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AUTONOMY TONIGHT / UTOPIA TOMORROW: DSG IS OVER

(pdf)

DSG believe in building appropriate tools for struggle. We formed DSG at the end of 2010 out of a need; the need for a place to discuss issues of class-struggle that are broader or more imaginative than were already on offer, and a need to produce propaganda which travels with that struggle in a form more alive to our everyday realities. We wanted to reflect and further the class-struggle and the struggle against austerity as we see it in our lives, not try and shape our lives to fit dogma. But social conditions have developed – in 12 months we have seen a series of ruptures and attacks upon that neoliberal consensus, from the Arab Spring through to a series of riots of unparalleled ferocity. In that time, we feel like our capabilities and potential have developed too; they have been restructured by action and by results.

As a result, things have changed for us – we no longer feel the blogging format is such a proficient tool for the spreading of propaganda. The greatest flaw to us is to be reactive, only responding to situations as the actions of others make them arise, rather than seeking to overturn existing conditions on our own terms. The last thing we would want to happen is to reach a point of ossification and stasis; of becoming yet another platform pouring out link-baiting dross or dull, rote journalism, such as Liberal Conspiracy or Socialist Worker. We are tired of such institutions and of the ideology spread by them, intrinsic to this publishing form: that the working class are hardworking victims of capital, exploited by virtue of their own stupidity, desperate to give an honest days work and just wanting an honest days pay… No, the proletarian is a master of struggle; she is aspirational, she wants to evade wage-labour and regain the flesh of life. It is our class who produce and create and drive social change; it is our struggles that capital reacts to, it is our struggle that shapes society. This is the movement we wish to be a part of, and we don’t feel we can do it by remaining comfortable and reactive.

Class struggle is a dynamic force, and the propaganda that travels with it must remain as dynamic and powerful as the class. As part of the European proletariat we recognise the enormous field of battle that has opened up before us; we will not be limited by traditions of struggle; we must open up a new front in every area of our everyday lives. The modern communist is a digital native and we embrace these territories as future playgrounds. So we have re-evaluated our position and taken heed of opportunities as they have arisen. This blog is over. We have realised there are better things we can be doing; we shall go and do them.

DSG

Ten Growth Markets for Crisis

From the DSG think-tank: a short series of speculative projections for new territories of struggle and focuses for future ideological ruptures. Download the full report here.

Ten Growth Markets for Crisis: A Trend Forecast

I have long believed we do not influence the course of events by persuading people that we are right when we make what they regard as radical proposals. Rather we exert influence by keeping options available when something has to be done at a time of crisis.
Milton Friedman,
Two Lucky People

There is … nothing permanent, nor even well entrenched about the current shape of the global economy – still less should it be sacrosanct. It was built aggressively by visionaries who innovated their way into rule-free spaces. It could be radically reshaped by human action, and in the timescale of a decade, not a lifetime.
Paul Mason,
Meltdown

In a time of political flux, how do we escape a political discourse which is just a reaction to a series of attacks on our class? How do we place ourselves in a position which is not defensive, but launches a positive vision of social organisation? Where will the challenges and potentials of the coming months and years lie? In Britain mainstream political innovation slumps in the doldrums. Hamstrung by financial and political contingencies, Parliamentary politics offers little in the way of social critique and finds little resonance in the public. But in the field of radical politics? Whilst dissent flourishes, it lingers in the negative, unable to be converted into innovation, by doctrinal discipline or an inability to harness creative thought and speculative conversation. The field lies open for those who wish to write a new story. We have put together a few possibilities to spot these growth markets for crisis; a trend forecast for social struggle.

Let’s outline some key social trends, some growing ideological markets and some possible future scenarios as the class-war continues to warm up. These aren’t predictions, as such – they are attempts to open up our understanding of our current situation as ideologies come crashing down around us. We need to write new stories about how we got here, who we are, and how we’re going to cope with what is to come. Let’s turn tendencies into trends; turn trends into Tendencies.

1 Anti-Usury Campaigns (#usury)
The question isn’t so much ‘will we see a growth in anti-usury campaigns?’, but rather ‘why haven’t they gone mainstream yet?’. A moral and religious response to austerity and financial crisis is something of an inevitability, and we see indications that a renaissance of a historical discourse on the morality of speculation is imminent, from the Church of England to an upsurge in sharia banking.

This attitude, essentially a moral opposition not to capital but to speculation, finds its analogue in the softer and more popular end of the Occupy movement. It could be summarised in the DSG slogan, INSTEAD OF BEING NASTY, CAPITAL SHOULD BE NICE, an anti-structural critique that finds blame for collapse lying not with the system as it is actually constituted, but with a moral failing in the practices of those who oversaw and undertook the financialisation of the economy. Needless to say, as an analysis of power and of the wage- relation anti-usury campaigns would be as much about mitigating opposition to capitalism as it would be offering its own critique. But nonetheless, it seems likely that the first mainstream critique of the financial crisis to gain popular support may well come from the religious sector, with the attendant concerns that history provides us regarding anti-usury rhetoric.


2 Nosterity (#nosterity)
How does a society cope with the trauma of an imposed regime of austerity? Through resistance, but also through reaction. A rising cultural trend is the amalgamation of austerity rhetoric with a strange and toxic form of nostalgia; what might be called ‘nosterity’. An implicit form of social bullying, this runs deeper than phenomena like Keep Calm and Carry On, or endless invoca- tions of a return to the Winter of Discontent. It’s a framing of an economic and social crisis in such a way as to suggest that advocating social reorgan- isation is not just unnecessary but in some way a refusal to play a part in the narrative; that to complain and dissent is equivalent to a moral failing for being unable to endure with stoicism.

In doing so it fills a desire for contextualisation, lacking in the poll-led politics of parliament, with a stringent ahistoric explanation of austerity as part of a national moral fibre. Through the drip-drip of everyday culture, and a fetishisation of the everyday contingencies of our ancestors, we can expect an ever increasing trend of nosterity in everything from fashion and entertainment to childcare policy and employment conditions. In design, we face a return to WWII signifiers; in media coverage of dissent, a hip, retro take on everyday issues of class struggle filtered through the rose-tinted spectacles of  ́68 and Jarrow, or grim portents of ‘bodies left unburied’. This is about more than comparisons; it’s about removing the manifestations of struggles from their causes in everyday inequalities and injustices. Nosterity is social policing via the medium of kitchenware.


3 Social Democracy as the New Utopia (#labourutopians)
It’s a conversation we first referred to when talking about student demands during last year’s Tuition Fees protests, but it’s worth expanding into all aspects of a mainstream political conversation which focus on what is left of the social partnership built between labour and capital in the post-war years.

Put simply, whilst we oppose attacks on the welfare state as an attack on our class, a return to social-democratic social models is simply unfeasible – not for economic reasons (although such an argument holds considerable weight) but for socio-political reasons. What built and sustained the welfare state was a model of social-democratic political organisation which simply does not exist anymore. A large part of its dismemberment was undertaken by the neoliberal market reforms after 1979, but we have yet to accept that it was also being eroded by demands coming from within the working-class – demands of social liberalisation, increased personal autonomy and a rejection of the fetishisation of work, or indeed work itself – which traditional structures of class organisation could not deliver without breaking up their own bureaucratic structures.

Can we really expect a return to the glory-days of the social partnership through a series of rearguard actions? No – social-democracy can only be built through a progressive vision of a certain form of (limited) social transformation, and in reality that unformulated vision today is the new utopianism of the British political imagination. To rework that oft-quoted maxim of late capitalism – ‘It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism- but it is easier to imagine the end of capitalism than the restoration of social democracy’.


4 Hey! Let’s not go to work today! (#internstrikenow)
Unpaid internships are becoming a steadfast part of our new economy, taking newly graduated workers in precarious employment and forcing them to give free labour in exchange for that ‘extra-something’ that will secure them a foothold in a competitive labour market. Organising around precarious workers is an indisputably difficult task: the law favours employers, traditional labour unions have, by and large, washed their hands of such workers and companies are adept at economically and emotionally exploiting such staff with fast turnover.

How might an organisation based around the economic power of unpaid interns work? We propose focusing on the strengths of interns, and suggest a strike for social reproduction; that is, not just withdrawing ones labour but creating new models in the process. A 6 month intern strike, where young strikers liaise via social media to start producing alternative political media, organisations and campaigns? Following the model of autonomy centres and the punk movement they helped nurture across Europe, the #internstrikenow could utilise the time and network-creativity of strike-interns to produce the infrastructure for a creative movement built in opposition to capital. After leaving the boring free-labour of the office internship and spending time guiding and creating your own cultural and social movement, why would you want to return? #internstrikenow – making autonomy work for you.


5 Currency Zones of the future (#CZF)
Financial industries engage in a race to the bottom as currency markets see the late growth of their long tail, with diversification into multiple niche marketplaces. With the gradual reallocation of wealth across new and old frontiers, currency projects that 6 months ago were strictly the reserve of the early adopting techno-utopians and anarcho-libertarians find a new uptake on the part of the early Mainstream money markets.

The needs of the marketplace and society at large acting to retain the status quo of wealth distribution, through the adoption of an even spread approach to financial security. This isn’t about innovation, it’s about consolidation; money markets defending their position, much as, post-Lehman, banks legislated and lobbied their way into defending their right to unsustainable capital ratios.

We’re likely to see the rapid take-up of digital currencies, LETS, time banking and formalised blackmarkets, as overlapping zones of exchange work to form an ecosystem for the complex stratification of capital. On top of this, with the power of organised labour much restricted by new anti-union laws, we can expect to see employers establishing new currency zones within their work-forces – for example, food stamps and payments-in-kind. Early utopianism in alternative currencies face adoption into a new model of the company store. In the future, supermarket employees will be at least partially paid in loyalty card points.


6 Rent crisis (#rentcrisis)
House ownership has long been a key principle of Conservative governments, both in order to build a credit economy in order to weaken organised labour, and as part of a long-term campaign to ‘make Britain conservative’. This policy, buoyed by growing economic inequality during the last Labour government, lead to a rise in buy-to-let mortgages. With sustaining these huge mortgages becoming a key focus of the government, and avoiding the politically-catastrophic drift into negative equity, Britain, and London in particular, faces a rent crisis. This is a crisis whereby frozen wages and rising rents combine to suck out increasing chunks of the take-home wage of low- paid, precarious and key workers, and it is a recipe for social tension. Out of rent-crisis are born rent-resisters.

Rent-resistance is a complex and difficult form of direct action to organise, but we predict it will show its first roots amongst student populations. Student housing in the form of university halls of residence offers a perfect breeding ground for a campaign that relies upon social solidarity; not because of the make-up of students as individuals, but due to the close, social living quarters, the relative lack of something to lose and the fact that all students in a hall of residence share the same landlord. Will 2012 bring a reinvigoration of the student movement of 2010, focusing not on fees but on the increasing, hidden squeeze working-class youth are facing, through a series of rent-strikes? Will we see new working-class youth identities formed on the back of student rent-strikes?


7 Britain’s Bread Riots (#breadriots)
Amongst the factors behind the Arab Spring (collapsing EU export market, high graduate unemployment etc) a key flash-point, particularly amongst the urban poor, was that of rising food prices. Despite the collapse of the commodity trading bubble, taken up by hedge-funds moving out of structured finance markets after the financial sector collapse of late 2008, the CFPI (Commodity Food Prices Index) continues to run high. Whilst DSG normally reject a ‘blame-the-bankers’ approach to financial and social crisis, this is one sector where speculation on commodity markets directly takes food off the plates of the world’s poorest people. There are, of course, other causal factors for a rising CFPI; the question is how long is it politically sustainable?

With wages falling in real-terms across the large British public sector, and unemployment rising against a similarly rising CPI, the issue of food poverty is once again pressing at the doors of many across Britain. This isn’t simply an issue for those out of work, living on increasingly punitive benefit and workfare regimes, but also for those in-work; with the collapse of the social partnership the idea that a wage should be able to cover the essentials of life is disappearing.

Long-established controls on social stability are being withdrawn. The safety-net of the welfare state is slowly being replaced with free-labour schemes for corporations and violently anti-worker legislation condemning millions to breadline misery. Social solidarity increasingly lacks mechanisms of enhancing social cohesion. How long till we see riots at the delivery and supply depots of Britain’s supermarket giants?


8 Crisis 2012: The Olympian State (#crisis2012)
The Olympic Village will be an island within London; an island of peace in a discordant London, an island of late-Capitalist prosperity in an ocean of austerity. It will be an island, and an island at all costs. A post-democratic logic is settling over government policy, whereby the greater good of national pride is being used to justify ‘special-measures’ against protest and dissent, in much the same way as we saw over the period of the Royal Wedding. This is the ‘new normal’, from the militarisation of London and attempt to present protest as inherently criminal (as witnessed by the use of large-scale containment barriers on a recent trade union demonstration), to the growth of ‘temporary’ policing facilities on previously common land and the restriction of protest placards, allowing ‘enforcement officers’ to enter private homes to destroy or conceal such placards.

The Olympics has become a showcase endeavour to demonstrate the unity and power of the national State, with the subtext that whilst we may be suffering under austerity, England endures.

The extreme special-measures the state will take to restrict any embarr- assment in the form of anti-government protest will linger well past the end of the Games. The Olympic legacy for London will be felt on the shoulders of working-class people for years to come, in the form of an increased perceived legitimacy for stop-and-search powers, anti-dissent laws and further empowerment to the state apparatus.


9 Autoreductionism (#proletarianshopping)
Fuel poverty is reaching epidemic proportions. The RPI is rising at incredible speed, whilst large sectors of society face pay freezes (real-term pay cuts). Families are forced to choose between essential items for their children. Why not go shopping as a community?

Autoreduction is the collective determination of commodity prices enforced by community solidarity. It is not a symbolic protest against the high cost of living endured by working-class people, but a direct action aimed at relieving that burden. We see a dynamic social movement emerging, using decentralised models of organisation (such as UK Uncut) to produce replicable structures for autoreduction across the UK. Large groups of people arriving at their commuter station in the morning, forcing themselves through the turnstile; an organised troop of families fitting out their kids with winter coats, then demanding to see the manager for negotiations; a national campaign of underpayment on gas and electricity bills; in all instances normal people saying ‘we will pay what we can afford for the essentials of our life’– paying the ‘political price’ for goods and services. Why shouldn’t collective demand become a significant factor in establishing value?; if supermarkets can fix a cartel of suppliers, why can’t working class people fix a cartel of consumers? Why go shopping when you can go proletarian shopping?

 

PRINT/DISTRIBUTE: DAVE

ALL THE ENCOURAGEMENT WE NEED

Click here for a print-ready PDF for IRL AGITATION!

JESUS CHRIST / ST JAMES PARK

 

Class Rules Everything Around Me / WOT, NO DEMANDS?

A 1% shift can have massive repercussions in a global economy- a 1% shift in the TED spread signifies a looming disaster for liquidity, a 1% rise in interest rates can shut down SME’s across continents. The same holds for the economy of rhetoric. Last year, when the British government started the implementation of “Austerity Measures” with the comprehensive spending review, the justifying refrain that rang throughout the media was one of shared sacrifice- “We Are All In This Together”. One year on from the CSR and the media is alive with a new mantra- “We Are The 99%”. A 1% shift in the social cohesion markets signifies a significant shift in the dissent markets.

The metaphor might be stretched, but it illustrates an important point about the #Occupy movement, for whom “We Are The 99%” is about the only point of unity at the moment. Whilst those involved in organised politics worry or mock the movement for lacking a political programme, that very political naivete is indicative of the depth of the crisis. #Occupy is a result of a growth in widespread, popular dissent, incapable of finding expression in existing political modes, and the “1%” slogan is a highly significant breaking of the “All In This Together” rhetoric and the conception of a popular class narrative to the economic and social crisis.

In recent articles both Paul Mason and Andreas Whittam Smith have touched upon this uncertain new landscape. In his recent blogpost “‘Occupy’ is a response to economic permafrost” Mason highlights this diversity, and the rejection of a lobbyist-rich parliamentary system, noting that “they have no intention of “raising demands” on Labour in opposition.” He also picks up on the memetic nature of the idea of the occupation of public space, as we focused on during the wave of Indignados occupations earlier in the year. But Whittam-Smith picks up on a much wider historical point about the haphazard nature of protests that can arise before major insurrections and periods of heated class struggle, claiming “At some point, this excessive difference [of income disparity] is going to cause trouble. Has that moment come?”. The current movement of Capital- hoarding, stabilisation, reorganisation– by a campaign of austerity that secures money markets at the expense of working-class lives can lead only to what we might call “growth in the class-struggle demographic” in the ideology markets.

The growth in public opposition to austerity was demonstrated pretty neatly by the short-shrift Louise Mensch received on “Have I Got News For You” last weekend. Trotting out some easy jibes against “anti-capitalist” protest, she demonstrated just how out of touch Westminster is with even mainstream sentiments. Mensch missed the nerve that #Occupy touches- that the “austerity” rhetoric is a sham, and that there is a developing popular critique of capital, more than “no to Starbucks”, which is outstripping the political critique offered by parliamentary parties in the marketplace of ideas.

Mensch attempts an effective, if crude, discrediting trick– to attribute to people beliefs and values they don’t actually have, then chide them for failing to live up to them. Her perpetuation of the stereotype of capitalism as a “thing” one can opt in or out of fell flat on its face. As if we, the working-class, were not the very thing that makes capitalism work– as if it were not the value we produce and the demand we produce that sustains capital– as if capital were not a zombie feeding off living labour.

We are not “outside” capitalism and neither are our struggles and demands- but our demands can be realised as more than consumer or parliamentary demands. Class power can produce class demands, demands that force capital to move- the motor of innovation that capital must react to in ever more creative and damaging ways in order to continue exploitation. Class innovates, capital reacts, whether it’s through concessions such as the welfare state, or aggressive reorganisation of labour, as in the globalisation of capital and introduction of easy consumer credit as a replacement for wages since the 1970′s. 1919-21, 1944, 1968, 1977– these were not the actions of an oppressed class pushed to the edge, but an innovative class power pushing capitalism so close to the brink it had react with militarisation, state violence and savage economic restructuring.

As Whittam-Smith postulates, at the moment we find ourselves in a moment of reconfiguration of class power- an in-between phase, a “permafrost” where our class is beginning the formulation of new demands and new struggle. It is economically impossible to return to either the neo-liberal social form, predicated as it is on cheap credit, or the social-democratic form, predicated on the organised labour of the mass-worker. Class struggle can only perpetuate for the foreseeable future. To believe that the urban poor (pushed onto workfare slavery, lacking education opportunity and facing rising food and consumer prices) or the under-employed graduate class (with no hope of cheap credit, lacking stable or even paid employment and ever-rising rent) are just going to “settle down” and contribute seems like a utopianism of astounding naiveté that can be believed by few outside Westminster and its assorted lobbyists and think-tanks.

Wage as % of GDP (with shortfall made up by growth of cheap credit)

Meanwhile, the public sector is heading the same way as the Miners, a victim of capital’s curious blend of ideology and ruthless pragmatism. As the Miner’s Strike was symbolic of the necessary destruction of class power in the form of organised labour, so the destruction of the NHS (made infinitely easier by the absence of any meaningful trade union militancy) marks capital’s victory over that working-class concessionary demand, the welfare state. Make no bones about it– the social-democratic model which bought the working-class such gains, and represented a genuine and meaningful victory for our class, simply does not and cannot stand up as an organising model against the complex and diverse properties and models of 21st century, globalised, neo-liberal model of post-fordist capitalism.

New forms of class power must, and are, emerging but will, and are, blindsiding us who so vainly search for an emergent model which mirrors the ones we inherited. Andreas Whittam Smith and Paul Mason detect this current and struggle to name it. We too have no prediction as to its shape. But it looms, silently growing, over our heads, like Marx’s great spectre. DSG, for one, welcome our new overlords of class power.

It is within this reformulation that we must contextualise #Occupy. #Occupy is not a mass movement, but it is an arrow in a quiver that is rapidly filling; a quiver of class antagonism. At a time when the class is beginning a reassertion after 15 years of capitalist realism, to attack an undeniable pole of attraction for many working-class people seems churlish in the extreme, and somehow missing the point. Bringing the crisis home– that is, agitating the class and breaking the “all in this together” rhetoric of parliament– will involve a massive plurality of struggles, and #Occupy serves that end well. Misgivings over “fluffy” politics are understandable, but it is through experience that political thought develops, and state violence is rapidly radicalising the #Occupy grassroots, with #OccupyOakland today passing a motion for a citywide General Strike following the state crackdown earlier in the week. Combined with a growing street presence, escalating industrial action and a general sense of unrest over rent, debt and fuel poverty, working-class people in Britain too are reasserting class in the struggle with capital.

Class struggle is a lived experience, a practice, not a series of treatises; it is a fight, and fights are reactions to events, not a choreographed, preplanned dance. Events like #Occupy are the start of a new explicit antagonism towards capital for many people- like all good political experiences, it is a set of questions as much as a book of answers.

DSG EDITORIAL

Goatse as Industrial Sabotage

This short article is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for internet dabblers, or the recently-fed. Or maybe it is- maybe this article will give some insight into the world of the digital natives. It aims to shed light on an internet phenomenon, in turn giving the shadow, depth and form of class-struggle to what might, on first appearances, seem like a decidedly two-dimensional case study. Here, we wish to talk about a meme called Goatse, and the story of how a revolting and childish prank spread to become a modern-day “sabot”, a memetic tool for workers to undermine their employers, and with it, the ideology of work.

Goatse (usually pronounced Goat-See) is an internet meme that emerged in the late 1990’s, and is a good case study for how memes transfer through populations, shifting forms and emptying themselves of content as they go (something we talk about in more depth in our chapter for the forthcoming “20 Reasons” book). The original Goatse image, cunningly entitled “hello.jpg”, was hosted at Goatse.cx –.cx being the top-level domain for Christmas Island. It constituted a shock site, akin to the later phenomenon of “rickrolling”, where a link with a disguised URL is posted onto a forum or social media site under a false pretext. In a “rick roll” the unwitting victim clicks the link, and is redirected to the youtube clip, “Rick Roll’d”, of Rick Astley singing his 1987 hit “Never Gonna Give You Up”. This false link has become one of the most popular and enduring memes and “Rick Roll’d” has been viewed almost 50 million times as of writing.

Goatse was a similar “bait and switch” prank, but involved being redirected to the (arguably) more disturbing site of a middle-aged man using both hands to pull apart his dilated rectum remarkably wide, revealing to the poor victim the depths of the man’s guts. On his left hand,a gold ring; a touching detail. It’s a remarkably foul example of the murkier undercurrents of online fora, and visible here, if you’re that type of person.

So why are we raising this spectre, this perverse underbelly of networked technology? We’re raising it because Goatse is a prime example of the meme-form, and its memetic transference has interesting knock-on implications for the design industry in general, and the critical undermining of that industry through its workers specifically.

One of the interesting developments of the internet meme-as-subject (that is, a self-aware and self-reflexive subject, rather than a metaphor for information transfer, as originally posited by Richard Dawkins) is its ability to retain its unique identity even when its form changes, or its content, or even both. Only the minimum trace of the original joke needs to remain- or no trace at all, as long as those in on the joke can trace back the heritage of the joke to the original. And so it is with Goatse- indeed, losing the “shock” factor has spread the Goatse meme far beyond its original parameters. Whilst the original “switch and bait” meme survives, running concurrently with it is a meme which functions in almost a polar opposite form. In this, graphical representations of the original image are inserted into (or spotted in) everyday commercial design. Rather than being a surprise image of such stark realness that everyone is forced into a visceral reaction on first meeting with the image, instead the image works as an in-joke IRL amongst those who consider themselves digital natives– people who operate in cyberspace as a singular territory in-and-of itself (rather than a sphere attached to the “real world”).

Examples of Goatses proliferate- some subtle, some blatant. Some can be put down to “accident”– a reading backwards of the meme. But we are more concerned with the more common occurrence– the intentional Goatse, slipped in surreptitiously to the advertising image with a wink and a nod to those who “get it”, and passing a reference to extreme rectal stretching under the noses of the paymasters.

The ability for this “in-joke” representation to appear within mainstream advertising and commercial image production relies upon two developments within postfordist capitalism: technological development and the proletarianisation of the creative industries. The first point is obvious– the development of cyberspace as a territory of virtual community, and the development of digital imaging hardware/software, has created a means of recording and disseminating chance observations of advertising hoardings, online and offline material and chance observations. It has also created a relatively lawless, anonymous environment where pornographic and extreme material can be circulated without fear of embarrassment.

This is the culture where the in-joke can breed, but this form of technological development comes hand-in-hand, fist-in-glove with new ways of organising the labour which produces this commercial cultural material in the first place; an atomised form of organising creative labour which has wholly changed the way graphic design works. It’s all very well creating the arena for subverted advertising to be passed around, but what was also needed was a particular disinvestment of cultural and creative workers, an alienation from the productive process whereby sabotage of their own creative output became more important than fulfilling the allotted task.

Within this environment the “in-joke” differs markedly to workplace in-jokes of the past. Today, you might be the only person in your office who gets the joke. But worldwide you’re connecting to thousands of others in a form of exploded solidarity. It’s a dynamic form, a vivid social relationship the marketeers can – for the time being – only dream of invoking with their cosy stock images of friends-coming-together, sharing a joke over a glass of chardonnay. The proletarian – especially within the present conditions, the info-prole – is a force who pushes forward innovation through her resistance to capital, and it is capital who exists on the back-foot, damming the flow of proletarian innovation, demanding enlarged logos in order to harness its power.

Here Goatse acts as a rejection of labour; and not just labour, but an ideology of post-fordist labour, where we are not simply selling labour-time, but selling ourselves, our creative and cognitive skills, as a product for an employer to buy. Perhaps here we can see Goatse as a morphing of the dialogic image. The dialogic image emerged as a strategy in the 1970s and 80s in the work of Dutch designer Jan van Toorn. The design presents multiple conflicting messages, with a view to forcing a demystified, critical reading from its audience. Here it is used in a positive form, influenced by Enzensberger’s theory of ‘emancipatory media’; it is considered, logical, a conscious and explicit criticality, aimed at heightening a social awareness of the constructed nature of the visual environment. A criticality negotiated between an autonomous, individual designer, an adventurous client, and a broad, undifferentiated public audience – a product of a social settlement already dead in the UK, now finally being destroyed in the Netherlands.

This settlement is long gone in Britain, used only as a bargaining chip or blackmail within industrial relations disputes. As our conditions of labour as cognitive workers have changed, morphed from the design studio to the atomised precarious freelancer, the ability to oversee a daring or critical design has been banished. Instead, we work as bees, each producing a tiny fragment of the whole. In this position as a worker, we cannot hold any critical control over the work we produce, just enact the formulations of other workers, the workers who piece together polls and focus groups, who brainstorm slogans or typefaces.

In this scenario, the dialogic image must be reduced to a short-hand: Goatse, the in-joke, provides that. Within Goatse, the dialogic image is covert; unable to exercise any significant level of authorial control within the design process, the designer forces the critical dissonance by tapping into the in-joke. Rather than a critical dialogue between worker and employer being an open one, it has become a secretive conflict; rather than a critical design image being a conscious attempt to demystify design as a mediated process, it becomes an attempt to undermine and destroy the design process. Adopting the supposedly most efficient working process for capital has pushed design to eat itself. The dialogic image has become the weaponisation of ridicule; the designer has become a postfordist saboteur of the industrial process, and the ever-present spectre of sabotage as the unspoken clot of class-war clogs another artery of capital.

TRAILS

DSG aims to publish posts and propaganda from various sources as provocation and stimulation. The following PDFs were produced by Timothy Thornton, a writer and musician living in Brighton. Thornton writes:

Two acknowledgments: TRAILS is definitely supposed to be some sort of poem, or dossier in verse, but in two aspects it is derived from musical works. Its construction was inspired by James Saunders’s #[unassigned] (2000-9), an “ongoing modular composition”; each version is compiled for a specific reading (in these cases, the night before, and then edited in the morning), and each takes as part of its title the date of that reading. From Oliver Rappoport’s Senderos (2008) it takes its title, as well as a compositional attitude mimicking exploration, congestion, prohibition, or diversion: some trails recur, either as before or in slightly altered form, some generate or lead to further trails, and some are abruptly curtailed or blocked off.

Download PDF of TRAILS 01/07/2001

Download PDF of TRAILS 13/07/2011

MORE SINNED AGAINST THAN SINNING

MOTD: EDL vs UAF

DSG aims to publish posts and propaganda from various sources as provocation and stimulation. The following text was produced by Paul O’Hagan, a journalist living in East London. He is writing under a pseudonym.

DRINK, FIGHT, FALL OVER

Is there any buzz quite like walking out into the stands of a full football stadium? That point when the grey concrete steps fall from the top of your eyeline, replaced with flashes of colour from thousands of fans, is perhaps a unique experience. You feel a blast of the senses as the rise and fall of competing chants roll around the stadium like a wave along a beach; a general hubbub of nerves and anticipation is subsumed into the spirit of the crowd and, as an individual, a little bit of you slips away. It’s a relief, losing that autonomy and gaining that community, and there are few experiences we have today to match it.
Passing through the increasingly omnipresent police lines that cut across the streets in London I find myself caught up in that sensation more and more. The tone of protest in Britain is changing; not necessarily becoming more radical in any real sense of the word, but certainly more spectacular, and amongst the trainers padding along the concrete and arms raised in expectant celebration or hopeless defiance, I find it difficult to distinguish the hazy line between attending a football match and attending a street demonstration. That important line was completely washed away for me on Saturday 3rd September, as the English Defence League, a anti-Islamisation protest movement, attempted to march on Tower Hamlets.

 

I don’t want to make the crass observation that EDL are little more than football hooligans. That element should be clear enough to anyone who has encountered them en masse, and, indeed, the group emerged from the organisational structures already existing within the British hooligan movement. The ability to mobilise “firms” into attendance gave EDL the appearance of an early burst of dynamism, with rapidly swelling numbers brought about more by existing loyalties than diligent community organisation.

It is that brand of loyalty that guides the politics of the group, too. Frequently branded as “fascist”, the group actually walks a muddled line between a rather nostalgic provincial patriotism evoked by the apple-cheeked (non-halal) village butcher, and more contested and complicated discourses of liberalism and multiculturalism, such as their LGBT division. This balancing act is ham-fisted in practice– the EDL ranks harbour a good number of hardened fascists from the endlessly splintering history of the British far-right, including BNP, NF and C18. They march uncomfortably alongside rainbow flags and the Jewish Division under the banner “POLITICAL EXPEDIENCY”. However it would probably be more accurate to trace their ideological lineage back to the League of Empire Loyalists rather than National Socialism, lacking as it does any form of revolutionary aspiration or politics. The EDL are extremists, in that their positions are at the uncompromising and super-simplistic end of a discourse on multiculturalism which starts in the centre right, rather than radicals, implying a distinct ideological break with those positions. This is one of the reasons why the rallying cry of “fascism” by their opponents fails to ring true for many- whilst in the EDL drinking grounds and coaches there is no doubt radical fascist opinion, there is little in the EDL’s explicit discourse or propaganda which cannot be found in the dinner parties and clubs of the Tory establishment, or on the pages of the majority of national newspapers.

Indeed the EDL operate not as a traditional fascist party hunting for power, but more as a street pressure group aimed at nudging parliamentary policy and British culture, opening the Overton Window to increasingly aggressive anti-Muslim policies and attitudes. And it is this street activity which offers the members the incentive to join up and turn out. The core activity of the EDL is the symbolic demonstration. Its rituals offer the same rewards of the football match; the traveling and pre-match boozing, the camaraderie, the chants (often taken straight from the terraces), the highs and lows of “the game”, the temporary freedom from the more restrictive social norms, the caricatured enemy and shared loyalties, the anonymity of the crowd and finally the post-mortem pints, the arguments around tactics and management styles.

This attitude to demonstrations isn’t limited to the far-right, of course. I see much the same attitude displayed on the organised Left, albeit with a little more internecine rivalry thrown in, and for some sections of both left and right the ritual of the demonstration ”fixture” remains the limit of social activism, with violence increasing in its intensity as each demonstration decreases in its potential for social change.

 

Saturday’s Tower Hamlets demonstration between EDL and UAF (Unite Against Fascism, an anti-fascist organisation) reached the nadir of the “demonstration as sporting event”. Both sides established their mythology well before the big derby; for the EDL, this was a “March into the Lion’s Den” of British Islamism. For the UAF, this was nothing less than a re-run of the Battle of Cable Street in 1936, when 300,000 people fought off the Metropolitan Police who were attempting to facilitate a British Union of Fascists march through the East End. On those terms it seemed far from a symbolic demonstration; the EDL wanted to march, despite a ban, into Tower Hamlets to threaten and intimidate local Muslims, whilst the UAF wanted to physically prevent them from doing so and demonstrate the unity of the local population whilst doing so. There is much to be said for the large-scale community mobilisation of the counter-demonstration, and I do not want to appear to be deriding such hard work, but I feel it’s important to distinguish between the symbolic demonstration and the direct intervention when it comes to anti-fascism.

It was clear, monitoring the social media and youtube chatter after the event as well as talking with activists, that the matchday mentality had sunk deep in sections of these groups, with talk about ‘who had won’ (a contested issue) greatly overriding any other issues the day may have raised. In point of fact, this was displayed literally with members of both sides bragging “TH 1 – EDL 0” or “EDL 1 Tower hamlets nil”. But the game on the day failed to live up to the importance of the derby in the hype and mythology of both groups. The EDL barely got to the borders of the borough, let alone to the East London Mosque which forms the target of so much of their venom. For the UAF, the day was far from a “Cable Street” moment; unlike Cable Street, the state were actively preventing the EDL from marching on the East End; it was the Metropolitan Police who ended up scrapping on the street with the “fascists” whilst the UAF stood 100 yards away behind police lines. Both could claim victory in equal measure, but the for the Metropolitan Police it was an almost textbook policing operation that reinforced the state role as arbiters of anti-social street politics and keepers of the peace (much like during sporting events– and it is worth pointing out that policing of football matches is routinely far more heavy-handed than most demonstrators will ever face). It certainly was not a significant and real standoff between two dynamic and radical social movements, with the fascists scurrying off in the face of the might of the organised working class, but rather a victory for state power. A better scoreline would perhaps have been EDL- 1, TH- 2, Met Police- 5.

THE FACEHUGGER MOMENT: When the Real breaks forth, uncontrolled, from the chest of the Symbolic.

 

The fragile chrysalis of symbolism and self-mythology was only shattered briefly, after the organised mass demonstrations ended. A coach carrying EDL members home was travelling through Tower Hamlets when its learing and gesturing passengers were attacked by local youths, throwing street furniture through the coach windows, until police arrived to arrest and escort the EDL members from the area. This was a breakthrough of the lines and limits of protest proscribed by the state, of the day’s theatrical narrative, and a breakthrough of Real violence out of the symbolic protest. It is this uncomfortable dualistic relationship between Symbolic violence and Real violence that has defined the extra-parliamentary political sphere since the eruption of the Millbank riot last November. Sitting side by side have been the Symbolic violence of the self-avowed “Political” street demonstration with the “post-political” of Real violence, breaking out without context or codification, as a reaction rather than a provocation, both in communities and entangled within political demonstrations.

The street demonstration is the site where symbolic political violence is played out in an ideologically structured and limited environment. The violence of the Black Bloc (for example) isn’t “meaningless”; it is tightly codified and understood within the context of a dying parliamentary system and increasing exasperation and resentment from the populace. The fear for the State is the violence that isn’t limited by these parameters; whether it was the outbreaks of far more extreme violence within the Parliament Square kettle on December 9th, when supposedly apolitical British youth attempted to storm the British Treasury with makeshift battering rams to chants of “We want our money back!”, to barricades across major London roads and street-to-street fighting with Police during August’s riots. Violence without limit, violence without demand, violence without end.

Talking to EDL members and reading their propaganda, it’s easy to see that the social conditions the organised Left blames for creating the August riots are certainly not racially defined but are aggravating factors within the far-right; lack of social cohesion, poverty, unemployment, resentment and immobility. I’m far from sure these are the causes of the riots, at least not exclusively, but increasingly precarious living conditions and resentment of parliamentary politics are rapidly becoming a defining characteristic of the entire working-class in the UK, and I think any prediction that future social unrest will continue to focus on material needs (i.e looting) and anti-police violence would be foolhardy; manifestations of intraclass-war are just as viable.

 

My fear is that a very real fascist terror will emerge from the very same social and political environment the riots emerged from; seemingly spontaneous within the media narrative, but completely predictable to working-class communities, seemingly apolitical, but laced with fierce social resentment, “disorganised”, but involving mass coordination on a personal and online level. This new fascist threat won’t take the form of either the Blackshirts or the shirtless EDL and their symbolic street demonstrations, but rather in the taster we saw in Eltham, as in the video above, during the riots (which did have EDL involvement). Racial vigilantism, kangaroo justice, small-town micro-fascism, and the insidious, creeping booze-filled street violence of the market-town high street led to what were, for me, the most horrifying scenes of the rioting. If we are facing a growing fascist threat, it is this form of fascist terror that we will find ourselves up against in the coming years, and an organisational legacy of symbolic demonstration and scorecard politics will leave our communities spectacularly ill-equipped.

RIQTS: DSG SPEAK OUT

Poster available as A3 colour pdf here, or A3 black and white pdf here