45 episodes

The ‘Fully Automated’ podcast features interviews with scholars and thinkers on a range of ongoing controversies within the left, including austerity, financialization, automation and, above all, the future of left strategy.

Fully Automated Nicholas Kiersey

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    • 4.9 • 20 Ratings

The ‘Fully Automated’ podcast features interviews with scholars and thinkers on a range of ongoing controversies within the left, including austerity, financialization, automation and, above all, the future of left strategy.

    Episode 43: James A. Smith of The Popular Show

    Episode 43: James A. Smith of The Popular Show

    Hello friends! Welcome to another episode of Fully Automated!







    Our guest for this episode is none other than James A. Smith, co-host with David Slavick of The Popular Show. Smith is also the author of Other People’s Politics: Populism to Corbynism (Zer0 Books, 2019) and coauthor with Mareile Pfannebecker of Work Want Work: Labour and Desire at the end of Capitalism (Bloomsbury, 2020).















    Smith is a defender of the idea that the 2016-2020 “Bernie moment” was a real opportunity to advance the cause of socialism. While it can be tempting today to look back and think that it was doomed from the start, Smith argues that the failure was largely self-inflicted. This means there are lessons that can be learned from the failure. However, he notes, the left today “seems worryingly uncurious about the regressive influence earlier defeated lefts have sometimes inadvertently had.” 







    Smith believes that the left needs to rethink its approach to political freedom. Following up on our recent episode with Efraim Carlebach on the 10-year anniversary of Mark Fisher’s famous essay, “Exiting the Vampire Castle,” we chat with Smith about his recent Sublation essay, “Capitalist Realism All Over Again” (3.17.2023). 







    As he puts it, the left has “struggled to apply the book’s insights,” all too often succumbing to political correctness and “anti-political moralism.” Meanwhile, as evidenced in the government response to the coronavirus pandemic, capitalist elites are claiming that crises that are “too important to be hazarded to democratic oversight or protest.” When the left abandons this fight, the right will try to fill in the gap, claiming that only it can stop the power grab. 







    We also ask Smith about some of his recent episodes, including his interview with Matt Taibbi, one of the main journalists behind The Twitter Files. Like Taibbi, Smith believes that capitalist elites today are leveraging state powers to censor social media activity, essentially constituting a strategy of “revenge against both left and right populism.” 







    We also discuss a number of foreign policy matters, from the west’s war for NATO expansion in Ukraine to the iconoclastic left’s bankrupt analysis of Israel’s war in Gaza. Concerning the latter, many otherwise insightful critics have suggested that Hamas is essentially a bonapartist organization, seeking to create an islamic state. How does Smith respond to these critics? Moreover, given the difficulty of imagining the construction of a working class party in Gaza today, what should be the left position on this terrible war?







    Smith can be followed on Twitter/X @thepopularpod. Curious listeners can also follow up on Smith’s work on Jacobin, where he has published numerous articles on the state of the British left:









    * “The Labour Party Is Ignoring Britain’s Muslims. A Judge-Led Inquiry Won’t Change That” (12.12.2023)







    * a href="https://jacobin.com/2023/07/labour-party-left-jeremy-corbyn-insurgency-keir-st...

    • 1 hr 14 min
    Episode 42: Exiting the Vampire Castle – 10-Year Anniversary (w/ Efraim Carlebach)

    Episode 42: Exiting the Vampire Castle – 10-Year Anniversary (w/ Efraim Carlebach)

    Welcome to Episode 42 of Fully Automated. This is a repost of Episode 11 of Class Unity Transmissions (posted on Dec 17, 2023).







    In this episode, we are joined by Efraim Carlebach to discuss the 10-year anniversary of the publication of Mark Fisher’s seminal essay, Exiting the Vampire Castle. 







    Published on November 24, 2013, Fisher’s essay is remembered today as a powerful shot across the bows of what was known at the time as the “call out” left. In particular, the essay was a response to a recent controversy stemming from the appearance of “working class” comedian Russell Brand on the BBC’s Newsnight program.







    Feminists expressed outraged at the BBC’s choice to interview Brand at all, noting the sexually insensitive nature of his content. Fisher repudiated these critics as “PoshLeft moralizers” and witch-hunting scolds, leveraging Brand’s apparent deafness to the linguistic norms of the middle-class gender lexicon in exchange for online clout. In their insistence that Brand’s white male privilege made him one of the oppressors, they had blinded themselves to the foundational role of working-class culture in revolutionary politics. 















    Fisher’s defense of the working-class culture notwithstanding, his position on the priority of working-class politics was more ambiguous. In this discussion, we start by trying to situate Fisher as a left anti-capitalist. After his suicide in 2017, Fisher’s work on “capitalist realism” became something of a totem for the millennial left. However, as Carlebach argues, Fisher was never fully clear on what he meant by the term. On the one hand, he often referred to the idea — frequently attributed to Fredric Jameson — that we are so profoundly mentally stuck in within capitalist ideology that “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.” On the other, he would sometimes make the interesting move of saying that capitalist realism was specifically “a pathology of the left.” 







    Ultimately, the ambiguity was short-lived. Where Fisher has once posted approvingly of Adam Curtis’s documentary HyperNormalization, a pointed criticism of the counter-cultural left, the defeat of Jermey’s Corbyn’s leadership of the British Labour Party would see this theme would soon drop out of his work. The culturalist nature of Fisher’s defense of the working class folded easily enough into Fisher’s late-life return to the New Left, the politics of “consciousness raising,” and the idea of what he called “acid communism.”







    If you enjoyed this show, please leave a kind review on your podcast app.







    You call follow the show on Twitter/X: @occupyirtheory

    • 1 hr 25 min
    Episode 41: Gaza (w/ Jamal and Mehmed)

    Episode 41: Gaza (w/ Jamal and Mehmed)

    Hello Fully Automated listeners!







    This is a rebroadcast of Episode 10 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of Class Unity, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/















    In this episode of Transmissions, we discuss the recent events unfolding in the Israel-Palestine conflict. In typical Class Unity spirit, we try to focus on the question of what it might mean to approach this conflict from a class first perspective.







    A central theme of the episode is the question of how the left seems to have split around the issue of Zionism. As we note, there does seem to be an “anti-anti-zionist” strain at large in the left around this issue. Proponents of this position seem to believe that “Hamas has no support in the Palestinian population.”















    Yet, while many of these critics focus on the leadership of Hamas ensconced in Qatar, we seek to address a more rare question in leftwing critiques of this conflict. Namely, who were the fighters of October 7? The key issue, we suggest, is not whether to reject or celebrate Hamas. Rather, it is to understand the objective material conditions and yearning for basic dignity that makes it so easy for Hamas to recruit.







    Staying with this notion of the objective material conditions in Gaza, we submit that this might actually be one of the few cases where the admittedly overused concept of settler-colonialism might actually apply.







    We discuss the dire economic predicament facing the young and highly educated population of Gaza, the numerous attempts they have made at non-violent resistance, and the brutal response of the Israeli state to these attempts.







    Next, we discuss the present political situation in Israel, and the durability of US support in a context of a shifting balance of power in the region. With US power in decline, and the Israeli army no longer as unquestioningly powerful as it once appeared, where is this conflict heading?















    Other key elements of this episode include the role of the right of return as a sticking point in previous attempts at creating a negotiated settlement to the conflict. How much longer can this vital question go ignored, and what are its implications for Israel’s status as a democracy? And just what is a good response to people who say Israel doesn’t target civilians?







    This episode was recorded on October 29, 2023. 







    If you like what you hear, please leave us a positive rating on your podcast app of choice. You can follow this podcast on Twitter/X, here: @occupyirtheory. And you can follow Class Unity on  @class_unity

    • 1 hr 50 min
    Episode 40: Three Priorities for an Independent Left, Today (w/ Doug Lain)

    Episode 40: Three Priorities for an Independent Left, Today (w/ Doug Lain)

    Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 7 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of Class Unity, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/







    For those curious, there will be more independent ‘Fully Automated’ content coming soon. But I will continue to repost those ‘Transmissions’ episodes in which I am involved, as I think they will be of interest to listeners of this show, too.















    Welcome to Episode 7 of Class Unity “Transmissions.” In this episode we are joined by Doug Lain, Commissioning Editor at Sublation Media. Lain is a real veteran of the left podcast scene. From his old philosophy podcast "Diet Soap,” which ran from 2009 through 2014, to his work as host of the Zero Books podcast, Zero Squared, Lain’s impact as a formative voice on the contemporary socialist left cannot be understated.















    In this show we cover a wide range of topics, including Lain’s recent ban from Elon Musk’s newly “pro-free speech” Twitter (for a joke about RFK Jnr). However, the real purpose of the interview is to revisit an old Tweet of his, from April this year. On April 15, Lain posted three priorities that, he said, “an independent left” should be focused on right now:









    * Ending the conflict in Ukraine by opposing the very dangerous continuing escalation;







    * Protecting the working class from the consequences from the continuing financial and fiscal crisis that has been expressed through inflation and the banking crisis;







    * Opposing the war on disinformation and the expansion of the security state into the “whole of society.”









    In recent months, Lain has been particularly strident on the first and the third of these priorities. However, his arguments have not been especially well received (his recent encounter with the Majority Report’s Matt Binder offers a fairly representative example of the disdain many progressives have for Lain’s views). Noting the vehemence of this response, we were curious. And so we decided to invite Lain for a chat.







    We start by asking Lain what he means by the phrase “an independent left”? We then move onto the first of his priorities, the war in Ukraine. The US left has been strangely quiet on this conflict. Where it has addressed the issue, it has usually been in handwaving fashion, arguing that it is a case of “imperialism on both sides.” We put it to Lain that this is kind of an inversion of Trump’s infamous “very fine people on both sides” comment. Perhaps the imperialism on both sides argument had some empirical application in the lead up to World War I. But Russia has a GDP close to that of Italy. Equally, US foreign policy insiders like Former Ambassador to USSR Jack Matlock, George Kennan, William Burns have warned DC policymakers for decades about eastwards NATO expansion, saying in no uncertain terms that Ukraine would be the hardest of red lines for Russia. Moreover, now, as Lev Golonkin reports in The Nation in June, the US is openly funding and arming the Ukrainian milit...

    • 1 hr 24 min
    Episode 39: Gay Particularity (w/ Armand M); Labor Strikes in France (w/ Jamal)

    Episode 39: Gay Particularity (w/ Armand M); Labor Strikes in France (w/ Jamal)

    Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 6 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of Class Unity, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/



    For those curious, there will be more independent 'Fully Automated' content coming soon. But I will continue to repost those 'Transmissions' episodes in which I am involved, as I think they will be of interest to listeners of this show, too.







    Hello comrades! Welcome to our sixth episode of Class Unity Transmissions. 



    In this episode, we open with a quick check-in with our comrade Jamal, from CU Chicago, who has been studying the recent strikes in France. Then we move to our interview recorded earlier this year with Armand M, one of the authors of our article from last September, “Gay Particularity, Reconsidered.” 



    In the interview, we discuss some main points from Armand’s piece. We look at how, in the late 80s and 90s, activist organizations such as ACT UP participated in civil disobedience actions against insurance rate increases and worked to expand universal Medicaid benefits to include AIDS treatment. In 1990, when Congress refused to release funds already earmarked for AIDS services, claiming that patients with other conditions were more deserving, ACT UP called for national health insurance. What was it about the ACT-UP era that made the gay rights movement so capable of articulating universalistic political demands? 



    We also look at the struggle for gay marriage, and how it effectively diverted financial resources and political energy away from organizations prioritizing healthcare and employment. Given that the gay liberation movement has not always supported this demand, what changed? Armand discusses the role of “respectability politics” in diverting the struggle from a more traditional leftist perspective. Notwithstanding the importance of access to health insurance and spousal inheritance for partners, Armand suggests that the shift toward gay marriage should be viewed as a conservative turn in queer politics. 



    Next we turn to the historical emergence of queer identity. Postmodern theorists like Judith Butler tend to see politics as essentially a question of identity, and thought. In this light, politics for them is necessarily the question of a slow, patient struggle to change unconsciously held ideas. However, notes Armand, while homosexual behavior has always been present in human societies, "queer" identification is only a very recent phenomenon and its emergence, as we will see, cannot be understood apart from its specific socio-economic conditions of possibility. 



    We also discuss some wider literature around this topic (see links below). For example, we address Roger Lancaster’s piece in Jacobin, "Identity Politics Can Only Get Us So Far.” Lancaster raises the question of how today’s “identity” version of gay liberation struggle orbits this idea of a certain quest for one’s subjective essence. Earlier versions, to the contrary, saw “coming out” as an “indispensable means” for building a political movement. Among other things, this means that earlier liberationists generally took a dialectical approach to sexual categories. We ask Armand how this “pre-Stonewall” idea of a subjective labeling understood from the outset as something eventually to be cast aside connects with Marx’s notion of the eventual self-abolition of the "proletariat.” 

    • 1 hr 34 min
    Episode 38: An Organizer’s Life (w/ Danny Fetonte)

    Episode 38: An Organizer’s Life (w/ Danny Fetonte)

    Hello Fully Automated listeners! This is a rebroadcast of Episode 5 of Class Unity: Transmissions, as posted here. Transmissions is the official podcast of the Class Unity Caucus of the DSA, and I want to thank them for their permission to use this episode. You can find out more about Class Unity over at https://classunity.org/























    In this very special episode of Class Unity Transmissions, we bring you the last interview ever recorded with Danny Fetonte. Danny was a well-known labor organizer in Texas, with over 30 years of experience. He worked at Bethlehem Steel for 4 years, and spent a decade working in a variety of other industrial jobs. He later became a professional organizer, for the Communications Workers of America (CWA), becoming a member of the union’s national staff in 1986. Moving to Texas, he became an important leader of the DSA chapter in his new hometown of Austin, growing the chapter from a state of more or less total dormancy, to over 700 members by 2017.







    Sadly, young DSA members will likely remember Danny not for his lifelong commitment to labor organizing but for a Twitter scandal that destroyed his relationship with the DSA, and left his reputation in tatters. At the 2017 DSA National Convention in Chicago, Danny was successfully elected the National Political Committee (NPC) of the DSA. It was his second time to run for the NPC. A well-known figure in labor circles, Fetonte’s record was widely documented in online spaces. However, as the Convention drew to a close, a vocal group of anti-police online leftists began to claim that Fetonte’s campaign statement was a fraud.







    What Fetonte had been concealing, his detractors claimed, was his role as an organizer with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas (CLEAT), which is a police and corrections officer union, and an affiliate body of Danny’s longtime employer, the CWA.







    Now, it was true that Fetonte had not mentioned this fact in his campaign materials. But it was widely available information, and many of the Austin chapter members who were active on the floor in support of him during the Convention were well aware of his resumé. Such facts poured cold water on the idea that Fetonte was somehow hiding his true identity.







    Nevertheless, outrage swirled on Twitter, with many saying they would never have voted for him had they known he was involved in police union work. Eventually, on August 10, after days of delay, the DSA’s Interim Steering Committee issued a statement suggesting in no uncertain terms that they were taking a dim view of the matter: “We believe that Fetonte’s omission was uncomradely and out of line with the principles of our organization.”







    The controversy set off a tumultuous debate about the extent to which DSA should be trying to find solidarity with police union organizers, and whether members should make a practice of discriminating against individuals for their career backgrounds.







    The Convention closed on August 6. Three weeks later, on August 27, the NPC (absent Danny) voted 8.5 to 7.5 to seat him, because they could not find any basis to remove him for malfeasance. Danny charged that, seeing as he was a duly-elected member of the NPC, a non-profit board, the exclusionary actions of the NPC in the intervening period were illegal and unethical.







    In just a moment, we’ll present our interview with Danny,

    • 1 hr 41 min

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