Talking About Love with the League of Good-for-Nothings

On Sunday 1 March I joined the League of Good-for-Nothings in local bar and movement haunt Kakekomitei to talk about love. The League of Good-for-Nothings is sociologist Carl Cassegård’s English translation of the legendary Tokyo group Dame-ren (だめ連). Cassegård has written extensively on the group and their contribution to underground culture and the revival of street protest in Tokyo in the 1990s. The translation is an apt and appropriately humorous way of capturing the spirit of the group’s name, which evokes a sense of the absurd by combining the word dame, meaning ‘no’, ‘broken’, ‘useless’ or ‘forbidden’ with the high-sounding suffix -ren, indicating a political league. Since its founding in 1992 by activists Kaminga Kōichi and Pepe Hasegawa, the group’s main focus has been on creating spaces where people who identify with the idea of being dame can engage in open-ended discussions about topics which affect their lives.

Earlier this year, I was involved in organising a symposium on Love as Politics at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and Kaminaga kindly took an interest in what we were doing and read my paper and that of my friend Nick Southall. The theme for the March event was loosely inspired by the work we have been doing on love and so the organisers asked me to kick off the discussion by talking a little bit about the love festival and some of the ideas which have come out of it. rganisers, kindly read mine and Nick Southall’s talks at last year’s Love as Politics.

The fact that the event was even held at all in the current atmosphere in Japan was significant. The previous week the Prime Minister asked schools across the country to close two weeks before the spring holidays in an attempt to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. In the wake of this request, with which most local education districts have complied, there has been a cascade of of cancellations of gatherings of all shapes and sizes. It’s hard to know exactly what to make of the situation and opinion was divided about the virus threat and the measures taken in response to it among attendees at the event. Some were entirely unconcerned and felt that the government response was a major over-reaction. Others that we should be concerned and take reasonable precautions, even if we remain sceptical about aspects of the official response. As the afternoon wore on some fairly lurid conspiracy theories about the virus were also aired, though not to general agreement. The conclusion that I reached was that it showed once again just who increasingly incommensurable the truth-worlds we inhabit are becoming and how little faith people put in governments and health authorities to respond appropriately.

In this tense atmosphere, a little more than twenty people came together to talk about love. There were many familiar faces and some people whom I had never met. Contributions to the discussion varied wildly, something I have come to expect after many years of organising love reading groups and love festivals. This variety demonstrates the broad range of the conversations which love makes possible.

The discussion began, as it not infrequently does, with the problem of language. The Japanese word for love, ‘ai’ (愛) is a translation word which has been notoriously slow to become absorbed into everyday parlance in Japan. At one point during the discussion, one of the organisers posed a question to the room, asking whether anyone had ever used the Japanese word ai to say ‘I love you’ (愛している). Nobody had. Some had used suki (好き), which is a common phrase with a similar meaning but then suki also means to like, as in to like peas or the colour yellow. As I spoke about love I used the terms ai more or less interchangeably with a Japanese transliteration of the English word love, rabu. This was not a thought-out choice of vocabulary and the question was raised by someone who noticed me doing so as to whether this indicated something unique about the meaning of the English word which might not easily by translated. Certainly the transliteration rabu, which has become nativised in Japanese, is frequently used in pop cultural discourses on love, such as in one of my favourite phrases rabu rabu (ラブラブ), which describes the kind of overt infatuation of young couples we might call ‘puppy love’.

Many other possible Japanese ‘translations’ and related concepts were raised throughout the discussion, from the Buddhist notion of jihi (慈悲) (from the Sanskrit and Pali word Karuna, typically translated into English as compassion) to notions of fraternity, yūai (友愛) or hakuai (博愛). Due consideration was also given to words which incorporate ai in compounds and are used more frequently than ai on its own. These included jiko ai (自己愛) meaning love of the self and aiken (愛犬) meaning a beloved pet. Itōshii (愛しい), meaning beloved or dear, came up as another possibility. Playing on these linguistic ambiguities, one participant recounted how in romantic relationships he had always though that ai would eventually emerge from koi (恋) (passion, attraction), but now wondered whether in fact the reverse might be more realistic.

These definitional and linguistic discussions seemed to set the stage for the conversation as everyone in the room tried to come to terms with what it was we were actually talking about. Unsurprisingly, the definitional question remained unresolved and I think these kinds of linguistic games, while important, can also be a red herring. It was when people started sharing stories that we learned what love really meant to them. The discussion kicked off with a heart-wrenching story, a story which was not framed by use of the term ai or any other term for love but which simply spoke for itself. The most significant thing to have happened in my life, the man said, was when my 23-year old sister drowned while rescuing a child from the sea while holidaying by the coast. The story hit home and while the speaker did not try to interpret it for us, others sought to articulate this story in terms of different relationships of love – the love the speaker had for his sister, the love the sister had for an unknown child. This anecdotal style set the tone for the discussion which thereafter focused more on the sharing of personal encounters with love and lovelessness rather than theoretical grappling with the nature of love.

The stories told were varied and I will just pick out some of them here. Two speakers came from a local grassroots homeless people’s centre. They spoke about nakama (仲間, friends/comrades) as a form of loving relationship that sustains people in homeless communities. One young woman who described herself as a hikikomori (shut-ins who do not typically leave their room) thanked her parents for their love over the years, and also thanked a stranger with whom she talks regularly on the phone. One local poet recited a poem about landmines and spoke about the contradiction between the way that we can become implicated in acts of killing while living ordinary lives but that we simultaneously engage in acts of love. Another woman talked about her struggle to love herself after having always tried to please other people. She suggested somewhat accusingly that perhaps love is actually a product of discrimination – implying that we only love some on the basis of excluding others. A number of people addressed this important provocation as the discussion continued.

There were thoughts on public love – the idea that the protesters who went to protest outside the prime minister’s residence after the March 2011 disaster were motivated by their love for society at large. Another man spoke about his struggles to express love for his family by trying, but mostly failing, to support them financially and of his own parents’ failure to teach him what love meant by example. More than one contributor stated they were wary of using the term love because its meaning had been cheapened for them or because they had seen it used to mask abuse. Another comment, and one which seemed significant given that we were meeting in a not-for-profit bar run primarily for the purpose of facilitating community gatherings, was that love is about making a place for people to gather and be themselves. There was talk of love as forgiveness, love of the self and love of pets. For a young couple recently returned from Goa, India, love was simply opening oneself up to everything and completely accepting the world as it is (opinion was divided on whether this meant opening ourselves up to politicians like Shinzō Abe).

As the effect of the alcoholic beverages most of us were consuming took hold the these wide-ranging discussions began to unravel. I was somewhat relieved when at long last the microphone found its way back to the start of the circle and the formal part of the evening came to a close. The last word in the evening’s discussions went to Boke-san, the owner of the bar in which we were meeting. A talented musician, Boke chose not to wax on any further about the nature and meaning of love but rather to get out his guitar and sing us a love song. Then it was time to eat the curry and rice he had lovingly prepared and have some more informal chats. Dame-ren has always valued the informal spaces of discussion over formal events – whether talks or demonstrations and I welcomed the opportunity to speak more quietly with some new faces. However, soon it was time for me to retire for evening and go home to give love to my family.

When we met before the meeting to develop a rough plan for the afternoon’s discussions, Kaminaga explained to me that there was no particular need for to reach a conclusion. However, having read over the talks from the earlier symposium in preparation for the event the phrase that came to the centre of my mind after the emotionally charged and diffuse conversations of the afternoon was Nick’s definition of love: ‘the struggle to create, maintain, and develop caring social relations’. The afternoon confirmed to me that this dynamic conception of love as an incomplete and ongoing movement towards relationship, rather than as a state of perfect bliss, is the best way to conceive of love in a social field where that which separates us often looms as large as that which brings us together.

Reading to Children

Some lines towards a poem

Reading to children is becoming a child once again, in my mother’s old bed in her mother’s house listening to Beatrix Potter
Reading to children is snuggling, cuddling
Reading to children is sharing elephants and fart jokes to comfort a playmate who really wants his mum
Reading to children in a foreign languages is seeing fear and confusion giving way to comprehension, self-confidence and strange grammars

Reading poetry to children is feeling nostalgic for an Australian bushland childhood more familiar from books than Country
Reading poetry to children is glowing inside as you see them appreciate the rhythmic power of the word

Reading to children is awesome!

Homeward Bound with Emily Matchar

In recent months as I plough through a research grant application at the office I have been thinking more and more about what I would rather be doing. During a similar period of existential crisis last year I came across a fascinating book by journalist Emily Matchar. Homeward Bound (Simon & Schuster, 2013) examines many of the themes of voluntary simplicity, permaculture living and radical homesteading that have occupied so much of my attention lately. I composed most of this post last year but never managed to finish it so I am bringing it to you now. Hopefully its better late than never!

Like many friends and acquaintances in Wollongong, Japan and elsewhere, I have joined the popular movement to reclaim hearth and home as a form of escape from the capitalist workplace. A few years ago my partner and I read Shannon A. Hayes’ book Radical Homemakers and experienced a real sense of awakening having finally found an author who was able to link the popular resuscitation of the domestic arts with a systemic critique of capitalism. Emily Matchar’s Homeward Bound is an insightful and thoughtful reflection on the work of Hayes and others and of the movement of which they are a part. She coins the term New Domesticity to bundle together a variety of cultural practices such as food gardening, attachment parenting, home-based micro entrepreneurship, mummy blogging, homeschooling etc. I have given an inordinate amount of time to thinking about these topics in recent years and engaged in various practical experiments in voluntary simplicity and self-sufficient living. In this book, Matchar explores the class and gender dimensions of these practices. This approach sets it apart from most of the literature by practitioners (although Matchar insists she is influenced by New Domesticity in her own life) which tends towards the celebratory and gives little consideration for the potential limitations of this often highly individualistic approach to social change.

Matchar focuses on women and their relationship with New Domesticity because the vast majority of Etsy shop owners, homesteading bloggers and attachment parenting advocates are women. She highlights some of the contradictions of a philosophy based on the reclamation of domesticity on feminist terms in the context of a society where gender inequality is deeply entrenched. Matchar does not reject the claim of some New Domesticity advocates that their practices are feminist, but she is highly critical of a certain type of New Domesticity discourse on feminism as a social movement which blames second-wave feminism for women’s abandonment of hearth and home, highlighting the long history of women’s role in the household economy throughout the industrial period.

One of the most poignant critiques in Matchar’s book is of attachment parenting. This parenting philosophy celebrates the maternal bond with the child and is popular among many parents who see themselves as progressive. Its appeal in a cold-hearted world is obvious, and I have been influenced by this movement in various ways as I have struggled to figure out how to be a parent. As Matchar points out, however, attachment parenting tends to place enormous responsibility on mothers and tends to naturalise the maternal role as an instinctual one rather than a product of social conditioning. She also points out the philosophy’s origins in Christian conservative circles in the United States, highlighting the conservative ideas about women and their social roles that are coded into its foundational texts. Matchar also mounts an economic critique of the widespread uptake of attachment parenting philosophies by progressive, educated women. In a searing passage, she notes how the embrace of attachment parenting by professional women who have left work to take care of their newborn children seems to coincide with a structural problem: the lack of flexibility at work to accommodate working mothers and the general shitty boringness of many of the jobs these young professional women were doing anyway. The result, a philosophy which validates motherhood appeals much more than juggling childcare in order to return to a job which devalues the female worker in the first place. Matchar thereby criticises both attachment parenting and liberal feminist ideas about the liberating nature of paid employment, noting that it does not necessarily lead to an undermining of patriarchal norms and social structures. Unfortunately, while she raises these contradictions in her own liberal feminist conceptions, they are never interrogated decisively.

Some issues in this book appear to an Australian reader in Japan as quintessentially American. Health care is one example. Matchar cites more than one example of a family that has given up on maintaining any form of health insurance because they simply cannot afford to do so. In Australia and Japan, relatively comprehensive public health systems make rejecting the private health insurance market and living on a low income much less risky. Here I see the potential of a radical homemaking that is not confined to the home but that links up with other homemakers to demand shared access to public goods. However, there is an ongoing tension here within New Domesticity and permaculture practices and philosophies. Libertarian ideas are an important part of the social philosophy of these movements, something which Permaculture for the People addressed in a recent review of David Holmgren’s book Retrosuburbia. Presenter Rebecca Ellis takes Holmgren to task for his emphasis on individualistic and household level solutions to problems such as transport, where abandoning the struggle for accessible public transport means privileging the transport needs of certain types of able bodies and offers little in terms of solidarity with the differently abled.

An obvious hole in this book is its lack of any real critique of capitalism. Matchar’s critique of New Domesticity is primarily posed in liberal feminist terms. There is no discussion of how socialist or Marxist feminist approaches, or perhaps most importantly ecofeminist ones, might relate to New Domesticity or to ideas of radical homemaking. Sylvia Federici’s recent work on commons and commoning provides provides us with some of the tools to connect the dots between the radical potential of radical homemaking and a broader critique of capitalism. In her recent book, Re-enchanting the World, Federici observes of the destruction of local food systems by capitalism:

‘by undermining the self-sufficiency of every region and creating total economic interdependence, even among distant countries, globalization generates not only recurrent food crises but a need for unlimited exploitation of labor and the natural environment.’

Sylvia Federici, Re-enchanting the World, 2019, p. 21.

For Federici, as for many ecofeminists, women working the land as subsistence producers are actually guardians of a kind of autonomy from the wage relation. If women can rely on the land to feed themselves and their families then they are not beholden to the job market for their own re/production. It seems to me that the radical potential of the New Domesticity movement is the attempt to create new ‘outsides’ to capitalism that permit autonomous re/productive labours. It remains to be seen whether the growing experiments in backyard food production, networks of community-sufficiency and the rejection of paid work can provide the basis for liberation or by combining with conservative notions of individual self-responsibility and the abandonment of public goods the New Domesticity-style rebellion can actually provide a kind of grassroots accompaniment for the politics of neoliberalism and the far-right. Matchar is right to point to the dangers of New Domesticity. It has the potential to simply reinforce patriarchal relationships in the home and isolate women from relationships of solidarity outside it.

One question that might prove important here is whether men are willing to give up some of the privilege they derive from our gendered place within the capitalist division of labour and join women in forging an alternative both in the home outside it. While Matchar’s focus is on women and feminism, she does talk to some men who have embraced aspects of the movement. What she misses, however, is the sense of liberation from gendered hierarchies that men can derive when we embrace roles that are coded as feminine. For me, cooking meals, assuming an equal responsibility for the management of my household (sharing the mental load) and sharing the work of raising my children is an embodied critique of male gender norms. Since having two small children, however, my partner and I have struggled with the fact that our family structure has started to look more and more like a traditional heteronormative one, with me at work while she remains at home with the children. This situation, which has been difficult to avoid so far, has only reinforced the importance of my doing my share of the housework in the attempt to maintain an equal balance of power between us. Of course, stepping up to the plate to do one’s fair share after centuries of male dominance in the home is really the least we can do. Nevertheless, wearing an apron is for me its own form of new domesticity and I find it to be a powerful way to perform my rejection of the skewed gender ideology that continues to cause me and the people I care about nothing but pain.

#On Humphrey McQueen, _A New Britannia_

On Humphrey McQueen, A New Britannia

An impressionistic review of Humphrey McQueen’s legendary attack on the nineteenth century origins of Australian racism and nationalism and their political expression in the Australian Labor Party. Based on the revised 1976 edition (Penguin).

Humphrey McQueen is one of those legendary figures on the left, particularly among the strange cabal of leftist intellectuals who hover on the edges of the academy, to which I belong. I remember first coming across McQueen the man at an Historical Materialism conference in Sydney. There his presence in the suites of the Sydney Mechanics Institute in Pitt Street added to my understanding of the tapestry of the history and future of leftist thought in Australia that the conference represented. A New Britannia is a powerful intervention in Australian historiography and it generated significant controversy when it was first published in 1970. On the back cover of the revised 1976 edition, I found at a secondhand bookshop in Sydney earlier this year, much marketing potential is harvested from this controversy. The book ‘delighted the critics’, we are told, with quotes from three critical reviews by prominent Australian intellectuals who panned the book as ‘bad’, ‘cock-eyed’ and ‘slipshod’. Having read it as a trained academic, the characterisation of the text as ‘slipshod’ has some merit. The narrative pace is uneven and at times I lost track of what was going on even within a single sentence, let alone across paragraphs. At the same time, its passion and lack of regard for historiographical convention was part of the book’s charm. It sounds like the uncensored scream of a young intellectual looking back on the storied history of labour and working class struggle in Australia and finding plenty of evidence of the racism and individualism of many of our nineteenth century proletarian heroes.

The conclusions McQueen reaches about the racism of Australian left nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth century seem commonplace to someone reading the book in 2020. Despite McQueen’s exile from the academic mainstream, it seems many of his conclusions are now widely accepted. However, one wonders whether this acceptance might not have had quite the opposite effect of that which was intended. McQueen’s style of unmasking the left’s historical heroes is characteristic of postmodern labour history, where it seems to have gone hand-in-hand with the general depoliticisation of the subject. For an earlier generation of socialist and communist labour historians, the past was a source of lessons of direct relevance to the contemporary struggle, even though this went hand-in-hand with the romanticisation of past struggles. Today, labour historians see class as a ‘category of analysis’ rather than a political project and one could be forgiven at times for thinking their goal in unmasking the failings of historic movements is to make despair convincing rather than hope possible, to misquote Raymond Williams. This process of depoliticisation is something McQueen rails against, but perhaps it is also the inevitable consequence of the new left attack on the often simplistic partisan historiography of an earlier generation, with their explicit commitment to socialism.

As an attack on the Australian Labor Party, the book ably and succinctly demonstrates the party’s anti-socialist origins. What’s more, while acknowledging the role of corruption in the failings of individual Labor politicians and the party as a whole, he convincingly lays out the more fundamental problem that Labor as a political organisation has never challenged capitalist hegemony. As a result, the party is little more than an institution for furthering the professional advancement of individual members of the working and lower middle classes. When faced with the task of rule, Labor has consistently ruled in the interests of the ruling class because it fundamentally accepts their class hegemony. It may have been a party of the working and lower middle classes, but it has has never been a party for the proletariat. Today, as the proletariat becomes ever-more diffuse and its internal divisions and differences multiply, Labor continues to play a similar role. It organises particular elements of the trade union bureaucracy and the community sector into an electoral machine and in the process provides a means of advancement for professionals in those sectors. Unfortunately, while McQueen’s revelations about the failings of nineteenth century working class heroes are now widely accepted, his critique of the ALP as the party of petit bourgeois racist nationalism does not seem to have made much progress in the academic humanities, probably because illusions in the ALP and allegiance to its politics of class compromise remain so entrenched in the sector.

Reading McQueen in 2020 also left me wondering about the nature of public debate in the era of the multitude. My worn Penguin edition of McQueen’s book, which I picked up in a Sydney bookshop for $6, was published at a time when an audience existed for this kind of complex historiographical debate. The work makes significant demands on its readers, particularly in terms of assumed knowledge about the history and historiography of nineteenth century Australia. That this book, with its red armband political perspective and complex argument could appear in a Penguin edition in the 1970s forces one to reflect on the state of public debate in Australia today. Academic historiography seems to retreat further and further from the mainstream of reading and publishing in Australia. Part of this is surely the result of the relentless drive for academic historians to publish with ‘prestigious’ international publishers, for whom a hundred or so copies sold to university libraries is the extent of their ambition for a reading public. When academic historians do break through into mass-market audiences, their material tends to the well-digested and palatable. I suspect McQueen’s passionate but ‘slipshod’ approach would struggle to find a publisher today.

Furthermore, McQueen addresses himself to an audience that, even if it can be assumed to have largely disagreed with him, was far more unified in terms of a shared political culture than that which exists today. Agreement on truth and the parameters within which to conduct historical debate is harder and harder to find, something to which the issue of ‘fake news’, the election of Donald Trump and the resurgence of the far-right in ostensibly ‘liberal-democratic’ political systems all attest. Increasingly, we inhabit a multitude of overlapping thought-worlds, where understandings of the past and the present proliferate and diverge ever more widely. Would a McQueen-style intervention even be possible in the current climate? While there has been a revival of socialist discourse on the internet and in some left-leaning media outlets in Australia, debate in these forums seems to be dominated by a neo-Keynesianism which McQueen would no doubt reject as forcefully as he does Australia’s racist left nationalism. In his highly sceptical foreword to the volume, Manning Clarke characterises McQueen’s book as a definitive expression of the New Left’s critique of the past. Today it would be hard to imagine a reading public with enough in common in their view of the past to make such a critique even intelligible, let alone for it to carry political weight.

Follow the Yellowcake Road: A Journey from Tokyo to Mirrar Country

On 19 July 2019 I boarded a plane in Tokyo and headed to Cairns for two weeks of fieldwork connected with my research on transnational activism in the Asia-Pacific. My purpose was to learn about the pathways via which uranium travels from Australia to Japan and the resistance movements and grassroots connections which have formed along the way. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Australia supplied approximately one third of Japan’s uranium needs, something I first became aware of when anti-nuclear activists from Australia came to Japan in 2012 for the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World. Since that time I have pondered the nature of the nuclear relationship between my birthplace and my second home in Japan. After delving into the history of this relationship from my dusty office in Tokyo, it was time to make the physical journey along the yellowcake road and see where it might take me.

In Cairns I met with local Japanese-Australian people who organise Smile with Kids, a registered charity which brings junior high school students from Fukushima prefecture whose lives have been disrupted in multiple ways by the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster for a ten-day visit to Cairns. The children’s visit happened to coincide with a visit to the city by Peace Boat, a cruise ship with a difference which holds peace and sustainable development education activities onboard during its global and regional voyages.

Peace Boat at Cairns Dock

The ship is part of an NGO which campaigns around these issues and has played a significant role in fighting nuclear power in post-Fukushima Japan. Local activists took advantage of this fortuitous timing to organise a welcome event for Peace Boat passengers and staff at which the Fukushima children spoke about their experiences growing up in the wake of the nuclear disaster.

Student from Fukushima Addressing the Welcome Event in Cairns

In Cairns the children stay with local homestay families and take part in an extensive educational programme. One day I accompanied them on a visit to the Cairns cenotaph, where a Cairns-based Japanese man gave a short talk on Australian’s war history and its conflict with Japan in the Second World War. The following day they went to Spring Dew Farm, an organic farm located in the Atherton Tablelands which practices natural farming methods. The farmer is a Japanese-Australian man who took part in an eight-month walk across Australia and Japan in 2003 and 2004 visiting uranium mines and nuclear installations in protest at the devastation wrought by the nuclear industry and in an effort to connect movements and memories in the two countries. After the children had prepared a meal using vegetables they had freshly-harvested from the farm, he spoke to them about the walk.

Students learn about organic farming at Spring Dew Farm

In Canberra I dove into the archives to unearth the history of anti-nuclear resistance in Australia and the ways it has been entwined with Japan’s nuclear energy needs and with anti-nuclear social movements. I wanted to see how witnesses testifying before the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry between 1975 and 1977 understood the geography of the proposed Ranger uranium mine intended to be built in the Alligator Rivers region east of Darwin. The results of my research confirmed what other sources had suggested: uranium mining advocates made much of anticipated demand from Japan to justify their desire to mine while anti-nuclear activists pointed to growing anti-nuclear sentiment there. Connections between movements in the two countries were still embryonic at that time but I found some evidence that connections were already forming which would later develop more fully in subsequent waves of anti-nuclear activism.

Transcripts from the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry

In Darwin I developed an understanding of how uranium mining for the Japanese market fits into the broad sweep of Northern Territory history, its imbrication with Asia and the white man’s ongoing search for a quick buck at the expense of Aboriginal land rights. A local activist took me out to Kakadu where I was privileged to meet briefly with Yvonne Margarula, Senior Traditional Owner of the Mirrar people. I then spent two hours talking with staff at the Gundjeihmi Aboriginal Corporation, the body established by the Mirrar to manage their royalties from the Ranger uranium mine and maintain ‘a balance between sustainable development, traditional practice and living culture on their land’. Here I learned about the centrality of the Japanese uranium market to the Ranger uranium mine and to the Mirrar’s own understanding of their struggle. We finished the day with a drive past the Ranger mine, where I peered into the deep hole created by the now defunct mine. The hole is now being filled with tailings from the storage dam as part of the clean-up effort. Thanks to the long Indigenous-led struggle, signs are good that Ranger will be cleaned up to a high standard.

Entrance to the Ranger Mine

I concluded my trip by attending the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN) conference in Darwin. This organisation is made up of a patchwork of groups who are working to maintain and rebuild the struggle for peace across Australia and the region. The network was established in response to the US pivot to Asia and Australia’s role in this, such as via the establishment of a permanent ‘rotation’ of US marines in Darwin. The diverse currents of the peace movement represented at the conference included everything from Christian groups to former diplomats and academics to the Maritime Union of Australia, a Greens senator, local Indigenous elders and many others, all infused with an anti-racist and internationalist outlook.

Robin Taubenfeld addresses the IPAN conference

Amidst all of this diversity it might seem difficult to find the common, but at our protest action outside the Darwin military base where 2500 US troops are now permanently ‘rotated’ I was reminded that praxis can often provide a way to resolve contradictions between people with differing perspectives.

IPAN protest outside Robertson Barracks, Darwin

A series of fortuitous timings structured my trip, giving me a lesson in the importance of chance, synchronicity and goodwill when conducting fieldwork in unfamiliar terrain. I had a basic plan and some contacts in each port of call, but I still had concerns about whether I would find the story I wanted to tell. As I followed the yellowcake road, however, I uncovered a rich tapestry of people, places and things which weave Australia and Japan together in the atomic age and gained just the inspiration I needed to tell the story of the way uranium mining and the quest for energy resources have connected our two island nations in the nuclear age.

A Month for Remembering Nuclear Harms

The worst thing in 1954 was the Bikini

See the girl on TV dressed in a Bikini

She doesn’t think so but she’s dressed for the H-bomb

‘I Found That Essence Rare’, Gang of Four

This month marked eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake triggered a tsunami and a major nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Anniversaries such as this one provoke considerable reflection. Coverage of the anniversary in the Japan Times focused on the Abe government’s problematic promotion of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as the ‘Recovery Games’ while most residents in the Tōhoku region of northeast Japan, where most of the damage was done, feel a palpable lack of progress on recovery. A few days earlier the newspaper reported on the ongoing crisis of waste water management at the ruined plant. Every day tonnes of groundwater water flow into the site where it mixes with the water that is used for cooling the damaged reactor cores and becomes contaminated . After filtration, this contaminated water is stored in large tanks on site but with no end in sight the issue of what is to be done with this waste water remains unresolved. The leading idea for how to deal with it once storage runs out: flush it into the sea.

Of course, huge quantities of radioactive water have already been released into the Pacific Ocean since the disaster. It is worth remembering in this context the other important anniversary that took place in the Pacific on 1 March 65 years ago when the United States began conducting a major round of nuclear bomb tests, codenamed Operation Castle, over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The Bikini tests were intended to demonstrate the United States’ nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union. However, the Japanese tuna fishing trawler Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No 5) was caught in the fallout from the tests despite being outside the designated fallout zone.

Daigo Fukuryū Maru (Lucky Dragon No 5)

Upon returning to its home port of Yaizu, the trawler’s crew were hospitalised with symptoms of acute radiation poisoning. The radio operator subsequently died and fears of radioactive tuna spread throughout Japan. In September a nation-wide petition drive against atomic and hydrogen bombs was initiated by the fishmongers of Suginami in central Tokyo. By August the following year the petition had garnered more than 20 million signatures and is often credited with laying the ground for subsequent citizen movements against the renewal of the US-Japan Security Treat (Anpo) in 1960.

This year memorial events for the Bikini incident were held in the port of Yaizu and in Tokyo, where the fishing trawler is preserved at the Daigo Fukuryu Maru Exhibition Hall. Activists from the museum organised a special screening programme of films related to the incident. The headliner for these screenings was Day of the Western Sunrise, a new film by Daliborka Films that features interviews with three of the survivors from the ship.

Day of the Western Sunrise Documentary Teaser Trailer from DALIBORKAfilms on Vimeo.

I attended another related event on Wednesday 27 February at the Tokyo headquarters of Peace Boat, a Japan-based Non-Profit Organisation (NPO) which is active in contemporary movements against nuclear weapons and nuclear power and for peace and social justice. Last year the organisation’s flagship cruise liner conducted the Making Waves tour, which visited five ports around Australia with a group of nuclear survivors from Japan and Australia. Nuclear survivors are known in Japanese as hibakuasha. At each port the group gave public talks and took part in protest actions in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Making Waves banner
Making Waves, ICAN

On Wednesday night in Tokyo, a weekly study group meeting heard from Okamura Keisuke, a photographer and activist with the Pacific Nuclear Disaster Assistance Center (太平洋核被災支援センター) in Kōchi prefecture in the south-western island of Kyushu. Okamura has recently published a photo book which highlights a little-known aspect of the Bikini nuclear tests.

While the irradiation of the Lucky Dragon during the Bikini tests is quite widely known in Japan and around the world, Okamura revealed that there were actually more than 1,000 Japanese fishing trawlers in the Bikini area during the bomb tests. A large numbers of fishermen on these boats were subject to irradiation. The book, No Nukes: Never Forget the Bikini Atoll Nuclear Tests features photographs of some of the survivors, rural fisherfolk who remained silent about their experiences until the 1980s.

Local high school students in Kōchi discovered this large hidden hibakusha community when they interviewed local older people for a school project in 1985. As awareness about the existence of this group of hibakusha grew, more people became involved including radiation health scientists who were able to calculate accurately the radiation doses received by the fishermen through studying their teeth. These investigations revealed that some of these fishermen experience dose-rates comparable to those experienced by people in Hiroshima who were located 1.5 km from the epicentre of the explosion.

When initial reports of the Kōchi hibakusha surfaced, the Japanese government denied any knowledge of the incident. However, subsequent research and legal action led to the discovery of extensive records of the incident and of a government cover-up that occurred at the time in collusion with the United States. Now older and no longer cowed by the poverty and fear that kept them silent in the early 1950s, the survivors have launched legal action to bring their experiences to light. In July 2018 the Kōchi District Court rejected the former fishermen’s claim for damages arising from the Japanese state’s complicity in hiding key records of the Bikini tests. Nevertheless, the judgement did acknowledge that the fishermen had been exposed to radiation from the Bikini tests – the first official acknowledgement that vessels other than the Lucky Dragon No 5 were involved. Okamura highlighted the role of a group of scientists in the cover-up who were former members of the infamous Imperial Japanese Army Unit 731 who conducted biological and chemical warfare experiments on human beings in Japanese-occupied Manchuria and were later rehabilitated, with the complicity of the American Occupation authorities, after the war.

As Okamura brought his talk to a close, he discussed the wider implications of the Bikini incident and subsequent cover-up for the establishment of Japan’s nuclear power programme in the 1950s. In general, anti-nuclear activists recognise a strong connection between the military and civilian uses of nuclear power. The civilian technology is military in origin and critics often point to the fact that nuclear power generation produces plutonium, increasing the risk of nuclear proliferation. Okamura outlined the way the US and Japanese government complicity in the cover-up of Bikini led directly to the subsequent attempt to reframe civilian nuclear technology as a kind of ‘swords into ploughshares’. He described the way propaganda efforts in favour of nuclear power were ramped up significantly in the wake of the Bikini incident through the newspaper and television empire of rehabilitated war criminal and CIA collaborator Shōriki Mastutarō as well as the 1956 Atoms for Peace exhibitions held to promote nuclear technology’s peaceful use in a war-weary Japan. These exhibitions were attended by thousands of people at a time when mass consumer culture was just starting to take off as Japan’s economy recovered from the devastation of war.

Japan and Australia have both refused to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons advocated for by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning advocacy group the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

ICAN logo

In justifying their opposition to the treaty, both governments cite their defence relationship with the United States, the only country to have dropped a nuclear bomb on another during wartime. Okamura’s talk not only highlighted the struggle of an ageing group of rural hibakusha to have the truth of their irradiation recognised publicly but connected their struggle with the alliances forged between government and military figures in Japan and the United States in the aftermath of the Asia-Pacific war in order to maintain US hegemony in Asia. The failure of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to negotiate an end to the ongoing state of war on the Korean peninsula only highlights the way the Cold War structures of militarism in East Asia stand in the way of the peace and reconciliation that might enable the Asia-Pacific war to truly come to a close. In the meantime, grassroots activists like Okamura and the hibakusha survivors of nuclear harms will continue to be the real diplomats, patiently doing the work of peace and bringing to light the hidden harms of the US-Japan relationship.

Welcome to Our First Podcast!

Melanie and I are excited to announce the launch of the very first episode of the Love From Tokyo podcast, aptly titled ‘Class Power is Built from Love’. Like the blog, this podcast focuses on politics and activism in Tokyo and the wider region. It’s a project that Melanie and I have been dreaming up since we first started talking about coming to Tokyo and is inspired by some of the new wave of radical podcasts we have been listening to over the past couple of years such as Living the Dream, Novara Media and Floodcast. You can listen to the podcast here or via iTunes and Stitcher.

For this first episode we took the opportunity to interview our dear friend Nick Southall who was in Tokyo last month for the Love as Politics seminar at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. This symposium was the capstone for a four-year JSPS-funded research project on ‘The Lived Experience of Anarchist Culture: The Making of Autonomous Space and Subsistence [生きられたアナーキズムの文化実践:自律空間の創出とサブシステンス]’ (Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C), Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, 15K03872) that involved members of an Autonomism reading group formed in Kunitachi in 2012. In his talk at the symposium, Nick addressed the importance of care in social movements and argued that love is increasingly being recognised as key to building alternatives to capitalist power. In the podcast, we asked him to expand on his use of the term love. We then talk extensively about love, and its lack, on the political left and how love can serve as the basis for building class power.

The project is the work of a fairly informal network of researchers and activists that first started to come together around the G8 summit in Hokkaido in 2008. We held our first conference in Wollongong in 2010 under the title From Empire to Commonwealth: Communist Theory and Contemporary Praxis. When I was in Japan between 2011 and 2013 a group of participants in that conference and other local activists and researchers started a reading group on Sylvia Federici’s book Caliban and the Witch (Autonomedia, 2004), an alternative history of capitalist modernity that emphasises the role of the witch hunts in the destruction of pre-modern forms of autonomous community and women’s power both in Europe and the colonies. These discussions coalesced around a second conference, Crisis and Commons: Prefigurative Politics After Fukushima where we considered autonomist perspectives on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and other struggles in a world of deepening crisis. One of the reading group members, Odawara Rin, subsequently translated Federici’s book into Japanese.

My talk at the symposium was an attempt to summarise and theorise the experience of a series of events I have been involved in organising in Wollongong that we call Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics (my talk is available here and in Japanese translation here). Some readers of this blog will have attended one of these events at Minto Bush Camp in 2014 or at Kum Ba Yah Girl Guide Camp in 2017. These events, which we refer to more casually as ‘love festivals’ were themselves the outgrowth of an earlier reading group on love that started in 2013 in direct response to the above mentioned 2012 symposium at TUFS. Stay tuned for the Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics book, which we hope to publish in 2020.

The full text of Nick’s talk is available here ( and in Japanese translation here). You can also read more of his work on his blog, Revolts Now. In 2016 I interviewed Nick about his experience growing up in the Communist Party of Australia. The interview is available at The Word From Struggle Street(part 1, part 2, part 3).





まずは本日の企画者と参加者の皆様にお礼を申し上げます。オートノミーの理論と実践に関心を持ち、2010年11月にウーロンゴン大学の第一回目のシンポジウムに集まったアクティビストと研究者による緩やかなネットワークが生まれてから、10年近く過ぎた。日本とオーストラリアを中心とするわたしたちのネットワークは、ヨーロッパやインドネシア、中国に拠点を置く同志たちを含んで拡大してきた。それは、この間わたしたちがお互いの家に滞在し、食事や悲しみや抗議や喜びを共有してきた、コスモポリタンな人生の旅路を含んでいる。わたしたちの小さなネットワークと、相互扶助とケアの実践についてわたしは言及している。どうしてかというと、それは今日の話のテーマであるラブ・フェスティバルとは、社会生活の現代的形態はプレカリアスである一方、それはまた緩やかで重なり合うネットワークによって構築され支援されている、という理解のもとに着想された政治的プロジェクトだからである。ニックは「連帯チーム(solidarity teams)」という考えを「お互いをケアし、そして、それぞれが社会にポシティヴな影響を及ぼそうとする努力の価値を認め合う人々のグループ」と定義して言及している。これらのグループは、例えば家族や友人のつながりに基づいているものや、共通の利害、経験、政治的取り組みに基づいている場合もある。わたしたちが作ってきたこの小さなリサーチ・ネットワークはこうした「連帯チーム」の一例として考えうると、わたしは示唆したい。それが確かにそうであることは、わたし自身の人生が証明している。自分自身を脱し、乗り越えていく、社会的・政治的領域における関与のみならず、顕著な個人的な成長を促すものとして。




2010年と2012年に開催された二つのシンポジウムから部分的にインスパイアされ、しかし、アカデミックな厳格さを打ち破り、多様な愛の文化的実践の共有地点を見つける交差点を創造することを求める。このフェスティバルは昨今のグローバルなフェミニズム運動の再興、グローバルな平等な愛のキャンペーン、ウーロンゴン大学で行われている「愛を読む読書会 (以下ラブ読書会)」にもインスパイアされている。















The Wollongong Love Festival: An Experimental Politics

Alexander Brown

Here you can listen to a talk I gave at the symposium on Love as Politics at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies on Saturday 16 February, 2019. The text follows and is also available in Japanese translation here.


I would like to begin by thanking my fellow organisers of today’s event and everybody who has joined us for coming along. Nearly ten years have passed since this loose network of activists and researchers, who share an interest in the theory and practice of autonomy, gathered for our first conference at the University of Wollongong in November 2010. Our network, which is centred on Japan and Australia, has expanded to include comrades based in Europe, Indonesia and China. It has incorporated the cosmopolitan life journeys many of us have taken during this time as we stayed in one another’s homes and shared meals and misery, protest and joy.

I mention our little network and our practices of mutual aid and care because the love festival, which is the topic of today’s talk, is a political project that was conceived on the understanding that while contemporary forms of social life are precarious, they are also structured and supported by loose, overlapping networks of social solidarity. Nick referred to the notion of solidarity teams, a notion that he defined as: ‘groups of people who care for each other and acknowledge the value of each other’s efforts to make positive impacts on society’. These groups might be based on family or friendship links or on common interests, experiences and political commitments. I would suggest that the little research network that we have formed can be thought of as an example of such a solidarity team. In my own life it has certainly proved to be so – facilitating both significant personal growth as well as involvement in social and political realms that have taken me out of and beyond myself.

Background to the Love Festival

The story of the love festival begins, in some ways, in this room when our research group gathered for a previous conference titled Crisis and Commons in December 2012. This symposium was a proud moment for me personally and one that I feel demonstrated the strength of our transnational solidarity team. The impact of that event, while difficult to measure, has reverberated over the years through our network. For two of the Australian participants, for example, it played some role in their decision to move to China for nearly two years where they made contact with local activists and took part in a project to translate autonomist texts into Chinese. For me personally it influenced my decision to return to Japan with my family late last year; a move facilitated by the support of members of this research group. The conference was also, however, an exhausting experience and one where I felt the formal trappings of academia inhibited the provision of care for self and others. More than one of us barely slept during the weekend of the event itself as we struggled to prepare academic performances that would be worthy of the event. Theory dominated much of our discussions and I was once again reminded of the significant barriers that exist to participation in academic spaces such as this.

Following the 2012 symposium I discussed with Nick the possibility of collaborating on a different kind of venture where we could jettison the trappings of academia in favour of a fun, festive environment. I hoped that this event would encapsulate much of the politics and practice I had observed at work in the anti-nuclear movement and in the broader social movement scene in Tokyo. One of the highlights of the 2012 conference, for example, was the delicious meals we enjoyed thanks to a young Swiss activist who was at that time living with me and Taku. The conversations we shared over his food and the kindness he put into it helped inspire the central role food would play at the Wollongong love festivals. The original call-out for the event summarises this background as follows:

Inspired in part by two conferences held in 2010 and 2012 but seeking to break out of academic strictures and create an intersection wherein a variety of cultural practices of love might find common ground. The festival is also inspired by the recent upsurge of the global feminist movement, the global campaign for equal love and the Reading Love reading group taking place at Wollongong University.

Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics

The first step in the process of organising the love festival was to think more about the politics of love. Nick and I therefore adopted a tried and true method: we convened a reading group. The reading group seems to be a perfect format for the development of solidarity teams. In my political and intellectual life, reading groups have often played a key role in enabling me to experiment with new ideas and develop new relationships. The first major political grouping in which I was involved, a small activist collective in Wollongong called Revolutionary Action, started with a reading group with Nick and our friend Dave, who presented here in 2012. The research group behind today’s seminar, too, is the product of reading groups in both Australia and Japan.

When we started the love reading group in 2013 we straight away noticed that something was different. First, the gendered composition of the group was more balanced. After having been involved in many highly theoretical reading groups over the years that were overwhelmingly male dominated, this was very welcome. I felt this pointed to something about the gendered politics of academic theory and how easily even radical theory tends to privilege the perspectives of highly educated men. Second, the group was better able to attract people who were not academics or students. Third, the discussions in the group blended the personal and the political in important ways. The love reading group was largely made up of people I already knew but it helped create a new collective, a sense of common purpose that eventually coalesced into a plan to organise the love festival, where the ideas that we were discussing in the reading group could be put into practice. We aimed at a fully embodied exploration of love in action, proposing in the original call-out for the event that:

The festival might be thought of as a temporary ‘commune’ based on a love ethic in which everybody is encouraged to look out for one another, pitch in with food preparation, childcare, cleaning and helping ensure everything runs smoothly.

Putting this idea into practice took nearly a year of planning before the first festival took place in April 2014. It was held at Minto Bush Camp, a property in western Sydney that once served as a retreat centre for the Communist Party of Australia. Ultimately we decided to call the event Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics. The event attracted approximately 70 people over two days, many of whom stayed on-site in cabins and tents. The positive feedback we received about the event motivated the organising collective to reconvene once more in 2016 to begin preparations for a second love festival. The second event was similar to the first but this time we held it closer to home at the Kum-Ba-Yah Camp, a Girl Guides camp nestled in the foothills Mt Keira in Wollongong. We also decided to organise a more ambitious three-day schedule and to hold a lantern parade for which we prepared with separate public workshops in the lead-up to the festival. Our increased experience and grander ambitions for the second festival were repaid when more than 100 people took part over the course of the event.

The formal event programme was based mainly on workshops in which we asked facilitators to maximise the participation of all of the attendees. The subjects of these workshops were diverse. We encouraged both discussion-based workshops and workshops that engaged people in creative practices. At the 2017 love festival, for example, creative workshops included explorations of love through singing, creative writing and dance. Discussion-based workshops looked at topics such as compassion, protecting oneself from abuse, love sex and democracy, death, the politics of love, men in love, permaculture and love of the earth and the question ‘What is love?’. We issued an open-call for workshop presenters through our networks but we also invited many individuals whom we thought might connect the festival with their solidarity teams and communities and thereby facilitate wider participation. Another important part of the formal programme was the provision for all-in sessions at the beginning and end of the event so that potential strangers could get to know one another better to further facilitate participation in the workshops and informal social interaction.

We organised a food team to keep bellies full and tried to create a programme that balanced workshops and formal content with ample time and space for people to do the informal work of love. This included night time concerts at both events as well as film screenings of a selection of films that related to different struggles around love. We were pleasantly surprised by how successfully our ‘temporary commune’ functioned. There was no shortage of volunteers to help with the food preparation, childcare and cleaning mentioned above. In the final all-in sessions at both festivals, participants talked about their experiences. For many, the festivals helped them to rethink and reintegrate experiences of activist burnout and reconnect their political ideals with their desires for love, fun and community.

Organising Solidarity Teams

At a time when many people around the world are embracing exclusionary forms of love based on racial and national solidarity in the face of global uncertainty, many of us are struggling to articulate alternative conceptions of community with which we can identify. Revolutions in the concept of identity over the past few decades have shown how problematic identity can be as the basis of organising solidarity. Many now turn to notions of subjectivity to explain the many overlapping, unstable and complex identities and practices of identification through which we constitute ourselves as individuals within broader communities. While some contemporary understandings of love see it as an exclusive union between two individuals or as locked within other unified and unifying relationships of identity and sameness, the concept of love we have been exploring is inclusive and open-ended. Rather than settling for a fixed definition of love we have sought to explore multiple meanings and practices of love. The two festivals we organised have enabled this by embracing an open approach with multiple workshops hosted by volunteers with an interest and passion in exploring particular aspects of love.

One of the important bases in my thinking about the love festival was the understanding of the structure of the contemporary proletariat as a multitude. Wollongong has a long history of labour and communist movements but these movements were in serious decline by the time I came of age in the late 1990s. Out of the crisis of these older movements, however, a wide variety of social movements have arisen which lack a central organisational structure but do overlap in numerous ways to produce a collective culture of rebellion. This is a pattern that I have seen mirrored here in Tokyo and which others have reported from around the globe. How, then, to organise politically in this context?

Looking around Wollongong on my return to Australia in 2013 I observed a huge amount of organising and a huge amount of social solidarity. However, much of this activity appeared fractured and the sense of alienation and loneliness felt by many within these separate movements was palpable. The optimistic vision of love that Nick presented today is challenging for most of us given widespread experiences of isolation, loneliness and despair. Part of the vision of the love festival was to remind ourselves that we are not alone and that there are other people like us who are struggling for social change and more democratic and equal social relations in a multitude of ways. The festival was conceived as a project of commoning – of drawing together the various individuated experiences of social solidarity and create a temporary space in which they could find one another. Its aim was to recognise and to celebrate the existing forms of love in these overlapping networks and solidarity teams and to facilitate the further inter-weaving of these networks as an act of love expanding love.

Conclusions: A place to talk about love

It is not every day that one hears the term ‘love festival’, particularly in an academic venue such as this. In my experience and that of my fellow love festival organisers, the most common reaction to mention of our project is one of uncomfortable smirks and sniggers, presumably prompted by the idea that the love festival must be some form of orgy. This image seems to be tied to our stereotypical understandings of the counter-culture of the 1960s and 1970s, when sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll were said to form the basis of student and peace movements. However, the discomfort people experience when talking about the love festival also seems to have a deeper meaning and to be symptomatic of a more general discomfort we all feel when talking about love. In modernity, love has been largely privatised and confined within the romantic couple and the family. We called our love festival ‘Love: Art, Ideas, Music, Politics’ because we wanted to make explicit the link between love and all of these diverse social practices. We wanted to re-inject politics with love and love with politics by creating a space where people could come together to talk about love in a serious way.

Over the course of organising two Love festivals in 2014 and 2017 we have assembled a group of committed organisers, a broader network of participants and supporters and a body of knowledge and experience concerning love and its practice. We drew on our existing networks and solidarity teams and invited them to join in loving conversations with one another. By doing so, we helped to strengthen the bonds between the multitude of smaller loving communities that makes up Wollongong. Today we are continuing to nurture this network of solidarity teams by working on a book about the festival and the ideas behind it. The love festivals have been important events in all of our lives and our ongoing work on this project continues to give our lives meaning as we integrated the knowledge, experience and relationships generated at the festivals into our lives and struggles.





ふたたび日本を訪れる機会をいただき、シンポジウムを企画されたみなさんに感謝申し上げます。こうして旧友と再会し、新たな友人を作り、愛とケアについての意見を分かち合い、討議することが出来ます。愛の政治についてさらなる考察を深めるよう、時間と努力を注ぐべく力づけてくださったことに、深く感謝しています。私にとって、この問題はここ10年あまり、理論・実践面における中心的な関心事でした。愛とは何かという模索を、進歩的な社会運動や政治プロジェクトに関わる長い歳月の中で続けてきましたが、そのような場で、資本主義の恐怖、既存の社会との対立、政治的組織のマクロ形態に関心を寄せる人々と出会いました。そこでしばしばおろそかにされていたのは、個人間の関係や、今この場にいる人たちを集団として組織する際の、より思いやりのあるやり方でした。時が経つにつれて、私が人間同士の諸関係、いわば愛を通してより多くを得たいと望んでいたものと、政治を通して得たいと思っていたものとは同じなのだということが、はっきりと分かってきました。そこで、私は自分自身の哀しみ、また「哀しき戦闘性(sad militancy)」 (bergman & Montgomery, 2018) と名付けられたものから逃れようと試みてきました。つまり、よりよく生きる方法を整えようと努める人々に対し、過度に厳格で、容赦なく批判的であることからです。この政治的な旅路は、党派主義という伝統的な左翼文化を拒絶すること、いわば他人を非難・攻撃・取り締まろうとし、憎悪の持つ危険をより明確に認識し、得ることの出来ない純粋さや完璧さを求めて奮闘することからの決別でもありました。

 2012年、「危機とコモンズ」シンポジウムで前回日本を訪れた際には、私たちがいかに自分自身と他者とをケアするかということの重要性、活動家の燃え尽きの問題、セルフケア・個人の達成感・集団の取り組み・社会の団結との相関関係について述べました (Southall, 2013)。アレクサンダー・ブラウンとともに行った発表では (Brown & Southall, 2012)、今起きているグローバルな反乱が、自由、平等、そして愛を希求する政治プロジェクトをいかに生み出しているか探求しました。私たちの結論は、今生まれつつある民主的政府は、自治のネットワークと多様な社会的関係の上に建てられた制度が発展・拡張するにつれ「既に起きている(複数の)未来」を創造しながら資本を転覆させる力を持つようになる、それゆえに共産主義は、今もこれからもずっと、終わりがなくかつ新たに生まれ続けるものであり、現在進行形の未完成な複数のあり方でのみ実現され得るのだということでした。同様に、愛を求める闘争は、途切れることのないプロジェクトなのです。

 それにしても、愛とはいったい何でしょう? ある種の感じるもの、本能、感情、イデオロギー、情熱、プロジェクト、活動、それとも権力、煩悶、仕事、富、活動、必要なこと、欲望、意図、夢、幻想、ユートピアーといったものの一形態なのでしょうか? あるいはこれらすべてのもの、それ以上のものでしょうか? 私は基本的に愛を、互いを思いやる社会関係を創造・維持・開発するために奮闘することと定義しています。私の友人のひとりは、愛を「他の存在と、その存在がそれ自身のために発展することを尊重する行為」であるととらえています。愛とは単一のものではなく、さまざまな事柄の複合体です。このことは、愛の持ついくつかの問題を示唆しています。「われわれが愛しようと試みる時、実際のところ、一種類の努力を遂行しようとしているのではない。むしろ、時には互いに相容れない、さまざまなことを全範囲にわたって同時に行おうとしているのだ」 (Armstrong, 2001, 12)。 愛とは何かと想像すること―これが愛だと思い、そして愛について考えるということは、子どもの頃に学び、自分と何かとの相互の関係、私たちを囲む世界との関係を通して育まれていきます。愛すること、愛されるとは何かということは、社会と個人の歴史によって異なるものになるでしょう。愛とは何かという理解と信念は、私たち自身の変化、私たちを取り巻くものの変化、社会の変化によっても変わります。

 ナターシャ・レナードは、「重要な問いは、愛とは何ということではなく、愛が何をするかということなのだ。あるいは、もっと簡潔に言うのならば、私たちがそれで何が出来るかということなのだろう」と思索しています (2016)。悲観的な観点で愛をとらえると、愛は私たちを弱体化させるもの、無害にし、隷属させるもの、貧しく依存的にさせるものと考えられます。私たちには制御できないもの、避けようがなく抗しがたいものと考えられていることも少なくありません。愛の定義の多くは「自発性を強調」し、「努力や意図によるあらゆる要素の関与を認めることを否定」します。こうして、愛と私たちの労働の区別は「自分たちが再創造するように世界を形作る仲介者も力も、私たちは持っていないのだと匂わされる程度において」 (Lenard, 2016) 誤った方向へと導かれ、かつ保守的になります。ベル・フックスは (2000a: 4-5, 13) 、責務と説明責任をともなうものである以上、愛の発生とは行動であると唱えています。フックスは、スコット・ペックとエーリッヒ・フロムによる愛の分類、「意志、すなわち意図と行動の両者による行為」を援用しています。「また、意志には選択が内包されている。私たちは愛する必要はない。愛することを選択しているのだ」と。

 私はこれまでに書いた文章で、共産主義と愛を何度となく混成させています。どちらも自由、連携、そして互いを思いやる活動を伴うからです。しかし、毛沢東は (in Zizek: 2007) 「共産主義は愛にあらず。共産主義は敵を叩き潰すためのハンマーなり」と述べたと言われています。左派の多くは似たような見方で、資本主義者やさまざまな「階級の敵」への憎悪を動員し、別の左派を「修正主義者」「仲間割れの元凶」「支配階級の回し者」と、しばしば決めつけます。資本主義権力やその影響への憎悪というよりも、こうした個人に対する憎しみは、愛の成長を妨げ、芽を摘んでしまいます。その一方で、主観性には可能性や変革への契機があることを理解していると、あらゆる資本主義的主観性を、自分自身が内包しているそれも含めて拒否する手助けとなり、自身や他者を破壊的なまでに嫌悪することをも止められるのです。

 私の博士論文の中心課題は、現代の資本主義と階級闘争に関する発言でつとに知られる政治理論家、アントニオ・ネグリとマイケル・ハートの戦略的洞察についてでした。彼らは資本を社会関係としてとらえ、現行の資本主義の形態とは、入り組んだ社会政治的影響力の網の目の上に成り立つ、全世界的なネットワークの中で権力を組織している「帝国」であると説明しています。しかし、帝国の中にはより強力な力である「マルチチュード」、つまり自由・民主主義・平和、そして愛を求めて資本と対抗する集団的闘争を通して誕生する政治プロジェクトがあります。階級闘争を探求するにあたり、ハートとネグリは (2000) 、ミシェル・フーコーの「生権力」の概念を援用しています。フーコーは「権力は遍在」し、また「あらゆるところからやって来る」ものであるとし、人を締め付ける否定的な意味での権力と、肯定的な意味の可能性を与える生産的な権力とを区別しています。フーコーは「生権力」の概念を、資本の権力とは何かをとらえるために使っています。つまり、このような権力は国家を通じて行使され、しかも国家は、より分散・分権化した形態の支配が人々の生活・意識の深層・身体、そして社会関係を全面的に横断して、行きわたるよう手を貸すのだというのです。「生権力」の概念は、己の人生のコントロールを取り戻すことによって、人々が自らの手で自分自身を解放することについて理解する手掛かりとなります。

 ハートとネグリは (2000) 自律性にこだわりつつ、マルチチュードの現代社会運動の持つ最も重要な組織的特徴を、中央集権化した階級、指導者と代弁者の拒否、共同的意思決定、対等で親しい集団の存立を挙げています。ここで自律の概念が焦点をあてている権力の類型とは、取得したり分け与えたりするのではなく、人々がともに作る力であり、あらゆる人の自律、その人たちが持つ他者とのつながりを認め、支えるものです。革命的自治の実践は、資本主義の権力よりも、資本とその国家としての形態に、内側から、もしくは相対して、そしてそれらを超える形の闘争におけるプロレタリア的行為者の肯定をも含んだ自治、革命の発展に重きを置いています。マリーナ・シトリンは (2018)「自治は、運動と団体、そして個人との違いを区別するために使われてきました。われわれのために、または自分自身のために物事を決めるのです。党や政治家が、何をどのようにせよと指示するのを許すのではなく…自治は実践であり、ダイナミックなもので、イデオロギーでも理論でもありません。理論だと言ってしまうと、「生きた」ものが削がれ、実践性が薄れる危険があります」と述べています。資本や国家形態からの自律への闘争は、具体的な実践と、自分たちが作り出すものの形と内容を決める権力に基づいた政治にかかわるものです。つまり、私たち自身、私たちのコミュニティ、私たちの日常生活を整え、治める能力のことであり、何が価値あるものかと決める場のことです。

 こんにち、何が価値あるものかということをめぐっての議論は激しさを増し、政治としての愛の価値は、きわめて重要な闘争の舞台となっています。愛の政治的理解は、マルチチュードの力と、その力が資本に対抗し、価値を打ち消そうとする社会関係の強度からいかに湧き出でているのかを明らかにする手助けとなります。しかしながら、愛は社会闘争の重要な構成要素であると長らく認識されてきたにもかかわらず、政治的な議論や分析から抜け落ちていることは珍しくありません。愛を俎上に載せた考察の例を挙げると、エマ・ゴールドマンは愛を「生涯においてもっとも強く、もっとも深い要素であり、希望、喜び、法悦の先触れである。…あらゆる法、あらゆる因習に反逆し、…もっとも自由で、最も強力に人間の運命を形造るものだ」 (1911) と喝破しています。ロシア革命の最中、アレクサンドラ・コロンタイは、愛は「二人の愛し合う者だけの「個人的な」事柄ではなく、「深遠な社会的感情」であると主張し、同士関係と平等に基づく「愛-連帯」の価値を推進しました (in Ebert, 1999) 。

 1960年代、マーチン・ルーサー・キングJrが公民権運動を、愛のパワフルな形であると表現したように、愛の政治的概念が花開きました。「不屈の確固たる愛は、怨恨と憎しみを拒絶し、あらゆる不正義に対して動かされることがない」(Vincent Harding in Morgan, 1991, 39) 。チェ・ゲバラも「真の革命家は強い愛の感情によって導かれる」 (1965, 211) と書いています。政治としての愛についての新たな理解は、1967年の「サマー・オブ・ラブ」でもはっきり示されました。「サマー・オブ・ラブ」の政治は、権威主義、階級、代理制の拒絶を促し、平和、公民権、当時の革命運動を浸透させて、1968年の諸蜂起の発生を後押ししました。愛が政治的組織化のひとつの原動力になるとともに、既存の体制および伝統的左翼の双方に決裂を起こし、資本主義との抗争の拡大につながりました。しかし、革命的愛の実践は、資本主義国家の体をなしているものに、単に要求を突き付けるよりも、むしろよりはっきりと、それらに疑義をはさむようになっていきます。真の民主主義を求める60年代の闘争は、カール・オーグルスビーが分析するように「(愛を)脅かし、阻むものを、社会から」取り除くことによって、「愛をさらに可能なものとする」闘争だったのです (in Morgan, 1991, 94)  。

 それから数十年にわたって、愛は政治的闘争の主要な関心事となりました。家父長的・同性愛嫌悪的な愛への制約の拒絶もその中に含まれます。フェミニストおよびクィアの運動は、個人間の関係とケア労働の重要性に焦点をあてることによって、政治としての愛の概念の普及を、「個人的なことは政治的なこと」という概念を通して促しました。より近年ではサパティスタが、自分たちの革命的闘争を愛の形であると明言しました。彼らは愛することを学んだことによって、孤立に対峙し、連帯者と国境を越えてつながることが出来たのです。「自分たちのやり方で抵抗し、戦う人たち」へのサパティスタのメッセージは「あなたはひとりではない」そして「われわれはあなたを愛している」でした (EZLN, 2005)。メキシコ政府との政治交渉に失敗した後、彼らは「自分たちはこれからどうするのかと、心の中をさまよった。そうしてまず分かったことは、自分たちの心は、闘争を始める前ともはや同じではないということだった。多くのよき人々の心に触れたことで、より大きくなった」のです。彼らはメキシコ政府の善意にすがるより、愛し、愛されることが出来る、自分たちの包容力に身をゆだねました。世界各地で闘争を続ける人々に、メッセージと物的援助を送り、多くの人々がそれに応答しました。サパティスタにとって重要だったのは、彼らの心が変化したことで「われわれの心はさらに傷つき、より深くえぐられた。悪い政府の裏切りゆえに傷ついたのではなく、人の心に触れ、その悲しみにも触れたからだ」ということに気付いたことだったのです。

 近年の政治における「情動的転回」は、政治的関心事として愛をとらえることを推し進めました。マリーナ・シトリンも、自治と直接民主主義についての現行の実験を、「連帯と愛」の上に成立する「情動の新たな政治」であると言い表しています。シトリンの著書『ホリゾンタリズム(水平主義)』でインタビューされている社会活動家たちは、こうした新たな政治を、自身の内外に存在する資本主義的主観性に抗い、手なずけ、粉砕しながら、他者と自分自身を愛し、敬意を払うことを学ぶ過程であるととらえています。このような情動的な政治は、直接民主主義が「個人の感覚、そして集団の感覚を変える」集団的仲介者を育む「愛と信頼のある場の創出」の中心に据えられています。こうした政治は「情動を生み出すという点において情動的であり、愛と支援があふれる基盤を創り出している」のです (Sitrin, 2006, vii)。このようなミクロ・マクロの政治の連関の理解は、連帯する集団―互いを思いやり、社会に前向きなインパクトを与えようとするそれぞれの努力の価値を認め合う人々の集まりの、長大なつながりの中心に位置するものです (Reynolds, 2012)。その集まりには家族、仕事仲間、友人、政治的連帯者といった人々が含まれ得ます。互いに思いやる関係と、互いの顔が見える、資本主義になり代わる生きた何かを、近隣、地域、世界中に創出する手助けをするネットワークを作り上げる人たちです。したがって、こんにちの気候変動に対する抵抗運動や平和運動が、愛ある環境の重要性を強調するのは驚くべきことではありません。テロリズムやヘイトクライムへの草の根の応答は、防御のパワフルな形としての愛を強調し、「ブラック・ライブズ・マター」運動は「黒人へのラブレター」で口火を切りました。「私たちは自分自身を愛し、黒人の命が大事にされる世界を求めて闘わなければなりません。黒人のみなさん、あなたを愛しています。私たちを愛しています」と (Sydney Peace Foundation, 2018)。

 愛を創り出すことは、分かち合いの実践です。そうした分かち合いを構想し、準備し、整える個人と集団によって作り上げられます。アン・オークリーは、「何かを愛する経験をした人々が体験する並々ならぬ親密さは、大きな政治運動に参加した時の感情と似ている。自分が知覚する世界が拡張し、より激しさを増し、人間同士の境界線が霧散し、人間によくある利己主義が、尋常ならざる利他主義へと取って代わられるのだ」 (1986, 140) と述べています。このような解放の瞬間は、より徹底的に、互いに愛し合うことを可能にしてくれます。もうひとつの社会の在り方を「生きられた経験」を通して知ることで、規範、価値、思い込みを、自分の利害にまつわるものから、階層と人類の利益にかかわるものへと変換するのです。人は互いに親しくなると、「資材、知識、ものごとのやり方、文化の形、経験、音楽の伝統といったものを分かち合うことに長けていくようになり…人の暮らしとコミュニティを豊かにし、創造性の新たな地平を開き、交流を深め」ていきます (De Angelis, 2007, 153)。 進歩的な社会運動は、多様性と公共の活動に開かれた、情動的空間の創出を通して、さまざまなタイプの対人関係を生み出します。ベル・フックスが言うように (2003, xviii)、社会運動は戦略的な理由で人々を集めているのではなく、運動による人の集まりそのものが、人間の想像するものの核にある願望―自分自身をコミュニティの中に位置づけ、自分たちの生存を共同作業とし、自分たちと、自分たちを生かしめる地球とのつながりの中で、尊重される実感を得たいと希求することの実現なのです。

 にもかかわらず、愛は曖昧であるゆえに、さまざまな関係に生じる揺らぎを顕わにします。何かを愛することにともなう脆弱性は、弱さの表れであると見なされてきたことにもその一因があります。ですから、政治としての愛について考える時、力の一形態として愛をとらえることが手がかりになるでしょう。たとえば、カール・マルクスは「愛は愛を生み出す力だ」と述べています (in Fromm, 1960, 25) 。エーリッヒ・フロムは、愛は人々の仲立ちに依存する「生産的指向」を必要としていると唱え、マルクスに同意しています。愛を弱さととらえる人々は、思いやる関係が社会条件をいかに変革するかとは考えません。愛による前向きな影響を見過ごし、愛や思いやり、連帯の働きが、前向きな進展をいかに創り出すかを無視します。愛は偉業です。私たちが、個人としても集団としても創り出す何かであり、また、愛はたいへんな仕事でもあります。しかしながら、「仕事」を愛との関連で論じる時の大きな障壁は、資本による、また資本のための再/生産に限定された意味で使われがちな言葉であり、もうひとつの生き生きした在り方を構築するという仕事―愛による仕事―が見逃されるということにあります。


 時間の政治と愛の政治とは深く相互にからみあい、自治の実践は、より短い労働時間、自分たちの人生の時間のコントロール、労働の拒否といった問題を巻き込んでいきます。労働としての愛の認識は、愛としての自分自身の労働を整理するために、資本から自分たちを解放するための階級闘争の重要性を示しています。エーリッヒ・フロムは『愛するということ』の中で (1960)、愛は技術であり、その技を学ぶにはふたつの方法、理論と実践があると唱えています。愛には数多くの実践とともに、理論的知識と実践の結果の融合が求められるのです。しかし、いかなる技術を学ぶにも、第三の要素―究極の関心事が必要であり、そこにこそ、人はなぜ愛の技術を学ぼうと努めるのかという問いの答えがあるのだとフロムは言います。愛を渇望する思いは人の心に深く根差しているにもかかわらず、成功、金、財産といった、愛以外の何かの方がより重要だと考えられがちです。フロムによると、愛は人々を完全につなげ得る唯一のものだと言います。彼は、今の時代の中心的問題は他者とのつながりの断絶であると考えており、愛は人間存在の鍵となる問題を解決すると確信しているのです。

 愛の労働の産出は不均衡なまでに女性が担っており、そのほとんどが無償で、その価値や力、ケアワークの影響が過小評価されていることは広く知られています。同時に、無益な仕事のために己の人生を犠牲にすることは、まさにそれを受けるべき家族への愛の行為なのだと、多くの人たちは信じています。愛は「女性の仕事」であり、女性はより愛する存在であると、広く受け止められているのです。「女は男よりも、関係やつながり、コミュニティに関心を寄せる」のだと言っても、女性が生まれながらにして男性よりも愛するように出来ているからではなく、「いかに愛するかを学習するよう奨励される」からなのです (hooks, 2003, xvii)。家父長制は常に、愛を女性の仕事と見なしてきたがために、愛の労働の地位を下げ、価値を落としてきました。フェミニズム理論は、ケア労働の価値の向上、社会全体に愛の力を拡げていくという課題に関心を注いできました。労働をジェンダー化して区分することへの抵抗闘争は、愛の仕事を分かち合い、他の形態の仕事との区別を粉砕し、ゆくゆくは、あらゆる仕事が愛の労働となることを目指しています。こうした闘争は今、女性たちの国際的ストライキ、MeToo運動、安全への移動、性と生殖の権利とケア労働、国境を越えた広がりを見せる、女性の自律とすべての人の解放にかかわる運動の一環の中で表明されています。

 愛を求める共産主義的な闘争に対し、資本主義は常に、思いやる活動に障壁を施し、マルチチュードの社会的ネットワークを粉々にし、愛ある社会的関係を暴力的に破壊してきました。このような状況は、他者を思いやるという私たちの能力が攻撃され、不満と怒りのはけ口が共感の危機へと変貌し、多くの人たちが思いやることを止めてしまうという、ますますよくあるパターンを反映しています。シルヴィア・フェデリーチは最近の著作で 、「社会的連帯と家族関係の破壊」、労働者階級コミュニティの分裂、そして「社会的紐帯の弱体化」(2019, 180-181)をともなう、彼女がいうところの「日常生活の危機」について思索を深めています。「こうした状況下では、人々の間を調停する、最も重要な場である日常生活の営みが挫折しかねない。多くの人たちがそうした場から逃亡し、対人関係はやりくりするのがあまりに骨が折れるとみなされ、維持することが出来なくなる。つまり、家族によるものにせよ友人によるものにせよ、ケア労働が提供されなくなり、子どもや高齢者にとってとりわけ重大な結果を招く」と。フェデリーチにとって、これは「ケア労働に献身する資源の劇的な凋落であると同時に、家族をはじめとする他者を思いやる仕事の凋落、ひいては日常生活の価値をさらに下落させるという意味において〈再生産の危機〉」であり、その日常生活とは「深い疎外、不安、恐れの感覚によって彩られ」ています。


 ハートとネグリは、愛は長らく家族、企業、人種差別、大衆迎合主義、ファシズムによって腐敗せしめられ、支配者たちは愛を操作して、国家への愛、神への愛、君主への愛、指導者への愛を用いて当面の体制を守ると論じています (2009) 。昨今息を吹き返した右翼勢力は、「情動的転回」を政治に注ぐ能力を誇示し、その力を憎悪へと強力に動員しながらも、愛―アイデンティティや民族の祖先、文化的一体感の共有への愛に向かって結集しています。そして彼らは、コミュニティに属しているという感覚と一体感を、「あなたは愛するべきなのだ。ただし自分自身とあなたに属する人々だけを」というメッセージとともに差し出すことによって、怒れる人、孤独な人、疎外されている人々を首尾よくひきつけています。

 ジョージ・オーウェルはディストピア小説『1984』で (1949) 、未来の独裁主義における主要機関「愛情省」を通して、愛の政治について思索を展開しています。愛情省は支配体制への忠誠を、抑圧の圧倒的手段である恐怖と組織的洗脳によって強制します。愛情省の究極の目的は、ビッグ・ブラザーへの愛を一滴一滴と注入し、愛する人を裏切るよう人々に強制することです。これは多くの人が熟知している類の裏切りですが、人はその一方で、家族や友人は、金銭や仕事、財産よりも重要で価値があると思っているとも言いがちです。資本主義社会が、資本の蓄積や人々の労働と社会関係の支配において価値を見出しているものは、彼らの時間の過ごし方が示唆するところであり、人生の多くの時を競争と「生計を立てる」ことのしばしば無情なまでの追求に費やすよう、私たちを締め上げます。資本主義文化が私たちを分断し、引き離そうとする時、所有と支配の中心に愛を位置づけ、人を相互の所有物や競争相手として扱えと教え込むのです。資本主義が愛のない状態を育む時、商品や疎外された関係で愛への渇望を満たすよう唆し、そこで生産されるのは資本主義的商品を志向する資本主義的主観性、また資本主義的主観性に訴える資本主義的商品です。

 「日常生活の危機」に応答して、シルビア・フェデリーチは「私たち自身の生活を取り戻」そうと呼びかけ、さらに、私たちはいかに「私たちの生活の社会的構成を再構築し、家庭と地域を抵抗と政治的再構築の場へと変貌させられるか」 (2019, 183) と問いかけています。これらは今「人類の指針にかかわる、最も重要な問いの一部」なのだと。人々、関係、コミュニティ、そして社会運動にとってのケア労働の重要性を論じる中、フェデリーチ(2016) は 、資本とその国家形態が深刻な危機に陥っているギリシャを例に挙げ、人々が生き延び、資本主義に代わる生きた何かを創造する手助けをする、社会的連帯と支援のネットワークに注目しています。彼女はまた、そのような代替物を創造する際の女性の主導的役割を検討し、賃金や賃金闘争は今も重要でありながらも、資本からの自律を拡大し、私たちが作る富を本来あるべき場に戻すための闘争を称賛しなければならないと唱えています。今の社会の状況に関心を寄せる人々の多くは、伝統的政治や富の再分配について、自分たちが出来ることはそれほど多くはないと思っています。その代わり、自分たちの生活の中で、まだ変化を起こせると思える領域に照準を合わせます。いわば家庭、コミュニティ、「職場」といった、個人や現場、相互のニーズに直截に取り組み得る場、自分たちに何かが出来、人を思いやり、思いやることが尊重される場における社会的関係を変化させるのです。こうした活動は、日常生活を日々あらためて作るための複雑で活力あふれる集団的過程を経て、型にはまらない新たな主観性の豊かさを生み出す、さらに広範に広がる政治プロジェクトの一部なのです。



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