October 20, 2010

France – National Strike

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Neo-feudalism — Russ @ 5:58 am


Tuesday was the ninth National Day of Action of the French strikes and protests against the government’s “austerity” assault. The day saw 24-hour strikes on the rail and aviation networks. The actions have been raging for weeks. Each day of action is a partial general strike, while in many sectors worker councils have formed which vote each day to carry on independent, renewable 24-hour strikes. The strikes occur against a backdrop of protest marches, demonstrations, blockages, street fighting, and massive public support for the strikers.
Last week two Days of Action saw over 3 million workers go on strike each day. These Days have been called by the union leadership. The rank and file have been far more enthusiastic about calling a general strike, but the bottom up call has not been heeded.
The strikes have spread among many critical sectors. Skilled oil workers at port facilities and the country’s twelve refineries have so stanched the flow of fuel that the country’s main airport, the Charles Degaulle, may run out of fuel this week. Both action days brought out mass strikes in the oil, electricity, transportation, telecom, education, and civil service sectors. Students have joined the struggle. In the 18-24 age group, 84% support the strike. (This flouts Sarkozy’s glib sneer that the youth will support him.) The government has been whining about how high school students are being “manipulated” into joining the protests. By this they mean they’re upset that their own brainwashing and manipulation aren’t working.
Since October 13 worker councils have disregarded the top-down leadership and voted their own daily strikes. The 12 refineries keep renewing the strikes, as do half the country’s transportation networks. Truck drivers are blocking tunnels and industrial quarters as well as conducting slow blocking convoys on the highways.
In Lyons and other cities the protests have escalated into serious street clashes with riot police
Polls establish that 70% of manual workers demand a general strike. 53% of the population would support a general strike.
This is France’s belated self-defense action against the aggression of playboy Sarkozy’s neoliberal government. Even as France’s banks were bailed out to keep the billions they stole, to continue their crimes and steal billions more, Sarkozy’s been pushing an incremental “austerity” program. Bit by bit the government’s been trying to steal back what the French people rightfully established as a portion of their share of the social wealth. Needless to say, their proper portion is 100%, and much of what’s rightfully theirs has been stolen as it is, but still the share that trickles back down to them is much greater than in many other countries. They also see how bailouts plus “austerity” in Britain and Germany have generated considerably higher unemployment than in France. Forewarned, they’re finally taking action.
The tipping point was Sarkozy’s scheme for pension “reform”. As part of the general assault, he imperiously announced that he’d push a bill to raise the age for retirement on a partial pension from 60 to 62. Sarkozy is so belligerent about this that, contrary to normal political practice (which is for the president to make the prime minister his figurehead on unpopular legislative initiatives), he voluntarily turned it into his personal crusade. So this is the playboy tough guy gonna personally smash in the faces of the people, I guess to convince his consort that he’s a real man, something we can all plausibly doubt.
The vote is scheduled for next week. 71% of the French people reject Sarkozy’s “reform”. Please, let’s have no talk of how that doesn’t sound like much of a concession. By American standards, yeah. But we need to support the struggle of the citizenry against the banksters everywhere. Everywhere, on every line, that’s the critical point at which to say No to Austerity, and to demand Total Austerity for the Parasites, No More for the People. (Bashing those who have a little more is just as dumb and plays just as much into the criminals’ hands as bashing those who have a little less, debtor bashing. We must bash and smash only upward, toward the top.)
One in three gas stations are out of gas or running short. Today the French government will try to forcibly open three blocked fuel depots. The protestors vow to continue to block fuel deliveries. This is a critical chokepoint, as we should all be aware.
As we could expect, the swinish NYT has a pro-government, anti-public slant. But even their coverage includes an admission by the prime minister of the movement’s vigor, and contains an implicit acknowledgement that union leaders are in cahoots with the government.

“But at the same time, the movement is radicalizing,” he said, after reports of masked youths clashing with the police, throwing bottles and setting scattered fires in French cities.

Jérôme Sainte-Marie, head of political research for the French polling institute C.S.A., said, “We are in a situation where government and the unions are losing control, and if something serious happens, it will both weaken the unions and be a catastrophe for the government.”

Even the Socialists are worried, he said, “because they could be largely discredited if there are excesses” and violence.

Indeed, the union leadership looks feckless at best.

YOU MIGHT think that with such levels of public support, union leaders would pull out all the stops for a general strike, but professional negotiators don’t think like that. The main trade union confederations have so far been united about the need for one-day mass strikes, which has made impossible the standard government tactic of luring one confederation to their side with minor concessions, and using this fact in propaganda to reduce public support for the strikers.

But union leaders aren’t pushing for renewable strikes and are calling for negotiations, not for the simple defeat of Sarkozy’s pension law. The union leaders’ banner at the head of Saturday’s demonstration read “Pensions, jobs and wages are important to society” when it should have read “General strike to beat Sarkozy.” So it will be up to the rank and file to build up to a general strike, though some regional leaders are supporting the idea.

The rank and file and lower level leaders are calling for a general strike. The situation looks ripe, just like in May 68. But the “leadership” looks craven. They want to “negotiate”. Some are demanding a referendum on the law. When the moment cries out for decisive direct action, these are the tricks of traitors.
Will the workers let the union honchos sell them out? Will the strike fizzle out like in Italy in 1920 or France in 1968? The NYT gives the basic plan:

Most political analysts expect the reforms to pass into law and for the dissent to fizzle out gradually.

The union leadership is definitely incompetent and cowardly. They’re probably consciously corrupt and treacherous as well. Either way we again see the lesson: Reject the existing elites, the existing “leadership”. ALL OF THEM. That includes in the unions and NGOs.
We again have occasion to bruit the basic fact. We must absolutely reject any and every policy of “austerity”, “fiscal responsibility”, “deficit reduction”, which is nothing but robbery, and demand Total Austerity for the banks, the rich, all parasites, all criminals. We’ve sacrificed enough to finance their looting.
As for any pension, any plan, any benefit, we paid for it. It’s ours. The elites have stolen every cent they have, and they only want to steal more.
The French fight is our fight in America as well. I salute the true citizens of France, and all citizens everywhere, wishing them godspeed in their righteous struggle.
Now how do we find our way out of our own strange labyrinth and into the sunlit streets? 


  1. BNP Paribas is one of the largest global banking groups in the world, headquartered in Paris with its second global headquarters in London. In 2010 it was ranked by Forbes as the largest company in the world by assets with over $2.95 trillion.

    The poor broke French capitalist.

    Comment by purple — October 20, 2010 @ 8:30 am

    • Yes, I ought to be more sensitive.

      Mr. Burns will have to give up that extra ivory backscratcher.

      Comment by Russ — October 20, 2010 @ 10:29 am

  2. Well said Russ. It must drive the hyuk-hyuk jingoes in this country crazy to be outdone by the French.

    I wish we had half as much solidarity over here.

    Comment by jimmy james — October 20, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    • It’s pretty amazing.

      We have, I think most observers agree, a revolutionary situation.

      And here’s France possibly on the verge of a general strike. It looks like the will and energy is there.

      And any time you have a general strike during a revolutionary situation, the revolution can possibly grow out of it.

      Now, that’s no guarantee, and I guess in most such cases the strike ultimately failed. (I haven’t actually tallied them up, though I should.) But sometimes the people go all the way….

      Comment by Russ — October 20, 2010 @ 11:04 am

      • I’m going out on a limb here and stating that this is not a revolutionary situation.

        There are three possible outcomes, the government gets the two years, they compromise at one year or the unions win with no change. My money is on door number two (one year).

        This is France, and this is the French people showing the world exactly why they have one of the best and most just societies in the world. Perfect? No. Some excluded, especially in the banlieues? Yes. But compared to most current societies, and just about any historic society that actually lasted more than nine months, they are in the top 95%. America would be somewhere around 70% and falling fast. The French have rebuilt their martial spirit albeit adapted to the 21st century. I hope leaders of the American left will come here to learn a thing or two but given the inbred arrogance of Americans in general, (and admittedly me in particular although I hide it the best I can!) I doubt that will happen.

        Much of this is indeed choreographed between the government and the unions as one of your articles hinted at

        Much of the recent violence is down to one of two factors. Either they are agent provocatuers sent in by the government to justify an eventual crackdown (you never know with Sarko) or this is just the frustration of the hard left who have historically hated the social democrats even more than the rich. As Marx said, the rich will turn to the Lumpens every time to break up the solidarity of the people. Marx hated the social democrats as well as so it will be a bit ironic if the Lumps this time belong to his team.

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 20, 2010 @ 1:04 pm

      • KdB,

        the question of the lumpen in France and their role in the demonstrations is actually very interesting.

        The lumpen in France would have to be “les jeunes de banlieue” which you mention. Most of them are of North African descent.

        At the present time it is still unclear if they’re responsible for the bouts of violence in the demonstrations. This audio commentary from the Le Monde is interesting:


        Basically the journalist says he doesn’t think the lumpen caused the depredations because those happened early in the morning. Apparently the lumpen don’t wake up early. LOL!

        Comment by EmilianoZ — October 20, 2010 @ 2:32 pm

      • No there are not North Africans for the most part. They seem more to be from the hard left / anarchist bent. Lumps can be white as well.

        The five year anniversary of the banlieue infitada is coming up in November so the North Africans are conserving their energy to celebrate that event!

        The news from TF2 is coming up soon on the internet so I will have to see how things went today.


        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 20, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

      • I don’t know if we’re talking about the same guys. I’m talking about the kind of guys you can see in the movie “La Haine”. The 3 main characters are one white, one black and one north african man. But if you look a the people living in the projects, white is a minority. When journalists talk about “casseurs” they talk about those guys. I don’t think they have any political affiliation.

        Comment by EmilianoZ — October 20, 2010 @ 3:37 pm

      • The casseurs are just people breaking windows, it has nothing to do with race. They can be of course people of any race but it is differnt than the infitada kind of stuff we saw several years ago and that was the distiction the journalist was trying to make. Over the past several years in France as well as here you get thes guys breaking windows all over the place. It is almost always politically motivated anarchists / hard left. Occasionally, with the big anti-globalisation demonstrations you get agent provocatuers sent in to make the demonstrations look bad.

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 20, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

      • Russ,

        I’m basing my scenario on the 2000 petrol strikes in England the strikers went far enough to force the supermarkets to ration food. This is the basis of the French strategy but for obvious reasons (like causing mass starvation) they cannot go full out for which you seem to be not happy. I obviously need to read more on anarcho-syndicalism because I just don’t get it!

        Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 22, 2010 @ 12:15 pm

  3. I’m glad to hear from you guys on the subject. So what’s your take on the articles saying the rank and file want a general strike but the union leaders want to compromise?

    It was what I read about that will among the workers, against the general backdrop of the rage against the banks and “austerity”, which caused me to refer to it as a revolutionary situation.

    After all, we debate whether such a situation exists even in America. But clearly the people there are far more intrepid.

    Comment by Russ — October 20, 2010 @ 6:59 pm

    • Thanks for covering this Russ, it is not getting much play over in the States.

      As for your question, it would be very hard to judge the opinions of the rank and file. So far they are following the orders of their leadership. You have to remember the source (communist) of that article is very hostile to the union leaders, who they see as sell-out compromisers for working within the democratic / capitalist system instead of striving towards smashing it to bits. Of course these same communists will never ever admit any errors for the clusterfuck they made out of Eastern Europe which they led for two generations. So there surely are some strikers who want to do more, some who want to do less. But they are so far following their leaders since the methods of these leaders have a long-term track record of maintaining a just welfare state.

      But there is also no doubt that there is coordination between the union leaders and the government. That is the way things work here. I don’t know if they already have an agreement or what but you can tell they are working together.

      As for all the talk about austerity, most French understand that their governments spend around 55% of GDP which are spending levels only seen in the US during WW2. But because of this spending the GINI score in France is quite low (I think around 30%). But most recognize that these spending levels are approaching red lines that they don’t want to cross. The two extremes most French want to avoid is the Communist model, where they used to spend above 90% of GDP, and the American model of 35%. So the average French person is not necessarily against a slight cut in government spending – but what they do insist on is that any cuts would be shared fairly across all social classes.

      So one compromise for example would be a one year extension of work age combined with some tax against the banks.

      One thing the French are even better at than striking is taking vacation. These strikes are starting to bump up against the Toussaint vacations and the union leaders are well aware that the fastest way to lose the public backing is for them to mess up the French peoples’ vacations!

      Making any comparison between the situation in Europe and America is very very difficult. European societies are profoundly just while America is not so much. Some American commentators foolishly keep whining about how Europe will lose its welfare state. I can tell you that there is next to no one here who is against universal health care for example. Just yesterday a law advanced that would expand PAID maternity leave from 16 to 2o months (America has 0 months of paid leave). Many Americans feel so impotent in their own country look over here and start screaming about ideological impurity and whatnot. The recent Michael Hudson article, while containing some truth no doubt (and I do like the guy) was a good example. His railing on Estonia’s failed welfare state was kind of like Tony Hayward of BP visiting the Gulf Coast in ten years and complaining about how bad the seafood tastes. Who would dare say he was not telling the truth? Yes Michael, Estonia, the Baltics, and Eastern Europe in general are still a mess. But why exactly is that? Which ideology was it that caused so many people to live in such absolute despair for so many years?

      Any revolution involves risk. Europeans most certainly don’t need a revolution since that would only mean moving closer to an American model on the right (or even less likely a Communist model on the left). Americans, who are drifting further and further away from the European model to their left and everyday are getting closer to the Latin American model to their right, most certainly do need a revolution of one sort or another to stop this drift and so that they can instead start to move their failed mode closer to the European model. That is why I have such divergent opinions on American and European matters.

      Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 21, 2010 @ 2:42 am

      • I know the author is a socialist, but I guess I’m not used to picturing Western communists nowadays as being radicals. I picture them as sellouts very similar to union leaders.

        For example, did you see how the US Communist Party’s national chairman calls upon everyone to vote Democrat, and does so in the most ridiculous MSM terminology to boot?

        For that I’ll link this piece since I have a comment in the thread:


        What the heck, I’ll reproduce the comment as well:

        Historically, when fascism’s on the march and there’s just the tiniest threat (to the elitists) that anarchism might break through, communists often demand that “the left” support the liberals.

        Just look at Spain.

        Referring to Spain during the Civil War. And to the Popular Front in general.

        Back then, they had indeed let fascism advance so far that only a united front (which would end up being dominated by elites) was likely to be able to defeat it, though it’s not at all clear that that was the case in Spain itself.

        But today actual fascism is still just latent, and the people could still strangle it in its cradle without resort to elite domination from either liberals or the authoritarian left.

        So you’re saying the French communists don’t fall into this pattern, and want the general strike?

        (I can’t tell if by “Americans screaming about ideological impurity” you meant me.

        But I didn’t say a word about ideology. If I was “screaming”, it was about tactical common sense. You have so many people willing to strike every day, and to take to the streets in an organized manner. That’s clearly the time for expansive demands, not for the picayune “negotiation” mentality.

        The complete relinquishment of this policy should be the least of their demands.)

        I don’t quite follow your point about the Baltics. From what I’ve read (including in Hudson), a place like Latvia is neoliberal ground zero, to the point that “middle class” people are fleeing the country in a manner almost identical to the Iraq exodus, fleeing a figuratively similar level of terror and devastation.

        Hudson represents that as what’s in store for all of us, in all Western countries. Everything I’ve seen causes me to concur.

        If I underatnd you correctly, you’re saying Europeans think the European safety-net state can stand in place and co-exist with this criminal elite. (I refuse to call it by the term “welfare state”, which is incoherent. The people create 100% of the wealth, so by definition any broad-based safety net cannot be “welfare”.)

        But isn’t that the same as saying the banks can be “reformed”?

        Many Continental European countries seem to have a lot more to work with than America. Their safety nets are still in far better shape, they retain far more of the spirit of citizen resistance to tyranny, they’re less reliant upon the car, perhaps they retain a greater sense of community (I’m not sure about that last one, more inferring it than knowing it).

        But they face the same neo-feudal onslaught, whose goals are every bit as totalitarian. Those safety nets and communities are slated to go the same way ours did, if they keep trying to negotiate with gangsters and appease criminals.

        That’s why I think the right line to fight Austerity is always exactly where we are, and the right time is always right now. That it can work to still give more ground, and to wait longer, both of which are somehow supposed to render us stronger to fight later on, is unintelligible to me.

        Comment by Russ — October 21, 2010 @ 5:32 am

      • No I’m not necessarily saying you are screaming for ideological purity; I don’t really consider you an ideologue. I mean in other forums. I’ll try to answer some of your questions.

        First of all I am stunned that even the CPUSA are supporting the Dems. What a sorry state of affairs things are over there. What a bunch of wussies. One thing I like about the “hard” left is that they understand power but this is a real sad sign from those guys.

        If I understand you correctly, you’re saying Europeans think the European safety-net state can stand in place and co-exist with this criminal elite.

        Yes absolutely, the European “criminal” elite is of a different sort altogether than the American version. And it will never be pure, just as the people of Europe have a corrupt side as well. But if they were to see signs of say universal healthcare being taken away there would be elites swinging from lamposts. I assure you in thirty years Europe will still be more or less the same and America will be a third world country. The two places are night and day and making comparisons between them is very difficult.

        On the Baltics I mean it was the communists who fucked it all up and have set up the conditions for the neo-liberals to gain a foothold there. Hudson never even mentions this as he blasts the social democratic model of working within the capitalist system. Now Europe has to deal with this threat. But it is clear that the European model will win out over the neo-Liberal’s Latin American version but it will take another thirty years before all the dysfunctions work themselves out over there.

        I don’t at all agree that fascism is on the march, it’s a little like other people saying Islam is on the march and about to take over. I’ve studied quite a bit about fascism and I don’t seriously see anything similar today. Almost the opposite in Europe, there is a danger of the people getting too soft, not too hard like fascists. Elite domination is not at all necessarily fascism. Fascism is among other things the power of the state with several other characteristics that are missing in anything around today. The most recent regime that approached fascism (but didn’t reach it) was Saddam’s Iraq. If anything in the US the state is becoming just a tool of the elite. So I do see a form of elite dominated feudalism coming in America but that is not fascism. In Europe I see more of the same with perhaps a slowly declining standard of living compared to the rest of the world (thanks to peak oil) but nothing dramatic happening.

        I use the term welfare state on purpose. I know in the US the term has a negative connotation. I think where we differ (and that’s not a problem, everyone differs with me!) is that I look for a balance of power between the people and the elites while you look for a domination by the people and an eradication of the elites. To me, the only model of the type of society you seem to be pushing are hunter gatherer societies in human history. That’s not to say its not possible, only that the reality is that an elite-less society like that will quickly be overrun by a neighboring elite since an elite-less society will not be able to create enough military potential to protect itself from aggressive neighbours. But maybe I will be proven wrong someday. I do see some very interesting aspects of anarchism though that can be very useful but I just don’t see the overall system working.

        Anyway I enjoy your blog and your thinking because it is so different than usual but I certainly don’t expect to agree with you on everything. How boring would that be!

        Comment by kevin de bruxelles — October 21, 2010 @ 6:41 am

      • –the American model of 35%–

        even that 35% is heavily distorted by military spending. Take out French and American military spending and the spread between governemnt intervention would be even wider.

        Comment by purple — October 21, 2010 @ 7:14 am

    • Purple:

      Good point, and I’d imagine taking that as “corporate welfare” in general, it goes much further. (I don’t know how much corporate welfare there is in France, but I’d expect there too it’s nowhere near as bad as in America.)


      Thanks, and I agree!

      I’m glad you think there’s a line in Continental Europe that just can’t be crossed. I’ll have to wait until I start seeing a trendline of victory somewhere to believe that’s possible anywhere.

      I did say that I thought fascism was so far mostly latent, not yet overt. (Although it’s actually on European blogs, namely in England and Greece, that I read people talking about actually fighting real fascists in the streets as an everyday thing. I only came across one such incident in America, in Phoenix.)

      Just to clarify two points.

      I don’t think it’s quibbling over terms if I say that I don’t seek “domination by the people”. I want rough material equality of condition and the nonexistence of centralized structures. Under those conditions there would be no elites, and no such thing as socioeconomic domination.

      I don’t seek a hunter-gatherer society. That’s a straw man which is, quite frankly, worthy of conservatives and liberals.

      What I want isn’t utopian. It really existed in the form of the Spanish collectives. These had plenty of kinks to work out, of course, and were never given time to mature before they were destroyed by betrayal and the violence of both liberals and fascists.

      But nevertheless for the time they existed they worked.

      As for the military question, I’ll just reproduce my previous comment from when we discussed that earlier:


      The Oil Age was an extremely hostile environment for any kind of democratic or decentralization idea. Where oil supplements hierarchical competence, I doubt anarchism could withstand the onslaught. For example, I don’t think an anarchist army could have fought the German army.

      At the other pole Makhno proved an anarchist army can defeat an incompetent hierarchical army like the Whites. Franco was somewhere in between, and we don’t know the answer there.

      So I haven’t dismissed the question. In fact that was one of several questions that sprung to mind when it first occured to me that anarchism might have a future.

      The answer I’ve settled on is that the record is promising enough that we can go forward. Post-oil the kind of armies likely to exist, at least during the chaotic transitional state, are likely to be a lot more like the Whites than like the Germans of the world wars, just as future wars on landmasses are likely to be more like the Russian Civil War than WWI.

      If that’s a reasonable supposition (and Peak Oil and the incipient collapse of globalization give many reasons for thinking it is), then we also have reason to be optimistic about the ability of an anarchist society to militarily hold its own.

      I grant that may be more difficult in Eurasia than in North America.

      Comment by Russ — October 21, 2010 @ 8:03 am

  4. Purple,

    That 35% actually grew over the last three years in the US to 43% I looked it up after leaving the comment. But your point still stands of course since that extra 8% only went to banks. But I thought it best to clear my mistake up so it is not quoted elsewhere.

    Comment by kevin de bruxelles — October 21, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  5. Russ,

    I actually wrote a reply on the military issue but I never posted it. I think it will be a very long time until we get “post-oil”. In the next hundred years we will see the split between the “haves” and the “have-nots” will be one of access to oil. That is to say that the major militaries of the world will remain mechanized for the coming future while their non-state opponents will have less and less access to oil. The US military could nationalize all the remaining oil reserves in the US if it ever got in a pinch.

    One remaining remnant of fascism in western europe could be considered football hooligans but that is a bit of a stretch. In Eastern Europe there are all kinds of crazy things and groups and if there were to be any rise of fascist groups I would look there.

    Comment by kevin de bruxelles — October 21, 2010 @ 8:45 am

    • That is to say that the major militaries of the world will remain mechanized for the coming future while their non-state opponents will have less and less access to oil. The US military could nationalize all the remaining oil reserves in the US if it ever got in a pinch.

      That’s certainly what they’ll try to do. Every falling empire tried lots of things which seemed foolproof on paper but didn’t work out in practice.

      Even if there were no domestic resistance (meaning not even significant passive and sabotage-level resistance), this system’s ability to keep expanding its wars and domination looks doubtful. There are many kinds of setbacks and partial collapses that could cause it to collapse completely.

      If the idea is that the system will rationally, voluntarily stop, retrench, set a limit to itself, try to maintain itself at a sustainable level, and extract and ration the remaining oil on that basis, I suppose that’s possible in principle.

      But in the same way that I think any political tipping point for the American people can’t be rationally predicted since any rationally predictable tipping point was passed long ago, so it’s even more true that this system has long since passed the point of rational imputation.

      So if it’s ever going to restrain itself for the sake of self-preservation, that’ll come as the biggest surprise of all.

      Comment by Russ — October 21, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  6. As the supply of oil goes down, the price will surely go up. That will be the constraint. Oil will become a precious resource and if human history gives us any clues, and I think it does, the powerful will fight for their exclusive rights to limited resources There is a little paradox in the conservation movement. The more slowly and carefully we burn through what oil remains, the more unequally it will be distributed towards the end. In some ways it would be ideal to just burn through oil remains with increasing speed and then just hit the wall because since oil is cheap it is relatively accessible to most people. But that will never happen. Within ten years oil will be rationed. Not because of any do-goody altruistic reasons but because all scarce resources are rationed and dominated by the powerful. Europe is busy building train and tram networks to deal with this eventuality. Americans will be severely hurt when oil passes say $200 a barrel. But each nations military will get first crack at oil that country’s oil because it will be through military might that nations will access increasing scarce oil.

    I haven’t read that much about Peak Oil scenarios so I am basing these thoughts on past history. Let me know if there are any good scenarios out there as to how the world will react to dwindling supplies of oil.

    Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 21, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    • Your idea that it would be better for us to burn through the oil as quickly and in as stupidly “consumerist” a way as possible is common among Peak Oilers. Assuming a large fraction of the remaining oil is going to be extracted one way or another, that would be best from the class war point of view, much better than militaristic rationing.

      And your suspicion that something’s paradoxical if not rotten in the state of conservationism is also shared.

      Alexis Zeigler has specialized in writing about it:


      This piece is the best example:

      Biofuels and the Rise of Nationalistic Environmentalism


      I most recently discussed the issue here:


      Some earlier pieces on the subject include these.



      I’ll speculate, however, that one of the few things we have going for us is how absolutely committed to sociopathic greed everyone within the system is.

      Whereas other declining or collapsing systems were often sustained for a while by the inertia of tradition or ideological loyalty or fanaticism, I bet there’s a good chance that this one will collapse the moment the thugs’ paychecks start to bounce.

      Maintaining even a rationalized oil extraction and distribution system will still require an ever more capital-intensive, top-heavy, geographically far-flung infrastructure which is ever more expensive to maintain in terms of money and energy.

      One of the basic ideas of Peak Oil is how oil extraction itself runs up against E=mc2 type limits. The more oil they use up, the harder it gets to extract more, and the more oil is needed to extract these ever diminishing returns. So the EROEI (energy return on energy invested) gets worse and worse. (The same goes for the money investment as well. Also the military blood investment, and pretty much every other quantity involved.)

      In oil’s heyday the EROEI was 30:1 or better. (You got 30 barrels of oil back for every one you burned in extracting it.) Today the ratio is down to 10:1 in the better locales, and there’s fewer and fewer of these. Unconventional oil like the Arctic, the tar sands, “heavy oil” in Venezuela (similar to the tar sands), oil shale etc., have far worse returns.

      So while the military certainly has brute force on its side, every other kind of physical, economic, and political force are working against it in the longer run.

      For Peak Oil scenarios, there are several collected at The Oil Drum.


      If you scroll down looking at the left-hand column, you’ll see the “Peak Oil Primers” (helpfully given “Defcon” numbers to indicate how dystopian they are).

      It was Matt Savinar’s “Life After the Oil Crash” essay which really turned on the Peak Oil light bulb for me.


      As for books, probably the best introductions are:

      The Party’s Over by Richard Heinberg;

      The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler.

      Best of all, IMO, is Dmitri Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse, whose hook is its extended comparison of the collapse of the USSR and how energy descent in the US is likely to be. His conclusion? We’re far worse prepared and likely to be far worse off.

      Orlov’s book isn’t a Peak Oil primer, though, but pretty much takes it for granted. The other two books explain it in great detail.

      Comment by Russ — October 21, 2010 @ 2:43 pm

      • [T]here’s a good chance that this one will collapse the moment the thugs’ paychecks start to bounce.

        The paychecks will never bounce. Money is their tool. They create it at will.

        TOD is a good site but the writers there continually confuse the fiat system with a single currency system like gold. Ruppert’s Confronting Collapse makes this mistake too. There’s no such thing as a debt apocalypse or pyramid or passing down debt to our children. Our children will repudiate whatever debt they don’t want to pay. The only real constraint is resources. Energy. Water. That’s what we need to worry about.

        When archaeologists examine empires they see a flow of resources toward the capital. Food and luxuries proceed to the elites at the center without any trade in exchange. When the empire collapses the flows cease and the parasites disperse or die. If anyone wanted to argue the U.S. were not an empire its permanent trade deficit and oil imports would constitute evidence to the contrary. But words like ’empire’ are not that interesting. It’s the pattern of parasitism and inevitable collapse that’s relevant.

        Comment by reslez — October 22, 2010 @ 10:18 pm

      • “Paychecks bouncing” was perhaps an overly colorful term. I meant when the pay was no longer worth anything, in whatever way. That nobody was going to keep serving this system out of loyalty or ideology for even a single day.

        We in the blogosphere know that money in itself doesn’t have any value, and we don’t have a psychological fetish of it. But don’t most people idolize it, and won’t they panic as it becomes worthless? That’s why although we know that e.g. deficits are largely meaningless, the psychological fact of most people thinking they do matter is meaningful and needs to be acknowledged in tactics and messaging.

        What causes the resource flows to collapse? Part of it is that the people finally lose confidence in the currency in which they never should have had confidence in the first place.

        As you say, money is their tool and they create it at will, yet at some point that no longer suffices, and no amount of money creation can buy them what they need.

        You describe today’s parasite elites well. America and the West vs. the rest or the world, and now the elites of the West vs. all, as neoliberal exploitation has “come home”.

        In the meantime one huge problem is how they’re using this worthless funny money to buy up real assets. Hudson’s always hammering at that point.

        Part of my project is to try as much as possible to leverage the bank-driven Depression and the mortgage note debacle into a more general skepticism about landed property itself. If we could restitute the land and water, detach them from “money” in principle even before the money collapses, that would be a big step.

        Comment by Russ — October 23, 2010 @ 2:03 am

  7. Thanks Russ, that is very kind of you. I have a lot of reading to do!

    Comment by Kevin de Bruxelles — October 21, 2010 @ 3:41 pm

    • You’re welcome.

      Comment by Russ — October 22, 2010 @ 2:20 am

  8. We’ll have trouble staging anything like a national strike in America. Unionism has been crippled along with its base, the manufacturing sector. And the elite intend to keep it that way. As Jagoff Joe Biden said, the jobs are not coming back.

    I envision passive resistance such as developing localism and a consumer/debtor strike. I have no feel for how effective this will be.

    It may be paranoia, but I sense that elites want to force the feudalism issue and are getting impatient with our lack of resistance. Our inert response to Gore vs Bush, the 9-11 con, the TARP robbery, and the numerous Obama double crosses may have them wondering just how much pushing and shoving around we’ll take before violence explodes and gives them a pretext for a final crackdown.

    This may be the motive behind Foreclosuregate. If they solve it by openly overturning the entire legal system just to save and enrich the lenders/bankers and render millions of families homeless, then they’ll get the eruption they’ve been agitating for.

    Comment by Andy Lewis — October 21, 2010 @ 7:43 pm

    • Another problem with a national strike, as I’ve written about before, is how the labor infrastructure has been dispersed to a million suburban office parks, so that it would be extremely difficult for strikes to physically cohere even if everyone had the same will.

      (It’s the exact opposite of Paris in 1789, where as Tocqueville discusses, all political power and all the industrial workers were physically concentrated in that city. The moment the workers decided to combine with the bourgeoisie to overthrow the monarchy, it was literally a stroll down the street.)

      Historically governments sometimes seek to provoke pretexts among hated groups of whatever sort, but they never want a rebellion among “the base”, which in a pseudo-democratic government’s case is the people in general.

      If I had to bet, I’d say their plan to impose feudalism involves keeping the people opiated and in conformity, gradually increasing the repression as possible and/or necessary.

      Here’s my core post on what I think they plan to do and how they plan to do it:


      Comment by Russ — October 22, 2010 @ 2:33 am

    • I sense that elites want to force the feudalism issue and are getting impatient with our lack of resistance.

      This is an interesting idea. I think I agree more with Russ: the impatience you sense may just be the elites’ ravenous enthusiasm to grab as much as possible as fast as possible. Their previous grabs inspired little protest and the clock is running down. The elites seem to be paranoid about any degree of resistance. Anyone who emits the slightest cough of disagreement is thrown to the asphalt and pummeled senseless. Everyone else bakes in a stew of corporate media. To take an example from my hometown, the college students who peaceably protested the RNC were arrested and convicted of petty offenses, and the local paper announced they would lose their scholarships. A pathetic overreaction worthy of frightened, would-be tyrants.

      I do think there are areas in which the elites would substantially benefit from the right kind of incident. Internet freedom springs to mind. We know there are books of unpassed laws on the shelf just waiting to be rushed through Congress. As a person who predicted Microsoft would target free software via patents, and the copyright lobby would target “pirates” via CP, I expect this to happen within the next 5 years.

      Comment by reslez — October 22, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

      • Targeted pretexts like your Interent example are likely, I agree.

        One would think they could try to avoid the political hassle of overt political censorship by simply failing to enshrine net neutrality and letting the economic vise crush access itself for more and more people. To use my own terms, relying on primary economic censorship ought to do the trick, and they shouldn’t need much secondary political censorship.

        But that’s too subtle for macho authoritarian swine like Lieberman and others. They can’t get their punishment kicks that way.

        (Well, I don’t know – is the real “cyberwar” rationale not even political censorship but the same old corporate welfare, for connected “security” contractors? More and more I wonder how long they can keep taking more and more parasites onto the same lifeboat. It may be a heavily armed and armored lifeboat (which also adds to its weight), but it’s still a lifeboat.

        Yet they’re not thinking at all of triage. They keep bringing on new passengers with tons of baggage. I still find it unbelievable that they’re actually going to be economically able to collect the health racket mandate even if they’re politically crazy enough to try.

        One thing’s for sure – they have no master plan. The thing literally is the “sum of all lobbies”, as one of their bloated corporate welfare bills was once called.

        I think that utter inability to ration and plan on their part, the very infinity of their greed and hubris, will eventually work in our favor.)

        Comment by Russ — October 23, 2010 @ 2:17 am

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