December 1, 2012

Is the Triumph of Food Sovereignty Inevitable?


Let’s compare it to Marxism.
1. Marx saw industrialism as part of the normal development of history. (So he implicitly saw the modern level of energy consumption as permanent.) He thought it would naturally and inevitably generate a centralized industrial and finance structure and a physically centralized industrial proletariat. He also saw the evolution of democracy as a linear progress.
2. Marx thought the material conditions of capitalism would automatically generate proletarian consciousness, which would then drive the proletariat to abolish capitalism and establish communism. These developments would basically be stimulus-response. 
3. These ideas, which Marx saw as laws of history/nature, are summed up in the idea of historical materialism.
4. But things didn’t happen as Marx projected. Industrialism and finance physically and organizationally dispersed. I’ve previously made the point that corporatism has in a sense turned the tables of guerrilla warfare tactics. It’s corporate power which seems infinitely agile, concentrating at the enemy’s weak points and dispersing at any concentrated enemy attack. Meanwhile it’s the people, civil society, and democracy which have seemed lumbering, clumsy, off-balance, their own weight a weapon against them.
The industrial proletariat itself was also physically dispersed through globalization.
5. It turned out that the Western proletariat, to the extent it ever did concentrate, was pretty easily co-opted by the corporate system. Instead of naturally and spontaneously developing proletarian consciousness, it was co-opted and infused with petty bourgeois consciousness. The GI Bill, the subsidized car culture and mortgages which fostered suburbia, the “American Dream” and “Ownership Society” propaganda campaigns, all did their work very effectively.
So Marx’s forecast of this particular automatic development of consciousness was disproven. It turns out the proletariat was not automatically going to do that, and was able to be indoctrinated into a different mindset. (This is confirmation of some elements of Lenin’s organizational philosophy.)
6. Meanwhile capitalism itself didn’t develop in the way Marx projected. It never liquidated all feudal vestiges, but conserved most of them (really all but the nominal trappings of monarchy, aristocracy, etc.). It turns out that “pure” capitalism was never going to exist, but rather at most a feudal-capitalist hybrid.
7. This is because history was in fact more materialistic than Marx’s historical materialist idea. Unlike Marx, history always understood that fossil fuels are not infinite, that the modern era of extreme energy consumption is not normal or natural, but rather a unique, ahistorical blip. It understood that modern industrialism is also a unique and ephemeral circumstance. Therefore it understood that pre-oil modes of organization, what we in the West can loosely call “feudal”, were not being abolished but were merely being temporarily modified for the high-energy age. The “bourgeois revolution” was really a kind of scam, and all the commentators like Tocqueville who noted how much was conserved instead of thrown out were recognizing the basic truth of the development.
(In the preceding passage I was using “history” as a metaphor for the truly material, unconscious forces driving the developments. Even at their most insane men can’t act completely against nature, and the finitude of fossil fuels was a constant material fact, even during the glory days of extraction.)
8. It turns out that historical materialism itself, and the predictions Marx derived from it, were part of the “superstructure” and one step removed from the real materialism of energy consumption.
That’s why Marx’s inevitabilities turned out to be contingent at best, and mostly failed to come true. His physical inevitabilities were wrong, and his psychological inevitabilities failed to materialize. It turns out that within the modern framework economic democracy was not fated to develop the way Marx projected. Does this mean the democratic evolution is not linear, but cyclical, and just as it surged with fossil fuels, so it’s fated to subside with them? Or could the development still be linear, with the modern pseudo-democratic co-optation being a temporary obstacle? More on that below.
9. We’re left, first, with the real material inevitabilities. These are the facts of fossil fuel depletion, fossil water depletion, soil exhaustion, and the degradation/depletion of every other natural resource.
10. I’ll focus on industrial agriculture. It’s guaranteed to collapse on account of any of four causes – fossil fuel depletion, fossil water depletion, phosphorus depletion, soil exhaustion. (Which of these will be the proximate cause is a horse race.) It could also collapse even ahead of these because of the climate change it’s causing (industrial agriculture is the #1 greenhouse gas emitter), or the superweeds and/or superbugs it’s generating, mostly via GMOs.
11. Therefore humanity certainly will return to historically normal modes of food production and distribution. Food production will once again be 100% organic, to use the modern term for the traditional. Markets and distribution will once again be predominantly local/regional. These are physically guaranteed.
12. How painful this transformation will be, whether it must mean mass famine, whether we’ll be left at first with woefully denuded soil which will take centuries to rebuild, will be functions of how strong a Food Sovereignty movement we can build prior to and during this collapse, and how forcibly corporatism is able to keep a death grip on power for how long. Corporatism will certainly try to force total devastation upon humanity, since it would rather see humanity starve and die than achieve freedom. It would rather see genocide than relinquish power. It’s too early to know if the forces of evil will be able to hang on once they start to weaken, or whether they’ll collapse quickly in spite of their malevolent will. But there’s no doubt that the stronger humanity’s own organization against this curse and toward its own future, the better a chance we’ll have of averting the worst. But all these things seem to be open questions.
13. As for the consciousness of democracy and freedom in themselves, we’ve certainly assimilated the ideas as completely as a species can. This goes with modern agroecological knowledge as one of the two great heritages of modernity we can take with us beyond it, if we choose.
14. What does it mean to say humanity “can choose” something? It’s natural for a species to seek its own aggregate survival, under the best conditions possible. We don’t usually say a non-human species “chooses” to seek to survive and triumph. Is there any reason to think homo sapiens is different?
15. If not, and if it’s true that our best chance to continue to eat going forward is to organize toward that goal, does this mean that affirmative imperatives like Food Sovereignty (and negative ones like the total abolition of GMOs) are not just political but biological imperatives? And if this is true, does that mean that the triumph of Food Sovereignty is inevitable?


November 10, 2012

Left vs. Right

Filed under: Corporatism, Freedom, Globalization, Marx, Neo-feudalism, Peak Oil — Russ @ 5:08 am


Is this spectrum meaningful? Was it ever? On what basis?
In my search for a rigorous definition, a while ago I settled on: “Left” and “Right” are different factions arguing over how to divvy up the oil surplus and the general wealth of oil-driven industrialization. The distinction doesn’t seem to work very well for pre-oil periods. I’ve read a lot on Ancient Greece and Rome, for example, and find it difficult to read this dichotomy back into those times and places.
So the Left-Right thing is a feature of modernity. (The definition of “modern”: The unique period of ahistorically high energy consumption on account of the fossil fuel drawdown.) It has little validity for normal pre-oil history, and will likely have little for the post-oil resumption of normality. It follows that this distinction will also have little validity for the relocalization and Food Freedom movement, since these are on the vector of normal history. Sure enough, Food Freedom cuts across conventional Left-Right boundaries in rejecting both government and corporate hierarchies, rejecting the entire “public-private” dichotomy as fraudulent, rejecting all centralized false culture from country-based patriotism to liberal “multiculturalism”, while respecting the precedents of traditional community life including and especially the tribal cultures of indigenous peoples. Those are a few examples. I’d also say that the gathering global civil war between humanity and those who wish to force humanity to literally ingest nothing but poison is an eschatology vastly transcending and dwarfing all the picayune squabbles of “left” vs. “right”.
Speaking of which, Left vs. Right was also often an argument over how to divvy up the fruits of crime as well, since most Westerners of either ideological persuasion agreed in principle on the total exploitation of the non-Western world. 
What are core Left principles? For me, for example, any meaningful distinction has to divide between pro- and anti-globalization. Is anti-globalization a left principle? Not historically – communism and liberalism have always been pro-globalization in principle. Industrial organic, “fair trade”, “sustainable development”, all are beloved of liberals and various motley radical chic-ists. While it can be argued that liberalism was always a “right”-tending ideology, to argue that industrial communism wasn’t “leftist” would seem bizarre. Certainly, there are anti-communist forms of socialism. But communism must surely be part of “the left”, if that term’s to have any historical meaning at all. But since it was pro-globalization, it also proves that “left-right” is not sufficient to humanity’s needs, since humanity needs to dissolve the globalist tyranny.
Is environmental stewardship a Left principle? It wasn’t for communism in practice. Indeed, for all the attempts of Monthly Review and others to reinvent Marx himself as caring about stewardship, this clearly wasn’t a mainstream element of his philosophy. But this stewardship principle is clearly part of humanity’s great need.
Those are just two examples of how “the Left” is insufficient for humanism, democracy, and freedom. That “the Right” hates those things was always self-evident.
So it’s pumping a dry well to keep framing things in terms of this obsolete, oil-dependent, and morally insufficient dichotomy. We seek a whole new politics which in many ways shall be old politics, but fertilized with the freedom and democracy ideology which was one of the two great gifts of modernity (the other was modern organic agroecological science).
Here’s some ways of expressing the only meaningful spectrum today:
Democracy vs. elitism.
Freedom vs. enclosure.
Natural abundance vs. artificial scarcity.
Democracy vs. corporatism.
Humanity vs. corporations.


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.


August 16, 2011

We’re All Lumpenproles Now (Part 2)


I’ve had people accuse me of “Manichaeism”, and while I used to bother to dispute this, there’s actually a truth to it. Not that I’m the Manichaean (and not that I claim to represent the absolute Good), but that I recognize the fundamental assault of Evil on everything outside itself including everything I value.
(Of course, I’m also not Manichaean in the technical sense that I don’t recognize this evil as being some necessary element of the universe. On the contrary, I recognize it as gratuitious, pointless, worthless, easily rid of if we only found the will to rid ourselves of it, and we’d be infinitely better off if it ceased to exist. That’s a major part of what’s so obscene about it. Like the Ancien Regime Tocqueville described, its wickedness is exceeded only by its worthlessness.)
Contrary to the lies propagated by system hacks and “progressives” in unison, we’re not at all “in this together”. Even Marx thought the capitalist was integral, played for a time a progressive role, and was only at the time of his writing (in Europe) reaching the decadent/malevolent stage. But unlike in regular Marxist analysis, under colonialism capitalism was always purely alien and imposed itself by main force. Today Fanon’s mid-century analysis sounds more convincing. The world of colonialism/imperialism, and today globalization, has always been a Manichaean world. There’s no co-existence, let alone dialectic, only total, zero-sum war.

The “native” sector is not complementary to the European sector. The two confront one another, but not in the service of a higher unity. They follow the dictates of mutual exclusion: There is no conciliation possible, one of them is superfluous…

The colonial world is a compartmentalized world. It is obviously as superfluous to recall the existence of “native” towns and European towns, of schools for “natives” and schools for Europeans, as it is to recall apartheid in South Africa…

The colonized world is a world divided in two. The dividing line, the border, is represented by the barracks and the police stations. [I add: Today it’s more sublimated – the credit card and privatization fire line. But de jure violence is always ready to provide support.] In the colonies the official, legitimate agent, the spokesperson for the colonizer and the regime of oppression, is the police officer or the soldier…

This is why a Marxist analysis should always be slightly stretched where it comes to the colonial issue. It’s not just the concept of the pre-capitalist society which needs to be reexamined here. The serf is essentially different from the knight, but a reference to divine right is needed to justify this difference in status. In the colonies the foreigner imposed himself using his cannons and machines. Despite the success of his pacification, in spite of his appropriation, the colonist always remains a foreigner. It’s not the factories, the estates, or the bank account which primarily characterize the “ruling class”. The ruling species is first and foremost the outsider from elsewhere, different from the indigenous population, “the others”…

The colonial world is a Manichaean world.

The Wretched of the Earth pp. 3-6.

We can look to Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism to find the mortal peril of the economically superfluous, those even the capitalist cannot and does not want to economically exploit. These are in imminent danger of becoming the targets of genocide. This is technically our position today, any of us. When those who rejected Obama’s health racket bailout would say of it that its real policy was, “If you’re not rich, then either don’t get sick, or else die”, this was no exaggeration. Death to the non-rich in a very literal sense is the ideal goal of the elites.
It’s unlikely the enemy can directly exterminate overwhelming numbers of us, and anyway they have us earmarked for restored serfdom in the post-oil fields (where vastly more manual labor, backbreaking work to maintain the corporate mode of agriculture by hand, will be necessary). But any particular minority, however defined, which they find obnoxious, will be in immediate danger of literal extermination.
Isn’t all this already visible in outline? There’s no doubt about the nature of imperialism. Nor is there any doubt that this imperialism has fully come home, as its critics were warning it would eventually do since the latter 19th century. Yes – the banks, the corporations, their thug-and-bagman government, are worthless to the people. They’re nothing but alien parasites and predators. They do nothing but steal and destroy. They partake nothing of indigenous family, community, civil society, democracy, landbase. On the contrary, they viciously assault all of these with the goal of eradicating them completely. The land is stolen, the people driven off, and the productive essence of the land itself then destroyed. There’s zero relationship between these aliens and the people. We’ve been internally colonized.
But we are the humans of this land, and this land is the landbase of our humanity. Our families, friendships. communities, society, democracy, morality, humanity are the natural and rightful shoots from this soil. We can’t conceive or have any order or prosperity other than those native to our land and ourselves on this land. Today we’ve been driven into the political and legal shantytown of being mere vagrants on our own land, and increasingly we’re being driven into physical ghettos. It’s a purely foreign excrescence which is perpetrating this infinite crime, a vile disease rotting on the face of the earth. We can free ourselves, restitute and cleanse our great land, re-assert our humanity, restore our prosperity, redeem our democracy. To do so, we must recognize our human imperative, and denounce everything superfluous to it, and everything harmful to it.
Our fight shall, on the strategic and tactical level, mostly be one of building outside the colonial structures, renouncing, refusing, withdrawing to build elsewhere, where necessary evading or resisting. But in principle this is total war to the most bitter zero-sum end. We didn’t start it, but we must finish it. Either kleptocracy or humanity must perish completely from the face of the earth. This shall be the great question which settles the fate of the earth itself.

August 15, 2011

We’re All Lumpenproles Now (Part 1)


The rudiments of shantytownism have always been the flip side of agricultural capitalism, starting with the enclosures usually still ascribed to classical feudalism but actually a feature of the “capitalist” phase. These enclosures always, by design, generated a vast horde of economically obsolete people, who were from the start stigmatized as criminal “vagrants”. Henry VIII hanged tens of thousands of them. They were also favorite prey for press gangs and indentured servitude in the colonies.
This process of driving people off the land and cutting them off from their landbase continued on a steady pace through the 19th and first half of the 20th century. Liebig and Marx included this in their analysis of the metabolic rift between country and town, exposing the physical and human wastage involved in driving large numbers of agricultural workers into the cities reserve army of the unemployed.
Even as late as the Great Depression, however, there were still enough farmers and people with farmers in the family that there was more of an option for the unemployed to still go back to the farm, however economically fruitless in many other ways such a step was under depression conditions.
The metabolic rift as a modern crime against humanity really escalated with post-war colonialism, now intertwined with rationalized globalization, the so-called “green revolution” (one of whose main features was replacing better-paid agricultural work with fossil fuels), and the joint capitalist-communist push to force all agriculture into the commodification strait jacket.
The generation of a permanent mass class of unemployment, gross underemployment, “informal economy” work, living amid squalor, is a function of the rise of globalized corporate agriculture. Today we see how permanent mass unemployment as an intentional, premeditated policy is entwined with pro-bankster economic policy (which seeks to put all the land into the hands of the new feudal barons) as well as policy like the government’s attack on alternative food production, the Food Control bill, and the health racket bailout. These are all geared to escalate and aggravate the crisis while rendering the existence of the victims untenable (cutting off all alternative routes), impossible, and criminal (rendering him an existential debt offender). The criminalization of poverty proceeds every step of the way.
The goal is simple and evil: Drive everyone off the land and make it impossible to eat or live. Almost everyone is slated for this fate.
We need to face the facts. This system is a game completely rigged against us. It’s literally insane for anyone not rich to play by its rules or recognize any aspect of its claims or values. Within this system, we are useless, worthless, superfluous, unemployable, alien, foreign, the wretched refuse, despised and rejected, the dregs, the lowest of the low. We’re born criminals, objective enemies, existential scum. We’re told by every spewing propaganda pipe to be ashamed at our vileness. When they tell us to get rich or die we should do the world a favor and die quickly. And if we don’t have the good taste for that, at the very least we should shut the fuck up, since criminals have no right to a voice. That’s why even the pretenses of democracy and the rule of law are obsolete – it’s disgusting for a decent system to even pretend it any longer deals with citizens rather than scum.
Do we agree with this way of looking at things? The passivity of the masses indicates that all too many implicitly do. Or perhaps they just don’t yet see another option? One of the signs that the elites aren’t all that confident in the self-evident truth of their virtue and our vice is how relentless and shrill their propaganda is, at the same time that their media aggressively suppresses or distorts all the news that contradicts it. All the news which seems to indicate the opposite – the criminality of the elites and the innocence of the dispossessed, who from that point of view look not like vicious cretins but like crime victims. And this suppressed news also indicated the possibility of alternatives to kleptocracy. Alternatives which are available to any people which chooses to seize them.
The mendacity of the propaganda and the clear bad faith of the censorship regime are just confirmations of what we, to the extent we retain our humanity, already knew. It’s precisely our indelible humanity, our inability to serve as docile cogs rather than shackled slaves, our incapacity for compliance, which forces the kleptocracy’s dehumanizing hand. But rather than accept their measure of shame, we should take pride in this. We should be proud of the system’s contempt, and earn its fear and hate. Our very worthlessness and viciousness from the system’s point of view proves that we’re the torch bearers of whatever’s left of humanity.
Our countermovement needs only to turn all this right side up. We stand for humanity and embody it in all its virtues of morality, family, friendship, community, democracy. We are humanity, while it’s the elites and their flunkeys who are the infinitely hateful and wretched parasite scum of the earth.
As for the Earth itself, we the people own it.

August 4, 2011

Capitalism as Disguised, Oil-Drenched Feudalism

Filed under: Corporatism, Freedom, Marx, Neo-feudalism, Peak Oil — Tags: — Russ @ 4:59 am


We often encounter those who argue that what we have now “isn’t capitalism”, isn’t a real free market, but that if we get rid of corporatism (which they often stupidly call “socialism”, even though by definition socialism means at least public ownership of the means of production, though unfortunately not necessarily worker self-management and control) and have “real” capitalism, then we’ll have utopia.
(This is absurd. What’s called capitalism has been in the full deployment stage long enough and universally enough and with the same result everywhere that we know for a fact that whatever it’s always been in practice, that’s what it will always be in practice. That’s the only thing it can be in practice. Pro-capitalists are always quick to accuse those who advocate alternatives of being utopian, but what could possibly be more of a fantasy than still believing in ivory tower textbook depictions of an Immaculate Capitalism?
Anarchism, by contrast, has often gotten off to promising starts but was always destroyed by violence before it had time to develop a long track record. So to believe that in the long run it would work well is far more legitimate than to believe that real textbook capitalism can ever exist.)
To put it in Marxian terms, these advocates argue that the bourgeois revolution stagnated and regressed in many feudal ways, and now needs to be completed. That’s the end goal for them.
But the fact is that the “bourgeois revolution” was always a misunderstanding (for example on Marx’s part) and often a scam.
In this two-part post I argue:
1. Economic elites never wanted to abolish feudalism, but rather wanted to modify it in order to partially rationalize the economy. This modification started in the 18th century.
2. They wanted to do this in order to maximize the energy returns on fossil fuel extraction, their extraction of the fossil fuel surplus, and their extraction of the surplus of the Industrial Revolution fossil fuels made possible.
3. Therefore we had the interim period, the Oil Age, the ahistorical energy surge which came from drawing down the fossil fuel principal. During this period, the global economy was a hybrid of feudalism (mostly in the form of corporatism) and textbook capitalism. The former was always maintained as much as possible, and always predominated.
4. Now that we’ve reached Peak Oil, and the return on investment of fossil fuels will inexorably decline, it’s time to fully restore feudalism. No admixture of “real” capitalism will increase extraction for the elites, and they also think they can dispense with it politically. On the political front, the neoliberal strategy will try to zombify representative pseudo-democracy for a while yet.
But economically, we’ll see nothing but an accelerating race to abolish all phenomena except rent extraction points and coerced debt indenture.
Therefore, to still dream of a restored capitalism (remembering it like it never was) is to dream foolishly, wastefully, self-destructively. Conservatives, liberals, “progressives”, all reformists go into this category. (The same goes for dreaming of renewed representative government, and “better elites” in general.)
In reality, we face a stark, simple choice – to submit to a reactionary feudal indenture (far worse than the medieval one, since it’ll be under totalitarian technology and organizational methods, and lack even the consolation of medieval Christianity), or to wage a revolutionary struggle against it. If we choose the latter, we can and will win through to a completely different future, that of positive democracy. At the very least, we must start with a vow never to submit, to choose death over submission. That’s the first step toward choosing to live.
So there’s Peak Oil’s strange attractor. Two possibilities. History will be fine with either. But the future of humanity, to triumph or perish, is what’s really at stake.

July 27, 2011

Kleptocratic Self-Cannibalism and the Opportunity It Opens Up


The early Marx and the existentialists emphasized the alienation of human beings from their fabricated world. In particular, Marx explored how capitalism, in stealing the fruits of our work, alienates us from our labor. Our communion with our work is one of the core elements of our humanity, essential to our happiness, dignity, and wholeness. This emotional, psychological, and spiritual robbery practiced by economic elites is perhaps a far worse crime than the material deprivation and monetary “value” stolen.
A similar alienation is the result of the same crime in the political realm. Our humanity craves democratic participation. But representative pseudo-democracy, blaspheming the name and the ideal, robs us of our participation and our sense of real political control. This participation and control is part of the definition of true democracy. On a practical level, it achieves the most wise and socially productive outcomes. Far beyond this, it’s a core human value in itself, essential to our felicity, self-respect, and sense of being whole. This emotional, psychological, and spiritual robbery practiced by political elites is perhaps a worse crime than the destructive and evil outcomes their hijacked political system produces.
The result is humanity’s complete alienation from the economy, polity, society only we create at all. This generates a huge amount of potential energy in the mass. Millions of people not only have no constructive vehicle for their most elemental energies, but feel the added stress and tension of the economic and political instability and fear the kleptocracy engenders. Therefore, as Eric Hoffer says, the alienation from the self proceeds amid intense passion. The refugee energy and socioeconomic tension, arising out of our alienation from ourselves, further intensifies this alienation, which in turn generates further tension. Usually, at least at first, this is an inchoate passion. Then it’s often misdirected, hijacked/astroturfed by the very system which produces the psychological crisis. Fascism and innumerable quasi-fascist an co-optation phenomena comprise this category.
The kleptocracy will try to organize all the alienated passion it causes to its own benefit and the further detriment of those confused enough to conform to this plan. What are the chances that it will be unable to do this? One of the things we have going for us is how this system is liquidating its own base, and how it propagates an ideology of atomization, selfishness, and such a totally mercenary way of thinking and being that it will be difficult for it to ever muster real idealism on its behalf. Sure, it can astroturf a surface idealism on the part of pseudo-fascist scum. But these will never be anything more than a rabble. As for the system’s police and soldiers, they’ll never think in terms other than their paychecks and their material stuff at home (maybe their personal families as well). Historically, fascism was strong as it piled up victories, but started collapsing immediately as soon as it sustained losses and faced adversity. A fascist (including the kind of neoliberal pseudo-democracy we have today), individually and systemically, is typically a bully who feels strong as long as he’s winning but runs away as soon as the going gets tough. Mussolini was like that, and that’s why his system (and himself on a personal level) collapsed as soon as the war reached home. That was real fascism which had enlisted a high level of non-mercenary idealism on its behalf. It’s likely today’s purely mercenary kleptocracy will collapse even more completely as soon as it begins sustaining losses and enduring hardship. Mussolini wasn’t very tough, but I bet he was far tougher than today’s bloated, childish, infinitely “entitled” elites.
So who are the groups, naturally the base for political and economic elitism, who are under assault by very kleptocracy which depends upon them for its political sustenance? Who’s the newest and most critical alienation base?
1. Pensions are a linchpin of the liberal welfare state and a core part of the Ownership Society propaganda (“We are ExxonMobil”). For both the liberal and conservative ideologies they’re a key co-optation ploy. But the kleptocracy is now liquidating them. First they came for the manufacturing unions’ pensions, then for the public sector union pensions, and now for Social Security… Anyone who thinks the day of the 401(k)s of white collar workers won’t come soon is delusional.
2. “Home ownership” is a similar joint liberal-conservative ploy. Commentators have often been frank about how the goal is to give a large middle class a stake in the stable propagation of capitalism. So you’d think that after the blowup of the housing bubble and consequent deflation, the system would want to temporarily hit the reset button and retrench. But instead the banksters launched a veritable foreclosure war, enlisting the federal government as collaborator with such frauds as the HAMP. Meanwhile even the most modest prophylactic measures like principal mods and bankruptcy court cramdowns have been fiercely resisted by banks and government. Here too, although it still spews the propaganda, the kleptocracy has clearly renounced even the pretense of its own ownership society co-optation plan.
3. Public sector unions are a major part of the base for government as such, and the Democratic party in particular. But the kleptocracy, including the Democrats, is liquidating them as fast as it can.
4. College grads, if there are system jobs available for them, are always a major part of any status quo base. Instead, today’s grads find that there are no jobs for them, and that instead they were made the victims of a joint bank-government-university debt indenture scam. Historically, this has been a major revolutionary indicator. (The results were mixed. In 19th century Russia, unemployable students and graduates became revolutionaries. In Weimar Germany they became Nazis. Since as a group students are a nihilist rabble at heart, it’s probably just a matter of seizing upon the most radical idea lying around.) I previously devoted a post to this factor.
5. Professionals are also a key system base element, as long as their jobs are protected. This is why even as globalization ruthlessly drove a race to the bottom for all other forms of labor, for a long time it protected doctors, lawyers, journalists, IT professionals, and most others. But today these too are starting to be liquidated. A computer programmer’s already in the same boat as a manufacturing worker. Everyone else will soon be joining us. Again we see the “First they came for the factory workers…” dynamic.
6. The federal government depends upon the states for a vast amount of administration and supplementary enforcement. It has bought this compliance with gravy train of biblical flood size. But now the federal largesse is being rolled back furiously. The states are being cut off. Under these harsh new conditions, will state governments continue to comprise such a compliant power base for Washington?
7. The assault on civil liberties is the kind of petty harassment more likely to drum up resistance than is systematic repression.
8. Economically, here’s the biggest one, the classical contradiction of capitalism which is even more unsolvable today than it was a hundred years ago. Capitalism depends on infinitely growing consumption while it grinds the worker down to nothing. But this worker is also the consumer. Once capitalism liquidates its own consumers, who’s gonna buy? The answer nowadays is corporatism. The federal government buys and tries to force individuals to buy (Obama’s health racket Stamp mandate is the ultimate example so far). In these ways the government coerces markets. By now we have a command economy, corporatist version.
But this is only kicking the can down the road. Forcing the consumer to buy won’t increase the amount of blood you can squeeze out of him. In the end, capitalism will endure for as long as the federal government can run its debt Ponzi scheme. Deficit terrorism is a lie where it claims that deficit spending as such, and deficit spending toward socially productive goals based on real production, is inherently unsustainable. But it will be true in the end that deficit spending toward no goal whatsoever but enabling corporate looting, and based upon no productive base whatsoever but just the lies and vapors of financialization, is unsustainable. In the end this capitalist fraud will collapse of its own rancid yet hollow bloat.
9. I described the psychological contradiction of capitalism above. It alienates us from our work, our thoughts, our friends, our families, our communities, our democracy, and ourselves. Our alienation accumulates as a tremendous force, and no matter how that force is eventually unleashed, it will place the status quo in peril.
10. Part of this alienation, a strategic blunder on the part of corporatist ideology (if we could impute any long-term strategy, as opposed to short-run greed, to them at all), is how this ideology and kleptocratic practice seek to radically atomize the individual instead of trying to provide even a sham sense of belonging. By contrast, classical fascism worked hard at this, and with considerable success.
This has left a void and an opportunity for any movement which wants to fight the kleptocracy.
11. Based on the system’s record so far, we can expect a continuing escalation in the assault which will be malevolent in principle but haphazard in the execution. This is exactly the kind of oppression most likely to generate resistance. The alienations, contradictions, and self-injuring liquidations I just described are both part of this haphazardness and will contribute to it. See also my post, The Limits to Racketeering.
So we see how there’s a big opportunity for anyone who wants to fight and defeat the kleptocracy.
But the existence of the opportunity doesn’t guarantee it will be seized. We have to meet it halfway. We have to work hard to build the democratic movement which can transform all the alienation and disintegration into a coherent vector, which can gather all the festering potential energy and render it kinetic in one direction.
The negative element of this vector is to destroy the kleptocracy. The affirmative element is to build and practice positive democracy.
So part of this necessary work shall be to account for all the factors I described above (and probably others I missed) and learn to speak to them, and then do so relentlessly.

June 22, 2011

Some Notes on the Interplay of Revolutionary Forces

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


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

February 5, 2011

Standoff At the Square

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Freedom, Marx — Tags: — Russ @ 3:18 am


Friday was another glorious day in Tahrir Square, as hundreds of thousands gathered to make the same demand of Mubarak and his entire regime: Get Out.
Mubarak is still dug in, and although it’s probable that his fellow oligarchs as well as the US government want him out (for the sake of conserving intact what they can of the regime), it looks like if he’s really stubborn, there’s no easy way for anyone to make him leave.
It looks like a march on the tyrant’s palace isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Although over the course of the day some protestors called for it, there was no real will to leave the Square.
Also, for a few days now the army has had crowd control systems and barriers obstructing at least some of the entry/exit points. I don’t know if they control all the points that way, but that too would make it more difficult for the crowd to march. They’d have to take the risk and time of dismantling the barriers while the rest of the crowd had to mill behind them.
The thugs were more subdued yesterday, although there will reportedly be more pro-government riots today. I don’t know if the reason for the diminished attacks is because the regime is discouraged about what those can accomplish, or whether the thugs were merely regrouping after the army took steps to interpose itself. Although that’s not an unmitigated good for the protestors since it also restrains their freedom of action, it’s still on the whole a pro-demonstrator act.
The thugs and secret police mostly focused on assaulting journalists and whatever identifiable activists they could get their hands on. The democracy seems fully aware that if they let themselves be dispersed by the phony concessions the regime is offering, they’re likely to end up rounded up later, one by one. That pattern’s as old as the oldest peasant rebellion or slave revolt.
At the moment it looks like an impasse. Mubarak is bitterly seeking the dead end, while the protestors are holding strong to their demand that he and his regime must go.
The minimum acceptable demand, for example as articulated here:

• the removal of Hosni Mubarak and the whole apparatus of the Mubarak regime;

• a committee which will appoint a transitional government, the committee to be made up of 6 named senior judges, six representatives from their youth movement and two members of the military

• a council to draw up a new constitution, which would then be put to the people in a referendum

• elections at national and local level in accordance with the constitution.

The full departure of the regime, the formation of a provisional government including heavy representation for the democracy and none for the regime or police, toward a constitutional convention. This isn’t the enshrinement of democracy, but depending on the form of the constitution, it can be a significant step toward it. (As marvelous as the achievements of the protestors have been, it looks like even they aren’t quite anarchists yet and still want representative government, just a better one. So that’s what they have to have. Besides, any solution will have to be acceptable to the army.) 
By contrast, here’s a sham elitist set of alleged “demands”, which may have been suborned by the government. This wants elites to sequester themselves in a conclave to discuss what crumbs of reform they may deign to toss to the people. This reform has to be a compromise between the regime and the self-appointed new elites, of course. It’s even vague about whether Mubarak himself stays on or not.
When we compare these two prescriptions, we see the difference between significant progress toward democracy and the typical sellout. While I haven’t been inclined to apply Marxist analysis to all this, the situation at the moment, and these contrasting possibilities for the next step, remind me of the line Lenin finally settled on during the 1905 revolution. Marxists were uncertain in 1905, because according to their own theory the most progressive result possible of the uprising against the quasi-feudal tsarist regime would be a 1789 style bourgeois revolution. This would then have to take many years to fully rationalize capitalism before the conditions would be ripe for a true proletarian revolution. (They mostly discounted the spontaneous formation of the soviets, the ground-level councils.)
After months of uncertainty, Lenin decided on a perspective: The socialists and workers should assist the reformers in overthrowing the tsar and establishing liberal democracy. But these erstwhile reformers would be inclined by both temperament and greed to instead strike a deal, resulting in a hybrid which would still preserve many of the feudal vestiges. In other words, the “revolution” would end up having been a mere episode in tsarism’s agonizingly slow evolution out of feudalism. Therefore, the task of the proletariat was to do whatever it could to force the reformers to push through a full bourgeois revolution and wipe out tsarism completely.
If we transpose this prescription to the prototype plans described above (which do seem typical of the two likely possible outcomes), we can see how it’s a conflict between one plan which would end the regime and write a new, more democratic constitution, vs. some kind of filthy deal between aspiring new gangsters and the same old ones which would basically conserve the old regime while bringing in some new “partners”, trying to shabbily legitimize it with some sham “reforms”.
So you don’t have to be a Marxist to see that Lenin’s warning applies here. Also, according to this (linked from Lambert’s excellent live blogging at Corrente), Egypt’s existing system is set up so that only the president, i.e. Mubarak himself, can legally engage in constitutional reform. So there’s another good example of why trying to compromise with the regime to merely reform the existing constitution is a fool’s errand. You deliver yourself right back into the hands of Mubarak’s own intentions for the future. No, if you really want to change the constitution, you have to start by purging the regime completely.

October 15, 2010

Positive Freedom: Nietzsche, Marx, and Anarchism

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Marx, Nietzsche — Tags: — Russ @ 9:13 am


One of Nietzsche’s core ideas, and one of his most misunderstood, is his contrast of noble morality vs. slave morality.
The essence of the distinction is this. “Noble”, or what I’ll call positive morality, defines itself as the good and seeks to act affirmatively based upon that definition. It only derivatively defines “the bad”, and reacts, according to what contrasts with itself.
“Slave” morality, by contrast, starts out reactively, defining “the masters” and any other alien as “evil”, and only derivatively defines itself as the good. In either case its action is merely a reaction.
So to use Nietzsche’s description, the positive morality defines itself and the good according to what it calls honesty, loyalty, courage, principle, gratitude and revenge (in both cases paying back what is owed). It derivatively describes the bad, the slavish, according to the antonyms of these: lying, faithlessness, cowardice, cynicism or nihilism, the unwillingness to pay what is owed out of some despicable lassitude – ingratitude, laziness, cowardice.
By contrast, the slave morality starts by revaluing the “noble” virtues as vices. What they call honesty it calls haughtiness and arrogance. What they call loyalty it calls a stupid or childish adherence to dead ritual. What they call courage it calls aggression and recklessness. Principle becomes either stubborn impractical “purism” at best or a complete fraud at worst. Gratitude or revenge become empty interest-seeking.
It then revalues its own traits, considered contemptible by the positive morality, as “the good”. Its lying and faithlessness become humility, cleverness, prudence, the measure of intelligence. Its physical cowardice becomes virtuous pacifism and its moral cowardice becomes a salutary will to compromise, to be “inclusive”, to “find common ground”. Its lack of principle becomes “pragmatism”. Its ingratitude becomes the sense of entitlement, and its inability to avenge becomes “tolerance”.
Nietzsche’s ideas here are crystallized in Beyond Good and Evil section 260, and he develops them at greater length in On the Genealogy of Morals, Essay I.
Nietzsche himself wrote about psychological, spiritual, and creative issues, not about politics and the economy. (Indeed, he affected to despise the latter, and one of the inferior elements of his writing is his intermittent attacks on political radicals, for whom he used “anarchist” as a catch-all term. He was basically ignorant about politics and economics and didn’t want to know about them.) But although I no longer subscribe to his spiritualized cult of aristocracy, I’m finding that if I transpose his ideas on spiritual and intellectual creators to an expression about producers in general, then almost everything he says can be redeemed for anarchism.
By producers I mean producers who have political self-respect and the will to fight.
So I’m thinking out the idea of transposing the master/slave morality in this way:
Master morality = Positive freedom, the bottom-up assertion of political and economic democracy, the assertion through day-to-day action of freedom and human dignity, and worker self-actualization. This is not primarily a “rebellion” against the criminals, seeking “liberation” from them, although it is that as well. It is first and foremost a Renaissance of our humanity, a rebirth, a revolution in the classical sense of “revolving back” to the primal human order.
Slave morality = The fetish of negative/bourgeois freedom (negative freedom is a wonderful thing, but only as a tool toward some human goal, not as a value in itself), the desire for “enlightened” elitism, “benevolent” despotism, the rancid dream of trickle-down (political, economic, spiritual, cultural), everything that is characteristic of liberals and conservatives.
One of the many parallels between Marx and Nietzsche is the shared philosophy of the producer. Marx wrote about the worker, but conceived him as a producer seeking fulfillment through his self-owned and -directed work. He conceived his ideal society based upon this. He didn’t see the worker as the consumer, except derivatively. He didn’t view people as naturally experiencing work as a chore to be endured and completed so they could get on with consumption.
We can see here how he had his own idea of the positive morality of the worker as creative producer, vs. the slave morality of the consumer. This is an extension of the labor theory of value, which Marx didn’t invent but expanded into a vision of society. The best society is that in which the laborer has freedom over his labor, where he produces as a free human being. Any coercive elitism, any hierarchy, any extraction, alienates the worker from his work.
And so it’s true in general. All parasitic elitism, all wealth and power concentration, stands between us and our freedom, between us and our labor fulfillment, between us and our humanity. It aggressively alienates us from our birthright. The criminals have taken what could have been such a wonderful world and turned it into a place of, at best, bare struggle and tension and fear, and at worst, more often, misery and slavery and violence.
Similar to Marx, Nietzsche wrote about art and philosophy, but wrote about them from the perspective of the artist and the thinker, and that’s the audience for whom he wrote. He didn’t write primarily for the art lover and reader of philosophy.
So in a sense it’s an “elite” mindset, but for the active strata among the productive populace. Both despise parasites, wasteful idlers, rentiers of every sort. It’s just a different emphasis. So in both cases the “elitism”, if we can call it that, overt in Nietzsche’s case and implicit in that of Marx, is that it’s a philosophy of, by, and for the producer, not the consumer. It envisions a social world constructed for the self-actualization of the producer, not the comfort of the consumer.
By contrast, every kind of what can be called passive elitism, all concentrated wealth and power, every trickle-down political and economic ideology – corporatism, capitalism, liberalism, representative democracy, etc. – seems focused on the hedonism of the consumer. It wants to pander to passivity. (And of course none of it works the way it claims. The comfort of the consumer, as we’re now seeing, was only provisional and temporary.)
The best of Marx’s self-directing worker (without the contradictory centralism) and Nietzsche’s self-directing thinker and creator (without the ivory tower snobbery) are combined in anarchism, which also revalues the seeming “elitism” of the affirmative producer philosophy through the egalitarianism of direct participation, equality of opportunity to work, to create, to seek human fulfillment.
Here’s some ideas from the Anarchist FAQ, an excellent and encyclopedic resource on every aspect of anarchism. These are quoted from sections 2.7 and 2.16.

Direct action has an empowering and liberating effect on those involved in it. Self-activity is the means by which the creativity, initiative, imagination and critical thought of those subjected to authority can be developed….

Society, while shaping all individuals, is also created by them, through their actions, thoughts, and ideals. Challenging institutions that limit one’s freedom is mentally liberating, as it sets in motion the process of questioning authoritarian relationships in general. This process gives us insight into how society works, changing our ideas and creating new ideals….By changing the world, even in a small way, we change ourselves….

Anarchists, however, do not think that self-liberation must wait for the future, after the “glorious revolution.” The personal is political, and given the nature of society, how we act in the here and now will influence the future of our society and our lives. Therefore, even in pre-anarchist society anarchists try to create, as Bakunin puts it, “not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself.” We can do so by creating alternative social relationships and organisations, acting as free people in a non-free society. Only by our actions in the here and now can we lay the foundation for a free society…..

Revolution is a process, not an event, and every “spontaneous revolutionary action” usually results from and is based upon the patient work of many years of organisation and education by people with “utopian” ideas. The process of “creating the new world in the shell of the old” (to use another I.W.W. expression), by building alternative institutions and relationships, is but one component of what must be a long tradition of revolutionary commitment and militancy…..

In other words, anarchy needs anarchists in order to be created and survive. But these anarchists need not be perfect, just people who have freed themselves, by their own efforts, of the superstition that command-and-obedience relations and capitalist property rights are necessary. The implicit assumption in the idea that anarchy needs “perfect” people is that freedom will be given, not taken; hence the obvious conclusion follows that an anarchy requiring “perfect” people will fail. But this argument ignores the need for self-activity and self-liberation in order to create a free society. For anarchists, “history is nothing but a struggle between the rulers and the ruled, the oppressors and the oppressed.” [Peter Kropotkin, Act for Yourselves, p. 85] Ideas change through struggle and, consequently, in the struggle against oppression and exploitation, we not only change the world, we change ourselves at the same time. So it is the struggle for freedom which creates people capable of taking the responsibility for their own lives, communities and planet. People capable of living as equals in a free society, so making anarchy possible.

This is the essence of positive democracy, positive freedom. Posted in honor of Nietzsche’s birthday (1844- ).
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