We’re still around

Hi folks,

We haven’t posted an episode in a few months, but we haven’t abandoned things here. Andrew’s in a workplace campaign and Tessa started school.

Stick with us, things will be posted soon.

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026: 15 Now! Live at WORT-FM with Teddy Shibabaw

Episode 26 is another live episode at WORT 89.9 FM here in Madison, Wisconsin. Tessa and I are occasional substitute hosts for a daily news and affairs program and we were asked to fill in on the 4th of July.

We had Teddy Shibabaw, 15 Now organizer and member of Socialist Alternative, as our guest to discuss the minimum wage. After the election of socialist city councillor Kshama Sawant in Seattle, that city was the first to push for a $15 minimum wage. Similar campaigns to raise the minimum wage have popped up around the country, often led by groups funded by the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) but also by grassroots efforts like chapters of 15 Now. For this program, we ask Teddy to explain the need to raise the minimum wage, explain why pick $15 an hour for the campaign, discuss strategic differences with the SEIU groups who have put out a unified push for $10.10, and then some thoughts on how this could be accomplished. There are a few callers as it is a live program, and it contributes nicely to the discussion.

Give it a listen!

Right-click here to download this episode.

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Plenty of updates

Hey folks,

Just wanted to let people know of some things going on here at Black Sheep recently. First, we’ve published a number of new episodes the last month and a half that you should be sure to check out if you haven’t already.black-sheep small

Episode 23 is a two-part interview with Canadian scholar-activist David McNally. The first part talks about what’s happening in capitalism since the onset of the crisis seven years ago and what we can expect out of this prolonged slump. The second part talks about his book Monsters of the Market as a way of discussing how we perceive living under decades of neoliberal capitalism and the effect that’s had on our social-psyche. The transcripts to those episodes are up on this website, but many thanks to New Politics for publishing them initially. Socialist Worker also recirculated the interview.

Episode 24 is a live interview we did with Alan Sears about his new book The Next New Left. Tessa and I are substitute hosts for WORT-FM‘s news and affairs program “A Public Affair”, so we invited Alan to be our guest. The format is slightly different in that there are some call-ins and we try to broaden our discussion somewhat, but its very much worth checking out.

I just put up Episode 25 this last weekend, which is an interview with Lauren Corman, who hosted the radio program Animal Voices in Toronto for roughly ten years. Lauren talks about fitting animal issues into our radical politics.

For the future we have a lot still on the queue. Episode 26 is another live WORT program, this time with guest Teddy Shibabaw, a member of Socialist Alternative and organizer with 15 Now. We talk to Teddy about the minimum wage and a local debate about an incremental reform posed by the SEIU-backed Raise Wisconsin for a $10.10 minimum wage rather than the initial $15. Very pleased with the show and grateful to Teddy, who did a fantastic job explaining everything. (The radio archive is linked here, and I’ll post our cleaned up version on the podcast this weekend.)

We’ll be trying a few experiments: Friend of the show Alan Sears will be doing a reverse interview, where he interviews Tessa and I. Another friend, Lenora, will be contributing her own interview from Italy with workerist activists there.

Lastly, look forward to a set of interviews regarding the position of the left presently. David Camfield, an editor at New Socialist, interviewed about the very big picture of the international left, the collapse of politics to the left of social-liberalism (think Democrats in the US) and where that puts us. He was very cautious in this discussion, given how tough it is to find a balance between the big trends and the important distinctions. We’ll be doing an interview about youth and the organized left with a couple of activists soon as well.

Thanks and be sure to like our pages, drop us a line and do the good work you do. Also please consider donating if you like the work we do!

Donate to Black Sheep podcast.

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Monsters and a Critique of Everyday Neoliberalism: Interview with David McNally

[This is part two of an interview with scholar-activist David McNally on the current economic crisis. The first part focused on the crisis itself, its causes, the way in which working life has been reorganized, the perspective of ruling elites in managing the crisis and pursuing austerity policies, and how this should help inform our stance as movement activists.

This second part will concentrate on McNally’s book, Monsters of the Market, asking why the monstrous has captured popular culture. This will lead us into a critique of everyday life under neoliberal capitalism, discussing how the experience of waged labor has created an affinity for monster stories, particularly zombies, vampires, and Frankenstein’s monster. The second part ends with McNally’s thoughts on building a renewed socialism-from-below.—AS]

Right-click here to download this episode.

Tessa Echeverria: It’s of course important to understand how capitalism works and how the current crisis came to be in order to use that information to mobilize our social movements in a forward trajectory and not just see it as crazy people instituting this plan that’s not good for the economy. I was hoping we could transition into talking about Monsters of the Market. In the introduction, you talk about how people say capitalism is a monstrous system and that’s what we’re up against, but we need to recognize the real monstrosities that capitalism has brought about and the way it forces us to live under the system every day. I was wondering if you could go into why you wrote the book—tell us why you thought this was an important book and what was your process? Continue reading

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Episode 025: Animal Questions with Lauren Corman

Episode 25 takes us to a place that’s a little more uncharted, at least as far as discussions on the left go. We wanted to talk about animal issues, how wanting to address animal exploitation fits into a liberatory perspective, and try to bridge a little bit of the gap that’s existed between radical politics and animal rights. To have this conversation, we invited Lauren Corman, former host of the radio program Animal Voices and currently a professor at Brock University in St. Catherines, Ontario, to be our guest.

Its not an exaggeration to say that this was the most difficult topic we’ve tried to cover. Both Tessa and I have been vegan for years and animal issues fit in with our understanding about what needs to change in the world, but spending our time on the radical left, especially among socialists, we’ve learned to downplay that area of our lives because of dismissals, judgment and ridicule by erstwhile comrades. The odd thing is that in my personal experience I’ve had many one-to-one conversations with radicals who agree that the way we treat animals is cruel and unnecessary, environmentally disastrous and terrible for our health, but when this comes into the open its considered not a political question.

It doesn’t help that animal advocates don’t often represent themselves in the best possible way. The mainstream organizations often consider animal abuse more immediate than human political questions, given that they’re dealing with slaughter. PeTA especially perpetuates sexist tropes, makes racially insensitive comparisons, and allies itself with any individual who will show interest in animals irregardless of their behavior to other humans. In practice, many animal rights activists seem most interested in consuming vegan products and have little understanding of the way that class plays into our social location, vis a vis animals.

So how to approach this? We invited Lauren specifically because her work has been in looking at animal issues through an intersectional lens, looking for ways to advocate for animals that is socially responsible and works in coalition with others for social justice and radical change.

Lauren approaches this conversation from a “non-instrumental” perspective, meaning that her reasons for “bringing animals into the sphere of moral concern” is not because it will benefit humans, per se, but because animals in themselves have sentience, the capacity to suffer and to live emotionally meaningful lives. In that way, even if caring about animals, changing diet and our relationship to animals wasn’t environmentally beneficial, better for our health and longevity, or didn’t support better relationships between humans, it would still be worth respecting animal interests.

We talk about veganism, a practice where one abstains from all animal products both in your diet and in clothing, because it is considered the main lived expression of the animal rights position.

Since I imagine that many people will not come to the conversation with all that information on hand, I’ll provide some quick resources here. First, in getting a more direct understanding of animal rights, author Gary Francione runs a website, Abolitionist Approach, that explains a nuts and bolts approach to animal rights veganism. Second, I mentioned in the introduction that the United Nations has urged that the world changes its diet to be meat and dairy-free as a critical environmental measure. Lastly, I’ll point readers to Bob Torres’ book, Making a Killing, which comes at animal issues using Marxist political economy and anarchist ethics. He explains how animals are a part of capitalist commodity production, and therefore its not possible to respect animal interests within capitalism.

That should do it for a first post. Certainly earning our Black Sheep name this time…

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Global Slump & The New Normal

This transcript was originally posted at New Politics.

by Andrew Sernatinger and Tessa Echeverria

It’s been nearly seven years since the onset of the global economic crisis that began in 2007. In order to get an understanding of the crisis—of its origins, depth, and trajectory, we spoke with David McNally, activist, political economist, and author of Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance (2010) and more recently Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism (2012). For readability’s sake, we have broken this interview into two parts. This first part focuses on the crisis itself, its causes, the way in which working life has been reorganized, the perspective of ruling elites in managing the crisis and pursuing austerity policies, and how this should help inform our stance as movement activists.

Part two will concentrate on Monsters of the Market, asking why the monstrous has captured popular culture. This will lead us into a critique of everyday life under neoliberal capitalism, discussing how the experience of waged labor has created an affinity for monster stories, particularly zombies, vampires, and Frankenstein’s Monster. The second part ends with McNally’s thoughts on building a renewed socialism-from-below.—AS

Continue reading

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024: Alan Sears “The Next New Left”—Live at WORT.FM!

For episode 24, we were invited to host “A Public Affair” on WORT-FM community radio here in Madison, Wisconsin. Our friend and comrade Allen Ruff hosts the Thursday program and asked us to substitute, so we gave it a shot.

We invited past guest Alan Sears to talk about his book, “The Next New Left”. Alan has published a number of articles that lead up to this book, trying to think over the problem of why there aren’t more social movements or an organized left response to this slump and austerity. Instead of dismissing the problem, he innovates by naming some concepts that have historically been the backbone of working class movements and left organizations.

Since this is a live program, we broadened out the discussion somewhat and callers periodically came on to ask questions and give comments, which Alan responds to. Being in Wisconsin, we used the “Wisconsin Uprising” of 2011 as sort of a frame to explore the ideas that he’s talking about.

Give it a listen!

Right-click here to download this program.

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Episode 023.5: Monsters of the Market with David McNally

This is the second half of the interview with socialist scholar-activist David McNally. In this second part, we move from talking about the effects of the global slump on working people and the future of capitalism to talking about the social and cultural effects neoliberal capitalism has had, following David’s book Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism.

We talk about the significance of popular culture’s love for zombies, both about how the image of the zombie says much about the experience of working life and how the sense of trying to survive through such hard times might be what people identify with in the zombie apocalypse scenario.

David discusses Marx’s use of the language of monstrosity and his literary depiction of capitalism to explain the system—something that’s often overlooked when talking about Capital. We then get an overview of the anti-capitalist themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and end by talking about the “next new left”.

Right-click here to download this episode.

Part one: Global Slump and the New Normal.

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023, pt 1: “Global Slump & The New Normal” Interview with David McNally

For episode #23, we interviewed David McNally—a Canadian socialist, scholar-activist, author and teacher. We had been trying to get David on the program for some time and finally managed to get all of our schedules aligned to make this happen, which we are very excited about!

Because there was so much to talk about, we broke the episode into two parts. Part one, posted here, is where we ask David to talk about the crisis, global slump and recent political economy of capitalism that got us to this point. David explains different types of crises in capitalism and that he believes this will be a much longer recovery, more similar to the slump at the end of the 19th century. We talk about the rationale of austerity, and how the effects of the bailout, nearly $23 trillion by his estimates, have ironically prolonged the crisis by preventing “excess capital” from being destroyed—banks are not going under, factories are not closing, less efficient production is not being put out of business by more efficient production.

Lastly, we talk abgs-coverout the need to have a popular understanding of the slump that clearly demonstrates that there is a ruling class consensus towards driving down living standards and maintaining profits, rather than in creating jobs or helping “the economy”.

For listeners interested in more on this subject, be sure to check out McNally’s book Global Slump: The Economics and Politics of Crisis and Resistance, and Sasha Lilley’s edited collected Capital and its Discontents: Conversations with Radical Thinkers in a Time of Tumult, which includes an excellent introduction by the editor as well as interviews with economists like McNally.

Part two of this interview will discuss McNally’s book Monsters of the Market: Zombies, Vampires and Global Capitalism.

Right-click here to download this episode.

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Episode 022: Revolutionary Music of James Connolly: Interview with Mat Callahan

96018618-1Episode 22 marks our first episode centered around music. Tessa and I talked for a while about things we wanted to do, and Tessa found a great reissue of Socialist and Labor Songs over at PM Press. As a historic book, there wasn’t someone to clearly talk to about that book, but talking with Stephanie at PM she suggested that we talk with Mat Callahan, who recently edited a new edition of Songs of Freedom: The James Connolly Songbook.

In the interview, Callahan, a longtime musician and veteran activist, explains that he had long known James Connolly as an Irish revolutionary figure, but later discovered that Connolly was also an avid poet and songwriter. We talk to Callahan about finding the original US print of Songs of Freedom, which often did not include musical scores. Callahan explains the process of writing music to try and fit the tone of the songs, as well as his broader thoughts on the relationship between music and social change.

This episode features “A Festive Song” and “O Slaves of Toil” from the album Songs on Freedom.


Right-click here to download this episode.

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