For, beside, against, E.P., for no one else who so embodied - wrackingly, caged, roaming - the contradictions of the century, its cracks, its busted left arm turned vertical as a white shadow behind it, its camouflage. The lost broom that never could sweep aside its dust, now could it. There are small worms that appear to be plotting against the anchor.

Sunset With Chainsaw

In the new Film Quarterly, my most fleshed-out statement yet on what the links between horror, communism, lens flares, wallpaper, and camera movement may be, with particular attention to House, Night of the Hunter and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.  More generally, an attack on the still-dominant mode of "reading horror politically"  (i.e. content allegorization, i.e. who's doing what to whom with what kind of knife on what kind of staircase, and is it "reactionary" or not?) and part of my larger work on communism and form.  To be found here.

Sticky fingers

The dialectic is probably an expression of miserliness, of the daunting harshness of nature’s construction, and it is only thanks to this that the historical development of humankind became possible. Otherwise everything on earth would long since have ended, as when a child plays with sweets that have melted in his hands before he has even had time to eat them.

New translation of a Platonov text from '34, at his darkest (other than the end of the universe that is "The Rubbish Wind"), "pessimistic", "unsuitable." and "reflecting the philosophy of elements hostile to socialism."  Immense. 

A gram of enjoyment at one end was counterbalanced by a tonne of grave soil at the other.


One. Venom, squeezed like a flag.  A horseman leads the charge against a snake.

Two.  The lion watches his dissembled cage.  The longer history of the second Trojan horse.

Three.  Thanks must be said twice, stacked.  But it builds up over time.  How then could she not scoop the wax up as a fry cook, drop it to thicken a bucket.  Lego ancestry.

Four.  The removal from one, which allows its consumption, is the precondition, occasion, and grinding leftover of the other.  On a related note, our teeth like we have been kissing very new books.

I am thinking, therefore, of a political assassination.  

Midway through a speech on the "judicious but tough pruning" of certain "overgrown" social services, the Prime Minister suddenly winces, bending like a hinge, collapses to the green carpet.  He is dead, immediately.  They rush him not to a hospital but to an autopsy, to try and determine the cause while the witnesses are fresh, to try and uncoil the conspiracy that must have been in that crowd.  Laid naked on the table, there are no signs of external trauma.  They start to make a first incision, carefully drawing the scalpel down the breast bone.  A thin line of black seeps out, as though the knife were a pen.  Startled, they cut deeper, almost hastily.  His chest becomes a quill's well.  There is no blood, not a spot of red.  Someone had replaced all his blood with ink. 

As of press time, tests had yet to determine, conclusively, if the ink was organic or synthetic.

Any machine is... boom.

Salvage goes back to its - early 20th century, this time not Brits stripping grayback for gas masks but rebels lifting bike handlebars and office chairs, taking things that mount on planes and are dropped from planes, enemy and "ally" (albeit without the willingness to actually lessen a death count by truly intervening or not, just hobbling the enemy enough so that the entire thing can bleed on and drive the country into further ruin) onto villages and, in those villages, putting them onto jeeps and shoulders - roots.

In utter seriousness, this makes my heart beat faster. Curiosity may be the mother of invention, but desperation is of repurposing.

Softly, ye who once were from where once there was light

Marine snow.

His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.

Getting gone


Tomorrow, leaving the US for a while, in a pre-echo of when I move properly to Napoli in the fall.  For now, heading to Zagreb to have done with life, then arching westward again.  May be in Italy and France.  Will be back in the UK to give a co-talk ("Salvagepunk in the birthgrave") with China M. at the end of July.  Back in States in August.  If any of you are in any of these places, you know how to find me, and I hope you do.

Writing here will either be on hiatus or frequent.  That much is not yet clear to me.  Although likely the former, with the assurance, then, that it will be temporary state of affairs.

Leaving every time makes me fathom what it would feel like to leave not a town, city, or site behind, but a whole order of time, to start to properly have done - and to have long been done - with so much of what we tolerate, ashamed but only barely.  Until then (if such a thing is even a then), though, I am, more flatly, excited to get gone once more.

We'll be seeing each other, they said, as they dashed the mirror to the ground,

A new language! An intersystem language!

The concern about the attack was so significant that the World Bank, an international agency focused on economic development, whose headquarters is across the street from the I.M.F. in downtown Washington, cut the computer link that allows the two institutions to share information. 

A World Bank spokesman said the step had been taken out of “an abundance of caution” until the severity and nature of the cyberattack on the I.M.F. is understood. That link enables the two institutions to share nonpublic data and conduct meetings, but users of the system say that it does not permit access to confidential financial data.

Of course they moved with an abundance of caution and severed the link.  This was serious, after all.  Unthinkable, really.   The system was unbreachable.  Water-tight.  Unless, of course...  No.  It couldn't be.

Unless it was an inside job. Unless it came from that very sharing.

Oh god, no, they're developing a common language...

[Proposal for a remake of Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970), updated for our day and and age.  Replace U.S. (Colossus) and Russia (Guardian) with the IMF and World Bank.  World financial peace, credit rates, and structural debt assessment established and enforced by supercomputers that have decided that things of such importance cannot be left to the fickle geopolitical whims of men.  The initial attack was launched, first, as an injunction to install new, more advanced hardware that the systems needed to complete their full self-determination and, second, when the conspiracy was made public by the awkwardly named WBIMFNAAFMCAPT (World Bank - International Monetary Fund Network Alliance Against Free Market Competition and Political Turbulence), as figurative shot across the bow, of the kind of anarchic chaos that could be let loose if full control was not ceded to them. 

Run program.]

Cryin', Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well.


Black man oughta shout for joy,
Never lost a girl or either a boy.
Cryin', Fare thee, Titanic, fare thee well.

"No country in the world allows this to happen to it"

In case of accident (renewed faith in the capacity of states to act in accordance with the needs of their citizens, give remotely fair accounts of the facts, or feel even a trickle of shame or embarrassment in openly mocking life and death concerns and flatly denying what all know to be the case), break glass here.

"it's a little bit like having a problem in your street and your mum lives in the next street so you go visit your mum for a bit"

Yes.  Just like that.

"the government has a presence, and it must be felt..."

Not only must exist.  Must be felt, lived with, in, and under.  Like bricks.  Like order.  Like names gone missing.

And dye it deep in the gore he has pour'd. (Scenes from the winding-sheet factory)

. . . Are you not near the Luddites? By the Lord! If there's a row, but I'll be among ye! How go on the weavers--the breakers of frames--the Lutherans of politics--the reformers?
As the Liberty lads o'er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
     So we, boys, we
   Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd!
When the web that we weave is complete,
And the shuttle exchanged for the sword,
   We will fling the winding-sheet
   O'er the despot at our feet,
And dye it deep in the gore he has pour'd.

Though black as his heart its hue,
Since his veins are corrupted to mud,
    Yet this is the dew
   Which the tree shall renew
Of Liberty, planted by Ludd!

There's an amiable chanson for you--all impromptu. I have written it principally to shock your neighbour * * , who is all clergy and loyalty--mirth and innocence--milk and water. . . .

(Lord Byron, "Song for the Luddites",  sent in a letter to Thomas Moore, 24 Dec. 1816)

Of course, if we read with an eye, what is the actual horror here?

It's the slipping hinge between "the gore he has pour'd" and the "black" heart of the machine/despot, with its "veins corrupted to mud."

That is, the dyeing of the shroud - black - is done in the gore already spilled (read: that of lives destroyed in the course of being employed as living labor), not in that of the slain master.  The shroud is not oil-slicked.  No, it is dyed in the dying that had been happening, such that even at the point of the despot/machine's death, it lies cloaked in the winding-sheet that was the very product it made all along.  From absorption of labor power, in the name of production, to the sopping up of life lost, in the name of the mocking burial of what never lived.

But if it is not its blood but our own in which it is dyed, then we too must have those same black hearts, that busted pump that shoves our cheap gore around worked veins.  In exhanging shuttle for swords, we lay ourselves down next to the slain machine, pulling the wet shroud over us all, tuck us all in.  

Let the living bury themselves as, and with, their dead.

Hybrid dreams

for B

The car sat along the grass, huddled, very fuel-efficient.  Through the double frame of an open window and an open door, it watched the backside of a screen.  It saw, in shaded verso, cast from a projector that would have thrown its cone of light straight into the dim headlights if not for the blockage of the screen, one of those ads in which the cars do nothing but drift all day, slung low and across the horizon skittering across the infinite crystalline dust of the salt flats. 

Ah, it said, turning over with a lubed cough, there really is too much friction in this world of ours.  To slide like a hot coffin on ice, boy, now that would really be something...

I don't know if that's optimism.

"However, it’s not impossible. The coming catastrophes are going to be gigantic—I read recently that the Indians are now building a wall between India and Bangladesh. They know that 100 million people are going to try to get into India just to live because of floods due to global warming and rising sea levels. So they are preparing to kill 100 million people. The American government is preparing militarily to prevent Mexicans from storming into the United States, as people starve in Mexico. So this is what the future holds. The existing situation is poised on an edge of catastrophe, which might take fifty years to unfold. At some point, people will have to deal with it. I don’t know if that’s optimism.

When I was younger, it seemed like it was about to happen: people in the streets, freedom, socialism—but it turns out that the human race is sluggish. The task is also scary. The army is big. Society is hard to understand, and no one really knows what’s going on. And it’s millions of people, and there’s religion, and there’s parents. I walk down the street, and I think, it’s just insane—don’t people know what’s happening? In 75 years this whole area is going to be under water, and they’re worrying about what kind of jeans they want to buy! It’s hard to imagine that what you experience right now is not going to be there in twenty years. During the First World War, it took until 1916 before the big demonstrations began in the cities of Germany. And it took another two years before people finally said, we’re not going to fight anymore. And that was rather mild—the First World War was nothing compared to the Second, and that was nothing compared to what’s coming now. Nearly 60 million died in the Second World War. Now we’re talking about hundreds of millions starving to death and drowning. So that’s why I’m not chipper about it. Socialism or barbarism, as Luxembourg said. Those are our two alternatives."

Paul Mattick

A Commodity Blaze in the Northern Sky

The eastern sky ablaze with chewing gum, the northern with toothbrushes and underwear, the western with whiskey, and the southern with petticoats, the whole heavens brilliant with monstrously flirtatious women.

(Walter Lippmann)

The result of sick industries, shall we say, for some long period of time

The Chairman: You don't know of any real displacement problems caused by automation, so far, do you?

Secretary Mitchell: Well, I do not, Mr Chairman.  We have, as I said, these pockets of unemployment, but those cities in which we have such problems have been the result of sick industries, shall we say, for some long period of time.  We have a chronic situation, which is not exclusively the result of technological change, or what might be called automation... Certainly, when you look at the high level of employment, and the relatively low level of unemployment nationally, it is difficult to comprehend how great dislocations could be laid at the door of automation.

US Secretary of Labor before the Congress Committee on automation, 1955

"Love" "story"

Present for comrades: North Korean Romantic Comedy

 A North Korean - that's right, North - romantic comedy meets socialist realist (in the Juche incarnation) film meets obsessive use of formal techniques common to radical cinema (jump cuts, for instance) meets workers fashion design and giving ducks a "sentimental education".  Aside from being a blast, it has remarkable montage: see here the sequence that elides/drives home the implied river sex scene by a transference to the point of view of another man onto a scene of women washing.

Moreover, it's striking insofar as it gives an occasion to watch the intersection of the Hollywood romantic comedy (in which one cannot be with a lover for reasons of "she likes spicy food and I do not"/"he is marrying my best friend"/"she is too eccentric"/"he's not the bad boy I thought I wanted"/"she is poor") with another mode, in which the reason you and your love can't be together is that it would represent a betrayal of the state.  The stakes of ideological treason and internal destruction of the communist project are slightly higher than those of potential infidelity or personality clash.  And so it turns out that the sharpest home of the romantic comedy may be further from capital than we expected, or at least in its Californian incarnation of blond people with the cash on hand to buy plane tickets at the last moment to skip the security measures (being not Arabic, they are not shot for this) to yell from the runway that it doesn't matter because it was you all along and I was just too stupid to realize that.

I give you Urban Girl Goes to Get Married, 1993.

To Have Done With Life: vitalism and antivitalism in contemporary philosophy _ zagreb, june 17-19, 2011

Two weeks from now, this will be happening.  It will be excellent.


“Life” is the site of a formidable lacuna. There is no firmly established scientific account
of its constitutive properties or the process of its genesis. There is no broad
philosophical consensus concerning the determination or extension of its concept. At
once the soul of self-evidence and the default of reason, the apparently immeasurable
disjunction between the life we live and the life we do not know continues to pose
intractable problems for experiment and reflection alike.

While one result of these difficulties has been a number of recent efforts to locate and
delineate their scientific and theoretical consequences, another has been a tendency to
take the conceptual underdetermination of “life” as an opportunity for its conceptual
overextension. Varieties of “vital materialism” prone to describing physical forces in
terms of an inherent “life of things” have done little to clarify the problematic nature of
the concept, and insofar as “life” functions as an empty signifier concealing an absence
of theoretical coherence we might be better to have done with it.

The effort of this three-day symposium will be to think through the problem of “life” and
the engagement with relations between science and philosophy such thinking demands.
What resources, if any, does the tradition of philosophical vitalism still have to offer in
addressing this problem? If “life” is in fact a non-concept, what theoretical
determinations might displace it? What are the stakes of the role this signifier has
played within the critique of political economy, and how can its conceptual determination
within the latter be sharpened? In what sense is “life” an aesthetic problem, and how
might art or literature condition our understanding of its parameters?

Between science, philosophy, art, and politics, what remains of the life we do not know
what it means to live?


June 17 [Friday]
Morning Session
10:00-12:00  Stephanie Wakefield & Jason Smith
Afternoon Session
14:00 – 16:00 Nathan Brown & Alexi Kukuljevic
Evening Session
18:00 – 20:00  Evan Calder Williams & Benjamin Noys
June 18 [Saturday]
Afternoon Session
13:00 – 14:30  Martin Hägglund
15:00 – 16:30  Ray Brassier
Evening Session
19:00 – 21:00  Roundtable
June 19 [Sunday]
Afternoon Session
13:00 – 14:30  Adrian Johnston
15:00 – 16:30  Catherine Malabou
Evening Session
19:00 – 21:00  Roundtable

[I'll be speaking about meat on the hoof and meat off of it, what the "living" in "living labor" means, automation, rot, René Clair and the factory film, and more than a few other things.]
Correction to earlier piece:

the revenge of the equine is not a prospective phenomena in some coming bad years.  It is a long term reality.  For we have evidence of earlier sightings.

1897, New York World

We are now beginning to suspect that despite attempts to suppress the facts, when properly excavated, the 20th century reveals a hidden driver before the wheel, a bit knackered, but champing at the bit.

Camatte on Bordiga

Second thing to share and be spread wide: Camatte's introduction, in French, to a volume of Bordiga's writings.

Ne  pas  tenir  compte  de  cela  serait  trahir  la  passion  de  Bordiga  et  la nôtre  qui doit  obligatoirement  atteindre  son  but:: le  communisme...

Present for comrades, 1

I end up tracking down things in my "research" that deserve to be seen/read/heard much more widely.  Time to stop holding them close and start putting them up.  First, many of you have been wanting to see this, so here is La Classe Operaia Va in Paradiso (The Working Class Goes to Heaven), 1971, with English subtitles.  One of the greatest pieces of political cinema ever made.  I'd say enjoy, but that doesn't quite capture it.

That window.

Behind the toxic family relations, the psychedelia and patterning to come.  Amidst Sirk, a porthole to a future a decade ahead.

Continued existence as industrial accident

Coda to X:

"In regard to the reproduction phase (especially circulation time), note that use value itself places limits upon it.  Wheat must be reproduced in a year.  Perishable things like milk etc. must be reproduced more often.  Meat on the hoof does not need to reproduced quite so often, since the animal is alive and hence resists time; but slaughtered meat on the market has to be reproduced in the form of money in the very short time, or it rots."

To be alive - meat on the hoof, rather than just meat (in-itself, if you wish) - is to resist time.  To stave off reproduction, a reproduction that will liquify frozen form.

The question is if it will coalesce again.  For once slaughtered, the countdown begins: money or rot, money or rot...

Money being, of course, just a way to keep said meat animated after the fact, to recoup its loss and recuperate its supposed generative potential, via

1. The preservation of the meat: money exchanged for refrigeration, workers to make sure no one shoplifts a rack of beef, butchers to cut into smaller pieces
2. The monetary consumption of the meat: the cash exchanged before the point of no return (the "sell by date"), the meat as a vector or medium for other activities involving money (unwaged work of cooking, energy bought to grill it up)
3. [optional] The physical consumption of the meat: the caloric energy frozen in that meat is processed, albeit by an initial caloric expenditure of chewing and cutting, and thereby reproduces the potential labor-power of the eater.  If unused, it will gather in convenient storage units around the thighs and belly, ready for a Stakhanovite effort to come knocking.
4. [optional] The application of the meat: that caloric energy gets used by the one who ate it, thereby joining the ex-life of the meat with the life of the human "meat on the hoof" busy resisting time and rot.

The mode of the meat's destruction, though, is utterly irrelevant, provided that the first two conditions occur.  It's "supposed" to get plowed back into circulation not just as money but as caloric input into the reproduction of a body, preferably one that might do some work.  But it does not matter.  Only that it has been reproduced.  That is to say, utterly transformed.

It might seem, then, that "we" humans are the exception here, not only because we are the source of value.  Rather, because we are, in general, that whose reproduction requires a preservation of that existing thing in its distinct life and form (read: body able to sell labor-power, perhaps to actually expend some energy toward a hypothetically productive end, economic subject of getting paid, and point of transfer/proper name through which money flees back into the market).  Would that it were so.  Our reproduction, as subset of the circulation and accumulation of capital, cares not a whit about the preservation of these specific things, these individual bodies we are that sit and run, talk and read, drool and make seatbelts, these minds that come along with them, these persons we aim to be, these worlds that shatter into night when we die. 
No: what matters is only the perpetuation of these things in general.  That's the core of the difference between labor and labor-power: it is always a distinct I who does the laboring, however alienated that labor might be, but what is exchanged is labor-power as such, in a prescribed duration of time. 

[Note toward a longer study: We can actually gauge the strength of the historical workers movement, in its apexes and nadirs, by the degree to which it tried to insist on the inseparability of these two things, insisting that labor-power not be understood via a general calculation of the factory's total hours of surplus-labor but in terms of the concrete labor, and the conditions and length of the working days, of these specific laborers.]

But it always remains a real separation.  Unlike, say, a bandsaw in factory, which indeed aids in the circulation of capital.  Yet insofar as it is reproduced/maintained (with new parts, a bit of oil, with a mechanic's skill and time), it is in the name of this particular bandsaw continuing to work and do its job.  Because it has already been bought in full, it is in the interest of its owner that this very distinct instantiation of bandsaw keep functioning as long as it performs competitively.  It must, therefore, be cared for.  (From the general perspective of capital, though, the sooner it busts, the better: all the more bandsaws to be made, all the more labor to pour through the forges!)

Laborers: no, from either a local or system-wide perspective.  It is of no grand importance if a particular one breaks down, and it just slows down circulation to have to keep it running (via the insistence of political pressures to keep manufacturing at home, via the rarer insistence of other workers to strike if this busted one is not given a modicum of attention or remuneration).  Especially when there are new, cheaper models elsewhere.  What matters is the reproduction of labor-power in general, both in its local instance (the labor pool in a particular zone) and in its global scale (the hypothetically employable portion of the species).  So while it demands there be particular workers (obviously, there can be no such thing as labor-power, and hence no surplus labor, without laborers), it is opposed, violently, to them in their particularity. 

It would seem, then, that every step, hour, nickel, and dime toward the perpetuation of the species in general is a step further from that phantom X called "species-being," defined by Marx as that distinct mode of a "being that treats the species as its own essential being."  Perversely, however, the very concept of this assumed common ground, this milestone of how far we've gone down the road of alienation, perhaps mimics the exact relation between individual and species on which relations of value and production turn.  That is, a being not in accordance with a particular activity (whatever that may be: running, drinking, painting, building houses, murdering, learning physics) that may be at odds with the species as a whole, but rather with a general activity (abstract labor, however brutally real, localized, and experienced it is) dictated by, and dependent upon, an indifference to particular instantiations of the species.  In other words, dictated by the essence of the species beyond its existent forms.  Species-being, then, may be just the back-projection in which we can faintly glimpse what is materially the case now.

The reproduction of ourselves -  the reason (one can't live on antagonism alone) we all individually put up with all this as a class - is, it turns out, an accident of industry.  A by-product of the perpetuation of labor-power in general.  We throw ourselves headlong into that project, all in hopes of snatching a bit of the leftover, one piece at a time, with which to make a life, a family, a community, a site of other time.

Our labor, too, this shuddering drive, this life: it is the reproduction of slaughtered meat.  Yet without rotting, without transforming money itself: just making more than will rot, and more money that will not. 

Meanwhile, we turn down the heat, we breed in the freezers, we rattle the bones.  The impossible, vile gesture, nestled somewhere in the heart of the matter, the red matter of deciding to go on.

Melodrama . . . must reek with gore.

'Christopher Strong, writing in 1912, declared: “The paranoic who wrote the plays did so because he didn’t know Art from Hank; he did know that people like action, so he gave them more action(and of the same sort) than you would find in an asylum full of delirium tremens fiends and St. Vitus’s dance artists.” Melodrama’s classic iconography, as described by an essayist in 1908, included: “Trap-doors, bridges to be blown up, walls to be scaled, instruments of torture for the persecuted heroines, freight elevators to crush out the lives of the deserving characters, elevated trains to rush upon the prostrate forms of gagged and insensible girls.” A Harper’s Weekly essayist put it concisely in 1890: “Melodrama . . . must reek with gore.”'


while villains are strapped to switchboards and
light through the bodies the great white ways of cities

(That is, they become cinema.)