The Worst Direction for Politics

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AntiNote: This article first appeared last month on the Permanent Crisis blog under the title The Left Flounders as Reaction Grows Ever Stronger. Reprinted with the permission of the author and with Permanent Crisis’ internal links included—both for citations’ sake and because their Glossary is highly useful (as is their body of work in general, it should be said). External link citations have mostly not been reproduced, but sticklers can find them in the original.

Though he had clearly been preparing this piece well before the Charlie Hebdo shootings and the subsequent wave of islamophobic violence in Western Europe, and well before the SYRIZA victory in Greece, Walker articulates and puts in historical context some important features of the discussions that have arisen around both of these developments, framing the struggle against neoliberal capitalism in part as one between fascists and anti-fascists—both of whom often, awkwardly, share anti-capitalist sentiments.

As he points out, 2014 was the year that many on the Western Left started noticing this little wrinkle…though many did not (look no further than the Monday Peace Vigils in Germany, Austria, and right here in Switzerland). The Antidote Writers Collective is firmly convinced that it’s about time we start confronting this matter head-on. Fascism is not a 20th century problem; it exists all around us, sometimes right under our noses, and we need to get better at calling it what it is. But more on that later. Here’s Walker:

The Left Flounders as Reaction Grows Ever Stronger
by Walker of Permanent Crisis

As the crisis of neoliberal society grinds on, the question is not whether the dominant social forms of the last 35 years will be overthrown, but whether it will be the left or the right that overthrows them. Beginning in 2011, there was a brief upsurge of progressive protest around the world that, despite its marked limitations, offered some hope of confronting the crisis. That moment seems to be past. Protest continues, of course, but it has moved further and further away from a solid grasp on the sources of its discontent. Increasingly, even those who understand themselves as progressives are supporting reactionary directions for resistance.

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The Racism/Austerity Feedback Loop

Transcribed from the 24 January 2015 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the whole interview:

 

“Roma are among the poorest citizens in Bulgaria. But somehow, paradoxically, they are considered the most privileged, because of their supposed “privileged” access to welfare.”

Chuck Mertz: We’ve been discussing neoliberalism, austerity and race on This is Hell! for a while now. But what happens when austerity actually fuels more racism? Here to tell us what austerity means for racism against Bulgaria’s Roma: Jana Tsoneva.

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You Are Not A Loan

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Transcribed from This is Hell! Radio’s 4 October 2014 episode and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

“If the Department of Education is operating mostly like a debt collector it’s going to think mostly like a debt collector rather than somebody that supervises an education system.”

Chuck Mertz: The college school year has begun. What better time to tell incoming and returning students that university education can be a scam? And now the Too Big To Fail banks have done to colleges what they did to the subprime housing market. If you remember, that didn’t end up so great. Maybe it’s time to strike debt.

Third year NYU law student Luke Herrine is a member of Strike Debt, where he is part of the writing team. Good morning, Luke.

Luke Herrine: Hi, Chuck. Good to be here.

CM: Great to have you on the show. Luke co-wrote the piece The Public Option for Higher Education at Dissent magazine. His colleagues at Strike Debt, economic anthropologist and UCLA assistant professor Hannah Appel and past This is Hell! guest Astra Taylor posted the TomDispatch story this week Education With a Debt Sentence: For-Profit Colleges as American Dream-Crushers and Factories of Debt.Continue Reading

“We Have to Understand the Game. We Are All Playing it.”

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Transcribed from the 11 October 2014 episode of This is Hell! Radio and printed with permission. Edited for space and readability. Listen to the full interview:

“The level of brainwashing in America doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Chuck Mertz: Arundhati Roy is the author of Capitalism: A Ghost Story. The way Arundhati tells it, “capitalism has been a tale of horror for millions of people in India and tens of millions of people around the world. For many, capitalism is not a theory or an idea, but a frightening reality that tears apart their lives every day, and it’s getting worse.”

Good morning, Arundhati.

Arundhati Roy: Good morning.

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Photo Essay: Sochi, the $50 Billion ‘Ghost Town’

AntiNote: Freelance photographer Alexander Belenkiy posted these photographs* on his livejournal this month, after a trip to Sochi. This is the ghost town he encountered there, only six months after the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Alexander points out in his own commentary that the Olympic Village is not completely abandoned; indeed he took care to include photographs of people there. Ultimately this deepens the images’ chill by providing a sense of scale. Hearing that the Sochi Olympics were a $50 billion waste is somewhat stultifying; seeing the vastness of this crime in (literally) concrete terms really leaves an impression.

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On the Road in Late Capitalism

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability. Transcribed and printed with permission.

Since this talk between host Chuck Mertz and author Iain Sinclair (from This is Hell! Radio’s 17 May 2014 episode) covered a lot of ground and went in many different directions, we have removed large portions of it for reasons of space and clarity. We therefore encourage you to listen to the whole thing right here!

 

Our ‘edition’ narrows the scope of the discussion, which centered on a latter-day exploration of the Beat Generation and their haunts, to just haunts. That is, we found the portions of Chuck and Iain’s conversation that centered on place, cities, and our place in cities to be most complementary to topics we cover on Antidote. Further, much of the discourse about the gentrification and commercialization of—and our alienation and expulsion from—urban landscapes lacks the poetic and emotional sensitivity that this conversation contains. We find this fresh, humane approach both affecting and appropriate to the real pain that underlies our objections to the neoliberal ‘development’ of cities we call home—a pain that can be expressed in the question, “Why doesn’t the city I love, love me?” Continue Reading

Know Your Enemy: Debunking Neoliberal Mythology

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AntiNote: The following is an extended excerpt of a radio interview, edited for readability.

In printing it, we are once again responding to explicit requests to do so. We find it noteworthy that This is Hell! interviews about which there is the most vocal enthusiasm are typically the ones that examine the nature of neoliberalism, its often unperceived effects on our daily lives and ways of seeing, and our tendency to misunderstand its origins and aims even as we rail against it. As Henry A. Giroux pointed out in just such an interview this past spring, this points to a very real thirst for more thorough analyses and a deeper understanding of the smilingly savage world order in which we find ourselves—a thirst which commercial media, generally speaking, refuses to quench on the grounds that it does not exist. Classic neoliberal denialism…

This interview, which host Chuck Mertz conducted with author and historian of economic philosophy Philip Mirowski on 31 May 2014, stirred up a good deal of discussion within our writers collective as well, touching as it does on so many topics of great concern to us. To name just a few: current deficiencies and disputes on the “Left;” the structure of philosophical revolutions (of which the rise of neoliberalism is one); the difficulties with using timeworn political descriptors in new contexts where they no longer apply; and the annihilation of the concept of a core moral self, which neoliberalism and fascism have in common…

Resisting the temptation to lengthily interpret Mirowski’s rejoinders (there will be plenty of time for that), we simply leave you with a link to further reading on the Mont Pelerin Society and the contentious origins of the “neoliberal thought collective” Mirowski describes:

Neoliberalism: the Revolution in Reverse by Chris Lehmann for The Baffler

Now, without further ado.

Chuck Mertz: On the line with us right now is author Philip Mirowski. Good morning, Philip.

Philip Mirowski: Good morning.

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