Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ecuador in the 1980s

“Blood Lake, a Philomena Buscarsela Mystery,” by Kenneth Wishnia, 2014

Genre fiction has broken out of its cage so many times that it has earned a place as ‘real’ fiction.  Detective stories are no longer predictable police procedurals that are so formulaic as to be sleep-inducing.  However some things remain the same.  

Guayaquil, Ecuador stilt slums
This book by a PHD and professor is one such.  A great look inside Ecuador in the 1980s, it still suffers from the unreality of constantly falling bodies.  Wishnia is a progressive of some kind who has created a reckless female detective, Philomena Buscarsela.  She is a product of poverty and was once a former leftist guerilla in the Andean highlands in Ecuador.  Unusual provenance for a female American gumshoe.  Most, like Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone or Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski, have no politics.  

The story has a bit too many incongruities.  For some reason Philomena returns to visit her family in Guayaquil, towing her teenage daughter along – then immediately throws herself into a dangerous search for the killer of a Liberation Theology priest who once saved her life.  Her daughter is forgotten, even though it is obvious that the police/death squad people who killed the priest would seize her if needed.  A parent would attempt to hide or shield their child.  But as she says many times, she is a ‘bad parent.’  Philomena fails to spot the tall blonde gringo ‘journalist’ that suddenly shows up at her side as a CIA asset – even though every reader does.  She even trusts the notes of a real journalist who was murdered for researching the assassination of the prior progressive Ecuadorian president to this agent.  She goes on a fruitless search for another invisible right-wing journalist in several Ecuadorean towns like Cuenca, which never makes real sense.  Ultimately she reunites with her guerrilla ex-boyfriend in the Amazonian jungle in the east of Ecuador by Macas.  This is the real literary point of her trek into the mountains, but one which doesn’t lead to any killers.  Again, incongruous. 

Through all this she seems to allow the Ecuadorian police to track her progress towards the guerillas – which is their purpose for letting her go on.  She is even friends with one cop, who saved her life and she saved his.  Philomena was a cop in NYC for 3 years, so she seems to play both sides.  She is an adept at physical violence and can throw a stiletto with deadly force, so plays the role of action heroine well.  She’s also sexy, but her sex with her Jewish boyfriend from New York, who oddly visits her, is more talk or braggadocio than action.  

The great strengths of the novel are its deep knowledge of the poverty of Ecuador during this period.  The scenes of the stilt shanty towns built over the steaming, putrid water in Guayaquil are tremendous.  Philomena rides in rickety buses, sleeps in a shabby concrete construction site, visits humble stores and peasant huts that mirror the ‘otherness’ of Ecuador to the North American reader. Her large family seems to be almost the only refuge.  At one point, she sees a rural Quichua baby and notes that its sad 2-year-old face already registers that it was born into a fucked life.   Wishnia focuses on the crookedness of the press and a confusing matrix of bourgeois Ecuadorean politicians that promise everything and deliver nothing.  He describes the violence of rightist death squads and police; the control of commodities like rice and gasoline by businessmen; the shortages, inflation and power outages of every day – the miseries perpetuated by the local comprador bourgeoisie and their North American puppet masters.  And just to be ‘even-handed’ he shows that the guerillas can perhaps be ruthless too.  

Wishnia references the on-going struggle by indigenous people against Texaco/Chevron’s pollution of their Amazonian region.  The assassination of progressive Ecuadorean president Jaime Aguilera in 1981 in a suspicious plane crash is also a part of the story.  Aguilera established a 40 hour work-week and supported human rights.  Later Omar Torrijos of Panama also died in a suspicious plane crash a few months later. Further investigations of Aguilera's death showed the plane’s motors suddenly shut down, a sign of an electrical pulse weapon.  Documents have revealed that this was part of the U.S. "Operation Condor" plan. (See book review on the assassination of Paul Wellstone, below.) This was during the period of the contra wars in Central America and the Reagan presidency, which considered anything left of Jesse Helms to be a Soviet plot.

In 2010, corrupt Ecuadorean police attempted to kill the present presdient of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.  Most suspect that the CIA was involved in that plot too, as Correa was a staunch supporter of Hugo Chavez.  This happened under Obama and Clinton's watch. Assassination is one of the surgical tools of imperialism and the domestic Right in every country.

Latin America in the 1980s was a bloody, violent place dominated by military dictators, death squads, IMF austerity loan programs, assassinations, anti-communism and poverty. These were the fruits of the heavy boot of the northern colossus.  This is a look back into that past – a place which U.S. imperialism wishes to return to in full force.  See the recent coup in Honduras, the support for right-wing forces in Brazil and Venezuela, the continual financial pressure from the central banking industry in the U.S. and Europe, our love of every right-wing Mexican president.  The past can return.

If you enjoy detective stories with a foreign, feminist and political twist, this book will be of interest.  A nice glossary of Ecuadorean and Quichua words is included in the book.

And I bought it from Mayday’s used book section.
Red Frog
April 28th, 2016

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The “God Mode”

“The New New Thing – A Silicon Valley Story,” by Michael Lewis, 2000

This is the story of former Texan Jim Clark, an eccentric ADD ‘anarchist’ who invented the first 3-D micro-processor for computers, which eventually became Silicon Graphics.  Then he started Netscape, the first net browser company.  He continued with a plan and program called “Healtheon” - health industry mid-ware that would link all of the fractionated U.S. health industry together.  Healtheon’s first IPO was called off in 1998 prior to the ‘tech wreck’ on Wall Street, but a later offering in 1999 made him a billionaire.  In the process Clark evolves into the key ‘idea’ person in Silicon Valley.  He started the lawsuit between Netscape and Microsoft over Microsoft’s anti-competitive browser monopoly.  He spends most of his time working on a massive computerized sailboat, the Hyperion – which was stylized as the 1990s predecessor to a home controlled by computers.   

The Valley of the Kings
Lewis is a journalist who normally rakes mostly capitalist muck, but in this case he has written a panegyric to a capitalist ‘outsider’ – Clark.  The book glories in all his oddities, his unorthodox style, the brilliant coders around him, his ‘genius’ and his love of money.  This is a man who dropped out of a Texas high-school.  It is somewhat like the early biographies of ruthless titans of industry like Rockefeller or Morgan, or the later ones around Bill Gates or Steve Jobs – and tiresome in just that sense.  If you look back over most of Lewis’ work, that same theme of kissing-up to a group of capitalist outsiders is there.   

MoneyBall” – the baseball recruiter that favored statistics over the ‘good ‘ol boy’ network to succeed; The Big Short – the Wall Street short-sellers who knew that mortgage derivatives were garbage; “Flash Boys,” - how some Wall Street contrarians invented a way to prevent the main firms from scamming clients through high-speed trading; “Liar’s Poker,” his first book, which didn’t lionize anyone … yet.  Lewis, while denigrating the mainstream of American capitalism, loves its outriders.  He has no outlook beyond that.

Clark knew that 3-D computing would be copied by everyone as soon as possible.  He knew that Microsoft would throttle Netscape with its own web browser, which turned out to be Explorer. He also thought that Microsoft, due to its monopoly position, would seize software control of a vertical industry like health care. So the important thing for Clark was always the … new, new thing.  The next shiny object.  The latest commodity.  This is how it works in Silicon Valley, which reflects its role as the leading commodity provider in the world. 

One absurd part of this was the promotion of Healtheon in Europe. Lewis actually went on a ‘road show’ for this product through Europe with Clark – like an embedded reporter in Iraq suffering Stockholm syndrome.  What seems obvious is that Lewis actually missed the fact that Healtheon – which was supposed to connect the 11 different sectoral ‘bubbles’ of the U.S. health care system into one web – was not as useful to a ‘single-payer’ or government-run system as in Europe.  So Lewis laughs at the Dutch or English when their eyes glaze over, while the Dutch or English are thinking – what the fuck? 

Knitting the millions of vendors in U.S. health care together, along with the numerous health firms, vendors like drug companies, equipment makers, doctors as well as multiple U.S. government programs and their vast laws, along with 50 state systems, is extremely difficult, especially without single-payer.  Clark’s employees admitted they knew nothing about the U.S. health care system when they started. Software forms an essential connection that could be used to convert the U.S. to single-payer more easily.  The real point of this failed road-show was missed by Clark’s crew, even though it is staring these ignorant geniuses in the face.  Single-payer is the road to simple software.

Lewis covered the Microsoft/Netscape lawsuit, surprisingly filed by the U.S. Justice department, until its denouement when one of Clark’s e-mails seems to have torpedoed the case.  Lewis is then locked-up with Clark and crew on board the Hyperion’s first problem-filled crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.  (The ‘god mode’ is Clark’s override authority on the Hyperion’s 24 computers.) In this book Lewis ends up being like those craven biographers that rich people hire to paint them or write about them.  It’s unseemly at a certain point. 

This book again emphasizes the value of the technology ‘boom’ as one of the engines of capitalist profitability. The Marxists at Monthly Review think because technology doesn’t employ as many people as the rail or auto industries, it is not a significant development that can energize capital. This can also be said of the financial services industry, especially Wall Street. Yet these two forces are the only thing breathing cash (and new commodities) into the stagnating capitalist economy.  On a practical level, technology has actually made imperialist ventures across the globe more possible.  This is a topic that some Marxists really have to understand, instead of preaching about imminent doom all the time.

Profitless Silicon Valley companies like this, that ‘might’ make money in the future, were behind the 2000 dot-com bubble that crashed the U.S. financial markets.  “Value investors’ they were not. 

Let’s look back to 2000 and see what Jim Clark wrought.  3-D computing is still with us, useful for architects, doctors and Hollywood, but Silicon Graphics filed for bankruptcy in 2009.  Netscape Communications was bought by AOL and is now ancient history.  Clark inspired the first efforts at interactive television – ITV – which flopped. @Home, which was based on a computer network providing data to televisions, merged with Excite in 1999 and went bankrupt in 2001.  myCFO, a financial company for billionaires, was sold to Harris Bank in 2002 and is now an ordinary part of their investing platform.  Healtheon merged with Microsoft’s WebMD and now is called “Change Healthcare” - the largest exchange and payment system for health data and finance in the U.S.  All of these programs mostly enable the system as it is.  But it is true that a single health care software program would be essential to a single-payer system.  But so far over-head costs in the U.S. health-care industry still outpace actual medical costs, so software alone is insufficient.

Clark is on the list of the 400 richest Americans, so this is a portrait of a billionaire.  Many of the companies Clark was involved in bit the dust, but he was their inspiration.  He launched them, then collected.   A few of them were useful and the others were not. Oddly, he was involved in the documentary, “The Cove” about the criminal slaughter of dolphins for meat in Japan.  What do Marxists make of men with ideas like this, driven by greed, which are sometimes useful?  It is that there is plenty of proof that greed is not the only stimulus to new ideas.  Paeans to Silicon Valley internet heroes have become cheap literature and Lewis should know that by now.      

Other books by Michael Lewis reviewed below:  Liar’s Poker,” “The Big Short,” and “Flash Boys.”  Other books or commentary about technology below:  Cypher Punks,”  Citizen Four,” “In Letters of Blood & Fire,” “The Cultural Apparatus of Monopoly Capital” and “Creative Destruction.”  Use blog search box, upper left. 

And I bought it in Mayday’s excellent used book section!
Red Frog
April 20, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Foreclose on the Banks

"99 Homes,” a film by Ramin Bahrani, 2015

This is a companion to the film, “The Big Short” which did not dwell on the foreclosures or unemployment caused by the housing bubble.  Instead, ’99 Homes” takes you into the foreclosure industry in 2010 in Orlando, Florida.  It follows the story of one family that is evicted, much to their surprise.  The lead character who is evicted, Nash, in desperation then goes to work for the real estate ‘mogul’ Carver who evicted him – eventually putting Nash himself in an impossible situation. Nash is a working-class carpenter who used to do building work until the building boom ended, but is over his head in this situation.  His values ultimately dominate his desperation.

Housing is Someone Else's Private Property
Nash eventually takes over from Carver doing evictions and comes face to face with all the misery caused by the foreclosures – an aged man who has no relatives and nowhere to stay; families with children who have a ‘lawyer’ and think they have a stay or are appealing their eviction; angry people with guns.  One man has proof his house sale was never advertised – so Nash has to forge an affidavit of publication.  In the real world the housing courts in Florida processed these illegal foreclosures – fraudulently robo-signed paperwork, missing deeds and mortgages, no proof of ownership by the banks – with nary a hiccup.  We see scenes of the 1 minute ‘hearings’ after which the banks are given control. 

Allegations of falsified documents were at the heart of an investigation by state attorneys general and the federal government into foreclosure abuses by Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., and Ally Financial's GMAC mortgage unit. Orange County, Florida, where Orlando is, was cited as one of the worst.

Then the thug sheriffs are sent out to enforce the evictions for the bank’s representative, while a crew of impoverished workers loads all the evicted family's possessions on the boulevard, with a cruel removal deadline of 24 hours.  Families are forced to find emergency housing, and Nash’s family ends up in a rundown and noisy motel full of other evictees. 

The courts, the police, the banks and the real estate industry were all in one big shiny cabal, and still are.

Fraud by the real estate brokers against the Fannie Mae government foreclosure program is also shown.  Appliances stolen, then sold back to the government to make the houses ‘whole’ again;  stolen appliances sold for a profit; water and electricity shutoffs enforced by bank representatives; damage to houses in order to stop other agents from selling the houses.  Carver wants to ‘carve’ up more houses and is attempting to muscle out the bigger competitors who are taking over hundreds and even thousands of homes.  Nash goes along with these schemes to get his son and mother back in their old house, but the contradictions eventually become too much.

This film was written and directed by two Indians.  Evidently we need Indians to cover U.S. tragedies, while so many American directors are making super-hero movies or other forms of head-in-the-sand entertainment. 

Review of “The Big Short,” and “The Divide” by Taibbi, as well as various commentaries re foreclosure, are below.  I will be doing a somewhat damning retrospective of Michael Lewis’ work based on his 2000 book, “The New New Thing,”

Red Frog
April 16, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Innovate This!

“Listen Liberal – Or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?” by Thomas Frank, 2016

The timing is perfect.  In the shade of his credulous disappointment with Obama’s two stints as president, and the looming re-run of a Clinton II presidency, Frank has come out firing on all of his cylinders.  He takes every cherished idea and myth of the ‘new’ Democratic Party (“DP”), gently describes it, quotes it succinctly, nicely pokes it, then puts a bullet in its brain. The Democratic Party clich├ęs of ‘innovation,’ ‘the sharing economy,’ ‘the creatives,’ entrepreneurship, meritocracy, technology and education are all put on the rack and found wanting in the light of class reality.  What Frank investigates is the class nature of the Democratic Party, finding it to be a ‘party of professionals,’ not a party of the working class.   These ‘knowledge’ economy professionals who form the hard voting base of the DP are actually a capitalist ‘new economy’ echo of the ‘old-industry’ Republicans.  Or as Gary Hart first called them, "Atari Democrats."

This is an intimate class analysis that even takes on the subtleties of righteousness and ‘goodness’ pushed by this strata.  Frank does this after attending a glitzy back-slapping session put on by the Clinton Foundation, hosted by Hillary Clinton and Melinda Gates.

Let us be Frank

In the process, he lumps in the pro-Democratic top executives of Wall Street and Silicon Valley (unaccountably leaving out Hollywood) with the part of the 9% that forms the immediate base and transmission belt for the DP – academics, lawyers, doctors, engineers of various stripes, corporate and non-profit managers, the elite in media, software, arts and journalism  – what Frank terms the ‘well degreed.’  In essence, the ‘smartest people in the room,’ as they fancy themselves.

Frank’s ‘professional class’ is really a wing of the petit-bourgeoisie / middle class in U.S. society – what Marxists have always identified as a prop for capital.  Small businessmen form the other part of this class – they are the usual base for the Republican Party.  The two parties share this strata, as they do the topmost strata of the 1%.  Frank essentially says that the working class has been abandoned by the DP, which is why so many now vote Republican or don’t vote at all.  Unlike the DP mantra that ‘they have nowhere else to go’ – they actually do.  The DP’s triumphalist emphasis on ‘demographics’ is an example of this.  It’s like a line from Blazing Saddles: “We don’t need no stinkin’ workers.’ 

Frank agrees with most other left economists (Piketty et al.) and sociologists that it is the 10%, not just the 1%, that have benefited in the last 40 years.  This is crucial in understanding the role the professional strata plays in spreading the influence of the 1% into the rest of society.  Leaving this out basically camouflages how the 1% rule. Occupy Wall Street, while having a catchy slogan, on a deeper level was essentially wrong.  I pointed this out in December 2011 post (“Look Who We’re Calling Comrade”) that dwelled on the number of millionaires in the U.S., but was looked at as some kind of egg-head.

In the process Frank humorously reviews the dour history of the Clintons, then analyses Obama’s copycat version, which he called “Clintonism on monster-truck tires.”  Jimmy Carter, the born-again peanut entrepreneur from Hicksville, Georgia is left out, but he certainly started things in the late 1970s.  Clinton’s enormous failures – deregulating Wall Street, NAFTA, the incarceration and drug-war state, deregulation and privatization across other industries, strengthening a two-tier justice system, stranding unions, welfare ‘reform’ – all have been exhaustively covered, as have Obama’s versions of these policies.  What Frank shows is how these policies really reflected a conscious move towards the ‘well-degreed’ strata of professionals in the U.S. and away from the great unwashed proletariat, essentially moving this section of moderate Republicans into the DP camp - where they are now.

You will note that nearly every reactionary measure negatively impacting the working class by Clinton or Obama was in league with the Republican Party.  And yet these DP people – Hillary included – have the gall to picture themselves as the true opponents of Republicanism, when they have actually enabled a good part of it.  Even their bickering around the Supreme Court indicates they cooperate to have a ‘split’ court – all of whom support increased government power, including the ‘liberals.’

After the romance with Wall Street fizzled a bit after 2008, the DP decided to love tech. Google was name-checked by Obama in half of his ‘state of the union’ speeches while its head, Eric Schmidt, is one of his close advisors.  Schmidt called entrepreneurs the ‘value-creators’ of society.  Sound familiar? The DP promotes the ‘sharing’ economy.'  You know, tech firms like Uber, which takes jobs from tax drivers; TaskRabbit, which is nothing but a digital temp agency; AirBnB, which sidesteps housing, safety and tax laws for profit, or Amazon, which is a tax-free WalMart.  This kind of ‘disruption’ is really part of their creation of a precariat of workers, where one day most can hope to be temps standing around in front of hardware stores hoping for day work.  Just bring your ‘smart’ phone! This is the future for the majority that the enlightened DP describes as ‘progressive.’

Frank takes on the argument that the ‘big bad Republicans’ made the Democrats do all these things.  As one answer he takes an in-depth look at Boston and Massachusetts to see what a paradise of DP control looks like, as this state is thoroughly Democratic.  Outside the environs of the high-tech corridor, universities and pharmaceutical companies of Boston, Massachusetts is in a state of poverty and de-industrialization.  Inequality is one of the highest in the nation.  It is not just black people that have been left behind.  High drug prices, high education costs and unemployment are the result of this ‘innovation’ economy.   The DP’s black Massachusetts governor later went on to join Bain Capital, Romney’s firm!  If Boston was the Capitol of Panem, it makes sense.  Or perhaps its Martha’s Vineyard, where both Clinton and Obama take holidays among the deserving wealthy.

The ‘brainy’ Democrats love of ‘complexity’ even extends to the ACA and Dodd-Frank – two of the most complex pieces of legislation ever enacted, both running to thousands of pages, which probably no human being understands completely.  Dodd-Frank is still being written years after it was voted on.  Just on the face of it, there is something wrong here.  But only if you’re not an expert!

Frank’s visit to the 2015 Clinton Foundation gala allows him to look into Hillary’s plan for women in other parts of the world (and shows her plan for American women too.)  Essentially it involves promoting entrepreneurship among 3rd world women through micro-lending.  Essentially this means getting 3rd world women involved in the banking industry.  Essentially Peter Edelman showed that micro-lending does not alleviate poverty or empower women, but only increases indebtedness.  (Duh…)  Exxon, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart all have micro-finance programs.  Frank points out that these corporations are buying ‘compassion credits’ similar to carbon offsets.  Poverty is actually profitable, as is labor, which is why both endure.  And so ‘gilt’ must be ‘suffered’ and the DP appears as moralistic as some Texas Baptist.

As Frank coyly notes, if you take into account the removal of welfare supports or housing foreclosures for many poor women, you can say that Hillary’s slogan is ‘No ceilings, no floor!’

What is missing here is the most deluded group of all - not counting many established black 'leaders.'  It is top union leaders.  In the run-up to the 2016 election, the edicts came from on high from nearly every ‘international’ union headquarters that Hillary Clinton was to be endorsed.  Rank and file unionists were stunned.  The slavish teachers’ union bureaucrats were first in line.  This might reflect their role as the MA/BA aristocracy of labor that they fancy themselves, even though the ranks of their unions know better.  Imagine teachers endorsing people who support charter schools and Rahm Emanuel!  This is no different from poor rural people in Kansas voting Republican because of Jesus.  Even the SEIU, which has been the union most out-front with “$15,” backed Clinton, who did not support the demand. The ‘hope’ placed in Trumka or the split in the AFL-CIO have come almost to nought.  Four or more internationals and many local bodies have instead chosen Sanders, which certainly reflects that the union movement is not quite dead.  But its damn close.

This is a fast, entertaining read, with Frank's characteristic understanding of the 'commodification of dissent' and his ability to see through 'hip' rhetoric.  Frank was the editor of the "Baffler" and wrote "What's the Matter with Kansas" and other books that look at the culture of politics.

Other books on the DP:  The Democrats:  A Critical History,”Death of the Liberal Class,” commentaries, “Red Wedding,”Sanders, a Left View,” etc. and books analyzing class itself – “Class Lives,” “Chavs,” “Understanding Class,” “Rich People Things,” “The Precariat.”

And I bought it at May Day Books!

Red Frog

April 10, 2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Hidden HIstory of the Italian Left

"The Unseen,” by Nanni Belestrini – foreword by A. Negri, 1987

The unseen, the hidden half, the invisible people of Italy act.  A novelistic treatment of the events during the autonomist movement in Italy in the mid to late 1970s – a period of working-class turmoil similar to 1968.  Not on the NYT’s best seller list.  Will not be reviewed by the NYT Magazine.  No one on National Government Radio (“NPR”) will ever talk about this book or any book like it.  It is a play of light and dark, victory and prison.

A Negri, Theorist of Autonomist Movement
This is a picture of a generalized class struggle that does not last. A contest of power between the capitalist state, factory owners and the autonomist left.  The comrades wear shabby clothes: “How do you think about clothes when you are betting everything you’ve got?” The Leninists want a vanguard to lead the struggle.  The Italian Communist Party (PCI) is running the city and wants illegality to end.  It is the time of the ‘historic compromise’ – 1976 - when the PCI made a popular-front block with the Christian Democracy, the leading capitalist party.  The actual left was outraged. 

The villages around the city, a railroad ride away, are run by the Christian Democrats, a party based on the wealthy families in each town.  In the villages everyone works, especially at home, where piecework from the small factories dotting the area is doled out.  The families, especially the mothers, work for added hours every day putting together cheap parts to supplement their incomes. Some southerners have moved in from the backward rural south of Italy and a few village folks give them piece-work too.  The radical youth hate the ‘sanctimonious bigots all priest-loving hypocrites’ in the village and go to the city as much as possible.  “The movement was my family,” the lead character says. 

Young Italian students shut down a school in the face of their screaming principal.  Thousands of leftists fight carabinieri in an attempt to shut down a fascist headquarters after fascists kill a left demonstrator.  Helmets, tire irons, big wrenches, Molotov cocktails/petrol bombs and tear gas.  Cops run over a demonstrator with a giant jeep and shred his body. 

The illegal occupation of an empty Catholic building for a performance space, a clinic, a resource center, a press office. Many practical skills involved, as these are not bookish people. The comrades make a tactical decision and refuse to evacuate, then are stormed by carabineri with teargas.  60 of them escape over the roofs.  Real-life drama, better than all the fake Hollywood super-hero movies.

Tute Bianchi, struggle continues 1994-2001
The young lead character is arrested and interrogated because of a weapon found in a house he rented 3 years ago from a crooked attorney who wasn’t paying taxes.  The judge is also the prosecutor.  The appointed ‘defense’ attorney is indifferent.  The unseen is dumped in a medieval dungeon presided over by an incoherent dirty troll and then convicted on this incoherent evidence as a ‘terrorist.’

Indiscriminate arrests of activists are the order of the day if they have any connection to the movement. That is Italian justice.  Penned in a formulaic trial, the men and women prisoners meet in a swirl of color. There is a seesaw of power between prison captives and prison administration. Pictures of gruesome prison violence between non-politicals.  A ‘gentle’ prison rebellion by the comrades, capturing guards, seizing floors and grinding weapons.  Plastique is in play.  The comrade prisoners are lulled into complacency by prison negotiators until a sudden attack by helicopters, black ninjas and bombs.  The carabineri shoot and do not care if anyone dies. Then all the prisoners – politicals, non-politicals and even disguised guards – are beaten and beaten again by the guards.  Broken noses, faces, legs, arms, ribs, hands, brain damage.  The guards go on to destroy the prison, then blame it on the inmates.  Then the Berlusconi newspapers lie about it all. 

Still other inmate rebellions.  Refusals to eat the horrible prison food, dumped in the central walk. Flooding the floor.  Pots and pans banged at night.  Torches invisible to the population.  Similar to the IRA and Bobby Sands.  To no avail, as time must be served.  Forgetfulness must be observed.  

A centre is rented from a “Marxist-Leninist” Maoist organization that can’t afford the rent due to their tiny membership.  It then serves as an organizing place for the whole mass movement. Group theft, ‘the spectacle’ and creative disruption follow, allowing the movement to control the city neighborhood around the centre. In the villages, workers and students go from factory to factory, shutting them down in support of a factory occupation.  Sweat shops are invaded and destruction commences.  A feminist rebellion in the ranks.  A split of an armed action group from within the affinity group.  A leading 'military security' comrade becomes an informer.  

In this atmosphere, a stillborn pirate radio station is started.  But by now many have been arrested, had psychological breakdowns, committed suicide, become informers or drug addicts, and the station cannot go on the air.  Solidarity, the greatest weapon of the rebellion, has disappeared.  The government of the capitalists has crushed the movement.

The text is written without capitalization, periods or any punctuation, only blocks of paragraphs.  Sort of like ‘stream-of-consciousness’ except perhaps by an excited youth or a TV or movie camera that blinks regularly or perhaps like a prose poem.  You feel like you need to put the capitals on and place the periods, but you get used to it. The rhythm of the text suggests its own invisible punctuation.  Like the invisible history it charts.

Other books about Italy or anarchism on sale at Mayday and reviewed below:  The Dark Heart of Italy,” “Trumpolini,”Peace, Love & Petrol Bombs”, “Something in the Air,” “How Non-Violence Protects the State,” “The Society of the Spectacle” and “The Bomb.”  Use search box, upper left.  

P.S. - Inmates at many U.S. prisons, especially in the south, are on strike against the slave labor regime in American prisons.

And I bought it at Mayday Books in their excellent left-wing fiction section. 
Red Frog
April 5, 2016