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.Read More
Hugh Masekela was one of the last great jazz men of the twentieth century. Both his life and music were shaped by transatlantic political and cultural currents that ebbed their way through the slums of Johannesburg and the jazz dives of Harlem. His death has produced two broad depictions of the man: Masekela the founder of the South African Jazz sound, and Masekela the activist who used music to raise attention to the injustices of apartheid. Neither of these are inaccurate, but they do little to capture the complexity of the man or his music.Read More
When I heard that The Fall’s frontman (and only consistent band member) Mark E. Smith had died, I didn’t even realize The Fall released a new album in 2017. I consider myself a pretty good fan, I can name a bunch of their albums, know some of their songs inside and out, have read dozens of interviews and articles about the Fall – and yet it totally slipped my radar they had a new album. But to be honest, Smith just got too much for me and after album after album, just got a bit burnt out by how their sound would have that similar weird feel, but just wasn’t as amazing as it could be.Read More
I had a friend who as a child wrote to Ursula Le Guin. He was feeling miserable, bad things had happened to him and he wanted to run away to Earthsea. He told her that he felt ashamed that he wasn’t facing up to life, felt it was a failing that he just wanted to live a fantasy. Ursula Le Guin wrote back, sending him a postcard. She told him that imagination and fantasy weren’t something to be ashamed of, they were what made us who we are. My friend kept that postcard with him wherever he went.Read More
To regard the struggle, the pain of a revolution, is not to deny the magnificence and optimism embodied in it. In order to fully look to the future, we have to reckon with the immensity of creating it. And acknowledge that we may fail.
Victor Serge knew this. He supported the Bolshevik Revolution enthusiastically, but as he saw its direction thrown off by civil war and rising bureaucracy, he had little hesitation in dissenting while remaining in absolute solidarity.Read More
The installation Long Live the New! Morris & Co. Hand Printed Wallpapers and K. Malevich’s Suprematism, Thirty Four Drawings, including covers, addendum and afterword is made from a combination of two books: a Morris & Co. wood block printed wallpaper pattern book from the 1970s containing 45 sample wallpaper designs by William Morris, the 19th Century English wallpaper, textile and book designer, poet, novelist and Communist; and the Russian artist and pioneer of abstraction Kazimir Malevich’s Suprematism, Thirty Four Drawings, published in 1920.Read More
We are born. It should be a start, but it is in fact a non-start; for we almost immediately have our full agency and autonomy as human beings robbed from us. We spend a lifetime trying to grasp it back from beneath a growing pile of rubble.
Rubble is literally at the center of Ilya Kabakov’s Labyrinth (My Mother’s Album). A large installation among many included in the Tate Modern’s exhibition of Ilya and Emilia Kabakov’s work, it is a spiral of long hallways reminiscent of Soviet era communal apartment buildings.Read More
Some things, once said, can't ever be unsaid.
Some spells, once chanted, cannot be unmade,
but spark, leap over silicon barricades,
cast afterimages of brilliant red.
The spell creates the wizard. There lies he,
babe rocked by engines, watched through robot eyes,
his cradle hung from cables to the sky,
lulled fast asleep by steam trains to the sea.
At 9:40pm on October 25th, the forecastle gun of the battleship Aurora fired an ear-shattering round into the air. It was a blank, an empty shell. One-year prior, the Aurora had been contributing to the carnage of World War I, patrolling and bombarding in service to the Russian Empire. Now it was docked in Petrograd and under the control of a revolutionary sailors’ committee, most of whom supported the Bolsheviks. The blank round was, so the story goes, the first shot in the October Revolution, which overthrew the Provisional Government and established the first workers’ state in history.Read More
What is the relationship between artistic movements and the historical periods during which they first appeared? Can the methods associated with these movements be detached from their original context for the benefit of later artists? Do the answers to these questions depend on which movements and periods we are discussing? The issue is of more than academic interest. Serious contemporary artists want to produce work relevant to, and critical of the societies in which they live; but in doing so, are they free to draw on any methods, from any point in history, or will only some be adequate to their needs? Should socialists expect them only to work with particular methods, and criticise them when they do not?Read More
a cap of night
cold and icy swept by tangles of wire
the unsettled courses the many empty hands
of the workers leaving empty factories
“Leveler” was coined in the 17th century to describe those who tore down hedges in the Enclosure Act Riots. It was later generalized. As long as the working-classes have sought political and economic leveling these aspirations have been expressed in art and culture – from the social gospel of Matthew to the gestures of punk and early Hip Hop. Aesthetic leveling can be used in ways that divert class anger toward the wrong targets or toward personalized solutions. But it also can express movement toward proletarian consciousness. And the socially promiscuous artist – coming from, and historically mixing with, all classes – is often predisposed toward leveling (as well as a political volatility that produces the aforementioned variations).Read More
“No one today can reasonably doubt the existence or the power of the spectacle; on the contrary, one might doubt whether it is reasonable to add anything on a question which experience has already settled in such draconian fashion.” – Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle, 1989
Within five years of writing these lines, Guy Debord – author, filmmaker, and leader of a coterie of radical intellectuals known as the Situationist International – despairing at the ever quickening advance of the society he opposed, brought his own life to an end. He had lived long enough to see the collapse of the bipolar world order of the Cold War and the Americanization of the world.Read More
There are different methods of celebrating an anniversary. There is that which looks back with pure nostalgia; a soft, uncritical reification that half expects time to repeat itself. It is safe to say that the vast majority of anniversaries are celebrated in such a way.
Then there is the method of commemoration that looks forward, that intrinsically understands history as a constant process, unfolding in this way or that depending on who pushes, who is pushed, and whether they are willing to push back. Not events as blueprints, but as ruptures and openings though which we can see a different future.Read More
When I was a kid, I read a spoof in a nickelodeon about what it was like to watch a World War Two film with a German Shepherd. The punchline was that the dog always rooted for the wrong side. Viewing Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s 1985 sci-fi novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, I couldn’t help but to think of all the viewers who were sharing a sofa with friends, family, and lovers, who, openly or not, may view Gilead, the theocratic, dystopic, man-scape setting for the story, with a palate falling well short of the distaste intended by the filmmakers.Read More
The opening page of War Primer contains a short, four-line poem:
Like one who dreams the road ahead is steep
I know the way Fate has prescribed for us
That narrow way towards a precipice.
Just follow. I can find it in my sleep.
Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is the much-anticipated sequel to the 1982 cult film directed by Ridley Scott. Like the original, 2049 is a visually stunning depiction of our potential dystopian future; one that if we read it in its historical context provides for us a detailed cognitive mapping of the continued decline of unfettered multinational capitalism. Also, like the original, the new film provides a surface level portrayal of the world that, if read in spatial terms, maps for us many of the contours of the rhizomatic networks of contemporary capital...Read More
Red Wedge will be presenting two panels at this year's Historical Materialism London conference. This year's conference takes place at the confluence of three auspicious anniversaries: the 20th anniversary of the HM journal, the 150h anniversary of the publication of Marx's Capital, and the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.
It is no surprise to anyone familiar with Red Wedge that we share HM's commitment to Marxism's reinvention and rediscovery. Which is why we are glad to be contributing these panels, dedicated to a creative and critical assessment of the Marxist aesthetic experience.Read More
There’s something strange about the strange – and unpacking that something is the task Mark Fisher sets himself in this lucid little book. The Weird and the Eerie marshals a series of essays into a sharp theoretical intervention, argued tightly and packed tersely into 120 pages.
Specifically: there are two distinct modes of the strange – the weird and the eerie – and this distinction revolves around the different ways they deal with exteriority. The weird involves an irruption of the out-there in here: “the weird is that which does not belong”, hence its close affinity with fantastic fiction.Read More
It has been a century since the Russian Revolution. The occasion has naturally provoked all manner of commemorations. The establishment calls it an unfortunate sequence of events never to be repeated, the right spits its vicious bile at the memory of a workers’ world, and the Left, to one degree or another, celebrates and analyzes and tries to ask how to make the history come alive again. How to make the dream of total liberation, of workers power and radical democracy, into a reality.Read More