From Jean-Paul Sartre's new foreword to The Conspiracy by Paul Nizan
Nizan speaks about youth. But a Marxist has too much historical sense to describe an age of life - such as Youth or Maturity - in general, just as it marches past in Strasburg Cathedral when the clock strikes midday. His young men are dated and attached to their class: like Nizan himself, they were twenty in 1929 - the heyday of 'prosperity' in the middle of the post-war period that has just ended. They are bourgeois, sons for the most part of that grande bourgeoisie which entertains 'anxious doubts about its future', of those 'rich tradespeople who brought up their children admirably, but who had ended up respecting only the Spirit, without thinking that this ludicrous veneration for the most disinterested activities of life ruined everything, and that it was merely the mark of their commercial decadence and of a bourgeois bad conscience of which as yet they had no suspicion.' Wayward sons, led by a deviation 'out of the paths of commerce' towards the careers of the 'creators of alibis'. But in Marx there is a phenomenology of economic essences: I am thinking, above all, of his admirable analyses of commodity fetishism. In this sense, a phenomenology can be found in Nizan: in other words, a fixing and description, on the basis of social and historical data, of that essence in motion which is 'youth', a sham age, a fetish. This complex mixture of history and analysis constitutes the great value of his book.
From Antonio Negri's new foreword to The Unseen by Nanni Balestrini
Nanni Balestrini's book tells of unseen actors in the class struggle between the 1970s and '80s, particularly in northern Italy, and inside the jails of the Realm. These subjects are invisible because they are elusive, mutating beings in the act of metamorphosis. But what can we say about them today (and also about this novel) if not that rather than being an old, outdated story this is now very much of the present moment, one caught sight of at that time and followed in the course of its unfolding? The republication of The Unseen therefore has the advantage today of telling us about proletarian subjects whose class nature has finally been revealed: the unseen individual of yesterday is the proletarian of today, the immaterial worker, the cognitive precariat, the new figure of the worker as social labour power in the movements of the multitude. Those poor wretches did it, they managed to get through a revolution in the composition of labour and a ferocious political repression and to struggle on from the factories to society and (still productive) from society to the jail (still fighting back). And now where will they go? The elite of the working-class movement who betrayed and dragged the unseen into prison now look around, fearful and unable to build a politics, afraid of losing out if they do not resume contact with that age-old movement of transformation; but that elite will never win! Indeed, regardless of this betrayal by the working-class movement (which has been so serious, especially in Italy), the unseen have gone forward. In the '80s, they were organizing prison revolts and the first autonomous social centres in the cities; in the '90s they organized the Panther movement; in the late '90s they turned into Zapatistas and tute bianche, the anti-globalization movement and everything else that has happened and will happen.
An extract from Paul Mason's Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions is published in the Guardian's G2 supplement today. Mason explains the role of technology and the importance of the network in recent global unrest.
Social media and new technology were crucial in shaping the revolutions of 2011, just as they shaped industry, finance and mass culture in the preceding decade. What's important is not that the Egyptian youth used Facebook, or that the British students used Twitter and the Greek rioters organised via Indymedia, but what they used these media for - and what such technology does to hierarchies, ideas and actions.
Here, the crucial concept is the network - whose impact on politics has been a long time coming. The network's basic law was explained by Bell Telephone boss Theodore Vail as early as 1908: the more people who use the network, the more useful it becomes to each user. (The most obvious impact of the "network effect" has been on the media and ideology. Long before people started using Twitter to foment social unrest, mainstream journalists noticed - to their dismay -that the size of one's public persona or pay cheque carried no guarantee of popularity online. People's status rises and falls with the reliability and truthfulness of what they contribute.)
An extract from the updated edition of Meltdown: The End of the Age of Greed, Paul Mason's account of the 2008 financial collapse, anticipating the social fall-out of the crisis. His exploration of the global wave of social revolt since 2008, Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions, will be published in January 2012.
In the summer of 2010, any attempt to predict the future would be pointless. However, the fault-lines of the global recovery are clear. In the space of twenty-four months the risk has moved from housing to banking to states and now, in southern Europe, to social cohesion.
In searching for a metaphor to illustrate what's happened, I am drawn to the image of tank armour. When a depleted-uranium dart hits the armour of a tank its energy is diffused into layer-upon-layer of complex materials: metals, fabrics, ceramics. If you are lucky, the round never penetrates the final layer and the crew survives. But take a look at the armour plate: it is mangled, defabricated, and can never be used again. What you need to avoid at all costs is being hit by a second shot.
'Liberty Square' is from Michael Sorkin's All Over the Map
One of the basic rights enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution is that of "the people to freely assemble." Free assembly is the primary expression of democracy in space, the physical embodiment of liberty. This relationship far predates the American experience. Cities, in particular, have long been seen as especially conducive to freedom, as exemplified in the famous motto of the Hanseatic League: "City air makes you free." The just city is one where citizens move unimpeded and gather in many different forms for self-expression. In modern times, social progress has been directly linked to the variety of rallies, demonstrations, marches, and insurrections that have had as their arena the streets and squares of the city. From women's suffrage to civil rights to union organizing to anti- war protests, the power of bodies together in space has been crucial to the defense of our rights. In real democracy, the streets belong to the people.
In city after city, certain places have become linked to these gatherings, institutionalized by repeated use. While the street is the bedrock of the popular right to the city-the conduit of association-it is only part of the necessary infrastructure of assembly, which includes privatized spaces such as bars, cafés, lecture halls, stadia, and stoops, as well as bigger public spaces: the parks, plazas, and town squares that remain fundamental to sound urbanism. Whether the Zocalo in Mexico City, the Mall in Washington, or Tiananmen Square in Beijing, these great sites are zones of focus, the common property of those dedicated to the struggle for free association. Indeed, the right of the public to gather in these places continues to be defended in blood.