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Call for Zero Books to Cease Attacking Authors and Respect Contracts

December 15, 2021

We are a group of Zero Books authors and ex-employees moved by the recent acquisition of Zero’s parent company John Hunt Publishing, and the ensuing communication around that takeover from the new Zero staff and their colleagues at Repeater books, to publish the following statement:

The authors of this open letter have published with Zero Books under the tenure of Doug Lain and/or worked as staff alongside Doug Lain as well as making contributions to Zero’s media channels. While we wish to avoid the exacerbation of a mud-slinging match between readers and authors of Zero Books under Doug Lain’s tenure (to be called Zero 2.0 from herein), we would like to take the opportunity to address a number of inaccuracies in the dialogue around Lain’s tenure as well as over the nature of the takeover and to raise concerns over the management of the back catalog of Zero 2.0 books and communications about Zero 2.0 staff and writers.

Firstly we wish to address the maltreatment via potential slander, libel, trolling behavior, and neglect of publishing and promotional duties, in the hope that a troubling development of negative portrayals regarding Zero 2.0 authors and staff, including Doug Lain, can be forestalled. It is then also hoped that the respective imprints (Zero and Repeater), as well as Doug Lain’s new publishing company, can continue to provide leftist material in their bid to foster an incisive culture of left critique and action. Given the differing remits of the various imprints and Zero’s successive guises, a full range of left views can be addressed, leading to a multifarious debate that includes materialist and identitarian trends. Though for this to happen the existing back catalog of Zero 2.0 needs to be well treated, in line with contractual commitments to books published under Doug Lain.

It is here that our first concerns are raised as initial communications from Repeater itself and from some of its staff and writers indicated a disdain for the back catalog they claimed they had in fact acquired as well as for the work and values of Zero 2.0’s writers. This has accompanied a narrative that casts the takeover of John Hunt Publishing by Watkins Media as the specific purchase of Zero Books by Repeater Books. Such a claim has since been toned down incrementally to now consist of the Watkins’ owner having bought Zero’s owner and that same owner having been linked to the foundation of Repeater.

We understand the realities of capitalism and in no way blame Repeater for Watkins’ takeover of John Hunt Publishing, though we do question the ensuing narrative whereby the takeover of JHP by Watkins is cast as a crusade against the wrong sort of leftists (in the form of Zero 2.0) by a morally superior imprint. We also question the narrative peddled by Zero’s new team (linked closely to Repeater, such that the new manager of Zero is the wife of Repeater’s manager), which has from the offset revolved around the notion that Zero’s acquisition marks a return to quality publishing and the closure of period of poor management, low-quality theorization, and nefarious political positions. In taking this position privately to authors, semi-publicly in the JHP author system, and publicly on Twitter and YouTube, the new team of Zero Books not only divide the left but appear to want to renege on contractual commitments to sell and publicize Zero 2.0s output.

We take the position that speaking down the merits of Zero 2.0 is at odds with the obligations that the new staff of Zero know they have towards the Zero 2.0 catalog. As such we ask that overt and passive-aggressive criticism of Zero 2.0 is ceased by employees of Zero and on platforms dedicated to the promotion of Zero’s books. While the new Zero team are unable to control the colorful and mostly wholly inaccurate negative statements made by some Repeater authors and readers regarding Zero 2.0 and its authors, we do expect the new legal owners of our books to proceed in line with the contracts they have assumed responsibility of. This includes: obligations to sell those books; making books available so long as there are buyers or potential buyers; obligations to promote those books transparently at increments of 500 sales using the available Zero branded media channels; obligations to publish books that have been contracted and to promote and push those books adequately to potential buyers; obligations to promote those books transparently at increments of 500 sales using the available Zero branded media channels.

We would like to request that ongoing divisive attacks, which occur in tandem with personal attacks issued by at least one Repeater author (at points amounting to quite literal harassment) naming a number of Zero 2.0 authors, cease. We would like to point out that such attacks are met with increasing bemusement and exasperation from Zero 2.0 readers and from neutrals who fail to understand why the new Zero team and Repeater are behaving so aggressively to fellow leftists. While we appreciate the existence of multifarious divisions within the left, we are particularly dismayed at the branding of demonstrably left-wing Zero Books writers as ‘right wing’ or ‘right adjacent’ and point to the very real damage this does at a time when we face a genuine right-wing threat. We feel that while an alliance of trolls, writers, and staff of Repeater and Zero may see it as clever to try to disparage what they see as rival authors, history will not likely judge this moment kindly if the people responsible for the above described actions continue to divide the left against itself for their own gain. In fact, the most prominent among them are seen by all but their coterie as bullies.

As many onlookers have noted, it would have been usual to expect the incoming team of Zero Books to express a sense of enthusiasm and gratitude for the books they have acquired, many of which are among the leading leftist theoretical texts of the last 8 years. To instead disparage hundreds of authors collectively while inexplicably promoting some titles and not others and only under practical duress following the alarm caused by an initial tweet signaling disdain for the Zero 2.0 era, is an act of extreme bad faith. If it needs to be said, it is clear in any case that Watkins Media now owns not only Repeater with its socially democratic and idpol friendly output but also the catalog of Zero 2.0 with its largely socialist-leaning output and that it stands to benefit from the sales of both sets of authors it pits against one another. Whatever the intention, communication from the Zero team and Repeater have been frequently hostile towards notable writers, seeming to act potentially as a distraction from their work and livelihood.

In this light, an official statement (in the sense that it was made from the official Zero Books account) on YouTube to the effect that books deemed reactionary would be ‘pulped’ is just one in a line of troubling communications that appear aimed at sowing fear and upset among fellow leftists. Furthermore, such declarations court illegality, given Zero Books’ legal obligations to print and publish all of the back catalog so long as it is still selling. Of course, to be clear, we also don’t like ‘reactionary’ books, but who will decide which books are ‘reactionary’? Are the new Zero Books team casting themselves as judge and jury, and yet above the law? Clearly, this cannot be the case and we, therefore, ask that the aggressive and libelous communication style we have witnessed continually over the last two months will cease.

The sense of solidarity among Zero 2.0 writers is strong and we won’t be distracted. We seek as committed leftist authors to promote an awareness of leftist political values in order to realize a world run, ‘from each according to their ability to each according to their needs.’ Obstacles to this path are blocked by so many factors on an ongoing basis. We ask that our publisher does not continue to be one of these obstacles and that history can record a period of flourishing leftist publishing coming from varied imprints and not a period of internecine infighting that impedes leftist authors in the name of financial profit, self-aggrandizement, and financial gain. We do not expect Zero Books or Repeater to impede us in this vision. So far as this is now the case, it must stop.

Signed: Concerned Zero Books authors, in solidarity with all left authors and artists willing to work together.

ArtLeaks to take part in Tallinn Print Triennial 2022

November 5, 2021

18TH TALLINN PRINT TRIENNIAL “WARM. CHECKING TEMPERATURE IN THREE ACTS” TAKES PLACE IN 2022

Artists: ArtLeaks | Jasmina Cibic | Hubert Czerepok | Agnes Denes | Igor Eškinja | Oxana Gourinovitch | Ferenc Gróf | Flo Kasearu | Eva Koťátková | Volodymyr Kuznetsov | Irena Lagator | Olson Lamaj | Marko Mäetamm | Alexander Manuiloff | Dóra Maurer | Raul Meel | Katja Novitskova | Dan Perjovschi | Géza Perneczky | Nada Prlja | Kaisa Puustak | Driton Selmani | Slavs and Tatars | Société Réaliste | Bojan Stojčić | Endre Tót

Curator: Róna Kopeczky

Dates: 22 January – 27 March 2022

Venues: Kai Art Center | Temnikova & Kasela Gallery | Põhjala Tap Room | EKA Gallery | Flo Kasearu House Museum | Liszt Institute Tallinn | Kanuti Gildi SAAL

Tallinn Print Triennial is pleased to announce its 18th edition entitled Warm. Checking Temperature in Three Acts. The triennial, curated by Róna Kopeczky, primarily gives thought to the radical political, cultural political and social turns that affect Central and Eastern Europe, and  it also inscribes these changes in a global perspective through the lens of universal absurdity. The project gives voice to contemporary artists based in, or originating from, the Central and Eastern European region who reflect boldly and critically on burning issues such as the rise of right-wing phobist politics, globally misplaced priorities, the collapse of democracies, the shrinking of freedom – in both life and art – and the general sense of conditioned fear and hostility prevailing today.

The title reflects more precisely on the mechanisms through which positive notions shift and slide in our interpretation towards the negative realm and become associated with different or contradictory meaning depending on the new contexts or situations they are used in. More concretely, how the originally positive signification of “warm” – an agreeable feeling, the sense of a fairly or comfortably high temperature, and a behaviour showing enthusiasm, affection, or kindness – has become a warning sign of political turmoil, social irritation, symptoms of climate change and global pandemic, and therefore a signal of both natural and social global instability. In meeting this misleading shift of signification, Warm aims to be a contemporary reflection on the fundamentally absurd global condition and on the dissonances of the human condition.

Inviting artists from the regional contemporary art scene with existing works and new commissions, Warm comprises three intertwined cycles entitled The Nation Loves ItPickle Politics and The Science of Freedom, which reference artists and artworks included in the exhibition. The three chapters articulate around the spectacle of absurdity with the intention to dissect and appropriate it. They also playfully propose humour, derision and laughter as an antidote or an imagined alternative that builds on visionary defiance and poetic escapism.

Kirill Medvedev in prison (Moscow, Russia)

November 1, 2021

Kirill Medvedev is an international well known muscovite poet, translator, publicist, acrivtist and community organizer, co-founder of Arkadiy Kots combat-folk band, a long term Free Home learner.

Since long Kirill is engaged in the defence of peoples land and territories defence, against extractivism, real estate development and criminal waste dumps.

On October 26th, Kirill and other activists were defending a courtyard adjacent to Sretenka street from oligarch Deripaska’s development of an unlawful construction, a luxury apartment hotel rising right on the site of historic buildings from the 18th century –  despite the protests of the local residents ( https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=4433364603417228&id=100002311967659). The activists were aggressively attacked by the police and kept in the police station for 24 hours awaiting the court hearing. On October 27th, the Meshchansky court in Moscow sentenced Kirill Medvedev along with Anastasia Borisiuk and Fedor Neronov to 10 days of administrative punishment, reinforcing their detention under Article 19.3. ‘resistance to the lawful demands of police officers’.

As the excavation continues, they are imprisoned at spetspriyomnik nr-r. 1 and 2 already for 5 days.

Please, circulate this message to denounce the increasing punitive repression that activists are subjected to in Russia. You can support and share solidarity posting on your preferred channel or social media, using these hashtags to join the campaign organized by the Russian comrades #ThisLandIsYourLand, #Kirill Medvedev,  #ArkadiyKots, #Russiaprotest #ЗаЧтоСидитКирилл

#SaveGoldsmiths Open Letter to Professor Frances Corner, OBE, Warden of Goldsmiths, Council & Senior Management Team (London, UK)

October 23, 2021
#SaveGoldsmiths
#ADegreeIsNotABrand

We are academics, researchers and artists who have in various ways collaborated with members of the Goldsmiths community over the years or have been members of staff or students ourselves – or are simply acquainted with the College’s stellar reputation.

Goldsmiths, University of London, is internationally renowned for its progressive and critical education, its commitment to social justice and for hosting some of the most respected and creative scholars in the world. Its researchers, writers, musicians, performers, artists and media producers are world-leading; its alumni go on to outstanding achievements, in all areas.

Goldsmiths serves the needs of some of the most diverse communities in the UK, with a high proportion of its students coming from ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Currently, many of these students and their families live in boroughs hardest-hit by the Covid-19 crisis.

We are writing to express our utmost concern at the plans for radical restructuring, which threaten not only the jobs of staff members at a time of grave economic crisis, but also the very identity of Goldsmiths as we know it.

We were dismayed to read about the jobs already lost last year through voluntary severance, and are appalled now by the 52 redundancies recently announced for professional and academic staff.

We are distressed to discover that the detailed and crucial expertise of administrative staff central to departments is being disregarded and will be lost, through a misguided centralisation and drastic reduction of the number of posts.

We understand that academic redundancies are confined to the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History in this first round, but that there will be more. If they go ahead, these cuts will irremediably damage research capacity, academic practices and cultures, the student experience, as well as the viability of important and world-renowned departments, home to leading, and often unique, research hubs such as the Centre for Caribbean and Diaspora Studies, the Centre for Philosophy and Critical Thought, the Decadence Research Centre, the Centre for Comparative Literature, the Centre for the Study of the Balkans, the Centre of the Body, and the Centre for Queer History.

We are shocked to hear that the redundancies are being managed by external consultants with no disciplinary expertise, and who do not understand the immediate, middle- and long-term consequences of their decisions.

We hear with consternation that academics with high specialisation are under threat of redundancy even when their area of expertise is being retained – as though Black British and Caribbean Literature, Queer and Black British History, or Critical Theory were mere adornments on a portfolio rather than fields built upon rigorous training and deeply rooted scholarship. Presumably, their posts will be filled by cheaper, precarious staff; or staff with different expertise, asked to take on their (“redundant”) colleagues’ work. But a discipline is nothing without expertise; a degree is not a brand. Yet it appears that Goldsmiths’ management sees its core mission as no different from fast fashion, as a business built on precarity and the misguided flexibilization of a labour force rendered unable to develop long-term commitment to their discipline; in this, Senior Management show utter disregard for the integrity of the education they want to sell.

We are outraged that the Warden, Frances Corner, OBE, and Senior Management appear determined to pursue this damaging course of action instead of, with the same determination, proactively fundraising and lobbying the government for assistance as peer institutions have done – while also making a powerful case against the present ruinous and bankrupt system of funding for Higher Education, and in favour of the recognition of the immense contribution of the humanities and the arts to society and to the economy.

We call upon Frances Corner, upon Council, and upon Senior Management to halt the decimation of the departments of English & Creative Writing and of History, the redundancies within professional services and the current restructuring plans, and to find, in collaboration with their staff, more sustainable and more effective solutions that will protect not only the livelihood of their dedicated and loyal employees, but also the reputation of the institution.

Yours sincerely,

*A current copy of this letter and its signatories is being published at https://we-are.gold/2021/10/14/open-letter-to-frances-corner/

UPDATE

The public pressure that you have helped us put on our management is beginning to make an impact, as the consultation phase for departments and staff at risk of redundancy has been extended. In the meantime, UCU members at Goldsmiths have overwhelmingly voted in favour of strike action (86% on a 70% turnout) and decided to withdraw their labour for 21 consecutive days starting 23 November. 

This is an unprecedented move forced on us by the unprecedented attack against the arts and humanities brought about by our misguided management. But this is also an unprecedented show of solidarity. Hundreds of staff members will go on strike to defend their colleagues in the English & Creative Writing and History departments who risk being made redundant.

The College has announced that wages will be deducted from anyone who participates in strike action. It won’t be easy for union members to sustain the strike financially but we do know that if we don’t mount a strong defence now, management will announce further redundancies in more departments and push through very damaging cuts through the restructuring.

To help members cope with the financial losses they will face, Goldsmiths UCU has created a local strike fund. We are asking everyone to donate whatever they can. Every donation makes a huge difference.

You can donate online here:

Find out more about the dispute here: 

Follow updates on the dispute and the strike here:

https://twitter.com/GoldsmithsUCU, here https://www.facebook.com/GoldsmithsUCU and here https://we-are.gold/ 

And finally, if you are in a position to pass a motion in solidarity with the dispute, the model motion is here:

A Statement Against the Planned Funding Cuts by the Nordic Council of Ministers

August 30, 2021

The Nordic Council of Ministers plans to cut funding for culture in the Nordic & Baltic region by 20-25% between 2021-2024. These funding cuts are aimed at the activities of several Nordic institutes in the region, as well as possibly the grant programmes of both Nordic Culture Point and the Nordic Culture Fund.

The cuts are a misguided plan especially in the current situation, where COVID-19 has upended cultural life and related economic activities throughout the Nordic and Baltic region. It is in actuality a situation that calls for increased support for funding, as many of the nations in the Nordic and Baltic region have already realised. Funding cuts in culture will not produce savings, but on the contrary, they will have adverse effects financially and in terms of the wellbeing, trust and connection between citizens in the Nordic and Baltic region.

Another crucial argument for increasing rather than decreasing the funding for culture in the Nordic & Baltic region are the challenges posed by climate change. The geographic proximity and decades-long heritage of cultural collaboration gives this region enormous potential to be a hub of positive, forward-looking and sustainable cultural life. We, the artists and cultural workers in this region, are ready to respond to the mission set by the Nordic Council of Ministers to make the Nordic & Baltic area ‘the world’s most sustainable and integrated region’. We have worked with civil society and partners from all the corners of this region, through cultural exchange, transmission of knowledge, translation of small languages and are committed to further develop our work in this context. We cannot achieve this goal if the core economic resources for Nordic & Baltic collaboration with a transparent and democratic funding structure are significantly diminished. The freedom of expression encouraged by the current system, which from a global perspective is something unique and worth preserving, should not be taken for granted.

In the long run, several generations worth of investments in the cultural sector, the foundation of all Nordic cooperation, are being compromised. The suggestion to cut funds, in the midst of a pandemic, one year after an approximately 5% cut in Nordic funding, is not only a bad idea in the short-term. In light of the effects on the cultural sector this last year, it could also have devastating effects on cultural and social developments, labour conditions in the cultural sector and the infrastructure that has taken almost a century to build up at a time when it is dearly needed – perhaps more than ever before.   

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 

THE ONLINE PETITION: bit.ly/nordic-baltic-petition 

INFO & LINKS

The cuts have been proposed by the Nordic Council of Ministers (https://www.norden.org/en/nordic-council-ministers).

A statement that criticizes the planned cuts by the presidium of the Nordic Council
– In Swedish (also available in Finnish / Danish / Norwegian / Icelandic): https://www.norden.org/sv/nyhet/nordiska-radet-kritiserar-kulturnedskarningar
– In English (a translation in a Google Doc): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1LJPHsjcAESAumaO7luO2ymiqge0jgvEnZvTEjxNWoD0/edit?usp=sharing 

Nordic Council of Ministers funds Nordic Culture Point, Nordisk Kulturfond and the Nordic Houses / Nordic Institutes in Reykjavik, Äland, Greenland and Faroe Islands + some other activities as well. It’s not clear which activities the planned funding cuts would influence.

The funding was cut already in 2010 by 5%, here is a statement about this cut from the Nordic Council: https://www.norden.org/en/node/47619 

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