Remarks on BM BIS, BM BLOB, riot and post modernist recuperation
Replies to questions from Servando Rocha relating to the
Spanish publication of la Felguera's King Mob together
with add-ons for Constantinos regarding a possible Greek
translation of The Hidden History of King Mob.
(For the sake of presentation, some of the commentary appearing here has been slightly amended)
Comments based on questions from Ms Vicki Maguire regarding what happened apres the moment of King Mob
First there was an outfit called BM Bis, oriented around the contemporary pre- revolutionary events in Spain and Portugal essentially represented by the book, Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy. This was followed a few years later by BM Blob and then some pamphlets which were pretty anonymous. A few were done in collaboration with News from Nowhere and BM Combustion and as with You Make Plans We Make History where all three outfits came together in the aftermath of the anti-globalisation contestation especially in Seattle and Genoa around the turn of the millennia.
In a way once the webs were established I've always felt there should be an update of some texts outlining the momentum of historical movement after what had been described; an extra introduction if you like pointing out what was heading in the right direction and what was amiss. The problem is all this takes time, thought & effort and much of this process remains as notebook jottings, though equally, why shouldn't jottings be considered on the same level as finished statements? For instance the tremendous surge of urban riots in 1981 (see here Like a Summers with a Thousand Julys) also forged the beginnings of the UK 's aesthetic economy or more precisely and latterly, an eco-aesthetic economy. I think the then Tory Home Office minister Michael Heseltine's Garden Festival initiative in response to growing de-industrialisation and apr's riot in Liverpool was axiomatic in this process precisely because Liverpool was the city that went the farthest in that remarkable countrywide uprising. It was an initiative tending towards the capitalisation of greenery and a new - more total - direction for art and design. In a way I think it is possible to say that 'Liverpool: City of Culture' prize winner despite all the 1960s pop music Merseybeat really has more to do with the moment a few youths resorted to fire raising followed by the Toxteth torching, which along with Brixton, then spread throughout England. Of course such a perspective must also (and even more essentially) be anchored in the rise of neoliberalism, the growing predominance of the stock market, fictitious capital and the phenomenon of a seemingly de-luxe asset-driven capitalism which makes art in all its installation/conceptual loose form - though none the less a still insistent form - a must have fashion accessory via a shopping expedition down the world's ritziest malls. Liverpool's Green Festival was a somewhat hesitant project which actually was to find its greatest realisation some 15 or more years later in Newcastle and the obvious recuperation of the Icteric experiment which had by then been completely lost to view ensuring its name couldn't ever be remembered even in Newcastle. Worse; it was as though Icteric never existed. More broadly this is surely very indicative of the character of draconian repression at the heart of a neoliberalism tending towards a form of totalitarian recuperation.
Some of this argument, though in a form of preliminary probing, was outlined in the pamphlet, Once Upon a Time there was a Place called Nothing Hill Gate e.g. 'the artistic swamp operation' etc which was the means by which gentrification bit by bit was imposed on this area and the essential tool in destroying Notting Hill's remarkably subversive character. Posted on the recent Class War/Bash the Rich website I noticed how Tom Vague has criticised this pamphlet, although in reality only in a minor way, saying the Warwick pub wasn't an agent of gentrification ('something like 'the Wises have definitely got that wrong') Not true. The pub hosted many profile rebel musicians alongside admittedly at lot of OK down home regulars, which maybe is what TV is getting at, but as a watering hole it was the talk, somewhat, of hip London and inevitably, through such media-hyped lustre attracted the rich kids looking for risque territory to invade. Rebel art was the fulcrum tipping everything into serious money and prelude to turfing-out swathes of the original inventive but poor inhabitants from all over the world who usually were odd balls in one way or another (I now hang on in this area; isolated, almost as an unwanted alien, so no wonder I 'retreat' north looking for human community which is also fast disappearing in that neck of the woods too).
Still I suppose Tom Vague had to have a good dig seeing in the past I've had a good go at him plus refusing to meet him. Women I'm somewhat friendly with who are also friendly with TV have implored me to meet him ' even prepared to be the go-between - but I politely blanked this proposal as I cannot see the point seeing this guy lacks essential cutting edge. Moreover, he gets published in this country and, unless we publish texts ourselves, we don't. I believe I said something on these lines about such responses being so typical of a Britain which 'prefers the shadow to the substance'. TV also refers to us as 'hypercritical' which really doesn't say enough. I would reckon I deploy merciless critique where essential, especially regarding any hoped for revival in revolutionary perspectives and so necessary in order to stay in front of the game ' to be ahead on every level ' though extremely tolerant regarding everyday life. I never knock friends, work mates and acquaintances regarding foibles, excesses or whatever and there'll be no moralistic condemnation or ticking-off from either of us. Moreover, I rarely pick a fight though if I do join in combat - usually provoked beyond reason - it's often with devastating results for anyone having the temerity to take me on.
And yes, we did have a big influence on Nick Brandt though there was a fair amount of influence also travelling in the opposite direction. For a number of years this collaboration worked reasonably well. I well remember the night he sat in front of me on my living room sofa in the early summer of 1984 furiously writing down everything I was saying about miners, plus personal and general historical knowledge of northern mining communities some of which duly appeared in the Miner Conflict/Major Contradiction pamphlet. He'd do that in relation to other things as well only to also find it reproduced later sometimes almost word for word. Well, no matter because it's all anti-copyright in any case and we plagiarise argument and opinions from each other in order to hone our truths and all that's fine as long as it's not aiding and abetting the processes of recuperation which, the guy wasn't doing. Anyway and somewhat along these lines, didn't John Milton say: "Much argument, much writing, many opinions is but knowledge in the making". Nick though was good at punch lines and conjuring up clever and arresting slogans and way better than me on this score. I often wish he was around when preparing some of these small five minutes or so film provocations we're engaged on.The hope is to put them on You Tube and because they are defamatory and often deliberately crude, even insulting, will quickly get banned by YouTube's version of the Watch Committee. That will play into our hands because behind the crude obscenities and characterisations will be a sophisticated body of theory few, if any, will have the theoretical capacity to challenge: Street chav-isms suitably re-directed and selected can thus be the means, the startling opening fronting revolutionary coherence via the publicity of anti-publicity.
Once in Like A Summer With A Thousand Julys we wrote of spontaneous rioting as 'volcanic eruptions affecting vast masses of people in every nook and cranny and back yard' in the UK . Yet within twenty years later how come this riotous, independent self-activity has subtly morphed into performance, mimicking while destroying, the very essence of vital subversion? It's thus become essential to get to grips with the fundamental deflected thrust behind installation activity and why it is now becoming a pandemic spreading like a genetically modified grey-gloo everywhere even sneaking into every out-of-the-way anonymous corner. Surely isn't this because it functions as the recuperated bland form of insurgent, creative social/self activity now effectively blocked, even crushed everywhere? It is a pseudo form of participation now that real, genuine participation has been brutally side-lined and eliminated. Finally this art activism (you cannot call the phenomenon genuine emancipatory social/individual activism) has gotten hold of some kind of watered down, packaged notion of spectacle via a post modernist makeover care of the cretinous apology for theory spun by Jean Baudrillard. It is spectacle as eternal presence morphed by the virtual reality of an all triumphant cyberspace and seemingly more real than life itself whereby a famous slogan from 1968 is twisted out of shape and becomes: 'I take my virtual desires for reality because I believe in the virtual reality of my desires'; an eros without the impulse of living streets and people. For Debord the theory of the spectacle was a moment ' presumably the final moment ' of the capitalist mode of production; a form to be torn apart and transcended through a world uprising of the oppressed. For Baudrillard the spectacle basically mediated through the ubiquitous screen has now surpassed reality so completely we can never supersede such finality. This is the baneful paradigm of post modernism suggesting we are all performers now and all in hoc to media images, endlessly replicating them in everyday life and with no transcendence ever again in sight to lighten our lives.
All past revolutionary truths have now been utterly lost at the moment they were in need of a more precise, even more penetrating elaboration (e.g. spectacle in relation to finance capital and fictitious values etc). Today instead of a high profile coherent dissolution of all separate categories and fields of study, we have a vast but limited display of inter-disciplinary measures and small time critiques of roles merely hinting at - yet essentially denying - such a robust process. Thus installation overlaps with theatre and a mild critique of excessive commoditisation present itself as 'radical' as against the grotesque display of the yearly Frieze Art Fair money making jamboree. And so on.
Most of the ridiculous gurus of post modernism, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Guattari and Delueze etc were in fact initially conformist figures coming out of the 1950s and generally somewhat older than most of the remarkable insurgent crew marking the late 1960s. These conformists were to instantly return exacting a terrible price and revenge by taking the themes of this tumult re-assembling them to fit with their miserably conservative perspectives which were then imposed on a 1970s youth who through social defeat were squeezed back into a response whereby radical perspectives were increasingly lobotomised. It was this trajectory that was to grow and grow throughout the following decades. The '90 year old youth' syndrome - as 'Puzz' in Italy in the late 1970s described it - is now everywhere in a situation where human beings are born ' like ancient sunlight ' far more decrepit than ever they were in the 1970s.
As part and parcel of this process, behind this lies something even more grotesque: how did the riotous impulses of urban youth little more than 20 years ago got turned into their opposite? How did the joire-de-vivre and open-ended insurgent welcome of a glorious torching - Liverpool 1981 - essentially asking anyone who could respond to join in the fray, go so psychotic to the point whereby we can hardly go near street youth today who, lost to themselves, are merely the foil of a suicide capitalism which gives them the guns the better to shoot each other? The liberatory effect of sub cultures which made their final powerful mark throughout the magnificent summer of 1981 from then on went rapidly into decline as capital re-assembled youth into mere replicants of its image which post modern youth genuflected towards. Looking back it's sad to note how in Once Upon a Time There Was A Place Called Nothing Hill Gate the early stages of this horrific process are well noted. Sadly puzzled, little did we realise it was going to reach such horrendous proportions as the years were to role by.
Looking back it's a pity we didn't go in for more publishing but increasingly we felt this was becoming fruitless too. The inflated value of property meant all venues (alternative bookshops throughout the UK etc) which would stock our stuff were closed down as bricks and mortar were sold on by their owners and whether we liked it or not we had little choice but to resort to cyberspace. (Moreover we'd also put AK Press's back up). For sure though, it's still a far more pleasant experience to hold a book or pamphlet in your hand as you lounge in a chair or on some grassy bank on a summer's day flipping back and forth through the pages making up your own mind on the contents in a relaxed sort of way.
On Greil Marcus
Yes, Vicki seeing you ask, I feel like writing something on Greil Marcus too. Michel called him 'Gruel Marcus'. However in terms of the accounts by the pot boilers Gruel I think he is better then the others. Stewart Home hated the Situationists too much to feel anything for them although at least he did a fair amount of research. Marcus was sympathetic though seamlessly identifying such experiment with a lot of other crap. Although previously he'd written Mystery Train, I did wonder why he was so blind to so much musical experiment. When writing for Rolling Stone mag in the early days he didn't even know who the Mississippi blues singer, Robert Johnson, was. He had to be told! Obviously even at this moment he couldn't match Lester Bangs! At the tender age of 19 working as a carriage cleaner on Whitby railway station one night, in the very early 1960s, after a particularly heavy, down and dirty shift cleaning out squirming maggots - knee deep in them - from fish vans bound for London, tired out, I put on my life saving Just Jazz radio programme and heard Johnson's Hellhound on My Trail. I was transfixed; a changed person. At the same moment it had also hit the English potential rock 'n' rollers, e.g. Keith Richards etc. They saw rip-off, I (and others) saw vaguely a new world; a material new Eden beyond alienated pain and money though at the time it was more as sheer emotion than what practically could be at that given moment in time.
Then so many hellhound years later I read Marcus on Debord identifying his discovery with that of first listening to Robert Johnson. Fair enough. However Marcus's theoretical journey had come from other sources: that of Tim Clarke, ex SI fink, art college lecturer at the University of LA and Tom Ward, ex-Californian Point Blank member. Ward, the American pro-situ, had moved to New York where I met him in the very early 1980s and Greil Marcus hung on his every word. Tom Ward was funny; very funny and I well remember his piss take of a Texan oil magnate discussing Marcel Duchamp. I was on the floor in stitches. Tom also was a bit of an opportunist and had got some influential position in the New York Review of Books. A little later he did a big Review centre page spread on Stuart, I and Babs' Roberts from West Derby (from the 'pool) on things we'd written together, though without mentioning our names. Some of these got montaged and by deflection somewhat into Lipstick Traces and Marcus was in awe of Tom Ward.
By way of a parenthesis on recuperation
Seeing the essential role of recuperation has been raised here more has to be elaborated considering it is one of the most cunning and devious of capital's devices. Germaine Greer like Madeleine Bunting and certain film makers funded by Channel 4 (re: the recent proposal for Big Art, Big Engineering) - see footnote - read our stuff on the websites particularly Revolt Against Plenty and to a much lesser extent: Dialectical Butterflies yet deny there very existence at the same time. (Ms Bunting prefers the latter web seeing it is lighter in tone, chattier, and at times here and there slightly more accommodating as she is forever trying so hard not to deploy that banned word 'capitalism'). They can do so simply because we faithfully but relentlessly stick to the axiomatic principle of anti-copyright and idiot journalists like themselves therefore see us as slobs to be used, though they would forever deny this is the case. An update on a precis of recuperation is urgently required and one far more accurate than previously outlined noting how recuperation today has far more in common with its totalitarian ancestors in fascism and Stalinism funnelled through neoliberalism than in the moment of its social democratic explanation so admirably put together by the original situationists in the middle of the 20th century.
There's more to it than that however and the salaried ranks of journalists, commentators and writers who purloin some of our ideas, getting bigger daily, now bring in people like avant garde art critic Jonathan Jones, celebrity comedians like Russell Brand, George Monbiot and even Naomi Klein - that eminently photogenic and sexy Kate Moss of radicalism. At times whole sentences have been plucked from the ether; at other times merely a few phrases and/or there's an ambience loaded with suggestion far more difficult to pinpoint. True, it also could be said that some lines of radical enquiry are in any case part of general atmospherics, prescient thoughts at the back of individual minds everywhere that are beginning to dig deeper.
And yet there's even more to it and further extrapolations are necessary. Occasionally when examining the weblizer stats you get some vague, general idea who is reading all this stuff though it's nearly always signified with that official profile you despise. The best, the most potent readers are anonymous and it is for those the webs are intended. Hardly surprising the American state dept and the CIA openly keep a close, even amazingly extensive watch, while MI5 and MI6 seem strangely absent (or is that more likely to do with the traditionally very secret and devious character of the British state?) Reading on, you notice how often the 'quality' Anglo-America dailies figure in the stats; the Independent, the Guardian, the Washington Post and New York Times etc. Initially all this media interest seemed rather puzzling until the obvious became obvious. Most of these somewhat star/celebrity journalists aren't unto themselves, entire individuals as of yore, rather they are Team Klein, Team Monbiot, Team Bunting etc having on their books a collection of researchers no doubt fresh escapees from university on the first rungs of media career ladders living on relatively OK wages. These are the people who trawl the blogs and webs searching for apt, choice comment they can then hand over to their big name bosses who in turn pass it off as their freshly minted insights further adding to their kudos. For certain, it is a lot more than theory for radical theory sake simply because it is also very marketable. These big name individuals do extremely well for themselves financially and their journalistic articles tend to be syndicated throughout the globe e.g. one cannot doubt that Naomi Klein is rather more than a simple millionaire accumulated through her much promoted theoretical radicalism. Have these big names heard of us? Well possibly though probably not because the plagiarised lines and arguments have been picked up by their researchers. The process of recuperation now stands at much more than a one ' or even two - remove as we are well into the epoch of the densely opaque. It also points to the vast, vast gap between ourselves and the celebrity-like radicals: They make millions; we make nothing. We however - and all the others of our ilk - live the truly authentic lives and that's the real factor which we still hope will tell so much at the end of the day.
Footnote: Channel 4's Big Art Project so obviously influenced by The Politics and Aesthetics of the Great UK Building Disaster on the RAP web was/is a public art initiative in collaboration with Arts Council England and the charity Art Fund to create imitation gigantic Angel of the North artefacts on sites basically of industrial dereliction Essentially a money raising body one such project was to be centered in Sheffield whereby its famous landmark cooling twin towers adjacent to the long M1 Tinsley viaduct be-straddling part of the city could be morphed with an artistic purpose. The hopes were for a transformation resembling somewhat the Turbine Hall in London 's Tate Modern. Trashing the negative drift of the RAP web all the usual shit was invited to do their bit from MP David Blunkett, to Gormless Gormley to installation none-entity, Anish Kapoor. The project came to nothing and the redoubtable towers are to be demolished by a Sheffield town council keen on making the city just another post modern, sky-reaching bendy steel and glass necropolis.
Replies to some questions requested by Servando Rocha:
Q. Did King Mob have an influence on the anarchist newspaper class War?
Yes, I think King Mob had an influence on Class War but in a very vague unspecific kind of way and more to do with endless direct action than anything else. From the onset Class War was however more set in the traditional anarchist mould like the'Bash the Rich marches, which had their origins in the Chicago anarchist agitation of the late 19th century. For certain Class War never took on board a critique of art or culture. Specifically they were much more influenced by Like A Summer with a Thousand Julys on the urban explosions of 1981 though shorn of the entire wider framework and subtleties. Class War merely emphasised the 'class' aspect at the expense of the rest and was a reductive approach though they were hilarious at times. On the other hand, rising academic bright lights, people like Sadie Plant, who was all the intellectual Guardian readers' rage at the time, made a complete hash of discussing the Summers pamphlet suggesting that 'self-recuperation' a la Malcolm Mclaren was the real way forward although essentially all she could really endlessly discuss was her fascination with the whole nonsensical gamut of post modernism. Michel Prigent amusingly referred to her as Sadie Carnivorous Plant.
Q. Did we have any relationship with skinheads during the moment of King Mob?
Well on a practical basis we always had had especially with the people who came down to London from Newcastle . Fetishising skinhead had much more to do with Phil Cohen and, was really part of his radical social work project that he could simply never get away from and, over the years, he's just got more and more into it so much so that he is now a top 'expert' cultivated and lauded by the state! As for ourselves we had substantial relationships with skinheads on an individual basis but these were usually related to the much more simple context of the building site and were often very enjoyable especially the big site that broke out into riot and was completely wrecked in 1982! Moreover, ex-girlfriends from the sharp end had skinhead sons and personal friendships were established that are still on-going even though these guys are now in their forties. Let's say, I wouldn't want to ever get on the wrong side of them and yes, they are acquainted with my ideas and simply accept them as part of "Stroppy Dave".
Q. Could you tell me more about that meeting with Debord in London when he stormed out?
Regarding the supposed Guy Debord incident, which has been repeated in many books, the one where he was supposed to have stormed out, well it never happened! I think Mclaren and Vermorel circulated the story. What did take place was a kind of 'our party' incident possibly at the behest of Debord in relationship to the members of King Mob generally, though I personally doubt it. One Saturday afternoon in 1970 sometime while I was sleeping, two guys named Alain Abelard and Tony Verlaan (the latter was an SI member at the time) burst into my flat and started declaiming against King Mob particularly its emphasis on valorising criminality which, of course was there. They ranted on for a short while and then dismissively left before I could even fully wake up or reply. Previously I had been quite friendly with Tony Verlaan and if we happened to bump into each other would make many an amusing comment about all the foibles circulating in the revolutionary milieu of the times and some of my insights Tony would jot down on bits of paper. Subsequently I never knew what happened to Verlaan though I knew Americans members of the Situationist International like Bruce Elwell couldn't stand him. Alain was different and a friend of Ron Hunt's in Newcastle in and around the leftovers of the Icteric scene. Actually, he was a really nice guy but a bit woodenly pro-situ and taught French in a school in West Hartlepool, a really heavy northern industrial and coastal town where you had to be very careful not to look around too much at your other 'inmates' when you went into local dockland pubs. Then reaction kicked-in and Alain taking the change in the zeitgeist pretty badly and endlessly drunk would stare compulsively into the distance, obsessed with a broken heart and a lost love. I felt very sympathetic but it was too late and Alain committed suicide.
Later in 1982 I was invited to go and spend Xmas with Debord and the invitation was via Michel Prigent. Or maybe it was more spontaneous than that, just simple friendliness without the need for obligatory invitation cards. This was after my twin brother Stuart and myself had collaborated with Michel on an English translation and production (I paid for it etc!) of the Segovia libertarian prisoners that had been turned into a Champ Libre book. Moreover we'd just finished Like A Summer with a Thousand Julys on the colossal UK riots of 1981 and I think Guy liked it, though at that time there wasn't a French or German translation of the Summers' though there were Spanish and Portuguese translations. (The German and French translations were never published until after 1985) Actually I didn't take up the invitation because by then I really didn't like all that spectacularised, ultimate genius, hero worship of Guy and I felt uncomfortable with it. My life by then was very different. I wasn't a 'revolutionary' like that in the sense of some informal groupuscule as work on building sites figured pretty high in my everyday life. Back then Michel was in the 'our party' syndrome but what we did have was a kind of informal, egalitarian building gang having similar ''situ' ideas, anti-leftism, anti-spectacularisation, anti-art etc and hired ourselves out to subcontractors and what have you and would sometime have some great fun as well as cutting up untidy with the bosses. Moreover, being something of a raucous yob at times, somewhat uncouth, I really didn't think I'd fit and would probably have put my foot in it somehow or another. I must admit by then I didn't like the Debord/Lebovici nexus, the super-rich businessman funding the brilliant revolutionary. I hadn't really worked out why I disliked this syndrome so much as also I really did agree with Guy's thesis about state manipulated terrorism. It was an up and down situation.
Subsequently though I took real note of the experiences of Yves Le Manach with Guy and Lebo. During the uprising of 1968, Yves had worked or rather, was on strike in the Renault car factories at Boulougne Billancourt and by persuasion was something of a Maoist. He was though aware of the situationist activities as he lived in the Latin Quarter in Paris where they were active. In no time Yves began to transform producing a very interesting text on the car factories, which unlike leftism emphasised the playful subversive responses of the workers. Champ Libre published it as a book but sometime after publication, Guy and Lebo found various things they didn't like about Yves' analyses. Some kind of meeting was arranged but Guy and Lebo kept Yves waiting in a vestibule in a very formally bourgeois way then, on seeing him, dismissed him out of hand. Yves was furious about the insult and has never stopped writing/fuming about it as it reminded him of the tactics deployed by management when he worked in the car factories. I actually thinkYves is possibly mostly right in what he said about this incident though obviously I cannot fully know in any detail and gut instinct plays quite a part in this judgement.
Q. It would be instructive to know a little more about your orientation after King mob?
Moreover by then most of my daily involvement was, from the mid 1970s onwards, with workers - mainly workers influenced by 'the alternative' - in any case whether in struggle or just the simple goings-on of daily life. A little later I hugely enjoyed events like the Winter of Discontent and wrote a text on it - thoroughly dismissed at the time - which Nick Brandt used as the basis for his own which was a combination of mine and Henri Simon's but the whole lot are out there in cyberspace. A little later we put together a sizable pamphlet Workers of the World Tonight (a Black Mask slogan!) on international dockers' struggle and developed a relationship with the Spanish dockers' coodinadora. You can read about the ins-and-outs of all that in an introductory preliminary to the photos on the The Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy book on the RAP web.
It was a long time before we put pen to paper regarding the miners' terrible defeat. What we did during the strike was altogether much more practical and urgent. In particular we constructed a technical gismo that could be clamped to a phone allowing free phone calls. It was a technical collaboration involving a friend in Leeds and Phil Meyler in Dublin. The gismos were handed out free along with very potent bottles of homemade strawberry wine to striking miners. British Telecom is still keen to know who did this though seeing we are all now in the digital age, these gizmos are technically redundant. Well, BT at least was upset the last time I heard as we had cost them a small fortune (seemingly around £100,000 in damages)! If we'd been caught we were going to deploy a spoof art defence simply to confuse authority expounding the theory of montage originating in Synthetic Cubism then, by way of Duchamp's Readymades and the Surrealists' objet trouve onto the derive etc, thus leaving the role of art in the mists of pre-history bringing all power to the imagination by way of a freephone! It was of course a coherent argument, which we knew the bureaucrats of BT would be bamboozled by, and their lawyers would be unable to answer, ever fearful of accusations of philistinism (an accusation the bourgeoisie now fearfully dread). In a way sadly we never had to as it would have turned into excellent publicity for our ideas and without a jot of compromise.
Why hasn't the Hidden History of King Mob been completed?
After King Mob 'collapsed' ' it was over even if nor done with by 1970, it wasn't so much that people went their different ways as the class split had opened up to reveal a wide chasm. It had already threatened before but it was as if the elite - who had produced most of the theorising - had become traumatised and retreated into the safer harbours of what they already felt comfortable with plus, falling back on their own rather more privileged circles, despite feeling rather uncomfortable about all this. It is a desperately sad outcome and story and I still don't think it needed to have happened. For certain, among us at the sharp end there was anger and the feeling we'd been sold a pup. It's a story that needs to be gone into at much greater length but here is not the time.
Much of the critique of King Mob on the RAP web was written in a kind of haste and was never really completed. It needed adding to and/or pruned and, certainly in parts made more precise. Since then I've never got round to doing a re-write. Although mulled over for years and many notes scribbled down throughout that time it was put together rapidly and hence referred to as 'Jumbled Notes'. It was an assemblage put together in some kind of readable shape during a particularly horrible time when I was in fear of my life because of organising with a few other people in social housing against brutal and rich crack dealers and because of illness due to a heart condition. I simply felt I just didn't have much time left and despite a broken heart due to the end of a love affair, managed to remorselessly carry on. The few people I showed it to like Michel Prigent and Nick Brandt liked it but had criticisms to make, some of which were good and need to be taken into account in a re-write. Michel read some of it out in a meeting he organised on the situationist scene in the UK and elsewhere though I never attended seeing I always feel uncomfortable with these things. I guess I've hardly felt like returning to the unfinished text simply because it reminds me of these bad times which, are hardly much better (the beginning of the 21st century has been hell virtually everywhere) even if a little easier personally. Most of what I've written I'd stand by but some of it could have been better expressed. For example, the manipulative subtleties noted in the evolution of say, TJ Clark's career could have been said better. Since writing that bit, TJ has collaborated with a group of Bay area ultra-leftists in San Francisco and produced a book called Afflicted Powers on the aftermath, mainly within America, of the 9/11 twin towers attack. It's well written and quite good but as is typical of the guy after finally saying something worthwhile he immediately does a massive about turn, and is awarded a one and a half million dollar bursary by the anglophile Mellon Foundation to write an art historical book on Pablo Picasso and, for the publication to coincide with a huge retrospective exhibition of Picasso's work in (I think) Madrid or Barcelona sometime in the future. It's all cynically designed to boost TJ Clark's academic reputation and money-making capacity and I bet what he's got to say on Picasso will be completely beside the point bordering on the irrelevant. (How nice for a clued-in picket in Madrid or Barcelona explaining this!) Clark refuses to attack the American art establishment particularly those star-obsessed post modernist pundits like Yve-Alain Bois, High Definition Buchloh and Hal Foster etc who really call the shots in America and regularly contribute to those giant coffee table books you now get that target the elite super-rich these days, and which, even discuss in ever more dire ways the situationist experiment as an art phenomenon inseparable from the Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley and 'the show must go on' perspective etc.
More importantly I think the evaluation in Jumbled Notes of romanticism considered in terms of the disintegration/supercession of artistic form in England or Britain should have been worked on more precisely and as if to fill this gap, my brother Stuart wrote a kind of spoof, pretend academic piece - although as it turned out it was rather too forthright for that - which is included as a postscript to Dumbvirates as part of the heading logo of Lost Texts Around King Mob. Dealing with Wordsworth, Coleridge etc it is also published on the Dialectical Butterflies site. It was, if you like, a reminder that there are very few pointers in the collective backgrounds in these islands on which to base coherent, historical critique in terms of the still unfolding dynamic of social revolution despite the fact this dynamic has presently been stymied. The introduction suggests that maybe some slime-ball academic might like to try out a few of these ideas! Critique of artistic form hardly exists in the English-speaking world colonised as it is, with a decadent post modernism whereby everything is of equal relevance and historical movement essentially doesn't exist. Remember in England in the 1950s we had nothing like the recuperated relevance and limitations of books like Writing Degree Zero and that is still the case today.
Also the critique of Lautreamont or rather some passing assessment just isn't sufficient as it needs be put better perhaps something on the lines of the text entitled: Fabre, Darwin, Dalton & DNA Watson meet Lautreamont. Again, my twin brother Stuart wrote it and was put up on: www.dialecticalbutterflies.com. It's a considerably original take especially regarding the influence of Charles Darwin which I'm sure Stuart is right about whereby natural selection is imaginatively morphed by Lautreamont into the often hideous. The essential point here is, you cannot superficially extrapolate from Lautreamont as something to be practised or, the descriptive passages lauded like that - as Stewart Home goes for - in his often macabre and pointlessly sadistic novels. Lautreamont essentially describes a process that must be gotten through in order to get on through to the other side, to know it well, as the preparation for 'the poetry made by all and not by one' ' if you like. If you don't know/experience the black collapse, this nadir of nihilism or, have no feeling for the negation of all values, your critique will always have an essentially moral, quasi-religious cum aesthetic undertow, which lacks the necessary bite whereby material transcendence of this foul world becomes possible. So it's in this sense that King Mob had a tendency to emphasise the hideous part of an un-worked out negative, a negative in the process of fully finding itself ' thus Mary Bell, Myra Hindley, Ian Christie etc. At the time we really should have explained this disposition better as we certainly didn't applaud what the latter got up though in the telling of the story, we fell back too much on the notoriety of shock value. I do remember Ron Hunt in Newcastle in 1968 saying he 'didn't really like Lautreamont' despite quoting him learnedly a number of times in his leaflets. That's also why Lautreamont is so brilliant because most of the time you cannot like him. You're not meant to because Maldoror in particular is a portrait of the maimed psyche, which keeps reproducing itself holding the increasing purgatory of society together but with the essential addition in Lautreamont that it is also a psyche seeking transcendence. Interestingly, in 2007 there was an English TV drama-documentary on the relationship between Myra Hindley and the do-gooder Lord Longford that was very definitely influenced by something of the King Mob ambience and indeed as a passing back drop image, one of the King Mob posters, I Wanted To Cry But Instead I Ate was casually displayed. The truth is, it was the arch-Christian Longford who saw Myra Hindley as fallen angel something King Mob never fell for.
As for ourselves in the early to mid 1970s, including my bro', the mistakes, the need for greater theorising if you like, was mulled-over and we tended to reorientate around Dick Pountain and especially Phil Meyler as we'd all come from similar relatively poor backgrounds. Dick P though rapidly fell back onto his previous north Derbyshire Communist party background necessarily prettied up with Althusserianism and you couldn't help but feel, merely a front to make as much money as possible which, he subsequently did on the scale of easily '20 million pounds plus! Quite quickly none of the rest of us could go along with even the beginning of this but a real and extremely fruitful collaboration and intense friendship ensued with Phil Meyler from Dublin. Feeling pretty freaked out particularly with the failure of revolutionary hopes in America , Phil fled to Portugal in 1972 and was living in Lisbon when the Captains revolt broke out in 1974. Suddenly the gloom of his frequent letters to me became ecstatic as letter upon letter followed packed with comment about what was taking place. I was bowled over by this analysis; this experience simply mustn't be lost as it was just too good. We quickly came to the conclusion we had to get a book out putting all of this together so we decided to approach Solidarity, the Socialisme ou Barbarie outfit, based in London. They were more than interested but lacked the finances. As I'd been working very hard on building sites in London and seeing I had no responsibilities like children etc, I had enough money to pay for production so Chris Pallis (a.k.a. Maurice Brinton) began to edit all the on-going material coming in thick and fast and, soon a book was in the making. A few of my comments and passages were inserted here and there plus a few choice quotes etc. Michel Prigent later criticised us for going through Solidarity but we really didn't have enough resources and printing expertise to have done this. He thought Chris Pallis was censoring some of the more profound insights and said we should make a new, unexpurgated edition. Possibly, as there was the wild Irish drift in many of Phil's paragraphs - a drift that is always exhilarating - and which, perhaps got somewhat lopped-off. But maybe not.
Today it is recognised that Portugal: The Impossible Revolution is the best book on the Portuguese revolt in any language. One further point; Phil Meyler's name was changed to Phil Mailer - after the American writer Norman Mailer - simply as a ploy to maybe put the Portuguese security services off the scent ' seeing Phil was still living in Lisbon and the state would probably have liked to deport him seeing reaction was again beginning to set-in though obviously of a different variety to Salazarismo. Don't forget Phil had also been a conscript in the Irish army and his knowledge of military tactics, guns and rifles had been very useful in training his new Portuguese friends. As we know the revolution failed but Phil was in an exposed position hence the reason for the name change though fortunately nothing happened apart from a few interviews with the police regarding other matters.
After that collaboration continued and BIS was set up and together (again with others) we published the book Wildcat Spain Encounters Democracy after a sojourn in Barcelona in the 76-77 periods. As BIS we also put together other publications, an ecological critique, a tiny slice of which is on the Revolt Against Plenty web on the Lucas Aerospace alternative technology plan and, also a proposed book on the late 1970s Italian experience the remnants of which, have recently been put on the RAP web plus an explanation of why the book unfortunately wasn't published and the fuck ups involved. The web 'Puzz in Italy ' contains a collectively signed introduction by BIS. Recently I put together an explanation and critique of the Italian adventure - Critique of Italy in 1977 - as what happened there in clarifying perceptions as to why it was perhaps one of the most important eye-openers of my life in bringing into focus the reactionary role musical performance and festival was playing in the developing counter revolution. But you can see all that if you return to the web and perhaps print out a few things.
BIS then faded and BM BLOB came into existence around 1980 finally announcing itself in 1981 with Like A Summers with a Thousand Julys (a quote from a Billie Holiday song) followed by other pamphlets which, slowly developed into open collaboration with BM Combustion and Nick Brandt in joint pamphlets we put out such as France Goes off the Rails on the French revolt of 1986 and The Kurdish Uprising of 1991 after the first Gulf war. A Kurdish mate lived around the corner who been a peshmerga and he got hold of a lot of texts related to the workers' shoras. Later, collectivively and under 'News From Everywhere' we put together a pamphlet called Occupational Therapy on the occupation of London's University College Hospital we'd been involved in, in the early 1990s. The other main text around that time was Once Upon a Time there was a Place called Nothing Hill Gate, which was simply a BLOB publication.
As far as our relationship with Nick Brandt is concerned it's all rather sad though there was something inevitable in retrospect about the parting of the ways. I don't really have much more to say that hasn't already been said in the vituperative Dumbvirates (something of a pun) header above 'Lost Texts around King Mob' on the RAP web. What more can I say than Nick and Pete's web endangeredphoenix is very good. Nick thinks well but socially and in terms of daily life I have nothing in common and this got to the point where the lines of communication snapped. I am though very sad that the blow-up occurred and I tried and tried to avoid it, as I didn't want to cross a pointless Rubicon. It was all so unnecessary. I'm sure if the miners had not been so brutally destroyed, friendship all round could have been maintained. The Yorkshire miners, John and Jenny Dennis helped Nick in becoming more relaxed and much more open in his attitudes. It was crazy of him to attack them and could only seriously backfire which it did. None the less, he has put Jenny Tells her Tale up on the www.endangeredphoenix.com web though at the time I don't think he'd any idea that I patiently wrote Jenny's story out from endless conversations or else, she simply sat on a sofa dictating passages. It was then organised better throughout 2004 - the 20th anniversary of the miners' strike - in a pretty dedicated way because I knew it was really good and needed to be published. We got it into the French publishing deadline with literally minutes to spare and Editions L'Insomniaque had it out within a few weeks which also included a separate account I'd written on aspects of the miners' struggle etc.
We tried for publication in the UK but it's still the old, old story here which has literally been going on for decades where nothing of real value gets any profile re publishing. It's worse than ever seeing nearly every alternative bookshop has now disappeared victim of astronomic property prices. No one ever publishes our stuff and that goes for the anarchists as much as the 'independent' leftist outfits that have finally distanced themselves somewhat from their Trotskyite ownership, well enough to publish say, Jose Bove but not Rene Reisel etc. This complete blanking really is amazing despite the fact that as an unspoken, unmentionable undertow, the influence of King Mob and subsequent things we've done have been significant. It's almost as though it is still a forbidden, even after forty-odd years. It is truly amazing! Furthermore, seeing it's all anti-copy write in any case there's no need to ask permission! As for ourselves we have something of a fearsome reputation given to explosions and not mincing matters etc though, most of the time, nothing could be farther from the truth and if anything, possess very genial dispositions. However even being over 60 years old we continually court ostracism, none-stop vilification and constantly shown the door marked EXIT! Inevitably we never made any real money, though always got by really OK as wages on building sites were pretty good until the recent wage slashing especially seeing we never really wanted to consume in any spectacular way or indeed travel much unless their was some subversive point to it, preferring instead generally to look in ditches ('ditch vision') at flowers and insects. Indeed we are making some DIY computer-generated films on the destruction of the northern colliery spoil heaps and how the elimination of wild miners has in turn engendered the elimination of wild nature. Again we've managed to put about everybody's back up in authority positions including every eco-organisation in the process. The usual stuff....
As far as all the more recent material we've put on the web the most common and recent complaint is the stuff cannot really be published because it is often unbridled not really having a beginning, middle and end. In a way this is true though something of a superficial comment. Certainly the last two things: A Freewheeling Latin America and Notes towards the Economics and Aesthetics of the Great UK Building Disaster are (especially the first) a veritable tsunami of rolling, breaking facts and interpretations. In a way the presentation borders on free form, something perhaps subconsciously inherited from an Albert Ayler or Ornette Coleman maybe?? Practically, also just how do you successfully edit all this when there's no one around to do this or help you? We're not into some bourgeois writer role whereby an unfinished script is handed over to some editor but in some situation of sharp end dialectics, rescued from the professional form it was first developed especially by Hegel whereby formal logic dealing with specific categories of knowledge, always encounters the dialectical syllogism involving the totality where one subject or question glides into another. Hegel said somewhere he wanted to write a book that never ended and maybe ineluctably this realisation has stolen upon us in a kind of flow, though seemingly arbitrary in form, is also as accurate as possible, regarding content, fact, and broader interpretation.
Dave Wise (Early February 2007)
The following are replies to questions from Constantinos regarding a possible Greek publication of "A Hidden History of King Mob" now in process of translation.
As for a certain confusion and repetition in A Hidden History of King Mob - well yes! The whole text was written quickly in a fever of desperation ' without blotting much of a line ' like as if the end of the world was coming. Perhaps somewhat like Rimbaud's A Season in Hell re: 'I smell of burning that's for sure'. I had to get it out and time was short. I had lost love and the revolution' like Shakespeare's Mark Antony on the death of Cleopatra: 'The odds are gone and there's nothing left remarkable beneath the visiting moon' and I was trying to express things which couldn't be expressed in the writing mode etc. More needed to be added and it needed to be gone over as what was there wasn't sufficiently accurate etc. In many ways I feel embarrassed about what was/is in the Hidden History and it's as though I dare not or rather, find it difficult to return to. It's true when I wrote it I didn't give a twopenny fuck about what anybody would think though knowing I was really going to put a lot of peoples' backs up. It was written in a mad though in many places, lucid rage. I consciously intended the piece to inherent something of the shock value of the Duchampian or better still, Surrealist and International Lettrist provocations in the moment of the decline of modern art, seeing that art no longer anywhere possesses this capacity re the ubiquitous and pitifully useless crap that is installation art that has lost all cutting edge. You could only recover this shock by applying the technique to renewed revolutionary theorising and praxis. I think at the very least I was successful in this aim especially when I walk down the street and people you know shun you or look at you with hatred or, at the very least, with a puzzled, angry look on their faces. In these islands some people have gone apeshit about the text, others have liked it, and a tiny few have even enthused about it. So it's a wide spectrum of responses. Initially during the 1990s it was Michel Prigent who said I must write about King Mob and name the people involved as nobody else involved was remotely up to the task. I must admit I was flattered by Michel's compliment and Nick Brandt tended to agree. Others have said I shouldn't have named and discussed individuals like I have in one section but sometimes you can only get general points across by concentrating on a particular person. In any case I always praised what was good about individuals I savagely criticised and in that sense rather like Hazlitt approached the failings of Wordsworth and other romantics. (Hazlitt's example was quite consciously there when I embarked on this approach). Others have said I should have written about my own failings and done a self-assessment. Well, my failings are hinted at in all the critical reflections on the general failings. On the other hand, I've been regularly assessed and generally condemned in a number of publications from the mid 1970s onwards - and that is a constant and it's out there for anybody to read - starting from regular attacks in the New Musical Express (Howard Fraser who worked for the weekly magazine got really uptight about these attacks) through Stewart Home, to many academics like Stuart Hall saying of me 'what a waste' to the dire Pete Fuller of Modern Painters fame etc. There are many more. Indeed there was only one magazine called Block that said anything praiseworthy about me! And seeing I can say little that is praiseworthy about myself - am far too self-critical for that - I much prefer the following:
'I went to the Isle of Skye
To meet a man who never was
I did battle with this man
And I think this man was I'
A nice gal from Liverpool , Vicki Maguire who recently wrote a long thing on the English situationists asked me for self-comment so I wrote my own and included Stuart's for good measure. It's a spoof calumny-type judgement which Vicki liked and included in her thing, so here it is and you can use it if you like:
Apropos of Jonathan Swift's: 'Lines on the Death of Dean Swift'
'His fire is out his wit decayed,
His fancy sunk his muse a jade.
I would have him throw away his pen,
But there is no talking to some men.'
Thus'.'These arseholes, to wit: David and Stuart Wise, set out from Newcastle (the moment of the devastation wreaked by the Icteric experiment) helping form in London in the late 1960s an undisciplined racket that went under the name of King Mob practising deviant sexuality and pornography spraying on walls Freud's highly dubious notion of 'polymorphous perversity' which contemporary feminists rightly regarded with suspicion. If not that King Mobbists daily went around attempting to destroy people's reputations and sincere endeavours, especially in the field of the arts. It was very ugly. Most of the original participants quickly recognised the error of their ways often launching themselves on successful, even meritorious careers but these two evil monsters throughout the following decades continued on their merry ways periodically assaulting all notions of human decorum. Initially much of this was proclaimed in various garbled pamphlets and, more recently, on two atrocious websites. Fortunately their grasp of the delicacies of the English language, particularly re diction is so appalling (it appears these morons really don't seem to know the difference between full stops, colons, semi-colons or apostrophes) that nobody in their right mind can read this lurid stuff. Failed academics - no wonder they got dismissed from various colleges and universities - really they are more like the mayhem engendered by failed states. Increasingly into 'radical' ecology these two berks couldn't tell the difference between an oak tree and an old telegraph pole'.
Moreover, a good friend commenting on William Blake's aphorism: 'If a fool persists in his folly he becomes wise' added: 'If a fool persists in his folly he becomes Dave Wise'.
Since that time I've tried to get others involved in a rewrite of the Hidden History but to no avail, though Nick Brandt made some good comments. I think the main criticism of Hidden History lies elsewhere in that it's only a staging post to the critique of the aesthetic/political economy which is the reality of Anglo-America today and which so called revolutionaries cannot get their heads around remaining ensconced in their retard ultra leftism. My twin brother also refused involvement mainly because he didn't want to be too influenced by what I was saying seeing he was engaged on his own more theoretical and historical reminiscences which have now come to some kind of fruition.
Moreover, I find I cannot cast myself in the mode of situationist 'writing' like that and find it difficult to be so cut and dried like as though it is expected of me. To me such an approach is reductive. The English romantics ever since my mid teens have always been a powerful influence and latterly the parenthesis and drift a la De Quincey - and no doubt related to his opium fuelled meanderings - has had perhaps something of a subconscious effect upon me. People have said - often very clued-in individuals too - that what we write, though very interesting, is all too chaotic and needs severe, even 'heavy-handed' editing. Maybe, but for myself I don't know how to do this without losing something of the fullness of what I'm trying to get at so for the moment (a moment it seems amounting to a kind of eternity) things must remain as inconclusive probing. In any case I'm not a 'writer' indeed I abjure the role and my style is too crazy, even dyslexic. Nor am I a 'theorist' like that and how can anybody but an idiot plough through the pointless intricacies of what passes for postmodern thinking? I often find the exhaustion of hard, physical labour far more enlightening, though that as it stands is no great shakes either though in allowing your thought patterns to remain un-compromised is better than most other forms of survival. I like the fact that when I'm mentioned in Wikipedia all the old epithets remain and you are near to be censored yet again. In relation to the former SI guy Tim Clark - now a ridiculous and well known art historian - the Hidden History (or part of) is described as 'an atrocious piece of bad writing' etc and again I feel I'm really getting somewhere. Excellent!
Seeing I mention De Quincey here it is perhaps useful (maybe?) to put together a joint note with Hazlitt as these two were the last substantial well known figures in Britain who attempted to really walk outside the framework of art and poetry embracing a sub-conscious Hegelianism re the latter's History of the Fine Arts built essentially around the rise and fall of form. English romanticism in its practise (including Scottish figures like Robbie Burns) was the most radical of all European romantic movements in the revolt of form. Unable to conceptualise like German romanticism its empirical breakthroughs were astonishingly profound and the logic within constantly taking one intrepid step after another. It was unwavering. Thus Hazlitt unable to write poetry knew the moment of poetry was coming to an end and vaguely recognised its profound momentum had to be subsumed in social revolution. It is said Hazlitt died happy in 1830 knowing the barricades were back on the streets of Paris . As for De Quincey murder had become a fine art and Andre Breton was to acknowledge this breakthrough in his 'Dictionary of Black Humour' also mentioning De Quincey's contribution to the critique of political economy which in itself was indebted to Ricardo. No one mentions this latter book in England except to pour scorn (ah, the power of Eng Lit) and has never been re-issued since De Quincey's time. (That ancient book is on the shelves of the British Library but many of the pages are uncut and that speaks volumes). Yes, the might of British Imperialism was to finish off all such valuable experiment and 20th century Britain also couldn't get much of a handle on our profound subversive past except through the researches of the social historians like Hill, Thompson and latterly, Linebaugh. King Mob intimated all of this ' also like the romantics mainly in practise ' but was unable to follow through on the lines of the above argument. We should have ruthlessly persisted instead of getting scattered to the four winds or, more pointedly to the Wild West Wind 'like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing' because in reality we were mown down just like at Peterloo!
On Nik Holliman and "The Sprint"
The Sprint is (was?) an occasional magazine produced by a plumber friend of ours called Nik Holliman. He is a good 'mad' guy and collaborates with Michel Prigent of BM Chronos, latterly through the pages of an interesting magazine called Principia Dialectica. In our websites we often refer to Nik - most recently in a Freewheeling Latin America - though also on the Derives, Housing & Real Ecos web - mostly in relation to his total refusal of the role of architect and town planner which he'd been trained to become. He has the merit of helping create Friends of the Earth and the even greater merit of being the first person to be thrown out of the organisation by always insisting on total revolution! As a student, Nik locked horns with hip libertarian architects like Colin Ward and John Turner - miserable wishy-washy town planners who had such an influence on the development of Latin American barrios - by way of the hard-headed economist De Soto who subtly imposed a monetarist divide and rule like buying your shantytown shack which even the Bolivarian Chavez-inspired forums in Venezuela's poor quarters now sadly embrace. Nik a few decades ago wrote the original Whale Campaign Manual and was one of the first individuals to campaign on behalf of an endangered species. At the same time he worked on critiques of packaging (returnable containers) and fashion (furs,animal extracts) campaigns.
On seeing the above Nik - sometime later - added a comment: "It's not strictly true that I was sacked from limited company by guarantee status - not being a charity."
A reply from Constantinos and an apposite quote:
In reply to some of this draft particularly this difficulty in finding expression to exactly mirror what happened and expressed in the inadequate medium of writing, Constantinos emailed a quote from Artaud included in Vaneigem's The Cavalier History of Surrealism which hit the nail on the head. Truth to tell, I'd quite forgotten the quote but was knocked out by it all over again:
"Such obstacles are always of the same order: ideas are stripped of their meaning, of their neuronal or affective content, at whatever point in their formation or materialization one apprehends them, at whatever point one becomes aware of their degeneration, their deflation - and in whatever sense one chooses to understand the term "ideas". A kind of amnesia is involved here, but it is a physical amnesia, an inhibition of the current that bears expression along. A sudden upset or blockage occurs, the lucid state produced by the active exercise of the mind is brutally dispelled, and ideas are thrown into turmoil because they cease being grasped, because of the dissipation and dispersal of who knows what vital magnetism."
For further recent commentary related to the above read the following in the "Wreckage & bric-a-brac" series: