The Red Giant Stirs

Red Giant


 

The Red Giant Stirs (2001)

While earthbound radicals fight to save the planet, our rulers are already scanning the skies for new horizons. Having trashed its birthplace, global capital dreams of one day expanding into the Solar System and beyond. Red Giant exists to challenge the expansion of the Empire into space and to circulate other visions of how human communities might live beyond the reach of capitalism, the state and earth's gravitational pull.

Already, space is central to surveillance, communications and propaganda, all of which rely increasingly on satellites. The militarisation of space has already started, with satellite technology playing a key role in the targeting of western death machines in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia. The deployment of weapons in space is the next step. The US Space Command has stated that "In the future, being able to attack terrestrial targets from space may be critical to national defense. U.S. Space Command therefore is actively identifying potential roles, missions, and payloads for this probable new field of battle" (quoted in Chomsky).

The further commercialisation of space through space tourism is also in its early stages, with the first multi-millionaire having paid for a ride to the International Space Station. An increasing number of corporations are considering the possibilities of space. 1999 saw the first annual International Space Business Assembly in Washington bringing together NASA officials and business leaders to discuss the advancement of commercial enterprise in Space. Behind these efforts a whole movement of free market space enthusiasts are waiting in the wings, like the Space Frontier Foundation who declare "Our purpose is to unleash the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity permanently into the Solar System".

Birth of the space age proletariat

Although only a handful of individuals have so far travelled into space, the space industry has involved hundreds of thousands of workers and affected many more. From the slave labourers in the Nazi V2 factories at the birth of the rocket age to the wage labourers constructing spacecraft in the US and Soviet 1960s/70s space boom, many have directly participated in space production. Today space programmes are generally less high profile, but there is still a significant global workforce involved in the manufacture and launch of space technology, or in servicing this sector.

In many ways, humanity as a whole has been living in the shadow of the space age since the 1950s. Living with the terror of annhilation by Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, taking a short trip through space on their way to destroy life on earth. Living under the constant surveillance of satellites. Living in a culture saturated with mythologies of space, whose products are beamed into our living rooms from those same ubiquitous spacecraft circling around our planet.

Struggles on spaceship earth

The capitalist vision of space has been challenged from its early days. At the space-themed 1964 World Fair in New York, 300 people were arrested in clashes at the exhibition, more concerned with the realities of racism and poor housing than with the rose-tinged visions presented in attractions such as the simulated moonscape and General Motors' Futurama.

Today there is a growing movement against the militarisation of space, as one element in an emerging groundswell against capitalism. In the future space will become a major site of social struggles, including opposition to corporate and military space developments, resistance by space workers, and efforts to utilise space technology autonomously for human needs outside of state and market mechanisms. Already we are beginnning to use satellites to create our own networks of oppositional communication via mobile phones and the internet. In the future, who knows? Mutinies on space stations by Cosmonauts sick of waiting for pay day? Declarations of independence by settler communards on the moon? To think about such possbilities is to enter the realms of science fiction.

Different visions

Since actual space travel has been monopolised by the corporate-military megamachine, the rest of us have to use our imaginations to explore the possibilities of life in space. Stuck on a planet dominated by war, oppression and business, many have projected their visions of alternative ways of living and being onto distant galaxies, using music, writing, film and other media.

These visions allow us to think about we could live our lives without the domination of money, government and hierarchy, a way of life which we would call communism. By communism we do not mean the dictatorships of 20th century Eastern Europe, which were actually a particular version of the capitalist work machine. We mean a free association in which social wealth is used to meet the needs and realize the potential of everybody, rather than just a wealthy elite.

But anarchists, communists, feminists and afro-futurists are not the only dreamers of dreams. The state/corporate space programmes have also cloaked themselves in mythologies. Dale Carter argues that a feature of what he terms the Rocket State is 'the hallucinatory quality of information' in a 'propagandized post-war culture' characterised by 'confused definitions of life and fantasy' (Dale Carter, The Final Frontier, 1988).

This blurring of the boundaries between fact and fiction is particularly evident in relation to space. Since for all but a handful of people space exploration is not directly experienced, our knowledge of it is always mediated and it is presented to us in a similar format to a science fiction adventure story. On the other hand, space is a central theme of cinema, TV and popular culture generally.

It is impossible to develop a critique of the military/corporate space industry without tackling the images of this industry emanating from Hollywood and elsewhere, since reality and image have been deliberatley confused to make the reallity more palatable. A good example is the attempt to repackage the militarisation of space as 'Star Wars' - with the US in the role of Luke Skywalker rather than the Imperial Stormtroopers. Defending the so-called Strategic Defence Initiative in 1985, then President Ronald Reagan commented 'if you will pardon my stealing a film line, the Force is with us' (quoted in Carter).

Red Giant Site

It should be clear from the above that space is far too important a subject to be left in the hands of scientific specialists, rocket enthusiasts and trekkies. To date space has been neglected by radical tendencies, a situation which we hope to begin to redress.

The Red Giant site is in its early stages and has largely been put together from bits and pieces we have come across in the past few years. We aim to include material which we find interesting and/or informative, and that contributes towards developing a critical perspective on the space industry and its associated mythologies, or that explores liberatory possibilities of space (including ideas from 'science fiction'). This does not mean that we endorse everything that is said, or that the authors of the texts we have included endorse our views. The texts include different and contradictory perspectives - for instance some are more positive about the possibilities of space than others. We hope to provide space for debate.

We will be adding new articles soon. Please feel free to contribute ideas, or point us in the direction of existing material.

 


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