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Re: <nettime> Old Left etc
coco fusco on Thu, 8 Jan 2004 06:18:10 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Old Left etc

Dear Aditya

I did read your position carefully, but it seems that
you prefer not to address the issues that I raised.

1. There are indeed wars of position going on among
leftists and activists and politically oriented
artists and your text certainly can be read in
relation to those polemics, regardless of your age or
what year you began your activism. This is not so much
about the details of your critique of Old Leftists who
are not please with the WSF - it has to do with the
underlying motives for endless intergenerational
battles, and the ways in which these battles are taken
up within European and American contexts when they
appear, on the horizons of discursives fields like
Nettime - as tribal warfare. It is the ideological
orientation of the text that I was writing about, not
your person, as I do not know you. Any text that calls
defines a political field in terms of old and new is
indeed a manifesto for a war of position. It's about
who is who, whose position is right, good, superior,
desirable, true, etc. Your text was more focused on
trashing the Old Left in India than explaining what
makes the New Left better. It seems that was is
bothering you now is that I question the political
motives of those who constantly trashed other leftists
in the name of the left - it reeks of OLD LEFTIST
style purges and sectarian squabbling. It is also
symptomatic of the attitude of new leftist upstarts
who want to clear their playing fields in order to
look like the only people on the block, or at least
the only ones worth looking at and talking to. 

2. Those wars of position are indeed generational,
even if the ages don't always divide neatly. Schools
of thought can be viewed as generational. Your
critique of the Old Left doesn't refer to the ages of
those involved, but to their ideological positions
which you sought to trash. This kind of venting
against leftist schools of thought emerges regularly
from the Sarai camp, so often that I have in the past
made inquiries to South Asian colleagues to try to
figure out what it is so important for new leftists in
India to launch diatribes against other leftists,
other postcolonials, other South Asians outside of
South Asia, and other people of color -- as if there
were no other more important issues, or more
significant opponents. Had you spent equal time in
your text divulging your critique of mulitnational
capitalism, the corporations that are the primary
agents of globalization, and the neoliberal
technocrats who dominate new media, etc., I might have
been less skeptical.

3. Your claim that you are not really associated with
Sarai I would also take issue with, especially since
the unusual haughtiness of your tone would seem to
suggest that you share the attitude of Sarai members
toward more than a few "postcolonials," including
myself. At present, within the context of nettime
discussions, Sarai represents a generation and an
ideological stance for the mostly European and
American readership of the list. Regardless of your
age or history, you enter that discourse with Sarai
attached to your email address - it is not a
coincidence, since as you write, they are your
friends. Sarai is not a huge ISP like AOL, it is a
small media organization,and you chose the affilation
consciously, as more than an indiscriminate consumer,
much in the same way that artists of a certain ilk in
the US choose thing.net. Sarai's cultural expression
and ideologicaly positions are well known within the
context of nettime. In fact, I would argue that Sarai
represents India, and Indian new media culture for the
readers of nettime, and the attendants of many new
media exhibition and art shows in the global art

4. Finally, my substantive points about Old Leftist
positions in Latin American had to do with what I
perceive as a chic anti-globalizationist stance that
dismisses any concern for nationalism, or such quaint
ideas as cultural integrity and cultural identity as
either crypto fundamentalist or passe. I found that
your text echoes that position. As I mentioned before,
there are good reasons in many Latin American contexts
to be wary about dispensing with nationalisms and the
nation state altogether. And there are many who do not
view today's global culture without borders as
democratic or desirable  -- and they are not all
ethnic fundamentalists. Some of them are the most
effective and lucid activists and political
visionaries of the "global south".

While the agendas listed in the WSF in India look very
interesting, I am too far away to assess how inclusive
they are, or how meaningful they are to activists
working on a day to day basis there. What I can tell
you is that I've also been working since the 1970s,
and know scores of activists and politically oriented
artists in the US and Latin America who are part of
that Old Left you despise, and who are also part of
new left social movements. They never go to
anti-globalization events. They don't see them as a
priority, or they don't agree with their premises, or
they even see them as imperialist in of themselves, or
just as a waste of time. Some very dedicated and
effective activists working on the same issues that
people only TALK ABOUT on nettime prefer to work
locally, or see those local tasks as so huge and
complicated that having to spend time on theorizing
with distant foreigners is just a big waste of time.
It's just like playing the native informant all over
again. I may not agree with everything they say
always, but I respect their priorities and I know they
are not the enemy.

Coco Fusco

--- aditya {AT} sarai.net wrote:

> Apropos of Coco Fusco's response to my piece on the WSF and the Old
> Left in India, a bit of factual clarification and some small comments
> are in order. She talks of intergenerational 'wars of position' -
> conflating my position with that of Sarai (I presume, because of my
> email ID) and seems to suggest that the 'younger crowd' has taken to
> attacking the Old Left because it has a vested interest in the "time
> and space of global circuits", which it seeks to protect by
> eliminating others from the competition.


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