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#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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    White Overseers of the World

    by Zachary Sell

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    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

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

    by George Souvlis

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    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.

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    Guarding Capital

    by J. A. Bujes

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    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.

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    Technically Female: Women, Machines, and Hyperemployment

    by Helen Hester

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    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.

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    The Political Is Political: In Conversation With Yasmin Nair

    by Rosie Warren

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    ‘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.

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    The Struggle for Labour – An Invitation to Comrades

    by the Editors

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    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.

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    From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

    by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

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    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.

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    The New Swedish Fascism: An Introduction

    by Shabane Barot

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    ‘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.

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

    by Toni Mac

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    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.

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    BENGHAZI

    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?

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    Not a Coup But a Blaze

    by the Editors

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    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.

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    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.

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    The Abasement of Trauma

    by Jen Izaakson

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    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.

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

    by China Miéville

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    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.

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    Corbyn Blimey: Labour and the Present Crisis

    by John Merrick

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    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.

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    Year V

    by Hannah Elsisi

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    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.

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    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.’

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

    by Richard Seymour

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    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.

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    The End of the Road: Andreas Malm on Ende Gelände

    by Andreas Malm

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    On Sunday afternoon, Swedish national television publishes what must be deemed a sensational report: for the first time, a coal-fired power plant in central Europe has been shut down by climate activists. All electricity production at Schwarze Pumpe – ‘black pump’ – has ceased due to shortage of coal. The spokesperson for Vattenfall, the state-owned Swedish corporation operating the east German plant, declares that some heat is still being generated, but that activists blocking the supply routes from its nearby mine have succeeded in starving it of fuel for electricity; moreover, sabotage of machines and storages will make it ‘impossible to restart production even if the activists disappear. There has to be repairs.’

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    Into the Dustbin of History

    by G. M. Tamas

    Migrants and refugees walk near razor-wire along a 3-meter-high fence secured by Hungarian police (R) at the official border crossing between Serbia and Hungary, near the northern Serbian town of Horgos on September 15, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / ELVIS BARUKCICELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images

    The ‘changes’ in Eastern Europe took place on the 200th anniversary of the French revolution. It seemed to many that it might be a second coming: a new revolution about, and for, human rights.

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    The Invisible Committee’s War

    by Andrew Ryder  

    The Invisible Committee, a French revolutionary collective, has emerged as an influential voice in anarchist and left-communist political thought and activism worldwide. This is partly owed to the intense repression directed against them by the state, as well as their striking formulations and the unusual lineage of ideas from which they draw. Combining biopolitical theories (largely academic) with anarchist activism, they argue that logistics of control have largely replaced economic production as the basis of society. Moreover, they emphasize war as a fundamental element of existence; both these theses have led to considerable controversy. My inquiry into the Invisible Committee’s notion of war reveals other precursors and interlocutors for their project, including German and French modern philosophers as well as militants in the traditions of decolonization and anti-racism. While I critically defend their combative rhetoric, their sidelining of class struggle as the determining factor tends to over-emphasize an existentialist understanding of oppression, thereby forfeiting many of the political advantages and conceptual lucidity of a materialist understanding of history. The Invisible Committee’s description of conflict and their attentiveness to novel forms of control should be brought into conversation and debate with a more orthodox Marxist perspective, and this will result in a strengthened notion of practical action by the whole of the working class.

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    The First Test of Corbynism

    by Richard Seymour

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    Corbyn’s first nationwide electoral test was always going to be an anticlimax. Judging from the spate of news articles, psephological analyses and briefings from Labour sources in the run up to the local elections, the party was supposed to be on course to lose around 200 council seats, and score the worst result for a Labour opposition in thirty-four years. As in Oldham West, the media and punditry worked themselves up into a wholly unjustified lather. It was unlikely, given Labour’s incremental improvement in the polls nationally, that it would go into meltdown (outside of Scotland). This is not for want of strenuous effort from certain quarters.

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    Neither Westminster Nor Brussels

    by The Editors

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    Photo: PA

    Long before this referendum was called, Salvage made our position on the European Union crystal clear. In the perspectives of Salvage #2: Awaiting the Furies, we wrote ‘If the Greek crisis has reaffirmed the imperial character of power within the EU, the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ has shown its external face.’ Faced with the ‘migrant crisis’, we noted, our rulers debated ‘whether to have a Europe of razor-wire, or a Europe surrounded by razor-wire.’ It would appear they chose not to choose – while fences have been erected along the borders of Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Greece and Bulgaria, Europe has also outsourced its border policing to Turkey, which is set to become an open detention centre for migrants and refugees refused by Europe.

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    Some Theses on Monsters; occasioned by reading, and in place of a review of, Margrét Helgadóttir and Jo Thomas, eds, African Monsters (Fox Spirits Books, 2015)

    by Mark Bould

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    We live in a world being made monstrous.

    By us. Inhuman and obscene (and anthropocene). Not merely unhomely but uninhabitable.

    And it is a time of monsters.

    Aliens and kaiju, zombies and mutants, giant robots and costumed freaks lay waste to our cities. Rumbling urban smackdowns between unknowable forces scorch the Earth for those with an eye to the main chance. Property developers. Gentrifiers. Buy-to-let landlords. Their snouts in the tattered remains of a public purse no longer really intended to serve the public. At the same time, politicians and journalists casually – and with the most deadly of intentions – label people on our borders and estates and social security as not really human at all.

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    Lèse-Evilism: On the US Election Season

    by The Editors

    This is an extract from the perspectives that will accompany the forthcoming issue #3: Or What Is a Hell For?.

    World-on-Fire

    1) The Elephants

    The dark carnival of the US election season is upon us. In considering it, we must start by admitting sheer surprise.

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