WFHB’s Interchange – An Interview with Jasper Bernes on Logistics and Food Systems

AUDIO: Capital’s (Hidden) Art of War and the Belly of the Revolution

In the book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh rejects the grain offering of the farmer, Cain, while accepting the flesh offering of his brother, the shepherd Abel. Cain, wounded by this rejection, murders his brother. The consequence is banishment to the Land of Nod, which appears to be more a state of being than an actual place–Nod being the Hebrew root of the verb to wander; Cain becomes a fugitive.

It seems fair to suggest that this story, in which Cain becomes humanity twice-removed from Eden, is a central metaphor of our sorrows, centered in the logic of our capability to sustain life. What we eat, how food is gathered or grown or husbanded, is said to be how we settle into communities, how we become families and tribes; and further, how cities bloom…without concentrations of grain, easy access to a food supply, there can be no metropolis.

We might say that organizing into cities is the fruit of rejection. We are the fruit of rootlessness.

It’s that incessant wandering, our current land of nod, that we confront today in examining sustenance unmoored from place by technology and capital markets; the supply chains and the logistics that make it possible for South Koreans to buy California rice more cheaply than they can provide it for themselves out of their own fields.

An authentic twenty-first century revolution … will have to radically transform the way food is produced and distributed, not only because the present food system is wasteful, toxic to humans, and environmentally destructive, and not only because climate change stands to radically alter what can be grown and how and where it can be grown, but also because, even more importantly, the capitalist organization of nature as agriculture will, if relied on, entirely incapacitate such revolutions, guaranteeing the restoration of class society. – Jasper Bernes

Logistics, the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and the point of consumption, logistics, has its origins in military campaigns. That fact is all too relevant when we seek to understand the process of globalization. This so-called “war” is always fought through and against workers–minimizing their value (as labor and as people) as a cost to eliminate. But logistics, especially since the introduction of shipping containers, has brought forth the Planetary Factory, now a totality restricting our ability to even imagine another way of life

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All of our music today is by jazz pianist and composer, Andrew Hill. Our opening song is “Land of Nod,” from the 1963 debut album Black Fire.

We begin with the lessons of Occupy on disruption and blockade as tactics against the logistics of capitalism.

Joining us today to consider the state of things detached from the land we stand upon is Jasper Bernes. Bernes is a poet and Marxist theorist who was integrally involved in Occupy Oakland. His essay “Logistics, Counterlogistics, and the Communist Prospect” is deeply informed by that experience. He is the author of The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization published by Stanford last year, and together with Juliana Spahr and Joshua Clover, he edits Commune Editions.

Belly of the Revolution
The Work of Art in the Age of Deindustrialization (book review)
Writing Red: Joshua Clover On The Poetry and Politics of Riot (Interchange)
Shooting the Gulf: On Allan Sekula (Interchange)
James Scott’s Against the Grain (Interchange)

by Andrew Hill
“Land of Nod”
“Tired Trade”
“Smoke Stack”

Producer & Host: Doug Storm
Edited and mixed by Rob Schoon
Executive Producer: Wes Martin
Main Image Source

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