Variant issue 8    www.variant.org.uk    variantmag@btinternet.com    back to issue list

Variant issue 8 Summer 1999

Contents

Pierre Bourdieu's Sociological Theory of Culture
Brigit Fowler

Artschool Jungle
Lorna Miller

Tales from the Great Unwashed
Ian Brotherhood

20th Century Prison Blues: An essay informed by four novels
Jim Ferguson

History of the LMC
Clive Bell

'tun yuh and meck fashion' -- The Container Project
Mervin Jarman and Matthew Fuller

Comic & Zine Reviews
Mark Pawson

Supplement
Byzantine Politics: The Abudction and Trial of Abdullah Ocalan
William Clark

The Wilson plots
Robin Ramsay

Dragsters and Drag Queens, Beatification and Beating Off
Simon Herbert

A Cut and Paste Conversation
Renée Turner and Jason E. Bowman

Art Activism and Oppositionality: Essays from AfterImage
Ann Vance

The First European Seminar on Artist Run Spaces
Micz Flor

Return to the Far Pavilions
Daniel Jewesbury

When you care enough to be the very best
Leigh French

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Pierre Bourdieu's sociological theory of culture
Brigit Fowler

Pierre Bourdieu is currently the Professor of Sociology at the Collège de France, Paris. He is someone who has experienced in his own life a double transition from a pre-capitalist world to a capitalist one: initially, in his move from Denguin, in the peasant Béarn area of the Pyrenees, to metropolitan Paris, and once again, after his return from the rural South of Algeria, where after being drafted with the Army he became a self-taught anthropologist.
Thus Bourdieu is well-placed to argue that the fundamental element of modernity is the historical shift towards the greater significance of the economy within the whole society. From being a "thing in itself" the economy becomes a "thing for itself". In particular, the gift exchange of goods and labour, which had once been totally organised around reciprocity, is largely replaced. What is substituted for it, of course, is the production and circulation of commodities, but also the enclosure of a sacred island of Art, where an inversion of commodity values emerge, in such a way that high sales no longer count as an acceptable measure of aesthetic value:
The denial of economic interest ...finds its favourite refuge in the domain of art and culture, the site of [a] pure [form of] consumption, of money, of course, but also of time convertible into money. The world of art, a sacred island systematically and ostentatiously opposed to the profane world of production, a sanctuary for gratuitous, disinterested activity in a universe given over to money and self-interest, offers, like theology in a past epoch, an imaginary anthropology obtained by the denial of all the negations really brought about by the economy (1977).
Bourdieu himself is particularly concerned with the fate of art in late capitalist society, arguing that the sociological study of culture is the sociology of religion of our time. Adorno and the theorists of the Frankfurt School saw painters such as Kandinsky as adopting a language of form which was out of reach of the commercial "culture industry", not least because of the epiphanies offered within their works and their two-dimensional grasp of social realities. But Bourdieu forcefully proposes a disturbing, new, demystifying stance. He asks whether the avant-garde might not have become set in an entirely different context once the structures of the modern art market had been established. Thus when the leading exponents of the various modernisms became highly-valued in the art market and their works came to be used to prove that their owners had "a spiritual soul", a fundamental "misrecognition" occurred.
Increasingly, a hagiographic approach to "the artist as saint" has emerged. With it, any attempt to introduce a scientific study of art and its social relations are denounced as reductionist. But such an approach, taken seriously, means looking once again at the evolution of artistic autonomy within capitalist modernity and especially at the split phenomena of "the appearance of cultural production specially designed for the market and, partly in reaction against that, a production of pure works destined for symbolic appropriation" (1996:140). The underlying principle of difference between the two has become the opposition of "pure art" to popular taste, where the popular has become negatively associated with the "commercial". In fact "pure art" is less other-worldly, that is, disinterested and non-market-oriented than it appears, and the routine organisation of art operates to ensure that there are actually two "modes of ageing" and two economic logics functioning, one based on a long-run time perspective with risky undertakings, organised around objects that have a long life ("art"), and the other, with the aid of multiple reproduction, organised around low-risk undertakings with a short-run life (the "commercial" portrait or Boots landscape) (1996:142-6).
Bourdieu's relentlessly empirical investigations into the taste for modernist works as symbolic goods show that its public are not just drawn from other artists, but principally from those patrician families who have "old money", often bankers, liberal professionals and higher education teachers (1984). Thus, once aesthetically certified by a leading critic and authenticated by the artists' signature, the works of the contemporary avant-garde have moved into the arms of power. "Legitimate taste" ("good" taste) is far from randomly scattered: it is the possession of an "aristocracy of culture". Moreover, artistic reputations no longer have to wait for posthumous recognition (as with Manet) or middle age (as with Degas, Monet and other members of the impressionist Batignolles Group). Certainly, the reverse world of bohemia, established by the first "heroic modernists", was premised on the ascetic disavowal of the market and a self-denying pursuit of artistic values alone (1996). Thus Flaubert, for example, could be recognised as truly epoch-making in his refusal to make a "pyramid structure" --to present a cumulative narrative order --and in his insistence on a perspectivist treatment in his novels (e.g. Madame Bovary). Equally, Manet and Redon refused to use a painting to "say something" and aimed to "liberate themselves from the writer", that is, from any "gloss or exegesis" (1996:136-7).
Such ascetic withdrawal is now no longer an adequate description of contemporary artists. Instead, the longer-term investment of their experimental effort is increasingly a guarantee of the art-market's eventual recognition, a recognition which often now comes to the young and which ensures rewards considerably greater than those the commercial market hands out to the mass of illustrators and designers "selling their souls" in standardised activities1. The self-presentation of the artist as devoid of monetary interests is meanwhile preserved by the convenient alchemy of the art-dealer. For the gallery-owner (or dealer), by concerning him/herself uniquely with the vulgar world of money, frees the creative figure from its grips and thus arranges the transmutation of the artistic philosopher's stone into gold. In this respect, the artist is aided by the School, in the role of the critic. The critic provides explanations of the nature of his/her art to a whole professional field which thus consecrates and authorises her (1996:169).
There is also another reason for the changed role of the arts in contemporary society. This concerns their emergence within the field of education, both as the mechanisms for selecting the "best brains" and more indirectly as the means by which the dominant social classes arranges their social inheritance. Bourdieu (1968, with Passeron) saw the post-war bourgeoisie as distinguished from other classes by its acquisition of state credentials in the form of educational success ("meritocracy"). The notion of meritocracy was and is one of the most brilliant rationales of good fortune for the successful few, just as the kharma doctrine served to create a perfect theological justification for the hierarchical pre-eminence of the Brahmin few. Moreover, the canon of great artists and writers could be incorporated into such a state-certified education by means of the mechanisms of critical discrimination (via representation in the National Gallery, Oxford anthologies, etc.). Yet the secret of such disproportionate success in school for the sons and daughters of the dominant class was that they alone possessed, via family visits to museums and libraries, a domestic culture that trained them to penetrate the academic mysteries of the school curriculum. Thus Bourdieu's The State Nobility showed that only 32 % students of the great grandes écoles (the topmost rung of French higher education) came from the subordinate classes, while earlier research on the universities revealed that in 1964 only 6% of the children of workers (or peasants) were enrolled.

Bourdieu's Theory of Practice
Bourdieu is becoming synonymous with a "holy trinity" of concepts: habitus, capital and field. There are dangers in stripping these from their conceptual moorings in his other, wider, theories, but I will risk these to show how these "trademark" ideas operate. I will then apply them especially to the art-world, and show how a Bourdieusian perspective refuses a charismatic theory of the isolated artist and resists the interpretation of pure disinterestedness on the part of both public and artists. I shall suggest that Bourdieu represents a powerful analysis of the high culture of modernism but that his social theory also contains certain problematic omissions.
Bourdieu aims to avoid the oppositions based on privilege and prejudice that resonate through the linked dualism of the "individual genius" and the "masses", noting how the deskilling of the subordinate classes has been accompanied by the "hyperskilling" of the genius, how the subordinate classes' incomprehension of high culture has been similar to that of colonised natives awed by colonial power, and how the dominant classes' racist fears of the masses has echoed the irrationality and childishness which was once attributed to "primitives" by the colonising Western powers.
In contrast, for Bourdieu, all action, including artistic work, is modelled on craft action. To put it another way: practice is strategic action. Within this strategic action or agency, everyone is capable of improvisation, just as the clarinettist's jazz solo both obeys certain rules but also --as the fruition of long experience --may go beyond even the virtuoso performances of other great improvisers. Such rules, which guide improvisation, are implicit in your habitus --or loosely, your "world-view" --that is your way of perceiving, emotionally responding to and evaluating the world. Your class habitus (sometimes referred to as "habitus" as such) is the product of your family's experience over generations. For example, a gradually-declining aristocracy is on a social journey or trajectory over decades that produces a certain kind of habitus, made up by a strange mixture of pessimism and condescension. Bourdieu writes of the resentments endemic in many habituses, as in the scrimping and saving of the upwardly socially-mobile, petit-bourgeois parents who have literally "made themselves small" and "done everything" for their children (1984). 
The mistake in reading Bourdieu is to assume that he is concerned with habitus as a product of class experience alone. Certainly, for him, each agent's habitus is formed by their class, but also by their gender and their own occupational field. We can reasonably talk of a working-class habitus but also of a farming habitus, a military, scientific or an artistic habitus.
The habitus itself has to be thought of as like an old house --its own order or logic has an aesthetic resemblance to a well lived-in, much-adapted interior. In the case of both class and gender, the marks that these create are the consequence of centuries, or even millennia, of naturalising social differentiation. The differences feed into each other, so that the working-class feed off their sense of being the last bastion of masculinity against the effeminate bourgeoisie, and the bourgeoisie pride themselves on abandoning a dehumanising patriarchy. What is more the "structuring structures" of the habitus discipline both mind and body: for Bourdieu, there is no cause for a split. So the military body grows ramrod stiff, the painter learns an "automatic" way of handling his paint and the sound of the gears tell the driver "without thinking about it" when to change. The artistic habitus, in other word, is bred into the bone.

Capital and doxa
For Bourdieu, artists and other agents possess certain capitals, of which there are four basic types: first, economic capital --stocks and shares but also the surplus present in very high salaries --second, social capital --the network or influential patrons that you can use to support your actions; third, cultural capital --including the knowledge of the artistic field and its history, which in turn serves to distinguish the naïve painter from the professional, and including also scholarly capital of a formal type (a postgraduate degree, the award of a Rome visiting scholarship etc.); finally, symbolic capital: your reputation or honour, as an artist who is loyal to fellow-artists and so on.
These capitals can be (and often are) distributed around a kin-group, their specific structure and volume distinguishing the "great family" of the dominants from the others: One of the properties of the dominants is to have families particularly extended (the great have great families) and strongly integrated. They are united not just through the effects of the habitus, but also by the solidarity of their interests. They are united at once by capital and for capital: economic capital certainly, symbolic capital (the name) and above all, perhaps, social capital (which one knows is both the condition for and the consequence of the successful direction of capital on the part of the members of this domestic unit).
Bourdieu calls "doxa" the taken-for-granted assumptions or orthodoxies of an epoch which are deeper in the level of consciousness than mere ideologies, but are also productive of conscious struggles and new forms. "Heresiarchs", as Bourdieu calls them, include painters like Courbet and Manet, as well as political figures and philosophers like Pascal and Spinoza. They rupture the doxa (or break with conventions). Bourdieu writes particularly powerfully of Flaubert and of his decision to write well and flout mediocrity while choosing, as his subject for tragic love, characters coming from the middle class provincial obscurity of Yvetot. Heterodoxy distills in its most consecrated forms the lived experience of groups who are not of the subordinate classes, but nor are they of the dominant fraction of the dominant class. Instead they derive from that part of the ruling class which has cultural capital but not much economic capital.
Bourdieu has himself let loose some debunking arguments which have deeply upset art historians and philosophers of aesthetics. First, he claims that art critics have a model of a "fresh eye" which is opposed to the academic "eye", but is still itself thought of as a naturalised essence (that is, they presume that those competencies in colour, line etc which are actually the result of early upbringing or training are instead an innate gift of nature) (1996: 284-312). Critics suffer from what we might call a poverty of ahistoricism: in particular, they are unprepared to understand the artist in terms of his/her positions and position-takings within the art field. What is more, when the rhetoric of art-criticism is analysed closely, the terms chosen are all those that loosely link in to aristocratic discourse --the paintings are noble, distinctive, refined, subtle, etc. Such terms are convenient. They are at once sufficiently autonomous to continue to have some currency in creating an ethos of rarity but sufficiently loose to be compatible with any aesthetics (see 1984, conclusion).
Secondly, Bourdieu argues --like Foucault on the invention of the homosexual --that the West saw the invention of the artist in the mid-nineteenth century. This figure was characteristically bohemian, emphasising with a Christ-like devotion the sacrifices necessary for art. The artist provoked a sense of awe and respect for disinterestedness, initially within the progressive intelligentsia of the Left bank, and then more generally among the bourgeoisie. Bourdieu's work undercuts this, although his latest work does concede that certain artists --like Manet --can be regarded as "heroic" in their inauguration of a new world of art based on "symbolic revolution". He insists, on the other hand, that, unlike the academic world where the artist is a civil servant of art, the world of the bohemian artist is a world of anomic (unregulated) competing cults. The artist, however is not entirely given up to the other-worldliness of the artistic life. In fact artists who are productive are those whose hours and ethic of work resembles that of other professionals.
Artists, thus argues Bourdieu, are usually distant from the models of disinterested devotion that the bohemian ideal suggests: "One soon learns in conversation with [gallery-owners] that with a few illustrious exceptions ..., painters ...are deeply self-interested, calculating, obsessed with money and ready to do anything to succeed" (1980:266). In terms of their action in their own field, the saint-like hero of bohemia possesses unexpected reserves of anger and even physical violence in defending their stake in the game. His example is of the French surrealists' circle where force --even broken arms --was the outcome of struggles over competing issues.
Second, Bourdieu argues that becoming "recognised" requires a certain artistic career. Geographically, it has been virtually impossible for provincial artists or even those who have come from the country to the city to make their mark. Provincial artists have been doomed instead to abandon their projects, and to become merely regional painters or writers. Moreover, only those painters or writers who had families ready to give them allowances in the difficult periods before getting established were likely to be successful. Here Bourdieu is at his most challenging. He is arguing in effect that the whole history of modernism has been one in which only those avant-garde artists who were centrally located and who had the time to spend on their experiments were the ones who won out.
The Rules of Art (1996) bring out the tragic contradictions of art in our period. For Bourdieu shows us that the only effective field of struggle is within the "restricted" field of art, cut off from the "expanded" field where specialised knowledge is not required to decode the relevant imagery. Within the restricted field, collective movements help to consecrate the reputation of individual artists, whose positions, in turn, are that much more defensible the better-secured are their own artistic habitus. Bourdieu suggests that Manet, for example, had an extensive knowledge of art history on which his own works fed; Duchamp had a superb feel for the game, partly because several generations of his family were painters. And, lest he be seen to be simplistically anti-artist, he notes that the symbolic revolutions established by Baudelaire or Manet are in some respects as fundamental as a political revolution. They change permanently the way that we see and classify the world.
Yet the dangers inherent in historical revolutions also apply to such symbolic revolutions. The achievement of mass recognition by an artist is a double-sided victory for it sets in motion a process of routine co-optation --by means of cheap reproductions, profitable "bio-pics", personality cults and hyperbolic "criticism". The most transgressive figures can thus be tailored ultimately to the needs of the museum, gallery/ market system and the curriculum. Here the lowest common denominator that draw them together is the artists' mutual concern for aesthetic form, whatever differences exist in terms of meaning or the political ends their works serve. Through a form of reception that forces them to submit to the aesthetic attitude --the supremacy of style --they inadvertently come to underline the dominant class's hold on power2. Bourdieu's writings in fact disclose a skeletal theory of art which does not always need to serve the purposes of such hegemonic domination, allowing us to go beyond a vulgar critique of pure art. His theory is an attempt to create a sociological aesthetic which might give back to art its concern with ethical and political interests, which wishes to flee the museum and restructure the role of the art-world within everyday life.
We begin to see, too, why there is no such thing as popular art in Bourdieu's theory. First because the modern artist, bereft of the orthodoxy of the Academic artist, needs the defence of his/her critic, not to speak of a reputable dealer. Second, because the institution of permanent revolution requires the crucial ingredient of the right place (especially presence in the great metropolises of modernity) and also the time when young to experiment. The conditions for these are self-assurance and the financial support that historically has been available only to the sons and daughters of the dominant class (not least the minor aristocracy) by means of an allowance.
We also note that for Bourdieu some arts might be legitimisable (eg cinema or photography or jazz). However, compared with other more securely-consecrated forms they don't bring their potential haute bourgeois public enough returns (in terms of "cultural capital") to reward them for their investment of time and effort. Such art-forms are doomed to be taken seriously only by a tiny "deviant" minority like the junior executives or technicians who make up the members of camera clubs. Photography, therefore, is consigned for ever to the outer circle of hell in the form of the mere middlebrow.
I think that Bourdieu overlooked the potential for "consecration" within photography --it might be said that the popular character of photography did delay its legitimation but that it has now acquired its own canon of great photographers, its own critics and historians and its own educational base in art-schools. However, there is considerable backing to many of Bourdieu's theories, not least in the various British reports of the Arts Council. For example, Moulin's empirical work on the contemporary French art-market (1967), in the Centre de Sociologie Européene, has shown very acutely, by means of interviews with painters, collectors and curators, the precise ways in which critics' aesthetic values are used to bolster exchange values and the paradoxes for the painters of having clients buy their works who are out of sympathy with their views. She indicates the widespread painters' concern for alternative ways of putting their work in the public domain. Gamboni (1989) has shown how being taken up by a wealthy and aristocratic group of clients, as Odilon Redon was, can coincide with a fundamental change of style. This included, in his case, a total change from monochrome symbolist or metaphysical etchings to oil-paintings, suffused with light, and from sombre greys to intense, bright colours. Sapiro's study (1996) of French writing in the period of the Nazi occupation has revealed that many of the organisations of the so-called autonomous literary field, such as the Académie Francaise , the Nouvelle Revue Francaise, the Prix Renaudot and the Prix Goncourt, pandered unheroically to the Vichy regime or its German masters, thus displaying in the event the weakness of their humanist rhetoric.

But Bourdieu's theory does have certain problematic elements, following on the poor predictive quality of his research on photography. Let me isolate these briefly. First the concepts of "doxa" or "illusio" tend to suggest that there are no possibilities of moving outside the "game" and beyond the forms of knowledge that prevail within it, knowledge which depends crucially on your location in relation to power. However, unlike Foucault, Bourdieu does suggest that there is a possibility of lived experience which may clash with ideology: moreover, in the case of (social) science, this takes the form of procedures for testing reality which are non discourse-dependent. It is true that despite this there are still certain types of doxa or taken-for granted assumptions which are ineradicable in a given period because they are opaque, even to social scientists. However, every historian would agree that this is the case to some degree.
Secondly, Bourdieu writes very disparagingly of the "fragile" nature of the alliance between artists and workers, and expects it to dissolve when the artists themselves gain recognition. But in some circumstances, this "fragile" alliance does hold, at least temporarily (eg the Russian and Cuban Revolutions). Artists do suffer exile or even die for their beliefs --I think of Neruda confronted by the Chilean junta, of Lorca in the Spanish Civil War, or Mandelstam, Solzhenitsyn, and others who could have sometimes taken easier ways out. The question here, it seems to me, is to deepen and make more precise our historical sociology of such testing-points. Under what conditions do groups of artists --like Quakers and some early trade-union groups --offer resistance or seriously undertake the risks of "martyrdom" ? (Fowler, 1997)
Further, I should refer to Bourdieu's disturbing views about artists' "interest in disinterestedness", which has led one critic to accuse him of having a narrow and unacceptably determinist position, which lacks any room for altruism (Alexander, 1995). My inclination is to follow Bourdieu here: he points even to medieval monks having occasionally come to blows, such was the intensity of their belief in their religion (1998c: 78). Yet he is also aware that monastic communities could reveal considerable levels of disinterestedness. The brothers scourged themselves with consciences more subtle and vigilant than most. The same should be noted of artists, who, after all, deliberately avoid economic capital at the outset of their adult careers. They might quite reasonably want the degree of material comforts which are necessary for work, without being held to pursue economic interests single-mindedly. The problem here is not Bourdieu's theory but rather an "invention" of "the artist" which projects on them idealised human qualities, transforming them into figures devoid of practical needs (Bourdieu 1998 c: 85-8).
My view would also be that Bourdieu does incur some costs in broadening out the idea of "capital" to include social and cultural capital. Economic capital is necessarily zero sum --the more surplus value the employer has, the less the worker has. But it is not clear to me that "cultural" (or "informational") "capital" are necessarily either zero-sum or hierarchical in all societies. These could, without internal contradiction, be more democratised. Equally, artists' symbolic "capital" in the form of reputations does not necessarily have to be exploitative of others, although it may be competitively-based.
It is often said that Bourdieu might be accurate in writing of the centrality of high culture or the aesthetic in France, but in France alone. However I disagree with this view: many of the same phenomena appear in Scotland. I cannot agree with Halle's criticism (taken to be implied by his American study) that Bourdieu has overstressed the significance of the drive for symbolic power in such areas as the possession of abstract art. Nor is it sufficient to show, against Bourdieu, that popular artistic works exist (Shusterman cites the case of rap, 1992), for there have to be sponsors to champion new genres/ groups/ independent cultural producers, and, as Raymond Williams has argued, such sponsors are often unprepared to defend works that the general public likes because they have themselves developed "mandarin" tastes. Yet the modern period has also had a small minority of critics who have sometimes canonised popularly-successful producers, as did Williams himself with Dickens, Mrs. Gaskell, Thomas Hardy and Tressell. In some contexts, works have been unshackled or recycled from a purely formalist optic and the artist has become the visionary of his/ her time, expressing ethical/ political issues in the form of images --as Blake managed to criticise slavery, and even in the era of modernism, Manet achieved in his lithographs of dead Communards or Grosz pulled off in his satirical cartoons of post World War I inequality.
Distinction and The Rules of Art sum up the deliberate disenchantment of art by Bourdieu. By this more scientific exploration of the art-world and its links with the school and the field of power, we can all become more aware of the ways in which educational outcomes are linked to class experience and of the complex nature of the interests which drive agents. But there is nothing biological, akin to genes, that leads to such interests invariably being preserved and passed on, despite the impressive dignity of the dominants which is imparted by their knowledge of poetry and art. A reflexive sociology shows also the possibility for resistance and transformation. Bourdieu in fact has high standards for artists, as emerges unambiguously in his work with the installation artist, Hans Haacke3.
At the end of The Rules of Art Bourdieu argues for an Internationale of Artists and Intellectuals (344-5), who will aim to advance the project of the Enlightenment and who will need to own their means of cultural production to do so. Recently, he has restated this:
I would like writers, artists, philosophers and scientists to be able to make their voices heard directly in all the areas of public life in which they are competent. I think that everyone would have a lot to gain if the logic of intellectual life, that of argument and refutation, were extended to public life.
And, in his acceptance speech for the Bloch Prize, he argues for a "reasoned utopia" and against the "bankers' fatalism" which is the ideology of our time. Rational utopianism is defined as being both against "pure wishful thinking (which) has always brought discredit on utopia" and against "philistine platitudes concerned essentially with facts ...intellectuals and all others who really care about the good of humanity, should re-establish a utopian thought with scientific backing ..." (Bourdieu,1998b: 128).

Notes
1 Bourdieu's theories neglect the crossovers between the fine and applied arts. Subsequent to the period of his research, these have certainly become more frequent with artists plundering the "expanded field" of comics, cartoons, graffiti etc. and vice versa. Some recuperation of the popular was always an element of the restricted field (see Varnedoe and Gopnick, 1990).
2 Acts of Resistance notes in its critique of the Bundesbank's President, Mr. Tietmayer, that while he is anxious to bury the expensive welfare state and remove labour movement "rigidities", he, like M. Trichet, the Governor of the Banque de France, no doubt reads poetry and sponsors the arts (Bourdieu 1998b: 46).
3 Free Exchange, Polity, 1995. Haacke has also revealed the anomalies in the changed location of the most celebrated modernists' works, both through showing the changing ownership of their paintings as they come into possession of the more conservative professions and corporate heads and through revealing the discrepancies between the directors' view of how art museums should be run and those of the general public.

References
Selected Works by Pierre Bourdieu:
Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1977.
The Production of Belief, Media, Culture and Society, 1980, 2, 261-93 
Distinction, Routledge, 1984.
The Rules of Art, Polity, 1996.
The State Nobility, Polity, 1997.
Acts of Resistance, Polity, 1998a.
A Reasoned Utopia and Economic Fatalism New Left Review, 227, Jan ­ Feb,1998b, 125-130
Practical Reason, 1998c.
Works by other writers:
Jeffrey Alexander: Fin de Siècle Social Theory, Verso, 1995.
Bridget Fowler, Pierre Bourdieu and Cultural Theory, Sage, 1997.
Raymonde Moulin, La Marché de la Peinture en France, Minuit, 1967. 
G isèle Sapiro, La Raison Littéraire: Le Champs Littéraire dans l'Occupation (1940-4), Actes de la Recherche en Sciences Sociales, nos. 111-2, Mars 1996, Seuil.
Richard Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics, Blackwell, 1992.
K.Varnedoe and A. Gopnik, High and Low, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1990.
Raymond Williams, The Politics of Modernism, Verso, 1989 
 

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Tales from the Great Unwashed
Ian Brotherhood

Had a wee flurry just after lunchtime there with a crowd of folk over for a christening up the road, but I don't think they'll be back. I heard one of them moaning about the dust on the top shelves of the gantry, and another on about there being no soap in the ladies. Makes you wonder what sort of crowd the baby's let hisself in for.
This morning, about half-eleven I suppose, the doors wasn't long open and I'm standing here looking at the sun on the pavement and wondering if I should get Diane in early and head off down the coast for a few hours, a walk along the beach, a wee bit fresh air for the brainbox. I'm just standing there staring at the pavement, at the shadow of the lamp post across the road, the exhaust fumes blue in the light, and I'm sort of half-dreaming about whether or not to take the binoculars and the wellies and that when a movement sort of snaps me awake and this wee dog, some kind of mongrel terrier I suppose, this wee black and white patched fella goes walking backwards across the doorway. Very strange that, so I pour a coffee from the pot and stand there and drink that and try to remember if Da ever mentioned anything about dogs doing such a thing, but I don't recall it ever being a hot topic. Cats, black, aye, crossing paths and all that. Dogs, no. Cats walking backwards? No. And then I get this picture of a dog and a cat walking side by side backwards under a stepladder, so I stop drinking the coffee and call Diane. She can make it a couple of hours early, so I'll be off right enough, and with luck there might be a decent sunset.

See what it is? It's over having words with Mary again. That's about a dozen times since her sixteenth I've had to talk to her about them so-called friends. Last night she's got them in again up the stairs, that Shona one with her sister Jools. That Shona's too old for a start. Eighteen. That's too old for my Mary. And there's something about that wee Jools one I don't like. She looks at me a bit weird, them big eyes staring at you, but you wouldn't trust her at the baby-sitting I can tell you. So anyway, I go up there, tell them that's their car, 'cos their Da owns Starnight Cars, and he always gets one of his lads to drop by if they're here late. So it's half-nine and the car's there. And when I knock the door I hear Mary shouting come-in, so in I go, and they're about the computer, shoulder to shoulder the three of them, and it's some game they're at.
Have a look Da, says Mary, and she sort of leans back so I can see the screen, and it's like some video effects thing they're about, and Mary's working the controls there, and she's a young man, maybe about ages with herself, and he's stuck in some sort of a dungeon, pure blackness all about him. Watch now, says Mary, and the music's right creepy too, not the likes of your old black-and-whites with the church organs and that, but these mad screams and laughs and scrapes and cutting sounds all mixed in, and I'm getting a bit of the shivers with this, and the girls all sort of scream at the same time as this thing appears on the screen, and Mary jiggles at he keyboard and makes her man pick up this baseball bat type of thing. This creature gets closer, and you can see now it's a terrible thing altogether, with the body of a big baldy dog hopping about on its back legs, and the face on it is like Lester Piggot, only if you imagine your man with a great long jaw like a donkey and the teeth on him is like the shards of glass along the wall-top, and the whole thing is the colour of dead skin and covered with these big wet warts about an inch broad and high, and the music goes mental and the thing hops right up to the screen, covering about the same distance that I go lepping back over the carpet. Mary jerks back in the seat and makes the fella bring down the baseball bat and she catches old Lester-face right on the side of the head, behind his ear it is, and you hear this crack like a melon hitting the pavement, and the creature lets out a howl and staggers back, but not fast enough 'cos Mary belts it another one with this bat, and this time the whole side of it's head caves in and this like snake of blood and brains comes leaping out its skull and lands on the deck like a shot jellyfish, and all the noises is like things popping and farting liquids. Are you wanting a shot? asks that Shona one then, but I'm halfways out of the room already and not feeling too good either.
I wash the face and give myself a wee talking to in the bog and work it out before I go back in. I'm not good at this type of thing, and thank God Mary's been as good as she has 'cos I couldn't have been doing with it all the time.

You girls better get yourselfs downstairs. Your car should be here by now. And take that game with you and make sure you never bring anything like that into my house again. Do you understand? I say, and it's like I must be putting on my sternest voice 'cos they're looking well wary and hurt, but they both look up at Mary, and Mary looks at me like I'm daft and says, it's mine Dad, this is the one I got with the birthday money you gave me. I told you about it, remember?
So that was that. They got packed off home and we had an argument. In the end, I lost, and I know she knows it. If I would have been more interested I would have known, but she's still got the receipt so I'll be taking it back to the shop and having a wee word with Peter, 'cos he's the fella with his name on the slip. Makes me wonder if Peter's got any my Mary's age. Better for him if he doesn't.

The drive down is slow and frustrating, and a right shouting match I end up having with a fella behind me who won't make his mind up to overtake or sit halfway up me pipe. The coastline is dirty. The secret bay as we called it isn't as secret as it used to be, and it's not with folk being there, but the stuff along the tide-lines. Old johnnies, womens' towels and weathered parts of children's toys, a baby's arm sticking out of the sand, and gloves everywhere --ladies' pink gloves, a navvy's heavy-duty crimson rubber like an udder, and wellie boots and wheelie bins and all manner of shite in great long lines along the sea-wall as far as I can make-out.
But I walk along anyway, and glad of the binoculars too. A sailing-boat far away is getting tossed about grand-style by the waves, and even the seagulls manage to find out what hovering's like, stuttering up and down in the wind. I reach the dunes where we used to meet when we were over on the holidays. We even managed to build a sort of hut for when the rain was on. I poke around a bit beside a couple of the sandy banks, checking close to see if there might be any trace of the door frame and timbers we used, but of course there's nothing. The dunes I remember have probably long since joined the sea.
There's a sunset happening over behind the islands, but heavy black clouds from the sea obscure it, and grey bands connecting to the sea on the horizon tell me that I've walked enough and should return before the rain hits land.
Back down past the dunes, then the great slope of the sea-wall where there's still the barbed wire and the bunkers for the guns, and right battered it all is too, with slabs of concrete as big as the pub shifted and cracked by the winter waves. I have to sit down. My legs are tired, and that's maybe only six, seven miles at most. I don't want to go home with Mary and me not talking. I can't handle it. And that game still has to go back. It's in the car, back in its box. The picture on the front is of a big veiny red blob, and the only thing that tells you it's a head is these two mad red eyes like glass. I wonder what Mary has inside her head, what she dreams about when she's not well, or when she's scared. The worst I ever got was a witch under the bed. I shiver and have to check behind me, along the cracked ridge of the wall, feeling that something is watching me. But there's nothing there. The furthest of the islands is now behind the wall of grey rain, and it'll be here before long. I'm too weary to start walking again, so I make a smoke before heading off, and sure enough I've the smoke only half-done when the wind turns right powerful and the rain comes in sidey-ways like pebbles, and it's maybe thinking about the likes of that animal in the game, and that thing staring at me out of the box in the back seat, but it's like eyes are all round me, all watching, all chasing me along the beach, and the cloud is over and above and low, blanketing the whole sky, and I don't remember being so scared for a very long time.

I want to get straight upstairs and dry off, and the shivers haven't stopped, even with the heating up full in the car, but Diane calls me across as soon as I'm in the door and says there's a man been waiting to see me since an hour after I left. He looks angry about something, and he's quite drunk, but he hasn't caused any bother so she hasn't warned him yet, but she doesn't want to serve him any more. I follow her backward nod to where this tall, thin-faced fella is leaning against the bar, hand cupped about his pint, and craning up he is to look at the screen of the telly above him. I don't recognise him at all. Not a regular. It's possible I've seen him passing or in another pub, but there's nothing clear, and that's with a good study at him in his reflection behind the gantry.
I get upstairs and change. I don't even shower, just have a quick rub with the towel and on with a fresh shirt and breeks. I look smart enough, but I know I'm in no fit state to be scrapping. The shivers have got worse, and a bit of temple pain there, and that's always unusual for me, means I might be in for a wee bout. I summon Frank from the end of the bar, careful not to open it too far in case your man should see. Frank is only just in, so he's sober enough. I tell him what's what and he goes back to his seat.
The guy gives a wee bit of a start when I say my name. He's been watching the cricket on the telly, and looks like he was enjoying it too until I turns up.
So you're Mary's father, says he, and I nod and extend my hand. He takes it slowly, and his hand is big, but the shake isn't a showy, dramatic one. It's solid and brief. He's got a good drink in him, that's clear by his eyes, but he keeps his voice clear enough, and straight to the point he is.
My daughters were here last night, he says, they like Mary a lot, and so do I. She's been in our house now three, four times, and every time not a bit of bother. Your Mary's a good lass Mr Doohihan. She's bright and well-liked. I'm glad she gets on with mine. She's a good influence on them. But this stuff they're getting into. You'll forgive me speaking my mind, but it's not right.
So that's it then. Their Dad. Jamie Kelly. Starnight Cars. A lot of stories about this man. A lot. I point at the pint, he looks and nods, hands it over and I top it up from the tap in between us. He sniffs, looks down at the bar. He's not pushing for an answer, and there was no aggression in the voice. He deserves an explanation. I put the pint before him, and he slides two coins across. I leave them be.
I'm sorry, I say, and he doesn't look up from examining the head on the pint.
So am I, he says then, and raises the glass and drinks, and continues the slow swallow until half of the liquid has been drained.
I know that Frank and Joe and Bobby will be halfway along the bar behind me, pretending to watch the telly --there's no sense that the man will do anything, but that's as dangerous a time as any.
He sniffs again and wipes some froth from his lips.
It's a hard job right enough, looking after them, he says, but we can look after each other's a bit, you know, keep an eye out and that. Know what I mean?
He extends his hand again as he stands up. He's really very tall indeed. I take his hand, and it's the same shake as before, short and firm, but this time I notice a lump and see the wart on his middle finger as his hand goes to zip up his jacket.
Nice pint you serve in here by the way, he says, and off he goes. Frank and Joe and Bobby come buzzing over with questions, but I don't hear them. I go to the toilet.

So it's ten minutes I'm at it there with the nail brush and the green pan scourer, and the flesh is raw but I keep scraping and pour another dash of disinfectant into the basin.
Better safe, that's what Dad always said, 'cos you never knew what some of them have at and about their gobs over a day. Glass carries the fingerprints and a lot more you can't see. People with scabs and ulcers on their lips. People who let their nose run all over their mouth when they've had too much. Stag night? You wouldn't believe it. People who swill their drink rather than drink it, so that by they've got to the bottom of a pint there's as much spit as there is beer. I smooth on more soap, and wonder where she is, my Mary. She should be back any minute. 
She'll be with her friends, doing whatever they do when their Da's aren't about. There's anger deep in my belly, just the same as you get before a fight, and I close my eyes and I can remember it all like switching on a light, me and her Mum on the shore that night, and it's a warm, clear memory, how sweet and soft and young she was, the lights of the town in the distance and the coolness of the sand below, and I open my eyes and the anger's away and Christ I wish she was with me, right now.
 

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20th Century Prison Blues
An essay informed by four Novels
Jim Ferguson

Writers and thinkers in this culture and beyond, have long been fascinated with ideas of crime and punishment, freedom and social control. Religion is much concerned with such ideas as are politics, philosophy, and the majority of present day social sciences. These areas of interest form a core of social thought which, in a pure sense, is rivalled only in recent times by the great rise of rationalism and empirical science with its concomitant technological advances. In the words of Herbert Marcuse, "A good deal of the history of bourgeois society is reflected in the bourgeois theory of authority." 1
In Plato's Republic (c.375 B.C.) and Thomas More's Utopia (1516) there is lengthy discussion of justice and how criminals ought to be treated. The punishments advocated generally involve some loss of liberty and More has much to say about slavery being a suitable punishment for most crime.
"...they likewise make chains and fetters for their slaves, to some of which, as a badge of infamy, they hang an earring of gold..." 2
Doubtless More was influenced by his reading of Plato; both are at pains to describe highly mechanistic and prescriptive social arrangements, showing them to be for the overall good of the community wherein the individual is subsumed.
It is not my intention here to dwell on the historical development of such ideas but accept that the history exists (and can be argued over) whilst looking at some aspects of prison and punishment in relation to 4 twentieth century texts:
The Star Rover, Jack London, Novel 1915
Men In Prison, Victor Serge, Novel 1930
Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler Novel, 1940
Borstal Boy, Brendan Behan, Autobiographical Novel 1957
These Western/North European texts are, in a sense, part of that literary tradition. A tradition which encapsulates a specific set of values and social assumptions about how people live, what governments are and, indeed, what a novel or any other piece of literature actually (or supposedly) is. However, they illuminate much of the ideological landscape of the twentieth century as well as the detail of individual experiences in the process and circumstances of imprisonment. At the same time, almost by necessity of the subject matter, they are in opposition to both the literary tradition they come from and the institutionalisation they describe.
The main characters in these books believe that, on some level, their treatment embodies injustice; that the injustice has its roots in larger political questions and/or social arrangements but is manifest in the institutions of the prison and justice systems. Each author presents state authority as the perpetrator of unjust punishment and indicts these state institutions simply by detailed description of an individual life, by exposing what happens on the inside. In making these detailed descriptions of prison life the writers are appealing to a higher sense of moral justice in the consciousness of the reader: that is part of the way the novels work. Another way in which they work is by making concrete the details of an experience which is to the majority of people extremely unfamiliar. The more extreme and removed from everyday life the actions described, the more the minute details render them as true. "The mind projects into the concrete its spiritual tragedy." 3

During the 1970s Alexander Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was on the syllabus in Scottish secondary schools. This does credit to our internationalist outlook and was my first encounter with a "fictional" work about incarceration. I didn't much like the book and have never gone back to read it afresh with adult eyes. What strikes me now though is the fact that there was no other text in the syllabus about prison experience. None of the four books above were ever mentioned, nor were any of many possible alternatives. Why not Oscar Wilde's Ballad of Reading Gaol, Tolstoy's The Resurrection, Kafka's somewhat more abstract, In the Penal Settlement; or even in the Scottish context, Jimmy Boyle's A sense of Freedom? Not one of these books, as far as I know, got anywhere near the syllabus and the school library wasn't much use either.
It is difficult not to say that, as part of its contribution to the Cold War, the Scottish education system was happy enough to throw copies of Solzhenitsyin at children in the hope they assimilated something about the evil Soviets who imprisoned dissenters in barbaric conditions. It was sufficient to get across that message with little in the way of contextual comparisons. Koestler's novel might have given too confused a message about the Soviet Union with its implication that the Revolution of 1917 had degenerated and transformed itself in ways that were not intended by those Commissars unlucky enough to find themselves at "divergence" with Stalin or "No.1."

Jack London (1876-1916) wrote The Star Rover to highlight, among other things, the inhuman treatment of prisoners in the USA. Darrel Standing, the first person narrator, is stubborn to the point of daring the authorities to kill him by their use of straight-jacketing as punishment for his part in a fictitious conspiracy to blow up the gaol. What Standing recognises is the absolute necessity of adopting an anti-authoritarian stance in order to retain his dignity.
London, thought to be the first millionaire author, born into a poor family in San Francisco, was brought up in Oakland and on surrounding farms. He was a tough, rugged, kind of frontier American who believed in living life to the full.
"A sailor labourer, oyster pirate, fish and game warden, tramp, gold prospector, soap-box orator, war correspondent, rancher, bohemian --all these hats he wore and more --yet still he wrote a thousand words a day for sixteen years, his entire professional life." 4 London achieved all this in spite of alcohol and drug problems, as well as the difficulties caused by several bad business deals in which he lost large sums of money.
He claimed to be prone to boredom and when something bored him he felt a great sense of disgust with it, due to this disgust he was driven forward. He did not revise any of his work after publication. When asked to do so for later editions he categorically refused. Yet he thought this feeling of disgust which welled up within was a character defect that he would have liked put right but somehow couldn't. Still, for sixteen years he did not tire of writing and produced around fifty books.
Victor Serge (1890-1947), journalist, anarchist and political activist, states in his dedication at the beginning of Men in Prison, "Everything in this book is fictional and everything is true. I have attempted, through literary creation, to bring out the general meaning and human content of a personal experience." 5 Like Jack London, his concern was to communicate through a novel something of the experience of imprisonment and to connect to as wide a readership as possible. "It is not about 'me,' about a few men, but about men, all men crushed in that dark corner of society. It seems to me that the time has finally come for literature to discover the masses." 6
Serge was born into a political family of impoverished Russian emigres in Brussels. One of his brothers died of hunger. He was highly motivated politically and much taken with the work of Marx, Nietzsche and Stirner. The last seven years of his life were spent in exile in Mexico, where like Trotsky he was subject to harassment by the NKVD. However, he continued to write regardless of the fact that he found it all but impossible to get his work published.

In Darkness at Noon Arthur Koestler (1905-1983), describes the incarceration, interrogation and execution of Comrade N. S. Rubashov, taking what can be described in today's terms as a classical anti-Stalinist line. Nevertheless, the novel is not greatly diminished by the ideological axe-grinding. For Koestler the anti-Stalinism was central yet today (January 1999) the form of the political system which devours Rubashov is not central; it is the mechanics of interrogation, humiliation and punishment that come into the foreground through the swamp of ideological information and argument. The arguments are put brilliantly, with lucid cold logic, but essentially it is the delineation of systematic oppression (of Rubahsov and others by the prison and justice systems) that now gives the novel its strength. Another reason for the diminution of ideological impact is because from an official, inter-governmental view the Cold War is over.
Without the anti-Stalinism Koestler' s project in Darkness at Noon is rendered meaningless in strict historical terms; this is perhaps a truism, though as a "novel" the work still succeeds on literary terms: it becomes however, more like Kafka than Koestler. That is, more universally metaphysical and less driven by ideology.
Born in Hungary and highly motivated politically, Koestler was both fascinated and haunted by the Russian revolution. Rubashov is modelled partly on Nikolai Bhukarin. Koestler was imprisoned during the Spanish Civil War and drew on this experience to write Darkness at Noon among other things.

Brendan Behan (1923-1964), a self-styled IRA man, was arrested shortly after his arrival at Liverpool in 1939. He was aged only sixteen years but such was his background that he had a thorough knowledge of the history of British oppression in Ireland. After initial incarceration in Walton Prison he was sentenced at Liverpool Assizes to three years at a Borstal in Suffolk. Borstal Boy is based on these experiences.

Behan, however, was not so concerned with the facts where the embroidering of them made for a better story. Immediately after his arrest Behan was taken to CID headquarters in Lime Street. When asked for a statement he declared: "My name is Brendan Behan. I came over here to fight for the Irish Workers' and Small Farmers' Republic, for a full and free life, for my countrymen, North and South, and for the removal of the baneful influence of British Imperialism from Irish affairs. God save Ireland." 7
He also writes: "In accordance with instructions, I refused to answer questions." 8
Yet exactly what instructions he arrived in Liverpool with is open to question. Certainly, Ulick O'Connor has raised this issue and cites several examples where the version of events given in Borstal Boy is at odds with other witnesses. 9 This is why I consider Borstal Boy an autobiographical novel.
On his return to Ireland, Behan was gaoled a second time for his part in the shooting of a policeman. The details of this are described by Behan in Confessions of an Irish Rebel. His understanding of prison and the life there was born of hard experience.
"Two warders grabbed him [Behan] and took him out kicking and screaming, leaving the priest purple with rage. They dragged him up some iron steps outside, pulling him so that he fell and split his head. In his cell they gave him a beating on the chest and kidneys and hit him with keys in the face. He was to keep the mark of the steel stairs on his forehead for the rest of his life." 10
Victor Serge had similar harsh experiences. Behan, like Jack London, developed an alcohol addiction which eventually would kill him.

Of the four books only Koestler does not use a consistent first person narrative voice. Rubashov and the omniscient narrator are so similar in tone and thought process as to somehow gel in the mind of the reader producing the same closeness as is evoked by straight use of the first person.11 Also, Koestler uses extracts from the diary of Comrade Rubashov to move directly into the first person. During the interrogation sequences we hear Rubashov clearly, the logic of his thinking is expressed in his own words. One hears the absurd arguments of the interrogation, where those with power are in complete control.
The others (London, Behan, Serge) use a first person narrative which functions to emphasise the truth of the experience described; the bearing of individual testimony to acts systematically designed to undermine the human spirit.
Singularity of viewpoint enhances the sense of enforced aloneness in prison as well as the triumph of communication. Prisoners find ways of communicating with each other. Jack London calls tapped messages between cells "knuckle-rap". There are whispered messages in the exercise yard or at work. Each system of imprisonment is different yet there are huge similarities between what the characters experience in France, the Soviet Union, the USA and England. Behan possibly has a better time of it than the others, being mostly in a borstal rather than an prison for adults.
The first person narration brings the reader closer to the situation of the prisoner; it offers a technical solution to the problems of both voyeurism and authorial distance. Koestler uses different technical solutions to achieve the same effect. This is interesting given the concern with ends and means underpinning, to a greater or lesser extent, all four narratives.

The prisoners in three of the books (not London's) are "Political Prisoners". Only in that one particular are they extraordinary. Yet all prisoners are political as in political with a small p. All societies make decisions as to what activities are taboo or unacceptable and therefore made criminal, thus the necessity for systems to deal with individuals or groups who indulge in such proscribed activities. In accepting imprisonment as a suitable way for dealing with offenders it then follows that within such institutions there must be rules of behaviour and regulation of the activities of offenders. We logically arrive at what is sometimes termed the institutional regime.
The prison regimes in the so-called "developed world" have much to thank the city of Glasgow for and more specifically one William Brebner (1783-l845) who hailed originally from Huntly in Aberdeenshire. Brebner put into practice a system at the Bridewell, on Glasgow's Duke Street, which was to spread quickly through Europe and North America. The Bridewell, governed by Brebner from 1808 until his death, was regarded as a model institution, indeed a House of Commons Select Committee on Scottish Prisons reported in 1826 that "The prisoners are kept silent, and at constant work from six o'clock morning till eight at night." 12 Thus in the early 19th century, the governance of prisons was not left to chance but organised along somewhat industrialised lines.
"Much has been written about the respective merits of the so-called separate and silent systems of imprisonment which were introduced into prisons in the first half of the nineteenth century" 13 These types of prison regime, carried on the winds of imperialism and industrial efficiency, spread around the globe. The main mode of punishment, whether intentional or not, was the enforced aloneness prisoners had to endure. It has been argued that such systems were likely to have health and character building benefits and that while prisoners were isolated they had contact with the prison chaplain and governor at regular intervals. It is hard to imagine that those incarcerated had much in common with such officials and seems absurd to suggest that such meetings would mitigate the punishment of being removed from one's normal state of sociability. This amount of time spent alone is part of what gives rise to a heightened awareness of the thoughts and voice within one's own mind.
"Introspection opens up the endless vistas of the inner life, shines a penetrating light into the most secret recesses of our being. ...But the invisible companion remains." 14
What Serge calls the "invisible companion," Koestler calls the "silent partner" and London calls the "little death" are all aspects of that same introspection and result from enforced aloneness and the attempt to survive it.
Jack London takes this introspection furthest; when Darrel Standing is in the straight jacket he projects himself through time and space by psychological effort. The other three writers do not get so close to the mystical. Standing has some difficulty in reaching this state of mind but from the very start he has an inner-psychology. Koestler tries to deny Rubashov this inner voice but it comes through almost in spite of the author.
What Comrade Rubashov discovers as the "grammatical fiction" or "silent partner" (that which has been previously buried by logic of political expediency in his ordinary life) is immediately present in the characters in the other books. London, Serge and Behan do not deny the inner voice and the workings of the conscience. In fact, this inner voice is to a large extent no different from the narrative voice throughout. There is for them no possibility of the inner voice differentiating between the individual and the great flow of historical events. Ironically, at their most isolated physically the characters appear to become less reified and more fully human psychologically.
Behan does not hold all the population of Britain responsible for oppression in Ireland. Yet Koestler's attempt to foist the denial of the individual inner voice onto Rubashov results in what seems a very deliberate statement of social and political psychosis. However the dichotomy for Koestler is that the humanity of the inner voice asserts itself, no matter how psychotic or corrupt the political life Rubashov led.
Koestler holds almost everyone who supported the 1917 revolution responsible for Stalinism. This is the logic of this position. Koestler says "having placed the interests of mankind above the interests of man, having sacrificed morality to expediency ...Now they must die, because death is expedient to the Cause, by the hands of men who subscribe to the same principles." 15 It is the historical determinism which says that all revolutionary change must end in a blood bath. He is in effect meeting one death penalty with another. Yet paradoxically, what remains interesting is the concrete detail in the novel: the size of the cells, the window, the grey light.
One has to assume Koestler read Serge, appreciated the detail but disagreed with the outlook. It seems crazy now to think that almost everything about an individual could be determined by whether or not they supported the Soviet Union and its policies.
Prisons can usefully be thought of as punishment factories, how long is such an industry to flourish?
There is a commonsensical notion that criminals must be punished but how are we properly to ascribe guilt? 
How can all be equal before the law when there is inequality everywhere else? 
One certain sane aspiration is to happiness with dignity but how in the vast horror of human imperfection and frailty of judgement?
Whether we are or are not in a post-industrial age, the relentless growth of capitalist consumption and the underlying "free-market" politics continues at pace. Whilst many influential thinkers, politicians and media persons thought the threat to freedom came from Communism it would make more sense to suggest that the threat comes from the free-market system itself. (Its judicial system is designed to protect and strengthen free-market principles and practices.) This system is encompassing the globe. From Moscow to Sydney to Glasgow the signs are everywhere. The same multi-national chains are operating. The attacks on indigenous, local cultures continue almost as footnotes to the success of global capital: local populations who inconveniently get in the way of this development suffer terribly. The oil exploitation in Nigeria or the Persian Gulf are illustrative of this, as are the practices of tobacco companies, shipping companies and clothing manufacturers. This is where the question of applying justice to these people comes into play. They wouldn't want the standards applied to a shoplifter in Scotland applied to them. For theirs is barefaced robbery legally sanctioned by world trade and global free-market practices. To apply such standards to even one multi-national would call for the indictment of the whole system. In the same way Serge, Koestler and others indicted systems which undermined the dignity and happiness of human beings, so the present people in power would have to be once more indicted (and not just in works of fiction.)
In these books about prison there is a meeting of social and private anguish. They are very concerned with the experience of one person, in one situation, yet they have an allegorical power which is transcendent. These are super-allegorical texts, there is much to be learned from them and more to be argued over. They touch on major political questions, from the role of the state to the meaning of freedom, to the right of nations to self-determination; major moral questions from political ethics and ends and means to individual responsibility for one' s actions; as well as questions of psychological and physical endurance. Above all, they are contributions to human knowledge concerning how to create a culture and civilisation in which we attain our natural dignity.
"Culture cannot live where dignity is killed ...A civilisation cannot prosper under laws which crush it." 16
The irony is that the greatest dignity appears to lie in the resistance to all and any oppression. Perhaps it is in the process of the struggle for freedom we find both dignity and civilisation --and so to happiness where and whatever it might be.
The language of the judicial system is designed to depoliticise its function. In fact much of the ritualised processing of offenders is designed to dehumanise and depoliticise what is actually happening to people. Yet there is a need for something, one wouldn't like to have a member of the family killed and nothing to happen to the killer. Human nature cries out for vengeance and if not vengeance then justice. As with most things, prevention is better than cure, but what do we do if the remedy appears worse than the disease --if prisons are teaming with petty offenders, non payers of fines and other such people who have no business being in prison at all?
The secretive and conservative nature of prisons, the attempted depoliticisation of language and process cannot keep these questions off the agenda for ever. Eventually everyone will know someone who is or has been in prison for something trivial and changes will have to be made. Democracy, however, may not be so responsive. The mechanisms for controlling public thought might not allow such free reform. Still, it feels better to live in a country where the death penalty is not dealt out in a courtroom. Yet, even at that, one does not feel one is living altogether freely; somehow the competitive clouds of smoke and scorching flames of control that rise out from within the anonymous free-market envelop and imprison, driving one back from that real freedom to which civilisation and dignity would direct our aspirations.

Notes
1 Herbert Marcuse, From Luther to Popper, Verso, London, 1983, Pg. 144.
2 Thomas More, Utopia, Cassell & Co., London, 1890, Pg. 103.
3 Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, Penguin, London, 1975, Pg. 113.
4 In Introduction, The Collected Jack London, Ed. Steven J Kasdin, Dorset Press, New York, 1991.
5 Victor Serge, Men In Prison, Writers & Readers, London, 1977.
6 Ibid., Greeman's introduction, Pg. xxv.
7 Brendan Behan, Borstal Boy, Arrow Books, London, 1990, Pg. 4.
8 Ibid.
9 See Ulick O'Connor, Brendan Behan, Abacus, London, 1993.
10 Ibid.
11 The narrative technique employed by Koestler in Darkness at Noon might usefully be compared with that of James Kelman in How late it was, how late, Secker & Warburg, London, 1994.
12 In Andrew Coyle, Inside: Rethinking Scotland's Prisons, Scottish Child, Edinburgh, 1991, Pg.31.
13 Ibid.
14 Victor Serge, Men In Prison, Writers & Readers, London, 1977, Pg. 36.
15 Arthur Koestler, The Invisible Writing, London, 1954, Pg. 479.
16 Albert Camus, Bulletin of the Algerian Cultural Centre, Algiers, May 1937
 

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History of the LMC
Clive Bell

"It's funny, we do all these interviews with Melody Maker and NME and the fanzines, and we try to talk about this real underground of London, improvisers like Evan and Derek, Lol, Moholo, the whole African contingent --and of course none of them have ever heard this music. It's kind of a bummer. It's such an underground music. It's very serious but it's also very humorous. It's very alive."
Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth in The Wire 108, Feb 1993.
At the end of the 90s, the free music world can still seem a wonderfully well-kept secret, a genuinely underground art activity. For 25 or 30 years there's been a scene there, all those club concerts listed monthly on the London Musician's Collective (LMC) Calendar, the LMC Annual Festivals --but is it a musical genre? Sometimes it feels like you can pin it down. At Derek Bailey's annual Company series, even though the musicians ranged from classical French horn player to thrash guitarist, you could see a simple listen-and-get-on-with-it approach. But even here the low key presentation, the strange theatre of encounters between musicians who had never met, and the outbursts of completely unplanned musical brilliance all combined to bewilder and undercut neat theory. The qualities of Company were often down to Bailey's personality and style. As in the world of jazz, strong individuals stamped their character on musical encounters. And the LMC was born because individuals wanted to band together for everyone's benefit.
"The group of people that were working around the SME (Spontaneous Music Ensemble) at that time --John Stevens, Derek Bailey, Trevor Watts, Paul Rutherford --were working on a method that I could call 'atomistic'? breaking the music down into small component parts and piecing them together again in a collective way, so as to de-emphasize the soloistic nature of improvisation and replace it by a collective process. But at the same time AMM had what I would call a "laminar" way of working, where although the solo had been lost and the emphasis was on a collective sound, an orchestral sound if you like, it was not done by breaking the music into small components but by contributing layers which would fit together and make a new whole."
Evan Parker, talk at Actual Music Festival, ICA, August 1980.
"An obstinate clot of innovation", was how the Wire magazine described the LMC in 1997. The LMC has shown remarkable powers of survival, but it was not the first grouping of its kind. Richard Leigh: "The Musicians? Cooperative was set up as a pressure group for a clearly defined set of musicians, usually referred to as the 'first generation'? of improvisers. These included Evan Parker, Derek Bailey, Paul Lytton, John Stevens, Tony Oxley, Howard Riley, Paul Rutherford, Barry Guy and Trevor Watts" (Quote from Resonance Vol 2, No 2). This was around 1971, and concerts were held at the Little Theatre Club in Garrick Yard and the Unity Theatre in Camden Town.
Then, in April 1975, came Musics magazine, which Martin Davidson remembers as resulting from a phone conversation between himself, his wife Mandy and Evan Parker. The editorial board in summer 1975 was Bailey, Parker, Steve Beresford, Max Boucher, Paul Burwell, Jack Cooke, Peter Cusack, Hugh Davies, Mandy and Martin Davidson, Richard Leigh, John Russell, David Toop, Philipp Wachsmann and Colin Wood. I remember Colin Wood remarking that Musics was the first thing this crowd had found that they could all agree about. And I'm sorry about these lists, but if you want to make enemies with a history like this, all you have to do is leave out someone's name.
"STOP PRESS REVIEW SECTION: Three years ago ten music students from Cologne sat in horseshoe, one end of fine Wren church in Smith Square, sang ninth chord all evening, sound mixed and rarefied by man in nave. Last Saturday ten religious men from Tibet sat in horseshoe on same spot, sang tenth chord all evening, no sound mixer."
Colin Wood in Musics No 4, October 1975.
Musics came out six times a year and ran for 23 issues. In its coverage of improvised and non-western music alongside performance art, it reflected the broad interests of a so-called 'second generation' of improvisers, and provided a convivial focus point. Interested outsiders were welcome to share in the work of pasting the magazine together. In those pre-wordprocessing days pasting meant paste, as well as glue, scalpel and unwashed mugs. These days the unwashed mugs are the only survivors of the era.
"The LMC was formed by the slightly newer lot of musicians simply because everyone was fed up with playing in bad rooms above pubs or nowhere at all. Whereas Musicians' Co-op members had briefly enjoyed (?) the hospitality of Ronnie Scott and his club, due to Mr Scott's justifiably high regard for Evan Parker, Tony Oxley, Howard Riley, Barry Guy et al, musicians such as Nigel Coombes, Tony Wren, Paul Burwell or Colin Wood might just as well have come from Mars (or stayed there). There was nothing happening, other than the music."
David Toop, Resonance Vol 2, No 1, winter 1993.
A source of continuing inspiration to the younger musicians was John Stevens' work in concerts and workshops. Maggie Nicols was another improviser who excelled at leading workshops. Within one hour, a roomful of assorted and embarrassed individuals could be led to build a communal musical experience of enormous power. Suddenly the mysteries of group improvisation and experimental music were opened up--veils fell from eyes, and the sheer joy of music-making seemed accessible to all. I recall one musician warning me that after a John Stevens workshop he had observed that most of the male participants had erections. I couldn't really see what was so wrong with this--maybe this music wasn't so cerebral and abstract as some people made out?
In 1975/76 the London Musicians Collective emerged from a series of meetings, and mailed out its first newsletter in August 1976. The Collective was separate from Musics magazine, but involved many of the same people. It was hoped that an organisation would carry more weight in dealings with other organisations, institutions and the press. And these musicians had a lot in common: nowhere to play, and no wider recognition of their music.
A major difference from the Musicians' Co-op was the LMC's openness to anyone who wanted to join. Richard Leigh again: "It was always seen as a network drawing more and more people from varied backgrounds into the scene". Improvisers were dipping their fingers into the many pies of mixed media, dance, film and performance art. And in fact at this time, just before punk and its DIY ethic erupted, there was a remarkable burst of energy in the underground arts scene. Dancers founded the X6 Dance Collective and New Dance magazine at Butlers Wharf, while film makers started the London Film Makers Co-op. These too have survived and are with us today, in the form of the Chisenhale Dance Space and the Lux Cinema in Hoxton Square. For musicians, the venue crisis was becoming acute. The Little Theatre Club had folded and the Unity Theatre burned down. The usual expedient of hiring a room in a pub, college or community hall was dependent on the whim of the landlord, and would not allow performances to be run on the musicians' terms. A space with maximum flexibility was needed if the work was to develop freely.
"We had been looking for premises (I remember surreal dealings with the Diocesan Committee for Redundant Churches)..Actually a lot of the connections between the LMC and LFMC happened through informal contacts, for instance I had fallen in love with Annabel Nicolson when she and the Film Co-op were still in the Dairy in Prince of Wales Crescent, and I hung about while she was programming films there, doing odd jobs like selling tea and biscuits, sweeping the floor, and designing a membership card that was also a Thaumatrope... The LFMC wanted to take the space at 42 Gloucester Avenue (Camden Town), but it was too large for them, and I think Guy Sherwin approached the LMC with a view to subletting. I think Annabel might have had something to do with the idea, as the LMC 'office'? and meetings were located in her one room flat."
Paul Burwell, Performance magazine.
Even before finding a venue, "LMC events" had been happening all over London, ever since the organisation was founded. Now many of these moved into the Camden building, and a calendar and newsletter were started up (1977/78). The level of activity, and its breadth, were both remarkable, and for the next ten years an average of 200 public performances a year were organised, almost entirely by unpaid administration. Nearly every day of the year the space was in use for rehearsal. This was a musicians' initiative, run on musicians' terms, so the chaos was often high, but there was plenty going on. The National Jazz Centre in the 1980s, by contrast, spent half a decade and untold sums of money not organising a single gig.
By anyone's standards the LMC building was a flexible performance space, little more than a shell packed with potential. Members spent hours clambering all over it, trying to render it habitable. Sylvia Hallett installed electricity and wiring, and Annabel Nicolson contributed a wooden floor from her flat to build a wall. The floor was as hard as you like: you could flood it, light a bonfire on it, bounce rocks off it. And after the show no staff would grumble, because there were no staff, and you would be cleaning it up yourself. Many saw the space as not especially to do with improvised music, but simply "astonishing...a place where you can do things you can't do elsewhere". (David Cunningham, quoted in Time Out, 1980)
"Was the real Britain very different from how you had imagined it?
On my second day here I went to an Environmental Music Festival, where I met some musicians who played on canal boats, and others who played the piano with their feet, and I thought: what a different attitude towards art, so playful and free.
What inspired you to set up the Frank Chickens?
I became involved with the London Musicians Collective after the festival I mentioned, and started performing straight away. I had had this idea that I was an artist since childhood."
Kazuko Hohki interviewed in Japan Embassy newsletter, March 1998.
David Toop's 1978 Festival of Environmental Music & Performance was a nine day event, in some ways a massive celebration of the LMC's new found home, and a major influence on subsequent work. Warming up with a talk from Trevor Wishart and an instrument building workshop, Toop, Burwell, Parker, Paul Lytton and several others flung themselves into a continuous 24 hour concert called Circadian Rhythms. Visiting performers included Alvin Curran (USA), Luc Houtkamp (Holland), Carlos Trinidade (Portugal), and Christian d'Aiwée (France). F.I.G. (the eight piece Feminist Improvising Group, whose performances were renowned for their hilarity) alternated with seminars ("Music/Eventstructure/Context"). Stuart Marshall, Annabel Nicolson and Whirled Music played on nearby Primrose Hill, and guerrilla activities by Lol Coxhill and Michael Parsons could be encountered along the towpath of the Regents Canal.
The festival came at the end of a month (July 1978) which had already witnessed 13 performances, several open workshop sessions, and two meetings: one devoted to the LMC Records label, the other the usual monthly meeting open to all Collective members. Improvisers Mike Hames, Roger Turner, Hugh Metcalfe, Sinan Savaskan and Roger Smith had played. The Alterations quartet (Toop, Beresford, Peter Cusack and Terry Day) had brought over Fred Frith and Peter Brotzmann to perform alongside their own brand of dub'n'din improv. Dislocation Dance (Manchester) and Reptile Ranch (Cardiff) linked up with local alt-punk duo The Door & The Window. Andrew Brenner's 49 Americans had explored left-field pop "in a relaxed atmosphere of concerned patriotism", sharing their Tuesday night slot with The Majorca Orchestra ("original marches, waltzes, descriptive fantasies, Edwardian disco and Scottish reggae"). The LMC was bursting at the seams.
"BARRY LEIGH'S REPORT:
1. The wall blocking the railway bridge at the rear of the building has been demolished.
2. Jumble leftovers are to be cleared from the loft.
3. Health inspector and surveyors will be contacted about the toilet (to be installed). It was noted that relations with the Film Co-op are deteriorating.
TOILET: The Gulbenkian Foundation say nothing doing? about our application for financial assistance.
DOORS: Stuart Boardman will put handles on the doors to the performing space."
LMC Newsletter, December 1979.
But behind all the glamour and the razzmatazz, what was the LMC really like? Personally I always found it a rich source of friendly and healthily eccentric people. Joining was like running away to join the circus. The place was a model of self-help and an opportunity to experiment in ways impossible elsewhere. As an organisation, it was most riven by factional strife when the membership was most active, of course. And as a building it was a bottomless pit into which you could pour your unpaid time. There was always some administrative headache to do with the ghastly business of running a London experimental venue in a bare loft. Noise: the laundry downstairs and the Kings Cross main line out back ensured there was noise coming in. As for noise going out, there were flats across the road, our soundproofing consisted of closing the windows, and some of the concerts were a little, er, exuberant. I remember watching the Dead Kennedies building an immense PA one sunny afternoon, in preparation for an unpublicised gig which had people queuing around the block. I cycled away before the mayhem was unleashed. Then there were fire regulations ("You can't do that in here"), charitable status ("We can't give you subsidy to do that"), and a lack of toilets. There were toilets in the Film Co-op next door, there was a British Rail toilet under the building, there was a toilet in the pub opposite... OK, let's admit there were no toilets. This became a conundrum, a problematic fortress against which successive waves of voluntary admin would charge uphill, only to reel back down in stunned defeat. Benefit concerts, grant applications, sympathetic builders--nothing seemed to work. Let's just hope it added to our beatnik loft-dwelling cred.
"When we joined the LMC two years ago we did so in the belief that it was a collective--built on the political tenet of collectivism. We find in actuality a club set up to celebrate individualism. We feel that the newsletter must call for collective involvement from its 'collective' membership, yet in doing so we are accused of being sectarian. However, under the constant cringing criticism that we receive, we shall continue to co-ordinate the newsletter and until removed by the LMC shall continue to attempt to build toward 'Collectivity.''"
Dick Beard and Tim Dennis, LMC Newsletter, August 1980.
If we accept the liberal idea of art as an autonomous space, where other values can be considered and explored, then the LMC building was like a concrete expression of this. Established by free improvisers, one of its most distinctive features as an organisation was its openness and inclusiveness. Other musical pressure groups were more closely tied to one genre or style of music making, while the LMC forever had a hankering for the genuine experiment, whatever the idiom. This has contributed to its resilience, and also generated a constant debate about what on earth the LMC stands for.
For many years the LMC was a large collective (200 members), supposedly running itself in an authentically collective manner. Open monthly meetings enabled the entire membership to participate in a lively criticism of any member who had actually done any work. The problems of collectivity are well known. These days we shake our heads and think we know better, but the LMC's factional struggles were a simple result of a large number of musicians all being passionately involved and trying to get a hand on the steering wheel. In this piece I am deliberately giving my personal view of what the LMC was all about--in the early days there were many different agendas. Many British improvisers were, and still are, highly politicised, in all the different Marxist and anarchist hues. For many others, the collective spirit still expresses important truths about the co-operative and non-hierarchical nature of improvised music, and the importance of musicians taking creative control of their own music. A glance at life inside an orchestra, with its composer-driven hierarchy, is usually enough to remind us of the alternative.
"The dynamics of the current magazine meetings depend more on pointed silences, emotional blackmail, mumbled asides and semi-sneers than on direct statements. The Musics collective is frightened of growth, frightened of taking and using power. There is no sense of history, of where the music is from and why people play it. The collective is a morass of impersonality. We trivialise each other's contributions."
Steve Beresford, letter to Musics collective meeting, titled "Why we need a new publication", October 1980.
In 1980 factional struggle and good old-fashioned personal rowing resulted in several resignations from the LMC and the demise of Musics magazine. The December 1980 newsletter contains scary outpourings of vitriol and the squealing of bruised egos. Frustration is clearly audible. Almost completely unrecognised by the outside world, these musicians were consistently ignored or sneered at by the music press, and regarded as suspicious charlatans by the contemporary music establishment. Arts Council support was indeed forthcoming for larger scale events and it paid the rent, but long hours of unpaid admin and building work were leading to burnout at a tender age. Meanwhile our richer and better equipped neighbour, the Film Co-op, was trying to evict us.
"There is a clear polarisation between 'collectivists' and 'musicians'. Many of the Cs are interested in music, and many of the Ms are concerned to maintain collectivism, but it looks as though the basic differences are insuperable. The Cs resent any suggestion that there are useful musical criteria which give certain examples of music greater value than others. In my view if you can't, or won't, distinguish between a 'good'? piece of improvisation and one which isn't, there's nothing to aim for and you might as well watch the telly."
Tony Wren, open letter to LMC, in December 1980 Newsletter.
After patching up the spat with the Film Co-op, the LMC kept up a high level of activity during the 1980s. Some of the founders had resigned, and political strife seemed a thing of the past. Members came forward to do the dirty work, whether it was taking glasses back to the pub or phoning the Goethe Institute. Peter Cusack, Paul Burwell, Sylvia Hallett, Susanna Ferrar, Tom Sheehan and Dean Brodrick all showed astonishing reluctance to pack it in and get a proper job. Those who sat in the little office space overlooking the railway tracks were sometimes accused of being power-crazed careerists, but the truth was that your own music would probably suffer if you spent too much time there. On the other hand, if you leaned on a broom in a corner of the space for long enough, you would see an extraordinary carnival pass through. For example, Dean Brodrick's "Great Little Inuit Eskimo Show" in February 1985: an Inuit drum battle, shadow puppets, igloo building for beginners, a contest where pairs of singers chanted into each other's mouths, the film Nanook Of The North accompanied by improvising string quartet, and a discussion led by anthropologist and film maker Hugh Brody. For several months Max Eastley's Aeolian harps were fixed to the roof above the entrance, singing eerily to the street whenever the wind got up. Inside, one of the many "floor percussionists" might be setting up: Barry Leigh with his revolving glass coffeetables, played with chunks of polystyrene, or Roger Turner's junk kits, heavyweight detritus of the Industrial Revolution.
In 1982 Alan McGee, later to be mogul of Creation Records, was running the weekly Beet-Bop Club in the LMC. Possibly the most spectacular and downright life-threatening event was the debut performance by the Bow Gamelan Ensemble, climax of Sylvia Hallett's 1983 "Evening Of Self-Made Instruments". This was also a prime example of how the Collective regularly gave birth to highly original and influential work, which barely fitted within any definition of new music. The place was packed for this riot of pyrotechnics and barely controlled arc-welding equipment abuse, but it was noticeable that Burwell's friends were hovering nervously around the exit.
"Memories... the Musicians Du Nil changing the Collective into an Eastern Bazaar after their concert, when they attempted to sell the audience their instruments, trinkets, and, I think, items of their clothing... Annabel Nicolson flooding the place in a representation of the Mississippi river (actually quite convincing, but I'd drunk a whole bottle of Southern Comfort and thought I was Huckleberry Finn)."
Paul Burwell reminiscing in Performance magazine.
New, younger members arrived to gaze with respectful awe at a room where Evan Parker had played a trio with Kazuko Hohki and a seven foot inflatable Godzilla. Or to dismiss the past as "a bunch of saxophonists tooting away for hours to an average audience of six or seven" (The Door & The Window, quoted in Time Out). Not everyone was happy with the LMC's name; I recall someone suggesting that the building be renamed "Risks", and neon letters should be fixed to the roof. For a while we affectionately subtitled it The Palace Of Living Culture, as we struggled to mend smashed windows and doors.
By 1987 it was clear that professional administration was required, whether we could afford it or not. A hiring out for a private party had resulted in equipment being stolen from our neighbours, the Film Co-op. Recriminations flew. After ten years of concerts, we were informed we had no license for "music and dancing", so were liable to be closed any day by Camden Council. And the condition of the building was not compatible with our status as pioneering arts animateurs, let alone its original function as a British Rail social club canteen.
"A last minute ironic twist to LMC development plans: Today is the launch of the LMC's 'Home Additions' appeal, our plans to carry out major improvements to these premises, starting with the foyer area you are standing in! In total part one will cost £9,000... As long ago as last September we discussed the possibility of a long lease with British Rail. There doesn't seem to be a problem, they replied. Last week they sent us a notice to quit. By March 24th 1988."
LMC Press Release, September 1987.
The Film Co-op, also given notice to quit, hung on for many years before decamping to Hoxton Square. But a rumour went round that the LMC had already closed up shop, so members stopped hiring the space, income dried up, and moving out came to seem a positive option. The words "albatross" and "neck" were used in discussions about the dear old building. Both brake cables on my bicycle were severed one evening during an LMC concert, something I noticed only after tumbling off at the bottom of a hill in Chalk Farm. This stoked my paranoia, but it had no bearing on the LMC's decision to leave. In spring 1999, 42 Gloucester Avenue still stands, derelict and empty, sadly gazing at railway and canal.
In spite of the end-of-an-era gloom, the final Gloucester Road newsletter in June 1988 publicised some dozen events happening there, including a Musicians Against Nuclear Arms benefit involving 40 players. The LMC's longest surviving inhabitant, Member Number 1 Paul Burwell, having played the premises? first ever concert, also performed at the last. Administrator Dave Matzdorf was now followed by Simon Woodhead and Philippa Gibson. The organisation camped out in Simon's office in the Diorama, Regents Park, and contemplated its venue-less future. Events were organised at the Diorama, Red Rose, Air Gallery and Tom Allen Centre in Stratford, but a proper home proved hard to find.
From September 1989 Richard Scott, a big Ornette Coleman fan, brought a certain jazzy flair to the admin. His "Three Cities" festival in March 1990 featured the first performance by Manchester's Stock, Hausen & Walkman, "the industrial cartoon soundtrack tape manipulation ensemble". SH&W went on to became one of the internationally most successful young improv groups of the 90s.
However, the period 1989 to 1991 feels with hindsight like the LMC's darkest hour. A series of woefully underpaid workers wrestled with a dozen types of administrative chaos. In February 1990 the AGM heard they had been struck off the register at Companies House (not Richard Scott's fault, I hasten to add). Elder members wrung their hands. Susanna Ferrar and Eddie Prevost administered the kiss of life to the accounts. Nick Couldry performed legal emergency surgery. But even Paul Burwell's new computer seemed powerless to arrest the slide.
"In the past year or so, organisations have sprung up (for instance in Manchester and Colchester) which have shown that wider audiences can be achieved with positive presentation which makes no apologies for what improvisation is, but equally does not assume that everyone out there somehow knows about it. I believe that with a lot of hard work and clear thinking the LMC could do the same, in fact the LMC should aim to lead the field, not drag behind it. The LMC's ambition should be to be the principal organisation representing improvised music in Britain. If however the LMC does not have such ambitions, those involved should seriously ask themselves whether it deserves the funding it is claiming."
Nick Couldry, document titled "Does The LMC Have A Future?", September 1991.
"Ambition" is the key word here. The LMC had been lively, angry, wild at heart and wonderfully deaf to common sense, but maybe it had never been ambitious enough. The first sign that this might be about to change was a small glossy leaflet splashed in orange and white, advertising the LMC "Autumn Collection", a series of ten concerts from September to December 1991. Someone had invented word processing and graphic design, and the LMC had noticed. Then came the December 1991 newsletter--in place of the one-sheet catalogue of despair, castigating the membership for its lethargy, this was a 16 page magazine bulging with record reviews, advertising and a substantial interview with Alabama guitarist Davey Williams. There was even a trailer for an interview with 84 year old calypso singer The Roaring Lion, to be published in Variant magazine. Phil England and Ed Baxter had arrived.
"The venue was unconventional--a swimming pool, complete with water and hot, chlorinated atmosphere. The number of acts was uncommon--nine, and to describe their repertoire as diverse would be a highly misleading understatement. Judged in brutally logistic terms, the event was a resounding success. The auditorium was packed; the concert started almost on time; the proceedings managed to accommodate the activities of a BBC TV crew without serious disruption. I for one enjoyed the evening, although the overall impression was more reminiscent of a night at the music hall than a concert of leading-edge state of the art experimentation. But that's no bad thing in my opinion."
Forestry Commission employee Robert Matthews reviewing "Fiume" in LMC Newsletter, March 1992.
LMC funding had been devolved from the Arts Council to the London Arts Board. By 1991 I suspect that LAB saw an opportunity to offload a flaky client, and more or less threatened to withdraw funding unless the LMC proved itself to be more than an ageing crew of indignant but impotent improvisers. Nick Couldry assembled a new board of directors, including newcomer Ed Baxter, who had been looking into Camberwell Bus Garage or Butlers Wharf as new LMC bases. Baxter picked up the LAB gauntlet and set about promoting events much more ambitious in scale. "Fiume" was intended to create a splash, as it were, about the potential still within the LMC. United in the swimming pool were new arrivals like Sianed Jones and John Grieve alongside old favourites Charles Hayward, David Toop and Max Eastley, and Frank Chickens. For many the eerie beauty of Lol Coxhill's bald and bespectacled figure playing an almost submerged soprano saxophone remains an abiding memory. This was the kind of crazy avant garde extravaganza the media loves, and the coverage was enormous.
The next step was the First Annual Festival Of Experimental Music, five days in the Conway Hall, Holborn, in May 1992. Fresh-faced youths shared the stage with names from the Jurassic early seventies. Visitors from abroad notably included Ikue Mori (New York drum machinist, formerly of Arto Lindsay's DNA) and Sainkho Namtchalak (Mongolian throat singer wearing vinyl LP headdress). Baxter had the vision to see that if the event was big enough it would not only be visible on an international scale, but also more attractive to funding bodies. A hectic plethora of offstage performances, discussions, workshops and video screenings complemented the main concerts. At times the heated debates in the bar seemed as compelling as the music simultaneously bursting out of the hall. Suddenly journalists and promoters from Europe and the States were hanging out. Older improvisers were fiercely condemning the antics of younger ones, and anyone concerned about the LMC's health could heave sighs of relief.
"Cardew was wise to stake out and defend his ground by spelling out the social dimension to his music. His purpose was not, of course, to defend "his" property rights, but to fight a corner and to express something human, faced with what Phil Ochs called the 'terrible heartless men' who still run our lives. Cardew's music is not concerned with entertainment or self-gratification, and I suppose in the wake of the collapse of communism and the triumph of capital (don't you just hate it when that happens?) few will take an interest in these recordings. Listening to them now, I am overwhelmed, rendered inarticulate and revitalised. Great stuff. The newspaper is full of details of how long 'Starlight Express' has been running. It's all quite clear. There is only one lie, there is only one truth. Whey hey hey!"
Ed Baxter reviewing Cornelius Cardew's Piano Music in the pilot issue of Resonance, September 1992.
Later that year (September 1992) the burgeoning newsletter finally exploded, supernova-like, into the pilot edition of Resonance magazine, under the editorship of Keith Cross and Mick Ritchie. Picking up the threads 12 years after the demise of Musics, Resonance has proved more durable. Seven years later its thought-provoking mix of interviews, reviews and theoretical articles now comes with the tempting bonus of a cover CD. Unlike the promotional fluff of most cover CDs, however, Resonance features recordings unavailable elsewhere, usually culled from LMC live events. The magazine has been creatively steered through the hands of a series of guest editors by Phil England. By keeping the editorial team small it has avoided the factional gang warfare that crippled Musics. And the sightlines have always been aimed wider than the confines of experimental music, trying rather to locate that music within a wider debate about culture.
Phil England became part time administrator in the summer of 1992, as the LMC stopped squatting in members? flats and took office space in Kings Cross. The office moved to Community Music in Farringdon for several years, and has now settled, south of the Thames for the first time, in the Leathermarket complex near London Bridge. Ed Baxter tried to give up his programming post in autumn 1992, and has been trying unsuccessfully to give it up ever since, as the LMC's activities have grown ever larger in ambition.
Meetings open to the whole membership were finally abandoned as hopelessly inefficient--if project coordinators failed to turn up the meeting could be effortlessly hijacked by anyone who fancied a debate on the purpose of the organisation, while practical work would be shelved. A team of directors with particular responsibilities was tried instead. Any member could still put themselves forward as a possible director. Slightly modified, this system continues today, with about eight directors having skills in marketing, law, website management and so on. The AGM remains a chance for all members to kick up a fuss.
There are only four or so musicians currently among the directors, and this is a direct result of the Charities Commission ruling that they cannot be remunerated for LMC activities; in other words, no paid gigs for directors. I suspect this is actually strengthening and professionalising the organisation, as directors bring in a wide range of skill and experience from the outside world. At recent meetings directors have virtually been queuing up to make professional-style presentations involving laminated boards and highlighter pens. No laptop animations or corporate sweeteners yet, but it can only be a matter of time. Discussion has been tightly focused, pragmatic and good humoured--as a veteran of Collective meetings it all feels odd, but strangely sane.
Backed up by a team of gluttons for punishment and hard work (Rob Storey, Dave Ross, Mick Ritchie, Steve Noble, Caroline Kraabel et al), England and Baxter have been administering and steering the LMC since 1992, which is considerably longer than any comparable team. Having observed them at work in the office, I have nothing but praise for their ability to combine mind-numbing paperwork with the seizing of initiatives. These are ferociously creative people who would have a major impact on whichever organisation they found themselves in, and the LMC is lucky to have felt their boots on its backside. Of course this tiresomely positive view is my own--feathers have been ruffled and resignations have been handed in from time to time, but the LMC in 1999 has no shortage of vision or ambition.
"Running throughout Resonance 107.3 FM was Peter Cusack's London Soundscape. Listeners were asked to send in or tell of their favourite London sounds. Surprisingly some of these included arcade machines and even traffic. From the vast response Big Ben was the favourite, but it was often the case that a collection of sounds was chosen. Who ever hears a sound on its own anyway? The recording of Deptford Creek was particularly memorable with the power station hum and the Thames brought together."
Tom Wallace writing about Resonance 107.3 FM radio, in Resonance magazine Vol 7, No 1, autumn 1998.
In spring 1999 it feels like the LMC is pausing to catch its breath after a year of extraordinary activity. It was hard to believe there was not a secret back room packed with full time workers somewhere, rather than the slender part time employment of two people. The Annual Festival, increasing steadily in international stature every year since 1992, finally moved out of Conway Hall to the South Bank Centre. Charlemagne Palestine and Pauline Oliveros visited from the States to great acclaim--their first appearances here in 25 and 17 years respectively. Vainio, Fennesz and Rehberg divided the audience with their fierce brand of Powerbook-driven electronica. Canny fundraising ensured that for the first time the Festival actually came in on budget.
Resonance 107.3 FM was the Collective's very own radio station, broadcasting for four weeks in June 1998 as part of John Peel's Meltdown Festival. This colossal and unique project, instigated by Phil England, was London's first station dedicated to Radio Art. Over 300 people took part in creating 600 hours of material, including live broadcasts, children's shows, drama and historical works of radio art from station archives around the world. Described by New York's Village Voice as "the best radio station in the world", Resonance FM was nominated for the Sony Station Of The Year Award. Provocative and often wild, this was the LMC at its most reckless and visionary.
Fifty programmes were specially made for Resonance FM at LMC Sound, the LMC's new studio in Brixton, which opened formally in November 1998. A carefully nurtured Lottery funding application has resulted in a fully equipped digital studio, which now bids in the market for commercial work and enables Collective members to devise recording projects there, or simply master their CDs. A small team of enthusiastic engineers is kept under control by project manager Mick Ritchie. As I write, the studio is in the midst of recording 30 hour-long shows dealing with London's alternative music scene, to be broadcast weekly in the New York area by WFMU station. A sharp learning curve for all involved, hopefully these shows will be taken up elsewhere. Also launched in November 1998 was the website <www.l-m-c.org.uk>. This is not only a source of information about concerts and current activities, but also a potential arena for creative work. The first live webcast by LMC musicians took place in February 1999, and the appointment of a website Artist In Residence is imminent.
"But again you see, John Edwards has a repertoire of sounds--a language which tries to subvert the instrument (double bass) in a way in which most classical players don't ever engage. If I am working with improvisers I don't want them to sound as if they improvising. This is the frustration about being a control freak. For instance, when John produces these fantastic sounds, I would rather place them exactly where I want them as opposed to where John might place them at the time. This is in no way a criticism of John's playing, his playing is wonderful. But it is the idea of placing a particular phrase and perhaps repeating it or putting it in a different area."
Sampling composer John Wall interviewed in Resonance Vol 6, No 2, July 1998.

While writing this piece I arranged to meet LMC administrator Phil England to find out what was currently on his mind. Not so much an interview, more a rumination over bowls of yogurt soup in a 24 hour Turkish café. England stressed the strategic thinking behind much LMC activity in the last seven years. Fighting against any tendency to parochialism, the strategy has been to raise the profile of the music to the highest visibility possible, as a way of benefiting the alternative musical community and its individual constituents. Rather than talking always to its own audience, the emphasis is on reaching out and placing LMC activities in a wider context of cultural debate. The way that improvisers work and collaborate locks in to many other cultural subgenres and tiny currents in society, and music must be part of that wider picture.
This strategy becomes all the more crucial given the chronic undervaluing and underfunding of this musical area. Inviting saxophonist Evan Parker onto a TV arts programme to react to a Jackson Pollock painting? It makes perfect sense to me, but it's unthinkable because Parker's entire musical genre is virtually invisible. Phil England points out how the Arts Council's own reports recommend exactly the type of musical activity promoted by the LMC, and how these reports are then ignored by Arts Council panels. This music, so distinctively British in some ways, is supported by a fraction of the funding offered to contemporary composition or electronic music. Is it because it's a little more working class? Because it doesn't use as much sexy technology? Or simply that it deals too much in the provocative, the unexpected, the damn weird?
At a grassroots level the music carries on all year round in a gaggle of club spaces run by persistent promoters. A new LMC initiative aims to help out with publicity or PA equipment for these small but established clubs. Established, but not necessarily cosy--the last time I played one was at Hugh Metcalfe's long running Klinker, in an Islington pub. After some initial confusion (Hugh was convinced his van and PA had been stolen, having forgotten where he had parked it), the evening's mix of performance, poetry and music ran smoothly enough. I played a delicately coloured duet with violinist Susanna Ferrar, enjoyable chamber music if I say so myself. Then the final act was so ear-bleedingly loud I had to flee the room, and immediately a fight broke out: broken glass, a wet floor, a half-strangled promoter. As I stepped out into the cool night air half a dozen police rushed past me into the performing space. At least no one accuses the Klinker of opting for the easy life.

Thanks to Peter Cusack, Richard Sanderson, Sylvia Hallett, Paul Burwell, Ed Baxter, Phil England.
 

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'tun yuh hand and meck fashion' 
The Container Project

Mervin Jarman is co-ordinator of the Container project, an operation to take a mobile media centre to the streets of Jamaica. The Container is represented at: http://www.container.access-it.org.uk
Jarman is also part of the London based Mongrel collective. He was interviewed by Matthew Fuller.

Matthew Fuller: Can you let us know what the Container project is? In simple, straightforward terms --what is the actual physical make-up of the project? The technology?
Mervin Jarman: The Container is an effort to take creative computer technology to ghetto people and deep rural communities in the Caribbean. The physical thing is made up of a shipping container on wheels converted into a mobile workstation/access unit. Transportable by truck, it'll be equipped with some 14 workstations and a server networked with local area network access and remote Internet connection. The Container will make its maiden voyage into the Caribbean where its first port of entry will be Jamaica. We are then hoping to move into Trinidad, St. Lucia, Monserrat, St. Vincent and a number of other Islands over a 5-year period. This of course is subject to negotiations...
As far as the people goes... We are aiming to engage people effected by various divides --be that political or social. It is true to say that a vast majority of the Island's underprivileged won't deliberately stay in that scenario if given a choice, and this is absolutely what this is about. It's about giving people incentives to feel good about themselves without being patronised.
Most of the people that will gain access to the Container are no different to you and I except that they have no significant reasons to interact with computers, as it is not presented to them in a meaningful way. This is to say in a way that it becomes relevant to their every day activities as determined by them.
Our main target group is therefore going to be some hardcore bad boys/girls. People from a non-digital low-educational background who have not been working with other types of artforms. Thus never had the time or incentive to investigate what computer technology can or can't do for them in a constructive and creative manner.
MF: What is going to happen in the Container? What might be going on on a typical day? What is its relationship to say the different music scenes in Jamaica? At the same time you're going to be pulling in digital art stuff from all over? It sounds like a crazy mix.
MJ: Crazy and mix-up it will be indeed --thing is as a youth growing up in Jamaica we had a kind of figure head in folklorist Mrs. Louise Bennet-Cobally affectionately Miss Lou --now Miss Lou always say fe her Auntie Rochi used to say 'tun yuh hand and meck fashion' which is the mentality responsible for Jamaica's creativity and dynamic energies. So yes indeed the Container shall see a very interesting explosion of creative flair, I can't give you any specifics but I can guarantee a dynamo of exciting activities.
The technology will emphasise interactive digital media plus some basic life skills thus the technology is about resourcing humans with communicative skills and tools.
My hope is to get more ghetto people to develop an appetite for using computers productively and if I can pass on the little that I have come to know to at least one person then I would be grateful.
MF: Why is it important for you personally to do this?
MJ: This is as significant to me now as football was in my early development. As a socially recreational activity football kept me out of many mischief and strife. It also expanded my social group taking me into places that would otherwise be inaccessible to the likes of me. The same is true for computer technology --especially interactive media where now I am celebrating in circles that's usually the domain of the reserved. Whilst there most people see me as unique, exotic, all kind of shit. Not to say I don't appreciate all the attention, but there is something inside that keeps reminding me that this is only happening because I got a chance and this chance was the privilege to work with some brilliant computer artists and technicians at a time when I had no knowledge or experience with computers. This also came about because, before that, Artec's programme at the time allowed me to investigate my own resolves based around topics that mattered to me.
So in a sense this is what I would like to achieve through the Container project: a lot more "socially acceptable" outcasts or outsiders. People who have a hell of a lot more to contribute to society than the misery that gets strapped to us.
MF: So, what kind of effect do you see the project having for other people?
MJ: Hopefully, in terms of the non-computer-educated participants, it will stimulate them into using computers as a tool to enhance their craft. For the learned digital artists and others that will participate in the project that this experience helps to rejuvenate their creative genes and influence them in a more communal outreaching approach to their work if this is not already the case.
MF: How is the Container being put together in terms of sourcing finances, material, computers, satellite time and all the many other things that you need to get the thing done?
MJ: This again is another milestone in the dynamism of the media that I now have the privilege to work in and the kind of people that I get to work with or meet as a result of my work. It is largely based on their good sense and generosity, where people have given time to help to administrate, donate equipment, and just to share ideas or contact details of people who they think might be able to help out.
So most of the efforts so far have been from donations of some sort or another. However, we are still hopeful that we will be able to attract some kind of sponsorship from business or anyone else. The container and the shipping costs have been donated by JP Fruit Distributors, and various amount of time and effort by a group of people already too numerous to mention in this interview.
For all the other things, we are still seeking sponsorship commitments from companies or other kinds of organisation that will be offered advertising profile as a result of their participation.
MF: What kind of kit do you need?
MJ: Along with the kit for use in the actual container we are asking people, companies, organisations etc. to donate material. A basic unit should be a PC with 166 Mhz Pentium processor, 32 MB memory and 15" monitor capable of 800 x 600 pixels --16 bit colour. Or a Performa Mac/ Power Mac with similar capabilities with a baseline modem speed of 28.8kbps connectability. These computers along with peripherals like printers and scanners will be given to community groups that have participated in the Container project on its tours. These will provide connection to the Container project team and the World Wide Web and allow the community to continue to push things after the Container has left a site. If anyone has anything like this, or access to resources we'd love to hear from them!
We are also advocating for sponsored connection for public access and are focussing on both local and international telecommunications companies to assist us in this quest. Satellite time, or other ways of connecting to the net, is going to be important.
MF: What should people do if they can support the Container with resources?
MJ: Get in contact with me immediately <mervin@mongrel.org.uk> or any one you know that is affiliated with the project.
MF: What is the situation with regard to the net in Jamaica? Any good initiatives worth checking out? Are there any organisations or groups of people that you will specifically be collaborating with?
MJ: In Jamaica there is a number of interesting developments taking place around the media however many of these take a kind of corporate approach to their initiative and that is primarily because these users/ developers are from uptown so that's what is accepted by their peers. But by all means --type Jamaica into any search engine and you will be bombarded with a catalyst of interesting sites.
MF: This is a very informal model of going about getting it done. It's a different way of going about things than most people would try in say, the UK and the rest of Europe where you'd get jumped on by x-amount of bureaucracy before things could get moving. On first hearing, the idea of just getting on and doing something this major, sounds almost unfeasible. Is Jamaica any different?
MJ: When we start talking bureaucracy, in Jamaica it's no different from anywhere in the world. The thing is what would seem normal time span for as huge a land as Europe or even the US seems like eternity to the average man in the street and we are not known for our patience. My old lady used to say 'always take the bull by the horn' --so when you see the need to do certain things you just have to go out and do it.
 

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Comic and Zine reviews
Mark Pawson

Pick of the bunch this time around is the long awaited new issue of Detroit's Motorbooty modestly subtitled 'The Better Magazine'. Imagine a cross between Weirdo Comic and Grand Royal magazine with articles like a 'What to do when good guys join bad bands' advice column and the something to offend everyone '100 Worst Albums of the 20th Century Chart'. The Beastie Boys were, shall we say, very heavily influenced by Motorbooty when assembling their own magazine... Highlight of Motorbooty #9--the Graphic Violence Issue is editor Mark Dancey's comic strip about the Insane Clown Posse (a band). These fellow Detroit residents revealed themselves to be even stupider than their name implies when they took exception to a mildly satirical Dancey comic strip about them that appeared in SPIN magazine, and instigated a hate campaign against him, and the publisher, thus generously providing Dancey with material for a much more critical follow-up comic. Both are reproduced here, and you'll learn much more than anyone, anywhere needs or wants to know about the Insane Clown Posse...
Other Dancey highlights this issue are a merciless set of 'Unoriginal Gangsta Trading Cards'--efficiently demolishing every White Rapper you've ever heard of and a few more besides. The story of the 'Louvin Brothers'--genuine mandolin-smashing hellraisers, in the 'Illustrated History of Pants' centrespread is an inspired mix of ridiculous trousers and social history, which deserves to be printed as a full-size poster. Almost-believable is the piece on the punkrock gig re-enactment scene, organised along the lines of Civil War re-enactment Societies, authenticly complete with police confiscating compact discs and mobile phones!--now all 5,000 people who claim to have attended seminal gigs that took place in 200-capacity rock'n'roll toilets can be there!
Somehow Motorbooty and its hometown of Detroit have escaped the grip of Spice Girl Fever, which on the evidence of Spice Capades seems to have affected the rest of America! In this totally unauthorised 48-pager, a plethora of comic artists and zinesters explore their hideous fascinations with the all-conquering Fab Four (or Five) and provide their own reinterpretations of the Girl Power message. The rather obvious monster/sci-fi stories are as unnecessary as Spice World--the Movie. With such strong material to start with, the best comics are the true-life ones, grown men desperately trailing round branches of Toys'R'Us trying in vain to find a Scary Spice to complete their sets of Spice Girls Dolls, and New York Punk scene vet Peter Bagge taking his daughter and a car-load of screaming prepubescant spice-a-likes to a Spice Girls stadium concert, and thoroughly enjoying every minute of it!
For a glimpse of Comics' History check out a few EC Comics titles. The complete reprint series of seminal 1950's EC (Entertaining Comics) Comics have been coming out steadily over the last few years, and are still as fresh and exciting as they must have been when they were originally published. I would have loved to have my mind warped by these when I was a kid! Full of time-machines, spaceships and gooey slime-oozing tentacled alien invaders, Weird Science seems to contain the plot-line of every Sci-Fi film ever made. The magnificently grisly EC horror titles, Tales From the Crypt and The Vault of Horror were cited as inducing moral panic, leading directly to the introduction of an over censorious Comics Code in the USA. Undaunted, EC sprang back with a whole library of 'New Direction' titles; Aces High, Valor, Piracy and Tales designed to carry an Impact. Particularly worth looking out for currently are Psychoanalysis and M.D. (Medical Drama)--two totally inspired original series which, surprisingly, only survived for a few months. Nowadays the EC formula of obligatory surprise twists and shock endings feels dated and gets predictable after a couple of issues, but I'm sure I would have been a total EC fan if I'd ever seen these comics as a kid. Maybe I should buy extra copies to hand out to schoolkids.
Pwease Wuv Me--More 'Art' of Mitch O'Connell, is the second collection of Mitch O'Connell's hyper-kitsch Paintings, Illustrations, Comics and Tattoo designs. M O'C is quite obviously an Image Junkie in the advanced stages of addiction with an insatiable appetite for images of Betty Page, Tiki God Statues, Big-eyed Waif Kid paintings, Cheesecake Pin-ups, 60s and 70s Baby Boomer toys, Mad Magazine, Wacky Packages bubblegum cards, Hippie memorabilia, Beatnik Poodles and just about every other manifestation of kitschy, cheesy pop culture forgotten by the rest of society. Taking this over-sugared array of source material M O'C lusciously redraws it into a multi-layered fruit-cocktail, trifle-like designs crammed full of bright rich goodies, and best served up in small portions, its all just so darn pretty to look at! Self published, I can't help thinking that this exhausting to look at visual feast could just as well have been published by Dover Books as one of their clipart collections.
In James Kochalka's Quit Your Job, Magic Boy, his goofy elf-slacker alter-ego character trips up in the snow and misses his bus to work. Whilst fretting that he'll be in trouble for missing work he finds a magic ring in the snow. His head reeling with thoughts of what he can use the ring for, Magic Boy enjoys a day of unexpected freedom from work and fun in the snow, never actually getting round to using the ring's powers. This whimsical story is drawn in Kochalka's loose relaxed style, using large panels mostly taken up with giant snowflakes. Everything's back to normal by teatime, Magic Boy realises he's happy enough without needing a magic ring, and returns home to find an answerphone message from his boss telling him to take the day off work anyway!
Also currently available from the prolific J Kochalka are Monica's Story (yes that Monica) and various issues of James Kochalka Superstar Comics.
Japanize is a good old fashioned A5 photocopied comic, put out by Toko whilst she's been living in the UK, containing her impressions in a distinctive kiddie-manga style of such quaint British activities as chanting along whilst watching the Jerry Springer show, taking worthless pieces of junk along to the Antiques Roadshow and eating bread and (baked) beans! 'The Hayashi Corporation' is a loopy meandering tale of a multi-tentacled dutch-husband supplying business and there's some traditional manga-style sex and violence thrown in as well, plus a cookery page. Japanize issues 1-4 seemed to come out at weekly intervals, but Toko's visa has run out and she'll have to return to Japan, so passport-sized Japanize #4 may be the last. 

Dishwasher ...one guy...fifty states...lots of dishes...plenty of time...
Dishwasher Pete's chosen job allows him the freedom to roam around the USA in the knowledge that wherever he fancies staying for a couple of weeks he can easily find a job. In Dishwasher issues 14 & 15 Pete's long term quest to wash dishes in each of the 50 American States takes him to Louisiana and New York City together with a detour working on an Oilrig. We also get his account of 'appearing' on the Late Show with David Letterman, 'appearing' because media-shy Pete wasn't in the slightest bit interested in being on television so he obligingly let a friend go along instead, as a Warhol-style stand-in! Dishwasher also has plenty of dishwasher related press clippings, cartoons, book extracts and movie reviews, with a particular focus on dishwashing in literature and Labour Activism among Dishwashers, past and present.
Can't find a decent cravat anywhere these days? Want to catch up on all the latest styles in cable-knit sleeveless pullovers and keep abreast of what's what in the world of nose hair trimmers? Then my dear fellow you need to equip yourself with a copy of The Chap, a sophisticated pamphlet designed to fit perfectly in your smoking-jacket pocket. With forthright advice on hairstyles, golfing attire and modern etiquette tips, The Chap is an essential requisite for today's Gentleman of Leisure feeling slightly out of place in a world full of blue-jean trousers and garishly-coloured plimsols.

Contacts
Motorbooty , £4.50 Available from Tower Records /Disinfotainment www.motorbooty.com
Spice Capades, Fantagraphics, £3.75 Available from Comic shops
www.fantagraphics.com
EC Comics, various titles Available from Comic shops
www.gemstonepub.com
Pwease Wuv Me , £12.95 Available from Disinfotainment
www.mitchoconnell.com
Quit Your Job , $6.95 Alternative Press
www.indyworld.com/altpress
Japanize , £1.50 Probably available from GOSH comics, Gt Russell St, London, WC1 or c/o 37 Stephendale Rd, Fulham, London SW6 2LT
Dishwasher Available from Disinfotainment or $2.50 inc p/p from
P.O. Box 8213
Portland
OR 97207
U.S.A.
The Chap , £2.00 inc p/p
p.o. Box 21135, London N16 0WW

Disinfotainment mailorder catalogue available from;
P.O.Box 664, London, E3 4QR
website www.mpawson.demon.co.uk
 

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Byzantine Politics
The abduction and trial of Abdullah Ocalan
William Clark

Ocalan's abduction

"In another extension of the war against the rebel Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK), the [Susurluk] report says, Turkish agents co-operated with the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad in an unsuccessful attempt on the life of PKK leader Abullah Ocalan in Syria."
(Wall Street Journal 26/1/98)

Whatever the reality of the events leading up to Abdullah Ocalan's capture and eventual death sentence were, we should see it as part of wider US plans for the region. 
In the UK the first mention of the CIA's involvement came in the Scotsman newspaper, which on the same day that the Guardian stated there was "no evidence" of Mossad involvement (18 Feb. 99) led with a front page "CIA behind mission to capture Ocalan". This followed on from German Kurdish newspaper's assertions. The Scotsman had been told that:
"The operation, code-named 'Watchful', was planned by the CIA and executed with the blessing of...Albright." It went on to say the actual snatch team were from Mossad. It also stated that surveillance had been underway for three months taking us back to November when Ocalan was in Rome. It would seem an attempt was made there too, but aborted. The Scotsman article provides further inference that Turkish operations in the North Iraq "no-fly zone" against the PKK were co-ordinated with the US, contrary to official statements:
"The operation was well co-ordinated, with US forces in Kuwait yesterday beginning manoeuvres on the border with Iraq..." Turkish forces were also aided by the KDP: a Kurdish group which I will discuss later.
The attacks on the 19th of February were also co-ordinated with attacks on political, human rights and religious organisations (any group beyond the control of the military) within Turkey. These continued in the lead up to the elections: the pro-Kurdish group HADEP were intimidated, arrested and banned outright together with Islamic parties. We can reasonably assume with US help.
The Scotsman's coverage followed up the next day with information that: "Sources say that the US State Department created a secret think tank six months ago to co-ordinate policy in the region." To my mind this would have been prompted to act as a counter to Ocalan's attempts to put the Kurdish issue on the World stage. The Scotsman maintain that the think tank is CIA led and co-ordinates with Mossad and Turkish special forces. Through treaties and shared military operations, Turkey and Israel are coming closer to police the region for the US. The report suggests that the State Department line is that: "With Ocalan out of the equation, the US believes that Kurdish nationalism will become more tolerant and tolerable." This will be enforced by the post Saddam break up of Iraq into three regions which they describe as "a northern Kurdish State [run by the PUK and KDP who are financed by the CIA] an Arab central democratic republic and a Shia-dominated state to the south" This also includes attempts to secure the borders of Turkey and Israel. It is a plan that has been around for some time.

Disruption

"My failure to stop the destruction of the Armenians had made Turkey for me a place of horror, and I found intolerable my further daily association with men who, however gracious and accommodating and good-natured they might have been to the American Ambassador, were still reeking with the blood of nearly a million human beings."
(Henry Morgenthau, US Arnbassador to Turkey , 1913-1916)

How times have changed.
The US government has not exactly exhibited constancy in its press statements on the Ocalan capture, due obviously to its complicity in the matter.
"WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (IPS) ­ The administration of US President Bill Clinton has been quick to insist it played no part in the capture and removal of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan from Kenya to Turkey Monday."
''The United States did not apprehend or transfer Ocalan, or transport him to Turkey,'' said State Department spokesman James Foley, reading from a prepared statement. ''In other words, US personnel did not participate in any of those actions that I just described.'' 
As an aside it could be pointed out that the same report also stated that: "During the war, western warplanes used Incirlik Air Base to launch intelligence flights and bombing raids. That base is still used by US and British warplanes who enforce the ''no-fly zone'' established after the war to protect the mainly Kurdish population of northern Iraq." Here it failed to include the fact that the same air base is used to attack Kurds by Turkish forces, other missions were soon to bomb Serbian forces in support of the KLA whom the State Department considered terrorists, until they were of use to them. In three days the US line changed slightly and we had this from Reuters:
"Officials confirmed the gist of reports appearing in the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times saying US diplomatic pressure helped put Ocalan in flight from a safe haven in Syria and eventually into the arms of Turkish commandos. 
We've been engaged diplomatically for months to bring him to justice," said one US official, speaking on condition of anonymity. 
Members of a US team of intelligence and law enforcement officers, in Nairobi investigating the bombing of the US Embassy there last August, quickly discovered that Ocalan had arrived there, reports said. 
They placed the Greek Embassy under surveillance and monitored his phone conversations while he placed calls to political contacts, they said." 
And then ten days later a CIA friendly report from CNN boasts of a new technique being used by the CIA called "Disruption":
"The key to disruption is that it takes place before terrorists strike, amounting to a pre-emptive, offensive form of counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, President Clinton's counterterrorism coordinator, said. After violent acts, arrests are difficult...U.S. counterterrorism officials increasingly use disruption because other options are so few."
Casting the constitution and international law to one side the report goes on:
"There are no headlines when a disruptive job is done ­ and no fingerprints. ..The CIA keeps its role secret, and the countries that actually crack down on the suspects carefully hide the U.S. role, lest they stir up political trouble for themselves.
Moreover, the CIA sends no formal notice to Congress once a foreign law-enforcement agency, acting on CIA information, swoops in and breaks up a suspected terrorist cell.
Disruption has the advantage of utmost secrecy, hiding the hand of the United States and avoiding the cumbersome congressional reporting requirements that go with CIA-directed covert operations. 
If international law enforcers get rough in smashing a suspected terrorist cell, the CIA would have no direct control, and human rights organisations would have no way of identifying a CIA role. 
The recent arrest by Turkish forces in Kenya of Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan is one of the rare examples where the disruption tactic gained public notice. The CIA and other intelligence agencies refuse to comment on whether they played a role in assisting Turkey. But other U.S. officials say the United States provided Turkey with critical information about Ocalan's whereabouts. The idea is early intervention."

The Ankara accord

"Writing in the New York Times on September 7, Tim Weiner reported that the recent Iraqi offensive in the northern safe haven established by the Gulf War allies delivered a fatal blow to an opposition group financed by the CIA. As the members of the agency's force were imprisoned and executed, additional U.S. press reports detailed for the first time five years of covert action targeting Saddam. The Washington Post reports that since 1991, the CIA has spent some $100 million dollars on the effort."
(The CIA's Failed Plot Against Saddam Hussein, Jon Elliston)

The most recent meeting of the US and the PUK and KDP was on the 17/6/99 while Ocalan was on trial. According to a press release entitled Kurdistan Regional Government ­ KRG European Union Representation (which suggests EU involvement) the main topics of the agenda included:
"...an end to media to media attacks. ­ the elimination of PKK terrorist presence in Iraqi Kurdistan. ­ exchange of party representative offices in each other respective areas. ­ the resettlement of internally displaced persons IDPs. ­ the issue of revenue. ­ to activate the role of parliament and formation of joint interim  government. the normalization of situation in the region including the formation of a commission for voters registration".
So there are indications that the media will be tightly controlled as regards comment on whatever entity the US concocts. Despite the significance of the arrangements ­ which will plunge the middle east into further chaos and despair ­ I have come across no mention of the process in the UK media. There will be other measures taken towards controlling any monitoring of the process as indicated from an earlier statement by James Rubin (Spokesman of the Dept. of State) on the Joint Statement by the KDP and PUK 10/11/98, which stated:
"We recognize the possible role of humanitarian, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in supporting the goals of the Ankara Statements. In the past, the activities of some NGOs in northern Iraq may not have conformed with their status. The Government of Turkey has established principles to regulate the passage of NGO workers to the region."
In other words we will preserve and monitor human rights by handing the process over to a state with the worst human rights record of the decade. The Turkish state is highly suspicious of the arrangements: immediately following the agreement in Washington Ankara elevated diplomatic relations with Baghdad to an ambassadorial level. On one level they are afraid that if there is a separate entity in the north of Iraq the same example would be copied in south eastern Turkey It could also be that their strategic use to the US will be lessened. Over and above this the Turkish state has been running a race war and the idea of a Kurdish state alongside it is anathema.
When asked about the Turkish Kurds, David Welch the Deputy Assistant Secretary of state who has been running the deal responded in an interview on Worldnet Dialogue 15/10/98:
"Q: You've repeatedly expressed your concern for the rights of the Kurds in Iraq, and their right to choose the form of government they want to live under in Iraq. Can we anticipate you showing the same concern of the Kurds of Turkey? 
MR. WELCH: Turkey is a democratic country. I think people there should enjoy democratic rights. That's an issue for Turkey. My concern right now is the lack of any such rights for the people of Iraq. And you will recall that whenever I was asked the question about what we support for Kurds, I made clear that we support similar rights for any Iraqi. I wish that other Iraqis were in a position to exercise such rights. I wish that other Iraqis had at least the minimum thing that the people in northern Iraq do, is some freedom from the authority and control of Saddam Hussein."
Curiously the agreement calls for the reestablishment (the CIA tried this before) of a parliament in three northern Iraqi provinces on the basis of a "unified, pluralistic, and democratic Iraq." With the usual twisting of reality the American State Department line is that this is the will of the Iraqi people (who they have been murdering) and will contribute towards Iraqi unity. The agreement also has to go along with the clearly ludicrous proposition that Turkey ­ a terrorist state ­ is a peacemaker in the Kurdish conflict.
The process will also have to deal with for the Turkomen, Assyrian and Chaldean communities ­ it will supposedly conduct a census to find out what everybody is. The area contains a rich ethnic mix the precise nature of which is argued by various ethnologists; suffice to say that Assyrian Americans are considering aggressively pushing for a boycott of the census and subsequent elections.
Assyrian groups met with the leaders of the KDP and PUK in Washington and told them that there are three million Kurds and two million Assyrians in all of Iraq and that any Iraqi proportionate representation ought to be based on that ratio. They perceive the plan as a crude political scheme to split and trivialise the Assyrian community ­ in the previous attempts at establishing a 'parliament' the guns did the talking: Francis Shabo, a member of the Chaldean Church won a seat in the parliament while running as a member of the Assyrian Democratic Movement and was subsequently assassinated by gunmen who Amnesty International suggested were affiliated with the KDP.
Not that the US really gives a damn:
"Our national interests are not tied to which party prevails in this conflict in Northern Iraq. But we do have vital national security interests in maintaining security and stability in the region. These vital interests include maintenance of stability; protection of friendly nations ­ including Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf states; and protection of the flow of oil. 
(Department of Defence News Briefing Tuesday, September 3, 1996 ­ 8:55 a.m.)

As Ardalan Hardi pointed out in an essay 'The Slaughter of the Kurds with White House Blessing':
"Recently, a human rights conference was held in Washington, DC. Mr. Andrew Morrison attended, representing the State Department. He was questioned regarding the "no-fly zones" established in Iraq. The concern was that the Turkish government violates the Northern "no-fly zone" almost weekly and with no retort from the U.S. If Iran violates the Southern "no-fly zone", the administration is clear and decisive in their response. Mr. Morrison replied that "the no-fly zone was established to protect the Kurds from Saddam and not from anyone else. At the same time, we are aware of the planes that take off from Turkey and know the schedule. We are not sure of Iran's intentions or plans." This statement indicates that the administration is taking a position of non-involvement and hands-off. This would indicate that the political decisions regarding Kurdistan of Iraq and the Kurds' issue, in general, has been handed over to the Turkish government, a longtime enemy of the Kurds. This, it would seem, is accepted with White House blessing."
(http://home.att.net/~AHARDI/Beneen/slaughter.html)

Writing in the small magazine Beneen Ardalan Hardi believes that the recent conflict in northern Iraq reveals:
"that KDP, by joining forces with Iraq's dictator Saddam, and then with the terrorist Turkish state, a long-time Kurdish enemy, in an effort to kill their own brothers, no longer can be representing Kurdish interests and the dream of a Kurdish state. Secondly, the Clinton administration's foreign policy in Kurdistan, just like the administration before it, is nothing but an empty drum--big in noise but empty in substance. It is also very apparent that the Turkish government has the White House's blessing to do whatever it pleases to the Kurds in and out of Turkey. Hence, as long as the Turkish terrorist state is involved in pretending to be a peacemaker to Kurdish conflict, the situation will never be solved and the slaughter of one of the oldest and the largest nation without a country will go on."
Like many commentators outwith the mainstream media (where one can find much better analysis) this echoes the belief that the sooner the US government acknowledges that Turkey is the biggest part of the problem, and not part of the solution, the better the chance of peace. This presupposes that the US desire peace in the region. It is almost as if the US are trying to goad Saddam into occupying the region so that they can strike. 
"Current US policy in Iraq appears to be focused on containing Iraq with brute force, forgoing an emphasis on covert action. President Clinton is poised to order additional air attacks, and whatever CIA plotting is presently underway probably faces dim prospects, now that Saddam's security forces have destroyed the agency's underground networks in northern Iraq."
(The CIA's Failed Plot Against Saddam Hussein Jon Elliston)

Hardi's comments give too much credence to EU opposition to Turkey. The EU has turned down Turkey's moves to join the EU, but this is largely the result of the work of a network activists and human rights groups, few of whom will be present in northern Iraq. Further moves to eliminate the PKK will carry with them a propaganda campaign and operations to attack and discredit these groups ­ this is well underway in the British press, particularly the Observer which has been running all manner of pro-Turkish propaganda from front organisations (see Private Eye no. 979) and disinformation seemingly directly at the behest of the Turkish foreign ministry.
While the EU can make statements such as that of EU Secretary of State, Georges Wohlfart July 1, 1997: "Turkey must improve its human rights and solve its conflict with the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) peacefully, if it wants to join the European Union...the Kurdish issue can only be resolved by political not military means." There are just too many multi national business interests in Turkey for this to last ­ and there are bigger moves which show a callous complicity by particularly the UK government, in the GAP project, arms sales and Oil development, which I will go into later.
Turkey has been under martial law since 1984, while this is relaxed slightly in the north, in the south east it is still in place. Martial law is not democratic rule, it is rule by the military. The political parties who could exert change in Turkey have been banned as have human rights groups; yet the pretence exists by the British government and sections of the press that Turkey is a democracy. This is motivated by financial gain. They have had to turn a blind eye to some astonishing events.

The Susurluk Affair

"I am sure that Turkish academics and writers will confirm this. Yesterday's Prime Minister, today's deputy Prime Minister is well known as the leader of the criminal gangs. Court records have now registered how many criminals have been organised by former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar's signature and involved in drug trafficking to Europe. These crimes were previously blamed maliciously on the PKK."
(Abdullah Ocalan, Kurdistan Report No. 25 1997)

"...evidence suggests that at some time in the last five years, the criminal gangs began to work as enforcers for private interests tied to members of the political elite."
(Stephen Kinzer, NY Times 31/12/96)

Turkey's recent political history has revealed that the government interpenetrates to an enormous extent with very wild criminal factions. A car crash on 3/11/96 in the Susurluk district 90 miles south of Istanbul provided the starting point to proving what human rights groups and activists had argued for decades. What is now undeniable (and well-known to the governments and diplomats of the USA and UK) is that the Turkish Security apparatus developed a relationship with criminal gangs to perform killings and other 'counter-terrorist' activities including drug trafficking, and that this took place with official sanction at the highest level of government.
The driver of the car was Huseyin Kocadag ­ ex-deputy police chief of Istanbul who died. He was known for taking part in organising the first special counter-insurgency police teams in south east Turkey. Also in the car was Gonca Uz an ex-beauty Queen with links to organised crime who also died. Sedat Bucak MP (of the right-wing DYP party) ­ a tribal warlord/para-military village guard, survived badly injured. He was reportedly in charge of 2,000 Kurdish mercenaries, armed and paid by the government to fight the PKK. The car contained four people: the fourth, Abdullah Cati, riding along with top police and government officials was a Turkish Mafia Godfather wanted since 1978 by Interpol for the killings of left-wing activists. Catli was head of the fascist 'Grey Wolves' and a convicted international drug smuggler.
Interior minister Mehmet Agar (head of the police force) was forced to resign admitting that he had overseen "at least 1,000 secret operations." Found in the wreckage (together with a cache of automatic weapons and cocaine) were genuine special Interior ministry passports bearing Agar's signature and made out for Catli. Similar documents have also been found for other drug Traffickers.
In Covert Action No. 61, (<http://www.caq.com/ CAQ/caq61/CAQ61turkey.html>) Ertugrul Kurkeu, in an article about the affair, quotes other investigative journalists and the parliamentary commission into the Susurlik affair who found an explanation for the government-extremist-criminal alliance other than a shared affection for fascism. They concurred that:
"Ciller, Agar, and other affiliates of the "gang"...are only a few of the many corrupt links in a long chain of "counterinsurgency strategies" overseen by Turkey's high command"
The strategy the Turkish Armed Forces developed ­ and the national Security Council endorsed in 93 ­ tried to bring the war to the PKK and has all the hall marks of the "low-intensity conflict" practised and developed by the US in Central America. The strategic shift targeted civilian support for the PKK. Documents were leaked concerning tactical military schemes which included lists of prospective members of death-squads including Abdullah Catali, the Grey Wolves and special police team members.
"During the three fatal years that followed, 1993-95 with Tansu Ciller as prime minister and Suleyman Demirel as president, Kurdish civil society was shattered. Kurdish political, cultural and press organisations faced violent attacks. Their headquarters were bombed, scores of local Kurdish politicians, including pro-Kurdish DEP (democracy Party) deputy Mehmet Sincar were killed by mysterious assassins, other Kurdish DEP deputies were expelled from parliament and jailed or forced into exile; and hundreds of Kurdish activists were disappeared."
(Covert Action No. 61)

In February 1995 Hanefi Avci, deputy intelligence department chief of Turkish Security, testified before a parliamentary commission:
"Some officials believed that the Turkish security remained incapable of eliminating the PKK supporters as long as [the security forces] functioned within legal means. Thus, they arrived at the conclusion that the PKK could have been fought only through extra-legal methods." 
According to Avci one gang was headed by Interior minister Mehmet Agar.
When Tansu Ciller was Turkey's ex-foreign minister several countries (including the US) made pronouncements on her similar to that of 22/1/97 by Judge Rudolph Schwalbe in the Frankfurt State Court, which accused her of having personal contacts with narcotic smugglers and protecting them. The Turkish Daily News of 12/12/96 made allegations that a meeting took place in 93 between the highest representatives of the Turkish state, top security officials and a group of twelve people:
"At the meeting was Tansu Ciller, along with president Suleyman Demirel, the then speaker of parliament, Husamettin Cindoruk, the then Commandant general of the Gendarmerie, Aydin Ilter, the Interior Minister of the time, Nahit Mentese, and the then general Chief of Police, Mehmet Agar. The 12 people they met included some who were allegedly outlaws responsible for killing soldiers and police officers who were secretly brought in from the South east on a private plane.
Tansu Ciller allegedly addressed these men, who have long criminal record, declaring: "We are going to overcome terrorism together." reports suggest that she then went on to guarantee that all their needs would be met. the said "needs" were heavy machine guns, such as MG-3s and BCXs, RPG rocket launchers and flame throwers..." 
(Kurdistan Report No. 25)

As the counter-insurgency campaign escalated the government terror gangs indulged in the luxury of utter recklessness. They made a grab for the enormous revenues from drug trafficking and money laundering and began fighting amongst themselves.
The government organised right-wing gangs linked into a network of secret security organisations known as "Gladio":
"A secret clause in the initial NATO agreement in 1949 required that before a nation could join, it must have already established a national security authority to fight communism through clandestine citizen cadres. This Stay Behind clause grew out of a secret committee set up at US insistence in the Atlantic Pact the forerunner of NATO"
(Covert Action 61)

The Turkish army's Special Warfare Department was part of Gladio and ran the Counter-guerrilla Organisation.
"The department was headquartered in the US Military Aid Mission building in Ankara and received funds and training from US advisers to create the Stay Behind squads. The Gray Wolves, headed by Catli, enjoyed official encouragement and protection.
In the late '70s, former military prosecutor and Turkish Military Supreme Court Justice Emin Deger documented collaboration between the Gray Wolves and the government's counterguerrilla forces, as well as the close ties of the latter to the CIA. The Counterguerrilla Organisation provided weapons to terrorist groups such as the Gray Wolves, who instigated much of the political violence that culminated in a 1980 coup by the Turkish military that deposed Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel. State security forces justified the coup in the name of restoring order and stability. Cold War realpolitik compelled the Gray Wolves and their institutional sponsor, the ultra-right National Action Party, to favour a discreet alliance with NATO and U.S. intelligence. Led by Col. Alpaslan Turkes, the National Action Party espoused a fanatical pan-Turkish ideology that called for repatriating whole sections of the Soviet Union under the flag of a reborn Turkish empire. 
The Gray Wolves forged ties with the Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations, a CIA-backed coalition led by erstwhile fascist collaborators from Eastern Europe. Colleagues of Turkes controlled a Turkish chapter of the World Anti-Communist League, an umbrella group that functioned as a cat's paw for US intelligence in Latin America, Southwest Asia and other Cold War battlegrounds."
(Covert Action 61)

Or as our own Daily Telegraph stated on the 12 April 97: "The Turkish Republic is up to its neck in killings, drug trafficking, robbery and blackmail." And so are people who provide them with arms and military help --the UK government for instance.
When the report was published ­ in part of course ­ it was used by Prime Minister Mesut Yilmaz as an attack on Tansu Ciller, his main rival for the leadership of Turkey's "centre right." The report blamed Ciller and exonerated the armed forces despite the fact that the killings of Kurds began in 1991, about the time Yilmaz began his first stint as Prime Minister.

The safe haven

"Nothing was written exposing the deal between President Ozal and Iraqi Kurdish leaders Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani. Ozal proposed a federated Iraq in the Fall of 1990, the north for the Kurds, the mid-section for the Turkmen of Iraq and leftovers for the Arabs. In return Iraqi Kurds were to "secure" their border against Kurdish guerrillas from Turkey. Less than two years later, this rapprochement culminated in Kurds killing Kurds when on October 4, 1992, in collaboration with the Turkish military, Iraqi Kurds attacked their kinsmen."
(Vera Beaudin Saeedpour, Center for Research, the Kurdish Library, No. 6, Spring 1993)

"Even in the land whose political structures gave rise to the term "Byzantine," untangling these ties is proving a very daunting challenge."
(Stephen Kinzer, New York Times 31/12/96)

While pressure was put on Syria to hand over Ocalan ­ at one point Turkey threatened to invade ­ the US continued in their post-Gulf war efforts to manipulate the PUK and KDP. They developed their moves to turn the 'no fly zone' or 'safe haven' in northern Iraq into a puppet state run by both groups. The moves are officially supported by Turkey ­ although it routinely bombs the region ­ and the UK, which also lends its military support to the bombings.
Fighting between the PUK and KDP has been going on for some time and the internecine struggle between both are complex ­ too complex it would seem for most western commentators. The US has been manipulating ethnic rivalries in the area to attack Saddam Hussein, attack the PKK and make moves on Syria and Iran. In late 98 while arranging Ocalan's kidnapping Madeline Albright and the US State Department met for talks with the two groups. While Ocalan was hunted down and put on trial the US and UK kept up the talks and eventually invited PUK and KDP representatives to Washington together with British and Turkish diplomats.
Since the Gulf war US policy in the region has been to establish a 'protectorate' (for US interests) which uses the Kurds of Iraq as a buffer to keep 25 million Kurds divided. The documents outlining the 'government' of the 'country' were set out in 95 but in-fighting between the US' favoured clients has impeded any progress. The legality of the move is somewhat dubious, but that has never stopped the US in the past. For the US some Iraqi Kurds have an inalienable right to a slice of Iraq while others who seek to determine their own future have no right to exist.
"Operation Provide Comfort" was a cover for destabilising operations against Iraq and the use of what could accurately be described as CIA-backed Kurdish gangster formations against more politically responsible and determined Kurdish elements waging their struggle for freedom and liberty against Turkey. The situation again has parallels with American adventures in Central America. The use of contra guerrillas as 'death squads' is a common feature of colonial struggles as is the fomenting of ethnic divides. Traditionally these activities are conducted covertly, as long as possible: the USA and British governments have done a great job in silencing any media analysis of the KDP and PUK factions they have such faith in.

The Promise of America

Given what we now know about US involvement in Central America ­ the Turkish use of death squads, heroin trafficking by government officials and so on would hardly have shocked the US government. The American Government has been up to similar activities in the region. 
According to Jon Elliston (The CIA's Failed Plot Against Saddam Hussein pscpdocs@aol.com) in 1992 the CIA helped establish the Iraqi National Congress, a coalition of Iraqi and Kurdish groups who had little in common except their disdain for Saddam. Since then, the CIA has supported the INC's activities including radio propaganda broadcasts, anti-Saddam publishing, intelligence gathering and efforts to entice Iraqi military personnel to defect. The results have been disastrous with most groups who worked with the CIA ending up dead and/or betrayed
In May 1994, the friction between competing Kurdish groups in the INC erupted into armed skirmishes. In late August the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which had emerged as a major INC faction, solicited help from the Iraqi government to combat their main rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The PUK, which receives some support from Iran, was effectively driven out of Iraq by KDP forces assisted by Saddam. 
The CIA has backed and funded both factions: one would think that working with the US' arch enemy Saddam would be some kind of stumbling block but it is these close ties which the CIA wanted to exploit ­ so they were forgiven. The KDP is led by Massoud Barzani, and the PUK led by Jalal Talabani, the PUK branched off from the KDP in the early 1960s and both have been waging warfare against each other in their respective bids to control the proceeds of smuggling and other economic activities, while ferociously repressing the Kurdish population in the process.
"These two parties have taken turns selling their services to a variety of regimes while selling out the freedom and rights of the Kurds in the process. Besides killing over 2,000 of each other's supporters over the last two years, they have attacked a variety of Kurdish critics and people of differing persuasions, also victimising the Kurdish population in the "safe haven" area through extortion and intimidation. They have collaborated with Turkish forces in attacking the Kurdish liberation movement directed against Turkey and led by the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party). PUK leader Talabani has openly courted Israel, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Saddam Hussein and Turkey,, entering in a variety of "understandings" with all of these states in recent times. Such machinations have earned him the sobriquet "Everybody's Agent."
(Husayn Al-Kurdi, WHAT REALLY HAPPENED IN IRAQ?)

The PUK has facilitated the entry of Iranian armed forces into (for what it's worth) internationally recognised Iraqi territory, at first to attack and disperse a Kurdish organisation resisting the Iranian occupation of one part of Kurdistan. The Iranian incursion penetrated up to 150 miles over the internationally-recognised Iran-Iraq border. It was only after the PUK was joined by Iran in attacking the KDP, and after the KDP leader pleaded unsuccessfully with the US government to intervene to halt the PUK/Iran onslaught, that Massoud Barzani turned to Saddam Hussein to send forces in to assist the KDP in gaining the upper hand. The US responded by letting matters take their course in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Al-Kurdi's article also quotes Council of Foreign Relations author Gidon Gottlieb providing the world banker line when he said that "The Kurds can at best hope for an internationally protected, internationally guaranteed, and internationally recognised autonomy within nominal Iraqi sovereignty," necessitating the repudiation "of any claim to the territory and provinces of Turkey, Iran, and Syria." Of course, Gottlieb adds the proviso that the Kurds "will have to demonstrate their effective control of Iraqi Kurdistan" by aiding Turkey in its drive to "restrain the violence of the Kurdish PKK rebels in Turkey."
US policy could be described as handing over the matter of the Kurds (PKK) to Turkey. The CIA has been meddling in Iraq with disastrous consequences for over four decades, part of which brought Saddam to power:
"After propping up the corrupt Nuri Said, the USA went after Abdul-Karim Kassem, whose popularly-supported coup eliminated the old British agent Nuri in 1958. Among those whom the CIA recruited to do its dirty work were the Iraqi Baath Party, including a brash power-hungry adventurer named Saddam Hussein. Saddam actually engaged in an attempt on Kassem's life, one of many engineered by CIA "assets." The Baath did finally succeed in overthrowing and killing Kassem in 1963. The CIA gave the emergent Baath a long list of Communists and others to liquidate, which they undertook to accomplish with their usual thoroughness."
(The CIA in Kurdistan, Husayn Al-Kurdi ZNET)

Al-Kurdi also provides evidence that the CIA has ran operations out of a building in Ankara since 1952. It proceeded to set up a fearsome intelligence-gathering/ death squad apparatus to deal with the Turkish Left:
"A part of this apparatus of repression spawned was the MHP (National Action Party), an ultra right Turkish organization which is still regarded as a paramilitary wing of the "Special Warfare Department". Military coups in Turkey in 1971 and 1980 were supported by the CIA- the Turkish commander of the air force returned from Washington just days before both events. After the second of these coups succeeded, President Jimmy Carter called CIA agent Paul Henze, who was then involved in Turkey and congratulated him, saying "Your people have just made a coup."
The KDP, whose leader was Massoud Barzani's father Mulla Mustafa Barzani, were hooked into doing the CIA's bidding as early as the early 1960s. By the early 1970s. the KDP was fighting the Iraqi government at the behest of Iran, Israel, and the USA. Agents of all three countries were seen moving about the KDP base camps. Iran was going after a boundary settlement with Iraq, using the Kurds to pressure Baghdad. Israel is forever scheming to destabilise all Arab and Muslim countries which do not come to an understanding with it on its own terms, i.e. recognition of its conquest of the Palestinians. The USA wants economic (oil and the incredible sums of money that oil-rich client states such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait pour into U.S. financial markets) and political power in the region. Their interests usually dovetail. Israel and Turkey have signed at least two military cooperation treaties in recent years. Israel is suspected of bombing PKK camps in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley."
(The CIA In Kurdistan, Husayn Al-Kurdi Znet)

The US perceive the KDP as amenable to their interests because of these long standing arrangements:
"According to an article by ex-U. S. consul in Kirkuk (Iraqi Kurdistan), a secret agreement was reached between the CIA and Mulla Mustafa Barzani in August 1969. Barzani got an alleged $14 million at the time. After the Iran-Iraq Agreement spelled the end of the KDP rebellion, the KDP and the Kurds were left in the lurch. Barzani had promised to turn oil fields over to the U.S., repeatedly saying that he wanted Kurdistan to be the 51st state. He wound up living in exile in the United States, where he died in 1979. He wrote a letter to then-President Carter in early 1977 in which he complained that "I could have prevented the calamity which befell my people had I not fully believed the promise of America. This could have been done by merely supporting Baath policy and joining forces with them, thereby taking a position contrary to American interests and principles and causing trouble for Iraq's neighbours. The assurances of the highest American officials made me disregard this alternative." Henry Kissinger put "American interests and principles" in proper perspective when he proclaimed that "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.""
(The CIA In Kurdistan, Husayn Al-Kurdi Znet)

The recent elections in Turkey

This is what the US State Department know and put out themselves concerning Turkey's elections this year and the banning of any opposition:
"A campaign against "reactionaries" (Islamists) and "separatists" (pro-Kurdish activists) ­ groups that the military publicly identified as the principal threats to Turkey's national security ­ continued throughout the year and broadened to include mainstream secular journalists, non-violent leaders of human rights groups, some devout politicians in mainline conservative parties, and religiously observant Muslim businessmen. Members of the legal pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HADEP) were sometimes the object of arbitrary arrests and often were harassed in the Southeast for their legal political activities. The campaign against pro-Kurdish activists intensified after the November arrest in Italy of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, when some HADEP members expressed support for Ocalan. Authorities detained a large number of HADEP members, and party leaders allege that many were tortured or beaten. An 18-year-old party member died in police custody, allegedly from beatings during interrogation. At year's end the party faced closure by the authorities for alleged anticonstitutional activities. (Two of HADEP's predecessors, HEP and DEP, were closed on similar grounds.)"
(State Department, Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, February 26, 1999.)

And this (note the broad support line) from the same source:
"In January as part of the intense private and public campaign of pressure led by the military and the judiciary, with broad support from several segments of society that view "fundamentalism" to be a threat to the secular republic, the Constitutional Court ordered the Islamist Refah Party closed and banned several of its leaders, including former Prime Minister Erbakan, from political activity for 5 years. The National Security Council continued to warn against Islamist activities. Istanbul mayor and prominent Islamist political leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 10-month sentence in April on charges of promoting separatism and threatening the unity of the state was upheld in September. The sentence carries a lifetime ban from politics."
The State Department also concede that:
"The Government and the law impose limits on freedom of assembly and association. Starting in May police with increasing frequency and force broke up public gatherings of the Saturday Mothers, a group that has held weekly vigils in Istanbul for more than 3 years to protest the disappearances of their relatives. 
Government officials continued to harass, intimidate, indict, and imprison human rights monitors, journalists, and lawyers for ideas that they expressed in public forums."
They have also read the Susurluk report and are aware that:
"A Government report that came to light in January and a 1997 parliamentary report revealed ties between the authorities and illegal gangs ­ ultranationalists and members of organized crime ­ in the wake of the 1996 Susurluk incident, a car accident that provided evidence of such associations. These links raised serious concerns about corruption and the abuse of power in the security forces. The Government publicly committed to investigate corruption but was criticized for its slow progress. In April trials began of former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar, who was linked to the Susurluk victims, and Member of Parliament (M.P.) Sedat Bucak. Separately, in September State Minister Eyup Asik resigned amidst allegations of links to organized crime leader Alaattin Cakici, who was apprehended abroad with a diplomatic passport. These same allegations of corruption led to a November vote of no-confidence in Parliament for the Government of Prime Minister Yilmaz."
Yet they call it a democracy. As does Christopher Morris the Guardian's man in Ankara covering the "elections."
The Turkish parliament is even more dominated by the extreme right. The second largest party is now the National Action Party (MHP), a fascist-like extreme chauvinist, anti-Kurdish organisation. It now holds 129 seats, 22 of which are occupied by notorious members of the Gray Wolves, a paramilitary organisation. The MHP is in alliance with the DSP of the premier Bulent Ecevit, sometimes regarded in Europe as a Social Democrat. This "Nationalist Bloc" totals 265 deputies, 48 percent of the assembly.

Coverage

"Taking recent developments into consideration...we do not want to leave room for future discussions or ill-intentioned debates stemming from terms that have been used."
(Turkish Interior Ministry, The New York Times June 6, 1999)

During Ocalan's trial the Interior Ministry issued a directive listing terms that must be used in all press statements concerning the trial; together with terms that must not be used when discussing Ocalan the PKK or Kurds in general. It is binding on reporters and commentators for the Anatolia news agency, the state-run radio and television network, and public affairs officers at all government agencies. These terms are reproduced ­ or at the very least form the underpinning of most UK reports on the trial. Journalists were indoctrinated into the warped mind set of the Turkish state. They reflect the long-standing censorship of any language which concedes the existence of anything concerning the Kurds.
These are the unacceptable terms, followed by what the government says are correct ones that should be used in their place:
Guerrilla ­ Terrorist.
Urban guerrilla ­ Terrorist element.
Rural guerrilla/Rebel ­ Bandit.
Refugee ­ Shelter seekers.
Rebellion/Kurdish uprising/Kurdish rebellion/Kurdish national independence war/Kurds' independence struggle/revolution/armed revolt ­ Terrorist actions.
PKK/separatists/separatist gang/separatist groups ­ Terrorist organization PKK/ Bloody terrorist organization/murder gang.
Operation/military sweep/security operation -- Search for terrorists and criminals/pursuit of criminals.
Kurdish/of Kurdish background ­ Turkish citizen/our citizens who are identified as
Kurds.
People of the Kurdish race ­ People from separatist environments.
Regional commander/governor ­ An official.
Temporary cease-fire ­ Break in terrorist actions/temporary halt of terror.
Calling for peace ­ Stopping terror actions temporarily.
Guerrilla commander ­ Person in charge of regional terrorists.
Apo ­ The terrorist Ocalan.
Kurdish militia ­ Those who help and conceal terrorists/terrorist collaborators.
Leader of the organization ­ Those accountable for terrorist actions.
Separatist ­ Terrorist.
Separatist organization ­ Terrorist organization.
Marxist-Leninist organization/Marxist-Leninist PKK ­ Terror organization/Terror organization PKK (NOTE: The fact that the organization is Marxist-Leninist may be used in personal contacts abroad.)
Crime against humanity ­ Terror crime/mass murder/massacre.
Resident of the Southeast/People of Southeast Anatolia/Eastern and Southeastern Anatolians ­ Our citizens in the east of Turkey.
Kurdish Parliament in Exile ­ Meeting under the terror organization PKK's control.
Member of Kurdish Parliament ­ Member of the terror organization.
Kurdish flag/so-called Kurdish flag ­ Symbol of the terror organization.
(The New York Times June 6, 1999)

The Ilusu Dam

"While Israel benefits from Iraq's destruction as an Arab power, its relations with Turkey may very well be detrimental to Israel's future. Beyond peace and security, arid Israel needs water. Shimon Peres and Turgut Ozal already discussed a plan to get water to Israel by creating a pipeline from Turkey traversing Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Peres was right when he argued that "the next war in the Middle East could well be over water, not land, and Turkey is the only land in the region with excess water. (Jerusalem Post 4.28.91)"
(Vera Beaudin Saeedpour, publication of the Center for Research, the Kurdish Library No. 6, Spring 1993)

The nonsense of the UK government's "ethical foreign policy" is evident in their dealings with Turkey. Here they are colluding in the displacement and erasure of Kurdish culture. The Guardian reported a DTI scheme on the border of Iran and Iraq:
"The £1bn Ilusu hydro-electric dam project could be underwritten by the British taxpayer to the tune of £200 million because Balfour Beatty, a British construction company, is leading the consortium hoping to build the dam."
The project was even refused money by the World Bank since it does not meet their conditions for dam projects and further contradicts UN conventions which try to prevent border disputes over shared water supplies.
Nevertheless the UN have been made complicit in the project if indications on high level moves are correct. The company which has the contract for the dam, ABB, is a Swiss-Swedish company that has faced sustained campaigns by environmentalists and human rights advocates against its involvement in various hydro projects, including the Three Gorges Project in China and the now indefinitely postponed Bakun Dam in Malaysia. 
An investigation by Corporate Watch (www.corpwatch.org) revealed it as part of a group of companies who are manipulating the independence of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), one of the most important UN agencies. This is threatened by a plan ­ not yet made public ­ for the UN to launch and promote collaboration with a group of global corporations in June, 1999.
Called the Global Sustainable Development Facility (GSDF) or 2B2M (2 Billion People to the Market by 2020) the plan is outlined in a series of internal documents obtained by Corporate Watch and other organisations. ABB, the Ilusu dam company is a GSDF steering committee member. The plan has made the UN the stooge of some of the most disreputable companies in the world. It promotes that which it should investigate.
"The documents and independent interviews show that the UNDP appears to be selling a group of global corporations- many of which are well known for their negative development, human rights and environmental records ­ unprecedented access to its country offices, high level governmental contacts and its reputation."
(Corporate Watch)

The documents list 11 corporations as sponsors of the proposed facility. UNDP has reportedly recruited 7 more. UNDP is selling these sponsorships for $50,000 each. The companies include: 
"Rio Tinto Plc, a British mining corporation which has created so many environmental, human rights, and development problems that a global network of trade unions, indigenous peoples, church groups, and community activists has emerged to fight its abuses. The company stands accused of complicity in, or direct violations of environmental, labor and human rights in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Namibia, Madagascar, the United States and Australia, and elsewhere. 
ABB Asea Brown Boveri (GSDF steering committee member) is a Swiss-Swedish company that has faced sustained campaigns by environmentalists and human rights advocates against its involvement in various hydro projects, including the Three Gorges Project in China and the now indefinitely postponed Bakun Dam in Malaysia. 
Dow Chemical (GSDF steering committee member) is one of the biggest polluters in the United States, the world's largest producer of chlorine--the root source of the carcinogen and endocrine disrupter dioxin--and one of the world's largest pesticide companies. 
Citibank played an important role in the Asian financial crisis that threw millions out of work in 1997. As a major lender to developing countries in the 1960s and 1970s, Citicorp's lending patterns fuelled the Third World debt crisis. It has recently made headlines for allegedly serving as a conduit for millions of dollars of drug money moved by Raul Salinas (brother of the former Mexican president) from Mexico to Switzerland. 
Stat Oil, Norway's state-owned oil company is involved in several environmental and development conflicts at home, as well as in Venezuela, Russia, Malaysia and Nigeria." 
(Corporate Watch)

To return to the Ilusu dam: the DTI is responsible for the notorious Export Credit Guarantee Department and there are other export credit agencies to help along big business in difficult areas. If Balfour Beaty (the lead contractor in the notorious Pergau Dam project in Malaysia) get ripped off, the government will bail them out ­ back up their costs. Normally this service is extended to arms dealers, they being the biggest industry whose services tend to be called for in 'trouble spots.' Countries like Britain and American are in the forefront of the business of exporting war. In the case of the Ilusu dam, water (or rather the refusal to share it) will be used as a weapon, much in the way it is presently used by the Israeli state in the region.
The Guardian followed up their reporting on the Illusu dam on the 26/6/99. Labour Trade minister, Brian Wilson:
"...is to be accused in the high court next week of breaching existing freedom of information legislation by keeping secret documents showing the impact of a controversial mega-dam project in Turkey.
The move comes after he refused to comply within two months to a legal request that he release an environmental impact assessment of the dam project which will take waters from the Tigris and cut off part of the flow to Syria and Iraq. [Who] have objected to the damage the dam will do to drinking water supplies and the livelihoods of local farmers. The Kurds, whose homelands will be flooded, fear they will be left landless and without compensation."
Which is of course precisely the point of the scheme and the intentions of the Turkish State, which Wilson knows and is dedicated to support ­ to the point of trawling trough the courts. Friends of the Earth report that:
"The proposed dam is on the Tigris River, forty miles from the Turkish/Iraqi/Syrian border. It will flood 15 towns and 52 villages and displace up to 20,000 Kurdish people. The Ilusu project is part of the South East Anatolia Project (GAP), which has already displaced hundreds of thousands of Kurdish people, many without compensation. Because of the war between the Turkish army and Kurdish guerrillas, local opposition to such schemes cannot be voiced for fear of state reprisals."
The water-resource development plan consists of 13 massive projects in the Euphrates/Tigris Basin including Ilusu. Coming into South East Turkey one is impressed by the sheer amount of construction projects carving through the arid countryside and mountains. The entire area, the very land and mountains are in upheaval in the state's attempts to destroy the Kurds.

Halabja

Generous facilities such as the ECGD do not extend to projects which aim to help the victims of the war exports the government promotes; such as that of two government backed scientists working in Halabja ­ the place where Saddam Hussein gassed the Kurds.
"This is the first time anyone has tried to establish a medical assessment programme for a civilian population that has been gassed. Most studies before now have been of military men aged 18 to 25."
(Guardian 26/2/99)

Chemical weapons are used to kill people who are hiding in bunkers or bomb shelters or are otherwise hard to get at. The government (and the military) want the research hence the meagre funding.
"Although supported by the British Government, the two doctors have been frustrated by lack of equipment...Dr Kerim works by candlelight every night." 
The report touches on the abject horror of Halabja, which, more than ten years on includes a population suffering from: malignant carcinomas, leukaemia, infertility in women, miscarrages, congenital abnormalities, cancers of the head and Larynx, blindness, spinal deformities...
"At the time Iraq was gassing the Kurds in Halabja, David Mellor (UK Foreign Office Minister) was an honoured guest of Saddam Hussein. Within a month of the gas attack Iraq was offered £340 million of export credit. Later in the year sales to Iraq had risen from £2.9 million a year ago to £31.5 million."
(Campaign Against the Arms Trade http://www.gn.apc.org/caat/)

Some time ago a Channel 4 documentary on Halabja tried to find out where the chemical weapons had come from ­ their empty shells still litter the area or are gathered into heaps where their serial numbers are clear to see. The people with the register of the weapons are the UN and they refused to tell Channel 4 ­ the information was 'too sensitive'.
"in the 1980s [Saddam Hussien] was quietly supported and supplied with arms by the West, and his shipping in the Gulf was protected against attack, while he was committing aggression against Iran. Western support didn't flag when evidence surfaced that Hussein was using chemical weapons against the Kurds at home and in the war against Iran. The New York Times even commended the United States and Soviet Union for having jointly supported Hussien in his war against Iran, apparently regarding this evidence of collective action as more important than the fact that it contributed to a major blood bath."
(Beyond Hypocrisy, Edward Herman)

Chemicals weapons proliferate in the region whose mountainous terrain makes a hard battlefield for conventional weapons and troops. Their trade is covert. Although initially covered up ­ the El Al plane which crashed in Amsterdam in 92 was carrying 42 gallons of sarin nerve gas components. Evidence is now emerging that Israel had made many similar flights of chemical weapons using civilian and military aircraft in Holland.
Özgur Politika reported in May 22 that the Turkish army has been using poison gas against the PKK. It quoted a Turkish colonel:
"Turkish pharmaceutical factories have been producing poison gas and the Turkish armed forces have been using it at various times against the Kurdish people and are continuing to do so....German poison gas is slaughtering the Kurdish people."
The paper claimed that 23 Kurdish people had died from a poison gas attack in Bingol on 24/9/98, among other cases. 
The Italian daily Il Manifesto of the same date reported:
"Legal experts have confirmed ... the use of chemical weapons, which [recently] have killed at least 20 members of the PKK. Their bodies were subsequently disfigured to make them unrecognizable."
The colonel cited in Özgur Politika called on the European Union to establish a committee to look into the production of poison gas for the Turkish forces by joint Turkish-Swiss and Turkish-German companies. Among others, he accused the following companies in Istanbul: Henkel Kimya Sanayi (Turkish-German), the Hochst Ilaç Fabrikasi (Turkish-German), and Roche Ilaç Sanayi (Turkish-Swiss).
Turkey was showered with praise for its "humanitarian" act in admitting the fleeing Iraqi Kurds after the Halabja gas attack. Obscured in brief phrases beneath headlines that misled readers was US complicity with Turkey which effectively stymied the admission of legitimate humanitarian aid organisations. But this fact never did become an issue in the press. Ankara denied symptoms of the use of poison gas by Iraq, refused to designate the refugees as such, and deliberately denied the International Committee of the Red Cross and the UN High Commission for Refugees access to carry out tests on Kurds to establish the use of chemical weapons. The actual Kurds didn't recieve so much as a blanket.
Nearly three years later the issue could be used to press the common agenda of the West in the Gulf crisis.

El Shifa

The US as we know is busy tracking down terrorists who threaten to use chemical weapons, or so they say. The 20/8/98 bombing of the El Shifa factory in Khartoum (Sudan) was in retaliation for the bombings of US Embassies in Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) and Niarobi (Kenya), purportedly by Osama bin Laden an old CIA agent. For the US a bombing of an Embassy means retaliation anywhere is justified. What embassy wasn't bombed in Serbia?
El Shifa produced 50% of Sudan's medicine, including 90% of the most critically needed drugs: the bombings will cause the suffering and death of tens of thousand of people all over Africa by depriving them of basic medicines for easily curable diseases, it also provided vetinary medicine. This follows years of sanctions and bans on loans and trade, which have curtailed the development of basic infrastructure and the purchase of medicines. The US has also funded a contra army to destabilise the Sudanese government.
El Shifa was called an "imminent threat...to our national security," by President Clinton, National Security advisor, Sandy Barger said : "This was a plant...producing chemical warfare related weapons, and we have physical evidence of the fact." Joint Chief of Staff, General Henry Shelton said that the : "Intelligence community is confident that this factory is involved in the production of chemical weapons." Hours after the missile launch El Shifa was described by senior security advisors as "a secret chemical weapons factory financed by bin Laden." The same officials a month later conceded they had no evidence linking bin Laden.
No real discussion or debate on the implications of destroying more than half of the medicine in a poor country has taken place and there is scant coverage of the admission by US officials that they had no solid evidence at all. A six-member team organised by the International Centre and led by former Attorney General Ramsay Clark flew out to the wreckage and went through official US documents and reports together with meeting Sudanese officials and representatives. The delegation concluded that "the plant was a medicine factory whose bombing falls under the definition of a war crime."
"What seems most incredible are the claims by US. officials that they knew nothing about the plant. It was, in fact, promoted and treasured by the Sudanese government as the pride of "Africa." The plant opened, in June 1997, with a fanfare, in the presence of heads of state, foreign ministers and ambassadors. It was visited by international guests including the president of the Republic of Niger, the World health Organisation's director for the Mediterranean region...[and] the British and German ambassadors to Khartoum..."
(Covert Action 66)

Given the US involvement with the Sudan, the plant's official UN authorisation, all the high tech surveillance, the fact that the plant was designed by an American (Henry R Jobe) and a British technical manager (Tom Carnaffin) it is hard to believe that top US officials were so ignorant. They continue to block a UN investigation.
The Observer journalist in a report of 23/8/98 stated a familiar refrain: "There is no sign amidst the wreckage of anything sinister...there is no sign of anyone trying to hide anything either." Except for the US. The International Action Centre (IAC) report outlines the real reasons behind the attack:
"Ever since Sudan opposed the 1991 US led war against Iraq, US policy has aimed at destabilising the Sudan government. Washington has helped finance a secessionist civil war against the Khartoum government and imposed economic sanctions on Sudan. The missile attack came soon after Sudan took steps to access a 300-million-barrel reservoir of crude oil in the country's South. There is a clear relationship between US oil policy and US government hostility toward Sudan."
The Sudan government has offered that the FBI inspect the country to deal with terrorism but they refused. The US funds its pet rebels through funding channels to Uganda, Eritrea and Ethiopia who funnel arms and other equipment to the rebels, Madeline Albright has even met rebel leader John Garang.
The IAC delegation was shown a letter which informed the Sudanese Central Medical supplies company that the United States Treasury department refused to allow it to sell insulin to Sudan. Similar denials exist all, enforced by the US ­ what was the bomb attack if not a violently enforced sanction? Collaboration between the CIA and Israeli intelligence to support a secession movement in the Sudan dates back to at least 1968.

Madeline Albright ­ a short appreciation

"'A very hard choice,' Madeleine Albright commented on national TV in 1996 when asked for her reaction to the killing of half a million Iraqi children in 5 years, but 'we think the price is worth it.' Current estimates remain about 5000 children killed a month, and the price is still 'worth it.' These and other examples might also be kept in mind when we read awed rhetoric about how the "moral compass" of the Clinton Administration is at last functioning properly...'"
(The Current Bombings: Behind the Rhetoric, Noam Chomsky ZNET)

The Baku Pipeline 

"The [Susurluk] report also says Mr. Catli and senior Turkish officials played a key role in a 1995 coup attempt in Azerbaijan, where previously published Turkish reports say the Susurluk gang hoped to install a leader who would allow them to take advantage of a new drug-smuggling route through Baku to the West. Azerbaijani President Haidar Aliyev has said the coup was foiled when Turkish President Suleyman Demirel heard of the plot and tipped him off."
(The Wall Street Journal, 26 January 1998)

Turkey figures large in the US strategy for the oil-rich Central Asia region. The US has been putting strong pressure on the new states of the region and on multinational oil companies to build a pipeline that would transport oil and gas from the Caspian area to the Turkish Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, thus avoiding routes through Russia and Iran.
Investment and military involvement have an increasing tendency to take place side by side in this and other 'war-torn' regions. They can also lead government attitudes towards whitewashing the reputations of states hitherto considered pariahs on the basis of sound evidence. US oil companies interested in the Caspian for profit now argue for some form of alliance between Azerbaijan and the United States as their interests become entrenched.
Ambassador Richard Morningstar, special advisor to the president and secretary of state for Caspian basin energy diplomacy (whose job it is to promote the project) spins it like this:
"The fundamental objective of U.S. policy in the Caspian ... is not simply to build oil and gas pipelines. Rather it is to use those pipelines ... as tools for advancing the sovereignty and independence of the new independent states and for establishing a political and economic framework that will strengthen regional cooperation and stability and encourage reform for the next several decades."
Morningstar argues that the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline and the trans-Caspian natural gas pipeline (which would run parallel to the oil pipeline for most of its length) make sense for both national security and commercial reasons:
"Both pipelines will enhance the sovereignty and independence of the Caspian Newly Independent States (NIS) by allowing them to export their hydrocarbon resources without tying them into the pipeline systems of their primary competitors for energy markets...In addition, both pipelines will increase energy security by avoiding the concentration of a vast new source of oil and gas in the Persian Gulf region. Finally, both pipelines enjoy great potential to become lucrative investment opportunities for U.S. companies." 
(Morningstar, remarks to the 17th Congress of the World Energy Council in Houston, Texas, September 15 1998)

To push through the plan Morningstar aims to strengthen ties with Azerbaijan (now defined as an 'oil-rich state on the western shore of the Caspian'). In order to successfully pursue his 'diplomatic' goals Morningstar also requested that the American Congress lift restrictions on non-military assistance to Azerbaijan and repeal section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which was passed to punish Azerbaijan for human rights abuses. So the pipeline will create a channel for some big arms deals. The pipeline has the backing of US-based General Electric and the Bechtel Corporation who are also major arms manufacturers.
Speaking of the project as a whole in a remark which seems diplomatically oblivious of US imperial history, Morningstar states:
"The United States views its proper role as that of an honest broker...Our job is to encourage the relevant companies and countries of the region to negotiate in good faith on the commercial and political factors that must be satisfied in order to make any of these pipelines viable."
(Ambassador Richard Morningstar, On Caspian Basin Energy Policy at a forum organised by Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Alternative pipelines to the Baku-Ceyhan route would run through Russia and Iran, which are competitors with the Caspian Sea oil-producing countries. The Baku-Ceyhan pipeline is intended to provide an independent route to markets in Turkey and Europe and is predicated on a belief that global demand for oil will rise. Very few of these big construction companies actually meet the needs of the inhabitants of the area; denying as they do the link between production and consumption. Despite Turkey's claims to the contrary, analysts doubt that the country will need gas from both the trans-Caspian and Black Sea lines.
The United States has encouraged a growing alliance between Turkey and Israel part of which includes business deals as well as military help such as the abduction of Ocalan. Israel has a role in the trans-Caspian pipeline through the Israeli Merhav Group. Israel's growing military alliance with Turkey is becoming increasingly important as a factor in regional policy. Commercial projects such as Baku-Ceyhan will receive military protection against rebel groups who are expected to target them as military ventures rather than business deals. Thus states achieve common enemies.
"Like the Kurdish issue, the Caspian pipelines through Turkey are an international problem. It seems inevitable that some elements will see sabotage as a way to raise both international awareness and the costs of continued neglect. Conversely, Turkey could use pipeline security to gain international support for tight controls on the Kurds."
(Michael Lelyveld 22/2/99 Radio Liberty)

The preferred pipeline route is supposed to carefully skirt Kurdish strongholds where Turkey has fought to exert its control. Turkey has already conveniently blamed the PKK for blowing up an oil line from Iraq near Diyarbakir, a Kurdish centre 400 kilometres east of Ceyhan. Lelyved (who writes for the Journal of Commerce) asks questions on the stability the project will bring to the area.
"The danger is that all of the interests involved will take sides, turning Caspian competition into a conflict that cannot be stopped. Some alliances have already formed, in part because of arguments about national security and Caspian oil. The United States, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Israel are aligned in promoting the Baku-Ceyhan and trans-Caspian routes. How long will it take before countries that are left out of the pipeline schemes find reasons to support rebel Kurds if they cause disruptions?"
There exists Russian plans to construct a gas pipeline to Turkey under the Black Sea with help from Italy's ENI. Such is the difficulty of the region that an undersea pipeline is seen as a viable method rather than the land route. The competition between the U.S. and Russian projects may ultimately depend on which encounters more difficulty. Kurdish resistance, could reduce the feasibility of both the US-sponsored oil and gas projects but draw the PKK into the big game.

Med TV

"So, for the moment, Med-TV is unable to broadcast, unable to inform its viewers of the results of bombing raids in Iraq, of the elections in Turkey and the forthcoming trial of the PKK leader there (who faces a death sentence), of the actions of NATO countries, many with significant Kurdish refugee communities, in the Balkans ­ denying Kurds, effectively, a voice."
(Gill Newsham, Index On Censorship 21 May 1999)

"After a hearing on April 9 this year, Sir Robin Biggam announced that the ITC was revoking the licence of the Kurdish satellite television station MED-TV for "repeatedly flouting the regulations on incitement to violence and impartiality by sympathising with Turkey's Kurdish separatists."
(Guardian 28/4/99)

Another company of which Sir Robin is a director ­ British Aerospace (BAe) ­ is about to start up licensed production in Turkey of assault rifles and grenade launchers for the security forces, who are far from impartial or non-violent themselves. MED had already been fined £90,000 by the ITC. The Turkish 'government' have been leaning on the UK government for some time to ban the station ­ the bargaining chips are all those lucrative defence contracts. The Turkish prime minister took credit for the decision as soon as it was announced. Sir Robin is maintaining that he was perfectly impartial in the matter.
Other pathetic lies (and also the government's position) came from the Defence Secretary, George Robinson who told a BBC News 24 interviewer that Turkey does not use the weapons that the UK arms companies sell it "on anyone inside or outside the country". It is wrong now to even talk of UK arms companies ­ a planned merger between BAe and GEC Marconi reported in Statewatch Vol. 9 no. 2 means that "for all practical purposes 90 to 95% of all British production is by one company."
In Turkey the standard charge for anyone ­ be they Kurdish, Turkish, a writer, journalist or politician ­ who supports any form of Kurdish expression, is to label them a 'PKK terrorist'. Our own government are following in their footsteps if indications with Med are correct.
"We knew, from diplomatic sources, that Turkey had given a dossier on Med-TV to the then PM, John Major, asking for it to be closed down. Reports were that America had been approached in the same way, urged to do whatever was in its power...We knew our opponents would stop at nothing ­ the experience of working at the station involved being followed, threatened, beaten up, homes raided, working undercover (for our newsgathering teams in the Middle East), being excluded from press conferences, arrested, questioned, detained, and for one of our reporters in Iraq, murdered."
(Gill Newsham, Index On Censorship 21/5/99)

Newsham, who has worked with Med, states that the station knew that the Foreign Office had expressed 'concerns' about Med-TV. She couples this with the current climate of the 'information war' backing up the UK's war with Serbia:
"...when television stations are bombed without embarrassment, journalists killed and declared as 'legitimate targets'. Of course, the bombardments are largely controlled by the emperor of NATO, America, but our own government insists we are fighting a 'moral' war and have to be seen to be primary motivators behind any actions."
She hopefully points to the future when the ITC may have its own battle if the Human Rights Act comes into force, this will give important rights to companies and individuals, including a right to free expression. It supposedly comes into force in 2001 but, on the pretext of Home Office 'concerns' that Whitehall and the courts are not ready to cope with the legislative changes, it will surely be delayed.

The assassination attempt

It is not hard to see why Med was banned. A report of 12/1/98 outlined an assassination bid against Ocalan. High ranking Turkish officials ­ principally the then police Chief, Mehmet Agar ­ were ordered to prepare plans in 1994 by the then Prime Minister, Tansu Ciller.  The plot was part of her attempts to win the elections of that year.
The Turkish officials are said to have enlisted the help of the Israeli secret service to train undercover contra-guerrillas that would be given the task of assassination. Israel is said to have charged the Turkish government some $10m for the training program. The report states that camps near Ankara were used which accommodated some 20 contra-guerrillas. The training program lasted 35 days. The plans to assassinate Ocalan included the use of seaborne troops along with Israeli assisted Turkish land troops; however, the plan was cancelled on the orders of its instigators for reasons not outlined in the report.
Mossad collaboration in the abduction is not such a hard thing to believe if knowledge and analysis of recent Turkish history is available.

Recent Attacks in the UK

There has been a concerted effort to destroy any pro-Kurdish activity in the UK. 
Private Eye no. 954 reported on a Kurdish community centre in North London which was raided by Special Branch on 20/11 97. They were investigating "alleged terrorism" and took lists of members, files computers, discs and so on:
"No one has been arrested or even interviewed. The Kurdish Community Centre is a highly respected charity. Its main activity is giving advice and teaching English to Kurdish asylum-seekers..."
Private Eye also state that Special Branch informed the charities board about the raid with a view to poisoning the centre's funding relationship. The board responded by freezing the centre's grant of £120,000, effectively disrupting their activities.
A follow up story in Private Eye No. 962 revealed that after leaving the centre without funds for 11 months, Special Branch contacted them on 21/10/98 stating that: "Police will not be bringing any criminal proceedings in connection with this matter." Special Branch also sent a letter to the charities commissioners questioning the right of the centre to register as a charity, thus further preventing the re-instatement of the grant.
A more direct approach was used on another Kurdish community centre in London. It was fire-bombed.

Human Rights Watch

New York based Human Rights Watch in a press release of 21/11/98, urged Italy to prosecute Ocalan; a day after the Court of Appeals in Rome ruled that he was free to stay in Rome. The day before, for some peculiar reason, Madeleine Albright backed away from her earlier statements that Ocalan should be extradited to Turkey: 
"We don't want extradition...There are other countries that are concerned in terms of extradition ­ Germany and Italy."
These were possibly attempts to distance the US from what was about to happen or to make sure Ocalan stayed in one place. The villa near Rome where he was living was under heavy police protection. Albright made those remarks knowing full well that the CIA had for the moment aborted a plan to abduct Ocalan in Italy. furthermore she knew that the State Department had and would proceed to harass and threaten any country who would provide him with any form of shelter or asylum.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), a privately funded operation, has been seriously criticised by independent journalists and its material laundered uncritically by those connected to government agencies and/or private business. It is becoming all too useful to US State Department's foreign policy ­ so much so that it is beginning to look like either a "bunch of useful idiots" to use a CIA term, or a front.
HRW has also been criticised for its role in the Kosovo crisis:
"At least in the case of Yugoslavia, the Helsinki and Human Rights Watch approach differs fundamentally from that of Amnesty International in that it clearly aims not at calling attention to specific abuses that might be corrected, not at reforming but at discrediting the targeted State. By the excessive nature of its accusations, it does not ally with reformist forces in the targeted country so much as it undermines them. Its lack of balance, its rejection of any effort at remaining neutral between conflicting parties, contributes to a disintegrative polarization rather than to reconciliation and mutual understanding. It therefore contributes, deliberately or inadvertently, to a deepening cycle of repression and chaos that eventually may justify, or require, outside intervention.
This is an approach which, like its partner, economic globalization, breaks down the defences and authority of weaker States. Rather than helping to enforce democratic institutions at the national level, it carries the notion of democracy to the largely abstract level of the "international community", whose sporadic and partial interest in the region is dictated by Great Power interests, lobbies, media attention and the institutional ambitions of "non-governmental organizations" ­ often linked to powerful governments ­ whose competition with each other for donations provides motivation for exaggeration of the abuses they specialize in denouncing."
(Diana Johnstone, Seeing Yugoslavia Through a Dark Glass, Covert Action No. 66)

Kurdish groups have also noticed the deficiencies and prejudice in HRW pronouncements.
"Mr. Ocalan was taken into custody on November 12, 1998, in Rome, Italy. Why didn't the HRW issue a press release urging Italy not to extradite Mr. Ocalan to Turkey in the intervening nine days? If the Court of Appeals in Rome had ruled to extradite Mr. Ocalan to Turkey, would the HRW have now "expressed" its regrets for the decision?
Why does the HRW feel the need to express, "...under International law, the government [Turkey's] abuses cannot under any circumstances be seen to justify or excuse [killings] committed by Ocalan's PKK"? Why doesn't it feel the need to note the United Nation Resolution 3103 which expresses the rights of subject peoples to fight for self-determination?"
(The American Kurdish Information Network Press Release #38, 21/11/98)

There is surely something imbalanced in HRW's methods if the group manages to accuse Ocalan of 786 extra-judicial killings while, missing in its press releases, are figures for thousands of murdered Kurdish civilians, the destruction of more than 3 thousand Kurdish villages, and the refugees whose number now exceeds 3 million generated by the policies of war undertaken by the Turkish government.
One can see how HRW information once put into circulation is used by certain journalists. Take Sean Boyne described as "a freelance author...who specialises in security affairs" who wrote this for weapons advertiser Jane's Intelligence Review:
"In November 1998 there was a considerable blow to his reputation when Human Rights Watch, which has been at the forefront in exposing Turkey's human-rights abuses, urged Italy not to grant him asylum. The group stated that those believed responsible for crimes against humanity were ineligible for asylum under international law. The group called for the prosecution of Ocalan, but backed the decision not to extradite him to Turkey where there was a 'substantial risk' he would face torture and possibly the death penalty."

Obeying the Law, Kani Yilmaz and not obeying the law

Very few publications have devoted much space to the Kurdish struggle. Generally speaking the majority of people still know very little about the history or the realities of the situation. Although their struggle is as significant as that of the African National Congress ­ in many ways the treatment of Kurds is worse than that of non-whites in apartheid South Africa in that Turkey seeks the annihilation of Kurdish existence ­ there has been no support for boycotts against Turkey in and around parliament. Instead the UK has encouraged all manner of trade from the Spice Girls to betting shops and of course all those lucrative arms deals. The UK government is happy with the Turkish state, and has supported the war against the Kurds, even though they know it is run by gangsters and is one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. But, occasionally they do play out little farces.
In mid-August 97 a Kurdish spokesman was finally extradited to Germany to face charges of organising attacks on Turkish businesses and properties. Home secretary Jack Straw ignored campaigners' pleas and upheld the court order for his extradition:
"Yilmaz had spent almost three years in detention in Belmarsh prison. The decision, following the House of Lords' rejection of his petition against the extradition, was a slap in the face to supporters who believed that Straw would carry his opposition convictions into government; Straw was one of several Labour MPs who protested strongly when Yilmaz was arrested and detained for deportation on "national security" grounds on his way to a meeting at Westminster in October 1994. The arrest caused embarrassment to the Tory government because Yilmaz had been allowed into the country freely days beforehand; the German government's action in seeking his extradition was widely seen as too convenient, particularly since Yilmaz, a refugee from Turkey, had spent much time in Germany, where he had stayed quite openly, and there was never any attempt to charge him with criminal offences."
(Statewatch bulletin, July-October 1997, http://www.poptel.org.uk/statewatch/)

The Home Secretary's record on Kurdish issues is appalling ­ because the UK's record on Kurdish issues proves it has contributed to and supported the genocidal war against them by Turkey. Let us assume that Jack Straw did have convictions and did seek justice in this area: the treatment of Yilmaz reveals that the Kurdish issue is beyond the predilections of a single politician, beyond the powers of the Home Secretary of the UK. As for the law it is applied and ignored when it suits each state.
This can be clearly seen with the incidents surrounding Ocalan's non-extradition to Germany ­ legality was simply overridden by the German State. In November of 98, Ocalan was detained in Italy because of an outstanding German warrant for his arrest issued in 1990. The warrant accused Ocalan of involvement in a murder in 1984.
The chairman of the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, Hans-Ulrich Klose, said on German radio that Bonn must consider what he called "the possible negative consequences of an extradition request" ­ as it is permitted to do under Paragraph 153 of the German criminal code. The clause allows Germany not to implement an extradition request if it considers that doing so could create problems. So much for the rule of law.
Klose said Bonn feared that bringing Ocalan to Germany could lead to violence and street fighting between Turks and Kurds resident in the country. This could have what he described as further negative consequences. Klose said Germany did not want to import "the Turkish war." It is happy enough exporting war materials to promote the Turkish war without inheriting the actual consequences. Bring on the loophole:
"Klose emphasized that the decision is now a political one. German law makes a clear distinction between the operations of the federal prosecutors department and political necessity. Article 32 of the Constitution says the foreign ministry alone is responsible for relations with foreign states. As a number of German commentators have pointed out this week, this means the Government is not entirely bound by the law but can also take political considerations into account...According to this view, the prosecutors acted correctly and without regard to political issues by issuing the original warrant for Ocalan's arrest in 1990 and by renewing it recently."
(Roland Eggleston Prague 26/11/98 Radio Liberty)

The final decision on whether to implement the warrant and ask for Ocalan's extradition to Germany rested with German politicians. To implement it would have kept Ocalan out of the clutches of Turkey and that is why the German state did not implement their warrant. It is also possible that they were told by the US that other plans were being arranged for Ocalan which would have been more to their liking. The CIA disruption operation, codenamed Watchful, had been well underway when Ocalan was in Rome.
Germany is more than happy to deport any Kurds it has a problem with ­ straight to Turkey. It has turned a blind eye to their persecution and murder by far-right groups in Germany since the attacks started. Kurds are granted a sub-human status in the country with no real legal rights. When protests against Ocalan's abduction broke out 200 Kurds were arrested in Berlin with a further 1,000 across Germany. Eberhard Diepgen, the mayor of Berlin, said "the full force of the law" (Guardian 19/2/99) would be brought to bear on the Kurdish protesters. The German Chancellor threatened Kurds with deportation if they protested. No mention of a trial to establish what crimes, if any, have been committed, just summary deportation. Perhaps they will set up camps...

Italy and beyond

Ocalan stated that he had come to Italy to open the way to a political settlement. He had travelled to Italy to help create the political conditions for this. He bound himself to abide by the laws of the Italy. His statement also read:
"It is inevitable that a civilised method, politics, should be used to find a solution to the real causes of war in the region. There can be no humane explanation for genocidal attacks on cultures and the freedoms of peoples. We must stop this. I am opposed to all terror, even if it originates from us. I am ready to do whatever I can so that it will be stopped immediately. In order for this to happen I wish only that the international community, first and foremost the UN and EU and human rights and democratic organisations and individuals move into action."
(Statement by the PKK President Abdullah Ocalan 16/11/98. Translation from Turkish original By Jim Lobe, IPS News)

He emphasised that the PKK was seeking mediators to start a dialogue with Turkey that would resolve the conflict. Pressure by the US (aided by organisations like HRW) was directed towards stopping these efforts ­ stopping any peace process.
Ocalan had moved to Russia in October. He had been in Syria, which because of his presence was under a direct threat of war from Turkey and an implicit one from Israel. The US made no real comment on Turkey's attempts to throw the middle east into conflict over one man. Some reports reveal that the Syrian government received a strongly worded letter (which should be seen as backing up Turkish military pressure) from President Bill Clinton:
"...warning Syrian President Hafez al Assad 'that he is playing with fire in the Ocalan case and asking him to deport him'. The American effort to corner Ocalan and bar him from finding asylum or even safe refuge in any country resurfaced at another critical juncture...as he awaited political asylum in Italy. That is when US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott 'called the Italians and pressured them to boot Ocalan', according to the same [US] National Security Council source. 
Such personal diplomacy was combined with a broader effort of American intelligence services to block Ocalan from settling or being granted asylum in any country. 'As soon as we had indications that Ocalan would go to a certain city we immediately activated our [intelligence] services to avert his settling down there, ' an unnamed White House official is quoted as saying. 
...Both the CIA and Mossad were responsible for tracking down Ocalan in Russia, after he left Syria. At that point, Talbott interceded with the Russian government to banish Ocalan while other 'American officials' pressured Moscow to deport him in return for 'high-tech military equipment that Turkey gave the Russian armed forces'."
(Socialist Action June 99)

The report (by Alexis Papahelas) also reveals that Madeleine Albright instructed that Turkey receives a 'continuous flow of information' from US satellites as well as other 'technical means' and the assistance of US agents on the ground. Top level US NSC sources have also indicated that:
"The US exercised catalytic pressures on Kenyan security authorities to turn Ocalan over to the Turks. We knew all the key people on a personal basis and asked them to help."
The US pressure (coupled with bribery) put on Russia to ensure that it did not provide a refuge completely bypassed the democracy that the US makes great show of telling us they are keen to promote in the former Soviet Union. Prime minister Primakov would not allow Ocalan to find refuge in Russia despite an overwhelming show of support from the Duma, which voted 298 to 1 in favour of granting Ocalan asylum. Ocalan had been based in a suburb of Moscow and had travelled to other former Soviet Republics.
Travelling to Italy ­ where there is tremendous popular support for the Kurdish struggle ­ Ocalan had been hoping that his presence would act as a focus for an international debate on the conflict in Turkey, that would somehow bring Ankara to the negotiating table. The PKK has received support from some political parties and politicians in Western countries in recent years. In the wake of his enforced move to Europe, Ocalan had clearly been hoping to build on this support and to translate it into backing from states at a governmental level. For this he risked his life, but all the world was against him.
Even establishment opinion criticised both Italian and German behaviour in the Ocalan affair as they tossed back and forth their pieces of paper:
"Both Italy and Germany have been strikingly transparent in their desire to off-load the Ocalan problem. Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder have called for, in the vaguest possible terms, an "international court" to try the PKK, while creating a diversion with a European initiative aimed at solving the 'Kurdish question...By throwing the case to an international court, Italy and Germany have cleverly made Ocalan everybody's problem and nobody's problem. It is a neat solution that allows both countries to parry an irritating EU neighbour (Turkey) and maintain the appearance of seeking 'justice' without alienating those volatile Kurds...Notwithstanding its undeniable political appeal for German and Italian leaders, [their] Ocalan solution is deplorable...If it is a new court they wish to create, by what authority will it derive its jurisdiction and which laws will serve as a basis for adjudicating? Even using an existing international court, the danger is obvious: When governments refuse recourse to the domestic laws of democratic societies....they undermine the rule of law itself."
(The Wall Street Journal 30/11/98) 

The US put diplomatic pressure on Syria, Russia, and the West European states to deny the Kurdish leader the right of political asylum despite the fact that the right of political asylum is included in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, to which the United States was an original signatory. The US officials quoted in the New York Times above, also admitted that Israel had monitored Ocalan's departure from Damascus, after the Syrians were forced to expel him. In Greece US pressures were to be ultimately decisive
Eventually the US would finally admit that it had engineered Ocalan's kidnapping ­ they just couldn't help boasting ­ with the New York Times (20/2/99) quoting an unnamed "senior" US official as saying: "We spent a good deal of time working with Italy and Germany and Turkey to find a creative way to bring him to justice."

Kenya

"Kenya and the Ivory Coast are two African countries in which the Mossad has a very large and active presence. Its officers work there under various covers such as businessmen, academics, journalists, and advisers and instructors to the local intelligence and other security agencies, including the airport security and immigration."
(B. Raman Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai, 19/2/99 SAPRA)

Such is US and Israeli involvement in Kenya ­ intelligence and security agencies have had close ties at least since the days of the Entebbe operation in 1977 ­ that Bin Laden's International Islamic Front For Jihad against the US And Israel seemed to have chosen Nairobi for its first operation in order to convey a simultaneous message to the US as well as Israel. In any case after the bombing, a large contingent of Israeli rescue and salvage experts, including reportedly many Israeli security experts, had flown to Nairobi to help in the rescue and salvage work and assist the FBI in its investigation.
Ocalan was a very well-known figure and his descriptive particulars were known to all counter-terrorism experts. Even if the Greek intelligence service had not actually phoned them and told them Ocalan was coming, Israeli experts would have had no difficulty in detecting the arrival of Ocalan in Nairobi, alerting the Turkish agencies, keeping a watch on Ocalan till the arrival of the Turkish Special Forces team and helping them in smuggling a drugged and gagged Ocalan into the aircraft without going through the airport security and immigration formalities.
Co-operation between the intelligence and security agencies of Israel and Turkey date back to the visit Tansu Ciller (then Turkish Prime Minister) to Jerusalem in 1995. She and the late Yitzhak Rabin (then Israeli Prime Minister) signed an agreement on co-operation between their respective security agencies in dealing with terrorism and other threats to their respective national security.
The agreement reportedly provided for not only exchange of intelligence, but Israeli training for Turkish counter-terrorism experts and Special Forces and a joint monitoring of the movements and activities of Islamic extremist and Kurdish elements in Malta, Cyprus and West Europe. Part of this seems to have included an assassination attempt on Ocalan. (Med TV 12/1/98)
In a report datelined Jerusalem, February 18/2/99, the New York Times said:
"In recent years, Israel and Turkey have forged a high profile strategic alliance that has served as a counter-weight to mutual perceived threats from Syria and Iran. Israeli pilots have trained in Turkish air space, the two countries have carried out a joint naval exercise and Israel has upgraded Turkish fighter planes....There have been mutual visits by defence and military chiefs from both countries, meetings between intelligence officials and a military co-operation agreement signed in 1996. Along with intelligence-sharing, Israel has advised Turkey on anti-terrorism methods, which the Turks have used in their long war with Ocalan's separatist Kurdish movement."
Yet, Israeli Governments have avoided taking a direct and active role in Turkey's war with the Kurds. Probably because the extermination is so reminiscent of the Nazi experience and would be difficult to sell at home.
For what it's worth the New York Times also quoted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as telling a news conference: "Israel's activity does not include any role in the struggle against Ocalan and we did not co-operate with any element in apprehending Ocalan. We always fight terrorism and we will always fight terrorism, but we certainly had no part in the capture of Ocalan."

The Abduction

In April 20 this year the editors and publishers of La Tea, the largest daily newspaper in Greece, faced criminal charges for printing an essay by George Kostoulas, the Greek ambassador to Kenya. Kostoulas was with Ocalan before his capture on February 16. His account of Ocalan's last moments of freedom is, according to the indictment: "information which the interest of the state required to be kept secret from foreign governments."
The article conveys the gradual process of betrayal and bartering over Ocalan by the Greek government, diplomatic officials and secret service ­ at one point they ask him for $15 million to fly him to the Seychelles. Those travelling with Ocalan did everything to protect him in the ambassador's residence where he was kept, supposedly under Greek protection. Eventually Greek Embassy officials began to receiving phone calls asking if Ocalan was there as agents pretended to be Greek then foreign journalists.
Time Magazine has a (somewhat contradictory) account that attention was drawn to the ambassador's residence by the activities of Ocalan's followers:
"Holed up at the ambassador's villa, Ocalan was soon joined by three female followers and a team of lawyers. The activity raised suspicions and, according to Greek sources, attracted the attention of FBI agents in Nairobi investigating last year's U.S. embassy bombing. On Feb. 12 four Greek intelligence agents told Ocalan to "move out as soon as possible because his whereabouts had been spotted." They offered to hide him at a local Greek Orthodox church or fly him to another state. "Ocalan turned down all the options," recounts Kranidiotis, who was with him in Nairobi, "but the officers tried to physically evict and drug him. That's when an Ocalan aide flashed a revolver under her throat and threatened to commit suicide if they dared to move him."
(Thomas Sanction, Time 1/3/99)

It also makes no mention of US attempts to stop Ocalan obtaining political sanction. Many reports convey a sense that Ocalan was hidden in Niarobi, then supposedly discovered by Turkish special forces, then captured.
Every government involved seems to have a differing account of events. Kenya's foreign minister, said his government didn't know Ocalan was even in the country and ordered his removal as soon as it found out. Insisting that Kenyan security personnel would not have violated the diplomatic immunity of the compound. Other reports have it that they threatened to raid the residence:
"Mr Ocalan is said to have finally agreed to leave the compound after Mr Pangalos rang to tell him, the embassy was about to be stormed by Kenyan security forces."
(Helena Smith, Guardian 19/2/99)

The discrepancy between those two accounts leaves ample room for a covert operation. Eyewitness accounts cited by Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the Associated Press and Ocalan's German attorneys suggest that Ocalan was lured or dragged out of the embassy compound by men who were ­ or were at least believed to be ­ Kenyan security officials.
The Guardian report also stated that a leading officer in Greece's Intelligence Service (EYP), Colonel Savvas Kalenterides, who had been dispatched to Nairobi, said "Athens had openly co-operated with the CIA to deliver Mr Ocalan to Turkey." When the Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos decided to extend "humanitarian assistance" this was in fact the beginning of the operation. According to the Guardian when Ocalan was taken to a villa outside Athens ­ subsequent to transportation to Kenya ­ the head of EYP told him of Mr Simitis' decision and leaked the news of his whereabouts to the CIA.
"At first Washington wanted Athens to hand Ocalan straight over to the Turks. When it said it couldn't do that, the bargaining began and Kenya was chosen as a face-saving solution...They were so keen to get him out of the mission that it was even suggested that he be drugged and delivered to the Turks."
Reading between the lines the Guardian perhaps reveals the bargaining chip:
"Embarrassed as much abroad as he is at home, the Greek leader is concerned that the affair should not harm his government's main goal: securing the country's entry into the European single currency by 2001."
The official statements also fell back on the over-used excuse when the machinations of government are revealed: the Greek ministers said the government had "little control over the Greek intelligence service."
In an interview on MED-TV, however, Ocalan's aide, Semsi Kilinc, said that the 
"Kurdish leader was handed over to the Kenyan police-supposedly at the behest of Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos ­ despite their pleas that he be transported to the Nairobi airport in a Greek embassy car.
It was a whole police force that was involved, according to Kilinc, not just the driver of the car transporting Ocalan. A number of policemen and police cars forcibly separated Ocalan from his companions.
Ocalan's companions have accused Pangalos of deliberately shipping him to Nairobi because the Greek minister knew that the Kenyan government was subservient to the United States and Israel and because, in the wake of the recent bombing of the U.S. embassy there, the city was flooded with American intelligence forces.
Pangalos's decision to ship Ocalan there must have been part of a some kind of deal with Washington."
(Gerry Foley, Socialist Action, March 1999)

In 1994 the PKK undertook to abide by the Geneva Convention. The exhibition and humiliation of a prisoner is against the Geneva Convention which Turkey openly flouted after the capture of Ocalan. A blindfolded and drugged Ocalan was displayed as a trophy of war under a giant Turkish flag. They were assisted in this by most of the British press who published the photographs supplied by Turkey's secret service. ITN news' graphics department actually put together a montage of him beside the Turkish flag.

UK Press coverage of the trial

"The Ocalan case especially concerns the future of Turkey. It is a chance for Turkey that we have to evaluate properly for the sake of putting an end to the violence resulting from the Kurdish issue that has caused so much pain to many, and to establish the superiority of democracy with all its institutions and rules in our country. It must be noted that Abdullah Ocalan spends an effort to contribute to a solution to the issue even under conditions of complete solitary confinement and isolation.
The trial should rather be transformed into a platform for a democratic and peaceful solution than to be reduced to an ordinary criminal case determined by an understanding of revenge and hatred. To analyse the real causes of the conflict and refrain from the methods applied in it will be only to the benefit of Turkey."
(Press Conference of Ocalan's Lawyers 29 May 99)

British press coverage of the Ocalan trial perversely dedicated itself to enforcing the Turkish state line as if paid by them. They seemed keen to hasten his death and portray him as a cowardly but psychopathic mass murderer.
The Independent of 1/6/99 stated he had:
"turned craven yesterday, begging for his life before a Turkish Court."
Adding that with
'apparent cowardice...he quickly shed what dignity the state had allowed him with his statement, "I share the pain of these families of martyrs."'
The Daily Telegraph of the same date gratuitously provided an unattributed quote from an "anonymous PKK sympathiser" speaking by telephone:
"he is a coward and a traitor."
The Financial Times under the banner headline of "New-look Ocalan pleads for his life" noted that he "did not fit the image "of the ferocious "baby killer" for whom the Turks have been prepared for decades."
None of the papers really convey any interest in thereality of the case. Any discussion of how he got there is non-existent. Chris Morris ­ a long time Ocalan hater and the Guardian's man in Ankara ­ had as his headline of 31/5/99 "Unfairness in court would wreck strong case against Kurd leader." Alongside the article is the humiliation photograph supplied by the security services ­ the words are presumably his own:
"The wall poster in this old Anatolian city speaks louder than a thousand words. It pictures Abdullah Ocalan as a devil, dripping blood on to a small, defenceless child."
He then tells us what people he has just bumped into ­ who are from a familiar sounding New York based Human rights organisation (which happens to be called Human Rights Watch) wanted him to say, which are the mildest references to the trial imaginable. Skirting over the fact that one of the judges happens to be a military one and that the European Court of Human rights has already ruled that the presence of a military judge prevents a civilian from having a fair trial, he tells us:
"The authorities are particularly concerned for the court to be seen as legitimate in the world's eyes because the case against Mr. Ocalan is so strong."
Yes ­ If only the South Africans had made a better job of Mandela everything would have been all right. Having been there I can understand that, based in Ankara, he has to watch what he says otherwise there may be a knock on his door in the middle of the night ­ or who knows ­ broad daylight.
The lawyers acknowledge the background of defamatory news by some parts of the media, attorney Ercan Kanar explained the motives why the group of lawyers have taken on defending Ocalan:
"The result of the trial would deeply affect the future destiny of the Turkish and the Kurdish people and the chances for a social peace in Turkey. The motive of the lawyers was to promote the basis for a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue, even if the conditions under which the trial will presumably be held contravene every legal provision one can think of."
The Financial Times did actually note that the court trying Ocalan is made up of two civilians and a military officer "the presence of whom the European Court of Human Rights has ruled unacceptable." Yet it ignores that one of the Prosecutors of the State Security Court Ankara has publicly stated that the decisions of the European Human Rights Court would not bind Turkey. As the lawyers state:
"As long as the detention conditions of the client, the conditions of the Defence and the conditions of the trial are being determined by the Crisis Management Center of the Prime Minister, apparently a military authority, even an amendment to the Regulations on the State Security Courts to withdraw the military judge from the Court can not provide the conditions of a fair trial"
The British press ignored the sane rational statements of the lawyers that:
"The trial should rather be transformed into a platform for a democratic and peaceful solution than to be reduced to an ordinary criminal case determined by an understanding of revenge and hatred. To analyse the real causes of the conflict and refrain from the methods applied in it will be only to the benefit of Turkey."
The number of press members admitted was limited and the right to visually follow the hearings was reserved to the notoriously biased "state monopoly media TRT and Anadolu Agency", so UK journalists are re-hashing biased material, probably in a bar somewhere or lounging in their hotels. Does that sound like craven cowardice to you?

Trial

In court immediately after the establishment of his identity, Ocalan declared that the trial against him did not rest on legal grounds but was a purely political trial. Accordingly, he would also defend himself only politically. He reiterated that he still meant what he said on the day he was apprehended by Turkey: "I want to live for the sake of peace. And for the sake of peace it is important that I stay alive." Ocalan protested against the breaches of international safeguards on part of Russia, Greece, Kenya and partially Italy who played a role in his illegal abduction.
Alone on these grounds the lawfulness of the trial was not given, he said. Thus, also his defence was of no legal value. But his urge to contribute to a solution to the conflict on the basis of a democratic republic was the reason why he had to stay alive. Addressing the relatives of Turkish soldiers who lost their lives in the war, Ocalan said that he deeply shared the pains they felt in their hearts. He apologised to them for that part of their grievances that he was responsible for and repeated that he on his part was ready to get together and stop the bloodshed.
This is his statement which was also ignored:
TO THE ATTENTION OF THE TURKISH AND WORLD PUBLIC:
THIS IS MY STATEMENT ON CURRENT AFFAIRS 
1. The unilateral cease-fire declared [by the PKK] on September 1, 1998 should be continued unabated in all arenas, with full responsibility.
2. On the basis of any [Turkish] State initiative, primarily in the form of a general amnesty and other measures that might bring peace, [the PKK will] suspend the armed conflict permanently.
3. Despite some deviations that set in with the 1990's, if it creates some trust, gives some guaranty, the democratic republican system which has also opened up to freedom of expression for the Kurds, should be considered the framework within which peaceful solutions to all problems sought. 
4. If this materialises, the PKK should prepare itself to become a legal, political party.
5. At the minimum, until the attitude of the state and the new parliament and government becomes clear, adopt a vigorous and decisive line of political action under the motto of social peace, general amnesty and brotherhood of people. 
6. All international peace and human rights organisations, governments and parliaments should support the initiative based on these principles. 
7. If an initiative of this sort is undertaken [by Turkey], the UN, the European Union, and European Council and the OSCE should also participate in the process as observers. 
8. I would like to inform all concerned circles in Turkey, such as the public and the private institutions, political parties, the media, and all of the non-governmental organisations that, this is how I basically see the question. And, I would like to remind all that it is vitally important for our country and the democratic system to fully participate in this process. 
Greetings to all and I wish success in your work for peace with freedom. 
April 4 1999, Abdullah Ocalan, Imrali Prison

The Mockery of Justice

"The accused, after nearly 90 days imprisonment ­ in conditions which themselves constitute an infringement of Turkish law ­ was still denied confidential access to counsel. Of the eighty or so Turkish lawyers who had put themselves forward to defend him, the key protagonists had become so public a focus of nationalist wrath that they were virtually in the same boat as their client ­ hapless scapegoats of a well-oiled political agenda. Lynch mobs greeted their every arrival and departure to and from the prison island of Imrali with attacks, insults and threats of death. The police stood back and allowed them to be beaten. The death threats continued in their homes and workplaces. Vicious phone-calls, abusive and violent letters."
(Mockery Of Justice, Sheri Laizer <kurd-l@burn.ucsd.edu>)

It was after the monumental abuses of national and international law; after bribery and corruption at the highest levels that Ocalan was put in solitary confinement and then put on show-trial. Articles such as Laizer's ­ who worked for the Kurdish Centre shut down by UK Special branch ­ would have been circulated to the British press. They more or less ignored them. They also seem to have ignored any potential British involvement in any aspect of the capture process.
There seems no curiosity that a British citizen was part of Ocalan's group ­ despite the source of the information:
"The Government has established that the Mr. Ocalan arrived in the Country from Milan, Italy. According to the Greek Ambassador Nationals from the following Countries accompanied Mr. Ocalan: Sweden, Germany, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Greece."
(Press Statement Of Kenyan Government On The Entry Into The Country By Abdullah Ocalan, provided by Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign affairs)

The UK government are heavily involved in the PUK/KDP cut up of northern Iraq. Two British diplomats attended the Washington meeting of both factions of 17/6/99. Despite the fact that Ocalan's abduction ran concurrent with these moves they have also been ignored, yet they can be seen as facilitating or at least being linked to them. It may exist, but I know of no official UK government statement on the trial either for or against.
The European Court in the Hauge can whip up charges that Milosovich is a war criminal seemingly to order ­ but they don't seem to notice kangaroo courts in Turkey when speed is of the essence.
"In answers made to lawyer's questions about aspects of his health, Ocalan replied that he was losing his memory, that he could no longer control his feelings, and that he was suffering from weakness, dizziness and palpitations of the heart previously unknown to him. In fact, he had not even been able to get out of bed to see them the day before. He said he felt as if he might fall over at any moment. The interrogation by highly-trained intelligence operatives, the strange monitoring by special doctors and psychiatrists who make no public disclosures about his situation seem to carry on behind closed doors unabated."
(Mockery Of Justice, Sheri Laizer)

The trial was as much a parade of depravity as if we had returned to the days of the Soviet show trials or the Volksgericht of Nazi Germany. Every conceivable obstacle was put in the path of the defence, the prosecution flaunted procedure at every step of the way. In addition dubious statements attributed to Ocalan were placed in the media that his lawyers had no prior knowledge of. Ocalan's lawyers confirmed with Lazier that:
" ...not a single written request sent by Ocalan's lawyers to the prosecution requesting their cooperation, inviting a response to questions, or asking for copies of documents etc. had even been answered. Rather, developments had become known to them afterwards through the media."
Ocalan had recognised that just as prior to his capture, the sole hope of justice being done for the Kurdish cause as much as for himself, lay in initiatives to internationalise debate on the political basis of the case. As we have seen, perversely, international forces were arrayed against him to prevent this very basis. The Turkish state was trying him as a common criminal with the process of criminalisation extending to the lawyers. This was broadly supported in the western press. Propaganda always follows in 'low-intensity conflicts' and can be seen as part of the tactics used to attack the Kurdish struggle by the US and Turkey.
The US Information Agency pumps out pre-digested summaries of 'world opinion' as part of its propaganda operations in the hope that these will be reproduced ­ a helping hand for journalists. In their, obviously highly selective, survey based on 61 reports from 28 countries (February 18 ­ 23), analysis critical of the US is rendered meagre:
"Papers in Italy, Croatia, Malta, Egypt, Jordan, China, South Korea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Argentina found common cause with Rome's centrist Il Messaggero, which stressed, "Ocalan's head was provided in order to guarantee Turkey's loyalty toward Clinton's policy...against Saddam.""
(US Information Agency Office of Public Liaison 23/2/99)

The vast majority of mainstream reporting I have seen downplayed or omitted CIA/Mossad involvement in the lead up or aftermath of the 'judicial process.' As regards the trial one could hardly paint a blacker picture of the easily led, biddable, cynical apathy and ignorance of our news media. As Sheri Laizer has it:
"For so long as Turkey and its Allies managed to criminalize the figure of Ocalan, the underlying political facts were conveniently obscured. Since the Kosovo Crisis had diverted world attention from the headlines the Kurds had seized after suffering the shock of Ocalan's capture resulting in the occupation of Greek Embassies, self-immolations, hungerstrikes to the death in Turkish prisons and the spectacle of ordinary people being lynched in the streets of western Turkey, not even the daily bombings ensuing in Turkey had grabbed a headline. No reporting of substance appeared concerning the atrocious conditions to which Abdullah Ocalan has been subjected, nor of the jeopardy in which his lawyers lived as they struggled to win a "fair hearing". In fact, the Western media had apparently been struck dumb at the very moment when their response was read by the Turkish state as a blessing to continue the psychological torture of Abdullah Ocalan and the brutal suppression of the Kurdish people."
The lawyers produced press releases concerning what they believed to be "Obstacles Facing a Fair Trial" which were:
"1. The investigation is not being conducted by any legal mechanisms. The investigation is conducted by the so called Crisis Desk, which is attached to General Secretariat of the Chief of Staff. 
2. It is impossible to have any connection with Imrali, where Ocalan is held, other than through Mudanya. I t is almost impossible both for the family members and lawyers to make any contact with Abdullah Ocalan during his imprisonment [ in Imrali]. 
3. Under the [Turkish] law, Imrali island should be attached to the Justice Ministry and Prosecution Offices of the SSC. However at the moment the island is run under the control of the Crisis Desk which is attached to the Chief of Staff. 
4. The duration of the interrogation must be 7 days. However Ocalan is still being interrogated and his life is in danger. He could be killed at any time and/or they could claim that he had committed suicide. 
5. The lawyers' lives are in danger. The lawyers are made targets. Under these circumstances it is impossible to talk about the right to defence. 
6. The [Turkish] media, government, President all speak in a manner as if Ocalan was already convicted and views such as [that] he should receive capital punishment and executed, are being publicly expressed. All these create pressure mechanisms both on the court and public opinion."
And, when they could proceed no further and survive, the lawyers put out this:
"The defence lawyers of Abdullah Ocalan and his relatives have decided to leave for Istanbul after having been confronted with repeated harassment and attacks. Due to the sustained pressure by the police that originally was meant to protect the lawyers, the hotel owner of the Omur Hotel in Bursa has cancelled the contract with the defence team and the family of Mr. Ocalan. 
Due to the hostile atmosphere and the pressure of the security forces, no other hotel was available for the lawyers in the area. Facing attacks from a nationalist inspired crowd outside their hotels under the eyes of the police, the attorneys and the family members of Mr. Ocalan were forced to leave Bursa in a hurry.
They said that they would not participate in tomorrow's sessions and demanded that the state ensures their security so that they could participate again in later sessions."

Old cold warriors

While the Ocalan drama was unfolding the Guardian (2/3/99) published an article by "Cold War Veteran" John le Carre. In part just the rantings of an old flake: 
"I do believe that from 1945 until the death of Stalin, Communism was unappeasable, and you couldn't educate it either..."
It is also an indication of the ideology of the intelligence services and the Foreign Office.
Le Carre wanted to oppose communism (which he confuses with the Soviet Union) and writes: "that might be through dividing it against itself ­ by trying to find cracks in the monolith and so on." Only five paragraphs before he had stated: "As long as the former Soviet Union was a monolith it was much easier to spy upon than when it is fragmented. We now face 30, 000 nuclear warheads in the Ukraine. Chechnia is screaming for independence and it is a potential terror problem." It is as hard to prove the contradictions in his argument as it is to compare paragraphs sitting opposite each other.
In his wanderings at the end we glimpse the moral vagueness of his class:
"It seems to me that we didn't have any contingency plan for peace ­ in propagating what we thought was democracy we refined and developed spin and the lie to the point where we live with it like a curse. There is no example, no longer any standard of truth."
The old gods are no use anymore:
"The Reagan ­ Thatcher alliance and Thatcherite politics and economics licensed greed and reduced the nobility of man in the Western democratic world as a concept."
As one look at Tony Blair will tell us. Although his analysis is useless we can read some into it in retrospect:
"We always had an excuse for not stopping beside the casualties, not caring for the losers."
The big point of the article was to promote the intelligence services, and for that you need threats. 'terrorists' being the easiest type of threat to generate:
"In the future I think the great burden of intelligence work will be counter-terrorist, from wherever the terrorist threat comes. It will be concerned with international crime on a grand scale. Many threats will come from landless people ­ potentially the Kurds, fromerly the Palestinians."
While its front page condemned racism as part of its reporting on the Steven Lawrence murder, the le Carre article seemed to celebrate it.
The US state and the Brittish perceive the PKK in this decrepit cold war perspective i.e. it is categorised as a Marxist Leninist organisation with an anti-US orientation whose existence is contrary to the interests of the US state and its clients in the region.
This is not the case. Ocalan has gone on the record in several occasions describing it thus:
"The international press and media have been manufacturing unfair and grossly distorted views about our party. The USA plays a significant role in promoting these negative views. The chief of the CIA has referred to our party as a foremost international terrorist organization. Such a portrayal of the PKK obviously does not rely on facts but on deliberate distortions. The PKK has no other role but to promote the demands of the Kurds for their own national identity and national rights, as they today face genocide. How can our resistance against this genocide be mistaken for terrorism? The chief of the CIA should understand that we are the victims of terrorism. The Republic of Turkey is a well known perpetrator of genocide and of the destruction of cultures."
As for the question of separatism, we do not insist on a separate state, on the contrary, we defend a form of government that respects our people's distinct cultural, social, political, and economic rights. These rights can be realized under one state just as they would be under two states. It is inappropriate in today's political reality to conceive of forms of government as either unitary or separatist. We live in an age within which distinct political and social groups come together to form federal states. Belgium is a federal state composed of two distinct national groups. Spain is also an example, and I should also mention the Russian Federation.
...Evidently under the influence of socialism of Stalin and the fascism of Mussolini and Hitler, Mustafa Kemal developed the Turkish style unitary state. You certainly know that the Turkish state is not democratic. There is no cultural freedom for non-Turkish groups. Turkish democracy is a sham, and it is in reality under the control of the military junta. The Turkish government not only disregards the human rights of the Kurdish people but it also oppresses its own Turkish people. The PKK struggles for democracy against such an anti-democratic government. To refer to our struggle as separatist is to ignore reality. The Kemalist regime has reached a point where either it will survive by reforming itself or it will destroy itself by becoming trapped in the narrow structure of a unitary state.
We have often stated that we are ready to participate in any political process that the Turkish government will undertake to make democratic reforms. We hereby explicitly state that we do not insist on a separate state of our own. Should the Turkish side be open for dialogue, we can reach solutions based on the equality and liberty of both peoples within the existing borders. It is nonsense to see our demands as separatist in intention. We want a Spanish or American style of federalism.
Question: What response have you received from the Turkish government to your calls for negotiation?
Ocalan: Unfortunately, our opponents pretend not to hear our calls. It seems as if we were talking to a wall. I think that there is no other regime in the world which is so inflexible. The Turkish state has never recognized the existence of other peoples or distinct ethnic groups within its territory. It waged wars on those ethnic groups who demanded the same rights as the Turks themselves and, as in the case of the Armenian extermination, served the Turkish goal of maintaining a unitary state. Now the Turkish regime seems to be deaf to any proposals made by us for civilized and democratic solutions to the conflict between us. Indeed, the Turkish government is more resolved than ever to solve the Kurdish question by bloodshed. The Turkish government has no tolerance for the Kurdish question. It has brutally repressed all Kurdish uprisings in the past. Turkish President Demirel has boasted of crushing the twenty-ninth uprising. During his visit to Chile, Demirel vehemently denied the existence of a Kurdish question in Turkey.
The Turkish authorities continue to ignore any just solution to this conflict due to the mixed signals and encouragements they receive from NATO countries. All our reform proposals have been turned down by the Turkish government. It rejects formal or informal dialogue even with non-armed Kurdish political organizations.
(David Korn, translated by AKIN April 95)

The cold warriors in the CIA and MI6 have read what Ocalan has to say and have looked at the pitiful record of the PUK and KDP and asked themselves 'who will make the most stable power in the region'. They have come to the conclusion that the PKK must be removed from the equation. The answer would be the PKK if the small faction at the head of the Turkish state were out of the equation. The alliances being forged between the US and the UK and the PUK and KDP will not stand up to any analysis in the light of day ­ this is why they are hidden.
The Turkish state, the NSC, also maintains a cold war mentality. At best the government (the NSC) has offered the country a society dominated by Big Brother as some defence against imaginary enemies ­ and although the war against the Kurds could be seen as a race war it is also a political war. The Turkish state persecutes the Kurds for political and financial reasons, and all of Turkey suffers.
The situation in south east Turkey is similar to the worst atrocities of the American war in Vietnam ­ the 'counter-insurgency' tactics are the same. Troops in the field in Vietnam (Turkey has relied on a conscript army) could not distinguish between 'villagers' and 'guerrillas' so it became policy not to do so. The US tried ruthless moves such as Operation Phoenix ­ a major program for the murder of civilians "possibly linked to or supporting the enemy" in Vietnam between 1967-1971. It was headed by William Colby, it resulted in the deaths of between 25 to 40, 000 people and Colby subsequently was promoted to head of the CIA.
The military tactic established for dealing with 'counter-insurgency' by the British and American military can be summed up by the phrase "if you cannot catch the fish in the water you take away the water." Meaning you destroy the population. This extends into destroying those who aid the enemy journalists, academics, politicians and so forth, this has the added bonus that the group you oppose can never build a successful social infrastructure.
"In country after country over the past half-century, the United States has organised governments run by scoundrels who would do the necessary dirty work. The list is impressive: the old Chiang-Kai-Shek clique, the rapacious and former collaborationist military leaders of Thailand, Argentine and Chilean Generals, the Shah of Iran, the Indonesian generals, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Stroessner in Paraguay, the Guatemalan generals, Mobutu in Zaire. Our favourite collaborationists tend to be crooks as well as murderers, and because of the corruption endemic in these US ­ sponsored governments that have been called "shakedown states."
(Edward Herman, Beyond Hypocrisy)

We can add another one to that list: Turkey.
 

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The Wilson plots
Robin Ramsay

The 'Wilson plots' is a portmanteau term for a collection of fragments of knowledge about intelligence operations against the Labour governments of Harold Wilson and a great many other people and organisations. 'The Wilson plots' are about a good deal more than Harold Wilson and his governments.
The British state --and the secret state --had never trusted the British left and had always worked to undermine it. The Attlee government came out of the war-time coalition and was considered mostly safe and reliable by the state: and by safe and reliable I mean it did not seek to challenge either the power of the state nor the assumptions about the importance of finance capital, the British empire and Britain's role as world power which underpinned it.
Harold Wilson, a most conservative man, made one large mistake while a young man as far as the state was concerned: he was not sufficiently anti-Soviet. During the 1940s and 50s, while many of his Labour colleagues were accepting freebies from the Americans and going to the United States for nice holidays, Wilson was travelling east fixing trade deals with the Soviet Union. He was perceived by the secret state --by some sections of the secret state, notably but not exclusively, sections of MI5 --to be someone who, in the words of the General Sir Walter Walker, 'digs with the wrong foot'.
In short,Wilson was perceived by some to be a dangerous lefty and his arrival as leader of the Labour Party was thought by some of the professionally paranoid Cold Warriors in the British and American secret states to be deeply suspicious. Wilson had been to the Soviet Union many times: was he a KGB agent, they wondered? Had he been entrapped and blackmailed?
Asking that question was enough for MI5 to begin obsessively investigating Wilson and his colleagues and friends. Nothing was found. But to the professional paranoids, nothing found simply suggested it was better hidden than they first thought. And so they carried on. Meanwhile, the left in Britain was on the rise: trade unions got more powerful. The professional paranoids, noting the influence of the Communist Party of Great Britain in some trade unions, began to see the shift left-wards in the UK in the sixties and early 1970s as somehow under Soviet control. In 1974 Conservative Prime Minister Heath had his fateful show-down with the miners union --and lost --and the Tory right and their friends in the secret state began a series of operations to prevent what they believed --or pretended to believe --was an imminent left revolution in Britain. Some of these operations were done by the secret state; some by people close to but not in the secret state. Bits of the CIA also shared this view and got involved. The South African intelligence service (BOSS) was running parallel operations against Labour and Liberal politicians it perceived as South Africa's enemies, notably the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and the then leader of the Young Liberals, now the Labour MP, Peter Hain. It is worth noting here that similar operations were being run in this period against mild, reformist, leftish parties in New Zealand, Australia, Germany, in Canada against the Quebec separatists, and, most famously, in Chile.
This extraordinarily complex period of British history saw covert operations of one sort or another involving serving or former personnel from MI5, MI6, the CIA, Ministry of Defence and the Information Research Department, plus assets in the media and the trade unions, plus allies in the Conservative Party and the City. That it tends to get summarised as 'MI5 plots against Wilson' is due to the way the information about these areas emerged in 1986-88, through former Army Information Officer, Colin Wallace, and the former MI5 officer, Peter Wright. They both talked about MI5 as the source of plotting against Wilson (though Wallace's allegations were much wider than that) and for much of the left-liberal media and politicians in this country this fitted straight into their vague understanding of the intelligence services and British domestic history which told them that the bad guys were MI5. By the time we had educated ourselves sufficiently to understand what Wallace and Wright were saying, the perception --the false perception --that the story was just MI5 plotting against the Labour government had been established.

The Pencourt Investigation

It is largely now forgotten that the first attempt to get 'the Wilson plots' story going was made by Wilson himself.
Wilson was aware of the various attempts to get the media to run smear stories about him and his circle, and aware of the stream of burglaries afflicting himself, his personal staff and other Labour Party figures in the 1974-76 period. But he chose to do nothing in public while he was in office. In private he tried to get the Cabinet Secretary, Sir John Hunt, to do something, though quite what Hunt did is still unknown.
It seems clear now that Wilson did nothing publicly for four reasons. The first was that he didn't have anything substantial to goon --merely suspicions and a lot of little whispy bits and pieces of rumours and tip-offs. The second reason for his inaction was his distrust of MI5. Had Wilson instructed Whitehall to do an inquiry, it would have turned to MI5; and it was MI5 that Wilson and his personal secretary, Marcia Williams, suspected of being at the root of their troubles. The third reason Wilson did nothing while in office was his knowledge in 1974 when he won the election, that he would only serve two more years and quit. Wilson, we now know, was afraid of Alzheimers' disease: it had afflicted his father and he told his inner circle in 1974 that he was going to resign in 1976 when he was 60. In 1975/6 ensuring a smooth hand-over of power to his successor --and Labour was a minority government, don't forget --was a much greater priority than finding out who was behind the burglaries of his offices and the rumours about him. Wilson was a loyal member of the Labour Party to whom he owed everything. He didn't want to make bad publicity for the party --and his successor. And the fourth reason Wilson did nothing was his memory of the previous time he had tried. In his first term in office, encouraged by George Wigg MP, he had tried taking on the Whitehall security establishment in the so-called D-notice Affair --and had got his fingers badly burned.
As far as we know Wilson had very little real, concrete information about what was going on in 1976 when he retired. He knew that he and his circle were being repeatedly burgled. He had watched the campaign being run against Jeremy Thorpe, the leader of the Liberal Party, by BOSS, and that is why he made his first public remarks not about MI5, the objects of his real suspicions, but about BOSS. But those comments produced all the negative reactions he feared --not surprisingly, since he had almost no evidence --and he let it drop until he resigned.
He then waited a couple of months and contacted two journalists, Barry Penrose and Roger Courtiour (who became mockingly titled 'Pencourt') gave them the little he had and hoped for the best. But without any decent leads into the MI5 material, Pencourt stumbled --or were led: it isn't clear which --into the story being run by BOSS of Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe and his brief affair with Norman Scott --not the story of MI5's campaign against Wilson. There was a brief flurry of interest by the media, notably by the Observer which had paid a lot of money for the serialisation rights to the Pencourt book, but nothing happened and the story disappeared. Wilson tried to get his successor James Callaghan to do something but Callaghan declined.
The story disappeared for two reasons. The only journalists or politicians in the late 1970s who knew anything about the secret state were currently or formerly employed by the secret state or were mouthpieces for it. There was no investigative journalism in 1978 in the UK worth mentioning; there were no former British intelligence officers to show journalists the way; there were no whistle-blowers, no renegades. There were no courses being taught in universities. There were almost no books to read. In 1978 the British secret state was, really was, still secret.
After the failure of the Pencourt investigation nothing happened for five years. Harold Wilson became a Lord, presided over a long inquiry into the City of London which was consigned to the recycle bin as soon as it was published, and duly developed Alzheimers' as he suspected he would. His personal assistant for 30 years, Marcia Williams, became Lady Faulkender and has said nothing of consequence since. Barry Penrose and Roger Courtiour made a lot of money. Penrose was last seen working for the Express, telling lies for the British state about Northern Ireland. Courtiour is in the BBC somewhere.

Colin Wallace & Peter Wright

By 1979 the extraordinary events of the 1974-76 period --events which included The Times seriously discussing the right conditions for a military coup in the UK, and a considerable chunk of the British establishment wondering if the Prime Minister was a KGB agent --had just slipped by, unexamined. In came Mrs Thatcher with her GCSE understanding of economics and proceeded to wreck the British economy, creating 2 million unemployed in 18 months, and the entire story --or group of stories we know as the Wilson plots --simply ceased to be of interest to all but a handful of people.
One of that handful was Colin Wallace, who in 1980 began a ten year sentence for a manslaughter he didn't commit. Wallace was interested in the Wilson plots story because he had not only been a minor participant in the plots, and had knowledge of other areas of secret activities, he knew he was in prison to stop him talking about them. The other interested party was the former MI5 officer, Peter Wright. He had also been a participant in the plots and had also been maltreated by his erstwhile employers in the secret state. Not framed and imprisoned like Wallace, but denied a decent pension on a technicality after a lifetime's service to the state.
Here is one of the outstanding lessons of this episode. The British secret state is an astonishingly inept employer of people. None of those who became well known whistle blowers in the 1980s and 90s, Wright and Wallace, John Stalker, Captain Fred Holroyd, Cathy Massiter, David Shayler and Richard Tomlinson wanted to be whistle-blowers. They were converted into whistle-blowers by the stupidity of their employers in the state. Wallace, Holroyd and Wright, for example, were loyal Queen and Country men to a fault, right-wingers through and through. Unfortunately, our secret state has only one response to internal dissent or the possibility of public revelation of its own errors: smash, crush, smear, destroy, frame, cover-up and lie. The secret state perceives itself to be defending the national interest and in the national interest anything is permitted.
In prison in the 1980s Colin Wallace began writing letters about his wrongful conviction and accounts of his experiences working for the British Army's psychological warfare operation in Northern Ireland. In that capacity he had witnessed some of MI5's attempts to smear Wilson and other politicians as communists, drug-takers, homosexuals etc. The major media took no notice. Duncan Campbell at the New Statesman, did take notice but had an enormous amount on his agenda and did nothing. So Wallace ended up working with me instead.
Despite Wallace's allegations made while in prison and published by me in Lobster and distributed all over the British media in the months preceding his release from prison, the media took almost no notice. They only sat up and paid attention when the first rumours about a book being published in Australia by a former MI5 officer called Peter Wright began circulating in the UK. One nut-case talking about the Wilson plots could be ignored; two, apparently, could not.
We now know, from a senior civil servant called Clive Ponting --another whistle-blower in the 1980s --that in the months before Wallace's release from prison, the Ministry of Defence set up a committee, with MI5, to deal with him. It is worth noting here that this committee did not simply order his murder. Outside Northern Ireland our secret state seems to kill people very rarely. But it is also worth noting that the committee was was set up to pervert the course of justice. Precisely what this committee did is not known, but its general remit was to discredit Wallace and so discredit his allegations. Two of its operations were detected and they show what can be done with unaccountable power.
By mid 1987 despite the huge amount of space devoted to the allegations filtered back from Australia from the Peter Wright book, Spycatcher, there were only three groups of journalists actually trying to research the complex tales Wallace told: Channel Four News, where I was briefly; David Leigh and Paul Lashmar at the Observer;and, a bit later, Paul Foot at the Mirror. Other journalists dropped in and out, did odd stories, but only those three groups were seriously at it. We all had the same basic problem: Wallace had been described as a 'Walter Mitty' by Ministry of Defence briefings during his trial in 1980 and the Ministry of Defence was simply denying that Wallace had the job he said he did in Northern Ireland. Wallace claimed to have had access to secret intelligence material in his capacity as a psy-ops officer for the British Army. Since the psyops/ war unit was officially deniable, i.e. officially didn't exist, the MOD line was that Wallace was simply a press officer --his official, public role --and the rest was fantasies. We were trying to establish the veracity not only of his claims about events but also his claims about his own CV.

The jumping log book

Wallace was a sky-diving enthusiast and eventually the Army in Northern Ireland began including sky-diving in its psychological operations. Wallace formed a free-fall team which did displays all over Northern Ireland and was used to try to create positive feelings about the Army --basic hearts and minds stuff. Wallace's speciality was descending dressed as Santa Claus and giving out presents to kids. Sky-diving in this country is very tightly controlled: every jump is recorded by the British Parachuting Association. As you do more jumps you get differing kinds of licenses: beginners, intermediate, advanced. Wallace had an advanced, 'D' license --or so he said.
In the summer of 1987 rumours began spreading through this little group of journalists that Wallace's claims to have been a sky-diver were a fake. He was a fantasist, a Walter Mitty. These rumours arrived at Channel Four News via an old colleague of Wallace's who knew an ITN journalist. The rumours seemed inexplicable at first: we had lots of pictures of Wallace sky-diving with and without his Santa Claus outfit. But when I finally rang the British Parachuting Association to check their file on Wallace I found they had no record of him. Eventually Paul Foot, also working on the story, discovered that a duplicate set of records were held by the international parachuting body and Wallace's records were there, confirming that he was what he said he was --as far as sky-diving went, anyway. Undaunted by this, a journalist now with the BBC called John Ware, still ran the 'Wallace-is-a-fake' parachuting story some months later in a double page spread in the Independent smearing Wallace and Fred Holroyd.
The point here is, we can now work out some of what this MOD-MI5 operation against Wallace consisted of. First, they picked one area of Wallace's CV, his parachuting, and set out to discredit him with it. If they could show he was lying here, they believed, journalists would not believe his other claims. They burgled his house and stole his jumping log book; they burgled the British Parachuting Association and removed his file, substituting a fake file for the one with his number on it. Then they began spreading the word through their press contacts that Wallace was a fraud, knowing that Wallace didn't have his jumping log and knowing that --eventually --some journalist would ring the British Parachuting Association and ask about his record. Finding nothing, because his file had been removed, such a journalist would consider the allegation that he was a fantasist proven and would thus dismiss him as the 'Walter Mitty' figure described at his trial. This operation was certainly run at Channel Four News and John Ware, then working for the BBC. In effect, the MOD tried to convert Wallace into the 'Walter Mitty' they said he was. Unfortunately for the MOD, Paul Foot was a better journalist than that and found the duplicate set. Without Foot we would have been struggling to rebut the Wallace-is-a fantasist line. Another disinformation project about Wallace was fed through Professor Paul Wilkinson, then at Aberdeen University. A former RAF officer, Wilkinson was ITN's official consultant on terrorism. Somebody in the MOD or MI5 fed him some material about Wallace which accused him of trying to get a man in Northern Ireland killed so he --Wallace --could have the man's wife. This smear story had been created just before Wallace left Northern Ireland --presumably in case they ever needed to get at Wallace. Wilkinson wrote a letter, passing this derogatory material on to ITN. Fortunately, by this point,Channel Four News' management were pretty sure Wallace was telling the truth and showed us journalists Wilkinson's letter. The allegations it contained were refutable, and Wallace wrote to the University authorities. Wilkinson was reprimanded and apologised and lost his job as ITN's consultant on terrorism.
The point here is this: Wallace had already been framed for manslaughter and convicted in a rigged trial. Having failed to shut Wallace up with six years of imprisonment, the secret state then set about discrediting him. If you could get to the people on the MOD/MI5 committee which planned this and asked them why they were doing it, they would simply say, it was in the national interest to prevent Wallace talking. In the minds of the secret state the national interest --as defined by them --overrides the competing claims of justice and democracy.

Politicians and the Secret State

I offer these anecdotes by way of introduction to some comments on the relationship between the media, politicians and what we might call historical truth. Many people vaguely assume, as I did at the beginning of the Wallace affair, that politicians and journalists are concerned with 'the truth'. This simply isn't the case.
Most journalists --at least 99% of those I have met --are interested first in their careers, and aims subsidiary to that, such as getting a story or doing better than their rivals, or having a good time or padding their expenses. Journalist are just people doing a job. They have mortgages and families to support; and theirs is now a very insecure business. All the unions in the media were smashed in the past 15 years. Contracts are short. You can be fired on the spot.
Politicians, most of them, are simply interested in power or aims subsidiary to that, such as getting reselected, getting re-elected; pleasing the whips to get promotion; or simply getting press coverage. The pursuit of the truth is not on the agenda of most politicians; the pursuit of the truth, when it means going against prevailing media opinion, or the wishes of their party's leaders, or the wishes of the state, is on the agenda of a handful. This is particularly true of stories in the field of intelligence and security policy. Nothing makes MPs more nervous than security and intelligence issues.
In the first place, if they've got half a brain, MPs simply won't go near subjects about which they are ignorant --which is sensible enough. And to my knowledge other than those who have worked for, or have been close to, the security and intelligence services, there are no MPs who have a decent knowledge of this field. Not even Tam Dalyell. In the second place, MPs all have a healthy respect for the damage to careers tangling with the spooks can inflict. You might think that MPs then have a massive vested interested in bringing the security and intelligence services under their control. But this hasn't happened yet and, in my view, short of some massive,earth-shaking scandal, never will.
In the House of Commons in 1987 we got some help from Ken Livingstone, Tam Dalyell and Dale Campbell-Savours. These days Dalyell is still at it, as is Norman Baker a Lib-Dem MP, a new member of the so-called awkward squad. Livingstone has moved onto other areas and Campbell-Savours has become a Blair loyalist.
The British political and media systems are not equipped to deal with major issues concerning the behaviour of the secret state.
In the political arena the Intelligence and Security Committee setup under the Tories is a joke, without investigative powers. But it is a joke useful to the secret state. When the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee was conducting hearings into the Sierra Leone affair last year it asked for an interview with the head of MI6. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook denied them access on the grounds that that the security and Intelligence Committee was the appropriate forum for such questions. MPs are still unable to ask questions about the Security and Intelligence services: the House of Commons Clerks simply will not accept them. The secret state is still, officially, not accountable to Parliament.
At its heart, the Wilson plots story was the attempt by a handful of people to persuade the major print and broadcast media and parliament that their view of the British political universe was false. I was writing articles which implied: you --the media, the politicians --do not know what you are talking about: the world isn't the way you say it is. At the beginning, before the major media took any real interest in the Wallace story, this was a peculiarly difficult message to sell. Who was I to tell experienced journalists they didn't know what was what? I was on the dole, living in the sticks, in Hull, producing a magazine with a tiny circulation. In the weeks before Wallace came out of prison I had circulated a great deal of material to the major media about Wallace, his case and his explosive allegations. I got only one response, from a journalist at Newsnight. As big-time journalists are prone to do, he said, don't tell me over the phone, come down to London. So down I went to Newsnight's office. It was my first exposure to the major media. I delivered the spiel and the journalist was interested and said he would take a camera crew down to the prison to interview Wallace when he got out.
I had been told by Wallace that among the visitors to his secret psy-ops unit, Information Policy, in Northern Ireland, had been Alan Protheroe, who at the time of my Newsnight visit, was Assistant Director General of the BBC. Nicknamed 'the Colonel' in the BBC, Protheroe was, and may still be, a part-time soldier-cum-intelligence officer, specialising in military-media relations.
But unlike the journalists I had been talking to up to that point, Protheroe knew who Wallace was and what the Information Policy unit had been doing in Northern Ireland. To Newsnight I therefore said something like this: 'Protheroe's a spook; you'll have to watch him. He'll try and block anything you do with Wallace in it.' 'Really, old boy,' said the BBC people I was talking to, 'it isn't like that in the BBC'.
Their response was comical, really. It was then only just over a year since there had been several weeks of intense media interest in the revelation that the BBC actually had its own in-house MI5 office vetting BBC employees (still there, as far as I know) --prima facie evidence that, au contraire, the BBC was exactly 'like that'.
The Newsnight journalist, Julian O'Hallorhan, interviewed Wallace the day he came out of prison and then had his piece yanked out of a programme at the very last minute. I was actually watching Newsnight at the time and saw the confusion in the studio as the running order was rejigged while they were on air. We subsequently heard that Protheroe had indeed blocked the Wallace interview, and when asked, the BBC denied that they had ever interviewed Wallace. (Paul Foot has seen a bootleg of the film-which-didn't-exist.) Protheroe's action in blocking the Wallace interview was reported four months later in the Sunday Times and has been confirmed since by a senior Newsnight staffer who has now left the BBC.
Thirteen years later, have things improved? Yes and no. The media is potentially more difficult to manage for the state than it used to be. The Ministry of Defence employs 150 press officers to spin-doctor the media and even MI6 has a media department whose job it is to wine and dine journalists and editors to get the departmental line across. The days when a quiet word in the ear of a handful of editors would ensure a media black-out are gone. And there is a good deal more information available than there was in 1986 --if journalists could be bothered to read it --which, mostly, they can't. But the fundamental attitudes of the media towards the state and secret state remain the same as far as I am aware. British journalists --and, more importantly --British editors, do not see themselves in an adversarial relationship with the state and secret state. If the secret state says 'national security' to them, most journalists and virtually all editors will still back away. And in some ways the situation today is even worse than it was then. Investigative journalism is expensive, offers no guarantee of publishable articles, or broadcastable TV programmes, and there is less of it now than there was then. There has been a visible dumbing-down of the few TV documentary series, such as World inAction, into consumerism programmes. Not counting the journalists who are simply mouthpieces for state, who go under the titles of diplomatic or defence correspondents, there is currently only one journalist in the whole of Britain who is seriously interested in the intelligence and security field, and that's Paul Lashmar at the Independent.
In 1990, I think it was, a resolution of mine, became the North Hull Labour Party's conference resolution. It called for a full-scale public inquiry into Northern Ireland, the dirty war there, the Wallace affair and the Wilson plots; it called for the introduction of a system of real parliamentary accountability for the secret state. The resolution went to the Labour Party conference where it was passed without opposition. As such, according to the rules of the Party, it became party policy. Of course nothing happened, the whole thing has been forgotten and we are where we were in 1986 before the Wilson plots story got going. Short of a bug being found in Tony and Cherie Blair's bedroom with 'please return to MI5' stamped on it, New Labour is not likely to challenge the secret state --and maybe not even then.
Although Britain is a democracy in some senses, the 'will of the people' has never been extended to cover the key areas of interest to a state which was developed to run and service an empire. Defence, foreign policy, security and intelligence policy --in none of these areas can MPs or their constituents have access to official information or have any input into policy. During both World Wars the state co-opted the mass media of the day for its propaganda; and this continued to some extent after the war in the Cold War with the Soviet bloc when large chunks of the media were co-opted again to run anti-Soviet propaganda --this is what is described in the new Paul Lashmar book about the Information Research Department; and is presumably the reason it has been so widely ignored.
At the end of the day, as the cliche has it, its down to the politicians. As long as the politicians remain content not to have any influence over foreign and defence affairs --and the intelligence agencies which service them --the media will remain relatively impotent and the subject will remain off the agenda. And, unfortunately, this present intake of Labour MPs shows every sign of being at least as supine before the state as those who came before it.
 

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Dragster and drag queens, beatification and beating off
Simon Herbert

There was a brief period at the beginning of the Nineties in the United States, partially fuelled by a presidential election contest desperately looking for defining issues, when the matter of whether taxpayers monies should be used to support public artworks that offended (some) mainstream sensibilities was whipped up into a coast to coast media circus by a number of high profile conservatives, including Senator Jesse Helms and Reverend Don Wildmon of the American Family Association. As George Bush discovered to his chagrin, it was the economy, stupid, that was foremost in voter's minds, and not whether photographers displaying self-portraits of rectally challenged whips or performance artists covering themselves in chocolate and alfalfa constituted a capital offense. Nevertheless, for a short period the marginal and the mainstream found themselves in a strange and frantic arm lock, a magnified coalescence of all the mutual distrusts and loathings that continue to bubble through the two polarised camps. Performance artists took to the streets and pleaded their case, stigmata arrayed against stigma, preaching words of compassion, whilst crazed southern gentlemen strode marbled floors, theatrically ripping up 'obscene' photographs and casting them to the four corners of the senate. It was the Sixties Lite; protestors encamped outside the gates of power, bloated incumbents sending out the attack dogs, both parties fighting for the spiritual futures and bodily fluids of the people.
Steven Durland, then editor of High Performance (based on the West Coast of the United States), neatly summed up both the passion and the farce of the period in his observation that "the performance artists had become the evangelists, and the evangelists had become the performance artists." It was a typical observation, characteristic of a consistent editorial style during the twenty year run of High Performance (from the late Seventies to the late Nineties) that usually cut to the heart of serious issues whilst retaining a sly objective distance; an analysis of the theatre of the absurd with a concomitant sense of absurdity. High Performance was a revolutionary magazine in a number of ways. It embodied founder Linda Frye Burnham's commitment to the political and philosophical underpinnings of the counter-culture, a mapping of guerrilla activity that erupted from, and then fed back into, the cultural fractures of the Sixties onwards. Each issue covered as wide a range of activities as could fall under the rubric of experimental art, mixing review and information sections with extended essays on thematic or social concerns of the time. It was utterly unique as a magazine; as an organ of analysis and advocacy for the kind of marginal art that was not normally covered, its priorities shifted over the years, both as a matter of editorial imperative and as a nod to the chameleon nature of its core constituency.
In the introduction to "The Citizen Artist --An Anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978-1998" Durland sums up the magazine's mission statement as follows:
"Throughout its twenty year history High Performance magazine has been a journalistic home for new, unrecognized and innovative work in the arts. From its beginnings in performance art to its last few years covering community-based art, the magazine maintained a steady focus on art that was serious in its personal artistic intent and underappreciated in public perception... We considered our editorial approach to be a useful foundation for, and precursor to, the development of critical discussion around the art we covered. And when the form such as performance art became validated to the point of being part of the critical discourse, it was time for us to look in new directions."
His conclusion that "Our editorial journey took us down some roads that later became freeways, and some roads that are now overgrown with weeds", and that the cover of the first issue featured artist Suzanne Lacey sitting on a dragster, sums up the metaphorical tone of this anthology. The majority of artists included demonstrate the kind of hope that lies at the heart of that most American of myths: the road movie. Most have worked, or are working, in a US context --whether this be within the diaspora of race or the advocacy of health issues --and, although the individual contexts may be radically different, they share the commonality of a personal artistic quest. 
The title "The Citizen Artist", with its suggestions of responsibility and a causality between personal and communal activity, is both provocative and contentious. After all, much art activity that has come from the live art and multi-disciplinary arena has not exactly been fuelled by notions of benign participation or the democratisation of creative processes. The destructive urge --or at the very least a kind of interrogative nihilism --has been referenced in critical analyses of the field almost as a matter of course. The controversial live works of Chris Burden, which interrogated aspects of obligation by the creation of direct risk, or the grotesque debasements of Paul McCarthy, which were both regularly covered at length in the pages of High Performance, are significantly absent from this collection. However, any fears that "The Citizen Artist" is a form of selective cultural neutering are allayed by a number of factors. Firstly, as Durland points out "...we realised that there was no one anthology that could both reflect the history of the magazine and at the same time exist as a coherent book. So we settled for the fact that this is an anthology... not the anthology from High Performance". Secondly, there is already a profusion of reference books on the viscerally subversive aspects of live art (such as the excellent series of Re/Search publications which also emanates from the West Coast).
Frye Burnham and Durland's criteria for reprinting essays seems to have been motivated by a desire to address questions of artistic production that are far more interesting than retreading the familiar paths that chart ad nauseum the schism between the provocative art guerrilla and a reactionary mainstream. The real issue, whether voiced explicitly or hinted at, is how, through one's practice, to self-determine and, by extension, assist in the self-determination of others. In effect, what constitutes radical practice now, and how has this been effected by what was previously considered radical practice?
"The Citizen Artist" attempts to broadly depict the changing definitions of the margins over the last twenty years by structuring the anthology in three distinct sections: "The Art/Life Experiment", "The Artist as Activist", and "The Artist as Citizen". Each section is generally chronological (although Durland is quick to point out that such a linear approach is overly simplistic, and certain motifs recur throughout): "The Art/Life Experiment" covers the early pioneering work of artists who for the first time attempted to break down distinctions between Art and Life, resulting in projects such as the body art of artists Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh (who spent a year tied together by an eight foot length of rope), the rise of eco-art, and most significantly the initial development of feminist art practice: "The Artist as Activist", charts the following phase, when artists began to engage with the development and maintenance of ideologies specific to both a variety of identities --multi-cultural, gender, sexual --and objectives --empowerment, protest, education, advocacy, etc: "The Artist as Citizen", the final and most expansive section, contains what one imagines is Frye Burnham's paradigm --an artist or artists located in a specific community and working in tandem with its members in a microcosmic sense in which relationships are finite and local. As such, interviews are featured with artists working at a grass roots level; in the contexts of prisons and community centres, or organising workshops for doctors and nurses ("Caring for the Carers").
The arc of the three sections is one which reinforces the editor's prejudices in suggesting a gradual sea change of artistic consciousness over two decades, from the establishment of artistic communities and the process of self-realisation, to the use of interventionist practice to either represent or involve communities traditionally perceived as distinct from --or ignored by --historical Eurocentricity, through to surrendering at least some measure of artistic autonomy in preference to initiating more organic forms of collaborative practice. As a scenario it has its attractions, but it remains a wistful blueprint, full of inherent stresses. Whilst "The Citizen Artist" does not attempt to disguise that a kinder gentler artist is the preferred role model du jour, it also allows individual contradictions or disagreements to become apparent (thereby maintaining the flavour of the original High Performance magazine).
The central irony of the concept of the Citizen as Artist is that even those artists who are committed to leaving their ivory tower often have to contend with a certain amount of initial mistrust or hostility in the bigger badder world. The label of citizen may be adopted autonomously by any old artist, but it only becomes resonant when conferred, in part, by the external benediction of non-art communities. What is fascinating is how the terms and conditions of these negotiations have changed over the last two decades, and why this anthology very nearly ends up confirming popular prejudices about crazy artists as much as it demolishes them. The general urge of artists who wish to be 'contemporary' has been to hitch their wagons to the nearest zeitgeist, and as new zeitgeists come along the older ones tend to become a little creaky. Inevitably, the passing of time has been less charitable to some artistic pronouncements than others. This is most evident in the first section of the book, the grand Art/Life Experiment, in which quotes such as: "Thus we have passed into a new worldview where we have gone beyond our anchor in the solar system to an even more integrated connection in the galactic core" in Barbara T. Smith's investigation of shamanic practice; or Rachel Rosenthal's description of her weekend workshops, in which: "For a weekend, two days and a half, I am a saint. My aim for that one weekend is to really take the spirit of the people who are there and give a bath to the spirit." --tend to (at least to a thirtysomething like myself) reinforce the cliché of the barking mad performance artist, complete with West Coast Dawns, Harmonic Convergences, Beautiful Natives, Earth Goddesses, Cheesecloth, Group Hugs and Candles.
It is easy to take these quotes out of context, and paint a picture of desperately earnest artists struggling in the tar pits of history (damned if this West Coast/American stuff doesn't come with a helpful metaphor every other sentence!), but whilst it is difficult to avoid observing that other similar examples form a wish list of crackpot aspirations that would sound cheesy in a Miss World contest, a steelier picture also begins to emerge as a flipside to the epiphets. Earlier in her interview Rosenthal paints a vivid and prescient picture of eco-rape that is both concise and articulate, describing a world that is at least as crazy as her own artistic universe. Cheri Gaulke's history of "The Women's Building" may put an inordinate amount of faith in the metaphorical power of an eight foot papier-maché woman, erected on the building's roof as "a beacon of women's power to the community", but then maybe that was the kind of morale-booster that women artists needed when attempting to establish self-sustaining women's groups at a time when there were no precedents (let alone state funding).
Certainly, the editors seem confident enough to surrender their charges and let them take their own chances with the forces of history, and seem to think that the reader is big enough and stupid enough to draw his or her own informed conclusions.
The cumulative realisation that gradually dawns whilst reading through all these documents, testimonials and anecdotes is that what "The Citizen Artist" achieves most effectively is the way in which it illustrates just exactly how much artists position themselves in relation to the realities of their respective time. Priorities shift and rhetoric changes. Cause and effect is a familiar notion to artists, because they generally have so many causes and fear in the early hours of the morning that they may have so little effect.
"The Artist As Activist" section deals with artists whose moral compass had not significantly shifted --all the same ethical concerns are evident --but was certainly being pulled by a different gravitas. This was the era when the issue of identity --who had it, who didn't have it, who had an inalienable right to proclaim it, who had better keep his mouth shut --became a key issue for artistic analysis. Identity could be problematic as well as being positive. How did the identity of an artist relate to the identity of a non-art community? Could the former represent the latter? With or without that community's sanction? Lucy Lippard's coverage of the AIDS awareness projects of David Nash includes a quote from critic Douglas Crimp which pretty much sums up the feelings of the time:
"Art does have the power to save lives... But if we are to do this, we will have to abandon the idealistic concept of art. We don't need a cultural renaissance; we need cultural practices actively participating in the struggle against AIDS."
Artists of colour were also working to achieve a level of visibility, creating broader awareness of the politics of ethnicity and colonialism. Artists such as Native American James Luna purposefully sought to avoid the tag of the "exotic", a stubborn refusal to be co-opted easily by institutional sentimentality:
"That's why I dislike the movie Dances With Wolves. It did nothing but glorify all the good. It didn't show any Indians mad, or upset... any Indians fucking up. We're still beautiful, stoic and pretty. You see the movie and you go out and see a fat, overweight, acne-covered, poor uneducated person --is that the real Indian you want to see?"
This was a time when the artwork of artists tended to reject the metaphorical optimism of its predecessors and became more specific, more pragmatic, more willing to cause offence to some if the process of alienation made a potent point --all necessary approaches when faced with the disintegration a singular authentic voice or homogeneous creative creed. As celebrated performance artist Karen Finley observes:
"Reality is always more shocking than art. I think that shock in art is followed by some kind of transformation that happens because of the artist. I mean, you could say that [experiencing the poverty of] Second Street between Avenues A and B is an artwork, and that's not so. It's not enough just to have the shocking thing, disassociated from everything. The artist frames it or mirrors it with brilliance or timeliness. I don't know that there's a clear line between what is an atrocity and what's art. I do know that when Chris Burden shot himself in the arm it was art, but when my father shot himself it wasn't."
The activist urge sometimes necessitated the identity of the artist to be almost completely subsumed, as in the work of Mexican artist Fehlipe Ehrenberg. When the Tepito district of Mexico City was devastated by earthquake, Ehrenberg undertook a project of reconstruction, organising a volunteer brigade (Tepitos) to comfort survivors, distributing food and clothing, opening a bank account administered by the Committee for the Reconstruction of Tepito. Emily Hicks observes that:
"For him, the goal is not to be a pop star, but a responsible citizen/activist."
Such a goal is at the heart of the final section, "The Artist as Citizen". It is not necessarily a popular one (savaged by critics such as Robert Hughes in his critique "Culture of Complaint") or a desirable one for many artists, not least because it calls for different modes of critical evaluation to be formulated. The essays in this final section tend to avoid manifestos in favour of specific detail, and are far too complex to summarise here (this section alone contains 17 case studies). Suffice to say that projects such as Marty Pottinger's multimedia record of the lives of the people involved in making New York's City Water Tunnel #3 (the largest non-defense public-works project in the Western hemisphere), intergenerational arts co-ordination projects such as New York's Elders Share the Arts (ESTA), or Grady Hillman's "arts-in-corrections" residency schemes, undertaken in over 50 correctional facilities since 1981 (containing the best damn hard nosed economic riposte to those who believe that prisoners shouldn't benefit from the arts as school programmes are simultaneously closed down), are, whilst not quite enough to convince a congenital loner like myself to enter into the dreaded ambiguity of collaboration, certainly testament to the diversity of committed and --in its own terms of reference --clear-sighted public art methodologies.
If I have a specific caveat against this anthology it is that the issues it raises are so huge that it cries out for a little external contextualisation. The editors have purposefully focused on interviews with artists, often by other artists, or first person essays by artists; consequently, as Durland admits "...sometimes the analysis one expects in an anthology is left up to the reader." This might be a minor point (although I would have liked to have seen a few more devil's advocates prodding their forks into these angels...), given that this is made clear from the start, but it does impact on certain sections that need clearer contextual and explanatory text, or even images (maybe not a problem in the original magazine format). Also, there is a missed opportunity to re-examine the efficacy of artistic methodologies in retrospect, and test the claims of artists. For instance, there is mention off the hugely influential cross-country San Diego/ Tijuana artists' collective Taller de Arte Fronterizo, but no postscript explaining the circumstances behind the group's break-up and how this impacted on subsequent post-colonial strategies. Similarly, I was curious as to how artists working as activists in the field of AIDS-related health care will have modified their approach in the late Nineties, in respect of factors such as more efficient medicinal filter blocks, or increased public apathy towards an epidemic that is now over a decade old.
Sadly, such questions would still be raised if journalists from High Performance were still darting around asking the right questions of the right practitioners, but the magazine ended its run in 1998. This is a shame for too many reasons to list here, so I will mention just one. Whether one agrees with some or all of these artistic voices, what is evident is an intention to create relevant public art that is created from the bottom up. This anthology is timely given the current UK context of lottery money for the arts, which is creating definitions of "socially useful" artists from the top down by attaching conditions of audience development and youth participation.

The Citizen Artist -- An Anthology from High Performance Magazine 1978--1998
Edited by Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland
ISBN: 1883831­10­5 Published by Critical Press
Available through Distributed Art Publishers, New York
Tel (212) 627 1999 Tel (212) 627 9484
 

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A Cut and Paste Conversation:
Renée Turner, the De Geuzen Foundation, and Jason E. Bowman 

De Geuzen is a foundation for multi-visual research which was established in Amsterdam in 1996 out of the necessity to create a forum in the Netherlands for critical inquiry, reflection and production with regards to visual culture. De Geuzen has three core initiators, Riek Sijbring, Femke Snelting and Renée Turner who operate as a collaborative art and design team which creates context specific projects. Its intention is to promote an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue that opens up new positions and perspectives with regards to visual culture. De Geuzen's practice includes curation, art, design and programming in the form of symposia, exhibitions and educational workshops. Its goal is to initiate situations where visual practices are viewed and understood as an integrated social process.
Jason Bowman: Now that I've seen your mission statement I want to ask a blatant question: I know what that means but how does it function on an organisational level?
Renée Turner: Our structure is hybrid to say the least. De Geuzen as an entity has three different capacities. It houses studios and a place for public events and we also operate as an agency.
De Geuzen came about through a mixture of events and interests. There is a thin line between hybridity, flexibility and confusion and when we began, we were closer to the latter. Riek, Femke and I studied together and during our post-graduate studies we worked in various configurations, curating exhibitions, creating installations and visual interventions. Although our affiliation with each other was not formalised, the roots of our current collaboration began there. Things became more solidified when I started renovating a space in Amsterdam with two other artists, Marco Cops and Cesare Davolio. As I was reaching the end of my studies, I thought perhaps different agendas could be combined and accommodated by the space. So the building's interior has been constructed with flexible usage in mind.
De Geuzen has separate yet interdependent functions and I guess it would suffice to say that the culmination of all these functions constitutes the foundation as a whole. The overall rent of the complex is covered entirely by renting out four individual studios. Not all occupants share the public face of De Geuzen but we see them as integral nevertheless. It's a mix of both public and private. When the agency is hosting a public event, two of the studios are emptied out and a dividing wall opens to create a larger public space.
JB: So what are the immediate benefits offered by the structure of having a foundation which incorporates an agency and a studio complex?
RT: There are many benefits, but most important is the fact that we, as an agency, do not have to depend on government funding for the use of our space therefore we have a guaranteed forum. Our programming can shrink or expand depending on our financial situation. Although the Netherlands has more funding for the arts than most other countries, we felt this flexibility was an indispensable safety mechanism.
JB: The agency practices both at its own location and in other contexts. Is the space also responsible for generating the necessary income to fund your projects? 
RT: No, we don't generate a profit from renting the space, and our entry fees tend to be pretty low. For programming and projects, we have to fund raise for operational costs.
JB: I know that you have recently started to receive funding from the Mondriaan Foundation but that previously you were self financing. How has the receipt of state funding altered the practice.1
RT: In the past we really relied heavily on donations of time, energy and money from our friends. And I have to stress that there was not that much money circulating among us. After a while however there were limits to the amount of begging, borrowing and stealing that we could do. Plus all of these negotiations took time and much was left up to chance or luck. Because we had a desire to push our projects further and find ways of bringing in broader audiences, soliciting funding from the Mondriaan was one way of preserving a degree of continuity in our programming.
JB: Has the receipt of Mondriaan funding changed the way you operate in terms of pace?
RT: Yes, to a degree because when you receive state funding, you're held accountable to an external body. Before our only accountability was to ourselves and our audiences. There was a sort of an intimate and immediate response in terms of programme planning. Now with subsidies we have to plan and apply in advance. I would be lying if I said that does not affect our practice. However it has also opened up other possibilities which were not previously available to us.
JB: Beyond these structural elements, De Geuzen represents itself as a foundation for multi-visual research. Can you expand on how you understand your practice as being researched based?
RT: Well, first of all let's incorporate the term 'multi-visual research' into the equation. It plays with the very tenuous relation between art and theory, there is a degree of contradiction. But at the same time it sets a tone for our activities. The three of us are visually trained. Femke is a designer and Riek and I are artists. Our individual practices have always included a visual means of acquiring and disseminating information. Admittedly, our definition of what that means is amorphously broad and manifests itself differently within each of our projects. And from the beginning we wanted our projects to be investigative, similar to laboratory or field work.
JB: Do you mean in terms of art experimentation?
RT: Not really, experimentation seems like a bankrupt term in relation to art now. It is a word that is often used and seldom actualised. Basically through the matrix of research we wanted to allow for rehearsals. It has been our aim to create a space where the unfinished or speculative could be tested with audiences. Outside of academic structures, there are very few venues, if any, where this can happen. And although playing with this notion of research, I think we have always understood our work within the frame of art and therefore we don't necessarily look towards achieving the sense of conclusion which other forms of research may be held accountable to. Despite this, it is very important to develop methods of analysis within our practice, a kind of internal and external check. We have to continually scrutinise our own work and process with an eye on how our projects resonate beyond our own interests.
JB: Can we move on to talk about De Geuzen in practice? The first work of yours I saw was 'The Walk-in Reader'.2 While many of the other works in this exhibition were centred on architecture, your work seemed much more expansive and escaped the limitations in representing urbanism solely via architectural or design vocabularies.
RT: Yes, thematically the exhibition looked at the processes of urban transformation taking place in the Netherlands. And I think Hou Hanru was struck by the post-Koolhaas generation and their almost utopian drive to address social problems through design. For us however, it was crucial to shift or contextualise the debate on buildings and urban planning in order to look at the social forces and networks that have and continue to shape the city of Amsterdam.
JB: So how did you assume this position within the context of an exhibition?
RT: We set up a kind of temporary resource. It included an archive where books, videos and internet URLs were collected around related themes ranging from the ways in which people make themselves feel at home in the city, to how so-called illegal or black economies function within the structure of mainstream economies, to how people map out their living environments, circumscribing the communities they belong to. Everything we gathered was made available to the public and there was a photocopier where people could copy books for free. Besides the more librarian ethic, we programmed weekly events based on our selected themes. The events took on different forms from round table discussions to tours through the city. We involved a variety of people from diverse backgrounds and specialisations, ranging from Joke van Kampen, the chief editor of the homeless newspaper in Amsterdam, to a social geographer, Dr. Rob van Engelsdorp Gastelaars. And with every event, more information was amassed and added to the archive. For us, it was an act of gradual social contamination. The space soon operated as a point of convergence where people returned or became regulars.
JB: One of the things which really struck me was the way that 'The Walk-in Reader' did not attempt to become responsible for accuracy of representation.
RT: It was never our ambition to be accurate, in fact we tend to do a lot of dancing around issues. Our approach rarely aims for a direct hit so to speak. 'The Walk-in Reader' was a forum, a resource and a podium that not only addressed various social networks but became one, a nucleus of activity within the exhibition.
JB: This notion of being or activating a nucleus of critical activity seems to punctuate the identity of De Geuzen generally...
RT: Yes, I think it has always been our aim to create sites where various social texts intersect or even collide.
JB: In terms of the exhibition at De Appel, De Geuzen's work seemed to be simultaneously servicing the context of the exhibition and, for me, also problematising how social contexts were represented by many of the other works.
RT: It was never our intention to provide a discursive bridge between the other works and the public, but there was an element of wanting to contextualise the larger debate which Hou Hanru was raising. So in that regard we did occupy the very ambiguous position of facilitation.
JB: I wanted to ask you more about your relationship to facilitation. In Britain facilitation by attaching interpretative or pedagogical methodologies to art works within the extant ideologies of the museum, gallery or theatre is developing into a burgeoning service industry. To me, many of the British forms of facilitation seem to be opaque --in that there is frequently a loss of critique or a tendency towards homogenising audiences. You appear to be traversing this by assuming a position as a research based foundation which also practices agency and is consequently able to develop and promote a less conclusive and less reductivist sensibility...
RT: I think it's important to look critically at the trend of using discourse as an interpretative or translative device. My suspicion is that institutions want to become "user friendly", levelling the productive tension between art practice and discourse. Undoubtedly this desire comes out of a very real pressure to attract broader audiences with the hopes of securing funding. However, I am not sure if eliminating complexity, or using discourse as a process of distillation for art is the way to attract broader audiences. In fact, the complexity and controversy raised through the friction between art and theoretical debate has the potential to enliven interest. Ultimately there is something disturbing about using discourse to legitimise or explain art, and reductive is the right word, in that neither art nor theory benefit from such a model.
JB: But at the same time much of your practice does appear to be looking at the relationship between art and theory and consciously advocating discourse and debate.
RT: The relation is there but not the same as the standard institutional use. Here I want to go back to the idea of multi-visual research and what that could mean. Between the visual and the verbal we try to establish a series of relays, a kind of dynamic exchange between the two.
JB: De Geuzen also produce 'visual objects' as part of these internal relays such as the pop corn funnels, made from the script, which you distributed when you screened Guy Debord's 'Society of the Spectacle' at De Geuzen or the series of take home quotes. Are they used in some sense to orientate the more conceptual or theoretical elements of your practice?
RT: In a strange way your question reiterates the perceived divide between these practices and I think that they are more mutually bound through the relays we establish. We use visual elements which are playful and others which are instrumental and on some occasions they also surf beyond the rational, therefore traversing between what is conventionally referred to as theory and practice.
JB: So is there any common aim in your uses of such 'visuals'. To me they seemed to be centralising around notions of distribution. This seemed particularly apparent when you mailed out 'the inventory' after 'The Walk-in Reader' closed.3
RT: Distribution is an undeniable aspect and so is accessibility or creating multiple points of entry.
JB: Do you mean in a directional sense?
RT: In a way yes, but rather than a sign it operates as an evocation. For instance, the modular glossy red table at De Appel was designed for multiple uses; it gave the space an area of concentration and continuity.4 The design sets the tone, acclimatising audiences. Depending on the arrangement of the table in the room, people were enticed to either sit and privately read and view, or it was clearly arranged for discussion and direct encounter. On other occasions the visuals took on a performative role, activating audiences. At the opening of 'The Walk-in Reader' we served a cake with the map of Amsterdam printed on it. The result was an almost carnivalesque atmosphere with people scrambling to cannibalise their own street.
JB: This role of evocation seemed to change with your more recent work 'Our Image is Our Own'?
RT: In the context of 'Midnight Walkers and City Sleepers', an exhibition which commissioned artists to work in the Redlight district in Amsterdam, we were initially invited under very specific conditions to be a part of the debates surrounding the show5. However, we were conscious that it may be more appropriate to employ and deploy other strategies and skills within this context. One of the things which is problematic with that area is that most of the time it is defined by its tourist industry, the sex industry, which is of course the most visible. We didn't want to reiterate that very clichéd or surface perception of the area and yet we didn't want to evade the omnipresence of that industry. For this reason we decided to initiate a collaboration with The Red Thread (De Rode Draad), the prostitute union which occupies a significant position both physically and socially in the area. As three women, we were also intrigued by their operation as a prostitutes' rights organisation and what that entails.
JB. When you're working in socially engaged practice many of the invitations to work are placed into the context of a thematic exhibition for a limited period of time and within the auspices of the curator's selected themes and sites. This format may appear to also relocate the artist as tourist.
RT: I completely agree on both accounts. It seems that if you take on social issues there is a perception that there is an easy transferability from issue to issue, one week a critique of the museum the next queer theory. For clarity of argument let's separate, however crudely for the moment, two bodies of reception. First there is the commission by the curator or curators. Then there is the second context which is the concrete social or physical environment about which the commissioner has asked you to work. By second here I don't mean to distinguish these realms hierarchically. And I guess our attention is often directed towards that second context, the one that reaches far beyond the premise of the exhibition.
JB: So, it seems that you're suggesting a reconceptualisation of how exhibitions are used and received...
RT: Well, I can't really address this as a general modus operandi but through the format of 'Midnight Walkers and City Sleepers' we were able to seize the opportunity to work with The Red Thread. The exhibition offered a means of entry and we were able to reroute both intention and attention. And no doubt, the inevitable question of longevity arises. Certainly it would be ridiculous to hop from theme to theme according to the curator's choice. If social engagement is a part of an artist's agenda, it is important to ask: How and should we sustain that connection after the exhibition, or temporary highlight, has taken place? In terms of this particular collaboration, it was very clear after our initial meeting with The Red Thread that our involvement would have to be long term in order to come to grips with the complex social and economic dilemmas these women face. More importantly we would need time to examine how those issues reflect upon the position of women in general.
JB: I frequently view exhibitions or commissions of socially engaged practices as 'host contexts'...
RT: Host is really the appropriate word, but rather than being a guest, I consider our relation to be somewhat parasitic.
JB: So did you find a way of successfully limiting the overall objectives for the context of this exhibition whilst recognising the more long term process orientated objectives. Also how did this initial engagement manifest itself in a particular product?
RT: After our first discussion with The Red Thread a very practical need emerged. On the windows of the rooms in which the prostitutes stand there is usually a sticker reading "No Pictures". The Red Thread has become the distributor of these stickers and quite simply they had run out. We discussed the possibility of a kind of message of solidarity among women from The Red Thread and De Geuzen. But that is not an easy task because the union is not actually looked favourably upon by the proprietors of the brothels. Our solution was to come up with a sticker with the no pictures icon, a simple image with the camera with a red slash through it and the words NO PICTURES. But on the back we had silk-screened in florescent pink the text: OUR IMAGE IS OUR OWN. The slogan, normally the focus in politically oriented work, in this case is disposable. In order to use the sticker the slogan must be split apart and pealed off. The slogan becomes a moment in use, a temporary comment or thought, a way of incorporating a degree of fragility into a political situation. There is another element which we haven't discussed with regards to the exhibition which is the hijacking of funding which went on. We were able to redirect attention and money.
JB: One of the issues which seems to continue to confront socio-specific art practice is that it needs to traverse a degree of suspicion from certain partners with whom it wishes to consult or collaborate. How did De Geuzen strategize in relation to this?
RT: It was made very clear that although we are all women, there is an element of exoticism or tourism which cannot be eradicated. And I think it was important to acknowledge that dynamic from the beginning. At the same time, although none of us have been prostitutes, there was a connection in terms of being women concerned with the ability of women in general to have control over their bodies and representation. Most importantly, women should have the right to set the perimeters of the use of their own bodies. It is fair to say that prostitution is at the edge of female representation, but it is nonetheless a condensed or concentrated formulation of those issues relevant to all women. Their position raises the very fundamental question of where the border of "NO" is drawn. Also, I think it is important to say that the relation with The Red Thread is not one way. We were interviewed in their magazine "Blacklight" which then recontextualises our own practice and connects us with a very different audience from that of the exhibition.
JB: I see how this element of detour or rerouting operates outside of the De Geuzen space, but how does that element function in relation to events held at your building?
RT: In our own space we set the perimeters of our projects so detour is not the word I would use because we establish the route. Our building provides the space for things to move or be processed at a slower pace, there is more of a laboratory feeling where controlled research, or reflection can take place.

JB: But in some sense the space also advocates a facilitatory role. Recently I saw four presentations here on the theme of 'the real' which were all inconclusive and constituted presentations of research in progress by artists, essayists or cultural critics6. How do such events influence the direction of De Geuzen?
RT: Through events held in our space we are able to broaden the base from which we work. By this I mean, we use our events to expand and push our own research plus we extend our collaborative capacities. Our space is relatively intimate and our programme format is closer to symposia which allows us to establish an active and interactive dialogue between speakers and audience. The question which has now arisen is how to extend that research further, beyond the immediacy of an event, and towards extended invitations to participate, confront and inform.
JB: I know your organisation like many in the Netherlands at the moment are developing their funding applications for new projects and organisational restructuring. Can you say something about how De Geuzen plans to capitalise on its existing research base and how this will influence its parallel activities?
RT: Our aim is to make follow-up publications to our events, not in the sense of a catalogue or documentation, but as a continuing forum, an extension of our enquiry. Through generating printed matter and creating a web space our goal would be to tap into other audiences who might challenge the limits of our thinking. In fact, these forms of distribution and access might well be the accountability check that I spoke of earlier.

Notes
1. The Mondriaan Foundation is one of the largest funding agencies in the Netherlands offering both structural and project support for Dutch cultural organisations and initiatives.
2. 'The Walk-in Reader' is the title of an installation made by De Geuzen for 'Unlimited.nl-2' an exhibition at De Appel which was curated by Hou Hanru.
3. Following the exhibition, De Geuzen mailed and distributed a booklet listing the entire contents of 'The Walk-in Reader'.
4. De Geuzen collaborated with Apolonija Sustersic in designing the space of 'The Walk-in Reader'.
5. 'Midnight Walkers and City Sleepers': on location in the Red Light District, was a multi-site art event in Amsterdam which was curated by Hedwig Fijen, Maria Hlavajova and Theo Tegelaers.
6. 'The Mediated Image: Testing the Surface of the Simulated, the Virtual and the Real', was De Geuzen's most recent in-house project.

Renée Turner is a Texas born artist, based in Amsterdam and is one of three core members of De Geuzen. Jason E. Bowman is an artist who is currently undertaking the Scottish Arts Council's Amsterdam Studio Residency and conducting a series of interviews on organisational frameworks of contemporary arts practices. These extracts are from conversations which took place in June 1999.
 

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FESARS
The First European Seminar on Artist Run Spaces
Micz Flor

The Stockholm based artist-run-space Konstakuten invited similar initiatives from across Europe (and beyond) to gather for The First European Seminar on Artist Run Spaces (FESARS). Over thirty initiatives participated, in addition various speakers were invited to further the discussion on the history, reality and future of artist-run-spaces. Per Hüttner, one of the organisers, explained that the initiatives present had come out of the informal artists' networks in place across Europe, the old snow ball principle. The main interest of this seminar therefore was to explore a shared and/ or synchronised future of artist-run-spaces across the continent, but at no point was this seminar meant to be representative of the entire European scene.

From the organisational point of view: structure, culture and charisma in bureaucracy
The long and extensive weekend might well have been more generally concerned with artists' initiatives, instead a strong focus on 'the spaces within which activity happens' emerged. While not explicitly formulated or made part of the proceedings this issue certainly underlined most of the presentations made by the initiatives. It is precisely this concentration that structurally and content-wise made FESARS something very different, even so, sitting through over thirty presentations the seminar attendant did encounter moments of suppressed hyperactivity.
Everyone is an individual, for sure, nevertheless there did seem to be inherent stages and processes which most of the spaces present had gone through. Being more than just a collaborative project -- in fact becoming a bureaucratic body seems to follow inherent rules which are shared across many forms of business, not only the arts. When combining efforts and taking on the task of establishing their own institutionalised form of presentation and representation, artists are clearly shifting from the stage of being one-person enterprises. In doing so they accept a level of bureaucratisation which is inherently counter-productive to the bare process of practice. It is important that this should not be mistaken with collaborative projects, which have proven to be advantageous to artists who are pooling resources and knowledge as a means to achieving goals --making work. Instead we are dealing with artists taking on the management and restraints which come with the task of running an institution --an artist-run-space.
The artist-run-space in its minimal form will only be in existence for the one and only group of artists who set up the organisation. Their charismatic leadership and curatorial as well as artistic vision not only determine the place, but also the driving force behind it. At this level things 'just tend to happen'. In managing to establish the space within the local and sometimes international art scene, however, it tends to fall into a routine. The organisation will undergo the process of setting up more or less flexible structures within which the individuals running the joint can place themselves and a 'written constitution' most often follows simply because funding applications demand it. Once all this has been laid out, the doors can open for the generations of artists to follow the initial momentum of spontaneous self-determination.
As new members enter the institution they carry their expectations and hopes with them, nevertheless, the individual will very soon be in the process of defining their space so as to manoeuvre within the institution. To some extent this process is self-determined, to some extent it is brought towards the newcomer in terms of the structural realities laid out by the organisation. An example of this is the necessity of book keeping, which while it may be done in a looser way than the business world might expect, the bare necessities are the same, and seemingly acceptable to funding bodies.
In becoming part of a bureaucratic body, the individual in this environment additionally faces another quality of the bureaucratic structure: by default the individual needs to be replaceable. It is no good to have somebody keeping the books for two years, just to leave an inaccessible pile of paperwork for the next generation of ambitious artists that comes through --though this seems to be one of the main problems across artist-run-spaces that continue for more than one generational cycle, in other words spaces which really do enter the logic of bureaucracy.
But it would be limiting to restrict the effects of artist-run-spaces to the structural problems of maintenance and continuity. One of the main excitements of artist-run-spaces lies on the side of curatorial practice, assuming that artists will do the art thing yet differently from the commercially biased gallery or the museology biased institution. At this point, the structural reality of the institution is secondary, and the cultural, or even charismatic quality comes into play. It is obvious that this is the point at which bureaucratic structures and demands, such as replaceability, are being turned upside down. In fact, I believe that the individual qualities of the artist entering an organisation, at some point will leave their individual and irreplaceable stamp. And they do.

From a funding point of view: policy-making in the cultural industries
Running a space of any kind lifts the term artistic practice onto a different level. Many artists involved in artist-run-spaces express their resentment at the amount of logistic and managerial tasks which need to be taken care of, in some cases those structural forms of labour substitute their individual artistic practice altogether. Nevertheless, the initiatives present in Stockholm were all doing it. So it can't be all that bad...
Those collective efforts to become more than the sum of individuals are extremely important in the climate where the 'flexible workforce' has become the euphemism for potential unemployment at any given moment in one's average rocky biography. Concurrent to the attention of the 'cultural industries' as an economic sector, a broad range of arts activity has received an incredible amount of interest from the business world over the past years. In part this is due to an attraction to the very flexible structures in place within the arts that enable artists to operate as they do. Despite the reality that few artists really have steady and regular forms of employment the mortality rate is comparably low. Good enough a reason to put this system of self-maintenance under the economist's microscope --along with the funding bodies for the arts.
Tim Eastop and Eileen Daly from The Arts Council of England (ACE) put a strong emphasis on the development of appropriate policies in the field of public arts funding. In their presentation "Strategies for Funding Artists in England" they pointed out that over the past few years an effort has been made by the Arts Councils and associated agencies to research the field of artistic practice throughout the UK and develop funding policies accordingly. Moreover, a participative environment for policy development where artists are involved in the process of policy making was said to have been established. Such initiatives are even more interesting when put into the context of the restructuring of the funding body itself, namely The Arts Council of England. The most recent history of ACE seems to indicate that a restructuring of the process of policy development was not to be detached from the bureaucratic body itself. ACE has undergone a severe restructuring process, cutting management and departmental specification with various sections of responsibility being handed on to the Regional Arts Boards across England.
Further devolving to the regions the realising of funding policies within a framework set by central government seems an inevitable process in the present political climate. More interestingly, coupled to this regionalisation of fund distributing bodies we are also experiencing a shift to different parameters by which the 'quality' of artistic practice is being measured: social inclusion, audience development, cultural diversity, legacy and skill development to name but a few. Such funding policies being attempts to generate a check-list of acceptable artistic practice, a yardstick for qualifying art as 'good art'. This task seems ridiculous, but there seems little else funding bodies can do, or --come to that --have to do. Apart from the facade of regional autonomy, another restriction on such reallocation of money is the actual small amount of revenue available. The resulting situation is where funding policies and priorities come in handy, in the form of gatekeeping.
In this situation it seems to be vital that artists have the right to participate in the process of policy making. Who else should know about where to put the money than those involved at the sharp end of grass-roots activity? But in the framework of FESARS the issue of funding policies is being taken much further. Whereas the participative models of policy-making for artists has gained a justified currency in funding bodies across Europe with a pronouncement of dedication to supporting individuals, artists, there is still no mechanism in place which would be remotely comparable when it comes to actual artist-run-spaces. At present funding for an artist-run-space might be reasonably consistent as long as the space manages to maintain itself through project oriented funding (gaining dedicated support from project to project). Support for the costs which come with simply running a space are being neglected by governmental agencies or incredibly hard to access. Capital funding might be a starting point, providing substantial coverage of buying/ renting/ renovating a space and supplying initial material and equipment, but receiving funding to keep going in providing such a resource is increasingly difficult.
This might be one of the most promising futures of the FESARS initiative, developing a lobbying group across Europe which will be in the position to establish a policy-making environment for artist-run-spaces. Outside of unshared government structure and policy, the main obstacle of such a lobbying group would of course be the fact that the individuals in such spaces tend to change comparatively quickly. This was expressed at the seminar when the issue of a possible second event arose. Not only was it unsure what artist-run-spaces could be present, but additionally it became obvious that some of the spaces might not be in existence, or alternatively a new set of individuals would meet with the same label attached to their presence.

The future is bright, the future is orange? Sponsoring
"If you take 'no' for an answer, then you are in the wrong business." Which business would that be? Yours or the one you rang up in order to receive equipment or money from for the next project? Bill Rubino, fund-raiser at The Life Foundation from Stockholm was talking straight, and rightly so. Sponsorship from private industries seems to be gaining in importance for artistic practice as 'match funding' --a requirement to generate income from other sources to match with public funding --is the term on everybody's lips. New funding policies of the European Union as well as the SOROS Foundation for the remaining part of Europe that include match funding criteria means that money coming from the private sector has become a necessary source of income. Despite the ethical issues at stake, there is an immense interest amongst artists to understand what makes industry tick, and then pull the right levers. Rubino, addressing the nature of the presentations at FESARS, stated: "all of you were given five minutes for your presentations. Most of you went over time and most of you failed to provide a clear outline of what it is you are doing, why you are doing it, and --in relation to receiving money --what it is you could do for them." Apart from the fact that FESARS was not a sponsorship drive, it would seem artists working in artist-run-spaces not only need to adjust themselves according to the bureaucratic necessities within their organisation, they now apparently also need to develop additional skills in order to sell their products, this is after going through the process of 'understanding' -- that is aligning --their work as product oriented.
There has always been an ongoing debate about accepting private money. The ethical issues at stake for the integrity of politically motivated art are just too sensible to be messed around with, one could think. On a more pragmatic level it has been argued that public funding is just easier to deal with. With private funding you are just complicating the issues as they want to get something more material out of the deal.
Both arguments could be justified to an extent. Within the political framework that comprises of the most recent 'Europe at War' spectacle, governmental money could be perceived as ethically questionable by default. In addition, the money for governmental art funding is not being printed inside the funding institutions themselves, there being a direct economic link between art subsidies and industrial development. As it is, 'culture' is formulated as a luxury commodity within economically developed countries and as restricted public funding for the arts has reached a point of saturation --beyond the simple question of re-allocation of resources through further governmental intervention --in place of governmental support there is now a calculated drive to support through private sources. In this environment the concept of 'attention economy' has truly reached private industry. If you take a closer look at the activities of companies such as Glaxo Welcome you quickly arrive at the depressing conclusion that they tend to buy or support anything that will carry their name, however controversial it might be, simply for the sake of attention. And for them that makes sense. When dealing with dodgy ways of making money, the company can easily use art to associate itself with a critical platform of debate, so connecting their own product line to the process of discourse while maintaining a safe distance from any self questioning, as such having little to lose. Critical work bought by the person you intend to throw a brick at says more about the art system than the company. Keep on moving...

Artist-Run-Spaces, Unite!
At the end of the weekend there were clear plans to continue the tradition born through the event. What form such a continuation should take is unclear at this present moment. There were thoughts to carry the initiative towards East Europe, but it might be just as interesting to carry it South. At this meeting the constellation of spaces present did represent the wider network of where it was held, Stockholm in Scandinavia. In doing so FESARS managed to stay realistic. Any attempt to plan such a European wide event and keep the question of equal representation in mind would be bound to fail. So the further development of this loose network will mainly need to deal with issues of inclusion on an organisational level. Given the reality that most of the participants will have changed their commitment by the time the Second ESARS takes place, and most likely that some of the organisations will have ceased to exist as well, the continuation of this seminar will depend on the outline which it intends to give itself. This year in Stockholm a grand gesture was made. The next step would possibly require what had been stated earlier about the reality of artist-run-spaces: Institutionalisation. With the bureaucratic burden which would come out of such a European network, the most essential objective would be the definition of a clear purpose, and the development of a pragmatic way of how to achieve this.

http://periodafter.t0.or.at
http://www.yourserver.co.uk/crashmedia
http://www.art-bag.net/convextv
http://www.konstakuten.com/Konstakuten-material/fesars/fesars2.html
http://www.konstakuten.com/Konstakuten-material/fesars.bilder/fesars.grupp
 

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Art Activism and Oppositionality
Essays From Afterimage
Ann Vance

In Art Activism and Oppositionality, Grant H. Kester presents an anthology of texts from the American magazine AfterImage roughly spanning the years between 1980 and 1994. AfterImage is a product of the Visual Studies Workshop Rochester, set up in the late '60s by Nathan and Joan Lyons as an "open-ended" space, a challenge to existing centres of practice and education. Since its inaugural issue in the early '70s, AfterImage has aimed to pose the same challenge to institutional hierarchies, widening the remit of art criticism and theoretical debate and engaging directly with context, community and issues of accountability. Not much criticism or theory can (or is even willing to) account for its stance or reveal its ideological bias, preferring to cloak itself with a detached, moralistic rhetoric. The "bias" that emerges in the pages of AfterImage is one that works against the grain of convention, focusing on structures and discourses of power and control embedded in the realms of culture and politics.
A key aim of the magazine was to present "informed criticism" on the media of photography and independent film and video. Providing coverage of these media in the '70s was one means of supporting the work of artists excluded from the apparatus of the mainstream art world. As these media expanded, so too did the cultural diversity of artists and groups who employed them and the interests of the magazine's diverse pool of writers converged around these new forms of practice.
The essays are sectioned under two headings, The Politics of Patronage and Activism and Oppositionality. This thematic division serves no more than a formal purpose since there are very distinct crossovers and references between the sections. Indeed, Kester concedes in his introduction, that having set up this division it was necessary to challenge it. It would have been more helpful if the essays were tagged with dates and issue numbers in which they first appeared.
In the opening essay Enlightened Self-Interest: The Avant-Garde in the 80s, Richard Bolton embarks on a critique of conservatism and the effect the economic and political environment of the time had on art practice. "Inevitably, those with power in a society will strive to create a culture that reflects their interests and aims." Power often goes hand in hand with wealth and Bolton alarmingly demonstrates how art and the fluctuations of the market confirm this equation. He makes apparent the stark contrasts in sales value between works produced by artists at different stages of their career. What emerges is a disturbing system of control where collectors can effect and change the status of the work (the value invested by audience and critic) by deliberately manipulating the market; and artists posing against dominant culture as the new Post-Modernist Avant-Garde come under attack. Bolton reveals how some artists, motivated by self-interest, collude with advertising corporations in a process which impedes the development of alternative readings and new audiences for art. Art is detached from daily life and its transgressive power is harnessed in the play between commodity culture and the leisure and lifestyle industries. He warns that "artists interested in social critique and change must consider and respond to the entire system that produces them and their work."
A number of texts in this anthology tackle the discourse of multiculturalism and the conflicting effects it had on cultural/political theory and practice. Arising in the early '80s in a climate of reactionary conservatism and fragmentation of the Left, "multiculturalism" became an adopted buzzword of artists, cultural institutions and arts organisations. Cross-referencing different perspectives and criticisms, the reader can easily deduce how this discourse functioned to camouflage both Left and Right wing reactionary agendas.
In White Men Can't Programme: The Contradictions of Multiculturalism, Darrell Moore asks "who benefits from multiculturalism?" and while asserting some of the positive results, concludes that it is all too easy for arts funders and government organisations to obscure their control over minority interests by adopting the liberal ethic of multiculturalism. Coco Fusco, in her review of two conferences, Celebration of Black Cinema (Boston '88) and Sexism, Colonialism, Misrepresentation: A Corrective Film Series (New York '88), takes a highly critical stance against the avant-garde's fascination and misconception of the Other. From her own perspective, she attacks the hierarchy of Eurocentric thought: psychoanalysis, feminism, post-colonial doctrine and western aesthetics in an attempt to expose the over-simplified terms of multiculturalism. "Western cultural institutions, such as the avant-garde have a history of rejuvenating themselves through the exploitation of disempowered peoples and cultures."
Identity politics has become another marker of '80s cultural practice and political activism. A simplistic bracketing of identities and subjectivities is disputed by Lorraine O'Grady in Olympia's Maid: Reclaiming Black Female Subjectivity. As an artist, she remains "wary of theory".
"Nature: culture, body: mind, sexuality: intellect, these binaries don't begin to cover what we sense about ourselves".
Some artists and media activists joined forces around these issues of identity, collaborating with community groups and educationalists. They produced works which challenged repressive legislation (e.g. Proposition 6 in US, Section 28 in UK) and stereotyping of gays, non-white peoples and the working class. Charles A. Wright's review of the 1993 Whitney Biennial looks at the controversy caused by the inclusion of new "issue-based" work. He is critical of the museum's curatorial strategy and claims that the exhibition "projects a mercenary gloss on issues of difference as its thematic impetus, incorporating 'others' in an effort to idealize an alleged egalitarianism".
The need to celebrate cultural diversity and to bond as minorities was diffused by specific demands from individual groupings to maintain autonomy, self-determination and political cogency. The dangers of overlooking the historic specificities of oppressions are starkly laid out in Ioannis Mookas' review of the video Gay Rights, Special Rights. Produced by a christian fundamentalist company principally for use by the Traditional Values Coalition, Gay Rights, Special Rights exploits the African-American fundamentalist voice in its attack on the gay and lesbian movement as a "fraudulent trespasser upon the hallowed ground of civil rights struggle." In this case, Mookas illustrates how effectively video operates as a propagandist tool for anyone in a position to access it.
In the mid '80s the proliferation of camcorder technologies multiplied the sites of cultural struggle and gave rise to a new video activism. Brian Goldfarb discusses the censorship of curricular video produced by artists and progressive educationalists dealing with AIDS and safe-sex issues. Patricia Zimmerman explores reproductive rights, focusing both on alternative and mainstream media; commercials, news stories, pro-choice activist video, right-to-life and experimental video. She praises groups like Paper Tiger TV and Deep Dish Satellite for their use of low-tech technologies in their struggle to de-centralize broadcast media: "The amateur camcorder could be retrieved from the private confines of the bourgeois nuclear family --the gulag where all amateur media technologies have been deposited to stunt their democratic potential." With her assertions concerning the representation of the female body and the imaging of the foetus, she raises important questions, echoed elsewhere in this anthology, about the formal qualities of an activist art. In this case, she criticizes political documentary theory and practice for its redemptive pose against the spectator, characterized as ignorant and passive.
In his introduction, Grant H. Kester elaborates a sound argument for the re-evaluation of the aesthetic in the context of an activist art practice. Moving away from the rigidity of aesthetic liberalism which confines the authenticity of art within the parameters of social disengagement, he re-instates the viewing subject, "not as an anonymously transcendent subject, but as the product of particular social, economic and geographic conditions", with the power to generate new meanings and definitions for art. Ann Cvetkovich's Video, AIDS, and Activism highlights the difficulties audiences confront in deciphering codes of aesthetic "quality" and related meaning in works which fuse different modes of cultural practice with political activism. She reviews Video Data Bank's compilation package Video Against AIDS, Act Up's Diva-TV and a number of other works produced in the late '80s/ early '90s, considering the impact on a diverse range of viewers. What transpires is how information is mediated by form. In general, audiences viewed the experimental works as appealing to a more personal, non-activist sensibility. Recognizing the conventional, representational codes of documentary, viewers conflated these works with the "real" politics of direct action.
These dilemmas of spectatorship and representation are historically sited in Michael Renov's study of Newsreel and its involvement in the construction of a political imaginary for the Left. Newsreel, born in the '60s, was a production and distribution collective whose mostly "un-authored" output included weekly news shorts, longer political documentary works and informational reels. Any re-conceptualization of standard film and TV practices was sacrificed to serve radical aims. A blurring "romanticism of the Barricades" prevailed across the spectrum of '60s cultural struggle. It fuelled audience solidarity and the revolutionary imagination in the spirit of the times but, in the long run, hindered the progression towards a broader understanding of the varied languages of oppression and how they interweave to form what we often blindly accept as "truth".
Audiences unaccustomed to film/ video works intent on exposing the stylistic conventions of Hollywood and the mainstream media have little chance of fully digesting that which appears, on first viewing, obscure, self-indulgent or superficial. As Patricia Thomson points out in Video and Electoral Appeal, artists too, in their choice of subject matter, succumb to the lure of mass media iconography. Hardly surprising, she concedes, given the ever-increasing sophistication of the tools and techniques of new politics. "In the process of critiquing the media campaign ...(video artists) watch politics on television like the rest of us". She laments the demise of the artist to "artist-as-spectator" as opposed to "producer-as-participant". This demise can perhaps be linked to the general erosion of the counterculture by the machinery of the Right throughout this period.
One manifestation of the Right's reactionary powers was the assault on the National Endowment for the Arts. The origins of the NEA are laid out in Kester's Rhetorical Questions: The Alternative Arts Sector and the Imaginary Public.
"At it's inception, arguments in support of the Endowment, particularly those designed to persuade and cajole skeptical congresspeople, were founded not on a definition of art as a public good in and of itself, but on it's potential usefulness within the matrix of state policy and ideology."
Focusing on the creative and political stagnation of the alternative/ artist-run space, he points to the striking similarities between what came to be known as the Professional Managerial Class and the artist/ administrator of this alternative sector. A strategic alignment with the disenfranchised (which saw artists posing as victims of the system) led this new hybrid being to adopt the mantle of the "cultural worker" and the moral rhetoric of the artist as transcendent subject.
"The experience of an artist whose work is rejected by the gallery system is simply not interchangeable with that of the poor or working class, whose relationship with the market economy has far more profound consequences".
At this point, the reader may shudder with recognition. The closed cycle of artist ­ arts administrator/ organiser ­ arts funder, clouded with indistinct and ever-changing definitions of 'professionalism' is all too familiar. With this new discourse fully embedded in the fabric of cultural exchange, Kester shows how alternative spaces sited more often in poorly developed areas, flourished with the onslaught of gentrification and posed a very real threat to the survival of communities falsely constructed as their 'public'. The needs of this "imaginary public" are renounced while the identity of the alternative artist remains cushioned by privilege and material wealth.
Echoing these sentiments, David Trend in Cultural Struggle and Educational Activism calls for a popularizing of the forms of cultural practice and the need for artists to "engage the institutions that utilize and reproduce state power". This essay and that by Mable Haddock and Chiquita Mullins, examining the Public Broadcasting System in the States are good examples of the 'rallying call' feature of much AfterImage writing. Not merely bemoaning systems of oppression, they advance concrete strategies for change.
Almost twenty years on, the ideas and contentions manifest in this book are still lingering beneath the surface of the latest 'post-isms'. Problems of race, class and sexuality are not resolved because politicians purport to be addressing them, if anything, they fester under this deception and erupt to no ones surprise but those duped by the language of the state reproduced in the media. (Witness the recent report on the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the attacks on the multicultural communities of Brixton and Brick Lane and the gay and lesbian community in Soho.) Neither are issues of context, audience or accountability resolved because artist-run-spaces or the 'alternative sector' have bigger international profiles or bigger budgets to develop programmes. Adrian Piper, interviewed in this anthology bluntly states: "If art isn't allowed to address and transform the conditions of real life, I don't see the point of it".
The discussion Alternative, Mainstream, Mainstream Alternatives in Variant 7 (Vol 2) touches on many points covered in this anthology and concern is expressed over the spectre of "historical amnesia" and the danger of repeating outdated arguments. To read Art, Activism and Oppositionality as both a historical document and a contemporary analysis may help redress these "crises" in understanding, forging a model for the development of art practice and critical thought that acknowledges the past as it looks forward to new challenges in the future.

Art Activism and Oppositionality: Essays From Afterimage
Edited by Grant H. Kester
Duke University Press 1998
ISBN 0-8223-2095-9 (paperback)
 

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Return to the Far Pavilions
Daniel Jewesbury

Something is always missing in a translation. However perspicacious the translator, some nuance will always be neglected, some particularity left unconveyed. The verb 'to traduce', originally meaning to transport, convey or translate (and related to the modern French verb traduire, to translate) now means to slander or calumniate --to misrepresent. The desire to render all knowledge into a commonly-accessible code leads, conversely, to a canon of decontextualised signs, which float or drift, reverberating dully in new contexts. The modernists' utopia, enabled and epitomised by perfect communication, never arrives, because they failed to account for the fragmentary character of language itself.
Does all this sound like a lesson in things we already know, that we hardly need to be reminded of? Then consider the rationale and ambitions of the 48th Venice Biennale (which has the catchy title "dAPERTutto / APERTO overALL / APERTO partTOUT / APERTO überALL"). This year's event, the biggest so far, attempts to represent everything in late twentieth-century art, before the Three Zeros finally arrive, and to fabricate from it (and for it) a uniform narrative of 'international art now'. It is one which, predictably, privileges the slight and the banal. New terminologies have been found to articulate and perpetuate the old yearning for a True Story of Art: the dual rhetoric of 'globalism', both as a nostalgic recollection of the ideal of Socialist Internationalism and as a metonym for the 'real' internationalism of global capital, is invoked repeatedly, often almost mystically, by the various organisers and national commissioners of the Biennale. Overall curator Harald Szeemann writes in his press release that in this year's Biennale the "national ghettos will be abolished"; yet the idiosyncratic logic of the Biennale depends on those ghettos, on the seemingly random cluster of pavilions gathered in the Giardini, empty for eighteen months until the circus once again rolls into town.
As the dismantling and re-organisation of Modern sciences of classification continues, institutions are attempting to align with the spirit of the supposed 'new democracy' under spurious banners like 'respecting difference' or 'celebrating diversity'. It's easy to 'celebrate diversity' when that simply means devising a few new sub-divisions of the existing categories: the 2001 census in the UK, for example, will attempt to include definitive categories for all people of mixed race. Similarly, the supposedly benign rhetoric of 'multiculturalism' is now widely denounced as a ruse, a barely-disguised reiteration of the status quo. Rather than seeking tangible shifts in power, such strategies attempt to assimilate 'difference' into the existing structure, even when that structure has no place for difference, or rather can only offer subordinate places, as fragmentary traductions of the monolithic centre.
The number of national pavilions establishing themselves outside the main Giardini site has certainly grown, but if you try to find any of them you'll have trouble; the Biennale organisers, somewhat churlishly, refuse to print full addresses for them on publicity material. Wander the labyrinthine alleyways of Venice looking for one of them and you'll quickly see through the rhetoric of openness and equality clinging to this year's event. The Irish pavilion has been in the Nuova Icona gallery for several years, down one of those inauspicious-looking alleyways on the island of Giudecca. This year's representative, Anne Tallentire, presents a body of work that resists traduction into the globalist miasma of Szeemann's überBiennale by insisting on its own specific contexts. The show, Instances, pulls together three curiously jarring elements (a series of short performance videos, a backlit transparency and a half-hour video projection) and with them addresses the concerns that have occupied Tallentire for several years: translation, communication and authorship. In the first room a small colour monitor rests on a flight case and shows a series of hand-held single-edit sequences that fade up from black. In them, the artist is engaged in various activities, pulling up a floorboard, arranging small pieces of wood, spreading broken glass on the floor until it fills the monitor screen. The way the camera frames the performances, concentrating solely on the act and cutting off even the performer's body, prevents any external contexts from becoming visible, except that it's clearly the same room in all the shots. Every so often, the normally-silent video breaks into sound, just for a second or two: the sound of glass scraped across wood, of a floorboard banged back into place. In the back room of the gallery a wall is taken up with a video projection. Walking into the space at the beginning of the loop one finds it almost completely black, save for one pinpoint of light. Gradually the space gets lighter, but it's not just your eyes that are getting used to the darkness; the half-hour video shows dawn breaking somewhere over the nondescript inner city. The process of elucidation (literally) that the video records is ultimately pointless: there is no landscape for us to survey, since all that can be discerned of this 'grand vista' is a steel fence that occupies the whole of the foreground, and an unremarkable tower block. Taking the shedding of light as a metaphor for the explanation of intrinsic meaning, both these video pieces are about narrative, about our desire to make stories of ostensibly unconnected events, and yet each refuses to be narrativised. The third element of the piece, which sits between the two video rooms, is a large colour transparency of a woman's ear pressed up against concrete, listening where there is no hearing to be done. Writing in his catalogue essay, Brian Hand suggests that a translation is not simply a corruption of an original text, but that the original is itself always infected with omission, that the communicative act is always partial, approximate. Tallentire's deftness lies in drawing this out, making out of it a body of work that is insistent, but which clings to its own partiality. Leaving the gallery and the contemplative space that has been constructed in it (in contrast to the rest of the Biennale), I was put in mind of the right to silence and its gradual removal from British law. Silence itself, the absence of information, can now be an implication of guilt.
Tallentire's work draws out considerations of space as well, by figuring the construction of narrative in four dimensions. Several artists in the Biennale explored our contemporary relationship with urban space and built landscapes, most notably Doug Aitken. His video installation Electric Earth is divided into three consecutive 'rooms', with images and sounds overflowing from one chamber into the next. In the first room a young black man lies on a bed in a motel room or apartment, endlessly changing the channels on his TV, which we then see is showing only noise. His glazed expression contrasts with the voice-over: "A lot of times I dance so fast I will come... It's like food for me". In the second room two mirror-image projections are shown at right angles to one another; in the third another three screens form three sides of a square. In these two spaces the same young man dances in the deserted streets at night. The familiar signs of the city --barbed wire fences, abandoned shopping trolleys, empty parking lots --litter Aitken's beautifully filmed environment, while the soundtrack mixes shadowy hip-hop beats with the character's narration: "It's the only now I get". His peculiar autism, his alienation from the city which surrounds him, recall Frantz Fanon's disturbed subject of European colonialism, fragmented and re-inscribed by intangible processes of power located far away.
In the Italian pavilion, three artists collaborate to explore the spatialisation of narrative, with an elaborately-constructed series of three interwoven films. In the first, Jump-Cut, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno present us with a clip from a French film of the early 1970s. A moustachioed character mutters urgently down the phone, agreeing to come over straight away. He leaves his apartment block, and emerges from the building 25 years older, the same actor in the Paris streets of today. He salutes the camera and begins to walk across town... The piece concentrates on a single break in continuity in the original film, in which the character was shown standing in a building in one part of town and emerging, miraculously, in a completely separate area as he leaves that building. In this 'remake', the same actor has been engaged to walk the distance between the two shots, re-uniting a space that had been fragmented, but at the expense of the 'linearity' of time, of narrative. As he reaches his destination, the film reverts to the original, the break 'sutured'. Watching the video, one gradually becomes aware of another layer: the projection is itself a re-presentation of another projection, the film having been projected in the same room some time previously and re-filmed with a hand-held camera. The people walking in front of the projector are themselves part of the film. As the loop comes to an end, the camera leaves the room, walking out into the night-time desertion of the off-season Giardini; just as we think that we've returned to a simple projection, that the re-filming has stopped, the camera pulls back once more to reveal the picture framed, re-filmed, on the wall that we are watching now...
More literal approaches to space are found in the large-scale black and white aerial photographs of Balthasar Burckhard and in Frank Thiel's colour photos of the enormous reconstructions underway in Berlin. Both concentrate on the 'given-ness' of the urban realm, on its seemingly random (but actually tightly controlled) development and growth.
The Biennale features a large number of Asian artists, particularly young Chinese artists. Speaking at a discussion organised by Audio Arts magazine in the British pavilion, Charles Esche suggested that it may be more than coincidence that at a time when China is the only Other superpower in the world, when its international relations are continuously headline news, European and American curators have decided to discover Chinese 'culture'. Many works concentrate on re-articulating the myths of Socialist Realism, most notably Cai Guo-Qiang's Venice Rent-Collecting Courtyard. The piece is a slightly-altered replica of a series of sculptures originally commissioned by Mao during the Cultural Revolution. However bad things are now, the sculptures tell us, look how bad they were before: peasants toil, their backs bent under their loads, while the landlords extort their rent and the bosses stand by ready to beat anyone found shirking. The lifesize sculptures were toured around China in the '70s and copies made for various eastern European cities. Harald Szeemann wanted to exhibit them in Documenta in 1976. Figures were added whenever politically expedient: heroic soldiers when the army were needed to maintain 'order', virtous workers when there were shortages. The piece re-emerges now as Guo-Qiang's personal remembrance of recent history. A straw panama is added to one landlord, a wooden sword placed in the hand of another, in an attempt to re-locate (or dislocate) the figures. However, the piece sits uneasily between irony and poignancy in the surroundings of the Biennale. Nearly all the Chinese political art shown (there are several exponents here) suffers from its translocation, from a situation where contexts (history and politics) are immediately available, to the glib neo-Orientalism of the international art show.
Some of the work seems to comment wryly on precisely this condition, particularly Zhou Tiehai's painting The relations in the art world are the same as the relations between states in the post Cold War era. Or as Szeemann puts it, "The large number of Asian artists this year will facilitate an encounter with a history that is very different from that of Europe or North America".
To return finally to that claim of non-territoriality, let's end with an anecdote, one which, obviously, proves nothing. A friend from Dublin, another freelance writer, asks for a copy of the Gary Hume catalogue at the British pavilion, showing her press accreditation. She's told she needs a union card to get any press information. When she says that she's a freelance, that art writers in Dublin don't need press cards, the new internationalism is explained to her immediately: "You're not in Dublin now. You're in Great Britain." Roll on the abolition of national ghettos.
 

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________________________
 

When you care enough to be the very best
Leigh French

Littering the living room floor is the residue, some truly detritus, of the processes of ongoing 'service reviews', 'consultations' and 'research' of the Arts Councils, Local government and associated arts agencies in what has become an endless game of central government 'Cultural Policy' deployment, validation and marketing.
While ingratiating programmes of 'Cultural Policy' advocacy escalated as part of the build up to the Scottish Parliament, given its new custodial mantle of cultural overseer, the phenomenon has to be seen as an effect of a broader intensification of an imposing of market philosophy across the public sector as a whole. Within this the specific focus on the arts is becoming increasingly technocratic, that is the arts are being seen exclusively in terms of their 'use value', having a 'cultural purpose' in regard to 'social inclusion', 'education' and 'regional development' criteria as defined by government.
To synopsise a few recent documents: 
The Scottish Arts Council's Scottish Arts in the 21st Century is an attempt at a promotional/lobbying life belt for the SAC in the face of calls in Scottish parliamentary manifestoes for a euphemistic overhaul of the SAC. Hiring the 'out-of-house' 'celebrity' services of Ruth Wishart (see Variant, vol. 2, issue 7 editorial) it attempts to position the SAC as both a free-market advocate as well as an integral part of the public-service-sector accountable to 'the people'. Defending itself as committed to the demands of 'consumer access' is undoubtably also an offensive against ceremonial accusations of elitism and media inspired controversy, real or otherwise, of where and how the public purse is being spent. 
The Creative Scotland: The Case for a National Cultural Strategy circular, produced by an amalgam of agencies including COSLA, SAC, Scottish Screen, Scottish Museums Council, and the Scottish Library Association, is designed to buoy their position regarding the focus already on the 'Cultural Sector' as a driving force for a talent driven society and the much vaunted entrepreneurial spirit, calling for a dedicated Ministry of Culture within the new parliament and a National Strategy for the arts. Once again a restrictive view of "cultural action", experimentation and innovation assures the arts are resigned to stimulating market growth. 
Similarly there is the Towards the New Enlightenment: A Cultural Policy for the City of Edinburgh 1999, an Edinburgh City Council coffee-table brochure couched in the rhetoric of relieving the vulnerable whilst soliciting industrial partners. This is a sepia toned cheerleader for the instrumentalisation of the arts as an acceptable face of commerce within the city.
Best Value Service review: Museums, Heritage and Visual Arts, is Glasgow City Council's first stage report in an obligatory exercise for all Local Authorities as stipulated by government. Far from exploratory the document in verbiage of efficiency succeeds in drowning the scope of activity blanketed by the construct 'Culture and Leisure Services' within the cadre of market enterprise and regional (business) development. 'The arts' are to be sequestered to play promotional fiddle to the city's business community and 'Band-Aid' to an ailing social services --to be technocraticaly utilised for deterministic social, educational and economic purposes, confining funding to the ends of 'strategic planning'. 
The SAC Lottery's Summary or Responses to New Directions Consultations [sic] is a marvel of efficiency. Its lack of substance as to how the priorities for the Lottery's New Directions were arrived at is simply awe inspiring given their repeated bulwark of an extensive consultation procedure. This has to be contrasted with the roving, full technicolor press launches of its funds*: funds and schemes available from SAC in 1998/99 pack. Of course, it is stressed that the numerous suggestions within the guidelines of the kinds of projects that might be eligible for funding are merely illustrative. What this does underscore however is that 'cultural activity' is to be 'on message', that the agenda for funding is not 'discursive' but 'prescriptive'. As such, 'equal opportunities' and 'equality of access' are enunciated in terms of consumer development, the arts rather than a catalyst for social change appropriated as a constituent of job 'training'. 
Open Access Provision and Facilities for Artists in Scotland: The Review is a SAC commissioned "investigation" into artists' workshop provision within Scotland by Peter Davies of the Arts Council of Wales. His responsibility was to assess current needs and provisions and recommend possible change, however these changes were principled as having to be done within the euphemistic "present financial climate". While the report acknowledges the necessity of workshop provision and the work done to date, it also concedes a lack of international standards and substantial gaps within areas of provision. The fetter of the "present financial climate" instructs the scope and thrust of the document and the resulting suggestions are predictably for an extension of market principles professed as a cure-all. 
Such documents claim to make the process of discourse central to either their construction, as in the transparent and benign representation of the results of consultation, or as documents whose function it is to stimulate comment and feed-back, asserting consultation as an integral agent to policy outcomes. It could be stated that since bodies such as the SAC are courted for funding, the relationship between them and those they establish to consult is often illusory, i.e. by the nature of consultancy those consulted ultimately have a vested interest and as such may be reluctant to openly criticise. These can then become ritualised performances, purely formal exercises, leaving the real processes of decision making as being open and transparent questionable. Such knowledge produced for official use and funded accordingly rarely questions the fundamental aims and objectives of the client organisation and any such research is by definition subject to pre-existing agenda of policy and policy implementing bodies. A synchronous action in this process is the exposing of the public sector to marketing rhetoric where manipulation of 'market imperatives' as 'cultural imperatives' is a pedestrian constituent. 
An initial argument for public subsidy of 'the arts' with the creation of the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1946 was to protect 'the arts' from the ravages and tarnishes of the commercial market --"not to teach or to censor, but to give courage, confidence and opportunity"1. The understanding that 'the arts' (initially consisting of the arts of drama, music and painting, broadened out in 1967 to encompass a wider remit of activity) could not exist without subsidy was of course never a sole reason for such support, other prime elements being the 'cultivation of the masses' --the political objective of social control through cultural discourse --and the use of public money to build institutions of national and international prestige --a cultural player on a world stage. The Arts Council's position was thus intended as an 'intermediary' body between the state and civil society, avoiding the view of direct government control over day-to-day practice as well as the perceived insidious pressures of an otherwise exclusive commercial arena.
In this sense 'Culture' was determined as consisting of a particular field of government, a broader sense of government than just governing the state, encompassing the mechanisms of social management --'Culture' here referring specifically to the practices and institutions that make meaning. The very operation of policing 'Culture' through 'Cultural policy', aside from the etymology, raises questions of regulation, control and censorship, the tendency being to treat culture as though it were either a dangerous law breaker or a lost child. 
In Culture and the Public Sphere (1996) Jim McGuigan traces the move from 'state' to 'market' within the public sector as a 'discursive shift' to "an administrative philosophy as a set of ideas for managing all institutions in the public sector, involving devices such as internal markets, contracting out, tendering and financial incentives... [which] coincided with the incessant promotion of a loud yet diffuse rhetoric of 'enterprise culture' which was not only about organisational change in both the private and public sectors but also about the cultivation of an 'enterprising self', a personal way of being contrasted with bureaucratic time-serving and vested professional interests in maintaining the status quo of public service." 
He describes the fostering of 'market strategies' as a 'discursive shift' within bodies such as the Arts Councils as 'the arts' have not actually been abandoned to the ravages of the commercial sector, instead there is still a persistence of state intervention in the cultural field and public subsidy of 'the arts'. However he sees it not by chance that the total abolition of state-sponsored culture has not yet occurred, instead he sees a "continuing use of the public sector in the construction of a new common sense, the 'social-welfare-state' swept aside and replaced by a pervasive 'market reasoning'." Whereby "[t]he effect of certain discourses is to make it virtually impossible to think outside of them. In a society of discourse there are control procedures for what can be legitimately thought and enunciated: exclusion procedures that mark the boundaries of a discourse, defining that which is permissible and impermissible to say; internal procedures that regulate the distinctive operations of a discourse; and access procedures that regulate entry to a discursive field. Where once was 'the state' there is now 'the market' in discussion of cultural policy." It is then no small matter that such attempts to dictate the parameters of discourse through a pervasive managerialization of 'culture' threatens the outright commodification and privatisation of information through the total commercialisation of the public sphere. 
The traditional discourse of 'quality' as a determinant of public subsidy was primarily the consummation of class 'taste' by naturalised arbitrators of cultural competence and aesthetic disposition2. Capitalising on not unfounded aspersions of elitism, these capricious 'qualitative values' have now been re-inscribed within a seemingly objective 'common sense' discourse of 'value'. That value and worth, as well as having monetary implications in the sense of 'value for money' have been equated as 'the right of access to cultural consumption', and that consumption has itself become evidence of 'cultural action'. The language of the market is deployed as the residually good intention of a 'constructive advance' towards a more 'cultured' nation, that being a nation with equitable consumer access to cultural goods -- so much for cultural critique as an instrument for changing consciousness. Ultimately concepts of 'quality' and 'value' are utilised to function as qualification for encouraging and (willingly or unconsciously) suppressing cultural activity. Within the states' feigning of indifference, these are employed as mechanisms in the veiling of an imposition of a distinct market ideology. 
The arts are currently 'marketised' to such an extent that their circulation now resembles that of the non-state sector, the 'private' market of cultural commodities. However, McGuigan makes clear that 'marketisation', as he uses it, "is not strictly to be subsumed under the concept of commodification since the important point is to do with the resemblance to the market rather than a direct identity with it... insofar as the state continues to hold some responsibility for cultural provision through the collection and disbursement of tax revenue." There is of course a contradiction between the promotional ideology of individualism and choice, and the evidence of actual conditions. that this endless propaganda vastly exaggerates the power the 'consumer' has over their daily lives. As McGuigan asks regarding Pierre Bourdieu's writings on the field of cultural production: "How far is the real problem for Bourdieu the unequal social distribution of cultural dispositions and competencies or how far is it the power of those with cultural capital to impose a system of cultural value which fits in with their own tastes?" 
"The most profound accomplishment of the New Right in Britain may be not that it literally rolled back the state in order to release the full blast of market forces but, rather that it inserted the 'new managerialism and market reasoning' into the state-related agencies of the public sector, in effect calling upon organisations that are not themselves private businesses to think and function as though they were.... The public sector has been required to function pseudo-capitalistically, which is not only an organisational phenomenon but a deeply imbibed ideological phenomenon and one which has enormous impact on cultural agencies and the network of arts-subsidising bodies."3
The Left and Right have coalesced in imbuing 'the arts' with the rhetoric of the market. However, in spite of this deployment oligopoly, the rule by a few, rather than 'free-market competition' is ultimately the driving force in order to operate a governmental pedagogy organised by the technology of moral supervision underscoring the promotion of 'market values'. In so doing the dissemination of critical ideas is suppressed. The implications for democratic debate and diverse cultural experimentation in the face of the censorial criterion of pan-promotionalism hardly needs spelling out...

Notes
1. John Maynard Keynes, The Listener, 12 July 1945; Raymond Williams, The Arts Council: Politics and Policies, An Arts Council Lecture, 1981.
2. Described as "timeservers in the turgid little canister of Scottish arts" --Norman Lebrecht, Daily Telegraph 
3. Jim McGuigan, Culture and the Public Sphere, (1996), Routledge 
 

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