The STIR magazine interview archive features extensive
conversations between our editor and political activists, philosophers, co-operators, environmentalists, critical theorists, campaigners, literary authors and artists.
I’m not saying let’s give up on facts, or be post-truth like Donald Trump. But I am saying that having the right data on your side is not enough to win these very polarised debates.
In terms of social cement, throughout African American history, Black co-ops and their members shared information, learned from each other and tried to support each other. And because they developed out of need, they often solved community problems and connected economic justice solutions to community economic challenges.
The idea that there is some realm of economic activity that is separate from culture is, frankly, bullshit.
The really interesting development is not just tracing where the money is being spent, but the gaps where we are looking to create new worker co-operatives.
One advantage of having artists as co-owners means we can be really transparent. We don’t have to hide information from our members, we can release financial data, we can talk about confidential contract negotiations, we can get them involved from very early stages.
We already have a lot of solutions but we’re prevented from creating a synergy between them to become catalytic of a bigger change by not having enough strong stories to tell of what could be a desirable future
Ever since the Magna Carta and the Charter of the Forest, commoners have had to keep the lords’ greedy hands out of the commons. I think the open-source movement and platform co-operativism need to band together.
I think lots of the slogans in recent housing campaigns were probably much more effective in defending the gains of 1945 than having lots of brass bands or sepia-toned images.
The commons is an idea, and a practice, that generates meaning and hope. I’m nervous of definitions—they cause endless disputes and also tend to freeze an idea in time —but I like the way Silke Helfrich talks about the commons as “all the things that we inherit from past generations that enable our livelihoods.”
What is interesting about Tunisia is still to come. What is interesting about Egypt is what happens after Tahir Square. Libya hasn’t got interesting yet but it may next week. The struggle is not the break with the old order but the invention of the new one.
Participating and encouraging participation in art seems a very important thing to do, in terms of challenging this bourgeois notion that art is only commercial, concerned with fiscal motives or that you necessarily need money to do it.
I don’t think its [hip hop] origins were necessarily political but it did come from marginalized and disenfranchised communities who were making a statement through Hip Hop — this doesn’t mean they were standing on the streets and talking about politics though.
There are many examples of where alternative adjudication worked successfully but I would also like give a note of caution: It takes a lot of time for movements to achieve this, and we have to, but I would also advocate for having some formal structures for how some of it can work.
Cumulative capital flight for 33 African countries from 1970-2008 stood at $944 bn including interest—close to the $800-ish bn that wealth managers estimate are held by Africa’s wealthiest individuals. But these countries’ combined external debts in 2008 stood at ‘only’ $177 bn. So these countries are not debtors but massive creditors.
In the past ten years or so landholding has concentrated by a further 10-12% and this is a remarkably rapid rate of consolidation, perhaps as rapid as anything we’ve seen in Britain since the Highland Clearances.
We can’t just wait for politics to spontaneously occur. We have to inculcate arguments, cultivate habits that will allow such a politics to emerge and, I guess, that’s why I try to do in my work.
At a time when so many systems of inherited thought and action are either discredited or not very credible, the commons is a pathway that lets people feel they have control to make their own way with others who share their interests and values.
The main thing I am doing in my work is giving the word ‘ecocide’ a legal definition, as the word itself has actually been around since the 1940s. The definition I give is “the extensive damage or loss of ecosystems” and within this there are two definitions of ecosystems.
There is a paradox at the heart of the footpath system of England and Wales … that this ‘labyrinth of liberty’ is largely a function of the privatisation of land. So even as we correctly celebrate the freedom to walk more than 130,000 miles of legally protected footpath in the two countries, we should also be conscious of the places we can’t go.
It’s true that walking is a very solitary activity, but also one which then allows us to reconnect with others. An act of disconnection then, but in order for new connections to be rendered possible.
I think what’s really difficult about it is that if you’re an artist, and a good artist, it seems to me that you’ll almost inevitably have a hinterland of politics in your work. I don’t know how it’s possible to be oblivious to what happens in the world, or to be without a sense of some kind of political responsibility.
I was tremendously moved by the sense of solidarity that suffused New York after the 9/11 attacks. It was very little reported upon at the time and was drowned out by the crazy warmongering hysteria emanating from Washington. It wasn’t about revenge, it was loving. People looked out for one another in a way I had never seen before in a big city.