Posts Tagged ‘Civil Disobedience’

Here and No Further – Stop Digging, Keep It In The Ground!

A three minute film:

The Rhineland’s lignite mines and coal plants in Germany are Europe’s biggest source of CO2 emissions and home to the world’s largest coal digger – the Bagger 288.

The rapid expansion of coal mines and plants is causing health problems due to high pollution rates and the destruction of local villages, forests and farmland.
That’s why this summer the Rhineland will be the target of a mass act of civil disobedience in the lead-up to the Paris climate negotiations.

On the weekend of 14-16 August, grassroots groups are calling on people from all over Germany and other parts of Europe to stand together to stop the world’s largest coal diggers in their tracks.

The mass action is being called “Ende Gelände” — which translates literally as ‘Here and no further”.

Ende Gelände will make a powerful call to keep Europe’s coal in the ground, in the face of increasingly dangerous climate change.

The paradox of the superego:
the more you obey what the Other demands of you, the guiltier you are.

The song “If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next” by the Manic Street Preachers, takes its name from the stark warning of a Republican Ministry of Propaganda poster during the Spanish Civil War, displaying a photograph of a young child killed by the Nationalists under a sky of bombers. It’s essence illustrating the paradox of the superego.

standard Catalogue number Art.IWM PST 8661 Production date 1936 Place made Spain Subject period Second World War Materials medium: lithograph support: paper Dimensions Support: Height 670 mm Support: Width 494 mm Mount: Height 670 mm Mount: Width 495 mm Frame: Height 448 mm Frame: Width 325 mm Frame: Depth 20 mm Alternative Names object category: Poster Creator: Augusto [attributed] (artist) Ministerio de Propaganda (publisher/sponsor) Category posters All Rights Reserved except for Fair Dealing exceptions otherwise permitted under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, as amended and revised.

For if you are willing to tolerate what successive governments and regimes force upon you; from ideological austerity, atrocious policies attacking the Independent Living Allowance of just 18,000 of the most severely disabled in the UK to swingeing local authority cuts such as the removal of hot meal services for our elderly or removal of 7 out of 11 leisure centres in the Rhymney valley CCBC area, or imposition of car parking charges on the sick and disabled at our country parks.


Happy Bastille Day! Vive la republique!


At The Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, N.Y., May 2015, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges spoke for over an hour about how his new book, “Wages of Rebellion,” differs from his previous works, including, the public loss of faith in the political process and the revolutionary potential bubbling beneath the surface of American life.





What it takes to Rebel


We are passive in front of our electronic hallucinations

Movements of Mass Civil Disobedience

Cornell West

Noam Chomsky

Susan Sontag

Mechanisms of coercion and violence

Paramilitarised police

It struck me that all the aspects of “inverted totalitarianism” (which Hedges highlights and defines early on) can in fact be seen today in the European Union, where the financial industry has in fact made the sovereign governments of member nations subservient to their whim and have even begun to implement what is essentially “inverted socialism” by means of austerity to weaken governments and social programs and then strengthening these same financial industries with bail-outs. (SOCIALISM/ANARCHISM for the Richest, Austerity for Everyone Else!).

The EU is to inverted totalitarianism is to what the USSR is to true totalitarianism, except in the EU we are seeing true socialism applied but to corporations and a kind of “let them eat cake” feudalism to the population.

It’s like the corporate world had been waging a war with the population, which it in fact had been doing, due to the population starting the war by adopting democratic values.

The population then lost the war and is now being punished with a kind of “Treaty of Versailles” where they must pay reparations to the corporate state, just as the Wiemar Republic did after World War 1.

just so you know… the Wales Office is at Caspian Point, Cardiff Bay.
It’s Westminster’s outpost in Cardiff. 

Essentially a Tory office in Wales.

It’s a modern yet rather unremarkable looking building (basically a big red-ish cube with turquois windows at the top and a relatively flat roof.)

You’d never notice it unless you knew about it.

The Wales Office used to be very noticeable at Plas Glyndwr in the civic centre but moved around 2011, probably to get away from anti-Tory protests in the city centre.
Now it’s out of the way, hidden in the office district of Cardiff Bay.

Be a shame if someone was to paint “cunts” or something like that on it… so don’t go there ok?

Coal, Capitalism, John D. Rockefeller Jr., and the massacre of Two hundred Miners, Women and Children.
Today is the 101st Anniversary of America’s own “Chartist” type atrocity – The LUDLOW MASSACRE.

Woodie Guthrie – The Ludlow Massacre

The early 1900s were a time of great social upheaval in our country. During the years leading up to the Ludlow Massacre, miners all around the country looking to make a better life for themselves and their families set up picket lines, organized massive parades and rallies, and even took up arms. Some died.

Coal Country, Colorado

100 years ago, the Rocky Mountains were the source of a vast supply of coal. At its peak, it employed 16,000 people and accounted for 10% of all employed workers in the state of Colorado. It was dangerous work; in just 1913 alone, the mines claimed the lives of over 100 people. There were laws in place that were supposed to protect workers, but largely, management ignored those, which led to Colorado having double the on-the-job fatality rate of any other mining state.

It was a time of company towns, when all real estate, housing, doctors, and grocery stores were owned by the coal companies themselves, which led to the suppression of dissent as well as overinflated prices and an extreme dependence on the coal companies for everything that made life livable. In some of these, workers couldn’t even leave town, and armed guards made sure they didn’t. Also, if any miner or his family began to air grievances, they might find themselves evicted and run out of town.

Union Parade, Trinidad, Colorado, 1913

The Union

The United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had been organizing for many years in the area, and this particular company, Colorado Fuel and Iron, was one of the biggest in the West — and was owned by the Rockefeller family, notoriously anti-union.

Put all this together, and it was a powder keg.

The Ludlow Colony before the massacre, 1914

Strikers, Ludlow Tent Colony, 1914


When a strike was called in 1913, the coal company evicted all the miners from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages on leased land set up by the UMWA. Company-hired guards (aka “goons”) and members of the Colorado National Guard would drive by the tent villages and randomly shoot into the tents, leading the strikers to dig holes under their tents and the wooden beams that supported them.

Why did the union call for a strike? The workers wanted:

  1. Recognition of the union as bargaining agent,
  2. An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase),
  3. Enforcement of the eight-hour work day,
  4. Payment for “dead work” that usually wasn’t compensated, such as laying coal car tracks,
  5. The job known as “Weight-checkmen” to be elected by workers. This was to keep company weightmen honest so the workers got paid for their true work,
  6. The right to use any store rather than just the company store, and choose their own houses and doctors,
  7. Strict enforcement of Colorado’s laws, especially mine safety laws.

The “Death Special,” an improvised armored car (with machine gun) built by the coal company’s private security

Cavalry charge on striker women in nearby Trinidad

Militia and private detectives or mine guards, Ludlow

The Powder Keg Explodes

The attacks from the goons continued, as did the battles between scabs (strikebreakers) and the miners. It culminated in an attack on April 20, 1914, by company goons and Colorado National Guard soldiers who kidnapped and later killed the main camp leader and some of his fellow miners, and then set the tents in the main camp ablaze with kerosene. As they were engulfed, people inside the tents tried to flee the inferno; many were shot down as they tried to escape. Some also died in the dugouts below the burning tents. In the first photograph below, two women and 11 children died in the fire directly above them. A day that started off with Orthodox Easter celebrations for the families became known as the Ludlow Massacre.

The “Death Pit”

Rear view of ruins of tent colony

Funeral procession for Louis Tikas, leader of Greek strikers

The 10-Day War

The miners, fresh off the murders of their friends and family members, tried to get President Woodrow Wilson to put a stop to the madness, but he deferred to the governor, who was pretty much in the pocket of the mine companies.

So the miners and those at other tent colonies quickly armed themselves, knowing that many other confrontations were coming. And they went to the mines that were being operated by scabs and forced many of them to close, sometimes setting fire to the buildings. After 10 days of pitched battle and at least 50 dead, the president finally sent in the National Guard, which promptly disarmed both sides.

Union Victory

While close to 200 people died over the course of about 18 months before and after the battles at Ludlow and the union ultimately lost the election, the Ludlow Massacre brought a congressional investigation that led to the beginnings of child-labor laws and an eight-hour workday, among other things.

But it also brought national attention to the plight of these miners and their families, and it showed the resilience and strength that union people could display when they remained united, even in the face of extreme corporate and government violence. Historian Howard Zinn called it “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.” And the primary mine owner, John D. Rockefeller Jr., received a lot of negative attention and blame for what happened here.

The UMWA is still a solid union today, and there is a monument in Colorado to those who died in the Ludlow Massacre.

The famous Irish backbone has been ripped out and replaced with a spineless bunch of suckers in thrall to the Bank$ters that THEY bailed out with th€2.7 billion it gave Permanent TSB!

When a Tory Manifesto pushes a policy such as Right To Buy housing association rental homes, I always ask myself what’s in it for their City Financier overlords.
The signpost is currently happening in Republic of Ireland where Permanent TSB Bank has hiked up it’s variable rate mortgage interest to 4.5% despite the European average being 2.9% and the cost of the Bank Borrowing Rate being between 0% – 0.5%
This bank was bailed out by the Irish Government – even though it should not have been as loans were made in bad faith, thus, the Bank’s own fault – to the tune of €2.7 billion.

The Tory push for right to buy is intended to get more people indebted to the Bank$ters. It’s fuck all to with Aspirational economics. It’s an attempt to start another Ponzy scheme!

In this racket, fairness is not an option

The Permanent TSB mortgage scandal is just part of the same dodge as Irish Water, writes Gene Kerrigan

Last week, the airwaves were full of reports of Permanent TSB mortgage holders pleading with bankers to be fair.

Get real, folks. The penny should surely have dropped by now. This, after all, is 2015. Since 2008, we’ve been watching billions of euro being transferred from us to a small minority of empty-eyed money-men.
Let’s stop pretending that fairness is an option.
There are two sides to this: the takers and those who get taken. Variable mortgage holders are being taken.

They’ve found their role in life – which is to be suckers.
In fact, it’s official government policy that they be treated as suckers.

Accept it gracefully, folks, and stop whining. Allow yourself to be fleeced by the bankers. Or, do something about it.
The variable-rate mortgage scandal is right up there with the Irish Water scandal, as one of those stories that will make the jaws of future generations hit the floor.
Like all the best stings, it’s simple. It affects 300,000 variable-mortgage holders, plus their families. And they’re being fleeced by a number of banks, including Permanent TSB.

These days, money is cheap. With the right connections, you can borrow for as little as 0.05pc.
Across Europe, the average mortgage rate is 2.09pc. Good times, you might think.
But the bankers here are charging approximately 4.5pc on a variable mortgage.
Why? Because they can.
Permanent TSB is losing money, and the bankers want it to be profitable, so it can be sold. At that stage, all sorts of empty-eyed money-men will reap bonuses and the Government might get back some of the €2.7 billion it gave Permanent TSB.
So, they forcibly extract whatever rate of interest they think they can get away with. And in their back pockets, there’s the implied threat of repossessing people’s homes.
It’s a breathtakingly simple sting – one that we might christen the Bonnie and Clyde technique. You have money, we want it, we take it.
This is using a position of strength to unfairly reap unwarranted profits from a helpless element of the market. The mortgage price being charged doesn’t relate to costs or hazards – it relates only to the capital needs of the bankers.
Isn’t there a law against this kind of thing? Probably not – given the beliefs of the people who make the laws.
Like most of us, I grew up believing that the government is a kind of independent referee, answerable to the electorate, arbitrating fairly between the competing interests of various sections of society.
Anyone still believing such fairy tales got a jolt in late 2008, when the politicians immediately agreed to whatever the bankers requested – to the potential limit of about €400bn.
Since then, whether within the EU or at home, the demands of the bankers have overridden the interests of the rest of us. Blindly, €64bn was given to bankers.
And if the bankers decide they need another 10 or 20 billion, can anyone doubt it will be provided to them (after the general election)?
And the hole in the public finances will be patched up, using more charges and spending cuts.
Some think that the Government should ensure fair play to mortgage holders – after all, it “owns” Permanent TSB. And it “owns” AIB and it “owns” 14pc of Bank of Ireland.
Surely it could, if it wanted, stop this deeply unfair practice?
It could, but it doesn’t. Because (a) it agrees with what’s being done; and (b) its “ownership” of the banks is not really ownership.
The Government provides whatever amount of public money a bank demands. And, as in any commercial transaction, it must receive what’s called “consideration” in return. So, it is given token “ownership” of the bank, in order to make the transaction legal.
But such is the deference of politicians to bankers that they make a virtue of ignoring how the banks are run. Oh, they proudly announce, we wouldn’t dream of interfering in commercial matters.
Even when – as in the variable mortgage racket – the unfairness is blatantly obvious.
This shameless protection of the bankers has nothing to do with old-fashioned corruption, where the bankers are cronies or relatives of the politicians. It has nothing to do with an exchange of brown envelopes.
This is ideology – an element in the version of right-wing politics that has dominated us since the 1980s.
This says: the financial sector is central to society and must be protected as though it was a precious child. Do this and the markets will prosper and things will get better for all.
This, by now, is so ingrained in the minds of our leaders that it’s taken to be not so much an element of right-wing principles as a natural law.
Like gravity.
There has been clear evidence from 2008 that the financial sector was a glorified casino, run by people who don’t understand banking and who despise common businesses. They understand only profit and bonuses.
Not to worry, the ideology is deeply entrenched and the banks will continue to receive the protection of the politicians.
What’s happening to the variable-mortgage customers is merely an extra element in the array of charges, levies, cuts and other money-extracting techniques employed to transfer wealth to the empty-eyed among us.
One of the most ambitious projects was Irish Water.
Some may consider Irish Water to be the worst company ever set up anywhere, at any time, by anyone, for any purpose.
It’s as though Irish Water managed to corner the market on ham-fisted eejits programmed to make a balls of whatever task they are given.
This is not true. There’s no evidence of innate stupidity among Irish Water’s staff, many of whom manage to dress themselves on a daily basis.
The problem with Irish Water is that Enda Kenny and Phil Hogan tried to do too much at once.
They wanted a cash cow that would provide a healthy revenue stream, to replenish the depleted state coffers.
Second, the company was to amass a substantial database, based around PPS numbers, which would be a lucrative asset when it comes time to privatise the water supply.
Third, it had to be an off-the-books operation, so the Government could pretend it was keeping inside the deficit rules.
And – as an afterthought – it had to fix the leaks that are losing 49pc of the treated water. No private company would buy Irish Water until the leaks are fixed at public expense.
And, needless to say, this project has inevitably provided a healthy revenue stream to the usual consultants, advisors and managers.
And it worked, up to a point. In the process a lot of the usual geniuses made large dollops of money, There’s a nice logo and all the trappings of a utility.
Try as it might, however, this multifaceted operation couldn’t pass itself off as a water utility with a mission to fix the leaks.
It became an assault on our credulity, as well as a raid on our pockets.
So, large numbers of people refused to play the game. The Government cut the charges, to seek to entice some dissenters into signing up – after which the charges will soar.
As the bills arrive, the jury is out on what happens next.
The variable-mortgage suckers plead for fairness. It won’t work. They could try a mortgage boycott, but if there are too few they’ll be hammered mercilessly. If there are many, the bankers might well flinch at an uppity customer base – it sends a chill through investors.
Meanwhile, maintaining its reputation for screwing up every single thing they try to do, Irish Water have sent out a bill to a man they knew was dead.
We know they knew he was dead because when they addressed the bill they carefully typed (RIP) after his name.
Truly, future generations will marvel at what we have wrought??

Max Keiser:

How to Block a Surveillance Camera: A DIY Art Tutorial from Ai Weiwei


A wine opener usage George Orwell would approve of.

“When things get tough,” Neil Gaiman advised on in his fantastic commencement address on the creative life“this is what you should do: Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician — make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutated boa constrictor — make good art. IRS on your trail — make good art. Cat exploded — make good art.” One could easily extrapolate, “Big Brother on your ass — make good art.” Amidst recent outcries against the present-day surveillance state we live in, what else is there to do but make good art? Cue in celebrated Chinese artist, provocateur, and human rights championAi Weiwei. From Do It: The Compendium (public library) — the fantastic collection of famous artists’ wide-ranging instructionals for art anyone can make based on 20 years of legendary curator and provocateur Hans Ulrich Obrist’s project of the same title, which also gave us David Lynch’s tutorial on how to make a Ricky Board — comes this antiauthoritarian creative project from Ai Weiwei, a DIY way to stick it — spray it, rather — to Big Brother:

CCTV SPRAY How to make a spray device to block a surveillance camera: Do you feel uncomfortable, confused, disgusted, or even irate because of a surveillance camera fixed at the wrong place? To block its view, spray-painting would be the best choice. It is highly accessible, inexpensive, and effective. Moreover, it is a perfect gesture in presenting street culture. It is difficult to spray on a surveillance camera at a high place directly by hand. Instead of carrying a ladder on the streets, it is more practical to make an adjustable, easy-to-carry, and low-cost spray device. It is best to use materials easily found from daily life to create this tool.

He goes on to list the materials needed — a spray bottle, a wine bottle opener, a bike bottle cage, a bike brake bar, a screw, and a stick — with the instruction to “choose materials that are as practical and reliable as possible” and are also “cheap and easy to obtain.” He then moves on to the step-by-step “Production Procedure”:

First find a long stick of suitable height. Considering portability, a collapsible tree pruner is recommended. Then select a stable frame that can secure a bottle or a can. For example, a bottle cage for bicycles would be a good fit. After that, find a trigger and fix it at the top of the stick. A wine bottle opener is a good choice, because its flexible lever structure can reduce the force and distance needed to press the spray nozzle. We also need a linkage device to control the wine bottle opener at the top. A bicycle brake bar is an excellent choice. Finally, prepare screws and nylon ropes as needed.

Under “Usage,” he instructs:

First fix the wine bottle opener at the top of the tree pruner (a.01). Then set the spray can into the bottle cage. Make sure the handle of the bottle opener is affixed to the right position, where it gives easiest nozzle control. Use screws to secure the bottle cage (a.02). Fix the brake bar at the other end of the tree pruner (a.03). Secure the spray paint can and use a nylon rope to fasten the flexible shaft (a.04). Adjust the height of the stick. Then connect the handle of the bottle opener to the shaft of the brake (a.05–a.06). The homemade adjustable spray device is now complete.

Complement this exercise in creative civic disobedience with BBC’s excellent Ai Weiwei: Without Fear or Favour. Do It: The Compendium is superb in its entirety, brimming with similar irreverent gems by some of the world’s most acclaimed contemporary artists. Sample it here.

See also my ongoing blog “Subversives in Art”


It is safe to say that we are living in a celebrity culture, a major cause in us letting the world get into the state it is in. They have only really served to distract us from the truth.

“Celebs” have influence in almost everything we do, yet the great philosophers, the people who can actually progress the world, never get entertained by the mainstream.

So maybe celebs reading the works of some of those great philosophers might just be another avenue to go in getting people awake? Although I couldn’t see Kim Kardashian or Mylie Cyrus reading Chomsky or Zinn, could you?

This is an amazing speech by Howard Zinn read by his friend and actor Matt Damon.. some great lines about independence in there, but overall as speeches go, this one could be up there with the best of them?


Civil Obedience, in other words Passive acquiescent.

The Docile. Ambivalent. Conforming. Distracted. Women, young adults, old people. Commuters. Factory workers. disenfranchised unemployed, farm workers, shop workers, call centre drones. All fulfilling their roll, complicit in our apathy.

The Politicians, Military and Corporate interests like it that way.

We are spoonfed on a daily basis by every conceivable means of the media (Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent), a holy trinity where;

the Father is the Capital,

the Messiah is the Market,

and the Holy Spirit is the Free enterprise.

And the message they try to give is that there is no alternative.

But there is, several alternatives.

I met Artes Mundi finalists Karen Mirza and Brad Butler at Cardiff School of Art & Design yesterday and in response to a question I asked to do with educating young people about our nation’s long history of Civil disobedience and the Art and aesthetics of Resistance as a means of communication and education, Karen asked if I knew about a certain book written in 1972 (which I didn’t) and she recommended I hunt down a copy of Peter Weiss’ book, set in Nazi Germany.

so here starts the journey…

Wiki for Peter Weiss

Wiki for Peter Weiss The Aesthetics of Resistance Vol 1 – 3

Google Book preview for Peter Weiss The Aesthetics of Resistance Vol 1 – 3 Die Ästhetik des Widerstands, 1975-1981

The Aesthetics of Resistance: Frederic Jameson: Introduction


APA citation:

Weiss, Peter & Neugroschel, Joachim (2005). The aesthetics of resistance. Duke University Press ; London : Combined Academic [distributor], Durham, N.C

MLA citation:

Weiss, Peter and Neugroschel, Joachim The aesthetics of resistance. Duke University Press ; London : Combined Academic [distributor], Durham, N.C, 2005.

Harvard/Australian citation:

Weiss, Peter & Neugroschel, Joachim 2005, The aesthetics of resistance, Duke University Press ; London : Combined Academic [distributor], Durham, N.C




A major literary event, the publication of this masterly translation makes one of the towering works of twentieth-century German literature available to English-speaking readers for the first time. The three-volume novel The Aesthetics of Resistance is the crowning achievement of Peter Weiss, the internationally renowned dramatist best known for his play Marat/Sade. The first volume, presented here, was initially published in Germany in 1975; the third and final volume appeared in 1981, just six months before Weiss’s death.

Spanning the period from the late 1930s to World War II, this historical novel dramatizes anti-fascist resistance and the rise and fall of proletarian political parties in Europe. Living in Berlin in 1937, the unnamed narrator and his peers—sixteen- and seventeen-year-old working-class students—seek ways to express their hatred for the Nazi regime. They meet in museums and galleries, and in their discussions they explore the affinity between political resistance and art, the connection at the heart of Weiss’s novel. Weiss suggests that meaning lies in embracing resistance, no matter how intense the oppression, and that we must look to art for new models of political action and social understanding.

The novel includes extended meditations on paintings, sculpture, and literature. Moving from the Berlin underground to the front lines of the Spanish Civil War and on to other parts of Europe, the story teems with characters, almost all of whom are based on historical figures.

The Aesthetics of Resistance is one of the truly great works of postwar German literature and an essential resource for understanding twentieth-century German history.

About The Author(s)

Peter Weiss (1916–1982) was a German playwright, novelist, filmmaker, and painter. His works include the plays Marat/Sade and The New Trial (also published by Duke University Press) and the novels The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman and The Conversation of the Three Walkers. West Germany’s most important literary award, the Georg Büchner Prize, was awarded to Weiss posthumously in 1982.
Joachim Neugroschel has translated some two hundred books, including works by Franz Kafka, Marcel Proust, and Thomas Mann. He has won three pen translation awards and a French-American Foundation Translation Prize. He lives in Queens, New York.



Peter Weiss, The Aesthetics of Resistance, Volume 1: A Novel. Translated by Joakim Neugroschel. Foreword by Fredric Jameson. Glossary by Robert Cohen. Duke University Press, 2005, 376 pp. US$23.95 (pb), US$84.95 (hb).

Peter Weiss (born 1916 in Germany, dead 1982 in Sweden) has a truly cosmopolitan biography. As the son of a Jewish manufacturer of Hungarian descent and a Swiss actress Weiss had German as maternal tongue, but was in fact a Czech citizen, and lived his childhood and youth in Poland as well as in Germany and Great Britain. In 1939 he migrated to Sweden – following his parents – and finally became a Swedish citizen in 1946. He wrote several books in Swedish, and was also, during the 1950s, active as an experimental filmmaker in Stockholm, acknowledged by for instance Jonas Mekas and Film Culture in New York. He had however his breakthrough as a writer in the beginning of the 1960s when he published his autobiographical novels in Germany.

In 1964 his play Marat/Sade premiered at Schillertheater in West Berlin, and from that date he must be considered as one of the most important post-war European playwrights. In 1966 Weiss attended a meeting arranged by Gruppe 47 at Princeton where he made his position clear regarding the Vietnam War, giving his important speech: “I come out of my hiding place”. And when Weiss came out of his hiding place he wrote a series of political plays, turning into one of the most influential European intellectuals, a travelling spokesman for the Left.

He was soon an active member of the Swedish Communist party and participated in several political manifestations, for example, the second meeting of the International War Crimes Tribunal at Stockholm in 1973.

In 1975 he published the first instalment of the novel Die Ästhetik des Widerstands – The Aesthetics of Resistance, and two more volumes were to follow, published almost simultaneously in the two German republics and in Sweden. The novel has since been translated into other languages, but not into English, until 2005, when the first volume appeared in translation by Joachim Neugroschel and with a foreword by Fredric Jameson.

Most of the œuvre of Weiss has been translated into English, his plays from Marat/Sade to The New Trial, as well as several of his early novels, but it is no coincidence that the translation of The Aesthetics of Resistance arrives with such a delay; in the over 1000 pages long novel Weiss puts together his various experiences, and presents a “Gesamtkunstwerk” of sorts, mixing extremely diverse genres and modes of address: art history, war reports, autobiography, dreamlike hallucinations, reflections on German history, Swedish history, the history of the European Left.

Among the dramatis personæ are historical persons like Bertolt Brecht in his Swedish exile, the members of the secret resistance group “Die Rote Kapelle”, the physician Max Hodann, the Swedish writer Karin Boye and a row of figures from the cadres of the European Socialist and Communist parties. The narrative is performed through inner monologues, thorough descriptions of the geography of the settings, long historical summaries, and philosophical dialogues on the dialectics of political work and aesthetics.

The novel is furthermore composed of gigantic blocks of prose with no significant markers when one period ends and another starts. (Weiss himself said that the composition was inspired by the sculptures of Donald Judd, where cubiform blocks are piled upon each other.)

The novel thus offers resistance through content and form, but when you have worked your way into its topography, it offers several readings, several narratives in strata super strata.

One path to follow is the history of the young narrator with no name, but with a biography which parallels the life of the author. This reading connects to the discussion of the novel as a “Wunschbiographie”, i. e. the heroic, proletarian life Peter Weiss himself could have led, if he had not been born into the bourgeoisie.

Like the nameless narrator, Peter Weiss was a refugee in Sweden during the war, but whereas he was trying to start a career as a painter, the narrator is engaged in the secret antifascist resistance, working for a while as the helping hand for Bertolt Brecht.

Another way of reading the novel is to see it as a monstrous essay on the necessity of art.

The commentaries on art works like Picasso’s “Guernica” or Géricault’s “The Raft of the Medusa”, not to mention the opening of the novel with its breathtaking interpretation of the Pergamum frieze, afford a new and truly dialectic understanding of the Western art.

A third reading will present the novel as the collective history of the antifascist struggle, in Germany, Spain, and Scandinavia, with the martyrdom of “Die Rote Kapelle” in the Plötzensee prison in Berlin as the tragic climax.

The opening sentence of the novel, which describes the Pergamum Frieze in Berlin, is fascinating in its dense presence:

All around us the bodies rose out of the stone, crowded into groups, intertwined, or shattered into fragments, hinting at their shapes with a torso, a propped-up arm, a burst hip, a scabbed shard, always in warlike gestures, dodging, rebounding, attacking, shielding themselves, stretched high or crooked, some of them snuffed out, but with a freestanding, forward-pressing foot, a twisted back, the contour of a calf harnessed into a single common motion.

The literary achievement of Peter Weiss has been compared to other great modern novels as Der Mann ohne Eigenshaften by Robert Musil or Die Blendung by Elias Canetti. It is obvious that his aim was to create an aesthetic practice based on a dialectic relationship with the avant-garde; the novel itself is an avant-garde performance, but contrary to many other art works it does also present and discuss the political implications of the avant-garde.

In the first volume of The Aesthetics of Resistance the character Coppi, one of the young Socialist friends of the nameless narrator – and in reality one of the key figures in the circle around Liberta Schulze-Boysen and “Die Rote Kapelle” – is formulating an idea of the relation between art and politics:

And just as our political decisions were based on fragments, dissonances, hypotheses, resolutions, and slogans, all borne by a conviction deriving from our own life experiences, so too we could not conceptualize art without including its ruptures, fluctuations, and oppositions. And if it were deprived of its contradictions, then only a lifeless stump would remain.(p. 63)

The volume which now has been issued in English presents only a third of the work, telling the story of the end of the 1930s, and the young narrator’s journey from Berlin to the Spain of the Civil War, but through the foreword of Fredric Jameson this edition turns into a challenging introduction not only to the rest of the novel but to the entire world of Weiss.

Jameson constructs a framework for the novel and its historical context but also turns his introduction into an essay on the Marxist heritage and the need for a political memory and a political archive in the shape of fiction. Jameson discusses historiography and historical fiction in general, and performs several remarkable interpretations of events and characters in the universe of Weiss.

An interesting aspect is that he tries to understand the Surrealist heritage as well as the Marxist, and develops an interesting discussion on the oeniric in the art of Weiss.

He also traces the sexual desire, which in a way was suppressed in Weiss’s work from Marat/Sade and on, but had been a dominant factor in his early years. In The Aesthetics of Resistance the author returns to the aesthetics of a youth passed and makes segments of his Bildungsroman into a political Traumdeutung. The desire and the dreamlike is not treated by Jameson in order to explain the biographical figure Peter Ulrich Weiss, but is used in order to transcend the tyranny of the manifest and present:

  • “what seemed over and done with is thus opened up for a new beginning, a new continuation”,
  • and the ultimate lesson of the novel is, according to Fredric Jameson,
  • “about the productive uses of a past and a history that is not simply represented or commemorated but also reappropriated by some new future of our own present”. (pxlvii)

Joakim Neugroschel has translated vital parts of the modern European literature into English; works by Franz Kafka, Joseph Roth and Marcel Proust.

It is important to remember that the writing of The Aesthetics of Resistance was hard for Weiss himself; friends and family can testify about the labour it cost him to form his ideas and his pre-war German language into  these compact cubes of prose. The task of Neugroschel has thus been monumental, and his handling of the sometimes heavy and didactic and always enigmatic prose of Peter Weiss is worth respect and praise. This brilliant translation, combined with its illuminating introduction, is a true pièce de résistance in the restless media flow of an age with such a desperate need for memory.

Lars Gustaf Andersson

In a museum in Berlin in 1937, three young communists — the unnamed narrator and his friends Coppi and Heilmann — contemplate the Pergamon Frieze. They walk back to Coppi’s apartment, where they continue their debates about art and politics along with his parents. The narrator then returns to his own apartment and talks to his father — or remembers conversations with him — about his experiences as an activist; they have taken different sides in the divide between Communists and Social Democrats. While waiting to go to Spain to fight, the narrator tries to help a retarded Jewish man being beaten by teenagers.

And that’s pretty much all the foreground story in Part I of The Aesthetics of Resistance; it could be fitted into half a dozen pages. This is just a framework, however, on which Weiss hangs a panoply of artistic and political and historical debates and monologues. A stunning description of the Pergamon Frieze. A reanalysis of Heracles as a revolutionary. A discussion of the narrator’s family’s books and the problems facing workers trying to study and appreciate art. A study of how painting broadened its subject material to include peasants and workers, and of the extent to which bourgeois art is relevant to socialists. An account of the brief-lived socialist republic of Bremen. Debates over cooperation between Communists and Social Democrats, readiness for revolution, and the Moscow Trials. A critical analysis contrasting Kafka’s The Castle and Neukrantz’ Barricades in Wedding.

Part II, with the narrator in Spain, proceeds similarly, though with more in the foreground. A brief account of crossing the border into Spain is followed by an excursus on Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia and travel from Barcelona to the headquarters of the International Brigades at Albacete. Because of some medical training the narrator ends up working in hospitals at Cueva and then Denia, under Max Hodann.

There are some details of hospital administration and the management of peasants and patients, and Hodann’s ideas about sexual hygiene and freedom get a mention, but the story is dominated by debates over how tightly Party discipline must be enforced. Looming over this is the recent suppression of anarchists and independent Marxists (and the killing of Andrés Nin) and the existence of a United Front with socialist and bourgeois parties. There’s one set piece debate at a meeting of leaders — Hodann, Ilya Ehrenburg, Willi Bredel, and Karl Mewis, among others — and a chilling, understated climax when one of the narrator’s too outspoken colleagues is taken away by the military police.

There’s no direct account of battle. This is approached indirectly, through conversations with the journalist Nordahl Grieg and the historian Lindhoek, working on a history of the Thälmann brigade; they face the challenge of reporting and writing during an undecided struggle. Listening to the radio, in the same weeks they and the narrator follow the perilous military situation of the Republic, the trial of Bukharin in Moscow, and the German incorporation of Austria. A letter from Heilmann returns the narrator to the myth of Heracles; while the International Brigades are being disbanded he looks back to Phocaea, the ancient Greek colonies and mines in Spain, and the history of Spain down to the present. And, as the narrator prepares to leave Spain, he and a friend Ayschmann explore Picasso’s Guernica and paintings by Delacroix and Géricault and Goya; he also looks back at some of the paintings his father educated him with, contrasting the work of Menzel and Koehler.

It needs some examples to give a feel for Weiss’ style. Here is the famous opening sequence describing the Pergamon Altar:

“All around us the bodies rose out of the stone, crowded into groups, intertwined, or shattered into fragments, hinting at their shapes with a torso, a propped-up arm, a burst hip, a scabbed shard, always in warlike gestures, dodging, rebounding, attacking, shielding themselves, stretched high or crooked, some of them snuffed out, but with a freestanding, forward-pressing foot, a twisted back, the contour of a calf harnessed into a single common motion. A gigantic wrestling, emerging from the gray wall, recalling a perfection, sinking back into formlessness. A hand, stretching from the rough ground, ready to clutch, attached to the shoulder across empty surface, a barked face, with yawning cracks, a wide-open mouth, blankly gaping eyes, the face surrounded by the flowing locks of the beard, the tempestuous folds of a garment, everything close to its weathered end and close to its origin. …”

… and so on, for eight pages, in which there are just a few scattered sentences to set the scene in the museum and provide background on the three friends. (Weiss uses paragraph breaks only to divide sections, which are the only divisions within each part.)

And here’s a brief interlude in the discussion of painting towards the end:

“But, asked Ayschmann, did you not always feel your disadvantage vis-à-vis the people who could pursue their studies unhindered. His words knocked me out of an equilibrium that I had claimed I possessed. My education had no solid underpinnings, it was acquired through sporadic readings. I could not produce a so-called Gymnasium degree. On the other hand, I had legitimized myself by laboring in workshops, warehouses, factories. For an instant I was hostile toward Ayschmann, who had laid claim to an academic formation entirely as a matter of course. I felt rebellious against his world, but then I was ashamed of my reaction, for his question was premised on the idea of solidarity.”

Abstractions in The Aesthetics of Resistance are grounded in the specifics of the narrator’s experiences or in analysis of individual artworks and books; and the narrator’s limited knowledge and personal perspective are consistently maintained. Fascism is an everpresent menace, but remains in the background: uniformed figures in a museum, triumphant Nazi propaganda on the radio, Franco’s armies pressing in on the Spanish Republic. Similarly with the communist hierarchy: there’s only a glimpse of the International Brigades’ leader André Marty, the prosecutors in the Moscow Trials, or the military police.

A fifty page introduction by Fredric Jameson sets Weiss in the context of post-war German literature, provides details of his life and background, and offers a sometimes abstruse theoretical analysis. For most novels such an introduction would be overkill, but here it seems appropriate.

Elements of The Aesthetics of Resistance are autobiographical: Weiss was of the same generation as his narrator, his parents also left Czechoslovakia for Sweden (though they were bourgeois rather than working class), and he too was mentored by Hodann. Weiss was not a communist as a youth, however — his late conversion to Marxism came in the 1960s — and he didn’t fight in Spain, so his narrator is perhaps a vision of himself as he might have been. The artistic explorations also reflect a mature sophistication; they are not plausibly those of a twenty-year old, working class autodidact or not. The other characters are mostly historical figures, but fictionalised: a glossary provides some brief biographical information on the more prominent of the many that appear.

It’s an extraordinary achievement, with its sustained stylistic virtuosity and integration into narrative of art criticism, politics, and history. But The Aesthetics of Resistance is not a novel which will command a wide audience. This is not because of Weiss’ style, which is much easier to read than initial impressions might suggest. The problem is that the work demands an interest, preexisting or nascent, both in the politics of left wing parties and movements in pre-WWII Germany and Europe and in the relationship of socialism and art, especially pictorial art.

Those who are prepared for that, or willing to be challenged, will find plenty in The Aesthetics of Resistance. It might perhaps inspire an interest in the Spanish Civil War, or open up new perspectives on painting.

Note: This work was originally published in 1975 as volume one of Die Ästhetik des Widerstands. The other two volumes have not yet been translated into English.

Keith Linday-Cameron is a social justice activist who has set out to write a Letter A Day to David Cameron

Here I have reproduced today’s edition as “Shares are encouraged and welcomed.”

A letter a day to number 10. No 980

Tuesday 20 January 2015. Civil disobedience should be taught as an art form.

Shares are encouraged and welcomed. If this letter speaks for you and you wish to send your own copy please feel free to copy and paste, and alter for your own needs the text for your own letter.

Website updated, letters and replies plus bonus material featuring Mr Suggs, Eeyore and Ribbit.

Also on the website, download the support compilation three album set from Atona.

Dear Mr Cameron,

Oxfam reports that by next year 1% of the world’s population will own more wealth than the other 99%, that is 1% owning more than half of global wealth which in 2013 was given as $241 trillion, that’s $51,600 per adult in the world.

In Britain, which you say is for hard working people who want to get on as you commit to full employment, you fail to mention that more and more people are living and working in ever more insecure circumstances. You have removed safety nets at work and cut safety nets in welfare with yet more cuts on the way as the wealth divide increases.

In Britain you have created, austerity, insecurity, poverty, workfare and sanctions for the poor and ever increasing wealth for the rich. Worse still, you treat us as less than human, forcing people to take any junk job, zero hours contract, dead end, nil satisfaction, grafting for peanuts, drudgery, under threat of sanctions. Iain Duncan Smith even had the appalling temerity to invoke the dreadful sign over the gates of Auschwitz, ‘Arbeit macht frei’, saying that “disabled people would be made free by working”.

Sack the vile man!

I must say the British public has been very generous in allowing this state of affairs to continue as long as this.

I have no idea why there isn’t a much greater national outcry and action against you, the banks, debt agencies, interest charges, pointless and useless jobs, the welfare penal system and the outrageous demands on the poorest to pay off Britain’s debts which they had nothing to do with creating.

Apparently the boss of one of the world’s biggest banks last year described the UK as; the world’s “biggest, most developed tax haven” with London being the millionaire capital of the world.

There is no trickle down effect and you are making damned sure it stays that way, the money is siphoning upwards at an unbelievable rate thanks to Osbornomics and it’s time Britain engaged with civil disobedience as a national past time because that’s the only way we are going to see any social justice in this country.

As we generally seem to be unsure about civil disobedience in Britain, it should be taught in schools and colleges as a creative art.…/global-wealth-oxfam-inequality……/low-pay-and-increased-job-insec……/wealth-inequality-uk-ticking-t……/poor-poorer-britains-richest-40bi……/jobseekers-zero-hours-contracts…/households-below-minimum-income-sta…