Memories of underdevelopment and over development in Portugal, the UK and USA: A sort of scrambled totality in subjective overdrive set against the backdrop and personal experiences of the Portuguese revolt of the mid 1970s..........
The following is a helluva long ramble, a totalizing enquiry gone ape written in a fever of rejection and utter personal crises from November 1976 to February 1977. In early 2010 I was asked to search it out by Conchita, a Latino American but I couldn't initially find it; a year later there it was tucked away in a folder in a chaotic tool cupboard of rusted saws and worn out plastering trowels. Though these many A4 sheets were fairly neatly typed up with page numbers together with crossings out and additional notes in the margins the text never ever saw the light of day as a publication yet on rereading, I realized it had influenced so much I was to subsequently write either individually or as part of a collaboration especially the tract which came to be referred to as The End of Music and then, A Hidden History of King Mob and Like a Summers with a Thousand Julys. Yes, there have been some slight alterations as put on the RAP web though only regarding sections put in different places, i.e. the discussion on Joao Bernardo has been placed at the end rather than the beginning.
I certainly remember I felt especially vulnerable at the time it was written and therefore in trepidation shakily showed parts to others. The response was as I expected and the darned thing was almost universally condemned. Amazingly I never showed the text to Phil Meyler yet so much was based on passionate friendship and conversations we had together and many of the anecdotes about episodes in 'revolutionary' Lisbon came directly from him. Foolishly I also showed some of the paragraphs on pornography to local feminists I was very distantly acquainted with. They went crazy and one tore it up throwing a brick at me saying it was nothing more than a reflection of the American macho psyche re the invasion of Southeast Asia. I remonstrated very briefly, finally in despair beating a retreat.
In a way the sex blurb here was committed to paper in the interregnum between the early 1970s often very puritanical feminism (indeed some at the time referred to as Mrs. Grundy feminism) that also wanted egalitarian integration into an alienated repressive, though largely social democratic superstructure and the "sex-positive" feminism which came on strong in the very early 1980s which wanted an even greater integration into the superstructures of the new neo-liberalism. I must admit my experience with both aspects of feminism got nowhere. Having crashed in the puritanical phrase, sex-positive was even more calamitous as all I seemed to encounter was a demand for me to play theatrical rough trade roles and kinky scenarios which because I was so overcome with misery at the collapse of all revolutionary potential I was incapable of hacking with any conviction. My heart wasn't in it; at best a cock-up as most of the time I wanted to bathe emotional wounds through the oblivion of endless cuddling. Instead I fairly quickly departed profusely apologizing and feeling a right arsehole as these no doubt well-meaning women who wanted me to do these things said they could only do so because they trusted me implicitly as a kind, thoughtful individual envying my benign physical strength and manual worker prowess. But was I so kind? Psychologically I was also scared what this sexual theatrisation could do to me. Could it become real as I was always frightened of the working class violence deep within my soul and all these women were middle class and most from "Higher Educaty Land" as Irish from King Mob referred to it? It was a road I could not go down even though I had been to university art school myself, though I'd long since left any kind of social climbing behind. I did not want to be an inadvertent 'killer' and from then on recognising that deep social apartheid within my very being I knew I could only from then on have any hope of personal relationships through some kind of dysfunctional though on-going scene with working class women I could have a profound respect for having put up some relentless fight in their lives; individuals who were not social, cultural climbers. And so it turned out to be.....
Merely a year or so later parts of "the ramble" were inserted into other texts and given an airing in Leeds in the late 1970s around an ex -Solidarity / post situ scene. This was then well received and I was amazed and encouraged and started some loose collaboration out of which grew the Here and Now collective throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. A sharpened reevaluation of pornography plus critiques of feminism developed in this hot house though unfortunately none seemed to coalesce into something more coherently worked-out as a lengthy publication perhaps as counterpart to Annie Le Brun's Lachez Tout. In retrospect, almost inevitably the sexual aspects here were picked upon though this was a small part of what was in "the ramble". Much also concerned the critique of workers' control plus free community labour and condemnation of the worldwide trade union apparatus and leftist governments. There is a particular rant here (which got transplanted into other texts) re morality and money moralizing as an eternal leftist verity; hence taxation as the passage to a Christ-like purity redistributed to high virtuous ends. All of this is as relevant as ever and concentrating on tax avoidance is no basis for a critique of capitalism. Today, UK Uncut could do well to consider such things. For sure it's great to occupy shops, create a rumpus and talk to strangers while doing these things but not because of non-payment of taxes but because they are shops only existing because the cash nexus exists, when what we want is the abolition of money, wage labour and commodity production- at the very least. As for UK Uncut's predilection for poetry readings, art performance and libraries well what the fuck have they been reading and where have they been? With such limited knowledge it's hardly surprising they then rush into the arms of 'friendly' TU bureaucrats who then as per usual – in the name of unity and strength – go on and destroy all effective spontaneous, life-giving rebellion.
DW: late summer 2011
I have just come back from somewhat lengthy sojourns in Portugal and Spain and have been unable to settle back into English society. To try and overcome the trauma banging away inside my body I started (yet again) as midnight approached and pub doors closed to spray slogans up all over the place: "One drab weekend is bloodier than the bloodiest revolution". "Shop stewards are counter revolutionary" "Capitalist social relations reduce personal relationships to the level of the tortured and the torturer" "Free community labour implies something worse than slavery" "Drink is the quickest way out of Manchester - Fred Engels" and so on which almost inevitably ended in yet another police arrest. Moreover I was drunk and careless. I got absolutely nowhere trying to explain all this in court to a puzzled beak among equally puzzled reporters, who also wanted to know why two weeks previously I had been up in front of the same court having been nicked for shop lifting in Tesco's. All this on top of nonpayment of a fine from an arrest a year earlier, which culminated in a right beating in a police cell while a bearded 'good' cop looked on rather worried at the excesses of his 'bad' colleague! Having had the above slogans read out to the court along with some I couldn't even remember 'penning', finally I was quizzically asked by his lordship: "Are you mad?" I could only reply "Yes" knowing I was one of the sanest people in the world. Inevitably I was doubly fined with a caution that should I be arrested again anytime soon I could receive a custodial sentence in a mental institution. Trying to keep calm, trying not to hit the nearest cop at hand when drunk, for nigh on a month and a half and in a dingy, broken down bed sit I have sublimated my passions in this lengthy spiel....
Perhaps, there is a fundamental mistake in pointing out aspects of an underdeveloped and over- developed capitalist accumulation within a particular nation state though many features of over-developed capitalism such as atomization and privatization can be said to affect both the Third World and the First World alike perhaps even cutting across different modes of production. However it is now known through statistics – for what they're worth - that chronic depression and suicide cannot any longer only be characterized as the "Scandinavian Disease" i.e. the product of a highly efficient welfare state, with largely secularized values plus considerable material incentives for both working class and middle class people; a place where everything can be purchased within limits if you keep your nose to the grindstone. Nowadays amidst all this seeming new 'luxury' whether you acquire this specious wealth or simply don't have the means to do so, there is a nebulous gnawing frustration spreading everywhere; a profound feeling of almost total emptiness that was so accurately first pinpointed by Henri Lefebvre as the modern basis for a revolutionary "critique of everyday 1ife" once the vast increase in all mainly useless modern appendages are stripped away and we finally face our naked selves.
Moreover, belief in God has largely disappeared in a somewhat agnostic wavering uncertainty and the only substitute spiritual raison d'etre to stay alive is again and again and again to acquire more and more consumer goods if you can; all based on a secular belief in the future of a smoothly functioning capital though it is a goal that is also thankfully rapidly disappearing. Beyond consumption mania there really is no other fundamental belief system left. On such a mundane basis truly a general nihilism is born and with it, the horrors of the bath of fire so well described by Vaneigem in The Revolution of Everyday Life. It is also a moving dynamic and in a short period of time, fundamental superstructures of capitalism have quite quickly begun to rot - marriage, the family, school, culture – to name the most obvious ones. But this decomposition doesn't remain in a vacuum for deep within ourselves a rage is born to re-invent everyday life; to enrich it in ways never dreamt of before only to come up against a brick wall or rather, the impenetrable concrete world of wage labour. So often, these contradictory pressures between what banally exists and what imaginatively could be become impossible to live with and we are torn apart; the old ways no longer work but glimpses and experiments with the new we now know have a habit of turning out to be torturous processes of new means of destroying ourselves. Thus without a general revolutionary uprising taking place, we remain increasingly stuck in a nether world, or rather, a highly developed capitalist non-life which increasingly resembles a graveyard of dead experimentation or, at best becalmed experimentation in a vacuum that should be (but isn't) pregnant with revolutionary desires.
Well so much for the present state of super-modernity but alas, such 'cultural' chaos is spreading to the more underdeveloped countries too in a momentum, which admittedly is highly uneven. If capitalism continues, the fate of Catholic countries and the newly emerging Muslim countries (e.g. Libya) in spite of their greater structural rigidity regarding ancient customs and institutions will inevitably experience similar traumas.
.....Yet so much hangs in the air over Portugal and Spain.....
What happened in Portugal recently was, in many respects confirmation of such a trajectory and will Spain be any different? At the moment political hippies (Spanish Yippies) late at night greet you by the Barcelona waterfront with no intention of ripping you off despite realizing you are from a richer northern Europe. Immediately a shared camaraderie of struggle is evident – the yippyisation process has not yet turned psychotic like in America - so they talk passionately, often with a profound edge, holding special contempt for the Spanish Communist party.
The following is a kind of revolutionary tourist's impression (what the hell) of Portugal and Portuguese life after the change / consolidation of state personnel after the confused revolt by leftists among the armed forces on November the 25th 1975 following the "Revolt of the Carnations" well over a year previously. There's no point in criticizing to any great extent the leftist parties and their ultra reformism, whether they are Communist party, Trotskyite, Maoist or Anarchist, which has been carried out well by the tiny Portuguese ultra left (largely around Combate). What follows, merely adds a personal dimension that has largely been neglected within the revolutionary critique. It could be said this dimension is broadly related to the post Second World War development of the Society of the Spectacle and / or production of the means of consumption, (in Marxian terminology, Dept 11) and all the seemingly imaginative correlatives which tend to load themselves onto this prosaic category of political economy from TV to pop music to fashion to pornography.
Everyday life springs, rises and ferments quickly whenever a seeming revolutionary situation is experienced. In between 1966 to 1970 incredible hopes were born in the breasts of those who were part of the insurgent movement. The trouble was, the desire for life proved to be a stronger motivating force, something more immediately pleasurable, than a clear, hard-headed, rational analysis of the underlying economy which is what largely made the failure of the late 1960s so unbearable to live with after its demise. That sheer beautiful blast of hope made it difficult to distinguish between the revolutionary and the pseudo-revolutionary situation, particularly for those who at a too youthful age were thrown into the revolutionary process. The comedown from an ideology of liberation is fraught with dangers, but the problem is, the revolution and the pseudo-revolution seem to come knocking on the door at one and the same time, each tending to invade the other. For instance, the glamour of imagining oneself as a James Dean revolutionary in really lived space has really little to do with the practical decisions which will have to be made and yet, despite this, a masquerading will probably be there with us even at the point when the capitalist mode of production is finally broken; that historical Pandora's box which has as yet, been so little theorized upon most likely because it cannot be theorized.
How did the young revolutionaries feel after their naive hopes had been shattered after the outcome of the soft coup of November the 25th 1975. An anguished accurate comment came in a letter from Phil Meyler, (February 16th 1976)...... "Many young revolutionaries [in Portugal] are taking it bad though. Sleepers are back and men are beginning to fight with their wives again about trivialities. The revolution saved so many relationships and marriages until now. It was easy to be against everything together. Now, the minor contradictions implode and fights and arguments are everywhere. There isn't even the simple anti-fascist unity, which kept so many people together in the years prior to 1974. Spain maybe different but Portugal is battle worn, depressed and squabbling......." How reminiscent this is of the post 1968 trajectory. Again as Lefebvre pointed out with each defeat of the revolution everyday life becomes more and more unbearable. Subjective hopes bordering upon the utopian millennia can so easily slip / slide into solipsist madness. Let us not do the same.....Quick, an objective look at the Portuguese economy or is such an approach merely another one way street; a mere delay in an exorable permanent madness economy?
Portugal is a relatively underdeveloped capitalist economy but certainly not in the Third World category. Before April the 25th 1974, Portugal was one of the last of the ultra colonialist empires based upon a militaristic occupying force, an imperialism which had more to do with primitive plunder of its colonial possessions than in building up an industrial infrastructure, (factories, construction, communication networks, etc) which, say characterized British Imperialism. In one sense, British Imperialism despite all its barbaric tendencies had a progressive side forcibly superseding the Asiatic mode of production that existed prior to conquest. Portuguese Imperialism on the contrary tended to retard the development of the productive forces until the middle 1950s at least like say, the exploitation of oil resources in Angola.
At home, the Portuguese economy was changing too so its underdevelopment must not be taken purely at face value. By the 1960s, many peasants were becoming agricultural wage labourers. More importantly, a factory based proletariat was taking shape via a modern industrial take off encouraged by Salazar in his later years, though essentially spearheaded by a tiny but expanding technocratic elite trained in the modern universities, which though right wing weren't fascistically right wing. As a capitalist entity, Portugal was still backward and inefficient in comparison to the vast majority of other test case European countries - perhaps only with the exception of Greece? However, it is only since April 25th 1974 that any major state intervention in the economy has taken place and often that has evolved haphazardly. The new Portuguese bureaucracy largely experiments empirically without the leaders having any clear set course in their heads to pursue, though how sophisticated it will eventually become and what new forms of state control it will have to subsidize remains to be seen.
April the 25th 1974 in Portugal brought with it not only a disturbed interregnum before the further development / intensification / quickening of the economic advance towards state capitalism but also the liberalizing of morality and traditions. Much of the past was overhauled....e.g. the museum of Antiquities departed from its Fascist heritage by a polite overhauling of the murky past and the shrunken heads of Africans were removed. Now that Mozambique and Angola were on their way to a faux independence, cultural real politic has also to make requisite progress.
After April the 25th 1974, the state takeover by the progressive bourgeoisie instantly turned against those backward monopoly sectors of Portuguese capital owned by the few infamous families like Antonio Champalimaud, Jorge de Melo, Manuel Espitito Santo and Miguel Quina who as well as controlling large sections of industry, also controlled the banks. Thus, even in a very archaic capitalism, there was no separation between industrial and financial capitalism as pertains in Britain, itself the legacy of a much greater empire than ever Portugal had. Bringing banking and the big monopolies under state control was therefore a fairly straightforward affair, which "brought 60% of industry including most of the largest companies and practically all of the press-into the hands of the state" (according to that dry-as-dust ultra leftist mag, Internationalism 3). However, the monopolies of Portugal were / are by no means autarchic. There were and are links with foreign monopolies (e.g. the Espirito group had links with Belgium's oil trust, Petrofina, which are typically dependent on and linked to foreign monopolies and serve as conduits for foreign capital – see again Internationalism 3 - but what are these links? (Is it price fixing, or a hoped-for take off, or what?) Financially though, the power of the state over indigenous monopolies has to be modified as far as foreign multinationals are concerned and "German capital, which together with British and American capital has hitherto dominated the Portuguese economy" (ibid). Thus, although there may be increasing trade links with the East European block, perhaps assisted by the auspices of the Communist party, American / EEC capital still has the dominant control over the Portuguese economy. Perhaps however with the possible future accession to power of left alliances in France, Spain and Italy, the balance of trade with East European / USSR power block may not remain peculiar to Portugal considering the general increase in trade links between the East and the West in general; a process which is more favourable to the West than the East because extraction of surplus value in the immediate future maybe rather more guaranteed in the totalitarianisms of the East. (In Russia it may be said there is a tendency to import fixed capital that is then run by indigenous variable capital, i.e. Russian workers). Let us recall the two most well known cases: Fiat in Togliattigrad and the joint Vodka / Cola enterprise. Latterly Russia's state advertising agency has begun to employ Madison Avenue marketing agents perhaps hoping for, or anticipating some boom - some innovative sales hype as consumer production finally takes off, like the following.....
NEWSWEEK, OCT I3th I975: MOSCOW GOES MADlSON AVENUE
"In a move that must have Karl Marx whirling in his grave, V/O Vneshtorgeeklama, the Soviet overseas advertising agency has invited a pair of American ad men to Moscow to preach the gospel according to Madison Avenue. Later this month two executives of the Black-Russell-Morris agency will hold a seminar for the heads of Soviet foreign trade organizations aimed at helping them upgrade their marketing strategies. The apparent reasons for the invitations the Soviets are running a massive deficit in their trade relationship with the US and would like to narrow the gap by making their industrial product more appealing to U.S. buyers."
Increasing state capitalism through a rebellion from below made a confused jump forward in Portugal after the 25th of April 1974. Nevertheless, its formation was youthful in terms of its extension into many areas of social life (the family, personal problems, leisure, dwelling units etc). But, on the other hand, look how developed it is in one aspect that has gigantic implications for any national capitalism: banking. A virtual nationalization of banking is without precedent in Western Europe or North America and for good reason, as was explained with reference to Britain, (admittedly something of an anomaly).
It is a marginal possibility, that Portuguese state capitalism could even offer itself as a paradigm once the smoke has cleared and information has been more clearly digested by the mandarins in those western economies possibly about to be 'taken' by popular unity governments. But there again, the 'alterations' would be more massive than the Portuguese example itself once it involves nation states really colonized by giant multinationals. As it stands Portugal has realized a dream close to the hearts of Labour lefts and the TUC bureaucrats of the UK who yearn for some form of national statification of that offshore island - the City of London - and perhaps by doing so forcing investment in British industry which as a lot of people know is sadly lacking. But what was a fairly easy process in Portugal could prove a nightmare in the City of London where all the complexities of the world market are crammed into the ever growing, square mile.
With the subordination of the indigenous capitalist monopolies to the state, (though remember not the multinationals) a similar process has occurred within the trade unions. The Portuguese Intersyndical was centralized resembling for the lefties something like the fuzzy haze of a "new workers' state"(huh). Recuperation must be expected but the centralization of the unions' structure was quite a different matter facilitated (unintentionally) by the thrust of a developing autonomous workers' movement which didn't really know sufficiently what it wanted, remaining at the experimental stage. One suspects that the right wing bosses and parliamentarians of Italian or French state capitalism – and others - may to some degree look with envy on the Portuguese trade union model in comparison to the compartmentalization which exists in their own national trade unions which nevertheless, they can often use to their own divisive advantage. For example, in Britain, setting one part of the trade union movement against another is common practice considering that squalid inter-union rivalry within the working class (itself legacy of the old guild craft traditions), which though creating many strikes is hardly an insurgent class response which left bureaucrats also need in pushing for their particular messed-up form of workers' power. For sure Portugal's new type of centralization probably has made some TU bureaucrats in Britain green with envy but so what? It's hardly the revolution and moreover in Portugal the 'revolutionary councils' have been used by the trade union bureaucracy in the newly nationalized industries as a means by which workers have been persuaded to increase production and hence administer their own increased exploitation.
The preceding perambulations have merely emphasized what is different about Portugal though I cannot pretend to really know the country and its institutions. Certain things though are obvious. The Portuguese economy mixes both underdevelopment and higher development for those parts of the world which can be called neither First nor Third World and how can you ever forget that video footage of Taureg's in the Sahara in 1964 with transistors tied on to their camels listening to the Beatles, A Hard Day's Night? But it is the very tension / conflict of 'cultural' consumption and its expression in terms of an everyday life both modern and traditional at the same time, which gives a special interest to Portugal at the present time. It hits you like a variation on the regionalism of the soul encountered in the great metropolises of northern Europe, when you're accused of being archaic at the same time as you are schizophrenically "absolutely modern"- to parody Rimbaud. Like in the regions, modernity becomes a gnawing, subtle invasion on the older more stable though often more mystified 'god given' basic ways of living. But there's another point which is difficult to elaborate clearly: in the early 1970s there's been a mass marketing of nostalgia, (don't you feel sentimental about last week?) which is tending to play havoc with time sequences as if at the age of 30 your life is well and truly over with. Thus in Portugal pleasant childhood memories of under development were clashing inside a head on fire with over development; something like a put-on of Sachaverell Sitwell worshipping in a picaresque way the "unchanging quiet" roofs of Porto when your brain is also molten with a cynicism matching Raymond Chandler's view of cities. And then there's the following sing song refrain from the Newcastle TV serial, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, mirroring a similar mood.
"Tomorrow's almost over
Today went by so fast.
It's the only thing to look forward to:
Let's Take a Walk on the Wild Side of Lisbon, all the while thinking about London, Barcelona, San Francisco and......?
Lisbon is a beautiful city and its pleasant rambling through the different barrios. The Tagus Bridge built in the later years of the Salazar régime gives the city a slight feeling of San Francisco and indeed you wonder was the structure just any old suspension bridge or was it modelled on the Golden Gate? Historically, both cities had earthquakes and geographically are built on hills descending to a drowned river estuary. While capitalism is the same the world over, the same is also different but I wasn't the only person walking the waterfront in those heady days of the mid 1970s with an eye half-fixated on the euphoria that had swept through San Francisco in the late 1960s, though more on that later... However quickly hitting reality in terms of the social relations of production – the Lisbon streets are full of poorly clothed workers doing their jobs – there's less pretence to glamour in everyday life... and there comparisons end.
Everywhere a really, really friendly feeling was evident along with a general lack of war of one against all, which sadly you immediately experience in northern European cities. It was a feeling as plain as day. What a relief! What a welcome escape - meaning that highly capitalized psychosis hasn't as yet become a materialized social relationship of half-crazed encounter; one that no longer does justice to the subversive meaning of "encounter". It takes some time walking the streets of Lisbon to realize that the accumulated paranoia; that street-walking pathology experienced so often in the highly developed countries is relatively absent. The mugging, the dipping, the street rip off, is almost non-existent (even non existent). Has this to do with a more humane, general ambience, a place where everybody tends to know everybody else as each person tempers their behaviour towards the person next to them? Thus, the petite bourgeois, in spite of their capitalist social relation vis-à-vis the customer are not so overtly rapacious and the Lisbon small proprietors, seedy as they so often are do not particularly look for a thousand and one ways of fleecing customers, which does not mean that those workers scattered all around their modest enterprises shouldn't expropriate them in the period of advanced general revolutionary upheaval.
Attitudes and responses quickly go through some welcome time warp - the older forms of openness and honesty are still reasonably intact - no matter how much this old fashioned, courteous way of relating is to some degree founded in respect for the church / old fashioned schooling etc. and may also be characterized as repressive. More importantly, the development of post second world war consumerism has not as yet privatized the lives of the Portuguese people. Strangers on the train try to make contact with each other as if it was the most natural thing in the world and the isolation / atomization of the subway systems of the great metropolises seem far away. More than that, it immediately crosses my mind – and contrary to what I've just said - that in Britain, the boom and the never never has in fact increased the repressiveness and lack of spontaneous self-expression, which was already a deep-seated trait of Protestantism in any case.
And, just as quickly my head then lurches into further abstractions: the greater the capitalist development, the greater the general social privatization, the more a foundation is laid for everyday life to be thrown into numbness / pathology and a general enraged chaos. A friend said only recently, "In the USA everyday life is machine gunned to death" and it is a goal the rest of the world is now aspiring to. Perhaps it maybe a stage / pre-condition for a higher stage of 'communism'; of a higher plain of communication; of a rejuvenated and truly original everyday life and the essential counterpart of the socio-economic transformation but it is certainly harrowing to live through..... In the meantime it truly is a welcome change to simply go back to prior stages, to an underdeveloped stage – just for a simple breather - so nearly impossible has the disintegration of the fabric of social life become in the more economically advanced countries. Psychologically, there's less to fear and the fact privatization hardly exists means that the intense personal character armouring accompanying you from the highly developed countries is instantly moderated. On the Lisbon public transport network the body and mind becomes more relaxed and not quite so rigid, quite unlike the experience of London transport where the head whirls so often as if experiencing some lurid, apocalyptic mess; quiet on the surface but screaming underneath.
Fare rises on state transport have become fairly common the world over but responses to fair rises vary considerably. In London, it oscillates between respect for the law, (I promise to pay the old fair ticket) and a silent, even lonely artful dodging. The open hostility to fare rises in Lisbon is either a belated recognition that the revolution was turning sour, or maybe, an expression of certain differences between Protestant and Catholic cultures?
There was one incidence in particular on the railway to the suburb of Estoril on New Years Day, 1976; a young man refusing to pay the 30% fare increase attacked a ticket collector. One or two people moved instantly to support the young man, others told him not to get angry. No one supported the ticket collector. Caught in their minor authority roles, other ticket collectors huddled together at the back of the carriage nervous at the prospect of demanding to see any more passengers' tickets. Job's worth functionaries and in no sense the real enemy it was still a pleasant feeling watching them beating the retreat. However, one collector had managed to contact the police and at the next station, the police duly arrived. They obviously didn't like the job of enforcing the law neither, as the first cop to enter the train carriage was in a sweat. Verbal turmoil and a fairly polite slanging match followed and the train only moved off after a large section of passengers had disembarked onto the platform to argue with the police and ticket collectors, one guy muttering bitterly that things had been better under Salazar. The response though was in marked contrast to similar but not so dramatic increases in London. Here, ducking and diving won out as an immediate way of hitting back by simply dodging the ticket inspector and paying the minimum fare (l0 pence) at the destination point. True a similar refusal but not pointedly out in the open as spontaneously happened in Lisbon.
Madness or madness. Decomposition or decomposition. "Decomposition must be swept aside but the clock had not yet struck the hour of pure pain" (Rimbaud)
Streets in Lisbon have a very lively quality to them particularly in the popular districts. There isn't that body space distancing as has happened in the more highly developed world thus the Portuguese, like the Spanish, tend to confront you face-to-face, or rather nose-to-nose. This is underlined by the fact urban space in Lisbon is more crowded in the narrow hilly streets built to keep the summer sun at a distance so people brush against each other and it's all very comforting. Moreover it's so utterly different from the bourgeois districts, where in the much more spacious avenidas, the coldness/ anti-life hits you squarely in the eye. It's common enough knowledge but worth reiterating, that the proletarian / lower middle class neighborhoods of Lisbon are much more homogenous, localized and Portuguese, than the cosmopolitan mixtures (and racism) of the big cities of northern Europe where worker, minor state bureaucrat and teacher can live together in the same house in separate flats and bed sits hardly making contact with each other beyond formalities. Therefore, in terms of isolation, atomization, culture shock, or whatever, the very homogeneity of the popular quarters of Lisbon gives them a less alienating quality. Hardly surprising in such convivial atmosphere street incidences are generally less chaotic and disturbed. Lisbon, in spite of the phenomenal consumption of wine by the Portuguese, does not really have the skid rows and alchi parks, blossoming merrily in the much bigger (and richer) metropolises of northern Europe and the USA. Where do the Portuguese alcoholics go? Are they quietly put away somewhere? However the 'skiers' (those freaked-out gimps forever looking up at what – a vanishing universe?) and desperate freaks, the real victims of the cultural decomposition of everyday life under capitalism, which we in London live cheek by jowl with, cannot readily be recognised in Lisbon's public spaces. At most times of the day, in a ten-minute walk in the central areas of London some grotesquely distorted individual will be found. It is a though English eccentricity under relentless pressure has tipped more and more into the openly schizophrenic with the crises / tumult of everyday norms; the half assed / confused rebellion of eccentricity on the primrose path to destruction in the UK ably assisted with alcohol and pills. But is this accurate? Should the description of eccentric be applied here? Traditionally, eccentricity is often the semi-escape of the middle class and this phenomenon is different: it's the working class unable to keep it together letting rip with madness on the streets.....
However, the lack of statistics must be taken into account with regard to Portugal where possible incarceration into lunatic asylums is a constant threat. It seems, 'treatment' in the asylums is brutal with lobotomies regularly carried out and light years away from the more sophisticated democratic psychiatric techniques – though often equally obnoxious - deployed in more highly developed western economies..... (In pointing out such differences this is not meant to denigrate 'the mad', who are often saner than those who are treating them...) In Portugal, if there is the madness out on the street, it does not have that same air of cruel disintegration, which is so often the all too common trajectory in the economically advanced capitalist countries. Fits of delirious expression in a typical inner city London street, e.g. like the guy mentioned previously, mud covered – there he is now - with a face split down the middle continually looking at the sun locked in some trauma..... or, more generally, the tendency to talk to yourself, which can so rapidly turn into a hysterical argument within / against yourself. In the highly developed countries the 'mad' people are so commonplace that many 'sane' people ignore them, though enough look at them (the 'mad') bewildered and cynically walk away from such messed up attempts at self-expression on the streets. Certainly a poetic comment comes to mind "madness is revolution confined to the self" (John Berger) that could be developed in interesting, illuminating ways. On one level, that, hippy, voluntaristic, self-overcoming of the late 1960s which refused to take cognizance of sordid reality ended in that way; a revolt against customs, morality and institutions, it broke its head open on the pillars of capital. Perhaps it was a harder comedown in the UK because of the endemic English traditional moralism and, in parenthesis; one can well understand why Berger on the lam from English moralism prefers exile within the greater rationality of France.
In Portugal a guy gets drunk in a tasca; gets slightly aggressive and is sick. The bartender in the tasca helps him to the lavatory. His girl friend covers the puke with sawdust. The guy then comes staggering out of the lavatory and is handed a small bottle of mineral water by the bartender. He drinks it, grins charmingly at everybody and staggers out of the bar. The impression is that such a situation wasn't that unusual. The same incident in northern Europe or North America wouldn't be a pretty sight. In London or New York, the individual often psychotically drunk confronts a brutal bartender and is slung out of the bar.
In other situations, a straightforward-ness is evident which is almost naive. In the imitation mini-supermarkets of Lisbon, developed under Caetano (the former President) with his policy of greater commercialization of basic consumer goods, counter insurgency techniques like the use of convex mirrors to spy on customers are not yet a reality. Does anybody rip off? Is it an older fashioned morality or fear of the police and the judiciary? Spain is the same. On the one hand you're told the store dicks (are there any?) and the assistants merely tell you to replace the goods, on the other hand, grisly tales of three months in clink. Thieving has yet to be considered from a political angle in Spain and Portugal in no matter how confused or sociological way. And anything like a Sociology of Deviancy is distinctly lacking but perhaps it will appear within the educational boundaries of the new state capitalism. In the UK or North America, the small shopkeeper and chain store manager look like hawks at the customers watching for those quick fingers of four-year-old kids to seventy-year-old pensioners. Somehow the managers scent the smell of looting and the tendency towards a radical overthrow of exchange relations. When could the individual rip off turn into general riot? And it is so easy as any quick glance at the Notting Hill riot during the summer of 1976 will explain; though afterwards, only the Communist party and the Labour party plus their leftist hangers on bemoaned the loss of the liquor section of the 'socialist' co-op.
It is almost as if the violence of the fascist of the fascist state kept intact the process of decomposition already well under way in the liberal democracies and the semi-liberal democracies. Undoubtedly the Portuguese working class has been a more combative class than the working class of the UK in the 20th century and armed insurrection by workers throughout the 20th century in Portugal has been frequent. One year after the General Strike in the UK, on Feb 27th 1927 there was an attempted revolution in Portugal, which was bloodily crushed. It doesn't need much intelligence to understand why the PIDE (Portuguese secret police) came into existence. They were a vicious and cruel secret police and no doubt still are as they haven't been destroyed merely their name has changed – the usual practice. But at least the brutalization overtly came from on top - an arm of the state - making it an enemy easy to identify. You knew who had been killed and why. Brutalisation hadn't yet become opaque, hadn't yet become as interiorized and manipulated as has taken place in more intensely capitalized countries where we "die of not knowing struck down from behind" (Vaneigem). As a political prisoner, you are appallingly tortured by the secret police in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula but you begin to wonder how much worse is it than the subtly manipulative process of self-torturing so often inflicted by liberal social democracy. In Portugal, there is naked capitalist brutality to confront but in the UK there's constant clever diffusion of real confrontation on the classic class lines you so desperately want. The police may occasionally do their really nasty, dirty work but the various arbitration bodies are the real sewers. It's the difference between sponges and rocks.
Can a disintegrating community increasingly colonized by private consumption be transcended?
The market for the production of the means of consumption, (clothing, food, tobacco home appliances, leisure gadgetry etc) has not been as well developed in Portugal as its next door neighbour Spain, and even more so, the EEC and North America. Apart from basic agricultural production, it is extremely doubtful if modern consumer development, considering the difficulties / crises of world capitalism can do a run, jump and sprint or even minimally take off in Portugal. Nevertheless, the longing is there and very plain to see and many a poor Portuguese kid would rather buy a pair of wranglers than eat a square meal, despite which the dream purveyed by Portuguese TV of luxurious consumption, may only remain an empty, tantalizing goal. With the world capitalist crises, the production of the means of production (heavy machinery basically, Dept I in Marxist theorising) and not the production of the means of consumption (Dept 11) must remain the fundamental priority.
Consumer goods production seems to be very much a surface phenomenon in Portugal. Much appears to be imported, although the low wages of the Portuguese working class would make the country an ideal site for a denim shirt manufacturer and indeed some hip capitalist only yesterday said he hopes to do just that. Whatever, like Mick Jagger politicians, the new radical state capitalist elite often use such gear to offset their radicalism giving themselves a convincing hip image. For example, Rosa Coutinbo, the so-called Red Admiral, receives his interviewers dressed in red caramel T-shirt, truly production of the means of consumption for the revolutionary elite of state capitalism! "The old consumption goods, food and clothing, [have been] joined by new, more elaborate consumption goods" (Joao Barnardo, "Crisis. Historical Forms of their Appearance and Recuperation") yet behind the militantism of the parties defending one fraction of world capital as again another, there lurks the real critique of capitalism and its high point in consumerism.
Practically the recognition of modern consumer production is there though how could it be otherwise? The process though is fought out more in terms of image identification and superficial acceptance locating itself somewhere at a pre-hippy stage. Youth sub-cultures appear to be making a later impact on Portugal than in the north European countries and the United States. The youth wear flash gear (looking smart still seems to be important) though the essential ingredient, an indigenous pop music is missing and you can hardly imagine like Liverpool, a Lisbon Sound. No Portuguese pop group has been marketed for international sales and, in turn, you wondered did youth under the fascist dictator Salazar avidly listen to Elyis or the Beatles, or were the folk music remnants of the old culture sufficiently intact to off-set the massively invasive influence of pop; that is, when folk music was the genuine article and not as marketed today in the UK or North America, with a strong but faux social base in the regional movement and the sentimentality which goes with it? In Catalunya, the folk music tradition has a greater hold although musical marketing is not as yet that developed. Early 1960s revivalist folk music which in the USA went electric / pop / surrealist / blues, only to return to folk again in the 1970s doldrums with its social base in the burgeoning regionalist and nationalist movements, which in themselves are the fucked up legacy of a thwarted 1960s internationalist spirit. Nevertheless, the return of 'real' folk music seems to be resisted but in a highly subterranean and schizoid way. Although groups of young people assemble around the sad, haunting pipe and guitar sounds of young Catalan folk singers on the Ramblas in Barcelona perhaps pretending they're into the authentic people's music; crowds literally soon gather around hippy Americans blowing Sonny Rollins like be-bop improvisations into alto saxophones and anybody imitating Hendrix with a portable loud speaker/feedback amplifier system would clean up - probably much to the alarm of Catalunya's cultural nationalists.
Its more capitalistically powerful European neighbours heavily influence the Portuguese media. A TV entertainment spectacular on New Year I975 at peak viewing time was broadcast from Germany and consisted of German / English / American pop music occasionally assisted in presentation by some Portuguese interpreter cum commentator. The Portuguese teenagers flocked into the tascas' (neither buying drinks nor pressured to buy them) and were fascinated by the TV spectacular as were other much older workers who responded with much greater sceptism not really identifying with the music. Perhaps this response shouldn't be described as sceptical, more likely it's just simply less clued–in to the youthful charms on sale. It certainly shouldn't be construed as a sophisticated rejection of the musical market. One thing though stands out clearly: this TV show produced more interest than the previous New Year's Eve programme, a pep talk by the president, Costa Gomes, plugging the "battle for production" which bored the pants off both teenagers and older workers alike. Perhaps the teenagers (most of who seemed to be working class) were more interested in having the money to buy a guitar than in the elemental class battles of the previous eighteen months. Possibly they were interested in both though perceiving them as entirely separate without any need to make connections; thus the workers occupations of factories remained to most people separate from the commodities produced by them – i.e. did they even begin to consider if we really require much of what is produced; that dichotomy of false needs versus genuine needs?
For the middle class youth, such a dream (nightmare?) was / is more within their grasp, thus fantasy projections and media identifications are easier to conjure up simply because they having more money to consume. For example, some of the more well off youth of one of the most well known of Portuguese tourist towns - Cintra - were, on a balmy winter's day, using the roads curving up and down the hills as a racing circuit; Cintra, this rich, tourist enclave made famous by the English romantic movement with its shafts of foggy sunlight streaming from the mountain top which made Byron's legs quiver with pleasure. These kids though looked more like young middle class sub-Marinetti's (in style not politics and without the originality) who enjoyed disturbing the lifeless serenity of Cintra with the roar of clapped-out Portuguese motor bikes, less clapped-out (but still antediluvian) British manufactured Norton Villiers Triumphs and for the real top-notch kids, smoothly styled souped-up Honda's. These hedonists (you could see by the far off looks in their eyes) were into dreaming about the film Easy Rider or the racing circuit of Le Mans. Yes rebellion, but only in terms of mild cultural revenge against the reified life style of their parents and there any recognition of the validity of their rebellion ends. In short, longhaired Marinetti's only into a simplistic surface rebellion within the acceptable paradigms of media images also fight with the Falange in the Lebanon.
Off the Avenida da Libertad and the main drag in the Quaderni Rossi in Lisbon, the cinemas were preparing to display their next feature: the English rock opera "Tommy". It is a super de luxe promotion of pop music and grander than any previous promotion of English pop music; a film funny in parts but empty of any real content when compared with a film like Stardust which portrays the dismal downfall of pop. Stardust suggests as a sub text that the star performer is usually super-exploited not only pushed from pillar to post but an agent of colossal exploitation economically (in terms of the production of surplus value), therefore something like an astronomically paid superman of a worker, forced into chronic productivity deals - unless, the musician can get some smaller racket going on the side.
How would the Portuguese youth respond to some glamorous shite like "Tommy"? How else other than by swallowing the whole falsified presentation of a once (?) swinging London, glossily conditioning willing suckers into thinking there's a miracle of pleasure in Britain. Miracle of pleasure? You must be joking. The grim and complex reality is mirrored in the denouement of pop in the 1970s, (as a creative force in comparison to the 1960s) an overlay to the sordid social reality of chaos, wipe out and disintegration amongst a plethora of self-help schemes from small time, fringe workers' co-ops to collective grow (and brew) your own. In appearance, the UK is no longer one of the Mecca's of advanced consumerism but an island of sub-Proudonist experiment funded by the state, unlike the original, stand-on your own two feet, Proudonist cooperatives.
A few years ago when immigrant labour was more required in the north European countries such flash films could serve the purpose of luring the Portuguese poor to the highly developed countries where they rapidly became badly paid cannon fodder, often forced into the guttiest jobs. Perhaps, more accurately, one could say it had a hidden purpose; a using of the Lisbon cinemas as marketing outlets for film companies where images intentionally clash brutally with reality. Thus there's no speeding down the road from London to Brighton on a Harley Davidson but dismal, long hours slaving away in factories or hotels. You can well see why the immigrants tended to become one of the great cause celebre's of a left that paternalistically pats them on the head. Instead of focusing on a more updated theory of increasing exploitation of the working class, an exploration that could demolish some of the cant and vagaries about super-exploitation of immigrants, the left falls over backwards into some guilt stricken anti-imperialism. True, the immigrant workers often don't know or get given any education in simple bourgeois civil rights and are often poor dupes for ruthless bosses but that equally doesn't mean they have to be always uncritically supported - as the left blithely tends to do. In Germany, most of the immigrants do tend to make up a sizable proportion of the German working class but in England that needn't necessarily be the case. For example, the recent influx of Asians forced out of Uganda by the dictator Idi Amin rapidly made headway (generally speaking) as small proprietor shopkeepers because they are willing to exploit members of their own nuclear family plus charging exorbitant prices after most other shops have closed for the day.
The contradictions and gaps between relative underdevelopment and over development have created a highly bizarre pick 'n' mix in Portugal. The ultra old and the ultra new collide with each other in a crazy dance particularly in political and modern consumer identifications...... In Lisbon, the leftist slogans were everywhere. You had seen them, more or less, all before but not in such abundance. Once, when I was more naïve, I probably would have felt they were revolutionary but time, experience and knowledge, gives a keener and more disillusioned insight. Certainly, the slogans look good and militant crudely splashed on the walls but are they the woof and warp of life? There's the constant nagging pain inside, "What's the greater reality behind this militant decoration?" Only too often the answer is, little more than what the Communist party and its leftist hangers-on take to be our (hoped for) future reality. Few put social content before political aims. A little later and the same became true of Spain. Apart from the occasional outburst wit is distinctly lacking and as for social content - comments tilted at the total superstructure of capitalism – well these were rare in number. One of the few which had any reality was ironically a Maoist slogan opposite the MRPP offices "our teachers, our parents = the PIDE." (The fascist, International Police for the Defence of the State). Unfortunately for the young naïve graffiti writer one could equally say how about substituting PIDE with MRPP too? (The MRPP stands for Movement for the Reorganisation of the Party of the Proletariat.
Sometimes there's a really subversive comment. Some wag had written on the wall of a rich Lisbon cemetery, "The graveyard to those who work it"- giving a brilliant inflection to the all too often glib panacea of workers' control when we should really be critiquing workers' control of their own alienation. In a café, run by the gals and guys of the LUAR (League of Union for Revolutionary Action, -one of the better far leftist outfits) someone had written on a poster of Che Guevara – "Wanted: Dead or Alive, How much?" and underneath another wag had penned, "56 escudos"(less than £I.) The cafe itself had been acquired by robbing a Lisbon bank in the days of Salazar. The robbery was given great political, even heroic status on the lines of retrieving the peoples' money etc. but really, it was only so the militants of LUAR could set themselves up with a nice, small proprietor's cafe, which their friends could come along to, have a snack, a beer, talk politics and generally have a good time. Nothing wrong in that but do we need the obligatory militant blurb to justify such actions?
But these witticisms were rare among the deadly social realism of the Maoist parties with their posters of stereotyped militant workers. Somehow, it seemed inevitable that my mind drifted back to George Grosz's traumatic dilemma in the early 1920s after he had been soundly condemned by the German Communist party (KPD) for not idealizing the workers as heroic red soldiers marching forward to the land of milk and honey with noble beauty etched on their faces, All the militant epithets were produced, in order to silence him - "reactionary, petite bourgeois" - plus the rest of that familiar jargon trouncing all simple observation. Grosz's drawings had however accurately depicted the workers in all their ugliness, pathology, depravity, alcoholism and general wretchedness. Perhaps, Grosz did over-emphasize the depraved but that is not the point: a social revolution will be made by workers who are ugly and generally wretched, tru1y "crippled to the point of abnormality" (Marx) by capitalist social relations but who will nevertheless, produce the beautiful revolution but to depict the up and at 'em worker as a happy, determined individual to be placed on a pedestal of revolutionary images ultimately is a much greater disservice to the revolution. Try and tell that one to the Maoists. Of all the parties, they have been the most pathological in their retention of this image, even though the same emphasis exists to some degree or another among all those leftist parties defending some democratic, left state capitalist perspective. Moralism here still plays a greater role than any sober observation or even simple honesty. The revolutionary worker does not steal (e.g. International Socialists in England) and as for visiting prostitutes the question is never even considered. Lacking any grasp of Marx, (he wrote well on thieving!) they also lack a grasp of De Sade.
Joking among friends, someone suggested that the gigantic statue at Belem on the Tagus to Vasco De Gama could have been the sculpted work of the Maoist MRPP instead of a monument of cultural Salazarismo..... Near the Lisbon waterfront, after the surfeit of slogans by the aspiring leftist managers of capital was graffiti in English saying, "Love '68" – and a truer revolutionary nostalgia was evoked among all the platitudinous revolutionary nostalgia of socialist realism. Obviously, some freaked out gimp from that "annus mirabalis" had come to Lisbon attempting to revive the feeling of that great year. Just how many others made the same journey with the same subjective intention for I was certainly reliving that moment to some degree? Moreover, so many of the young, relatively poor and confused lefties brought with them their cassette recorders obviously trying to recreate some of the feelings of the late 1960s in a new specific geographical locality - Portugal - of all places! Flash consumerism and revolution so closely interlinked and nobody has yet developed an adequate theory of this tendency. It now necessarily also involves (demands) a theory of the practically applied imagination as it bounces off 'new' patterns of dense consumption - how capitalised diversions of our hopes can oddly enough help in tipping imaginative longings into a revolutionary, money-less euphoria, pregnant with millions of possibilities, which the charged mind half grasps spinning out of capital's control.
Down with Quality: The ultra-commoditization and depredations involved in the evolution of modern agriculture
For the Portuguese working class the pleasures of cheap basic consumption is not to be scoffed at, and this is to their advantage considering what they eat as daily fair is generally of high nutrious value. Moreover, because of (thankfully) the semi-development of Portugal, the dangerous ecological fallouts from intensive capitalist exploitation of agriculture have not yet become reality and food and drink isn't as heavily chemicalised as the food and drink is in more highly developed countries. The wine fermented for mass consumption is not remotely like the same devalued commodity as food and drink is in the EEC and North America and moaning about food poisoning or other side effects is not a common topic of conversation unlike in the UK. Bottles of Vinho Verda white wine are a sheer delight and so cheap - and cheap for the Portuguese worker too and you can drink simply to satisfy taste buds and not just for oblivion which is largely the case in the giant metropoles. Unlike the Spanish, drink is one of the great pastimes of the Portuguese working class and its part and parcel of a joy in life's simple pleasures, of a "never work" syndrome which just seems to get more and more profound. During the two years of the great upheaval (1974-76) workers often got so drunk at their many meetings that they were incapable of carrying on with their work once the meeting was concluded; alcoholism perhaps but there is also the factor of sheer enjoyment - a booster – in a situation of a semi-revolutionary joire-de-vivre. Although Durrutti and so many of the Spanish anarchists would turn in their graves at the spectre of such inebriation, these festivities in Portugal take on the glow of subversion when put in the perspective of increasing banality in everyday life. For the time being at least, in Portugal, one doesn't need a minister for the administrative improvement of everyday life, as has taken place in France; itself a lame strategy perhaps to circumvent the radicalism of 1968.
Apropos of basic consumerism Portuguese agriculture has yet to be intensively capitalized. During Salazar's time big capital was not concerned with an over-hauling / rationalization of a market in basic consumer goods. Now times have changed: the twin pincer movements of workers' takeovers, plus the need of the post 25th of April state to dramatically re-organize agriculture has brought into existence the Agrarian Reform Movement, (The IRA). Whether, the cooperatives continue on the basis of self-management or a more rigidly capitalist and bureaucratic form takes over, finally new 'technical expertise' will sadly be imposed. One of the baneful tasks of a horribly patrician IRA has been the promotion of modern fertilizers and related products to be handed out - possibly below market price - to scientifically "illiterate" (yes, that term is used) peasants and farm workers who, it seems don't know how to get maximum productivity out of the soil. But to increase the productivity of the soil also means increasing the damage to food quality. The horror stories about food processing have in the West produced the still very confused ecology and health food movement. No doubt Portugal will go the same way but at the moment there's only one health food shop in Lisbon in comparison to many in London. Seemingly culinary questions of taste are however beside the point when it comes to turning in a profit. The increase of soil productivity among the co-operatives of the Alentejo has its capitalist rationale offering better competitive possibilities for Portuguese agriculture within the markets of the EEC.
Creative self-build versus the mediocre future of a thoroughly policed modern urbanism
The Portuguese state is not overburdened with unproductive wage labour like in the UK and any biggish pruning can only happen within the massed ranks of the armed forces and not in a whole intricate web of welfare benefits like in the UK which the working class here has often come to rely upon. In Portugal, because it is an underdeveloped economy there isn't really a problem about education cuts or cuts in the social services, which simply put means in macro economic terms that say, the role of social worker is largely non-existent; its function, in a largely Catholic country, still largely performed by Priests. Similarly in housing, there is a lack of overall intervention and despite, the construction of modern high rise buildings over the last few years, the largely state planning of the cities and communications infrastructure is still in its infancy. For example, there is only one section of motorway from Lisbon to the city's far suburbs meaning such rudimentary logistics hardly requires a sizable state town and country planning department but it will come, it will come....
After the Second World War during the ensuing cold war, Salazarismo became more brutally repressive in terms of economic and political dissent. However, Salazar's regime allowed for some forms of self-expression, expressions which around the same time were rapidly been fairly smoothly and cleverly eliminated in the advanced capitalisms via the mediation of increasing 'benevolent' 'democratic' state control. Urbanism is a case in point. In Portugal, although there was an increased building programme catering to the construction of modern hotels and apartment blocs in the last years of the Salazar regime, workers could still construct shanty dwellings providing they managed to lay foundations during the night and put some kind of roof on covering their efforts. Without falling back too much onto some glib, sub-romanticism, which tends to aesthetise too much the picaresque, higgledy-piggeldy sense of living and breathing life in these shantytown barrios, these communities have a great feel to them. On the other hand you have to consider the social exclusion of very marginal people who in order to get by were forced into building such intriguing dwellings, despite the obvious advantages to be gained in knowing that if the worst comes to the worst, you can always build your own house...........Along the coast from Lisbon and down stream workers have built excellent small houses on the sands of the river Tagus alongside the modest weekend villas of the middle classes. In construction and upkeep there's nothing to choose between them, although it is difficult to assess practically how the amenities functioned – drainage, water supply, cooking facilities etc.
Walking along the Tagus seashore in the evening with friends from Combate, Phil Meyler suggested we all build some and seeing I was a competent enough builder surely we'd be able to knock up a few rudimentary structures with shaky roofs before daybreak. A great idea and we all waxed lyrical. Certainly I would have applied my skills with brio and exuberance but like so many good ideas nothing came of it...
This ad hoc development is in marked contrast to the UK where the state through the Town and Country Planning Acts put in place after the Second World War replete with an army of surveyors and nationalized, urban estheticians has successfully prevented the building of any such Tagus-like 'eyesores' and mightily restricts alterations to any house whether state or privately owned (particularly state owned). Sadly though this is the baneful example which holds the key to a future world urbanism. Such creative areas / welcome gaps in a fully controlled environment are likely to be eroded once the all embracing plans of the technocrats in the new state apparatus in Portugal are carried out.
The latest gimmick: 'participatory', 'imaginative' architecture. These schemes, (e.g. the Scandinavian architects Ralph Erskine's Byker Wall in Newcastle –upon-Tyne experiment with the present day social work era of mass manipulation utilizing a market research direct democracy. Their repressive function is obvious: collaborate in your own alienation and we may also be able to cope with vandalism by utilising stylistic innovative differently shaped flats, 'honest' wood etc thus able to flaunt themselves as radical alternatives opposing the state aesthetic of the Town and Country planning acts learning from watered down, more radical Cobra or the anti utilitarian Imaginist Bauhaus initiatives. The state's obtuse rigidity will no doubt be loosened because the professionals within these schlerotic are now finding them intolerable. It is here that books like Paul Oliver's, "Primitive Architecture", and Rudovsky's, "Architecture without Architects" plus fascination with Merz Barns and Fairy Palaces like Cheval's finished off with the country cottage look find immediate application but only by denying the latter's essential essence. Small therefore becomes beautiful and size is somehow alienating and anti-human when it's not even a question of small or big. Thus more clued-in officialdom, those affected by the explosion of the late 1960s, are now against standardization and the standardized components required in point block construction but without questioning either the need for architects or the capitalist mode of production. What passes here for imaginative building is an insipid compensation for revolutionary critique hoping thereby to recreate a 'happier' environment, which will placate the vandals. Thus Le Corbusier's Architecture or Revolution is revamped, as the master idiot said "NO" to revolution. Therefore bring on the vandals and let them have a good time smashing up all that recent hocus pocus around 'honest' invention administered by enlightened urbanists.
....And from here on comes the danger of an ever greater submission. So many ex-artists, so many jaded middle class owner occupiers, so many radical workers in the big cities want to stop all this happening without any of them willing to put in all the spade work acquiring a real revolutionary critique of the poverty of modern urbanism and how to fight it. Why not start now and build thousands upon thousands of shacks everywhere; shacks for many–faceted uses or for no use at all? Simply to provoke; to provide the occasion to publicly air our explosive thoughts on the sheer crap called modern (sub)urbanism. If enough of us did this together the state would have to back down in some ways. Instead, most people with half a critique are quite content to groove along within the restricted paradigms of that "small is beautiful" ideology which has so rapidly permeated the USA and Britain (and which is also spreading elsewhere) with the debacle of hippy radicalism. The "small is beautiful" movement is often nothing other than pretty cover for the days of small capital before private monopoly capital and the state began their long and tortured wedding ceremony.
Let's quit holidaying in the Algarve and why not engage in a spot of revolutionary tourism instead...?
It is within such a perspective, that one has to be cautious of using the term "revolutionary tourism" as a big put down. The tendency cannot be evaluated within a moral perspective, e.g. - the failed revolutionary from his / her own country - trying to find fulfillment / release into praxis elsewhere on a far, secluded other shore. Aren't we all still looking for that scene which will really turn us on, which will finally liberate us, which will finally give birth to ourselves as the collective active individual, no longer hemmed in by our own passivity, quickly forgetting the nightmare of our own dismal past? History will finally become that key when all our individual /collective momentums fuse within the changing perspectives of a working class and its allies becoming revolutionary in purpose.
The explosion in Portugal awakened so many dormant passions, which have been so cruelly battened down since the great international punch-up of 1968. In a small, national territory of international capitalism, a means has been glimpsed of reviving senses jaded since that glorious year. For individuals silenced and thoroughly marginalised since the late 1960s, Portugal provided a brief resurrection from Mallarme's tomb, that necessary death before total social / self-realisation. Other countries will provide grounds for the same optimism in the future and there will probably be the same dashing of hopes. What we are encountering is a painful and dialectical cum historical process of hopes, regressions and sudden stunning outbursts, followed by momentary retardations which will be with us as a personal and historical - somewhat schizophrenic - experience, until the consummation of the world revolution.
Further problems are encountered: "Revolutionary Tourism" implies a particular spot on which to make the revolution. Glibly it can be said - make the revolution in your own country - but, surely the proletariat has no fatherland and the social revolution is also the world market place and not some arbitrary geographic entity; some particular arena of
capitalism whose name isn't all that important? Revolution was an international force in 1968 (unlike Portugal 1974) though its high point was France in May 1968 where a geographical territory of capital's dominion was also invaded by foreign insurgents looking for real adventure, keen to experience potentially unique and stunning possibilities. Revolutionary tourists played their part in the uprising even if it was a part largely defying analysis, though for sure their presence was used by official reaction which is hardly surprising given the epithet "foreign scum" is an easy and effective smear. Unfortunately, there's always basis for such resentment which governments can use to their advantage and in Portugal, "Yankee go home" was shouted at me once or twice.
There were more pertinent comments though to be made of foreigners. The imported revolutionaries, particularly from more highly developed countries, were it seems usually from reasonably well-off backgrounds and often had better means of surviving within capitalism than indigenous workers. Moreover if the revolution doesn't succeed, well they can always do a quick and take up that allotted job they fancifully thought they'd taken a permanent break from, usually some cadre role within some arena capitalism's superstructures (the state or private industry), which can give them many privileges.
So let's be reminded of one such extension beyond national boundaries.... In Lisbon, rebellious Timex factory workers contacted Timex workers in Scotland and France. The experiment was interesting and hopefully has a future. The ultra leftist outfit Combate did something of an analysis saying pertinently, "Workers of Timex said it was difficult to enter into contact with workers of that multinational in other countries because by telephone they didn't get hold of workers at the other end of the line but the bosses who boycotted such a contact." Perhaps some suggestions can be made? Would it not make more sense for the groups who would like to act as detonators of workers' struggle to do something like making these contacts possible, even though this would be less glamourous than getting violent with the cops? The practical question then becomes how? A worker sitting over a boss during the period the factory is up and running and constantly having to fight off the official workers' negotiating apparatus made up of the unions and the shop stewards will be well nigh impossible, and apart from the bosses, the local trade union branches and the shop stewards are the people with their hands on TU phones in the factories. Of course, international contact could be made through the official union channels where workers give vent to grievances but it is doubtful if it could go really far and probably no farther than firmly controlled international, union-led strike action as has happened between Dunlop, (England) and Pirelli, (Italy) in 1973. The likelihood of shop stewards in the UK helping an international autonomous workers' movement develop is probably nil considering that they tend to protect (or rather want) a 'leftist' national capitalism complete with tariff walls, protectionism and "Buy British" campaigns. Remember, shop stewards organized gangs of workers in Birmingham in 1975 to smash imported foreign cars during British Leyland's long crisis as a competitive world car producing giant thus helping management out and worse, screwing up the revolutionary potential of direct action. The truth of subversive vandalism is then diverted and lost: far better to smash up a car simply because it is a car. Now that would have a real future....
A Turn of the Screw
Revolutionary internationalism via voyeuristic tourism has also its sexual side. In a fluid, developing situation of revolutionary euphoria, it seems deep inside your psyche, a good place to take steps outside of sexual atomization; to lose some of those paranoid excesses built up over the years. Yes you do indeed slough off some of the paranoia, only to, damn it, walk into a fresh series of complications......complications of sexuality and class. Social revolution is all too facilely equated with sexual liberation, which, you hope will be easily achieved; just set the process of sexua1 liberation going and almost instinctively the working class will follow as if by rote and, hey presto, commoditised relationships will evaporate overnight and sexuality free of contamination by the market place will quickly be consummated. Under capitalism even in these moments of seeming supercession, free-floating sexuality is, despite all appearances to the contrary, never free from commodity relations for that goal is going to take some time to achieve, inevitably involving the smashing / withering away of the capitalist mode of production. On the contrary, conditioned as we are, sadly there is too much of the aura of free-floating promiscuity about the beginnings of such enlightened endeavours; at best a sexual nihilism which, if we are lucky, can get somewhere, at worst, quickly slide into varieties of sado masochism encountering the syndrome of "repressive de-sublimation" in the form of wife swapping, pornography etc. which largely is the maimed self-expression of middle management, higher grade civil servants, teachers, small business people and so on, though potentially it could effect everybody regardless of social position.
Moreover we also encounter fairly rigid and traditional class boundaries meaning other complications then abound. Even, without the black garlands of sado masochism, the 'freer' sexual mores of the new middle class youth so often appear to be something very different re the perceptions of a much more repressed working class. Sexual populism can end up dead, as one or two provocative hitchhikers have found out to their lasting fate. In an immediate structura1 sense, the working class hasn't the means, ('prettiness', commodities, time/space etc) to experiment in the same casual way, particularly if they're manual labourers and well past the brief hour of youth. The same often goes, perhaps even more so for working class women. So often fattish, seemingly slovenly, whatever, their more stressful condition tends to wreck their equally brief hour of beauty. No wonder, both sexes within the working class look to the free wheeling middle class with such a schizophrenic mixture of envy, fascination and loathing. The sexual lie can have quite a different interpretation depending upon class position. Please, please be careful here! Openness, however hip doesn't seem to cut much ice within the bosom of the working class where, so often, it's little more than a quick fuck on the side, a bit of the other, and we'll say no more about it as the popular expression goes. According to Phil Meyler, when Swedish women leftists went down to the farming co-operatives in Portugal scantily dressed ogling the working men – who inevitably quickly returned the compliment – the women workers were furious for how could they compete on equal terms in such a situation? You simply couldn't get over the impression that the liberated middle class women out for little more than sexual kicks, turned on by the warm, friendly, often spontaneous, earthy, manual working class male, also end up insulting working class women. Moreover, would they consider a really serious, on-going relationship? Most, of course wouldn't and what's left behind is a lot of catastrophically broken hearts so "be careful all ye who enter here" as you then encounter that difficult conundrum: sexual liberation conceived of outside any recognition of the economic structure of capitalism can only end up disastrously. Whilst the world's working classes are the motor of sexual liberation (through an uprising ridding the planet of commodities and money) their immediate repressiveness on the level of sexuality must also be taken into account.
In the age of travel, tourism and high speed, sex encounters the anguish of brief encounters everywhere and then all that's left is that wonderful picture of you. This is not the communal sexuality of the Ranters or the occasional makeshift church fuck-ins of the wild 'irregular' Methodists a century or so later where most people knew each other nailed to the deck by similar work together with homes in close proximity before the era of fast, mass travel. A similar scene today couldn't be more different; a recuperation of hippy free love turned into competitive, soulless consumer life style of suburban orgy "choking half to death on the smell of stale perfume."(Randy Newman) This is also permanent emotional denial; killing fields of a mass thwarted love just at the moment we mustn't use each other when for sure it is OK – even necessary - to have four or more permanent companions for men and women alike but where hurt and abuse must be a big no no and where reductive sex is not the be all and end all but vision of a future new world is.
In Portugal today pornography surfaced more abruptly than in any other country in Europe and is sold openly on the main streets. Even hard-core pornography isn't hidden under the counter. Everywhere the two P's politics and pornography: again my head exploded with almost unanswerable questionings! For Lenin, pornography flowered in periods of reaction and Marx had a passing interest in the subject. But, it is too glib to equate pornography with Fascism regardless of Hitler's predilection for the subject. Most modern critiques of pornography to date have been too sociological like for example Reimut Reiche's Sexuality and Class Struggle, particularly the chapter, "Promiscuity as the Completion of Marriage." What has to be more clearly formulated is the link between Marx's sparse, incomplete but essential probing into the fetishism of commodities, ("the magic and the necromancy") and sexual fetishism. Leftist moralism on the subject is to no avail and can never be a substitute for deeper elaboration. Furthermore, links have to be made between changes in the mode of production and the ubiquitous distribution of pornography and to amend Walter Benjamin, perhaps "Pornography in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" wouldn't be a bad beginning with maybe some thoughts on how the capitilization of new media oriented productive techniques has been a significant factor in the over stimulation of the imagination manufacturing a graphic portrayal of a commodified sexualized dream having no basis in reality. It seems the insights in Rimbaud's Illumination, Clearance Sale has come to pass: "For sale anarchy for the masses, irrepressible satisfaction for connoisseurs; frightful death for the faithful and for lovers...... For sale bodies above price, not to be found in any race, world, sex or, line of descent" ....and we are back at the old thorny problem and the need for thorough investigation into the influence of Dept II - the production of the means of consumption. If Dept 11 has an inherent tendency to move communistically, than pornography must also be part of that movement both as negation and realization. Negation, because pornography is conceived within the boundaries of '"repressive de-sublimation" to some extent; a liberatory capitalism firmly ensconced in an alienated orgy of aberrant commodity production (Bordiga) nevertheless representing a chaotic (and often ghastly) breakdown of traditional morality which just might help clear the decks for a thorough transvaluation of sexual mores. A big if! What we do know after the imaginative playground of the late 1960s is that sexual realisation cannot take place on such a colonised terrain but only through an Eros which moves outwardly and subversively can the terrain of commoditised relationships be smashed.....
"You say you love me: oh say it with paving stones" (wall slogan, Paris 1968) Moreover, the refusal /overcoming of pornography cannot be done through a Christian-like purging of the self so dear to the hearts of our goody goody, butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, lefties, which only intensifies the attraction by burying it deeper but can only be confronted through a hoped for personal practice, itself contingent upon real historical revolutionary movement and the overcoming of general passivity. Until then, we are saddled with the omnipresent weight of pornography and its ability to catch us unawares at catastrophic moments in everyday life. Artaud's, "increasing aggression of the heart catastrophically sickened by everyday life" can be situated within the pornographic relationship whereby the sublimation of murder receives ritual like satisfaction, the pornographic 'murder' itself also a sublimation of suicidal impulses. If, as Freud said, "suicide is murderous impulses turned in over" then pornography is a suicidal and murderous thwarted erotic impulse turned sexually in over. Because, the commodity economy and wage labour prevent our social self-realization, pornography offers an essentially unrealizable visual substitute for the fulfillment of real desires. It cannot really be sensuously grasped, only visualized as something remote, as part of the spectacle of alienations. From here on all the specifics can be elaborated: pornography and bad housing conditions, pornography and schizophrenic breakdown, pornography an illusory and instant means of diffusing the pain of unrequited love when the bodies carapace has risen to almost unbearable agonies when, "sharp love has swollen me up with heady languors. O let my keel split! Oh let me sink to the bottom." (Rimbud's, The Drunken Boat). And then the even greater come down: pornography has become so banal, so without passion that it's now little more than a must have consumer item.
Even within pornography a seeming cultural law of uneven development operates. In Lisbon only men went to see the newly arrived pornographic films, whereas in London, after pornography has been made hip through French film directors, there is a more equal viewing distribution between the sexes. Women in Portugal do not have the same rights as their UK counterparts and there is little equality in terms of wage labour thus many women are completely trapped in the home without any means of independent economic survival, therefore it's hardly surprising that there is little egalite in patterns of consumption, even ersatz consumption. Almost inevitably the pornographic films on sale in Lisbon had as main backdrop the Catholic Church with the titillating aura of sex lurking behind nuns and monks cavorting in their full regalia. It was like genuflecting in front of the altar, whereas, in the highly developed countries, the pornography has become more and more aestheticized, almost indeed the last ditch defence of art; of the aesthetic sexual act or pose (c/f Emmanuelle). "What is Art? Prostitution" (Baudelaire) and further.... "Love is the desire to prostitute oneself. There is indeed, no exalted pleasure which cannot be related to prostitution... " (My Heart Laid Bare). But then this is the aestheticism of the flaneur before the moment of ultimate commodification when, "The sexualisation of the spectacle means loss of eros in reality"(Debord) when sex has become nothing more than a visual, hollowed-out media event where the bride truly has been stripped bare by her bachelors even; a memory of what once existed to be pasted on billboards in a billion vacant lots where behind the consumer messages there is the basic subliminal proclamation that not only art is dead but sex too; plenty of fucking, gallons of spunk but no real erotic sexuality. Everything is faked. It is simply too superficial to describe this moment as sexism for what we are witness too as spectators is a cold aestheticised evacuation, an autistically commodified neo-sex, bearing no resemblance to eros pointing to a likely nightmare future era; a sexualised Hades.
And now for something completely different: THE ENGLISH IDEOLOGY.... and its effects on Portugal
What follows here is a splurge, a rant born of sheer hatred from somebody who has been on the receiving end of this vague but brutally hideous conditioning; its hideous carapace. In Portugal it was sheer relief to get away from the specific alienations of Englishness only to encounter the old foe again in disguised form....
When ex Tory PM Heath in the 1970s as a NATO warlord visited China and met Mao Tse Tung giving him an original edition of Darwin's The Origin of the Species, the UK. Fiction charts had for months been dominated by the best-selling tale of rabbits Watership Down. The present of a first edition of Darwin may have looked like a generous gesture in the direction of the Marx / Darwin debate, an unexpectedly sophisticated token coming from a Tory elder statesman. But there's plenty of room for conjecture. Beneath the diplomacy of Mao urging Heath to strengthen NATO's defenses, fearful that American Imperialism was losing the initiative in the struggle against Soviet Imperialism there was a more subtle accord, a barely perceptible green mist enveloping the discussion ... producing a psychological englobement of Watership Down and the Yenan. These events, for their effect to be felt do not have to be trumpeted forth new speak fashion, driven home through costly propaganda. A part of the sub-cultural life of the nation which Watership Down was one expression (the rights of animals as opposed to the rights of men and women) and the salvaging operation in response to Darwin's evolutionary theories another had already made the analogy.
Moreover today Chinese peasant art plays its part in what may be called The English Ideology. The fact that these posters were described as peasant art was no doubt very influential in selling them to the West but in many ways their flat realism and rational spaces obeying the laws of perspective was akin to Stalinist social realism. In fact the authentic peasant art we do possess is characterized by an absence of immediately accessible social, realism: giants, dwarfs, fairies etc. historical researches have shown that the incomprehensible peasant tale - incomprehensible that is to those accustomed to bourgeois realism -was readily understandable in peasant circles. Thus a tale of a giant would have been readily interpreted as either the power of the feudal landlord or a mass of insurrectionary peasants welded into one giant figure. It is not by chance that the typical bourgeois revolution was accompanied by fact finding researches into peasant life. Thus the tales of the Bros' Grimm (and ethnographic studies) prefigured the drive towards national unification in Germany. However in an untypical bourgeois society as the UK the fairy folk tale was characteristically inverted. The fairy tale world belonged to the patriciate rather than to the people. Disraeli for instance called Queen Victoria his "Fairy Queen". Studies in peasant culture have revealed that feudal courts rigourously banned peasant forms including the folk tale from their domains - for good reason - it often spelled their death. The fact that a country like Britain was able to admit these forms showed that it had lost its fear of the peasantry; in fact cultivated a peasant myth the more its material basis was wiped out. England of course is not unique in this respect. One can find many examples of landowners in the 1840s and onwards patronizing the peasantry, admitting them as it were into their consciousness when threatened by an urban insurrection which galvanized the masses. An entente was possible in these cases when both land owner and peasantry were threatened by these urban movements.
In Britain this romance of gnomes, dwarfs and stone frogs was given a garden setting by the Prince Consort who also introduced the Xmas tree to Britain, (c.f. Halevy). It came as no surprise therefore to see how these Maoist posters figured in a backdrop to a merry Xmas tree in a fellow traveller Maoist household we happened to visit recently. This seemingly incongruous feature was in fact faithful to a long tradition and preserved the essence of Britain's unique patrician liberalism
Yet we must say more about the present day English ideology? A predilection for a medieval tradition suitably commoditised, cut off from the real and often dire reality of a far-off yesteryear: a growing your own consequent on the fall of British capital, high inflation and the low exchange rate of sterling. Thus, the old archaisms seem to intensify with the imminent demise of modernity and the failure of UK plc. So what do we have? Tepid nature worship / a perpetual insipid pantheism shorn of real nature / anti-technological whimsies / rusted Heath Robinson machinery / conservationism extending to conservation orders on the proletariat / the artist naturalist (from old fashioned cranky easel painter to pop musician) fulminating on the ecological imbalance for destroying Elizabethan folklore fantasies / tourists boards and agencies whether state subsidized or via the largesse of private companies employing bands of Merrie Men and Robin Hoods in the Lake District / the businessmen of madness promoting archaic fantasies / archeological conservationism both industrial and Celtic / The unemployed hired to look like the unemployed of the 1840s economic depression / the village green syndrome assisted in its re-run through a revamped workers' cooperative movement augmented by 'participatory' community politics draped with the aura of the medieval commune / typical inhabitant of this catered for fantasy: the polytechnic lecturer trying to be the rural village idiot / The story of grass roots democracy only needs the four-leafed clover to add authenticity to this generalised image.
The distaste for politics in England manifests itself not as subconscious critique of the political party, of political economy as such, but through a shunning of the political in preference for the green meadow grass, the cornfield, the natural fires of peat,(which Pete didn't like), the tinkling bell in the Yorkshire Dales shop. It exists as a critique of everyday life in the modern world by refusing to acknowledge its existence.
Consumer goods promotion deploys "the English ideology" intensifying the baneful syndrome with subliminal use of emotionally laden words: ENGLAND, OAK, 1805 & TRAFALGAR, (Dry Blackthorn cider ad) SHAKESPEARE, THE GRENADIER GUARDS, LAND OF HOPE AND GLORY, (Long Life beer ad). British Leyland's Austin Allegro model for 1973 was exhibited for the home market in a romantic mountain setting complete with jagged lightning and a heightened unnatural colour a la Mad Martin's apocalyptic paintings. (In contrast to America where there's a "lets hit the road jack" ideology for British Leyland's sales hype.)
Pop built up a cocktail of decibel sound / Victoriana / Americanism / and the life of the English country gentleman embodied in a countrified life style, exhibited now in colour supps for all to consume; of the old baronial, border country mansions now inherited by ex-pop artists who used 'Americanization' as a front for becoming the new, antique furniture oriented, substitute weekend squirearchy. We now have the union of 1930s Americana, the English countryside of the landed gentry and soft-core porn from Elton John to Roxy Music. Thus, as mentioned previously Bordiga's, (the Italian ultra-leftist's) orgy of modern capitalism goes one step further becoming the orgy of aberrant commodity production, (hip fashion design of rubber lingerie) with a soft spot for Wordsworthian pantheism and wild northern skies ringing with the sound of herring gulls...and suburban to its very core.
The snobbery of the ruling ideology has intensified since it was subverted throughout the 1960s – mainly however via the external reverberations of uproar in the United States and May '68 in France. It has since then hardened into becoming the cultural contour of class domination by taking into its orbit the ruralist tendencies of the hippy / pop movement. It can suffer modification of its customs but only in order to strengthen (as a final fling) its cultural hegemony which is able to recuperate the racket of 'youth' images but not the reality of intensifying wildcat strikes and a class struggle getting out of control.
The English belief in "the natural affairs of men"..... ??????????????????????????????
Arts and Crafts revivalism (William Morris without the really subversive part of his theories or his anger) suffused the English Hippy movement, (as also in America but in different way because rawer, more elemental). Here, its sentiment and longing was more insipidly Pre-Raphaelite, (less Burne Jones more crass Arthurian legend) in spite of the emphasis upon a commendably freewheeling life style. Hip culture rapidly became re-affirmation of art and substituted objection and suspicion of the functionary professional role with that of the skilled labourer artisan immersed in estheticism - and only slightly less petite bourgeois in ideology. Bogus, aesthetic artisanism has tended to surround its mystique with an aura of sensuality more mystical than material; a pseudo sensuality; a God revivalism plus a somewhat lucrative market lulling with complacency. It's a syndrome that almost has become hallowed like some kind of nascent moral hierarchy: thus the trade of carpenter or potter is better - more morally uncorrupt though not explicitly stated as such - than the role of teacher. Contemporary eating habits like the consumption of speed, heroin, or valium along with there implied perspective of utter decomposition has given way to the important preservation of Olde Englande and its quaintness. (PM Wilson finally stings like a butterfly and flies like a bee). Amongst this cretinous crew, thankfully in the same scene, there are others, much marginalized and full of bitter class hatred and they are OK, though their honesty has for the moment done for them.
In England, cultural patterns and customs operate as an oblique, low profile hidden but deadly opiate of the ruling ideology maintaining an image of security and eternal stability. In Ireland it's the opposite: an unpredictable instability is a constant and the separation between culture and political illegitimacy has been telescoped. Alas even that has gone. Once culture – even merely a couple of decades ago - acted as focal point of rebellion from the old communal and amazing Gaeltaic myths onto Yeats through to the crowning glory of Joyce and then no more; moreover once the vague focal point was nationalism with the addition of many an inspiring, multi-layered off-shoot which clearly could have led to something like the beginnings of total revolutionary critique. Instead it's only led to a revamped nationalism insipid in comparison to the late 19th century. The present Rumeur lrlandaise is, in spite of numerous repackaged Kevin Barry martyrdom songs fundamentally characterized by the absence of a stimulating culture / politics syndrome bouncing off each other and it's no longer possible to shore up an Abbey Theatre "national identity" image as it once was. Let's face it; there cannot any longer be a new Yeats, Synge, O'Casey or Joyce only a re-processing getting more pathetic by the month and according to Phil Meyler, the poets have given way to the alcoholics spluttering bar room limericks which have far more cutting edge, immediacy and relevance.
Absurdist English humour - from Carroll to Lear, from the Goons to Monty Python, functions not subversively but as support for the English ideology. "Let's drink our way out" (The Goons) is also a real tendency when, regardless of class, the English confront, or rather walk around a problem. English Surrealism was largely a variation of Heath Robinson whimsy refusing to embrace French Surrealism's revolutionary violence against culture, if indeed the English Surrealists were even remotely aware of such subversion. Stinking of stale academicism from almost the word go, or a shallow, whimsical buffoonery, British Surrealism avoided all critique.
Then there is that grating command tone of the upper middle class accent put across emphatically and repeatedly via the TV and media in general reasserting its hegemony just at the moment it is under a generalized, internal mocking attack. Generalized because even the owners of the accent so often now try to lose it .....Do they secretly sense their coming extinction? Cinema audiences laugh at the classic, British Lion, 'B' feature so often honing in on those glorious Second World War upper middle class RAF chappies who died for this shit hole of a country: "He bought it across the channel - ack, ack old chap".
In parenthesis, an obsession with nature needn't be reactionary....Think of the delights of the abandoned garden, the waste lot adventure playground full of scrap metal, car tyres, condoms, weeds and wilderness. The potential of the ecological eyesore....
The modernization of the industrial infrastructure favoured by liberal technocrats, (The Hudson Report: the UK in 1980) is a remote possibility but only with the smashing of the working class via capitalist rationalization. No need to lament the discrimination accorded to the early 19th century engineers such as Stephenson or Arkwright / Arkuptight but the effect still lingers on. The ingenious mechanic is not treated with respect but as class shit, his suggestions usually ignored by management. Populism has its advantages for capital accumulation but English management has equally shat on such initiatives. No wonder Heath Robinson's machines have become the quintessence of English technology. As for full automation while it may get rid of the "horny- handed son of toil" once and for all, is also impossible within the paradigms of capitalism simply because capital can only survive through vampiring off the flesh of living labour.
The collapse of the dreams of post Second World War reconstruction with there arbitrary superlatives as epitomized in The American Dream has reawakened a whole series of nostalgias; so for the exile / the immigrant, crippling but understandable nationalisms / regionalisms of the soul: fixating memories of the geographical locality in which the first rush of pleasures of post war capitalist reconstruction were experienced like the New Towns or Elvis etc.
"Morality is the Weakness of the Brain" (Tzara)
"In England, in response to every little emancipation from theology one has to reassert one's position in a fear-inspiring manner as a moral fanatic....For the Englishman morality is not yet a problem." Nietzsche: The Twilight of the Idols.
Too true but now such consequences are now deadly when encountering a potential revolutionary upheaval. The vast majority of all home-engendered criticism of contemporary capitalism in England has been self-righteous, which is one of the fundamental factors enabling bourgeois society to maintain an almost undisputed hegemony. Take recent oppositional movements like the students or CND or even recent steel workers' strike over inadequate old age pensions and simply consider how much they presented themselves in moralistic pleas as if spoken from a pulpit.
The capitalist mode of production abandoned more or less any pretences to moral behaviour some time ago and probably its final denouement was sometimes around 1973, despite Watergate's pointless judicial process. It really hasn't made any difference at all. Alas Watergate's effects have only been resuscitated by a well-intentioned left bourgeoisie together with their allies among the worker bureaucrats re-entrenching moral zealousness while methinks harbouring a secret jealousy for the very excesses of a contemporary capitalism which they were denouncing. A secularized Judaic-Christianity permeates the leftist atheists and the language deployed points to religion's self-righteous source – "corruption" / "sell-out" / "degeneration" /"swindling" / "crooked" etc. For sure you can feel sympathy as you also feel the wrath within yourself because the one shot you've had at life has been cruelly snatched away but how can you truly sell out under a capitalism, "which provides a thousand satisfactions but not a single joy"? (Lefebvre) Haven't those who've sold out also masochistically abused themselves and that's always worth remembering when we are full of wrathful vengeance. What real happiness are these finks going to find? But the lefties bang on and on and on; capitalism is "corrupt", the worker "honest" and any individual taking a crazy fling is "sick". The use of the term prostitution only casts aspirations on the skin trade (in any case think how these gals fought magnificently rifles in hands for the Paris Commune) Moreover, there's no 'evil' prostitution in comparison to the essential enforced mass prostitution of wage labour. Of course a moralistically inclined terminology is common elsewhere especially in a somewhat hell fire religion obsessed USA where even those who oppose its fearful influence nonetheless adopt some of its tone: i.e. the violent hell-fire puritanical rhetoric of the Weathermen in America replete with a bombing campaign itself sometimes reeking of religious fundamentalism.
Among the social workers and their community supporters do-gooding moneys = communism and please, please, please, don't rip off the peoples' dough. The social worker lefty doesn't deploy punishment – a good old whack across the chops behind the scout hall but guilt mechanisms which fuck up the oppressed more than any old fashioned slap; for let's face it, guilt is rapidly becoming as effective as a stretch inside. The state legislatures present themselves as even morally revolted by spiv capitalism but only actively censure those parts which should be 'clean' in the era of a Tory led "unacceptable face of capitalism"; so the city architect Poulson and councilor Dan Smith end up in chokey. Is this a last gasp attempt to preserve the Hegelian notion of the incorruptible state presiding over the deepening vulgarities of civil society, a state immunized from the type of social relation it presides over?
A moralism about money also fits neatly into the desperate latter day resuscitation of the socialist stages theory: the workers' government moves progressively leftwards towards a non-compensating, total nationalization, bringing about a re-enforced welfare state, the socialization of surplus value and a universal class wage. But where in this is the abolition of wages, money, classes and that nationalisaling that presumes the existence of the state? Where is the withering away of the state in all this? Such a revolutionary perspective for these pseudo-Marxists is utopian when the very essence of their idealized pragmatism is truly part of a fairly tale never never land. "The proletariat can thus only exist on the world historical plane, just as communism, its activity, can only have a world historical existence" (The German Ideology). There are no in-betweens, no half measures, which bit by bit become full measures.
The English are too cowardly to tell outright lies. They exist in the space of half-truths; an existence worse than lies. For the individual who has broken from this particular cowardice – and simply as a means of coping with day-to-day existence - it's often more convenient to lie your way through the misunderstandings you are bound to encounter. But this isn't sufficient. Do you really have a simple identity / a job in the big city? In a pub, on the street, you are asked, "What do you do. What's your job" You cannot answer- except somewhat evasively – knowing in advance all the reflexes; the class-in-itself; the deferences, etc. Already the term job is an imposition; it presumes such a touching innocence. Why cannot the British have the honesty to say like some Yanks do: "What's your racket"? Because here everybody without exception is on the fiddle too, even if its only screwing social security for everything possible or using the union as an accident insurance agency. The incumbent humility of the "honest worker" only excites to feelings of destruction and who's a bigger cunt than a left councillor? The worker who believes in the left councillor.
Historically Portugal is England's oldest ally.....
.....and if you are a sentimentalist, what a touchingly long relationship. The English lefty state capitalists have long bemoaned the existence of Salazismo from the coffee tables of Hampstead and their theoreticians with their feet firmly planted in the leadership of some Trotskyite party could periodically dragoon their inferior cadres to demonstrate against the evils of Portugal's last fascistic dictator, Caetano (e.g. the demonstrations of autumn 1973 in London). At the same time, they were not averse to a few weeks in the Algarve come summer where they could maybe romantically analyze the guerrilla movements in Portugal's African colonies. Most though were wracked with guilt. In The Socialist Register of 1974, which is left of the Communist party, VG Kiernan comes out with some classic statements in his essay, The Old Alliance England and Portugal. Merely consider the liberal anti-imperialist guilt of the following..... "Tourism has become in fact one of the major modern forms of exploitation of poor countries by the rich, a neo-colonialism of the common man" a statement which would also finds common ground with Jack Jones, the former Liverpool docker and boss of the transport workers' union (TGWU) who fought with the CP's International Brigades in Spain in 1937-8 and who spoke out on TV against his own members holidaying in Spain in the early 1970s. Be that as it may (and it isn't nice), the essay doesn't mention that tourism actually aids underdeveloped economies as an earner of foreign exchange. Unlike pious English lefties, intelligent Portuguese and Spanish intellectuals of leftist opinions (admittedly within a leftist state capitalist perspective also) a few years later now recognize that tourism is utterly essential to the economic surviva1 of the Iberian peninsula even if they may not like the phenomena culturally speaking, (c/f the recent conference in Malaga reported in El Pais).
Materially though, there is a much deeper connection between England and Portugal which can be explained by the penetration of English capital particularly in the wine and port producing areas and although English capital has now been superseded by French, American and German capital, the image of English domination remains. However, there is another connection between England and Portugal, which is worth developing, and it is centered on the life style of the English aristocracy with its particular brand of frivolous consumerism. Going back over 200 years, some of the English aristocracy drowned themselves in port wine, owned capital in Portugal and bought beautiful houses in the Algarve. (It is recorded that sometime as PM, Pitt the Elder saw two oppositions in parliament.) The social base of this frivolous consumption is of course, that off -shore island, the City of London – that high-class ghetto of the financial capitalists with their eyes glued more on the world market rather than the indigenous home market.
The old trading relationship between the two countries was later complemented and highlighted culturally by English romanticism. In some of the starkly dramatic scenery of Portugal, Byron and Wordsworth saw some of the romantic idyll realized and from a pantheistic response to the English Lake District to an equally pantheistic response to the steep and craggy mountaintops crowned so often with Moorish castles in southern Portugal was quite an easy step for Wordsworth. In the Convention of Cintra, Wordsworth with his rustic populism dwells sentimentally upon the soul of the peasant, noble, simple and close to the 'mysteries' of the soil. In this was compressed all the incongruity between the ideal of flourishing independent nationalities and the inevitable tendency of one power to gain in superiority over others. Wordsworth surprizingly thought "it will create me a world of enemies and call forth the old yell of Jacobinism." The occasion for Wordsworth's publication was the capturing of the French army in Portugal in 1808 which was then allowed to go free after signing The Treaty of Cintra. In a way Wordsworth was facing two ways at once. Like most other English romantics he was more than sympathetic to Napoleon despite having lost his revolutionary ideals because of Robiespierre and the Terror and in deep emotional angst displacing the concept of 'the people' on to the simple life of Lake District peasantry It is not the actual details that are so important but in so far as it established a link which was to be so fruitful for future generations between popular guerrilla uprisings and exported conservative Jacobinism in close harmony with national traditions in Britain able at last to really meet with that absent dimension of British politics for near on two centuries a revolutionary egalitarian peasantry.
The ideology travels down over too. Today's left Maoist union leader of the AUEW (the engineers' union) Reg Birch, with his love of Bill Shakespeare and Eng Lit fits well into the tradition of medievalism, craft production and wild nature cranks. (This is not to condemn the genius of William Shakespeare rather to point out how Eng Lit upholds in the UK all the most amateurish, antediluvian sentiments of an aristocratic flavoured bourgeoisie which obstinately refuses to become a modernizing technocracy and therefore ironically creates of itself some of the preconditions for a proletarian revolution through their de-industrialization of the UK).
Imitation was what mattered though. How stirring to invoke an insurgent peasantry but from 1975-6 it looks like a kitsch picture post card. Unfortunately it's a comment not far off the mark as a watered down Wordsworthian romanticism has turned itself nicely into the photographically scenic peasant displaying his colourful costumes to the camera for the benefit of some stupid rich jerk into some kind of variation of Arts and Crafts revivalism... Essentially though, the con is on him. First, the peasant no doubt despises him and secondly, maybe the peasant isn't a peasant at all because he makes more money posing for the cameras pretending to be one. Poor Wordsworth, he couldn't conceive there would be such obvious crudities in the distance because on this level he couldn't even begin to conceptualize the material realities of his own epoch. In Portugal, Wordsworth didn't have an inkling of the peasants' social relationship to capital nor could he see the greater reality of the latifundists. The twentieth century dictator, Salazar on the other hand, knew well how to exploit the romantic aura and yet keep his feet firmly on the ground politically by supporting the latifundists, who only lost their hegemony to the industrial and financial bourgeoisies during the 1960s. Wordsworth's evocation of a proud independent Iberian peasantry close to nature and piety could quite easily be turned into the romantic gloss of fascized underdevelopment under Salazar) praised for his fatherly but firm benevolence plus hostility to industry by wretched aesthetes like the Sitwells of good Olde Englande.
By that time, the English middle classes, always ready to ape the real owners of capital, were beginning to descend on the Algarve somewhat in their droves, somewhat like home from home. Clinging to the syndrome of a cottage in the wooded English countryside, the ostrich like English middle classes could remain undisturbed in their kitsch, romantic feudal longings while languishing in the 'unmoving' beauty of southern Portugal. Then BANG, Otelo da Carvalho is spouting his mouth off everywhere........ "Good god, my dear fellow, its communism. I'm off." Rudely awakened from their deep slumber, the English middle classes decided to give Portugal a miss until things calmed down.... anything, anything to preserve their old ways of going on.... But they'll be back. Remember, even in 1974, receipts from tourism fell only by one third!
The strong rural tendency in English romanticism, concomitant with the French revolution of 1789, within the space of twenty years lost what subversion it contained in the use of plebian 'common' language, identification with the downtrodden masses, etc. and fell into a constipated longing for a far off feudal age of fucking knights and bloody damsels in distress. Someday it will be worth making comparison between English rural conservatism and Salazar's vision of Portugal as "the garden of Europe". There will probably be more than a few interesting conclusions. Meanwhile it's worth bearing in mind that the Moorish castle at Cintra which so filled Byron with awe had never been conquered militarily, (see previous comments). However, it was finally conquered over twenty years ago by the intensive capitalization of the tourist trade. Such are history's bittersweet ironies.
The Portuguese colonies: metaphors to national liberation movements, English romanticism and a warm San Franciscan night circa 1968.... Portugal stirred up memories of the Haight Ashbury hippy trail of 1967 and the heavy media promotion of "the Summer of Love". The badge of the Captains Revolt, The Carnation Revolution was visually similar to the flower power of 1966-67. It was a connection many people made subconsciously but never really articulated / communicated to each other and therefore remained a silent connection as times also had changed – drastically - and not in the great way as prophesied by the pop lyricists of the 1960s. Bob Dylan, the man who sang, The Times They Are a Changing was obviously stimulated by the superficially liberated Mardi Gras feeling of the 1st of May 1974 in Lisbon, though in reality it didn't amount to much more than sensuous identification with the coloured LSD like mists floating above San Francisco on summer afternoons on which he could hang his hooks; sorry dollars. Thus Dylan has used Samora Machel's (the rebel leader who won the war against Portuguese imperialism) 'new' totalitarian form of state capitalism as a land of beautiful freedom and Dylan's song Mozambique itself politically and socially way off the mark, expresses a hope and nostalgia for that universal love and total change glimpsed in the late 1960s.
...... "where the sunny sky is aqua blue" .....
...... "whispering a secret emotion, magic in a magical land" ......
and the magic is, of course, hope again for the unrealized potential of Haight Ashbury
....... "and all the couples dancing cheek to cheek, It's very nice to stay a week or two and maybe fall in love just me and you.".....
Are these not lines, memories of the pop festivals and the Be-Ins in the Pan Handle ????
....... "say goodbye to sanity, you turn around and you take a final peak
and you see why it's so unique among the loving people living free on the beach in sunny Mozambique"....
The grim reality is that this is little more than the tourist blurb touted by advertising agencies and for present day Mozambique nothing could be farther from the truth. Social revolution hopefully does mean the fulfillment of love but national liberation movements bear no relation to overcoming repression, as all they amount to are illusory interregnums with occasional whiffs of freedom in the inter-imperialist partitioning of the world. Samora Machel's Mozambique is largely a client state of the imperial ambitions of Russia in Africa and is frighteningly, even ludicrously different to Dylan's musical projections. In that country a small working class is screwed to the ground; the army is in ferment, there are food shortages and the expense of the war economy, (especially with Machel's involvement in the battle for Zimbabwe) has also been paid for by driving the poor to the brink of starvation. Some liberation...
Romantic ruralism is everywhere throughout the highly developed world though here in England it receives one of its most concentrated expressions. Romantic ruralism in one of its bizarre twists and turns has now coated itself with the mantle of national liberation movements, particularly those taking place in wild, forested regions of the world e.g. the African rain forest. It's become something of the romantic quest with a knight in armour ruled over by King Arthur Lenin and peasant leaders as Sir Galahad and other knights of the round table. In a Report on the Further Liberation of Guinea (The Socialist Register. 1973), which reads like a Hollywood 'B' movie, the writer, (who else but a 'writer') Basil Davidson insisting he is anti-romantic pours out romantic cliché after romantic cliché. Describing his escapades with the PAIGG in Guinea Bissau, Davidson writes, "It is a routine journey and has nothing in the least of the 'romance', which has somehow got itself attached by terrible misunderstanding to the nature of guerrilla operations. Disembarking on the other side, we shall plunge at once into the grim reality of knee-high mud and numbing weariness. Neither is romantic by stretch of the imagination", and yet, irony of ironies, the previous sentence is that of a sub-Wordsworthian litterateur:
"We embark silently and paddle out across mirrors of grey water lit only by a failing moon and the distant glow of Portuguese garrisons."
Other examples of the language of Wordsworthian simile and metaphor thrown in by way of a pastiche of pantheism via national liberation movements – themselves manipulated by contending international capitalist formations are as follows:
"The sun falls into the western ocean",
"A long sleeve of darkness nearly a kilometer wide"...
"....and beyond the creek, as they glow like luminous mushrooms in the night, we can see where the lights of the Portuguese garrisons at Catio and Bedanda to one side and at Cabdue and Cassine to the other make small circles on the skyline....."
The romance doesn't end with the descriptive image of the landscape; the inhabitants are also dragged into the magical scenario. Here we are in the early 1970s still stuck in the Wordsworthian Eng Lit rut with more than a dash of Wordsworth's humility too, though probably only to add a whiff of authenticity. Or is it all false, perhaps also assisted by a Franz Fanon's sentimentalities standing in front of beautiful and capable peasants obviously superior to the clumsiness of western man? Consider the ending to the following trivial description: "To move about the sea board zones of the great forests, forked by estuaries and ocean creeks farmed on plains of rice that push away one-woodland border from another with miles of dyke and paddy, you must endure a wilderness of mud. And at low tide, of course, you must wade still further so as to reach canoes or leave them. This the peasants do not mind. Whether or not they carry burdens on their heads or weapons on their shoulders, the peasants float across these shores with a bare foot elegance of levitation. The booted foreigner plods and then, skin deep, gets stuck. [Poor thing, my italics]. Made presently aware, the peasants come floating back again and help him out."
No doubt, after that experience Basil Davidson probably wanted to be fucked solid or given a blow job by the peasants but wonders if Professor Ralph Miliband and / or the New Left Review would like him saying so. If not the National Geographic magazine, the tone and style is like a David Attenborough TV documentary together with a yen for the primitive, wedded to the tourist drive, and as befits a dedicated socialist, given good measures of self-managed 'liberated regions'..... Such is one example of basically a Communist party apologist for the expansionist drive of Russian Imperialism covering his political sympathies with Eng Tit and its long pre-occupation with the leafy green of Olde Englande. Often cottage –in-the-country owners themselves, these latter day conservative leftists, into their own form of rural petite bourgeois colonization, complete with mock running battles against the old hang 'em and flog 'em squirearchy, identify themselves with self-managed co-operatives in the African countryside run by dedicated 'revolutionaries', because their real longing is for a form of village democracy for Cremlington-on-the-Bump with perhaps some self-ruled commercial organization of small capital under the benevolent gaze of a workers' state run of course by themselves.
However, compare these ruralists to the real master and the lineage is clear. A passage from Wordsworth's The Prelude (Book 1, 300-400) is mentor and memory, plus a hideous reminder of school A levels, which as a major Eng Lit indoctrination ceremony prepared the ground for B. Davidson's African rural, jolly hocky sticks japes. Eng Lit socialized the attitude of snobbism towards industrialization helping later to prepare the ground for Third World, virgin rain forest pantheism. In parenthesis, one can hardly imagine a writer like Davidson waxing forth eloquently on the skill of an electrician or a computer maintenance engineer unlike say, early 20th century Russian poets such as Mayakovsky or Khlebnikov (e,g. "strict singer of the screw - poet of the troop of suncatchers"). Perhaps Davidson can make OK comments on carpentry but only because carpentry has an affinity to the basket weaving crafts and iconographic hand made woodwork carved by indigenous tribes' peoples traded for peanuts to be sold on cheaply at tourist industry venues, as it also goes hand in hand with anti-imperialism, the IRA and more importantly, Celtic mythology minus drunken Irish brickies...
"One summer evening (led by her) I found
A little boat tied to a willow tree
Within a rocky cave, its usual home.
Straight I unloosed her chain, and stepping in
Pushed from the shore. It was an act of stealth
And troubled pleasure, nor without the voice.
Of mountain-echoes did my boat move on,
Leaving behind her still, on either side,
Small circles glittering idly in the moon,
Until they melted all into one track
Of sparkling light. But now, like one who rows,
Proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point
With an unswerving line, I fixed my view
Upon the summit of a craggy ridge.
The horizon's utmost boundary; far above
Was nothing but the stars and the grey sky.
She was an elfin pinnance; lustily
I dipped my oars into the silent race,
And, as I rose upon the stroke, my boat
Went heaving through the water like a swan;
When, from behind that craggy steep till then
The horizon's bound, a huge peak, black and huge,
As if with voluntary power instinct
Upreared its head. I struck and struck again,
And growing still in stature the grim shape
Towered up between me and the stars, and still,
For so it seemed, with purpose of its own
And measured motion like a living thing,
Strode after me. With trembling oars I turned,
And through the silent water stole my way
Back to the covert of' the Willow tree;
There in her mooring-place I left my bark,-
And through the meadows homeward went, in grave
And serious mood, but after I had seen
That spectacle, for many days, my brain.
Worked with a dim and undetermined sense
Of unknown modes of being, o'er my thoughts
There hung a darkness, call it solitude
Or blank desertion. No familiar shapes
Remained, no pleasant image of trees,
Of sea or sky, no colours of green fields;
But huge and mighty forms, that do not live
Like living men, moved slowly through the mind
By day, and were a trouble to my dreams."
English Nature Ideology turned inside out by King Mob
"Direct justification of the regime, of capitalism and the bourgeoisie, tends to discredit rather than sustain it. It has never convinced anybody: the justifications which work are those which in themselves are indirect, invisible or illegible. This fundamentally changes the critical analysis of ideologies.... The relations of ideologies has been examined while their relation to practise has been ignored. The ideologies which are really effective are hardly distinguishable from practise: they are not expressed at a distinctly ideological level, and they do not appear as ideologies."
Henri Lefebvre: The Survival of Capitalism.
These traditions or more essentially, these ideologies only come about because they are a reflection of something that was once a very powerful and meaningful force, hence the longevity of romanticism. No one can doubt the former innovative brilliance, revolutionary potential and sheer scope of English romanticism, which was why its essence had to be derailed and thwarted at all cost; its splendour in the grass reduced to the manicured suburban lawn; its ideas and passionate expression reduced to a mind-numbing Eng Lit. Hence we had no choice but to take the piss out of it whilst reliving in some ways its revolutionary kernel. Today we cannot doubt that a Wordsworth, a Blake, a Coleridge, a Shelley, a Byron, a Hazlitt, a Leigh Hunt, an Emily Bronte would have been amongst our merry band....Never doubt that!
The English nature ideology has become one such effective practice in the sense Lefebvre means it. It cannot be termed an ideology in the traditional sense given to ideology, (morality, religion, philosophy, culture, etc) nor is it anything like a debating chamber or a body of knowledge. It is largely a subconscious identification made by a mass of people involving a practice with many ramifications, from weekend trips, grow your own, to the hippy, cottage-on-the-moors lifestyle of suburban "subtopia" (Ian Nairn) to horse and hounds revolutionaries. Largely because the nature ideology does involve practice justified by many philosophical or cultural interpretations, (ideologies in the typical 19th century sense of the term), it's become seemingly impregnable. Any criticism of its cherished heritage has not survived for long. The fate of English Futurism (Vorticism) is significant in that respect; a brief sounding off which then was never developed.
BLAST (from politeness)
"Curse its climate for its sins and infections".
"So much vast machinery to produce"
(Two among many)
"Wild nature crank"
In the late 1960s, particularly in the English pro-situ milieu around King Mob, there was a further brief assault, which never got articulated theoretically. Although the milieu from its ad hoc inception contained the seeds of its own passage back into rural romanticism. (e.g. -the lines from Coleridige's Ode to Dejection grafted upon a wall in Moorhouse Road, London W10: "A grief without a pang, void, dark and drear, a stifled drowsy unimpassioned grief", ideas were mooted in the explosive days of 1968, which were sufficiently tasteless to horrify the many with a glib acceptance of romantic English pantheism. For instance, it was suggested that a waterfall be dynamited in the English Lake District and a message left spray canned on a rock saying, "Peace in Vietnam" not because there was deep seated self-interest about the war in Vietnam unlike in the United States, but because the comment was sufficiently absurd to create laughter and the target so seemingly innocent. (In actuality the waterfall – ironically deploying the language of sin – is one of the most guilt ridden objects of all). Even better was the suggestion to blow up Wordsworth's house in Ambleside, alongside a Delphic comment that would have read "Coleridge Lives." Inevitably passing the ideas for action round, produced the psychotic suggestion too: hanging peacocks in Holland Park - that brilliantly plumaged bird beloved of the aristocracy in front of a huge graffiti "Peacocks is Dead".
But the detournement of the critique – its weakness - was to be found within itself. Laughing at nature mystique was combined with subconscious love for it; and the latter won out. The practical unleashing of desire, (I'll take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires") with the failure to follow on through with the revolutionary initiative, got sublimated regressively and quickly into a many faceted neo-romanticism which looked the same but was diametrically opposite. It went all the way from digging rain, (as conceptual art) to euphorically reading Robert Louis Stevenson's romance novels of brigandage in wild, grey and misty landscapes. It meant the defeat of the 1960s but so subtly, as it could rely on confused modernity to hype its image. Didn't Bonnie Prince Charlie look like Che Guevara after all? Did clan feudalism begin to creep in here and was it that different to Basil Davidson's romance of Third World guerrillas?
Enchantment with the 'new' country ideology by latter day hippies with commendable ecological concerns also went side by side with a mimicking at times of the old country pursuits of the squirearchy, though obviously not fox hunting or grouse shooting as the common denominator but the aesthetic idyll. As Patrick O'Donovan said, "A passionate love of the English countryside is the only form of patriotism universally acceptable in England....a countryside moreover often contoured to the canvases of artists...Indeed it becomes difficult sometimes to determine whether it was the landlords or the painters that shaped the English countryside's more scenic aspects."
Beckford and Fonthill Abbey and the gothic, romantic pastoral still turns up in strange places because it really did mean something. Eric Clapton, the rock guitarist sheltered through a long nervous breakdown stemming from smack and unrequited love in his new home, a Sussex folly named Hurtwood Edge (sounds like a media oriented, tepidly-surrealist Wuthering Heights). Elton John meanwhile languishes in his 'farm house' in Lincolnshire sometimes trying to recapture the magic of his childhood with his favourite books, not the remarkable Castle of Otranto but Wind in the Willows and Winnie the Pooh. What else!!
....Plus the moment when the hippy revolt went apocalyptic along with some help from Karl Korsch....
The hopes generated by Portugal proved impossible to realize practically on a world level and grim reality elsewhere never entertained the dream and the sub-poetry of Dylan's song "Mozambique" became just another hippy farce. The bitter truth is Portugal in 1974 was unfortunately not really an international event, which had a significant effect elsewhere on the world proletariat. It's international effect - because the process in Portugal was catalyzed by a military putsch - was largely in the lower professional ranks of the armed forces of European countries, (Spain, Italy, France, Germany and even to some extent Gt Britain where one former army top brass who had served in Northern Ireland entertained Portuguese Spinolist ambitions of an army takeover). The adventures of the Portuguese military at home also made itself felt, more importantly among the soldiers committees of Italy and France (e.g. the southern garrison town of Draguinan). True, the ferment in the various European armies was all to the good and a useful foretaste of the side the great body of conscripts might take in the future once real insurrectionary ferment engulfs Europe.
Where though in 1974-75 was there the experience comparable to 1968 when the whole of the highly developed world socially, culturally and in the arena of everyday life went into ferment? At the time, it was less a question of the management of capitalism via the mystification of "workers' governments" but the abolition of capitalism itself. Paris '68 was really only the focal point of a whole revolutionary process in the making throughout Europe and North America. The hippy revolt had developed radical tendencies and was out of hand. Hip lifestyle was pregnant with possibilities and hadn't yet become another cynical petite bourgeois racket like had taken place by the spring of 1974 - rackets moreover, often more ruthless in the exploitation of labour power than the great companies the small time hip merchants were to so moralistically rave against.
What remained was a longing for the first creative wave of hippy naivety and to some extent Portugal existed as a phantasm projection for such a longing, (in that sense Dylan hit a chord!) though it was a hippy phantasy projection in a vacuum, one almost pared down to a longing for subjective self-realization freed from the revived Victorian objet d'art environmental aesthetic, plus a dose of artificial respiration given to the old Wild West via Red Indian folklores, which, characterized the American / British hippy revolt of the late 1960s. (Remember the houses in the Haight where dumb hippies even re-installed gas lighting!) Portugal however was only that; a phantasy - because that 'organic' expansive, dancing counterpart to the pop music market which had existed as part of the 1960s life style, by the spring of 1974, had largely disappeared.....
......... Moreover, the music was no longer out there in the street but had retreated into the cassette recorder and merely a replay of past experiences, of a youth that was hardly yours in the first place, no matter how the young international lefties may have wished otherwise in the cheap Lisbon flop houses in the summer of 1975......
......But what was a room in a Portuguese flop house filled with musical nostalgia like in comparison to the rush of enjoyment of the new expression such as expressed in the following handbill for the Trips Festival of the 2nd of Jan 1967??
"The general tone of things has moved on from the self conscious happening to a more JUBILANT occasion where the audience participates because it's more fun to do so than not. Maybe this is the ROCK REVOLUTION. Audience dancing is an assumed part of all the shows and the audience is invited to wear ecstatic dress and bring their own gadgets" .....etc.
OK it's druggie in tone but at the time everything seemed to be gelling together haphazardly in a whirlpool of simultaneity, combining experience, learning and casual improvisation. LSD helped dissolve the ability to pointlessly discriminate between different specializations: that is, to focus on one thing and put the others in the background as somehow all specialisations now seemed to interlock. Moreover, fetishism about specializations was hitting an historical all time low as were virtually all separations. There were no separate leisure and work times strictly adhered to - work and sex freely inter-mingled but the unity was achieved through a communally-inspired happy land of cockayne.
The real world was simply dismissed by saying it didn't exist and that was its downfall. Acid inspired, like Ruskin gone mad, yet inspirational giggling at ancient rock strata (and not rock 'n' roll) seemed to quickly gave way to a languishing rural conservatism, touring the English Lake District and a revival of Beatrix Potter's horrible little animals, who, like all the best people, also read The Times newspaper. Existing alongside the idealist simultaneity was a commendable idealist rejection of money, which for a brief moment spread itself in many directions - free rides, food, housing, drugs etc. However, the superb Diggers, "Death of Money" celebration of Dec 17, 1967 and the experimental free store of (largely stolen) gifts quickly capitulated to the pragmatic realities of the capitalist mode of production with the subsequent easy victory of the hip merchants.
Moreover, that grim, somewhat bourgeois (?) prescription the dictatorship of the proletariat suddenly had no meaning for the highpoint of the late 1960s adventure as capital and classes were being dissolved in a mood of general creativity liberating itself from the ball and chain of art... and no more so than in America.
The dictatorship of the proletariat gone loony tunes....
Reality had already tested the dictatorship of the proletariat - that glib leftist panacea - and had found it wanting. No matter that the masters, Marx, Engels and the Situationists had used the slogan. (The Situationists playfully brilliant and euphoric essay, Thesis on the Paris Commune ends up approvingly with Marx and Engel's statement.... "Take a look at the Paris Commune. It was the dictatorship of the proletariat"). In the revolutionary theoretical pre-history of the 20th century, only Karl Korsch it seems in the I920s had questioned the feasibility of a dictatorship, which had the aura of the epoch of bourgeois revolutions, hanging about its neck (c/f Jacobinism). The concept of the proletarian dictatorship abounds with contradictions. It implies that the proletariat exists as a class after the revolution and does not in the process of breaking through the capitalist mode of production dissolve itself as a class and class society as a whole. In reality, it can only mean that the working class becomes a ruling working class standing guard over those who were once the middle classes, (who are now economically up to what exactly?) – literally watching them like hawks, in case they attempt a restoration of wage labour perhaps? If classes still therefore exist in the topsy-turvy way implied by the proletarian dictatorship, then too, must productive and unproductive wage labour and with it, the exploitative mechanisms realizing surplus value but with somehow the exploited standing above those who gain more through exploitation. From all logical viewpoints a few simple questions like this makes dictatorship look farcical and can only really satisfy those who search for a mythological transitional stage between capitalism and communism. That famous Russian joke comes to mind: Question: "What is Alcoholism?" Answer: Alcoholism is the transitional state between capitalism and communism, in short a capitalist society with the illusions of a "withering away" via the Workers State. Historically, there may have been good reasons why the concept proletarian dictatorship was thrown up in the period when capital was still largely free enterprise capital and when state welfare and nationalisation took on the appearance of communism, maybe like the "capitalist communism" elaborated by Marx in his letter to Engels, April 30th, 1868) but does that still apply well over a 100 years later?
In the late 19th century and up to the mid 1960s, apart from brief insurrectionary moments like the German revolution from 1918 to 1923, The May Days in Barcelona 1937, Hungary 1956, proletarian dictatorship overlapped with the tendency towards state capitalism. It is only now, with the blatant evidence of state capitalism all around us that we can see through the fog more clearly. The content of proletarian revolution: abolition of the spectacular commodity economy; of the law of value, of the wages system and their replacement with a general world creative self-expression, cannot explain itself through an arbitrary slogan like proletarian dictatorship.
We can though have insights into what the dictatorship of the proletariat can mean today though it is rather different from previous examples. Essentially it begins this minute, the moment we revolt though that revolt can only then have substance if the process becomes unstoppable, extending itself ad infinitum and remorselessly leaving no stone unturned. It involves total contestation at close quarters affecting every aspect of an alienated daily life whereby bit by bit we implant ourselves in the very being of those we oppose as we increasingly become immune to all their techniques of recuperation on offer that could draw the life-enhancing venom of our well-meaning stings. We disorientate the enemy secreting within them an alien presence eating into their real alienation, a presence they no longer can get rid of, morphing all the while. At the same moment we literally seduce them and / or freak them out even applying a rational praxis of Dali's "paranoid critical activity" with increased psychological punch. Initially incapable of understanding profound revolutionary reason we slowly break down their mass psychosis to a degree zero whereby at last they may be capable of experiencing the vision of a new world within themselves, assisted by a thump here, a kiss there.... Many will get there while others will remain perpetually lost and freaked out forever – too late for the critique of alienation – but essentially neutered and useless as a tool of potential reaction; the process something like that great surrealist slogan or flyer from the 1930s "You who do not see think of those who see."
Increasingly, there are moments in capitalism, not necessarily insurrectionary, when capital loses the initiative. The period 1964-70 was such a one in terms of a growing workers' rebellion against work amidst a general refusal to honour hallowed givens in preference for the chance creative breaks confusedly offering themselves everywhere. The feeling of coming together in many fields of activity, (music, politics and love meeting across different work situations); the chance collisions and willful disregard of highly specialized categories of the division of labour, (revolutionary scientists thoroughly at home with ex-artists) meant that a process was underway which capital was rapidly loosing control of and if not checked would wreak havoc upon its modus operandi. A spontaneous unfolding was well in advance of an adequate theoretical explanation, which was at the time, in its infancy. There was a dialectical interplay between the inherently Situationist-like cultural / anti-cultural process developing down below and its capitalized presentation in musical sales promotion. The old forms of art were being off-loaded, from theatre to jazz music, not through conscious critique but through subversive tendencies in 1960s pop culture / anti-culture, whether presented through music or film ended up kyboshing themselves at one and the same time. In the updating of Dept II and the production of the means of consumption, the old aesthetic ways could not be accommodated formally and in the process, respected geniuses of cultural history were often unceremoniously kicked aside, (c/f Roll Over Beethoven and Ringo Starr contemptuously handling a piece of wire sculpture in A Hard Day's Night not because of perplexed ouvrierism but through the superior awareness of a thoroughly hip, modern day, Liverpool, working class lad who had nonetheless been taken by the system.) Bob Dylan was more articulate, in a kind of recuperated Lautreamont style:
"Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot fighting in the captain's towers
while calypso singers laugh at them and fishermen throw flowers."
(From Desolation Row)
"Shakespeare's in the alley looking at his shoes"
(From Blonde on Blonde)
Again the recognition of the modern rebels was not through a new literary interest suddenly generated mysteriously within the working class. Rimbaud as a popularized marketable commodity, (e.g. which Scottish working class lads could dig) didn't really come primarily via the Sitwell's, Enid Starkie and the lesser lights of Oxford University but through Dylan oddly enough in the 1970s and not the 1960s. In Anglo/America, the ground was prepared by modern capital for the radical rejection of art by the proletariat
evinced marginally in England and America in 1968 and not through a long anti-bourgeois cultural tradition as in France. Nonetheless, the death of art was getting turned into a spectacularised media event thus negating its core subversive intent.
Equally though, the capitalization was uneven. Modernist 'revolt' could also turn back into outright conservatism, particularly within the social context of the U.K. In A Hard Day's Night (1965 ?), the young workers as pop musicians break through aesthetic barriers as though they were breaking through class barriers. To be more precise, the aesthetic barriers were also class barriers: the two were inseparable. The modernizing of Dept 11 in Britain was often formulated as a class revolt against the haute bourgeoisie, (but not against capitalism) rather than their updating (e.g. egalitarianism / proudly playing around with 'common', regional accents/ anti-snobbism and most importantly, A GENERAL CONTEMPT FOR THE ARCHAIC. In A Hard Day's Night, the raw working class Beatles, thoroughly urbane with flash suits and cheeky nonchalance, playing with cinematic happenings and zappy montage techniques, confront the old caste system of the English elite who see them not as individuals belonging to the human race but as a different species being. Aesthetically, the Beatles were running up against the conservative cultural hegemony implicit within the snobberies of what EP Thompson called the social apartheid in the UK. But it is the essence of the social apartheid through the many permutations of its benevolent paternalism, which slowly but surely sucks you into its own mirror image through a maze of skilful manipulation and true blue leftists play their part in this deadly game In reality, the very futurist like dynamism of Dept 11 developments was incredibly short lived. As a technocratic, modernizing bourgeois force trying to create some English meritocracy it totally failed, ironically through being taken up by the very same eccentric, fuddy-duddy ways it initially and with so much brio, set out to destroy. By 1967, for instance and The Yellow Submarine, the Beatles were well on their way to partially projecting themselves as sentimental, eccentric Heath Robinson figures, lost in a romantic fairy land so dear to the ideology of the English elite, dwelling on lovely, stagnating Liverpool's, 'authentic' back to back houses and nice old granddads. Thus, the new modernizing English bourgeois, partly made up of those newly arrived from working class backgrounds had after a brief moment of sound and fury, merely about turned and with open arms embraced the crusty, anti-diluvium conservative, little Englander heritage.
Of course, capital is no fool. While "profit is a born dissenter" (Marx) capital could not have allowed the holes in the revolutionary dikes of the 1960s to remain unplugged, therefore there walls had to be strongly rebuilt. Throughout the highly developed world, by the middle of 1976, capital was re-gaining the initiative after having recuperated what was recuperable and discarding the radical tendencies at play in the creative moment of the late 1960s. It took different forms in different countries despite certain common denominators. In the UK the form of its re-consolidation was precisely through the quintessential archaisms so dear to the English tradition.
For some, Portugal revived the hope of that realization of a general creativity, which was by then, so cruelly, clandestinely and abruptly curtailed in the highly developed countries. How this came about has still to be explained, for not only was the revolt of the working class turned back at the point of production but also at the point of consumption too. In fact, it's been easier to contain at the point of consumption than production where particular national working classes have made violent assaults in the 1970s, e.g. the Quebec general strike in 1972. The point was music assisted a growing social self-expression of so many young people in the late 1960s pointing towards the utopia of a permanent leisure economy for everybody, which is quite unrealizable under capitalism. In reality self-expression was slowly but surely strangled and the 1970s saw the collapse into chaos of what formally had been a fairly coherent trajectory. Self-expression thus thwarted meant pathology increased as that outward bursting energy turned in over with blocked up bodies unable to express themselves daily imploding, prey to all kinds of desperate influences. And the mind increasingly unable to concentrate clearly was manufacturing Manson's at every street corner...Everybody's best friend a potential Charlie Manson; for hadn't Manson experimented with others in provocative, artistically-tinged, aggressive interventions which had some quality and specifically directed against the lifestyle of the Hollywood rich before the guy went psychotically nuts?
Although the late 1960s saw the cultural loosening of hippy in the UK, Holland, Germany and America, the hippy process itself had yet to make its impact upon the totalitarian regimes of Russia, East Europe, Latin America, South Africa, Spain and Portugal etc. In these countries, hippy still implies a fresh radicalism but without the many faceted cultural rebellion within which the phenomenon was born. Even in contemporary France surprisingly hippy is second rate in comparison to the UK / American experiences of the late 1960s. But what is going to make the highly developed world dance again, particularly America? The music has lost its expansiveness and musicians like Ry Cooder, J.J. Cale and Randy Newman, although influenced by 1960s electronics techniques which have often been improved upon, (notes can be made/fabricated in the 1970s which would have categorised a musician as a genius in the 1960s), play as it were, in a state of shock, full of a morbid black humour and a lifestyle of solipsistic withdrawal. While Dylan may have lampooned artistic greats once, he nevertheless has now become an ideological prop for the 'new' American capitalism of populism and back to the country – so it's goodbye to the golden age of protest and hey, millionaring is the real thing.
Split-levels of image making within a pervasive and growing consumption....
In Portugal, there is a love / hate relationship to the Common Market countries of northern Europe followed by the biggest bogey of all - the United States - which mean even oppositional movements avowedly anti-capitalist want to align the Portuguese economy with the Third World, whilst consuming hip western images. Radio Renascenca, so sympathetic to the rebel soldier, Otelo de Carvalho and his Cuban economic romanticism, also incessantly cultivate these hip images meaning Bob Dylan can come in handy at times and his tune, A Hard Rains a Gonna Fall kitted out with new Che Guevara lyrics, has become suitably heroic and dramatic. You would have been mistaken in thinking that the influence of Che Guevara had drawn to a close but it obviously hadn't especially when revamped in such a way. Probably many Portuguese workers saw Che Guevara as a real proletarian leader if only because he'd fought "El Gringo" and was heavily promoted by a militant media, which insisted, that Guevara was where it was at. In other ways, Guevara has inevitably a real appeal to the oppressed of Fascist countries, for after all, he used armed struggle to try and achieve his goals, thus it didn't really matter that his programme was the perspective of an anti-imperialist, bourgeois nationalist because it was Guevara's image which counted: the man with a rifle in his hand heading a guerrilla band all tooled up......so fuck some seemingly dry as dust analysis when you had such an attractive example to photograph.
On New Years Eve 1975, in a tasca, a ship's carpenter, using half sign language and with a wild look in his drunken eyes kept repeating, "Che Guevara", "Che Guevara", "Che Guevara", but all his actions - pointing at his watch - imitating sleep - waking up – work -a break – the capitalist with a fat cigar – powerfully indicated his real hatred - forced wage labour and not some political abstraction. Even if Guevara had succeeded in LatinAmerica, he wouldn't have changed that elemental social fact, which the ship's carpenter was so bitter about. True, the capitalist with the fat cigar may have been deposited in the dust bins of history but the boss would become the state and forced wage labour would carry on as before.
Others, more disillusioned and theoretically more astute, exhibited the same split level of image identifications, though more on the level of entertainment and consumerism.... A melancholic Portuguese ultra-leftist-cum-situationist on another occasion switched off a cassette recording of a 'militant' Radio Renescenca broadcasting outfit (before Radio Renascenca crept back within the folds of an 'altered' more liberal Catholic church) and replaced it with a recording of Charlie Mingus's, Blues and Roots... Julio Henriques was his name..... The record sent my mind spinning back to the time jazz had meant so much to me ten to fifteen years previously. Now the LP meant very little as it was conceived before the great jazz crisis of the late 1960s... It was historically a recording made before Sonny Rollins had tried to find a way out of the darkening jazz alley by experimenting with happenings, happenings that had already received their definitive critique on the streets of the Latin Quarter in Paris '68. I don't know if Julio felt the same way, I just couldn't really ask him but he certainly would have been interested in the thoughts that were in my mind because this guy was real bright. In the period of possible civil war, (the last week of Vasco Goncalves and the 5th government during 1975) Julio had remarked that if there had been civil war, he wouldn't have known which side to fight on. He'd grasped realistically outside of the ravings of the press that any civil war at the period of time would have been largely at the expense of any autonomous workers' revolution, as, the workers would largely have been mere cannon fodder for the ambitions of the parties. I am conjecturing but maybe listening to Charlie Mingus seemed a better expression of internationalism than the internecine party bickering about the 'socialist' future of Portugal alongside their various recipes for controlling their national working class.
Reflections on the theories of Joao Bernardo
On top of an enlightening encounter with Julio Henrigues, I also talked a lot to Joao Bernardo, one of the leading 'lights' of the Combate group. Though very different from Julio, straighter, more upper middle class rigid in life style, this was a guy who was an excellent ultra leftist theorist (in the arena of the critique of political economy) who came out of the Portuguese revolution and the following (a lengthy one) is roughly what he had to say which helped stimulate my own, much wilder thoughts on capitalist exploitation, the permanent welfare proletariat and, of all things, guilt.....
In spite of all the leftist illusions about the 5th government, their main intention, like the other parties, was the control of the working class. The problem for Portugal was, how could this goal be achieved; maybe perhaps through a dose of draconian put-down or maybe a dose of manipulation, or more likely, a sticky mixture of both? Obviously, the heavy and brutal measures of the previous Fascist epoch were out of the question or at least would have to bide their time for a few years before they could be tried again with any reasonable chance of success. In many respects, the "Melo Antunes" plan of the social democrats was the most realistic for the immediate future, as it clearly grasped that the managers of state capitalism simply did not have the power to thrash the working class, "which the economic plan of Goncalves [Communist party] would have involved" (Joao Bernardo). Moreover, the Communist party, wishing to take Portugal out of the sphere of EEC /US capital in order to align the country with East Europe and Russia, would have meant an horrendous act of self-sacrifice from the working class as their plan, (the Goncalves/ Murteira plan) would have involved a massive increase in working hours which the workers could never have submitted to. Regardless of the great liberal, democratic facade, which would have been promoted throughout the worlds leftist / liberal circles, nonetheless in grim reality the working class, would have had to submit to a far greater real exploitation than ever they had suffered under the fascist regime of Salazar. Fundamentally, if the plan had been carried out, the likelihood is it would have provoked a head on clash with the working class crowned by the Communist party labeling the workers as reactionary. Sounds familiar don't it just – a real eastern European scenario on the agenda! The social democrats weren't so naive; at least they knew in their bones that it wasn't possible to hit the working class so hard. Understanding more about world credit and the loan system of the world banks, the social democrats knew this was a better way of placating the working masses thus avoiding the Communist party trap requiring the extensive exploitation of the proletariat and the compulsory lengthening of the working day.
The sacrifice that was demanded by the Communist party was nevertheless dressed up in glowing, militant phrases that sounded so ideal and the real road towards the "socialist utopia". The main slogan was the "battle for production" and it was proclaimed everywhere - on posters, in newspapers, even printed on the back of tram tickets. It was a message that had to be hammered into your brain and you weren't meant to forget it for a moment - even in your sleep. However, in Lisbon, I sensed an indifference, if not downright hostility to its wearisome repetition even though there wasn't much general rational discussion on the streets of what exactly "the battle for production" involved. The phrase sounded good but as to what it implied well that was a different matter creating more than a few problems. It sounds like a workers' battle cry though nothing could be farther from the truth as, taken literally, it means working harder in order to get the national economy back on its feet. Taken more scientifically in the sense of economics as "the dismal science" it is a handy euphemism for an increase in relative surplus value - a purely capitalist objective - so in Portugal, the increase would be achieved more through the lengthening of the working day rather than through the intensive exploitation of the proletariat as is the general tendency in more highly developed economies.
"The battle for production" with its sacrificial overtones, also provided a militant smokescreen for another form of capitalist exploitation, which has so often been used this century but in different forms: unpaid labour. The expanding "civic service" sector in Portugal often deploying a bogus revolutionary hectoring, has managed to get the support of students and soldiers to sacrifice themselves with hardly any monetary remittances to help restore Portugal economically. Students are cleverly coerced and expected to take a year off from their studies to help the "Agrarian Reform" and related projects. Similarly, the soldiers are forced into re-building part of the Portuguese infrastructure and much basic construction work in the tertiary sector has been done by the soldiers, yet they've only received a measly soldiers' wage, little more than a pittance. Only SUV (Soldiers United will Win) in the ranks of the army have fought against this barbaric exploitation demanding a workers' wage, but hardly surprisingly did not achieve their objective. Unpaid work, coercive or 'voluntary' is again becoming of major importance in the highly developed world, though as in the UK it tends to take on a different form which will be discussed a little later. More generally, whether in Portugal, London or New York, unpaid labour is greatly assisted by the economic climate and growing employment, or more accurately, as stated previously, the backdrop is a growing tendency towards the creation of a permanent welfare proletariat. Even in semi-developed Portugal where there are no unemployment benefits, the creation of a permanent welfare proletariat is a problem the new technocrats will have to consider. Possibly because Portugal is in the arena of the EEC (and not the Indian sub-continent) the unemployed will be subsidized by the state if only to maintain a modicum of social stability, in this, the final great structural crisis of capitalism.
The development of free labour in Portugal has however a very civilized surface. There's nothing to compare with the concentration camps and the brutal slave labour of Hitler's Germany or Stalin's Russia and their contemporary equivalents, the work camps in the USSR today.
But, the exploitation of free labour is more naked in Portugal than in the UK or the USA where it assumes rather more devious forms. In the UK, small sections of the working class and the middle class in this very protracted economic slump are manipulated, rather than dragooned into similar self-sacrifice. The manipulations have often been internalized - doing your duty to the unfortunate has long ago become a new form of English patriotism - lovingly embraced by all guilt stricken liberal English lefties. Today, it is the Moroccans yesterday it was the Irish Catholics; so you change your guilt mechanism with your shirt. The appeal to guilt has become the main form through which to enlist volunteers.... a secularized guilt for a secularized state. It is mainly in the arena of the state that unpaid voluntary work has developed so far in the UK. 'Free' agricultural labour vis-à-vis Portugal; like free industrial labour is out of the question for the foreseeable future but, the so-called social services are a prime target for the state to save on revenue expenditure and retain what the coffers of the state can of surplus value for reinvestment. "Community-politics" in the UK - that very vague term that covers so many activities - becomes one of the prime fronts for this free labour, or at best poorly paid labour, in a variety of intermediary bodies inserted into an extending state apparatus. The forms in which this exploitation takes place are still in there infancy but some can be named "Community Industries" for "the blank" generation; that is for teenagers outside apprenticeships schemes, manipulatively press-ganged into unpaid social work in the neighborhood augmented by remedial outdoor work for prisoners - to name a few. Many but not all of these schemes are managed by the paternalist do-gooder, whose ideology is either Fabian or Marxist Leninist. Some are managed by ex revolutionaries from 1968 now making careerist niches for themselves. In real terms, there is little to choose between them, because over and above trifling political differences is their function in a developing but economically chaotic state capitalism. Largely subsidized by charities, there are the perks of power for the managers of these rackets, rather more than monetary incentives; meaning these projects are tending to fit in more and more neatly with the general state capitalist tendency towards the management rather than the ownership of capital.
Much of the voluntary free labour receives subsidization from the state via unemployment benefits. But, there is also a further problem here: consumption, beyond immediate survival requirements must be maintained at whatever minimal level in order to realize surplus value. Thus, the state is prepared to pay out cash (if one is willing to ask), which sometimes can be marginally higher than moneys received directly through weekly wage packets. However there is a 'cultural' catch to all this; many workers, productive and un-productive, will not take up these offers seeing in them a form of begging and working for a weekly wage is still socially more 'dignified' thus belying their small 'c' conservatism. Within the paradigms of their often petty snobbery, they have no wish to become part of the welfare proletariat which today is allowed to consume only marginally less than the vast majority of stereotypical wage labourers. The general tendency of capital is to throw off workers engaged in productive processes, however because of the tendency for the rate of profit to fall these workers cannot any longer be kicked upstairs as unproductive wage earners; a semi solution which was only viable during the period of capitalist re-construction after the end of the second inter-imperialist world war. In crude terms they must be made redundant but without acknowledging this is what is taking place. That part of the bourgeoisie is unable comprehend this process is hardly surprising. Moreover, the ideology of the 'scrounger' acts as a deterrent to a greater understanding of the situation but for how much longer can the state and more critically, the media, especially the right wing newspapers continue promoting this ideology? Two quotes from Joao Bernardo are worth considering: The first refers to the state financing of the market: "In the form of unemployment subsidies, family allowances, medical services and other services, credit facilities etc, the state stimulates particular consumption, even if it is only a little" ....and.... "the end of this contradiction between the state as purchaser and the state as creditor, with the consequent end of monetary inflation, is strictly related to the growing development of forms of free labour amongst the proletariat"... a statement which obviously must be seriously developed as time goes by because it seems most of us are going to end up as welfare bums.
Faced with a jungle of leftist political ideology purveyed by vanguard groups Marx's comment that "the emancipation of the proletariat the work of the proletariat itself" hits me like a breath of fresh air and Joao Bernardo was definitely of this persuasion. Maybe it was more scientifically accurate to formulate a stricter, more narrowed down workers definition of revolution in the late 19th century than today but where does that get us? With the surplus value producing sector of the working class numerically declining in the highly developed part of the world and the concomitant growth of state capitalism, we have seen an unprecedented expansion of unproductive wage labour (e.g. the UK), and a process which makes any scientific definition of the proletariat a more complex problem than ever in the 19th century. And to what point? (C/f Joao Bernardo's Para Uma Teoria do Modo do Produccio Communista)
Narrowing things down can have unfortunate consequences. Was Salazarismo preferable in some ways to a social democratic state capitalism? Didn't it have a certain greater respect for quality of life, even if only really experienced by the few in comparison to than those infinitive meanderings and half-truths of modern social democrats? On a personal level, why do you sometimes nostalgically prefer the 'ordinary' state functionary with a kitsch identity to those jam-packed with frantic revolutionism which is anything but, excelling in ever widening circles of mystification with the air of the clinically certifiable though never having the simple honesty to say they are mad? From here on just how do we successfully subvert these creeps because they aren't happy bunnies and "that which is disintegrating must also be pushed" (Nietzsche) adding, "and all good things approach their goal crookedly."
Further complications arise in any analysis of unproductive wage labour and its expanded reproduction. Surely this expansion must be reduced as finally it is a massive drain upon accumulated surplus value, which means sooner or later if there are no counter tendencies at work then maybe there could be some point to that old thorny adage: the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Haggling over the redistribution of the surplus will one day become intense and weighted in favour of the growing army of state bullshitters. Big salaries are going to have to be paid out even when capitalism can no longer afford such expenses. It must mean the subsequent unemployment of fairly large numbers of the professional sub-stratum and from then on, a sub-professional voluntary work must increase everywhere touting itself through the social 'good works' ethics via an image of reformist revolutionism. 'Free' labour is so often a big factor in capitalism where both unproductive and productive overlap. In Portugal though the army is a drain on surplus value, it can, at one and the same time, also be a creator of surplus value – in building up a modern communications infrastructure like new roads, which at the moment it is engaged upon. Elsewhere like in the UK presently 'free' labour takes more eccentric forms like in the reclamation of derelict land serving little purpose capitalistically speaking but rather filed under amenity reflecting a state aesthetic of conservation, of green tidy spaces, giving a sense of purpose when there is none to be had.
In spite of the lack of sophisticated statistics in Portugal, which, will no doubt improve the more the technocracy – of whatever political hue - take power, a strong impression is created that the Portuguese working class is in some respects better off than their UK counterparts. Although, there is no welfare state, everyday leisure essentials in Portugal are cheap like basic foods, wines, spirits and cigarettes as previously mentioned. However this was not because of some great victory attained by the working class but on the contrary was sponsored by Salazar with his policy of low prices for basic consumption goods favouring the big landowners as against marketing intermediaries (e.g. the middle men) and small peasants). According to Joao Bernardo, it seems likely that the new state will also guarantee low prices for the basic consumption goods by supporting deficits in order to augment the profit of the non-latifundista agricultural proprietors and although the western press has built up apocalyptic stories about food shortages in Portugal, capitalism's essential drugs relief industries like wine and cigarettes, still remain fairly cheap. Not withstanding wage differentials and inflation rates between the two countries, (Inflation rates for Portugal were 20% in 1975, for the UK something like 25%) minor, petty consumer leisure satisfactions for the British worker are increasingly denied because of the demands of an ever increasing taxation both in direct and indirect terms.
Taxation as a form of subsidizing surplus value is still in its infancy in Portugal in comparison to the UK. How increased taxation is to be achieved particularly as regards workers wages remains to be seen but it is doubtful if the state can do without the mediation of leftist parties, when co-operatives (or some of them) have openly refused to pay taxes. In Britain, taxation has become holy writ but deference and morality towards taxation in the working class could not have been achieved without the barrage of propaganda built up by the trade unions and the shop stewards in the era of PM Heath and the Tory Government of the early 1970s when the left in order to regain government had to use taxation scandals among the big companies (the Lonro affair etc) as an emotive vote-catching ploy. It certainly hampers any rational, revolutionary-cum-Marxist analysis of taxation, as tax dodging is primarily conceived of as acts of sabotage against the welfare state taking attention away from the real meat: taxation as free revenue for the subsidizing of the great monopolies, followed by the police, the standing army and the monarchy, to name the most predatory spongers.
Take me to your leader or "when all is said and done, life rather" (André Breton)
Subjectively many things can be said about the effects of expanded reproduction as the world revolutionary process unfolds unevenly on so many convoluted levels. Certain political / ideological patterns have appeared which tentatively relate to the economic structure of the post second inter imperialist world ear epoch of capitalism especially the domination of finance capital. To make a broad generalization, the sphere of unproductive wage labour, (particularly regarding the professions) have become especially prone to a leftist political mini-racketeering oriented around a Leninist or ultra leftist perspective flavoured with Leninism, (i.e. those who take the theorists post the German revolution of 1918-23 as a gospel – individuals like Mattick, Pannekoek, Gorter) and a gospel circumventing the critique of daily life. Whatever the political ideology touted (and ultra leftism can be more accurately described as 'revolutionary') there is a general tendency for these lower functionaries now funded by an expanding, innovative state apparatus to set themselves as 'revolutionary models' for those below - those without any status - to follow. Having little experience of life with the lid off, they nonetheless tend to paternalistically expect us to be on their dry as dust academic level of consciousness equipped with their qualitatively better experiments in personal relationships and daily life. What we then get are superior and inferior revolutionaries which tend to pan out among the superiors as a question of style and rhetoric / a show of revolution / a gymnastic display of activism / a point scoring of revolutionary theory / a manipulative experimentation with life like a Leninism of daily life relating to everybody else's failure on the level of 'revolutionary' ontological essences / Rimbaud's with mind sets not too different from psychiatric cops. It seems to be shaping up like some subtle totalitarianism made up of people who view themselves as necessary informal vanguards of the revolutionary process without which the revolution cannot be consummated while down below us dumb stiffs will have to learn from their higher insights. You must be joking! These people are never up front, never honest as always a game is being played and it's always a putdown game.
This is generally true, though not applicable in particular circumstances, like for instance the present crisis in the UK over unproductive expenditure, which is quite colossal and out of all proportion to the surplus value produced in the UK. In such circumstances a professional reserve army is created which, as a proportion of the permanent welfare proletariat, will probably never work in their lives as wage slaves. No matter what these marginal paid-up professionals may think – once really, really cast out - their purchase against the system will be virtually zilch. For these cadres (both of capital and the leftist parties) Portugal became an ideological swamp just as much as it became an ideological clearinghouse. Bookish knowledge was applied to situations which were no longer relevant in terms of revo1utionary prospects. Some will have moved on with a greater awareness, others still will persist in believing that Lisbon at one point in the summer of 1975 was Petrogad 19I7. They sought to lead the working class, which in its turn didn't really listen beyond a few showing a mild interest when not wryly amused and others just as often hostile and suspicious. Thus the comedy became one of 'revolutionary' middle class internationalism which brought with it all its bogus seriousness, illusions, surface libertarianism and communality but which had little, if any impact upon the working stiffs. Although Lisbon in the summer of 1975, may have brought leftist Swedes, Germans, French, American, Irish, English, Spanish, Brazilians etc. together in some concert of confused rapport, their internationalism was in real terms minimal when compared with a few tentative international steps by the Portuguese working class, steps which unfortunately never really got anywhere, but which still must provide hope for the future for any developing revolutionary movement throughout Europe.
Perhaps their unlimited arrogance expresses the delirium of the expanded state apparatus re its policing crises, which is under a broad, often chaotic but nonetheless real subversion on so many fronts like in education, social work, the arts, local government, the Inland Revenue etc. This process is well underway in the UK / American nexus but only embryonic in Portugal. This informal policing system of state capitalism has become far larger, more systemized than any prior capitalist formation on this level at the same time more devious, more difficult to pinpoint. The social function of this role expansion with all its 'enlightened' petty moralisms and 'nice' cop mentality wishes to impose an even greater self-repression on those below especially unskilled factory working stiffs and service sector non entities who behave far more spontaneously, hardly giving a fuck whether they are right or wrong; people who it must be said are far easier to be with and from which real subversion can flow. Let's face it most of these functionaries have been reasonably prepared for such roles by their brief but deadly internment in some form of higher education and never breaking away...(an "educastration" as someone neatly put it). Acolytes of leftist lecturers like lemmings almost invariably interpret the latest rounds of workers' strikes through bookish knowledge of the Russian revolution, the Maoist field trip or, for those more aware, the German revolution of 1918-23 What's really taking place always escapes these tight-arsed sub apparatchiks for whom Mallarme's insight "The flesh is sad and I've read all the books" is utterly meaningless....
You feel like crying out dementedly to them: do you really know the pit, that abyss at the back of your chair; the one George Grosz pointed to? These people have well and truly buried an expanded critique of alienation just when it it's necessary to take it much farther. Leftist, do you seriously know the horrors, those days on uppers and downers trying to reduce the growing psychosomatic pains coursing through the body? As Phil Meyler said: "pills and alcohol as a repressed form of class struggle" and our minds of those like us becoming uncontrollable taken by obsessive phantasy, strange, even horrible though sometimes moving into very poetic moments. Isn't this part and parcel of real immiseration which leftists can only confront if it's literature; that capitalization of the imagination which we now must deal with; that horrible plague pervading the 1970s of an uncontrollable social and personal schizophrenia?
In the relative underdevelopment of Portugal I found a certain peace of mind lacking in the highly developed world where everyday life is so gunned down, where Lautreamont's "demolished mind" is what we now encounter. Combate despite its other theoretical excellences simply couldn't deal with any of this and the fuck up of the misfit wasn't seriously considered and where are the extraordinary drunkards and those whose method of negotiating the pitfalls of daily life resembles dipsomania? However none of that was Combate's remit but I thought this present contribution might be helpful adding something along these lines. See you sometime later......