Arundhati Roy – The NGO-ization of Resistance

Link to an excerpt from the book The End of Imagination (2016) by Arundhati Roy:

“The NGO-ization of Resistance”


Bonus links:  “Social Service or Social Change?” and “How Corporate Power Converted Wealth Into Philanthropy for Social Control” and “The Joy of Inequality: The Libidinal Economy of Compassionate Consumerism” and “Preferring Zizek’s Bartleby Politics”

Virginia Eubanks – The High-Tech Poorhouse

Link to an interview with Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (2018), conducted by Sam Adler-Bell:

“The High-Tech Poorhouse”


Bonus links: “The Left Hand and the Right Hand of the State” and I, Daniel Blake and Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare and The State and Revolution and “Welcome to the Black Box” and “Algorithmic Accountability”

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

Universal Studios

Director: Alan Rafkin

Main Cast: Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Dick Sargent

Here is a rather mediocre film that nonetheless features a rather great performance by its star Don Knotts.  The basic premise loosely resembles the story “A Fairy Tale About a Boy Who Left Home to Learn About Fear” from Grimm’s Fairy Tales, about staying in a haunted house to win the affections of a girl.  Knotts plays Luther Heggs, an inept man working for a newspaper with aspirations to be a photojournalist.  Another reviewer aptly described the protagonist as having “delusions of adequacy.”  A recurring gag is that as Knotts fumbles about awkwardly and timidly some unidentifiable person in the back of a crowd yells, “Atta-boy Luther!”  Knotts’ finest moment comes when the small town he lives in presents a luncheon in his honor and he gives a speech.  This speech manages to include a practically exhaustive collection of every inept mistake a nervous presenter can make.  Knotts opens speaking in a whisper no one can hear.  He talks mostly about writing the speech, without actually saying much beyond that, other than to briefly pander to the audience by expressing support for the military — a complete non-sequitur.  His hands tremble uncontrollably while holding his notes.  The speech just kind of ends abruptly, without ever having made a point.  Knotts is positively brilliant in the scene.  As a whole, the film is one of those stiff Hollywood set-bound films that is only slightly more advanced in production values than a television sitcom of the day, and there just aren’t quite enough jokes/gags.  But, it is watchable and Knotts shines through the merely passable filmmaking and writing.  This also perhaps influenced Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?

Michael Hudson & Charles Goodhart – Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations Be Reintroduced Today?

Link to an article by Michael Hudson & Charles Goodhart:

“Could/Should Jubilee Debt Cancellations Be Reintroduced Today?”


The historical discussions at the beginning of this article are very significant.  The policy proscriptions at the end do address some, but not all, of the important facets of this question (what about militarism/imperialism, race/gender/etc. discrimination, and the like?).  But the proffered solutions are politically naive.  For instance, how will the political power to implement any of these changes arise in the first instance?  People like Thomas Ferguson have shown that electoral politics will not permit candidates with mass-based support to prevail without vetting by elite interests first (“Nobody wins on small-donor cash.”).  Hudson and Goodhart put forward technocratic fixes as a way to sidestep political problems — as if the gating issue is a lack of good technical measures to propose, rather than ideological opposition to the idea that anything needs to be fixed in the first place.  Moreover, when they suggest enforcement is possible just like with tax avoidance, are the authors aware of how lax prosecution of tax evasion crimes is a public disgrace?  And why is advocacy of private home ownership so important to promote, as opposed to, say, public housing provision?  No explanation is given for that normative choice.  And as much as I hate to defend the odious reactionary Walter Scheidel, the criticism that “[h]e does not acknowledge progressive tax policy, limitations on inherited wealth, debt writeoffs or a replacement of debt with equity as means of preventing or reversing the concentration of wealth in the absence of an external crisis[,]” is unfair, because Scheidel is actually correct (and in agreement with Marxists here) that these have historically been temporary anomalies in the absence of revolution (external crisis?) that shifted which class controlled the state and therefore the ability to impose their preferred policies — these are still good ideas, albeit old ones.  Hudson has for a long time made offhand (and unsupported) comments about how “mixed” economies perform better than communist/socialist or laissez-faire capitalist ones at opposite ends of the spectrum.  This is one of the few times he has gone on record explaining what the vague term “mixed” looks like in terms of real economic programs — a milquetoast, insufficient compromise!  Actually, there are a few decent suggestions here, for instance, the advocacy of government equity stakes in small/medium business enterprises (an extension of Hudson’s long-standing argument that the old German banking model is superior to the currently hegemonic Anglo-Dutch one) would work well for some economic sectors, though that would be the case only with some sort of effective democratic control and probably only alongside full nationalization of at least heavy industry (and probably also banks, and probably large agribusinesses too, etc.).  In short, this article spends too much effort trying to avoid red-baiting that it drifts into irrelevancy in view of superior policies to the left of what the authors propose.  The means they end up trying to smuggle mildly center-left policies in without opening a meaningful political discussion, which would highlight the authors’ political naivety.  Oh well.  Ready the historical section and then just skim or skip the rest.


Bonus links: Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Trouble in Paradise (“the goal of politico-economic analysis is to deploy strategies of how to step out of this infernal circle of debt and guilt”), “Debt Is a Determining Factor in History”

The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives

Link to a “video” from a symposium by The Modern Money Network about the book The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives (2017) by Jesse Eisinger:

“The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives”


Admitted, this “video” is really just audio.  But Bill Black’s introductory comments make very clear how U.S. Department of Justice (non)prosecution of financial sector crimes is a matter of shifting ideology, or, more precisely, the activities of federal prosecutors really represent the outcome of an ideological war and class war over which class and which ideology will control the state and its judicial apparatus.


Bonus links: …And the Poor Get Prison and Why Not Jail? and The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology and The Fragile Absolute and The State and Revolution

Bonus quote: “Does the masses’ struggle for emancipation pose a threat to civilization as such, since civilization can thrive only in a hierarchical social order?  Or is it that the ruling class is a parasite threatening to drag society into self-destruction, so that the only alternative to socialism is barbarism?”  Slavoj Žižek, Afterword to Revolution at the Gates: Selected Writings of Lenin From 1917 (pp. 209-10).

Victor Serge Quote

“Early on, I learnt from the Russian intelligentsia that the only meaning of life lies in conscious participation in the making of history. The more I think of that, the more deeply true it seems to be. It follows that one must range oneself actively against everything that diminishes man, and involve oneself in all struggles which tend to liberate and enlarge him. This categorical imperative is by no way lessened by the fact that such an involvement is inevitably soiled by error: it is a worse error merely to live for oneself, caught within traditions which are soiled by inhumanity.”

Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary


Bonus links: La La Land: A Leninist Reading” and “Preferring Zizek’s Bartleby Politics” (“a true Act occurs without the guarantees of a pre-determined ethical edifice.”)

La Jetée

La Jetée

La Jetée (1962)

Argos Films

Director: Chris Marker

Main Cast: Davos Hanich, Hélène Chatelain, Jean NégroniJacques Ledoux

Chris Marker’s short sci-fi film La Jetée is one of the most remarkable in the genre.  The plot is beguiling and the form of the film itself is utterly unique.  The basic story involves a hazy childhood memory of the main character in which he was on an observation deck of an airport and remembers seeing a woman and incident involving a man, which he later realizes was the man dying.  A third world war occurs, involving nuclear weapons that produce fallout rendering the surface of the planet uninhabitable.  The survivors — presiding over a “kingdom of rats” — live in underground galleries below the destroyed remains of Paris.  Scientists conduct time travel experiments on prisoners of war.  The main character, who was a soldier during the war, travels back in time and meets the woman from his childhood memory.  Then he is sent into the future, to try to enlist their help to save humanity of the present.  People from the future eventually send him to the past to be with the woman again.  But as he runs to her, he is shot by an agent of the present day “experimentators” who followed him into the past.  He realizes that his childhood memory was of him witnessing his own death.  This time travel story became the inspiration of the later feature-length film 12 Monkeys.

The form of the film is even more remarkable than the story.  It is almost entirely made up of still photographs artistically edited together.  There is just one shot of moving film, showing the woman waking up and blinking.  A narrator provides a voice-over throughout the film.  There is also music (Euro-classical) and sound effects.  But the shots break suddenly, or other times dissolve into each other.  The narration and music and sound effects begin and end meaningfully.  All of these things are part of the montage, which is astonishingly sublime.  The gritty interpretation of the future was greatly inspiring to the so-called cyberpunk subgenre.

Marker was a a multi-media essayist.  His friend Alan Resnais had wanted him to work on something with him related to nuclear war in the late 1950s.  Marker had to back out, but Resnais project ended up being Hiroshima mon amour (1959), with a screenplay by Marguerite Duras.  But the theme of nuclear war reappears in La Jetée.

Marker’s film is a swirling vortex of regret, loss, hope, rebirth, deception, love, technological horror, and utopian harmony. A curious part of the story is the way the main character (never given a name) reaches a cautious future society that seems to be flourishing, but he does so from a dystopian present with human society at its nadir.  The question is how to break the Gordian knot in which the present seems to make the utopian future possible (The Man Who Fell to Earth would later explore similar themes).  What separates this film from so many others is that it suggests that the time travel technology is not what enables the great society of the future.  Rather, it implies that human connection is the more important aspect, even as the plot ends with the connection between the two main characters being broken with the man’s assassination.

Although often described as being about a “time loop”, the film is open to many interpretations.  Perhaps Roland Barthes’ comment a few years later in Criticism and Truth (1966) is apt: “a work is ‘eternal’ not because it imposes a single meaning on different men, but because it suggests different meanings to one man…”  One such interpretation is to look at the film from the perspective of philosopher Alain Badiou‘s concept of an “event”.  To simplify this concept, an “event” seems to exceed its causes, and becomes apparent only in hindsight as something new emerges from the multiplicity of possible meanings.  It is not unlike a point made in Jorge Luis Borges‘ essay “Kafka and His Precursors” that a great writer’s work establishes his or her precursors in a way that “modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future” — an appropriate analogy here given the similarity in tone of Marker’s film and much of Franz Kafka‘s best writing.  There is also something similar in the story line of La Jetée and the later comic book series The Incal by Alejandro Jodorowsky and Mœbius, which deals with the difficulty of breaking out of repetition and fatalism, and with heroic self-sacrifice for a greater good.

This is one of the greatest sci-fi works of the 20th Century, in the same category as Lem‘s Solaris (1961), Le Guin‘s The Dispossessed (1974), Lang‘s Metropolis (1927), and such.

Randy Mandell – Modern Money Green Economics for a New Era

Link to a video of a lecture by Randy Mandell:

“Modern Money Green Economics for a New Era”


A wonderfully simple and easy-to-follow explanation of MMT.  This is essential stuff to understand taxes and sovereign government spending.

Bonus links: “Behind the Money Curtain: A Left Take on Taxes, Spending, and Modern Monetary Theory” and The State and Revolution