Bookbuster Book Review
What We Are Fighting For: A Radical Collective Manifesto
Edited by Federico Campagna & Emanuele Campiglio
Pluto Press, hardback, rrp £50.00, Bookbuster price £4.99
REVIEW BY TIM BARTON
Compiled after an event at the ICA, this book brings a wide range of authors together to create a rallying cry from the margins. At the time the book was written, Occupy was in full swing, injecting fresh energy into the anarchist left. Although since then it is only in a few places that the movement still has traction, the echoes and ripples of that positive moment are still growing and mutating.
There are lessons to be learnt from analysing where and how Occupy remains a force to be reckoned with: it has survived primarily in a few US cities, where the inspiring example of a number of members of the Institute of Anarchist Studies has given the movement a shared positive direction. Elsewhere, Occupy mostly dissolved fairly quickly, as their only shared territory was what they railed against, not what they stood for (though, in Hastings, it was the worst storm in a long time that did for us).
This ‘Manifesto’ has a preface and introduction, plus a couple of essays, by Italian writers and academics – I recommend skipping these (for a number of reasons, but to illustrate one, here’s the title of the chapter by one Franco Berardi ‘Bifo’: ‘The Transversal Function of Disentanglement’). There are, however, 30 chapters, and an afterword by John Holloway on ‘the year of rage’, 2011. Most of these have great relevance to today’s struggle.
Although concentrated on ‘traditional’ news agencies, Dan Hind’s essay, ‘A Programme for Media Reform’ is, if anything, more relevant right now than ever. The failures of the mass media identified here are spot on for today. The only thing missing is a full consideration of the role of social media – this was myopic when written, more so now. Most of us who cared followed events such as the Arab Spring, especially Tahrir Square, pretty much live, via mobile alerts, Twitter, and, of course the currently embattled but still invaluable Facebook.
The trials and tribulations of Facebook today are recognisable in Hind’s critique
of traditional mass media, but I think it is important that we realise the central importance of such platforms in mobilisation and democratic engagement, an additional example to Occupy being the rise in Labour membership, whereby the party is now the largest left-wing party in Europe. Of course, other populist waves have also risen on its back, but they too are expressions of democratic voice, despite Cambridge Analytica and company. It is quite convenient, for certain forces, to throw the baby out in the name of the bathwater.
‘The New Economics’ is an intriguing section, revealing of problematic issues in the new radical agenda. The overall drive is generally toward a break with contemporary capitalist fundamentalism, if not advocating outright anti-capitalism. Yet at least one set of ‘radical’ economic suggestions presented here (Ann Pettifor’s) is purely instrumentalist and mired in the same system. Another salutary lesson, worth the price of the book to learn if you are any kind of ‘Parecon’ fan, is in Michael Albert’s chapter: by distilling his argument into
a short essay, the negative American libertarian aspects of his popular participatory economics are highlighted. Although an ethical fix could
be spot-welded on, it is clear that the natural dynamic of his system would be toxic for those less able to contribute to the economy.
Chapters by Richard Seymour, Marina Sitrin, Hilary Wainwright, and the excellent David Graeber are interesting, as are the sections on governance, and ‘social imagination’. And for down-to-earth usefulness nothing beats the South London Solidarity Federation chapter on Direct Action!
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