There’s an inscription on a wall in Scotland’s parliament: Work as if you live in the early days of a better nation.
In his new novel Walkaway, the Canadian-British writer and activist Cory Doctorow imagines what it would mean to do exactly that in a world ravaged by capitalist inequality and climate change. Set in Toronto about a century in the future, this intricately crafted thriller uses deft linguistic innovation (more on that in a moment) and political extrapolation to envision the tension and conflict of an all-too-familiar dystopia existing side by side with a counter-utopia of freedom and possibility.
An apocryphal moment has Sid Vicious walking by Freddie Mercury in a recording studio, circa 1978. The Sex Pistols were likely recording their vastly overrated Nevermind the Bollocks LP while Queen were likely recording their pop-metal classic Jazz. Ever the charmer, Vicious is said to have approached Mercury and baited that he was the person bringing ballet to the masses. Mercury, dynamite with a laser beam, riposted to Vicious, who he saw as a poseur, “We’re doing our best, Simon Ferocious!” Malcolm McLaren’s boy band may well have been the talk of the town but for the proletariat, it was with Queen. Declasse youth could be punks, but as Neil Davidson pointed out at one of Red Wedge’s panels at Historical Materialism London, to a large extent, it was a trend…
As night falls on London, the urban landscape becomes a no-woman’s land. To go out alone after dark is to take a journey through my own nervous system, assessing at every street corner the hospitability of the streets ahead of me. I do it all the time – I have to – but every journey from bar to bar, from workplace to the train or from home to the shops comes with a mild sense of risk, which increases tenfold whenever I pass a particularly sinister lone lurker or a group of men congregating together.
“Jews will not replace us”. This was the scream of the fascist hooligans marching with pitchforks last summer through Charlottesville. Their reference is to an all-American yet simultaneously ancient conspiracy theory- the idea that the Jews were conspiring to bring in immigrant populations, empower people of colour and of course, themselves, to “replace” an amorphous “white America”. This is the theory of “White genocide” that got the irascible George Ciccariello-Maher in shit with Drexel University. The very top of the ontological totem pole for this dangerous delusion are Jews.
Imagine it is 2016. Clinton is still ahead in the polls, she has every hope of gaining the White House. One night she dreams she has won, and, just as she steps into the Oval Office she glances in a mirror to find, glaring back at her, none other than Trump.
Trump’s presence in the White House is the eruption of what I shall go on to explore as the uncanny; a rupture of form; an intrusion of something monstrous into the heart of the body politic.
“Polysemy (from Greek: πολυ-, poly-, "many" and σῆμα, sêma, "sign"), the capacity for a sign, such as a word, phrase, or symbol, to have multiple meanings, usually related by contiguity of meaning within a semantic field.” – definition adapted from Wikipedia
“If you cannot convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.” – Gritty (probably)
Now is the time of monsters, the well-worn phrase tells us. But monsters, if they are interesting, are unpredictable. They come out of nowhere and evince their nowhere-ness, their improbability creating fascination, fear, revulsion, sympathy.
Red Wedge spoke with one of our close comrades and collaborators, Kate Doyle Griffiths, for what was initially to be a discussion of transgressive social practices within the context of the West Virginia uprising. What transpired, however, was a wide-ranging discussion of transgression and Left politics, social reproduction theory, Insane Clown Posse and of course, the cultural practices of the striking workers in West Virginia, the polysemic quality of Twisted Sister. The following interview was conducted in June and July 2018. It will featured in our upcoming sixth issue, which you can subscribe to by supporting us through the Red Wedge Patreon.
The dream of utopia is difficult to find. Not always a “good dream”, it can just as well be a nightmare. More properly, the dream of utopia is a dream we cannot categorize according to the binary of nightmare and “sunshine daydream”. Yet, like a mole burrowing away, utopia can be found in the strangest of places, which once apparent become obvious. Like the hidden erotica on a Camel cigarette pack, utopian impulses cannot be unseen – or unheard, its mark indelible like ink that will never wash away.
In my blackened room, I leapt from a tall building, I descended past the ends of the earth and there was nothing to stop my fall.
My neck wrenched as I shouted, “It hurts.”
The pain paused for a moment and it returned.
I was not the one falling it was my pain it was intimate it was generous.