September 28, 2011

The Food Movement Must Be the Food Sovereignty Movement


The other day I offered some basic criteria and priorities for the food freedom movement. To recap, these criteria were:
A. Food system resiliency; B. Public health; C. Economic democracy.
The movement imperatives:
1. Food for post-Peak Oil; 2. Socioeconomic reason and practicality; 3. Democracy and justice.
There’s some detail on these in the prior post, in more in countless previous posts. And I’ll be writing lots more on how these specifically infuse the food movement.
Today I’ll add Food Sovereignty as a core moral/political principle and objective, as the main form of true democracy itself. Where it comes to Food Sovereignty we don’t need to define it and lay out its principles as this has already been done in a seminal way by La Via Campesina.
Food Sovereignty is, as described here:

Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations. It defends the interests and inclusion of the next generation. It offers a strategy to resist and dismantle the current corporate trade and food regime, and directions for food, farming, pastoral and fisheries systems determined by local producers. Food sovereignty prioritizes local and national economies and markets and empowers peasant and family farmer-driven agriculture, artisanal fishing, pastoralist-led grazing, and food production, distribution and consumption based on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Food sovereignty promotes transparent trade that guarantees just income to all peoples and the rights of consumers to control their food and nutrition. It ensures that the rights to use and manage our lands, territories, waters, seeds, livestock and biodiversity are in the hands of those of us who produce food. Food sovereignty implies new social relations free of oppression and inequality between men and women, peoples, racial groups, social classes and generations.

The first sentence expresses both the physical and the democratic/moral priorities. These are bound together. We can assume that freedom and democracy would define their systems according to what’s most healthy and culturally appropriate. Democracy and socioeconomic equality are necessary for health, as we see with the way environmental and public health devastations are rationed according to (lack of) wealth.
Right now within Western countries what’s culturally appropriate isn’t easily definable in an affirmative way, but we know that the corporate assault is the assault on all culture and all possibility of culture. The only road to rediscovering human cultures is to rebuild human communities and economies. True democracy is a prerequisite for this, and perhaps shall help constitute the culture itself once freed of all the baggage of fraud and consumerist decadence it must now carry.
Putting producers and eaters at the heart of systems “rather than markets and corporations” implies the eradication of (non-local/regional) markets and corporations, since these and people are in a zero-sum war.
The invocation of the next generation emphasizes how we’re born in debt to ancestors and as trustees for descendents.
The specific practices emphasized are democratically normative, and the evidence proves they’re more productive than corporate agriculture as well.
Transparent trade is part of the principle that all trade must be bottom-up, based on actual demand, rather than imposed from the top down and based on non-existent or astroturfed “consumer” demand. “Trade” has become the tail that wags the dog. But food markets are, to an overwhelming extent, local and regional. That food production and distribution in general has been hijacked by the naturally miniscule commodification part of trade is one of the great practical depravities and moral abominations of history.
Socioeconomic inequality aggravates the other forms of conflict listed here, while breaking free of it to establish economic democracy shall provide the basis for the only lasting solution of these problems as well. (But as history has proven all other social problems are unsolvable under capitalism, which does all it can to perpetuate and worsen them.) 
As the manifesto says, all resource rights belong only to those who produce food, while those who eat have a right to healthy food. Given the totalitarian premises of the globalized corporate system, these self-evident truths are radical and implicitly revolutionary. But they’re really moderate and common sense from any human point of view.
I’ve written before about Via Campesina’s Seven Principles of Food Sovereignty. I discussed how a basic movement strategy relates to them, and how they could be part of the philosophical basis of a constitution. Today I’ll revisit them to relate them to the three criteria and food imperatives.

1. Food: A Basic Human Right. Everyone must have access to safe, nutritious and culturally appropriate food in sufficient quantity and quality to sustain a healthy life with full human dignity. Each nation should declare that access to food is a constitutional right and guarantee the development of the primary sector to ensure the concrete realization of this fundamental right.

2. Agrarian Reform. A genuine agrarian reform is necessary which gives landless and farming people – especially women – ownership and control of the land they work and returns territories to indigenous peoples. The right to land must be free of discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, race, social class or ideology; the land belongs to those who work it.

3. Protecting Natural Resources. Food Sovereignty entails the sustainable care and use of natural resources, especially land, water, and seeds and livestock breeds. The people who work the land must have the right to practice sustainable management of natural resources and to conserve biodiversity free of restrictive intellectual property rights. This can only be done from a sound economic basis with security of tenure, healthy soils and reduced use of agro-chemicals.

4. Reorganizing Food Trade. Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade. National agricultural policies must prioritize production for domestic consumption and food self-sufficiency. Food imports must not displace local production nor depress prices.

5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger. Food Sovereignty is undermined by multilateral institutions and by speculative capital. The growing control of multinational corporations over agricultural policies has been facilitated by the economic policies of multilateral organizations such as the WTO, World Bank and the IMF. Regulation and taxation of speculative capital and a strictly enforced Code of Conduct for TNCs is therefore needed.

6. Social Peace. Everyone has the right to be free from violence. Food must not be used as a weapon. Increasing levels of poverty and marginalization in the countryside, along with the growing oppression of ethnic minorities and indigenous populations, aggravate situations of injustice and hopelessness. The ongoing displacement, forced urbanization, repression and increasing incidence of racism of smallholder farmers cannot be tolerated.

7. Democratic control. Smallholder farmers must have direct input into formulating agricultural policies at all levels. The United Nations and related organizations will have to undergo a process of democratization to enable this to become a reality. Everyone has the right to honest, accurate information and open and democratic decision-making. These rights form the basis of good governance, accountability and equal participation in economic, political and social life, free from all forms of discrimination. Rural women, in particular, must be granted direct and active decision-making on food and rural issues.

1. Food as a Basic Human Right emphasizes sustaining a healthy life with full human dignity. This is impossible without a food system truly dedicated to public health, as well as to economic and democratic justice. The language of rights, if it’s not to be mere ornamentation for the oppressive state, has to refer only to the soil-driven citizen seizure and self-enforcement of the right, as the practice of true democracy itself. The same applies to all the demands of these Principles.
2. The call for Agrarian Reform, for ownership and control of the land to be free of social and ideological discrimination (including the propertarian ideology) is implicitly the demand for full economic democracy. “The land belongs to those who work it”. Can economic democracy be better crystallized than this?
3. The sustainable care and use of Natural Resources goes to the core of how Food Sovereignty is the only concept capable of facing the physical challenges of the end of the Oil Age and building a new resiliency for food production and distribution. Both of these are doomed in their fossil fueled incarnations, perhaps soon and catastrophically. The same applies to the synthetically zombified soil the synthetic arms race of pesticide vs. superbug, herbicide vs. superweed, and the whole monocrop regime which renders all of agriculture one big hothouse flower soon to be exposed to chill winds. GMOs have radically intensified this lack of robustness and resiliency. Food Sovereignty rules out all of these.
4. “Food is first and foremost a source of nutrition and only secondarily an item of trade.” This demand to Reorganize the Food Trade goes to the core of the entire relocalization movement, confirming its physical and democratic imperatives while attacking the core of globalization, its alleged efficiency and its immorality. The priorities of food as nutrition and self-sufficiency as a basic political/economic criterion seek to solve the physical energy and social justice crises simultaneously.
5. Ending the Globalization of Hunger is the most reformist Principle. Given the existence of speculative capital, we demand its regulation and taxation. But the existence of globalization and speculative capital is already implicitly ruled out by the other Principles.
6. As the call for Social Peace recognizes, food commodification is violence in every way, from the most brutally literal to the most sublimated in the “five sovereign fingers” wielding the “treaty” pen. The ongoing displacement and forced urbanization represent both environmental and socioeconomic violence. A shantytown is embodied violence. “Food must not be used as a weapon”. This means the food movement must fight for its socioeconomic, democratic, and moral imperatives. Public health shall also remain impossible until the rancid separation of city and country is transcended.
7. The demand for Democratic Control, for smallholder farmers having direct democratic input, speaks for itself. I’ll add one critical implication. We know that true democracy is impossible in the form of “input” given to processes run by top-down elites. Rather, the process must run itself from the soil up and requires no special input, as it’s expressed and enacted naturally by the people on the ground. We also know that smallholder farmers need no levels above themselves to force them to farm a certain way, and do far better (all people do far better) in the absence of such hierarchy. So this Principle is really a call for Full, True Democratic Control.
For each of those I emphasized one or more of the movement criteria and imperatives, but I could have linked any of these with almost any other, they’re so interwound.
I avow the basic Food Sovereignty manifesto and these Seven Principles. I think we must avow and apply them not just in the Global South but in America and the West as well. To the extent that our future shall exist as an identity at all, we’re becoming these same beleaguered peasants. So I propose that food movement participants and supporters adopt this term, its concepts, and avow Via Campesina’s principles, although the strategy and tactics will have to be adapted to regional circumstances. We can formulate our own specifics out of what it directs and implies. This will be part of honing the sharpness of the so far often vague and conflict “global food movement”.

Warwick Farm Aid Update

Filed under: Food and Farms — Russ @ 2:42 am


I learned yesterday that Sunday’s Warwick Farm Aid concert raised around $50,000, double the goal for the day. Other fundraising efforts, including at our farmers’ market, added more to that fantastic total.
The fundraising will continue to help the stricken farmers of this wondrously productive region which has come under considerable economic pressure in recent years. The hurricane sure won’t help, but people are determined to overcome this hardship and continue to survive and thrive.

Howard Zinn in Black and White

Filed under: Mainstream Media — Tags: — Russ @ 2:37 am


Reading some stuff yesterday I came upon this survey of slimeball corporate liberal academics taking the opportunity to attack Howard Zinn after his death. (Well, more like sneer at him in their typical cowardly passive-aggressive way. But at least waiting until after he was dead was enough for them to overcome their cowardice about “speaking out” at all.)
It was fun goofing on Lepore, the first scribbler discussed in the post. I bet I know exactly how she first became acquainted with Zinn’s name.
But I especially liked this quote, Sean Wilentz smearing him in an obituary:

What he did was take all of the guys in white hats and put them in black hats, and vice versa.

His view was that objectivity was neutrality, which I think is a formula for bad history. Objectivity is not neutrality; it is the deployment of evidence and building an argument based on historical logic. That’s how we engage in rational discourse. To see history as a battleground of warring perspectives is to abandon the seat of reason.

He saw history primarily as a means to motivate people to political action that he found admirable. That’s what he said he did. It’s fine as a form of agitation — agitprop — but it’s not particularly good history.

As Proyect points out, “a battleground of warring perspectives” is exactly what history is. (I’ll add, what it has been since the advent of money, the state, formalized debt.)
Evidently anyone who’s accused of such things is in good company, and we see who the accusers are.

September 26, 2011

Food Movement Notes


I’m planning a workout of food movement philosophy, and hopefully a rigorous strategy. To start with I think I’m going to post some workshop notes and see what kind of discussion they lead to. That in turn can help develop the ideas.
For a few years now there’s been some tension within the movement between the relocalization imperative and the older organic imperative. This, so far has I can see, hasn’t led to any resolution. On the contrary, Obamism has caused a general retrogression, as many of what had seemed to be movement stalwarts turned out to support Monsanto and Cargill after all, judging by their born-again corporatism since the election.
At any rate, the situation is still fluid, and we’re still at the beginning, so far as I can tell. (There’s probably writers I don’t know who have done real work here, so this is also a forum for suggestions on that.)
So there’s an alleged conflict between maximizing localism and organic. I add immediately that the third leg of what has to be a triad is economic democracy. I start with the premises that both relocalization and organic are necessary for democracy, and that neither is sustainable or worthwhile without it. I mean those propositions to apply to the longer run, and that any worthwhile movement must strive for them in the shorter run as well.
All three are necessary and bound together. To try to play them off against one another is typical divide-and-conquer. The only “split” we want is to split with the splitters. (I think we’ll also find, when I write about this more in a future post, that the splitters here are invariably the same elitists they claim to be criticizing.)
For today I’ll just present a set of three major criteria, and three priorities. Tell me if you think I missed anything of comparable importance, or if you think the priorities are out of order.
True democracy, relocalization, agroecology, anti-corporatism, are core principles, tactics, and objectives of the food movement. It’s meaningless to even speak of a food movement except in those terms.
The criteria, the vectors (everything is to be judged according to whether it moves us toward or away this criterion), are:
A. Resiliency, and the physical ability to eat at all. (This, I argue, makes us necessarily anti-corporate and anti-state.)
B. Public health. (Here too, the corporations are by definition the enemy, and therefore the state. This also involves the universal tactics of food advocacy I described in my Bridge post.

The right food policy is clear. You want better food safety? Decentralized production and more sustainable, non-industrial agricultural practices are the answer. Ban CAFOs and GMOs, which are proven threats to public health. You’re worried about how to feed the world? Organic methods consistently produce higher yield per acre than any industrial practice, including GMOs. How can we reinvigorate the economy? Food relocalization. Those are all mainstream reform questions, and all receive their true answer.

And when people who understand energy issues ask, “How will we feed ourselves once fossil fueled agriculture is no longer sustainable?”, what’s the answer? Decentralized production. Organic production, which we’ll now realize is really just normal production as history always knew it.

So whether it’s normal politics, the bridge, or full Peak awareness, the food answer is the same: Food Sovereignty and relocalization of production and distribution. That’s the most scalable policy truth of all.

I’ll add that I’m assuming familiarity with my previous work on how corporations are extensions of the state, and the capitalist state is necessarily corporatist. This is why I maintain that it’s incoherent to want to break corporate power over food but expect to do it with statist reform.)
C. Economic democracy. (Negatively, this too makes us anti-corporate/state. It affirmatively places the movement in its necessary context seeking positive democracy. No pro-citizen advocacy of any sort can succeed if it orphans itself from this parentage. By definition we’re all either democratic humanity or self-outlawed fugitives from democracy.)
And now for the three movement priorities, in order. Again, all advocacy should be located on a vector.
1. The post-oil imperative. How can we eat, post-fossil fuels?
2. The socioeconomic imperative. Assuming there’s physically enough food to eat, do artificial barriers exist? (Recall that capitalism by definition enforces artificial scarcity. So if there’s absolute plenty, capitalism will impose scarcity. If there’s real physical scarcity, capitalism will artificially intensify it.)
3. The democratic and moral imperative. Is food worth eating at all? (Political hunger strikers don’t think so.) Is life worth living? Are we human?

September 24, 2011

A Brief Thought


Here’s something that made me think of something I hadn’t thought about in a long time.

This is right in line with something we’ve been batting around here about how the nonviolent occupation movement is still in its infancy – and its participants/leaders are still getting their feet wet with organizing. Movements like we’ve seen elsewhere don’t just appear no matter how suddenly they explode into national/global consciousness. It’s a long and (usually) slow learning curve. This means the MSM blackout may not be so bad – folks can gain expertise and make their mistakes out of the unforgiving light of saturation coverage. And it drives those interested to alternative outlets – building them up. Win/win!

Many years ago, when I used to think a lot about art, I thought about how, historically, new ideas in art would have years, decades, even centuries to naturally, organically develop without much temporal pressure upon them. Only later would come the pressures of publicity, the surge of competition, the art’s becoming of interest to those who would place monetary and power demands upon it, the need to please a public, to meet deadlines, etc. Although these too can be spurs to creativity, I had the sense that they probably work this way where dealing with something which has already put down firm roots.
By contrast, the modern media tended to deny new ideas this period of quiet, timeless ferment. Nowadays the early adopters tread upon the heels of the pioneers, and the early majority upon those of the early adopters, and so on. While there may be individual children who can thrive where cast into chaos during their critical early years, I think far more would do far better with some level of stability, security, predictability. So I thought that on the whole the modern media omnipresence and insatiability (until it’s drained all the life out of something, and as quickly as possible) were detrimental to art.
(The last thoughts I had about art were several years ago, just the barest notes on what a Peak Oil aesthetic might be like. Richard Heinberg’s written more on it if anyone’s interested, an essay in his book Peak Everything.)
So I used to think about that but hadn’t in awhile, until I saw this piece which suggested that this may be one benefit of the media blackout on alternative politics and economics. While only history will tell if this turns out to be true or not, it’s at least something to consider. Since it’s a fact that we’re now in obscurity and likely to remain there for awhile, we might as well think about how to make the most of obscurity and slow development in themselves, if there’s a way to do so.
(On the subject of MSM spotlights, here’s two NYT blog pieces on time banking. They’re pretty good on the basics with some good examples, and there’s some even better comments. Some dumb comments too, of course, but on the whole the idea gets a good reception.)   

September 23, 2011

Corporate Tribalism Part 1: Legal Corporatism As A Version of Racism


(This is a preliminary post to a series I’ll be writing soon. The series will be about our relocalization imperative vs. corporate kleptocracy’s will to impose a vicious new feudalism upon us. Thus from both points of view we are to become reindigenous. The choice is whether we can build our own new communities out of the ashes of the corporate wasteland, or whether we’re recolonized, exactly as tribes formerly were, but on a far worse basis. Classic indigenous people suffered the assault on what were usually still-intact communities. As of now we lack even that, and are slated to face the onslaught not just as tribesmen but as atomized tribesman lacking any context whatsoever.
The corporate attempt to substitute its own fraudulent values like consumerism and the “organization man”, as well as more exalted ideological notions of corporate communalism, for the true values and communities it has wiped out, is part of this attack.)
I’ve written previously about the backdoor way the SCOTUS enshrined corporate personhood as the “law of the land”. As I describe in that post, the court was surreptitious and cowardly in the way it decided Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad.
On the other hand, the appeals court which previously decided the case for the railroads and against the people was more talkative.
It opens up with a dogmatic statement which already asserted what the case was supposed to decide:

The principle which justifies… a discrimination in assessment and taxation, where one of the owners is a railroad corporation and the other a natural person, would also sustain it where both owners are natural persons

Thus the court telegraphs that its goal in taking the case was to hijack the 14th amendment to the purpose of declaring corporations legal persons.
The decision proceeds to invert the entire purpose of the 14th. What was intended (see my post linked above for details) to constitutionally invalidate legal discrimination of human against human became licence for the law to discriminate on behalf of corporations against humans.

It would be a singular comment upon the weakness and character of our republican institutions if the valuation and consequent taxation of property could vary according as the owner is white, or black, or yellow, or old, or young, or male, or female… Strangely, indeed, would the law sound in case it read that in the assessment and taxation of property a deduction should be made for mortgages thereon if the property be owned by white men or by old men, and not deducted if owned by black men or by young men; deducted if owned by landsmen, not deducted if owned by sailors; deducted if owned by married men, not deducted if owned by bachelors; deducted if owned by men doing business alone, not deducted if owned by men doing business in partnerships or other associations; deducted if owned by trading corporations, not deducted if owned by churches or universities; and so on, making a discrimination whenever there was any difference in the character or pursuit or condition of the owner. To levy taxes upon a valuation of property thus made is of the very essence of tyranny, and has never been done except by bad governments in evil times, exercising arbitrary and despotic power.

As Peter d’Errico comments in his analysis of the case,

The circuit court in Santa Clara did not avoid discussion of an underlying jurisprudence. Its opinion confidently presented corporate personality as a legitimate and necessary aspect of economic “leadership” in society, rather than as a form of economic domination as the Populists argued. The decision announced broad constitutional protection for corporate persons within a description of society as a system of market relations…

The court thus asserted, in a converse syllogism, that where law prohibits discrimination between human beings (“natural persons”), no discrimination may be made between human beings and corporations. The court’s justification for this proposition was set out in a series of hypothetical statements describing varieties of discrimination. The text moved from discrimination based on human characteristics to discrimination based on characteristics of human economic behavior to discrimination involving strictly economic categories…

Note the semantic structure of the opinion. The distinction between individual economic activity and the activity of economic organizations was smoothly elided. Differences of economic function were neatly equated with human differences. Signs of natural human difference—race, sex, age—were intertwined with signs denoting types of institutions and forms of business organization. In this way the doctrine of legal personality admitted no distinction between humans and human organizations, between biology and politics—one was included within the other. Human existence was subsumed in the abstract realm of political economy. This semantic movement reached its foreordained conclusion: the concept of human equality in the Fourteenth Amendment not only extended to the nonhuman but prohibited any distinction between human and nonhuman, between humans and corporations.

The court justified this by arguing trickle-down and Fuhrerprinzip logic.

the aggregate wealth of all the… companies engaged in business, or formed for religious, educational, or scientific purposes, amounts to billions upon billions of dollars… and furnishes employment, comforts, and luxuries to all classes, and thus promotes civilization and progress… the persons composing them—amounting in the aggregate to nearly half the entire population of the country.

Thus we arrive at the new vision for the 14th amendment:

With the adoption of the [Fourteenth] amendment the power of the state to oppress any one under any pretense or in any form was forever ended; and henceforth all persons within their jurisdiction could claim equal protection under the laws…. This protection attends every one everywhere, whatever be his position in society or his association with others, either for profit, improvement, or pleasure. It does not leave him because of any social or official position which he may hold, nor because he may belong to a political body, or to a religious society, or be a member of a commercial, manufacturing, or transportation company. It is the shield which the arm of our blessed government holds at all times over every one, man, woman, and child, in all its broad domain, wherever they may go and in whatever relations they may be placed.

The Orwellism of this is obvious, since we know the litigant and the “justices” wanted to empower corporations over humans. Rewriting this, translating it from Orwellian code, we have:

With the adoption of the amendment the power of the state to [protect] any one under any pretense or in any form [except in the form of property] was forever ended; and henceforth all persons within their jurisdiction could claim equal protection under the laws [insofar as they are property owners and/or profiteers]…. This protection attends [all property (but really big, concentrated property)] everywhere, whatever be his position in society or his association with others, either for profit, improvement, or pleasure. It does not leave [property] because of any social or official position which [it] may hold, nor because [it] may belong to a political body, or to a religious society, or be a member of a commercial, manufacturing, or transportation company. It is the shield which the arm of our blessed government holds at all times over [the sword of] every [large-scale property owner], in all its broad domain, wherever they may go and in whatever relations they may be placed [, and especially wherever it aggresses].

People are born free and are everywhere in chains. People are born human and are everywhere without rights. We’re now human only insofar as we’re members (i.e., propertarians) within a legal propertarian machine. This is a corporatist version of humanity as a mere legal definition, as Arendt discussed regarding formal State citizenship. This legalization of humanity is more insidious and even more deadly.
Personhood now only exists as a legalism, while practically the question is placed within the realm of Might Makes Right. One is a person only insofar as one is a de jure legal person, but one is a de facto legal person only insofar as one is a property owner. This is the extreme example of humanity existing to serve the law, rather than the law serving humanity. To be more clear, this is the law as flunkey of organized crime.
The intellectual movement here leads up to corporatism as the same kind of phenomenon as racism, and using what was supposed to be an anti-racist constitutional amendment as its vehicle. Racism includes discrimination based on race. If we look again at the quote above, we see how the court immediately confounds this with taxation of “property”, and proceeds to claim that discrimination based on economic function is the same thing as racial discrimination. (Never mind that taxing different actions differently isn’t “singular” or “strange” at all, and that all law discriminates in that sort of way. This fraudulent court knew that perfectly well, but had a different agenda here.)
Having equated economic entities, declared corporations “persons”, and invented this doctrine of total economic anti-discrimination, the court had implicitly rigged things to enable power, corporate prerogative, and the law itself to discriminate, as a practical matter, against human beings and on behalf of the profit prerogative. And so it has accelerated ever since.
This end was implicit and intentional because it’s common sense that if the law enshrines profiteering, including corporate profiteering, while disparaging all human claims, corporations will certainly come to dominate. That’s their purpose. Corporations wouldn’t exist if the rich and powerful didn’t expect to use them as vehicles of domination. Court decisions like these were meant to ensure this domination.
(Court decisions and legal philosophy shouldn’t mean much, and eventually they’ll mean nothing. But for now we’re mired in a corporate free-fore zone which has usurped the place of society, where the fraud simulation of “law” still dictates many of the violent actions of the State, and where all too many of the beleaguered masses still have faith in this fraudulent and criminal system. So perhaps it’s worthwhile to make a few statements on this legal front, however much we recognize its nothingness.)
We can turn this rightside up. While biology cannot be forever denied in order to serve politics, we can, if the criminals insist, make politics serve biology. Only real biological persons exist, period. Corporations, property, money, concentrated wealth, are purely fictive. We can start out by refusing to recognize their legitimacy on any level, or their existence other than as brute power facts. This can help achieve inner clarity, from which we can then build a new vision and plan for human redemption.

September 20, 2011

The Stamp Mandate, Time Banking, and the Anti-Colonial Movement


We’re realizing that money is a dead end for us, and we need to break free of it. There are many possibilities for how this will happen, as there are many ways kleptocracy may try to resist and repress this. Let’s say for the sake of argument that time banking could establish itself in a region and provide the basic economic framework. (Not that I think we’re likely to have such a clear-cut succession of money -> time banking -> community credit in any particular place, but this is just a thought experiment.)
It’s especially important to consider this in light of how among the early adopters of time banking are perhaps many who are still prone to Obama cultism.
So what follows?
1. Time banking and the health racket bailout, namely its Stamp mandate, are directly antithetical.
2. The former is trying to break free of cash, the latter has as a basic goal the imposition of a cash-based tax.
3. Let’s say for the sake of argument a time bank community could break out completely and provide all necessary services (including basic health care) among itself.
4. Then how would the community members pay for this mandate? (I don’t ask why they should, since it’s self-evident that there’s no reason why they should other than might makes right. We know that any corporate forced market is robbery.)
5. The mandate is a poll tax, a head tax, in precisely the sense that foreign imperial conquerors would impose on an indigenous people to force them into the command economy of the conquering country, solely for the benefit of that power structure.
In this case the Obama head tax is to be imposed proximately to bail out the insurance rackets, and more generally to benefit corporatism (since it’s also a pro-employer austerity policy.)
Even the moralizing propaganda of it is redolent of classic colonialism. The lies about individual “free riders” on the emergency room (as if anything could be more of a free rider than the purely parasitic, government-propped health insurance rackets) echo, for example, Gallieni’s impot moralisateur, “moralizing tax”, his name for the head tax he imposed on Madagascar in order to force its integral communities into commodity cropping and Western-style consumerism.
Today’s liberals, among others, are these neo-colonialists.
6. The goal of the mandate would be to destroy any such time bank community and force its people back into wage slavery.
7. Our goal is to break free of cash. Our goal is anti-colonial. We’re all lumpenproles now, which is the negative aspect of our condition. Everywhere the State’s classification process has been: First, normalize “employment”. Second, normalize unemployment. So, as with everything else, the criminals first stripped our prior resiliency, replacing it with dependency. Now they’re stripping that on which they forced us to depend, leaving us utterly desolated. That’s the circumstance under which they now intend to restore a far more vicious form of feudalism.
On a positive vector, we must become reindigenous, we must be reborn into new and lasting indigenous communities.
However that affirmation goes in the short and mid runs, it’s the only course left for humanity over the long run. That means we must fight the new colonialism in the short and mid runs. For example, we must reject and resist the colonial Obama Stamp mandate.

September 18, 2011

Who’s the Rope For? (Walmart and Growing Power)

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms — Tags: — Russ @ 3:06 am


Lenin said, “the capitalist will sell us the rope we’ll use to hang him.” This applied just as much to money “freely” given, as when the Bolsheviks were taking German money in 1917. Lenin’s position from early in his career was always clear – take anything you can get and use it toward the revolution. He scolded anyone who thought this was likely to mean the co-optation of Bolshevism. “Are we children or revolutionaries?”, he chided Bolsheviks naive enough to think they were going to abide by an agreement not to fraternize among German soldiers in Russia. “We’ve already violated the provision forty times, and we’ll continue to do so.”
Sure enough, Lenin never wavered from his goal of communist revolution, first in Russia, then Western Europe, and then around the world. (Although a skeptic might mention that Lenin’s version of communism was, in his own words, “state capitalism”, still potentially profitable for foreign investors, who Lenin ardently wooed. But this too was always at least implicit, and sometimes explicit, in his writings from early on.)
So the example seems to be proof of principle that it’s possible for an activist or a movement to take money even from the most criminal and corrupting sources but not be corrupted himself. Of course, we know that the odds are against this, but we can still take things on a case by case basis. In theory it’s possible for Will Allen’s Growing Power to take greenwashing money from Walmart and use that money to fight Walmart.
Of course, it would help those trying to have faith in Allen if he hadn’t immediately launched into pro-corporate propaganda:

I’d like to take this opportunity to share my position on the role that corporations can play in the Good Food Revolution…We, as a society, can no longer refuse to invite big corporations to the table of the Good Food Revolution…Wal-mart is the world’s largest distributor of food – there is no one better positioned to bring high-quality, locally grown food into urban food deserts and fast-food swamps. We can no longer be so idealistic that we hurt the very people we’re trying to help. Keeping groups that have the money and the power to be a significant part of the solution away from the Good Food Revolution will not serve us.

It’s not exactly, “they’ll make us a grant of the rope we’ll use to hang them”, is it?
Allen knows perfectly well that Walmart’s greenwashing is a scam. So here he’s telling a flat out lie. (And who could possibly think the problem is that society is too prejudiced against big corporations?) It looks like he already sees himself as on the payroll. Maybe he didn’t even need a list of talking points. He started out as a corporate salesman, after all.
One wonders how to square this with his daughter’s noble statement on how Growing Power in Chicago rejected Monsanto money a few years ago.

In 2009 we had an interesting situation with Monsanto/Seminis (Monsanto purchased Seminis, a large, regional fruit-and-vegetable seed company, in 2005). They’d hired a communications firm in Chicago to find an urban agriculture group so they could fund a youth urban agriculture project. They just wanted to give
us money, just do an urban farm so that youth could learn about what we do and also be introduced to other
forms of agriculture; Monsanto’s name wouldn’t be on it. These people from the communications firm said,
“This guy that we know at Monsanto, he’s really nice, and there are some really good people within the company.” And I said, “I am sure there are.” But I and we had to do some deep soul-searching about what we, as leaders, should do with this approach from Seminis—potentially gatekeepers of resources that could mean employment versus incarceration for some of our youth corps members. Do I not accept $200,000 to $500,000, which would build up infrastructure, provide adult mentors and social-service support, and supply stipends for pay for a few years? Could this be recompense for the global impacts of this company, but also a boon to their public relations efforts to spin their methods “to end hunger and to increase production”? I had to think about it. It’s a real dilemma: What do you do when folks approach you and you’re representing people who have very limited options and you’re being offered all those resources to develop this infrastructure?

We turned it down because of the kind of work we do, the belief in our vision, and to show our solidarity with
Via Campesina and the Department of Justice’s antitrust hearings. We advocate seed saving and slow food,
and potentially if we accepted the Monsanto/Seminis funds we would have legitimized their work.

On top of that, it would have been so hard for us, as one of the rare organizations led by people of color in this kind of work—work where we’re doing something people can see, not just talking a good game. People, our youth most importantly, look to us as role models. You’re no better than what you are trying to defeat if you do the same thing and get sucked into that system. Fortunately we have reached a critical point in our development where we do have options.

Did Walmart just offer enough more money?
One thing’s clear – the contention that one can take the money and remain uncorrupted cannot coexist with the recipient spewing the giver’s propaganda. That’s an immediate contradiction. (But then, Allen’s defense doesn’t sound like he even considers Walmart the enemy at all.)
So the Allen example already looks like yet another in the long, dreary menagerie of sellouts.

September 16, 2011

September 17th, Take Back September, Occupy Wall Street


The bankster Sodom is set to tremble tomorrow when, according to the plan, twenty thousand or more will assemble at Wall Street to occupy it indefinitely, turning it into America’s Tahrir Square. (Simultaneous occupations are planned for London, Madrid, Milan, Paris, LA, San Fransisco, and many other cities.)
Occupy Wall Street is the project of an alliance of loosely defined groups aspiring to serve as the catalyst for a great democratic assembly. (In finest First Amendment fashion, for Constitution devotees.) This assembly shall be devoted to One Simple Demand.
(Some of the organizers started out with an incredibly lame demand – begging Obama to appoint some kind of phony commission. Indeed, if that still looked like the demand, I wouldn’t be bothering to write about this. The latest communique is still paying lip service to this supplication idea. But it sounds more like this is just the form rather than the substance. The substance is becoming more amorphous, more open-ended, looking outward. It’s clear that if the people assemble in all their rage and good will, they won’t tolerate such a disgraceful “demand”. The real demands will emerge in the course of the assembly, as they did in Egypt.) 
The actual tactical geography seems unclear. There’s not a discrete square as in Cairo. The plan is basically to try to physically get onto Wall Street, and if that’s impossible at first, occupy as many side streets as possible while probing for further opportunities. They seem to be counting on the genius of spontaneity to work tactical wonders, rather than having as well-ramified a plan as the Egyptian activists did. We’ll see how well it works.
What’s most promising about the intent here is that unlike with well-behaved loyal-opposition demonstrations (authoritarian hierarchy, permits, and all), this will attempt to be a truly democratic effusion, the best combination of planning (the basic call and statement of the goal) and spontaneity (it’s up to the people to come and actually do it their own way as the events play out and are played by citizens and thugs), which achieved such great (but far from complete) results in Egypt.
In principle, this reclamation shall be ongoing and serve as the catalyst for a permanent democratic renaissance. Needless to say, the kleptocracy will attempt to prevent this. They’ll try to prevent the assembly in the first place. And if anything coheres, they’ll use whatever force is possible to disperse it. The odds are long, no doubt about it.
But however this attempt works out, it’s already within the motion of a wave rather than a quantum which can be isolated and defeated. The basic call to regroup and reassemble after every dispersal applies not just on the physical Wall Street starting on Saturday, but to the entire movement, worldwide over great vistas of place and time. They can club us here, they can disperse us there, but we’ll continue to regather in ever greater numbers over ever greater ranges and actions. 
While there’s currently a more notorious September milestone, it’s possible that tomorrow will be the beginning of a new September with a new, positive day of democracy to obliterate the cult of the exploited dead. Wall Street has occupied America long enough.

September 14, 2011

Warwick Farm Aid

Filed under: Food and Farms — Russ @ 5:45 am


The wondrously fertile and productive Black Dirt region of southern New York was devastated by Hurricane Irene. Many of the local farmers, including some of our own market vendors, suffered severe losses.
This site describes the devastation and shows it in harrowing images. This is a severe blow to a flourishing region of independent farmers, and to the food relocalization efforts of the region. The site also is also dedicated to a fundraiser, Warwick Farm Aid, which will assist our stricken brethren.
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