Red Wedge is excited to be one of the organizing groups of “The Great Transition: Preparing a World Beyond Capitalism,” to be held from May 17th through the 20th at the Science Campus of Université du Québec in Montréal, Québec. Combining the North American iteration of Historical Materialism and the Summer School of the Nouveaux cahiers du socialism, and featuring over 120 sessions and 300 speakers from 12 countries, the conference is going to be one of the most vibrant and diverse on the North American left this year.
Artists, radicals and radical artists have always looked at the future, the horizon, and seen a telos of emancipation. From modern-day left-accelerationism to 90s anarcho-cybernetic to prog-rock’s discovery of the synthesizer, the future has been an emancipatory muse. Owen Hatherley’s Chaplin Machine engages what could be termed an early example of left-accelerationism: the Soviet avant-garde’s absolute fascination with America. Indeed, going with Hatherley’s beautifully written and sometimes cheeky account with this fascination that, to be frank, sometimes borders on mystification, one can even reverse the aphorism of Earl Browder, the old social-patriotic leader of the American Communist Party, “Communism is 20th century Americanism.” This is to say that to those in the early Soviet avant-garde, and indeed cultural producers in general, Americanism was 20th century communism.
A specter is haunting the American liberal public: the spectre of Vladimir Putin busting a move.
Accused by a range of liberal public figures of masterminding a plot to elect Donald Trump to the presidency, Putin looks and acts the part, like a “bad guy” in an eighties Hollywood film – all the while cultivating friendships with “good guy,” Steven Segal. Perhaps reflective of his days as an intelligence officer based in East Germany between the rise of Gorbachev and the fall of the Berlin Wall, Putin is enamored with the action aesthetic of the Reagan years.
For as total and overwhelming as it appears, the dystopian often contains a seed of its radical opposite: utopia. Red Wedge, as a publication dedicated to the revolutionary imagination, believes this wholeheartedly. It is a necessary truth. We also believe that we need to hold tight to it. Now more than ever.
Modern life for millions is a nightmare. Climate change is threatening our very notion of a stable and natural reality. The far right is ascendant in a growing number of countries. Neoliberalism, in all its exposed cruelty and indifference, continues to stride along on the back of its most effective mantra: “There Is No Alternative.”
Called a “Corbynite cartoonist” by The Sun and a “Britain hating anarchist who knows the value of nothing” by Tory MP Johnny Mercer after he showed his work at Momentum’s The World Transformed festival in September 2016, Darren uses the language of advertising to make art about the “empty promises of consumerism and the lies of military recruiters”.
Whilst training for a career in advertising he became “steadily horrified at the ethical implications involved”, and instead began to use the techniques he had learned to subvert and satirise it. “I see advertising as being a kind of horrible glue which holds it all together: miltarism, neoliberalism. It’s the Spectacle”. In the interview Darren describes himself as “a conscientious objector in the war against consumers”. One of his main themes is advertising by corporations and the army which targets children through psychological or emotional manipulation.
Today’s generation is raised under a dark shadow of intellectual pessimism. To be sure, it is a pessimism entirely justified by the entire experience of the 20th century as well as the 21st century up to now. But the function of a revolutionary in this is to fight, to rekindle the socialist imaginary, not because the outlook is good but because there is no other option. Our choices are to resist or be consumed. Revolt can be a joyous festival, a celebration of a future yet to be birthed. This is what Vladimir Mayakovsky[i] meant when he said, well before he shot himself, that “joy must be ripped from the days yet to come.”
There is something rotten in Hollywood. If anything has been proven by the events and revelations of the past few months, it is that. It is also clear that the rot goes far deeper than Harvey Weinstein. Though he is clearly the worst kind of predatory slime. Or any collection of creepy, entitled individuals with a measure of power. It is a culture in which abuse is not just accepted but often rewarded, or at the very least invites no consequence.
Educational institutions are sites of struggle. Sometimes openly, sometimes hidden under layers of bureaucracy, but always consequential. Last week, lecturers at 64 UK universities walked off the job to prevent their pensions being gutted. On the other side of the Atlantic, public school teachers in every one of the 55 counties in West Virginia also went on strike. It is illegal in the state for public employees to strike at all, and yet the teachers have already appear to have wrenched concessions from the putrid opportunist of a governor, Jim Justice.
The English translation of Richard Wright’s address to the Revolutionary Democratic Assembly in Paris in December 1948 seems to have escaped the notice of the biographers and literary scholars who have otherwise been extremely thorough in documenting the author’s life and work. And that neglect is all the more remarkable given the speech’s substance. A major defense of radical political and cultural principles at a moment when the Cold War was turning downright arctic, it is also a credo, a statement of personal values, by the preeminent African-American literary artist of his era.