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The Authoritarian Personality (Erich Fromm, 1957)

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What do we mean by “authoritarian personality”? We usually see a clear difference between the individual who wants to rule, control, or restrain others and the individual who tends to submit, obey, or to be humiliated. To use a somewhat friendlier term, we might talk of the leader and his followers. As natural as the difference between the ruling and the ruled might — in many ways — be, we also have to admit that these two types, or as we can also say, these two forms of authoritarian personality are actually tightly bound together.

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On the Concept of History (Walter Benjamin, 1940)

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This text was written in 1940 and is published in German in “Gesammelten Schriften I:2. Suhrkamp Verlag. Frankfurt am Main, 1974. For an analysis on the text, see Michael Löwy, Fire Alarm

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It is well-known that an automaton once existed, which was so constructed that it could counter any move of a chess-player with a counter-move, and thereby assure itself of victory in the match. A puppet in Turkish attire, water-pipe in mouth, sat before the chessboard, which rested on a broad table. Through a system of mirrors, the illusion was created that this table was transparent from all sides. In truth, a hunchbacked dwarf who was a master chess-player sat inside, controlling the hands of the puppet with strings. One can envision a corresponding object to this apparatus in philosophy. The puppet called “historical materialism” is always supposed to win. It can do this with no further ado against any opponent, so long as it employs the services of theology, which as everyone knows is small and ugly and must be kept out of sight.

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Housing: an anarchist approach (Colin Ward, 1976)

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Collection of essays on housing and the built environment from 20th century British anarchist and town planner, Colin Ward. First published by Freedom Press 1976 in London.

Originally published by Freedom press (print) and Libcom (online)

PDF: Colin_Ward_Housing_Anarchist_Approach_1976

Colin Ward is well-known as an authority on housing and as an anarchist propagandist. How do these two themes combine? This book brings together articles and addresses covering thirty years of advocacy of an anarchist approach to housing.

DIRECT ACTION, the first section, includes his now classic account of the post-war squatters’ movement and relates it to the current signifancace of the squatters in Britain and elsewhere.

HUMAN NEEDS identifies the missing component in public housing policies: dweller involvement; and anticipates today’s anxieties about the social effects of imposing official policies on people whose own perception of their housing needs has been systematically ignored.

SELF HELP includes account of do-it-yourself housing in Britain and abroad, the remarkable achievements of the squatter settlements in the ‘cities the poor build’ in the Third World sketches the outlines of an anarchist approach to the city.

PROFESSIONALS OR PEOPLE? is the question raised in the fourth section of this book. What went wrong with architecture and planning? Can we transform them from being the concern of a bureaucratic elite into a populist and popular activity?

DWELLER CONTROL argues that the only future for the public housing, whether in our decaying cities or on new estates, is the tenant take-over.

We Need a New State Debate (Part One) — Chris O’Kane

The first part of Chris O’Kane’s critical reevaluation of Marxist state theories and debates.

via We Need a New State Debate (Part One) — Chris O’Kane — Legal Form

We live in tumultuous times. Depending on whom you ask or even what day you happen to ask them, socialism is back, but so is fascism; neoliberalism is in crisis, but authoritarian neoliberalism is also on the rise. A range of scholars and public intellectuals have sought to understand such developments, using these and other concepts in various ways. These concepts have likewise come to play important animating roles in electoral campaigns, political parties, social movements, protests, marches, and spontaneous strikes. Yet these theories, articles, policy proposals, and political activities pass all too quickly over an issue that has been at the heart of debates over socialist theory and practice in previous eras of upheaval: the state.

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Rackets

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by Gerhard Scheit, translated by Lars Fischer

(Sage Handbook for Frankfurt School Critical Theory, 2018)

The term racket first turned up in the context of Critical Theory toward the end of the 1930s and instantly attained considerable conceptual significance. In his notes and drafts for Dialectic of Enlightenment, Horkheimer identified the racket as the ‘elementary form of domination’. The term originated in the language of American legal scholars and criminologists. As Otto Kirchheimer noted, it commonly referred to ‘monopolistic practices which are carried through by physical force, violence in trade disputes, or similar objectionable means’. More recently, it was principally Wolfgang Pohrt who drew attention to the relevant texts and the significance of the concept for Critical Theory. He also pointed to the term’s variegated connotations that evidently prompted its use to designate specific political and societal tendencies and the implosion of society as a whole. ‘Rackets’, Pohrt explained, ‘are not just bands of blackmailers but also self-help groups and charitable associations’ . [READ PDF]

Moscow, January 1st, 2019

Welcome to the Future.

communists in situ

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An evening, sometime in the near future…

Simon Critchley

KADASHEVSKAYA HOTEL

26 Kadashevskaya nab. 115035 Moscow

January 1st, 2019

I guess we could all have seen it coming a few years back. Things really started to get worse around the end of 2013 and then dragged on into the long, cold winter months. That whole business with that guy, what was his name? Mountain in Wales. Snowden. That’s it. He went underground for a while and then emerged as the CEO of Bozhe Moi! (My God!): the amazing Russian search engine that overtook Google early in 2017. Totally wiped them out. I find it reassuringly old world and Le Carré-like to have the FSB watching all of us rather than the NSA.

Shortly after the President’s death, events moved fast. Well, suspicions were raised when they declared it accidental. Everyone knew it was suicide. He lost face (and…

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Bordiga and the Passion for Communism (Camatte,1972)

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Jacques Camatte’s 1972 essay on Amadeo Bordiga, discussing the Italian Marxist’s notorious “invariance”, his “hermeneutics” of “the precise connection between the proletariat and theory”, his “prophetic vision” of the communist future, his identification of the party with the class, his disdain for the cult of personality, his “anti-gradualism”, the impact of the publication of the Grundrisse and the Economic Manuscripts of 1844 on his thought, his precocious environmentalism, his anti-individualism, and his failure to recognize the significance of May ’68, pointing out that despite all his contradictions and limitations “his works are full of starting points for new research”.


Bordiga and the Passion for Communism

by Jacques Camatte

“Passion is the essential force of man energetically bent on its object.”
Karl Marx

Men are the products of their time: some are capable of representing it, because the invariance of their thought overcomes the ideology of the ruling class or expresses the impetuous assault of the oppressed class; others dominate it, because they are capable of perceiving the moments of discontinuity which mark the beginnings of the new stages of the process of becoming of a given mode of production (especially the new modes of production). In the former case we have the thought of continuity, in the second, that of discontinuity. In other words, we have traditional thought (in the non-pejorative sense) and revolutionary thought. Rare are those who are capable of thinking in accordance with both modalities, since this is not a case of a duality constituted by a spatial juxtaposition, but rather that of a contradictory duality. It is very often the case that the past and tradition weigh like a nightmare on the brains of the living and prevent the emergence, the eruption, of the present and the future—which nonetheless operate in reality—in thought. This is true both during periods of social peace as well as in times of revolutionary unrest, the former favoring traditionalist expressions, while the latter are more likely to favor revolutionary expressions.

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The Devil in America

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by Kai Ashante Wilson (2014)

for my father

1955

Emmett Till, sure, I remember. Your great grandfather, sitting at the table with the paper spread out, looked up and said something to Grandma. She looked over my way and made me leave the room: Emmett Till. In high school I had a friend everybody called Underdog. One afternoon—1967?—Underdog was standing on some corner and the police came round and beat him with nightsticks. No reason. Underdog thought he might get some respect if he joined up for Vietnam, but a sergeant in basic training was calling him everything but his name—nigger this, nigger that—and Underdog went and complained. Got thrown in the brig, so he ended up going to Vietnam with just a couple weeks’ training. Soon after he came home in a body bag. In Miami a bunch of white cops beat to death a man named Arthur McDuffie with heavy flashlights. You were six or seven: so, 1979. The cops banged up his motorcycle trying to make killing him look like a crash. Acquitted, of course. Then Amadou Diallo, 1999; Sean Bell, 2006. You must know more about all the New York murders than I do. Trayvon, this year. Every year it’s one we hear about and God knows how many just the family mourns.

—Dad

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Socialism in one apartment complex

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The House on the Embankment, Moscow, pictured in January 2007. 

Historian Yuri Slezkine in conversation with ‘Rīgas Laiks’ editor Uldis Tirons (via eurozine)

Moscow’s House on the Embankment was home to many of the first generation of Russian revolutionaries. Historian Yuri Slezkine, who has written the definitive account of the building, describes how it embodied the lives, hopes and fate of the Soviet project and its elite.

Introductory note

The historian Yuri Slezkine, professor of Russian history and director of the Berkeley Program in Eurasian and East European Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, is one of those Soviet émigrés who have ended up in the US not so much trby force of circumstance as out of curiosity and thanks to a chain of coincidences. In the late 1970s, after graduating from Moscow State University, Slezkine worked in Mozambique, later moving to Lisbon and, in 1983, to Texas, to teach Russian at the University of Texas at Austin, where he gained a PhD.

Although, as Slezkine explains, his wanderings were driven by a desire to discover more of the world rather than by the pursuit of a career, this experience, both academic and general, nevertheless exerted a fundamental influence on the theoretical thrust of his research. In the early 1980s Slezkine visited a number of indigenous Indian reservations in America, studying the impact of western colonial policy on what the Soviets referred to as ‘small peoples’. However, as a historian working and studying abroad, the system required him to cover Russian history in one way or another, and he began to study the Soviet Union’s treatment of its multinational population in the broader context of colonial policies, drawing parallels between the collective fates of national minorities in various imperial structures. This provided the theme of two of his books: Arctic Mirrors: Russia and the Small Peoples of the North (Cornell University Press, 1994) and The Jewish Century (Princeton University Press, 2004). His most recent book, The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution (Princeton University Press, 2017), which took Slezkine 20 years to write, is an exhaustive account of the most prestigious block of flats in the Soviet Union, situated on the embankment of the River Moskva, and of the first generations of its tenants – revolutionaries and functionaries and their families. Here, as in his previous works, Slezkine views national identity as a vital element of their life, but on this occasion his focus in on personal history: what went on in the kitchens and bedrooms of the nomenklatura, its members’ faith in a new utopian life, and the disillusionment that the utopia turned into.

Sven Kuzmins, Rīgas Laiks

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Das Kapital 150 Years Later

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Logos Journal, 2018: vol. 17, no. 1

Lauren Langman: Das Kapital 150 Years Later

Richard D. Wolff: Marx’s Concept of Class

Nancy Holmstrom: Developing Marx’s Mode of Production Theory

Tony Smith: Technology and Capitalism 150 Years after Das Kapital

Heather Brown: Gender and Capital 150 Years Later

Peter Hudis: The Vision of the New Society in Marx’s Capital

Mark Worrell and Dan Krier: Totems, Fetishes and Enchanted Modernity

David Schweikart: Das Kapital and Me

Benjamin Fong: Review of  Bhaskar Sunkara (ed.), The ABC’s of Socialism

Yiddishland and beyond: Jews, nationalism, and internationalism

Jews have long been associated with socialist politics, either maliciously or adventitiously. Obviously I have no interest in lending weight to this association, as it’s more a matter of historical accident than any cultural or biological predisposition. Because I like to use this blog as a resource for readers, however, providing materials that are otherwise…

via Yiddishland and beyond: Jews, nationalism, and internationalism — The Charnel-House

Melanie Klein

Melanie Klein (1882-1960)

Melanie Klein was an Austrian psychoanalyst who devised therapeutic techniques for children that had great impact on present methods of child care and rearing.

Early Years: Family, Education, and Career

Melanie Klein was born in Vienna on March 30, 1882. Her father, Dr. Moriz Reisez, was undoubtedly an inspiration to young Melanie. Rebelling against his strict orthodox Jewish family, Moriz went to medical school rather than becoming a rabbi. His first marriage, which was arranged by his parents, ended shortly after his dependent father died. He remarried, however, when he was over the age of 40. His new wife, Libusa Deutsch, was just 25 at the time. The couple had four children, including Melanie, the youngest. Because Dr. Reisez’s practice was slow and money was needed, Libusa temporarily opened a shop of exotic plants and animals. By the time Melanie was five, however, the family had inherited enough money to buy a dental practice. Moriz was much more successful at his new occupation and the family moved to a bigger apartment. Because of her father’s age and the favoritism that he showed to Melanie’s sister, the two did not share a close relationship. His knowledge of literature and languages, however, impressed her greatly. Moriz died when Melanie was just 18 (Segal, 1979).

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I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (Harlan Ellison, 1967)

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Limp, the body of Gorrister hung from the pink palette; unsupported—hanging high above us in the computer chamber; and it did not shiver in the chill, oily breeze that blew eternally through the main cavern. The body hung head down, attached to the underside of the palette by the sole of its right foot. It had been drained of blood through a precise incision made from ear to ear under the lantern jaw. There was no blood on the reflective surface of the metal floor.

When Gorrister joined our group and looked up at himself, it was already too late for us to realize that, once again, AM had duped us, had had its fun; it had been a diversion on the part of the machine. Three of us had vomited, turning away from one another in a reflex as ancient as the nausea that had produced it.

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El Chapo and the Secret History of the Heroin Crisis

If you wonder why America is in the grips of a heroin epidemic that kills two hundred people a week, take a hard look at the legalization of pot, which destroyed the profits of the Mexican cartels. How did they respond to a major loss in revenue? Like any company, they created an irresistible new product and flooded the market. The scariest part: this might not have happened with El Chapo in charge.

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Continental Thought & Theory Vol 1. Issue 4 (2017): 150 years of Capital

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VOL 1, ISSUE 4, OCTOBER 2017 – 150 YEARS OF CAPITAL

150 years of Capital

Edited by Mike Grimshaw and Cindy Zeiher

Contents

Introduction

Cindy Zeiher, Mike Grimshaw, Introduction – Rethinking Marx’s Capital, Vol 1

Michael Heinrich, 150 Years of Capital-with No End in Sight. Unsystematic Remarks on a Never-ending Story

Silvia Federici, Notes on Gender in Marx’s Capital

Moishe Postone, The Current Crisis and the Anachronism of Value: A Marxian Reading

Jacques Bidet, Capital as read by Moishe Postone: Alchemy or Astrology?

Riccardo Bellofiore, Between Schumpeter and Keynes: The Heterodoxy of Paul Marlor Sweezy and the Orthodoxy of Paul Mattick

Patrick Murray, Jeanne Schuler, The Commodity Spectrum

Agon Hamza, Re-reading Capital 150 years after: some Philosophical and Political Challenges

Roland Boer, Interpreting Marx’s Capital in China

Martha Campbell, Marx’s Transition to Money with no Intrinsic Value in Capital, Chapter 3

David Neilson, Re-situating Capital Vol. 1 beyond Althusser’s epistemological break: Towards second generation neo-Marxism

Geoff Pfeifer, The Question of Capitalist Desire: Deleuze and Guattari with Marx

Adrian Johnston, From Closed Need to Infinite Greed: Marx’s Drive Theory

Circle of Studies of Idea and Ideology (CSII), Organization and Political Invention

Guido Starosta, Fetishism and Revolution in the Critique of Political Economy: Critical Reflections on some Contemporary Readings of Marx’s Capital

Graham Cassano, Capital, Gender and the Machine

Fred Moseley, M- C- M’ and the End of the ‘Transformation Problem’

Natalia Romé, Anachronism of the True. Reading Reading Capital

Todd McGowan, The Particularity of the Capitalist Universal

Bruce Curtis, A Sesquicentennial of Capital: Marx, Mandel and Methodological Musings

Ted Stolze, Beatitude: Marx, Aristotle, Averroes, Spinoza

Rebecca Carson, Fictitious Capital and the Re-emergence of Personal Forms of Domination

Ali Alizadeh, Marx and Art: Use, Value, Poetry

Jason Read, Man is a Werewolf to Man: Capital and the Limits of Political Anthropology

Mark P. Worrell,  Daniel Krier, The Organic Composition of Big Mama

David Norman Smith, Sharing, Not Selling: Marx Against Value

Mike Grimshaw, Proof-texting Capital via the ‘short-circuit’: a religious text?

Book reviews

Robert Boncardo, Universal Life: A review reading of The Lost Thread: The Democracy of Modern Fiction | Jacques Rancière

Gabriel Tupinambá, Totalization as critique: a review of Marxism and Psychoanalysis: In or Against Psychology|David David Pavón-Cuéllar

Notes on this issues’ contributors

The Tamarisk Hunter

Tamarisk trees (Tamarix articulata) in the desert.

by Paolo Bacigalupi

In the desert Southwest of 2030 Big Daddy Drought runs the show, California claims all the water, and a water tick named Lolo ekes out a rugged living removing tamarisk.

A big tamarisk can suck 73,000 gallons of river water a year. For $2.88 a day, plus water bounty, Lolo rips tamarisk all winter long.

Ten years ago, it was a good living. Back then, tamarisk shouldered up against every riverbank in the Colorado River Basin, along with cottonwoods, Russian olives, and elms. Ten years ago, towns like Grand Junction and Moab thought they could still squeeze life from a river.

Lolo stands on the edge of a canyon, Maggie the camel his only companion. He stares down into the deeps. It’s an hour’s scramble to the bottom. He ties Maggie to a juniper and starts down, boot-skiing a gully. A few blades of green grass sprout neon around him, piercing juniper-tagged snow clods. In the late winter, there is just a beginning surge of water down in the deeps; the ice is off the river edges. Up high, the mountains still wear their ragged snow mantles. Lolo smears through mud and hits a channel of scree, sliding and scattering rocks. His jugs of tamarisk poison gurgle and slosh on his back. His shovel and rockbar snag on occasional junipers as he skids by. It will be a long hike out. But then, that’s what makes this patch so perfect. It’s a long way down, and the riverbanks are largely hidden.

It’s a living; where other people have dried out and blown away, he has remained: a tamarisk hunter, a water tick, a stubborn bit of weed. Everyone else has been blown off the land as surely as dandelion seeds, set free to fly south or east, or most of all north where watersheds sometimes still run deep and where even if there are no more lush ferns or deep cold fish runs, at least there is still water for people.

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Progress, Normativity, and the Dynamics of Social Change

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An Exchange between Rahel Jaeggi and Amy Allen

Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal Volume 37, Number 2, 2016

Amy Allen, Rahel Jaeggi, and Eva von Redecker

Eva von Redecker: I would like to say a quick word to open up the conversation. I think that by moving the notion of progress to the center of your work, both of you accomplish something very interesting, in that you transpose an elaborate and well rehearsed debate in critical theory regarding the foundations of normativity away from the question of critique and into the history of social change and politics. This is what I find really exciting about this whole thematic field. Whether in problematizing the notion of progress, as Amy does, or in revisiting it in Rahel’s way, the shift from a mere reflection of critique to one of historical development immediately makes the debate more substantial.

The approaches each of you offer could easily be construed as a direct clash—progress: for and against—, but I am not so interested in pretending that your positions are even congruent enough to be exact opposites regarding the same question. I think it is more interesting to figure out the constellation in which they stand to each other. I hope we can probe this issue, which can be clustered around roughly three concerns: the conceptual role progress plays in critical theory, your respective versions of negativism, and how your views on progress are informed by different accounts of social change. To start us off on your separate takes on progress, I want to begin with a question that might seem a bit playful, but might move us to the important details. I’d like to ask Amy why she thinks that some residual notion of progress, despite her many critiques of it, is, at the end of the day, indispensable for critical theory. I also want to hear from Rahel about why she thinks we cannot simply work with an unmodified notion of progress. Why, for example, can we not take up Hegelian world history or historical materialism?
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Politics is Nothing But the Reign of Feints and Shenanigans

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An interview with Julien Coupat and Mathieu Burnel

Le Monde | April 20, 2017.  Translated by Ill Will Editions. 

Editor’s note:   The trial of Julien Coupat and Mathieu Burnel, known as the “Tarnac affair”, has dragged-on for over eight years now. On the 10th of January, the Court of Appeals deemed that it was no longer to be classified as a terrorism case. Assumed by many to belong to the Invisible Committee—whose first opus, The Coming Insurrection (2007), was a resounding success—they here take a critical look at the presidential campaign. Their newest book, Maintenant [Now], is due to hit the shelves next week.

***

Le Monde: What do you make of the presidential campaign?

What campaign? There was no campaign. There was a soap opera, a fairly worn-out one at that, to tell the truth, full of twists and turns, scandals, dramatic tension and suspense. Much brouhaha, a tiny frenzy, but nothing that managed to pierce the wall of generalized confusion. Not that there is any lack of followers for each candidate, tossing-about with varying degrees of fanaticism in their virtual bubbles. But this fanaticism only deepens the feeling of political unreality.

A graffiti that went up in Place de la Nation during the Mayday demonstration last year stated: “There will be no presidential election”. It suffices to project ourselves ahead to the day after the final round of the election to grasp what’s prophetic in this tag: whatever happens, the new president will be as much a puppet as the current one, the legitimacy of their governance will be just as lacking, just as minoritarian and impotent. This fact isn’t solely due to the extreme withering of politics—to the fact that it has become impossible to believe honestly in all that is done and said there—but is likewise due to the fact that politics is a derisory means of confronting the depth of the current disaster.

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The Scum of Humanity (1935)

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by Paul Mattick

(International Council Correspondence Vol. 1, no.6, March 1935, pp 9-18)

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Anyone unfamiliar with politics who strolls into a workers’ meeting (leaving out of consideration the gatherings of the unemployed) is surprised by the fact that the larger part of those present is not to be numbered among the most impoverished stratum of the proletariat. The best organized workers are, of course, those who belong to the so-called labor aristocracy, which takes a social position between the middle class and the genuine proletariat. These trade-unionist organizations espouse the direct vital interests of their members, bringing to them immediate advantages; and yet they are neither able nor do they attempt to politicise their adherents in the socialistic sense. The radical labor movement, on the other hand, can provide its adherents only with ideological satisfaction; it offers them no direct material advantages. And this is precisely why it is incapable of embracing the truly impoverished part of the proletariat. This part, by reason of its very misery, is compelled to concern itself only with its pressing and direct interests if it is not to abandon life altogether. For this reason, the political radical labor movement hovers between the two poles of the working population, namely, the labor aristocracy and the Lumpenproletariat, and is carried on by those elements which, though without illusions on the point that within the present society genuine possibilities of advance are barred to them, nevertheless still maintain a standard of living which permits them to devote money, time and energy to endeavors the fruit of which, in the form of real material advantages for themselves, is deferred to some uncertain future. They set themselves in opposition to the existing society from a recognition of the fact that it has to be changed and because, in spite of this position, it is possible for them to live in it.

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Paper Menagerie

(Ken Liu’s 2011 short story “Paper Menagerie” was the first work of fiction to win all three of Science Fiction’s major awards: the Hugo, the Nebula and the World Fantasy Award.)

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“Paper Menagerie”

by Ken Liu

One of my earliest memories starts with me sobbing. I refused to be soothed no matter what Mom and Dad tried.

Dad gave up and left the bedroom, but Mom took me into the kitchen and sat me down at the breakfast table.

Kan, kan,” she said, as she pulled a sheet of wrapping paper from on top of the fridge. For years, Mom carefully sliced open the wrappings around Christmas gifts and saved them on top of the fridge in a thick stack.

She set the paper down, plain side facing up, and began to fold it. I stopped crying and watched her, curious.

She turned the paper over and folded it again. She pleated, packed, tucked, rolled, and twisted until the paper disappeared between her cupped hands. Then she lifted the folded-up paper packet to her mouth and blew into it, like a balloon.

Kan,” she said. “Laohu.” She put her hands down on the table and let go.

A little paper tiger stood on the table, the size of two fists placed together. The skin of the tiger was the pattern on the wrapping paper, white background with red candy canes and green Christmas trees.

I reached out to Mom’s creation. Its tail twitched, and it pounced playfully at my finger. “Rawrr-sa,” it growled, the sound somewhere between a cat and rustling newspapers.

I laughed, startled, and stroked its back with an index finger. The paper tiger vibrated under my finger, purring.

Zhe jiao zhezhi,” Mom said. This is called origami.

I didn’t know this at the time, but Mom’s kind was special. She breathed into them so that they shared her breath, and thus moved with her life. This was her magic.

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