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Must Be Written Later

A report by Agentur, within the framework of the research project The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts.

 

 

On May 8, 1934, longshoremen coordinate a series of strikes along the US West Coast, from San Diego to Seattle. They are protesting against poor working conditions, and for union recognition. The strikes culminate on Thursday, July 5, known as the “Bloody Thursday”, when shipowners attempt to reopen the San Francisco harbor by force. Two persons are killed and many are injured when police attack the protestors using guns, gas, and truncheons. The following week, San Francisco harbor is paralyzed by a General strike, and during the fall strikes and manifestations follow across the USA. These events signal the emergence of a new social movement: the American Popular Front.

A young writer named Tillie Lerner (later Olsen) is in San Francisco on July 5, 1934. Overwhelmed by the violent scenes, she writes “The Strike”, an account of the events at the harbor, in which she differentiates between writing and political action: “I write this on a battlefield. / The rest, the General Strike, the terror, arrests and jail, the songs in the night, must be written some other time, must be written later…” The text is a stirring report from a decisive political event that points away from writing, postpones its ability to intervene. A separation between writing and political struggle that Tillie Olsen would maintain for many years, while remaining fully devoted to both.

Must Be Written Later draws on Olsen’s text, now published in Swedish translation. It is a report on literary writing and political activism, on class struggle and revenge, on the delays of art and the functions of the strike. With readings, presentations, artistic contributions, and critical commentaries by the American, Paris-based poet Jackqueline Frost, as well as Elof Hellström, Martin Högström, Ingela Johansson, Emma Kihl, and Kim West, we invite to common reflection regarding another central event in the cultural history of anti-fascism.

Must Be Written Later is the second in a series of reports produced by the independent research group Agentur, within the framework of the research project The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts. The reports take the form of public events, arranged at different places and institutions in Sweden and abroad during the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021; videos based on documentation of the events, directed by Agentur, and published on digital platforms; and printed publications, produced in collaboration with a number of Swedish and international publishing houses, platforms, and magazines.

The event Must Be Written Later takes place on Thursday October 15, 6–8 pm, at the art center Titanic, on Reimersholmsgatan 5, Stockholm, Sweden. The event will be documented on video. Language: Swedish and English. Please note that due to continued uncertainty regarding the pandemic, the number of seats has been further reduced, and the event is already fully booked. Write to info@agentur.ooo if you want to be added to the waiting list.

The video Must Be Written Later, based on documentation of the event, as well as on specifically commissioned presentations, will be published in November on agentur.ooo and titanic.nu. Have a look!

The publication Must Be Written Later will be published by Chateaux in November 2020. The volume will contain Tillie Olsen’s text in Swedish translation, along with essays and artworks based on the contributions to the event and the video. Incendiary but also thought-provoking reading!

Many thanks to our collaborating partners.

Image: Christoffer Paues, Trea nr 2 för folkfronterna, 2020.


Welcome to an evening of lectures and presentations arranged by the independent research group Agentur, at the art center Mint in Stockholm on Thursday, September 17, 2020, 5 pm. Please note that the number of seats is very limited! RSVP vital!

History Is Not Over (February 12, 1934)

A report by Agentur, within the framework of the research project The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts.

 

 

On February 12, 1934, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in Paris, to protest against the advances of fascism. A few days earlier, extreme right and royalist organisations had held a large manifestation in the city, which had deteriorated into deadly riots and an improvised coup attempt. The threat was real: European fascism was gathering its forces. At the same time, the opposition was hopelessly fragmented. Liberals, social democrats, and communists were set violently against each other. Would their separate demonstrations collide in new street fights, in evidence of the paralysis of the opposition?

In March of the same year, the author Marc Bernard published his account of the events of those days, The Workers’ Days of February 9 and 12. In this short book – the mythical and mythologizing foundational text of Popular Front literature – Bernard documents what happened then, in careful detail. The demonstrations did not collide, they were united into one. The opposition set their differences aside in favor of a united front against a common enemy. The French Popular Front was created, and its model soon spread to other countries and continents. A chapter was opened in the history of anti-fascist organization.

History Is Not Over (February 12, 1934) takes its cue from Bernard’s text, which is now for the first time published in Swedish translation. It is a text that poses questions to the present: Is it still possible to think unity in resistance as a political and aesthetic principle? Is there still a progressive tradition that we can draw upon, and that stretches back to the moment of the popular fronts? If so, what continuities can we invoke? What discontinuities must we assert? With readings, presentations, artistic contributions, and critical commentaries by Emily Fahlén, Jörgen Gassilewski, Martin Högström, Ingela Johansson, Emma Kihl, Samuel Richter, Kim West, and Ellen Wettmark, we invite to common reflection regarding a central event in the cultural history of anti-fascism.

History Is Not Over (February 12, 1934) initiates a series of reports produced by the independent research group Agentur, within the framework of the research project The Aesthetics of the Popular Fronts. The reports take the form of public events, arranged at different places and institutions in Sweden and abroad during the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021; videos based on documentation of the events, directed by Agentur, and published on digital platforms; and printed publications, produced in collaboration with a number of Swedish and international publishing houses, platforms, and magazines.

The event History Is Not Over (February 12, 1934) – an evening with readings, presentations, critical commentaries, and discussions – takes place on Thursday September 17, 2020, 5–8 pm, at the art center Mint, located at the Workers’ Education Association (ABF), Sveavägen 41, Stockholm, Sweden. There is a very limited number of open seats for this event. RSVP to info@agentur.ooo (first come first served). Please note that the event will be documented on video. Language: Swedish. Welcome!

The video History Is Not Over (February 12, 1934), based on documentation of the event, as well as on specifically commissioned short films and presentations, will be published on October 15 at m-i-n-t.se and agentur.ooo. Tune in!

The publication History Is Not Over (February 12, 1934) will be published in the fall. The volume will contain Marc Bernard’s book in Swedish translation, together with essays and artworks based on the contributions to the event and the video. A joyful foray into the intellectual landscape of deep anachronism!

Thanks to Fabrique éditions, Stella Magliani-Belkacem, Michele Masucci, Benjamin Thorel, and our collaborating partners.

Image: Christoffer Paues, Trea nr 1 för folkfronterna, 2020.