The Golden Barley School

an anarchist, a communist & a feminist walk into a bar…


Fail again. Fail better. Notes in the interests of continuing conversations and some unfinished thoughts on withdrawing from the Historical Materialism Australasia Conference 2013

The original intention for writing this was to clarify my reasons for withdrawing from the HM conference in Sydney this year. However, what has actually been written has grown broader than the original intention, and the following may not clarify things as much as I would have liked. My sense is that this is the case due to the nature of the question at hand. Nonetheless, given that I have been struggling to find the time to get any of these thoughts down, and that writing about this could feasibly go on for a long time, these incomplete ideas are put here as they are, to be put aside for now, and so that conversations may continue more openly.

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Stranded in an ocean of individuals, or rescuing collective practice from liberal multiculturalism. Part 2

Part 2 of a very long article i put together about race, religion and liberalism…  Also to be found at my own blog And thanks to the other editors of this blog who all at some point helped with this…

The collective pulls

I began with religion, and despite the distance between that simple anecdote to where I am at now, religion is the base to which this argument must return. It is important to spell out now why it is the crux of the problem I am getting at. In the face of the institutionalised racism I have described, as well as the displaced sense of identity that migrants face, religion is a cultural marker, an affirmation of being within a community that can be clung too. Additionally, as a traditional cultural form that migrants might cling too, it only works in the collective form – its importance clearly being much more than simple faith, but as a site to meet in commonality with others, a site of practical and emotional support – and therefore in some opposition to the alienated individualism of liberal capitalism. Lets call on Zizek again to sum up how religion as a traditional cultural form is treated within liberalism:

“If the subject wants it, he or she can opt into the parochial tradition into which they were born, but they have first to be presented with alternatives and make a free choice amongst them” (Zizek, p.123).

At this point I am going to take a detour through Hanif Kureishi’s novel The Black Album, which although set in early 90’s London, precisely deals with this conflict between the need for collective safety in the form of traditional cultural practices and the allure of the liberal idea of ‘free choice’ and individuality. Continue reading

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Stranded in an ocean of individuals, or rescuing collective practice from liberal multiculturalism. Part 1

Part 1 of a very long article i put together about race, religion and liberalism…  Also to be found at my own blog And thanks to the other editors of this blog who all at some point helped with this…


Lets start with a simple moment, nothing more than a passing word and a flicker of a smile, a polite thanks but no thanks, but really it’s nice you’re out here trying to talk with people. It’s Islamic week at the university where I work, and the woman with the headscarf nods and smiles back. Rewind a few months when the geeky kids with the Evangelical Union t-shirts are out in force and my reaction to being approached is one of unconcealed hostility in the hope that one of them dare take me on and give me a chance to launch into a stinging rebuke about the violence and regressiveness that underpins everything they hold dear. If only.  Continue reading


Common Threads: conversations at the picket line

These videos contain images and interviews from the picket lines at a recent strike at the University of Sydney.

Our approach here is to generate more conversation between workers across areas of the university, to trace where our common experiences lie and contribute to a collective understanding of the effects that our working conditions have on our lives.

Part I is about conditions at work, part II is an extension of this, with focus on casualisation and the future of the sector.

Part 1:

Part 2:

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Mutiny on Sydney Harbour (gig review)

A review/ collection of thoughts from the shows by Mutiny on the recent Australia Day long weekend. Also to be found at

The short-story of Mutiny bringing their pirate-punk stylings to Sydney on the Australia/ Invasion Day long weekend was “fucken awesome, something fun to do where I can see friends, listen to great bands and get seriously drunk without having to deal with flag-waving jerks”. And that’s pretty much how it went. I was intending to only go to their on-land show at the Red Rattler on the Saturday night, but as great as they were that night, I had a desire to see them in a more contained space. The Rattler’s cavernous room properly drowned some of the energy in the crowd, even if it couldn’t totally contain the momentum jumping off stage. That, and a bunch of my friends already going, decided for me that I’d also get along to the Sydney Harbour cruise show on the Monday. So twice the amount of friends, fun, awesome music and drunkenness! Easy review.

So is there a long story? Yeah, I reckon, or at least I’m going to do my darndest to make one. But firstly I want to emphasise that some of the ideas raised here should in no way be read as a criticism of what Mutiny do, just that as well as being fun, they are an important band for a few reasons and as such important questions come up through their music. To start, calling Mutiny a pirate-punk band is a description that only has the particularly limited use where it might give someone who hadn’t seen them a fairly good idea of what they do. Rollicking, folk-y punk with some nice big sing along choruses, a scratchy voiced singer with some extra layers of melody folded through by means of accordion, tin whistle and more. But pirate-punk also isn’t a good enough indicator of what is contained in their music and why these shows were particularly pertinent. Mutiny’s music is steeped in the stories and sound of the history of colonial Australia. More directly than ‘pirate-punk’ the nature of their music brings to mind the tradition of convict ballads – sped up and sounding a whole lot more punk. Continue reading

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a great piece by Nick Southall, originally at

revolts now

japan 7 In December of last year (2012), I travelled to Tokyo for a conference on Crisis and Commons: Prefigurative Politics after Fukushima. The Conference call-out explained; “The year 2011 was marked by a series of inter-related crises and massive protests against them. These movements have brought anti-capitalist politics back onto the agenda. However, they differ from previous anti-capitalist movements in their emphasis on prefigurative politics. Capitalism has developed by enclosing the commons and colonising the sphere of reproduction. If prefigurative politics is a movement for realising an outside to capitalism in the here and now, in the present crisis, it enables us to catch a glimpse of a new commons and of a means of social reproduction that is not exploited by capitalism.” At the Conference, Alexander Brown and I presented a collaborative paper, Interregnum: Living In-between Times, about the increasing desperation and violence of capitalist power and global…

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On ‘community’

Thank you to friends and fellow keepers of this blog Princess Mob and Sourdough for edits, ideas and support.

I’ve recently been accused of being part of the ‘Sydney anarchist community’. Fair enough, this is a shorter way of saying ‘she’s one of the Sydney people who call themselves anarchists, collaborate on political projects, dress the same and drink in the pub together.’ But this accusation has caused me to reflect on what a radical or anarchist ‘community’ is, what it might do and look like. Reflecting on this idea of a radical ‘community’, one of the most overused and meaningless words in the radical lexicon, I am talking about the way in which people such as myself and my friends and comrades who I work on political projects with should organise our lives to support each other and continue to engage in struggles for the rest of our days. I’ll use the term ‘community’ to describe this even though I don’t think its quite right.

To me this means offering a level of emotional and material support to each other which is prefigurative in terms of the way we would like to see society operate. While modelling this on a small scale, we facilitate and support each other to take part in the kind of collective action that actually takes us closer to a better society. We should be able to respond to problems in our community as they arise in order to maintain a level of diversity and functionality amongst those of us who are working together, taking part in these struggles. What this way of organising our lives would mean would be broader and deeper than dressing the same and drinking in the pub. It would entice people to join with us, and enable those who were already around to stick around for longer.

What I’m talking about are the ways we can organise our lives with each other to both make our lives better in the immediate moment and to enable us to take part in collective actions of a type that take us closer to a time in which more of our lives are better than is currently the case.

We need to take the community building and sustaining practices that already happen now, and celebrate and make them explicit as part of a revolutionary project. We need to develop new, more radical community building and sustaining practices that might help us get where we’re going quicker. Doing these things is not some work-like chore or obligation, as its simultaneous aim is to make our lives in the here and now easier and better.

There is a danger of seeing talking about the organisation of our lives as a ‘lifestylist’ practice. The type of organisation I’m interested in is that which is closely tied to struggle on a collective level. The way we organise our lives and the relationships we have with each other both enable us to take part in struggle, and are deeply influenced by our involvement in them. Therefore, talking about ways to support and live with each other does not have to be ‘lifestylist’ but can be a very real and important part of revolutionary practice.

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