More information about the Communard’s Wall and the Oakland Commune

Excerpt from short story by Don DeLillo about watching the crisis unfold from a prison for financial crimes. 

“All of Europe is looking south. What do they see?”

“They see Greece.”

“They see fiscal instability, enormous debt burden, possible default.”

“Crisis is a Greek word.”

“Is Greece hiding its public debt?”

“Is the crisis spreading at lightning speed to the rest of the southern tier, to the eurozone in general, to emerging markets everywhere?”

“Does Greece need a bailout?”

“Will Greece abandon the euro?”

“Did Greece hide the nature of  its debt?”

“What is Wall Street’s role in this critical matter?”

“What is a credit-default swap?

What is a sovereign default? What is a special-purpose entity?”

“We don’t know. Do you know? Do you care?”

“What is Wall Street? Who is Wall Street?”

Tense laughter from pockets in the audience.

“Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy.”

“Stocks plunge worldwide.”

“The Dow, the NASDAQ, the euro, the pound.”

“But where are the walkouts, the work stoppages, the job actions?”

“Look at Greece. Look in the streets.”

“Riots, strikes, protests, pickets.”

“All of Europe is looking at Greece.”

“Chaos is a Greek word.”

“Canceled flights, burning flags, stones flying this way, tear gas sailing that way.”

“Workers are angry. Workers are marching.”

“Blame the worker. Bury the worker.”

“Freeze their pay. Increase their tax.”

“Steal from the worker. Screw the worker.”

“Any day now, wait and see.”

“New flags, new banners.”

“Hammer and sickle.”

“Hammer and sickle.”

Their mother had the girls delivering lines in a balanced flow, a cadence. They weren’t just reading, they were acting, showing facial expression, having serious fun. Screw the worker, Kate had said. At least their mother had assigned the vulgar line to the older girl.“

All day long the story passed through the camp, building to building, man to man. It concerned a convict on death row in Texas or Missouri or Oklahoma and the last words he’d spoken before an individual authorized by the state injected the lethal substance or activated the electric current. The words were, Kick the tires and light the fire—I’m going home. Some of us felt a chill, hearing the story. Were we shamed by it? Did we think of that man on the honed edge of his last breath as more authentic than we were, a true outlaw, worthy of the state’s most cruelly scrupulous attention?

His end was officially sanctioned, an act welcomed by some, protested by some. If he’d spent half a lifetime in prison cells, in solitary confi nement and fi nally on death row for one or two or multiple homicides, where were we and what had we done to be placed here? Did we even remember our crimes? Could we call them crimes? They were loopholes, evasions, wheedling half-assed infractions.

Some of us, less self-demeaning, simply nodded at the story, conveying credit to the man for the honor he’d brought to the moment, the back-country poetry of those words. By the third time I heard the story, or overheard it, the prison was located decisively in Texas. Forget the other places—the man, the story, and the prison all belonged in Texas. We were somewhere else, watching a children’s program on TV.

“What’s this business about hammer and sickle?”

“Means nothing. Words,” I said.

“Like Abu Dhabi.”

“The Hang Seng in Hong Kong.”


“The girls like saying it. Hammer and sickle.”

“Hammer and sickle.”

“Abu Dhabi.”

“Abu Dhabi.”

“Hang Seng.”

“Hong Kong,” I said.

We went on like that for a while. Norman was still murmuring the  names when I shut my eyes and began the long turn toward sleep.

“But I think she means it. I think she’s serious. Hammer and sickle,” he said. “She’s a serious woman with a point to make.”

Read the rest in the December 2010 issue of Harpers (scroll to page 63).

From the newly reincarnated Reoccupied New School blog:

Towards a New Manifesto:
Conversations between Adorno & Horkheimer, 1956

Read / Print


A life-long intellectual partnership between two major thinkers, so close that their most celebrated single texts were co-authored and their names are difficult to dissociate, is rare enough to rank as virtually a sport of history. There seem to be only two cases: in the 19th century, Marx and Engels, and in the 20th Horkheimer and Adorno. Might they be regarded as prefigurations of what in a post-bourgeois world would become less uncommon? Their patterns differed. Marx and Engels, born two years apart, were contemporaries; once their friendship was formed, collaboration between them never ceased. Adorno was eight years Horkheimer’s junior, and a close working relationship came much later, with many more vicissitudes: initial meeting in 1921, intermittent friction and exchange up to the mid-1930s, concord only in American exile from 1938 onwards, more pointedly distinct identities throughout. The general trajectory of the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research is well known, as over time ‘critical theory’— originally Horkheimer’s code-word for Marxism— confined it- self to the realms of philosophy, sociology and aesthetics; to all appearances completely detached from politics. Privately it was otherwise, as the exchange below makes clear.

This unique document is the record, taken down by Gre- tel Adorno, of discussions over three weeks in the spring of 1956, with a view to the production of—as Adorno puts it—a contemporary version of The Communist Manifesto. In form it might be described, were jazz not anathema to Adorno, as a philosophical jam-session, in which the two thinkers improvise freely, often wildly, on central themes of their work—theory and practice, labour and leisure, domination and freedom—in a political register found nowhere else in their writing. Amid a careening flux of arguments, aphorisms and asides, in which the trenchant alternates with the reck- less, the playful with the ingenuous, positions are swapped and contradictions unheeded, without any compulsion for consistency. In substance, each thinker reveals a different profile. Horkheimer, historically more politicized, was by now the more conservative, imbibing Time on China, if not yet to the point where he would commend the Kaiser for warning of the Yellow Peril. Though still blaming the West for what went wrong with the Russian Revolution, and rejecting any kind of reformism, his general outlook was now close to Kojève’s a decade later: ‘We can expect nothing more from mankind than a more or less worn-out version of the American system’. Adorno, more aesthetically minded, emerges paradoxically as the more radical: reminding Horkheimer of the need to oppose Adenauer, and envisaging their project as a ‘strictly Leninist manifesto’, even in a period when ‘the horror is that for the first time we live in a world in which we can no longer imagine a better one’.

Capitalism means suburbs and slums, condos and ghettos. It means evictions and security deposits, cold, moldy, infested apartments and high rent. It means repetitive, boring, dangerous work, unemployment and homelessness. It means isolation, imaginary togetherness and real conservative communities, prejudice, racism and political correctness. It means speculation and regulation, growth and stagnation, crisis and war. It means landlords and loan sharks, police and politicians, bureaucrats and bosses.

But all these things come about because they work. They grow out of and reinforce the basic capitalist social relationships. These social relationships are not optional. If we want food, housing or anything else, we have to buy it, and the only way we have to make money is to sell our ability to work. The pressures we feel in everyday life are the same that explode in the wars and crisis that disrupt everyday life. Dead labor needs to squeeze living labor. Capital needs to move and expand. Our everyday activity is turned against us and seems like a force of nature, a monster.

Merry Christmas, comrades! This week, The Housing Monster, the long awaited follow up to Abolish Restaurants was finally unveiled! Through focus on the social relevance of the house/home, other topics such as work, community, religion, and, of course, class struggle are developed in the sort of crystal clear prose and Gerd Arntz-reminiscent graphics that we’ve come to expect from the fine folks at prole.info.

Read it online here or wait for it to be available from PM Press in the next few months.

Bad Students

December 6, 2011

This is an article from the New School Free Press detailing an outsider’s perspective to the fall of the recent All City Student Occupation of the New School. While The Free Press has been a typically shoddy newspaper when it comes to covering radical events, it presents a fascinating timeline, nonetheless.

More texts from the occupation:
Attack Us if You Dare
Message from Thanks-Taking

The Glorious Rise and Ignominious Fall of a Student Occupation

On Tuesday, November 22, Kellen Auditorium was filled to capacity as members of the New School community turned up for a public forum, organized by President David Van Zandt, regarding the student occupation at 90 Fifth Ave. Before the meeting had even begun, security guards were ushering attendees into an overflow room next door, where they could watch the forum on a live video feed. Tensions were high as Van Zandt prepared to address the crowded room, facing his most difficult test yet as president of The New School.

Day of ActionPhoto by Courtney Stack

Since November 17, students from universities throughout New York City had been occupying The New School’s Student Study Center, influenced by the Occupy Wall Street movement that has swept across the country. As part of a student-organized “Day of Action,” thousands had converged on Union Square before marching over to Fifth Avenue, where dozens of students entered the New School building at 90 Fifth Ave. There, they took control of the study center’s second floor and announced the third occupation of a New School building in three years. Optimistic and energized, the occupiers hoped to transform the Student Study Center into a space where people could openly discuss economic issues pertaining to students, organize political actions, and launch a national student movement.

But five days into the occupation, as Van Zandt stood in front of more than a hundred people in Kellen Auditorium, it was clear that the occupation of 90 Fifth Ave. had divided the university. An overwhelming majority of the students who spoke at the public forum were opposed to the occupation, and many expressed anger at the administration for allowing it to continue. While a number of the students there said that they supported OWS and had initially supported the occupation, they were dismayed by the turn of events at the Student Study Center.

What had begun as a widely-supported and inclusive movement had, somehow, devolved into a tense, convoluted, and unpopular situation. Read the rest of this entry »

In the midst of huge Lefty marches on Wall Street comes this interesting action from some New York comrades: a surrealist march from Wall Street in Manhattan to Wall Street in Staten Island. I’m excited to see these groups challenge the concept of the Wall Street march, an aged action with implications of a centralized Capital, existing deep within bank vaults or in the inhumanity of a small circle of banker’s actions. In reality capitalism exists with the same strength in the skyscraper valleys of Manhattan as the side streets of Staten Island. Capitalism is less a thing being done to the world than a thing we are constantly doing to each other.

From Wall Street to Wall Street to Wall Street from Red Channels on Vimeo.

And an intriguing communique from More of the Same

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Soviet Propaganda Comix!

April 26, 2011

“Dance around the Dollar”

“Forces of the Wold”

“The fight for freedom”

Read the rest of this entry »

David Harvey, author of The Enigma of Capital, is paired together with some very clever and well done illustrations sponsored by the Royal Society for the Arts as he summarizes the global financial crisis, concluding:

“Any sensible person right now would join an anti-capitalist organization.”

Interior of the Ramones Museum

As a New Yorker traveling in Germany, I was surprised to come across a museum in central Berlin dedicated to legendary New York punk patriarchs the Ramones. With a facade replicating now defunct CBGBs, complete with adjacent t-shirt shop, the Ramones Museum Berlin is apparently the only tribute of its kind in the world. Inside, visitors can check out thousands of pieces of band memorabilia, from trademark show-worn leather jackets and biker gloves, to bizarre promotional items like crackers and thumbtacks, to original lyric-sheets and rare works of art from the band members. While the museum’s website explains the their existence as something of an accident resulting from Berliner Flo Hayler’s two-decade obsession with collecting band memorabilia, the perhaps randomly located museum somehow seemed to me at its logical home within the former capitol of the Third Reich.

From the first song on their first record, Blitzkrieg Bop, to the last song on their last record, Born to Die in Berlin, there’s an undeniable streak of fascination with Germany in the Ramone’s catalog. Some of these references are vague (It’s a Long Way Back to Germany), others are direct and usually pertain to fascism or World War II (Commando), but as with all Ramones material there’s a sense that they originate from two very different places– the minds of Johnny and Joey.

In the doc End of the Century, chronicling the life of the band from birth to death, Johnny explains the formation of one of their earliest German/fascist-themed songs, Today your Love, Tomorrow the World. The song originally contained the line: “I’m a Nazi Baby” until Joey took offense, and changed it to the more satirical “I’m a Nazi schatze.” But the creepiness of Johnny’s unapologetic fascist-fetishism still shines through as the song continues “Y’know I fight for the fatherland/I’m a German boy/Being pushed around/Little German boy/In a German town.” casting a concerning shadow on the otherwise fun and carefree bulk of their work; what is Beat on the Brat really about? Is 53rd and 3rd a justification of queer-bashing? Loudmouth and You’re Gonna Kill that Girl glorification of violence against women? In Johnny’s words: “We didn’t try to be crazy, we didn’t try to write things that were offensive or had shock value, this was all natural.”

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