April 5, 2011

New Days

Filed under: American Revolution, Reformism Can't Work, Relocalization — Russ @ 6:15 am


Hey everyone, and thanks for your good wishes during my vacation. I hope no one expects my first post back to be anything profound, since I’m feeling rusty and will need a little time to get back into the full swing of things.
The truth is, I was feeling a little discouraged. Sometimes it looks like the system, while doomed by its own instability and depravity, may still continue to bloat, expand, self-empower, and stand, for a long time yet. It’s a bitter thought.
But that’s more of a passing mood than a conclusion. There’s nothing one can do but fight as well as one can.
As I’ve said many times, I don’t think this can be done by trying to reform representative pseudo-democracy itself, let alone the Democratic Party. The goal of forming an alternative party to bid for national power within this corporatist imperial framework is obviously flawed. If the goal is anti-corporatism and anti-imperialism, then there’s a mismatch between means and end. If the goal is simply “improved” corporatism and imperialism, that’s impossible and ignoble. No, the political struggle must proceed by other means.
At the workplace, victory cannot be achieved through reform of conventional unionism. The capitalist unions themselves were always flawed in principle. And today they’ve become irredeemably rotten in their practice. Yesterday I read about how GE, having extracted $14.2 billion in “profit” last year, will now demand wage and benefit cuts in its upcoming union contract negotiations. Evidently, the union is resigned to losing, and will simply try to mitigate how much more it must lose.
Excuse me? Someone please correct the flaw in my thinking, but if my employer had just claimed to have profited to the tune of $14.2 billion, I wouldn’t be entering the negotiation with any mindset other than to demand wage and benefit increases. That’s how things are supposed to work, right? The company does well, the workers do well. The fact that this union, and every other union, is ridden with the contrary defeatist mindset is proof of their indelible spiritual rot.
Meanwhile, we know the truth about this alleged profit. None of it is capitalistically legitimate. Every cent of it is rentier theft based on oligopoly position and stealing from the workers. So it follows that the company can only demand further cuts. That’s the only way it was able to pretend to be profitable in the first place.
No, the fact is, we can never economically win “at the workplace” for the same reason we can never politically win as democratic citizens within a corporatist political system. The very structure is an ongoing infliction of defeat.
Besides, as I’ve previously written, the economy is no longer structured in such a way that concentrated worker power will exist. So to think in terms of old forms of worker organization is doomed to fail.
I doubt many readers here need much convincing about alternative centralized parties, or any regarding centralized unionism. But I wanted to recapitulate the examples in order to emphasize again that the system’s own nature acts against our attempts to participate in it, and therefore all attempts at reform are vain.
Therefore it follows that the big change which will have to sweep America is a change of mind.
I believe the road to this change is a combination of overt education and exemplary action. The virtue here is that all the relocalization and resistance actions we should undertake in order to serve as examples are the same which will be necessary for our survival. Here I speak of survival in the face of the political and economic tyranny we face, as well as survival in the post-oil age, with the decline of the vast unearned energy increment fossil fuels supplied.
Economically, this will especially be true in the case of food, which is why I’ll mostly emphasize Food Sovereignty as a political philosophy, program, and practice. But it’ll be true in every other sector as well.
Politically, the only course left is positive democracy. True, direct democracy. We must finally take adult responsibility for ourselves, become full citizens, or lose everything.
So there’s some remarks to resume our dialogue here. Nothing I haven’t said before, but then nothing any of us says by now is new. But the essence of politics is to keep the discourse going until we find the words which bring forth the deeds, and find the deeds which bring forth our self-liberation.
This consummation certainly does exist in potential. The essence of living is to seek to make it real.


  1. Welcome back, Russ. You were definitely missed. Can you elaborate a bit on what you mean by the economy no longer being structured to allow concentrated worker power to exist?

    Comment by Johnny D. — April 5, 2011 @ 6:48 am

    • Thanks, JD.

      I meant that this economy is no longer based on concentrated industrial regions which therefore physically concentrated large numbers of workers at the most important production points. That was the idea underlying classic Marxist and other concepts of revolution.

      Instead most of our industrial jobs are now overseas, while domestic work is physically dispersed among widely distributed production points.

      But most importantly, most of the economy is now post-industrial, a “service” and “information” economy with little in the way of worker concentration or consciousness.

      So even as political and economic power becomes concentrated as never before, its prey resource becomes ever more atomized. That’s why I think old ideas of worker-confronting-employer are probably outdated.

      I’ve written about this previously. Here’s one example.


      In his Ancien Regime and the French Revolution Tocqueville discusses how under the Ancien Regime all economic and political power was centralized while all elite responsibility was dissolved. This enraged the people, who remained subject to the obligations of the system while seeing every day how worthless and reckless the elites were; but it also concentrated enough workers in Paris, the manufacturing center, that once their discontent reached critical mass it was an almost effortless motion to topple the monarchy.

      Today’s kleptocracy has followed but refined the model. Today’s elites are every bit as worthless and privileged and predatory; but even as economic power has been centralized, the infrastructure itself has been completely disintegrated. Where are “the workers”? Overseas, mostly. What’s still here is mostly a castrated “service” class of flunkeys which is physically dispersed anyway.

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 8:36 am

      • Thank you for the explanation, Russ. Also, a word from me about getting discouraged. Don’t. You have really made a dent in my concrete brain about many things. If it is working on me, then it is working on others. Stay the course. Thank you for your efforts.

        Comment by Johnny D. — April 5, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

      • You’re welcome, JD, and thanks for the kind words.

        Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 6:14 pm

  2. Hi Russ,

    I wanted to pass on the link to W Hogeland’s recent article to which I left a comment your readers might understand:
    Constitutional Convention Delegates Had Common Goal: Ending Democratic Finance
    Monday, 04/4/2011 – 11:46 am by William Hogeland | 3 Comments


    I guess it is coincidence that I happened to read Terry Bouton’s ‘Taming Democracy…’ about the same time that W Hogeland submitted his first article a couple of weeks ago. It is of personal interest as my father’s Scots Irish ancestors lived in southwestern PA and included a Revolutionary War participant according to a genealogy book he passed on. As Dr Bouton’s well-documented book indicates the popular American history books such as I (as a youngster) studied had things mostly glossed up/wrong; over the years we have learned about sophisticated behavior/mind-control techniques currently employed by the elite controllers of the CIA, military and other govt agencies, however, the elites have always been several steps ahead and have had the financial resources to control the ‘democratic’ instincts of the masses. Noticed you were back over at NC; Ives S does a great job keeping up with the financial criminals.

    Comment by William Wilson — April 5, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    • Thanks for the link, William. That’s an excellent piece on the finance aspects of the 1787-88 hijacking of the Revolution.

      I’ve been meaning to look up the 1776 Pennsylvania Constitution but haven’t gotten to it yet.

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 12:39 pm

  3. Welcome back.
    It is easy to get discouraged unless takes action, as you stress. Politics is a joke, and I no longer spend much time discussing it with others, except to express my warranted cynicism, and then describe actions I am taking or planning. On a simple, personal level, I am downsizing my possessions to keep only valuable items (valuable in a utilitarian or cultural sense), and planning projects like gardening, learning new skills, etc. It’s amazing how rewarding small successes in the “homestead” domain can be!

    I also have a growing network of people who are opting out of the corporate web as much as possible, and growing things, bartering, trading services, etc. This is the nucleus of future economic survival.

    I look forward to your coming posts, as you have an unusual flair for synthesizing political theory, philosophy, economics, and the concrete…

    Comment by Publius — April 5, 2011 @ 11:59 am

    • Sounds like you have a good plan going, Publius. That’s similar to what I’ve been trying to do, little by little.

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 12:40 pm

  4. “Another political party” certainly sounds futile if it were to be anything like the present ones.

    But how about a party based upon, and exemplifying cooperation–a la Mondragon?

    Cooperation is one of humanity’s greatest assets: it literally comes naturally.

    And to augment our naturally cooperative disposition we now have ever-improving technology, thanks to the Internet and mobile technology.

    A Cooperation Party would complement–and may eventually merge with–the Green Parties, thus sparing them from the fate of single issues parties.

    Comment by godfree roberts — April 5, 2011 @ 12:11 pm

    • Building cooperatives could be an excellent basis for movement-building, and then a political party can be built upon a vigorous movement.

      I just don’t think envisioning a party based on seeking presidency, congressional majorities, etc. has any future. Perhaps a party based on capturing local governments, toward transforming them into the truly federal basis of a new council government, could be a plan to ponder. That’s why up above I referred to centralized parties trying to act within the corporatist framework, seeking centralized power.

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

      • Quite agree. The “party” concept has reached its sell-by date. Building on a vigorous movement–one whose vigor derives from its success in solving ordinary people’s ordinary problems–is the way to go.

        Comment by godfree roberts — April 5, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

      • That’s what I want to help build.

        Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  5. Good to see you writing again.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about currency as the basis for the problems we are seeing. I have been reading Locke and his origin of personal property argument. He says you must mix your labour with the material on the land to claim it as personal property in so long as you do not waste or spoil property, you can keep it. Now he makes an exception for Gold and Silver, and I honestly think this is where he starts to go wrong because it allows for storing a claim on other peoples labour indefinitely.

    Among other things I’ve been thinking about a new economic model that relies heavily on the labour theory of value and barter system mechanics as have been discussed before on this blog.

    It seems the investor class is able to survive now by seeking out huge diversity in their portfolio (absentee ownerism) as well as safety (naturally moving from individual risk to systemic risk, as we have seen). Locke’s theory of property naturally led to a society that supports ownership in order to maintain a rule of law. But another reading of his work suggests that property in not so narrowly defined as we now commonly think about it. He may also have meant that property involves the property of your person and thus his work could be seen as the basis for a labour value theory of money which could serve as the basis for a merit economy. I’m working on this thought experiment with a partner right now in addition to setting up an organization that will conduct research and raise public awareness about the fact that alternatives modes of society do exist and we can construct the best one for us.

    Keep fighting the good fight,

    Comment by Strieb Roman — April 5, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    • Thanks, Strieb. It sounds like you’ve got a good project going. We certainly need to get beyond the morally, philosophically, and politically depraved concept of “property” if humanity is to survive.

      Property in land or natural resources, in particular, is indefensible according to any measure short of pure gangster might-makes-right. It’s obvious that we can only have useful possession rights to what we productively use.

      Have you read Proudhon on the subject?

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

      • Not yet, no. I’ll look into him.

        Comment by Strieb Roman — April 5, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

  6. Glad to have you back, Russ.

    I’ve noticed a change of subject matter and tone in your writing over the past few weeks. It doesn’t surprise me to hear you’ve been working through some feelings of discouragement. My own opinion is that discouragement is the correct emotion to feel — anything else is probably, objectively speaking, irrational. The social changes we propose are revolutionary. Yet when human life itself cannot be said to be other than an exercise in futility I’m forced to view this piece of discouragement as rather mild. We fight the battles we know to be just, not because we think we will be successful, but because we cannot do otherwise than fight. So I commend you on your discernment and your commitment to battle on.

    And no doubt you’re able to point to small victories either in the sphere of your personal life or in the world at large. I know you celebrated the people powered movements in the Middle East as the rest of us did.

    And I wanted to ask you if you’ve had any success in starting your own garden. Eating food you’ve grown yourself from saved seeds has to be one of the most liberating feelings in the world. I currently live in a well-shaded basement apartment in a gentrified neighborhood of the inner city, which limits my options for a garden, but at my last domicile I had a large balcony with a command of the southern sky. I grew tomatoes, peppers and herbs throughout the summer, which not only shaded my apartment and limited the amount of air conditioning I used but provided a fun playland for my feline companion. A cooperative garden might be just the thing this year.

    Comment by reslez — April 5, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    • Thanks reslez, and I hope you soon find another place to garden.

      This will be my third year with a small (c. 10’X10′) plot.

      I did really well my first season, summing up the season in this post:


      Last year’s results weren’t so good. I hope it was just a sophomore slump, plus the weather was worse, and I had far worse pest problems.

      We’ll see how this year turns out.

      My relocalization group does have a community garden, though I don’t have a plot there. But I might coordinate with some of the people there about saving seeds. I did that successfully after the 2009 season as well, and I’ll be doing it again this year, toward starting a seed library.

      Comment by Russ — April 5, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

  7. Russ,

    I admire your ability to stick with it. I suspected from the extended absence that you might have been feeling discouraged.

    My advice is don’t push it. You are slowly but surely building a real community here, in large part because of the quality of what you write. You will not drive mega-traffic (a la Naked Capitalism) with what you are doing, but you have a real chance to succeed in building the kind of movement you envision if you continue publishing the kind of thoughtful essays you manage to put together time and again. I love Yves’ site, but she mostly draws rubberneckers (people who want her analysis on the latest financial scandal), not people who are committed to making a real difference in their community.

    Consider enlisting somebody like DownSouth to publish essays on your blog, as well. The more kindred spirits you have publishing here, the less burden there will be on you personally. You don’t even need to find complete alignment regarding the solution to completely flesh out the problem . . .

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — April 5, 2011 @ 11:29 pm

    • Thanks, Tao. I was just a little burned out, and like you say I’m going to ease back into it. I’ll consider your advice.

      Congrats on your new job.

      Comment by Russ — April 6, 2011 @ 2:17 am

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