Parasitic Management and the Sick Student Body – All Power to the Sussex Occupiers

Parasitic Management and the Sick Student Body – All Power to the Sussex Occupiers.

Parasitic Management and the Sick Student Body – The Marxist of Granby

That Higher Education is under attack by a neoliberal regime that seeks to rationalize everything under the sun in accordance with the logic of the market, is abundantly clear – hell, even the sedimentary crud under couch cushions in the SU will have its turn. The extensive and intensive fracking of our lives by a corrosive capitalism that has continual expansion as a structural necessity can leave no stone intact. It must be broken down then reconstituted to allow the frictionless extraction of profit. Anything superfluous, like, say, a philosophy department, unless it can be marshaled as market differentiation, is burnt off in the process. Scorched earth is the standard policy of those whose tactics are calculated by cost/benefit analysis. If the riots taught us anything, it is that fighting fire with fire remains a viable option.

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The vanguard of this attack was and remains the infestation of the university by a parasite that goes by the name of Senior Management. The parasite gives nothing to the host. It eats, digests, counts, divides, surveys, quantifies, reports; then shits out spreadsheets, Research Excellence Frameworks, Student Experience Surveys, marketing and mission statements. Everything must be broken into atomistic form so that management might function with free hands, always with an eye to the market. The Mothership, in return, shuttles policy through parliament to accelerate the process. Unlike most parasites, whose numbers dwindle as their colony reaches a critical size and they begin to choke to death on their own shit, Senior Management’s effluent is neatly piped throughout the university. What is choked is the possibility of thinking, thought, learning and research. The only thing everyone must learn is how to thrive off the fetid new food source, or, face expulsion into the job market. And so, bit by bit, we learn to live in the muck. Our own thinking and learning becomes to resemble a tick boxed multi-choiced questionnaire, or the chronologised credentials of a C.V. Arse-to-mouth.

 Take a recent example. The Tory government ran on an election pledge to reduce immigration figures to the tens of thousands, pandering to austerity exacerbated racists. Gleefully slurping this up the UKBA, invigorated with extra powers, began to make coming to the UK to study an even more tortuous and absurd process than it had already been made under New Labour. It was stipulated that teaching staff must act as border agents by forwarding attendance registers to the UKBA (presumably so tardy students could be murdered by G4S security on a deportation flight.) Finally, the new technology of discipline was used, in the style of a public execution, to revoke London Metropolitan University’s ability to grant visas to its international students. Thousands of international students were forced into a choice between finding a new university to study at or to leave the country. London Met, who has more students of colour than the elite Russel Group combined, and a higher proportion of students from working class backgrounds than any other university, was faced with a £20 million loss from its already completely fucked finances. Management at universities around the country were quick to deploy the most repugnant and intrusive methods of surveiling international students they could think of in a ham-fisted attempt to placate the fear that had splattered all over their Armani briefs. Swipe-cards for lectures, calendar searches of international staff, regular herding and passport presentation, unenrollment for misdemeanors, etc, etc. The list goes on.

 The UKBA was forced to climb down from this position slightly once it saw what its maniacal underlings in the university had done, and released a statement asserting that: ‘universities do not need separate, tougher attendance systems for international students, and that they do not necessarily need to consider introducing physical checks such as fingerprinting.’ And so the new measures of surveillance were expanded to include all students and border surveillance began to double as market research. Also disciplined by the experience of the London Met students and a £30000 debt looming over their heads, students everywhere began to demand that their paperwork was in order and their attendance correctly registered. Their degree needed to make them shine on the supermarket shelf (which they will in all likelihood end up stacking) of the job market, not leave them tainted by the shame of a dysfunctional warren of misguided working class aspiration. And so the final suture is completed: self/surveillance, consumer/entrepreneur, student/labour. Arse-to-mouth-arse-to-mouth-arse-to-mouth. Marx’s famous claim that a school is formally no different to a sausage factory holds true. Now the same can also be said of content. The insides of a sausage or a university are both well described by the phrase: ‘it’s all lips and assholes, mate.’

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The management parasite likes smooth functioning. An unobstructed flow through its pipes. The student body must reject this flow and wrack this smooth functioning with violent convulsions. Vomiting must be induced if we are to rid ourselves of this rabid infestation and refuse to pass on it its rancid excretions to the next in line. The issue is constitutional in a dual sense, the first sickly the second sickening. The student body is sickly and poorly prepared for the collective response that the current conjuncture necessitates. We need to pull together and build collective power. Differently put, learning to learn collectively to learn to learn to be collective. Secondly, the constitutional foundation of the university places sovereignty in the hands of a neoliberal managerial executive, itself gurgling fluid from a legislature that sprays stools at the demand of a ruling elite. From high above, and behind some hallowed and medieval cloud, that decrepit old bitch Elizabeth straddles all, perched on an imaginary covering a void, sucking up energy from those below and raining down piss from her puss riddled cunt.

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Bleurgh. Yes, we need to vomit. Management must be regurgitated onto the pavement outside the front gates of the university (hopefully we can tear down those gates, physical and social, once management has slithered far enough back to its stink tanks, boards of infestors, and Home Orifices). But we may not want to run the university ourselves. We must be vigilant to the threat of turning into that which we are fighting against. Once voided from our stomachs – always a site of revolutionary power – we need to think and talk about how we want the university to be. Let’s be honest, it wasn’t great before: sexism, racism and classism has never ceased to be structural. That conversation, however, is premature and convulsive purging necessarily prior. It is not possible to hold that conversation in our universities as they are presently. But we will need to talk about constitution. We need new configurations of knowledge transmission and a new covenant of learning. We need to ask the question of organizational sustenance, so that we can no longer be made subject to the dictates of the digestive tracts of a bourgeois elite. After all, there are far more wholesome ways of being collective than a human centipede.

The University is Dead: Long Live the University!

The first shall be last. This, I guess, is part of a series of pieces written about the University. I haven’t got around to posting it here before but, if we are to obey the directives of the fiendish overlord Chronos, this should go before this and this. Heady times it twas too.

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The student is a derelict wearing a top hat.  The 9-5 in paid employment involves a closure of possibilities.  The crushing weight of a future of mind-numbing and back-breaking repetition.  Head down, bum up.  The Student, on the other hand, is free to contemplate the broad expanse of possible futures, worlds other than the existing one, life that has not been pre-compressed by capital’s codec. We tip our hats to passers by but fail to notice that our topcoat is in tatters, our cummerbund covered in filth. The words of students and members of the Situationist International, written in 1966, gender bias aside, still ring true:

 At least in consciousness, the student can exist apart from the official truths of “economic life.” But for very simple reasons: looked at economically, student life is a hard one. In our society of abundance, he is still a pauper. 80% of students come from income groups well above the working class, yet 90% have less money than the meanest laborer. Student poverty is an anachronism, a throw-back from an earlier age of capitalism; it does not share in the new poverties of the spectacular societies; it has yet to attain the new poverty of the new proletariat.

 Wedded to this economic poverty, and exacerbated by the fracturing of consciousness across the lines of the possible and the actual, is the poverty of status, the misery of hierarchical subordination. Everywhere the student is policed by the overlookers, bailiffs, border agents, and shop persons of knowledge. The student dutifully and dotingly learns to mimic the mannerisms and opinions of the master: cultural capital to compliment the knowledge commodity, sold! to the highest bidder. 10 years of this and the ape can finally speak. Albeit, in a very basic and rudimentary fashion.

Not only is this set-up humiliating and degrading to students, it turns professors into bad people too. Like the Stanford Prison Experiment of ’71 the guarders of knowledge conform to three basic types: the tough but fair type, a close observer, adherent and proponent of institutional rules and manners; the ‘good guys’ who do little favours for the inmates, a flash of recognition here, a due date extended there; And finally, about a third who are ‘hostile, arbitrary and inventive in their forms of student humiliation.’ All have an interest in the preservation of the existing hierarchy: congealed in paycheck comfort and plugged into that other economy, power and prestige (prison sex remains a reliable privilege of tenure.) The obverse of this twin currency, often replete with Cuban cigar and faux Castro cap, is the paralysing fear of loss and the hamster wheel of perpetual publication.

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Yet surely it is all worth it in the end. No price is too high to pay for the rites and rituals that teach how to act radically and how to change the world. Sadly, the worst mistake a student can make when learning to impersonate the master, is to miss the point that the serious tone and radical gestures are not, after all, to be taken seriously.  Take the recent attack on higher education. The tripling of fees in a scarcely veiled move to make universities the exclusive preserve of the privileged few, immediately following the demand that academic staff act as border agents and anti-terror snoops, was only enough to elicit the two day performance of picket-line parodies scattered around the UK.  The Russian art group Voina drew a giant penis on a drawbridge that erected to face the old offices of the KGB. In the UK we have something of a reversal: Alfie Meadows, the son of an Academic, was severely beaten by police, suffering near-fatal brain injury, as he attempted to leave a protest. Much interest and anger was summoned from a number of public intellectuals.  In a “fuck you” that dwarfs that of Voina’s, and with the added footnote “go and write a book about it then”, the police have recently decided to charge Alfie with violent disorder.  The Russian authorities arrested a number of the members of Voina. We have yet to see Britain’s academic left do anything to the metropolitan police.

The relation between theory and practice is schizophrenic at best. Deleuze has been of more use to the Israeli military than the student movement. Where the university itself is concerned, the real fight is between the students and the representative lackeys of the neo-liberal elite – upper management. It is a disgrace that we continue to let these people run our universities. However, academic staff remain an intermediary class. True, with the closure of departments we see their number being hurled back down into the proletariat. Yet, it is the academics’ interest in the persistence of the status quo – the prison guards at Stanford were sad the experiment had been brought to a close prematurely – that inclines us to take a Luxembourgian position: when the fighting is done and dusted, the petit bourgeoisie will always be found to have been on the side of the ruling elites.

 The university is toothless, demented, two-faced, emaciated, certainly it has lost control of its bowels: once emptied of content it is forced to dance to the music of the market, belly laughs from Capital as it decides whether or not to throw penny’s at the lurching corpse. The advance of terminal, structural and mental illness means that the university is incapable of defending itself from further degradation. It is past the point where consent forms might be signed in sound mind, and a trip taken to dignitas. The student, being the only properly revolutionary subject of the university, must carry the burden of the loving child and tenderly hold a pillow over the ailing and exhausted university’s face.  So that it might at least die with some dignity; so that energies may be released for the creation of a new covenant of knowledge and a new community of learning.

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Communique from a fatuous present: #Goldstories

Sooo, I ended up attending the Warden’s, (Post-Man Pat “the Martyr” Loughry), open staff meeting at Goldsmiths. Sorry, @Golds. Ahem… my mistake  #Showcase #TellingOurStories @Gold @Positive dotkillmedotcommerce. What a rollicking affair it was too. Pat-a-cake Loughry kicked off the entertainments by jumping through a flaming hoop to tell us about the MOST IMPORTANT THING that had happened at goldsmiths in the past month. Dun dun dah… 2000 people came to the recent open day. Fucktastic. More than previously, we were told, this veritable stampede was made up of whole families. There are important calculations to be made now that fees have gone up to close to 9000 pa. A fee rise that Pat-me-bum fought against vigorously by either sticking his head up his own arse hole, or attempting to enforce punitive measures against students who were actually fighting the fee increase. In any case, the punch line was that some of the families had brought actual calculators. Aahaa! How we chortled.

In no way do I mean to detract from the very real excitement Pat-on-the-back felt in his bosom that fine day. I don’t really need to, as this was done perfectly well enough by one of the managerial minions whom Pat passed over to so that we could be told that enrollment levels had skyrocketed in comparison to this time last year. Unfortunately, this info was a week old, and sadly for the integrity of the wall of our collective bubble, no longer true. Pat-pat-there-there took the news the hardest, but his cape again began to flap majestically when we were told that the recruitment of students predicted to get AABs was up 40%. Lest we forget, there is no cap on the amount of student loan bearing AAB students the university can stuff into any of its available crevices, meaning that they are a veritable gift-horse politely covering its hairy mouth to those that calculate the uni in purely quantitative measures. Cha-ching! The AAA plus plus pluses are of course greedily gobbled down by the Russell Group so that they might receive adequate instruction in the arts and sciences of fucking their own cousins and running the country in the service of the rich. Such cynical and snooty recruitment is well beneath the high horse of our value-structure, we were told. Pat, pat, pat.

The room seemed to darken slightly when, with furrowed brow, Pat(hetic) informed us that those competitors who were ‘sleepwalking’ this time last year were now wide awake and aggressively fouling in, and fishing from, the collective pool. In addition, we had ourselves done some somnambulistic bed-shitting last year with regard to post-graduate enrollments. Curse us! Hey, man, come here, it’s ok. We were too modest; we need to be ‘active’ and ‘positive’. ‘We need to tell our story and tell it with’ some fucking ‘GUSTO’. As if in some sort of divine confirmation of the adage that it is always darkest right before the dawn, just as it seemed like we should chuck it all in, ‘Gold Stories – How Goldsmiths Changed the World’ came jumping through the aforementioned flaming hoop. Shouting to the heavens through a golden megaphone, Gold Stories will announce to the world that it owes us one. Big time. If that doesn’t drive enrollment up then we must be living in a topsy turvey world where the BBC has no skeletons in its closet (wink), where Jeremy Clarkson isn’t totally hilarious, and where glib marketing bullshit doesn’t have near magical powers. After all, it is not as if Patty-boom-sticks is in any way trying to preserve or create the conditions that would enable those in the university to change the world – stopping the re-stratification of the university across medieval class lines might be a good place to start. No, far too risky and expensive. Better to spend the money on the fecal milkshakes that give marketing boffins the energy they need to conjure the mirage of an un-fucked university.

It was at this thin-aired and magisterial apex, and with a deft rhetorical flourish, that Pat allowed a cloud to waft across the brilliant sun we had been raised toward so as to admire all the better.  ‘We need to put positive messages out into what is sadly a very negative world.’ Pat(ch Adams), with the disclaimer that he is not normally one for the excesses of American clichés, let us have a real beauty. We need to behave ‘as if’, because if we believe it, you know what, it comes true. Also, we need to celebrate our victories. Just this week, we have replaced the NatWest in RHB with a FUCKING SANTANDER! This is a BIG victory: for the college, staff, students, and the whole surrounding community, not least because of the scholarships they will provide. We had caught those greedy bankers napping and screwed them BIG TIME! Once again we felt the full warmth of the sun burst forth from behind the cloud that had temporarily been allowed to obfuscate its brilliance. Continue reading

S is for soup

5 lbs. of barleymeal

5 lbs. of Indian corn

3d. worth of red herring

1d. salt

1d. vinegar

2d. pepper and sweet herbs

Feeds 64 people at a cost of ¼ .d per portion.

The above recipe was cooked up in the tepid head of culinary capitalist Sir Benjamin Thomas in 1796. The soup was to serve as a gastric means of lowering workers’ wages by making the necessities of life that their wage needed to cover cheaper. As much as moneybags might like to pay workers nothing at all, people have an annoying habit of dying if they are unable to eat and drink. Dead people, on the other hand, have proven to be incorrigibly lazy and lacking in morals, despite capitalists’ kind attempts to get them back into the labour force. The genius of this 18th Century answer to Jamie Oliver was to bring the cost of feeding the demanding mouths of workers down to a little under 5p per serving. Another Sir, Sir F.M. Eden, was so impressed with the beggar-soup, that he recommended it to workhouse overseers everywhere. Repulsed by the luxuries, such as occasional bread and beer, enjoyed by the English working class, Eden pointed out that the Scottish survived off porridge, water and little else, due to being ‘better educated’ – meaning, of course, ‘better dominated.’*

Although the ingredients might have changed a little (Thomas’ soup seems strangely wholesome and unadulterated by today’s standards), the austerity soup of our current climate serves much the same purpose as previously. Wages must be driven down so the capitalist can cream off greater profits. The working class in Britain has become too addicted to expensive luxuries like healthcare and pensions, too costly for the likes of the capitalist. Admittedly, 19th Century workers were little able to afford a flat screen TV from Argos. But  despite the increase in our ability to buy such luxury commodities, the gap between the rich and the poor remains an ever-expanding chasm. In the interests of helping out over-burdened workhouse overseers like Sir Philip Green, I have updated Thomas’ subsistence soup for todays’ market. Bon appetite.

A Future That Works Soup

1 x credit card 19% APR

1 x overdraft 12% APR

1 x payday loan 972% APR

1 x smartphone on 3 year contract

1 x Flat screen TV on Hire-purchase: interest free for 12 months! then 32% APR

1 x vocational education £36, 000 or above, borrowed from state and paid back directly from wages (arts/humanities only to provide cultural capital for the children of the ruling classes)

1 x Frozen chemically re-constituted microwave dinner from Iceland (another kind of indebtedness).

1 – 2 bouts of binge drinking

Mix all the various types of credit together into a lumpy cluster-fuck. These will disguise dropping wages by making the individual borrow at interest much of what they need for subsistence. Brilliant! Subject to constant stream of flashing images of new things and bring desire to a high heat. Teach it to be a docile, self-disciplining, cost/benefit analysis machine, aligned with capital’s requirements. Soak in alcohol to enable repetition of workweek and reproduction of class society. Delish!

*Chapter XVI Capital Vol 1, Marx

Settler Minstrelsy: Paul Patton Plays ‘Waltzing Matilda’ on (Deleuze and) Guitar Hero

Theorising decolonial struggle from a settler perspective, however sympathetic to an indigenous perspective it may be, is fraught with certain pitfalls and pratfalls. If these were only embarrassing to their proponents, falling in to them would remain for the most part harmless. However, they are often indicative of an insidious settler desire to atone for the past with superficial gestures and the minor revision of state practices. The occluded aim of this ‘atonement’ is to satiate the desire of the author, and the wider settler public, to pronounce themselves finally at home, indigenous.[i] Especially when cloaked in the well-meaning of the liberal left, these convocations hide the continuation of colonisation in its movement towards final apotheosis: the moment when the settler becomes indigenous. As such, far from being benign, rhetoric of this kind is pernicious in that it superficialises debate, disavowing the terms under which this debate might become adequate to the demands of indigenous struggle (self-determination, for example), and acts as a ready accomplice for the more brutally honest, economically motivated right.

A fairly recent example, notable for the highly technical, high-European garb it wraps a creeping liberal multiculturalism in, is Paul Patton’s chapter ‘Nomads, Capture and Colonisation’ from his 2000 book Deleuze and the Political.[ii] In this chapter Patton attempts to map concepts from Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus[iii] onto the terrain of ‘the legal forms of internal colonisation to which indigenous people are subject in common-law countries such as Australia, Canada, and Aotearoa/New Zealand.’[iv] Patton argues that recognition of native title marks a ‘becoming-indigenous’ of common law (and vice versa), opening a ‘jurisprudential smooth space’ between indigenous and common law, making possible ‘constitutional metamorphosis’.[v] Constitutional metamorphosis would indeed be welcome, but Patton completely misreads the conditions that might lead to the deep transformation this presupposes, unable as he is to see beyond the settler-liberal horizon of his own thought. What Patton mistakes as a becoming-indigenous of common law is quite blatantly only common law dressed in an approximation of indigenous garb, designed to give the appearance that settler law is making concessions to the claims of the indigenous population. What Patton mistakes as a smooth space between the two laws is isomorphically identical to the crystallised common law that was only ever intended to structure dispossession. It is clearly not, as Patton hopes, the mutant chrysalis that will burst forth as the butterfly of a harmonious settler society (involving an extremely suspect sounding process he terms  ‘the becoming-indigenous of the social imaginary’[vi]).

Exemplary of the blind-spot that Patton’s own stakes as a settler cause him is his claim that ‘the common law doctrine of native title was, in effect, a mechanism through which the colonial legal system could recognise and protect aboriginal title and customary law.’[vii] In its own high ideals perhaps it could, but in effect the history of the Native Land Court in Aotearoa/New Zealand, for example, is a history of dispossession by legal means.[viii] Throughout his discussion Patton takes jurisprudence at face value: a natural, good and solid ground, capable of demarcating limits for itself and remaining within them. This can only be achieved by an acute amnesia as to the actual historical deployment of the law as justification for domination and dispossession in Australia, Canada and Aotearoa/New Zealand. Continue reading

Babylon get bun down, blaze up the place!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a a pretty obvious point really but not one I had made myself until reading about the insurrectionary fires in New York in the 1740s.

‘Arson was a common instrument of destruction within the cycle of rebellion, not least because fire was the most accessible of weapons among the dispossessed’ 

– Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, Many Headed Hydra

RP Boo take em’ out with the fader…

Some Expletives I Compiled In Honour of the Olympic Opening Ceremony

So the olympic ceremony was fucktastically horrific. The elderley meat puppet incarnation of the worst Beatle attempting to reverse-force feed ‘Hey Jude’ out of his animatronically operated, Botox gimp mask will give me nightmares for years to come.

Admittedly, I enjoyed getting drunk and yelling obscenities at the television and their was some sort of grotesque beauty in watching The Beast take a rainbow coloured dump all over us. I thought the point about a the capitalists avoiding the grave they were digging for themselves by running low voltage current through genitals and social media devices (hehe,lol, luv u babexx) was well made, although I’m not sure it was the one intended. I was waiting for police to come out doing some stylised dance and beat the young romeo to death for stealing that girls phone, but it seems they were keen to avoid that story about Britain. Interestingly, the agreement of both factions of the Party of Order, Red or Blue with Yellow nipple tassels, reveals nicely the compulsory aspect this proto-fascist festival of festering awfulness. Only that one tory whip who likes dress-up parties, race-hate and twitter seemed to not know, but who would tell an obvious liability like that guy? Nope, it seems you jizz lyrical about what a stirring reminder of Britain’s greatness it was or else there are missiles on rooftops ready and waiting. The ruling class can agree, at least, that it is good we are distracted. The only negative thing I have read about it from a mainstream source came from the Torygraph of all places (have you read that fucking thing, actually more disgusting without the puns and tits of the tabloids, and with bigger words and such serious posturing from the puntits). In the article, the author points out correctly that the left seems to have its eyes glued shut with olympiad knob frosting/female ejaculate – the Guardian worse than most. Fools, the whole thing was re-couped by the time the time (I hate) Lord Sebastian Coe dribbled out his address. Let the so-called left have their little song and dance, chaps, the victory wears a light blue tie tonight. Continue reading

Notes on What A Radical Pedagogy Might Feel Like (Part 1 of ☞)

It seems to me as if we don’t know what a radical pedagogy might feel like, we have forgotten or never knew. Or, in the moments we do experience it we do not recognize it as being anything like pedagogy, learning, understanding: the collective and collectivizing transmission and production of ideas, ways, strategies and practices. What we need to find out then, is what a radical pedagogy, now, in the face of an exponential and accelerating marketization of thinking, thought, research and radical practice, might be like; how a radical pedagogy might be germinated; propagated so that it might become everyday, viral and voracious, unceasing and unstoppable. In other words, how might we learn with and from each other to become something inherently inimical to things as they are; caustic even to those technologies of capitalism that seek to recoup value at every node, at every instant, even from those, and those things, that seek its downfall, destruction.

Whatever is meant here I do not mean exclusively the school, the university, the nursery, the workplace training centre. What is of interest is when learning starts to take place elsewhere. When the classroom is revealed to be moribund by the collective learning, mobilized and on the move, invigorated by having a point, enervated when struggle becomes pointed. I have only ever known I was learning in this way after the fact. These moments have been few and fleeting, but the flash of a liberatory social power experienced at Millbank gives an example of what I think radical pedagogy might feel like. True, this was something of a high water mark in terms of the student movement, but the accompanying rupture of the classroom as the place of learning briefly signaled something like a learning not contained by, not held within, the classroom.

The recent period has seen a proliferation of experiments with alternative forms of educational institution and radical critique of educational institutions: The Really Free School, Edufactory, The Bank of Ideas and Tent City University, and the University for Strategic Optimism to name a few. Despite being unaligned or outside of The University proper these groups have struggled to avoid reproducing the contradictions of the classroom in a more makeshift and minimally less hierachialised way. Beyond the standard lecture format, the only thing seemingly to be found is the decapitated seminar, sometimes called workshop. It is not only these formal aspects that remain intact in the move beyond the classroom – more accurately, moving the classroom outside: the content of the classroom remains much the same also. By this I mean that the people who take part in these experiments are most usually the same disgruntled grunts from the classroom proper. As such we bring the classroom with us intact, try as we might to deface its walls.

partial dialectical tl;dr

The need to bring people excluded from the classroom in, as the only possible means of breaking down the walls of that classroom, stumbles on precisely the ‘radical’ move outside. For instance, when the Marxist Historian Eric Hobsbawm visited a prison to give a lecture, he acknowledged the unstable foundations of his status by suggesting to his audience that they probably knew more than he did. The prisoners reacted angrily to what they perceived as false modesty and castigated the professor along the lines of ‘you are the one with all the learning, don’t pretend you aren’t, teach us.’ The attempts to radicalize pedagogy often only serve to address some of the issues of those who already have access to the classroom, as well as what they suppose might be the interests of those excluded, rather than the interests or concerns of those people themselves. My point here is dual. Firstly, that we need to put a stop to the handwringing over our status as intellectuals, academics and students, and secondly that we need to find out from those excluded from the classroom what they might want from us, and how (or if?), we can be of use. An advanced understanding of dialectics may not be as obviously useful to some as the ability to change a gearbox, but neither is there any reason to be embarrassed about a specialization of learning like this. I would make a shit mechanic, communism cannot live on bread alone.

This stumbling block, a pedagogy that replicates the classroom but with less resources, feeds into, and is fed by, something of a crisis of conscience and confidence of those in the university. On the one hand we see that the university has become like any other factory, now informatics firm, but the niggling concern of class privilege means we know we are not cleaner or coal miner. Neither one nor the other, we believe the lie that the ‘student movement’ is bracketed off from something called ‘the workers’ proper. Swinging precariously from the union jack, we are closer to Bullingdon Club than NHS Nurse. This, combined with the collapse of the student movement, has led many to claim that there is no radical possibility left in the university. It is important, I agree, not to privilege the educational sector as some type of more radical hope, but to think of it as more hopeless than any other part of society misses the point.

Education, conceived broadly as learning, is not something accidental to the struggle, or some privilege to be thought about after some future victory. It is a necessary part of the reproduction of ourselves, our lives, and any thought of social flourishing is unthinkable if it does not include thinking and learning for everyone. It is not as if capital has not noticed how important education is to its own interests, both as a way of externalizing the cost of worker training and discipline, and increasingly to provide terrain for capital’s constant need for expansion. Education must now produce surplus value for the capitalist in the same breath as it trains workers for them. As a managerial class further and further colonises the university, value is produced through an arbitrary institutional calisthenics and the managerial measurement of that performance. Welcome to the factory of an absent future!

Catpitalism Vs. Dogmunism?: Lenin’s Cat and Other Stories

There may indeed be more pressing issues pressing marxism for answers currently, but my interest was piqued by photo, and then a short youtube video, of Vladimir Ilych Lenin tenderly stroking a cat. Vladimir. Ilych. Lenin. tenderly. stroking. a cat. Fuck only knows why this should surprise me. After all, why not? Anyway, my spare time is divided, unevenly admittedly, between looking at funny pictures of cats, and reading the texts of Marx and marxism. My fascination, I assume, probably has something to do with the unexpected melding of these two worlds, presumably by some seemingly perfect cosmic accident.

Why had no one mentioned this to me? The Wikipedia page for Vlad ignores these happenings right until the end, when it states offhandedly: ‘He liked children and cats and his enthusiasms included bicycling, amateur photography, chess, skating, swimming, hunting, music and hiking.’ It doesn’t even tell us if his amateur photography was, or wasn’t, preoccupied with his cats. If it was, some important revisions to the history of the internet, as it is told, will need to be made. (So much for the brave new world of a crowd sourced and common encyclopaedia. Losers. I’m going back to the Snoopy Britannicas my mum bought me with supermarket points. Admittedly, they didn’t have an entry for Lenin, but Lemur and Leopard were generously treated.)

A  second reason that I was somewhat agape is, I guess, that it seems as if right from James Bond’s arch enemy, Number 1 – whose criminal organisation Spectre haunted Europe, and later Latin America – and onwards throughout every spy movie since, the capitalist stooges charged with indoctrinating me intended that I react with disgust at the site of Lenin benevolently stroking puss, sage, sphynx-like gaze towards the camera. #Fail ideologues, I was near euphoric.*

You can imagine my absolute astonishment, then, when further investigation turned up a photo of Lenny, sitting on a couch with Brother José, holding not just a single cat mind, but two – two – adorable kittens.** Continue reading