#3 Or What’s a Hell For?
May 2016

The third issue of Salvage. See more information about its contents here.

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    by John Merrick


    Walking down the wooden steps last Monday night, the dead-eyed glare of Young Labourites hit you hard. Three days into conference and the bum-fluff and teenage skin is showing through; their father’s suits, 20 years of growth and ale before they fit, are beginning to crease and stain. What kind of twilight zone for the young and awkward had I stepped into?


    Latin America: From Reform to Resistance - An Interview with Jeffery Webber (part 2)

    Jeffery Webber, interviewed by George Souvlis


    George Souvlis: 10 year ago Evo Morales was elected president of. In your article dealing with the Bolivian regime titled, "Fantasies Aside”, you argue that there’s a reconstituted neoliberalism in Bolivia under Morales. Is it a neoliberal regime, and if so, why and how does it differ from previous neoliberal regimes in the country? To what extent do indigenous people participate substantially in the policy making of the regime? Is any indigenous liberation taking place?

    Jeffery Webber: I think the tenor of debate in scholarly accounts of Latin American political economy, around neoliberalism, post-neoliberalism, and neo-developmentalism, have tended easily to degenerate into semantic turf wars that often obstruct careful assessment of continuities and ruptures in countries such as Bolivia more than reveal new insights. So I’ll try to avoid that dynamic here, and just say, to start with, that I first made the argument that the Morales regime’s political-economic strategy since 2006 could best be characterized as “reconstituted neoliberalism” in my 2011 book, From Rebellion to Reform in Bolivia. The later magazine piece you mention was a response to subsequent criticisms of that book coming from a certain crude, left-populist, celebratory position of the Morales regime and defensive apologia of any and every action it ever undertook.


    Latin America: From Reform to Resistance - An Interview with Jeffery Webber (part 1)

    Jeffery Webber interviewed by George Souvlis

    The history of Latin America has always been central to left-wing history and politics; and never more so than the past 50 years. Since the rise of Allende's government in Chile and it's brutal suppression after Pinochet's US-backed coup, to its use as a testing-ground for neoliberal restructuring, and the subsequent rise of autonomous social movements and the Bolivarian "pink tide" of left governments, there is much we can learn from the continent. In the first of a two-part interview with Jeffery Webber, Senior Lecturer at Queen Marys, University of London, he analyses the contradictions in the contemporary Latin American left, and offers a detailed analysis of the politics of the continent since the 1970s.


    The Colonial, Postcolonial and the Politics of Anti-Imperialism: An Interview with Tithi Bhattacharya

    Tithi Bhattacharya interviewed by George Souvlis


    The ascent of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of India has brought to light the dark underbelly of Indian society - often seen in Europe and North America as a beacon of democracy and hope for the Global South. Modi, in many ways, shows the strong continuity between the strategies of the British colonial rulers of India and the Indian post-colonial elites in their respective forms of social domination. In this interview with Tithi Bhattacharya, professor of South Asian History and the Director of Global Studies at Purdue University, she discusses Modi's upper caste, majoritarian violence; the nature of the postcolonial India state; her work on the bhadralok class; gender violence and social reproduction; and Palestinian solidarity and the BDS movement.


    Finance, Economics and Politics

    by Tony Norfield


    The financial system accentuates all the absurdities of capitalism, but it does this in a way that can make finance appear to be separate from the capitalist economy, rather than an inevitable outgrowth from it. Almost every observer of capitalism makes a distinction between the ‘real’ and the ‘financial’ economy. Even those who would claim to be anti-capitalist often advocate policies to save the capitalist economy from the vagaries of disruptive financial markets.

    A division between a ‘real’ and a ‘financial’ economy can seem to make sense, especially given the extravagant rewards of financiers who seem to perform no function other than to boost their own incomes and wealth. A closer look at how the capitalist economy works, though, throws a very different light on what is happening. We need to recognise that the global economy is dominated by a small number of countries and their corporations – and that the financial system is a means by which they maintain their privileged status in the world.


    White Overseers of the World

    by Zachary Sell


    For Cedric Robinson, capitalism has been characterised by chaos which cannot be captured by a unifying language.i If that is the case, it is not for lack of trying. In the mid-nineteenth century, abolitionist discourses sutured diverse geographies by interpreting the world within dichotomies of slavery and freedom. While this imagination enlivened abolitionist struggles against slavery in the US and beyond, it also elided the forms of colonialism and expropriation that visions of free labour rested upon. By foregrounding what Jairus Banaji has called the ‘incoherence’ of free labour, this essay considers the ways in which projects that have sought to universalise free labour have depended upon the proliferation of coercion.ii


    Europe, Democracy and the Left: An interview with Geoff Eley

    Geoff Eley interviewed by George Souvlis


    There is no doubt that in 2008 the capitalist system in Europe and in United States suffered a severe shock from which has not yet recovered. Suggestive indications of this "permanent crisis" are the draconian austerity packages that the economic elites implemented as a response to these developments triggering the dissolution of European Union, the collapse of democratic institutions, the impoverishment of the working people and emergence of far-right movements and parties throughout the European continent.

    Few are more appropriate to explain such developments in their historicity alongside the rise of Nazism and Fascism in the interwar period, and the historiographical complexities around these issues, than the British historian Geoff Eley. His work on the history of Germany and the authoritarian regimes of the interwar period; the role of class, gender and race in current debates within the field of historiography; and the inextricable trajectories of European democracy and the European left give him an insightful understanding of today's political momentum and its meaning for the left. In particular, Eley’s contributions in the field of history have transformed the way we deal with the origins and the nature of autocratic politics, the history of the non-Stalinist left and the liaisons between history and politics.


    Guarding Capital

    by J. A. Bujes


    In the summer of 1981, I took a job as a security guard at the Bank of America World Trade Center in San Francisco. I had signed up for the Latin workshop at U.C. Berkeley, and working the graveyard shift was the only way I could attend class each day, complete hours of homework every night, sleep, and pay rent. I had to have a job, and it had to be a job that allowed me to study while working. I had a friend who had a friend who was assistant manager on that shift, and they were always looking for bodies for graveyard.


    Technically Female: Women, Machines, and Hyperemployment

    by Helen Hester


    Femininity, Technologies, Work

    In an advert for Recognition Equipment in 1966, a young woman with a charming smile places an arm around her male colleague’s shoulder, and rests her head gently against him as he tries to read some very serious and important paperwork. The tagline declares, ‘Our optical reader can do anything your key punch operators do. (Well, almost.)’ It’s limitations? The copy informs us that the machine ‘can’t use the office for intimate tête-à-têtes’ or ‘be a social butterfly’. All it can do is its job, reading and computing data at the rate of ‘2400 typewritten characters a second’. Another, published a year later, and quite clearly a sequel to the first, uses the same tagline, this time accompanied by an image of a heavily pregnant blonde. Unlike this woman, we are told, Recognition Equipment’s office technologies ‘can’t take maternity leave. Or suffer from morning sickness. Or complain about being tired all the time.’ It should be clear to the viewer which of these things is more useful to have around the office.


    The Political Is Political: In Conversation With Yasmin Nair

    by Rosie Warren

    ‘In a world of left-wing discourse that has become enamored with a kind of shit-eating tween preciousness’, writes Fredrik Deboer, ‘Yasmin Nair’s voice is serious without being dour, and playful without being cute. Her writing is invested with quiet, unfussy power.’ She is someone who ‘absolutely will not tolerate getting hip checked by some adolescent from the Twin Cities area who looked up intersectionality on Dictionary.com last week and now has “bell hooks gif ” in her search terms.’ High praise.

    One of Nair’s blog pieces caught my attention; a short, playful, razor-sharp piece about the political vacuity of polyamory. In ‘Your Sex is Not Radical’, as in all of her writing, Nair pulls no punches: ‘the sad truth that many of us learn after years in sexual playing fields (literally and figuratively) is that how many people you fuck has nothing to do with the extent to which you fuck up capitalism.’ Having read it, and many others, scandalised and giddy, I conducted an interview with Nair via Skype and email in March 2016.


    The Struggle for Labour – An Invitation to Comrades

    by the Editors


    The Labour party, the British labour movement, and the radical Left stands – if we may abuse a cliché for the sake of accurate description – at a crossroads. The Parliamentary Labour Party’s attempted coup against Jeremy Corbyn, as treacherous as it has been cack-handed, represents an old politics: the politics of triangulation, vacuity and insulation from democracy. In other words, the coup-makers and their media supporters belong to that post-Cold War order, the representative and mediating structures of which are collapsing with bloody alacrity. They are the void made flesh. They have no answers for the coming and extant ruins.

    Corbyn, or the renewed and redoubled movement to keep him as leader of a new type of party-movement, just might. Jeremy Corbyn means more than Jeremy Corbyn.


    From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

    by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor


    The below is extracted from Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor's From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation, with thanks to the publisher Haymarket Books for their permission.


    On 12 April 1865, the American Civil War officially came to an end when the Union Army accepted the unconditional surrender of the Confederacy on the steps of a courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia. The Union Army, led by 200,000 Black soldiers, had destroyed the institution of slavery; as a result of their victory, Black people were now to be no longer property but citizens of the United States. The Civil Rights Act of 1866, the first declaration of civil rights in the United States, stated that:

    citizens of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States ... to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens.


    The New Swedish Fascism: An Introduction

    by Shabane Barot


    ‘I think we have the potential to become the largest party,’ Sweden Democrats’ party secretary Richard Jomshof tells a Swedish news agency in December 2015. His comments follow the results of poll that the Sweden Democrats (SD), a party that emerged from the Neo-Nazi movement of the eighties, have the support of 20 per cent of voters. This makes them the third largest party in the country – the largest among male voters. ‘I am absolutely convinced that the party has benefited from the situation that has arisen in recent months, even if we do not acknowledge the situation,’ Jomshof continues, referring to the refugee crisis.


    A turning tide for sex workers?: The home affairs committee report

    by Toni Mac


    Last week, I was sitting in a meeting with a dozen sex worker activists, battling to get through a huge list of agenda items. We had discussed a number of matters including the upcoming closure of a sex worker outreach clinic, the volunteer vacancy that needed to be filled, and the somewhat momentous occasion of opening our first bank account, when a member reminded the group that the following day, we’d be finding out the results of Parliament’s Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry into Prostitution.

    The response was resigned weariness, and uncertainty about what we might expect: a report that called for the criminalisation of the purchase of sex, or else a non-committal conclusion stating the committee were unconvinced either way, and that more research is needed. The inquiry had been announced back in January with some highly biased terms of reference, and we had submitted evidence with a degree of self preserving pessimism - the sort of message-in-a-bottle tactic that sex worker activists are used to deploying on a returning tide. We signed off the matter with a brittle cheerfulness and I wrote ‘HASC report due: likely to be bad’ in the meeting minutes.



    by Sam Kriss

    krasinski2-xlargeAmericans are afraid of Benghazi. The name, just by itself, sounds out an organised assault on Western values. BEN, the comforting tonal balance of a just and ordered world; Ben Johnson, Ben Franklin, Ben Kenobi. The sudden jolt of GHA, a descent into chaos, its throaty foreign consonant, its vowel trailing away into nothingness like a scream in a raging sandstorm. Finally ZI, total madness. Interstellar incoherence, the scrapyard of broken lines at the distant tail-end of the alphabet, cuneiforms leaking a viscous significance from the fractures in their exoskeletons. BENGHAZI. A horror story in three acts.

    The question is, who wrote it?


    Not a Coup But a Blaze

    by the Editors


    In death's dream kingdom …

    There, is a tree swinging

    And voices are

    In the wind's singing

    More distant and more solemn

    Than a fading star.

    – T S Eliot, ‘Hollow Men’.

    In the spectacle of plummeting share prices, currency values, property prices, and trade volumes, we can scry a future.

    The United Kingdom, a dream kingdom, a twilight kingdom, is on the brink of its downfall.


    Union Jacks Flutter Over a Widening Gyre

    By Richard Seymour

    All the wrong people are cheering. Farage, bulbous eyes swivelling and moist, lauded a victory for “the real people, for the ordinary people, for the decent people”. The citrine-tinged Trump, with customary intuition, praises the Scots (who overwhelmingly voted for Remain) for taking their country back. Marine Le Pen, hailing a “victory for freedom,” demands a similar referendum in France. Certainly, George Galloway, having joined Farage in demonising ‘mass immigration,’ is also pleased, and there are a few saps who think that Tony Benn’s democratic socialist dream is on the brink of fruition. But the serried ranks of red-faced, Toryboy rosbifs, delightedly fluttering their Union Jacks while sinking glass after glass of celebratory fizz, know that tomorrow belongs to them.


    The Abasement of Trauma

    by Jen Izaakson


    Inserting ‘trigger’ warnings above material that includes reference to violent content has become a notable tendency on the internet for at least the last two or three years. As the trend has grown, the nature of the material warranting a trigger warning – often abbreviated to TW – has broadened in scope. No longer reserved for citing or invoking characteristically traumatic events such as rape, trigger warnings began next to appear above discussions of sexism or racism. Then above texts referencing oppression, then above offensive or unpleasant content generally. They began to feature in relation to political or controversial topics such as abortion law, diet articles or mental-health policy documents. Trigger warnings have appeared above content that includes description of a fire, the death of a pet, and a love-triangle.

    Tracing the evolution of the use of the TW is not intended to make a case against one particular use or another: rather, the entire use of the term ‘trigger’ in this way is misguided in all circumstances. What it means needs to be understood.


    From Choice to Polarity: Politics of, and, and in Art

    by China Miéville


    In a rough landscape in central Africa, men are at work. They carry fire, haul industrial parts, wheeze under protective masks. They’re sweating and exhausted. When at last evening comes, they clock off and shower for a long time under cobbled-together plumbing. Then they rummage in battered wardrobes, bring out extraordinary clothes, and transform.

    Crocodile shoes; canary jackets; Savile Row shirts. Twirling canes, they set out through the dust to strike a pose. To perform. A strut-off in a late-night bar.


    Corbyn Blimey: Labour and the Present Crisis

    by John Merrick


    The experience of three millennia has not made people any cleverer; on the contrary, it has made them more confused, more prejudiced, has driven them mad, and the result of this is the political state of present-day Europe." Engels, ‘The Condition of England II: The English Constitution’

    Over the past year there has occurred the most profound shift in the British political establishment since the landslide Labour victory following the end of the Second World War. In Scotland, a traditional Labour heartland, the Scottish National Party swept to an enormous victory taking fifty-six out of a possible fifty-nine seats (up from 2011’s six, and a previous best of eleven in the 1974 general election). This was matched in the rest of the UK by the continuing crisis of the three major parties. Both Labour and the Conservatives polled under 40 per cent of the total vote, and the Liberal Democrats lost forty-nine of their seats by polling under 2.5 million votes in total – around 1.3 million less than UKIP, despite Farage’s party coming out of the election with just a single seat.


    Year V

    by Hannah Elsisi

    Photo of military officer and child carrying Egyptian flag overlooking the newly extended Suez canal, right caption: ‘Child with an Army’ and to the left is the iconic photo of Aylan Kurdi, dead on the EU’s shores with a caption reading: ‘Child who lost his army’. This image was projected onto a huge screen at the Alexandria toll gates.

    There is this not-so-rare occurrence which academics dread: you write something, but before it’s finished, someone else publishes the exact same thing and you’re left with dead words and the ludicrous task of nit-picking the other author’s argument for no obvious reason at all, simply because you need to publish. You have to make that REF exercise, or you’re fired. This is the first non-academic piece that I have written in several years and it's refreshing not to have to care. So I’m going to go ahead and open with almost the same sentence Alaa abdel-Fatah wrote for the Guardian from his cell in Tura prison, on 23 January 2016, just a stone’s throw away from me and my comfortable Cairo home.


    Salvage Perspectives #3: Or What's a Hell For?

    by The Editors

    ‘An atmosphere of deep unease is building’ in what ‘is likely to remain a bleak landscape’. The words are not those of Salvage – though we concur – but of a report into the British manufacturing sector from Markit Economics and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. The sector is in contraction for the first time since 2013, falling from a low base to 49.2. This occurs as UK construction sees its weakest expansion since 2013, and the Office for National Statistics reports a fall in UK GDP growth to 0.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2016, from 0.6 per cent in the previous quarter. ‘[T]he outlook’, according to HSBC, ‘is getting worse, not better’.

    The government blames the slump and this baleful vista on Brexit fears, on which even mainstream economists have politely called bullshit: ‘It is hard,’ demurs Pantheon Macroeconomics, ‘... to attribute the decline in consumer goods demand solely to Brexit risk.’ In addition to problems of sterling appreciation and weak foreign demand, is a domestic problem: ‘We think that weaker demand for consumer goods reflects a fundamental slowdown in households’ real income growth. Inflation is slowly picking up, employment growth has faded markedly, and welfare spending cuts intensified in April.’


    Talkers and Porkers - from multiculturalism to assimilation through the medium of pork

    by Richard Seymour

    The Talmud tells a story of how Eleazar (2 Macc. 6) was tortured to death for refusing to swallow pork that was forced into his mouth by the Greek authorities. The forces of King Antiochus, determined to force the Jews to abandon their barbaric ancestral customs, were instructed to put to death every Jew who refused to assimilate to Greek culture.

    In the perverse logic of antisemitism, however, this came to mean that Jews were porcine, an idea which became the basis for folklore, stereotypes and proverbs. It was held simultaneously that Jews, by refusing pork, were setting themselves apart from and above their neighbours, and that they secretly craved the meat which they forbade themselves — even to the point of carnal desire. In England, a Christian man would eat bacon “to shew himself to be no Jew” (John Aubrey), but a Jew supposedly might make a crazed lunge for pig meat if given the chance. To force Jews to eat pork, as happened for example by state decree under the reign of Nicolas I of Russia, was considered both a condign humiliation and a fitting means to cultural assimilation.