“The end of the history of culture manifests itself in two opposing forms: the project of culture’s self-transcendence within total history, and its preservation as a dead object for spectacular contemplation. The first tendency has linked its fate to social critique, the second to the defense of class power.” - Guy Debord, The Society of the Spectacle
There was much to analyse in the Olympics opening ceremony, and many questions raised (the most obvious being ‘has someone spiked my drink?’). But the element that has drawn most debate has been the celebration of the NHS – a bizarre sequence of dancing nurses, children’s nightmares and a looming Lord Voldemort seen off by a squadron of Mary Poppinses.
It was instantly hailed by many on the left as a grand subversive gesture, one in the eye for Cameron and Boris and the rest, and a call to arms to defend the NHS.
At Lenin’s Tomb, Richard Seymour poured scorn on the spectacle as a rallying cry against the cuts:
Amid the general Sunday morning hangover, I hope those on the soft left who threw aside their probity for a saturnalian flag-fest are now in the mood to confess and repent. Lawks, Mary Poppins saving the NHS from Voldemort to the tune of Branson's money-spinner Tubular Bells! Let the Tories dare privatise the NHS now! (They're already doing it. They'll still be doing it on Monday. The fine nurses and doctors from Great Ormond Street Hospital danced in vain if this was supposed obstruct this determined class assault.).
But how genuinely subversive was the ceremony anyway? It may have had the Daily Mail and right-wing MPs and pundits frothing, but its content was obviously LOCOG-approved, and while Tory MP Aidan Burley called it “leftist crap”, it also had Boris Johnson crying “hot tears of patriotic pride”. Even the Nazi-impersonating MP Burley had to qualify his comments with “we all love the NHS”.
Stuart Jeffries gives an overview of the mainstreaming of Marx in today's Guardian, featuring Verso authors Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancière, Owen Jones and Slavoj Žižek as well as the new edition of The Communist Manifesto.
Class conflict once seemed so straightforward. Marx and Engels wrote in the second best-selling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto: "What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable."...
Today, 164 years after Marx and Engels wrote about grave-diggers, the truth is almost the exact opposite. The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, are keeping it on life support.
Jeffries interviews Jacques Rancière, philosopher, radical social historian (and Ségolène Royal's favourite thinker) to shed light on the 'new Marxism':
Aren't Marx's venerable ideas as useful to us as the hand loom would be to shoring up Apple's reputation for innovation? Isn't the dream of socialist revolution and communist society an irrelevance in 2012? After all, I suggest to Rancière, the bourgeoisie has failed to produce its own gravediggers. Rancière refuses to be downbeat: "The bourgeoisie has learned to make the exploited pay for its crisis and to use them to disarm its adversaries.
May 15th is Nakba Day - commemorating 64 years since the establishment of Israel and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, many of whom, with their descendants, are still refugees.
Hind Awwad, a co-ordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, writes:
As the world watched the Arab Spring, many Palestinians saw traces of Palestine's revolution, particularly of the first Intifada-the popular uprising of 1987—and in the beautiful spirit of the young revolutionaries.
The fall of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt was celebrated in Palestinian households not only because it promised a return of Arab resistance, a constant dimension of the Palestinian cause but hijacked by the dictatorships for so many years, but also because it was a reminder that Palestine continues to bring people together: those struggling in many places around the world against injustice of all kinds...
The BDS movement has provided a way for us to break our collective chains.
Awwad's piece, BDS: Six Years of Success, goes on to chart some of the many successes of the BDS movement over the last few years. Read the full piece at Ceasefire.
Also published today, esteemed Israeli 'new historian' Ilan Pappe explains why he supports BDS and why he believes that it will work:
Dan Hind's The Return of the Public (out in paperback this month) has been cited by the shadow media minister, Helen Goodman, in proposals to democratise the BBC's output:
We are always being told that it is "our BBC" - usually by the BBC itself. But lately some high-profile voices appear to be taking that idea seriously.
Helen Goodman, Labour's shadow media minister, has recently weighed in with a suggested collaboration with the BBC on a system of citizen commissioning allowing the public to schedule a set number of hours of radio and TV programmes...
She said her inspiration was a book by the journalist and author Dan Hind called The Return of the Public. Hind's 2010 polemic sets out a series of proposals intended to democratise public debate through a system of citizen-led editorial commissioning.
The subtitle of the piece asks "unworkable extremism or an idea whose time has come?".