, led by the notorious blood-stained Democrat Party have been demonstrating in an attempt to get rid of the Government and all of former Prime Minister Taksin’s influence in politics. They hope the military will help them do this. They have been occupying government buildings and blocking roads.

Posted by on in Occupy

Many of us have casually discussed varying summations of our experiences within Occupy, which exploded across US cities almost exactly two years ago now--but these discussions have mostly taken place informally and uncritically.  At the same time, it's not an exaggeration to say that such summations may well be one of the most important and pressing theoretical procedures for communists today.

Below I have reposted one brief summation (focused on Oakland), from CrimethInc's "After the Crest" series, which explores recent protest upsurges (in the US, Spain and Quebec) after their high-point of mobilization has come and gone.  I repost it not to endorse its perspective (though I do agree with the broad strokes), but to instigate discussion and hopefully encourage more summations from other cities and perspectives.

The article is also available here as a printable .pdf.



After the Crest, part II: The Rise and Fall of the Oakland Commune

This is the second part in our “After the Crest” series, studying what we can learn from the waning phase of social movements. In this installment, participants in Occupy Oakland trace its trajectory from origins to conclusion, exploring why it reached certain limits and what it will take for future movements to surpass them.

Posted by on in News & Analysis


Normally, the rain in Seattle is slight and constant, nothing like the torrential downpours seen in the south or the Midwest during summer storms.  But on Thursday, August 29th, it was syrup-thick, the grey clouds speckled with lightning.  Almost as much rain fell in that one day as had fallen the entire month prior.  South of the city, the unusual weather nearly produced a tornado—a remarkably rare occurrence on the coastal northwest. 

In the city proper, fast food workers were striking for the second time in three months, part of a coordinated national walkout that hit more than fifty cities.  The strike-first strategy they were using was itself a rare occurrence, standing out distinctly from Big Labor’s normal repertoire of muted sign-holding and closed-door contract negotiation.  But even before the rain began, this second walkout had been dampened by low turnout compared to the first strike at the end of May. 

In that first strike, at least eight stores were shut down entirely for some portion of the day, twice as many more having to call in additional managers to staff their shops.  In the second walkout, only a handful were actually shut down for any period of time.  A Subway was emptied early in the morning, a Specialty’s had to close their coffee counter when the worker they’d called to scab decided to walk out instead, a downtown Jimmy John’s was forced to suspend deliveries after all its drivers walked off, and another Jimmy John’s on First Hill had to call in managers to make up for the four in-shop workers who struck.  Those who portray the actions as composed entirely of paid staffers and community members ignore these real (if limited) walkouts that did, in fact, happen.

Still, it was immediately obvious that this second strike was smaller than the first, with less worker participation, fewer actual walkouts and a more limited economic impact.  At the same time, it was much flashier, with big multimedia set-ups in Westlake Park streaming video of actions in Tacoma and Missoula, politicians lining up to speak at the rally on Capitol Hill, and a fawning lead-up feature by The Stranger, Seattle’s arts and culture weekly, which only rarely deigns to dirty its hands with the problems of the proles.

Each of these dimensions, more or less consistent with what I have heard from other cities, signals that the movement may be confronting its initial limits.  After the first strike, I argued for radicals to take on a limited engagement with the campaign where possible, offering a few concrete forms that this engagement could take.  It’s essential to now give an update as the movement confronts these initial limits.  In most respects, the methods initially advocated still remain valid, though the environment sustaining them has begun to seriously change.  As this change progresses, those methods will also obviously have to adapt.

Posted by on in Uncategorized


It often happens that some of the more interesting political questions get raised almost exclusively in person or on places like Facebook—too often disappearing into the background noise of parties or becoming immediately obscured by the posturing of anonymous digital avatars.  I’d like to take a moment to draw one of those questions out of that context and address it here more completely.  I encourage those who posted on the original thread to take their more substantial responses and repost them here as well.

The other day, Natalio Peréz, a fellow Kasama member, posted this comment:

When I say that I am in support of having labor discipline in a new socialist society, it means that I believe people will have dedicated--if reduced--work tasks to fulfill as their contribution to society as a whole. This will require--to varying extents depending on the nature of the work--being at one's position on time, on a set schedule, and meeting certain productivity requirements. I really don't understand how this could possibly be controversial to anyone who wants to live in a place with electricity, waste disposal, potable water, material goods, and all the other labor-intensive necessities for the reproduction of human life.

The statement immediately sparked a minor Facebook shitstorm, which then settled, producing a relatively interesting discussion of labor discipline (hierarchical, collective, and self-discipline) in the Zapatista communities of southern Mexico.

Despite how interesting that discussion was, however, it still seemed to perpetuate and ignore many of the unspoken presumptions behind the original statement—despite these being very much core questions for communist reconception.  Let’s take some time to draw those questions out.

Posted by on in News & Analysis


I appreciate Nat's engagement ( with my recent article, "Whose Strike?" – I also want to note that there are two more detailed follow-ups in the works.  The first will be another practical article looking at the most recent strikes, changes in SEIU’s strategy, and some reporting back on how communist agitation has been done here in Seattle in order to break out of the activist framework.  The second will be the article (promised in the first one) which lays out more of the reasoning behind how these “dead end” jobs lie along a particular faultline—how that faultline is both gendered and generational, and why it tends to produce the particular anger that Nat talks about, as well as a more advanced political consciousness among people.

For now, I’d like to respond to Nat’s criticisms with some shortened elements from those longer articles—hopefully the process will also help me to develop those ideas.


This is reposted from Viewpoint.  It's one of the best engagements with Bhaskar Sunkara's call for Left Unity--one that explores the real context the call is made in, as well as a history of its past incarnations.  Aside from a limited discussion on Jodi Dean's work, Kasama has not yet engaged with these calls for Left Unity.  Hopefully this piece, linking back to Sunkara's original call, can help to initiate that discussion.




Dead Generations and Unknown Continents: Reflections on Left Unity

by Salar Mohandesi


In 1881, just two years before his death, the ailing Karl Marx received a letter from a young socialist, Ferdinand Domela Nieuwenhuis, asking for his opinion about the call to rebuild the International Workingmen’s Association, the most advanced experiment in Left Unity up to that date. Marx, who had been involved with such parties as the Communist League and the German Social Democratic Party, was no enemy of organization. But his response was blunt: “It is my conviction that the critical juncture for a new International Workingmen’s Association has not yet arrived and for this reason I regard all workers’ congresses, particularly socialist congresses, in so far as they are not related to the immediate given conditions in this or that particular nation, as not merely useless but harmful. They will always fade away in innumerable stale generalised banalities.” When not explicitly tied to the concrete struggles of a real historical conjuncture, the question of Left Unity can be nothing other than the “statement of a phantom problem to which the only answer can be – the criticism of the question itself.”

Posted by on in News & Analysis


The Strikes Themselves

November of this year will mark the one-year anniversary of the New York fast food worker walkout that initiated the cycle of one-day strikes and public demonstrations that have been kicking off across the country ever since.  The first New York action was followed by a second in the spring of 2013, as similar strikes rolled through Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Washington DC, Detroit and Seattle.  In early August, workers in New York staged a third walkout, matched by escalations in other cities. 

Each major action has thus far been initiated and facilitated by paid organizers employed by groups like “Fast Food Forward” and “Good Jobs Seattle,” all funded by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).   These paid organizers make an initial foothold in each shop by seeking out the active, interested minority of workers, who then attend larger meetings and themselves take on the responsibility of pulling other workers from their shop.  A similar approach was evident in the UFCW-backed  Black Friday walkouts at Walmart in 2012.  Despite being instigated by these paid organizers, however, the strikes themselves have involved an unusual degree of worker input and participation when compared to normal union drives.

In the bigger picture, they mark a shift away from the usual sign-holding and sterile contract negotiation that are the time-tested hallmarks of the nearly extinct species of union that originated in the post-WWII anti-communist detente.  In their stead, several (mostly service) unions are now moving (back) towards strike-first strategies, solidarity picketing and general “social movement unionism,” often catapulting themselves into a legal grey zone where their strategy becomes unclear at the same time that opportunities proliferate.


fire a10d7

“Poverty in itself does not make men into a rabble; a rabble is created only when there is joined to poverty a disposition of mind, an inner indignation against the rich, against society, against the government.”

-G.W.F. Hegel, Philosophy of Right


The World’s on Fire, Again

With global capital still passing discontent from continent to continent like a game of hot potato, it’s now an oft-stated adage that we live in an “era of riots.”  Blaumachen, a Greek theoretical collective often associated with the communization current, has posted a new article updating its previous analyses of this global trend.  Despite accusations of obscurantism leveled at many groups in the communization current, collectives like Blaumachen are at least admirable in their attempt to craft a recognizable analysis of current events out of the more abstract economic and political theory put forward by other theoretical collectives such as Théorie Communiste and Troploin.

In their newest work, Blaumachen propose that the current era of riots exhibits a global unevenness which can be anatomized into four distinct dynamics.  This uneven dynamism is evidenced by recent unrest in countries like Sweden, as well as the “IMF miracle” countries, Turkey and Brazil.  The mass mobilizations in these countries seem to pose new limits and prospects for global revolt in the present moment.


Starting with the Straw-Men

I want to spend a little time here responding to a brief post by Trevor K in the open threads section.  The purpose of this engagement is to encourage a more coherent cross-tendency dialogue, helping to illuminate the often inaccurate picture that others paint of Maoists, on one end, and the “ultra-left” on the other.

Trevor’s piece opens with a basic summary of resistance to globalized capital’s incursions in the rural regions of South Asia, reiterating the importance of this resistance, especially where it has actually been successful (even in a limited fashion) at liberating territory from the rule of capital and the state. 

Soon, however, it becomes clear that the piece is more than just an overview, as the author begins responding to several critiques attributed to “some of our comrades,” and, more specifically, “some on the ‘ultra-left.’”  These critiques are listed quickly, in a haphazard fashion without any citation as to where they were made, or who is actually making them.  Most of the arguments attributed to “some on the ‘ultra-left,’” match positions usually attributed to them in century-old polemics against particular ultra-leftist spectres, severed of their context and haunting the annals of state-socialism—positions that were often very different than those actually held by many on the ultra-left.

Posted by on in International

Below is the English version of a new piece by Alain Badiou, speaking on the recent uprising in Turkey.



File:Badiou-an original drawing.jpg

A large proportion of the educated youth all across Turkey are currently leading a vast movement against the government’s repressive and reactionary practices. This is a very important moment in what I have called  “the rebirth of History.” In many countries around the world, middle school, high school, and university youth, supported by a part of the intellectuals and the middle class, are giving new life to Mao’s famous dictum: “It is right to revolt.” They are occupying squares and streets, symbolic places; they are marching, calling for freedom, “true democracy,” and a new life. They are demanding that the government either change its conservative politics or resign. They are resisting the violent attacks of the state police.

These are the features of what I have called an immediate uprising: one of the potential forces of popular revolutionary political action  – in this case, the educated youth and a part of the salaried petty bourgeoisie – rises up, in its own name, against the reactionary state. I enthusiastically say: it is right to do so! But in so doing it opens up the problem of the duration and the scope of its uprising. It is right to take action, but what is the real reason for it in terms of thinking, and for the future?

Posted by on in Theory


Jodi Dean recently posted some annotations to Leon de Mattis’ article “What is Communisation?” from the first volume of SIC.  For a while now Dean has had a limited engagement with communization theory—and I have many points of disagreement with both her method (using outdated, weak or non-representative articles) and many of her conclusions.  But it would be equally disingenuous to provide a full critique of Dean’s position when she hasn’t produced any systematic criticism, aside from a few blog posts.  Instead, I wanted to clarify a particular point of confusion that Dean (and many others) seem to regularly confront in communization theory.

This article from ROAR Magazine gives a good survey of some of the dominant media narratives around what's happening in Turkey right now.



by Jerome Roos on June 3, 2013

Post image for The Turkish protests and the genie of revolution

While the outcome remains uncertain, a closer look at the Turkish uprising reveals its intimate connection to the global struggle for real democracy.


genies, plural; genii, plural

A spirit of Arabian folklore, as traditionally depicted imprisoned within a bottle or oil lamp, and capable of granting wishes when summoned.

In 2011, a rebellious genie was let out of the suffocating bottle of the neoliberal world order. Ever since, world leaders have been struggling to put it back into place. This weekend, right when they started to feel that the genie had finally been contained, the revolutionary spirit arose once again in an unexpected location: in rapidly developing Turkey, a regional success story and darling of global capital and the neoliberal West. What began as a local struggle over the last green space in Istanbul’s urban landscape has now escalated into the biggest challenge to Erdogan’s 10-year rule and, according to some, “the most widespread civil unrest in Turkish history.” In an irony of historic proportions, the democratically elected leader who famously called on Mubarak and Assad to listen to their people and step down is now defying protesters with the same short-sighted authoritarian machismo of the dictators from whom he so avidly sought to distance himself.

Video shared by on in Uncategorized

Posted by on in International

Below is the original piece, from Aufheben, critiqued by the Kersplebedeb article on the front page of Kasama.  Neither the original nor the Kasama repost provide a link to the original article or explain its context.  Both the original and the repost also seem to (falsely) imply that the article is current.  In fact, this piece was produced more than a decade ago (2000) in the midst of the anti-globalization movement, when activist culture in the high-GDP countries was encouraging edgy references to the Zapatistas as an "exotic" parlor-piece in what was an otherwise bland "lifestylist" approach to politics.

The below piece was also produced prior to many of the Zapatista's later contributions, such as the Sexta Declaración, which made their anti-capitalism more coherent and gave the beginnings of a more systematic critique of class society, both in Mexico and globally.  I'm not aware of any more current work done by Aufheben (on either side of their split) on the Zapatistas circa the 2010s.

I post this not because I entirely agree with Aufheben's positions, but because it gives a fair context to the Kersplebedeb piece--not to mention the fact that the rigor of the original research goes far beyond that of the critique.



Not proletarian, yet not entirely peasant, the Zapatistas' political ideas are riven with contradictions. We reject the academics' argument of Zapatismo's centrality as the new revolutionary subject, just as we reject the assertions of the 'ultra-left' that because the Zapatistas do not have a communist programme they are simply complicit with capital. We see the Zapatistas as a moment in the struggle to replace the reified community of capital with the real human community. Their battle for land against the rancheros and latifundistas reminds us of capital's (permanent) transitions rather than its apparent permanence.

We have not previously felt moved to comment on the Zapatista uprising, not because we have had no interest, but because we distrusted the way in which so many were quick to project their hopes onto this 'exotic' struggle. Everyone from anarchists to Marxist-Leninists, indigenous people's freaks to social democrats, primitivists to 'Third World' developmentalists - all seemed able to see what they wanted in the struggle in Chiapas.

Subcommandante Marcos, the shrewd EZLN (Ejercito Zapatista de Nacional Liberacion) spokesman, maximised the attractiveness and impact of the Zapatistas on progressive opinion by maintaining a conscious ambiguity around their politics. For us, however, his demagogic appeals to 'liberty! justice! democracy!' were something with which we had little affinity. It was apparent that making sense of the uprising would require an understanding of what the Indians were doing on the ground, distinct both from the way their spokespeople chose to portray the struggle, and from the way in which this representation was taken up to fulfil the needs of political actors in very different situations.

Two currents have attempted to go beyond the cheerleading for the Zapatistas to provide a more theoretical grasp of this movement. 'Autonomist Marxism', now largely based in academia, has embraced the Chiapas revolt, seeing it as central to a new recomposition of the world working class. On the other hand a much more critical response can be found in a number of 'ultra left'[1] inspired articles. As both tendencies favour autonomous class struggle and oppose traditional leftist ideas, why such different conclusions on the rebellion?

The interview below is one of the better ones I've read about communization and the aesthetics of occupy.  It is, however, written in the obscure, academicized language of art theory -- but I still think it's largely accessible.  The beginning includes one of the better explanations of the misapprehension of communization theory among many on the left.




Interview with Daniel Spaulding on Communization, Occupy, and the spectre of aesthetics.

Daniel Spaulding is a graduate student in the Department of the History of Art, Yale University. He works on postwar and contemporary art in Western Europe. With Jaleh Mansoor and Daniel Marcus he coauthored a response to a questionnaire on Occupy Wall Street for a special issue of the journal October in the fall of 2012. (

C. Derick Varn:  What are the basic links and limitations you see between art and radical praxis?

Daniel Spaulding:  It’s senseless to answer this question except with reference to concrete instances of relations between the two. I’m not interested in defining the role of art in bourgeois society as such in the manner of, say, Peter Bürger. At the same time real instances of the interface between art and politics are unquestionably determined by the general forms of capitalist society – the commodity, the wage, exchange, and so on. From this basis one can indeed claim to deduce the category of art from the determinations of the value-form or more broadly from the whole complex of relations that make up the capitalist mode of production. The role of a Marxist art history as opposed to a Marxist aesthetic theory, however, must be to mediate between form-determination and form itself, between category and material artifact.

In that spirit I’m also going to be a bit unsatisfying and refuse to give a programmatic answer to your question. I will venture to say that the standard modes of “critical” post-60s art won’t cut it. This seems widely acknowledged even in the bastions of that very model: see for instance recent meditations on the “postcritical” impulse and the failure of the “anti-aesthetic” in journals like October and Texte zur Kunst. I’m afraid lot of this is just chewing the cud of “left” art history’s academicization. The impasse is real, however.

The vital question is how to articulate the totalizing impulse of critique – which I’d argue is still as important as ever, in the face of capitalism’s own totalizing force – with a poiesis necessarily fixated on the smallest point of ingress to the materiality of everyday life, or to put it differently, the smallest unit of affect or event in its difference from a reified situation. Art small-a. I’d be willing to bet that a materialist lyric mode is the closest thing to an avant-garde we currently possess. It’s no longer very interesting to say: “Look, I’ve divested myself of my subjectivity, I’ve laid bare the mechanism through critical mimesis, I’ve taught the petrified social forms to dance by singing them their own song.” Better for artists to ask: “How can I make something that speaks to my experience in all its fucked-upness and seeming inevitability; how can I produce anything at all without immediately reproducing capital; what representational or anti-representational claims can I make with regard to my own place in the violent hierarchy of class society?” But this is a kind of lyric that opens onto epic to the extent it necessarily folds totalization back into subjectivity, or history into experience.