Cultural Dissent

From indie rappers to stadium rockers, here are 10 politically-potent new releases worth a listen. What album, or albums, would you suggest? Comment below, on Twitter or Facebook.

Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism
Umair Muhammad
www.confrontinginjustice.com

Too many supposedly radical books are written by academics for academics, apparently competing to see who can produce the most incomprehensible prose.

My list of “books to be reviewed” contains literally dozens of overstuffed and overpriced volumes that only a handful of specialists will ever read, and with little relevance to the non-university world.

“Tom Morello, as his alter ego the Nightwatchman, performed a new cut called ‘Marching on Ferguson’ at the Jail Guitar Doors' Rock Out! benefit concert September 5th at Los Angeles' Ford Theatre,” Rolling Stone said on September 7.

When Google Met WikiLeaks
By Julian Assange
Published August 22, 2014
200 pages, paperback, $16
OR Books
www.orbooks.com

When Google CEO Eric Schmidt turned up to meet WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he brought several people with him who were connected to the US government.

"The delegation was one part Google, three parts US foreign-policy establishment," Assange writes in his latest book, When Google Met WikiLeaks. "But I was still none the wiser."

The Art of Silent Protest
September 17-30
11am-4pm (opening night 6pm)
The Snug
447 High St, Northcote.
Free entry

The Art of Silent Protest is a new exhibition as part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

In view of new laws, a collective of Australian creative people have responded to this question. They use the form of the placard to “explore notions of change and the visual impact of the art of activism”.

A diverse range of musical acts from Brisbane and the Gold Coast are uniting in support of asylum seekers at the “Freedom Seeker: Roots, rock, reggae for refugees” concert at the New Globe on September 14 starting at 3pm.

Lending their songs and voices to the call for the Australian government to abide by it obligations to refugees, the concert is raising money for refugee advocacy and assistance through the Refugee Action Collective (RAC) and the Refugee and Immigration Legal Service (RAILS).

The lineup includes Big Iron, Rivermouth, The Phil Monsour Band, The Molotov and Andy Dub.

I am the founder of “Reality Records” and a 24-year-old indigenous Australian with a strong cultural background. I am asking your assistance in helping indigenous artists ― not only from Australia but around the world ― have their music recorded and produced.

I see a shortage of indigenous music around the world, particularly in Australia, and I believe this provides a unique opportunity. My record label aims to help address this shortage by:

• Bringing people together in a positive and creative environment;
• Teaching people new skills and self confidence;

Global Imperialism & the Great Crisis: the Uncertain Future of Capitalism
Ernesto Screpanti
Monthly Review Press, 2014
New York, 256 pages

The goal of Ernesto Screpanti’s new book is to theoretically elaborate a model of a new phase of imperialism.

Screpanti’s argument is that the kind of imperialism written about by the likes of Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin belongs more and more to the past. Although the work of people like Lenin retain relevance, Screpanti argues a new kind of imperialism has been taking shape over the past two decades.

Native Eyez
Intikana
Released August 2014
Stampede Fireflies
www.intikana.net

Bronx-based rapper, producer, film-maker and youth worker Intikana hits out at indigenous injustice, cultural colonisation and international imperialism, among many other topics. Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward put 18 questions to him. His absorbing answers are below.

* * *
1. You rap that "When people ask me where I'm from, I say my mama." Want to tell us more about your roots?

Power Failure: The Inside Story of Climate Politics Under Rudd a& Gillard
Philip Chubb
Black Inc., 2014
302 pages, $29.99 (pb)

In 2007 in Australia, “climate policy was a reform full of promise and excitement,” writes Monash University journalism academic Philip Chubb in Power Failure.

In Place of Fear II: A Socialist Programme for an Independent Scotland
By Jim Sillars
Vagabond Voices Publishing, 2014
www.inplaceoffear.com

Jim Sillars is a well-known and well-respected figure on the Scottish political scene.

Elected a Labour Party MP for South Ayrshire in 1970, he shifted away from mainstream Labour Party politics due to his commitment to setting up a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

The summer sun beat down on August 21 as thousands of Palestinians set out on a silent march in al-Rama, a Palestinian town in the northern Galilee region of present-day Israel, honouring the recently deceased poet and activist Samih al-Qasim.

The 76-year-old al-Qasim, who battled cancer for three years, died late on August 19.

Placards bearing verses of al-Qasim’s poetry and Palestinian flags bobbed above the marching crowd, which eventually arrived at the town’s main amphitheater. Al-Qasim’s relatives, prominent religious figures and politicians all spoke.

The Dealer Is The Devil
Adrian Newstead
Brandl & Schlesinger
Published February 2014
480 pages, $49.95
www.book.cooeeart.com.au

Adrian Newstead was one of the first people to study climate change in Australia.

"I went to a place called the Barren Grounds, which were down the New South Wales south coast down near Kangaroo Valley," the 66-year-old tells Green Left Weekly.

China’s Second Continent: How a million migrants are building a new Empire in Africa
Howard W French
Knopf
Published May 20, 2014
304 pages
www.howardwfrench.com

In his 2009 film Rethink Afghanistan, director Robert Greenwald suggested that the US should not try to control the world through military means, but by building schools and hospitals in the countries it wishes to invade.

Journalist Howard French's book China's Second Continent shows how such a model can work in practice.

Flashboys
By Michael Lewis
W. W. Norton, 2014
288 pp, $39.99

Michael Lewis's Flashboys has had a dramatic welcome in the United States. It swept to the top of the best seller list and was only knocked from its perch by Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century.

It is revealing of the contemporary US mindset that Flashboys, which turns the machinations of Wall Street into a classic US-style morality play, should alternate with Piketty’s history of capitalist inequality.

In reality, Lewis has not produced new information.

Dozens of artists, musicians and writers from around the world have signed the open letter below, such as hip-hop artist Boots Riley and music journalist and Red Wedge Magazine editor Alexander Billet. It is reprinted from Red Wedge Magazine, where the full list of names can be found.

* * *

The Coral Battleground
Judith Wright
Spinifex, 2014
203 pages, $29.95 (pb)

From the days when Captain Cook’s Endeavour tangled with the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, humans had learned to fear the Reef with its “treacherous waters and weather”.

But now the reef “should fear us more”, writes Judith Wright in The Coral Battleground. It is a reprint of her 1977 account of the campaign to save the largest and most spectacular marine coral ecosystem in the world from oil drilling.

All it took was a recording of Donald Sterling insulting Magic Johnson in a derogatory manner for the 24-hour news world to stop on its axis.

Now imagine if Donald Sterling ― in all of his paranoid, racist fervour ― had an army at his disposal and bombed Magic Johnson in his home, killing him in his sleep.

If such a scenario sounds like hacky Phillip K Dick fan fiction as written by Mike Lupica, then you have not been paying attention to the dystopian, genocidal panorama in Gaza, where no one is safe. You are unfamiliar with the name Ahed Zaqout.

1. Public Enemy frontman Chuck D is back with another hard-hitting solo album. The Black In Man blends his baritone tones with heavy metal riffage and super-heavy funk. There's no let-up in his cutting wordplay and pointed barbs at the state of modern rap, such as the line: "I'm no fan of how urban radio has made rap fit for animals, best exhibited in some of today's mixtape culture, which invites black men into USA jails.

We Are Many
Directed by Amir Amirani
June 2014
http://www.wearemany.tv

February 15, 2003. We know it was the biggest protest in world history. We know that millions of people who'd never before felt like they could make their voices heard by taking action, marched in the streets of 800 cities to say “Not In Our Name”; that they dared hope for peace, but were committed by their governments to a bloody and illegal war.

A dove
that flew off
just after the fall of Afghan Buddha
Didn’t have enough
Unoccupied airspace
Unoccupied skies
To flap its wings to restart the heart beats gone numb
Of zillions resting in
Graves
Segregated apart as
For the occupant and by the ccupied.
The names on the tombstones
of the graves of the occupied
Could later become undecipherable,
Though they
Far outnumber that of the occupants.

Hope the dead never wake up,
to scrutinize their underrepresented statistics,
to check the word limit of reports from Gaza,

Revolutionary Minded 4
Marcel Cartier
Released July 26, 2014
http://bit.ly/1qYcIQ7

US rapper Marcel Cartier's lines usually ring out with the clarity of a clarion call - and the messages on his latest album are as loud and clear as ever. As he tells Green Left Weekly's Mat Ward, much of the material comes from first-hand experience with struggles around the world.

The Ghetto Fights, Warsaw 1943-45
Marek Edelman
Bookmarks, 2013
98 pp., $14.00

“Through the din of German cannons, destroying the homes of our mothers, wives and children; through the noise of their machine guns, seized by us in the fight against the cowardly German police and SS men; through the smoke of the Ghetto, that was set on fire, and the blood of its mercilessly killed defenders, we, the slaves of the Ghetto, convey heartfelt greetings to you.”

Jan Woolf is the cultural coordinator of the No Glory in War campaign, a group that seeks to counter the celebratory narrative of the British government’s commemorations of World War I. She spoke to online radical cultural Red Wedge Magaize about the campaign’s use of art and media — both past and present — to communicate its message. It is abridged from Red Wedge Magazine.

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Why was No Glory started?

Irish singer Sinead O’Connor has joined the growing list of artists who respect the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign to isolate Israel, cancelling a show in Israel scheduled for September 11.

’Boycott Israel'
By Immortal Technique, Don Martin, Tumi, Eltipo Este & Tonto Noiza
Free download
www.donmartin.no/boycott-israel

The ongoing slaughter in Gaza has brought a great many artists, musicians and celebrities out in support of Palestine.

This is nothing new. In fact, every major Israeli offensive seems to grow the number of artists willing to speak up and stand against the crimes of the apartheid state.

Despite Israel’s relentless aerial bombardments, shelling and ground attacks since July 7, Palestinian writers in Gaza have responded to the latest onslaught by doing what they know — writing.
Ra Page, director of Manchester-based Comma Press, which recently published a collection of short stories from writers in Gaza, says “all of the Book of Gaza contributors are writing away like crazy, whilst they have power”.

Was I a Stranger in My Homeland?
By Malavi Sivakanesan
Xlibris, 2013

Malavi Sivakanesan was eight years old in 2003 when her father, a Tamil dentist living in exile in Norway, went back to his homeland in Sri Lanka to set up a mobile dental clinic.

He not only carried out dental work himself, but also trained local people to continue after he left.

At the time, there was a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

Citizen Strangers: Palestinians & the Birth of Israel's Liberal Settler State
Shira Robinson
Standford University Press, 2013
352pp, US$24.95

If anyone still believes that the apartheid label applies only to Israel’s occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and not to present-day Israel itself, they need only read Shira Robinson’s Citizen Strangers: Palestinians and the Birth of Israel’s Liberal Settler State to be disabused of the notion.

Charlie's Country
Directed by Rolf de Heer
Starring David Gulpilil
In cinemas now

From the opening moments of Charlie’s Country you know that you are witnessing a different kind of cinematic experience.

Co-written by its star David Gulpilil and its director Rolf de Heer, and produced by Aboriginal actor Peter Djigirr, Charlie’s Country presents an Aboriginal cinematic vernacular.

The old rocker who owns the local music store has a t-shirt on display that reads: “When words fail ... music speaks.” One could also say that when speech fails, David Rovics sings.

As Wally Brooker recently noted about the US folk singer: “What's striking about Rovics is his ability to bring first-hand reports of local struggles from around the world to each community that he visits.”

All The News That’s Fit to Sing
David Rovics
Released July 4
www.davidrovics.bandcamp.com

So here it is, the latest album from prolific radical songwriter David Rovics All The News That's Fit to Sing.

It contains some completely new songs and some previously released some already available on Youtube, some that die-hard fans might have heard on the sneak preview Rovics gave on his Spreaker online radio show, “June in History and Song”.

Capital in the 21st Century
Thomas Piketty
Havard University Press, 2014
US$39.95, 696 pages

By now, perhaps, you’ve heard the fuss about French economist Thomas Piketty’s new book Capital in the 21st Century, but haven’t been able to carve out time to read it.

Waiting for a movie version? It could be a long time coming (more on that below). In the meantime, here are some critical takeaways, and omissions, for labour activists.

Les Miserables
Now playing in Melbourne
www.lesmis.com.au

Les Miserables tells two stories: one of personal love, the other of revolutionary passion. It is no surprise that most Western adaptations of Victor Hugo's novel have, when deciding what to cut and what to leave in, favoured the clasped hands of romance over the clenched fist of insurrection.

The story we all know -- the one that is left after adaptation pares away everything else -- is that of Jean Valjean, the ex-convict who redeems himself through acts of charity.

Brazil's Dance With the Devil
Dave Zirin
Haymarket Books, 2014
200 pages, US$16

With World Cup fever sweeping the world, mainstream media outlets faced a problem: how to relate to the fierce political battle taking place on the streets of Brazil over the future of their society.

The media has been flooded with idealised caricatures of Brazilian society, complete with pristine white-sand beaches, a hypersexual citizenry and a rich, happy tapestry of cultural diversity.

“Budget Reply (Hey Joe)” is Australia’s first musical response to Joe Hockey’s deeply unpopular 2014 budget. Written by Les Thomas, the song is a protest against cuts targeting the young, unemployed, elderly, Indigenous programs, Medicare, education, science and the environment.

Thomas has already performed the song at a number of rallies and events in Melbourne.

Diary of a Foreign Minister
Bob Carr
Newsouth, 2014
502 pages

Too often, Bob Carr’s diary sounds like an episode of Grumpy Old Ministers.

An 18-month stint as foreign minister in the doomed Rudd-Gillard-Rudd federal Labor government, the globe-trotting Carr gripes about the dead prose of his departmental talking points, the lifeless food and draining jetlag of plane travel, the awfulness of hotels, Canberra (“the City of the Dead”) and contracting viruses from shaking hands all day on the campaign trail “without a hand sanitiser in the car ― damn!”

Perth's May 18 March in May demonstration was led by a very interesting character. Baloney Abbott is quite a sex symbol in his bright red “budget smugglers”, fake rubber chest and oversised “Proudly Australian” badge.

Waving a bloodied meat cleaver, he really brought the point home that the cuts are for the good of the nation. Only Baloney Abbott could lead a 2000-strong crowd of peasants with the chant “Budget cuts, all the way! Make the sick and the poor pay!”

When Gerry Conlon died on June 21, it reminded the world once more of the cases of the Guilford Four and the Birmingham Six, Irish people framed for bombings in England they had noting to do with.

Conlon, of the Guilford Four, jailed in 1974, endured more than 14 years in prison, including solitary confinement, before finally clearing his name.

Reclaim Your Voice
Various artists
Released June 2014
Blue Mountain Sound
www.bluemountainsound.com.au

Andy Busuttil of Blue Mountain Sound released the following statement on June 28.

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We would like to think of our Australia as a nation with a big heart. A nation that stands for the dispossessed and does its damndest to help those in need, especially those attempting to flee tyranny.

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