Speaking at Walter Benjamin Now, an event at Whitechapel Gallery marking the 75th anniversary of Benjamin's death, Esther Leslie thinks through Benjamin's concepts, in particular the ‘microcosm’, to reflect on the contemporary migrant crisis at the borders of Fortress Europe. These ‘millions of nameless movers’ give Benjamin’s own death a contemporary resonance, as well as endowing his memorial with new meaning in ‘the Now’.
Esther Leslie is a translator of Walter Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’ and author of ‘Hollywood Flatlands: Animation, Critical Theory and the Avant-Garde’.
'Pre-op'. 'Post-op'. 'No-op'. Not until recently did anybody question why trans people should be defined exclusively by whether or not they'd had genital surgery. Though gender variance has existed in most cultures throughout time, trans people today – particularly women – are still forced to situate themselves in relation to the idea of the medicalised 'sex change'. Have you had the op? Are you planning to? Are you taking testosterone? How far will you go?
In a number of recent articles, Jacques Sapir has argued for the 'logic of fronts', stating that the Left must temporarily subordinate its ideological differences with far-right groups such as the Front National to pursue the common objective of leaving the euro. Writing for Le Monde Diplomatique, Frédéric Lordon strongly rejects this view, arguing that any euro-exit must be from the left and to the left, not shackled to forces with fundamentally different conceptions of what 'national sovereignty' would entail.
By Frédéric Lordon. Translated by David Broder
Will the debate on the euro ever be free of the curse of the Front National? Without doubt, everything seems set on condemning it to this association, especially in an era when all kinds of confusion and hysteria mix together to the extent that it is impossible to have even the slightest rational debate. But what are we to say when some of the advocates of euro exit add to the intellectual mayhem, identifying themselves as of the Left but then calling for improbable alliances with the far Right?
"Under Blair and Brown, I’d usually felt angry and disappointed; now, I was desperate and defeated. Working at the PCT as it was dismembered and downsized, watching as arts funding, unemployment and disability benefits, mental health services and support networks for women and LGBT people were ruthlessly cut, I’d often told friends that one problem I had with the coalition was I could never decided which MP to despise the most. Arguing in favour of abolishing the Human Rights Act, Theresa May had spoken of ‘the illegal immigrant who cannot be deported because – and I am not making this up – he had a pet cat’, and she was always near the top of my Hate List." Juliet Jacques, Trans: A Memoir
In 2011, Juliet Jacques received an invitation to the launch of Diversity Role Models in the Houses of Parliament, a charity that aimed to tackle homo/bi/transphobic bullying in schools. In her memoir Trans, Jacques recalls: “I wish we’d had that at Oakwood, I thought – but could I go to an event fronted by the Conservative home secretary?” This scene captures the contradiction of pursuing trans rights from neoliberal states. In the end, Jacques pragmatically decides to attend, with the intention of avoiding the guest speaker – Theresa May MP.
A meeting was held at the Chamber of Deputies on 31 March 2015 to mark the hundredth birthday of comrade Pietro Ingrao. Rossana Rossanda sent this message, which talks about Ingrao’s role in the history of the Italian Communist Party and the splits within it in 1956, 1968 and 1991. An (Italian-language) video of the event is available at radioradicale.it
I can only thank you for having invited me to attend the event marking Pietro Ingrao’s hundredth birthday. Through his victories and defeats, Ingrao has remained the point of reference for my own parabola as a communist. I am considered an ‘Ingraian’, even though he always refused to be characterised as the leader of some sort of tendency. This was not because of some a self-sacrificing sense of discipline, but rather, I believe, born of an ambition of no small significance that took shape at the end of the 1930s: namely, his decision to devote himself to working in an internationalist, militant community, the Partito Comunista Italiano (PCI).