Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Maison Marx

In an old newspaper, I come across a photo of the Paris Commune. It shows part of the barricade in rue de Batignolles, near place Clichy; in the middle of the street, five mortars and three bronze cannons, and behind some saplings (which despite le temps des cerises have yet to sprout leaves) a low building with clear curtains behind its poor windows. Above, repeated twice in large characters, the number of the street and its social reason: 57 - Au nouveau né. Maison Marx.

It seems like a joke. A little crass, I'd say, like chance ones usually are. What could the owner or shop-keeper of 'Everything for the baby' know about it, he who shared the same last name from Alsace or the Rhine with that other one, Karl, who during those days, in London, scanned dispatches from the insurrection?

On their mounts, the three little muzzle-loading cannons of proletarian desperation. Au nouveau-né. Ninety years ago. In Simbirsk, Vladimir Ilych had turned twelve months on April 22. It's been forty-three years since those babies won. (For us too, but not here.) Who is celebrating his first years, now? Desperation and hope, more than any wisdom, are truly invincible...

Franco Fortini, '[Maison Marx. 1960]', in L'ospite ingrato, 1966.

Hate those who gently lead into nothingness

Franco Fortini

Translating Brecht

All afternoon
a thunderstorm hung on the rooftops,
then broke, in lightning, in torrents.
I stared at lines of cement, lines of glass
with screams inside them, wounds mixed in and limbs,
mine also, who have survived. Carefully, looking
now at the bricks, embattled, now at the dry page,
I heard the word
of a poet expire, or change
to another voice, no longer for us. The oppressed
are oppressed and quiet, the quiet oppressors
talk on the telephone, hatred is courteous, and I too
begin to think I no longer know who's to blame.

Write, I say to myself, hate those
who gently lead into nothingness
the men and women who are your companions
and think they no longer know. Among the enemies' names
write your own too. The thunderstorm,
with its crashing, has passed. To copy
those battles nature's not strong enough. Poetry
changes nothing. Nothing is certain.

(tr. Michael Hamburger)

Monday, January 10, 2011

La Crisi

Thursday, November 18, 2010



Herbert Marcuse

The present campus unrest must be seen in the context of a deep-rooted protest against the established society, its immoral and illegal war in Vietnam, its glaring inequality and injustice, its general aggressiveness and hypocrisy. The following remarks refer to this context only; therefore other cases of legitimate police intervention (such as enforcement of civil rights legislation against segregationists) are not mentioned.

There are instances where the intervention of the police on campus would be justifiable even according to the standards of the Left: when human life is endangered, and when there is the possibility of serious bodily injury; also in the case of willful destruction of facilities and materials serving the educational purposes of the university (libraries, etc.). To the best of my knowledge, such destruction is no part of the strategy and tactics of the New Left.

The occupation of buildings and the disruption of “business as usual” are, in my view, no reasons for police intervention. Such temporary violations of Law and Order must be judged in the light of the crimes against which they try to draw attention – the continued slaughter in Vietnam and the continued oppression of racial and national minorities. Compared with this normal daily violence which goes largely unpunished and unnoticed, the student protest is nonviolent.

New York Times Magazine (May 4, 1969)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Racism and Abstraction

Paul Berman, tireless fustigator of crypto-totalitarian useful idiots spawned by the long tail of the bad 60s, has composed another righteous tract, this time it seems attacking fifth columnists on the 'left' - those notorious socialists Garton Ash and Buruma - for being soft on seductive 'moderates' like Tariq Ramadan, who cunningly conceal the green bacillus of world-conquering Islam under the facade of reasonableness. To spare the reader the soul-crushing déjà-vu of actually reading this sterile screed, the publishers have kindly summarised it in the cover image - which neatly resolves, in the affirmative, the scholasto-aesthetic question: 'Can abstract art be racist?'

The straight white lines on the right, broken up by the evil green Islamist shard, leading to the culpable disarray of the white lines on the left...

As we all know, communism was the Islam of the twentieth-century and Islam is the communism of the twenty-first. Both are driven, at their core, by the blessed rage for abstraction, and their fantasmatic union would signal the total and utter implosion of all things Western, reasonable and good. Below, my friends, care of our guest artist Bat (aka al-Lissitzky), is the dialectical image that haunts the nightmares of Berman & co.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Daniel Bensaid RIP

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Philosophy and Psychology: Badiou interviews Foucault (1965)

From the educational programme L'enseignement de la philosophie, on which see Tamara Chaplin Matheson, 'Embodying the Mind, Producing the Nation: Philosophy on French Television', Journal of the History of Ideas 67 (2) (2006): 315-341.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Jameson Symposium

Follow this link for videos and mp3's of the symposium for Jameson's reception of the Norwegian Holberg Prize. The elusive Perry Anderson (ending on a rare note of uplift), Michael Löwy and Wang Hui feature.