Saturday, February 21, 2009

NYU Occupation Smashed by Administration

The occupation has been broken. Students were driven to their dorms and told to remove their belongings and were removed from campus immediately. Mass support is necessary to demand that these students be granted amnesty. Please get as many people to email NYU as possible and show that we will stand together with the students and not be turned back.

Email NYU Administrators. Demand amnesty and no suspensions:
NYU President John Sexton:
John Beckman, NYU Spokesperson:
Office of the Provost:
Office of the Vice President:

Today New York University has shown its true face more than ever. Claiming to be a "private university in the public service," it is clearly not even in the service of those students whose tuitions allow it to exist.
Earlier today, NYU cut power to all outlets in the occupied space and turned off the wireless internet. Obviously this was an attempt to silence and intimidate the occupiers who have broad-based support.
Then, NYU said it would negotiate and instead detained and suspended the student negotiators when they showed up. Security has now broken through the barricade and people are being detained and suspended.
Instead of dialog and negotiation, the NYU administration has shown they prefer the authoritarian, dissent-quashing, dictator route. It is a true reflection of how they run their university. Nothing but thugs with suits on, interested in getting rich under the guise of "education."
Be prepared to defend any individual or group that is targeted academically or legally for their role in the occupation. Widespread support for the occupation and its demands will not be extinguished by NYU's hypocritical, tyrannical behavior.
Come out to 60 Washington Square South if you can.
Email NYU Administrators. Demand amnesty and no suspensions:
NYU President John Sexton:
John Beckman, NYU Spokesperson:
Office of the Provost:
Office of the Vice President:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Obama avec Zizek?


...having nothing to do with Zizek's endorsement...

Last week, US President Barack Obama responded to the comparison of (or call for) current US plans regarding the banking system to ‘the Swedish model’ in what many economists describe as ‘ambiguous.’ Obama didn’t necessarily close the door on nationalization of financial institutions, but he did call into question its likelihood here in the US [check out the interesting interview with a Swedish central banker on the inappropriateness of the comparison here]. Here is his response:

“The scale of the US economy and the capital markets are so vast, and the problem in terms of managing and overseeing anything of that scale, I think...wouldn’t make sense. And we also have different traditions in this country and we want to retain a strong sense of private capital fulfilling the core investment needs of our country.”

There are a few things going on here that are worth noting above and beyond any ostensible ‘Swedish nationalization’ that might or might not be in the offing. First, Obama chalks up faith in market-response and of private capitalists righting what they have made oh-so wrong as a cultural artifact of the United States. But this is a rather static notion of culture, one which resists any sort of change even in the face of crisis. This of course is deeply wrong on a number of levels, but if nothing else an interesting example of the ‘cultural turn’ in politics – we are the product of traditions, not of ‘rational choices’ or calculations.

Obama then goes on to undermine his cultural determinism. “…we want to retain a strong sense of private capital fulfilling…” This is not the same sort of orthodoxy that we got with his inauguration speech, in which he announced the question of the ‘free market’ was not in point of fact a question at all in that it has ‘proven’ its unequaled ability to spread wealth and freedom (which triggered sincerely confused expressions on the faces of my students). Rather, this is Obama exposing the bald-faced ideological nature of the relationship to capitalism this country has: if you repeat something enough it is true. During the tech-bubble of the 1990s, I often heard people who were by no means benefiting directly from the assets boom repeat the “the economy is booming” conclusion aired 24-7 by media outlets, politicians and economists. Through the repetition of this mantra, the non-beneficiary takes part in the reproduction of capital. Put differently, it is an (or yet another) example of the excluded, poor or oppressed subject actively colluding in their own exclusion, dispossession or oppression.

‘The sense’ is here the obverse of the ‘as if’ of ‘false consciousness’ – where I act as if x were the case, even though it isn’t, because there is some sort of cultural production barring my access to ‘the truth’ (Superstructure hides base). Here, ‘the sense’ is not the illusory representation of reality, but is rather the act which allows the very constitution of reality. We desire ‘the sense’ that capital can unfuck us, and in so desiring we structure social reality itself.

There is an interesting postscript to this line of analysis, that only came up in the course of talking with Kim. I have noticed over the past few weeks an increase in this sort of speech on the part of politicians, pundits and economists: "We are a capitalist country"; "We believe in the free market"; and so forth (again, Obama's inauguration speech is a perfect example). This should be recognized for the phenomenon that it indeed is, in that it is a manifestation directly related to the crisis. Put differently, put symptomatically, we can echo Hamlet: "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." The repetition of 'we are the market' is meant to reassure the speaker, the iterated ideological reconstruction of reality speeds up in this moment of crisis -- as it must.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Silvio Berlusconi

I mean, seriously, fuck this guy.

Some of you may have heard that Italy's capo, Silvio Berlusconi, has recently gotten into hot water for 'making light' of Argentina's Dirty War. Specifically, he referenced those 'good old days' when the army used to snatch dissidents from the streets, put them in planes, and drop them over the Atlantic -- often while the victims were still alive.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

¡Si! Wins

With a 70% turnout, the Chavista ¡Si! campaign to lift term limits for elected officials won by 10 points this Sunday. With this latest electoral test out of the way, we can focus on the need to foster a 'revolution within the revolution' -- the campaign that really matters

¿Enmienda hoy, y socialismo mañana?

A useful article by George Ciccariello-Maher on today's vote in Venezuela, coverage thereof here in the US (especially the New York Times) and the context in Venezuela:

The point that Ciccariello-Maher raises, and which is being raised by many observers even within the Obama administration is that term limits in and of themselves by no means make democracy. This was even registered, albeit briefly, in an otherwise horrible article by Simon Romero in today's NYT

"The Obama administration seems to have adopted a nonbombastic approach to dealing with Venezuela, even as it was faced with questions over the referendum campaign. “That’s an internal matter with regard to Venezuela,” Robert Wood, a State Department spokesman, said when asked this month about the referendum."

That Venezuela's sovereignty is for the moment being respected by Washington is a good thing indeed. How long it will last remains to be seen. The deepening economic crises in the US and throughout the capitalist core economies mean that less time and resources can be spent interfering with governments in Venezuela and throughout Latin America, a trend that was established early on in the Bush presidency. After initially promising to focus on hemispheric relations, the Bush administration all but turned its back on the region. Its now ‘normal’ meddling in the internal affairs of Central American and South American democracies was increasingly outsourced to NGOs funded in part by the National Endowment for Democracy and other ‘civil society’ projects. The ‘internal oppositions’ that emerged in the shadow of the empire, especially in Venezuela and Bolivia, turned out to be inept and overconfident, weakening their position with every misstep. Other regimes in the region’s so-called ‘pink tide’ have been less plagued by the fading empire’s bumbling – getting ignored in reward for their milktoast politics.

Hillary Clinton's first trip as Secretary of State to Asia signals a continuation of Bush-era policies in the region. The focus continues to be the poorly executed neoconservative plan to establish ‘footholds of democracy’ in the Middle East in order to contain Russia and China. While the plan’s execution will no doubt be less ragingly bellicose than that of the Bush team, 8 years have made it a fait accompli. There is no other choice but to continue apace as the Empire crumbles, or so the logic goes. US financial power has definitively passed on, the stimulus will fail (David Harvey’s thoughts on the scheme here: <a href="">), and thus it needs something to leverage a smoother collapse. What emerges in the aftermath of the US’s dominant position in the capitalist world system remains uncertain.

All this begs the question, especially vis-à-vis Venezuela: whither socialism?

Chávez has been in power for 10 years now. The Bolivarian Revolution – a social process that needs to be understood in its longue durée as having kicked off with 1989’s Caracazo rather than with the 1999 Constitutional Referendum – has put the question of socialism back in the imaginary of Venezuelans and the poor throughout the world. However, and this is key, in the 4 years that the Revolution’s trajectory has been nominally ‘socialist,’ ‘Socialism’ has stubbornly persisted in being something of an empty signifier. Finding content, defining ‘socialism,’ is an intense physical and theoretical struggle that continues in Venezuela today and is quite distinct from the question of term limits or the institutions of democratic governance.

Chávez is, without a doubt, central to the revolutionary process in Venezuela. In the first and most important aspect, he has been able to balance the forces at play in the country, steering the country clear of the civil war that has been in the offing for at least 30 years. Secondly, he has provided an institutional umbrella under which progressive forces have been able to make unprecedented headway. The hope here is that by the time he would come up for re-election in 2024, he wouldn’t be necessary. Better, the office of the president would no longer be called for, as the parallel institutions currently gestating in the country will by then have developed beyond the constraints of representative liberal democracy.

It is, in other words, a generational question both in the sense of creating the new as well as of years. Either way, the question is bigger than Chávez.