MICHEL’S LAST STAND…..UP!
Michel Prigent is dead. Long live Michel Prigent. So goes the blurb… and so sad he’s “gone, gone, gone” as the rock song went accompanied perhaps by Mich’s distant drumming in the background! And wasn’t he always gone in the head in one hilarious, often life-enhancing way or another? For sure Mich’ was impossible but in retrospect, wat the ‘eck! For sure we really respected the guy cos’ he never copped out in some shitehawk, careerist way or went in for slime-ball manipulation, remaining more or less penniless, ever ready to get in that fekking pub providing you had enough dosh to buy pints of beer. And then you‘d get your entertainment in over plus to pass on to all your mates…followed by grins all round. Michel was the incarnation of the situationist dictum “Never Work” par excellence after having been thrown out of the French Navy in the late 1960s when as a chef on a big ship, he one day detourned eating habits handing out ratings food to the officer class and vice versa. [He even wanted an addition to the iconic slogan carved on his gravestone which will be placed in a village churchyard in olde worlde rural Somerset where his beloved daughter Sappho lived saying, “I Never Ever Worked”] Brill, just hope it happens! Decades previously he’d asked, admittedly via Lucy Forsyth (his constant companion for many a year), if there was a place in our collective ‘everybody on the same wage building gang regardless of skill, race, or gender’ for “a wrecker” though you knew darned well he’d only last for an hour before jacking-in the hard physical stuff. I’d somewhat wearily suggest instead why he didn’t write up some of his many conversations with Guy Debord either in Paris or elsewhere in France, maybe communicated in some kinda free-wheelin’ style though knowing in my heart of hearts he’d never do so.
However, over the last few years Michel finally did email some ‘reminiscences’ (as we have here) especially jottings he scribbled down on Jean-Patrick Manchette, the somewhat nouvelle vague cum crime noir novelist and the very essence of baneful Mai ’68 recuperation whom Debord obsessed about somewhat in later life. When the Americanised French pop singer Johnny Hallyday died in December 2017 Michel emailed me some interesting, personally informed asides reflecting on the French Blouson Noir / Teddy Boy style riots which often accompanied Hallyday’s performances in the 1950s – all this in relation to Guy Debord’s growing fascination with contemporary vandalism and delinquency; in short the neo-Luddites which Debord later summed up in the Society of the Spectacle who destroy “the machines of permitted consumption”. [Unfortunately this little piece is now lost as Michel managed to get a helluva computer virus which finished off a lot of my emails –DW].
How did I meet the guy? He came up to me on a Notting Hill street in the late 1970s, tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Didn’t you help translate and produce that new book, Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy1976-8?”- a collection of translated texts mainly by Jaime Semprun and Miquel Amoros on the workers’ uprising in Spain after General Franco’s death. I nodded and then the long, long craic began which lasted for many a year. Subsequently of course Michel had an influence over the stuff we wrote (or more nearly what I initially scribbled down –DW) especially the 1978 The End of Music and A Summer with a Thousand Julys on the UK riots of 1981 A lot of this came about through conversation especially on music particularly jazz, be-bop and pop music in general - especially its ultra commoditisation - as Michel pointedly sprayed up on wall nearby where we lived that “Punk = Pound Notes” in response to Malcolm McLaren’s monetizing of subversive situationist slogans. This was added to via Michel’s contemporary The Catalyst Times, an A4 one-off mag peppered with terrific, memorable, polemical sentences amidst an almighty, chaotic splurge proclaiming that “the revolution has already begun”! (We wish!) But jeez did the guy get into trouble resulting in the Special Branch dropping by seeing he’d stated in his pamphlet that every 7th plane landing at Heathrow Airport was jam-packed with heroin sanctioned, or rather ‘teleguided’ by the then Labour party PM, Harold Wilson. Yep, it was an addition / version of the latter-day Debordist CTH - Conspiracy Theory of History - gone OTT, or was it via another CTH – Chuckling to Himself? More importantly we all got a great kick out of Michel’s colourful though unlikely exposé and it was grins all round yet again.
However, Michel didn’t stop with an attack on recuperators; as everything then that wasn’t inherently part of the Debordist shadow of a political party had also to be partially demolished including my efforts. It was the way with Michel when showing him a text you’d written and self-published that he’d always pick on one line making it ultra-salient implying everything else in the pamphlet was basically crap without actually saying so. This inevitably happened with A Summer with a Thousand Julys even though the guy wasn’t insultingly nasty about the pamphlet as basically he didn’t want to lose friendship. Later you came to realise it was in fact something of a house style of classic situationist faux-rejection (admittedly existing alongside real and necessary exclusions like artists, literary figures, academics and architects, etc) meaning in practise you must never be applauded for anything you did but please carry on without any encouragement! A few decades later and Michel found on a vinyl record stall in Chapel Market close by where he lived a recording by post punk group Billy Childish and the Buff Medways called I’m glad I’m not David Wise. Excitedly he emailed the news to me and to this day I’ve never bothered to listen to the recording. In any case there’s another David Wise who became a somewhat miscreant media-savvy photographer from West Hartlepool and an individual also belonging to the extended vaguely inter-connected Wises of South Durham and North Yorks.
Michel never really approved of the Revolt Against Plenty web. For starters [and enders] he disliked the title taking it literally. He couldn’t appreciate (on purpose?) the intentionally provocative, startlingly paradoxical, even oxymoronic subtleties implied in the description which originated with Jack Common, the uncompromising Tyneside wokker / spieler / ‘writer’ of the first four decades of the 20th century. All Common was doing was highlighting the contradictory appearance of modern day capitalism which gives the impression of consumer abundance for all whereas concrete reality denies the fact. Revolt against Plenty was merely a startling, eye-catching way of portraying such clever deception at the very core of capitalist exploitation. Moreover, it was, if you like, something of a pre situationist characterisation indicative of Common’s far greater grasp of modern art and its subversive trajectory than ever his friend and contemporary George Orwell ever possessed [i.e., the latter’s baneful assessment of Surrealism]. Michel simply couldn’t hone in on this nuance and once the web Principia Dialectica was closed down around 2014 suggested we should write and publish a book on Newcastle with fellow Tynesider, Dave Black though with Big Mich’ in charge and under the title Revolt Against Scarcity. Needless to say under such dictatorial supervision the project would have been impossible. Sadly Michel wasn’t so much a polymath as a mathpoly reading copiously on many varied subjects but in a fast and furious way which was over and done with almost in an instant. And that was that. Set in stone after three pages little was then followed up or even adequately researched. From then on there must be little discussion as that might possibly open up heretical paths with inconclusive outcomes. Enuff said! [For those who don’t know, Dave Black is a guy who has written some interesting academic books, most notably The Philosophical Roots of Anti-capitalism: Essays on History, Culture, and Dialectical Thought. If the book had come out in any other country than this “right little, tight little island” it would, most likely have gained quite a profile but alas, “the world cretinizing of the English” (Nietzsche) still remains behind the eternal white cliffs of Dover].
Ah and then there was /is Brexit! Michel throughout his life bestrode France and the UK and what’s more possessed a considerable understanding of the complexities of both countries. He was acutely aware of the often mind-boggling complexities of the UK’s mores; its trivialities, absurdities and often lethal, even unfathomable dumbo eccentricities, careering alongside misshapen memories of a long lost empire plus former medieval glories predicated on a damned monarchy that should have been abolished eons ago. Michel especially hated the latter. Like wor (Geordie) selves he desperately wanted more – much more – of the greater subversive rationale in say, France, Germany, Holland and Spain, never mind elsewhere in the world. Hence Michel was terrified about Brexit at the same time in one of his anti-Brexit tirades reproduced here; he clearly stated that both for and against Brexit were merely different choices within the framework of the capitalist mode of production having nothing to do with the essential negation and supercession of capitalism. Hence, “All that talk about pro or against Brexit is a load of waffle; we are against both positions which produce nothing but grief, division, confusion and misery. /We need a different society on a world-wide basis in order to tackle global warming, the present capitalist system cannot combat it, and in fact produces it.”
Nonetheless, even though critical of the RAP web, Michel never stopped emailing with one text/comment/detourned photo/etc., after another to put on the Revolt Against Plenty web and a fair number were put up. What we have here is a selection from the last few years which may, or may not be out there elsewhere, and perhaps some were done in collaboration with other individuals. Why weren’t they published previously? Amongst other things the problem was the one/two/three/four liners and you didn’t know where to put them as most were utterly spontaneous. Like the guy never blotted a line. And there’s the rub as old Bill Shakes’ said and, and, and, you couldn’t suggest a clean-up job on say a quick translation never mind merely dotting an ‘I’ and ‘T’ on much longer pieces - as from past experience in the late 1970s-80s that meant an instantaneous giant No No from Michel!! On the other hand – it must be said - you kinda liked the mess as there’s nothing worse than correct English and / or that hallowed worship of Oxbridge English so beloved of an academic, stuck-up teachery disposition and dare you say it, of the quintessentially English class system. (Remember, Michel increasingly rejected notions of class –“capitalism has no subject” despite the fact that what’s been described as the ‘social apartheid’ in the UK cuts cruelly deep)
And by way of a lengthy parentheses here, you still get a kick out of recent ex-miners’ webs who deliberately go out of the way to spell badly deploying as much anti PC swearing as poss’ without falling into any racism, etc. Finally, we couldn’t extricate ourselves from the collectively backwards as defined by academia and the well brought up even if we wanted to, so why not play to the gallery of their prejudices and put downs.…..? Moreover the crazy, stream of consciousness anti-English language wordplay of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake or the early 1950s French Lettrists intentionally incoherent grunts and sounds fulminations against Palme D’Or festival culture-bugs still retain their fascination re today’s Facebooks put out by subversive individuals who go in for excellent street interventions, (despite the fact the fact they know sweet FA about the fascinating history of Lettrism). However, there’s one big problem: you can hardly understand a word they saying as they later compile crazy historical records a la Dora Barnacle of Snapchat/ Instagram meme disruptions on local streets, especially regarding the wretched Blue Door in Hugh Grant’s even more wretched film Notting Hill. Take Kishy, for instance….. Is this a down with the English language forever breakthrough or permanent theoretical incoherence? Fine even if a HUGE problem remains meaning we must also put our ideas across as lucidly as possible….. But enuff of this parenthesis.....
Sadly, it was almost impossible - as others have related - to really do anything with Michel in a collective, egalitarian way as he kinda demanded that he was the unofficial leader hooked on the He who must finally be obeyed syndrome. It wasn’t just in relation to ‘work’ / wage labour, etc but because Mich’ always carried within himself a momentary absolute ably assisted by an all-powerful ego that couldn’t be questioned only to be followed, weeks or months later, by another thin line drawn in the sand that also mustn’t be crossed as the first such line was abandoned as if it never existed. Always, always (alas) it meant that all free flow / flowering collective drift where some idea / proposal / concept – call it what you will – was blocked as that momentary absolute endlessly imposed itself over all discussion and experiment. Talk would be abruptly halted in mid-stream. Inevitably much of this was about doctrine related to certain proclamations in a text or book by a ‘master’ Mich’ looked up to and the quote thus became a commandment triumphing over all empirical reality in worshipful respect of the word of the theoretical master in this instance Guy Debord though others followed such as Postone and Kurz as the following telling detail suggests.
For instance in the late 1970s Mich’ said it wasn’t necessary to update the critique of political economy as that was a path leading nowhere other than into leftist regression. Moreover, there would never be another economic crises related specifically, say, to the falling rate of profit. Yet two decades later such an update was enthusiastically embraced by Michel via the researches of the Krisis and Exit group in Germany especially the often profound insights and researches of one of their most prominent figures, Robert Kurz. To his eternal credit Michel managed to get some terrific stuff translated and published via his trademark Chronos Publications especially The Substance of Capital by Kurz which under Mich’s guidance was intelligently promoted on the RAP web.
Michel did not come from a privileged background. It was obvious there was no money lurking around to inherit so in that regard you felt really comfortable with the guy as it mirrored in many ways our own background among which, like Mich’, the miners figured big. Essentially too Mich’ was the off-spring of poor radicals – just like our own – where contempt for the toffs and the powers that be was paramount and where racism or nationalism of any kind was utterly frowned on inevitably combined with a fierce hatred of Fascism. His Dad in La Resistance was awarded the Croix de Guerre, our Dad awarded with what was called the “workers’ gong” - the British Empire Medal - for driving freight trains, etc, across Teesmouth salt marshes from Middlesboro’ to West Hartlepool packed with shells to gun batteries at the height of the Blitz dodging bombs and bullets from the Luftwaffe. Previously, during the early 1930s he’d also regularly deploy a bicycle chain on fascist marches in Middlesboro’ (Nevertheless, it must be emphasised here – like everybody else in this aforementioned “right little, tight little island” Dad had never experienced the full force of fascist occupation as Michel’s French family had – and that makes all the difference in the world).
Other everyday similarities were also fairly similar. For instance, as with everybody from a lowly background possessed with great yearnings usually muddied by educational aspirations, it was also an upbringing inseparable from the cornball and the down home; in Michel’s case footie figured big without getting conned by its increasingly pernicious role, i.e. during the late 1980s he wrote a small pamphlet, The Misery of Football condemning the overt capitalising of the game honing-in on the likes of Man U, PLC. On other levels he loved the smutty romp of say, the now PC condemned, Benny Hill’s, Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West (in the 1980s his favourite song performance now available on YouTube). This disposition is well illustrated in the following compilation with Michel’s two or three paragraphs glorifying the “freedom farter” Le Petomane.
Increasingly, that other shadowy figure, the alias became essential to Michel when putting up tracts on the RAP web especially with the further intensification of the counter revolution après the Occupy movement of 2011. Why so? There’s no clear answer. Was he worn down through constant attack knowing he was an utter misfit constantly alone, alone all, all alone /alone on a wide, wide, cruel sea? Was he paranoid, becoming fearful of everything especially afraid of a loony Brexit, screaming quietly inside just like Edvard Munch’s The Scream which he depicted as if it was himself days before falling with a brain blockage on a Paddington street in west London to be rushed off to nearby St Mary’s hospital with death following shortly on January 20th 2018? Just take a look at FAREWELL. Michel Prigent's Last Good Night. Final emails...
On a more banal level it can be said aliases are merely part of a general subversive trajectory - so why make a big thing about it - deployed by the likes of say, Murray Bookchin (Lewis Herber) Cornelius Castoriadis (Paul Cardan) or Raoul Vaneigem (Ratgeb). And as we did too: aka, The Monstrous Bastards, and so on. Perhaps though, post the defeat of the Occupy movement, it reflects REAL FEAR of the nearness of complete breakdown, of the abyss and the end of all community where all support systems are lost where there is only the self-destruct of capitalism with no transcendence in sight. Also it’s necessary to consider personal misery. From his middle years onwards Michel was ever searching for a physical, loving relationship simply perhaps to replace those he’d lost as a young man but which he commendably never banged-on about. Maybe too this was an aspect of character armouring; a psychic defence. It was if Mich’ had to show no vulnerability as that would be a sign of weakness or lack of resolution….. and in relation to this, how often was he told to go and see the doctor and check things out as we aren’t supermen or women. Sure enough he did but essentials were ignored like regularly taking the daily dose of prescription pills related to heart problems as most likely he experienced a few minor warning mini strokes (TIAs -Transient Ischemic Attack) previously and which he didn’t mention to his companions, hence his increasing forgetfulness and disorientation. On the other hand Michel tended to somewhat feel that he was invincible and would live forever, or rather at least until at least his 100th birthday.
There again maybe it’s best not to mention the personal too much because on a more general level in respect to the dwindling quality of everyday existence – that open face-to–face essential human interweaving – life has never ever been so rock bottom generally. Indeed all of us are alone like never before on top of the on-going collapse of the family augmented by the loss of the comforting intimacy of newer formations of trusting personal relationships of a now sadly destroyed alternative so-called counter culture. Possibilities of real communication and breakthrough have been replaced with the hell of internet gadgetry stimulating augmented narcissisms within the context of a selfie-centered universe. Hope however springs eternally, etc., and there may be brighter prospects in the offing suggesting we are tangentially heading towards a fundamental break and an uprising of everyday life simply because we cannot, on the simplest of levels, carry on like this with everything daily getting ever direr. Like never before community must be radically re-invented a fresh from the bottom up but is it too late in the day what with the twin pincer movement of ultra commoditisation inseparable from ultra gentrification underpinning immense social exclusion on the precipice of climate collapse and species extinction?
It was / is a situation - especially the latter - which worried Michel intensely even though – and unlike us - he never got involved in any practical, getting your hands dirty eco-subversion where in no time he would have found out what vicious exterminators of nature official greenwash bodies are. Michel’s eco critique was in the process of maturation although he hadn’t finally made the real breakthrough unable to distinguish the yawning gap between greenwash makeover and real eco subversion. It was a factor he missed out on in his appraisal of Jaime Semprun’s death in 2010 which finally brought about the end of an era beginning with the excellent L'Encyclopedie des Nuisances. Most likely Michel was slowly but surely getting to grips with revolutionary eco critique as a small visual commentary on the 6th Extinction in this compilation hints at.……so please take a look. In any case Nuisances RIGHTLY refused to separate authentic eco critique from the need to subvert increasing domestication vis-à-vis our already brutally colonised consumer oriented lives. More than ever we are press-ganged into the role of the passive spectator, endlessly focussed on the image, never breaking out of suffocating comfort zones whereby all truly meaningful, sensual physical activity is in the process of being abolished.
Michel had yet to grasp the horrible truth behind the hypocritical, morally superior often serene greenwashers forever banging on about endangered species in faraway lands; species such as the White and Pink Elephant (aka Dumbo) or maybe, er, the Flying Pig or the Mountain Splash Fart whilst not giving a tuppenny fuk about what’s on the doorstep down the bottom of your/our street where endless destruction is taking place. And what’s there? Why a horrible, visually unappetizing dump; a complete eyesore which unbeknown to greenwash cretins really is often nature rich in the sense of possessing truly bio-diverse amazing spaces. Or if the Fuks have an inkling, yet again that horrific moral-cum-aesthetic pronouncement kicks in: nature has to be chocolate box nature or at the very least conform to the unsullied depictions of the Norwich School of Painting in the early 19th century because nature in such modern day disreputable surrounds can be nothing other than a diseased, degenerate growth demanding the Exterminating Angel, C/O of a neo-liberal, sub-ecological Dr. Mengele. And then what? Welcome to a newly mangled, instantly aestheticized garden, put together within 24 hours; a pop-up dead nature corner of nicely cut green lawns crowded with a fauvist displays of primulas and pansies fleshed out with a few exotics that have nothing to do with real bio-diversity. What a wonderful spectacle. Aggh, the future is with us fronted everywhere by official green rackets: “The spring has sprung / The grass is riss / I wonder where the birdies is?” “Hail to thee blithe spirit /bird thou neverwort” (Shelley’s Ode to a Skylark) ..but, but does anybody today ever see the Neverwort bird? Is it also extinct?
The above paragraph merely pinpoints an aspect of the total craziness we are experiencing daily and all at odds with official ideology proclaiming the exact opposite. Michel was inevitably susceptible to the present over-arching ambience of not knowing where we are all going, although he never admitted as such which is a great pity because who isn’t in a state of utter turmoil scared shitless by the future or rather the lack of it? [So in that sense the Sex Pistols No Future was right even if not specific enough] We have arrived at some kind of unbearable impasse; an historical moment where responses can also change rapidly yet relentlessly underpinned with a nihilistic sense of angry hopelessness that literally everything is in vain equally realizing that such a response is impossible to live with. From the days of the French Surrealists onwards the old mantra of Suicide or Revolution becomes ever more formidable. It’s getting more cutting-edge, more prescient than ever in an age when there are more and more suicide cults proliferating everywhere. There again, Mich’ would reserve much aggro against those who were at least somewhat clued-in about such a conundrum from groupuscules like Os Cangaceiros, the Invisible Committee, etc., up to knowledgeable French academics such as Anselm Jappe whose book The Autophagic Society deals not only with the fetishisms which are eating us up alive but contains a chapter On the Capitalist Death Drive dealing with school kid shootings as well as Jihad.
In practise it was also rather more difficult to fathom as Michel seemed to move in many directions at once and was I’m sure, unaware of his often blatant contradictions. Thus in the last few years or so he was down on anybody who took Anselm Jappe (Debord’s best biographer) or Alistair Hemmens seriously yet somewhat later would then recommend reading Hemmens’ biography on Vaneigem and by-the-by even translated a Jappe article onJean-Claude Michéa published by Le Monde in 2017 and included in this collection……. The basis for this soft break (if it can be described as such) had to do with an official type “Never Work” conference at theSchool of Modern Languages, Cardiff University, Wales in July 2015. At the time it was aptly summed up by Wayne Spencer: “It strikes me as a simple absurdity. The theme is “never work.” Yet the only people who will attend will be academics (as part of their work) and post-graduate students (as part of their efforts to find work). The divorce between theory and practice is total.” Michel’s take on the conference was more vituperative as shown in the following compilation.
It was also rather more than that. Michel would around the same time send me emails denouncing situationist experiments – basically from an abstract Value-ist perspective, then, two days later, apologising for such empty gestures, re-appraise the importance of psychogeography, etc. Once, the guy utterly worshipped Debord now Debord could do nothing right knocking him at every turn along with his former cohort, Sanguinetti (C/F in the following, The Disinformer, 15th of May 2014) etc. Then there was something like a backing off from The Death of Art as Mich’ proclaimed the words of some contemporary women poets, [best forgotten, etc as today doggerel is far better than pathetically self-conscious traditional poetry -DW], only then to give art another well deserved kicking. So it could be said, critique was flimflamming all over the gaff. Michel even tended to get much closer to the parliamentary, electoral circus, ever watching its daily manoeuvres on TV then making suggestions that leaders must be changed. Thus Ed Miliband had to go as leader of the Labour party perhaps to be replaced by the more middle-of-the-road ex postal worker union leader, Alan Johnson from Notting Hill. This was followed by musings and suggestions for new London mayoral elections when the Tory party’s, Boris Johnson was in power, etc, etc. He even voted for Macron in France in the general election of 2017 if only to keep a ‘post’ fascist Marine Le Pen out of the presidency and a tactic deployed by many other clued-in Froggies at the time.
Alongside this, or rather pre-dating this, it could be said Michel had an over-obsession with terrorism prior to the Jihadi outbursts thus describing occasionally incendiary, somewhat situ-influenced direct action by groupuscules such as Tarnac 9, the Invisible Committee, etc as ‘terrorist’ which simply weren’t accurate but then the He who must be obeyed syndrome kicked-in and there was nothing more to add or discuss. If anything the Invisible Committee, etc, were locked in dispute with the then post-modernist idols of French academia and were indeed better than that conformist lectern-oriented crew and only later perhaps through the experience of the ZADS did the aforementioned groupuscules become aware of much worthier figures such as Rene Riesel and Semprun.
On the other hand Mich’s reappraisal of contemporary Islam was indeed enlightening noting in passing that the so-called far right, anti-Islamic murderer of Labour party MP Joe Cox in West Yorks in 2016 was in fact committed by a guy whose good friend and half brother was an English Pakistani; ever ready to help other people, even a bookish misfit and more the act of a disoriented nut case symptomatic of the growing substitution of real life by diabolical websites signifying the collapse of human community. Whatever, best to read Michel’s latter day contributions to the Islamic conundrum in the following compilation.
Above: Just the type of thing Mich' loved: a piss-take on the tawdry emptiness of the art lovers' fekking Turner Prize
On a more general level this could be a response to the changing nature of the times (previously outlined) with the general ambience around all of us becoming more and more ominous like as if everything was lost as a counter revolution within the counter revolution unfolded over the last few years. It was as if all of us started clutching at straws. Michel even emailed me a few poignant, desperate lines he found written by Moishe Postone just before the latter died in March 2018 suggesting that all could finally be lost regarding humanity’s long hoped for Drunken Boat voyage towards social emancipation, while at the same time offering some bleak glimmer that the present day monetizing of everything - which somehow - may intimate that money is so emphasised precisely because it is on the brink of its own demise. Ah, hope……
Further on a general level, the more liberating days of Occupy in 2011 (inseparable from the Arab Spring) had become merely a distance memory, a movement that was distantly influenced by the situationists via American Adbusters, itself a weakened off-spring of its progenitor. And today we have the triumph of Dumb and Dumber like never before; a loss of all relevant knowledge re the abandonment of the physical book – and worse still - as if the likes of the Situationists and the Value-ists never existed. It’s an ambience ably assisted by a more or less vacated internet second life whereby everyone is under 24/7 surveillance stuck in a mindset of “watchers, watching watched”. Inevitably Michel was acutely aware of this plus the growing menace of a new fascism, admittedly of a more modern disposition – more subtle and less crude but probably more deadly (e.g. the omnipotence of climate collapse deniers in their ranks) - as contradictory, unlikely political blocs emerge and flourish. He would email me in a kind of state of scared, bewildered horror as a frightening La Lega from the former workers ‘communist’ red belt in northern Italy coalesced with a previously subversive, comically inclined Five Star ‘performance’ movement. This unlikely duo had managed to conjoin at the level of the state apparatus attempting to run Italy in a less neo-liberal way trying to recreate the paradigms of a neo-Keynesianism (i.e. proposing a Universal Basic Income). Michel pointed out how individuals with situationist inclinations joined in always to be out flanked by the growing cunning power of La Lega’a new fascism. Michel’s understandable paranoia and ego danced in tandem the more the system utterly marginalised its potential gravediggers [like Mich’ and ourselves plus other friends] so much so that today it regards us as irrelevant having absolutely no influence whatsoever. It could even be said these (we!) former protagonists of the real negation of existing contradictions are utterly without importance. So perhaps as far as the state is concerned, there’s no point in keeping an eye on any of us? Yet Michel felt after 2015, (perhaps also affected yet again by his inflated ego), that he daily was on the brink of immanent arrest. He even said to me that The Guardian might arrest him for what he had to say on Heathcote Williams regarding his reappraisal when the guy died in 2017. OTT again? Most certainly but who can say what was going on inside Mich’s psyche? Maybe this was the bottom line and why he persistently looked for aliases. Simply the pain was too great (???) scared perhaps of the phantom, Orwell-inspired real knock on the door of a reconstructed, now somewhat global SS militia minus perhaps the militaristic uniform; arrested for nothing at all other than he existed?????
Just before Mich’ kicked the proverbial bucket; the gilet-jaune (yellow vest) movement erupted in France. There it suddenly WAS in October 2018 outdoors in nowhere land packed with nowhere people. Beyond the initial demand to get rid of PM Macron’s new fuel tax there was an immediate atmosphere with something like the lid off the id calling into question the existence of the super-ego, neither traditionally left, right nor centre. Rapidly over mere weeks the movement became more enlightened yet burdened with occasional hideous fringes fuelled by both hope and despair, so much so that it seemed to be bursting out onto a terrain of hopefully amazing horizons even if still throttled by something of the barbaric. Let’s face it; the untrammelled id is not a pretty place but this was more a situation of hardly containable frothing tourette’s-like amoral mouthings! What we are experiencing is a movement from below containing the echoes of a contemporary Lautreamont illustrated by a slogan on a nondescript French wall which said, “AS BEAUTIFUL AS AN IMPURE REVOLUTION” superseding those original words by Lautreamont evoking a strange and exciting displacement, “as beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on a operating table” that became a lynchpin of the Surrealist movement nigh on a century previously. True the latter insight was more or less initially press-ganged back over into art. However, for the last few decades such imaginings have increasingly broken free and with the gilet-jaune are again spreading out over into a possible radical upheaval of everyday life prelude perhaps to a ferment that might still precede the overthrow of the capitalist mode of production and the fetishism of commodities, etc., slip-sliding horizontally across borders worldwide with no leaders and led. A grandiose project indeed but let’s not be over hasty as THESE ARE STILL EARLY DAYS.
Then came the statements from Commercy in the Meuse and shit, we were all knocked out.The French Gilets-Jaune and Direct Democracy Assemblies in Commercy It was a bit like Ratgeb in real life with the addition of Murray Bookchin’s social ecology (see Michel’s following texts and comments on Raoul Vaneigem). In short, a taste of authentic self-management in open on-going struggle and quite unlike the self-management of reified alienation, pointing to the true rebirth of the spirit of 1968 and of a higher order than those passive celebrations in Berkeley and elsewhere consequence of those amazing street barricades in Paris 50 years ago. There’s some suggestion (though it’s only a suggestion) that Michel was of the same disposition regarding the above flow, bewildered yet enthused, hesitant but also happily and somewhat inspirationally thrown……… just like we were and still remaining so.
What follows is a bit of a clean-up, mainly grammar-wise of original texts but only a bit as for fek sake, my grammar is likewise haywire hopefully echoing the thankfully semi-literate, often beautifully passionate words of the transcendental, early 19th century English peasant poet John Clare; “I am gennerally understood tho I do not use that awkward squad of pointings called commas colons semicolon etc”. Also what follows is not really in chronological order but it wasn’t easy to put together. Sorry Mich’… Matey, I’ve fukked-up yet agin…..
Dave the Rave
Harry Windsor’s marriage revisited….
Harry W. Some character, a clown of the XX1st century. He can play both cards being a soldier and a pacifist, He can disguise himself as a Nazi one minute and be antiracist the next. He likes to be in the limelight of the media, and then he declares he is against the mediatisation. Harry Windsor is a spectacular star. He can’t get away from that role. He is stuck with it. In the end it is quite a sad story.
All the golden stuff does not bring you happiness and poetry.
Written by someone, somewhere in Britain on the 12thof January 2018
Have a look at an article in today’s Guardian about Italy: “The fascist movement that brought Mussolini back to the mainstream. Italy’s CasaPound reinvented fascism for a new generation. Now they’re trying to enter Parliament” /article by Tobias Jones,
Here is an amazing quote: (…) “CasaPound germinated in the late 1990s as a sort of Mussolini-admiring drinking club. Every Monday night, a dozen men would meet in the Cutty Sark and “plan what next”, as one recalled. It was there that Iannone met the man who would become his deputy, Simone Di Stefano. Simone Di Stefano was two years younger and quieter, but a lifelong rightwing militant. “We were situationists trying to wake people up” , Di Stefano says, looking back, “bohemian artists based on models like Obey Giant [Shepard Fairey] and Bansky.
In the Guardian today, Thursday 22nd of February 2018.
It is incredible that a creep like Di Stefano can use situationists for his own fascist ends. Especially as it well-known that the Situationist International was against fascism and Nazism.
Pass this email around ok. All best wishes,
THE RUSSIAN QUESTION REVISITED: FROM THE CZARS, LENIN, TROTSKY, STALIN, KHRUSHCHEV,
BREZHNEV, GORBACHEV, YELSIN, PUTIN.
The Russian Question has been around for a long time. A real nightmare. Basically Russia has not been able to evolve towards democracy and that from the Czars’ time. The last Czar Nicholas II could not introduce change and was thus removed by a ruthless character called Lenin and the Bolsheviks.
The Russian Revolution did not change the situation too much. As soon as workers and sailors wanted more freedom in 1921, Trotsky made sure the Kronstadt rebellion was crushed. That rebellion had revolutionary aims, for example it wanted more democracy, and they even advocated Workers’ Councils. Vlad’ Lenin made sure these demands were not met and he ordered Trotsky to crush the Kronstadt Commune. The Kronstadt sailors were the real vanguard of the Russian Revolution, they travelled around the world, they met people, they saw different societies and reported back home. The crushing of the Kronstadt rebellion in 1921 was the end of the Russian Revolution. To this day Leninists all over the world back that crushing, incredible, some never learn from history and they will repeat what took place in 1921 if they come to power. We must make sure that that never takes place.
Lenin in 1919 set up what would become known as the Gulag... “A system of forced-labour camps was first inaugurated by a Soviet decree on April the 15th, 1919, and underwent a series of administrative organisational changes in the 1920s, ending up with the founding of the Gulag in 1930 under the control of the secret police OGPU (later, the NKVD, and the KGB)”.
Hence Vlad’ Lenin created that system of oppression. From then on freedom and freedom of speech was not on the Bolshevik agenda. Stalin refined that system of oppression. Writers who were critical of the regime ended up in labour camps. Stalin once said: “What is important is not who votes, but who counts the votes!”
And then Stalin died. Khrushchev set up de-Stalinisation, but it did not go far enough..Then Brezhnev took over, he tried to change the set up, but really not much was changed. Gorbachev tried to have a different society but he was not able to clip the wings of the oligarchy, about 10 million people in Russia belong to that group, they live well, they can travel abroad to buy properties and invest.
The rest of the Russian population survives on potatoes.. And today we have Vlad’ Putin in the Kremlin, a macho-nationalist who likes to show his muscles..
So Russia is back to square one.
To be continued…
Written on the 16th of March, 2018 somewhere on Earth by a critical onlooker
IT'S CAPITAL THAT WE MUST LEAVE BEHIND !
All that talk about pro or against Brexit is a load of waffle; we are against both positions which produce nothing but grief, division, confusion and misery.
We need a different society on a world-wide basis in order to tackle global warming, the present capitalist system cannot combat it, and in fact it produces it.
You can’t produce commodities without the side effect called pollution; hence we need a different system which will have abolished the capitalist conditions.
It may sound outlandish to want such a society where the commodity, money, classes have been abolished on a world-wide basis, but to continue with the present capitalist system will lead to more and more problems.
Hence we retake up Karl Marx’s idea of a society where people can flourish away from Capital. «Thus, at the core of this vision of a post-capitalist society is the historically generated possibility that people might begin to control what they create rather than being controlled by it. » Time, Labor & Social Domination. Postone.
It is a good idea to have such an idea just before the New Year in 2018; it could be a New Year’s resolution for a better world without boredom, famines, wars, pollution, etc.
Ps: the capitalist system is based on labour and value, a post-capitalist society would be a different society where wage-slavery and value would have been abolished on a world-wide basis, hence work could benefit the entire society and people.
Written by Michel Prigent on the 21st of December 2017 in London.
Please pass this leaflet around!
The Brexit mess is before us 24 hours per day
If the UK and the EU do not come to some agreements, the situation will become dire.
For a start “Hundreds of thousands of EU nationals living in Britain could struggle to secure Home Office permission to stay in the UK after Brexit, according to migration experts”. The Guardian, 13th of December 2017. If action is taken against EU nationals in the UK, it is possible that the EU will take similar measures against UK citizens working in the EU.
This is why the recent belching by the Brexit secretary, the one and only David Davis do not help the situation; in fact he has put confusion on the Brexit question.
In the meantime “Corbyn’s Brexit stance looks a lot like neutrality. It is not an issue that ignites his campaigning spirit. His power to mobilize legions of loyal supporters was not deployed for the Remain cause in the Referendum…” Rafael Behr in The Guardian, 3th of December 2017.
In the end people, working people will pay the price. Brexit is a disaster…..
Watch this critical space for more info about this ghastly capitalist business…..
Written by Charles Williams on the 13th of December 2017….
THE HOUSING QUESTION IN BRITAIN IN NOVEMBER 2017
Today on Channel 5 I heard that 300,000 people were sleeping rough in the streets of the UK. That is equal to the population of Newcastle-upon-Tyne!
An hour later on ITN news I heard that 160,000 people are sleeping rough in the streets of London. Clearly there is a crisis.
Various governments have failed to solve The Housing Question. It could get worse as the crisis of the economy bites even further.
It is quite horrific. The abstract domination of capital is no joke. And the cold weather is moving in. Hence those who are sleeping rough will be ill.
You probably find all the classes in those who are sleeping rough, mostly are lumpen, then working class people who have lost their jobs, then a few middle-class people who also have lost their jobs and homes, and maybe the odd upper-class member who has been thrown out by his family or made destitute.
But most come from the lumpen…..
And then there is a vast contradiction, the amount of empty buildings all over the country that could accommodate overnight all those who sleep in the streets.
Any sensible government ought to take over empty buildings and house those without a roof especially in winter.
That is a minimum requirement.
Hence the Housing Question is still with us.
Written by Charles Williams on the 8th of November 2017
Brexitolisis: a new disease invented by Nigel Garage of the Kippers’ Party.
The disease comes from smoking too many cigarettes, drinking too much beer and eating too much cheese and kippers.
But above all it is a disease brought about by harbouring reactionary ideas, like blaming foreigners for everything.
Now we hear that the building trade does not have enough joiners, painters, plasterers, and site managers, a lot of these workers come from abroad.
Nigel Garage is a fine example of someone who carries that disease called Brexitolisis. Stay away from him if you don’t want to catch that awful disease.
We will continue to report on the awful spread of the illness. Please pass this warning around to as many people as possible.
Written on the 3rd of November 2017 by Charles Williams
Below is a poem sent in by Charles Williams, 19th of October 2017.
POSH AT LAST….
Soon OLD PRISONS like
The Scrubs or Pentonville
In London or Strangeways
Will be knocked down
New prisons will be erected elsewhere.
New flats will be built
On the site of the Scrubs,
Pentonville and Strangeways
These are situated on prime land
A few token social homes
Will be allocated to keep everyone quiet
So it will be posh to live
In the Scrubs, Pentonville and Strangeways
Everything changes so that nothing changes!
Here is an entry you might consider for your web:
THE HISTORY OF THE GUN IN THE USA
The Second Amendment in the USA ensures every American person can purchase a gun or guns.
There are 300 million guns in the USA!
The recent mass murders by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas are horrific. 59 dead and more than
500 wounded, and yet the White House says it is not the time to speak
About the gun problem! Incredible. In fact President Trump is a supporter of the gun lobby. The
National Rifle Association [NRA], will do everything it can to make sure guns are available. It is big
business. Billions of dollars are at stake. Hence more killings will take place. Guns are lethal…
Written by No Guns Please, Life Instead. On the 3rd of October 2017
[What follows is Michel’s tentative first steps in recognising the horrendous severity of climate collapse and species extinction; interestingly – and tellingly – bringing Le Douanier Rousseau’s poetically fecund and evocative painting The Dream into as it were the extinction frame! Maybe Michel was beginning to suggest that the critique of art needed deepening? Art was not only dead but part of its legacy in the imposition of design aesthetics over all space under the hammer of ruthless gentrification meaning nature in its raw, wild, fecund beauty has also to submit to planners’ diktat. The neo-liberal agenda demands greenwash visual programming! Nature, humanity and planet earth must die!; yet XR refuses to countenance this ultra-lethal addition to the reality that art truly is dead. Comment DW]
In other terms, one must establish a production uncoupled from value, from capital, a production brought under control, done in function of the sole human needs.
[Printed and produced by Housing for Human Needs not Capital on the 2nd of August 2017 in London]
The Guardian can’t publish my letter about Heathcote Williams, because I say that art is dead and
it needs to be superseded. Incredible.
I hope you are well.
All best wishes, to you and Stuart.
Below: Email reply from the Graun (as Mich’ liked to call that decrepit rag which has fully succumbed to the neo-liberal embrace)
“Michel -- thanks very much. The Letters page has forwarded your letter to us.
Since HW didn't take up your ideas, we couldn't publish your letter on the Obits page as an addition to the picture presented of him. But if you've got a positive observation or anecdote, then what would always be worth having “-- best, Robert
Below is the original letter from Michel Prigent
Yesterday inThe Guardian[24thof July 2017] there was a letter by Michael Horovitz about Heathcote Williams who sadly passed away recently.
A few critical comments are needed in order to redress what Horovitz says. He can mention Heathcote Williams -himself- and the King Mob Situationist tribe in the same sentence, but in fact he has omitted to mention an importantidea that the Situationist International put forward, namely the critique of art and its supersession. For them art was dead. And you can see the corpse in many museums and galleries.
This idea that art is dead and that it needs to be superseded could not be accepted by Heathcote Williams and Michael Horovitz. I tried to talk to them about it. To no avail. They rejected the idea.
But to his credit Heathcote Williams took his poetry to the streets and did some excellent graffiti. He too risks. Michael Horovitz stayed at home.
In the sixties there was a split in the Situationist International, artists were forced out. They could not accept that art is dead.
The S.I. then moved forward, and criticized the capitalist machine. The pinnacle of their radical critique wasThe Movement of Occupations of May-June 1968.
Below is Michel's response to the Grenfell Tower murder. Indeed he lived close by - little more than 2 miles away......
Entries found in notebooks. February 7th 2017
Black Sabbath got the idea of tearing off the heads off chickens from situationist Jorgen Nash.
*Manic Street Preachers
MSP never recovered after the disappearance of Ritchie, a situationist inspired musician.
Later MSP played for Castro.
Castoriadis supported Ronald Reagan during the Cold War.
* Joe Hill.
Don’t mourn, organize.
*Napoleon in St Helena.
n the end, the sabre is always vanquished by the spirit.
Ikea used political prisoners in Cuba as cheap labour. The boss of Ikea was a neo-Nazi supporter in Sweden after the Second World War. Some never learn!
*Trotsky was the Russian Gallifet. Gallifet was the General in charge of the repression of the Paris Commune. Trotsky was in charge of the suppression of the revolt in Kronstadt in 1921.
*Greek olive oil becomes Italian when it arrives in Italy!
* Marx; Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844.
“Prostitution is only a specific expression of the general prostitution of the labourer”
best wishes, Michel
A TRANSVERSE POPULISM FIGURE
For the philosopher Anselm Jappe, Michéa uses the most outdated part of the work of Marx in order to criticize capitalism. And rejoins the populist positions in his idealisation with the people.
Jean-Claude Michéa has been pursuing for more than twenty years, an in-depth critique of liberalism, as much about economics as politics. He targets above all the links that the Left has kept up for a long time, in the name of “progress”, with this liberalism, neglecting the popular strata which are perceived as “reactionary”. However, it is in the “common decency” (George Orwell) of “ordinary people” that resides, according to Michéa, the possibility of a resistance to the unrestrained market which is the process of devouring everything that has a meaning and a stability to life, whilst the Left has made its peace with the market.
Michéa who has no position of power at his disposal in the institutions of knowledge or in the media stems from the margins of the field of debate in France.
He has however managed to incite debates often passionate around his ideas. He owes this echo to the intrinsic quality of his theses: which are put forward in clear and simple writing, but rich in details and of developments often enlightening, they gather aspects of the present which seem to escape all the participants in the debate.
Unfortunately, he owes his increasing success to the fact of belonging to the tutelary figureheads of the new “transversal populism”, and to go along with it more and more voluntary. Michéa does not only fight against liberalism, but in short capitalism, and he often refers to Marx. However, he utilises above all, and without being aware of it the most out-of-date part of traditional Marxism: the one which identifies capitalism to the domination exerted by a small layer of the population – the proprietors of the means of production - on a majority of workers who only externally, and under constraint to this system. It was thus the case, maybe, during the epoch of “original socialism” of the first half of the 19th Century, from which Michéa gladly draws his inspiration.
Today, however, capitalism is no longer identical to capitalists or the dominant. It is a “social relation” has Marx had forecasted. A relation to whom everyone participates, even it is with very different roles and retributions. Each one must forcibly conduct his life within the framework of money and of work, of the commodity and of economic value. The differences between individuals are essentially quantitative. It is not surprising that even their conceptions of happiness resemble each other and that everyone rushes for the latest smartphone. In fact, one wonders where Michéa can still see exist this “people”, with its clean moral values. Capitalist development has replaced it by subjects of the commodity with lower income and to lesser decision-making power on all the details of their life. It is not by invoking a popular image of the people that one will get out of capitalism. To get out of it, one needs to question the existence of money and work, of the commodity and the State, as Marx, Guy Debord, Jaime Semprun did, authors that Michéa quotes often, but not always timely. A critique so radical of capitalism is however regarded as irrealist, even totalitarian. Michéa does not assume such a direction, which would bring him back on the margins of the political debate. He prefers to recall the opposition between “those at the bottom” and “those at the top”, and Michéa gets closer to rising populism.
The term “populism” is certainly quite vague. It corresponds however, justly in its vague character, to a major reality of our time – especially in its new forms of “transversal populism”. One often accuses Michéa of right-winging his thought and to write in the organs of the Right. It would however reduce Michéa to see in him someone of the Left who has gradually gone to the right.
Firstly , because he has not become up to now, overtly of the Right, and after because this accusation presupposes still the reassuring Left-wing dichotomy. Whereas this dichotomy does not dominate anymore the political scene – a mutation which however does not correspond to the manner spoken by Michéa (and so many troublemakers of the supersession of this cleavage, nearly all belong to the right, like Le Pen, father and daughter). Capitalism has come up during the last decades against its limits that is to say at the same time its external ones (exhaustion of natural resources) and internal (disappearance of work because of technologies whilst work remains the basis of the social organisation). This crisis, which blurs equally the forms of actual subjectivity, has given rise to two visions of society, which are apparently opposed but which in truth nourish one another and both of which remain within the framework of capitalist society: technocratic management and populism.
TO REFUSE THESE FALSE ALTERNATIVES
Populism has developed itself everywhere since the triumph of liberalism. It has for a long time existed as a Left-wing version and a Right-wing version, of which the common basis remained rather hidden. Since the last ten years, they have started to merge. Their targets are the same: financial speculation and corruption of the politicians, to whom are attributed all dysfunctions, the globalisation of the economy and the weight of the bureaucracies of the international institutions, against which one evokes the return to national sovereignties and a strong role to the State. One points out the cosmopolitan elites with a wagging finger, a worldwide caste obsessed by numbers and insensitive to the disasters it produces.
Thus, populism can denounce the ills of capitalism without ever having to produce an analysis of their structural “causes”, by replacing it by the denunciation of organised plots by rapacious minorities (denunciation which recuperates often ancient anti-semitic clichés). If most of actual populisms are still classified either on the Left (Podemos in Spain), or on the Right (Le Front National, Alternative for Germany, Donald Trump in the USA), there are others which are undoubtedly transversal, like the 5 Star Movement in Italy. The myopic management and the settlements between friends practised by autistic elites furnish effectively new arguments to the populists of every ilk. By rebound, these elites can easily present themselves as a lesser evil, as the voice of reason faced with the obscure menace of an unpredictable populism. It has become almost impossible – but oh so necessary! - to challenge the two positions together, to accept none of them under the pretext of avoiding the worst. However, if being a critical intellectual can still have a meaning, it will be in the refusal of these false alternatives.
Reflexion is not the strong point of populists. They must therefore launch invitations to tender on Left-wing thinkers to reinforce their discourses. Some of these thinkers accept in the name of “Neither of the Left or the Right” and of the “resistance to elites”. They pretend to derange the habits: in fact, in truth, they swim with the current.
It does not reflect well on them.
Anselm Jappe in Le Monde [Wednesday 11th of January 2017]. Anselm Jappe teaches philosophy in Italy. He is also the author of “Guy Debord”. (Denoel, 2001, Paris), as well as “Credit a Mort. La Decomposition du capitalisme et ses critiques”. (Ed. Lignes, 2011, Paris).
Translated from the French by M.P.W. Prigent in London on Wednesday the 11th of January 2017.
From Michel. Hi, Dave, (January 9th 2017) Listen to Radio 2 tonite at 10.
Here is a prog’ about Bowie. He translated a French song Comme D’habitude. His version was not accepted, instead Paul Anka’s became the English version. But My Way has nothing to do with the original. It will be interesting to listen to Bowie’s version.
In the sixties I knew the guy who wrote Comme d’hab. Jean-Claude Renoul. He did not want to pay taxes, so he sold his songs. But Comme d’hab alone brings in 60 grand in royalties. It is one of the most played songs. I tried to get Renoul to sign his songs.
He stuck to his original idea.
All best wishes, to you and Stuart
[Well before Isis and contemporary Jihadism erupted Michel took an enlightened look at the Islamic world producing a very interesting pamphlet in the mid 1990s on the moment (in the 9th century AD?) when a peoples’ Islam erupted proclaiming an emancipatory, life-enhancing “Heaven on Earth.” This splendid revolt was basically part and parcel of the Islamic Golden Age when tracts from the entire known world’s classical knowledge were translated into Arabic. It preceded by centuries the radical, Christian inspired similar rebellions in Europe well documented by Norman Cohen’s The Pursuit of the Millennium which so grabbed the attentions of the original situationists.
Much later, Michel also produced some interesting texts on Jihadist Islam or rather they were translations from the French from Charlie Hebdo and the other from his friends in Paris and a critique of an article penned byThe Happy Unemployed. We had in fact being very friendly with Guillaume Paoli when he lived in London as part of Os Cangadeiros during the 1970s and 80s in response to the riots of 1981 and the miners’ strike of 1984-5.. DW]
The happy unemployed worker
& the work of the negative
GUILLAUME PAOLI, author
In the 1990’s of a not very convincing critique of work titled Manifesto of the happy unemployed worker, has published a text on Western jihadism in a German newspaper (1) on the 18th of January. This text is presented as an analysis of jihadists born in the West, inspired by a radical rejection of the existing world. Curiously, although the text was published a week after the attacks in Paris, it speaks of the jihadists who go to the Middle East, but not of those who commit attacks in Europe.
In the face of the culturalist critique which explains Western jihadists exclusively by Islamism, or by Islam, Paoli leans too far the other way. He does not deny the existence of this link, but refuses to see a fundamental characteristic: “We cannot discard that a virus came from elsewhere. The weakened immune system is at least co-responsible. While it is true that Muslims must submit their own culture to a critical review, the enlightened citizens of the West will still have to put their own house in order too”. To Paoli, the origins of this jihadism are indeed to be found in boredom, emptiness and the death drive generated by “Western modernity”. He continues by saying that “technology” provides the “mediums” (video games, social networks) which can allow one to move from symbolic violence to real violence. Because, at one end of the chain, the malaise of Western youth and violence that results from this are expressed in video games like Call of Duty; and at the other end of the chain, the propagandists of jihad divert the codes of violence peculiar to these games in videos posted on the Internet and use social networks to attract new recruits. The loop seems complete and Western jihadism explained.
But what passes as rigorously demonstrated, are only ready-made, preconceived ideas. The role of video games which Paoli presented as proven is an affirmation of the “experts” on terrorism (Alain Bauer and company) that, to date, no study based on a representativepopulation sample corroborates. Then, Paoliproceeds by making a completely inept divisionbetween jihadists: he is willing to speak ofthose who leave, but not those who act in Europe.
But sometimes there is no difference, as evidenced by Merah, Nemmouche and Coulibaly who left to be trained in jihadist camps and who came back to commit murders in Toulouse, Brussels and Paris on predetermined targets. If Paoli had considered Western jihadism as a whole, he could have raised questions about the victims, who are never chosen at random, and starting from there he could have asked about anti-semitism which characterizes jihadism (Paoli did not say a word about this anti-semitism). However, even if the analysis of Paoli took greater account of the facts, it would remain under-specified because it is based on the rag-bag concept of “Western modernity” and not on the critique of political economy, that is to say the root of things. Paoli, ignoring the globalized capital crisis (in the sense that this is defined by the critique of value (2) does not grasp that today’s global society is in the process of barbarism and thus does not see jihadism -whether it is Western, Middle Eastern, Africanor Asian – for what it is, namely an offshootof the capitalist matrix in a terminal phase. Let usobserve in passing that, as Paoli does not viewcapitalism as a world-system, he can note that “abrave French girl in her small provincial town,[can be] turned in the space of eight weeksinto a suicide bomber”, but fails to notice thatthousands or even tens of thousands of non-Westerners – Indonesians and Pakistanis, forexample – do the same thing. Finally, neglecting the concept of crisis, Paoli turns the deathdrive into a bizarre thing. For him, it growsoutside the soil so to speak. How come that inthe West so many people are possessed by the death instinct? Answer: “Western modernity”. Work it out for yourself.
After the death drive, Paoli designates another awful Western shortcoming: “[…] under the pretext of founding a religious community, the very Western ideal of self-realization is pushed to its climax: to die as a martyr.” But in the same non-reflective, vague way. Paoli, in attacking “the very Western ideal of self-realization” also attacks, without realising it, the individual, autonomy. In reality, he probably does not reject them, but the phrase sounds good, and Paoli, disdaining the “work of the negative” (“happy unemployedworker”, he has probably reached an “absolute knowledge” which allows him to study nothing but to know everything), does not understand why he should deny himself such a dramatic flourish.
Let us nevertheless pause for a moment on this saying to see what it means – because an entire leftism rejects the individual as a Western, bourgeois, capitalist, invention. On the one hand, the individual is actually a Western self-institution. And the Muslim world does not really live well with this present individuation, that is to say, the destruction of the remains of the old community (the collapse of the extended family, the cracking of totalising Islam) that is imposed by capitalism. But, on the other hand, this attack against the individual is as virulent as it is stupid. Because, for the truly revolutionary critique, it is not a matter of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, but to appeal to the “social individual” thematized by Marx – the individual who ceases to be the famous monad without doors or windows guided only by his sole interest as capitalist subject. Here, Paoli unwittingly finds himself in the same position as a large part of leftism and ultra-leftism, who aspire to return to the necessarily good community. Obviously, such a view of the community prevents Paoli to be truly critical of the religious pseudo-community he denounces.
The criticism of school formulated by Paoli also shows the facileness in which the author constantly indulges. When Paoli evokes the “secular” school education given to Western jihadists, he likes to point out that it is not an antidote against the death drive. But, everyone except Paoli knows that school far from makes up all the symbolic capital of an individual. Regarding the Kouachi brothers and Amedy Coulibaly for example, their symbolic capital also contained many other elements than those provided by school and at which the latter had only a very limited ability (see the story of their life now widely known).
And naturally it is the same for the youngsters from Lunel (3) who went away to join up with Daesh. Amusingly, on this issue of school, Paoli adopts an opposite point of view than the one he defends in his criticism of the individual and the desire for self-realization. Now, he no longer denounces the individual and autonomy, but the school’s deficiency to develop in the individual a full autonomy.
No doubt school is very imperfect and doesn’t push towards real autonomy. And also without doubt self-realisation today passes through the frenzied selfishness implemented by both the Wall Street trader and by the dominated in the Renault factories. However, emancipation will not be realised by the destruction of autonomy and the individual in the neo-community, but on the contrary by their fulfilment outside of capital: in a new form of socialization, really liberating, which will allow each individual to realise himself with others, and not against them.
To conclude his analysis, on his concepts of “Western modernity” and of “technology”, finds nothing better than to exclaim: “May the next revolt forget the passion for death and develop empathetic games which say yes to life!” A wish which has the sweet smell of Vaneigem’s Book of pleasures and its affirmative critique. Here, the radicalism of Paoli is simply ridiculous and frankly reveals itself to be out of time. (4)
However, the text of Paoli deserves to be taken seriously. Indeed, it shows how, in the absence of a true work of reflection and in the forgetfulness of his own concepts, a critique with a radical claim fails to elevate the level of consciousness (which is regrettable in general and particularly in the historical moment we are going through). And how such a pseudo critique can spread confusion into the ranks of the most advanced critique of capitalism – the critique of value – where it finds a favourable echo and relay.
Paris, March 2015
1. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
2. This critique analyses capital as the real subject – abstract, impersonal – of this world, and the current stage of capitalism as one where value can no longer manage to realize itself
3. Name of a small town in south of France where, since November 2013, about 20 people (including women and children) have gone to Syria (cf. New York Times, 16-01-2015).
4. Phrase in English in the original text. [TN]
Interview published In Charlie Hebdo no 1179/ 25 February 2015. Paris. France
March 10th 2015. Interview:
JIHADIST AND MUSLIM ON THE COUCH.
Why are the Jihadists so allergic to the image of the Prophet? One could search for theological or political explanations but psychoanalysis casts a precious light. To understand the general power of images on the human psyche, the specificities of the Muslim society and how they are lead astray by radical Islamists, we have asked two researchers: Gerard Bonnet, psychoanalyst and a specialist of image making, and Malek Chebel, psychoanalyst and anthropologist of religions. They are both the authors of numerous works relating to these questions. Gerard Bonnet has notably published La Violence du voir [The Violence of Seeing] [PUF] and Pyschoanalyse d'un meurtrier [Psychoanalysis of a Murderer] [Payot]. And Malek Chebel L'Inconscient de l'Islam [The Subconscious of Islam] [CNRS Editions] and Le Sujet dans l'Islam [Seuil] [The Subject in Islam].
Charlie Hebdo: The representation of the Prophet is unbearable for some. Can one make the link of the representation of the primitive scene which is the archetype of the taboo scene in psychoanalysis?
Gerard Bonnet: Exactly. Maternal sex is the place from where I come from and which condenses all the values which inhabit me. It is there that one rejoins the question of ideals. The common denominator between the primitive scene and religious images is that they bring you back to the questions of origins. An image can be impure, because what one represents is never up to what one has really in oneself. The fact of showing an image can bring things into disrepute. To forbid the image, is to preserve it from all blemish and to give more power to what it symbolises.
Malek Chebel: It is valid for the whole of the monotheist religions; the forbidding of something sacralises this thing. What is totalitarian is the will of imposing one's own quest for purity to everyone. But concerning Islam, there are particular points. Islam arrived in the VII century, in a world where one represented divinities. The Prophet wanted to smash this link between representations and the paganic (heathenish) population of the polytheist period. He said to himself that by destroying all the images which filled the pantheon of that epoch was going to create a direct link between men and God. He destroyed all the idols to leave only one, the Kaaba itself, which has become the centre of the representations of Islam.
Nevertheless, Mohammed has not himself forbidden his own representation.
M.C. : Actually, he has not said anything on the image, and in the Koran also for that matter. But the Prophet died in 632, and things got worse during the VIII century. At that time, there is the war of images amongst Christians. The Byzantine bishops are leading a fierce struggle against images. They took three centuries of bitter fighting among themselves, up to the day when images were accepted following a Council directive. This fight between Christians had an impact on Islam. Because during that time, the Arabo-Muslim Empire expanded itself and covered the Byzantine Empire. The Muslims took in the Christian problematics and they chose to forbid images.
In fact, all these quarrels about images have started with the Christians. But since these last ones ended up allowing them, why did the Muslims do the opposite?
G.B. : It is true that the Christians did start. It was a close shave that they too would become iconoclasts by forbidding them. But if the Muslims rushed into the forbidding of images, it is also because they were already on that very side. And, it is also a manner of saying: "We, we make it a rule to do so, it is our strength, our wealth." But it shouldn't be forgotten that, from the beginning, as from the Christians, there has always been oppositions between partisans and adversaries of the religious images.
If the fact of forbidding the image reinforces the power of religion, how can one explain that The Catholic Inquisition allowed images, while the religious power was precisely very strong?
M.C. : The Inquisition took place during several centuries after the Council which led to the acceptance of images. These had already been accepted officially by the clergy, one couldn't hark back to the past.
How do you explain that the Shiites authorize images, contrary to the Sunnies?
M.C. : The differences did not take place because of doctrinal reasons, but for questions of political power. At the death of the Prophet, fights took place for his succession. There were four caliphs. The fourth caliph was Ali, and the clan which was set up around him led to Shiism. Little by little, the Shiites structured themselves into a clergy. This is not the case with the Sunnies: since they have no clergy, everything goes back directly to God, and God having not decreed that the image is forbidden or allowed, men could not authorize it. The fact that the Shiites have a clergy, this has permitted to take human initiatives, of the kind like “I authorize or I do not authorize images". This permitted niches in which the human desire could be inscribed, including in disputes. But even the Shiites did not authorize images in an open manner, and it is only an elite which has assumed this right for itself. This has also existed amongst certain Sunnies, during the XVI and XVII centuries which have represented the Prophet in miniatures, but it was reserved for a minority elite.
In fact, all this comes back to grant a disproportionate importance to the image. People who can't bear the caricatures of the Prophet do not understand thus that the image of the Prophet is not the Prophet?
G.B. : They effectively think, if you lay into the image of the Prophet you are laying into Mohammed himself. They have remained at an infantile stage which confuses the real and its representation. It is like the primitive who believes that if one takes a photograph of him, one takes his soul. It is an enormous regression.
Ultimately, one can understand this taboo of religious images for believers, but why should it be imposed on everyone?
M.C. : In Islam, there is no between the religious and the political . This come from the fact that the Prophet never defined himself as only a prophet, or even a sovereign, but the two at the same time. He was at the same time a prophet, a husband, a political leader, a founder of a civilisation, the guarantor of the conformity of all of this, in some way a judge. All these attributes of the Prophet have made it so that grassroots Muslims do not manage to distinguish him in all his different roles. It is not like Jesus: he was holiness incarnate, but he did not get involved in the business of men, he did not go to war, and he did not create a city.
In Islam, the entire problem comes from the fact that the Prophet got involved in the business of men, and this is what has led to the confusion between the political and the religious.
Certain Muslims feel personally offended by the caricatures of the Prophet, and do not understand that to mock religion is not the same thing as taking on the person. How do you explain that?
M.C. : This comes from the fact that there is no concept of the individual with Muslims. They perceive themselves as a unified community through a sole dogma, even if they do not love each other. In the West, the century of Enlightenment, and the emergence of the notion of the autonomous and responsible individual, has been a giant's leap. Muslims have not done that work. Each one functions as an atom of the whole: he cannot say "I think that I am right or I am wrong" nor “I think that my neighbour is right or is wrong", he says "We think so". This is why to insult the Prophet comes back to insulting the whole of Muslims. Islam will not progress as long as it does not give the individual his full place, that is to say the individual who offends the individual who is offended, the individual who blasphemes, the individual who wants to be an agnostic, or atheist. The day when it will recognise the fully fledged individual, creative, inventive, disobedient, Islam will have made a great progress in modernity. What prevents it is the religious who have decreed about the doctrinal, philosophical, moral, spiritual orientation of the whole of the Muslim planet: they are scared of the individual, because he represents an opposition force, which could bring about the dissolution of their obscure power.
G.B.: The absence of the concept of autonomous and free subject in the Muslim world has another consequence. Amongst certain teenagers this can influence the enlistment in radical Islam. What some Western teenagers subject their families to is unthinkable in a Muslim family. They can't go through their adolescent crisis in their own milieu, so they do it elsewhere, in society. Instead of fighting the ideals of their own society, they fight against the ideals of our own society. The problem, is in this struggle they are co-opted by people who tell them "you are right to fight, you mustn't be taken over by this established world", but unfortunately they fetch their ideals on the side of religion instead of going to find them on the side of the human.
One hears often Muslims say that to caricature the Prophet is like insulting their mother. On the psychoanalytical level, how do you interpret this?
M.C. : This refers equally to the notion of the individual. In the Arab world and in Islam, the greatest of taboos is the sexuality of the woman, and most particularly the sexuality of the mother. In the West, one has managed to free oneself a little bit by bit from this taboo with the creation of the individual. But the Muslim behaves like the child who has not reached the stage of "I”: he is always in a complete fusion with his mother and, thus, with his religion. It is very tribal.
G.B. : The ideals are the basis of our life. Freedom, beauty, justice, all these values stem from the relation to the mother, which has allowed us to integrate them when we were small. It is the same principle with religions. At a given moment, a society condenses a certain number of ideals around one man: Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammed, becomes the representative of everything that is the basis of existence. The problem is that if one confuses the ideals with this person, this becomes totalitarian. To avoid that, one must succeed to extricate the ideals from people who incarnate them. For example, during the French Revolution, one has forged the ideals -liberty, equality, fraternity- outside of all religion, in order to give coherence to our nation.
The work that you undertake at Charlie, is to say that one can poke fun at Mohammed because one separates the image from the person. But for people who have remained in the collage between the ideal and reality of origin, it is unbearable. You make them do a revolution for which they are not yet ready for. They are still of the idea that if you take on Mohammed it is the same thing as taking on my mother, in other words to the ideals which enable me to live.
What could be needed to make acceptable the idea of the critique of religion is not the critique of the individual, that is to say to make accept the idea of the blaspheme and more generally, the principle of secularism in the Muslim world?
M.C. : This is one of my principal fights. One should explain to Muslims that we are human beings and that we have the right to poke fun at ourselves. This implies separating religion from politics. Some have already attempted to do that. Like the theologian Ali Abderraziq in 1925 who wrote a book called L’Islam et les fondements du pouvoir in which he says that one must separate the space of the Prophet linked to God from the one linked to men. I particularly back him up, and also on the century of the Renaissance, the XVIII and the XIX, in Turkey, Syria, and in Egypt, to say that it is totally possible to include secularism today in the Muslim project. Unfortunately, we are still in the minority, to hold such discourses.
(Translated from the French by M. Prigent on the 8th of March 2015).
I am sending a doc written by a friend in Paris and translated by me.
Please pass it round if you can.
All best wishes, Michel
Translated from the French in London, April 2015.
I have just received this message from Luc.
All the usual suspects are there. Together, some collection. It stinks.
All best wishes to you and Stuart.
Subject: Robbo + Jappe + Trenkle + Flatschart
“NEVER WORK” CONFERENCE
School of Modern Languages, Cardiff University, Cardiff, Wales, 10. July 2015
Conference with Norbert Trenkle and Anselm Jappe
The Cardiff Roadshow at the University of Cardiff on the 10th of July 2015.
Under the banner: "Pickled cold dogmas", completely cut off from the needs of everyone on the planet..
The 1970's band called The Jappe, Trenkle, Halpin, Black Band will be on hand to bore everyone, and to make sure that "boredom is always counter-revolutionary", some of the jerks who belong to traditional Marxist-classist outfits will be mouthing crap about the Situationist International. These trad-Marxists in Cardiff will waffle about Never work ever, something they themselves hardly ever practised. It is laughable.
If anyone goes to these few days of that Boring Jamboree, they will do well to criticize those on the rostrum. For example they could ask them why they haven't said a bloody word about the poster called The Happy Unemployed Worker and the Work of the Negative.
Speak of dialectics. Some contradiction. But those who are part of the Cardiff Roadshow are old hands at that some of thing, namely not to mention critical texts, in the hope that the text will disappear. It won't. On the other hand we will do everything to make sure the goons who are taking part in the Cardiff road show are quickly forgotten...
Written by a Friend of Junius on the 2nd of June 2015.
Please pass this doc around if you can, it will create a dialogue, a stir!
Michel P (11th September 2014) …. On Scottish Nationalism
NEVER PUT THE FUKKING “F” WHERE THE DOOR IS!
I don't think Salmond had this in mind for his ad campaign.
You couldn't make this up could you!!!!!!
[Needless to say, Mich’ didn’t really approve of The Hidden History of King Mob referring to it “as that book”, though that was to be expected. And the following email refers to corrections that should have been made. DW]
Here is a list. Maybe you can put it up on your web. December 9th 2014
In an article on your web re the book A Hidden History of King Mob, you say that Paul Sieveking was a member of BM Piranha. He wasn’t. In 1972, some people tried to throw me out of the Ducasse group; they accused me of working on the translation of The Society of the Spectacle. They were even prepared to use the police if I did not leave the room.
I left. I rang Dave Sawyer, when he heard the bit about the police, he said: “Say no more, I am on my way”. I was living in Cornwall Crescent, Ladbroke Grove in those days.
We rang Colin Carsten. When he heard the news, he had an epileptic fit. So we told him that we would wait for him. A few days later he pulled up with an excellent bottle of red wine.
The Piranha Group was born. Those excluded included Ray Kennoy [an ex-Maoist who hated theory, just wanting action], Mike Bradley, John Fullerton, Paul Sieveking, Brian Lorentz.
We then sent out a communiqué to everyone. Those who tried to throw me out were doomed. They tried to re-contact us. We ignored them, and concentrated on the translation of The Veritable Split in the International.
In 1977 I bumped into Mike Bradley in Chalk Farm; he was against Kennoy and Co. They were useless. So we started talking. Then we did The Catalyst Times no 0.
But the relation with Bradley did not last, he was still a maniac.
I split from him………………..
A SHORT HISTORY OF LE PETOMANE WITH A FEW CRITICAL REMARKS ABOUT SOME CHARACTERS AND EVENTS TODAY IN 2014.
Le Petomane was an amazing character - his real name was Joseph Pujol, he made his name in Paris and all France, and abroad. He was born in Marseilles on June 1st 1857 and died in Paris in 1945. "Le Petomane was the stage name of the French flatulist (professional farter), he was famous for his remarkable control of his abdominal muscles which enabled him to seemingly fart at will.
His name combines the French vert peter (to fart) with the - mane- maniac suffix which translates to "fartomaniac”, the profession is also referred as "flatulist”, "farteur", or "fartiste".
His audience included the Prince of Wales [the future Edward VII], King Leopold II of the Belgians and even Sigmund Freud. He died in 1945 aged 88. The Sorbonne offered his family a large sum of money to study his body after his death, but they refused the offer.
Leonard Rossiter played the Petomane in a film.
Le Petomane would command large fees for his concerts in which he played all the tunes of the day and various national anthems like God Save the King, and The Marseillaise with his rear end.
And he made people laugh, something many politicians can't do, Miliband, Farage, Cameron, Salmond, Hollande, will never make people laugh, but they are laughable and boring. And this applies also to leftists who congregate in halls to discuss the class system in 2014. The characters of Historical Materialism come to mind. Some even pretend to be into the Situationist International, but they prefer to forget what the SI slogan said namely that:"boredom is always counter-revolutionary". Some even try to speak of the critique of value, but for them the class issue is always paramount, so they forget the essential. Hence the boredom at all the meetings.
And no one laughs there.
Even Le Petomane was better than them. It is incredible, laughable and sad.
It was great fun to be an anti-historian writing about an anti-musician like Le Petomane.
Written by M.P.W. Prigent on the 10th of November 2014.
THE MAN WITH TWO RIGHT FEET (i.e. Nigel Farage)
The character who hates Europe but who does not mind being an MEP, and taking the money and perks. Nov 8, 2014 at 7:33 AM
SOME CRITICAL PHRASES ABOUT FARAGE…….
For a long time Farage has said that he is an ex-conservative,
But yesterday on Tuesday 21st of October 2014
It transpired he had made a pact with Polish fascists
Farage has met up with a Polish MEP whose leader denies the Holocaust
And who makes racist remarks.
Robert Iwaszkiewicz, a member of Poland Congress of the New Right
Has been allowed to join a grouping in the European Parliament set up by Ukip.
They need the numbers.
This goon even said: "it was good to beat up women".
His pals are also very positive about Marine Le Pen
The party leader Janusz Korwin-Mikke has repeatedly used racist language
And has said Hitler was "probably not aware" of the Holocaust.
One thing is for sure Nigel Farage has some horrific political allies.
He has become the English Le Pen.
He is the English Pinochet.
There is a nasty smell.
It is called Ukip and Farage.
Enoch Powell would be proud of Nigel Farage.
He has taken on board the rivers of blood speech.
Even Nick Griffin of the BNP must be proud of the progress made by Ukip
No doubt many BNPers will be voting for the Ukippers.
Each time a period of crisis appears in History,
A saviour appears…….
In Germany it was Hitler,
In Italy it was Mussolini,
Now in England it is Farage.
He has found a scapegoat,
The migrant worker.
But who will do the low paid jobs?
Who will pick the fruit and veg in Kent?
Certainly not English people
It will be migrant workers.
Farage's message is simplistic,
Reality is more complex.
If all the foreigners in football teams
Were told to leave
There would be hardly anyone left!
Farage is a one-dimensional goon.
It is laughable, but also sad
Because it creates fear, misery, distrust, violence.
Neo-Post-Fascism has produced some strange hybrids
Ukipism is one of them.
And although Ukip is not ant-semitic
It has allied itself with a Polish Fascist Party
Whose leader says Hitler was not aware of the Holocaust
If there was one person who knew about the Holocaust
It was ADOLF HITLER!
Farage has not distanced himself from that position
So we have to assume
That he agrees with it.
It is shameful.
But when you are a neo-post-fascist punk
You can back all sort of crap.
That is why Farage mustn't win.
He must be a loser.
Those who vote or who are thinking of voting for Ukip only have themselves to blame.
It is not too late to change one's mind.
[See the report of Paul Mason on Channel 4 news on the 30/10/2014.]
On the surge of Ukip in East England. Mason travelled to Great Yarmouth, Boston,
Grimsby. People there blame the migrants for almost everything. But the migrants do the jobs they don't want to do, like picking veg and fruit.
One top Ukip dog in Grimsby spoke of the trawler fleet which had 600 deep sea ships. Now they only have 6. He seemed to blame the migrants. But forgot to speak of overfishing in the 1950s-60s.
Ukip are exploiting the misery in the region; it is horrific...
*Creeps in Germany have taken down the sign on the front of the concentration camp at Dachau which said ARBEIT MACHT FREI [Work Makes You Free], [3rd November 2014]. A few years ago the same was done at Auschwitz, the iron-gate sign was found smashed.
- BELOW (Michel wrote two - and it must be said – chaotically differently oriented paragraphs on Jean-Patrick Manchette, one perhaps praising, the other perhaps criticizing somewhat this French superstar novelist at the same time sideswiping Debord. Here we have the two versions. Manchette was fascinated by the literary spotlight and there were popular movie adaptations of his post 1968 recuperation of subversion channelling it into a rebirth of the nouvelle vague via the up and coming modish crime noire novel packed with violence and dark conspiracy a la John le Carre with the assistance of say, Dashiell Hammett. They were also anti-novel novels written in what has been called a “totally behaviourist style” shorn of traditional literary language harking back more to Robbe Grillet in the 1950s. Maybe it could be said like a style Debord’s partner, Michelle Bernstein imitated “for fun”, a serious piss-take built around the experiences of the early psychogeographers like Ivan Chetleglov The trouble is Manchette – unlike Bernstein at her best - from the early 1970s onwards basically believed in artistic specialisms, reinvigorating culture, unable to take that necessary step towards real creative subversion like the situationists did. Nevertheless Manchette was fascinated by May’68 always desiring – even desperate - for its return. In 1993 just before he died of cancer he founded Banana – hoping others would follow – whereby he’d slip banana peel under policemen’s feet. Basically, all this was tepid stuff in comparison to real on-going subversion. Nevertheless, by the early 1990s Manchette got to the point where he couldn’t write crime novels any more saying of the novel, “It is now no more than a minor cultural commodity perfectly integrated into the order of things”. He was right at the same time as he paradoxically concluded: “Literary pretension has always disgusted me”. But had it???
[Comment by DW]
A man called Manchette by Michel Prigent, 30th of October 2014.
It was one of those days, you did not know of it was going to rain or shine. Climate change made sure you did not know anymore. Just like in San Francisco at present where giant fires are almost on the outskirts of the city.
So Manchette (Jean-Patrick), - that was his real name - looked in the mirror as he got up before he took his black coffee. He had a hard look in the mirror and said: “I do not exist”. Guy Debord had waged a campaign against Manchette. He said Manchette did not exist. He was of the opinion that Manchette was Francois Georges, a writer who was hiding behind that pseudonym, or even “Ratgeb” i.e. Raoul Vaneigem. That is how Debord called Vaneigem. The original Ratgeb was a German sculptor of the XVI century -hence of the modern period which starts in 1492 *. As you can see life was no joke in Paris in those days. The CTH was around, it would continue to mow people down, but not only in France, abroad also, notably the USA. When people do not know what is going on, they will always subscribe to the CTH (The Conspiracy Theory of History)...
The funny thing about Manchette, is that Patrick Mosconi, another serie noire writer had met Manchette. Mosconi's position was complicated since he was involved in the editing of Guy Debord's books. Mosconi was in an imbroglio. Guy Debord did not like the idea of Manchette existing. The strange thing is that Manchette was a real Debordian. Probably more Debordist than Debord. That probably annoyed Debord. He could not stomach followers. So Debord cancelled Manchette's existence altogether from the pyschogeographical landscape.
And Manchette made sure he was still in print, with more thrillers, articles in newspapers, comic books and interviews.
It seems that Griffu never stopped scribbling! He hardly slept, using alcohol to wake up and go to sleep. He had something in common with Debord! But the two will never meet. It would have been interesting if they had. But it was not to be. Life is a strange business. You meet people who will do you in, but you refuse to meet those who could help. A paradox. But then life is full of paradoxes, contradictions, at all levels. Dialectics never come to an end, but your end will come one day! It often depends how you conducted your life. Of course there is no guarantee that it will follow that pattern, but every action / non-action has an effect. You are better off if you know that. Many people prefer to carry on as usual in the hope that everything will be alright. That attitude can be deceitful, just like drinking a bottle of whisky a day can be or shooting up heroin, or believing in God in a fundamentalist manner. Work can also provoke illnesses. One so-called top investor came out with the following: "If you want a friend, get a dog". Amazing cynicism. 2014 is no joke. Crises at all levels, at the micro level, at the macro level. You need critical theory to understand it, without it you will be lost. Driftin' is good, but not for too long! You have to anchor yourself sometimes, because the seas are rough and the conditions of survival are tough. 2014 is no picnic. Those who claim it is an easy period of history are in for a shock. You only have to read what is happening in Syria, Iraq or the youth unemployment in Spain in 2013 (62%), or the surge of neo-post fascist goons of Ukip to realize that we do not live in a holiday camp (1). Those who still talk about plenty might want to be a bit more critical and speak of scarcity. But to do so will require having a new look at the conditions on earth. The critique of value is a good starting point. Rereading Marx's Capital and Grundrisse** is a must in 2014. Many on the left are still stuck in the classist trenches and are mowed down daily. It reminds you of the 1914-18 ghastly war. Value keeps on valorising itself. Capital is an automaton.
As for Manchette he is no longer with us, and the same with Guy Debord..
But life goes on.....
* Many thanks to a friend in France for the info about Ratgeb.
**A Marx Study Group is needed.
(1) See the excellent poem against Farage and his nasty crew called: The Man With Two Right Feet.
Written by M.P.W. Prigent on the 30th of October 2014.
Below: Apr 12, 2014 at 10:40 AM
FERTUR EQUIS AURIGA NEC AUDIT CURRUS HABENAS
[The horses have swept away the coachman and the carriage no longer obeys the reins].
Virgil, Georgics, 1, V, 514.
[Dead labour which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it suckss.
It was one of those days. You did not know if it was going to rain or shine. Climate change made sure you did not know anymore. The recent pollution all over the UK was a forerunner of things to come, just like in San Francisco recently with its giant fires. So Manchette - Jean-Patrick- (for that was his real name) looked into the mirror as he got up before he took his black coffee. He had a hard look in the mirror and then he said:"I do not exist". Guy Debord had waged a campaign against the crime writer Manchette. He said he did not exist. He was of the opinion that Manchette was Jean-Francois George, another writer who was hiding behind that pseudonym, or even Raoul Vaneigem, whom Debord always referred as Ratgeb. The funny thing is characters like Patrick Mosconi -another serie-noire writer- had met Manchette. Mosconi was involved in the editing of Debord's works. His meeting with Manchette did not count for Debord. Mosconi was in a difficult position with Debord since he did not like the idea of Manchette existing. If Mosconi insisted that Manchette existed, he would be given his marching orders by Debord. Debord was paranoid, he saw followers everywhere; when in fact Manchette was not a follower or a mitlaufer. He was an original, and very prolific. In fact he had reinvented crime thriller writing, many of his books were turned into films. As a friend in France has pointed out - he did not like the pro-situ Debord / Lebovici line taken in the first version of this present text, in fact he was the only person who criticized the first version -. Manchette is a complex guy. He had been against the Algerian war when he was a teenager. He was also a prolific translator from English / American. He included a critique of the literature of art in his books. He was also into social critique and he did not like the capitalist system. And as my friend in France also pointed out he was always questioning his work - the permanent self-reflection of the author about his work. Debord made a mistake by not meeting Manchette, preferring yes men like George Martos and others. My first draft of this text was not clear enough as it did not point out the deep critique within Manchette's work. I am grateful to my friend in France for pointing out the richness and complexity of his work. Since then my friend has sent me the following critical notes:" No doubt Manchette would have liked it [the text called On Nicolaus' "Introduction" to the Grundrisse, by Moishe Postone and Helmut Reinicke , published in Telos in 1974/1975, available on the Telos website].
There are in fact some texts where he comes near to the capital-subject. His limit flows from his personal drama with the situs, Debord and Lebovici. This limit confirms a new limit, less personal, less psychological, more historical. Thus it is clear that Manchette will not manage to go deeper in what he senses (capital as subject), but on the contrary, he will refer to the theory developed by Debord in the Preface to the fourth Italian translation of "The Society of the Spectacle" and then in the Commentaries, as the theory of the moment.
A shipwreck-trajectory which will end up in a premature death. It is not a matter here of an individual shipwreck; this shipwreck has been the one of an entire generation. I am thinking of us. The others are dead (Semprun), have become cretins (Gayraud), or have disappeared (Martos). What a rough epoch. (April 10th, 2014).
If a writer has no one to criticize his work, he ends up badly. If Debord had met Manchette maybe he wouldn't have fallen into the CTH [Conspiracy Theory of History] quagmire that one can read in his later works .In the end Debord had an authoritarian streak. His actions against Manchette were ghastly. Manchette had worked with Champ Libre in Paris in the early seventies, and even started a collection called Chute Libre [Free Fall]. But in the seventies sales of the Chute Libre titles were decreasing. So Gerard Lebovici called it a day for that collection. When Debord got involved with Champ Libre things got tough. One day in 1974 Manchette received a letter from Lebovici in which he told him that he had "sided with the party of lies and falsification". Manchette was working for another publisher called Le Sagittaire, which comprised of ex-Champ Libre employees. You can't run with the hares and the hounds and Manchette got mauled. It is a sad story. In organizations, the individual is often the victim. Manchette was not a follower and Debord got it wrong. So Debord cancelled Manchette's existence altogether from his pyschogeographical nightmare, when in fact he would have learnt a lot from him. As for Manchette he made sure he was still in print, with more books, articles in newspapers, comic books and interviews. It seems that Griffu never stopped writing. He was very creative. He hardly slept, using alcohol to wake up and to get off to sleep. He had something in common with Debord. But the two never met. It would have been interesting but it was not to be. Life is a strange business. You meet people who will do you in, but you refuse to meet those who could help. A paradox. But then life is full of paradoxes, contradictions at all levels. Dialectics never come to an end.
It often will depend on how you conducted your life. Of course there is no guarantee that it will follow that pattern, but every action, non-action, has an effect. You are better off if you know that. Many people prefer to carry on as usual in the hope that everything will be alright. That attitude can be deceitful, just as drinking a bottle of whisky a day can be, or shooting up heroin, or believing in God in a fundamental manner. Work can also provoke illnesses. One top investor recently came out with the following: "If you want a friend, get a dog". Amazing cynicism; 2014 is no joke. Crises at all levels - at the micro and macro level-. You need critical theory to understand modern capital, without it you hang on to illusions, like clinging on to beliefs such as: "The forward organs of the proletariat must penetrate the backward organs of the bourgeoisie", that was written by a Trotskyite in the 1950s or 60s .And although the class system is still there, it has managed to incorporate all classes into the capital machine. That is the dilemma, but many on the Left still cling on to old beliefs. They would do well to read Robert Kurz and Moishe Postone on the new conditions that capitalism has brought about. (1) The subject today in 2014 is capital, not the working class. Try and tell that to orthodox Marxists! In the meantime the far-right parties in the world are on the rise.
So you have to anchor sometimes, because the seas are rough and the conditions of survival are also tough. 2014 is no picnic. Those who claim it is an easy period of history are in for a shock. You have only to read what is going on in Syria or the youth unemployment in Spain (2) and Greece to realize that we do not live in a holiday camp. Those who still talk of plenty might want to be a bit critical and speak of scarcity within plenty (Mich’ here means the web name Revolt Against Plenty -DW). But to do so will require an update in critical theory. It just shows how complex society is in 2014.
Yesterday in Le Monde (6th/7th April 2014) it was reported that food banks in the UK were on the increase. It was also reported in the same paper that the Duke of Wasteminster was worth £9 billion**. He owns the centre of London and many more parts of Britain.
He was asked once how long his family had been around, he said: “for quite a while”, in fact his ancestor was Le Grand Veneur* [hence Grosvenor] who had come to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor once admitted that he wasn't interested in politics, he does not have to as he is into business, property, etc. He backs value to the hilt. Britain hence is a real case for study, it still contains the old class system, but that one is eroded and replaced by a new system which makes sure everyone is involved in it. That is the situation that needs to be deciphered.
Jean-Patrick Manchette no doubt would have agreed with that project..
As for Jean-Patrick Manchette he passed away on the 3rd of June 1995. He was 53 years old.
*The Great Huntsman.
**To put this into perspective Vlad Putin, the goon in charge of Russia is said to be worth $70 billion. Putin has in power for a few years, amassing a fortune on the backs of the Russian people. In fact it was noted that the secret police has taken over in Russia, civilian politicians have been relegated to minor posts.
An article worth reading is: Pour ne pas oublier Jean-Patrick Manchette /www.lexpress.fr. [So as not to forget Jean-Patrick Manchette.]
(1) (...) "The proletariat (as 'class' in general) is a historically specific category of alienation and should not be grasped as the Subject, but as the not-yet-Subject-- ". On Nicolaus' "Introduction" to the Grundrisse. Moishe Postone and Helmut Reinicke, Telos, 1974-75.
(2) There are 6 million unemployed in Spain. Entire blocks of new housing are empty, new airports are also empty.
Scouts from Germany are recruiting Gastarbeiters. The difference with the Gastarbeiters of the sixties is that the workers have degrees.
Written by Michel Prigent and Jack Burden
"The first Ukipper was Christopher Columbus, because he did not know where he was going, and tax-payers had to pay for it".
Phrase heard in Newcastle.
"Un petomane est mort, paix a son âme". Frederic Dard.
It was dreadful, the weather was bad, and the smell of the hospital was awful. You could hear the screams in the wards. Things weren’t good. Things are rarely good in such places…..The smell was a combination of chloroform, and smells from the dead which were wheeled around. There was also the smell from the kitchen, a sort of combination of oil for chips, fried fish and beef being cooked on grills. A weird concoction, but if you go to hospitals regularly you know what I mean.
Not far from there, the ex-Italian Situationist was asleep on his bed. He was not well; he had smoked too much in his life.
He had summoned an historian with whom he was going to rewrite history. The historian was a journalist from some Italian mag which specialized in scandals of the rich. Gianmarco Danguinetti [aka Gianfranco Sanguinetti] wanted to set the record straight. Guy Debut [aka Guy Debord] had done him a lot of damage over the years. Around the time of the Moro kidnapping, Debut had urged Danguinetti to reveal who was behind that awful deed. Gianmarco Danguinetti hesitated and thought it was Italian Leftists who were behind that kidnapping, later he would take up Debut's theory that it was the Italian State which was behind that murder.....
Debut  was not pleased as you can imagine. He told this story to his British and Dutch translators; they thus did post faces to Danguinetti's On Terrorism and the State. Danguinetti is still furious about this outcome. Debut was right to play the card of truth. He did not want his Preface to the 4th Italian translation to The Society of the Spectacle to be published next to Danguinetti's On Terrorism and the State. Danguinetti scribbled many letters on this subject, notably to another situationist, the one and only Mostafa Kayaki [Mustapha Khayati]. In these letters Dangui attacked the British and Dutch translators saying they had been directed by Debut to write critical post faces against Dangui. Dangui had already fallen into the CTH (Conspiracy Theory of History). But eventually others would follow him, notably Debut; (C/F his Commentaries for more details). When you lack critical theory, this is where you end up, in the quagmire. It’s a real hellhole. From which there is no way out. Another donkey who has fallen in that stinking hole is Lee Brucken [Len Bracken], a Washington scribbler who says that the USA State knew of the 9/11 attack because the kamikaze pilots had been trained in the USA. Amazing crap. Brucken is a weird character…..
But let's come back to Dangui. Maybe he should tell us if he went to bed with Debut's wife, Anita Makerpot [Alice Becker-Ho].There is no guarantee that Dangui, who still thinks himself as a great seducer ever bedded Debut's wife. Instead she preferred leaving her drunkard husband and would disappear with the gypsies along a canal in a small town of the South of France, where Van Gogh had lived. Debut couldn’t do anything about it. He sweated it out, drinking more whisky. He was downing one bottle of whisky per day. Dramatic stuff. One of the worst characters who hung around Debut was his self-appointed secretary, a certain Jean-Telephone Marto [Jean François Martos]. He was Debut's eyes and ears in Paris. Marto would inform his master of what was going on. But the valet got into trouble when his master was no longer with us. He published a book of correspondence which included many letters by Debut. Debut's wife took legal action. And Marto's book was banned.
He no longer lives in France; he has gone to Spain, the country of his father. He can't walk the streets of Paris; some people might spit at him. Marto is a spent force. He has no friends, even his dog hates him!
And so to end this Part I of the story: we will finish with the news that Gianmarco Danguinetti has sold his Archives, 48 boxes of correspondence, magazines, reviews, etc., to Yale University. It is unlikely that an historian will write a History of Danguinetti in his favour. Historians on the whole are fair. Unlike the people they write about. One has only to remember how Danguinetti took up Debut's thesis on the kidnapping of Aldo Moro without saying where he got the idea from. No wonder someone in France did a text called Rien qu'un Morpion sur l'echiquier (Nothing but a crab on the chessboard). From the point of view of the Italian State, Dangui did well to hesitate about the kidnapping of Moro. He wasted valuable hours.
This Dangui can meditate upon Marx recalling in some letter that a character on his deathbed said that he had been wrong and Karl Marx was right. At least this person brought some truth in his life. Dangui can still do it. It is not too late.
He has a lot of money from the sale of his Archives, but he has no truth. What is the use of that? Nothing. It is useless.
We can't help him. But maybe if he reads this short story it will spur him to do something in that direction……
(1) Debut aka Guy Debord is the only situationist that sells today. Others like the Belgian Raoul Vaneigem add chapters to his Traite de Savoir-Vivre [Treatise on Everyday Life] every year. He has been writing the same book for the last 47 years. It must be a Belgian joke.
One of the most important members of the Situationist International was Asger Jorn. [1914-1973]. He had been a student of Kandinsky, Fernand Leger and Le Corbusier in Paris before the Second World War. During WW2 he was an active communist resistant. After the war, he travelled to Paris, and met Christian Dotremont with whom he created COBRA. [COBRA was a European avant-garde movement active from 1948 to 1951. The name was coined in 1948 by Christian Dotremont from the initials of the members' home cities: Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam -DW]. Then in 1954 he met Guy Debord. Asger Jorn was one of the founders of the Situationist International in July 1957.
He developed his Triolectics and even put forward the idea of three sided football. He was also the first Dane to translate Franz Kafka. [Source: Wikipedia].
The Situationists were not able to branch out into the critique of value; they were too entrenched in classist frames of mind.
But they are not alone in that trench. The entire left in the world is in there. Stuck. It is excellent for the system. Even a character like Thomas Piketty is some kind of ortho-Marxist, he simply blames the super-rich for all the ills of capitalism, as if it was so simple. Other people have moved out of that swamp; see the writings of Robert Kurz and Moishe Postone.
Written somewhere in the world
by: The Friend of Historical Truth
On the 15th of May 2014.
There is no copyright to this text; it can be distributed freely, translated.
May 8, 2014 at 9:47 AM
More entries for The Critical Encyclopedia Of Commodified Needs.
B. Like in Len Bracken (And Mich’ had just fallen out with Len Bracken)
Bracken still holds on to the CTH concerning 9/11. The pilots were trained in the USA, so the US State knew about it.
F. Like in Fidel Castro.
"I am a Marxist-Leninist and I will be one until the last day of my life". F. Castro.
"The universities are available to those who share my revolutionary beliefs". F. Castro.
[Castro still does not know the difference between belief and theory, like his mentor Lenin he found Hegel too difficult to read, but Hegel goes into all this in detail!].
"I never saw a contradiction between the ideas that sustain me and the ideas of that extraordinary figure, Jesus Christ".
[Like JC, FC is a believer, but JC was never in power. In fact he was against those in power and paid the price for it. FC is in charge of the Cuban nightmare, complete with forced labour camps. How long will the Cuban Stalinist State last? The Cuban people deserve to be free from the Castroite straightjacket.]
N. Like in novelists
Many novelists, scribblers of today remind us of Holly Martins, the writer of cowboy books in The Third Man.
One of the worst goons on the market is a certain Stewart Home; the spokesman of neo-turdism. The nasty little skinhead a few years ago flirted with the extreme-right, and then he branched out, waffling about the Situationist International.
Hence Heimat [German for Home] has put a lot of confusion on the market. Those who support him are in many ways worse than him. We despise the entire Oikos [Greek for Home] crap-machine. Home has become an entertainer; he has to do readings to keep up the sales of his neo-turd books. He is not alone. Many novelists are in the same position. Pop novelism is no joke! Some character, a certain Mr Watson even said a few years ago that Stew 'Immobile' Home had saved punk! No, Home is a recuperator of that 'movement'.
[cf. for more details on this Home mess see The View from the Bates Hotel, on the website: Revolt Against Plenty.
C. Like Che [Guevara].
According to Le Monde [22 Dec, 2011], Che Guevara used to sign letters, documents with Stalin II. He admired the Kremlin ogre. Incredible. So many still have the smiling face-poster on their walls! Cuba has observed three days of mourning for Kim Jon-Ill. Laughable. In fact the Castro Brothers, Fidel and Raoul still admire Stalin and all the Stalinists despots like Mao, Kim Jon-Ill. As for Chomsky, he intervened to his friend Chavez -the other South American despot- for a friend who is in one Chavez's prisons. Chomsky cannot see the contradiction of Chavez who supported Hezbollah and Ahmadinejad. Chavez was a left-wing anti-Semite. Ahmadinejad is also an anti-Semite; from the right. Chomsky's desk is full of contradictions just like his head. And since he is a role model for the left world-wide many people follow his every step, er, word.
He cannot see that if Hamas and Hezbollah had their way, Israel would be wiped off the map of the world. The Hezbollah, Hamas sword of Damocles over Israel reinforces the right-wing in Israel. We look forward when people in Lebanon, Iran, Palestine, etc., will destroy Hezbollah and Hamas. But that day won't start as long as long as softies like Chomsky back up all the horror that stalks the countries mentioned here.
B. Like in Jean Badiou.
Jean Badiou, (and still Maoist in 2014) is the Gerard Depardieu of the critique of nothing. All stinking words, with no content.
But in London, in the mag called “Radical Philosophy”, they can't get enough of Badiou.
M. Like in Greil Marcus.
Marcus's latest project is to write about Van 'The Man' Morrison who flirted with Scientology. An easier subject than Guy Debord.
H. Like in Horsegate.
Rebekah Brooks [Wade], did have a stable relationship with the Met Police. It even gave her a retired horse. That horse was also ridden by David Cameron, the present PM.
All best wishes,
TO FOWWS (Friends of Wormwood Scrubs). So stick that up yr jacksy and smoke it!!!!!!
Apr 10, 2014 at 11:06 AM
According to Sean, the goons at Verso are in favour of HS2.
A Postscript: THE FOLLOWING SHOULD HAVE BEEN PUT UP IN MARCH 2020
…thanks for what you did on Michel…
…i had hoped to do something longer…
…but with a year gone now…figure need to do something…even if it is short…
…i have this draft out to Sean and Sila for comment as well…for now…Len...
Farewell to Michel Prigent (October 1943 - February 2019), The Afternoon Man
by Len Bracken
It’s very important to be cool, Michel Prigent once told me in a calm voice - he drew out the last syllable a bit, softly, as if to add that one must have charm and style but certainly not try too hard.
Slanted rays of morning sunlight poured into his apartment through several rows of windows, illuminating the piles of books and papers that were so important to him. He certainly wasn’t trying too hard to be well-organized. If there was any room left for his thoughts, it seemed, it was above the windows, in the softly lit space under the high ceiling.
Never one to reject advice out of hand, I put the comment about being cool under my hat while trying to reconcile it with the striving for authenticity at the heart of the existential Marxism we - Michel and I as well as Sean Delaney - had been discussing during my stay in London.
“I’ve written a book,” he told us from the chair by his desk. “Did you know that? It’s called The Afternoon Man.”
“No, I had no idea.”
This was something I had always wondered about - that is whether Michel, the translator and publisher of others with his Chronos Publications, had ever written a book-length work himself. I scanned his bookshelf. He instructed me to give him a hardback book that only he would recognize given its spine-in position.
The dust jacket illustration of a man walking into the afternoon sun piqued my interest as it had the appearance of being a novel. Michel reached for the book as I took a step toward him across the room, and he immediately thumbed the pages to show me they were blank.
“The afternoon man only gets up from bed at noon, so he doesn’t have time to write books,” he said, laughing at the anti-art absurdity of his blank book.
I masked my disappointment at there not being any text on the pages while he told me the book was from a work training program he did with a print shop. Michel had been friends with many intellectual and literary figures, notably the theorist Guy Debord but also the author and novelist Elias Canetti, who had been the one to tell Michel about the importance of being cool.
It would’ve been too much to expect a novel, that I knew, but why hadn’t he written a memoir? At the behest of Sean, who at the time was still publishing Principia Dialectica, Michel pulled out some of his publications - the hand typed A4 sheets that he copied and side-stapled with The Catalyst Times on the cover or, in the same format, his long essay on The Misery of Football.
The subject of sports had Michel up on feet to demonstrate for Sean and me his mighty karate chop, completed with the requisite short shout designed to startle and intimidate an opponent. I asked him about mastering fear of death in the practice of karate, or something like that.
“When you’re dead,” he said with an emphatic stomp on the hardwood floor, “you’re gone.”
Michel may be gone but he is not forgotten - he is remembered by those who knew him in large part for his brave and absolute pronouncements, notably those regarding a post-capitalist society where wage-slavery would be abolished on a worldwide basis and work would benefit the entire society.
“Capital is an automaton,” he wrote before noting the deaths of novelist Jean-Patrick Manchette and Guy Debord, adding: “But life goes on…”