“Participatory singing as a political act is becoming an outmoded relic of former movements.” –Leondar-Wright (on Mobilizing Ideas 2012)
“Artistic quality varied considerably, but was not the central point.” –Nancy Whittier (2009: 179)
“Dialogical projects often leave little or no physical trace due to their ephemeral nature.” –Kester (2004: 190)
I have my Intro American Studies students write an essay on the use of songs in labor movements. It’s a popular assignment, and the musicians in the class usually take great care in picking “their song” to present to the rest of the students. So I was floored when, during the Writer’s Strike in 2007, I pulled up a YouTube video of the TV stars from “The Office” lustily belting union ballads on the picket lines. “See, class? Union songs are still relevant and cool today!” The look of sheer teenaged horror on their faces was unforgettable—a collective cringe on the order of the American public’s reaction to Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s “We just cured racism with music!” bravado (see here). Can art demobilize or disempower when it doesn’t work, or even when it does? The very question may seem silly, especially for a blog discussion about the use of art and music in activism. Continue reading
John Holloway, Change the world without taking power: the meaning of revolution today (London & New York: Pluto Press, 2010)
Eleven years after its first publication (in 2002), John Holloway’s Change the World Without Taking Power remains one of the most contested and controversial books of contemporary Marxist theory, having been translated into ten languages and seen three English editions in 2002, 2005 and 2010 (Holloway 2010: ix-x). In response to a series of critiques to the first edition of his book, namely on how can we advance the struggle for society’s self-determination—or Communism—without taking state power, the 2005 edition presents a new epilogue. Upon continuing controversies, the 2010 edition includes an “extensive” preface, in which Holloway felt it necessary to reassert the timeliness of the book after the waning of the Zapatista movement and Argentine piquetero and neighborhood assembly movements. In his preface, he rather points to the so-called “state-centered developments” (Holloway 2010: xi) in Venezuela and Bolivia, and keeps asking: “how do we stop making capitalism?” (Holloway 2010: xii). He claims that he does not know the answer to this question, while, on the other hand, quite firmly asserting that “the state has no part” in the solution (Holloway 2010: xii).