Tuesday 27 September 2011

Module Handbooks

Coincidental reading after induction, Peter Linebaugh scornfully noting 'the good old days':

At Columbia University on the Upper West Side of New York, the entering history student was faced with the Historiography course (History g6000x) taught by Peter Gay, the brilliant historian of the bourgeoisie. He compared us as captives. Our problems, as students, he wrote in a brochure for each of us, were Laziness and Stupidity. ‘You are joining a profession in which competition is tough, and life is hard’. ‘In the months to come’, he warned, ‘you will hear, and perhaps tell, stories of injustice and neglect, but it might just be that not all of these stories are true.’

Friday 16 September 2011

The Bonnot Gang avec The Ant Hill Mob

After noting the image I used for the spaghetti communism post, this avec sprang to mind, perhaps suggesting a restart for Evan's blog.


Monday 12 September 2011

Coda to Spaghetti Communism

This is a coda to my piece on the Spaghetti Western at Mute, and was largely very kindly provided by Steve Wright (author of Storming Heaven) and Alberto Toscano. I should also mention this piece on violence, politics, and the spaghetti western which Steve drew to my attention.

We can trace the influence of the Spaghetti Western, and its close cousin the Westerns of Sam Peckinpah, directly amongst the militants of the Italian ultra-left in the 1970s. This was, appropriately, a rather fraught and difficult negotiation. Stefano Lepri, a militant from the Roman section of Potere Operaio, recalls that ‘In 1968 we didn't have a lot of time for cinema … Some liked Once Upon a Time in the West, others considered it “escapist,” as the saying then went, and banal’. He goes on to mention various films across successive years, from The Bonnot Gang to Easy Rider and Queimada, and concludes:

But some, led by Rosati and Pace, had the courage to proclaim their preference for adventure films and to exalt Butch Cassidy ... Our favourite, more than anything else, was Vamos a matar, compañeros, the political spaghetti western by Sergio Corbucci, with Tomas Milian made up to look like Che Guevara, and Franco Nero, who many, starting with Morucci, began to imitate.
This ambiguity in taste is shown in a more comic light by an article from Rosso, published in 1975:

The perfect militant FIRMLY HATES western films in general, because they are American, individualistic, involving too many weapons (used outside a correct political line). The films of Sergio Leone are to be avoided in particular, because they are violent, with lots of explosions, and above all because the director does not sign progressive petitions. Peckinpah's films are rejected for similar reasons, because they are gory, they depict petty bourgeois characters and so are ambiguous, and in the last analysis right wing ... (trans. Steve Wright)
So, the irony is that the militants too found a certain discomfort in the populist political violence of the Spaghetti Western…

This is also true of the use of Mucchio Salvaggio (The Wild Bunch), as the name given to the group Primea Linea. In another instance resonant for the question of violence, Toni Negri replied to an article criticising him as a prophet of terrorism published in the New York Review of Books in 2002 by Alexander Stille. In his reply Negri noted:

When Stille cites phrases from my old books they are all butchered and taken out of context. For example, he cites the ominous sentence “No pity for our enemies!” but fails to say that it was clearly in my text an ironic citation from a Sergio Leone spaghetti western film.
Now the Spaghetti Western is used as a defence against the charge of advocating violence.