New Afterword to The End of Music
(To be included in a La Felguera, Spanish publication)
Above Left: The original Glasgow, Calderwood 15 publication, 1981.
Above Right: A Greek publication of TheEnd of Music from the late 1980s
This pamphlet from the late 1970s is indeed an attack on music and the need for supersession of this time honoured mode of entertainment (admittedly often profoundly moving entertainment). More than that it was also recognition that music had meant so much in shaping and changing our lives especially that music that was breaking through the limits of form and which pleasurably littered particularly the 20th century with profound future possibilities. This re-shaping of our lives, this deep, passionate involvement didn't just come from high-end avant-garde (e.g. atonality) mixed-in with ingredients from Debussy, Satie through Russian Futurism to John Cage, etc. but the Mississippi blues and the latter day glories of Be-bop, some rock 'n' roll and then, alas, no more! To take one example, we had at the age of 12 transferred the call and response of the southern American rail track laying / cotton fields / penitentiary work songs to our local white pit communities in northern England and in no time via our skiffle group we'd got the whole town a callin' and a rockin'. Well, kind of. However, By the mid 1970s, post the revolutionary explosions of the late 1960s we were looking for the music that had no name, the sound that had transcended itself in the creativity made by all and not by one and the sound that enmeshed with a profound peoples' uprising; a sound (for want of a better description) inseparable from a renewed everyday life that had transcended the audience / performer fulcrum – that essential passive cash consumer nexus that still must be subverted and destroyed. In a way a post-situationist like Chris Shutes in California had put this conundrum better vis-a-vis 'rebel' music which he described as "teasing with rebellion". That's just the point, it's a hide 'n' seek rebellion and we at the 'passive' audience' receiving end have no choice but to be so much more unflinchingly against what we increasingly saw as musician's guile. The End of Music quotes Rimbaud, "Great music falls short of our desire" but as bro' later said this is a wrong translation relying as we did on an apology of a translation in a Penguin Classics. It should have read, "Knowing music falls short of our desire". Yes, that was it! We knew the history of contemporary music on all levels, were impassioned by it as we also finally desired a more profound transcendence, one which it ineluctably pointed to. Later something of a similar drift also appeared in an introduction done between ourselves and Pete D during the early 1990s or rather what became the Afterword for a new publication of BAD - that remarkable autobiography of Black Panther James Carr's Californian situationist influenced account of his life – whereby we reckoned that the Los Angeles riot of 1992 was more than hinted at via contemporary rap lyrics. We made the obvious (yet also not so obvious) distinction that real destruction was something entirely different........
The thrust of the pamphlet was centered on the need to drop out from art and a now inseparable, stratospherically expensive art market. Recognising full on the process of artistic dilution we knew we had to push on through all vestiges of the artistic / anti artistic paradigms. What hopefully lay before us – getting ever clearer – was a new vision of an individual based communality. No messing about; we had to take the plunge while being pragmatic about everyday realities. In no time the prospect of a communal co-operative on the buildings quickly fell into place and for nigh on 45 years we have kept that reality going. That process revolved around one central axis – equal wages for everybody - whether young or old, women or men, though beyond that diktat the gang was extremely fluid and un-dogmatic. It certainly wasn't a model for a new society though a step in that direction. Moreover, in the mid-1970s, such a builders' cooperative wasn't that unusual and over the next few years we worked together with others committed to the same principles. Sadly –and almost immediately – these everyday 'ordinary' survival organisations started to disappear as the horrendous neo-liberal economic experiment kicked-in and we, along with other insurgents, described as old fashioned "dinosaurs". At the time, transient though it was, this hoped for new communality overflowed borders. It could be said that The End of Music marked this search for new, meaningful subversive friendships; a communal expression emanating often as not only from small building sites but enhanced through working side by side with enough clued-in likeminded individuals contributing to patterns of thought as we knocked out the shit. (In fact later these building scenes were satirised on a hip TV comedy programme as the protagonists talking of Heidegger and Hannah Arendt etc, interspersing their scaffolding conversation with traditional vulgar sexist wolf whistles to all the gals passing below). Actually the main protagonist in our work based conversations at the time was a firm friend of Michel Prigent's name of Nik Holliman, who made many an eco contribution far better than those a Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth activist could deliver and two and a half decades later is still making such contributions most recently on the Principia Dialectica website.
Moreover the contributions were initially anonymous and what became known as The End of Music was basically a collective creation. Initially the pamphlet was done under the signatory of Joe Soap Intellectuals indicative of our new space doing jobs which had that necessary low ideological content and profile meaning you were free to cut to the chase without comebacks like you'd be up against in academia, journalism and / or cultural professions. Remember too, that Joe Soap was rhyming slang for dope and during world war one was sung to the tune of the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers, "Forward, Joe Soap's army, marching without fear, with our brave commander, safely in the rear."
The other central theme running through The End of Music is its emphasis on the lobotomisation of the "most revolutionary critique of the 1960s that of the situationists." We were right about that but in the late 1970s that process was still in its infancy in comparison to today where, especially during the noughties and beyond, a point of nullity has been reached as an excellent subversive praxis, now grotesquely acadamised has become little more than a slightly daring offshoot of specialised cultural studies, professional journalism and what have you. Still we did outline – and with real hatred - what was beginning to happen within the dregs of general culture, art and academia noting the growing "mass market of artistic anti art" as active nihilism instead of providing a springboard to total revolutionary critique, gave way to passive nihilism and the status quo. We rightly said we had to refuse all career opportunities and at least we have stayed true to that subversive necessity. And as one door closed on us so did another.....
"More fundamentally, the revolutionary hopes of the '60s lay in schizoid turmoil." Too true and that – now elongated fulcrum - and loss still remains with us despite a lot of trouble throughout the world comprising of troughs and possible peaks (e.g. the unfulfilled possibilities hinted at during 2011) yet capitalism remains supreme and relatively undisturbed as it heads at the very least towards an ecological abyss, though surely an economic abyss is equally just as likely. Indeed both seem to be are happening in disjointed tandem and things can only get more catastrophic.
Did we get any responses to The End of Music either in its original scrappy format or the more polished Glasgow edition? Most likely the pamphlet would have disappeared without trace if it hadn't been immediately picked up by the Leninist New Left Review-ists who in the meantime had put together an exhibition in London's ICA gallery curated by Peter Wollen which then seemed to tour the world and quotes from the pamphlet were writ large on wall exhibits sadly attended by the likes of Michelle Bernstein, Debord's ex partner. We never attended the exhibit, never even looked inside its walls or picked up the catalogue. We simply scorned this abhorrent spectacle, this marker down the path which Ken Wark and his academic cohorts still tread, this neo-Leninisation of the original situationist revolutionary perspective which finds such a ready market today. Nonetheless we got letters through our former BM Blob box number though mainly from would be musicians. We were hoping for correspondence on a higher level that would clarify and develop subversive possibilities. Instead we got letters from hoped for new pop groups saying they were into authentic music making and could we help them out with recording / mixing suggestions!! Obviously we'd really gotten through to people! Beyond that we knew it had created a stir in the hip musical arena and ever after, Joe Strummer of the Clash would look away in a kinda of shame cum despair when one of us passed him on the street; McLaren on the contrary put on an angry face but didn't say anything. On the real level however, apart from provoking interesting discussions in Leeds there was little or no creative feedback. Indeed, the only helpful and long written contribution came from Phil Meyler who was still living in Portugal after the publication by the British Cardinite Solidarity group, of his excellent book, Portugal: The Impossible Revolution? Indeed without our financial help through proceeds from building work, Solidarity wouldn't have had the funds to publish.
Furthermore, again it can be said with some certainty that The End of Music would also probably have disappeared without much of a trace it the pamphlet hadn't been the first 'radical' effort to have put something together on King Mob in any depth. Today re-reading that analysis brings on some grimaces and embarrassments as certainly enough off-the-cuff reminiscences weren't nuanced enough as hastily cobbled together in a far too superficial way. In fairness though remember this collage / montage was a preliminary pasting together for discussion purposes and in itself, partially based on other notes and texts which had been typed up – ready for re-working – which were then be set aside for the famous "criticism of the mice". Today these texts have been posted, very belatedly, on the Revolt Against Plenty web especially Memories of the Portuguese Revolution in the mid 1970s though one is still missing, a text with a pompous title, The Chimera of a Campaign with a few Suggestions and Ramblings on the anti deportation agitation around the Lotta Continua, Italian militant, Franco Caprino and an appraisal that focussed on the 'new' social workers and the colonisation / pacification of children's' play. In a way too, this first re-evaluation of King Mob was too despairing even at times, irksome. Yes, King Mob was "aggressively urban" even grossly dismissive of nature and what goes by the name of "the countryside" in general. Yes, we were woefully short on eco critique only for some of us since to encompass the latter's absence on a massive scale though with a great emphasis on the potential glories inherent on sites of industrial dereliction since remarkably enriched by a fecund bio-diversity. Yes, we were sick of hippy passivity but then we tended to foolishly attack anything craft based even attacking Ruskin's "doctrine of good works". We hated machine based modernism and its production line components, its cut and dried city and urban landscapes but then we hated the Olde Englande of crafts and cottage industries not seeing a possible revolutionary third way through this muddle. (This is particularly true of Memories of the Portuguese Revolution of the mid 1970s). It was only later, much later, that we saw the possibility in a renewed artisanal contribution in the moment when art has lost all semblance of creativity. In fact for us we saw crafts hopelessly colonised by an English moralism we despised so much eagerly quoting Nietzsche on the subject in our defence, though more about the central specifics of that hideous moralism later.
At the time we had hoped this cobbled together critique could be the first among many such recollections from other participants but that wasn't to be the case. In reality the pamphlet merely provided the cue for an easing back into the culture we abhorred, especially music, so much so, that to Google King Mob today is to Google the King Mob pop group made up of ex Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock, Martin Chambers of The Pretenders and Chris Spelling, ex John Cale and Roxy Music. Beneath the drop down listings you then find Kind Mob Clothing, which is all copyrighted (we were and still are ardently anti copyright) so much so that you cannot even copy and paste images to reproduce them here.... The predatory arseholes.....
What all this amounts to is little beyond changes in surface appearances. More often than not the musical scene is a brief interlude before the real nitty-gritty kicks in as we learnt a few years later bumping into ex-musician after ex-musician who had finally opted for a life on the buildings. Even one of our best friends, a scaffolder called Kev used to sing along with Rod Stewart and sure enough cuddly photos of Kev have sentimentally appeared as bessy mates in Rod Stewart's Autobiography though Mr Rod forgot to mention that this tough guy had given him sometime later a right hammering for becoming a shite hawk.
As is well known the dropout ranks are legion so there's only need to mention a few here. Thus Brian Poole of the Tremoloes worked in a butcher's shop after quitting the music scene and Jet Harris after drifting from The Drifters became a bus conductor and then a repair electrician for Space Invaders. As for Mark P of Sniffing Glue and punk group Alternative TV, he later trained as a male nurse. Most tragically love for some worthless user of a middle class white woman broke another of our best friends on the buildings, Ray from the Caribbean, who played alongside Steve Cropper. Turning to smack and crack he killed himself. Oddly enough only rarely did these (kind of) ex-stars we knew speak of their past though occasionally they'd say they couldn't take the spotlight again as it had become so truly alien for them. The one's we didn't know like Jet Harris and Brian Poole never stayed the course and, giving up the ghost, tried again to embrace the alienation of the musical scene but to look at them on TV or film somehow you can see etched on their faces that performance was now something they endure rather than believe in.
The background to The End of Music took place after sojourns in Italy Spain, & Portugal, when the latter two countries were erupting socially after their long fascistic night immediately transcending the boundaries of a simple social democratic, anti-fascist perspective. Autonomy loomed but it all ended with little than promising beginnings followed by prolonged sadness. The pamphlet, as previously mentioned, was a composite effort, though more than that, it was a self-composite effort, as parts were 'stolen' from other tracts that I had written, or contributed to throughout those lost years clouded with one drinking binge after another especially a tract on Portugal which never saw the light of day and wasn't read by anybody even at the time. Finally that tract, Memories of the Portuguese Revolution in the mid 1970s was never published until belatedly posted on the RAP web in 2012. This overlapped with another composite long text, Chinese Takeaway, A Critique of Western Maoism put together by ourselves and Phil Meyler which also chimes with The End of Music and which again lay dormant, even unread, until posted on the RAP web in the same year.
Some of the notes that were to make their way into The End of Music first saw the light of day in a pre-punk era pension in Barcelona stimulated by an article in the then youthful El Pais daily newspaper which could and did throw in apt one liners from Gianfranco Sanguinetti such as "All energy expended on art merely ends up as the new academy" rather than dealing with a more rounded discuss ions of his theories. I say "youthful" because which liberal newspaper in the UK would even have known who Sanguinetti is and was and that's as true today as back in the mid 1970s. Nonetheless, we weren't fooled by surface appearances and in no time we also began nicknaming El Pais, El Piss, simultaneously as some of our French friends also began deploying exactly the same piss take.
However, this background European wide information leaves out another much more local ambience that of Leeds in the north of England a little later which briefly became home to an influx of ex Situ's and ex Cardinite Solidarity individuals often in flight from London and possibly attracted by the strikes and rebellion of the employed working class which had a kind of fulcrum in south and west Yorkshire, though truth to tell there was no real geographical fulcrum as the strikes, often wildcat, were everywhere. These strikes were exhilarating, semi autonomous, pointing towards hope and yet without focus as to what the shape of a new world might possibly be. Be that as it may there was a certain ambience in the air and area and most of the 35 gestetnered copies of a text initially lumbered with the dullish title of Punk & Reggae; A Critique were handed out in Leeds, a text which was unfinished – up for discussion - and which later became known as The End of Music. Indeed there was a kind of mini ultra leftist ferment in Leeds at the time, one defiantly anti the new conformist leftism which had gained ground in the city pro-moed by such dismal pamphlet's as Life Beyond Leeds which for us rapidly morphed into Is there Life Beyond Leeds? Most of the contemporary isms of the time were given a fair old pounding in particular a certain reductive puritanical feminism which inevitably and understandably had gained a wide response in a city reeling from the horrors perpetrated by the yet to be caught Bradford based Yorkshire Ripper. On a broader level the ground was being prepared for Leeds based groups such as Infantile Disorders and the longer lasting, Here & Now, both of which we contributed to in different ways.
But then it could be said why in The End of Music is there such an emphasis on the Caribbean especially Jamaica? The essential backdrop to all of this was much more organic, more visceral, living as I did on a west London street with a very high Afro-Caribbean profile, a situation whereby I gradually became one of the few palefaces around. In no time the street became infamous for its atmosphere of almost day to day, permanent riot. 'Infamous'? On the contrary it was fascinating what with the ingredient of something like a permanent police clamp down and "swamp operation." I can never forget the hilarious moment when cops – without asking permission and without a warrant – burst into my flat, presumably on a drugs raid, only to find me covered in Daz soap suds after a really mucky day on the buildings. Surprised all the cops could do was double-up with laughter and left within seconds, mission abandoned....
In these evolving circumstances, a slower, rounder analysis evolved and one with a substantial theoretical interest in the way recuperation was changing its face especially re the pacification of rebellious youth in Jamaica under the new social democratic presidency of Michael Manley, especially the way 'rebel' music was used to buttress the status quo. Out of the blue a stunner then fell into my lap in the name of None Shall Escape, an LP put out by a situationist inspired Jamaican workers' group which I found compelling and although it was accompanied by reprints of classic situationist texts by Raoul Vaneigem and Mustapha Khayati there was some vivid originality here. A spoken – not musical LP – None Shall Escape was a description and analysis of authentic self initiatives plus a major wildcat strike at Western Meat Packers which took place in the strike torn Jamaican province of Westmoreland; a perspective moreover that was critical of alternative unions, various opportunistic Leninists and a sundry collection of leftist bigwigs in general. In no time other friends were discussing somewhat abstractedly the adventures of Fundi, a Rasta influenced refrigeration mechanic who with others set an inspiring subversive example. And then we heard no more so we now eagerly await a new book, Workers' Self-management in the Caribbean coming our way soon which it seems is a collection of Fundi's writings?
A further essential ingredient in the pick 'n' mix has to be acknowledged, an overlap with Michel Prigent and his magazine, The Catalyst Times some time après Michel had splashed up slogans on Westbourne Park Rd in west London, like Punk =Pound Notes. Indeed it was Michel Prigent who shoved The End of Music pamphlet in my hands bumping into him sometime in late 1981(?) which was then followed by friendly banter and a stroll across London's Hyde Park. I forget what we said but I went back to my flat and immediately wrote to Glasgow asking them to destroy the publication as it had been altered somewhat from the grubby, photocopied texts I'd initially handed out. In retrospect it was a response that was well over the top as the changes were somewhat acknowledged and wasn't the new title The End of Music for better, far more appropriate, even if other things weren't? For instance the original contained no footnotes and the Glasgow production tilted the pamphlet towards a more academic presentation. So included in this latter-day offering is the original text though not all the original 35 or so copies contained the montages on display here. And jeez, was it difficult to unearth rummaging through a chaotic filing system that had hardly seen the light of day for decades! And yet again, reflecting on self-plagiarisation, parts in the meantime had been lifted and planted into Like a Summers with a Thousand Julys that pamphlet on the splendid country wide UK riots of 1981 a few years later especially all that relates to Jamaica, honing in on the crossover between Jamaica's PM Michael Manley and reggae musician, Bob Marley. Interestingly, for both pamphlets the common dominator from immediate critical commentaries coming in from all sides revolved around "intransigence" notably academic Sadie Plant's digs against Like a Summers with a Thousand Julys saying Mclaren's self recuperation of situationist theory made much greater sense.....
Moreover, The Catalyst Times tub-thumping had brought back into focus past friendships I had had with Malcolm McLaren and Fred Vermorel during the latter days of King Mob. But then there had been a distancing between us as bro' and myself descended down over into full time survival more or less on the buildings, together with periods of voluntary dole subsidised unemployment, entering into a very different world as we gave up on any petty careerist pursuits etched with a stern goodbye delivered to anything like professional status in art, writing, music, academia or anything similar. On the contrary McLaren and Vermorel ditching their initial radical subversion were onto a new kind of on the make in journalism and entrepreneurial activities. Seeing them in the streets of central London in the mid 1970s looking in bookshop windows and I knew I had nothing to say. There could be no embrace, no glad hello, as I pondered "Why are you looking in fucking book shop windows." A great gap had opened up and I instantly realised that all flow, all camaraderie had evaporated and I knew it would be impossible to talk about what was really on my mind.
But there is another insistent undertow / theme – call it what you will in the text - one previously suggested and that is English moralism. The real crux of English moralism still fundamentally remains a sexual one, which in its essence is hypocritical, often salacious and as gully low and horrendous as ever. It's fundamentally about destroying reputations. Today, former media super stars are attacked for gross sexualised child abuse not so much because it is foul practise but as a deflected way of attacking the celebrity system itself without openly saying so as bankers, bosses and other big wigs go unscathed for the same sexual offences which are still committed in there thousands on an everyday basis. However in The End of Music we noted that English moralism tended to define the first wave of a revived English feminist movement; a thesis refracted through emphasis on Marcuse's concept of repressive desublimation, Eros and Thanatos, Death-in-life or Life-in-death. At the time we still rated Herbert Marcuse seeing him as a 'clean' academic wondering why there weren't more like him only decades later to learn that he had quite outrageously lifted many a concept from Gunther Anders, a brush hand working in Hollywood studios! It seems an academic's leopard's spots hadn't changed and have been with us much longer though minus the crescendo of recuperation which descended on us after the late 1960s.
For sure The End of Music was also about sex, albeit the lack of sex in any real meaningful sense; a situation leading up to a "Love is Dead" brick wall set against the backdrop of a vanilla, commonplace, stock-in-trade S/M having spread everywhere; sex like an end of art, art, becoming central to a capitalist reproduction and nothing more with pornographic social / personal relations as backdrop. The pamphlet was also written on the cusp of the sex positive feminism of the late 1970s in revolt against the early 70s feminist wave. At first this tendency was greeted with a sigh of relief though one that proved to be a short-lived sigh as it quickly became obvious that this change marked little more than the transition from global social democracy to the neo liberalism of sex and the city. Sex was becoming the sex of ponzi schemes, of casino capitalism, of mis-selling everything, of debt and derivatives dressed up (sexed-up) autism revolving around unfeeling, go-getting lifestyles. Much of this was simply intuited at the time and was, more clearly elaborated in detail by the likes of Annie Le Brun especially in Lachez Tout which is still a book that is regarded as shocking by the English speaking part of the world. English moralism was emphasised as something horrific in The End of Music and there's been no change on that score which in many respect is essentially worse than ever in its blatant hypocrisy that Nietzschian "fear inspiring moral fanatici". Annie Le Brun was affirmative regarding pornography at that time – just as The End of Music was to a lesser degree - only later to distance herself from such affirmation as she gradually saw something really dark appearing on the horizon. At the same time Annie could never transcend her Andre Breton mimicked writing style as equally she still cannot make those essential moves beyond art.
Inevitably by the late 1970s we were realising the later Marx, the Marx concerned with a more painstaking fundamental critique of political economy had to be profoundly re-evaluated. This was no easy task and we knew it and were somewhat overwhelmed as a theoretical / practical interregnum loomed. Therefore the engagement with Marx in The End of Music is tentative rather than profound; somewhat pedestrian and certainly not penetrating to a necessary essential core though there are more than hints of this in the discussion on the surplus population, those "surplus to requirements." This however doesn't get to grips with the increasing insubstantiality of capitalist valorisation at the heart of a disintegrating law of value, of "labour without value"; that moment when labour for capital becomes meaningless and fiat money through inflation swallows itself alive as capitalism is ending in a series of devastating, intractable economic crises which no new bubble will finally be able to rescue; a situation which will culminate in either total social revolution or ultimate barbarism. However, the Calderwood 15 in Glasgow who initially published the pamphlet didn't like this turn towards a greater understanding and reading of Marx; a factor which also helped bring about an impasse which Solidarity never recovered from although there were also other more significant factors, such as an extremely weak critique of culture and stultifying professional roles and last but not least, the growing counter revolutionary nightmare.
In many respects the text marked an interregnum on the cusp of a great change. The classical workers' movement was ending as globalisation was imposing impotence from below the likes of which the world had known as former national frameworks - essentially the arena of the increasingly blinkered and useless trade unions – just couldn't get to grips with. The workers thus downgraded had become an object of media inspired scorn, little more than slobbering, stupid chavs gateway to a mass society of ever increasing alienation. A mass society endlessly morphing downover to ever lower common denominators displacing The Lonely Crowd of the sociological American early 1960s with a sub individual solipsism marked by increasing confinement in what seems like separate prison cells. This is the new Inferno and Hades combined also marking the moment when art and finance capital have become inextricably enmeshed, burying us in a vast shroud everywhere.
Yet, contradictorily the pamphlet is marked by growing class hatred just at the moment the working class was losing all position and profile though also subtly noting, "Expressing venom against public schools, inherited privileges based on birth, accent, manner and pleasant behaviour, can in a minority of instances be the entrance to that very domain." If you like the spectacle was democratising though with the appearance of largely upwardly mobility! And what a crazy situation was to ensue; no more blatantly from the late 1980s onwards when bizarrely we learnt that Manchester Moss Side gangsta drug barons were sending their kids to public schools! Then my own great puzzle: at the moment when class is dead, I was developing the most terrible class hatred – just at the moment there seemed to be no obvious social base to it when such base was becoming increasingly hidden, when officially "the workers" no longer existed. Nonetheless, The End of Music rails against "the pre-bourgeois superstructure in the UK". Now that was real insight as over the next few decades this trajectory has become so much clearer with the local death of the industrial working class concomitant with the rise of something like a neo-feudal plutocracy cum kleptocracy as we at the sharp end morph into surly neo-churls post the depredations of something like a metaphorically speaking, renewed Norman Conquest!!! For certain there's still structural flexibility which is one of the reasons you have to constantly have the guts to refuse such compromise...and increasingly that takes some doing.
The pamphlet also marks its time through an occasional emphasis on the old formation of the working class in the UK located in big numbers in medium or large enterprises, hence the term "the productive working class". We weren't to know it at the time but the UK was on the cusp of becoming the first major experimental arena for the neo-liberal agenda which would involve the dispersal of the classical working large in large parts of the 'west' with a globalisation experiment where much of the former productive working class was to be re-located in south east Asia. This process has been pushed to extremes in the UK whereby a massive parasitic economy now reigns with 40% of the economy based on financial services and another 40% based on housing with a mere 14% or so given over to industry and manufacturing.
Relying on a Marx inspired analysis of productive and unproductive labour, much of the pamphlet revolves around a discussion of the surplus population "which is allowed to minimally consume" and fed with distractions, or if you like, variants of what Orwell had decades previously referred to as "prole food". Though recognising the importance of an unstoppable automation in the productive process, The End of Music balks at defining this surplus as "surplus to requirements" with the attendant horrors this can imply under capitalism whereby a barbaric outcome could mean a holocaust of the surplus the likes of which the world has never known; one far more sophisticated in applying methods of extermination than the crudities of concentration camps and gas chambers, one's that could be digitally (and secretly) invoked by turnkey. But then the pamphlet was at times too woodenly 'Marxist' and a phrase elsewhere on the need for a "scientific analysis of class structures" brings on blushes. Elsewhere, though not equally cringe worthy there's mention made of "the communist mode of production" which while containing undeniable truths is one of those so over-used categorisations that's lost all veracity, a mere dull and lifeless phrase, shorn of utopian astonishment which will surely mark any transition from suicide capitalism as we take experimental steps beyond the law of value.
Of more relevance - and one that still is very much to the point today – is the questioning of the role and validity of workers' councils noting that they tended to lack real cutting edge revolutionary content. However, all this was jammed packed together, something of a quick overview and said in passing; simply too crowded. Obviously all this was in desperate need of elaboration despite being an addition to recuperative mechanisms that went beyond narrower definitions of cultural recuperation which was at the very core of the pamphlet's purpose. The backdrop to all of this had more to do with Yves Le Manach's growing disdain for workers' councils' as expressed in his 1975 Champ Libre book Bye Bye Turbin plus the pedestrian experience of events like the occupation of Fisher Bendix on Merseyside and the Clydeside shipyard work-in during the early 1970s than any high handed, ultra-leftist like, party-like, Bordiga-like, dismissal of say the Spanish Revolution of 1936-8 which we still remained inspired by remembering with pleasure that childhood eureka moment at the age of eight as Co Durham railway workers in our parent's house on Christmas Day talked of the POUM, disdaining the Communist party, our parents having for years almost refused to nod and say hello to the depressed and even suicidal Communist party signalman living next door. Curiosity aroused we asked questions and were replied to as if we were young adults and as it should be and the conversation powerfully struck home in our innocent child minds. Come the mid 1970s we still wanted to see the vision of a new world emerge from such base (and basic) organisations like the POUM together with such child-like innocence but where was this vision in practise, where were the workers today criticising their own often stupefying, useless roles or, their own unquestioning submission in manufacturing largely useless products? A much wider vision was needed.....
Perhaps also in The End of Music there's too much glib use of a term like state capitalism borrowed too glibly from some variations of Trotskyism, Socialisme ou Barbarie, Situationists etc, together with too much received populist, social democratic wisdom when such abstractions needed more questions asked than answered especially, when unbeknown to ourselves, the world was on the brink of neo-liberalism, that hoped for free market whereby the state would be pushed more and more into the background as financial markets were leveraged almost everywhere. Yes indeed this was a leveraged buy-out and not a classical capitalist boom but whatever hopes there were at its inception, 30 years later, post "the banking crises of 2007-8," the concept lay in ruins, despite the fact that the banking crises was merely the surface of more fundamental flaws in capitalist reproduction re the creation of adequate new value. The state through the Fed, the Bank of England, and the European Central Bank etc has since become more powerful than ever with a socialised largesse for the super rich ("high value net worth individuals") and neo-liberal medicine for the rest of us. In short a state capitalism unlike its social democratic forbear, one geared increasingly towards the absolute pauperisation of what's left of both the middle and working classes. It really cannot be otherwise in a situation where debt can only become ever more pronounced whereby capitalism has used up its future to such an extent, that a recovery is no longer possible. As Kurz says, "In a manner that is unprecedented in the history of capitalism, the future creation of surplus-value is already mortgaged" and that's an awesome conclusion.
The End of Music was inevitably a product of its time. It seemed as though a richer vein of subversion was just around the corner but alas, what was heralded was an increasing void of nothingness as amidst increased global warming a real ice age almost bereft of practical subversion dawned, one which still continues and continues......... If culture was bankrupt, it nevertheless again somehow became the only game in town even though sinking into an ever deepening abyss. Indeed we can look with nostalgia on the punk era in comparison with what was to follow as stadia rock in the following decades became ever more ludicrously sensationalised and vacuous as all shock value expressed through the dregs of culture wasted away, never to return. Since then there's been nothing but machine product, promo, managerial style, what Michel Prigent called "the noise machine" as making one escape attempt after another we always end up drifting down the same one way street. Today, all we have are leftovers littering the flickering screen of every hand held tablet computer and / or related gadgetry, those bleak substitutes for our increasingly absent lives; a tendency that can only become more pronounced as we become more disoriented, locked down, imprisoned within our digital selves. The original pamphlet was an attack on 'rebel' music as a form of faking it, of fake creativity, yet today in these ever more reactionary, dire times why doesn't some kind of rebel music exist? Increasingly perplexed, a lot of people are asking that question without coming up with any insightful contribution as to why the 'music' burnt out for good in the late 1970s? Yet, when pushed against the wall always but always they come out with the same platitude: its there if we can but find it! This ignores the inescapable truth that the time lapse between what was regarded as cultural creativity and the academy, pace Sanguinetti's previously quoted comment, has become so telescoped it's reached the point of absurdity. Indeed it could be said that the spectacularised rebel music of the late 1970s was the first moment of a now vast syndrome: Lights / Cameras / Performance / Revolution – with hardly any real revolutionary subversion encountered anywhere! It's as if a mix of expiring cultural forms together with ever more relentless capitalisation has put paid to every representation especially those that authentically once emanated from the oppressed masses leaving us more bereft than ever.............. The times now cry out for a deeper truth-in-action, the final overthrow of the audience / performer nexus including all pseudo participatory alternatives. Only the total overthrow of the capitalist mode of production can achieve this creating the basis for a genuine lifestyle beyond value, simultaneously anti aesthetic and anti commercial.