Tag Archive: Marxism

Mar 16 2014

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Don’t Mourn, Organise! by NY Brit Expat

The slogan “Don’t Mourn, Organise!” was written in a telegram from Joe Hill to Bill Haywood before Hill’s execution on trumped up charges in Utah. Joe Hill wrote “Goodbye, Bill, I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize!”

This slogan is not a call for us to be beyond human and not grieve or mourn. What it is instead is a call not to get so caught up in grief and mourning that we give up the struggle out of despair; it is a call to remind us what we are fighting for and that the struggle continues irrespective of our losses. It takes the loss and puts it in the past (and of course part of our present) and brings to the forefront what those who have passed on have spent their lives fighting for! Presente Bob Crow and Tony Benn!

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This week Britain’s left has seen the loss of two stalwarts, two great fighters for economic, political and social justice. Two men from different class backgrounds who spent their lives fighting in different arenas; one as a member of Parliament in the Labour Party and the other as a giant of the trade union movement, a militant trade union organiser. Both men were thorns in the sides of the ruling class and mainstream politicians … both men not only fought in their chosen arenas but were part and parcel of the general movement for socialism, for democracy, and worked alongside, not as an elevated leadership, those struggling against the not only the excesses of capitalism, but in favour of the creation of a better future for all.

Rather than speak for these men, I will let you have the pleasure of listening to them speak for themselves and am including speeches made by them. Both great orators in their own way, the comparison between Bob Crow’s east London working class accent and Tony Benn’s crisp Oxbridge accent in itself is a pleasure; what they are saying exemplifies their different approaches to the struggle for socialism.

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                      

Nov 24 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: “If You Meet The Buddha On The Road, Kill Him” by Annieli

All things appear and disappear because of the concurrence of causes and conditions. Nothing ever exists entirely alone; everything is in relation to everything else. -The Buddha

Marx: “constant revolutionizing of production uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all precious ones. all fixed, fast frozen relations, with their train of ancient prejudices and opinions are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.”

Unlike the Marshall Berman book, the reality of human conflict today is not so much about modernism as it is modernizing in the pre-industrial context, the civilizing and evolving, uneven yet parallel, paths from primitive, pre-modern communism through feudal modes of production, many of which still operate today whether the American Taliban or their calabash cousins in South Central Asia. The Koch Brothers, as corporate despots, are no different in their ideological commitments to devoting their wealth to an Anti-Communist Christianity that memorializes a martyr like John Birch and promotes inequality and suffering from uneven economic development. It is not a stretch to compare sacralized warfare and sectarian violence where today’s Oath Keepers see themselves as displaced Zen-samurai or Ronin of the Tokugawa Era. For example the original film The 47 Ronin directed by Kenji Mizoguchi is released near to the date of the Pearl Harbor attack. and the 1998 film of the same name by John Frankenheimer with script by David Mamet refers directly to the same historical event. ” The popularity of the tale grew during the Meiji era of Japanese history, in which Japan underwent modernization, and the legend became subsumed within discourses of national heritage and identity.”

The connection or family resemblance of feudal despotism and a repressive political state apparatus that attempts to control reproductive rights or democratic representation is now mobilized by ideology and ideological institutions such as Religions, Governments, and Mass Media and are mobilized much like Pat Buchanan’s meme of a Culture War. Its bastardization into a variety of discourses about race, class, and gender occupy much of the time and space of DK. As a matter of making the analysis of contemporary events, especially those exhibiting false consciousness like acts of racism or other violence clearer, some variants of Marxist methodology can be useful beyond some inerrant textual applications of Marxological theories. Excuse the lapse into the technical but the recent histories of human conflict as well as conflict among humans and nature require methods that can help make even the simplest of practices more coherent under the “shock doctrine” of crisis capitalism. There is a fluid boundary between culture war and actual war much as there is between abstract and concrete violence.

Althusser explains that the SA (State Apparatus) functions predominantly by violence or repression and only secondarily by ideology. Similarly the ISAs (Ideological State Apparatuses) function predominantly by ideology but can include punishment or repression secondarily.

This diary begins with a consideration of a recent book on Buddhist Warfare, a topic which has interested others as representative of the apparent contradiction of perhaps more Western stereotypes about the peaceful resistance to authoritarianism by some Buddhisms (Tibet) and the hegemonic behavior of other Buddhist majority regimes (Myanmar/Burma) where punishment or repression seems anomolous to a population significantly Buddhist. There is no space here to discuss the complex sectarian struggles of global religions and the focus here is on the material justification of cultural violence in the context of this recent book edited by Jerryson and Juergensmeyer Buddhist Warfare OUP 2010. The ideology of any religion and its worldly sectarian practices can be considered as some Marxists did in the last century as Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA) in the case of the ambitions of early to mid 20th Century Japanese imperialism, Buddhism was manipulated to become an ISA in terms of forging a national will and an industrialized state to sacrifice for humans claiming the status of feudal deity-monarchs. In the cases of contemporary Thailand and Myanmar among others, the identity of Buddhism and a ruling class creates a complex set of contradiction for both Buddhist resistance movements and military-political elites no different structurally than many other regimes Marx described as an Asiatic mode of production, (AMP), and that Oriental Despotism reproduces itself structurally in many contemporary Asian corporatized ruling class economies that have many different oligarchic names such as Chaebol in South Korea, family-controlled corporate conglomerates. In Japan before World War II, large holding companies formed wealth groups, or zaibatsu, which dominated most industry. The zaibatsu were dissolved after the war, but keiretsu-large, modern industrial enterprise groupings-emerged. And the tensions between the imperatives for military and economic self-defense as well as the need for corporatist, oligarghic, yet familial expansion create more challenges for the many corresponding Buddhisms.

MSDF Hyuga, a contemporary Japanese aircraft carrier classified as a destroyer:

What is important for this brief narrative is the point of view reconciling the complexity of many Buddhisms within the context of such societies, the expansion of rationalized violence against a populace and the rationalizing discourse of remote killing. This is where the army does the killing so one’s own responsibility is intact. Drone warfare can represent the instrumental separation and distance possible and even resemble the Buddhist position or relative autonomy on just violence. In these cases, that group or even individual violence or exploitation are situated in a discourse of class struggle that has an ideological structure consistent with other capitalist and even pre-capitalist practices. There is some literature on the political economy of arbitrary seasonal regional violence in France in the late middle ages. This same discourse exists in the justification or rationalization of individual and group religious practices in military organizations working for governments that represent a separation of church and state. This is historically a relatively new term considering the number of theocratic regimes that do not recognize that formal or informal separation in contrast to democratic rules of law which attempt to keep public order in a republic despite the actions of corporate despots.


The theory of the Asiatic mode of production, (AMP) was devised by Karl Marx around the early 1850s. The essence of the theory has been described as “[the] suggestion … that Asiatic societies were held in thrall by a despotic ruling clique, residing in central cities and directly expropriating surplus from largely autarkic and generally undifferentiated village communities.” The theory continues to arouse heated discussion among contemporary Marxists and non-Marxists alike. Some have rejected the whole concept on the grounds that the socio-economic formations of pre-capitalist Asia did not differ enough from those of feudal Europe to warrant special designation. Aside from Marx, Friedrich Engels was also an enthusiastic commentator on the AMP. They both focused on the socio-economic base of AMP society.

Marx and Engels were trying to reconcile why development was uneven in the East Asian context, partially to explain European colonialism and the creation of spheres on influence based on new forms of extractible exchange in the form of mobile surplus value, in this case, opium as a medium of exchange value.



Opium Godown (Storehouse) in Patna, Bihar (c. 1814)

“China, one of those faltering Asian empires, which one after the other fell prey to the entrepreneurial spirit of the European race, was so weak, so much collapsed, that it did not even have the strength to go through the crisis of a people’s revolution, so that an acute indignation has turned into a chronic and probably incurable disease, an empire, so much decomposed, that it was almost unable to rule its own people or to offer resistance to the foreign aggressors”.

Asiatic mode of production

This is a controversial contribution to Marxist theory, initially used to explain pre-slave and pre-feudal large earthwork constructions in China, India, the Euphrates and Nile river valleys (and named on this basis of the primary evidence coming from greater “Asia”). The Asiatic mode of production is said to be the initial form of class society, where a small group extracts social surplus through violence aimed at settled or unsettled band communities within a domain. Exploited labour is extracted as forced corvee labour during a slack period of the year (allowing for monumental construction such as the pyramids, ziggurats, ancient Indian communal baths or the Chinese Great Wall). Exploited labour is also extracted in the form of goods directly seized from the exploited communities. The primary property form of this mode is the direct religious possession of communities (villages, bands, hamlets) and all those within them. The ruling class of this society is generally a semi-theocratic aristocracy which claims to be the incarnation of gods on earth. The forces of production associated with this society include basic agricultural techniques, massive construction and storage of goods for social benefit (granaries).

Yet colonial extraction and power projected itself easily into East Asia in the 19th Century, partially because of the kinds of labor agreements made in parallel with native merchant capitalists as well as a hegemonic ensemble of colonizing projects, each bringing its own version of Orientalist (sic) value to Europe. Yet concurrently and administrative violence brought to a country has its relatively autonomous indigenous religion still operating as an ISA in parallel to missionary Christianity where spiritual volition could be retained.

Cetanā  is a Buddhist term commonly translated as “volition”, “directionality”, or “attraction”. It can be defined as a mental factor that moves or urges the mind in a particular direction, toward a specific object or goal

It is no stretch to see the use of religion in legitimating state violence as seen in the image of the Taliban demolishing sacred Buddhist sites as motivating or rationalizing the initial invasion into Afghanistan and its continued use on a more informally profane way in the conduct of the subsequent wars. These are moments of justifying/rationalizing violence against self or Other (preemptive violence prevents a greater sin). In some historical cases they are the reasons for oppressing rival sects or religions to this day.

Sep 29 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Yet another windy response to “What is Capitalism” by Annieli

I’ve been writing diaries here as a matter of praxis, that is, bringing theory and practice together as dialectically critical action, this is yet another attempt to make the somewhat odious task of understanding the core of marxist thought and applying it to coherent contemporary circumstance. This example shows the fundamental problem in taking an oppositional stance to capitalism as anti-capitalist thinking, how to discuss the alternatives as types of post-capitalism, and what comes afterward in terms of development. One first must understand the materialist approach to history and see capitalism’s place. Human development as cultural/social development laid upon nature’s development is always sets of uneven development even in terms of the prehistoric, knowing that many different versions of humanoids did at some moments live in parallel, some evolving to survive and others not, in a godless ecological struggle. Similarly uneven development exists for each of the historical stages of human social/economic development often described as Modes of production and the Five stages of history. Where it can get complicated is specifying the forces of production.

History can be described as divided into these stages

2.1 Primitive Communism

2.2 Slave Society

2.3 Feudalism

2.4 Capitalism

2.5 Socialism

2.6 Communism

We can still see echoes of more primitive relations even today in the informal economies of barter as forms of primitive communism and the indentured labor of some immigrant labor whether in this country or others. Enslavement exists in many forms in these uneven developments whether as actual human ownership in sex traffic or wage slavery as in globalized mass-market, corporately-owned consumer industries. Socialism or collective ownership of the means and forces of production has been achieved at various historical moments with varied success and failure and always exists as a non-totality in that other historical stages have and continue to exist in an uneven relationship and in various evolutionary forms.

This diary’s example will be of necessity a schematic version applied to the current situation of wind energy production in the United States signifying those uneven stages of historical development

The economy in which these modal stages are situated have three moments: production circulation consumption, which as a circuit reproduces itself. that is. each consuming moment induces a new, subsequent producing moment, much like the dialectic of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis producing a new thesis.

Writers who identify with historical materialism usually postulate that society has moved through a number of types or modes of production. That is, the character of the production relations is determined by the character of the productive forces; these could be the simple tools and instruments of early human existence, or the more developed machinery and technology of present age. The main modes of production Marx identified generally include primitive communism or tribal society (a prehistoric stage), ancient society, feudalism, and capitalism. In each of these social stages, people interact with nature and produce their living in different ways. Any surplus from that production is allotted in different ways. Ancient society was based on a ruling class of slave owners and a class of slaves; feudalism was based on landowners and serfs; and capitalism based on the capitalist class and the working class. The capitalist class privately owns the means of production, distribution and exchange (e.g., factories, mines, shops and banks) while the working class live by exchanging their socialized labour with the capitalist class for wages.

In order to apply this to wind power, the task is to project those stages as simply as possible. Wind is basic yet necessarily tied to other natural factors of production in terms of marine or terrestrial environment. It appears greater in various locations yet even those quantities are not consistent even seasonally and as a natural resource are difficult to capitalize upon. More problematic is its availability as seemingly costless, yet also impossible to accumulate in any surplus in its natural form, hence its designation as a common-pool resource. If you put up a windmill you are being a primitive communist until the height or appearance interferes with your neighbors. As you derive power whether as grinding mill, water pump, or electrical generator, you accumulate various types of materially transformed surplus. Its subsequent transformation into “wind capital” comes in the means by which power is produced and its relation to the entire productive circuit. In the mercantile or feudal case of grinding grain or pumping water it comes from being one part of producing other goods, whereas as under capitalism it can be not only an industrialized farm but as in the case of mineral exploitation, speculative contracts auctioned off among capitalists over a very long cycle of manufacturing, siting, and operating. These are of necessity coexisting uneven developments whether you have a single subsistence farm windmill in the Southern Hemisphere or a massive industrial wind farm fueling a national energy grid in the Northern Hemisphere. As has been mentioned here and elsewhere in DK, alternative capital accumulating organizations with a public/social purpose, whether organized cooperatively or collectively continue to emerge with varying success to resist the hegemony of capitalist energy corporations. Just as the development of the Cape Wind turbine farm off the shore of Massachusetts is less about the capital and labor needed for construction or the deconstruction of class narratives about environmental hazard or aesthetic blight, than the fictive capital embodied in auctioned speculative leases and their relation to the corporate energy oligopoly of the New England electricity grid. Unevenness occurs in the scale of such endeavors since the NIMBY-ness of small scale backyard wind turbines ranges from the quaint reproduction of historical windmills to the pathological fear of eyesores, noise, and dead birds.

Jun 30 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meet-Up: 30 June 2013 A Ghost in a Machine walks the Globe by Annieli

If one can claim that a virtual economy offers increased possibility for revolutionary political change, that change should be measured against more material forms of analysis rather than treating information commodities as epiphenomenal. The tenuous connection between correlation and causation much like the meme of “Voodoo Economics” was treated more lightly and less seriously in a 2010 Bruce Watson piece on zombies and vampires as seasonally or cyclically symptomatic of a national economy:

there appears to be a loose connection between recession cycles and monster movies: zombie films tend to be more popular during boom times, while vampire flicks are ascendant when the economy is bad. As I wrote at the time, this makes a certain sort of symbolic sense: after all, as unthinking consumers, zombies reflect the tone of high-consumption boom times. The more melancholic vampires, on the other hand, suggest buyer’s remorse. While the zombie/vampire recession cycle didn’t always hold true, I found that it had a few interesting connections to the economy. For example, for most of the Reagan spend-till-you-drop 1980’s, zombie films dominated movie theaters. In fact, vampire movies’ only brief moment of ascendence in the decade was in 1987-1988, when a stock market tumble sent the economy into recession. Similarly, in 1991 and 2001, vampire films spiked and zombie films fell behind as recessions struck.

Aside from the doomsday preppers and faux survivalists in Dollywood and Hollywood invoking the fear of a zombie apocalypse as signs of an impending breakdown of urban society double-coded as racism, vampires and zombies can be differentiated by information while serving as cultural commodities in mass media. Vampires are asymmetric information commodities since in media narratives their representations appear conventional at first, whereas zombies are symmetric in that we know them instantly by their appearance. In either case they represent a pathological tipping point where fear trumps rationality and wooden stakes, garlic, holy water and shotguns make their appearance in contemporary film.

In a material context, such contemporary monsters represent the same class fears represented by European revolution in the Nineteenth Century not unlike the colonizers’ fears of the colonized or the contemporary anti-immigrant discourse where Americans ignore the labor history of the bracero and the coolie as invisible, informal Gastarbeiter.

A spectre is haunting Europe – the spectre of communism. All the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this spectre

Marx’s invocation becomes more or less ironic in the post-Soviet period

Spectres de Marx: l’état de la dette, le travail du deuil et la nouvelle Internationale is a 1993 book by French philosopher Jacques Derrida The title Spectres of Marx is an allusion to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ statement at the beginning of The Communist Manifesto that a “spectre [is] haunting Europe.” For Derrida, the spirit of Marx is even more relevant now since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the demise of communism. With its death the spectre of communism begins to make visits on the earth. Derrida seeks to do the work of inheriting from Marx, that is, not communism, but of the philosophy of responsibility, and of Marx’s spirit of radical critique.

The philosophy of responsibility may be best represented in the problematic role of information and national security in a virtual surveillance state where Ed Snowden may be a vampire presently in the undead transit lounge of a Russian airport, avoiding the cleansing hot light of sunshine law. The disclosure of information asymmetrically held by a democratic state committed to a public sphere operates in contradiction to its multinational, geopolitical obligations.

Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. [4] If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist Link

Virtuality has conditioned all forms of labour to some degree, creating different classes of worker, set against each other, not conscious of the web of virtuality that links them all into a single multitude. That unity is virtual in one sense – a potential that could be activated by virtuality in another sense, the resources of the net.

Come below the squiggle for more “mysterious forces or powers that govern the world and the lives of those who reside within it, but also a range of artistic forms that function in conjunction with these vodun (sic) energies.”

Jun 16 2013

A-C Meetup: From Detroit to Honduras and Back: Capitalists Immigrate To Usurp Rights by Justina

From This in Michigan…

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To This in Honduras….

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In Michigan, Republican Governor Rick Snyder has appointed an “emergency manager” to  take over the city of Detroit,  with the powers to over-ride the votes of local citizens and the decisions and contracts made by their locally elected mayor and city council. The manager has the power to abrogate previously signed union contracts with city workers and sell city assets to pay off the city’s creditors.  The new emergency manager has ordered the appraisal of the Detroit Art Institute’s world class art collection with a view to its sale.  

In Honduras, its post-coup president and legislature has signed a law allowing the government to sell or lease vast tracks of lands in habited by Honduran’s indigenous tribes, to private owners to establish “charter cities”, feudal-like city states which are to establish their own laws and form of government, free of pre-existing state laws and regulations.  

As a part of Honduras’s “public-private partnership”, law, capitalist business have been invited to create new business cities in the wilderness, profit paradises to be totally controlled by the businesses which own them. Thus the ese corporate vandals are pillaging the world, its land, art and culture by liquidating previously sovereign states in their favor.

Honduras will now allow consortia of private corporations to set up their own city-states, free of virtually all pre-existing law and regulation by the country’s government.  The “public”  component of this “public-private partnership”, the putatively democratically elected Honduran government (post the 2009 Zelaya-coup) have voted to sell (or long term lease) large tracks of their country to private corporations and their agents.  Hondurans living in these feudal city-states will have no democratic control of their environment.  

The rules will be set by private charters, written by the corporate agents who shall decide who shall live in their states and who shall be excluded and where they  will live and work if they allowed in.  (Never mind that the likely territories involved long have belonged to indigenous tribes, who have not been consulted in this massive give-away of their land, but actively oppose it.)

It’s really not much different in Michigan.  

Jun 10 2013

Anticapitalist Meet-Up: Can the human mind comprehend today’s world? A challenge to all…

ACM: Can the human mind comprehend today’s world? A challenge to all who engage in politics

by don mikulecky

This diary is being written by request.  The subject is all mine but I am doing this because I was asked.  I write this caveat because as time goes on my radical take on the world seems to diverge more and more with the rest of the commentators.  I am unable to focus on details and reductionist pieces any more.  I long ago came to the conclusion that these methods and the ideas they generated have failed.  If this is arrogant then I am arrogant.  I have studied for over half a century and these are the conclusions I have come to.  I have coauthored a book that sums up much of what I have learned and I’ll give a link if you want it.  The purpose of this diary is to give you a snapshot of the world model we have developed.  It is changing constantly so it needs periodic updates.  Read on below and I will give my answer to the question I ask in the title.

First of all the antithesis to the reductionist approach is that of systems analysis.  I will take a moment to remind you that when I use the word “system” it is in a very special context.  The reductionist counterpart has no meaning in this context.  The group is interested in the writing of Marx.   Marx wrote in a context that had little resemblance to the modern world.  Yet Marx had insights that outlive those limits.  The trick is to save the baby as we discard the bathwater.

Marx, for his time, was ahead of the field in understanding systems.  His ideas were founded on a sense of certain things happening without a mechanistic simple cause.  He wrote extensively to weave a more holistic view of what economics was as it connected with so many other things in human activity.  This was good and we need to go back with our modern understanding and put those ideas into today’s perspective.  This diary is not the place for that since it is at least a book.

Rather than do that I want to paint a picture (I am a painter…watercolor) of the world today as we might see it if our minds were able to take it all in. (The reductionist paradigm came about as a way of avoiding such an impossible task).  We are being forced to try to grapple with the whole system because we have more or less filled the planet and made the isolation of the past something that is disappearing as we watch in awe.

The earth system with its atmosphere and climate and oceans and ecosystems, etc has never been the subsystems our reductionist mentality created to deal with it, but as time goes on the error is being magnified non-linearly.  The role of the human species is a growing influence over time, anthropogenic global warming being but one aspect of this.  What Marx was concerned with was the role of the economic/political system in the way this one dominant species impacted on the world although he dealt with it as all humans did and most do, as if we can isolate our existence and our problems from the impact we have grown to have on the earth system.

Humans have generated conflicting world models within the common sphere of reductionist thought.  We have religions, reductionist science and other fragmented pieces of human “knowledge”.  We evolved from some beings that chimps have for example.  We like to think we are very different from them and we indeed are.  The scary part is the ways in which we remain similar.  Male female relations, political power, etc can be seen to have common features in both groups.

Part of the legacy of Cartesian reductionism is the mind/body duality and the way the living organism was metaphored as a special kind of machine.  These factors became integrated into the Capitalism Marx thought about and they shaped the way the relationship between wealth and labor were seen.  Power relations became formulated in terms that Marx described so well.  The problem is that these ideas were still in a reductionist box and remain there to this day.

So we have the fundamental challenge to face at this moment in history.  Is the human mind able to step outside of these long entrenched limits and confines and see us as a rouge species acting almost like a cancer on the planet?  Marx diagnosed the nature of this metastatic disease we had become.  He saw it in terms of the way the labors of humans that could be used in so many ways were channelled by the owners of the means of production into the creation of capital.

Here is where the systems idea is very enlightening.  The traditionional picture is that the greedy among us rise to power and control the rest of us and insist on a growing, unsustainable system to satisfy their greed.

Systems theory asks an important chicken and egg question at this point.  Is it the greedy humans that create the system or does the system simply find as many greedy humans as it needs to sustain itself and grow?  I submit that Robert Reich was correct in his book about “Supercapitalism” when he asserted that we could eliminate WalMart tomorrow and some other entity or entities would immediatly fill the vacuum and probaly evolve into something worse because of the ability to shed excess baggage.

Reductionism is wonderful for the human mind because it supplies answers.   Systems theory, recognizing the myriad complex interactions, can only describe things in general ways and can not supply false mechanistic explanations.

If this makes sense to you I apologize for bringing you to this point for you will not be able to go back.  Nor will you come up with answers the way you did before.  Nor will the political system seem like a useful tool for helping us.  No, those of us who have crossed the line are pessimistic.  The system grinds on.  It is like a cancer on the planet.  And as we look at our kids and grandkids we wonder.  And we hurt.

Mar 31 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: 31 March 2013 an ACM Introduction by Annieli

I have been thinking about how to introduce some of the methodologies we use in DK to augment the basic liberalism and progressivism necessary to produce more and better Democrats. This piece is intended to introduce some basic texts which for many might seem too simplistic and even heretical but are hopefully useful for those wanting to consider that many of the perspectives often reflected in DK have a sincere and authentic theoretical foundation.

I chose a recent diary by Kos on conservative understanding of the decline in bee populations to serve as an example of how an understanding of Marx can add to the interpretive strength of an already strong argument. The “light comes on” is not enlightenment in any earth-shaking sense but it is a reflection on the need to consider that there are preexisting social analysis methodologies that have made progressives more effective in guiding action and organizing resistance to the rise of RW power.

Buried way at the bottom of this piece on the increasing death rate of honey bees:

But Mr. Adee (the South Dakota owner of the nation’s largest beekeeping company), who said he had long scorned environmentalists’ hand-wringing about (pesticide use in crops), said he was starting to wonder whether they had a point.

Of the “environmentalist” label, Mr. Adee said: “I would have been insulted if you had called me that a few years ago. But what you would have called extreme – a light comes on, and you think, ‘These guys really have something. Maybe they were just ahead of the bell curve.'”

I’m going to do some stereotyping and assume that a South Dakota farmer who scorns “extremist” environmentalist is a Republican. It’s not much of a stretch. So like Sen. Rob Portman’s conversion on marriage equality because of his gay son, or Sen. Mark Kirk’s conversion on health care services to the less-wealthy because of his debilitating stroke, Adee decides that maybe the dirty fucking hippies are onto something when he, himself, is directly affected by unfettered degradation of our environment.

I emphasize the expression directly affected because it is important for acting in a way to understand Anti-Capitalism  This point of view recognizes that there are changes in consciousness, the understanding that a tension between beliefs and reality has been heightened and proven transformative. In this diary Kos discusses the contradiction of GOP ideology in confronting the complex yet revelatory incidence of bee death as a sign of impending ecological disaster. This serves as a useful way to provide a foundation to discuss the theories necessary to understand a Marxist position on the need to transform

the present relations of production.

But many beekeepers suspect the biggest culprit is the growing soup of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides that are used to control pests. While each substance has been certified, there has been less study of their combined effects. Nor, many critics say, have scientists sufficiently studied the impact of neonicotinoids, the nicotine-derived pesticide that European regulators implicate in bee deaths. The explosive growth of neonicotinoids since 2005 has roughly tracked rising bee deaths. Neonics, as farmers call them, are applied in smaller doses than older pesticides. They are systemic pesticides, often embedded in seeds so that the plant itself carries the chemical that kills insects that feed on it.

This suspicion is the simple result of an economy driven by capitalist desire to systematically maximize profit that also ignores the externalities connected to the use of technologies that also harm the environment and in the long-run destroy even the industry itself. American beekeeping and honey production is both hobby-farm, small scale cottage industry and large-scale agribusiness. In other countries it can be even barely organized gathering. Ultimately change comes from knowledge and its productive application, but a knowledge that is crucially aware of direct effects as critical practices.

I have chosen two elementary texts on Marx to give readers an introduction that is often distorted by cold-war anti-communist reactionaries that one finds in the Marx 101 search on the internet, although Brad DeLong’s Understanding Marx lecture is a good one. I have chosen Peter Singer’s. Marx: A Very Short Introduction (2000) and Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right (2011). This is not a book review, although I would hope that these two accessible texts might appeal even to the less doctrinaire Kossack. Please come below the squiggle to contribute to the discussion of the basics.

Mar 24 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Women’s Liberation by Geminijen

When I started to write this blog about the sex vs. gender debate,  I was going to write a nice, intellectual piece, fully referenced, stating my position. But as I sat down to write it, I realized there is no clear-cut solution and presumably, most of the discussion has been decided in favor of the gender ideology, ranging from post-modern feminists in the academy, to the queer community, to the communist left.

In a recent antiwar speech in Washington, D.C., Angela Davis, while giving a laundry list of oppressions, mentioned both gender and LGBT, but failed to mention the word “women.” Sonia Sanchez, in the same event, left out categories having to deal with women’s liberation altogether (although in her poetry she did make the pronoun gender neutral).  

At the same time, mainstream feminists (what is generally referred to as the white middle class women’s movement) seem content to deal with reproductive issues such as abortion and contraception, rape and wife battering in a piecemeal fashion, with little overriding ideology or causal framework.  (One positive note: there is a new coalition of young women, WORD [Women Organized to Resist and Defend] which seems to be trying to fuse the concepts of sex and gender back together – along with race, class and imperialism. I look forward to seeing what their analysis will be since so far they seem to be mainly an activist group).

So what, if anything, do I have to contribute to this discussion? As a second wave socialist/lesbian/feminist born to a first wave socialist feminist, I have worked on projects with third wave feminists and raised a son who is active in the gay-rights movement.  I believe that my long history in these communities might give me a perspective worth sharing.  I also hope younger third wave feminists will not write me off as one of those smug old second wave feminists who thinks she knows everything.

By the rambling nature of this blog, you can probably tell that I am writing in a stream of consciousness “consciousness raising” style, true to my second wave “the personal is political” roots; although I believe this form is also regaining popularity among third wave feminists.

To begin. I came into feminism out of a Left Trotskyist organization about the same time I left my marriage of several years, right into the arms of the feminist movement.  Most of the women, it is true, were middle class and white and, as a working class woman, I wasn’t sure I would fit in.  I remember the first time I entered the women’s bookstore and one of the women commented on my “bourgie” $26 dollar JC Penney’s pantsuit. I was working as a secretary in the college where I was putting my husband through school.  I was required to wear the pants suit to work (along with pantyhose) even though the professors I worked for could wear jeans. It took me awhile to realize that most of the women in the bookstore wore jeans that cost four times what my pantsuit cost.  

I relate this story because this was my first exposure to identity politics and downward mobility and the tendency of the community to identify one’s class position by external secondary characteristics, not our actual class position. This  foreshadowed a similar tendency in terms of defining the issues of oppression in terms of our sexuality.  Nevertheless I stayed because those women still had something I wanted and wasn’t getting in the male-identified Left.