It happens that nowadays making political music is often considered gauche, and everything needs to be dressed up in nine layers of irony in order to be considered legitimate. Ironic detachment is itself an attitude and aesthetic born of a feeling of political impotence against a backdrop of rapid technological change and the immense, constant, and overwhelming deluge of contradictory information. Like it or not, artists must grapple with this ironic detachment and find ways to appeal to or circumvent it.
Pandering to that ironic detachment is risky, because the work will just get lost in the wash, or will reinforce a detached affect that defuses political power. Read More
In August 2018, Labour’s John McDonnell called on Twitter and then in a press release for the relaunch of the Anti-Nazi League. Citing the success of Tommy Robinson and Boris Johnson’s Islamophobic likening of Muslim women to letterboxes, the shadow chancellor said, "Maybe it’s time for an Anti-Nazi League type cultural and political campaign... The ANL pioneered highly influential cultural movements like the Rock Against Racism, which attracted tens of thousands of people of all ages to anti-racist festivals and protests.” The response was predictably partisan: the New Socialist was in favour, Dan Hodges against. Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle, complained that McDonell was plotting against parliament. ‘McDonnell believes – and says so – that true democracy is on the streets. This seemingly well-meaning tweet needs to be seen in that context. In government, ‘the street’ would be a key weapon in the hard left armoury.’ Read More
Capitalism is an irrational system which refuses to see itself for what it is. Like an obnoxious trust fund kid slumming it at a dive bar, it cannot help but loudly declare how ingenious and deserving it is. Accepting its arguments for how things are and how they change is to accept the argument that there is some method underneath the layers of madness, that its opulence can somehow be separated from its exploitation, that it has something other than an ever-deepening inhumanity in its future. While our dreams are deemed irrational, capitalism’s degradations are justified as science.
To grasp the significance of Sorry to Bother You is, on some level, to grasp this truth about capitalism. Boots Riley has written and directed a film that is being celebrated by the far-left and mainstream critics alike. Those familiar with Riley’s musical and lyrical work with the Coup know that he is adept at combining his unabashed revolutionary politics with a skewed, cartoon-like worldview. 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
At some point or another, every artist ponders their purpose. Do they matter? To whom and in what way? What does it even mean to be relevant? And as the world changes quickly, will their art, their music, their words, continue to have an impact?
Algiers consciously ask these questions of themselves, and are constantly aware that doing so both is and requires a struggle. One of the things that makes them such a notable act is that their consciousness of this both ideologically and structurally. Read More
Dre Harris is the bravest person I know. Facing the mirrored horrors of Nazis with metal poles and state-employed pigs who must have heard his screams, Dre survives. He tells his story. He tells his story knowing that a vicious beating is only the beginning of their attack and that rotting hearts beat in all in the institutions around him.
Mark is the bravest person I know. He is the first person to step out from the park as we march to defend the public housing complex from the fascists. Read More
In 1970, the famed “New Journalist” Tom Wolfe wrote an article, and later a book, lampooning a dinner party held by the progressive composer Leonard Bernstein for the Black Panther Party. Fresh off of decontextualizing the Merry Pranksters and Bay Area counterculture in Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Wolfe, a cheeky, fresh-faced conservative, now was on a mission to show the silliness of what was not yet called “identity politics.” Poking fun at the very idea that a member of the BPP would enjoy hors-d’oeuvres; painting one dimensional figures of the Panthers and liberal intelligentsia in one swoop... Read More
In 1968, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King was assassinated. In the immediate aftermath, a wave of riots broke across America. Known as the Holy Week Uprising, this was a largely spontaneous outpouring of rage and sorrow. Far from the Movement collapsing, it marched forward with renewed fury and determination. To paraphrase Stokely Carmichael, what the crowds had started saying was “Black Power”, and they were to keep on saying it. In the midst of this ferment, black artists and activists searched for new answers to the questions that cut across the African-American experience. Read More
George A. Romero is dead. And much as some of us would like it, the director of the most iconic zombie horror films of late capitalism will not be rising from the grave to walk among us. But the ravenous consumption that we see in his creations – of flesh, of our sanity, of our hope for the future – will continue. Unless it is brought to its knees then late capitalism has all but assured this.
The interview below with author and film studies professor Tony Williams – one of the very first articles to appear at Red Wedge – was conducted by editor Adam Turl and appeared on the site in October, 2012. Read More
I write formal poems because I'm a little weird in the brain, somewhere off the median on the neurodivergence spectrum. A formal poem is a place where I can express or test ideas or feelings or aesthetics without the profound exposure of a public article. Usually what happens when I write a sonnet is a phrase will occur to me that echoes in that meter and I will think about it. Sometimes that phrase is within the first line, and sometimes it is buried deep within the poem. Each of my poems has started with such a seed, uttered by a friend or within my own thoughts.
Somehow in poems or in any sort of art some parts of society find it acceptable to express feelings or beliefs that one cannot express elsewhere. And that is what I do in my poems. Read More
There are big changes coming to Red Wedge’s publication and posting schedule. Starting with issue three (out in July) on “The Return of the Crowd," Red Wedge will be going quarterly.
Since the founding of Red Wedge in 2012 there has been a mushrooming and further development of left-wing and explicitly socialist publishing. As readers may know, we have spent much of the past eighteen months discussing our way forward, and feel that our current moment, our current environment, demands that Red Wedge professionalize itself. Read More
Masterful cinema usually leaves little to accident. With the film world completely oversaturated by works that are intellectually lazy and yet somehow overwrought with production costs, this is easy to forget. Many would say that the age of the auteur is behind us. It’s overly glib, but also understandable.
Throw in a film that cuts against this, where everything is well-placed and intentionally so, and a film-going public hungry for something that hits the sweet-spot between smart and emotionally satisfying will not be able to stop talking about it. Enter, like an unexpected guest who has been hiding in your basement, Get Out. Read More
Imagine, if you will, aliens, grey ones, with those big eyes, travelling through the universe and finding a capsule in the sky, representing the people from the planet Earth, a peaceful place (or so it looks from space). On the capsule, the aliens find a recording – it is “Johnny B. Goode”, the 1958 ur-narrative of rock music, Horatio Alger as channeled through the experience of Southern working class youth. “He never learned to read or write so well,” sings Chuck Berry, who died on Saturday at 90 years old, “but he could play his guitar just like-a-ringin’ a bell”. A sort of rock folk-tale, young Johnny can’t do much except play guitar. Read More
Colonial domination, because it is total and tends to over-simplify, very soon manages to disrupt in spectacular fashion the cultural life of a conquered people. This cultural obliteration is made possible by the negation of national reality, by new legal relations introduced by the occupying power, by the banishment of the natives and their customs to outlying districts by colonial society, by expropriation, and by the systematic enslaving of men and women.
Three years ago at our first congress I showed that, in the colonial situation, dynamism is replaced fairly quickly by a substantification of the attitudes of the colonizing power. The area of culture is then marked off by fences and signposts. These are in fact so many defense mechanisms of the most elementary type, comparable for more than one good reason to the simple instinct for preservation. Read More
black on black on Black on Read More
an interruption – no,
a reminder to the Columbus-ing ass fuckboys
(and girls) that
The question “what can a poem (actually) do?” has been a part of the philosophical debate about art for a long time. It is impossible to know when it was first asked, but I’m willing to bet that it had something to do with the onset of the Industrial Age, and the coming of age of Capitalism. That the lack of a definitive answer, or any recognizable material profit tied to its production hasn’t stopped people from either writing or reading it, is probably answer enough, but in the Fall of 1977, I moved from Trinidad and Tobago in the West Indies to Winnipeg, Manitoba – the MidWest of Canada. My step-father was working with the Canadian government and so, we were migrating. Read More
The student butterfly that flapped its wings in Paris, May 1968 led to an earthquake which shook factory walls across western Europe in the 1970’s. Out of the dust emerged an ugly snarling rodent called punk rock.
The 1970s in the UK was a time of open conflict. Strike leaders sent to prison and then freed by a massive strike wave, teenagers fighting in the streets against each other, against the police and against the army in Ireland, miners strikes, power cuts, three day week, women battling for equal rights, Tory government brought down. The working class – loud, proud and winning. Read More
Poor Mike Pence. Greeted with a friendly gaggle of actors who both recognize him and are willing to express well-meaning concern over the havoc he may wreak as vice president. Pity too Donald Trump, who now feels blindsided by the realization that the theater isn't somewhere he and his cohort can retreat from the consequences of their actions.
Trump's reaction is what ultimately makes the action of the Hamilton cast a Good Thing. The man spent fifteen months using his own bully pulpit in a far less kindly way. Read More
In 2015 it became clear that Viktor Shklovsky’s imperative to “make the stone stony” is a much simpler task than “making the corpse corpsely.” I am thinking of the use of autopsy transcript as poem, Kenneth Goldsmith’s appropriation of the shooting death of Michael Brown.  While this particular text was said to be uniquely parasitical and vampiric, likely as much for its arrogance as its form, it should be understood as the logical product of an aberration in American documentary poetics that has recently adopted the brand name “Conceptualism.” Goldsmith’s personal framing of Conceptualism holds that all that must be written has been written and must merely be re-packaged Read More
The flags snap in the wind, the whispered breath Read More
that steals the words and whickers, horse and knight.
The fires mutter and crack in dying light
and breaths from noses mist, steal proof from death.
And here am I, rose up from lowly whore,
shown faces smashed by hooves, shown strength in spades.