It is not consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
Karl Marx (via m-paoword)
It is not consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.
Karl Marx (via m-paoword)
To resort to the concept of cultural hegemony is to take a banal question-“who has power?”-and deepen it at both ends. The “who” includes parents, preachers, teachers, journalists, literati, “experts” of all sorts, as well as advertising executives, entertainment promoters, popular musicians, sports figures, and “celebrities”-all of whom are involved (albeit often unwittingly) in shaping the values and attitudes of a society. The “power” includes cultural as well as economic and political power-the power to help define the boundaries of common-sense “reality” either by ignoring views outside those boundaries or by labeling deviant opinions “tasteless” or “irresponsible.
The Concept of Cultural Hegemony: Problems and Possibilities
T. J. Jackson Lears
The Guardian’s poll in their Comment is Free section.
Or as I like to phrase it, “do transport workers deserve fair recompense for working overtime during the Olympic Games, or should we shaft them and tell them they need to take this one on the chin so that business owners can maximise their profit out of the games, while the workers who make it all happen get paid a pittance?”
“The UK got the games because it brings new jobs and excellent business opportunities to our shores” aka “our mates who run building firms, hotels etc are going to make a killing out of this lads. Good thing I bought that hotel for Mayfair last turn!”
Coming up next week in “loaded questions” …
YOU FUCKING GUYS
WATCH THIS SHIT
CNN, EXPLAIN YOURSELF
It’s like you can literally see people in a control room scrambling to pull out some feed wires the moment he starts criticizing foreign policy on live tv..
Holy shit that was hilarious.
This needs to go viral
The ‘democratic philosopher’ is equivalent to the ‘organic intellectual.’ The latter is a term more familiar and more widely known than the former. Yet the former more adequately captures the substance of the teacher-student relation that forms the core of the Gramscian concept of egemonia. The organic intellectual is precisely that intellectual who is in close and intimate contact with the people, a type defined by a relationship between the two that is reciprocal and dialectical, where intellectual and people mutually define each other and where the relationship is precisely pedagogic, hegemonic, and political in the sense described earlier. The organic intellectual or the democratic philosopher is the teacher and educator whose knowledge and activity are constantly modifying, and being modified by, the ‘environment’ – especially the people – such that the educator and the people become engaged in a process of self-definition and self-overcoming.
Benedetto Fontana, Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli p27
What this means is that the ‘andare al popolo’ (going to the people) is viewed by Gramsci as a pedogogic [sic] and educational relation between the philosophy of praxis and the cultura popolare of the peasants and workers. Such a relationship, however, should not be conceived in terms of what Gramsci calls an abstract and ‘strictly scholastic’ posture. The relationship ‘between teacher and student is an active relation, reciprocal, and thus every teacher is always a student and every student is always a teacher’ (emphasis added [by Fontana to Gramsci’s words]). This formulation is a commentary on the Marxian thesis in ‘Feuerbach,’ where Marx says that the educator himself must be educated. Such an orientation suggests that the relation between the popular masses and the philosophy of praxis – between the intellectual who arises and is individuated from within the social and cultural matrix that locates the masses in time and in space, and the masses whose thought and culture the intellectual expresses and reflects – is inherently a hegemonic, and consequently, political relationship. ‘Every relationship of ‘hegemony’ is necessarily an educational relationship,’ and ‘every educational relationship is a political relationship.’ The relationship is political and hegemonic not simply because the teacher-student relationship is reciprocal and mutually interacting, but also because each emerges from, and gives rise to, the other, and because each is informed by the interests and culture of the other.
Benedetto Fontana, Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli p26
Ideologies … are the ‘true’ philosophy, because they are those philosophical ‘vulgarisations’ that bring the masses to concrete action and to the transformation of reality. That is, they are the mass and popular aspect of every philosophical conception, which in a ‘philosopher’ assume the character of a universal abstraction outside of time and space, a character specifically literary and ahistorical in origin.
Antonio Gramsci, taken from Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli by Benedetto Fontana p21
… to Gramsci, Machiavelli is the figure who embodies the unity of thought and action, knowledge and people. It is precisely this synthesis between politics and philosophy, I will argue, that characterises the Gramscian conception of the political as the activity that transcends the given reality – the divorce between alta cultura and cultura popolare, the people as the volgo who ‘do not know’ and the educated rulers ‘who know’ – and transforms this given into a new and superior reality. This conception of the political as the unity of knowledge and people, which in their mutual interaction creates a conscious and free subject that will move from the particular to the universal, is precisely what characterises the notion of hegemony as a conception of the world that has become the life and activity of the people.
Benedetto Fontana, Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli p11
Language means also culture and philosophy (if only at the level of common sense) and therefore the fact of ‘language’ is in reality a multiplicity of facts more or less organically coherent and coordinated: at the limit it could be said that every speaking being has a personal language of his own, that is, his own particular way of thinking and feeling.
Antonio Gramsci, taken from Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli by Benedetto Fontana p173
There is a very definite and ‘organic’ relation between types of language and the Gramscian notion of hegemony. The development of a new hegemonic conception of the world simultaneously requires the development of a language different from the prevailing one. Moral and intellectual reform implies the use of a new and different language in order to express and proliferate the new modi di pensare [modes of thought] and the new modi di operare [modes of operation/action]. The new version of the sacred texts was both a presupposition and a result of the new conception of the world that the riforma was undertaking. The vernacular was thus at one and the same time a critical instrument in the undermining of the established conception, and a necessary means by which the new conception would become ‘life’ and assume a central place in the practice and experience of the people.
Benedetto Fontana, Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli p37.
In this section Fontana discusses how the Lutheran reformation, changing Christianity from the dominant Catholic norms and creating a Protestant understanding of biblical text, necessitated re-translation of the text and the subsequent development of new language surrounding Christianity which was an intrinsic aspect of the counter-hegemony to the domination by Catholicism. The Protestant reformation was an important change for Western European society which opened up religion from being governed by the clerical elites to being much more accessible by the mass of people. It was an important stage in the development towards today’s cultures.
Political consciousness is the self-consciousness of being in an active and purposive engagement with society and with history – an engagement that is both the product of such consciousness and the ground that gives rise to it. Philosophy becomes ‘real’ when it develops into a ‘determinate hegemonic force,’ that is, when it has become the consciousness of the people who as a consequence feel and perceive themselves as a determinate force. The realisation of philosophy, the consciousness of being a political force, is the transformation of a subordinate, particularistic mass of disaggregated individuals into a leading and hegemonic subject whose thought and values have become the prevailing conception of the world.
Thus the generation of the democratic philosopher, and the coming-to-be of a subaltern group into a popular hegemonic force, demand the ‘political development of the concept of hegemony,’ which is equivalent – in opposition to the Crocean notion of the ‘corrupt philosophy’ – to ‘a great philosophical advance as well as a political-practical one. For it necessarily presupposes and involves an intellectual unity and an ethic in conformity with a conception of reality that has moved beyond and overcome the common sense [of the established modi di pensare [modes of thought]] and that has become, if only within the narrow limits, critical thought.’ This developmental process whereby a group assumes a hegemonic and leading role in society is one that requires the emergence of an organic intellectual within the masses themselves such that the relation intellectual-people adumbrates and summarises the meaning of the democratic philosopher. The relation intellectual-people is given by the teacher-student paradigm where the unity resulting from the interaction of the two entities is transformed, and resolves itself, into the unity of the two moments theory/practice, or philosophy/politics: thus ‘filosofico oltre che political-practico’ [philosophy as well as political-practical]. It is this totality constituted by the interacting moments of thought and action, philosophy and politics, that describes the Gramscian concept of hegemony. This totality implies the ‘absolute historicism’ and the ‘absolute laicism’ of the philosophy of praxis, an orientation aptly and concisely summarised by Marx’s ‘Theses on Feurbach.’
Benedetto Fontana, Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli p32-3.
Currently this is my favourite book and you’re probably (definitely) going to see my spewing out a few more quotes from it in the new future. The print is pretty big for an academic book too, bonus!
Gramsci writes a lot on the concept of hegemony and I tend to find that there’s a tendency for some Marxists to discount the notion of hegemony in the cultural sense and focus on it in the more Leninist interpretation as predominately referring to class leadership. This book by Fontana brilliantly explicates the dialectical relationship of cultural hegemony and class hegemony that makes the two inseparable for the Marxist’s project.
This quote also touches on Gramsci’s stance towards the relationship of intellectual and the people, and teacher to student and how this relates to the idea of the democratic philosopher. In relation to Croce, an Italian liberal intellectual who viewed philosophy as purer when rarefied and conducted by separated superiors who are not a part of nor product of mass culture, Gramsci’s stance is antithetical: the position of the intellectual is to be a product of the people, to interact with and learn from them. The democratic philosopher is not a static individual, separated from the people and therefore purer in their intuited conclusions, but instead fundamentally must function within mass society and function as a part of it both to have their understanding guided by their relations but to also take agency as a participant within the structuring of that society. The distinction between an active Marxist philosopher who must be an agent of change as well as philosopher, versus the bourgeois intellectual who interacts with only the intellectual class and has a distaste of mass society.
Critical understanding of self takes place therefore through a struggle of political ‘hegemonies’ of opposing directions, first in the ethical field and then in that of politics, in order to arrive at the creation and elaboration of a higher and superior level of one’s own conception of reality. …
The consciousness of being a part of a determinate hegemonic force (that is to say, political consciousness) is the first stage toward a further and progressive self-consciousness in which theory and practice will finally unite.
Antonio Gramsci, taken from Hegemony & Power: On the Relation between Gramsci and Machiavelli by Benedetto Fontana p32.
One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others of the Day: Hint: It’s the one with the cover story about how it’s completely okay, if not beneficial, to feel unease about future uncertainties, as opposed to, say, riot in the streets until sh*t gets done.
This kind of makes me want to die.
Look, a representative government can be controlled by the people. But if people don’t give a fuck to represent themselves, money will step right in and do it for us.
No they can’t. Who stands in elections, how are these people chosen, who runs campaigns, how do they campaign, who pays for campaign material, what do they put in their manifestos, how do they decide what they put in their manifestos, how does the media report on campaigns, who owns the media, who pays for adverts in the media and therefore has financial interest in structuring what the media represents, how does capitalist society structure itself, how is education funded and who sets the curriculum, how does the education; media; etc structure people’s understanding of and motivation for civic interaction, once someone has been through this process reconsider who it is that runs in elections and how they structure their manifesto.
After all of these questions have been considered, why do you think that representative democracy is the legitimate means that hasn’t been fully tested? Why do you lay blame on people who are disenfranchised by the system for not participating in it, rather than in the system that alienates them?
I’m not asking for you to go through the rational process of how you come to your conclusions. I’m asking you to consider the socialisation process you engage in from the very second you’re born that structures how your mind interprets normative interaction.
Your thoughts are not your own. Never make the mistake of thinking they are.
Yes I’ve been very aware, I think anybody who has had a political discussion even to this small extent is aware. No I don’t think anything about this time is particularly any different except for the fact that people are starting to realize that they can’t ignore politics anymore.
Cart before the horse. Post-materialist politics (as in, politics driven around social rather than economic issues) can only exist with emphasis in situations where the middle classes are doing quite well for themselves. Remember that the middle class and upper class issues drive political discourse. It’s only when the middle classes start feeling the pinch that issues regarding workplaces and the economy can begin to come to the fore. It wasn’t that working class people are suddenly hard up when they weren’t before; they were. But it’s getting worse, and the middle classes are realising that their position as aspirant capitalists isn’t going to work out when it comes to paying the mortgage.
I still don’t agree with you, but I do appreciate this conversation so thanks for the discourse. I’m on pacific westcoast time so I’m old-ladying it off to bed.
I suppose I haven’t subscribed to violent resistance because the mass majority of this country has barely begun to explore their non-violent options of getting together and voting for the proper representatives to manage this country. Jumping straight to violence does not make sense to me.
I realise universal suffrage wasn’t immediate since the American Revolution, but what exactly do you think people have been doing since 1920?
Watching tv and pretending politics don’t mean dick to them. Our voter turnout in this country is atrocious, even for Presidential elections once every 4 years. Most people I know barely vote for Presidents, you can bet your ass they don’t even know what’s going on at the state level.
The political system is geared to the interests of white, middle class males. It’s full of lobbyists who put pressure onto the political elite who are predominately white, upper-middle or upper class males. The discourse they use, the social expectations they represent, the class interests they benefit (notably: their own, and those of the lobbyists who guarantee them jobs or perks when they retire) are alienating to the majority of the population. The entrenched ruling elite which maintains power.
Why would anybody bother voting?
Century of the Self part 1 of 4.
This really interesting first part of the documentary focusses around Freud’s development of psychoanalysis and it’s application, primarily by Edward Bernays, in the US to the development of consumerist culture as a way to control the wants and desires of the masses. Most interesting is the way in which big business created a counter-campaign, against Roosevelt’s driven political participation for the citizen, to make synonymic the concepts of successful business, democracy and US-exceptionalism. Undoubtedly the effects of this hyper-constructive propaganda campaign is something which can still be felt today (lolTea Party?).
Excuse me, I read your response to a reblog of one of my posts, but I’m not sure that I understood what you meant. Would you mind expanding on your point for me? I also expanded on mine on my blog with a further reblog of the one you posted.
Hegemony comes from the Greek word hegemon, which literally means chief. People relate hegemony to meaning leadership but the nature through which capitalist hegemony exists, that leadership transfers also into dominance. We currently live in a system where capitalist ideals and social interactions are the socialised, ingrained norm. The bourgeois class, by holding the reigns of power, have structured the world in such a way where their values and expectations are forced upon the masses. Yet the system created is self-propagating. Educational systems, religious institutions, media sources, cultural events, shops etc train people from the day they’re born as to the correct way to interact within a capitalist society. Parents teach their children not to steal and by that merit instil the value of property rights.
This normative social functioning is so completely dominant that people find other forms of social interaction to be completely alien. Liberal ideology and values are assumed to be the middle point, the neutral value. Take, for example, newspapers which are expected to be neutral and unbiased. When they report on police misconduct the considered bias is whether or not the police were at fault in the misconduct, or whether the police were acting within their remit. They are still instilling bourgeois values: the police are still presumed to exist. Yet surely a valid question they could be asking to represent all aspects of potential views, which will very rarely be seen in the mainstream media, is whether or not the police are a necessary institution. They could very easily question whether or not police were first created as a form of social control to enforce capitalist hierarchal structures: they don’t, because they recreate bourgeois ideals, because they’re a part of the bourgeois hegemony.
This creates preconceptions of the normal functioning of society that become expected, treated almost as innate to what it is to be human. For example the claim that humans are naturally greedy, denying the nature of humans as a product of their society because the person promoting this idea of what it is to be human cannot comprehend that a person has had an upbringing or socialisation other than that which they themselves experienced.
So this idea of voluntaryism, that all of society can exist through the function of voluntary interactions and therefore people can coexist as being socialist or capitalist, functionally doesn’t work. From the outset it would require that any interaction is, for example … voluntary. But they’re not. When you go to the shop to buy something you can make the choice between X brand and Y brand but you cannot choose to not have to pay for it. When you’re born into a family you do not choose the way they raise you. Yet the upbringing you have normalises you into those social processes. If people collect into groupings (so you have a community of socialists and separate to that a community of capitalists) you don’t have a situation where each person can voluntarily change between which society they live in, because there is no true neutrality to human nature. The socialist societies will propagate socialists, the capitalist societies will propagate capitalists. When people are a part of a grouping they’re trained to understand, trust and incorporate that grouping into an integral aspect of their identity from the very instant they’re born.
There’s also no way to go from a capitalist hegemonic system to one that isn’t without working to create a counter-hegemony and finding a sufficient power base to re-socialise people’s expectations. Anarchism without adjectives or without hyphens or whatever which simply cannot do that. Firstly because it doesn’t find anything wrong with capitalism as long as it doesn’t have the state hierarchy behind it (because, ja know, bosses and owners aren’t hierarchal at all? Labour is suddenly no longer alienated?), secondly because it’s fear of creating a dominant system (for a marxist that would be the dictatorship of the proletariat) means there’s absolutely no way to distribute or otherwise promote that counter-hegemony on such a level where it can be consumed en masse.
That’s without getting into arguments about the impossibility of the capitalist system to survive without it constantly fighting to maintain dominance.
THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
This book was first thought of, so far as the central idea goes, in 1937, but was not written down until about the end of 1943. By the time when it came to be written it was obvious that there would be great difficulty in getting it published (in spite of the present book shortage which ensures that anything describable as a book will ‘sell’), and in the event it was refused by four publishers. Only one of these had any ideological motive. Two had been publishing anti-Russian books for years, and the other had no noticeable political colour. One publisher actually started by accepting the book, but after making the preliminary arrangements he decided to consult the Ministry of Information, who appear to have warned him, or at any rate strongly advised him, against publishing it. Here is an extract from his letter:
I mentioned the reaction I had had from an important official in the Ministry of Information with regard to Animal Farm. I must confess that this expression of opinion has given me seriously to think … I can see now that it might be regarded as something which it was highly ill-advised to publish at the present time. If the fable were addressed generally to dictators and dictatorships at large then publication would be all right, but the fable does follow, as I see now, so completely the progress of the Russian Soviets and their two dictators, that it can apply only to Russia, to the exclusion of the other dictatorships. Another thing: it would be less offensive if the predominant caste in the fable were not pigs. [It is not quite clear whether this suggested modification is Mr … ‘s own idea, or originated with the Ministry of Information; but it seems to have the official ring about it – Orwell’s Note] I think the choice of pigs as the ruling caste will no doubt give offence to many people, and particularly to anyone who is a bit touchy, as undoubtedly the Russians are.
This kind of thing is not a good symptom. Obviously it is not desirable that a government department should have any power of censorship (except security censorship, which no one objects to in war time) over books which are not officially sponsored. But the chief danger to freedom of thought and speech at this moment is not the direct interference of the MOI or any official body. If publishers and editors exert themselves to keep certain topics out of print, it is not because they are frightened of prosecution but because they are frightened of public opinion. In this country intellectual cowardice is the worst enemy a writer or journalist has to face, and that fact does not seem to me to have had the discussion it deserves.
Page with the full text here.
In my opinion, the most reasonable and concrete thing that can be said about the ethical State, the cultural State, is this: every State is ethical in as much as one of its most important functions is to raise the great mass of the population to a particular cultural and moral level, a level (or type) which corresponds to the needs of the productive forces for development, and hence to the interests of the ruling classes. The school as a positive educative function, and the courts as a repressive and negative educative function, are the most important State activities in this sense: but, in reality a multitude of other so-called private initiatives and activities tend to the same end- initiatives and activities which form the apparatus of the political and cultural hegemony of the ruling classes.
A lived hegemony is always a process. It is not, except analytically, a system or a structure. It is a realised complex of experiences, relationships, and activities, with specific and changing pressures and limits.
Raymond Williams – Marxism and Literature.
Regarding Libya, I’ve noticed much of the radical left is somewhat hesitant to support the revolution taking place. I completely understand their viewpoint, it comes mostly from cynicism regarding what is in store for the people of Libya after Gadaffi is gone and what role NATO may play in the…
Can we please define a “western government” and “western democracy”? Are we talking single member plurality, separation of powers as in the US? Are we talking a linked powers parliament single member plurality as in the UK? Are we talking about a mixed proportional system as in Germany? Are we talking about a proportional system using districts such as in Sweden? Are we talking about reintroducing a monarchy such as they have in Sweden, the UK, Spain, Norway or are we talking about maintaining a republic such as in Germany, France, Italy, the US?
Unicameral such as in Finland, Iceland, Denmark or bicameral such as in the Canada and Australia? A constitution to promote direct democracy and referendums such as in Switzerland and the US on a state level, or where constitutions are largely ignored such as in the UK? Do we mean a federal system such as in Belgium, devolved power such as in the UK or a purely unitarian state such as Italy?
I don’t really know what a western government, nor what a western democracy, looks like.
You’re overthinking it. The details are of course going to be decided by Libyan people alone when they have a constitutional referendum however a Western Democracy to me has a separation of church and state, a legislature elected by the people, whether it be unicameral or bicameral, constitutional or common law rights upheld by the judicial system, trials by jury and either a parliamentary system or a democratic republic. Those are the primary points to me though I could go into lengthly detail over what I would like Libya’s government to look like.
The point is though, that the western democratic system, whether it be based on British, French, German or American democracy will be better for the Libyan people than the reign of Gadaffi and we should be happy that at the very least the Libyan people have a true shot at democracy and gaining many of the liberties that people fought for in the Western world. And whether or not you supported NATO intervention, if you dislike Gadaffi’s regime, this is a time for cautious celebration
But it’s really not over-thinking the situation. It’s really problematic to use the term “western” in such a homogenised fashion. Almost as problematic as using American as synonymous with the United States (because there are 33 countries being lumped in that may beg to differ). An example of this problematic lexical ambiguity is quite neatly highlighted when you say “either a parliamentary system or a democratic republic” where the two are not mutually exclusive and I suspect you mean a constitutional monarchy.
There’s also a sort of underlying current beneath all of this, terming it as a western democracy, implying that non-western states are potentially incapable of or incompatible with having the same structures in place. For example, despite being in the middle of a constitutional crises, Morocco isn’t too dissimilar from the UK in how it organises it’s politics. There’s no reason as to why many Latin American countries are excluded from your definition of “western democracy”, except for the fact that they’re considered a part of the global south rather than global north, and thus not “western”. You use the phrase “western style capitalist state” but why do we view that as the inevitable direction that Libya will take (and what of western style socialist states such as Scandinavia?).
The point I’m making is to be aware of the terminology that you use and the way you use it. Don’t slip into regurgitating media portrayals of the situation that lead to an anglocentric perspective of the way global politics works. Don’t just regurgitate the ideas of the bourgeois hegemony that reek of condescension towards other nationalities. Don’t relegate the Libyan civil war to be decided before even a couple of days have passed and Gaddafi hasn’t truly gone, don’t relegate the future of the Libyan state to be decided by the temporary involvement of NATO and the current perception of the TNC when the constitution isn’t even written let along settled upon.
Just as Egyptian revolutionaries continue to fight for true workers control, battling against the military junta. In the words of Zhou Enlai, it’s “too soon to tell.”
No both your answers are wrong. The reason why it’s not a revolution is because the Americans support the Revolutionary Forces. That’s it.
You know what, that does touch upon how media coverage of the Libyan civil war has never mentioned them as revolutionaries though that is a proper term. Rebels is one you hear very often. But not revolutionaries since it carries that anti-western leftist feeling to it that the American media just despises.
Odd how little cues in our language can mean so much
Which would be true if 1) US media was the only media reporting on the matter, 2) there weren’t a semantic distinction between a rebellion and a revolution, and 3) a revolution can only be determined through the gaze of history, not through the present perception.
For example, note that the English Civil War saw the monarch beheaded and a change in the hands of power, however Cromwell went and died and the monarch was reinstated. The American Revolution saw the United States liberated from British control, while the American Civil War was a conflict within the civil society that after resolution retained the same power paradigms.
Indeed the notion that it’s because NATO forces are involved would contradict the usage of civil war, because then it’s no longer a war within the civil society but has outside involvement.
Now I’m not saying there aren’t ulterior motives as to why the various medias avoid using the term revolution, however at the moment they are correct not to do so. If you think the long and short of it comes down to “American [sic] forces are involved” then that’s a horridly naive way to look at it.
A sign of how AlJazeera English has changed: Before “Operation Cast Lead” in 2008/09, AJE had two excellent Arabic-speaking reporters (Sherine Tadros and Ayman Mohyeldin) already in Gaza who were able to cover the three weeks of horror from the inside while other networks were stuck outside gathered atop a hill next to cheering Israelis. Now, while Israel is again bombing the shit out of Gaza who does AJE have? Former CNN correspondent Cal Perry who I don’t think speaks any Arabic and is reporting from … Jerusalem.
LONDON — As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?
“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”
Read full article here. (No really, read it. It’s short but pretty good and really interesting.)
And when it comes down to it, that’s the truth of the situation. Riots in an of themselves don’t achieve anything, but they highlight the unrest and they bring to the front the contradictions within society. They’re a statement to the ruling classes and the media that people are willing to and able to fight back, that there’s a lot of power present. No, in a riot it’s not guided and it’s not directed. It isn’t in itself a revolutionary action. But the act of riot highlights that there is this ostracised and disaffected group, the purpose of being a revolutionary (of any kind be you anarchist or marxist) is to find a way to bring that group into the workers movement, to be able to build and direct that passion and anger from being purely destructive into something creative.
This is why you don’t attack the rioters, because they share your class consciousness and despite not having a philosophical basis for their action they’re still striking back at the same beast. The problem is with the government and the capitalist society that creates the separation and the contradictions that lead to this situation in the first place.
To revolutionaries that I follow who berate the rioters for their actions, you think the media reporting of this is any different than it is in other countries that have riots? You see that’s the point: here we have an American mainstream news article that reports on riots, it talks about how the riot is the only way for people to have their voices heard; it talks about the issue of poverty; it talks about police/resident relations being poor; it talks of long term underlying socio-economic problems. Will our media and has our media been reporting this in the same fashion? Do you think if a riot happened in the US tomorrow MSNBC would be taking the same line, or would they follow suit and ostracise the rioters as street gangs/anarchists/kids out to smash stuff? (Hint, it’s the second option). Every time you reblog a picture of a riot in another country the media and a large chunk of the population there will be making the same complaints about that instance as I’ve seen some of you make about the situation in London.
These are the contradictions of a capitalist media, of self-censorship and of ideological hegemony. This highlights the way that the media reports on issues one way for their home state and another way for other states, the way that capitalism protects itself by separating and dividing societies into not supporting and uniting. You have to buck that trend, you have to look past the facade and at the deeper issues behind it, you have to show a consistent support based on class consciousness and not be sucked into the arrogance and elitism that capitalism uses to de-tooth and declaw those who could oppose it.
I agree with you I was just surprised noone had reported anything! I’m interested to see how it’s covered considering now the issues you said
Listening in on my housemate watching the BBC news coverage, the anchor went with the old gem “and of course outside groups could’ve come in and hijacked the protest …”
This line is a particular favourite of mine. It gets thrown around so much.
During the student demonstrations, especially Millbank, the accusation was thrown out that “violence” was instigated by anarchist groups that had come in to subvert the protest. Which firstly presumes that students can’t be anarchist and anarchists can’t be students, and secondly it functions as a hook to say “ok, so the actual protest may have validity and freedom of speech is important, but now we’re going to isolate and demonise the people who use direct action. They’re not part of the protest movement, so lets ignore the purpose of the protest to talk about that for a week.”
A similar thing happened in Stokes Croft (which is a very small area right next to Bristol’s city centre) where people complained about people present at the riots as not being people who live in Stokes Croft and not really knowing what the community is like, blah blah blah. While a hell of a lot of people have to go through Stokes Croft to get to the centre, it’s in the middle of a bubbling variety of communities and acts as a focal hub for much of the broader area.
But again the tactic by the press is to isolate and demonise. The danger of this tactic is that this makes it easier for the government and police to “legitimise” stronger tactics, stricter laws, to defend against this specific “threat” (whereas in reality riots are an conflation of general will. A few angry people can’t spontaneously start a riot within a peaceful protest without there being a firmer basis for it) however these tactics are invariably used to broaden the oppression, it becomes easier to attack and delegitimise peaceful protests and protests on other matters. This style of media reporting plays into the encroachment of clamping down on civil rights across the spectrum (sort of like how when the US increased their budget for counter-terrorism, a significant portion of that was spent on riot control gear).