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The Crisis and the Rift: A Symposium on Joshua Clover’s Riot.Strike.Riot

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“Police patrol these streets every night of the week and we only get to riot every few years,” he said. “They can’t come here laying down the law like they do all year round. People are rioting because the riot is finally here.”


Limits to Periodization | Alberto Toscano

Can the riots really express and explicate our historical moment, serving as the “holographic miniature of an entire situation, a world-picture?” What I want to address here is the overarching principle that governs the composition of the book’s various conceptual elements, and which in the final analysis is Clover’s name for theory: periodization.

Disarticulating the Mass Picket | Amanda Armstrong

Clover argues against the continued viability of industrial strike organizing, suggesting that the time of the strike has passed, and that we now inhabit the time of the riot. But the conceptual and periodizing demarcations that Clover deploys in advancing these claims tend to obscure the actual forms of class struggle that broke forth during the supposed era of the strike – forms of struggle that may yet have something to offer the present.

Consumption, Crime, and Communes: Making Political Meaning Out of Riots | Delio Vasquez

While Clover’s effort to historically situate and draw our attention to the riot as a form of anti-capitalist struggle outside of the workplace is certainly valuable, his insistence on interpreting its political value primarily through its relationship to the utopian keeps his analysis from accounting for the function and meaning that riots have for most of the people who find themselves actually participating in them, to say nothing of whether or not riot is really best understood through its relationship to consumption and circulation.

Final Remarks | Joshua Clover

My wagers are these: that the riot can now be thought as a fundamental form of class struggle rather than an impolitical spasm; that we can recognize in this the ascending significance of surplus populations within the dialectical production of capital’s antagonists; and that the riot can be in turn seen as a sundial indicating where we are within the history of capitalist accumulation.

Vogelfrei: Migration, deportations, capital and its state

Greece Migrants

by Antithesi

This text aims at contributing to the analysis and critique of the politics of the EU and the Greek state on the control and biopolitical management of migration from a proletarian standpoint. The great increase of the migration movement towards the European Union during the last two years, which was mainly caused by the intensification of the military conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has been confronted on the one hand with an intensification of border policing up to the point of its militarization and on the other hand with the formation of a new political and legal framework through the agreement between EU and Turkey on the 18th of March of 2016 which negates basic principles of the international asylum law. Our interest in the issue of migration as a form of the international mobility of labour, as a form of permanent primitive accumulation and as a form of autonomous proletarian activity is not academic. On the contrary, we seek to equip ourselves with theoretical instruments which may be proven useful for the development of common struggles of local and immigrant proletarians, as an integral part of the class antagonistic movement against capital and its state.

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Black Representation After Ferguson

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by John Clegg

Up until the crisis of 2008, racial inequality in the United States was showing signs of improvement. Poverty and unemployment among blacks had fallen sharply in the 1990s, and the wages of black and white workers had begun to converge. These improvements were stopped short by the recession of the early 2000s, but thereafter a boom in subprime lending led to a significant reduction in the wealth gap between black and white households. The popping of the housing bubble threw all these measures into reverse. While most Americans suffered, black Americans were particularly badly affected. In the eight years since the crisis, racial disparities in wealth, poverty, and unemployment returned to or exceeded their pre-1990s levels. It should thus come as no surprise that riots have also made a comeback in recent years.

The triggers were a series of police killings of young black men: Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Freddie Gray. Such events have not become more frequent. Rather, an already existing reign of police terror was the American state’s only means of managing a rapidly deteriorating set of conditions in poor black neighborhoods. Ferguson was a revolt not only against the police, but also against a society which has nothing but police to offer.1

When black proletarians riot, white Americans tend to cast around for an eloquent spokesperson who can either assuage their fear or indulge their guilt. The old Civil Rights leaders were too out of touch in this case, so journalists combed the twitter feeds of protesters for substitutes. Those willing to play the role of spokespersons have been fêted by the media, with cover stories in Ebony, Time and the New York Times Magazine. Some were even featured in Fortune’s 2016 “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders” list. They have received regular invitations to the White House, and Democratic presidential candidates have coveted their endorsement. Yet journalists have also shown a prurient interest in the periodic clashes, both personal and political, among the newly celebrated activists.

All this media attention, however, both positive and negative, owes its existence not to the activists themselves, but to the fact that thousands took to the streets and attacked police and property in Ferguson and Baltimore. Though some activists began organizing prior to Ferguson—in response to the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Renisha McBride—their actions had met with the same lip-service that typically greets protests against police brutality in this country. Officer Wilson’s murder of Mike Brown in Ferguson, following quickly on Eric Garner’s live-action death at the hands of the NYPD, was a watershed, sparking a week-long uprising in a suburban town far from the bi-coastal activist hubs. Baltimore, with protests closer in form to the “inner city riots” of the 1960s, consolidated this newfound vigor, demonstrating the willingness of poor blacks to rise up against a local black elite. The question partisans of this movement must ask is to what extent the new activists can help or hinder the black proletarian insurgency that threw them into the spotlight.

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China in the Era of Riots

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The following is a preview article from the forthcoming first issue of the Chuang journal.

Denim and its Discontents

 The story is now familiar: One morning in the spring of 2011, a migrant street vendor is harassed and beaten by police. That evening, rumors fly over the internet that the vendor has died. Hundreds of people gather in the streets, enraged by the apparent murder. They burn cars, loot ATMs and attack the riot police sent to disperse them. But they do not disperse. The riot spreads over several days, with participants growing into the thousands. Journalists who come to report on the events are held by security forces. Rumor of the uprising spreads over the internet even as the government uses all its resources to cut off access to the information.

Despite its striking similarity, this is not the story of Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor, harassed by police, whose self-immolation sparked the Arab Spring. The man in the story above was instead Tang Xuecai (唐学才) a Sichuanese migrant in the city of Guangzhou. The riot[1] took place in Xintang, one of the Pearl River Delta’s many manufacturing districts, this one specializing in denim[2], with the majority of the rioters themselves migrant laborers in factories making jeans for export. And, unlike the riots and strikes that followed the death of Bouazizi in Tunisia, the Xintang riot was ultimately crushed as police took control of the district, made mass arrests, and forced the majority of migrants back to work

Aside from this stark comparison, there was nothing particularly special about the Xintang riot. In a strictly quantitative sense, cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Dongguan in China’s Pearl River Delta (PRD) see more riots more regularly than even Athens. If one adds strikes, blockades and other such “mass incidents” to the list, Chinese protests regularly surpass global trends in scale and severity—especially since a lack (or exhaustion) of legal alternatives tends to transform what might be a benign picket or protest elsewhere into a multi-factory uprising that risks destroying millions of dollars of equipment. Yet we do not often see the avenues and alleys of Xintang as we see those of Athens, lined with burning cars as riot police advance and swarms of rioters scatter underneath the dim gold glow of a McDonalds sign. Instead, images of Athens burning are posed against the glowing skylines of China’s coastal cities, intercut with upward-trending graphs of productivity, profitability, progress.

Underneath the graphs, however, such “mass incidents” have been increasing over the last decade.[3] This rising unrest is, in fact, recognized by numerous official sources, such as the Annual Report on China’s Rule of Law (No 12). Other than attempting to tally and taxonomize the “incidents,” this report also noted that roughly 30% of them took place in Guangdong province, in which the PRD is located.[4] But many such reports, including this one, take only a small number of mass incidents reported in major media outlets and generalize from this subset. Others, such as the China Labor Bulletin’s strike map, mine reports from the Chinese internet in a much more systematic way, but the data stretches back only a few years.[5] Their map is also intentionally focused on strikes, rather than all “mass incidents,” and therefore often excludes forms of unrest that are initiated outside the workplace and do not take the form of labor grievances.

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