Volatility

June 29, 2011

Cuba’s “Special” Period, Actually An Improvement On the Impending Norm

Filed under: American Revolution, Food and Farms, Relocalization — Russ @ 10:19 pm

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Cuba’s “Special Period” has been the time since the collapse of the Soviet Union forced it upon the path of food self-sufficiency with minimal fossil fuel inputs. Cuba had previously exported sugar and other products to the USSR in exchange for heavily subsidized oil (the USSR carried Cuba for political reasons). Cuba responded by adhering to the Stalinist/Green Revolution corporate agricultural model of commodified monoculture, its production maximized by heavy fossil fuel inputs. Now the oil binge was over. There would be no more cash crop exports in return for oil and heavy machinery. Cuba had to figure out how to feed itself without oil or starve.
 
Cuba’s answer has been agroecology and relocalization, especially for urban agriculture.
 

One of the serendipitous results of the Cuban crisis has been the forced change from conventional farming practices to organic farming. Cut off from favorable trade agreements with the Soviet Union and its allies a decade ago, and unable to afford buying on the international market, Cuba has become a gigantic laboratory for farming without petroleum and petroleum derivatives. From pest control to fertilization to soil preparation, chemistry is out and biology is in.

 
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The serious development of urban agriculture in Cuba began simultaneously with the disappearance of petrochemical inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides, from Cuban markets. Consequently, urban production uses only biological fertilizers and biological and cultural pest control techniques. The limited quantities of petrochemicals available are employed for a few non-urban crops such as sugar, potatoes, and tobacco. In Cuba, the distinction between organic and urban is hardly worth making, as almost all urban agriculture follows organic practices.

 
Cuba’s motto for urban growing has been “Production of the neighborhood, by the neighborhood, for the neighborhood”, all of it emphasizing agroecological techniques making use of natural services for soil nutrition and pest and weed control. A similar transformation has taken place in the countryside.
 
Cuba has given proof of principle for the equation, post-fossil production = organic = agroecology.
 
We can add that it also means an emphasis on cooperative production. Cuba was formerly as beholden to Stalinist agriculture with its fetish of maximum production at all costs as the USSR was, and as globalized capitalism still is. But Cuba shed this antiquated model, broke up the big state farms and many idle private holdings, and gave them to individuals (called parceleros, because they became stewards of parcelos, plots) and co-ops with the proviso that they grow food. A new organization called the Urban Agriculture National Movement administered this program of land reform. So Cuban communism has admitted the state/corporate farm model doesn’t work post-oil. Therefore it’s far more innovative than capitalism.
 
The food is distributed through thousands of on-site stands or stands maintained by the growers. This comprises around 60% of the national produce. There are also two types of agricultural markets, one run according to the “free market” and charging what the market will bear, the other state-run and charging lower subsidized prices. Then there are programs for the producers directly supplying schools, hospitals, universities, and other facilities. 22% of the produce is consumed by the producers themselves.
 
So here we have the demonstration, the proof of principle, that post-oil agriculture has to mean breaking up all industrial forms and relinquishing the agricultural means of production to smallholders and co-ops. It turns out the old Populists, SRs, and anarchists were right after all. Centralized agriculture was a feature of the Oil Age, that’s all.
 
So how does the system work?
 

Eighty percent of Cuba’s population is urban. The Cuban government, acting through its Ministry of Agriculture, the Department of Urban Agriculture (created in 1994), and the National Urban Agriculture Group established soon thereafter, started promoting the approach of creating “new land” for cultivation as a way of finding local solutions to the food problem in Havana and elsewhere.

For this purpose it created three kinds of “new” land. The first of these, termed organoponicos, were gardens consisting of raised-bed containers filled with compost and manure-rich soil (often transported from elsewhere) constructed on lots that had been paved over, compacted, or were otherwise infertile.

The second form of land creation was to bring existing fertile land currently lying fallow, in vacant lots and parks or belonging to enterprises/collectives, into food production. Such land is usually already in state hands, in which case it is put to use by granjas (farms) and empresas estatales (state enterprises) to produce for the market or to fulfill ration and other commitments by the state, or as gardens for autoconsumo, that is, to meet the needs of the workforces associated with various state enterprises such as factories, farms, sugar cane complexes, schools, and hospitals.

The third form of new land included cultivating the patios and yards next to people’s houses.

Another innovation has been the huerto intensivo (intensive garden), which employs intensive gardening methods to maximize yield in small areas. Vegetables are planted close together on raised beds enriched with organic matter to provide adequate nutrition for the plants, but without retaining walls.

These initiatives are typically run by the state, collectives or cooperatives. However, local governments also assign rights to land to private individuals in the form of parcelas, so-called popular gardens, for as long as they are kept in production. Even privately-owned land can be assigned to would-be gardeners or farmers, unless the owner brings the land to a productive state within six months.

Finally, there has been a proliferation of backyard gardening, the so-called patios, propelled by campaigns led by a mass-based neighborhood civic organization, the Committee for the Defense the Revolution (CDR), and reminiscent of the victory gardens movement in the United States during the Second World War. By the summer of 2003, the number of patios in production had exceeded 300,000, with a goal for the future of over half a million patios, primarily aimed at increases in fruit production.

By the end of 2002, the goal of providing every settlement of over fifteen houses with its own food production capacity—whether organiponicos, group gardens, or individual plots—had essentially been met, and over 18,000 hectares were being cultivated in urban agriculture in and around cities.

 
This has been supplemented with extensive use of greenhouses and the new Cuban-pioneered technique of semi-protected cultivation, which involves the tactical deployment of rain-permeable ceiling-screens over the organoponicos and intensive gardens, to protect them from the worst of the sun’s rays and thereby further boost yields. There’s also an extensive urban reforestation program.
 
The results of these new ways of growing have been spectacular. In the early 90s, as Cuba was abruptly cut off from the oil, production plummeted and with it caloric intake, going below the FAO recommended minimum. But the crash agroecology program soon turned things around. By the latter 90s production was often doubling every year. By 2005 all provinces, even the most urbanized, were well above the minimum guidelines for calorie production. Havana’s production of vegetables went from 20.7 thousand metric tons in 1997 to 264.9 in 2004. This averages to a 38% annual increase. People who had involuntarily lost weight in the early 90s gained it back and then some. For the whole country, vegetable and herb production from 1994 to 2005 went from 4000 tons to 4.2 million, a thousandfold increase.
 

While I focus on Havana here, there have been many important accomplishments in this area throughout Cuba. In the urban agriculture program there are twenty-eight subprograms: twelve in crops, seven in animal husbandry, and nine in support areas such as organic manures, seeds, irrigation and drainage, marketing, and technical education. Over 350,000 new, well-paying, and productive jobs have been created in these subprograms over the last twelve years.

 
A similarly intensive process has taken place in rural areas, where the land has been redistributed for food production, much of it using teams of oxen to replace the idled tractors. Such agroecological techniques as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) are used to replace petrochemical pesticides. Here are grown Cuba’s remaining export crops, mostly tobacco, coffee, and sugar, which are one of the ways Cuba earns dollars to import the few remaining things it still needs for its agriculture, such as irrigation equipment.
 
Everyone involved, growers and government, emphasize that the first priority of all this production is feeding the Cuban people. (The goal of feeding people barely exists at all for corporate agriculture, let alone as the top priority.)
 
The new agroecology has been superb for creating hundreds of thousands of good jobs. In addition to its effect on food production, the Special Period also brought on a general recession and the loss of many jobs. But the redistribution of land and the formation of hundreds of co-ops created new, often better jobs. The growers are often partners in the endeavor, receiving shares as well as salaries. The work conditions are benevolent and dignified. Workers are often fed from the produce of the operation.
 
An important point is how the system has engaged in PR campaigns to stress that agroecology is in fact skilled labor requiring a great deal of knowledge. The result has been that neither workers nor the public regard agricultural work as mere manual labor fit only for backward peasants. It’ll be critical to try to achieve this sea change in attitude in our countries. I’d like to study the Cuban PR material, if I can find examples of it.
 
This knowledge-intensivity was critical to enable the Cubans to so rapidly and effectively embark upon a post-oil crash course in the first place. Cuban agroecological R&D goes back to the 1970s. For many years it was relatively neglected, but still allowed to continue. The government leadership was aware of it. So when the crisis came, the knowledge cadre was already in place, their idea “lying around waiting to be picked up”. Castro picked it up, the researchers rapidly trained thousands of farmers, bureaucrats, agronomists, and technicians, and the thing hit the ground running. So it’s with good reason that the marketing of the system emphasizes the skill aspect of the work, and that such a high proportion of the workers are highly educated but don’t feel that they’ve fallen in the world. The system achieves a high level of job satisfaction, in addition to successfully feeding the people. Imagine the level of fulfillment humanity could feel working in a fully cooperative way under true Food Sovereignty.
 
It’s not yet Food Sovereignty, as the Cuban system is still controlled by a centralized government. But Cuba has achieved food security, and provides us all with a real-life model for what agroecology and partial cooperation can do where it has the support of centralized government. In principle we can do the same thing everywhere, except that we want to go all the way to full Food Sovereignty and economic democracy, and besides even if we wanted central government support, the chances of that ever happening are infinitesimal.
 
Another motto of the Cuban program has been: “Produce while learning, teach while producing, learn while teaching.” This can also be a watchword for the democratic relocalization movement everywhere.
 
So Cuba offers a model we can adapt as a blueprint for what we’re trying to achieve.
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June 28, 2011

School of Athens: The Greek General Strike Against the Austerity Assault

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The School of Athens, by Raphael

As I write this the people of Greece are embarked upon a protest action which the unions optimistically termed a general strike in their call to action. The symbolic goal is to try to encircle the parliament building and prevent a vote on the assault package the Greek branch of kleptocracy (the Greek “government”) wants to inflict. The real goal has to be to muster enough fervor and enough of a consciousness that this government is illegitimate that the Greek people renounce it and its crimes once and for all. In the end, that’s the only worthwhile goal for a general strike.
 
We’re all familiar to the point of nausea with what’s happening in Greece. The government ran up tremendous debt to fund the extractions of the rich while not having to tax them. It allowed the entire taxation system to be flouted even as it engaged in this spending. Little of the short-term bounty went to the people. But the Greek government seeks to saddle them with the odious debt. Now that the banksters have crashed the European economy and revealed the insolvency of the German and French banks who engaged in this predatory lending, the goal of the “troika” (the ECB, EU, IMF) is to use these debts as the pretext for a disaster capitalist looting binge. The plan is nothing less than to steal all real assets in Greece through privatization while dismantling all remaining public interest spending, and to extend the robbery by raising taxes (and presumably collecting them this time) on the non-rich of Greece.
 
(We can take it as an axiom of taxation going forward that kleptocracy will never raise taxes on corporations and the rich. Such taxes won’t be nominally imposed, and even if they are, they won’t be collected. Therefore our watchword and the battle line we must hold is, No Taxes on the Non-Rich. We must oppose all regressive taxes (existing or proposed) and not waste our energy calling for more progressive taxation, since this will never be enacted and only plays into the hands of the austerian lie that the government needs to tax at all for the sake of revenue. But taxation has no purpose but social control.)
 
The process and lies of disaster capitalism are clear. A year ago this bailout was foisted upon the Greeks as the only way to maintain their status within the euro. They were foolish to ever want this in the first place, let alone to continue to want it, but at any rate except for some anarchists and other “fringe” dissidents, the people grumbled but submitted. There would be pain, there would be austerity, but they’d get their bailout and eventually recover. Here we are a year later and, as the dissenters predicted, the blackmail already agreed to isn’t enough. The blackmailers are back demanding far more as the price of continuing on the course already agreed to. (What’s at stake today isn’t a new bailout package, but only a vastly more severe austerity rampage as the price of continuing the bailout already agreed to a year ago. Once again we see the truth of what should be common sense. You can’t appease aggressors. If you pay a blackmailer, he’ll just keep coming back demanding more.)
 
Today far more Greeks realize what’s happening and what’s at stake. The protests and direct actions are no longer the monopoly of mere “leftists”. Today they increasingly encompass all demographics (except the rich). In particular, the middle classes and non-rich businessmen are increasingly turning against the regime as they see how it plans to liquidate them all at the behest of alien banksters and technocrats. More and more the Greek streets talk about nation and sovereignty. (I’ve tried to talk about those at this blog and elsewhere for a long time now, but I think I’m still far ahead of any America curve there; it’s great to see a nation anywhere starting to become conscious of itself, and of the fact that it’s being destroyed.)
 
But if the Greeks want to take back their sovereignty, they’ll need to go far beyond what they still articulate as their goals. A two-day general strike, even if the breadth of the action warrants that name, is still mired in the limits it imposes upon itself. The general strike won’t work to drive out the criminals completely until it becomes permanent toward achieving that goal. On the other hand, a general strike toward a limited goal like encouraging parliament to vote down the austerity assault (which is the proclaimed goal of the unions and, so far as I read, is still the consciousness of the streets) has two major flaws.
 
1. It still wants the people to coexist with kleptocracy, but dreams of “reforming” it. But we know this is impossible.
 
2. It’s still mired in the mindset of receiving from elites, petitioning elites, waiting upon elites to learn their will and then reacting.
 
For both these reasons, even if the Greeks temporarily stave off this new assault, that will still leave them where they were a few weeks ago: Vulnerable, ravaged, and waiting for the next blow to fall. It won’t have been a step forward toward liberation, but just holding a line which is politically and spiritually undesirable, and which in the longer run is untenable on a practical level.
 
So that’s a criticism. But I’m not completely pessimistic. I’ll close on the optimistic note that every action, however insufficient in itself, can help build the movement consciousness so that it becomes ever more intrepid and radical. A two-day general strike toward a limited goal can be a step toward the truly revolutionary general strike. (Especially when the people see how the limited action fails, either immediately as in France last year, or a few months later.)
 
The only strategic plan worth anything has the goal of taking back our countries and driving out all criminals with a whip. The Greek people can do far more than protest in the streets. They can default from the bottom up, go on a total and permanent tax strike, and through direct action take back all that land that’s been stolen. With any favor from the forces of history, the street action shall be the catalyst toward a structural uprising. Once again we can have the School of Athens, already once so seminal and fruitful for Western history.

June 26, 2011

The Nietzschean Ascent to Democracy (1 of 2)

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One of Nietzsche’s core ideas, and one of his most misunderstood, is the will to power. Expressed most simply, this refers to an organism’s imperative to organize and exert its energy in such a way as to maximize the attainment of its goals. (Nietzsche actually expanded the idea to non-living phenomena as well, but for our purposes we’ll stick with life.) Essential to the idea is that the successful exertion is a value in itself, at least as important as the actual content of the goal. (We see already the affinity with anarchism, which always has the dual goal of living as democratically as possible, as a way of life which is a value in itself, at the same time one seeks to create a truly democratic society.)
 
In particular, the will to power in its grand form is no picayune struggle for survival, but an affirmative will to create something new beyond oneself as the totem of one’s overflowing existence. This is the true exertion of one’s power.
 
Here’s a few quotes which express the idea, by way of refuting Darwin’s thesis of a “struggle for existence” as the main phenomenon of life.
 

Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength – life itself is will to power. Self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results.(Beyond Good and Evil, section 13)

 
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As for the famous “struggle for existence”, so far it seems to me to be asserted rather than proven. It occurs, but as an exception; the total appearance of life is not the extremity, not starvation, but rather riches, profusion, even absurd squandering – and where there is struggle, it is a struggle for power. One should not mistake Malthus for nature.
(Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes” section 14)

 
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The wish to preserve oneself is the result of a condition of distress, of the limitation of the fundamental instinct of life which aims at the expansion of power and frequently runs risks and even sacrifices self-preservation. It should be considered symptomatic when some philosophers – for example, Spinoza who was consumptive – considered the instinct of self-preservation decisive and had to see it that way; for they were individuals in conditions of distress.

…[I]n nature it is not conditions of distress which are dominant but overflow and squandering, even to the point of absurdity. The struggle for existence is only an exception, a temporary restriction of the will to life. The great and small struggle always revolves around superiority, around growth and expansion, around power – in accordance with the will to power which is the will to life.
(The Joyful Science, section 349)

 
(Compare, for example, the evident decadence and exhaustion of the “progressives”, who think only in terms of survival. Or the AARP’s recent parroting of the progressives, admitting it’s been degraded to the point that its only goal is a “seat at the table”.)
 
As always, any normative content Nietzsche had for this was meant to be taken in a sublimated sense. It referred to one’s spiritual power, one’s intellectual and artistic power. The “growth and expansion” are to take place in the soul and in our cooperation, not in a temporal sense. That’s the highest form of the will to power, which also unfortunately manifests itself at the base animal level of power-seeking, money-grubbing, violence, war, shallow and vicious materialism, all the traits which are subhuman where we let them dominate us. It’s at this gutter that the idea is most often hijacked, distorted, slandered. But N never meant to exalt such psychopathy. He wanted to inspire us to exert our energies toward making ourselves ever more human. This is his idea of the Ubermensch, often called the “superman”, which I’ll discuss in part 2 of this post.
 
This debased form of the will to power is actually apropos for the critique of capitalism, since capitalism has the same character as the misconception of evolution described in those quotes. Capitalist economic theories lie when they claim to be all about scarcity and the struggle to allocate scarce resources. Capitalism is really about material plenty and how to monopolize as much of the plenitude as possible, thereby artificially generating scarcity which then justifies the fraudulent theory, is the basis of economic power imbalances, and enables the monopolist to extract even more from what little the worker and consumer still have. Peak Oil is also a scarcity gambit of capitalism, because only capitalism demands growth. So it’s not “growth demands oil”, but “capitalism demands oil”. We know for example that we can organize food production such that we can feed everyone using vastly less fossil fuels. But that would require the overthrow of corporate agriculture.
 
This is the “will to power” indeed, but at its lowest, ugliest, most vulgar, most destructive level.
 
So in the same way that Nietzsche criticized Darwinism for promoting a tendentious interpretation of nature which emphasized struggle and scarcity over nature’s real profligacy, we can criticize capitalist ideology for its lies about economic scarcity. (Although Darwin himself rejected Spencer’s social Darwinist ideology, this socioeconomic interpretation was actually implicit in Darwin’s interpretation of nature. And although N didn’t care about economics, nevertheless his description of the will to power and his accompanying criticism of Darwinism are easily transposed to the critique of politics and economics. At least I hope I’m accomplishing that in this post.)
 
Let’s briefly apply the lesson to food:
 
1. The goal of capitalism is to generate artificial scarcity out of natural and worker-made plenty. It’s the exact opposite of the Big Lie of economics, all the nonsense about allocating scarce resources.
 
2. In this case, even though the world produces far more than enough food for everyone to eat a basically good diet, capitalism strives to generate mass scarcity and therefore mass hunger. This was always a key goal of globalization, for example in the way the IMF targeted for eradication public agricultural investment in developing countries.
 
3. Similarly, food markets are naturally local/regional. Food commodification is naturally a small appendage of the market. To put it another way, a “free market” in food would be overwhelmingly local/regional.
 
But corporations and governments have systematically forced all food markets into the artificial strait jacket of commodification. This has artificially rendered food prices volatile and susceptible to non-linear jumps from relatively small inputs. The ethanol onslaught (another massive government intervention) has aggravated the whole effect.
 
Food commodification and its effect on all food markets is the tail wagging the dog, just as the finance sector has done with the real economy.
 
4. So this sector’s food speculation is the tip of the tail wagging the whole thing. It’s the most pure distillation of the logic of food commodification in general.
 
To put it in Nietzschean terms, the corporatists exercise their malevolent, debased form of the will to power in the form of political and economic aggression. Part of this will to overpower is the structure of lies they propagate, about how disappearing jobs, skyrocketing prices, ever-diminishing opportunities and freedom, and ever-tighter strangulation are all the result of some natural “scarcity”. That is, to serve their own aggrandizing will to power, they propagate the lie about our struggles really representing some “struggle for existence”, rather than the struggle for power which it really is. They want us to see our world as naturally caving in around us, rather than how we’re actually under artificial attack. They want us to struggle among ourselves for the few crumbs they toss to us, rather than comprehend how their class war has hoarded a vast bounty, all of it produced by us, all of it available to us for our prosperity, for our true exercise of power, the moment we realize what’s happening and choose to take back what’s ours.
 
There’s one sense in which the Darwinistic paradigm applies. Where a species is under assault by a homicidal parasite, it either fights back to destroy that parasite (including relinquishing old adaptations which have become maladaptive; I’ve discussed such political forms as representative government and ideologies like progressivism), or it perishes.
 
If we want to survive as a people, if we want democracy and freedom to survive, we must adapt to the new circumstances. So for example to smash the banksters would be Darwinism at its finest. That’s because under the corporate tyranny freedom, democracy, justice, morality, humanity are all being selected out.
 
Of course those most enamored of competition metaphors want this competition to occur only among the parasites themselves. The victims are never supposed to be allowed to “compete” back. It’s the standard “egoism for me, altruism for you”; “capitalism for me, anarchism for you”.
 
We’re currently mired among one of the “exceptions” Nietzsche described in the quotes above; we are struggling for existence. But this struggle is self-inflicted; it prevails because we choose to set our sights so low and accept the lies we’re told about the limits to our possible action. The moment we choose to disbelieve in these limits, they will no longer exist. The moment we stop begging for crumbs and demand the entire Earth, we shall have it.
 
We must perform a Darwinist turning of the tables and fight back against the enemies of humanity with all the ferocity nature can muster. Now that would be the people finally finding our true will to power.

June 25, 2011

Dilemma: Middle Class As Target Audience

I’m still trying to figure out this dilemma.

I don’t seek “middle class solutions”, because they’re impossible (the middle class is being liquidated one way or another) and because the quest for what came to be defined as middle class is what got us all into this mess in the first place.

Plus, the basic phoniness of most existing would-be “movements” is that they’re really just playing to the same old middle class lifestyle ornamentation. And by definition their target constituency is those who can afford middle class accouterments.

To me it’s obvious and rightful that a real movement has to be at least socioeconomically accessible to the working class and the poor, since my whole premise is that except for debt (public and private pensions) that’s what we all already are, and soon the system’s going to default on all its own debt, and we’ll be left both impoverished and indebted, if that’s what we choose.

So I believe all that. But at the same time my “propaganda” is mostly middle class-oriented. That’s because it’s true that the great ongoing current crime of the kleptocracy is the looting of the soon-to-be-ex-middle class, but also because we face the cultural middle class identification, which is the basis of most non-rich identification with the gangsters instead of fighting them.

Most of all, the middle class cultural identification is the last talisman these masses (who have no political or religious anchors in the way they actually live, whatever they claim to “believe”) have. The feeling itself and the fears for it are legitimate, even if the political conclusions they usually draw are exactly wrong.

So that’s the paradox – the movement has to speak to the non-rich as a whole, but since the key position is the disintegrating middle class, it has to speak primarily in their language. (Of course there can be multiple message tracks for different audiences, but I’m talking about the main offensive.)

Yet at the same time the relocalization prescription, as far as what to actually do economically, is counter to the whole middle class mentality. It’s a combination of conventional community activism (but which would no longer be focused on bringing “growth” to town; quite the opposite, seeking self-reliance), voluntary simplicity (except that we contend it’s no longer voluntary, one way or another we’ll be consuming far less), various kinds of communalism and back-to-the-land action, even so-called survivalism.

Now all of this can be melded with any number of political, spiritual, religious elements. That’s why I’m toying with the ideas about parallelism with the colonial revolutionary experience and old-style consitutionalism. In principle it seems like those could still resonate if people in distress could be induced to think about them. People still claim to revere them.

As for the actual economic plight of those various groups, I can say what I’d like them to do, in principle, to free themselves.

All bottom up debtors should simply jubilate. Meanwhile if large enough groups of resolute homesteaders simply went and started farming or market gardening all the land that’s going to waste, and set up mutual self-defense leagues to defend these land redemptions, I doubt the system could cope with it for long. Then new community structures could grow out of the political councils which would already be coordinating this activity.

So that’s two examples of what could be done. Now, as things are right now that sounds utterly utopian, but I’m only suggesting what might be the goal in principle. And then the task would be to figure out how to get there. But I think reasonable people would agree that this would solve many of the people’s economic problems. (And the looming food crisis.)

It would be a livable solution for everyone – poor, working class, and the plummeting middle class.

Well, all that’s just some brainstorming. My ideas on all this are still a work in progress.

June 24, 2011

A Brief Statement of the Facts

Filed under: American Revolution, Disaster Capitalism, Neo-feudalism — Tags: — Russ @ 2:37 am

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The entire debt economy was forced upon civilization from the top down. It was done in order to deliver humanity into the hands of history’s worst villains. Financialization has been the core of the neoliberal strategy. Inducing your intended victim’s indenture can be just as much an aggressive plot against him as crafting a gun with which to physically kill him. (Of course, they’ve made and used plenty of physical weapons as well.) This liquidation phase of neoliberalism is war by other means. It is vicious war by criminal elites upon the people. It is class war; it is civil war. The goal, intent, and procedure are veritably totalitarian.
 
The whole bubble-crash-bailout-austerity-feudal enslavement process is a planned strategy for the complete looting of nations and the imposition of tyranny upon them.
 
We the people must respond in kind:
 
We owe nothing. On the contrary, only the existence of the society built by people who work ever enabled finance extractors and other leeches to exist at all. So they were already our creatures even before the crash they inflicted upon us and the bailouts they stole from us. The latter have only cinched it once and for all. Through the bailouts we the people own the banksters and their political lackeys. We own them, we own their banks, we own their corporations, we own every cent any of them stole on a personal level, we own it all. They owe us everything they have. They must repay it all upon demand.
 
Then there’s their systematic assault upon our jobs, upon the real economy, upon the safety net we paid for, upon civil society itself. There’s their intentional crashing of the economy, and the systematic robbery of trillions for which they used this crash as the pretext. The restitution they owe for these crimes is beyond tally. Here again, they owe us everything they have, and vastly more. They must repay it all upon demand.  
 
The banksters and corporatists are chattel of we the people. They’ve stolen so much that if we put them all in chains tomorrow, it would take a million years for them to work off their debt to us. It’s they who owe such a monumental debt to the people of Greece, not the other way around. What’s true for Greece is true for all other countries – Latvia, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and on up to the Britain and America. All nations.
 
To recap:
 
1. They were never anything but parasites upon us in the first place.
 
2. They intentionally crashed the economy (by blowing up a bubble and then picking their moment to puncture it, using the allowed collapse of Lehman as the political pretext for the Bailout).
 
3. Although they forced the Bailout upon us, nevertheless our money was stolen for it, so the Bailout means we the people are now the formal owners of the banks, in addition to how we already morally owned them.
 
4. Meanwhile the banksters have engaged in a monumental criminal conspiracy against our economies and polities. The induced crash, stolen bailouts, and austerity assaults comprise the climactic phase of this long arc of crime.
 
The debt they owe us is literally infinite. We owe them nothing.
 
This is the simple, wholesome, true consciousness all of humanity must develop, if we intend to continue as human beings at all, instead of being terminally reduced to the most wretched servitude.
 
All of humanity is standing tall in Syntagma Square.

June 22, 2011

Some Notes on the Interplay of Revolutionary Forces

Filed under: American Revolution, Food and Farms, Freedom, Marx, Relocalization — Russ @ 4:03 am

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One of the primary concerns of Hannah Arendt’s great meditation On Revolution is the interplay of two revolutionary goals: The foundation of freedom, and the liberation of humanity from the horrific travails of material misery. Her thesis is that a forced obsession with the latter in the French Revolution and subsequent revolutions decisively influenced by it (her analysis of the American Revolution doesn’t quite fit, since she admits that America also failed to found freedom even though its revolution didn’t experience the same development toward material liberation; I’ll write more on that later) caused these revolutions to abandon their original freedom goal, thus causing their own failure.
 
I’ll summarize the core of Arendt’s analysis (in chapter 2, “The Social Question”, section 1). It was the mass irruption of the poor into the activism of the French Revolution, driven by their sheer physical need, which caused the theorists of revolution to discard once and for all the old astronomical, cyclical metaphor for the term revolution and adopt in its place the idea of historical necessity, which is practically a biological idea. All subsequent “organic and social theories of history” have been dictated by this primal experience of the French Revolution. This became the new, quasi-biological conception of the general will.
 
This was the advent of “the social question” (Arendt’s term for the issue of mass poverty) and the commandeering of the force of history by the biological necessity which is the essence of poverty. This force overwhelmed the original freedom impetus of the revolution. Robespierre had to surrender his “despotism of liberty” to the demand for a new material dispensation. This fierce physicality of the revolution led to the terror and doomed the freedom aspiration of the revolution.
 
This transformation of the French Revolution’s goal from political freedom to material necessity was decisive for the ideas and actions of all revolutions to follow. Marx consummated this idea work, as he neglected revolution’s original freedom ideal in favor of the doctrine of historical necessity. Marx believed that freedom and poverty were incompatible, that the French Revolution had failed because it failed to solve the social question, and that the material uprising of the poverty-driven need was a political uprising for freedom as well. So Marx confused the original freedom imperative with the social question, coming to see political freedom as a material question as well.
 
Marx transformed the social question (a phenomenon of material necessity) into the concept of exploitation, thereby revaluing mass poverty as a political relation enforced by violence, and therefore politically mutable. This transformed the social question into a potent revolutionary force, since no one will rebel against what he thinks is material necessity, but many will rebel against violence and robbery. Only by convincing the people that poverty is a political phenomenon, not a natural one, and only by transforming an economic phenomenon into a political one, could Marx help bring about revolutionary conceptions and modes of organization such that mass poverty could fuel revolutions to success rather than doom them to failure. On the largest scale, it’s the difference between an organized movement and a rioting mob.
 
(Just to interject for a moment, Marx was certainly right that amid capitalism’s plenty, poverty is an artificially generated political phenomenon. This has only become more true since Marx’s time with the advent of the fossil fuel surplus. And he was also right that we need a key set of ideas to fruitfully muster this potential force toward the goal of its own liberation, although by now the content of the ideas needed has changed, since the nature of the material need, or in our case the incipient need as the middle classes are liquidated, has changed. Arendt’s own view of all this is somewhat different.)
 
Marx wanted to help the working class to achieve class consciousness, helping them attain the inner power to consciously take action, while at the same time maintaining the sense of material necessity (and thus the historical irresistability) this class experienced since its emancipation from serfdom. Hegel’s dialectic was the perfect device for this.
 
Marx started out recasting economic phenomena in political terms, but later re-transformed all political phenomena into economic terms. He started out recasting physical necessity as political contingency; later he transformed in thought all political phenomena into historical necessity. He ended up exalting a biological sense of the life process above all else, and as a result the goal of revolution was transformed from freedom to material abundance.
 
(Today, as we undergo Peak Oil and other resource limits, our goal can no longer be “abundance” in an absolute sense. But we can still aspire to material prosperity free of the criminal restraints of artificially imposed want.)
 
Since Marx’s theory was Hegelian in derivation, all its concepts were reversible. While he started out assimilating economics to politics, and necessity to violence, he soon realized he could also do the reverse. This was a streamlining of the theory since the explanation for all violence can readily be reduced to necessity, but not the reverse. The most profound effect of this was to subsume all striving for freedom under the auspices of necessity, which was tantamount to abrogating the aspiration to freedom completely.
 
So what’s my position on all this? I see democratic agroecology as melding the economic and the political. The evidence is that:
 
1. Economic: Post-fossil fuel, industrial agriculture cannot continue. It must crash completely. (And this is even leaving aside the impending crashes from the zombie soil, the hermetic monoculture of commodity cropping with hybrids and GMOs, and the microbial Sword of Damocles dangling over the CAFO system.)
 
2. Economic: Small and midscale, relocalized, diversified organic production using minimal fossil fuel inputs can maximize food production post-fossil fuels. It’s our only chance to prevent mass starvation.
 
3. Economic: This could incidentally solve all employment problems, as all could find fulfilling work growing food for ourselves and our communities.
 
4. Political/economic: But none of this can work under neoliberal corporatism (which subsumes existing representative government). The only form of government which concurs with this agroecological relocalization is council democracy. The only economic dispensation which concurs is usufruct in the land and its resources based on grower-managed food production stewardship. (A similar dynamic would prevail in other sectors, but food is the keystone.)
 
5. Political/economic: Such a political and economic combination, which I call positive democracy, would also finally constitute the favorable environment for the flourishing of positive freedom, the ultimate human quality and activity. For the first time in the history of civilization, humanity would achieve the fullest human status as a self-directed worker enjoying the full bounty of his production and the full spiritual enhancement of his self-owned work; and the fullest human status as a participating democratic citizen.

June 21, 2011

Raw Milk

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:56 am

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New Jersey is one of several states which explicitly criminalize the sale of raw milk. It’s therefore at the extreme end of a motley array of possible state attitudes. While the federal bureaucracy (no law) also criminalizes the transport of raw milk over state lines*, it’s up to the states to decide what happens within their borders. (The FDA often lobbies against decriminalization.) 
 
[*This includes, according to a recent FDA assertion, the customer himself going to another state to purchase raw milk and then bringing it back home. The government soothingly claims it has no intention of trying to arrest or otherwise sanction such individual purchasers, but it wants to reserve the right to do so. Of course, it was just a year ago, in promulgating its totalitarian brief in the FTCLDF lawsuit, that the FDA claimed it had no aggressive enforcement plans against dairies and raw milk co-ops. That was proven to be a lie within weeks.]
 
The result is that a few states have regular legal sales, others allow sales from the farm, others explicitly or implicitly allow cow shares (where the customers are technically part-owners of the cow; this was meant to exploit loopholes allowing the farmer himself to drink raw milk from his own cow), while a few like NJ criminalize the whole shebang.
 
Today in NJ there’s a movement to decriminalize raw milk purchases directly from dairies. (This is characteristic of liberalization campaigns in dozens of other states.) As things stand, the bill has been passed in the Assembly. If it passes the Senate, this will not only strike a blow for freedom but should be a healthy economic step. NJ used to have hundreds of flourishing small dairies. Today it has literally zero direct-to-customer dairies; all NJ milk production is slated for the corporate maw. I’m looking forward to the day I can propose to our farmers’ market committee that we try to organize some kind of raw milk CSA through the market. (I don’t know yet if the bill would allow direct sales at farmers’ markets.)
 
Raw milk is beneficial to health. It has more nutrients than pasteurized, and is often easier to digest for the lactose-intolerant. There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that it helps alleviate or send into remission such medical problems as allergies, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, ulcers, autism, ADD, and others. In spite of government scare-mongering, properly inspected raw milk production systems are in fact just as safe as those for pasteurization. Even under today’s twilight regime, the incidence of illness from raw milk is negligible (as the CDC itself admitted, in a report the FDA has sought to suppress). Meanwhile, there’s growing evidence that pasteurized milk has its own health issues.
 
Why was raw milk criminalized in the first place? It never had anything to do with food safety. It’s the same old story – unlike mass pasteurization, raw milk is not readily corporatizable. Especially with the rise of the movement for healthful eating and concern over the socioeconomics of food, raw milk is a potent competitor to corporatism. So as always, where possible the corporate system simply has the competition outlawed. That’s how capitalism works in the real world, as opposed to the ivory tower. (If anyone thought my language of criminalization and decriminalization was redolent of the marijuana issue, that’s no coincidence. It’s the same kind of corporate-driven outlawry which has no other reality basis.) In a recent example, state thugs in Massachusetts (where cow shares are legal, but being illegally harassed by the state) openly admitted that they’re acting on behalf of Big Dairy, which has been pressuring the state government.
 
By now, whenever we hear the term “food safety” we have to assign it to the same Orwellian category as “war on terror”. It’s the same scam, meant to drum up the same groundless fear, in order to push through pro-corporate policy which could never prevail in a democratic marketplace of ideas. That’s what happened with the recently passed Food Control bill. (They did get the support of some useful idiots, consumer and food safety advocates. That’s typical of myopic special-interest do-gooders – even where they have subjectively good intentions, they’re incapable of seeing the big picture and the context of their issue within it. Therefore they consistently end up as objective corporate lackeys.)
 
We the people need to break free of government food control. The government is not on our side in any way. It doesn’t care about the safety of our food, our health, or the vitality of our economies. On the contrary it will happily sacrifice us all, our health and our pursuit of happiness, to the corporate imperative. This imperative dictates that government must also viciously assault the basis of our economic life. Food relocalization is the Archimedean point from which we can move the world away from this corporate feudalism and back toward economic prosperity and political democracy. In the end this will depend upon pure bottom-up citizen action. But any possible system reform, in the rare cases where the politics does make it possible, can help as well. That’s why the raw milk bills pending in NJ and so many other states are important.

June 19, 2011

Democracy

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History’s democratic movement has been humanity’s great hope. Wherever people have suffered scarcity and oppression, and wherever the human spirit striving to break its bonds has chafed at the stupidity and inertia, we have looked to the expansion of political and economic democracy as the vehicle of our liberation and the guarantor of this achieved freedom.
 
Concurrently with the industrial revolution and the rise of fossil fuels, humanity lofted the call to universal democracy as the logical and moral culmination of our political experience. But was democracy a trap? The rising movement was diverted to “representative” government. By now it looks like the goal was to misdirect the democratic impetus long enough for the elites to steal all the wealth produced by the oil surplus before restoring feudalism.
 
By now we who affirmatively strive cannot experience representative government, capitalism, elitism, as anything but blockages to our soaring, while all who aren’t rich and powerful increasingly experience these as oppressors and thieves. The poor always experienced them as such, and as we’re liquidated more and more of us are to experience what it’s like to be economically and politically poor, even if we’re not technically there yet.
 
So we experience the perversion of democracy as a negative assault, and as a blockage to our affirmative humanity. This is the basic political, economic, and psychological situation. In fact, the concurrence of the rise of mass democracy and fossil fuels is exact enough, while Peak Oil and the advent of neoliberalism have a direct causal relationship, that we have to ask if the democratic movement itself, not the ancient political idea but its efflorescence into mass politics, was really nothing more than an ornament of cheap oil. The criminals now want to prove that it was. Are we really going to let them do so?
 
Democracy is the logic of history. It’s our imperative to fight for it. A basic precept of the American Revolution is that liberty and concentrated power always grapple in a zero-sum conflict, and that to whatever extent a society allows power to concentrate, the citizenry must be actively vigilant against this power. This is an obligation imposed by freedom, and therefore an intrinsic element of it.
 
If the measure of freedom includes the measure of one’s will to be vigilant, then it follows that the measure of democracy itself includes the measure of one’s will to fight for it. This, at least, depends nothing upon oil or other material factors. All things start with an act of will.
 
This is fortuitous, since this same historical moment where we need this great act of will is also the moment where all conventional actions are blocked for all who lack wealth. So here again we find the concurrence of our affirmative and negative imperatives. For both self-transcendence and self-preservation we need to make the truly transformative action to redeem our democracy and restore it to its true path, such that it shall finally fully realize itself.
 
And what is the nature of this true democracy? I’ve written many times about the failure of representative government, about the fact that in its inception it was a sham, and (most recently here) about how according to the ideology of the American Revolution it has no necessary authority, but was only to be taken provisionally, based on how well it worked in action. I think the tenure of this provision has long since expired, and the results are in. Representative pseudo-democracy doesn’t work and is unworthy of us.
 
Instead the consummation of the democratic movement, and the only way out of the historical bottleneck in which we find ourselves, must be the achievement of positive democracy. I described it here:
 

What are the basic principles/practices? (In positive democracy, there’s never a clear division between principle and practice. There’s no citizenship other than through citizen action. The measure of one’s capacity for freedom is that one acts as a free citizen, as much as possible, and is always seeking to expand the bounds of freedom’s possibility.) Direct democracy, political freedom (meaning the opportunity to meaningfully participate), political participation itself, all of these on an equal basis. Material equality (defined as the absence of class stratification and wealth concentrations) is the prerequisite for equality of political opportunity. Food Sovereignty as a political and practical imperative. Land and natural resources are things of nature, and can therefore be the property only of sovereignty itself; Western political theory always recognized in principle with the labor theory of property that to gain a possession right on the land one must productively work the land. The things we call rights and enshrine in Bills of Rights. All of this arising from the people’s sovereignty and therefore the province of human beings only, while by definition other entities can only be servants with responsibilities, never persons with rights.

 
Economic democracy, worker self-management, distribution of, by, and for those who actually produce. All this as a self-actualization value in itself, as well as providing the material prerequisite for true political democracy, with the universal and equal opportunity for participation. This too is the realization of our humanity as well as the most effective way to attain wise governance.
 
So both politically and economically, positive democracy shall both achieve the best practical result as well as, in its very exercise, constitute the ultimate human process, the ultimate realization of our humanity itself. This is the horizon which beckons. This is the promise which dawned with the first rising of the democratic sun. The enemies of humanity have sought to obscure this sun with their clouds of menace and confusion. Today they wish to bring down the veil of blackest night forever.
 
But while they, in their typical elitist way, believe they obscure the sun from the eyes of benighted, earthbound wretches, it is in fact we the people who are the sun. And so it’s our choice to burn away the fog in front of us and bring infinite clarity to the world and to life.
 
In the end, we each must choose, and we must choose as a whole: Are we in fact wretches groveling in the mud under a darkening sky, or shall we be the soaring sun?

June 18, 2011

Progress

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Reformism Can't Work — Russ @ 1:58 am

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I’m not going to trash political “progressives” here. I’ve done plenty of that already. Instead I just want to make a few observations and ask a question.
 
Clearly the progress ideology, the belief that things will somehow keep incrementally getting better (in its strong form: that they’re historically determined to get better), remains a rampant source of proclaimed faith. This is peculiar, since the falsity of this faith and the failure of political prescriptions derived from it are obvious.
 
What’s even more strange is that in a world where kleptocracy’s assault hems us in ever more tightly, and where every possible future is strangled before our eyes, the trope of “progress” not only becomes false but becomes something hideous to behold, or at best a sick joke. Who can think of progress who realizes he has no future? To still be called upon to believe in it adds insult to injury.
 
While it’s true that to hold a faith, any faith, is normally a source of strength, progressivism is by now not in fact a faith in the future, but another kind of conservatism. A strong proof of the political progressives’ lack of faith in the future is their characteristic desperation to grab any crumb they can get right now, their inability to ever gamble the possibilities of the moment in expectation of a much bigger payoff down the road, and their delusions which turn the most empty words and the simulation of “access” into actual achievements. In all this, the progressives are even more focused on short-term gain than the banksters. (Of course the actual gains made in that short term are rather different between the two.)
 
So there’s one piece of evidence, from the political world, that the faith in progress itself is dying, even as so many still profess a superficial attachment to it. So what’s the nature of this continued attachment? I’ve already said it – it’s another kind of conservatism. “Progress” is another form of the ideology of clinging to what little one has and trying to prevent any change at all. Thus progressivism joins conservatism as a clod in the way of change, and also joins it in the paradoxical consent to the destructive rampage of capitalism which as part of its totalitarian wave of change shall submerge them both.
 
It’s easy to see that political progressivism has no future. It’s also clear to anyone who understands or even senses our predicament that progress is a pernicious psychological postulate. We who are under such vicious assault cannot find food and drink dreaming of a slightly better tomorrow, when every tomorrow brings ever greater travail, and ever greater clarity to our vision of the abyss gaping before us. That’s another measure of the wretchedness of progressivism. Anyone with a capacious soul would waste away under such a wrecked and measly faith.
 
And why would anyone want to believe in the progress of things which are so odious, all the crimes and lies and violence and ugliness and shallowness we see everywhere around us? Especially when we can take our lives and fates in our own hands whenever we choose? The elitist “progressives” have no answer for the question: Where’s the progress if humanity never emerges from the shadow of the rule of elites? It’s clear that to remain an elitist, of whatever nominal political stripe, is by now to be a reactionary.
 
The only solution to kleptocracy is its destruction. While it’s still unclear how to get there, some of the basic anti-kleptocratic principles are clear:
 
1. Political elitism is a proven failure and malignity.
 
2. Economic elitism is a proven failure and malignity.
 
3. Representative pseudo-democracy is a proven scam. (It was already admitted to be such by Madison.)
 
4. The only moral, rational, and practical solution going forward is positive democracy: Political and economic.
 
These anti-kleptocratic facts are also refutations of progressivism.
 
The definition of failure: Prosperity failed to improve for all; wealth didn’t become ever more evenly distributed; full, stable living-wage employment wasn’t achieved; political participation didn’t become ever more extensive and fulfilling; social stability didn’t improve; peace wasn’t achieved. These were the promises of capitalism and representative government. During the Oil Age, and even to this day, the wealth to achieve them all indisputably exists.
 
We know today those were all lies. We know that all ideas which were the source and the beneficiary of these lies are also lies. That includes “progress”, as a political and a psychological postulate.
 
It’s true that any voyage includes a goal and a departure, an aspiration and a renunciation. If humanity’s goal shall be to liberate ourselves from the tyrants who afflict us, to overcome the great challenge of Peak Oil, and to take hold of our political and economic birthright, if these be our aspirations, then we must renounce once and for all belief in “progress”. We must depart. 

June 16, 2011

Greeks Bearing Gifts

Filed under: Freedom — Russ @ 5:45 am

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The people of Greece are fighting back against the most extraordinary daylight robbery yet. Wednesday they launched a coordinated set of protests determined to prevent the rogue parliament from voting on the latest “austerity” assault. They’ve temporarily stalled the process, but the criminals vow to continue the assault.
 
There’s nothing to do but fight. I think in a context like Greece, where protests are at or near critical mass, fighting has to mean permanent General Strike. (By contrast, a “one day general strike” makes little sense even in theory, and those who call for it are generally unionists who are already planning to sell out. They’re looking for a way to appease their rank and file and perhaps get paid off themselves, but they plan from the outset to submit in the end to the top-down assaults. Just look at France. We’ll see if the Greek union “general strike” calls follow the same pattern.)
 
Beyond that, once it’s clear we’re being politically dispossessed and economically liquidated, what other than fear itself stops a people from simply renouncing the system? What if a critical mass were to withdraw recognition, go on a permanent bottom-up Work to Rule strike against all elites, stop paying taxes, take over centralized political and economic facilities and start operating them ourselves, while using systems like barter, time banking, and other ways to replace the economy of the dominant currency?
 
I don’t think the vision I just laid out is absurd. In theory, we could do it at any time. Nor does it depend upon defeating the forces of the criminals. And yet in practice it seems unachievable? Well, why not take the idea as possible and doable, and then try to reverse engineer the strategy for how to get there.
 
If the peoples of any Western country (the consciousness in parts of the non-West is already well-advanced, as in South America and now the Arab world) are to liberate ourselves and take back what’s ours, it’ll have to mean total commitment, and it’ll have to mean permanent commitment. Does the capacity for this commitment exist? Only the lack of it, and what I above called “fear itself”, are the things which can doom the world to enslavement. Certainly a handful of criminals can’t do it themselves.
 
But if we find the commitment and defeat the fear, we’re invincible. Victory would then be certain.
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