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Posts Tagged ‘The Cost of Non-Conformity’

Rise Like Lions After Slumber

Posted by , November 11th, 2011
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Smiling still a despot dies
For he knows, on his demise

New hands wield the tyrant’s power
It is not yet freedom’s hour
Heinrich Heine (King David, 1848)

 

Amidst all the fervor and misinterpretation surrounding the Occupy Wall Street movement, there is, largely, a presumption that the binary political system can atone for the inequities that have so angered the unruly, leaderless mass. The occupation process, however vague and “directionless,” is a spontaneous display of what Benjamin Tucker called “unterrified Jeffersonianism” — an exercise in non-hierarchical, transparent democracy that moves sideways through linear time, and, as such, remains largely “unseen” by traditional viewpoint. It’s not so much “directionless” as it is moving in all directions simultaneously. The occupation has gained popular support in no small part because of its honesty, behavior that is a novelty and stands in contrast to the immorality of political theater. As Heinrich Heine so poetically described, a tyrant can die smiling because he knows that after his death, power only changes hands, and tyranny has no end. The duopolistic structure of left and right party politics acts as its own counterbalance, its own safety net, trading power between tyrants. What this occupation does is short circuit that binary process of continual transfer of power, voiding the presupposition that the answer lies within politics as such, and asks instead, “if not this, then what?”

 

In 1976, Jean Baudrillard forecasted both Occupy Wall Street and the false sense of free choice within the structure of democratic capitalism:

 

The system of the ‘advanced democracies’ becomes stable through the formula of the two-party system. The de facto monopoly remains in the hands of a homogenous political class, from the left to the right, but must not be exercised in this way. This is because single party rule, totalitarianism, is an unstable form which drains the political stage and can no longer ensure the feedback of public opinion, the minimal current in the integrated circuit that constitutes the transistorized political machine. The two-party system, by contrast, is the end of the end of representation since solicitation reaches its highest degree, in the name of a simple formal constraint, when you approach the greatest perfect competitive equation between the two parties. This is only logical: Democracy attains the law of equivalence in the political order, and this law is fulfilled by the see-sawing of the two terms, which thus maintains their equivalence but by means of this miniscule divergence allows for public consensus and the closure of the cycle of representation: a theatre of operations where only the smoky reflections of political Reason continue to function. Democracy’s credo of the individual’s ‘free choice’ effectively turns into its exact opposite….
Jean Baudrillard (Symbolic Exchange and Death, 1976)

 

Isn’t it exactly the illusory nature of binary democracy — limited to a preordained duopoly, offering miniscule divergence, a simple format of constraint — that functions as “free choice” today? It’s this illusion of choice, a choice between the lesser of two evils, between an already narrowed field of left and right that is growing more homogenized each election cycle, that intensifies the occupational rage.

After the Cold War, the two-party structure of “good” and “evil” was effectively defunct, as democratic capitalism reigned supreme, a Heine-esque King. As Baudrillard explained, such an autocratic system is an inherently unstable form that drains the stage, leaving the political theater of choice anemic, an unconvincing performance. With the attack on the World Trade Center, and the wars that followed, there’s been resurgence in simulated opposition. Baudrillard offered eerie prescience about the financial collapse in his architectural survey of the World Trade Center:

 

Why has the World Trade Center in New York got two towers? All Manhattan’s great buildings are always content to confront each other in a competitive verticality, from which there results an architectural panorama that is the image of the capitalist system: a pyramidal jungle, every building on the offensive against every other… The buildings stand next to one another like the columns of a statistical graph. This new architecture no longer embodies a competitive system, but a countable one where competition has disappeared in favor of correlation. This architectural graphism belongs to the monopoly: the World Trade Center’s two towers are perfect parallelepipeds, four hundred meters high on a square base; they are perfectly balanced and blind communicating vessels. The fact that there are two identical towers signifies the end of all competition, the end of every original reference. Paradoxically, if there were only one, the WTC would not embody the monopoly, since we have seen that it becomes stable in a dual form. For the sign to remain pure it must become its own double: this doubling of the sign really put an end to what it designated.
Jean Baudrillard (Symbolic Exchange and Death, 1976)

 

 

With the collapse of the World Trade Center came the collapse of the tactical division of the monopoly, and, in hindsight, it seems inevitable that without such a symbolic division, the totalitarian single-party marketeers would steer us straight towards instability.

What the fuck does this have to do with music? It is both unbelievable and unmistakably clear; there is a curious correlation between Occupy Wall Street and the punk band Crass.

 


 

Do They Owe Us A Living?” (The Feeding of the 5000, 1978)

Do they owe us a living?
Of course they fucking do!

 

From 1977 to 1984 Crass took the anarchist impulse from the first wave of punk and followed it to its obvious fulfillment: a completely different way of living. As a band, they articulated their rage completely outside the rock ‘n’ roll arena, manufacturing their own records (to circumvent censorship), avoiding conventional concert halls and operating without any business apparatus (managers, lawyers, PR, etc.). Despite any popular fanfare Crass not only managed to sell tens of thousands of records, but more importantly, they forced the government and the public to deal with issues they raised (the Falklands War, nuclear disarmament, globalization, animal rights, environmentalism). As a social force, Crass was remarkable. The band lived all together at Dial House, a collective home with an open door policy that recognized no ideology: anyone was free to come and go and the house was used as a free space to realize creative endeavors.

Musically, Crass not only stood in stark contrast to other punk groups like the Sex Pistol and the Clash, who enjoyed commercial intercourse with the entertainment industry, but they sounded different than other punk bands. While the Sex Pistol were a slightly rough-around-the-edges variation on rock ‘n’ roll, Crass used sound as a function of their praxis. Under traditional criteria, e.g., melody, harmony, timbre, pitch and rhythm, Crass could be described as unbearable. Listen to any Crass song and it should be abundantly clear, the sound is ugly, and the sound has less to do with entertainment or sing-a-long-ability and more to do with acting as a conduit for their message of total rejection.

Theodor Adorno denounced protest music, explaining that by coupling the voice of dissent with entertainment, the music and the message is doomed. “The entire sphere of popular music is inseparable from consumption,” Adorno explained, and “taking the horrendous and making it somehow consumable makes the music unbearable.” The idea of the inseparability of entertainment and consumption, and how that is at odds with the subversive intent of punk, seemed to be clear in the Crass “sound.” Being “terrible” at music made Crass that much better as a punk outfit. In the Adornian sense, Crass did what it set out to do musically, to be perfectly horrendous. And the fact that the band operated as an informal non-profit, turning their earnings to investments towards other anarchistic endeavors, insured not only that they remained broke, but that their practice never involved intercourse with the culture industry.

 

 

Understanding Crass — ugly, loud, discordant — as an anarchist movement is quite easy, one only needs to hear them, or see an album cover to reconcile some vague idea of anarchy with the band. Beyond the noise, Crass promoted ideas of individual freedom and autonomy, which, when viewed through the skewed lens of Western understanding, is usually seen as “disorder.” What’s missing in this view of anarchy vis-à-vis disorder is precisely the thing that makes anarchy so compelling: love. And more than anything, Crass were compelled by love. It’s hard to reconcile the ugliness of Crass with the hippy image of them living together, tending their organic garden and promoting love, precisely because their existence rejects the presupposition of such binary regulations.

The same inability to amalgamate seemingly contradictory practices is at work in the perception of Occupy Wall Street. The term “anarchy” has been frequently thrown at the occupation as a way of slandering the intention, painting the anger as juvenile spectacle instead of warranted response. This tactic is a throwback to McCarthyism, in much the same way that the term “socialist” has been slung at Obama’s presidency. For anyone with an understanding of the Cold War, it’s not only clear that communism failed completely, but the only state to propagandize communism more than the Soviet Union was the United States. That is because to paint the Soviet Union as an example of “true communism” only strengthens America’s claim to being the leading exemplar of “true democracy.” The false choice of communism or democracy offers two options in a binary operation not unlike the preordained duopoly of the political theater of left versus right. What Occupy Wall Street does, is, first, reject the premise of such a binary presumption, and second, instead of being one among many to offer answers to today’s political problems, the occupation asks, “if not this, then what?” and by doing so, redefines the problems of today’s politics.

That same redefining of problems was apparent in Crass, who screamed their anarchic message of love through songs of cacophonous noise, which were contained on records that were covered in vile imagery. When detractors and reactionaries demand the occupation answer such charges as, “are you just an anarchist who hates America and capitalism?” the impulse should not be to answer within the binary regulation of yes or no, but instead, to reject the premise of such a notion. The refusal to submit to being a single-issue protest renders Occupy Wall Street “uncoverable” in conventional media terms. There’s no single sound bite, there’s an overabundance of sound bites. The egalitarian structure makes every interviewee just a participant and not a spokesperson. Rather than listing issues that can be addressed by the current system, the occupation cites the system itself as the single-issue problem. Here, again, the movement shares likeness with Crass, who practiced a form of anarcho-syndicalism:

 

Liberalism and Democracy were pre-eminently political concepts, and, since the great majority of the original adherents of both maintained the right of ownership in the old sense, these had to renounce them both when economic development took a course which could not be practically reconciled with the original principles of Democracy, and still less with those of Liberalism. Democracy with its motto of “equality of all citizens before the law,” and Liberalism with its “right of man over his own person,” both shipwrecked on the realities of the capitalist economic form. So long as millions of human beings in every country had to sell their labor-power to a small minority of owners, and to sink into more wretched misery if they could find no buyers, the so-called “equality before the law” remains merely a pious fraud, since the laws are made by those who find themselves in possession of the social wealth. But in the same way there can be also no talk of a “right over one’s own person,” for that right ends when one is compelled to submit to economic dictation of another if he does not want to starve.
Rudolf Rocker (Anarcho-Syndicalism: Theory and Practice, 1937)

 

It’s in this moment of spontaneous “unterrified Jeffersonianism” that the occupation, hearing Jefferson remark, “that government is best which governs least,” shouts back Thoreau’s anarchist retort, “that government is best which governs not at all!” And it is here that we find ourselves at the deadlock of capitalism. That is to say, crisis is inherent in capitalism. There is a sign that frequently appears at occupy rallies, “capitalism IS crisis,” which perhaps best summarizes the entire movement. And yet, in just three words, the apparently simple redefining of the problems confronting us has no equally simple answer.

 

 

Taking Sides” (Yes Sir, I Will, 1983)

We must be prepared to oppose them on every level,
To fight back in the knowledge that if we don’t
We will have failed in our responsibility to life itself.

We must not be intimidated by the authority that they appear to have.

 

In an interview, Penny Rimbaud said of the Crass agenda, “We got out on the streets and we really tried it out — and we failed.” How did they fail? Crass deliberately presented their music not as a sound commodity but as a natural extension of their way of life. Through shared living at Dial House, and the community centers and actions they funded with proceeds from the band’s activity, Crass assumed other punks and anarchist equally invested would do the same. The idea of thousands of Dial Houses all over England was an early dream of Crass, and that is all it ever was, a dream. Rather than hearing “There is no authority but yourself” and taking those words as a call to autonomous action, the listeners, for the most part, acted like fans, and sang along, just as they would with the Sex Pistols. Rather than being inspired to create their own autonomous, anarchist squats, most punks adopted Crass as a badge, an ideology, and preached it. Crass was quite successful as a band, selling records, garnering followers, influencing other groups, but failed in that by becoming a force of the underground, they managed to create an alternative binary system rather than uproot the existing binary system.

There are occasions when it pays better to fight and be beaten than not to fight at all.
George Orwell (Homage to Catalonia)

Crass disbanded in part due to a division between members who believed in pacifism and those who believed in reactionary violence. Is this not also an antagonism in the occupation? As the balaclava-clad bloc came out during Oakland’s General Strike, though overwhelmingly in the minority, it can be seen as the logical conclusion to the “if not this, then what?” question. As Occupy Wall Street, echoing Rudolf Rocker, undermines democratic capitalism’s credo of rights and equality, revealing the perpetual state of shipwrecked-ness, the “then what” is the face-off between society at large and those in possession of social wealth. We only need to look back at the history of radicalism to see that going head-to-head with the controlling minority has rarely been able to, as the rallying cry pleads, “remain non-violent.” The history of reactionary violence — tens of thousands guillotined during the French Revolution, burning the Tuileries palace to the ground during the Paris Commune, systematically destroying the churches in Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War, Molotov cocktails hurled in every direction during May ’68, the poison and bombing campaigns of “propaganda by the deed” individualists — finds itself in the same frustrated deadlock time and again, as the issues central to radical protests (liberty, equality, fraternity) have never been resolved within democratic politics. The realization that civil rights, gender equality or suitable living conditions for all are among the many issues that remain perpetually unsettled return again and again as a statement of war against what Rudolf Rocker called the “pious fraud” of the minority (i.e., the 1%) in control of social wealth.

 

 

Crass was instrumental in organizing a proto-Occupy Wall Street in the early ‘80s, called “Stop the City.” Without permit or notice to authorities, thousands of activists occupied the area of the London Stock Exchange, preventing brokers and bankers from getting to their offices. Protestors were, in turn, truncheoned and tossed into paddywagons, only to return in record numbers the following year to do it all again. Before the anti-globalization movement was identified as such, Crass was a part of it. Nearly three decades before people were willed to fill public squares en masse, Crass had the same idea.

There’s a tendency, likely born from a combination of suspicious wonderment and jealous misdirection, that’s common among the view from outside the occupation, which extends beyond the name-calling and jokes of hygiene and hair color, to reveal a hesitation that should be considered a vote of confidence. Because it’s within this impulse to apply a title to the character of revolt, to look upon protestors and call them madmen, where true identity is revealed, where what is unbearable is being uncategorized. So by designating oneself “sane” in the act of calling the other “mad,” we can see the locus of illusion: by insisting the other is under the illusion of madness, the sane one falls victim to the ironic illusion of his own madness. Or, to use a Lacanian aphorism: “If a man who believes himself to be king is mad, a king who believes himself to be king is no less mad.” The impulse to denigrate, which is in abundance with critics of Crass and the Occupy movement, should be seen clearly as an impulse towards solidarity masked by contemptuous envy. It’s this sign of discomfort that signals the slow overturning of public conscience, when the tenuous link to the belief that there is an answer to the problems slowly turns to the realization that the problems themselves should be redefined, as the previously specious set of beliefs is put to torch.

Le roi est mort, vive le roi. “The king is dead. Long live the king.” When one king dies, another king is crowned, and the kingdom continues…  until it doesn’t.

 

Banned from the Roxy” (The Feeding of the 5000, 1978)

The government protecting their profits from the poor,
The rich and the fortunate chaining up the door.

Afraid that the people may ask for a little more

Than the shit they get. The shit they get.
The shit they get. The shit they get.

 

While there are plenty of parallels to draw between Crass and Occupy Wall Street, the two are fundamentally different in their intent. Crass operated as an underground movement while the occupation specifically aims at the majority, the ninety-nine percent. This principal distinction, paradoxically, makes the two more similar than separate. While Crass subscribed to a punk ethos, operating as a subversive counterweight to popular culture, the occupation aims at the subversive counterweight that maintains cultural social order, that is, the plutocratic minority that bang the drum of democratic capitalism against the better judgment of the majority. Crass was critical of the Sex Pistols singing, “I believe in anarchy” alongside “there’s no future in dreaming,” because, for Crass, the only future was in realizing the anarchist dream. In much the same way, the occupation endeavors a monumental overturning of everything; instead of banging the drum of cynical partisanship, which sees no future, the movement, instead, asks for a waking up from this nightmare, allowing another impossible dream to be dreamt.

 

 

However unconscious, it seems the occupation has learned from the mistakes of Crass. Rather than operating as a traditional organization, with a figurehead easily toppled, the occupation’s egalitarian approach offers an answer to Crass’s failure to become one among many collective anarchist groups operating around England. And it’s no coincidence that the brave souls who camped out at the very beginning of this occupation, those very same people that current supporters of the occupation are quick to relegate as not indicative of the whole, who critics continually point to as typical examples of the occupation, are the very stripe familiar to Crass fans: the dreadlocked ‘n’ mohawked, Mad Max looking gutter punks. Among those first to feel the swing of a police baton, the first to familiarize themselves with the taste of pepper spray, the first to be hauled off in cuffs, the first to become dispossessed of their reasonable expectation of privacy, the first to volunteer to sleep in a park, the first to march fearlessly into a confrontation with police knowing it ends with a ride in the paddywagon, are those who look like extras cast in a Hollywood-produced “tell-all” Crass biopic. No coincidence. Like Crass, let’s not disregard them just because they are unbearable.

 

Those who are willing neither to suffer nor to possess the means of oppression, who want freedom both for themselves and for others — they, in an age that poverty or terror condemns to the excesses of oppression, are the seeds beneath the snow of which one of the greatest among us spoke.  Once the storm is over, the world will live off them.
Albert Camus (Resistance, Rebellion and Death, 1960)

 

Crass has largely been left out of the history of punk rock, because much of that history has been produced to satisfy the evidence of the very forces Crass sought to overthrow. In the Adornian sense, history, commissioned through industrial institutions (government, entertainment, academic) that further the obligation to consume, makes Crass not only unbearable, but also irrelevant. However, as Camus points out, Crass act as “seeds beneath the snow,” and the occupation we see sprouting “out of nowhere” today can be easier comprehended as the later part of a gestation period that found genesis with Crass and their ilk.

With respect to the Great Recession we find ourselves in today, we can use an instrument of “financial innovation” as an analogy for how we view the historic authenticity of Crass and Occupy Wall Street. A financial derivative has no independent value; its value is derived from the value of an underlying asset. In the case of Crass and the occupation, the underlying assets are peace, resistance, autonomy. This impulse towards human welfare is both monumental and desired, but you can’t sell something that is free, ergo, such an impulse is out of place in our society. The West has slowly created a historical practice that describes itself to itself while erasing all that does not satisfy its rules of evidence. And while there are many noble elements found within Crass and Occupy Wall Street, both derive their value from outside the laws of democratic capitalism, not only positioning themselves to be constantly misconceived, but to become historically inauthentic within Western historicity.

 

The Five Knuckle Shuffle” (Yes Sir, I Will, 1983)

If there was no government, wouldn’t there be chaos
Everybody running round, setting petrol bombs off?
And if there was no police force, tell me what you’d do
If thirty thousand rioters came running after you?
And who would clean the sewers? Who’d mend my television?
Wouldn’t people lay about without some supervision?
Who’d drive the fire engines? Who’d fix my video?
If there were no prisons, well, where would robbers go?

And what if I told you to fuck off?

 

Aren’t we seeing, as a natural side effect of the occupation, a slow dismantling of those rules of evidence that shape Western historicity? Throughout the first month of the movement, the restrictions, corruptions and outside interests, mediated through Western historic authenticity, promised to be the death knell of the occupation. They can’t sleep outside indefinitely? They can’t survive being co-opted by outside interests? They can’t resist the violence and crime inherent to such groups? The snow came, and the occupiers found a way to sleep. The unions, teachers and marginalized infested the occupation, and found a welcoming ear for their concerns. The gas-powered generators were confiscated, and the occupiers found a bicycle-powered alternative. Violent elements inserted themselves into Oakland’s General Strike, and the occupiers, echoing the declaration adopted by the Amsterdam anarchist international convention in 1907, acknowledged that, “such acts, with their causes and motives, should be understood rather than praised or condemned,” and not only worked to repair the damage, but debated the acts at their assembly. As each new challenge presents itself — police agent provocateurs, right wing saboteurs, a rise in homeless, crime and sexual violence visited upon encampments — the occupation defies those rules of evidence that satisfy ideas of Western newsworthiness. The problem the mainstream media faces is that the occupation resides in a blind spot, outside the view of Western historicity, and so, situations such as sexual violence or homeless visiting the encampments are reported as outside problems thrust onto the occupation. Instead, we should view the occupation as a microcosm of a different history being made, one that operates through egalitarian consensus, and such issues (sexual violence, crime, homelessness) are elements within the culture that are addressed, debated and hopefully, further prevented. A human approach, instead of the Western binary us versus them.

The mainstream media — by reporting issues discussed at general assemblies as “dilemmas” or “arguments,” by “building narratives” of the occupation through interviewing individuals rather than observing assemblies — reveals its blind spot to methods foreign to Western historical practices that don’t satisfy its rules of evidence. When such questions came framed with a blind spot (“If there were no prisons, well, where would robbers go?”), Crass answered in kind (“And what if I told you to fuck off?”). The occupation’s open-ended, anamorphic culture of love is a similar “fuck off” to traditional Western historic authenticity.

The Austrian art historian, Alois Riegl, sought to change the manner in which history was authenticated, and, in some measure, shared the Crass worldview. Riegl’s theory of Kunstwollen, or the artistic will-to-form, worked to unite activities in high and low art with the culture of its time, which was contrary to the anthropological impulse of history to excavate and separate, dividing material culture from mental culture. Rather than separating ideas from things, Riegl chose to see history as a sequence of ideas and materials that were formed by the same interconnected culture. The history we know is a history already mediated through cleaving of that cultural continuum, restructured through the tools of historic efficiency, derived from its value to the body commissioning such a history. What Riegl sought was a view of man’s will to see the world as he imagines, and everything — art, law, science, philosophy, craftsmanship — is an obligation to meet such a desire.

 

Beg Your Pardon” (Christ – The Album, 1982)

I don’t believe the things you say
You make bullshit of the truth
The game you play’s offensive
And your life’s the living proof

 

Taking a Kunstwollen view of Occupy Wall Street, it is much easier to see how seemingly contradictory ideas of peace and anarchy, anger and love, autonomy and organization, form the character of the will contained in the occupation. The genesis of the movement is found as much in the financial collapse as it is in the resurgence of interest in anarchist movements, underground music and hacktivism. Wikileaks, Anonymous and the Arab Spring can be seen as societal forms that are mirrored artistically in, as an example, the rash of recent reissues of subversive music from the past (e.g., Crass, Faith, Void, Death, East of Underground, The Ex). Similarly, in film and literature we find an abundance of new material about the Red Army Faction/Baader Meinhof, May ‘68, the Black Panthers, Up Against the Wall Motherfucker, the Situationists, as if we’re experiencing a spontaneous will-to-form of reconsideration for those radical movements, looking forward to our future through a re-informed hindsight, trying to determine if similar actions can derive their value from something other than the violence that brought an end to past radicalism.

 

 

 

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t even there yet. NASA didn’t exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology -– (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
President Obama, 2011 State of the Union Address

 

Obama’s call for “our generation’s Sputnik moment” was a retooling of the binary regulation that sustained the ideology of the Cold War. There is a Baudrillardian “theater of operations” in phrases such as, “research and development,” “information technology” and “biomedical research,” which seem harmless in their hopefulness – or hopeful in their harmlessness, but such phrases usually signify other, more harmful, more hopeless, phrases: “defense contracts,” “NSA eavesdropping,” “pharmaceutical lobby.”

Obama’s acknowledgement of our slump in innovation is tied to our slump in human development, equality, literacy and quality of life. What if there is another way to view such statistics? What if our slump is, in itself, a sign of a nascent resistance, a will-to-form, however latent, against turning our Sputnik moments into tools for the de facto homogenous ruling class to use against us, or people elsewhere who are like us? Perhaps it is too optimistic a view, but can’t our dire statistics also be seen as a sign of change, as an unconscious un-tethering from Western hegemony?

Democratic capitalism functions in much the same way as religious fundamentalism. The people act as pious adherents, sacrificing themselves in support of divine principles, which are suspended by faith. In the case of capitalism, the faith resides in the belief that heavenly judgment will reward devotees with a bounty of riches. The inconvenient truth, paradoxically, is that while the majority of devotees work, a small minority is richly venerated, and while this cycle continually repeats, the faith of the poor, devoted majority remains unshaken. Heaven is reserved for the minority, and on the ground, the reality is faith functions as a belief in a freedom that’s never free. Or, as Baudriallard said, a democracy whose credo of free choice effectively turns into its exact opposite, an obligation to consume. Perhaps we can view the rise in self-described atheists as a nascent resistance to democratic capitalism?

 

Demoncrats” (Stations of the Crass, 1979)

They believed in democracy, freedom of speech
Yet dead on the flesh piles I hear no breath

I hear no hope, no whisper of faith
From those who have died for some others’ privilege
Out from your palaces, princes and queens
Out from your churches, you clergy, you christs
I’ll neither live nor die for your dreams
I’ll make no subscription to your paradise

 

This obligation to consume was made clear in the death of Steve Jobs. Westerners far and wide revered Jobs like a deity, and praised his innovation and brilliance in bringing the world to our fingertips. Much noise was made of him being a genius, dropping out of college, having a propensity to indulge in crazy ideas, tripping on LSD and his Christ-like ability to convert followers with his “reality distortion field.”

 


 

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Apple, “Think Different” advertising campaign, 1997

 

It’s this anti-establishment idolatry that Steve Jobs originally intoned upon twentieth century personalities that was, in turn, intoned upon him, creating a horrendous Adornian coupling of consumption and innovation. Just as Exodus reminds us, “You shall have no other gods before me,” the unlimited freedom that Jobs brought to us, mediated through consumption, as a derivative of Apple’s profits, has an unsightly, dare I say ungodly, obverse. The idolatrous legacy of Steve Jobs that we celebrate, that “pushed the human race forward” and was “crazy enough to change the world,” is sustained by Chinese workers committing suicide in the factories that produce Apple products, mass graves in Kashmir where multinational mining and infrastructure corporations vie for land rights, the rape of Congolese women and children by militias who control the export of minerals needed to produce our “smart” devices.

Perhaps it’s too optimistic, but maybe what’s forming now, amidst the occupation, is a will to think differently about our “Sputnik moment.” We’re “suffering” a spontaneous disentanglement from our involvement in the inhumane practices that sustain our “freedom.” Perhaps part of the question, “if not this, then what?” involves questioning the worth of insurmountable debt in pursuit of an education that leads to a profession where the best ideas are commandeered by the government for purposes of “defense,” “finance” or “intelligence.” Perhaps we’ve grown tired of seeing our ideas turned into killing machines, financial instruments of greed and tools to invade privacy. Perhaps the political theater is finally being rendered irrelevant. Perhaps we’re beginning to see the blind spots in our history. Perhaps our “Sputnik moment” is not developing something new, but rejecting old presuppositions: that we can’t stay safe and still make awesome affordable things, that it’s impossible to have health care, education, social security and a stable economy, that we must always be at war, that we need kings or leaders or cops at all.

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers…

 

 

 

 

Where Next Columbus?” (Penis Envy, 1981)

 

Do you watch at a distance from the side you have chosen?
Whose answers serve you best? Who’ll save you from confusion?

Who’s your leader? Which is your flock?
Who do you watch? Who do you watch?

 

 


The Rich Will Never Be On Our Side

Posted by , September 9th, 2010
Category: Reasoning Tags:   RSS | Comments | Trackback from your site
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For Chilean folk singer Victor Jara the cost of non-conformity was his life. On September 16, 1973, he was killed. Despite 4 days of torture and having army officers mockingly ask him to play guitar after breaking his arms, Jara, forever on the side of the people, instead sang “Venceremos” (We Shall Triumph), the campaign song of the Popular Unity coalition. He was shot and killed, his body was dumped in the outskirts of Santiago.

Jara was a poet and songwriter, an activist and outspoken supporter of the Marxist president Salvador Allende. The Popular Unity coalition (Unidad Popular), the party backing Allende, sought equality for the people of Chile in an effort to bring her out of third world conditions. Thanks to documents produced from a Freedom of Information Act request, longstanding suspicions are confirmed that the United States government was complicit in the damage done to Chile in resistance to president Allende’s aim for cultural equality.

Much effort has gone into convincing Americans of the evils inherent in Marxism, socialism, communism and any leader who espouses such philosophies. Interestingly, if we actually look at Allende’s economic, social and political initiations, Marxism reveals itself much more humane than capitalism, which is exactly why there’s so much propaganda against Marxism in America.

Allende was a doctor, and as evidenced from his earliest work in politics as the Minister of Health, he was concerned most for the health and well-being of everyone in Chile. Allende spearheaded many reforms, including the creation of maternity care programs, increased pensions for widows, free lunch programs for poor children, safety laws to protect factory workers, and legislation that brought medical attention to three million Chileans. This was the face of Allende’s Marxist socialism platform, or as he often referred to it, “social democracy.” The Popular Unity program benefited all Chileans. The only people to whom it was detrimental were the handful of elite, super wealthy businessmen of Chile and the United States corporations who had interests in Chile’s main resource, copper.

Chile leads every other country in the world in its production of copper, and there were two main transnational corporations exploiting that production, International Telephone & Telegraph (ITT) and Kennecott Copper Corporation.

An American army lieutenant founded ITT, and as corporations do, ITT acquired other corporations around the world. These included not only communication companies but also electronics and aircraft manufacturers. ITT built and sold fighter planes, radios and radars for the Nazis. In fact, ITT won a $27 million settlement for damage from Allied forces to one of its aircraft manufacturing plants in Germany.

As soon as Allende showed strength in Chile, ITT began a campaign to overthrow the Popular Unity coalition. Through newspapers and telephone companies owned by the corporation, ITT began a smear campaign against Allende. There was also money funneled through the U.S. government, specifically the CIA, to prepare a military overthrow of Allende.  A year before Allende was killed an American reporter disclosed a memo from Dita Beard, an ITT lobbyist, showing collusion between ITT, the Justice Department and the White House. ITT funded the Republican National Convention in return for a favorable settlement in an antitrust suit against ITT. Even before Allende was killed, ITT proved itself to be terribly inhumane: supporting the Nazis, involvement in Watergate, and the assassination of Chilean people. While ITT was terrible in its humanity, they were very successful as a corporation. The tenets of corporate business put profit over everything else. Stockholders demand action that serves the corporation regardless of “outside interests.” If the life and welfare of people fall within the scope of outside interests, that’s not the concern of the corporation. As proven in recent history, a corporation, now recognized as a legal person, is afforded more rights than a natural person, especially in areas of bankruptcy and mass tort litigation.

«« It follows a pattern if you dig what I mean »»


[As an aside — and in an effort to keep some tenuous link to all things record-related, I should mention that ITT has the distinguished honor of being detested in song by more than one artist. Gil Scott-Heron brilliantly tied all the politics of time together in his, “H2O-Gate Blues.” Fela Kuti, Nigeria’s king of afrobeat took on ITT directly, criticizing them for devastating Africa in exploitation of her natural resources.]

Sadly, Salvador Allende’s overthrow was not the first, nor the bloodiest, in the American effort to “democratize” the world. There is a certain doublespeak engaged by politicians, businessmen and news outlets. It’s a well-established, thinly-veiled technique that most people are cynically immune to. Using trillions of “defense” dollars to help “liberate” countries and allow them to “participate” in world democracy, while our transnational corporations gain access to business opportunities within their borders. This economic imperialism — whether it be copper in Chile, oil in the Niger delta, lithium in Afghanistan, minerals for electronics from the Congo, United Fruit’s banana republic in Honduras and Guatemala, blood diamonds in Liberia — covers the world and intensifies the imbalance between the rich and poor, those with access to technology and those left in the dark, and the healthy and the hungry. The doublespeak of democracy conceals itself in the idea of the American dream. The inalienable rights — that is, those entitlements in our absolute possession, unable to be taken from us — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and that all men are created equal, are purported to be available to everyone while a system of exploitation works against those rights. Those who can claw their way out of the system of exploitation are often championed, in a “rags to riches” style, as examples of the American dream coming true. In reality, though, those who overcome the exploitation are a rare few. For as long as a system that allows one class to exploit another exists, there will be a majority who toil to serve a select few. It was the idea of an actual democracy — of the people, for the people, by the people — that Allende worked toward.

On the first anniversary of his presidency, Allende said, “Democracy and freedom are incompatible with unemployment and lack of housing, the lack of culture, illiteracy and sickness. How is democracy strengthened? By creating more jobs, giving better wages, building more homes, providing the people with more culture, education and better health.” These words could be from any democratic president, as the rhetoric sounds the same. The only difference is that Allende acted on his statements. Worker wages were raised, rents were frozen, free milk was provided for children, hospitals were ordered to treat all who sought medical attention, and small businesses were given tax breaks. Allende began a massive agrarian reform and asked workers to participate in an economy that they now had a stake in. As a result, unemployment plummeted to less than 4 percent, production rose, and more citizens than ever before (especially the youth) engaged in the political process.

Through all the reform Allende was plagued with imperialist insolence at the hands of the White House. Funneling millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into preparing covert operatives out of the embassy in Santiago for a coup, creating an “invisible” economic blockade against Chile’s industrial plants and natural resources, cutting all humanitarian aid, as well as funding extreme fascist groups. White House-appointed CIA gunmen assassinated the army chief of staff, René Schneider and naval Captain Arturo Araya. Allende supporters within the Chilean military were tortured, resulting in many resignations, including the commander-in-chief of the army, General Carlos Prats. These crimes, coupled with legislation limiting Allende from making military appointments, allowed the White House-chosen General Augusto Pinochet to become commander-in-chief of the Army.

Despite all of this, Allende went before the United Nations General Assembly and spoke truth to power, advocating humanity over murder, democracy over the exploitation of transnational corporations, peace over war profiteering, and health and education for all:

We are aware of the fact that, when we denounce the financial and economic blockade applied against us, it is somewhat difficult for world opinion, and even for some of our fellow citizens, to understand what we mean. This aggression is not overt and has not been openly declared to the world; on the contrary, it is an oblique, underhand, indirect form of aggression, although this does not make it any less damaging to Chile. We are having to face forces that operate in the half-light, that fight with powerful weapons, but fly no identifying flags and are entrenched in the most varied centers of influence…

 

What I have just described to the assembly amounts to a perversion of the fundamental nature of international agencies, the utilization of which as tools of the policies of individual member states is legally and morally unacceptable no matter how powerful such states may be. Such misuse represents the exertion of pressure on an economically weak country, the infliction of punishment on a whole nation for its decision to recover its own basic resources, and a premeditated form of intervention in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. In a word, it is what we call imperialist insolence…

Unable to stop him any other way, the White House orchestrated a coup d’état through General Pinochet. On September 11, 1973, Allende was murdered in the presidential palace. Pinochet was declared president by military junta and immediately totalitarian tactics reigned supreme in Chile.

The press was censored. Students, priests, political activists and women who wore slacks were arrested. Fascists groups burned books in the street that they deemed “subversive.” Under martial law, congress was suspended; all labor organizations, independent judiciary and free press were outlawed. When jails overflowed in Santiago, suspected criminals were herded into sports stadiums and tortured, if not shot on sight. The water of the Mapocho River was reported to turn reddish-brown as bodies, legs and arms floated in the water. Over 200,000 Chileans fled the country seeking exile. Thousands who chose to stay were “disappeared,” most being tortured and killed, buried in mass graves or dumped from helicopter into the Pacific Ocean.

Most of the governments around the world refused to recognize Pinochet’s military dictatorship or broke off diplomatic relations in protest. The U.S., however, immediately recognized Pinochet as Chile’s president and rushed in economic aid. Even the 2006 New York Times obituary of Pinochet mentions that he “led the country into an era of robust economic growth.” It fails to mention the decade of extreme poverty, fear and unemployment under Pinochet prior to the era of growth. And, the “robust economic growth” was based on Milton Friedman’s “free market” philosophy that privatized all state enterprises, including social security, cut worker wages, restricted labor unions, sharply increased unemployment and, according to a 1994 World Bank report, left 40 percent of Chileans living on three-fourths of daily calories required to subsist. Through re-strengthening of NAFTA, the WTO and other trade organizations, Chile’s copper resources are back in the hands of transnational corporations. Pinochet inherited his economic plan for Chile from a group of economists, studying under Milton Friedman, who opposed Allende and secretly prepared a stratagem for Chile that would be advantageous to American interests. This new economic policy, El Ladrillo (“the brick”), set forth “reforms” by way of deregulation and privatization. The copper industry remained nationalized under Pinochet, but through legislation and consolidation all outside corporate interests were allowed, once again, controlling interest.

In February of 1971, Allende presciently said:

Ever since my youth I have fought to bury prejudice and obsolete political frameworks for all time. Destiny has willed that I should head this democratic revolution in Chile, this struggle in which the word democracy has a much broader significance than when it is indiscriminately used to conceal essentially anti-democratic and reactionary political attitudes… our government’s action against the monopolies which have plundered the Chilean economy and our attempts to recover the basic natural resources of the country for the Chilean people will affect certain North American private interests. However, we are sure that these interests cannot be identified with the greatest historical purposes of the North American people… whose progressive traditions I respect.

President Allende’s five guiding principles for democracy (from his 1971 message to congress), legality, development of institutions, political freedom, nonviolence, and areas of social ownership, in comparison to General Pinochet’s 1974 declaration, “all government opponents will be crushed and made to disappear” — and which form of government the United States chose to support, tells a terribly sad story of the state of our collective American dream. At the end of Pinochet’s reign, investigators found he had stolen $28 million from Chile. A long legal battle to charge him with genocide ended unsuccessfully when doctors deemed him unfit, though media outlets claim he was “embarrassed” by constant reports of his crimes before he died. The trend of absolving ourselves of guilt by sacrificing villains after they have become harmless continues, and it leaves the criminals of capital largely at liberty to perpetuate the systems the villains helped create.

The propaganda of misinformation in the U.S. survives, as the transnational corporations that own the media outlets and lobby influence over the government see that their agenda sets the tone for how events of the world are discussed — agendas that place profit and expansion and markets above human consideration. It’s no surprise then, that when the San José mine collapsed on August 5, 2010, the “story” in all the newspapers focused on spectacle and sensation; where the family members of the trapped miners were camping, keeping vigil; how to break the bad news to the trapped miners that it would take several months to get them out; the psychological effect of being trapped underground; how NASA had been called in to help, and what kind of state-of-the-art equipment they were using. The part of the story that saw very little coverage was the unsafe history of the mine; how other miners had previously died as the result of similar collapses; the mine has been shut down after the family of a miner who died in 2007 sued the owners; the mine had been fined over 40 times for breach of safety regulations. Empresa Minera San Esteban, the company who owns the mine, taking a page from the Enron book of business, plans to declare bankruptcy to protect its investments from legal actions taken by the trapped miners or their families.

Copper contributes to most of our daily activities because of its use in printed circuit boards, integrated circuits, wiring as well as hundreds of other applications, such as refrigeration, air conditioning and musical instruments. For those of us that use computers, the Internet, listen to- and play music, copper makes these activities possible. This digital age allows us to enrich our lives and have access to cultures that were the stuff of adventurers just a generation ago. Travel has been made easier; cell phone technology allows us to talk to just about anyone, anywhere; we carry small battery-powered devices for communication, entertainment and business; we can eat as if at a world’s fair every day of the week. All of that is possible because of copper in Chile, oil in the Niger delta, lithium in Afghanistan, minerals for electronics from the Congo, United Fruit’s banana republic in Honduras and Guatemala. The transnational corporations who exploit these natural resources, as well as the corporations who turn the resources into consumer goods, will advertise about the happy possibilities their products provide, but we as consumers know on whose backs those products were brought into existence?

As people around the world are trapped in mines, raped for minerals, poisoned by their employers and suffer at the hands of corporations we have to acknowledge what being the human element that runs capitalism and democracy means to the world. The promise of the American dream is that anyone can strike it rich; while the reality is that one percent of the population control the purse strings while the rest of us work in service of that one percent.

Allende knew this when he addressed the United Nations Third Conference on Trade and Development in Santiago, April 13, 1972:

The basic mission of this third session is the replacement of an outdated and unjust economic and trade order by an equitable one based on a new concept of man and human dignity, and to promote the reformulation of an international division of labor which the less advanced countries can no longer tolerate, inasmuch as it obstructs their progress while it favors only the affluent nations… The human being should be the object and the goal of all development policies and of all desirable forms of international cooperation. This is a concept which must be borne in mind in every discussion, in every decision, in every policy measure which aims at fostering progress whether at the national or multinational level… We want to lay the foundations for a new society which will offer its members social equality, welfare, freedom and dignity.

The New Chilean Song Movement (“La Nueva Canción Chilena”) was the embodiment, in sound, of all that Allende hoped for Chile. It’s no wonder that after the coup, one of the first orders of business for Pinochet’s military forces was to destroy Discoteca del Cantar Popular (the radical record company that released many of the new song artists), destroying not only the office and studio, but also the master recordings themselves. Today, the new songs survive from old LPs that made it out of Chile.

Stu Cohen, in cooperation with Rounder Records, released Chile Vencera! An Anthology of Chilean New Song, 1962 — 1973, and the royalties were donated to the Chile Defense Committee. The album is a compilation of new song artists culled from records that weren’t destroyed by the military junta. All the musicians on the album were directly affected by the junta. Victor Jara, as mentioned at the beginning, was murdered by the military, Angel Parra was sent to prison, Isabel Parra and Patricio Castillo managed to escape Chile and seek exile, Quilapayun and Inti Illimani happened to be on tour in Europe during the coup and remained in exile.

Bob Dylan has often been championed as the “voice of a generation,” a title even he takes issue with. Dylan’s ability to write that which seem so real in the mind of the listener is remarkable, and he deserves the praise he so often gets for his songwriting. But as a revolutionary or leader of the counter-culture, can we expect revolutionary innovation from someone whose profession it is to monopolize under established social conditions? It should be obvious that such revolutionary innovations come only from people who have received universal hostility and persecution from the status quo. For the people of Chile — the miners, agrarians, peasants, the proletariat — Victor Jara and the other artists of the Nueva Canción were exactly such, revolutionaries! Here is a small selection from the Chile Vencera! album:

“Al Centro De Injusticia” — Isabel Parra

 

This song is a particularly fine example of pre-Allende social commentary. It attacks what is in terms of what should be. It is directed against the Eduardo Frei government, the upper classes, and the profiteering foreign business.

(Link to the lyrics in Spanish)

Chile is limited in the north by Peru
And by Cape Horn in the south
In the east there rises the cordillera
While in the west the coast
In the middle, the verdant valleys
Where people multiply
Each family has many kids
Who live poorly
Of course, some live comfortably
But covered with the blood of the slaughtered
In front of the most arrogant
Agriculture poses its questions
We buy potatoes from many nations
Though they originated in the south of Chile
In front of the tricolored flag
Mining is very difficult
The miner produces good money
But it goes into foreigners’ pockets
Booming industries where several ladies
Work for a few pennies
And they have to do it, because
Their husbands’ pay is not enough for a month
To escape the anguish of this pain
In the starry night I shut my voice
The homeland is beautiful Mr. Tourist
But they don’t show you the slums
While they spent millions in a moment
People die in astonishing numbers
Too much money in the the public parks
While there is great misery in the hospitals
In the middle the of Alameda de las Delicias

Chile stands at the center of injustice

“Vamos Mujer” — Quilapayún

“Let’s go Woman” is drawn from another cantata (Cantata Santa Maria de Iquique, 1969), possibly the single most famous record released in Chile by the New Song Movement. Written by Luis Advis, one of Chile’s foremost classical composers, the cantata attests to the degree to which the movement was having an effect on areas beyond folk music.

The cantata tells the story of a massacre of miners and their families that occurred in the north of Chile in 1907. The miners and the families had gone to Iquique, a large northern port to protest the conditions in the nitrate mines. Their peaceful protest was met with bullets and several thousand were killed. The massacre was the single most important event in the development in the militant workers’ movement in Chile. The rhythms and melodies come from the traditional folklore of the north. The narrator is Hector Duvachelle.

(Link to the lyrics in Spanish)

[Narration]
The workers had accumulated many wrongs
Much poverty and many injustices
Finally, they could no longer stand it, and the words
Had to demand that which they were owed

At the end of 1907
The strike in San Lorenzo was stirring
And the cry which exploded in the desert
Was heard at once by all

From one mine to the other, like blasts
They heard protests of the workers
From one mine to the other, the owners
With their scornful, indifferent faces

What could the owners care of the rebellion
Of the dispossessed, of the outcasts
Soon they will return, repent
Brought by hunger, their heads lowered

What happens then, if no one listens
Each brothers asked the other
What we ask for is just and it’s so little
Must we lose hope?

So, with love and with suffering
Their wills were united
In only one place would they understand
They had to go down to the big port

[Sung]
Let’s go woman, we are leaving
For the city
All will be different
There can be no doubt
There can be no doubt, have faith
Soon you will see
That in Iquique
They’ll understand

Take my poncho woman
It will cover you
Take the little one in your arms
He will not cry
He will not cry, have faith
Soon he will smile
You will sing him a song
And then he will sleep

What is it that’s happening? Tell me
Don’t be silent any longer

It’s just a long road
You must travel
Over the hills
Let’s go woman
Let’s go woman, have faith
We must arrive
In the city we will be able
To see the whole ocean

They say that Iquique is big
Like a Salar [a huge nitrate mining area]
With many beautiful houses
That you will like
That you will like, have faith
As there is a God
There in the port
All will be better

What is it that’s happening? Tell me
Don’t be silent any longer

Let’s go woman, we are leaving
For the city
All will be different
There can be no doubt
There can be no doubt, have faith
Soon you will see
That in Iquique
They’ll understand

“La Democracia” — Angel Parra

Many of Angel’s songs are written with biting satire. “La Democracia” is no exception. The tone is set in the first few lines and it never lets up. The expression, “let the dogs bark” in the last verse is from a 16th century Spanish play.

(Link to the lyrics in Spanish)

How beautiful is democracy in this lovely country
How pretty are the slums that they build
This permits poor and rich alike
To have the same right when called to the polls
I am a democrat, a technocrat, a plutocrat and a hypocrite

I like democracy because it lets you observe
The fantastic progress of those who have the freedom
To exploit a few and increase their capital
Besides, our rights, and I say it happily
Permit that blacks and whites admire the monuments
I am a democrat, a technocrat, a plutocrat and a hypocrite

And without problems of class or religious creed
We can see how the “cute ones” land on the moon
And in the reserved or common seats
See how Colo-Colo [a soccer team] wins
I like democracy winter and summer
The cops practice shooting at young libertarians
I am a democrat, a technocrat, a plutocrat and a hypocrite

Of course, some starving, wretched ones
Would like to change because they are envious
Let me say to the people, let the dogs bark [so not worry]
I like democracy, I say it with dignity
If you hear sabre rattlings, it is mere chance
I am a democrat, a technocrat, a plutocrat and a hypocrite

“Las Casitas Barrio Alto” — Victor Jara

This song is an example of the international borrowing that went on during the period of folk revivals in many countries. In the U.S., Pete Seeger frequently performed “Guantanamera.” In Chile, Seeger’s recording of Malvina Reynold’s song, “Little Boxes,” became popular, and “Las Casitas Barrio Alto” is Victor Jara’s version changed to fit the Chilean reality.
[Dopesmokers take note, this is the Weeds theme song.]

(Link to the lyrics in Spanish)

The little houses of the rich suburb
With fences and gardens
A beautiful car entrance
Waiting for a Peugeot
They are pink, green, white and light blue
The little houses of the rich suburb
Made with Elmer’s Glue

And the people of the little houses
They smile and visit each other
They go together to the supermarket
And they all have TVs

There are dentists, merchants, landowners and pushers
Lawyers and pensioners and they all wear polyester

They play bridge, have martinis
And the children are all blond
And with other blonds
They go together to the fancy school

And then the spoiled daddy’s boy
Goes off to college
Where he becomes concerned
With social problems
He smokes in his Austin Mini
He plays with bombs and politics
He kills generals
[referring to the assassination of René Schneider]
And is a seditious gangster

“El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido” — Quilapayún

“El Pueblo Unido” is one of the great, optimistic peoples’ fighting songs produced by the New Song movement. It is sung here in concert by Quilapayún, appearing at the First International Festival of Popular Peoples’ Song in Santiago. The recording was made in 1973, the year of the coup.

(Link to the lyrics in Spanish)

[Shouted]
The people united shall never be defeated
The people united shall never be defeated
The people united shall never be defeated

[Sung]
Stand up to sing, we know we’re going to win
Flags of unity are moving forward
And you will march at my side
And you will see your song and your banner grow
The red light of dawn
Announces the life to come

Stand up to fight, the people shall win
There is a better life coming
To conquer our happiness
In a clamor a thousand fighting voices
Will rise and sing a song of freedom

With determination the homeland will win

And now, the people that rise to fight
With a giant’s voice crying, “Forward!”
The people united shall never be defeated
The people united shall never be defeated

The homeland is forging its unity
From north to south they will mobilize
From the burning mineral salt mines
To the southern forests, they will go united in battle and work

They will cover the homeland
Their march announces the future

Stand up to sing, the people shall win
Imposing truth from millions within

The fiery steel battalions
Their hands bring justice and reason
Woman, with fire and courage
You are already here, together with the workers

And now the people stand to fight
With a giant’s voice, they shout, “Forward!”
The people united shall never be defeated
The people united shall never be defeated
The people united shall never be defeated
The people united shall never be defeated


If you’re interested in a distinctly Chilean view of Allende, Pinochet and the coup, Patricio Guzmán has made a number of documentaries on the subject. First, The Battle of Chile, a three-part, four-and-a-half hour documentary that spends most of its time in the streets. From 1972 through 1979, five people made the film using one camera with film supplied by French artist Chris Marker. Of course, the military junta banned the film. Before it was banned, it was secretly stored in the Swedish Embassy in Santiago and the raw footage had to be smuggled out of Chile to be edited in Cuba and released in France through Marker. The cinematographer, Jorge Müller Silva, was “disappeared” by the Pinochet. In 2004 Guzmán released Salvador Allende, a documentary about the personal impact Allende and the Popular Unity had on Guzmán’s life. The film spends time with Chileans in a post-Pinochet reflection on a dream that was cut short. It’s particularly hard to watch folks reflect, often for the first time publicly, on what it meant to be part of Allende’s democratic revolution; a worker who states one of his biggest regrets was not positioning himself with others in front of the presidential palace when the military was bombing Allende, who was locked inside; a family, who had buried a photo album of Popular Unity-related events during the Pinochet dictatorship, unearth the memories and express their regret.

Two correlative points worth mentioning at the close. First, Salvador Allende’s life, as well as his dream for a social democracy, were cut short by White House-financed forces on September 11, 1973. Most people outside America refer to this day as “the forgotten 9/11.” The captains of industry, the principals of American capitalism, want us to associate Marxism or Socialism with terrorism. It’s shameful that the first 9/11 the White House was involved in, one that sought to eradicate Marxism, birthed a dictatorship that lasted for decades, killed thousands, and became the embodiment of terror for those living under its conditions.

Second, decades past, with Allende, Pinochet and many of the people who lived through the coup long since passed, the historic artifacts of the time — the Nueva Canción movement and Guzmán’s documentaries — survive through technologies that all rely on Chile’s greatest export, copper. Victor Jara’s music, Patricio Guzmán’s films, and all the ideas contained therein survived through technology, their work slowly countering the efforts of transnational corporations who pay to make history malleable. If you’re reading this, it owes in no small part to copper.

Other men will overcome this dark and bitter moment when treason seeks to prevail.
Salvador Allende, September 11, 1973