The fifth issue of Salvage. See more information about its contents here.
‘I feel confined, only free to expand myself within boundaries.’
Major Motoko Kusanagi, Ghost in the Shell
In the 1995 anime version of Ghost In The Shell, we’re offered both the dream and the nightmare of trans politics. Ghost In The Shell is particularly incisive, in that it won itself a place in millions of young minds, including mine, without openly presenting itself as a film about trans lives. Yet the cyborgs, and Motoko Kusanagi in particular, are undoubtedly transgender: they choose and change their bodies based on what relationship they desire from that body. But the near-future Japan of Ghost In The Shell is horrific, an increasingly feasible mesh of neoliberal militarisation, racism, and class stratification. Except that the process of classing is expressed through how much self-determination, how many augmentations, people have over their body. Major Kusanagi, our protagonist, is essentially a killer cop, a spook, a witchfinder general, only slightly redeemed by her willingness to question whether she actually ever existed.
Those questions – Am I really real? Have I ever existed? Or am I a ghost of an identity? – are ones many trans people will recognise: the visceral confusion that comes about from knowing how you feel and experience your body, but having that experience jar so powerfully with what meaning other people and society give to it. It is a question that Ghost In The Shell’s non-cyborgs never really have to ask: as long as cyborgs exist then a certainty in their humanity is assured. In the same way, cis society rarely has to justify its claims to gender normality. Maybe it would be useful if it did.
A materialist transfeminism offers us a way to understand what capitalism attempts to do to the body, and Ghost In The Shell reminds us that there is no technological teleology escape hatch out of gendered oppression; a world where the apex of cyborg technology is utilised primarily to infuse certain bodies with more power for social control is a nauseating one, which determines which bodies are ‘real’ and accepted as authentic, and those which, through their transgressions, are deserving of violence.More
There’s a special kind of dread that breeds in the path of a hurricane.
They call it the ‘cone of uncertainty’ – that brightly coloured funnel on the weather map that traces the possible paths of a storm. It’s a statistical mishmash created from dozens of predictions of varying quality, and when you see the dark red centre touch your part of the map, you can almost feel the barometric pressure dropping. You might have days to prepare, days before you know whether it’ll really hit you and how badly. You might not have days to get out, not if the roads are clogged and the gas stations are mobbed; certainly not if you have to work and don’t have cash on hand. You hunker down as best you can, waiting for the first rainbands and the next, for the eye to pass over and the eyewall to return.More
by the Editors
We have said that there has not for decades been so good a moment to be a fascist. We have said that this is an epoch of unprecedented social sadism, that it is too late to ‘save’ the world, particularly in the face of climate catastrophe, and that we struggle instead because even rubble is worth fighting over. We have said we need a strategy for ruination. This we still hold. However, it would be a dereliction not to register the scale of recent shifts, the opening of possibilities. For a long time, if politics was ‘polarising’, as the Left incanted nervously, it seemed to be with only one pole. No more.
According to the speculations of techno-futurologists, left and right, the machines are here to liberate us. Most of the discourse is dominated by the neoliberal right such as Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee and Andrew Haldane, chief economist of the Bank of England. Their arguments, avoiding questions of exploitation, are naturally popular with the establishment. McAfee’s best-selling book The Second Machine Age has been lauded by leaders at the World Economic Forum.More
Since the 1991 publication of The Wages of Whiteness, David Roediger's work has fundamentally changed the shape of scholarship on race and racism in the US. In his latest book, Class, Race and Marxism, Roediger tackles the relationship between race and class in contemporary society, and questions many of the common assumptions of the Marxist left.
Below are a series of critical commentaries on the book by Satnam Virdee, Alana Lentin and Charles Post.More
By Elia El Khazen
In early October, the Egyptian regime arrested fifty-seven people on charges of “debauchery,” ‘inciting sexual deviancy’ and ‘joining an outlawed group’ as part of a continuing security crackdown on Egypt’s LGBTQ community, which now includes ten to fifteen years in jail for those charged as homosexuals. The raising of a rainbow flag during a concert for Lebanese band, Mashrou’ Leila – whose lead singer is openly gay – the preceding week in Cairo triggered a media frenzy that prompted the arrests. The local media supported these arrests by publishing numerous articles and interviews inciting hatred against groups and individuals with non-conforming gender identities and sexual orientations.More
The election of Donald Trump and the resulting uptick of racist violence since November 2016 has placed the issue of fascism back on the agenda of the US left. In the past few months, socialists, anarchists and other radicals in the US are debating what fascism is (and is not) and how (or how not) to fight it. Among the issues this essay addresses are whether our defense of 'free speech' extend to fascists or do we attempt to 'no platform' fascists? Do we merely attempt to outnumber fascists or physically confront them as well? Do we rely on the state and university administrations or mass mobilizations from below to oppose fascism? Whether anti-fascist organizing is a diversion or necessary element of rebuilding militant labor and social movements?
Brexit has made immigration an impossible subject to avoid, and in several trade unions and the Labour Party socialists are divided. Three schools of thought predominate. They are all rotten. Each of them borrows from enemy arsenals rather than recovering the left’s lost language of 'proletarian internationalism'. It is a coarse, imperfect dialect from the early years of the twentieth century, the language of Lenin and his comrades. It seems often hopelessly outdated now but in speaking about migration its central innovations – stressing that modern politics is a contingent and a necessarily transnational affair – make for a refreshing contrast with the certainties that only later froze into premises for our own stale debates.More
Two years have passed since the Greek government, composed of Syriza and the right-wing “Independent Greeks” party, bowed to the pressure of the European “institutions”, following a referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Greeks rejected further EU-imposed austerity measures.
The period since then provides the necessary time distance to reflect soberly on the Greek experience during the tumultuous period between January and July 2015, as well as the meaning of the referendum and the Greek government’s hitherto record in office. From today’s perspective, it can easily be argued that Syriza's attempt at achieving real change not only failed miserably; it also inflicted a major blow to the Left’s credibility on an international scale.
However, before any appraisal of Syriza’s record in office since the summer of 2015 can commence, it is important to narrate some of the facts as such. In other words, to use the classical Marxist method of crosschecking public discourses with historical reality. In doing so, we wish to give an overview of the factors leading to Syriza`s strategic retreat. We reject the moralistic notion of a “betrayal” on the part of Syriza`s leadership, arguing instead that the roots of the party’s subsequent trajectory lie with the structural weaknesses of the party’s overall strategy in the years preceding the assumption of office by Alexis Tsipras. We ask if - even at the last moment before the capitulation to the creditors’ terms – the objective conditions for an alternative path existed.More
George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, politically and academically?
Neil Davidson: I was born in Aberdeen, the regional centre of the North-East of Scotland, in 1957. Of all the major cities in Scotland, it was the one which retained the closest links to the surrounding countryside well into the twentieth century. The greatest of all North-Eastern novels (and an outstanding work of Marxist Modernism), Lewis Grassic Gibbon's Sunset Song, is essentially about the end of the local peasantry in the aftermath of the First World War – and in many ways it tells the story of my family. My maternal grandfather, Wullie Farquhar, was a farm servant on the estate at Monymusk who migrated to the city in the late twenties where he got a job as a mechanic on the trams and then on the buses. My grandmother Helen was always too ill to work. My mother Margaret was born in the thirties and went to school during the War: she was one of the brightest girls in her year, but Granny and Granda Farquhar obviously couldn’t afford to pay for further education, so she went to work in a bank as a typist, then as a secretary. My paternal grandfather was an industrial worker on the Donside paper mills, but I never knew him as he contracted a lung disease from breathing in paper fibres (this was before the tyranny of Health and Safety) and died during the War – an end hastened by pre-NHS experimentation with radiation treatment which burned off large sections of his skin and required my Granny Davidson to change his bandages twice a day. My dad Doug was also academically talented and won a state bursary to go to one of the private schools (Robert Gordon’s) he couldn’t possibly have gone to otherwise – one consequence of which was that he always knew professional middle-class people who were much better off than we were. Dad trained as a radiographer while doing his National Service in the army during the early fifties and that became his job at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary once he was discharged.More
Sara Farris Interviewed by George Souvlis
George Souvlis: Would you like to introduce yourself by describing the formative experiences (academic and political) that strongly influenced you?
Sara Farris: I grew up in a little town of 12,000 people in Sardinia (Italy). I was politicized there and it was definitely in this period – between age 12 and 18 – that I had some of the most formative political and academic experiences of my life. I come from a working class family; like many of their generation, my parents invested strongly in education in order to secure the social mobility of their daughters. I also grew up in a family in which discussions about politics – or I should rather say – my father’s monologues about political events both national and international, were routine at the dinner table. My father was some kind of a socialist, who strongly believed in social justice though he was very skeptical about the possibility that the workers, as he knew them, would be able to bring about any type of social change.More
Last March, a party launched by a consumer-oriented blog eight years before topped opinion polls for the first time in its history. Mixing fruitfully the rage against political elites and the sanctification of common citizenry, the Italian Five-Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle, from now on ‘M5S’) and its founder (Beppe Grillo, a comedian with a four decades-long career) have earned the trust of roughly one out of three potential voters, and are projected to remain the most innovative political actor of the 2010s.More
by Shane Burley
Even though the banquet hall was equipped with an open bar, a few attendees kept streaming down into the hotel lounge, buzzed on cheap-wells and jokes stolen from the forgotten back-alleys of 4Chan. After several conference attendants had gone up to the bartender asking if they have ‘Seen Kyle,’ stretching their arm out in a Roman Salute, the one-upmanship that has characterised the Alt-Right kicked in. A conference goer using the handle ‘Imperial Eagle’ decided to enter the bar in his homemade Nazi uniform, complete with antique WWII-era combat medals. If that did not get the police involved, it would have been the two solid days of drunken Seig Heils and blaring N-words, so loud they reverberated like a gunshot.More
Gareth Dale Interviewed by George Souvlis
George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, politically and intellectually?
Gareth Dale: It’s the proto-politicization of childhood that interests me most—the way in which psychological individuation occurs in relation to socialization, and the construction of social circles which simultaneously involve relations and attitudes of domination and oppression.More
A place to call home. A simple thing. Labour once had a vision that there should be housing for everyone, though what makes a home is perhaps not so simple. As Kim Dovey writes, home is deeply intertwined with our identity. It centres the relationship between ourselves and the earth, centres our connection to community and culture and society, to our past with its memories, and to our ability to grow into our full potential with the power to define our future. A home should be a place of strength and safety.
A home should not be what kills us.More
by David Broder
Does Italy’s crisis owe to mummy’s boys too attached to the apron strings? Does it need a new Blair, a Macron, or just to ‘clear them all out’? Is Berlusconi going to make one last comeback? Are the Five Star Movement going to come to power? This and more.
They make a desert and call it peace
In 1968, a few months after Winnie Ewing’s shock victory for the SNP in a by-election to the hitherto safe Labour seat of Hamilton, Tom Nairn sought to get to grips with Scottish nationalism in the pages of the New Left Review. The Scottish National Party did not come off well. They were, he wrote, ‘lumpen-provincials whose parochialism finds its adequate expression in the asinine idea that a bourgeois parliament and an army will rescue the country from provincialism; as if half of Europe did not testify to the contrary.’ Nairn’s main target was clearly Scotland as a whole: the SNP was just the latest sad fetish of a country hobbled by ‘a history without truth, a sterility where dream is unrelated to character, and both bear little relationship to what happens.’ As for the question of a devolved Assembly, soon to dominate not just Scottish but British politics, Nairn feared what it would become in the hands of a bleakly Calvinist Scottish bourgeoisie, whose ‘rough-hewn sadism – as foreign to the English as anything in New Guinea – will surely be present in whatever junta of corporal-punishers and Kirk-going cheese-parers Mrs. Ewing might preside over one day in Edinburgh.’More
by The Editors
‘Obedience to the force of gravity. The greatest sin.’
— Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
‘Things can only get better. Can only get better, if we see it through.’
An uncharacteristically subdued President Trump described the result of Britain’s snap general election of 8 June as ‘surprising’. The Guardian went further, calling it a ‘shock result’. The redoubtable Jon Snow for Channel 4 News was closer to the mark, that this was ‘one of the most remarkable election results in modern British History’. This was astonishing, staggering, extraordinary.More
In 1990, I watched the Polish film maker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Blind Chance (1981/1987) without registering the paralyzing potential of a particular scene.
The protagonist, Witek, meets an old Communist by chance on a train. As a result of that meeting Witek decides to join the Communist Party. Later, again by sheer chance, he runs into an ex-partner, also his first love. A beautiful, tender and fierce sex scene follows. In the calm of the after, Witek, almost absentmindedly, whistles the Internationale. His partner murmurs something approvingly. And then Witek says ‘How would you like it if I sang this everyday?’ The young woman recoils. She knows he has joined ‘The Party’. She leaves the room and his life.More
by Carolyn J. Eichner
In 1871, the French military slaughtered approximately 25,000 people in the streets of Paris. Ferociously repressing the 72-day long revolutionary civil war known as the Paris Commune, the French government intended to obliterate and make examples of the socialist, anarchist, and feminist movements that sparked and sustained the insurrection. Of those escaping the massacre, over 35,000 were arrested, approximately one-third of whom were condemned by court martial. To ensure the eradication of the revolutionary stain, France deported nearly 4,500 of the insurgents to New Caledonia, its South Pacific penal colony one thousand miles off the Australian coast, confining the convicts to cages during the four-month sea voyage. Once in the archipelago, the Communards experienced harsh living conditions, pitiless guards, physical deprivation, psychological and emotional isolation, and intense boredom. Most lived in a “prison without walls” on the arid Ducos Peninsula, exiled by their government to an unforgiving carceral world more than 10,000 miles from their homes.More
Nothing is forever, except absence. And if the bromides of the British pundit class seem timeless, that is because the political centre registers as an absence.
Credibility, they’re saying. What Corbyn needs now, and sorely lacks, is credibility. How does one get credibility? A sharp swerve to the centre. The capitals of the European centre are collapsing around their ears, from London to Madrid to Athens to Amsterdam. Only Paris has averted the complete collapse of the centre through, as Perry Anderson put, a yuppie simulacrum of populist breakthrough. And even there, it followed the implosion of the Socialist Party and survived only because its major opponent was fascism. Yet nothing can shake a belief that has never even been thought about as such. The answer – cleave centre – is given with the same confidence that spiritual adepts once prescribed trepanning for the sick. Corbyn needs centrist credibility, in other words, like he needs a hole in the head.More
by Andreas Malm
How do you keep on fighting when everything is lost? Ask a Palestinian. A Palestinian is someone who is wading knee-deep in rubble. Palestinian politics is always already post-apocalyptic: it is about surviving after the end of the world and, in the best case, salvaging something out of all that has been lost.
How do Palestinian writers describe the end of the world? In The Ship, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, who left Palestine for Iraq in 1948, looks back on a land overflowing with ‘rivers and waterfalls’ and laments the expulsion of his people into ‘flaming deserts and screaming oil-producing cities.’ iThe same trajectory is retraced in his poem ‘In the deserts of exile’:More
A wall is always going to be beautiful. In the future, it will be ‘impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful’, in the words of the President, however tawdry and inadequate to its own stated purpose it actually is when built, if ever built at all.More
Cinzia Arruzza interviewed by George Souvlis and Ankica Čakardić
George Souvlis and Ankica Čakardić: What were the formative experiences for you politically and personally?
Cinzia Arruzza: This is a difficult question to answer, as I became an activist at the age of thirteen, and since then my whole life has been shaped by this fact. If I had to identify the experiences that have most shaped my political commitments and way of thinking, I could come up with the following list. First, coming from a poor working-class family from Sicily, which exposed me to class injustice and inequalities, sexism, and Italy’s internal soft cultural racism against people from the south (especially in the Nineties, when the Northern League had a surge in the North on an anti-South agenda). When I was a teenager, the turning points in my politicisation were my conversations with a Marxist high school teacher of history and philosophy, who was a neighbour and a friend, reading the Communist Manifesto and Lenin’s State and Revolution, and participating as a high school student in the struggle of the workers of a Pirelli plant in my town, which was shutting down and laying off hundreds of workers who had no hope of finding another job, given the level of unemployment in Sicily. Then the years spent organising the students’ movement in Rome and subsequently the global justice movement. On an intellectual level, my encounter with Daniel Bensaïd, spending years reading Marx’s Capital and Plato, reading Marxist feminist texts and, later, my discovery of black Marxism once I moved to the United States. Also, I would say that moving to New York City has been a turning point on many levels, one of which was my exposure to the US brand of racism, which made me realise how many of my earlier assumptions about capitalism were either wrong or incomplete. But I would say that I’m still in the process of learning, provided this process will ever end…More
Johanna Brenner interviewed by George Souvlis
George Souvlis: By way of introduction, could you explain what personal experiences strongly influenced you, both politically and academically?
Johanna Brenner: I grew up in a staunchly liberal family and remained politically liberal until I joined the movement against the Vietnam war, where I was introduced to anti-imperialist politics and then Marxism and ‘third-camp’ socialism. In the late 60’s I was part of the student left that turned toward organising the working-class. I was a student at UCLA. We organised student support for a teamster wildcat strike and we had a group called the Student Worker Action Committee that published a newspaper, Picket Line, where we covered different worker and community struggles in Los Angeles. I was rather slow to embrace feminism, but in the 1970’s I got involved with a socialist-feminist group called Coalition for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilisation Abuse (CARASA) which began in New York City. Some friends and comrades formed a Los Angeles branch of CARASA and we were able to connect to radical women of colour doing community organising around sterilisation abuse in LA. From that point on, I have been deeply immersed in Marxist-feminist theory and politics.More