International repression news: Bulgaria, Belarus, Indonesia, the US and more

Bulgaria: Support Needed for Antifascist Prisoner Jock Palfreeman

In Bulgaria, antifascist prisoner and prison organiser Jock Palfreeman continues his hunger strike, which has now gone on for a month. The Bulgarian families and friends of prisoners group write:

“Jock Palfreeman’s hunger strike is in its 30th day today, May 21st. On April 21st 2019, Palfreeman declared a hunger strike due to the systematic pressure and harassment that he has been subjected to over the last two years from the prison administration and the Ministry of Justice because of his human rights work with Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association and as a form of protest against widespread corruption and abuse of power in Bulgarian prisons.

Palfreeman and BRPA are targeted for the political work they are doing within prisons and for speaking up against its administration and representatives of the Ministry of Justice!

Four weeks after Palfreeman has declared his hunger strike, amidst the deafening silence from both the Ministry of Justice and the prison administration of Sofia Central Prison, to whose hospital ward he has been recently moved, the danger of a permanent damage to his health is becoming increasingly real. WE SHOULD ACT NOW OR THE LOSS OF A HUMAN LIFE WILL LIE ON OUR CONSCIENCE.

WE CALL FOR ACTIONS IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE HUNGER STRIKE ALL OVER THE WORLD! IN FRONT OF BULGARIAN EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES! EVERYWHERE! WE WANT YOU TO GET MAD!!!

Further coverage can be found at mpalothia.net, the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association site, Green Left Weekly and Bulgarian Diaspora and Friends.

In Belarus, anarchist Dzmitry Palijenka is being held in pre-trial detention on charges related to alleged anti-police graffiti, and will be spending his 25th birthday behind bars on Friday. If you email belarus_abc(AT)riseup.net with a greeting for him, they can translate it and pass it on to him free of charge.

In Indonesia, a huge crackdown on the local anarchist movement has been taking place since May Day. Further coverage from Organise Magazine here and from It’s Going Down here. You can donate to help Indonesian anarchists at https://www.paypal.me/adnandi or at this Gofundme for the local anarcho-syndicalist organisation.

In the US, FBI raids have been targeting antifascists in South Carolina, and they’re fundraising to help cover legal costs here. Also, Lucasville prisoner Bomani Shakur is on death row awaiting execution for his alleged involvement in the 1993 Lucasville Uprising and has his 50th birthday this month, so his friends are collecting donations to get him a surprise birthday gift. Fellow Lucasville Uprising inmate Greg Curry is still asking people to buy shirts to help with his legal fundraising and to raise awareness of his case.

Back in the UK, more blacklisted workers have won financial compensation, and the Blacklist Support Group are fighting on to expose the full story of the blacklist. Solidarity, a film about the blacklist struggle, will have its premiere at the Sheffield DocFest in early June. On a related note, on Thursday the 23rd in Newport, “Alison”, one of the women deceived into a relationship with an undercover spycop who posed as a construction worker, will be speaking out about her experiences.

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US prisoner solidarity updates: new commutation campaign for Jalil Muntaqim and fundraiser shirts for Greg Curry

Two quick prisoner solidarity updates:

Image result for free jalil muntaqim

Supporters of Jalil Muntaqim, a black liberation prisoner and former Panther who’s been held since the early 1970s, are launching a new campaign to get him released.

“As many of you know, Jalil has been to the parole board ten times since 2002, when he first become parole eligible.

Jalil has been denied each time for a variety of reasons, all of which are tantamount to the nature of the crime—something that will never change.

After the last parole hearing and denial, pursuant to NYS Constitutional Article IV, Section 4, Jalil filed an Application to Commute the Sentence to Time Served with NYS Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. Governor Cuomo has the authority to grant the Application and order Jalil’s immediate release from NYS DOCCS custody.

Since the Application’s submission it has been revealed that the NYS Board of Parole had a “secret deal” with the NYC Police Benevolent Association (PBA), permitting them to submit opposition letters directly to the Board of Parole from their website. These opposition letters negatively influenced the decision-making process, ensuring Jalil would not receive a fair and impartial parole hearing. During Jalil’s 2014 parole hearing, he was told that “current and former members of law enforcement” were parole commissioners, many of whom decided to deny his release.

On December 4th & 5th, 2016, The New York Times published an extensive exposé entitled “The Scourge of Racial Bias in New York States Prisons” that informed: “The racism can be felt from the moment a black inmate enters New York’s upstate prisons.” This implacable racism has been institutionalized in the entire parole system, permitting subjective biases of parole commissioners to influence parole decisions.

Since the submission of the Application to Commute the Sentence to Time Served, Governor Cuomo has received many letters and communications urging him to grant Jalil’s Application. However, due to the revelation of political collusion between the Board of Parole and the PBA, and the PBA/media backlash and scrutiny of the Parole Board’s release of Jalil’s co-defendant, it has become necessary to launch this May Day Initiative in support of Jalil’s Application.

Jalil exceeds all requirements for release. His release on parole has been supported by activists, academics and community leaders from across the country and around the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the family of one of the victims. The political nature of his conviction has prevented parole commissioners from giving fair and impartial consideration to his release, despite the overwhelming community support…

We request that people do the following for Jalil throughout the month of May:

On May 1, 2019, May Day, we are requesting that Friends and Supporters call, tweet, email and write NYS Govenor Andrew M. Cuomo’s office and appeal to him to grant Jalil’s Application to Commute the Sentence to Time Served.

We also request that this May Initiative be widely posted on social media platforms, encouraging freedom loving people around the world to join in this initiative.

Since this will be ongoing throughout the month of May, we propose that people tweet and/or email Governor Cuomo every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and call and write the Governor every Tuesday and Thursday.

Communications to Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s office must refer to Jalil as: ANTHONY JALIL BOTTOM, 77A4283, Sullivan Correctional Facility, P.O. Box 116, Fallsburg, New York 12733-0115.

Write the Governor:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo

Governor of the State of New York

Executive Chamber

State Capital Building

Albany, New York 12224

Call the Governor: 1-518-474-8390

Tweet the Governor: @NYGovCuomo

Email the Governor: https://www.governor.ny.gov/content/governor-contact-form

For more information concerning Jalil’s case, check https://thejerichomovement.com/

Click here to download a pamphlet to distribute to your family, friends, neighbors, faith group, etc.”

Further information about Jalil which can be used in your messages can be found at the link.

Meanwhile, supporters of Greg Curry, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in the wake of the 1993 Lucasville Uprising, have designed a new fundraiser shirt, which you can buy here.

Free Greg Curry Shirt Black T-Shirt Back

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Uber strike May 8th, breakthrough for the Shrewsbury 24, and more

A few quick updates:

Uber drivers organising through the IWGB are organising strikes in London, Glasgow, Nottingham and Birmingham as part of an international action against the company.

“Uber drivers will log off the app and stage protests in London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Glasgow ahead of the minicab firm’s stock market flotation the following day.

The drivers, who are part of the United Private Hire Drivers Branch (UPHD) of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), will observe a 9 hour boycott of the app between 7am and 4pm.

Uber drivers will be on strike and leading demonstrations across the world on 8 May in the lead up to Uber’s Initial Public Offering (IPO).

UPHD calls on the public to not cross the digital picket line by using the app to book Uber services during these times.

Drivers are protesting against the IPO which will lead to large payouts for executives and venture capitalist investors, despite failures to resolve pay issues for drivers.

The drivers are demanding:

  • Fares be increased to £2 per mile
  • Commissions paid by drivers to Uber be reduced from 25% to 15%
  • An end to unfair dismissals
  • Uber to respect the rulings the 2016 ruling of the Employment Tribunal confirming ‘worker’ status for drivers
  • James Farrar, Chair of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union said: “Uber’s flotation is shaping up to be an unprecedented international orgy of greed as investors cash in on one of the most abusive business models ever to emerge from Silicon Valley. It is the drivers who have created this extraordinary wealth but they continue to be denied even the most basic workplace rights. We call on the public not to cross the digital picket line on 8 May but to stand in solidarity with impoverished drivers across the world who have made Uber so successful.”

The protests will take place at 1pm, May 8th at the following locations –

  1. London – Uber UK Head Office, 1 Aldgate Tower, 2 Leman St, London E1 8FA
  2. Birmingham – 100 Broad St, Birmingham B15 1AE (TBC)
  3. Nottingham – King Edward Court Unit C, Nottingham NG1 1EL
  4. Glasgow – 69 Buchanan St, Glasgow G1 3HL (TBC)”

The IWW Couriers Network is calling on Uber Eats delivery workers to join in the action.

The Shrewsbury 24 campaign, fighting to win justice for building workers who were unjustly convicted in 1973, has made an important step forward. The Criminal Cases Review Commission, which had previously refused to allow their appeal, has now withdrawn the previous decision and agreed to reconsider the case, which hopefully means that they’ll soon be able to take their fight to the court of appeal.

Outsourced workers at Sellafield are in the middle of a 10-day strike over pay and in defiance of management bullying and harassment. A few disputes are heating up in the care sector: Admin staff in Bristol health trust AWP are balloting for strike action over job cuts, and support workers at the Alternative Futures Group are launching a week-long strike against an attempted pay cut. For anyone who’s around in Liverpool, there’ll be a strike rally on the 10th, and you can donate to their strike fund here.

Elsewhere, London Underground maintenance and engineering staff will be striking over the weekend of the 17th-20th May in response to an attempt to cut back on safety inspections, and Universal Credit claimants are trying to launch a new union.

Posted in Strikes, Unemployment/claimants and welfare, Unions, Work | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Cleaners striking at HSBC to kick off a class struggle May Day in London

Grassroots cleaners’ union CAIWU have finalised their plans for May 1st:

In the morning, cleaners at HSBC’s head offices are striking about overwork, intrusive management and lack of sick pay.

After that, at 12 noon they’ll be boarding an open-topped bus for a tour of various ongoing disputes throughout the city, stopping off at the Italian Consulate which recently sacked six cleaners, Lilian Baylis Technology School where cleaners are demanding a living wage, and at Facebook’s headquarters where catering staff are being victimised and overworked following a recent successful campaign for a wage increase.

Consulate Mayday 2019 flyer 1.4 front

Engie-LB Mayday 2019 flyer 0.7 front

Facebook-ToGo Mayday Flyer 2019 0.6 front

Other mayday-related events I’m aware of include the Barnsley festival of solidarity, Manchester’s anti-fascist 0161 Festival, and the Angry Workers of the World’s Marx reading group and film showing about workers organising in a German car factory.

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UK prisoner/legal support updates: Extinction Rebellion prisoners, Kevan Thackrar and the JCB 5

The Activist Court Aid Brigade has an update on the Extinction Rebellion prisoners who’ve been held in remand for the Docklands Light Railway action: one has been released on bail, while Mark Ovland is being held at

Mark OVLAND A0671EJ HMP Pentonville Caledonian Rd London N7 8TT

A third, Luke Watson, is also imprisoned, but his contact details have not yet been confirmed. Many people, myself included, will have pretty strong criticisms of Extinction Rebellion’s methods, along the lines of those made by the Anarchist Communist Group, and will be more sympathetic to other approaches to fighting climate change; but tactical and strategic disagreements, no matter how strong, should never mean a lack of solidarity towards those facing repression.

Meanwhile, Incarcerated Workers Organising Committee member and longtime prison rebel Kevan Thackrar has been subjected to severe racial abuse recently, and is urgently in need of outside supporters to help show solidarity and protect him. IWOC suggest:

“Please write to prison and Ministry of Justice officials to demand that Kevan is protected from prisoners and officers perpetrating racist abuse and violence, and that he is afforded his basic human rights such as time out of his cell, meaningful human contact in the prison and contact with family and friends.

You can write to:

CM R. Grice
Head of Security
HMP Whitemoor
Longhill Road
March
Cambridgeshire
PE15 0PR

Or phone the prison on: 01354 602 350

David Gauke
Secretary of State for Justice
102 Petty France
Westminster
London
SW1H 9AJ

Or contact him at the Ministry of Justice: https://contact-moj.dsd.io/correspondence/topic

Steve Barclay
MP for North East Cambridgeshire
stevebarclay.net/contact

You can also write to Kevan. He may not always be able to reply but really appreciates support and solidarity:

Kevan Thakrar A4907AE
HMP Whitemoor
Longhill Road
March
Cambridgeshire
PE15 0PR”

Finally, five people are facing trial in June on two charges related to actions at JCB sites, which aimed to disrupt that company’s activities making equipment used to demolish people’s houses in Palestine. They’re asking for help in covering their legal costs, and you can donate here.

Posted in Climate Change, Racism, Repression | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Antifascist prisoner Jock Palfreeman on hunger strike, and last-minute callouts for this weekend

Jock Palfreeman, antifascist prisoner and chair of the Bulgarian Prisoners’ Association, has launched a hunger strike “as a protest against the corruption and abuse of power by the management of Sofia Prison, and in particular, the chief of staff, Desilav Angelov Traykov.You can email the Bulgarian Justice Ministry in support of his strike at priemna@justice.government.bg, or write to Jock directly at

Jock Palfreeman, Kazichene Prison, Kazichene 1532, Region Pancherevo, Sofia, BULGARIA

Antifascist events happening this Saturday include mobilisations against the far-right “yellow vests” in Leeds, the For Britain Party in Swansea (with a separate meet-up point for people travelling from Cardiff), and the Southall 40 memorial march. Other things happening this weekend include the UVW union’s 5th birthday party on Saturday night, Workers’ Memorial Day events going on across the country on Sunday, and a “Commemoration, conflict and conscience: The hidden stories of WW1” festival in Bristol, telling the stories of strikers, mutineers, deserters and more.

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His academic rust could not burn them up: a very late reply on orthodox Markism and skipping class

Does anyone really think, for instance, that things would improve if we replaced the whole managerial and banking class with a whole new set of (‘better’) people? Surely, on the contrary, it is evident that the vices are engendered by the structure, and that while the structure remains, the vices will reproduce themselves.

 – Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

About two months ago, I re-visited Mark Fisher’s essay on “Exiting the Vampire’s Castle”, trying to set out my disagreements with it in a calmer and more constructive way than I’d been able to at the time. This is something I’d been thinking of doing for a while, but the specific prompt had come from encountering some posts on a “Fisherist” blog called Xenogothic; Xenogothic then subjected my own writings to some fairly scathing critique, which I’m just now getting around to replying to. I had intended to do this a few weeks ago, but I’ve been going through something of a speed-up at work, which means that I’ve not been getting to do anywhere near as much reading, writing and thinking as I’d like; as ever, the reader can make up their own mind as to whether that has any relevance or not.

Xenogothic objects to a line where I referred to Fisher as having a definition of class that seemed to have “nothing to do with your position in society or what your material interests are”, asking whether I was “insinuating that Mark is some sort of oppressive millionaire?”

I would have thought this was obvious from the original context, but the only thing I was trying to insinuate was that Fisher seemed to have a definition of class where there was nothing contradictory about being a working-class millionaire, which seems a reasonable enough conclusion to draw from the fact that he listed people saying “that Brand couldn’t really be working class, because he was a millionaire” as an example of the sorts of wrongheaded and objectionable things that vampires say.

Does the fact of being a millionaire affect one’s class position at all, or doesn’t it? And if it does, then why this attachment to defending a piece of writing that claims it doesn’t?

Xenogothic insists that they “have very little time for people who argue that you can somehow graduate (perhaps literally) from your class position”, which I think neatly sums up the argument about class implicit in VC, and also leads to some totally incoherent conclusions – either insisting that we live in a totally feudal caste society where no individuals ever experience any social mobility, or else admitting that they do but it doesn’t really matter, because “class” is some kind of inherent internal identity that can’t be changed, like genetics or one’s immortal soul.

Xenogothic does admit that it is worth being wary of “the self-made men of this world, who loved to talk about starting from nothing” and who try to dismiss talk of class as a structure “on grounds of individualised success”. But that’s the thing: the Fisher/Xenogothic approach to class also stresses individualism over collective analysis and action, because the effect of this whole line of argument about “working-class academics/media professionals/millionaires” is to make a claim about individual identity and to tell us that we shouldn’t consider academics, millionaires or whoever as a collective social category.

The annoying thing about this is that, as I’ve said, it is absolutely possible for academics to act as part of the working class, and indeed, around this time last year, supporting the UCU dispute was one of my main priorities. But you can’t take collective action in your workplace if you’ve convinced yourself that you’re the only working-class person there and everyone else is on the wrong side, which is where this idea of “being working class and in an institutionally bourgeois position” seems to lead. It feels a bit strange to be accused of “insisting… on the deconstruction of platforms for solidarity” by someone who also slags everyone at their workplace off for being bourgeois.

I’m reminded here of that Kickstarter memo about “privileged workers appropriating unions”; we all laughed at it, but if we accept the Fisher/Xenogothic position that the UCU’s membership is made up of the bourgeoisie, then maybe it has a point?

Xenogothic adds that another point where they agree with Fisher is with regards to “his call for more working class voices in our media, in our culture, in our politics, in our schools and universities”. They add that “I don’t just mean “entrepreneurs”: I want better voices too”, but this is still far too vague for me. What roles are we talking about here? What structures are those roles a part of? At his worst, Fisher was prone to writing as though just inserting individuals into structures could transform those structures rather than vice versa; this is an illusion that Xenogothic seems to share.

If the call for more working-class voices in media and culture means constructing alternative platforms and institutions, run on different values and collectively controlled by everyone who works in/contributes to them, and re/creating genuinely participatory cultural movements that break down the old star/passive fan binary, then great, that sounds grand; but if this means “more Guardian commentators, but make them not posh”, or “someone with a regional accent getting a job as director-general of the BBC or commissioning editor on Channel 4”, then like… that’s fine as far as it goes, I guess, but I can’t say it’s anything I’m particularly excited about.

Similarly with the idea of more working-class voices in politics; some Labour politicians are poshos, but certainly not all of them, there’s a fair sprinkling of Blunketts, Prescotts and so on. More importantly, every single Labour councillor in the country, no matter what they score on the oppression-o-meter, has to perform the role of governing within the confines of an austerity budget handed down from central government, a central government that is in turn under pressure from the kinds of international institutions that battered the principles out of Syriza. Until that changes – and my suspicion is that the only way it’ll change is when councillors are more scared of the potential disruption caused by their own constituents than of the orders handed down by central government and the law – the only consequence of getting more principled, dedicated socialists with regional accents onto the council will be that they sound a lot more convincing when they tell us how sorry they are to be closing our libraries and nurseries.

On the other hand, while texts like Vampire’s Castle show Fisher’s worst side, he was also capable of being far more insightful at times, as in the section from Capitalist Realism quoted above: “Does anyone really think, for instance, that things would improve if we replaced the whole managerial and banking class with a whole new set of (‘better’) people? Surely, on the contrary, it is evident that the vices are engendered by the structure, and that while the structure remains, the vices will reproduce themselves.

That, I think, gets to the heart of it; and I’m not convinced that the politics and culture industries are that fundamentally different to finance and banking.

Xenogothic complains that “if you somehow get there, your working class identity is void — at least according to CP. If you publicly fight for working class issues, on a larger platform than most, you’re a sellout and a hypocrite… It’s a facile and reductive argument and one which Mark himself derided.”

There’s a few important points to note here. The first is that, once again, Xenogothic clearly sees class as being about individual identity, not about collective social struggle and material interests. I suspect that the problem here is that they’re also conceiving of class as a moral category, rather than a social/economic one, which is why making an observation about someone’s class position is treated as though it was a personal attack.

On hypocrisy: I’ve never called anyone a hypocrite for “fighting for working-class issues on a large platform”. What I do have an issue with is when academics have a swipe at people who they see as possessing “an academic-pedant’s desire”, as living off the creation of “academic capital”, as having their “natural home in universities”, when academics speak out against ideologies that they say are “usually propagated by those studying for postgraduate qualifications, or those who have recently graduated from such study”. I think there is at least a potential danger of hypocrisy there.

And, for that matter, I still think it’s a bit hypocritical to use “There must be no lightness, and certainly no humour. Humour isn’t serious, by definition, right? Thought is hard work, for people with posh voices and furrowed brows.” as a criticism in a giant article that doesn’t even have so much as a knock-knock joke in.

Commenting on my attempt at a reworked and reworded critique, they dismiss it with “the tone was never offensive, the ignorance was, and all that’s happened here is the tone has been replaced, in a weak attempt to save face, whilst the ignorance remains.” I suppose it’s not really my place to tell other people that they should be (retrospectively) offended by my tone if they don’t have any objections to it, but it does feel odd that Xenogothic wants to dismiss tone as irrelevant while also championing a piece of writing that essentially functioned as an extended plea for civility.

If Fisher was right to champion Brand’s “good-humoured humility” against the “stony faces” of those who promote “sour-faced identitarian piety”, and to call for “conditions where disagreement can take place without fear of exclusion and excommunication”, then considering the tone in which things are expressed seems pretty reasonable; or, of course, Fisher might have been wrong, in which case why this urge to defend his every word against any kind of criticism?

Xenogothic says that I “actually end up parroting the argument he himself makes in “Exiting the Vampire Castle” and elsewhere, choosing a supposedly nicer way of articulating the same call for solidarity using “non-cancelled” references”. Not how I’d phrase it, but yeah, there’s something to that; I wasn’t trying to claim that everything Fisher ever did or said was wrong, more that, if your aim is to promote solidarity and kindness, maybe there’s better ways of expressing that than just going “oi, all youse petit-bourgeois vampire dickheads need to stop being so sour-faced or I’ll disarticulate your fuckin’ heids in”. There’s plenty of times and places where it’s necessary and appropriate to be polarising, but I’m still not convinced that when you’re telling people to get along better is one of those times.

Next, they raise the issue of me not being enough of an expert Fisherologist, saying that I need to “read something else by Mark other than Capitalist Realism”. Which I think is missing the point somewhat; saying “this person wrote lots of other things, many of which were good” is a perfectly fine rebuttal if the point being made is that “this person was bad and never said anything worthwhile”, but it doesn’t really work as a reply to “this particular article is a bad piece of writing and it’d be nice if people could stop talking about it.”

Which raises the other problem with “read something else by Mark”: the only reason I’m still thinking about VC in 2019, more than most of his other writings, is because people are still talking about it in 2019, so surely if anyone needs to be told to “read something else”, then it should be Jodi Dean, since she’s the person who just gave a lecture about it.

Xenogothic also accuses me of deflating intersectionality, because ““Intersectionality” is not a term for overdetermined and individuated identity pockets, as it’s so often deployed in the naive “identity politics” milieu… It’s the opposite of an individualised politics.” Well, OK, but surely “individualised identity pockets” works as a fair description of this “working-class millionaire” thing, with its insistence that we can’t count certain millionaires as being millionaires, or academics as being academics, in case we imply that their “working class identity is void”?*

Xenogothic takes great exception to my mention of Sajid son-of-a-bus-driver Javid, pointing out that his background doesn’t “cancel out the fact that he is a Member of Parliament for a sitting government that has enacted countless racist and classist policies since being in office, some of which he has personally presided over”. And yeah, I agree that mentioning someone’s class background doesn’t cancel out their current social position, but that’s the whole point. The question isn’t that Javid is nasty and Fisher, or that nice Owen Jones or whoever, is nice, but whether we can talk about a class distinction between them. After all, Xenogothic, in their own words, doesn’t believe that “you can somehow graduate (perhaps literally) from your class position”, so following their logic we must understand Javid as being working class. Or, if we admit Javid’s class position has actually changed, then that line of argument totally falls apart.

Xenogothic characterises my argument as “academia at large emerges as the primary straw man here, with Mark propped up as some imaginary representative of all its bourgeois functions”, but it’s not me who brought academia into the discussion around VC, it was there from the start. Again, just to repeat, it was VC that set up an image of an enemy who are described as possessing “an academic-pedant’s desire”, as living off the creation of “academic capital”, as having their “natural home in universities”, and so on. All I’ve done is to suggest that, if you’re going to have a critique of academia, then you can’t just decide to rope off some academics as being different and not relevant to the topic. Or we could just collectively agree that “not-an-academic top trumps” is a pretty boring game to play and that there’s many more interesting things to do, which I’d be happy to agree with, but again that’s one more reason why that particular academic-baiting article should have been left behind in 2013.

They accuse me of not only “disarticulating Mark’s class position but so much of his other writing and political activity as well”. At this point, since I’ve probably read the word “disarticulating” more in that one blogpost than I’d encountered it in the last few years put together, I do have to raise my hand and ask what the precise difference between disarticulating and separating is – does “disarticulate” convey some nuance of meaning that “separate” doesn’t, or is it just that the more academic-jargon term is seen as inherently preferable to the more standard-English one?

More to the point, is it really me who’s disarticulated/separated out that one article from the rest of Fisher’s life and work? When Jodi Dean decided that, out of everything Fisher had ever said and written, she wanted to make that one particular article a focal point of her memorial lecture, wasn’t that also an act of disarticulation/separation? The actual separation took place years ago, when that one text was elevated to a status of prominence that the rest of his work doesn’t enjoy, but that was the work of Fisher’s supposed fans and boosters more than of his supposed critics. And yet, even though this is the one article people are still choosing to give lectures about in 2019, Xenogothic complains about me responding to that one text, rather than any of the various writings that people aren’t giving lectures about.

In my previous piece, I mentioned that “Nick Cohen, a media commentator utterly opposed to the kind of communist political project that the author promoted when he was alive, recently cited the article as if it somehow… supported his own centrism”. Xenogothic describes this as me pointing “to Nick Cohen’s appropriation of Mark’s essay as a sign of how bad it must be… conveniently ignoring the scorn Cohen received and the k-punk clippings sent to Cohen in the aftermath of the article’s publication that insulted him in vitriolic terms.”

As an awkward git, there is a part of me that wonders if these kinds of vitriolic insults being sent to a media commentator could be described as, say, “What these figures had said was sometimes objectionable; but nevertheless, the way in which they were personally vilified and hounded left a horrible residue: the stench of bad conscience and witch-hunting moralism”, or “an atmosphere of snarky resentment”, or something similar; but to be honest I can’t really say that I’m that bothered by people being mean to Nick Cohen.

We can certainly agree that the substance of Fisher’s thought has nothing in common with the centrist waffle of someone like Cohen; but the question is, then, what is it about VC that seemed attractive to Cohen, so that he would try to associate himself with it?

At the risk of being grandiose, any attempt to use Marx’s thought for emancipatory purposes must grapple with, and actively fight against, the image of Marx as guiding ideologue of the Russian/Chinese/North Korean/etc states; similarly, if not on quite the same scale, if we want to claim Fisher’s legacy as a guide to liberatory anti-capitalist action, then we need to combat the image of Fisher as the visionary genius whose central insight was that “well, people who criticise media commentators are actually bad”. And this image, the Fisher that can appeal to someone like Cohen, is based around VC, not Fisher’s work as a whole. Just as no-one has done more to tarnish Marx’s name than so-called Marxists, considering the example of Cohen shows that some self-proclaimed Fisher fans are far more of a threat to his legacy than any of his critics. Cohen may be the most glaring example here, but he’s far from the only one.

The crucial point is that the “disarticulation” Xenogothic objects to has already taken place, through the work of people like Angela Nagle, who claim to be Fisher’s disciples while boosting up and promoting that one particular piece of writing; and, when someone like Jodi Dean chooses to deliver a memorial lecture focused on that one particular piece of writing, they reinforce that disarticulation, further contributing to the image of Fisher as being first and foremost “the vampire guy”. And yet, if I critically comment on that image, then according to Xenogothic it’s as if the whole situation was my fault.

They object to me “proclaiming “working-class academic” to be something of an oxymoron”, missing the actual argument I was making, which is that it’s only an oxymoron if you’ve already chosen to define academics as being bourgeois. I never said that definition was correct, just that it was one Fisher and Xenogothic seemed to have chosen to use, in which case they should probably accept the full implications of that.

And again, from this I stand accused of trying to “deny Mark’s inspiring and unparalleled political activity on campus”, because I wrote about the VC article and not about Fisher’s statement for the Goldsmiths People’s Tribunal. I’m happy to agree that Fisher did, said, and wrote many things that were more interesting and inspiring than the VC article; but again, Angela Nagle didn’t get a book deal and a whole career out of re-hashing How the World got Turned the Right Way Up Again, Nick Cohen doesn’t go around trying to make himself sound clever by citing Memorex for the Krakens, and Jodi Dean did not, as far as I can tell, fly over to London to give a memorial lecture based around Fisher’s statement to the Goldsmith’s People’s Tribunal. So if I find myself provoked to revisit that one text more than some of his other, better, ones, I don’t think that’s because of an individual pathology on my part.

Xenogothic also brings up Fisher’s 2014 article, Good For Nothing, and berates me for a line in my 2013 article that “betray[ed] an ignorance regarding Mark’s openly discussed job history when articulating his experiences of depression.” To which I can only put my hands up and admit that, in November 2013, I was indeed totally ignorant of the contents of an article that would be published in March 2014. Perhaps it was irresponsible of me to respond to a piece of writing without first waiting for a year or so to see if anything else would be published that I should take into account.

Because I suggested that academic is not a great career choice for someone who wants to have a go at people for being academics, Xenogothic accuses me of “simply echo[ing] the depressive voice in Mark’s own head. “That’s not the right job for you.” Well, what is?””

Unfortunately, there isn’t one, that’s the whole point. I thought that the “do what you love” line of neoliberal ideology had been pretty thoroughly debunked by this point, but perhaps not in some circles. I don’t really believe in finding “the right job” in capitalism – freedom can only come from refusing the roles we’re offered, not picking the right one. Again, I would have thought this might be 101 stuff.

I wouldn’t particularly recommend that Fisher, or anyone else, choose my job instead, because it’s pretty miserable in its own way and leaves me stressed and/or tired a lot of the time; the main positive advantage it has going for it, and I don’t think it’s an insignificant one, is that it’s so obviously inane and pointless that no-one could positively identify with it, there’s no ideology that says getting to be really good at the kind of drudgework I do is a path to liberation. That, and if I really want to rip on people for being academics I can do it without being a hypocrite.

In closing, Xenogothic stresses that ““Exiting the Vampire Castle” was just that — an exit — but Mark went on to do far more valuable things elsewhere and in other contexts. Exiting was his first step on the road to collective joy”. I’m happy to agree on that point, but once again I have to ask, why this insistence on returning to that first step again and again? If you’re going to get mad at someone for focusing on that one step rather than the more valuable things he did elsewhere in other contexts, then why me and not Jodi Dean? I’m happy to agree to leave that “first step” behind if everyone else does, but as long as other commentators insist on holding it up as a vital reference point, I think critiques of it will continue to have some relevance.

 

*to avoid any confusion, I don’t actually think that “millionaire” and “academic” are equivalent positions, but the Fisher/Xenogothic position, with its stress on individual identity rather than social/economic position, doesn’t really seem to be able to distinguish between them.

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