Summary of the Keynote Address "Trump, Globalization and Infringement" To The Montreal World Infringement Congress 19 November 2016
The following is a summary of the Keynote Address "Trump, Globalization and Infringement" that I gave at the Montreal World Infringement Congress before an international audience of dramatists and theater artists from Canada, USA, Australia, UK, Sweden, the Czech Republic and other countries. I hope that a video recording of my address will be available soon.
By Der Kosmonaut
By Der Kosmonaut
I wasn’t surprised about the election of Donald Trump. His election is the culmination of patterns and trends over the past 20 years. The process goes back to the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. Trump represents a clear and present danger to all artists, especially critical artists.
Capitalism is globalization. Globalization isn’t a new development. It began with the rise of capitalism. Globalization can be traced to the 1400s with Portugal in Africa. When Christopher Columbus arrived in the Caribbean in 1492, the process of Globalization commenced. The trans-Atlantic slave trade and European colonization of the Americas, Africa and Asia over the next 300 years was the first phase of capitalist globalization. The nature of capitalism, with its never ending search for markets, is the generator of globalization. World war is the ultimate expression of globalization. In the early 20th century the major capitalist countries had their markets and economic spheres of influence. There were no new markets to be had. World War One was the capitalist need to take over the markets of competitive countries and corporations. World War 2 was the result of Germany and Japan seeking new markets at the expense of their neighbours. Today the world is in a similar situation and there is a real threat of Global War erupting any day.
The most recent manifestation of Globalization started in the 1960s. One of the most interesting art exhibition I’ve seen was at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2003. The exhibition was about the 1960s. In the first chamber was a replica of Sputnik Soviet satellite. With the development of the satellite, the world became much smaller. Sputnik marked the first time human civilization was intimately connected. Thanks to the satellite, people could see events from the other world of the world in real time. This was when the term “Global Village” was coined. Many progressive artists and intellectual embraced the “Global Village” as they saw it a means to overcome parochialism and provincialism. For the first time human civilization was intimately connected. In the next chamber was a large Pepsi Cola bottle and sign. Pop music doesn’t mean “popular music”. It was a term invented by Pepsi Cola which is soda pop. Hence pop music actually meant soda pop music. The Beatles first tour of America was sponsored by Pepsi. Television and radio music shows such as American Bandstand and the Top 40 Countdown were sponsored by Pepsi. In short, most of the 1960s “counter-culture” ie: The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, was sponsored by Pepsi. In short, the corporatization of culture isn’t new. It’s been happening for 50 years already.
The exhibition explained my experience at the Woodstock ’94 concert of which I had performed at with my first music group Planet Generation Global Move (PG2M). Woodstock ‘94 was to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the original Woodstock concert. It was sponsored by Pepsi. PG2M was a radical group. We really hoped to create a global revolution through music. We were invited to perform on the very last night of the festival. We were quite naive in retrospect. We were scandalized that Pepsi was trying to cash in on the 1960s counterculture. As the principal English speaking poet I was tasked of writing the flyer for our show. The text went as follows:
The Riddle of the Angels
Woodstock=$140 (That’s how much tickets were)
$140=The choice of the next generation?
Isn’t recycling cool?
We drew a recycling symbol over the text. Apparently Pepsi wasn’t happy with our cheeky flyer. We had an international crew. There was DJ Soulslinger from Brazil. Toni Mola a Brazilian Master percussionist was also with us. We had a choreographer from Zimbawe. The lead singer King Alice was from France. When we got on stage King Alice and I spoke to the crowd of 10,000.
“Our generation wants to be free! Our generation wants everything to be free! Our generation wants everything to be for free! Our generation wants to share everything!”
As soon as DJ Soulslinger dropped the needle on the record, the stage manager literally pulled the plug on us. Our mics were cut. All the sound was cut. That was not only the end of our set which was no more than 2-3 minutes but that was the end of Woodstock ‘94. Yes I was part of the final closing act but it wasn’t a success.
I now wish to describe the essence of our present era. I call this era “Totalitarian Capitalism”. I developed this term along with the revolutionary Serb philosopher Duci Simonovic. Simonovic describes capitalism as a totalitarian order of death, ecocide and genocide. Departing from that, I named it Totalitarian Capitalism. What do I mean by that? It goes back to what Margaret Thatcher said in the 1980s: “There is no alternative” or TINA. Capitalism has now seeped into every facet of our lives. Both the public and private sphere has been completely taken over by capitalism. Capitalism dictates our social and interpersonal relations. We live in an era where no alternative to capitalism is allowed to exist. In the cultural sphere this is most expressed by the Fringe Festivals. Public space has been privatized. Worse, there is hardly any opposition to Totalitarian Capitalism by today’s academics, artists and thinkers. Most are apologists for Totalitarian Capitalism. Duci Simonovic describes them as “Coca-Cola intellectuals.”
The Canadian Fringe festivals exemplify this development. As Donovan King will tell you, 2016 was a particularly atrocious year for the Canadian Fringe festivals. In Edmonton, a long time volunteer of that city’s Fringe festival was told that his service was no longer required due to his physical disability. He’s unable to speak and Fringe volunteers are compelled to ask festival goers for money. In Winnipeg many women have complained that they’ve been sexually assaulted and harassed by many of the older male artists and festival organizers.
Note this has happened at the same time that Donald Trump publicly mocked a disabled New York Times reporter. The sexuall assaults of women at the Winnipeg Fringe occurred when Trump’s history of sexual assault were being made public. Coincidence or conspiracy? Neither. These are the times we live in under Totalitarian Capitalism.
I wish to cover a bit about the history of fascism. What many people overlook is that fascism, especially in Austria, Germany and Spain was for the most part a reaction against Modernist art and Jazz music. A great deal of Modernist art was produced by Jews. Most of the more advanced artists were inspired by the Russian Revolution. Hence the terms “Bolshevist art”, “Jewish art” and Jazz described as “Neger Musik” in Austria and Germany. The Nazis labelled Modernist art as “Degenerate Art”. Austro-Fascism was also anti-art. The great Modernist paintings by Klimt and Kolkoscha were taken down and replaced by lame and tame paintings of rural provincial scenes with devout Roman Catholic farmers and peasants.
Fascism was first and foremost cultural genocide. It had less to do with racial genocide than as a means to destroy critical and challenging art. This is the reason why the Jews were singled out. In Austria, and to a lesser extent in Germany, most of the leading writers, musicians and artists were Jews. In Vienna many contemporary artists refer to the fascist period as “cultural suicide”. It took 40 years for Western Germany to recover culturally. The situation was even worse in Austria which took between 50-60s years for art and culture to return. Though Vienna today has a vibrant and interesting art and cultural scene, it remains a shell of what it was a century ago. Spain just regained its culture in 1982. Spain was well known for its writers and artists going back to Cervantes, Goya, El Greco. Franco killed all of the leading artists, poets and writers. Those that weren’t killed were driven into exile. Today Spain is mostly a cultural desert. The Gaudi and Deco designs today aren’t very impressive as a result of more than 40 years of fascist dictatorship.
Today the political supporters and ideologues of Donald Trump share the same contempt and hatred for radical and authentic artists as their 20th century predecessors. Instead of “Bolshevik” we are now called “Cultural Marxists”. Regardless if you’re a Marxist or not, all of us sitting in this room are considered “Cultural Marxists”. We are all in danger. I wish to warn that just because you’re white, doesn’t mean that you’re going to escape unscathed. Not only are you all considered “Cultural Marxists”, you’re considered “race mixers” and “race traitors.” The very fact that you’re sitting there listening to me makes you a target. If you like Hip Hop, Reggae or Salsa music, you’re a “race mixer” and “race traitor”. Race traitors are hated more than people of color.
We must not forget that we are all the children of The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment has been under assault for 400 years. There are many forces that are aligned against us. From the Vatican to the remnants of the aristocracy. They have never forgotten nor have they forgiven the free artists and thinkers. Since the end of the Napoleonic wars up until today, the forces of reaction are obsessed with wiping us out. All of us are the beneficiaries of the Enlightenment. Our forebears were persecuted and killed for the right to be free thinkers and artists. It’s only been perhaps 300 years that free thinkers and artists have been around. That’s only a minute in human history. We mustn’t forget that artists were merely servants of the church and the aristocracy. They had no freedom to draw and paint what they wanted. Poets were only to reinforce the existing social system. Painters were only allowed to depict biblical scenes or make flattering portraits of the aristocracy. Any artist or poet which deviated were dealt with swiftly and their works burnt or confiscated.
I wish to turn to Socialism, Art and Culture. I’m a Marxist but I’m not here to push my politics on you. Rather I wish to make you aware that 20th Century art and culture was influenced by Socialism. Up until the 20th century art and culture was the exclusive preserve of first the aristocracy and then the bourgeoisie. The Socialist parties challenged the upper class hegemony over art and culture. The Marxists understood that the working class could not be organized politically without doing so culturally. In Vienna the Austro-Marxists not only built palaces for the working class but each social housing complex had a community theater and performance space. That was what made the aristocracy, the church and the capitalist bitter opponents of Socialism. How dare the great unwashed masses have access to art and culture. Working class art and culture was a non-sequitur for them.
The Harlem Renaissance, which in my opinion is the greatest cultural movement in American history, was a direct result of the Russian Revolution. There was hardly a writer, poet or intellectual from the Harlem Renaissance who wasn’t inspired by the Russian revolution or Marxism. Jazz became mainstream thanks to the Harlem Renaissance. It was through the Harlem Renaissance that Blacks went from the fringe of society into the mainstream.
What is forgotten and virtually unknown today is that the majority of North American art and culture in the 1930s was organized by the Communist Party USA. The best known writer from that time influenced by Marxism was John Steinbeck. Most importantly the CPUSA supported both Black and white artists at the time. The Black membership of the CPUSA was 44%. Again, the reactionary backlash against this was summed up in the phrase “Communism=Race Mixing”.
I wish to conclude these remarks by providing solutions. It’s easy to identify all that is wrong with the world. It’s much harder to come up with solutions. First off we need to revive working class culture. As alternative artists we ignored the masses. We considered them ignorant and stupid lacking culture. As we did that, we left them to Donald Trump. We got Trumped by Reality TV! We thought that we were better than the mainstream and left the working class to the manipulations of fourth rate culture. We need to start engaging more with the masses.
The Buffalo Infringement festival has the slogan “Infringe Every Day.” That’s exactly what we must do. We must start infringing on the mainstream. We must infringe on corporatization of life. We must infringe on capitalism! We need to do this more than just one or two weeks in the year.
There is nothing inherently wrong with”mainstream”. If we want to achieve any social and political change,we can’t do it from the fringe or margins. We must reach out to the middle. There has never been any progressive social and political change without getting substantial sections of the middle involved.
Unfortunately I’ve run out of time to propose more solutions. Thank you for your attention.