Volatility

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.
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38 Comments

  1. Marx was right he did not go deep enough. Where he sought to help the working class by achieving class consciousness he failed and he also set the stage for a false blame game battle that for years now, in many iterations, has masked the real struggle — the struggle for self consciousness.

    ALL of life is politics and that politics IS needs based (perceived or real needs – abundance is a relative term). True self consciousness recognizes our cannibalistic nature and realizes that the fairest way to rise above that cannibalistic nature — if one truly wants to do so — is to regulate it through fair and democratic limit setting. That means first taking down the elite greedy gangster pigs at the top.

    Unless your council democracy includes a plan to ‘federalize’ with other council democracies you deny your own human cannibalistic nature and are doomed to failure. The air you breath today was flowing over Japan’s melted down nuclear reactors a few days ago. The drug cartels in Mexico gain strength each day. The drone manufacturers are working on scaled down versions for local police forces. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. …

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — June 22, 2011 @ 8:03 am

    • Confederation is a key part of the idea of any truly democratic society. It’s the only way to unite disparate communities, organize them to work together on larger-scale projects, talk out disputes, band together for a common defense.

      Comment by Russ — June 22, 2011 @ 9:06 am

      • Confederation is a centralized governmental process.

        And it is NOT “mutually exclusive with democracy” as you said in the last thread. That centralization effort is a requirement of ensuring that direct democracy flourishes.

        Why are we at loggerheads over this point? I am trying to understand here Russ?

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        Comment by i on the ball patriot — June 22, 2011 @ 10:30 am

      • I’m just using a common definition of confederation, the structure of true federalism. The base councils retain all power, while electing delegates upward to confederated bodies. These delegates are fully accountable at all times, must carry out the instructions of those who elected them, and are recallable at any time.

        So you can see why I would never call the upper levels of this federalism a “centralization”, since centralization generally means the centralization of power and unaccountability, as we have in this “representative” system. That’s why I say centralization and democracy are mutually exclusive, since the definition of democracy includes power reposing at the level of sovereignty (that is, the people themselves), with anyone delegated on behalf of it remaining completely accountable to it at all times. I think this can prevail only under the federalism I described.

        Comment by Russ — June 22, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    • I think you use an uncommon definition of confederation that needs very detailed spelling out if you hope to create an all inclusive alliance.

      Excerpt;
      “A confederation is an association of sovereign member states that, by treaty, have delegated certain of their competences (or powers) to common institutions, in order to coordinate their policies in a number of areas, without constituting a new state on top of the member states. Under international law a confederation respects the sovereignty of its members and its constituting treaty can only be changed by unanimous agreement.

      A confederation in modern political terms is a permanent union of sovereign states for common action in relation to other states.[1] Usually created by treaty but often later adopting a common constitution, confederations tend to be established for dealing with critical issues such as defense, foreign affairs or a common currency, with the central government being required to provide support for all members.

      The nature of the relationship among the states constituting a confederation varies considerably. Likewise, the relationship between the member states, the central government and the distribution of powers among them, is highly variable. Some looser confederations are similar to intergovernmental organizations, while tighter confederations may resemble federations.

      In a non-political context, confederation is used to describe a type of organization which consolidates authority from other semi-autonomous bodies. Examples include sports confederations or confederations of pan-European trades unions.

      In Canada, the word confederation has an additional, unrelated meaning.[2] It refers to the process of (or the event of) establishing a federation.[2] Canadian Confederation generally refers to the Constitution Act, 1867 which initially united three colonies of British North America (Province of Canada, Province of New Brunswick and Province of Nova Scotia), and to the subsequent incorporation of other colonies and territories; Canada, however, is a federation and not a confederation, since it is a sovereign nation-state.”

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederation

      All members of the confederation and all of the policy should be fully accountable at all times, and must carry out the instructions of those who elected them, through direct democracy, and should be recallable at any time. Someone does the laundry and the dishes, and someone repairs the house and tills the garden, and someone defends the land and someone negotiates treaties – it can all be done through direct democracy.

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      Comment by i on the ball patriot — June 22, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

      • Wikipedia? I think the Anarchist FAQ

        http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/index.html

        is a more mainstream reference relative to this blog. That Wikipedia emphasizes a statist definition is merely one of the “deceptions” you usually oppose.

        Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 6:19 am

      • Russ,

        Yes, you said a “common definition” of confederation, and silly, not to bright me, did not consider the context here and so I’m feeeeeeling a bit jerked around by that. Yes, Wiki is a slant, but it is a “common” slant.

        I really relate to you on many levels Russ, but the loosey goosey federation of anarchist free association and free agreement you aspire to appears to me to be very similar to the same ‘free market’ ideal we are following now in scamerica. An ideal which has been so easily hijacked and allowed our inherent cannibalism to flourish, with the result that the greedy, insecure and elite bullies rise to the top. Yes, there are different underlying mechanics, but it is still the same promise of freedom and it presupposes that we are all good at heart and honest which we are not.

        Excerpt from your link;

        “harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needs and aspirations of a civilised being.

        “In a society developed on these lines . . . voluntary associations . . . would represent an interwoven network, composed of an infinite variety of groups and federations of all sizes and degrees, local, regional, national and international temporary or more or less permanent — for all possible purposes: production, consumption and exchange, communications, sanitary arrangements, education, mutual protection, defence of the territory, and so on; and, on the other side, for the satisfaction of an ever-increasing number of scientific, artistic, literary and sociable needs.

        “Moreover, such a society would represent nothing immutable. On the contrary — as is seen in organic life at large – harmony would (it is contended) result from an ever-changing adjustment and readjustment of equilibrium between the multitudes of forces and influences, and this adjustment would be the easier to obtain as none of the forces would enjoy a special protection from the State.”

        End excerpt.

        As I see it organic life it is not harmonious at all, it is cannibalistic, and the challenge is to recognize (the struggle for self consciousness that Marx never got to) and rise above that cannibalistic nature with a societal morality – direct democratically elected government and its rule of law as a morality – that curbs that cannibalistic nature sufficiently to allow a balance of maximum freedom for the individual to be self directed while protecting the rights and the common property of all. I personally believe that setting limits, again through direct democracy, on yearly income and asset wealth, sufficient to maintain the human competitive drive (while concurrently rewarding that drive with other than money), and then very forcefully enforcing those limits is an approach that will attract more followers than ‘trust me’ anarchy.

        We need to band together as one, project our united cannibalism on other species, and within that alliance of one, fore go the power of the knife for the security of a good night’s sleep and living another day by setting reasonable and sustainable limits within the alliance. Or as Mom used to say, ”No rough housing indoors, take it outside!”

        Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

        Comment by i on the ball patriot — June 23, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

      • It sounds like you and I agree on the basic aspiration, to rise above “cannibalism” in whatever form. The part you excerpted sums up well the way democracy wants to overcome this cannibalism. As you say, it has elements of vagueness, but that’s a necessary quality of something which hasn’t yet had the chance to evolve in practice. (And may I add, the reason for that is that it was always destroyed by force wherever it did come into being.)

        On the other hand, every aspect of statism has already had all the opportunity it could ever want to establish a human society, and has reached a dead end. Far worse, it’s been proven to have been a savage lie.

        You criticize an alleged “trust me” element in the advocacy of democracy? But what could possibly have more of a “trust me yet again after I’ve lied to you so many times” character than continued advocacy of some form of the existing system?

        As for any alleged scam in my philosophy, I’m overtly opposed to propertarianism and all coercive hierarchy. For my call to freedom to be a scam, I’d have to be directly lying about wanting to do away with those.

        By contrast, things like the “free market” ideology are more like scams in the normal sense of that term; they implicitly promise everything at once, and therefore try to appeal to everything that’s base in people at the same time they try to enlist the nobler aspirations.

        As for the definitions of “confederation”, I said I was using a commonly used definition, and that’s what I meant. It’s not my fault if statists dominate among the contributors to that term at Wikipedia. I wasn’t trying to jerk anybody around. It’s just like if I say “democracy” at this blog, I have enough of a record here that I ought to be able to expect to be understood as referring to true participatory democracy. (That too is a “common” definition, thus frequent discussions all over the place about how, e.g. “the founding fathers didn’t want a democracy, but a republic”.)

        Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

      • “As I see it organic life it is not harmonious at all, it is cannibalistic, and the challenge is to recognize (the struggle for self consciousness that Marx never got to) and rise above that cannibalistic nature with a societal morality”

        Fortunately, this view is a century or two out of date. The “competition” of natural selection has many possible winning strategies, and among the most successful are cooperation and altruism. Modern evolutionary biology is a much better guide to what “organic life” is really like than Tennyson’s unfortunate interpretation of Darwinian thought- nature is not, in fact, generally “red in tooth and claw”. Soft, fleshy primates with neither sharp teeth nor claws would not get very far if it were. Kropotkin was actually several decades ahead of his time in noting the importance of mutual aid in evolution. It’s only now that we’re beginning to understand how widespread and successful it is as an evolutionary strategy.

        Comment by paper mac — June 23, 2011 @ 10:43 pm

      • That’s one of the factors which makes me optimistic. It’s nature’s way for a species to adapt as it must, if the adaptation is at all possible. In our case, there’s the dual crises of homo sapiens’ assault on the earth, and of a rogue assault by a miniscule fraction of this species upon the rest of the species.

        To solve for both crises, the only possible adaptation is to maximize cooperation, including what’s called “altruism” but is really in perfect accord with self-interest.

        As paper mac points out, that’s always been one of anarchism’s core ideas: That mutual altruism is far more in synch with self-interest than the self-sacrificial behavior demanded of us by hierarchies.

        Comment by Russ — June 24, 2011 @ 2:50 am

  2. Russ, I am fascinated by the democratic agroecology principle. It sounds like the rough fantasies I used to dream up for a democratic commune after I spent a summer living with subsistence farmers in Paraguay.

    To the point: Have you considered or researched the possibility of using driveway aprons (area b/w sidewalk and street) for community ag? My concern is that it’s too toxic from the chemicals used to treat the grass. I see all this arable land in the suburbs but I’m concerned it is literally poison and unusable for growing truly healthy food.

    Our community farm in Skokie, IL was officially approved last night. For a perspective on priorities, we are 2 1/4 acres. The immediate property east is the site of a now dismantled semiconductor plant with smelter. It is 12 acres and completely toxic with some asphalt capping in certain areas. Deep clay (~30 ft down) keeps it out of the farm site but still, best we could do in a “liberal progressive” area was locate next to a toxic waste site. Priorities…

    Comment by Ross — June 22, 2011 @ 12:48 pm

    • Ross, congratulations on the farm!! Is there any hope of recovery for the land nearby? I have vaguely heard of some plant systems utilized by permaculturists to restore land health to remediate certain toxins. Maybe your area is too far gone, but… here’s a sample of the sort of thing I have previously come across:
      http://www.socialecologyvashon.org/index.php?module=article&view=4&page_num=2

      Comment by Lidia — June 22, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

    • My great grandparents on my ma’s father’s side lived in a company house next to a coke oven (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Tar_Ponds). They had a cow who ate the grass out back. Both of them died of pancreatic cancer, so did my grandpa. Innumerable other cancers and birth defects around the site for decades. The solution the gov’t arrived at after many decades was to dump concrete in the tar/slag ponds, a bit like an asphalt cap. I doubt a semiconductor plant is anywhere near as bad as a bunch of steel mill coke ovens, but if you haven’t already, it’s probably worth getting an environmental assessment anyway- might give you some ideas for how to clean up those 12 acres nearby in any case. Polyaromatic hydrocarbons can be bioremediated with mushrooms pretty readily in a few months. Congrats on the farm and good luck!!

      Comment by paper mac — June 22, 2011 @ 10:18 pm

    • I add my congrats, Ross. 2.25 acres is fantastic. And I agree that you should get the soil tested. Soil rebuilding and detoxification where necessary is going to be one of the most difficult tasks for urban agriculture.

      At some locations in Detroit they had to truck in new soil for raised beds to grow food for the time being while on the existing toxic soil they had to commit to several years of growing non-food plants which are good at taking toxins up out of the soil and into their bodies. (I don’t remember offhand which plants are best for this. Something I need to research.) After several years of such growing, the soil ought to be sufficiently detoxified that people can then grow food on it.

      Then there’s the issue of soil nutrition.

      I guess the same thing applies to driveway aprons. I often read about people planting flowers and even vegetables in such spots, but I haven’t seen anything I can recall on the toxicity issue. Thanks for asking the question, since it’s another thing we need to learn about.

      Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 6:28 am

  3. “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.”

    I think it’s worth considering that the emphasis on “work” here, and on the human/citizen as “worker”, is very much in the capitalist/communist political tradition of material abundance. I know that’s not your intention, but my feeling is that getting away from the worship of work has got to be part of this transformation. If we know that “primitive” hunter-gatherers and sedentary agricultalists spent perhaps 4-6 hours of their day collecting/growing food and tending to the “business” of life, and the rest in creative, spiritual, and political activity, surely we can shoot for a similar division of our time if we’re going for a historically unprecedented liberation of human creative potential. In that case, defining ourselves as “workers” seems strange. Maybe we need a different word to describe the “work” of real life versus the WORK of corporate slavery. It seems necessary to develop and promulgate a contempt for the latter, particularly if we’re to see work-to-rule and related types of strikes and protests.

    Comment by paper mac — June 22, 2011 @ 10:28 pm

    • papermac, I was just reading a PPT presentation at Club Orlov, where Dmitri was referring to that. There’ll be work to do in the future, just not “jobs”. I, too, think Russ puts a bit of a puritanical spin on things. Instead, “Consider the lilies of the field…” There really is no particular reason for anyone to be denied basic sustenance when supplies are at hand*, nor would there be any reason, other than infirmity, for a person who was truly integrated into a society to slack off. The problem is that we are none of us truly integrated, and things are designed such that that be so. The idea of incentives/punishments for over/underproduction is a newish human mental construct, and an alienating one. I think we have only “needed” such concepts to make the money-debt system work and to make people feel guilty for not pursuing maximum extraction on behalf of their masters. If people are truly connected within smaller autonomous groups, the incentives to cooperate will arise naturally, imo, and levels of production will stabilize, to a relative degree, in the long term. If alienating forces can be eliminated or kept at bay, people should be better able to tune in to what their environment can produce, and therefore what is “enough”.

      *I’m thinking of the “banality of evil”-type cruelty of the food purveyors who lock their garbage cans and point surveillance cameras at them.

      Comment by Lidia17 — June 22, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

    • I’ve tried several times in recent comments to explain what I mean by work and differentiate producer self-actualization from slaving for a boss. I may need to reread Marx on the alienation of labor and start applying that term. (Actually, I don’t need to reread it. One of my hangups is how, whenever I think again of something I read years ago, my first thought it, “I need to reread that!” But it’s really a form of procrastination. I’ve been making progress on that, but I haven’t yet overcome it completely. 🙂 )

      Just yesterday I said here

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/democracy/#comment-6461


      One point of clarification in what I said about work. I don’t mean the “protestant work ethic” of blind, brain-dead slaving. On the contrary, my ideal for the good life would be a human mix of self-managed work and expansive leisure. (Such a lifestyle would easily have been attained, at least during the Oil Age, if any of the promises of capitalism and representative government hadn’t been lies.)

      The pivotal quality of truly fulfilling work is that it be self-managed, self-ruled, and that the produce be self-distributed. Of course, this may be so-called hard work, but it’s not half as hard as labor which may be a fraction as physically arduous but which is done in servitude to a boss.

      One thing I meant to add there was how, in reading about Greece, I’m irked at how there’s been all these efforts to portray how hard-working the Greeks are, contrary to the siesta stereotype.

      1. The Mediterranean siesta culture, to the extent it really exists, exhibits a more human way of living than the grim Northern “work ethic” (really an indoctrination into servitude). That’s one of the reasons I, like Nietzsche, have far more respect for the South. But these arguments seem to want me to lose respect for the Greeks.

      2. Such an argument plays right into the hands of the austerians by accepting their premises and merely claiming they’re wrong about Greece according to those premises.

      3. What kind of idiot doesn’t get it by now that such arguments don’t work? You can’t appease, you can’t “rationally persuade”, because your opponent is not a good faith opponent, but an enemy who is attacking you.

      “If I’m accused of stealing the Towers of Notre Dame, all I can do is flee the country.” – Anatole France.

      Either that, or fight back. Since the Greeks can’t all flee Greece, and there’s nowhere to flee anyway, the right response isn’t to try to meet the enemy halfway or 70% or 90% of the way. (Or 5 or 10%, for that matter.) The right response is to say, “Fuck You, 100% of the production belongs to us, and we’ll distribute it any way we damn well please. We’re proud to do so in a more humane, socially productive way than in your vile countries. You parasites, on the other hand, are welcome to drop dead.”

      Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 6:14 am

      • Fair enough Russ! I missed that comment earlier, or didn’t apply it in my head to what you were writing here. But I see what you mean now.

        Comment by paper mac — June 23, 2011 @ 11:16 am

      • I certainly do want to be understood (nothing I’m saying will be much good if I can’t make myself understood). So I hope my attempts at clarification help to clarify things, and I’m glad people here are engaging with my ideas in the first place.

        Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

  4. Philosophy, economics and politics are one and the same. The unholy trinity of bullshit. 🙂

    Economics is short for “political economics,” and philosophy is short for “political philosophy.” I had not realized the latter point until I started reading Hanna Arendt’s Between Past and Future, where she claimed that Plato and Aristotle marked a definite beginning of traditional political thought and that Marx marked an equally definite end to such political thought. Ultimately, I find her charge against Marx naive because it is based in part on the assumption that political philosophers did not transform political thought into political action as Marx did. She was wrong on this count because any description of the world as it is, once accepted, becomes a society’s expectation of the way the world ought to be.

    Marx did not change traditional political thought at all. No, what he did was offer an alternative set of metrics for determining societal value, and these metrics turned classical liberalism on its head. When one applied Marx’s measuring stick to capitalism at the time, capitalism was found wanting. Marx’s revolution was one of valuation.

    I’d argue that the success of the American Revolution was grounded in a similar change in societal valuation.

    And I think the success of your revolution likewise depends upon convincing others that your system of valuation–democratic agroecology– is the most legitimate way of measuring societal value, that your function for comparing what you experience to what you expect, is the right one. Think about it. Americans have been convinced to go along with the hollowing out of its ability to compete with exhortations that we’re a “services economy,” no we’re an “information ecnomy,” no we’re an “innovation economy.” etc.; i.e., we’ve been convinced to accept the loss of what was once viewed as vital to our existence as a nation as people by substituting a different set of success metrics.

    Earlier this evening, I freaked out a friend of mine to the point he repeatedly called me irrational. Why? Because I questioned his iron-clad laws of economic efficiency, which he claims are as immutable as the laws of physics. While I’m sure that I did not convince him that I am rational, I believe I may have made him think by quoting the corporate trope “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” which I followed up with my own thought “if you refuse to measure it, it can’t be measured.” Modern economics refuses to measure the true costs of production and, as a result, it is useless. But he’s an economist by training, so I don’t expect him to ever come around. I’m an electrical engineer-an applied physicist– by training, and I can tell you that economics ain’t no physics.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — June 22, 2011 @ 11:42 pm


    • And I think the success of your revolution likewise depends upon convincing others that your system of valuation–democratic agroecology– is the most legitimate way of measuring societal value, that your function for comparing what you experience to what you expect, is the right one. Think about it. Americans have been convinced to go along with the hollowing out of its ability to compete with exhortations that we’re a “services economy,” no we’re an “information ecnomy,” no we’re an “innovation economy.” etc.; i.e., we’ve been convinced to accept the loss of what was once viewed as vital to our existence as a nation as people by substituting a different set of success metrics.

      That’s a good way of putting it, Tao. I want to convince people of the dual fact: That this is the most legitimate measure of social value, and that it’s the only practical way we can feed ourselves post-oil.

      Stated those ways, those are respectively a philosophical and a rational argument. So in those forms their target audience is among intellectuals and other, forgive me, “elite” audiences. So there’s still the question of how to cast it in the form of something which can galvanize a mass movement.

      I like your retort to your irrational friend. I might use that myself.

      [BTW, Tao, I tried to comment at your last post, but couldn’t get the thing to post. So here’s what I was going to say:

      Thanks for the kind words. I agree, while the journalism there is often good, there’s clearly no will to go beyond that.

      The main reasons I still comment are to work out ideas and to get people to come over and check out my blog. (I’d actually like to find one or two new places, established blogs, to comment, but no place I see appeals. I gave up on Baseline Scenario months ago, and I’m down to just NC.)]

      Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 6:15 am

      • The blog was preventing ME from commenting on it, as well. Really weird. I’m trying to fix it.

        Comment by Tao Jonesing — June 23, 2011 @ 10:06 pm

    • “if you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist,” and “if you refuse to measure it, it can’t be measured.” Good parries.
      I had a very hard time as a student at a school where a lot of people went on to business consulting, places like Bain and so forth, where it is all about costs. And you could not convince a single one of them to, for example, send goods by rail instead of by truck because rail was more efficient… no… it was all down to ‘cutting costs’. They didn’t see themselves as PART OF a society that bore the costs which their own clients “cut”. They were somehow untouchable and above it all. That is what I mean about our having absolutely lost the “polis”.

      Comment by Lidia17 — June 23, 2011 @ 8:29 am

      • It’s institutionalized sociopathy, organized crime. So the mission is nothing more or less than to purge the practices and the mindset.

        Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 9:41 am

    • “I’m an electrical engineer-an applied physicist– by training, and I can tell you that economics ain’t no physics.”

      To be consistent, shouldn’t that be; “political economics” ain’t no “political physics”?

      Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

      Comment by i on the ball patriot — June 23, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  5. http://october2011.org/

    Comment by Lidia17 — June 23, 2011 @ 5:43 pm

    • That sounds good (and like something which, if I were in the DC area, I might consider attending), at least until this line at the very end

      11. In the event of a serious disagreement, we will withdraw from the action.

      which makes the whole thing sound like a joke.

      Comment by Russ — June 23, 2011 @ 6:34 pm

      • I’m not really sure what that means- a serious disagreement internally? With security forces? In any case, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to say “this is going to be our Tahrir square” and then turn around and say “by the way, you must be nonviolent or we’re going to throw you to the wolves”. If that was the attitude of the Tahrir protestors, they would have been rounded up by the mukhabarat and cleared out of the square in no time. I have no idea how you can look at Tahrir as a model of nonviolent revolution.

        Comment by paper mac — June 23, 2011 @ 9:47 pm

      • I think Tahrir presents an excellent example of a movement which sets out to be as non-violent as possible, but which will refuse to be driven out by violence, and will therefore, in an extremity, respond to violence with as much violence as is necessary to attain its goal.

        By contrast, to state at the outset that you won’t resort even to immovable nonviolent resistance, let alone any violence under any circumstances, is to broadcast to the enemy that all he needs to do is get violent, and you’ll run away. It actually encourages state/goon violence.

        That’s long been a common feature of protests organized by liberal elites. It’s part of the reason the people should reject such pseudo-elites.

        Comment by Russ — June 24, 2011 @ 2:56 am

      • …or maybe they just really do believe in non-violence. Non-violent civil rights marchers did eventually prevail in their immediate goals. You have mentioned Ghandi in the past as a positive model.

        There are people attending from across the country, so to say you “might consider attending if I were in the area” kind of belies the purity and rigor you were pressing on me, earlier. Let’s just be honest in knowing ourselves and admitting how far we are willing to stick our necks out before we blame others for not rioting in the streets.

        Comment by Lidia17 — June 24, 2011 @ 6:19 pm

      • Um, Gandhi and his fellow activists didn’t turn and run away in the event of “serious disagreements”. On the contrary, their non-violence was often very assertive in provoking those disagreements.

        And I knew I was right about how phony this link citation was. Look, I don’t want to have a fight with you, but don’t tell others what to do, just because we highlight the failures of the group you identify with. Don’t project your failures on us. I already told you – why would I have anything to do with your kind of system pseudo-protests? (With people who run away at the first sign of “disagreement”, no less!) It’s not my system, but you still seem to identify with it to some extent. Since you chose to identify with the system “progressives”, I and others challenged you to defend their actions and inactions. All you were able to do was irrelevantly demand to know why we weren’t acting like good progressives ourselves. Um, because we’re not progressives?

        Accuse me of failing to take action when there’s a true February surge and I’m not part of it.

        Today at Naked Capitalism some idiot called me a “hypocrite” because I haven’t joined “a military” (whatever the fuck that’s supposed to mean) to go fight the banksters and the police state. As much as I hate to say it, you sound like him. I’ll tell you the same thing I told him – as a democratic dissident, I’m pretty much isolated and limited to trying to contribute to the ideas which might bring about our February. Beyond that and whatever I can do as far as real-life relocalization activism goes, there’s nothing I can do right now. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears. But telling me to join the “progressives” for their nice little well-behaved system “protest” isn’t an idea. That’s a job for progressives, and you never did answer where they all went after 2008.

        As for “sticking my neck out”, I’ve dedicated my life to this. I threw away my chance to enter the system myself and probably have a lucrative “career” for the sake of it. I’ll probably die poor and relatively young for the sake of it. (Assuming something worse doesn’t befall me.)

        I think I’ll just stop there before I lose my temper.

        Comment by Russ — June 24, 2011 @ 7:12 pm

      • Russ, I don’t want to fight with you either… but you were quick to throw down the gauntlet to me about there not being anti-war protests, which there have been.

        I am not going to be at the october2011 thing, nor did I even know anything about it until I searched on “anti-war protests” (!!)
        By merely posting the link, I was just pointing out the event’s existence; I was NOT “telling people what to do” by any stretch of the imagination.

        The street protest vision seems to loom large in your mind, though, which is why I even got involved in looking for evidence of recent protests in the first place, only to find this upcoming one which may be quite large—I was trying to be helpful—but, again, I don’t think that the worst of the problems we face have political solutions, largely speaking, so my personal future efforts are going to lie elsewhere, as I have previously stated: no proscription or prescription of any course of action implied!!

        Since you *do* seem to think street protest will have value, I still urge you to reconsider your finickiness about the october2011 thing. First you claim that no one is protesting the war, and then when people are shown to be doing so, you claim they aren’t doing it correctly. What sort of actions do you feel , instead, ARE valid public demonstrations… un-organized ones? guerilla ones? only ones which destroy property or which threaten violence in advance (which will guarantee a state crackdown)?

        I think the “Veterans for Peace” (originators of the non-violence pledge), with their military experience, probably have a little bit of insight as to which sort of battles to pick. Whether 50,000 or 500,000 show up to this thing, are you really going to scorn all of them as dupes or are you going to see them as potential allies? You’ve kind of got a paradox on your hands, since peaceniks aren’t necessarily going to be the first people to instigate the kind of more-aggressive clashes you seem eager for.

        At the same time, you’re overlooking people who actually ARE out there in the street, which is really too bad. A few people have been making a ruckus even in recent years, including:

        http://www.codepink4peace.org/
        http://www.foodnotbombs.net/resist.html
        http://www.warresisters.org/wartaxresistanceguide
        http://www.ivaw.org/
        etc.

        These are the actual progressives, the ANTI neo-liberals. I keep thinking that mis-categorization remains in the conflation of “economic liberalism” (no gov’t, interference in markets) with the American strain of liberal politics centered around social justice. An interesting question is, if you don’t heed the people calling for social justice (the progressives), then why has that come to pass, and whose fault is it?

        Non-violence sounds like a joke? Here’s another group, one I had never heard of before, http://www.aeinstein.org/

        An interview with the head of that organization (bold emphasis mine):

        “Sometimes the people using non-violent techniques don’t fully understand the methods,” says Sharp, who has written numerous books on the history of non-violent struggles, including two books on India’s Mahatma Gandhi. “They think that if they refrain from violence, their opponents will too.”

        Quite the opposite, Sharp argues. The more authoritarian a regime, the more you have to expect it to resort to violence. That’s partly because it’s in its DNA; but also because it deliberately uses violence to provoke a response, knowing that this will solidify its own power base.

        On the other hand, if protesters can maintain a disciplined non-violent approach, the regime’s brutality will boomerang on itself. Sharp calls this “political jujitsu”. Massacres undermine the support of all but the most hardened members of an autocrat’s entourage. Soldiers and policemen find it hard to mow down peaceful civilians. The turning point in the Egyptian revolution was when the army said it would not fire on the crowd in Tahrir Square.

        The key mistake in a non-violent struggle is resorting to violence oneself. This is not a matter of morality but of efficacy. A classic case, he argues, were the protests against Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II in 1905. After hundreds of people were killed or injured in a peaceful march on the Winter Palace, the army was on the point of mutiny as soldiers did not have the stomach for further bloodshed. But it closed ranks after the Bolsheviks resorted to violence, according to Sharp — and the Romanovs lasted another 12 years.

        Sharp believes the same mistake was made in Libya. Early on in the revolution, some parts of Gadaffi’s army joined the rebels’ cause, especially in the second city of Benghazi. It was good that the reliability of the army had been undermined, he says, but bad when some soldiers turned their guns the other way. That allowed the crumbling regime to close ranks. Ideally, the disaffected soldiers would have sat in their barracks and gone on strike.

        http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/interview-non-violent-protest-and-political-jujitsu

        Comment by Lidia — June 28, 2011 @ 8:34 am

      • This will be my last reply on this, since it’s tiresome. This is all stuff I’ve left behind.

        you were quick to throw down the gauntlet to me about there not being anti-war protests, which there have been.

        All I did was state the indisputable fact that there were significant anti-war protests during the Bush years, and that their incidence plummeted to almost nothing since Obama came in. I rhetorically asked where all the progressives went. Why is Cindy Sheehan no longer considered a hero, but instead an annoying troublemaker?

        Since you *do* seem to think street protest will have value, I still urge you to reconsider your finickiness about the october2011 thing. First you claim that no one is protesting the war, and then when people are shown to be doing so, you claim they aren’t doing it correctly. What sort of actions do you feel , instead, ARE valid public demonstrations… un-organized ones? guerilla ones? only ones which destroy property or which threaten violence in advance (which will guarantee a state crackdown)?

        1. I never said I thought this kind of protest in itself has value. I said it could have value if it provides the spark for permanent occupations and general strikes.

        2. The idea of protestors petitioning the government to end the war is a progressive tactic, not an anarchist one. I asked therefore why aren’t the progressives still doing what according to them progressives are supposed to be doing? You replied that anarchists should do what progressives say should be done (but aren’t doing themselves). You really don’t see how non-responsive that is?

        3. There’s nothing whatsoever “finicky” about my contempt for the notion of running away the moment there’s a “serious disagreement”. On the contrary, that’s exactly the kind of self-imposed limit bogus progressive “leaders” always try to impose on protest. For them, the purpose of protest isn’t to change anything, but to validate their own positions and paychecks.

        4. For one obvious idea for how demonstrations should be run, don’t demonstrate in some denuded administrative zone like Washington, let alone in your own neighborhoods. Take the protest in all its clamor, unpleasantness, and anger to the neighborhoods of the criminals themselves. Any would-be organizer of a demonstration who doesn’t have that as his goal is a poser. He’s either a coward or a sellout.

        But in this case we knew that from the part about running away from “serious disagreements”. Yup, we sure don’t want any serious disagreements with those who want to plunder and murder us.

        I think the “Veterans for Peace” (originators of the non-violence pledge), with their military experience, probably have a little bit of insight as to which sort of battles to pick.

        What’s your evidence for that?

        Whether 50,000 or 500,000 show up to this thing, are you really going to scorn all of them as dupes or are you going to see them as potential allies? You’ve kind of got a paradox on your hands, since peaceniks aren’t necessarily going to be the first people to instigate the kind of more-aggressive clashes you seem eager for.

        They’re potential allies who need to learn their lessons about what works and what doesn’t, assuming they’re capable of learning. They’re clearly incapable of learning from history, and so far they seem incapable of learning from empirical observation and personal experience. But we’ll see.

        These are the actual progressives, the ANTI neo-liberals. I keep thinking that mis-categorization remains in the conflation of “economic liberalism” (no gov’t, interference in markets) with the American strain of liberal politics centered around social justice. An interesting question is, if you don’t heed the people calling for social justice (the progressives), then why has that come to pass, and whose fault is it?

        This is the last time I’m going to say this because I feel like I’m talking to a wall: Those who claim to care about social issues, almost without exception, either support neoliberal economic policies or passively acquiesce in them. Either way, there’s no separation between “economic liberals” and “social liberals”. None. Zero.

        (Case in point: All the traitors who are applauding Andrew Cuomo for supporting gay marriage even as he continues his vicious economic assault. That’s a liberal in a nutshell – as long as gays can get married, who cares if they’re thrown out onto the street for the sake of bankster bonuses? We may all be slaves, but at least we’ll have “identity” equality!)

        Comment by Russ — June 28, 2011 @ 9:47 am

      • Why didn’t you address the description of the effectiveness of non-violence in practice?
        http://www.trust.org/alertnet/news/interview-non-violent-protest-and-political-jujitsu

        => If you are not going to continue the discussion, then it is useless to continue asking questions of me, like: “Why is Cindy Sheehan no longer considered a hero, but instead an annoying troublemaker?” That’s an excellent question, except you forget to indicate by whom she is considered an annoying troublemaker. By you? By the MSM? Here we are with the framing problem again. In an earlier comment, you went on a whole ranting list of things that “progressives were accused of”, and —as it turned out— you were the accuser-in-chief.

        I never considered Sheehan an annoying troublemaker… I’m not sure if I would use the word “hero” but I was glad she stood her ground. Notice what she has been up to in 2008, 2009, and 2010: taking the protest to the criminals: GWB and Barack Obama both, at their homes/vacation venues. She even traveled to Norway to protest Obama’s peace prize. Is this kind of action you think should be taken, or not? Which is it?

        => You replied that anarchists should do what progressives say should be done (but aren’t doing themselves). You are inventing this. I didn’t say anything of the sort, in fact I said “nor proscriptions and no prescriptions”. I was merely pointing out potential value you may have overlooked. All labeling confusions aside, you seem stuck on “what anarchists do” and “what progressives do” like there is some sort of taint involved in adopting an impure strategy.

        => I don’t really see the Food not Bombs or the Veterans for Peace people as pulling down big bucks. I could be wrong.

        => You just lauded the Greeks for demonstrating at the parliament. Isn’t Washington where our parliament is?

        => I said the Veterans “probably” know something about battles. What’s your evidence that they don’t? Jeeezzz Louise.

        => “there’s no separation between “economic liberals” and “social liberals” This is just an unsupportable statement. The first group actively constructs the money system and extracts the rent; the second group are the tenants. That they live in the same universe is clear, but their ideologies and positions could not be more different. From what I can see, most progressives are fully aware of the economic violence being committed, including that committed by Democrats. That they should then sit on their hands when gays get equal rights is just a non-sequitur to me.

        Comment by Lidia — June 28, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

      • I’m not going to subject myself to going back through the stupid progressive blogs where I’ve seen plenty of examples of things like attacks on Sheehan for condemning Obama’s war crimes in the same way she condemned Bush. I don’t read that crap anymore, and evidently you don’t either if you’re honest when you say you haven’t seen that and all the other things I mentioned.

        That they should then sit on their hands when gays get equal rights is just a non-sequitur to me.

        They could have applauded the expansion of rights while rejecting the notion that Cuomo deserves any credit. But if the choice is between sitting on one’s hands or putting them together for Cuomo, then yes they should sit.

        Why didn’t you address the description of the effectiveness of non-violence in practice?

        I did. You’re the one who’s ignorant of how assertive the Gandhi movement really was. And I said the meekness of the kind of non-violence which runs away the moment things get tough is a cowardly travesty of how tenacious non-violence is really supposed to be.

        You just lauded the Greeks for demonstrating at parliament.

        I called it symbolic and said it’ll only be worth anything if they build upon it toward truly transformational action. You’d better read it again.

        True, I was being optimistic about the prospects of such a transformation. So I lauded them, like I did the Egyptians. On the other hand, there’s no reason whatsoever to be optimistic about American protestors who set picayune limits on themselves ahead of time and don’t even have goals. You may not like it, but fewer and fewer people are going to fall for that scam.

        This is just an unsupportable statement.

        I’ve supported it hundreds of times on this blog, and if I wanted to nauseate myself I could go to the progblogs every day and write another post every day supporting it, citing only the filth I had read that day.

        But like I said, I’ve left that behind me. This isn’t a progressive blog, and it rejects progressivism.

        It seems I have to shout:

        PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT CAPITALISM. PROGRESSIVES SUPPORT REPRESENTATIVE PSEUDO-DEMOCRACY. BY DEFINITION. THIS IS NOT A CONTROVERSIAL POINT.

        If that’s still not clear, there’s nothing more I can do for someone. It’s funny how I opened this post saying I wasn’t going to make it about political progressives, yet you’ve caused me to think about them again to the point that I’m more hostile toward them than ever. (For example, I had forgotten all about how viciously they turned on Sheehan. You’re quite a saleswoman.)

        Comment by Russ — June 28, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

      • I don’t care what label you put on this blog, but progressives are not the same thing as neo-liberals no matter where it is written, who says it, or how many times they repeat it, and my earlier point remains: that if you are too pure to establish common cause with people who are attracted by the tenets I posted earlier—standing “against militarism, the concentration of power in corporate hands, and the disenfranchisement of the citizenry …champion[ing] peace, social and economic justice, civil rights, civil liberties, human rights, a preserved environment, and a reinvigorated democracy”—you are going to unnecessarily limit your audience.

        I think some progressives just haven’t looked under the hood of capitalism to see WHY it degrades people and the environment the way it does (in a way that would occur even if we could take greed out of the equation).

        Here’s an essay discussing this lack of full comprehension:

        http://www.newcolonist.com/altcap.html

        “beyond this general agreement among progressives that capitalism is inherently unjust, and beyond this general hope and insistence that the alternative must be some kind of worker-run society, some kind of real democracy–meaning, a democracy which extends to the economic, not just the political, realm–beyond a quite passionate belief in these compelling (but somewhat vague) principles, the Left, frankly, doesn’t know what it’s talking about.
        What do I mean “the Left doesn’t know what it’s talking about”? I certainly don’t mean that progressive values are bad, or that the abolition of the market and its replacement by democratic planning is naïve. But I do think that progressives are often incoherent, stupidly dogmatic, and almost unintelligible to ordinary people.

        “I don’t think, in practice, that we convey effectively our vision of a desirable future, nor do we convey a strategy for achieving it that seems…well, achievable. I don’t think most self-described socialists (Marxist or otherwise) could tell you, in straight, ordinary language (and that’s the key) what a market economy IS, what the essential institutions and features and dynamics of capitalism are, and how a worker-run economy might differ from it, be more fair, and still deliver the goods.”

        When I think of “progressive”, I think of people like Alexander Cockburn, or Noam Chomsky.

        Anti-capitalists.

        http://www.newleftreview.org/?view=2523

        http://www.counterpunch.org/chomsky10122008.html

        http://www.counterpunch.org/jensen04302007.html

        Comment by Lidia17 — July 2, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

  6. Hey Russ, I just wanted to say that I’ve been reading you for awhile. Of all the writing on NC, yours is the best. Keep up the struggle, and I’m in 100 percent agreement with you on just who the criminals in society really are. Things are dire in this country, and there doesn’t seem to be any light at the end of the tunnel.

    I feel like an alien in my own country. When I walk through the store, everyone seems so alien.

    Comment by ChrisC — June 24, 2011 @ 11:44 pm

    • Thanks, Chris. I often feel that way myself.

      Comment by Russ — June 25, 2011 @ 1:38 am


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