March 30, 2012

What Is Organic? (2 of 2)


Earlier I wrote about how the term and concept organic applies to a network of relations and vectors, a holism, rather than to a discrete, stagnant item which can be removed from or plugged into any context at will.
In part 1 I focused on the use of the concept to describe food production and distribution. I emphasized that organic has to mean maximizing sustainability, resiliency, interdependency rather than dependency. This implies, even if it doesn’t directly demand, social and economic justice, since any extractive hierarchy reduces our sustainability. By definition any parasite reduces this. It definitely means minimizing dependency on fossil fuels as such (and not just fossil fuels in the direct farming inputs), which means that globalization and the organic are mutually exclusive. It excludes any significant environmental destructiveness (this too means it must minimize fossil fuels in general). 
I’ll add here that organic has to mean the abolition and transcendence of the artificial producer/consumer dichotomy. Even within the food sovereignty movement this dichotomy is often insensibly taken for granted. But in truth these concepts can never be separated. One way or another they meld and define one another. Any producer also consumes, and if she’s induced or forced to separate her production from her consumption, that actually removes her producer quality and renders her a system cog, a passive and dependent consumer only. Passive consumption in general is meant to render us stagnant, and this in turn makes possible the calcification of the entire economy and polity, under corporate control. The goal of all consumerism is to eradicate all that’s organic and human and replace it with sterile conformity to tyranny.
By contrast, where we stop being passive consumers and become full economic citizens, as much as possible democratically producing our own food, and at least being fully active in knowing our food and those who produce it, we regain control over our lives and render ourselves far more resilient and sustainable, and far less vulnerable to any threat. (I’ll add that this can help reclaim our political democracy.) The producer who is organically enmeshed in such a sovereign food network is himself more resilient and less vulnerable, since he’s now part of a natural network rather than being a fungible, replaceable, expendable cog. (I’ll add in passing for now that this applies to dependency on all system concepts – the corporate form, property, legality, contracts, anything which is fraudulently purported to be part of nature but is actually a tool and weapon of an artificial, hierarchical system based on Might Makes Right.) 
This leads to another general point, that the organic is mutually exclusive with corporatism. Corporatism, even leaving aside the subjective greed and malevolence of its cadres (although this too is dire), necessarily means the maintenance of large parasitic hierarchies (the corporations themselves, the corporations as extensions of government, the government as bagman and thug for these corporations). It also necessarily means globalization, since profit extraction (the absolute imperative for any corporation) cannot function other than within an infinitely expanding growth economy. The only limit* to this is the limits of the globe itself, so corporatism must if possible expand to completely fill out this limit.
[*Soon I’ll be writing about how GMOs, as an imperialist phenomenon, are intended to as it were generate a second globe for the corporate rampage.]
This leads us to a broader vision of the organic. I’ll just mention a few examples.
1. Time banking has to be seeking the holism of a system free of money. Time banks must be envisioned as seeds of a thriving forest, not as potted flowers to be put out in the harsh cold of the command money economy.
So organic time banking and organic co-production, since it can’t sit still amid this harsh environment, must be on a vector away from and against it. For example, anywhere there’s a time bank and an Occupy action, these must seek to complement one another. If there’s no local/regional Occupy, the time bank should try to help get one going.
2. I’ve written before about how the commons is an organic thing which depends upon its environment, and the basic intellectual fraud of plunking the concept in the midst of a predatory, mercenary world, as in the Big Lie of the “tragedy of the commons”.
Just as it proves nothing about the inherent sustainability of a commons where an artificially dominant corporatism assaults and destroys it, so anyone who wants to uphold and reclaim the commons must necessarily fight to eradicate corporatism, as the two are mutually exclusive. One or the other must perish completely.
3. In the modern world, the individual is ripped out of all context, atomized, dissolved within a mass, but is still called a “citizen”. He’s even lectured by the system about his “free will” and moral agency. But in truth an organic citizen must be a full political and economic participant, fully active and self-directing within the network of community relations and vectors, enjoying the full benefit of her labor and her political sovereignty. 
David Graeber wrote extensively about this in his book Debt. This is part of how money systems were first imposed on what were previously organic economies. As I wrote here:

First, and for the vast majority of humanity’s natural history, organic communities based themselves upon close social networks, moral relations, and the sense of community obligation, including in transactions among individual community members.

Then, nascent elites, previously basing their power on direct violence and plunder, saw how they could accelerate class stratification and magnify their power by sublimating this violence by formalizing exchange and debt. To do this, they came up with money, and began measuring transactions and recording debts based upon it.

Similarly, Hobbes took the modern “civilized” individual, i.e. one domesticated into fear and mercenary greed, pictured this monster in the absence of the overawing state power, how “nasty and brutish” such persons would be under those circumstances, and then fraudulently called this the state of nature, when in fact such an atomized, distorted hominid has nothing whatsoever in common with an organic human being living within a natural economy. This fraud is at the core of the bogus “competition” ideology, which is in fact 100% artificial, and indeed requires massive propaganda, bribery, threats, fear, and violence, in order for it to make any headway against our natural humanity at all. In nature, organic human beings are cooperative.
(This is another reason the organic is mutually exclusive with corporatism, capitalism, all fetishes of competition.) 
4. Voting within electoralism, even if you admire it, could make sense only within the holism of an active, self-educating, fully informed, participatory, vigilant citizenry. This was a core principle of the first stage of the American Revolution.
But to render the individual passive, ignorant, benighted (including by systematic top-down secrecy on the part of government and corporations), “participating” only on election day, and otherwise conformist and asleep, is to render him the political equivalent of a passive consumer. The voting ideology and consumerism go hand in hand. They are identical in concept, intention, and effect.
This lays bare the fraud of calling the members of neoliberal systems “citizens”. The term organic citizen would be redundant, while to call the atomized, passive individual a “citizen” because he technically has and sometimes exercises the franchise, is a typical lie of liberals and conservatives. This is one of the many ways they join to conspire against democracy and humanity, and on behalf of corporatism.
5. There’s lots of policy ideas like MMT, the VAT, renewable energy subsidies, cap and trade, which could in theory be constructive within a holistic reform environment, if such a thing were still possible. As parts of a vast and vigorous reform front these could be good ideas.
But for any of these, you can’t wrench it out of all context, synthesize a version to be enacted within a corporatized environment, and expect it to be anything but another extractive scam in practice. (During the “debate” over the health racket bailout, professional liars like Krugman liked to compare Obamacare to structures in Switzerland and the Netherlands. As if there can be any comparison between structures which gradually developed in welfare state environments, and tossing the same thing into a gangland shooting gallery, which is what Obama has done.)
This is true of most aspects of “progressive” prescriptions. They’re non-holistic, and therefore fruitless at best, more often fraudulent and collaborationist.
6. In the end, every kind of reformism is a version of the same mentality which would take apart a natural whole food, dismantle it into a few of its identifiable discrete nutrients, declare it to be the sum of these, and proceed to synthesize each, toward a regime of processed, enriched, fortified, synthetic “food”.
The result is corporate enclosure, malnutrition, obesity, toxification, disease, impoverishment, starvation, and death.
The same is true of the entire economic and political realm. It’s true of society itself. We need a truly organic polity, an organic economy, an organic society.

March 28, 2012

The Health Racket Mandate, Toward Other Corporate Mandates


A few thoughts on the health racket mandate, for anyone who supports or knows someone who supports it, constitutionally and/or on policy grounds.
(This is also for anyone who’s wondering about my rage vs. liberals, as I expressed in this post earlier today, for example. Look at this mandate as a prime example of the incoherency and malevolence I describe.)
Let’s recap the history.
1. In the mid-20th century Congress granted antitrust exemptions to the health insurance racketeers, giving them monopolies or oligopolies in every state. This is a command economy, a forced market. The only alternative for most people is non-participation.
2. On account of this growing non-participation, as well as the desperate financial straits of many insurance rackets, especially post-2008, the government instituted a bailout of the sector, in the form of Obamacare. (It’s also an austerity policy and a union-busting measure.) This is Obama’s core policy. The funds for this bailout are to be extorted in the form of a poll tax imposed on human beings, as the price of their physical existence. (The mandated “policies” themselves will be worthless, and subsidies to purchase them will never materialize.)
3. Supporters of this policy now argue that it’s constitutional, thanks to totalitarian commerce clause jurisprudence. I’ve extensively covered this here, here, and here. (For the health racket bailout and Stamp mandate in general, see my posts catalogued here.)
For anyone who supports this, please explain:
1. Does this mean that if Congress decides that proprietary GMOs are to be normative in the same way it has dictated for private health insurance, it can mandate purchase of these seeds by all growers? Impose penalties on heirloom seeds, or ban them? What about other agricultural inputs?
(See here for the shaky financial position of Monsanto. Pro-GMO Obama policy, tangibly accelerated right around the time Monsanto’s travails hit the papers, can already be seen as a Monsanto bailout. I’ll write more on this soon.)
2. Does this mean that if Congress decides that big box retailing is to be normative in the same way it has dictated for private health insurance, it can mandate shopping at Walmart and similar boxes (say, by having the IRS require receipts)? Can it penalize or ban independent retailers?
(See here for Walmart’s increasing market difficulties.)
Not for a moment do I mean for either of these examples to be taken as hyperbole or in any Swiftian sense. If the health racket mandate can be enacted, then both of these, and any number of comparable policies, would be enactable by the same logic. I have no doubt about the system’s will to enact any such policy, limited only by whatever political fears it may have.


Filed under: Food and Farms — Russ @ 2:00 am


After some shameful procrastination, I’m finally started on my 2012 garden season. My Black Krim tomatoes are now planted in their flats. Those are seeds I saved from last year. (But my attempt to save Black Beauty zucchini seeds was obviously a failure the moment I looked at them. Clearly I didn’t let them dry enough before sealing them.) I’m only planning six tomato plants this year, and all in containers.
As for my plot, I ordered these seeds (all from High Mowing) : Provider bush beans, Midori Giant soybeans, Table Queen acorn squash, Waltham Butternut squash, and Dakota Tears storage onions.
My basic criteria were:
1. All heirloom seeds which I’ll save.
2. Stuff which maximizes nutrition and storage ability (I don’t need to rely on what I grow to supplement my diet, but that day may come, so I wanted to practice for it).
With the soybeans, I also have a so-far vague idea that knowledge of growing non-GMO soy may soon be at a premium. I already see lots of people who go out of their way to find non-GMO soy products, not an easy task.
I may add other stuff later on.
So there’s the basic plan. I worked in the garden for the first time the other day. I weeded it and tended a few out-of-place boards and stuff. After reading several websites I still wasn’t completely clear on what to do with my “green manure” (all the clover I planted last year), so I uprooted it, dug trenches, tore it up, spread it at the bottom, and buried it.
So that’s that for now. I’m looking forward to another good gardening year. 


Liberals and Lies

Filed under: Reformism Can't Work — Tags: — Russ @ 1:54 am


Liberals have long been notorious for considering empty words, lies, “a seat at the table”, and other such nonsense to be actions in themselves.
Thus, for example, if Obama were to say something mildly critical of the 1% (a rare enough occurrence), and then commit a typically extreme pro-1% action, the liberal view wouldn’t be, “He lied.” It would be, These are two actions, one good, the other not-so-good.
(I’m talking here about the “progressives”. Of course, by now there’s no lack of brazenly pro-corporate liberals who would openly support the pro-corporate action. These corporate liberals are at least somewhat more honest, intelligent, and coherent than the “progressives”.)
These two alleged actions are implicitly equated in principle, and in practice the empty words (that is, the lie) are trumpeted as the more important action. “Obama and the Democrats mean well. They’re somehow forced against their will into these not-so-good [i.e., evil]* actions. Never mind that for two years they had a de facto one-party dictatorship.”
It goes deeper than this. The liberal ideology is so morally deranged, it actually converts lying into a virtue. When a malefactor lies the lie is taken, not as further evidence of malignity, but as the opposite, evidence of an underlying goodness. To a liberal, if a con man lies to you in order to steal your money, you should take the lie as a counterbalancing good action, to weigh against his bad one in stealing. Thus the lies of Obama, of all other Democrats, of liberal media and academic hacks, and of the Leadership of liberal corporate front groups, are all reinterpreted as Good Deeds.
Again, this bizarre “morality” is a conscious corporatist scam on the part of the corporate liberals, a real piece of idiocy and depravity on the part of the “progressives”. Either way, it’s one of the many proofs of the malevolence of liberalism. It’s one of the many proofs that the neither liberal cadres nor liberal ideology can play any constructive role in the movement to eradicate corporations and build positive democracy.
[*Even someone I know who seems basically anti-fascist, in discussing the savage police assault on Occupy Oakland, referred to a “mayor who’s acting against her principles”. I said “She did?” Everything I saw from the Oakland administration was exactly what I’d expect from any Democrat in power.
What is progressive ideology? First and foremost, it’s pro-capitalist and pro-government. That’s all you need to know to predict outcomes. In the end, the only difference between a liberal and a real fascist is willingness to follow through on the basic logic of one’s ideology. If he wouldn’t go as far as a fascist, that simply means a liberal adds cowardice and contemptibility to the fundamental evil of his “principle”.]


March 26, 2012

Genocide By GMO Famine?


I’ve seen more mentions lately of the possibility of new genocides perpetrated upon the billions being rendered economically superfluous. The idea’s in the air. 
Economic superfluity, permanent unemployment, are of course nothing natural and could never occur under natural conditions, including conditions of social organization which are adapted to the ways of the earth. On the contrary, these are the artificial productions of economic hierarchy in general, and capitalism in particular. The basic goal of capitalism is to impose artificial scarcity upon natural abundance. This is applied to the land, to natural resources, and to the products of human labor.
It’s also applied to access to work itself, which like everything else is enclosed, parceled out as “property”, and then rented to us, the true owners. In this case the scarce parcels, carefully rationed, are called “jobs”. The ability to function in society, and the very measure of being human, are to be tied to this piece of property, and whether one is allowed to rent it from “the employer”.
On the other hand, the number of jobs is being further constricted all the time. Billions are being rendered permanently non-functional from the point of view of the system. They’ve been dispossessed, and dehumanized. They are, in fact, not human.
Nor does the system intend to use them all as slaves. The 1% don’t need so many slaves. So what could possibly be the intended fate of these billions of unpersons?
I’ve been tossing around an idea regarding the system’s attempt to impose GMO monoculture by force. This monoculture is guaranteed to frequently collapse, triggering catastrophic famines. This is by its own inertia and inherent vulnerabilties.
But I think it may be true that even beyond the corporatist motives for this policy, the 1% also intend to be able to trigger these collapses and famines at will. After all, no accumulation of artificial collapses, famines, and disease outbreaks causes them to admit the bankruptcy of the policy, any more than Wall Street’s intentional destruction of the global economy in 2007-08 caused them to dismantle the finance sector.
We know for a fact that Wall Street is, by system intention, to be allowed to destroy and plunder economies at will. We know for a fact that the system cares nothing about food safety, but that on the contrary the lethal pandemics which will arise (and may already have arisen) from CAFOs are considered acceptable. This is at best collateral damage, at worst something desired. Similarly, we know that the system considers the hyper-vulnerability of monoculture in general and GMO monoculture in particular to be desirable. It’s a feature, not a bug. (This is part of why the system is so unconcerned with the predicted and now documented rise of bt- and herbicide-resistant superbugs and superweeds. This was always a desired outcome, since it now escalates biological warfare, requiring the purchase of ever greater amounts of herbicide and ever more expensive proprietary seeds. Each new GMO generation is more expensive than the failed one it, by intention, must replace. GMOs were the epitome of disaster capitalism from their inception. We already knew that corporate agriculture, contrary to its propaganda, seeks disaster and scarcity, not plenty.)
When we consider all this, we must also take seriously the possibility that artificially-engineered mass famine, like those engineered by the British in India, the Nazis, Stalin, the Khmer Rouge, and many times before by Western capitalism, is on the drawing board here.
At the very least, no one can deny that with our total dependence on corporate agriculture, this is a practical possibility. Nor can anyone deny the malevolence of the 1%. Put the two together, and we have more than enough to know that the current situation is untenable and intolerable. We must, with all organized speed, decentralize, relocalize, and democratize food production and distribution, on a beyond-organic basis. 

March 23, 2012

Notes on Time Banking and Democratic Councils


Our time bank committee had a meeting last night. One of the topics we discussed was the possibility of the township becoming an organizational member, and an interchange of services between the time bank and the town. This people and town, like most others, is under some financial stress (not critically so, yet), and for that and other reasons there’s a shortage of, for example, people to staff town committees.
Right away we got into the issue of how this could be done to the enhanced benefit of both time bank and town, as opposed to the time bank simply helping the town carry out functions which taxes have already paid for. In other words, how to prevent the town government from just using the time bank, as opposed to the time bank strengthening itself and the community.
This resonated deeply with me, since I’ve long thought about how bottom-up democracy can gradually assume real responsibility, take on its rightful acclaim of legitimacy, and take power from the illegitimate state structures, and do all this without being hijacked along the way. In any revolutionary situation the key symptom to look for is the formation of citizen and worker councils, and their taking on real social functions like food distribution, sanitation, keeping the peace. There were some promising signs of this during the first stage of the Egyptian Revolution. (The fact that this first stage seems to have come to a temporary end with the cosmetic “regime change” doesn’t render those signs moot. It still proves the spontaneous skill of the people in ruling themselves.)
While we’re not yet in a revolutionary situation in America, we can still begin forming democratic councils now. These political units can serve as educational and organizational vehicles. In various ways we can seek to take on responsibilities which are allegedly the proper function of the state. But we must not do this by entering existing state structures as individuals, for example as individuals, who just happen to be time bank members, volunteering for a government committee.
Rather, we should optimally form our own committees which maintain their independence of existing structures. If we do take on existing government roles, we must do so as conscious agents of the community and the relocalization organization. We must then see ourselves as asserting the power of the people within this structure, and wherever necessary against it, rather than as being in some kind of “same boat” with it, let alone as good servants of it.
(I’ve discussed this before in my Basic Movement Strategy, #s 2, 3, 5.)
So, for example, a time bank which contemplates a cooperation with local government should have its own community action group dedicated to developing the right mindset toward government as such, toward the fact that local government has largely become the captive of upper-level governments, that local rule has largely been eviscerated as a matter of practice and of law, that while local Dems and Reps may not yet be complete criminals, their hierarchy is structurally dedicated to making them so, that the squeeze on local governments everywhere is on account of the corporate austerity onslaught, and that local governments will, in the end, perform the thug role slated for them if we let them. We must learn and become fully conscious of the fact that our future lies only with ourselves, only with our own self-generated, self-managed, self-ruled citizen democracy. Our current participation in government can only be toward that goal. The goal is always to publicly take on the function, be recognized as citizens organized outside and against the state structure, highlight the fraudulence and inefficacy of the existing structure, supplant it in action and in the minds of the people, be acclaimed as the truly legitimate democracy, and in the end to supplant it in the reality of power.
That’s a long way off, of course, but that’s what ran through my mind at the meeting. I was pleased to hear someone say, “the goal is to get some say in decision-making” (others were talking in terms of discounts at recreational facilities and such). I mentioned “dual power”. On the whole it was just a rudimentary discussion, but it’s good that right from the start everyone was at least interested in discussing issues of power, even if most of us weren’t consciously looking at it in those terms. Everyone was aware of a tension between time banking, whatever any one of us thinks that’s really supposed to be, and the existing government structure.
I look forward to more discussions along these lines.

March 22, 2012

Our Real Job


Where it comes to fossil fuel use, it’s superfluous to “advocate” this or that; the end of cheap oil is a fact. Most of the population of future societies will be agricultural workers, as is the historical norm. The legacy of the modern age is our newfound democratic consciousness and a large accumulation of agronomic knowledge. We can choose to use these to establish agroecology as the basis of truly democratic economies and communities. That’s the real goal of the food sovereignty movement, to establish itself as the basis of post-fossil fuel societies.
It’s not an argument against any of this to say that non-mechanized farming is physically more laborious than industrial agriculture. That’s never been true for farm laborers under capitalism. Nor, on the other hand, was it necessarily true from the other point of view. Medieval peasants worked less than modern industrial workers, for example. Even non-industrial agriculture, if democratically organized and purged of all parasites, can produce more than enough and still leave far more leisure time than we have today with the “job” model. Meanwhile life expectancy is now headed back down in the West. Under capitalism, the mass availability of modern medicine was a temporary feature of the Oil Age. Society is certainly supposed to continue spending ever more obscene amounts on the “health care” system. But more and more this will simply go down corporate ratholes, and to prop up luxury care for the 1%. In the hands of the 1% even seemingly good things like modern medicines become fraudulent and weapons against us.
The fact is that where it comes to medicine or something like renewable energy, even if their promises were physically possible post-oil (but they’re not), these promises are actually lies, as these sectors, like all others, are to be completely enclosed for the benefit of the 1%. To believe in a renewable energy utopia is just like continuing to believe in the liberal welfare state. This welfare state was a feature of the Oil Age, a temporary concession on the part of the 1%. It’s now being rolled back across the board, and as we see everywhere, any attempt to hold a “reformist” line somewhere is immediately obliterated. Reformism is simply a misdirectional ploy. We can have freedom and prosperity, but only by eradicating the 1% and its hierarchies completely. We can’t have the rancid liberal utopia of reformed capitalism and state.
As for the actual nature of the work, physical labor is not “bad” and a chore to be avoided. On the contrary, all able-bodied citizens must do their fair share of the physical work. He who does not work shall not eat. Work is something we’ve only been indoctrinated into thinking is an undesirable chore. It certainly is that under any hierarchy, and anyone who willingly works for a boss and considers that desirable is a scab. Historically people have always sought to avoid that, and the modern mass willingness to do so is yet another bizarre, ahistorical trait of industrialization and capitalism. As Marx analyzed, modern “workers” with “jobs” are systematically alienated from their work, robbed of both the physical produce and the spiritual satisfaction. By design, people are driven to hate work and seek ways, as individuals, to shirk it. They’re supposed to want to individually rise to petty bourgeois status and then fight furiously against anything which might level them with those who still do the hated physical work. Thus they’re acculturated to support the hierarchy which oppresses them all, for the sake of its false promise that their slightly higher position will be maintained. As we’re seeing today, this was always a lie. The mass middle class was a temporary concession on the part of the 1%, affordable on account of the oil surplus. This middle class is now being liquidated.
But it remains humanly true as ever that work undertaken on one’s own and for one’s family, friends, community, however physically hard, is fulfilling and even enjoyable. I usually enjoy the physical work I do in my garden and for our various relocalization projects. And even where the work is unpleasant in itself, it’s still ultimately satisfying, as it’s toward a cooperative democratic goal. That could be the nature of all work, where it’s finally liberated from the control of criminal elites.
We stand here, ready and able to work. Our work is there before us. The only thing in our way is a barbed wire fence which a few gangsters have strung between us and our work. They now force us to pass through checkpoints in the fence to get to our work. We need passes, in the form of “jobs”, to be let through. Almost all that we produce we must leave on the criminals’ side of the barbed wire, taking home only a meager portion in the form of “wages”.
There’s a similar fence between us as political animals, and our political sovereignty. There we may pass through the checkpoints only as “voters”.
No amount of dreaming about better checkpoint procedures will avail. We’re dispossessed, disenfranchised, alienated, enslaved. It’s this barbed wire enclosure which does it all. And in turn, all we need to do, and all we can do, is to tear down this fence between us and our human birthright. Our entire birthright.
It’s the only thing that’s necessary, and the only thing that’s sufficient. Tear down all system fences. Tear down all enclosures.


March 21, 2012


Filed under: Freedom, Law, Reformism Can't Work, Time Banking and Co-Production — Tags: — Russ @ 7:03 am


“Money is the root of all evil.”
For a long time I used to regard this as synonymous with “greed is…” or “ambition is…” or similar formulations. I suspect most other people do this as well.
But nowadays I recognize that these are distinct concepts and should be separated. We don’t need to confront allegedly natural traits like greed or competitiveness in order to analyze the fact that we can produce and distribute everything we need and want without using money (we don’t need this “medium of exchange”), and would be much better off without it, practically and in terms of human happiness.
The facts are that money is not a natural law, humanity did better without it for 99% of our natural history, and that the road to freedom and happiness includes, as a necessary goal, the abolition of money.
Of course this argument has nothing in common with liberal sanctimony about money being the root of evil. Liberals believe money is normative, that its existence is a natural law, and most of them also consider it progressive and desirable. They only deplore its “abuses”, usually where they see the non-rich behaving badly in order to obtain some.
We must always be clear that we need to abolish money as such, that humanity shall be more free, more prosperous, and happier without it, and that the whole 99%* needs to seek this goal.
We do not, on the other hand, moralize in an ad hoc manner about the abuses of money. Such liberal sanctimony always, somehow, ends up seeking the ends of the 1%.
But to morally reject money as such, and seek to rebuild the human modes of exchange which have been temporarily submerged, is on the road to rejecting the 1% as such and obliterating them completely.
These human modes of community exchange and credit have only been submerged, not destroyed. This is proven by the fact that capitalism and the state free ride completely on the vast majority of real work, at “the workplace”, in the community, and in the home, which goes unpaid by the 1%’s money system.
To this day, even in corporatism’s darkest slough of despond, the economy and society remain overwhelmingly anarchist and democratic. If a critical mass were to embark upon a Work to Rule strike, confronting the boss, the owner, the government, the cop, with an absolute adherence to the strictest letter of the job description and the law, the system would collapse in a day.
That fact tells us where the real power lies. The way to render this power kinetic is to understand its potential. Part of this understanding is to understand money, and the fact that it has no practical, rational, or moral validity. Education and, wherever possible, action, must proceed along this path. 
[*That is, a critical mass.]


March 8, 2012

Notes on Strategy and Tactics (2 of 2)

Filed under: American Revolution, Reformism Can't Work — Russ @ 3:28 am


In an earlier post I proposed two guidelines for action. One is that actions which are intrinsically reformist be judged according to whether or not they’re on a vector toward revolutionary change, the other was that whatever compromises we must make, we can never engage in active destruction or be aggressively pro-system. These are the two core criteria, as I see things. Today I’ll add several more, which mostly modify these two.
1. Here’s some additional vector questions/issues, for any particular piece of reformism.
*Is it intended/prone to cause stagnation (is it a “roach motel for progressive energy”, as some put it), or can it coexist with and help foster real action?
*Taken as a training exercise, does it teach good lessons or bad ones? This is a direct function of how much it instills the direct action/participatory political consciousness, as opposed to reinforcing proper-channels passivity.
*Does it tend to reinforce faith in Leadership, or discredit/dissolve it? All electoralism, and especially astroturfing “progressive” cults like that of Elizabeth Warren, is destructive. Anything which educates about the fact that ALL system leaders are evil, as proven by their actions, is constructive.
*Would the failure of a particular action move the perception of the right strategy/tactics in a constructive direction (will those who failed tend to learn a lesson), or will it accomplish nothing, or even demoralize? Telling people to psychologically rely on any piece of reformism, to actually believe in it as opposed to seeing it as on a vector and/or as an educational opportunity, is to set them up for complete failure. 
2. In trying to decide what to do, we can use one of the corporatists’ own terms and forecast the “return on investment” (ROI) of something.
*There are plenty of cases where rhetorically siding with a piece of reformism, especially opposition to a particular system assault, is inexpensive enough and can help transformational ideas get a hearing, but where expending significant effort may or may not be worth it.
Good examples are the many pieces of malevolent legislation coming down the pike, like SOPA, the NDAA, and now expanded anti-protest legislation (passed unanimously by House Democrats, by the way). As a rule these merely ratify the status quo rather than truly worsen it. SCOTUS decisions like Citizens United have the same character. Sometimes, like in the case of the Food Control bill, citizen opposition can force small improvements or even defeat a bill. So the question is always whether it’s worth fighting a particular assault, as opposed to exposing its nature and how it further proves that we must reject the system completely along with reformism as such.
*As a rule this is a question only in negative cases. It’s almost never worth lifting a finger to get “good” legislation passed, and definitely never worth getting a Leader elected. It’s only in the case of trying to defeat something bad that we may ask:
A. Do we agree with it in itself, as a good action in principle?
B. In practice can this reform action move things toward transformation?
C. Given that people are undertaking this reform action, is it worthwhile for us to devote resources to it?
California GMO labeling is a ballot initiative (not begging legislators for Better Laws) which, if enacted, could deal a major blow to this assault on our food and democracy. Also, since it’s an initiative, it’s an exercise in bottom-up action. For these reasons, I’d say this is worth fighting for, and if I were in California I’d get involved with it, even though it’s technically reform action.
By contrast, the petition to Obama to sack Michael Taylor as “food czar” is ultimately a pointless endeavor. Food czars are as fungible as it gets, and even if Taylor were gone, he’d be replaced by an identical thug. The point is to get rid of the food czar completely. Petitionism is also the worst kind of passivity reinforcement, if one sees and describes it as worth anything in itself. At best it can be represented as an educational measure. It can be the occasion to get people to read about something, and when the petition is rejected, this is further proof of the unresponsiveness and illegitimacy of the system.
So while it’s no cost to sign a petition if you want to, it’s not worth expending effort to help it along, unless you have a good plan to use it as an educational vehicle.
*As for where we agree with reform calls in principle, one of our basic negative principles is:
Total Austerity For the Criminals, Not One Cent More From the People.
So we oppose every top-down cut in public interest spending and services, no matter what it is, and agree with any bottom-up protestor against such cuts, no matter who it is or for what. At that point we can apply to ROI question to what action beyond rhetorical sympathy is worth taking.
3. One guideline helping with those questions is the nature of the fight – who are the combatants? Is something a stark assault of the 1% on the 99%, or is it more like the 1% against the petty bourgeoisie, who if the 99 as a whole helped them win a round, they’d turn back around and side with the 1%?
This comes up in any case where it’s a struggle of homeowners, pensioners, any petty beneficiary of system property and the rentier economy. As a rule, as long as such groups feel secure in their meager share of the loot, they’ll support the looters in general. Where they feel insecure, they’re prone to conservatism, to clinging to what little they have, and against running the risks of change. This remains true even where they understand how they’re under assault from above.
Here we know we have no choice but to support the lower dog in principle while trying to use the occasion to spread anti-system ideas. Petty property will inertially support system propertarianism even through its own liquidation unless convinced to do otherwise. History proves that sometimes this switch can be accomplished. In Russia the peasants could sometimes switch from a conservative cringe-over-my-crumb to a revolutionary let’s-seize-ALL-the-land consciousness. The fact is that especially in the case of a country where a large petty-property class exists, for a critical mass to see things this way is necessary for any transformation to occur. So we have no choice but to put great effort into propagating the ideas which undermine this mindset. 
For another example, is corporate shareholder reformism like trying to force more “responsible” practices, or to rejigger the power imbalance between management and shareholders, ever worth any outside support? It’s clear that corporations as such can never be reformed, only abolished completely. So any such fight within them is the epitome of a squabble among crooks which we can ignore.
Since people will certainly remain physically on the land, it’s necessary to fight it out on the battlefield of how they’ll conceive themselves on the land. But corporations don’t need to exist at all, so we don’t need to join squabbles over how those within corporate hierarchies see themselves.
4. This corporate example is a good example of another way of looking at a piece of reform. If you’re in doubt ask: Is it like a central government election? We have no problem understanding that voting for Democrats or Republicans is a waste of time and energy, and is actually destructive in that it reinforces passivity, helps prop up the pseudo-legitimacy of the system, makes one a collaborator in organized crime, and leads to demoralization and apathy.
So it is with all types of proper-channels reformism, reformism which implicitly accepts the existence of malignant and unnecessary structures like corporations and governments, reformism which reinforces the notion that the status quo is a law of nature and that “there is no alternative” to picayune reforms (or complete surrender). In the vast majority of cases, particular “actions” which have this character will be worthless.
5. If there’s ever a Hobson’s choice where one has to either appeal to core cadres at the risk of alienating the broader mass, or make a potential mass appeal but alienate proven fighters, as a rule we must always reinforce the morale of the fighters. Except in an actual revolution, mass sympathy is always shallow and flighty, and anyone who tries to build there builds on sand. The core fighters are always the movement’s rock. The same is true of radical consciousness.
Always keep in mind, much of the measure of what’s possible isn’t on account of so-called objective conditions, but whether or not a critical mass comes to believe in an idea (almost any idea) enough to fight for it. One fighter is worth a hundred shallow, passive sympathizers.
6. It’s always worth repeating that direct action and bottom-up participation are good in themselves, even if a particular fight is lost, while passive within-the-proper-boundaries reformism is always bad. This is especially true where if a particular action attains a temporary fig leaf of pseudo-success, since this then reinforces belief in the efficacy of this kind of passivity, and in the system itself.
7. Never moralize against fellow activists, anyone who’s actually doing something. Criticize on practical grounds if necessary, but don’t play the system game here. Here’s a basic rule:
*If the system propaganda/corporate media moralizes about something, that means it’s really a tactical/technical/practical issue. Or that it’s morally right.
*If the propaganda says something’s a technical detail or implicitly a law of nature, then it’s really a moral issue and a politically chosen policy.
I’ll stop here for now. Someday I’ll get around to writing this all out more systematically. But for now I wanted to jot down some notes on the subject. In comments and future posts I’ll analyze more examples from the point of view of these notes.

March 5, 2012

The Struggle of Vernon Hershberger and Food Sovereignty


The “Food Safety” regime is a gaggle of perps who fit the description of cowardly bullies in every way.
For example, their goal is to enforce the total criminalization of milk, legalizing only pasteurized corporate milk product. They proclaimed in principle their prerogative to arrest and prosecute people for possessing and consuming real milk.

In its March 16 response to the judge’s questions, FDA took the position that “a person who purchases unpasteurized milk in one state with the intent to take it to another state (either for personal use or to distribute to others) is engaging in interstate commerce.” As for consumers who cross state lines intending to take raw milk back home for personal use, FDA stated that it “has never sought to bring an enforcement action against a person because he or she crossed a state boundary to purchase and return with raw milk solely for his or her own use, and FDA has no present intent to bring an action against such a person in the future. Nevertheless…the hypothetical interstate traveler in this example would have ‘caused’ raw milk ‘to be delivered into interstate commerce’ in violation of 21 C.F.R. §1240.61.

But in practice they’ve steered clear of such inflammatory action. And when directly defied by the Raw Milk Freedom Riders, the thugs backed down and publicly declared they had no intention of persecuting individual milk drinkers. (This was a fine example of direct action accomplishing what “channels” had failed to accomplish and could never accomplish.)
Instead, the battle plan is to attack the dairy farmers. The strategy is to target them and shut them down one at a time, in the process generating enough of an atmosphere of intimidation and fear that the rest will give up. Targeted persecution has already claimed at least one scalp, that of Pennsylvania Amish dairyman Dan Allgyer. So far I haven’t heard of any farmers shutting down on their own, though.
While we can’t criticize individual farmers for doing what they feel they need to do, we do know that we need as many farmers and milk drinkers as possible to defy this assault and refuse to knuckle under.
That’s why the struggle of Vernon Hershberger is so important and deserving of support. Here’s one of the targeted farmers refusing to comply, directly defiant, refusing to give up. Although under indictment for selling milk in defiance of Wisconsin bureaucratic fiat and free on bail under conditions forbidding him to continue producing milk, he has continued to supply his customers.*
[*If you go to milk blogs like David Gumpert’s The Complete Patient, you’ll find lots of discussion of the technical contractual nature of the operations of Hershberger and others, how these are purely private contracts beyond state purview, etc. While this sometimes may be important in the courtroom (in practice it seldom seems to be; judges decide according to their pro-corporate prejudices, or, rarely, their lack of such prejudice), it’s a technical detail from the point of view of Food Sovereignty principle. Our principle is our right to produce and eat the foods of our choice. The corporate/government system has no right to interfere, period. To get mired in technicalities, as a matter of principle, is at least implicitly to concede that in some contexts the system has any authority or legitimacy whatsoever, as long as they’re punctilious about the right procedure.]
Hershberger, now slated to go on trial September 25th, just won a round in court. The judge, with some asperity, refused the prosecution’s demand that Hershberger’s bail be revoked on account of his continuing to supply his customers with milk. This does indeed flout the conditions of his bail, and Hershberger openly declares that he revokes his previous agreement and will continue his civil disobedience.

If our farm stopped feeding its owners’ families, there will be literally hundreds of children who will suffer malnutrition and even starvation. Your honor, I would much rather spend the rest of my life behind bars or even die than to be found guilty of such a gross sin before the Almighty God.

I am proud of what I am doing. There is nothing wrong with peacefully providing food to members of my community who want it. The state might put me in jail, but they cannot stop people from feeding their neighbors.

Nevertheless the judge let him go, albeit with new warnings. Hershberger says he’ll continue on his course of action. Hundreds in Wisconsin are rallying to his cause, assembling at the courthouse and heading over to the farm to help out and to bear witness.
Upon leaving the courthouse, Hershberger was the first to sign a new document, the Declaration of Food Independence.
Unfortunately, this document is wrongly conceived. We see the problem in the first clause.

In a spirit of humility and with respect for both the just law of the land and Natural Law, we declare that, inherent in every individual is the God-given right to procure the food of one’s choice from consenting farmers and producers.

The first principle of Food Sovereignty is that we the people have the right to grow and produce our own food. Only second to that, where we choose not to or cannot produce for ourselves, do we come to the right to procure food from the farmer of our choice.
This distinction is critical for economic and political democracy, since democracy requires that we abolish and transcend the artificial dichotomy of producer vs. consumer. This dichotomy is the basis of every kind of economic tyranny. The Declaration clause as written remains mired in this false dichotomy, and therefore leaves the door open for all sorts of “co-existence” with corporate and government concepts, structures, and thug mechanisms. (It’s also incoherent to say we have a “god-given right” to buy food wherever we want, but not to grow it ourselves. That would be one strange god.)
The problem for many of these people is that real food rights like that to grow our own food imply the right of access to the land to grow food. In its strong form, Food Sovereignty means only those who grow food or are otherwise productive have any right to be on the land at all. In other words, it would overthrow the existing regime of property in land. (Which would be in accord with John Locke’s original labor theory of property. But the whole practice of Western practical system ideology, starting with the later, well-invested Locke himself, has been to flout the productive principle in favor of parasites. Food Sovereignty, and economic democracy in broad form, would purge all parasites from the earth.)
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