Tag Archive: Anti-Capitalist Meet-up

Dec 29 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: The Media Landscape After the Culture War by Annieli

Every war seems permanent as does every revolution until it ends which requires much in the way of interpreting rather than explaining the victory to the vanquished, even in mediated spaces that can digitally define cultural landscapes. How possible is it to consider Walter Benjamin’s  (http://www.digplanet.com/wiki/Theses_on_the_Philosophy_of_History) point on the failure of historical materialism “To articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was.’ It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger”? More specifically how do we treat cultural danger as presented in the (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme) meme of “Culture War” and how can we incorporate Marxist analysis to remediate or reconcile the memories that emerge in momentary crisis that obscure the critically real history embodied and assess their actual danger or risk.

Landscapes have that same problem of memory, as actual experience of an expansive and contemplative view of a world or as saved representations of concrete and abstract journeys through those same worlds. The first is individually ontological whereas the latter is a social ontology representing and reproducing an historical relationship to others in a cultural context. Both involve human labor at various scales but it is the crises of value and meaning assigned to those experiences that inform global discourses of war and environment on an unprecedented scale and scope. Today’s culture wars find themselves waging these combative discourses in a media landscape (http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/media-landscape_b37736) or Medienlandschaft.

The phrase culture war (https://www. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_war)represents a loan translation (calque) from the German Kulturkampf. The German word, Kulturkampf, was used to describe the clash between cultural and religious groups in the campaign from 1871 to 1878 under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck of the German Empire against the influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In American usage the term culture war is used to claim that there is a conflict between those values considered traditionalist or conservative and those considered progressive or liberal. It originated in the 1920s when urban and rural American values came into clear conflict. This followed several decades of immigration to the cities by people considered alien to earlier immigrants. It was also a result of the cultural shifts and modernizing trends of the Roaring 20s, culminating in the presidential campaign of Al Smith. However, the "culture war" in United States of America was redefined by James Davison Hunter’s 1991 book Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America. In this work, it is traced to the 1960s. The perceived focus of the American culture war and its definition have taken various forms since then.

 

“The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight. Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat it as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are ‘still’ possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge–unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.” Walter Benjamin (1940)

  In such historical landscapes who are “cultural workers” and what does cultural work as contrasted with cultural objects look like, is it different of the same as all kinds of work and what kinds of value does it produce or more directly can individuals produce “particular kinds of independent and critical reflexivity modelled on the autonomy of the work of art” (Bennett 2011, and Bennett 2009) Societies exist in such landscapes and their collective experiences are often organized or reproduced as mass spectacles, either actual or mediated and consumed in a variety of ways, often driven by tragedy or circumstance.

A well-ordered society would like the bodies which compose it to have the perceptions, sensations and thoughts which correspond to them. Now this correspondence is perpetually disturbed. There are words and discourses which freely circulate, without master, and which divert bodies from their destinations, engaging them in movements in the neighbourhood of certain words: people, liberty, equality, etc. There are spectacles which disassociate the gaze from the hand and transform the worker into an aesthete.

 

What kinds of spectacles effect these transformations? Do they bear a family resemblance to the manufacturing of consent where spectacles include all forms of mediated politics and of course the intersecting claims of “entertainment” as with Limbaugh the entertainer (“Okay, so I am an entertainer, and I have 20 million listeners”) as a form of reactionary cultural work. It would be easy to say the following if we could identify the “concrete historical context” and since there are multiple mediations, how would a dialectical method of analysis explain rather than merely interpret such products of culture with multiple tropes of cultural war contesting for domination.

In short, mass-mediated products are determined by various factors-the systems of ownership, the process of cultural production, the level of struggle, the state of consciousness in society at a given time, and so on. A dialectical method of analysis would involve studying all these factors within a concrete historical context so as to explain the multiple mediations that infuse a product of culture

For example, while dystopian, there are multiple ideologies at work in the following example of spectacular speculation where doomsday prepping and its media representations are in reality a capitalist industry that exploits the potential danger of refugees coming from cities to attack rural preppers in a variety of romanticized post-apocalypse scenarios. These narratives have a burgeoning market appealing to a variety of religious and political secessionists all with disposable income or transferable construction skills for survival. They become amplified by the seasonal and media driven rise in firearms purchases. All of these actions represent desires for a kind of aesthetic autonomy, however driven by social underdevelopment.  

Ron Douglas, for example, has gathered enough supplies to keep his eight person family (two parents, six children) functioning off the grid for a year. His supplies can be broken into four categories: food, energy, shelter, and protection. He’s become such an expert that he is one of the founders of Red Shed Media Group, a business that organizes Prepper expos (40,000 attendees at $10 a person), has a hugely popular podcast radio program, and owns the rights to successful survivalist books.

Under the fold the concrete becomes either more wet or more abstract                      

Oct 28 2012

Trillions in Capitalist Wealth: Where Does It Come From? by Justina

Recently, Forbes magazine, a major tool of the capitalist class, reported that the “Super Rich” are hiding $21 Trillion dollars in off-shore tax-havens.  A single trillion dollars is a looooooooooo….t of money, and that amount pales besides the trillions the super rich are holding quite openly — in factories, equipment, office buildings, agribusinesses, stocks, bonds, derivatives and ownership of magazines like Forbes and all our media industries.

Where did all that vast wealth come from?  Why are so many impoverished under our capitalist economic system, while the few gain such tremendous wealth? Karl Marx (1818 – 1883), Hegelian philosopher, political economist and practical revolutionary, asked that basic question and provided the most definitive answer to this very day in his study, Capital published in 1867.

 

So why does this old book strike such fear today into the hearts and minds of America’s corporate owners that they virtually forbid its teaching in American universities’ economics and business schools?  

Some members of our Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up group hope to explore that question and the basics of Marx’s theories in a series of once monthly posts, of which this is the first, on surplus value.



We will explore other issues such as wages, profits and the falling rate of profit, accumulation of capital and the means of production, use value versus exchange value of a commodity, money as an intermediary between buying and selling commodities,  alienated labor, private property, private versus state capitalism, finance capitalism and globalization, the role of cooperatives versus unions, finance capitalism and like issues.  We’ll break it up into different diaries one a month. Maybe you’ll volunteer to write one too?  (Please do!).

Economics Professor Richard D. Wolff (University of Massachusetts and the New School for Social Research) provides, in his four part series of lectures on the basics of Marx’s economic analysis. available on his web site, www.rdwolff.com,  a solid, readily understandable and thoroughly enjoyable introduction to Marx’s economic theories which this writer uses as her departure point.

Wolff shows how Marx discovered, by analyzing its inner-most workings in detail, why capitalism is so de-humanizing and exploitative of its workers and produces such poverty and misery for the vast majority of the population.  Marx’s analysis is set forth in his “theory of Surplus Value”, which is the secret to where all the trillions of wealth, both hidden and open, came from.

Jul 23 2012

Mitt And His Fellow Vulture Capitalists See Venezuela As a Threat: It Is. by Justina

The likely Republican presidential candidate and quintessential vulture capitalist, Mitt Romney, chided President Obama for not being sufficiently fearful of Venezuela’s socialist president, Hugo Chávez Friás last week.  In the conservative Daily Telegraph Mitt is quoted as saying:

“The idea that this nation, this president, doesn’t pose a national security threat is simply naive and an extraordinary admission on the part of this president to be completely out of touch with what is happening in Latin America,” Romney said of Chavez in an  interview Wednesday with Fox News.

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Yes, socialist Venezuela, the country which was recently ranked the 5th happiest in the world, following four social democratic countries, presents a threat to Mitt’s vulture business model and his support base, who largely come from the 92,000 wealthy individuals who sequester their wealth in “tax havens” such as Switzerland the Cayman Islands. (See rt. com  for its report on “The Price of Off Shore Revisited”.

After President Chavez was elected to office in 1998, Venezuela has had currency controls in place to prevent its national wealth from being looted and sent to extra-territorial banks, a model which defeats the efforts of would-be off shore tax evaders in Venezuela.  Other countries have allowed themselves to be systematically raped of their needed tax revenues.

Venezuela also jailed its criminal banksters for speculating with their depositors money.  Here, Mitt, you would likely be in jail for creating tax-evading investment vehicles in the Cayman Islands.  No, socialist Venezuela, under President Chavez, is definitely not a vulture-capitalist friendly country.  That is why it is now thriving.

Jul 01 2012

The Cooperative Movement and the “Big Tent” Approach by GeminiJen

As I entered the reception for the opening evening of the 5th National Worker Cooperative Conference (as compared to consumer cooperatives which most of us are more familiar with) I experienced a kind of euphoria.  

After all, we had just finished the keynote speech by Congressman Chaka Fattah, a nine-term progressive leader from Pennsylvania, who introduced The National Cooperative Development Act into Congress. When passed, the bill will considerably improve government support for developing a cooperative economy here in the States and bring us more in line with Europe. Moreover, the Small Business Administration had just agreed to provide some funding for cooperatives and –wait for it — the UN had declared this the UN Year of the Coop!  We had arrived! No longer were we a little side note of Utopian idealist organic food coops — we had gone mainstream!

The creation of a society based on democratic, grassroots cooperatives as an antidote to capitalism has been a dream many of us have worked toward.   The cooperative movement began with the 1844 Rochdale cooperative experiment in England, continued through the anarcho-syndicalist cooperative movement beginning in the 1880s (frequently associated with Emma Goldman and the IWW), was energized by the farmer’s populist rebellion in the 1930s in the United States, and in recent years the Mondragon model formed in Spain in the 50s (100,000 workers and 12 billion in assets) and the industrias recuparadas in Argentina in the 1990s.   But for the first time– perhaps more through objective necessity as we globalize and shift from an industrial economy to a digital economy–it seems to be a vision whose time has come and is actually within our grasp.

So I was prepared to enjoy the kind of movement simpatico and joie de vivre that revitalizes all us activists when we get away for the weekend with like minded souls when we are in a period of radicalization– and, to manage, of course, to gather new information and contacts to bring back to the struggle.

After Rep. Fattah’s presentation — which he finished by noting that both he and his wife were active supporters of REI (Recreational Equipment Incorporated which is a world famous consumer cooperative geared to hikers, runners, and other outdoor types) —  I sat down with a plate full of delicious organic and vegetarian food.  Next to me sat an enthusiastic young blonde who just happened to be the treasurer of the finances at the Occupy Wall Street site. She was discussing an educational cooperative venture that she and her boyfriend were planning to establish on their farm in New Hampshire. They would bring inner city kids out for an educational experience combined with a practicum in farming to help counteract  the decaying educational system in New York City. How wonderful I thought.

But be careful what you wish for. It was just at that point that the discussion started to get tricky. The first group of kids for their cooperative project, it turns out,  were going to be from a charter school in New York City.  The school was given $250,000 by Walmart.  When I and another community organizer sitting next to me seemed taken aback that they would partner with the charter schools and Walmart, the woman  acknowledged the problem but noted that they would not be in any way beholden to Walmart and they hadn’t been able to find any other way of funding the project.

peg_walmart1

Forget the fact that one of Walmart’s primary goals is to privatize education while still ripping off public resources (private charter schools, which have no accountability or oversight,  are frequently housed in public school buildings at public cost, leaving less room and resources for the “less fortunate” who did not get into a “charter” school). Forget that this mirrors Walmart’s modus operandi in their stores where Walmart bad mouths unions as it accumulates its billions, yet pays it’s employees so little that the employees  must apply for Medicaid and Food Stamps to survive (government programs which Walmart also bad mouths).

Jun 11 2012

Citizens United, June 5th, and Money, Money, Money, Money! by Geminijen

“When the madness is directed towards the likes of you and me,

Then our blindness may be lifted and we might begin to see.

For when others are afflicted, with the scourge that has no end,

Then we practice our denial — and the purging, we defend.

So the powers and the peoples of the nations of this Earth

Could be fully in connivance — or denial of the hurt…

And even, in our hubris, in our information age,

We are blinded by our bias — and at petty issues rage.

So the workers were divided and they voted Nazis in,

And so many were the workers, who paid dearly for this sin!

And we see now in Wisconsin, there’s a Walker riding high,

And there’s cash enough from coffers to propagate the lie.”

(excerpted)

Arjun Jalah

Sometimes you would give anything not to be right!  When I started writing this diary three weeks ago, I predicted that Scott Walker would win the recall election for governor in Wisconsin. Walker, with unlimited corporate money, was challenged by a massive people’s movement when he outlawed most collective bargaining rights in what was usually considered a progressive state.  I knew, with the certainty of a cynic that that much money would out-weigh people power.   It was the fight between John Henry and the steel driving machine all over again. Yet, there I was, Tuesday night, praying that the people power would, in the end, win.  Not.  Walker beat Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate 53%-46%, winning by a whopping 6% points. As Ed of the Ed Show so colorfully pointed out, there was no way to put lipstick on that pig. Or as Chris Hedges had said a couple of weeks earlier: “We lost. They won.”

monopoly

Jun 04 2012

As Faust said: “When concepts fail, words arise.” by Don Mikulecky

The remainder of the title would not fit: “The destruction of language in politics”.  The series this is a part of has the labels:Anti-capitalist meet-up and anti-capitalism.  No better a way to introduce my topic.  Those are “buzz words” and have been around for a very long time.  What do they mean?  I would guess that the vast majority of the people who use these words along with “communism”, “socialism”, “democracy” , “freedom”, liberty”and many others have no real idea what they are talking about.  Political exchanges are the “good guys” and the “bad guys” just like in our Western movies.  But many of us are more sophisticated or at least we think we are.  Read the diaries here and you will be able to see what I am getting at.  Language is a very interesting thing.  We have dictionaries and now the Google and Wikipedia sources for word meanings.  The technology is racing ahead faster than we can comprehend.  Umberto Eco calls it the modern magic.  We use it like magic not really knowing how it works or where it originates.  This diary is meant to blow your mind.  It comes from the strange creature I am, a hybrid between scientist (but very unconventional), political activist (but very radical and unconventional) and citizen of the world rather than of a Nation.  Oh yes I am an American citizen because that’s the way things have to be at this point in time.  It will change, but I will be dead.  When I die I cease to exist. I am 76 now.  If I haven’t turned you off yet read on below.  I hope to shock you.

May 31 2012

Karl Marx on the Paris Commune and Occupy Wall Street by Justina

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The Occupy movement has sent out a Call to Action for a June 20th   “Global Festival” to celebrate their global demand for a Universal Living Wage:

The regime of wholesale robbery – what the 1% call  “austerity” – is already falling across Europe, and soon will fall  across the world. But the inevitable collapse of austerity is not  enough. We, the 99%, demand a world beyond Wall Street. We demand a  system where everyone can not only survive, but flourish.  To reach this  world, we are raising our voices to demand a universal living wage.

We call on all occupies, unions, community organizations, immigrants  rights groups,  bodies, religious organizations, environmental groups,  anti-poverty activists, and everyone to join us June 20th, 2012 for a  new holiday for the 99%: A Global Festival for the Universal Living  Wage.

No, Karl Marx, dead since 1883,  is not now able to report on the events  of the Occupy Movement, as he did on events of the U.S.’s Civil War for  the NY Herald Tribune in the 1860’s and the Paris Commune in the  1870’s, but strangely, to this day, the mere mention of his name still  strikes terror into the hearts of global capitalists and their media  puppets, such as Sean Hannity.  Link to

There must be a reason that the capitalist powers of the 21st century  tremble at his name 129 years after his death, his writing must have  been very dangerous indeed.  How much they must be fear of Tim Poole’s  live-streaming.  No wonder they arrested him this month in Chicago!.   Read below to understand why Karl Marx, and especially his writing on  the Paris Commune, was such a danger to capitalism.

May 21 2012

The Mouse that Roared! Greece’s Struggle Against Austerity by New York Brit Expat

We live in interesting times … Those on the left following the  situation in Greece were treated to an interesting spectacle in the last election in Greece on May 6th 2012. As expected, those mainstream parties that supported the EU/IMF/ECB memorandum (http://www.reuters.com/…) imposing even more harsh austerity on the country were punished: New  Democracy’s (the conservatives, centre-right) votes from 33%-19%, PASOK’s (the Greek socialist party) share fell from 43%-13%, LAOS fell below the 3% needed for securing seats (right-wing nationalist party) all lost seats in the election (greek election results).  This represents in many senses a significant rejection of the mainstream political forces that have been ruling Greece since the end  of the rule of the colonels (1967-74, for a history of modern Greece  see, History of modern Greece) and particularly of the austerity that they have been imposing on the people of Greece over recent months.

Cheat Sheet (to keep track of the players):

SYRIZA: coalition of the radical left, led by Alexis Tsipras

New Democracy: Conservative, centre right neoliberals, led by Samaras

PASOK: Panhellenic Socialist Movement, Socialist party led by Venizelos

KKE: Communist Party of Greece

ANTARSYA: Coalition of Greek Anticapitalist Left, hard left

Golden Dawn: Chrysi Avgi, Greek Fascist Party, neonazis

DIMAR: Democratic Left, centre left to left wing, led by Fotis Kouvelis

LAOS: right wing nationalists

Independent Greeks: Right-wing split off of New Democracy, anti-austerity