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Updated: 2 hours 3 min ago

Europe faces ‘biodiversity oblivion’ after collapse in French birds, experts warn

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 18:35

via The Guardian

The “catastrophic” decline in French farmland birds signals a wider biodiversity crisis in Europe which ultimately imperils all humans, leading scientists have told the Guardian.

A dramatic fall in farmland birds such as skylarks, whitethroats and ortolan bunting in France was revealed by two studies this week, with the spread of neonicotinoid pesticides – and decimation of insect life – coming under particular scrutiny.

With intensive crop production encouraged by the EU’s common agricultural policy apparently driving the bird declines, conservationists are warning that many European countries are facing a second “silent spring” – a term coined by the ecologist Rachel Carson to describe the slump in bird populations in the 1960s caused by pesticides.

“We’ve lost a quarter of skylarks in 15 years. It’s huge, it’s really, really huge. If this was the human population, it would be a major thing,” said Dr Benoit Fontaine of France’s National Museum of Natural History and co-author of one of the new studies, a national survey of France’s common birds. “We are turning our farmland into a desert. We are losing everything and we need that nature, that biodiversity – the agriculture needs pollinators and the soil fauna. Without that, ultimately, we will die.”

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General Strike in South Africa

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 16:11

via Libcom

Cities and rural towns across South Africa were shut down today as the new South African Federation of Trade Unions, which is independent of the ruling ANC, and driven by the militant National Union of Metal Workers, held a successful general strike. The strike was strongly supported by popular organisations organised outside of the factory floor, such as Abahlali baseMjondolo. It is being understood as a clear indication that the ANC has lost its hold over the organised working class.

R20 an hour is an insult, say marchers

By Zoë Postman, Joseph Chirume, Eryn Scannell and Annie Cebulski

25 April 2018

Thousands of workers from the SA Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) marched in several cities on Wednesday calling for a higher minimum wage.

They are demanding a minimum wage of R12,500 a month instead of the R3,500 a month (R20 per hour) which has been proposed. Workers also protested against proposed changes to the law on strikes and to the increase in VAT.

In Johannesburg workers gathered at the Newtown precinct and marched to the Premier’s office, and the offices of the Department of Labour and the Gauteng Department of Social Development. Unions included the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), the General Industrial Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA), the National Union Of Public Service and Allied Workers (NUPSAW), the South African Liberated Public Sector Workers’ Union (SALIPSWU), the Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU) and Simunye Workers Forum.

Unions from the Federation of Unions of SA (FEDUSA), the National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU) and the Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) did not join the strike.

NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the unions who did not join the strike were saying that “workers must settle in their poverty”.

“COSATU leadership is telling us that half a loaf of bread is better than no bread. But we are saying that is not good enough. We are demanding a decent living minimum wage”, said Hlubi-Majola.

SAFTU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi urged the crowd to maintain discipline. “There are stories that say this strike will turn violent but today we will prove them wrong”, he said.

In Cape Town, thousands of workers marched from Keizersgracht Street to the Civic Centre and Parliament.

“R11 is an insult, R15 is an insult, R18 is an insult, R20 is an insult,” Brightness Matwa, a spokesperson for the Democratised Transport Logistics and Allied Workers Union (DEWATU) said in a speech to workers before the march. “All the proposed wages are an insult.”

Businesses closed their doors as workers and supporters sang and danced down the streets on the way to Parliament. Police escorted the procession on foot and in cars.

“Viva SAFTU!” the crowd sang as the sea of red shirts flooded down the streets.

“I have six kids and I am a single parent,” community care worker Kanyisha Mendela said. “I have two kids who are going to tertiary level next year. Where am I going to get the money?”

Security worker Ntombozuko Bomba, who makes R4,000 a month, said the proposed minimum wage was too low because though he made more, his pay was still inadequate. “Our boss gets R16,000. We can go two months without getting paid because they say they don’t have the money,” Bomba said.

In Port Elizabeth about 1,200 workers marched from Nangoza Jebe hall in New Brighton to City Hall, singing. Some businesses closed along Govan Mbeki Avenue.

Addressing the workers, Numsa president and SAFTU representative Andrew Chirwa said the R20 an hour minimum wage was unacceptable. “People who are propagating that wage are themselves swimming in riches. They don’t know what R20 is worth. Our government has decided to legalise poverty by introducing a wage of R20 an hour.”

Chirwa said the other reason for the strike was to stop employers from conniving with the government against workers. “The employers want to give power to the Minister of Labour to allow or ban strikes. They want to force all of us to vote before a strike and the ballot will be supervised by the Department of Labour — the same department that is not helping workers. Workers are dying of maltreatment but the Department of Labour is doing nothing to stop it. Those who sit in government offices making laws against workers are our enemies.”

The memorandum was handed over to Mzimkhulu Papu of the Department of Labour.

In a statement released on Tuesday, FEDUSA said organised labour initially proposed R4,500 a month but had to bring it down to R3,500 during negotiations so that business would buy in.

“FEDUSA remains fully cognizant that the proposed R20 per hour, translated to R3,500 monthly, is not a living wage, but a minimum wage, recommended for 47% of workers currently earning less than R20 per hour”, the federation said.

COSATU also released a statement, on Monday, saying that the R20 minimum wage would be the foundation of a living wage.

“The minimum wage will be a huge achievement that will see wages rise for the 47% of workers (6 million), who earn less than R20 an hour currently”, COSATU said.

Against Nationalism and War!

Sat, 04/28/2018 - 12:10

via Libcom

May Day 2018 Statement of the Internationalist Communist Tendency.

This is not the happiest of times: Worldwide nationalist tensions, arms races and military conflicts are assuming dramatic proportions as exploitation and oppression are on the increase. These are not consequences of this or that egomaniac or incompetent politician but of the very inner workings of the system.

Economic Stagnation

For the first time in a decade the IMF is not revising down its estimates for global economic growth. For some of capitalism’s cheerleaders this shows that the world economy is on the road to recovery. More sober voices however can point to the reality of this “recovery”. Once again it is predicated on debt – the US revival for example coincides with a huge new expansion in credit card debt. And debt makes the wheels of this system keep on going round. Debt was supposed to shrink via inflation and growth. But, with a low rate of profit, investment has been feeble, and austerity policies have only made matters worse.

According to the Bank for International Settlements the global debt burden was 225% of annual economic output in 2008. Today it stands at 330%. In bald figures Global Debt Monitor in January tell us that global debt (public and private combined) went from $17 trillion in 2006 to an incredible $233 trillion today. We are in a fantasy world where the production of the future is already mortgaged to infinity. The next financial collapse is not only inevitable it is not far off.

However this capitalist economic crisis goes back much further to the end of the post-war boom in the early 1970s. Workers have been paying for it ever since. From 1979 on, wages as a share of GDP have continued to fall as globalisation has brought about the flight of jobs to low wage economies. Today the wealth of the world largely rests in the hands of a few individuals. In the USA, for example, the differential between rich and poor is once again the same as in 1917.

Political Failure

Economic failure is now being translated into political instability. Neo-liberal conservatism (which brought us the 2007-8 collapse) and social democratic Keynesianism (which now cannot fund its welfare state) have both failed to solve the woes of the world. The old established governing parties are losing their grip and their credibility. Whether it is the complete failure of states (as in Syria or South Sudan), Brexit, the election of Trump, political paralysis or the rise of the radical right, wherever we look there is increasing political turmoil.

Much of this turmoil is put down to “populism”. Populism, in one form or another, has always been around but, as long as the old mainstream capitalist parties could pretend that there was some hope that things might get better, it was confined to the margins of the system. For capitalists “populism” now means the rise of alternative forces which they believe will destroy their control over the system.

After 4 decades of economic stagnation the rise of populist organisations has taken several forms. The populism of the Left (Podemos, Syriza, Corbyn’s Labour, Sanders’ “socialism”) channels workers anger into the safety of the ballot box, without having programmes to challenge the system. It will thus fail. The populism of the right is more dangerous since it is built on the politics of fear. Their nationalist message is not only about “America First” or “taking back control” and the like. It is built on hatred of the “other”. Falling living standards? It is the fault of Jews, Muslims, or migrants in general. This has brought about the rise of anti-semitic and Islamophobic attacks as well as those on migrants (themselves already the victims of wars brought to Africa and Asia by the world’s richest capitalist powers).

Trade Wars …

And this rabid nationalism does not end there. In emphasising the need to defend the national economy against “them”, the outsiders and the foreigners, this xenophobia is taking the world down a dangerous road. The global capitalist system grew stronger after World War Two on the basis of the US economy and its institutions which presided over a boom unprecedented in capitalist history.

This all came to an end when the US could no longer maintain the dollar “as good as gold” in 1971. Since then the process has been long and slow but there has been a relative decline in the dominance of the US economy over the rest of the world, disguised by the fact that the rest of the world helps pay for the mountainous US debt by using the dollar as the premier currency of international trade.

Far from China ripping off the world it has been the US through the general use of the dollar that has been getting a free ride. No other country in the world could keep printing its currency to cover its growing debts unless that currency mainly circulated abroad.

When a poor, developing China started building its manufacturing base and increasing its trade with the West a quarter-century ago it did so thanks to US capital. Few imagined that it would now be the world’s industrial giant. China has already surpassed the US in manufacturing output, savings, trade, and even GDP when measured in terms of purchasing power parity.

… and Strategic Wars

The US might still be powerful but the trade conflict unleashed by Trump reveals the extent to which America has lost its dominant global position. Previously the US could ignore the fact that China made revelation of intellectual property and technology secrets a condition for investment in its low cost factories. Now the stakes are higher and they are not just about trade. Trump cited a 1964 law on the defence of US national security for the introduction of his first steel tariff. We are already at the point where a trade war is the precursor of a strategic war. This is not a simple scenario.

With the fall of the USSR American triumphalism about the “end of history” and the beginning of a new world order knew no bounds. However it did not last. The failures in Afghanistan and Iraq have been compounded by the rise of China. The danger in this situation is that there is a complete mismatch between the military power of the US and the rest. Its troops are present nearly everywhere, its navies control the world’s shipping lanes and its spending on defence is much more than twice the Chinese and Russians put together. If China’s growth continues, and its initiatives in Africa and Asia prosper as in the past, the US will be looking at a further diminution of its power.

The pressure for pre-emptive military action is growing and Trump’s recent appointments of Bolton and Pompeo brings the likelihood of that much closer. Behind them lie American think tanks calling for some action to halt China. As we have often written trade wars throughout history have been the precursors to shooting wars. There is no guarantee that the long agony of this economic crisis will not end the same way.

The Only Alternative

The only force that can stop it is the international working class, the majority of the world’s population. Although they have been in retreat for decades suffering unemployment, inflation, restructuring of industry and new methods of exploitation the wage workers of the world are essential to the capitalist system in war and peace. The signs are that after the disorientation caused by the destruction of jobs in the 1980s and 1990s the working class is beginning to re-find itself in a new class composition which refuses to accept just any old conditions. Migrant workers, workers in the gig economy and the proletarianised professional sectors of the wage labouring classes are already beginning to fight back. So far these are just scattered signs and not yet a massive and systematic response to the seriousness of the attack that we have been suffering for a long time but at least they exist.

It is not a moment too soon. The system is sick. Not only is the drive for capitalist profit threatening the peacetime existence of the planet through environmental destruction but the racist solutions of the nationalists threaten wars which could drive humanity back centuries, assuming it survives at all.

Struggles against exploitation, oppression and racism are however only the beginning. Strikes, occupations and protests can build confidence, provide experience, and win concessions from employers and landlords. These elemental struggles need focus and a programme if we are to escape from a situation where every struggle starts from scratch. This May Day, only 4 days before the 200th anniversary of the birth of Marx, we remember his words that “every class struggle is a political struggle”.

Whilst the working class needs its own organs to centralise its struggles across a vast territory, a function played in the past by workers’ councils and assemblies, it also needs an international and internationalist party to provide a long term political vision and consciously guide that struggle in a communist direction. This party is not a government in waiting and certainly not another parliamentary project (as Social Democrats and Stalinists maintain), but a necessary political instrument to unite and guide the movement for emancipation which emerges from the class struggle itself. It is this party which the Internationalist Communist Tendency has dedicated itself to being a part of to fight for a world without classes or states, without exploitation or borders, without famines and wars, in which the freedom of each is condition for the freedom of all.

Internationalist Communist Tendency
May Day 2018

The ‘Anti-imperialism’ of Idiots

Sun, 04/15/2018 - 04:03

by Leila Al Shami

Once more the western ‘anti-war’ movement has awoken to mobilise around Syria. This is the third time since 2011. The first was when Obama contemplated striking the Syrian regime’s military capability (but didn’t) following chemical attacks on the Ghouta in 2013, considered a ‘red line’. The second time was when Donald Trump ordered a strike which hit an empty regime military base in response to chemical attacks on Khan Sheikhoun in 2017. And today, as the US, UK and France take limited military action (targeted strikes on regime military assets and chemical weapons facilities) following a chemical weapons attack in Douma which killed at least 34 people, including many children who were sheltering in basements from bombing.

The first thing to note from the three major mobilisations of the western ‘anti-war’ left is that they have little to do with ending the war. More than half a million Syrians have been killed since 2011. The vast majority of civilian deaths have been through the use of conventional weapons and 94 per cent of these victims were killed by the Syrian-Russian-Iranian alliance. There is no outrage or concern feigned for this war, which followed the regime’s brutal crackdown on peaceful, pro-democracy demonstrators. There’s no outrage when barrel bombs, chemical weapons and napalm are dropped on democratically self-organized communities or target hospitals and rescue workers. Civilians are expendable; the military capabilities of a genocidal, fascist regime are not. In fact the slogan ‘Hands off Syria’ really means ‘Hands off Assad’ and support is often given for Russia’s military intervention. This was evident yesterday at a demonstration organized by Stop the War UK where a number of regime and Russian flags were shamefully on display.

This left exhibits deeply authoritarian tendencies, one that places states themselves at the centre of political analysis. Solidarity is therefore extended to states (seen as the main actor in a struggle for liberation) rather than oppressed or underprivileged groups in any given society, no matter that state’s tyranny. Blind to the social war occurring within Syria itself, the Syrian people (where they exist) are viewed as mere pawns in a geo-political chess game. They repeat the mantra ‘Assad is the legitimate ruler of a sovereign country’. Assad – who inherited a dictatorship from his father and has never held, let alone won, a free and fair election. Assad – whose ‘Syrian Arab Army’ can only regain the territory it lost with the backing of a hotchpotch of foreign mercenaries and supported by foreign bombs, and who are fighting, by and large, Syrian-born rebels and civilians. How many would consider their own elected government legitimate if it began carrying out mass rape campaigns against dissidents? It’s only the complete dehumanization of Syrians that makes such a position even possible. It’s a racism that sees Syrians as incapable of achieving, let alone deserving, anything better than one of the most brutal dictatorships of our time.

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Who Will Take on the 21st Century Tech and Media Monopolies?

Sat, 04/14/2018 - 15:33

via FAIR

by Justin Anderson

After decades of regulatory neglect, Big Tech is finally coming under the microscope.

Facebook is under fire for (among other things) its involvement with Cambridge Analytica, a British data analytics firm funded by hedge fund billionaire and major Republican party donor Robert Mercer and formerly led by President Trump’s ex–campaign manager and strategist Steve Bannon. Cambridge Analytica harvested data from over 87 million Facebook profiles (up from Facebook’s original count of 50 million) without the users’ consent, according to a report by the London Observer (3/17/18) sourced to a whistleblower who worked at Cambridge Analytica until 2014.

The users’ personal data was gathered through a survey app created by a Cambridge Analytica–associated academic named Aleksandr Kogan, who used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk micro-work platform and Qualtrics survey platform to gather and pay over 240,000 survey-takers. The data collected was then used by Cambridge Analytica to comb through the political preferences of the survey takers and their Facebook friends, without their knowledge, to create individual “psychographic models” that would then allow for entities (like the Trump presidential campaign) to target them with personalized political advertisements and news.

Worse than the breach itself, Facebook apparently knew about this data-harvesting for years, and in fact, according to another whistleblower who worked at the social media giant itself (Guardian, 3/20/18), had a policy of allowing developers to gather user data by linking apps with Facebook logins, as Cambridge Analytica did through its partnership with Kogan and his survey app. While Facebook changed its terms of service in 2015 to prevent this, the company maintains that it is not at fault for the breach. Still, Facebook failed to report the breach to their users, and then threatened to sue the Guardian (owners of the Observer) upon publication of the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower’s testimony.

Facebook also recently suspended New York–based analytics firm CubeYou from their platform for using similar data-harvesting tactics for targeted advertising under the guise of academic study, which Kogan has described as common practice in the ad industry.

The use of consumer data harvested through Facebook and other online platforms for micro-targeted political content has raised questions about privacy and the potential for abuse, particularly in regard to the proliferation of so-called “fake news” in the run-up to the Brexit vote and the 2016 US presidential election; the involvement of Trump adviser Steve Bannon and billionaire Trump backer Robert Mercer in Cambridge Analytica only heightens those concerns. In response to the Cambridge Analytica fiasco, the British Information Commissioner’s Office is now inquiring into whether Facebook violated the country’s privacy standards

The Data Duopoly and the Media Oligopoly

Comcast‘s media assets—from “The Six Companies That Own (Almost) All Media” (WebpageFX)

Fueling the scandal is Facebook’s dominant position in advertising, the source of almost all of the company’s $40 billion in annual revenue. Alphabet, the parent company of Google (whose ad revenue totals over $74 billion annually), and Facebook arguably maintain a duopoly over digital advertising. Together, the two internet giants account for just under 60 percent of all non-China digital ad revenues in the world in 2017, according to eMarketer, a digital research firm. Similarly, the two companies are also responsible for 70 percent of referral traffic for web publishers.

The consolidation of social media, web search and internet platforms among just a few players is central to this dominance in advertising: Facebook also owns the popular messaging app WhatsApp and the photo-sharing service Instagram, while Google owns the massive video platform YouTube.

Waves of consolidation in the technology, telecom and entertainment industries have concentrated power over media content and delivery into just a handful of companies. Today, there are only a few dominant players in each industry:

  • Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft rule the social media, search, e-commerce and digital advertising domains.
  • Comcast, Verizon, Charter and AT&T are the only internet service providers in most locations throughout the US, and often don’t compete with one another in specific regions and cities.
  • Comcast, the Walt Disney Company (which recently acquired 21st Century Fox), News Corp, Time Warner and National Amusements (owner of CBS and Viacom) have conglomerated the majority of US media and entertainment properties.

While these companies have vertically integrated themselves to staggering degrees in their industries, what’s worse is the increasing pace at which they have sought to consolidate horizontally across sectors. Social media, internet and phone service providers, newspapers, television, radio, sports, magazines, book publishers and streaming services are all increasingly intertwined below just a few owners, creating conflicts of interest in pricing and providing content.

It is no wonder that a news station like MSNBC, owned by the cable giant Comcast, would be reluctant to take on antitrust regulation or adjacent issues like net neutrality on its shows. Or why the Washington Post, owned by Amazon CEO (and world’s richest billionaire) Jeff Bezos, publishes puff pieces on the supposed benefits Amazon’s new headquarters could provide to potential locations.

Giving a Green Light

The consolidation in these industries results from the green light given to mergers and acquisitions by recent presidential administrations, who are supposed to maintain oversight of anti-competitive practices through the antitrust divisions of the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission.

A casual observer might think the Trump administration has broken this trend and taken a hard line against corporate consolidation. AT&T’s bid to merge with Time Warner was blocked by the Justice Department on the grounds that AT&T, an internet service provider, could choose to favor media content owned by Time Warner—like its properties CNN, TNT and HBO—over that of its competitors, and ultimately increase prices for consumers.

But when then-candidate Donald Trump vowed on the campaign trail to block the merger, he explicitly linked it to CNN’s negative coverage of himself: “They’re trying desperately to suppress my vote and the voice of the American people,” he told supporters (Reuters, 10/22/16):

As an example of the power structure I’m fighting, AT&T is buying Time Warner and thus CNN, a deal we will not approve in my administration because it’s too much concentration of power in the hands of too few.

CNN (10/22/16) covers Trump’s attack on CNN.

Trump’s overt, ongoing hostility toward CNN complicates the DoJ’s case against the merger, as the prospect of a president ordering antitrust action against a media company because he objects to the way it covers him raises serious First Amendment alarms. AT&T and Time Warner have taken legal action against the DoJ, maintaining that the merger would allow them to better compete with large tech conglomerates like Facebook, Amazon and Google, who are increasingly creating their own media content.

In the same campaign speech (The Hill, 10/22/16), Trump singled out the owners of two other frequent targets of his wrath, NBC and the Washington Post:

Comcast‘s purchase of NBC concentrates far too much power in one massive entity that is trying to tell the voters what to think and what to do. Deals like this destroy democracy….

Likewise Amazon, which through its ownership controls the Washington Post, should be paying massive taxes but its not paying, and it’s a very unfair playing field.

Trump has continued a crusade against Amazon for its favorable contracts with the US postal service. But even as Trump raises concerns about concentration by particular media companies that have raised his ire, in practice he’s been generally very tolerant of corporate consolidation: In its first year, his administration allowed a hefty $1.2 trillion worth of mergers and acquisitions, the most of any president’s first year. His FCC has facilitated the continued consolidation of the majority of local television and radio affiliates under Sinclair Broadcasting (, 5/8/17), a conservative media conglomerate with close ties to the Trump administration that has been steadily increasing its share of local media markets since 2004.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration’s record on antitrust doesn’t look much different. While Obama did block some consolidation efforts, including the mergers of AT&T and T-Mobile, as well as that of Comcast and Time Warner, many large media and technology mergers and acquisitions during the Obama years have resulted in corporate behemoths with the power to stifle innovation, discourage competition and increase prices. These mergers and acquisitions include Comcast and NBC Universal, AT&T and DirecTV, Charter and Time Warner Cable, Facebook and Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, Microsoft and LinkedIn, and Live Nation and Ticketmaster, among many others.

Why worry about antitrust when you can hire the antitrust regulators (IBT, 6/27/17)?

One sign of a dysfunctional antitrust system is the revolving door for agency heads, civil servants and government officials who go to work for companies that they formerly regulated (or failed to regulate), either working for them directly or working for the large private law firms that represent them. An egregious example is Obama’s first DoJ antitrust chief, Christine Varney, who now works for Cravath, Swaine & Moore, the law firm representing Time Warner in the AT&T merger lawsuit. (United Airlines, whose merger with Continental was approved during Varney’s tenure, is another Cravath client.) Obama’s last DoJ antitrust chief, Renata Hesse, now at the New York law firm Sullivan & Cromwell, was a lead advisor for Amazon in its takeover of Whole Foods.

Perhaps the most damning case is Obama’s FTC chair Jon Leibowitz, who was criticized for his agency’s leniency towards Google—a company on intimate terms with the Obama White House. Leibowitz and his fellow FTC commissioners rejected staff recommendations for antitrust action against the search giant. Leibowitz’s new employer, New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, lists Google among its clients. Leibowitz is also the chair of the 21st Century Privacy Coalition, a trade group funded by Comcast, AT&T and Verizon that backed a successful Republican effort to overturn Obama-era FTC privacy regulations, winning the ability to share customers’ data without their permission.

Combating Corporate Concentration

Clearly, the impact of the revolving door between government agencies and Big Law is a problem in regulating antitrust. However, US antitrust laws and enforcement themselves are often insufficient in tackling the issues central to consolidation in technology and media. Antitrust policy since the late 1970s has generally focused on the short-term interests of consumers—meaning low prices—at the expense of the overall health of market sectors and long-term consumer protection, according to Lina Khan, director of legal policy at the Open Markets Institute. (The anti-monopoly institute was housed at the New America Foundation until complaints by Eric Schmidt, the former executive chair of Google and a large donor to the Foundation, prompted a severing of ties.)

Of course, with web companies like Facebook or Google, the fundamental maxim for ad-based platforms still holds: if it’s free, you are the product. Advertisers are indeed the true customers in this business model. With no “costs” to consumers in a dollar sense, measuring the pitfalls of consolidation by looking at prices available to consumers is inadequate for determining whether a company like Google or Facebook should be regulated for antitrust reasons.

Companies like Amazon pose a similar threat to long-term economic health. Amazon’s strategy of accruing market share in the cloud computing and e-commerce sectors through aggressive business tactics and investment (not to mention massive government contracts), rather than pursuit of quarterly profit, actually lowers prices on goods for most consumers, but at the same time destroys brick-and-mortar retail stores and limits overall consumer choice in the long run. Similarly, the shift towards an all-online economy, with infrastructure largely controlled by Amazon, contributes to huge job losses and depresses wages.

Amazon, Facebook and Google, along with other internet and media companies that have cross-sector investments, like Comcast or AT&T, reap their gains from network effects, meaning that the ease of availability and usability of their platforms locks customers into using that company’s other products, while giving them the opportunity to engage in predatory pricing against other competitors to drive them out of businesses.

This is especially damaging with cross-sector consolidation. For example, if you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, and have a choice between shopping at Whole Foods, where you can get discounts for being a Prime member, or some other grocery store without the same perks, you will likely choose Whole Foods for the lower prices. However, these low prices have the potential to price other grocery stores out of the market, consolidating the market further and decreasing consumer choice and competition.

The same goes for social media like Facebook and Google for search engines, whose market dominance leads to control of smaller platforms like Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube, and ultimately creates behemoths with power over consumer data that is hard to challenge, because they make their platforms so convenient and universal. After all, the major benefits of a social network like Facebook is having all your friends in one place, while having a video platform like YouTube with the highest possible amount of videos seems to make sense.

“Unlike a traditional monopoly whose power stems from its control over the production and pricing of a single good, a platform draws its power from its position as a kind of middleman, a broker that controls the relationship with producers and consumers alike,” argues K. Sabeel Rahman (Boston Review, 5/4/15). 

One remedy would be stricter enforcement of privacy and data protections in Facebook and Google’s terms of service, and making these protections clear to consumers so that they know their rights. Paying consumers for their data could also be a useful solution, as internet activist Tim Wu (New Yorker, 8/14/15) has suggested. Open Markets director Barry Lynn and fellow Matthew Stoller (Guardian, 3/22/18) have advocated for spinning off Facebook’s ad network, in addition to calling for strict fines against executives if the company is found to have knowingly violated a 2011 FTC consent decree that stipulated that Facebook not share its users’ data to third parties without permission.

Another strategy could be treating the companies that handle massive amounts of data, particularly internet and digital advertising giants like Facebook and Google, as public utilities, which Big Tech has long been fearful of. After all, it is hard to live and work in our society these days without using search engines or social media. This strategy would recognize the monopoly that Facebook and Google (as well as Amazon and internet service providers like Comcast or AT&T) have in their respective sectors, but would entrench and enforce policies of non-discrimination against outside platforms and content and would limit the potential for rate-setting. However, calls for regulating consumer credit reporting company Equifax as a public utility after its massive 2017 data breach have not yet materialized.

Most importantly, the forest must not be missed for the trees: the fight over data protection and privacy must not obscure the importance of stronger antitrust regulation. New mergers and acquisitions should be scrutinized more harshly than they have in past presidential administrations. Past cross-sector mergers and acquisitions, especially in media, should be reviewed and potentially rolled back.

Turning the Tables on Tech

It seems as though the tide is beginning to turn against Big Tech consolidation. The European Union has taken an aggressive stance against the monopoly power of Facebook and Google and their policies on the protection (or lack thereof) of the data of its users.

For example, Facebook’s data practices, such as default privacy settings that automatically revealed users’ locations, were ruled illegal in Germany in February. Spain’s data protection agency fined Facebook €1.2 million over such policies, which also involved the collection and sale of data on personal beliefs without notifying users. France fined the company its data regulation agency’s maximum of €150,000 last May for compiling data from non-users without their consent for targeted advertising using third-party website cookies and plug-ins. Fines and legal proceedings against Facebook over its data collection and privacy policies have been taken up by Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium as well. The European Commission also fined Facebook €110 million—about 0.3 percent of the company’s 2017 revenues—for misleading regulators during its acquisition of WhatsApp.

The European Union has rolled out a new law on handling data, the General Data Protection Regulation, that will go into effect on May 25, 2018. The law will have far-reaching effects on Facebook and other data-centric companies like Google, particularly in maintaining user consent for data collection, and will come with harsh penalties for violation: Fines can amount to 4 percent of a company’s annual global revenue. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has not yet committed to applying European privacy laws to the company’s privacy policy outside of the EU.

Google has also come under fire in the EU, and is currently under investigation by the European Commission over the way its Android mobile operating system (a clear monopoly, with 80 percent of the European mobile market) automatically pre-installs Google apps. Additionally, the EU has fined Google €2.4 billion—about 2.7 percent of 2017 revenues—for using its search engine monopoly to give preferential treatment to its Google Shopping service.

Facebook makes its own reality through lobbying efforts (LA Times, 3/20/18).

In the US, signs of life are appearing as well, partially because the Cambridge Analytica scandal galvanized opposition to Facebook. Politicians in both parties have begun to speak out in favor of stricter antitrust regulation. The FTC has opened an investigation into Facebook over its privacy practices, while Zuckerberg is set to testify April 10 before the Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees. Zuckerberg is also set to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on April 11, and has released his testimony.

Still, the fight against the lack of data protection and privacy and the continued consolidation in tech and media will be a tough one: Facebook is reportedly beefing up its lobbying efforts in DC, and is currently lobbying against privacy laws in California and Illinois. Additionally, many top Democrats have close ties with large tech companies. For the Democratic Party, safeguarding the sanctity of privacy and choice would mean breaking with these powerful allies in tech and media.

The Cambridge Analytica scandal has shown, once again, that these large tech and media companies cannot be trusted to police themselves. In order to win the battle over data protection and privacy, individuals will need to demand that the social media, search, technology and media platforms that we use and consume every day, and which constitute such an oversized part of our culture and social interactions, are regulated with greater zeal than has been applied in recent decades.

Ian MacKaye’s Visceral Relationship with Life

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 22:48

via Psychology Today

“You tell me that I make no difference

At least I’m f*ckin’ trying

What the f*ck have you done?

It’s in my eyes

And it doesn’t look that way to me

In my eyes”

From “In My Eyes” by Minor Threat

Ian MacKaye was not always “Ian MacKaye.”

It is only now with the benefit of historical perspective that we can properly evaluate how groundbreaking MacKaye’s music, personal ethos and business model have been. MacKaye not only helped shape hardcore punk with his bands Teen Idles and Minor Threat, but also he went on to create the “post-hardcore” music genre with his band Fugazi.

And when MacKaye came into the punk rock scene, “sex, drugs and rock and roll” was the norm. However, MacKaye decided that he did not want to numb himself out. And with the song, “Straight Edge,” he inspired others to take on a drug- and alcohol-free lifestyle, giving birth to the Straight Edge punk rock sub-culture.

Prior to MacKaye co-founding the record label, Dischord Records in 1979, most bands sought only to play music while leaving the “business” of the band to labels, managers and other handlers. Bands typically had very little interest or say in things such as ticket and album prices or whether shows were accessible to kids.

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Focus on Israeli Apartheid and the BDS Movement

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 16:33

The long-standing system of apartheid by the Israeli state has dispossessed Palestinians of their lives and land. This ongoing system of state terror has been condemned by the world community numerous times, but Israel continues its violent occupation of Palestine.

At the same time, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement (Wikipedia), has been organizing internationally to confront and change this violent occupation.

Updated: April 11, 2018

Israel’s Occupation of Palestine BDS Movement Protests Outside of Palestine Pro-Israel Media Bias

La ZAD: Another End of the World Is Possible

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 14:39
Learning from 50 Years of Struggle at Notre-Dame-des-Landes

On January 17, 2018, the French government announced on television, via the voice of Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, that it had given up on pursuing the highly controversial project of building a new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (NDDL). This decision capped five decades of political, economic, legal, environmental, and personal struggle. The airport was to be located approximately 30 kilometers north of the city of Nantes in western France; instead, the site became la ZAD—the Zone a Défendre (Zone To Defend). What began as a small protest camp grew into a world-famous space of autonomous experimentation that lasted almost nine years.

At the very moment we are publishing this article, a massive police operation has invaded the ZAD to evict it. The French government was prepared to lose the fight to build an airport, but no state willingly cedes autonomy to anyone within its territory. The ZAD’s moment of triumph as a single-issue struggle may have spelled its doom as a space of contagious freedom.

Yet the state alone could never destroy such a vibrant project. As we will explore in detail below, dynamics that emerged from within the occupation enabled the police to resume the offensive. In some regards, this pattern is built into the life cycle of movements based around concrete objectives; but in other regards, what took place at the ZAD is avoidable, and we should make a point of learning from it if we hope to create permanent autonomous zones.

The similarities to the story of Standing Rock are obvious. In the US, starting in April 2016, thousands of people mobilized to block the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through North Dakota. Following months of clashes with the police, President Barack Obama announced that the Army Corps of Engineers would deny the permit for the last leg of the pipeline; protesters declared victory and many left the camp. Within a couple months, Donald Trump’s administration reversed the decision, the police evicted the last stragglers in the camp in a brutal raid, and the pipeline proceeded after all. The ZAD and Standing Rock offer cautionary tales about the perils of victory.

As one zadist wrote presciently to the occupiers of Standing Rock at the peak of the latter movement,

“All the things you dream of: do them now, while your enemies are reeling, trying to figure out their next angle of attack. There won’t ever be less repression, less police and private security, less drones and dogs. I personally regret not pushing harder before our possibilities shifted, not taking things to the fullest expression they could have reached. I hope you won’t have these same regrets.”

In the following text, we trace the history of 50 years of resistance to the airport at NDDL and analyze the internal dynamics that set the stage for today’s police raid.

Clashes with the police in the ZAD. The Airport at at Notre-Dame-des-Landes: From the Cradle to the Grave 1960s: The Story Begins

The idea of building a new airport in the Nantes area dates back to the 1960s. At that time, the Paris region (Ile-de-France) was constantly consolidating more and more capital. To reverse this tendency, the French government decided to embark on a new project of decentralization by creating new areas that would be attractive for investors.

In the Grand Ouest, the geographical area including the cities of Nantes and Saint-Nazaire, local authorities were concerned that the infrastructure of the region was lacking. For example, the dilapidated airport at Nantes fell short of their desire for a hub that could receive millions of passengers, provide trans-Atlantic flights, and offer a runway for the Concorde, at the time the new national aeronautic jewel. In 1965, the Loire-Atlantique prefecture agreed to start looking for an additional aeronautic site for the region.

In 1968, Notre-Dame-Des-Landes was selected as the best place to build a new airport on account of its location between Rennes and Nantes. Local farmers opposed the project; they formed the first organization to defend against it in 1972. In 1974, a zone d’aménagement différé (deferred development zone) was created at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. This official decree allowed the government to progressively purchase land in the area. However, the oil crisis of the 1970s and the opening of the new high-speed railway line (TGV) at Nantes in 1989 delayed the project for several decades.

No airport! 2000s: The Airport, Again

In 2000, the project was revived under the government of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. This delighted Jean-Marc Ayrault, then Mayor of Nantes (and later Prime Minister under François Hollande’s presidency), who had personal plans for restructuring his city. The plan from 1970 was already obsolete. After creating a special committee to study the issue, the local authorities received an official report validating that the project promoted “public utility and interest.” Despite the newly adopted Grenelle de l’Environnement1 stating that no new airport should be build in France, on February 9, 2008, the French state signed a decree valid for 10 years stating the “public utility and interest” of building the new airport.

At this point, various groups began to object that environmental issues had been set aside in order to speed up the validation process. Opponents of the airport organized awareness campaigns on a local and national scale.

In 2009, their determination paid off. That summer, local activists and residents organized a “climate action camp” on the designated site of the future airport. Hundreds of activists discussed the issues at stake in the decision to build an international airport on top of these fields and historic farmers’ houses. The first major occupation took place during this camp. Understanding that the French government was determined to pursue the project, activists decided to occupy the site of the future airport by squatting the buildings and farms that were left empty by the authorities and building their own shacks and houses. On the incandescent ashes of the “climate action camp,” the ZAD was born.2 When the occupation began, several organizations decided to follow the legal protocol by presenting the Conseil d’Etat3 with several objections to the airport project, focusing on its environmental impact. The Conseil d’Etat rejected their demands.

Among the numerous objections raised to the airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the major ones include:

• In addition to the obvious fact that airplanes are accelerating global climate change, the new airport would destroy approximately 2000 hectares of well-preserved forests and wetlands. The project would have a massive impact on the biodiversity of the region, including on hundreds of animal species and natural water sources within and around the ZAD that are officially “protected.”

• The airport would also affect human beings, destroying farming lands and eliminating the chief income of local farmers and their families. The contract for the construction of the airport included measures to expel the inhabitants of the construction zone. Living near an airport would also raise health and quality of life issues for residents.

• There were also economic problems relating to the airport. Why put money into creating a new airport rather than renovating the existing one? What would happen to the older airport once the new one was operational? A new airport in the region would impact the locals in other ways, as taxes would increase.

• Finally, the lack of transparency. At first, authorities promoted the new airport by explaining that it would be bigger than the existing one. However, opponents revealed that the plans for the future airport indicated that the additional space would not be used to increase the “comfort” of passengers in the terminals, but rather to create a bigger shopping area. This increased popular opposition.

The classic slogan of the ZAD: “Against the airport and its world.” 2010s: The Struggle Intensifies

In December 2010, a subsidiary company of VINCI, the internationally well-known French Concession and Construction Company, was selected as the state’s new partner for the airport project. According to the contract, VINCI would receive funds from the state to design, build, and operate the future airport for 55 years, in addition to the existing airport between Nantes and Saint-Nazaire. The opening of the new airport at NDDL was set for 2017.

After the official announcement, the French multinational was targeted in solidarity actions across France and elsewhere around the world. The decision did not discourage the opponents. On the contrary, more and more people showed up to occupy the land. Many activists were eager to experiment in alternative forms of autonomous living based in mutual aid and self-sufficiency. Parcels of land were transformed into collectively cultivated gardens; collective spaces were created as well as several forges, bakeries, and mills. Here is a rough translation of a text published in December 2011 summarizing the general idea behind the creation of the ZAD at NDDL:

Nôtre Dame des Landes

The struggle against the NDDL airport is an attempt to create a breach in the capitalist ramparts. Because for many of us, to attack capitalism, we had to start somewhere!

This is 2000 hectares that will be razed to the ground and covered with concrete, with the delusional goal of creating a HQE (High Environmental Quality) international airport. We could laugh about it if the local population in favor of this project were not imagining making a profit from it. But the rich will become richer and the poor, poorer. The realization of this project led by VINCI, a multi-national company present on all the continents (also in Khimki, near Moscow, where VINCI wants cut down the last local forests, and where the weak resistance on the ground confronts ultra-violent far-right wing militias, in a context in which political assassination is common place), was therefore chosen, in defiance of the local population, who made a call to occupy the land in 2009 to resist this decision.

The occupation has been going on for two years now, during which a handful of anti-capitalist resistance fighters have developed food, cultural, and political autonomy. The squatting of this zone to defend (ZAD) slows down the construction of the airport, leading to the charging of activists, repression against them, and starting not long ago, eviction procedures, but we will resist whatever the cost!

This is why, today, we are calling for the re-occupation of the site and for international rebellion!

It goes without saying that when they evict us, we will resist! (And international solidarity is necessary if we want to put capitalism to an end!)

Against rampant capitalism and the sacred power of money, there is only one solution: insurrection!

“This is a summons to resist.” A map of the ZAD.

The ZAD progressively became a sort of autonomous community, drawing a wide range of individuals from longtime farmers living on the ZAD to anarchists, anti-globalization activists, liberals, and leftists. The zadists themselves emphasize this diversity. Years later, in 2017, “Camille” (a standard nom de guerre among activists), a zadist at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, explained:

“The movement itself is large and has great solidarity, but there’s a great diversity of people and opinions (…) From those who’ve got degrees to people from the streets or those who just want to get away from their families (…) some are already politically engaged, some just broken by conventional life.”

The growth of the ZAD led to an intensification of legal battles to block the airport project. The opponents filed many appeals and legal proceedings followed one another for several years. In 2012, two local farmers went on hunger strike in front of the Nantes prefecture to protest the project. The newly elected Socialist President François Hollande promised that the government would not physically enter the zone until every other means available had been exhausted.

“Welcome to our vision of the future.”

Nevertheless, early in the morning of October 16, 2012, the government of Jean-Marc Ayrault—now Prime Minister—launched Opération César, the official name given to the eviction of the ZAD.4 More than one thousand police forces, two helicopters, and several armed vehicles were deployed in this operation.

On the first day of Operation Caesar, police forces slowly progressed through the occupied zone, destroying everything in their path. However, the authorities had underestimated their opponents: unanticipated resistance from zadists stymied the operation. Over the following days, activists gathered to reoccupy and defend the ZAD. Demonstrations delayed police operations while activists erected barricades and pelted the police with stones. The wide array of actions, the unfailing solidarity among zadists, and their knowledge of the terrain were major assets. The NDDL movement gained more and more support and visibility while Operation Caesar bogged down.

After days of perpetual harassment on one side and tenacious resistance on the other, the government suspended the operation. This decision was not taken lightly. On the first day of the eviction, the Prefect of Loire-Atlantique, Christian de Lavernée, had declared, “If the state can’t take back the zone, then we should be worried for the state.”

“If the state can’t take back the zone, we should be worried for the state.”

The French government had admitted defeat. This was a major turning point in the psychological war between the authorities and the zadists. The following month, on November 17, 2012, several thousand people showed up to reclaim and reoccupy their land and to clean and rebuild the ZAD. You can read a report from the reoccupation demo here. To read a longer personal account of Operation Caesar, we recommend “Rural Rebels and Useless Airports,” published in two parts here and here.

A week after the successful reoccupation, the government changed its strategy, seeking to restore its public image by announcing the establishment of three different commissions—one gathering experts, another focusing on establishing dialogue between the different parties, and the a third composed of scientists—in order to find a solution to the conflict.

In 2013, the movement around the occupation of the ZAD continued growing; numerous agricultural and living projects appeared. In the meantime, direct action and sabotage became more frequent, as chronicled in a zine entitled Défendre la zad, Paroles publiques depuis le mouvement d’occupation de la zad de Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 2013-2015.

For example, in March 2013, a group went to a construction site outside of Nantes. This construction site was slated to start building a major highway connecting Saint-Nazaire, Nantes, and Rennes in order to facilitate the transport and delivery of equipment to build the airport at NDDL and to connect it to those three cities. The group destroyed ducts, cables, surveyors’ equipment, and six electric poles. They justified this attack with the following arguments:

  1. Defending the zone and fighting against the airport and its world doesn’t just mean occupying the ZAD or living there while awaiting eviction. It also means building a real offensive against the project by developing practices of active resistance.
  2. The movement must not fall into the traps of the government and be neutralized. That includes the commission aimed at establishing dialogue, with all its negotiations, agreements, compromises, potential moratoriums, and other frauds.
  3. Direct action will increase the pressure on the decision-makers.

Indeed, on April 2013, the dialogue commission presented its conclusions. Once again, the airport project was announced to be of “public utility,” but this time the commission asked for a few improvements regarding environmental compensations. For example, in view of the hundreds of protected species living on the ZAD and its surroundings, the commission determined that financial compensation should be granted in return for… four of them. This underscores the cynicism of the state.

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‘Reforming has done nothing. That’s why I’m an anarchist.’ An interview with Benjamin Zephaniah

Wed, 04/11/2018 - 12:35

via Red Pepper

Benjamin Zephaniah is still angry. The legendary novelist, actor, playwright, poet and musician has spent a career raging against the racist machine – and he’s not about to stop any time soon. As a young black man growing up in the 70s and 80s, he saw more than his share of police violence – and spent a stint in prison himself. Those experiences informed a body of work which pulls no punches in its critique of institutional racism.

For Benjamin, success didn’t come easy. He left school at thirteen, gaining a reputation as a wordsmith on the dub poetry scene before publishing his first book of poetry by the age of just 22. The following year, police stop and search brutality gave rise to the Brixton Riots of 1981. Benjamin was in the thick of it, and chronicled those experiences in the 1983 album, Rasta.

“When I was picked up by white police officers I told them they were being racist, so they sent in a black officer to beat me instead. Could I tell a black copper he was being racist? He was with the institution. It happened a lot back then. They’d just jump out the car and beat me up and drive off. That’s why we had a lot of riots.” The Scarman Report of the time concluded the police were not racist – rather, the black community harboured the dangerous misbelief that they were being treated unfairly by the institution.

Benjamin speaks about this incident on the album track, Dis Policeman Keeps Kicking me to Death (Lord Scarman Dub) with the lyrics:

 “I am living in de ghetto / trying to do my best / when dis policeman tells me / I’m under damn arrest / Him beat me so badly / I was on the floor / him said if I don’t plead guilty / him gwan kick me more / I was feeling sick, I pleaded RACIST ATTACK /another policeman come to finish me off, dis one was black. In dis war we have traitors who don’t think to sell you out. In dis war der are people who refuse to hear de shout for human rights to be regarded as a basic right. Still dis policeman kicks me every day and every night.”

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Documents reveal Shell knew dangers of fossil fuels and climate change decades ago

Sat, 04/07/2018 - 16:06

via The Ecologist

by Mat Hope

Shell knew climate change was going to be big, was going to be bad, and that its products were responsible for global warming all the way back in the 1980s, a tranche of new documents reveal.

Documents unearthed by Jelmer Mommers of De Correspondent, published on Climate Files, a project of the Climate Investigations Center, show intense interest in climate change internally at Shell.

The documents date back to 1988, meaning Shell was doing climate change research before the UN’s scientific authority on the issue – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – was established.

Here’s a quick run through of a 1988 document entitled, The Greenhouse Effect. Shell’s internal document acknowledge that increased greenhouse gas emissions could lead to 1.5 degrees to 3.5 degrees of warming:

Shell was worried that should the issue of climate change become better known, public opinion may shift against fossil fuels and towards renewables, putting Shell’s business model at risk:

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The Poverty of Luxury Communism

Sat, 04/07/2018 - 15:57


by QQ

“One form of wage labour may correct the abuses of another, but no form of wage labour can correct the abuse of wage labour itself.” – Marx (Grundrisse)

Recent articles in Jacobin Magazine and Novara Media represent a growing trend of social democratic insistence that the state is the best chance for solving climate change and myriad other problems. This trend is taking several forms, a retreat from a consistent anti-borders position to one that sees no-borders as horizonal; a call for nationalisation of large-scale industries as a way to fix climate change and provide jobs; and for alternative ownership models like workers co-operatives to be supported by the state. In all cases premised on a strategy of state-capture via elections.

On the 26 February, Jeremy Corbyn told an audience in Coventry that Britain “cannot be held back inside or outside the EU from taking the steps we need to support cutting edge industries” nor can Britain be held back from “preventing employers being able to import cheap agency labour”. Although Corbyn caught heat from some of his more radical supporters, much of the criticism didn’t go beyond highlighting his poor judgement using ‘clumsy’ language. That the tone rather than the content of the speech was under scrutiny, provides an insight into the direction that the Labour party is heading in. It suggests we are not merely revisiting a party that feigns reluctance in appeasing racist sentiment, in an attempt to recover voters that abandoned them a long time ago. Rather, to “support cutting edge industries” it requires labour unified by a common bourgeois identity – Britishness, with a return to the nativist labourism that dogged the workers movement up until the ’80s. Rhetoric may vary between explicit conservative bigotry, nativist labourism or metropolitan neoliberalism, but all of these exact violence via border controls, whether at the level of the EU or the UK. Capitalist production relies on the control of labour power.

This politics of a seemingly bygone age not only demonstrates the fundamental limit of parliamentary socialism but is woven into the intellectual fabric of the left as a whole. Illustrative of this is Aaron Bastani’s “Fully Automated Green Communism”. Although not unique in its Keynesian ambitions glamourized in communist pretence, it provides us with a useful case study of the thought processes and wholesale misunderstandings underpinning the ‘radical’ project presented by the Labour party.

Broadly speaking, Bastani’s piece is an appeal to grassroots green activists to ‘scale-up’ (an insistence made by other members of the Novara outfit and the Inventing the Future crew), in that the best way to avert climate change is to utilise the state. Whether he personally subscribes to the climate catastrophe speculated in the piece is uncertain, however he certainly believes that the public spirit around climate change could be an effective vehicle in exercising his demand-side economic theories. The post-war period of “a competing utopia [and] countervailing geopolitical forces” was a huge boon to the arms industry and consequently for the wider economy (i.e. the internet began its life as U.S. military tech), and it is thought that climate change can serve the same function as the Cold War. There are specific reasons why a likeness cannot be drawn between preparing for a world war and climate change (that we will address later), but more broadly Bastani makes the classic mistake of thinking that the purpose of an economy is to allocate resources to meet consumption needs, when in reality the purpose of the economy is to produce capital.

Does abundance require growth?

Bastani insists in the piece that the green movement should abandon the idea of ‘growth having limits’, because renewable energy and asteroid mining will make zero-carbon production possible, that people should eat food from wherever they like, and travel as far as they like.

We’d also like to see a society of abundance, but abundance is not simply the quantity of commodities we consume, or the energy required to produce them. Most of the consumer goods we buy require replacement within a year or two, with the waste being pored over in toxic dumps by child labourers for recycling back into more consumer goods or just thrown into landfill. The rapid circulation cycles of capital this enables are counted as ‘growth’, they all contribute to GDP after all, but do nothing useful for anything except the balance sheet.World food systems are increasingly precarious, with one of the latest liberal environmentalist moral panics being around plastic food packaging, since plastic has been found in organisms living in the deepest regions of the sea. Just stopping the use of plastic would result in massive food spoilage; plastic is used in the first place to preserve food as it travels thousands of miles, for days or weeks. No amount of ‘full automation’, green investment, or ethical consumerism will fix the fundamental issues of supermarket supply chains, agribusiness, dependency on low-paid seasonal labour, and cash cropping. These, and the water table and soil depletion that goes alongside them are the result of production of food as a commodity rather than to feed people. Good luck harvesting soil nutrients and clean water from space.

Novara are not alone in advancing that nationalisation of energy companies can avert climate change. Jacobin magazine recently published “A Plan to Nationalize Fossil-Fuel Companies” by Peter Gowan using Norway’s Statoil as an example. The author implies that Statoil was nationalised by the Norwegian State, and that this is why it is successfully starting to move away from fossil fuels. In reality, Statoil was privatised in 2001 with the Norwegian government retaining a majority of shares, and boasts on its website that it has increased oil and gas production sixfold since 2000. So a part-privatised company that’s sextupled fossil fuel production in the past 18 years is being used as an example of nationalisation to reduce fossil fuel production. The world turned upside down, or just the camera? Like many energy companies, Statoil is trying to rebrand as a ‘broad energy company’ via a rename to Equinor, involving diversification into renewables, but there is no indication that it will reduce oil and gas production as a result, merely talking about more ‘climate efficient’ oil and gas production, as it also expands into new areas.

Gowan continues an inverted historical account by mentioning Harold Wilson’s ability to cut as many mining jobs as Margaret Thatcher without the attendant miners’ strike due to “its cooperation with unions, focus on full employment, and active industrial policy”. What Gowan fails to mention is that Wilson cut 43% of mining jobs at a time of near-full employment, while Thatcher cut 80% of mining jobs at a time of high unemployment. Wilson was faced with a wildcat strike of miners in 1969, which exploded into the 1972 and 1974 miners strikes under Ted Heath. Once again, historically contingent labour shortages between 1945 and 1970 are attributed to genius Keynesianism.

We should be clear that when Gowan describes nationalisation, he doesn’t mean state expropriation with compensation, but mass share buying. At best it is a plan to shift the costs of de-carbonisation from private shareholders to the state. Even if the plan is successful and results in oil and gas being left in the ground, then it is merely a plan to shift the costs of de-carbonisation from private shareholders to the state – “privatise profits, socialise losses” as the saying goes.

Other socialist publications and the Labour Party itself are of the view that “with the national grid in public hands we can put tackling climate change at the heart of our energy system” (Corbyn, Feb 2018). In conceding the limitations of a centralised system, “the future is decentralised”, via a shift toward alternative models of ownership: co-operatives.

In her account of the Mondragon co-operatives in Spain, Sharryn Kasmir1 concluded that far from democratising the workplace, the co-operative form itself generated a new found commitment among the managerial class while engendering apathy among workers. Successful managers moved into political positions, while workers could not make use of the lauded democratic structures. Additionally, in the immediate aftermath of the Algerian Revolution, workers routinely went out on strike against the growing bureaucratisation of state-administered worker’s self-management. That the idea of worker self-management in a socialist Algeria was paired with a nationalist discourse subjected self-management “to an economic logic that undermined its very foundation”2. After the co-option and demobilisation of factory and farm occupations, and the integration of the syndicalist UGTA union into the FLN under Ben Bella, the Algerian workers were unable to resist the outright suppression of the movement under Boumédiène.

In the long run we are all dead

Keynesian theory was a kind of bourgeois adaption of Marx’s critique of political economy,4 in that it acknowledged that capitalism’s crisis could be found in the declining rate of capital accumulation. For Keynes, this was because capitalists hoard profit for irrational reasons (“animal spirits”5), instead of investing it productively. Hence, to counteract a crisis, the state must intervene in the sphere of production through deficit financing to stimulate private spending and consequently private production. As Marx observed however, the problem of an ‘overproduction’ of capital isn’t because there’s too much capital, rather, there is too little relative to the scale of accumulation. In other words, because “the development of the social productiveness of labour, involves an increasingly large mass of total capital to set in motion the same quantity of labour-power and squeeze out the same quantity of surplus-labour”, when the absolute mass of profit is no longer sufficient to make continued accumulation possible (i.e. when the rate of profit falls quicker than capital expands) capital appears as excess because it cannot be profitably employed – after all “it must be so, on the basis of capitalist production” that “the absolute mass of the profit […] can, consequently, increase, and increase progressively, in spite of the progressive drop in the rate of profit”.6 For Keynes, a former British civil servant who once remarked that “the class war will find [him] on the side of the educated bourgeoisie”7, the purpose of state intervention is to halt capitalism’s decline, meanwhile securing some level of social stability.

Although production generated by the state enlarges the capacity of overall production, because it cannot increase the profitability of private capital, there is a general agreement that the state sector of the economy be as small as possible. In fact, production generated by the state is usually found in industries where the produce is not consumable (e.g. defence), and as a general rule, state production will fall outside the market for it is reluctant to further frustrate private capital in an already diminishing market system (in 2009 Sweden, the benchmark for contemporary socialism, SAAB on the brink of bankruptcy, Minister Olofsson announced: “The Swedish state is not prepared to own car factories”8). However, because a growing national deficit cannot be repaid out of state production (after all, the state cannot tax itself), the state must make further inroads into the economy and hence further the decay of the private capital system. Incidentally, this is the source of bourgeois hostility to Keynesianism and its pitiful identification as socialism. However, much like capitalism reproduces a working population rather than an individual worker, capitalism reproduces a class structure rather than the social standing of an individual capitalist.

Adopting the disingenuous buzzword ‘post-capitalist’ indicates that Bastani sits on the more radical end of the Keynesian spectrum. We understand post-capitalism to mean that the acceleration of non-profitable production can transform capitalism into a system that is not capitalism altogether. However, it is only through taking seriously the general laws of capitalist development that the transient character of a distinct period of capitalism can reveal itself. Post-capitalism, or more accurately radical Keynesianism appears not as the transition stage toward ‘fully automated luxury communism’ but rather towards a state-capitalist economy. In which case, post-capitalism is nothing more than a theory of social reform and hence at complete odds with the goals of communism.

So, it is not at all a surprise that Bastani attributes all the ills of the world upon “contemporary globalisation” and an ideologically driven financialisation of the global economy, or evoking the late Mark Fisher’s ‘capitalist realism’. Despite ‘Capitalist Realism’ being an altogether confused polemic sprinkled with some interesting thoughts, Fisher couldn’t have been clearer when he said, “capitalist realism need not be neoliberal” and “[i]n order to save itself, capitalism could revert to a model of social democracy”.9 In fact, the financialisation of the economy is proof of the overproduction of capital. For the only way “idle capital” can avert the collapse of profitability is “through the export of capital or through employment on the stock exchange”10.

Capitalism is total war

Capitalist competition is a centralisation process, during which more surplus value is divided among fewer organisations. This takes place in periods of growth and in periods of stagnation, for centralisation is merely a change in the distribution of available capital. All the while, the market mechanism is drained of its purpose, and when capital ceases to expand, the market is no longer a sufficient mechanism to provide for the needs of social production. If a failure to satisfy such needs is considered a threat to social stability it will be propped up by way of state intervention. Thus, control of a declining supply of surplus value and its distribution (embodied as profit) is vital to the continued existence of capitalism and hence manifests itself as a function of the state. Jacobin is explicit in this when it says: “Market-based solutions can’t attack climate change. Let’s try nationalization”.

Both liberal economists and evidently large swathes of the left regard capitalism in it laissez-faire (or free market) period as capitalism bona fide, characterised by unrestrained private capital accumulation and comprising of free movement of capital and labour. Although such a period has never existed (and certainly doesn’t prevail at present, despite growing protestation), some likeness to this appeared in an earlier stage of capitalist development. Liberals deify such a period because it granted an extensive and rapid accumulation of capital, which is why left-liberals too acknowledge that the market is broken and advocate a return to a more general competition via breaking up monopolies etc. Realistically, however, this period was merely a temporary monopolisation of the world market by a few countries. These monopolies could only be broken by using non-market means e.g. protectionism, war. But, and this cannot be emphasised enough, it is national capitals that compete on the global sphere and not capital in the abstract, even multinational corporations are essentially vehicles for national capital. Competition that is strictly economic has only ever been possible on the national level, and the dramatic albeit predictable collapse of the EU is testament to this. Nations cannot help but work toward an integrated global economy11, however, given the class nature of capitalism, the national protection of capital is
always in direct conflict with the destructive demand intrinsic to the international nature of capitalist competition.

It all comes down to labour

Therefore, Bastani is quite right to say that his plan requires “something akin to a war effort”, for the entire basis of Keynesianism was built upon carrying over war-time economic policies to a period of ‘peace’. However, many governments including the Third Reich carried out Keynesian economics, unaware of its ideology, with little success, until of course the war began.12 In contrast, the German (and Europe in general) post-war period of prosperity had little to do with the application of Keynesian theory and more to do with the tremendous destruction of capital during the Second World War that allowed for an equally tremendous amount of a capital expansion and reconstruction. The political situation unique to Germany and the basic impulse to survive ensured that the German worker handed over “huge levels of consent” to all the economic ‘innovations’ associated with war-time economics e.g. controls on labour. The German worker, in the post-war period worked longer hours than anyone else in Europe and for wages half that of a British worker.

Indeed, Keynesian economics is a kind of preparation for war and this fact is acknowledged (perhaps not consciously) by Bastani13 and those affiliated with him14. It is too simple to regard military production as mere waste production, as the potential for war is built into capital accumulation. The business class oppose welfare spending on supposed ideological grounds, but ideology vanishes into thin air when it comes to defence spending. In so far as the objective of war is to weaken or destroy competing nations, war being competition and competition being a centralisation process, the gains of victor nations usher in a new period of capital expansion. In short, capitalist competition is total war. It is therefore difficult to see how one can convert war-time policy into green or “woke” peace-time policy. Indeed, the products of human labour in a war economy are required to be destroyed faster than they are created, and upon closer inspection the products of human labour also destroy their producers.

Although the water conflict between India and Pakistan and their statuses as nuclear powers is well documented, take the lesser known tension over the river Syr Darya between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan. Uzbekistan, driven by its prominent role in the global cotton industry, continue to build larger reservoirs for cotton irrigation to the dismay of Kyrgyzstan, an upstream nation, where it needs flowing water to produce hydroelectricity during the winter. There would be little surprise then to see disputes escalate when the laws of capital production come face to face with the laws of physics and chemistry, particularly since water supplies in the region are predicted to vary wildly over the next 50 years.

Bastani is reluctant to say it himself and leaves it to a quote from Paul Mason; nationalism is the only form of sociality that can be achieved under his conception of ‘green populism’. Given the antagonism existing between national capital and the international character of capitalist competition, in nationalising capital new ruling groups and institutions (or what Pannekoek would regard as “the class of intellect and knowledge”15) tied to the existence of the nation are created, in which their preservation and reproduction become synonymous with the national interest. In fact, nationalism can only serve to obscure the real and only market that determines capitalist production and that is the one in which labour is sold and procured. This includes a society where, in Marxian terms, surplus labour is converted directly into capital, or what Bastani would call ‘post-capitalism’.

Post-capitalism? Post-autonomism?

While Keynes is a boring British technocrat who never claimed to want to see an end to capitalism, ‘post-capitalism’ itself can be traced back to the much sexier Italian post-autonomist Paulo Virno’s obsession with the ‘machine fragment’ in the Grundrisse:

The development of fixed capital indicates to what degree general social knowledge has become a direct force of production, and to what degree, hence, the conditions of the process of social life itself have come under the control of the general intellect and been transformed in accordance with it.

Post-capitalism takes from this fragment not the potential for communism being opened up by capitalism, but its actual realisation. Rather than the proletariat expropriating capital, abolishing the commodity form, capital, and itself as a class, and transforming production to meet human need; post-capitalism makes capital itself the subject of history, ushering in communism through an increase in the forces of production, with some helpful steering from leftist technocrats to keep it from accelerating into total disorderly collapse into barbarism.

In Virno’s own words:

In the ‘Fragment’ the crisis of capitalism is no longer due to the disproportion intrinsic to the mode of production based on the labour time of individuals, nor to the imbalances related to the full workings of the law of value, for instance to the fall of the rate of profit. Instead, the main lacerating contradiction outlined here is that between productive processes that now directly and exclusively rely on science and a unit of measure of wealth that still coincides with the quantity of labour embodied in the product. According to Marx, the development of this contradiction leads to the ‘breakdown of production based on exchange value’ and therefore to communism.

Later in the ‘machine fragment’ though, Marx is clear that there is still a role for the proletariat, because at a certain point capital ceases to raise the forces of production, as it cannot provide a surplus. When we look at the massive capital destruction of world war and environmental crisis, the vision of full automation ushering in communism technologically looks a lot more like the old choice of socialism or barbarism:

If it succeeds too well at the first, then it suffers from surplus production, and then necessary labour is interrupted, because no surplus labour can be realized by capital. The more this contradiction develops, the more does it become evident that the growth of the forces of production can no longer be bound up with the appropriation of alien labour, but that the mass of workers must themselves appropriate their own surplus labour.

The constant cyclical tendency of hyper-exploitation of some workers while others are cast aside, and massive capital destruction by war and human disaster as contracts and regeneration are parcelled out, is squared by post-capitalism’s rebranded New Deal or Bevanite welfare state, basic income/services and other schemes which paper over the cracks of open class warfare.

How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb

It’s at this point that Bastani’s frankly comical interpretation of social relations being nothing more than liberal ethical consumerism and his genuflection to David Harvey begin to make themselves clear. In that the academic Marxist, Harvey, completely disposes the core building block in Capital, that labour power is the source of value. Harvey’s failure to grasp the different levels of abstraction in Marx’s argument has him arrive at the altogether bizarre conclusion that value appears like magic during exchange. For if we accept Harvey’s chicanery16, we in turn reject the social relation that defines capitalist production; the one between capital and labour.

A lot is made of the much-promised technological revolution and the abundance it can supply, but we have been here before. In 1964, an open letter titled “The Triple Revolution”17 signed by various prominent socialists was sent to the then President of the U.S., Lyndon Johnson. The letter offers many of the same concepts and dilemmas mentioned in Bastani’s formulation of “Fully Automated Luxury Communism”: basic income; post-scarcity/abundance; converting military infrastructure into civilian infrastructure etc. Decades later the predicted ‘triple revolution’ was described as “illusory” based on a dismal Malthusian analysis. The ‘revolution’, however, was illusory all the same, for the very simple reason that abundance is impossible in a class society. Of course, the promise of communism is found upon the potential for abundance, but it is contingent upon the complete destruction of class relations. Bastani much like his intellectual predecessors are both guilty of putting the cart before the horse.

In truth, since Bastani caricaturises grassroots movements, it is difficult to determine who exactly he is trying to sell the dream of Fully Automated Luxury Communism to, jumping from primitivists, to ethical liberals, to lifestylists only to find himself on a hiding to nothing. Equally striking is the absence of any mention of class struggle, or the revolutionary implication that struggles assume within a period of crisis, whether or not the working-class themselves envisage their struggles as the pathway to revolution. To be clear, the object of Marx’s analysis is not crisis per se but the capitalist process of reproduction in its totality. The tendency of machines producing “a relative surplus population, or the setting free of labourers”18 is a process that appears throughout the history of capitalism. It is therefore difficult to comprehend why merely bestowing this process with the exotic expression ‘automation’ all of a sudden posits issues that we haven’t seen before. Perhaps this provides ample opportunity to delay the certain proletarianisation of the middle-classes but for the working-class no historically unique problem appears.

Marx identified the tendency for fixed capital to increase relative to labour increasing productivity and creating surplus populations in the 19th century, not as a progressive thing to be continued for two centuries, but as a driver towards revolution, with the Haitian, French and English revolutions, then the Paris Commune all showing the potential for the working class to transform society.

Capitalism for Marx was a pre-condition for communism, something that by its own logic was heading towards crisis and revolution not merely something to be steered in the favour of the working class but to be overthrown. Communism means the abolition of the commodity form, direct production to satisfy human need, and thus the abolition of all authority, including states (regarded by Bastani as “the greatest instruments of collective action yet created by humans”) except the will of the producers themselves – not merely a reconfiguration of social safety nets which have never been there for most of the world’s population. These remain urgent tasks a century and a half after the machine fragment was written, as the continual carnage of colonialism, international warfare, and – increasingly over the past fifty years – climate change, wreaks havoc on the international working class.

If we still regard the left as a relevant movement, it is to provide meaning to the class struggle within the context of capital production, not merely to realise some special program of our own. While Jacobin and Novara are fantasising about how they’ll manage the capitalist state after the next election, workers internationally are taking on both the state and capital in an uptick of class struggle not seen for over a decade. Teachers in West Virginia gained a 5% pay increase for all public employees after a weeks long wildcat strike. Teachers in both Kentucky and Oklahoma are on wildcat this week over schools funding without full support from their unions. All of these struggles look set to win major concessions against Republican state administrations, a Republican senate and a Republican president. In the UK there has been unprecedented strike action at universities by lecturers and support staff, bringing rank and file workers into direct conflict with the “the incumbent organisations of democratic representation – unions” as they protested at their own union HQ over an early attempt at capitulation. While these are defensive struggles over wages and conditions, the struggle against new oil pipelines and fracking in the US and UK continues with major protests such as in Dakota with #NODAPL. Social democracy is a politics of retreat and demobilisation of these struggles, no matter how much radical frisson it’s able to conjure up.


Brazil: Rivers of Blood

Sat, 04/07/2018 - 15:46
Peace Is War, Security Is Hazardous, and Citizens Are the Targets of the State

via Crimethinc

In 2016, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in a legal coup d’état. On March 14, 2018, City Council member Marielle Franco was murdered in downtown Rio de Janeiro, likely by the police or their colleagues in the paramilitary cartels. Yesterday, a judge ordered the imprisonment of Lula da Silva, the most popular candidate in the upcoming presidential election. Rather than understanding these as interruptions of Brazilian democracy, we have to recognize them as the functioning of a system in which the forces that purport to provide security are themselves the greatest source of danger.

The army on the streets of Rio de Janeiro after the decree of occupation. The Execution of Marielle Franco

On March 14, City Council member Marielle Franco and driver Anderson Gomes were shot and killed in downtown Rio de Janeiro as they were leaving a gathering of black women from a variety of social movements. The attack bears all the hallmarks of an execution. Nothing was stolen; she was shot in the head from behind and the driver was shot in the back. Both died on the spot. Days before, Marielle had used social media to denounce police brutality in the neighborhood of Acari, where the military police battalion responsible for the region has been carrying out executions and threatening residents.1

Marielle had dedicated her work to recording and denouncing the occupation of the favelas in Rio by the Pacification Police Units (UPP), which began in 2008. Recently, she had been one of the preeminent voices against the Federal Intervention undertaken by President Michel Temer. The Federal Government, in accordance with the State Government, took over the Public Security Secretary, putting in charge an Army General, with deployment of Army troops. This was an unprecedented measure, deemed by many unconstitutional, reflecting the tactics of a government determined to remake the law.

Many anarchist collectives and groups joined the protests denouncing the murder of Marielle. She was a black lesbian woman, a longtime grassroots militant in feminist movements and black resistance in the favelas. Her work at the biggest university in Rio de Janeiro was dedicated to exposing the previous military occupations. She was a comrade to all who fight against oppression, state violence, and patriarchy.

Dozens of other prominent participants in social movements have been killed in Brazil over the past few years; at least seven have already been murdered in 2018. Despite being a known member of a political party, she was shot and killed in the middle of the street. This shows that not even a public position of power can protect you in the situation of pervasive, constant and systematic violence that is now normal for many in Brazil.

Marielle Presente.

The corporate media is trying to whitewhash and conceal the radical aspects of Marielle’s activism, suggesting that she was just fighting for a vague notion of human rights. Worse, they are using the murder to justify the military occupation, as if she was murdered because there were not enough police on the streets.

On the contrary, Marielle Franco was murdered because of the police, and quite possibly by them.

What is driving the militarization and repression in Brazil? How has it escalated since the uprising of 2013, the World Cup, and the subsequent reaction? What can it teach us about the future of democracy?

Tropical paradise. Escalating Militarization and Policing

It is difficult to arrive at an understanding of Brazil’s political and social situation today when the political and analytical categories one would previously have used to do so are totally exhausted. Classical concepts such as “citizenship,” “sovereignty,” “representation,” “constitutional guarantees,” and all the other terms that derive from them have become plastic; they have melted in the heat of the conflicts taking place across the globe since the end of the 20th century. One has the impression that not even those who utter these words are able to believe in them. Today, everything has become its own opposite: peace is war, security is hazardous, and citizens are the targets of the same state agencies tasked with protecting them.

The constitutional and militarized intervention in the public security of Rio de Janeiro, instituted by presidential decree and captained by a general of the Brazilian Armed Forces, exposes these contradictions. It is so absurd that it provokes paralysis, waiting, polite requests for explanation.

Though such a governmental decision is unprecedented, when we look at the various interventions in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro that have taken place over the last several decades, we can see that it is part of a stream of events that has been flowing for a long time. One landmark was the GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order) of 1992,2 used to impose the ECO-92 on the city of Rio de Janeiro.

Starting from Operation Rio (1994-1995), the use of the armed forces, especially the army, through the GLO ceased to be exceptional. In view of recent events, such as the pacification of favelas in Rio de Janeiro and the so-called “public security crises” in the north of the country, Espírito Santo and Goiás, we can conclude that the relationship between the military and the police has been inverted. Whereas once, the Military Police designated auxiliary reserve forces to serve the Army of Brazil in the event of a external conflict, today the military itself has become a sort of auxiliary police force answering to the state governors.

So the militarization of Brazilian society was already in progress well before 2013. The National Security Force, for example, was created in 2006 under the Lula administration. Yet the uprising of June 2013 marked an inflection point.

How many more have to die for this war to end?

Paulo Arantes wrote, “After June, peace will be total.” Five years later, his prediction is confirmed—provided we understand democratic social peace as identical with this militarized war on the population.

The conservative reaction intensified with the so-called mega-events, the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics, both of which took place in Rio. All of these offered the state the opportunity to implement institutional adjustments in the field of security. The police received new equipment and special training from the military, in partnership with police from the UK and France; new special battalions of police were created; GLOs have been issued regularly; and a new anti-terrorism law has been introduced (No. 13,260 of March 16, 2016). In addition, police are focusing more on video recording operations and monitoring social media.

After June 2013, the ghostly figure of a diffuse and faceless (or masked) enemy took on more discernible contours. The case of Amarildo de Souza, who was tortured and murdered by a UPP (Pacifying Police Unit) and reported missing, was a warning about the escalation of policing that found no echo. The case of Rafael Braga Vieira, arrested in June 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, exemplifies the expansion of the power of security forces over the civilian population. All these were forewarnings of the murder of Marielle Franco.

Today, it is possible to justify almost anything in the name of security. Daily life is full of little humiliations that supposedly preserve our safety. These are still aimed chiefly at black people, the poor, women, rebels, and others who are marginalized; Marielle Franco was all of these. Because anyone can be understood as a potential terrorist, anyone can become a target of state terrorism. Those who object to this are themselves targeted for additional scrutiny from law enforcement or subjected to monitoring devices.

Safety and danger are imposed by the same institutions. They have become inextricably entangled, indistinguishable.

A soldier taking a photograph of the ID of a person who is attempting to enter a neighborhood on the west side of Rio de Janeiro. Not Securing Democracy, but Securitizing It

All of these developments confirm the authoritarian tendencies that have already been consolidating in the world’s democracies for decades now. At the same time, they hint at the steps that are coming next.

The fact that all this is coming to pass under democracy rather than a military dictatorship seems to contradict the old-fashioned understanding of the state of exception as the suspension of the law. In Brazil, we are witnessing this intensification of violence, repression, and electronic surveillance not as an interruption of the rule of law, but as an extension of its logic. Today this is called the “austerity policy”—the similarities with Greece are evident, especially in Rio de Janeiro. These austerity measures are only the latest reallocation of resources in a centuries-ongoing series of colonial robberies channeling resources from the public purse into the pockets of the powerful, a process that precedes democracy yet has been stabilized by it. What is disappearing now is the illusory promise of isonomy (self-rule and equality under the law) that supposedly qualified Brazil as a modern democracy.

Crises do not necessarily cause moments of rupture. Instead, they can offer new opportunities to impose government. In a society in perpetual crisis, it is not surprising that the subjects want more and more security—even though the ones promising security are also the ones generating the crises. Here we arrive at what we can call the securitization of democracy, in which the citizen to be protected and the threat to be eliminated merge into a single subject, with the criminal justice system and the armed forces playing central roles.

This explains, on the one hand, the militarizing of the police and, on the other, the use of armies as police. Criminal justice is expanded and “democratized,” becoming the locus of political decisions in all spheres from local to international. At the same time, the armed forces have redefined their functions and adapted to the constitutional rules and protocols of international organizations, acting in new spaces and according to new strategic objectives. These developments give a grim subtext to the maxim “we must defend society.”

The result is the transformation of urban zones into theaters of war and the vertiginous increase of state murders. In Brazil, this translates into something like 60,000 corpses stacked up every year, almost all black and poor. If in the 1990s it was said that Haiti is here in Brazil, today the number of deaths surpasses the accumulation of corpses in the Syrian conflict.

Michel Temer signs the decree of military intervention in Rio de Janeiro. The Courage to Be a Minority

With the military intervention, it was clear that we had reached a low point, but the well has no bottom. The execution of PSOL councillor Marielle Franco exceeds the routinely deadly violence of securitized democracy. It confronts each of us with the necessity of taking sides in this stupid war.

Some have speculated that Marielle’s assassination was motivated by the pursuit of electoral power. This is partly true, but that narrative is most useful to white experts looking to fill the airtime of their innocuous televised debates. Marielle Franco was not executed as part of an isolated plot to undermine democracy. She was executed by the state for the same reason that thousands of other black, poor, queer, and female people are executed.

Whenever people mobilize autonomously—for example, against the tariff in 2013, or against the extermination of black people and poor people by the police—the police intensify their violence. Any police action, no matter how violent, can be justified in the name of maintaining order, the sanctity of property, and even the security of the demonstrators themselves. That includes the extrajudicial murders of untold thousands.

Who will police the police? This is one of the fundamental problems with state democracy. There is no democratic principle, no civil or human right, that could stop the security forces from mobilizing against the population. The question of the legitimacy of specific instances of police violence, so dear to liberals and defenders of constitutional rights, has no bearing on the systemic function that the police serve through the countless acts of violence that are never documented. To this day, from Ferguson to Rio de Janeiro, the relationship between police violence and legality is the insoluble problem of administrative law. And yet it is the police that enforce the law; they are the precondition for its enforcement.

This is why we argue that we are witnessing the consolidation of democratic securitization, rather than a permanent state of exception or a slide towards a dictatorship like the ones that governed so much of the world during the 20th century, especially in nuestra América. And we have to fight it accordingly—not by demanding the return of democracy to the state, but by definitively rejecting the violence of the state in every form it can assume.

In 2018, we will see elections for executive and legislative positions throughout Brazil, including president and governors. It is the first election year after the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff. It will be an electoral process fraught with fear, suspicion, and danger—posing serious risks of legal and constitutional insecurity, as jurists like to say. This was already true before the execution of Mareille Franco.

It would not be surprising for social movements to show interest in this electoral contest. Indeed, it is precisely when democracy fails people the most that they most want to rehabilitate it. However, looking closer at all the parties contending to take the reins, we can see that whoever comes to power will not put a stop to the bloodshed. The police and the army are the primary agents of the violence that government officials claim to be fighting, and they are essential to the system. Neither Lula da Silva nor Dilma Rousseff did anything to rein in the security forces when they were in power before. Nor will any of their successors—unless governing itself becomes impossible.

A protest in Belo Horizonte remembering Marielle Franco on March 15, the day after she was murdered.

We do not seek seats at the negotiating table of legislative power. We have to take to the streets, as so many people did after Mareille Franco was executed. We have to make the streets our arena and make ungovernable revolt our instrument of struggle. The alternations between parties in the government have gotten us nowhere. If the state is the space of modern politics where all seek recognition, we need something that is unrecognizable on that terrain—that does not depend on the assembling of majorities or the preservation of a lethal security.

To begin this process, it does not matter if a thousand people take the street or a hundred thousand. It does not matter if the movement receives a hundred “likes” on social media or a million. What causes the annoyance to our rulers—and has the power to expose the scandal of the truth—is the courage to be a minority.

This is the only path forward out of securitized democracy. It is also the only way to properly honor all the people who have died at the hands of the police and the military over the years. As the artist Rogério Duarte said, describing his experience of torture during the civil-military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985) when he faced the Grande Porta do Medo (Great Door of Fear): there may be a beginning and an end to the stories, but what really matters is the river of blood that runs in the middle.

They don’t care about us.
  1. In Brazil, we have three different kinds of police. The Civil Police investigate crimes on the state level; the Federal Police investigate crimes on the national level; and the military police patrol the streets. The military police are the ones who will profile you for your color or beat you when a riot breaks out. 
  2. The GLOs are carried out exclusively by order of the Presidency of the Brazilian Republic to arrange for the intervention of the armed forces in situations in which the public security forces are not able to ensure order (see Art. CF 1988). In early 2014, during the administration of Dilma Rousseff, civilian and military advisers produced a “GLO Manual” that standardizes the prescribed activities of the forces deployed in this type of activity. 

Which Feminisms?

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 15:50

via New Left Review

by Susan Watkins

Of all the opposition movements to have erupted since 2008, the rebirth of a militant feminism is perhaps the most surprising—not least because feminism as such had never gone away; women’s empowerment has long been a mantra of the global establishment. Yet there were already signs that something new was stirring in the us and uk student protests of 2010, the 2011 Occupy encampments at Puerta del Sol and Zuccotti Park. In India, mass rallies condemned the gang rape of Jyoti Pandey in 2012 and feminist flash-mobs have disrupted the moral-policing operations of Hindutva fundamentalists. The protests against sexual assault on us campuses blazed across the New York media in 2014. In Brazil, 30,000 black women descended on the capital in 2015 to demonstrate against sexual violence and racism, calling for the ouster of the corrupt head of the National Congress, Eduardo Cunha; earlier that year, the March of Margaridas brought over 50,000 rural women to Brasília. In Argentina, feminist campaigners against domestic violence were at the forefront of protests against Macri’s shock therapy. In China, the arrest in 2015 of five young women preparing to sticker Beijing’s public transport against sexual violence—members of Young Feminist Activism, an online coalition that’s played cat-and-mouse with the authorities—was met with web petitions signed by over 2 million people.

In January 2017, a ‘feminism of the 99 per cent’ declared itself with the million-strong march against the Trump Administration in the us. In Poland, mass women’s protests forced the Law and Justice government to retreat from tightening the already restrictive abortion law. Italy, Spain and Portugal saw huge marches against domestic violence and economic precarity. On 8 March 2017, these movements came together to put International Women’s Day back on the radical calendar, with demonstrations and strikes on three continents. The eruption of #MeToo in October 2017 and the convulsions that have followed are only the latest in a string of mass events around the world.

Yet any attempt to renew feminist strategy today confronts a series of dilemmas. First, we lack convincing assessments of the progress already made. What results have the old feminisms produced and how adequate have these been in meeting women’s needs? How, exactly—by what processes, to what extent—have conditions improved? What changes have been brought about, globally, in gender relations, and where do these now stand? Through to the mid-twentieth century, the hegemonic, though far from universal, Western model entailed the rule of men across the public sphere—governments, armies, legislature, judiciary, institutes of learning, the press—and, in return for the slights and buffetings of mass industrial-capitalist society, offered each man the private fiefdom of the domestic sphere, where he could rule over the wife who bore and raised his children, served him at table and in bed. This was qualified internationally by a wide range of geo-cultural family structures and forms of production, and co-existed with broader, seemingly universal moralities of pleasure and predation, eliding good-girl and bad-girl categories with inequalities of class, race and caste. [1]

A mass of data now shows that women have entered the global waged-labour force in their hundreds of millions since the 1970s. In tertiary education, girls outnumber boys in over seventy countries. In terms of reproductive health, average fertility has fallen from five births to two. On the domestic front, men report that they do more housework than their fathers, women less than their mothers. In attitudes, polls show a majority in favour of gender equality on every continent, with near universal support in many countries. In politics, a new cohort of female leaders has appeared on the world stage, heading governments across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America; if she’d paid more attention to hard-hit rustbelt voters in 2016, there would almost certainly be a woman in the White House. On this basis, the mainstream-feminist response to the question of strategy has long been: more of the same. Women have made significant progress in work and education, but sexual violence is still a major issue and, in the glib parlance of official feminism, ‘challenges remain’. Ergo, the same programme that has already produced such good results should continue, with renewed vigour and cash.

Yet—this is the second part of the puzzle—advances in gender equality have gone hand-in-hand with soaring socio-economic inequality across most of the world. The levelling up of world regions through accelerated accumulation in China and East Asia has been matched by growing disparity between classes, which the advance of professional-strata women has helped to accentuate by creating a thin layer of double-income wealthy households. Since 2008, debate over these patterns has intensified, questioning mainstream feminism’s collusion with the neoliberal order. [2] Relatedly—this is the third problem—the global data treat the overall categories of work, reproduction, culture and politics as unchanging, measuring only women’s advance within them. In reality, each of these spheres has undergone profound changes that have themselves been deeply gendered and which inter-relate in contradictory ways. In the realm of production, ‘masculine’ rustbelt manufacturing has been automated or downgraded and outsourced, feminized in sun-belt Special Economic Zones. In the expanding service sector, intensified economic pressures reinforce the competitive advantages of ultra-femininity, of women’s traditional experience in the domestic sphere. Hegemonic masculinities have become, on the one hand, more cerebral and sensitive; on the other—in global finance, virtual worlds, the gangsterized zones of the informal economy—more swaggering than ever. [3] The realm of reproduction has undergone a dramatic transition to lower birth rates, based on a world-historical severance of sex from procreation and the equally unprecedented extension of mass female education. Culture has been transformed by a means of communication premised on an Ivy League ‘hot or not’ game, representations of sex by the ubiquity of online porn, blinking alongside consumer ads and messages from friends. In the West, the enormous weight of heteronormative-family ideology has succeeded in producing the ‘normal’ gay couple, while campus and bohemian milieus have nurtured post-gender spaces and identities. Politics, the realm of power, has been simultaneously opened—induction of women and minorities; third-wave democratization—and homogenized around a single programme, reproducing the pattern of parity within inequality. These transformations are inter-linked: economic pressures worsening gender and sexual relations, culture and politics proposing contradictory forms of compensation. In these conditions, ‘more of the same’ is not enough.

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Focus on Facebook and Google Monopolies

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 11:44

We all know about Facebook, Google and similar giant 21st century companies. They are dominating our lives. What can we do to change them, lessen their power, and support alternatives? One important approach, will be to challenge their monopoly power, which may result in them breaking up into smaller companies, or having their power curtailed through such things as new privacy regulations.

Some people are choosing direct action. They are leaving Facebook, Twitter and Google with their feet. They are walking out. #LeaveFacebook. Many other people would love to leave, or enjoy a simpler version of Facebook, but stay around because of friends, family, work, education and special interests.

We will also cover here alternatives to the walled gardens of Facebook, Google and Apple, covering the many projects out there trying to rebuild the open, decentralized Internet that birthed all of these cool things in the first place.

Online / Digital Monopolies Facebook Privacy Human Rights Censorship

Facebook is reluctant to delete so many things, but always seems willing to delete political content, especially content that meets its terms and conditions. Often, this content is reported by people opposed to the views expressed in the content.


Criticism of Google includes aggressive and contrived tax avoidance, misuse and manipulation of search results, its use of others’ intellectual property, concerns that its compilation of data may violate people’s privacy, censorship of search results and content, and the energy consumption of its servers as well as concerns over traditional business issues such as monopoly, restraint of trade, antitrust, idea borrowing, and being a “Ideological Echo Chamber”. ~ Wikipedia, Criticism of Google

In October 2012, it was reported that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission staff were preparing a recommendation that the government sue Google on antitrust grounds. The areas of concern include accusations of manipulating the search results to favor Google services such as Google Shopping for buying goods and Google Places for advertising local restaurants and businesses; whether Google’s automated advertising marketplace, AdWords, discriminates against advertisers from competing online commerce services like comparison shopping sites and consumer review Web sites; whether Google’s contracts with smartphone makers and carriers prevent them from removing or modifying Google products, such as its Android operating system or Google search; and Google’s use of its smartphone patents. A likely outcome of the antitrust investigations is a negotiated settlement where Google would agree not to discriminate in favor of its products over smaller competitors.[24] Federal Trade Commission ended its investigation during a period which the co-founder of Google, Larry Page, had met with individuals at the White House and the Federal Trade Commission, leading to voluntary changes by Google; since January 2009 to March 2015 employees of Google have met with officials in the White House about 230 times according to the Wall Street Journal. ~ Wikipedia, Criticism of Google

Privacy Building the Decentralized Internet Alternatives to Facebook, Google, and Big Social Media Corporate Connections, Privacy and Surveillance Additional Resources

Climate Truth: a Plan for Sustainability

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 03:30

via CounterPunch

by Roy Morrison

There is a practical path for tackling climate change, for organizing from your house to your neighborhood, city, state and beyond. It’s clear. It’s simple. It’s 3 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per person per year as a goal and a measure for global sustainability.

3 tons is the basis for personal and collective action and planning on all levels. It is, and must become, the acceptable local and global standard first measuring where we are, sustainable or endangered, and as a guide to reaching sustainability.

3 tons per person per year of carbon dioxide emissions is a simple number. In the global aggregate, 21 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, more or less, is the sustainable global limit for natural cycles to keep atmospheric carbon dioxide levels level. A gigaton is a billion tons. This means that 21 gigatons is about 3 metric tons per person per year , or 6,612 pounds per year for all of us. 3 tons per person per year of carbon dioxide from primary energy consumption equal to 70 gigajoules or 19,443 kilowatt hours a year was set as a sustainable global target for all by the U.N. In 2011. Remember that 3 tons per person per year number. That’s the target we need to keep in mind if we are to stop and then reverse the steady march toward climate catastrophe.

3 tons by itself is not enough given the carbon dioxide we’ve already added to the atmosphere and are continuing to do so. 3 tons, or even less, as planetary target must be combined with global cooling also aggressively remove carbon from the atmosphere and sequester in soil or biomass or otherwise remove and store it.

Yes this is a global problem. But, from the other end of the telescope, climate change is the collective consequence of what all 7.6 billion of us do. Our opportunity and responsibility is to act from where we are, to take part in what must be come a global movement from the bottom up for global ecological and social change.

Current total global carbon emissions were 34 gigatons in 2017, an average of 5.5 tons carbon per person per year. This means collectively a 13 gigaton of carbon dioxide yearly excess. This is reflected in the relentless increase in atmospheric carbon measured by the Mana Loa laboratory in Hawaii, now above 400 parts per million and rising from the pre-industrial level of below 300 part per million.

Globally, at first glance, what’s the big deal? We just have to cut carbon emissions by a little more than half. Unfortunately, its not that simple. Some of the 7.6 billion, mostly poor people in poor nations are already way below 3 tons. The more “advanced’ the economy , the greater the carbon pollution. The rich, not the poor, are the global carbon hogs and are responsible for the lion’s share of historic and current pollution.

In Mali, the average emissions for 18 million people was only one-tenth of a ton (.1 tons) of carbon dioxide per person in 2014 according to the World Bank, or 1.8 million tons total of carbon dioxide. In the United States, for 300 million of us, it’s an average of 16.5 tons per person per year or 4.95 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s 2,750 times greater than Mali. If we all lived like Americans, as many aspire to, global emissions would be 125 gigatons a year or about 6 times greater than sustainable levels. But we have only one Earth, not six.

3 tons per person per year of carbon dioxide equivalent is the basis for global convergence on sustainable conduct, for a global technological and social revolution based on making economic growth mean ecological improvement and for the pursuit of social and ecological justice and an end to poverty. Carbon dioxide equivalent includes the climate change effects of the emissions of other green house gases like methane. 3 tons per person emissions per year when combined with removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through soil building and biomass on land and sea will stop and reverse climate change.

Unfortunately, today almost none of us have any idea what is our actual share of the problem, nor do we understand what is a sustainable level of emissions. We don’t know the facts about the concrete goal we really need to be work toward and fighting for and how to measure our progress. Instead, we get lost in ever shifting and incomprehensible blather about how much warming is deemed acceptable. The acceptable number continuing to rise in order to keep business and pollution as usual churning as the “acceptable “target increases from 1.5 degrees Centigrade to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5 degrees Centigrade. Business and pollution as usual offers half-measures and promises action just in time, if we are lucky, before the planet warms sufficiently to cause massive crop failure as industrial civilization collapses amidst flood, drought, famine, war, mass migration of the desperate, epidemics. All fall down.

There is another choice. We can make and implement plans for a 3 tons of carbon per person future starting where we live. Right here. Right now.

The global pursuit of 3 tons of carbon must be a reflection not of economic contraction and global depression, but of economic growth resulting in ecological improvement. This is global economic growth rooted in the community ownership of the new global efficient renewable energy system and ecological production systems. It is a plan for community empowerment and for asset building and a global sharing of resources as investment to help empower the global poor to build the sustainable energy and productive infrastructure. Unless this transformation, this 3 ton mantra for salvation, is global and shared we cannot succeed to save ourselves in a world half sustainable and half mega-polluting.

A 100% renewable energy transition globally by 2050 is both technological possible and will reduce the average cost of energy by 30% from current fossil fuel and nuclear power prices according to a comprehensive 2017 study of the European Energy Watch Group led by physicist and German PV pioneer Hans-Josef Fell and performed by Berlin’s Lappeenranta University of Technology. The study employed hourly simulation data for modeling 145 global regions using a mixture of renewables, primarily PV and wind and energy storage. Carbon dioxide emissions are radically reduced by 2030 and largely disappear by 2050 from energy production. In 2018, further examination of eliminating carbon dioxide from industrial and other sectors globally will be forthcoming.

This is the context of technological possibility and the competitive economic advantage of zero fuel cost and zero emissions renewable energy for the pursuit of global sustainability and 3 tons of carbon per person per year as achievable goal combined with global cooling activities to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by soil building and biomass.

But technological possibility and economic advantage will not by itself overcoming the self-interest of polluters,the political inertia against dramatic change and the trillions of dollars of soon to be stranded investment in fossil fuel and nuclear plants. To stranded plant is added the booked value of trillions of dollars of fossil fuels in the ground soon to be rendered worthless as fuel. Current economics is driving the abandonment of fossil fuels. This is why in March 2018, Duke energy announced the closing of 9 more coal plants to be replaced by renewables and, alas, natural gas. When Southern utilities in the U.S. like Duke and Florida Power and Light turn big time for renewables they clearly are driven by economic reality.

3 tons is meant to be a call to local action to start where we are, to push as hard as we can for a renewable energy transformation and transformation of the global industrial system to sustainability. This is happening on all levels from the efforts of Norenda Modi that is quickly allowing India to join China as ra renewable leader, to efforts by U.S. States like California and New York in response to the Trump administration withdrawal from the Paris Climate accords. Like Gov. Brown in California, we cannot wait for deliverance .We must act where we are, and make that action part of a global wave of local plans and clear plans and demands to facilitate the grand global renewable transformation.

The Energy Watch Group writes that they “initiated this research to present an energy transition pathway encompassing all countries globally which is required for a comprehensive discourse on national government levels…” The purpose of 3 tons of carbon per person per year is to raise these issues from below, thorough local plans,local demands that engage their neighbors, local businesses, schools, institutions and their political representatives. It is bringing the possibilities for a renewable transformation to reality.

We will sink or float together. We must make sure that a minimum of 1% of global product, annually $ 1.1 trillion, raised through ecological assessments on pollution and high energy consumption is targeted for investment to helping the poorest pursue ecological paths and not fossil fuels. China and India, led by Xi and Modi, are already leading the way with trillion dollar renewable investment construction programs.

Globally the renewable transition will require many trillions in productive investment,the everyday practice of making economic growth meaning ecological improvement. Much of this productive investment is to replace highly polluting and inefficient devices with more efficient and much less polluting machines, for example, installing only air to air heat pumps in buildings and not oil or gas burners. The three times more efficient electric heat pump, is both a big money saver that slashes carbon pollution. It takes heat from the air, even in the winter. It is 3 times more efficient than oil or gas burners because of the second law of thermodynamics advantages of the Carnot refrigeration cycle. In this case, heat pumps cooling the air and dumping the heat into the house in the winter. In the summer it takes taking heat out of the air in the house and dumps it outside. This is 3 times more efficient than burning oil or gas for heat. And if the electricity is from renewable energy sources, carbon dioxide is slashed to minimal levels.

A carbon based fuel when burnt combines with oxygen to produce 3.15 times its weight in carbon dioxide. Burn 1,000 gallons of fuel oil for heat releases 22.4 pounds of carbon dioxide per gallon according to the EIA or 10.15 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. Electric heat pumps today reduces that to 3.4 tons and to a small fraction of that if the grid was renewably powered. The heat pumps could be sold by your electric utility on a no capital down basis and paid for from the savings form the fuel you no longer consume.

What to Do

What’s a concerned citizen to do beyond just worrying about business and pollution as usual that is leading us to common catastrophe? Suppose you knew that your personal share and entitlement for carbon dioxide emissions was three tons of carbon dioxide equivalents a year to hold the amount of carbon dioxide steady in the atmosphere. And you also knew, for example, that that an average gas driven car emitted 4.7 tons of carbon dioxide per year and an electric car would cut that in half even when powered from the current polluting grid, and much much less on a life cycle basis from a future global efficient renewable energy system displacing almost all fossil fuels.

Carbon dioxide life cycle footprint of fossil fuels is much greater than just the combustion. Included in life cycle carbon are substantial methane leaks from natural gas production and pipelines, the energy for drilling, mining, transport, refining, and disposal that are much more significant for fossil fuels and nuclear energy than for renewables. Reducing end use of fossil fuels has a much broader affect on net emissions.

A plan to help get to three tons is not simply to buy electric cars, but also to improve public transportation, bike sharing, installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure and car to home interconnection for millions of EVs to also help provide power into the electric grid, mandate phasing in of electric vehicles whose operating “fuel” cost is equivalent to less than $1.00 per gallon.

Understanding your current average national contribution in tons of carbon per person per year is the basis for understanding and changing not just your personal choices, but your local and national systemic issues necessary for getting to sustainable carbon levels.

Three Crucial Steps For Getting From Endangered Present to Ecological Future

An ecological transformation is not a recipe for stringency and poverty. It is a strategy for improved efficiency and massive productive investment over time to create the a sustainable global energy, production, agricultural, and forestry system. This is a recipe for a global convergence on sustainable conduct. It is the basis for a plan for social and ecological justice and an end to poverty.

Technologically, a comprehensive and economic series of changes are available to transform the self-destructive industrial present to make economic growth men ecological improvement in the context of a global pursuit of social and ecological justice.

A family of four today as an interim step with a 12 tons of carbon per year entitlement and goal could quickly move from 14.9 tons carbon for car and heating to 7.1 tons with electric vehicle and heat pump even using the current grid. A wide variety of measures can replace the typical U.S.consumption pattern and become part of the ecological transition plan including. car sharing, public transit, telecommuting and living near ,where you work, bike sharing, autonomous electric vehicles for hire.

At bottom, once we look the three tons of carbon challenge in the eye, it’s a straightforward matter to develop a clear plan in steps to get from our polluting and self-destructive present to a sustainable ecological future.

Three numbers matter the most that serve as a personal and collective guide to solutions from the grassroots up. We can have much more power to help change what happens in our neighborhood and our town and state than we do nationally and globally. Yes millions of people in the streets can help move the global leadership. But we have the real chance to participate in developing local plans for our town to take steps to:

1) Inventory and understand our greenhouse gas emissions from all aspects including individual and industrial consumption but also from agriculture and from forestry. There are good free software tools now available to conduct an inventory including the Global Protocol for Community Scale Greenhouse Gas Emission Inventories. This 170 page report that provide detailed guidance and tools for conducting greenhouse gas emission inventories and developing and verifying plans.

2) Develop comprehensive plans to climate change mitigation focused on reaching the 3 tons per person carbon dioxide limit asap and to remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere through soil building and biomass growth to provide global cooling and eventually return the atmosphere to pre-industrial carbon levels below 300 parts per million.

3) Have an action plan for implementation of the plan on fiancial, legislative, technical, legal area. Understand what must be done and what tools do we need to make this happen. For example to retrofit all buildings with PV and efficient appliances and EV changing capability could be facilitated by a combination of revolving loan funds from local revenue bonds providing loans to be repaid form the stream of saving from efficiency and renewable energy products.The measures needed will encompass the political, regulatory, technical, and financial areas.

Facing Reality and Shaping An Ecological Future

Three tons of carbon dioxide per person per year as goal and guide is the basis for more than typical climate change mitigation and adaptation plans. It is the basis for community action and beyond to craft a sustainable, prosperous, ecological and just future.

Three tons of carbon per person per year as global target for yourself, your city, your state and beyond is the basis not only for stopping and reversing climate change. It is the means for pursuing ecological economic growth, building locally owned assets in the renewably powered economy and for the pursuit of social and ecological justice manifested in concrete plans and to take action as consumers, workers, business people, investors, neighbors.

Sustainability writ large is the expression of grand co-evolutionary forces that have shaped our planet and the ecosphere. This has created the oxygen atmosphere with just enough carbon dioxide to maintain surface temperature within a range not too hot or too cold. The history of the co-evolution of life and planet Earth has been one of countervailing and healing response to excess that has permitted life to both survive periodic crises and mass extinctions and to respond to changing conditions and once again thrive.

We are in the midst of one of the times of crisis and the potential for a mass extinction event, this time driven not by geologic action like volcanoes, but by human industrial action and conscious human action. Humanity has joined the global process of sustainability that reshapes the nature of Earth on a fundamental and geological scale.

Humanity has the ability and the necessity, to play a healing role in response to industrial excess and toward the development of a sustainable civilization that will endure for geological time scale. If we fail we are almost certain to suffer the consequences of ecological and social crisis for geological scales potential lasting for hundreds of thousands of years as did the global warming of the Eocene.

We need to choose between pursuing a sustainable ecological future or accept decent into ecological chaos. Three tons of carbon dioxide per person per year is a means and a guide for healing and enduring ecological change and building a prosperous and enduring ecological civilization. Choose wisely. Now is the time.

Facebook and the Rise of Anti-Social Media

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 03:20

via CounterPunch

by Rob Urie

It was a bit over four years ago that journalist Glenn Greenwald reported that British ‘intelligence,’ GCHQ, had developed a program to spread politically targeted disinformation over the internet. The revelation came from a presentation made to the ‘Five Eyes alliance,’ which includes the NSA and was released by Edward Snowden. In the context of Federal and commercialdata collection, revelations that Facebook data was used for ‘private’ political purposes is both more and less than meets the eye.

As was widely reportedwith less manufactured outrage at the time, the Obama administration used Facebook data in Mr. Obama’s 2012 presidential bid in approximately the same manner that Cambridge Analytica is now accused of doing. Thanks to Edward Snowden, it has been known since 2013 that the NSA was using Facebook datafor political purposes. And prior still, in 2011 the CIA reportedthat it was ‘using’ social media, some of which it had funded, toward its own ends.

There is good reason for political pushback here. A wide variety of corporate and state actors have instantiated the internet into the fabric contemporary economic and political life. With a history of bad faith and bad acts, the fantasy that the CIA, NSA and FBI serve national interests begs the question of whose nation? Past targets including the Black Panther Party, Occupy Wall Street and antiwar protestors were as (more) capable of defining American interests as government technocrats.

The ‘innovation’ of Five Eyes, the consortium of Anglophone intelligence agencies, is to expand the realm of competitive Party politics to that of national agencies working toward their own ends in a hidden supranational realm. The alternative frame of competitive state actors is undermined by the decision of GCHQ to reveal its methods to its ‘external’ partners. Precisely how do national governments ‘manage’ the methods and agendas of supranational agencies when they can evade national restrictions through ‘external’ relationships?

Following the Church Committee’s revelations in 1975 of U.S. intelligence agency’s illegal actions against U.S. and overseas citizens engaged in legitimate political dissent, the CIA, NSA and FBI moved to evade newly restrictive laws by ‘outsourcing’ political disruption to nominally private corporations. Facebook and Google were directly or indirectly funded by the CIA early on— to what ends? By evading the spirit of the law and hence the will of Congress, these agencies represent particular, not national, interests.

Most of what Cambridge Analytica is alleged to have done: acquire and analyze a large quantity of data in concert with psychologists who used the results to craft targeted, tactical and subliminal programs to sway large numbers of people into doing what it wants them to do, is standard practice for professional marketers. Outrage that psychological coercion is being used in the realm of the political begs the question of how using it to sell goods and services is any less ‘political?’

As Edward Bernaysand Joseph Goebbelsdemonstrated in the first half of the twentieth century, whether or not propaganda— psychology in the service of commercial and / or political interests, ‘works’ is a function of who is using it and how it is used. The idea of ‘nation’ behind various incarnations of nationalism is a historical artifact, as are the social divisions of race, class and gender. Distinctions between psychological coercion and appeals to history— e.g. the current ‘Russian meddling’ hysteria, are less clear cut than commercial psychologists might suggest.

Micro-targeting can be conceived to augment mass appeals, to clean-up around the edges as in the battle for the votes of a few thousand suburban Republicans that has consumed national Democrats for the last three decades. But in terms of numbers, this strategy looks past the proverbial forest for the trees. Were U.S. voter participation rates to rise to those of other so-called developed nations, tens of millions of voters would be ‘in play.’ In this sense micro-targeting seems more an effort to avoid politics than an extension of it.

The GCHQ (British ‘intelligence’) presentation in Glenn Greenwald’s 2014 articleserved as the apparent template for Cambridge Analytica’s (CA) business model. Its starting position is of control of the internet, which CA doesn’t have. The follow-on is malevolent frat-boy 101— use every lever at one’s control to crush other actors. In this realm CA was / is but one actor among many. But it is control over the internet that gives the Five Eyes programs their political power, not brilliant insights into the human psyche.

For those who haven’t thought about it, the internet is insidious because of the very capacity that Cambridge Analytica claims to be able to exploit: customization. Users have limited ability to confirm the authenticity of anything they see, read or hear on it. Print editions can be compared and contrasted— technology limits print media to large-scale deceptions. With the capacity to create entire realms of deception— identities, content, web pages and entire online publications, trust is made a function of gullibility.

Differences between commercial and political goals disappear when economic power drives political results. Cambridge Analytica is a business whose ‘product’ is political outcomes. The internet, its alleged realm, is a late-capitalist ‘hive-mind’ where degrees of control determine authority. In this sense CA is an intelligence agency wannabe, a commercial result of a system where commerce and politics revolve around power and control. Phrased differently, the Five Eyes (NSA, CIA) are Cambridge Analytica with actual power through their control positions.

Public outrage that Facebook had inadequate controls is misdirection in the context how much information is controlled by political interests including Five Eyes. Politically motivated business interests— the Koch Brothers for one, own and controllarger and more insidious databases than Facebook and regularly use them to enhance their own power. Facebook’s value to Five Eyes is the façade of joint interests implied by voluntary contributions to it. This gives cover to more explicitly malevolent data collection entities like the NSA.

Any thought that Cambridge Analytica is a moral outlier must get past the history of marketing in the service of selling unnecessary wars and convincing six year old Indonesian children to smoke cigarettes. Facebook made Mark Zuckerberg stupendously rich through speculation that its platform could be ‘monetized,’ meaning that both the platform and its embedded data could be sold to commercial interests. Facebook’s defense to date, that it didn’t intentionally allow CA to download its data, could most probably be restated as: it didn’t intend to let CA do so without direct payment to it. This is similar to the half-stated purposes the American intelligence agencies have given for their own data collection activities.

Social media exists atop computers developed by the Federal government, runs on the internet developed by the U.S. military (ARPA / DARPA), is transmitted through telecommunications channels controlled by companies acting in concert with the Federal government and was partially funded by the CIAthrough venture capital funds. The fantasy of spontaneous generation comes from the generation of children too enamored with technology and ignorant of history to have known that they were entrusting their publics ids to deeply malevolent forces.

More broadly, Americans have long had a paradoxical relationship with the idea of the ‘social.’ Social media is a claim about human being through the posture that the social is an aggregation of individual representations (postings). The architecture of social media reifies Reaganite / Thatcherite individualism complete with the paradox that deep and historical social contexts are needed to make individualism possible.

Social media is a logical extension of this tendency complete with the murky motives that drove Reaganism / Thatcherism. It is only superficially ironic that this ‘individualism’ was / is a strategy for social control. As freedom from political coercion, economic coercion was (1) de- politicized and (2) simply assumed away. The value of Facebook to the CIA, NSA and FBI is political and to Facebook stockholders it is economic. In both realms value is the measure of social control that can be garnered from it.

The potential disruption that the Cambridge Analytica fiasco poses is greater than has been publicly stated to date. Once it is popularly understood that nothing online is trustworthy, a tipping point if you will, regaining trust will mean plausibly exorcising the methods of deceit. As the methods of deceit are the commercial backbone of the internet and more broadly, modern commerce, there would ultimately be less to recover than is likely currently being imagined.

This isn’t to suggest more than a hiccup on the march toward capitalist Armageddon. As one who saw the promise in the early days of the internet— I suddenly had access to thousands of academic papers that I didn’t know existed, the cynical farce of social media provided clear evidence that the scramble for social control was on. The serial public ‘disappointments’ that are sure to follow l’affaire Facebook are as certain as they are too long in coming.

Rob Urie is an artist and political economist. His book Zen Economics is published by CounterPunch Books.

The Lure of Elections: From Political Power to Popular Power

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 02:33

By Frank Ascaso, Enrique Guerrero-López, Patrick Berkman and Adam Weaver

Published at

In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, the gravitational pull of electoral politics has gripped the left with renewed intensity. Fueled by the popularity of Sen. Bernie Sanders, discontent with political elites and the failure of the Democratic Party to defeat Trump, various segments of the left see an opening for breathing new life into building a “party of the 99 percent,” a “party of a new type” or a “mass socialist party.” Others are content running leftist candidates as Democrats under the guise of radical pragmatism. Given the history and structural limitations of such projects, social movements, activists and organizers should regard these calls with caution. If we want meaningful social change, or even basic progressive reforms, the electoral road leads us into a strategic cul-de-sac. Instead of better politicians, we need popular power — independent, self-managed and combative social movements capable of posing a credible threat to capitalism, the state, white supremacy and patriarchy.

The recent push toward electoral politics stems in large part from Senator Sanders’s insurgent primary campaign. For decades, Sanders occupied a relatively obscure position in the political arena. From his first stint in office as mayor of Burlington in the 1980s, to his recent years in the US Senate, Sanders’s lone voice against corporate power had little impact. Yet by 2016, the cumulative weight of deteriorating socioeconomic, political and ecological conditions, along with the growth of mass movements, laid the groundwork for the popularity of the Sanders campaign. Indeed, the political terrain had already shifted before Sanders launched his “political revolution.”

An oft-cited 2011 Pew Poll revealed that 49 percent of Americans under 30 had a positive view of socialism, while just 47 percent had a favorable opinion of capitalism. Disillusionment with President Obama, coupled with a steady stream of post-recession movements from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter, had significantly altered public discourse, expanded the field of struggle and pulled the broader political spectrum to the left. In other words, the Sanders campaign slipped through the door kicked open by social movements and brought a broad cross-section of the left into the electoral arena.

Following the Sanders campaign, a growing mix of old and new voices have been clamoring for the left to consider electoral struggles. For example, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), Jacobin Magazine and strategists like Max Elbaum at Organizing Upgrade have been some of the most vocal proponents of electoral strategies. They justify their calls in terms of fighting back against Trump and the far right, shifting politics to the left, and winning policy change like universal health care. Coupled with the recognition that we also need to build mass movements outside of the voting booth, these same organizations and individuals are promoting variations of an “inside-outside” strategy.

The “inside-outside” approach, which casts itself as hard-nosed, strategic and realistic, claims to hold out a possible middle path between focusing exclusively on movement-building and leaping headlong into the palace intrigue of beltway politics. Its advocates argue that social movements are of vital importance, but they can’t get it done alone: There needs to be a ballot-box strategy to punish bad incumbents, elect movement champions and enact real change by leveraging state power. In other words, as Marxist political economist Leo Panitch often says, echoing civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, we need to move “from protest to politics.”

Their strategy is characterized by the following three points:

•  If we want victories, we need strong, militant social movements in communities and workplaces agitating on the outside, but we also need movement champions in elected office changing the system from the inside. Through election campaigns, social movements can expand their base and have the ear of someone in power who can be held accountable to movement demands.

• Political campaigns are an effective way to bring up vital issues, expose more people to left politics and provide easy on-ramps for the newly politicized to get active. After Election Day, no matter how we do, our politics have reached a wider audience and built movement capacity.

• Currently the Democratic Party is the most viable vehicle for our candidates if we want them to win, but ultimately, we need to develop our capacity for building an independent party of the left. Alternatively, some argue that the Democratic Party is beyond repair and we need to build an independent political party of the left now.

But this is wrong; elections are a trap with more costs than benefits. Political change is a question of political power, and the electoral arena is a field of battle that caters to the already rich and powerful. It hands our power to politicians. As a result, when popular candidates win electoral office without the backing of powerful social movements (even candidates of the left), they are powerless to take meaningful action. Instead, electoral campaigns drain movements of vital resources that could be better spent elsewhere. The electoral road is not a shortcut to power; it is a dead end — structurally, historically and strategically.

Electoral Campaigns Don’t Take Us Where We Want to Go

It’s often said that electoral politics is the graveyard of social movements, but that always seemed unfair to graveyards. After all, graveyards merely house the dead: They don’t actually do the killing.

Those who enter the front door of elective office are quick to find themselves in the house that capital built. Even those with the best intentions will find themselves boxed in on all sides by business interests and institutional constraints. For local and state officials, they must strain under the weight of a larger political and monetary system over which they have zero control, and which can override their decisions and policies at any time. For national officials, not only are constitutional and procedural restraints ever-present, but looming over every choice is the power of business to influence policy and one’s chances of re-election. Ultimately, the ruling class can always use the threat of capital strike and capital flight: A Wall Street crash, a bond rating downgrade, a panic, runaway inflation, currency manipulation and so on. The particular constraints may change based on what position they’re elected to, but the outcome remains the same.

Social movements that dedicate their limited resources to electing politicians end up undermining the very energy and capacity needed to hold those politicians accountable once elected. The resources spent electing someone would be better spent forcing whoever is in office to concede to our demands by developing popular power that cannot be ignored.

History Shows the Failures of the Left in Power

To illustrate that movements — not politicians — make change, it’s useful to look at history. In the US, the major periods of political change came when social movements — including labor, Black liberation, feminist and ecological struggles — were at their peak. New Deal reforms of the 1930s came when workers were occupying factories and shutting down cities with general strikes. Civil rights and environmental protection bills came at the end of the 1960s, when social movements were organizing for popular power, and disrupting the ability of business and the government to operate. It is often quipped that Richard Nixon, a Republican, was the last liberal president because he oversaw the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and other liberal reform measures such as the expansion of affirmative action. He even contemplated a proposal for a universal basic income and mandating employer-provided health insurance. This is not because he was a good-natured liberal at heart, but because social movements had changed the political terrain and forced his hand.

In periods without social movements, politicians fare much worse — even those that authentically believe in creating a better world. In Atlanta, Georgia, in the 1980s, Andy Young, the chief strategist, legal counsel and close friend of Martin Luther King Jr., ran for and won the city’s mayoralty, a position he held for close to a decade. By that time, however, the strength of the civil rights movement had ebbed, leaving Young a crusading reformer in office without the power base to make change. According to scholar Clarence Stone, Young faced widespread opposition from the city’s corporate business elite, preventing him from passing any meaningful reforms for the city’s Black population. Here, lone progressive candidates can do little without the backing of social movements. The phenomenon is true even for far-left candidates like socialist Seattle city council member Kshama Sawant. Her major reform, “$15 Now,” was watered down and transformed by business and business-union interests who created major exemptions in the law, giving Sawant a “victory” she could run a re-election campaign on, but not bringing meaningful change to working people in Seattle. To this day, many workers do not earn $15 an hour in Seattle because of employer exemptions.

In short, movements — not politicians — make social change. No movements, no change — no matter how far left the politician. With movements, social progress and shifting the terrain is possible, no matter how far right the politician.

Elections are designed with the needs of the state and capital in mind. Every step of the way — from the first donation to the final TV ad — is crafted to further stack the deck in favor of entrenched elites and draw people into a system that many have rightfully abandoned. There’s no bypassing the white supremacist, patriarchal, anti-Black and settler-colonial pedigree of the state: The true political power of people is always found and built elsewhere. Elections are at best a reflection, not a cause, of social change — using elections to change society is like trying to turn up the temperature with a thermometer.

Electoral Campaign Work: Shallow and Superficial

The kind of outreach and mobilization efforts undertaken by campaigns is little more than a shadow of actual grassroots organizing, focused first and foremost on the singular transaction of the vote. Forget about a serious one-on-one conversation. When a campaign has 20,000 doors to knock on and it’s crunch time, there isn’t a spare minute to ask about the problems a constituent is having, or what issues they’re interested in. You must find out if they’re planning to vote, and if so, for whom. Give them some literature and a big smile, and be on your way to the next house. Every pancake breakfast, parade appearance and house-party fundraiser is geared toward building the candidate, not the movement. The unique activities of a campaign have very little to offer social movements.

Furthermore, if a left candidate wins, it’s a signal for their supporters to go home and disengage. Getting the candidate in office is the supreme goal of any campaign: the next steps belong in office chambers and committee rooms. “We get you elected, then you do good things for us,” is the rationale of electoral work. Staying active and organizing beyond Election Day goes against the core logic of the campaign itself. We need not look back further than a decade to find concrete examples of this dynamic. After Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008, his administration proved unwilling to mobilize millions of campaign volunteers in support of the Affordable Care Act and other political priorities.

Picking the Wrong Target

Organizing 101 instructs us to pick a primary target that can grant us what we want — be it a corporate board, slumlord or politician. The electoral campaign throws this out completely, focusing on a single elected official and the bad things they’ve done or stand for, while offering an opposing single elected official and all the good things they’ll do and stand for as the alternative. This personalization of politics is harmful to social movement-building because it reinforces the popular notion that our problems are not systemic and structural, but merely a problem of staffing, fixed by swapping in new and improved politicians.

The Media Horserace

Mainstream media coverage is usually trouble for organizers. But elections are a bit easier, and positive media coverage for important issues is one of the main strengths of electoral campaigns of this type. The fundamentals of electoral strategy — people should vote for me and donate, my top issues are x, y and z, and my opponent is bad for these reasons — are familiar to journalists. And they have a set of narratives they choose for their coverage: the outsider, the long-shot, the neck-and-neck race, the third-party spoiler, etc.

But even here there are serious pitfalls. While it can be exciting to have a candidate’s core message spread far and wide through the news, the surrounding narrative makes it often not worth it. Winnability will be the ultimate metric that the media will use to frame a candidate and their agenda. A fringe candidate’s issues can be automatically cast as dangerous and unpopular. A candidate running neck-and-neck with their opponent can have their bold ideas portrayed as politically risky, costing them precious votes.

Election Day: A Timeline Not of Our Choosing

For electoral organizers, dates of campaign climax — the primary and general election — are set in stone. It doesn’t matter if we’d prefer to move it up a few weeks to capitalize on an opponent’s scandal, or delay it until some key community leaders can focus on the campaign. The date is set, and that’s it. Workers know to time union elections and contract fights based on a timeline that offers them the most strategic advantage and greatest ability to harm the owners. Tenant organizers plan their campaigns around the cycles of the housing market to find the best moment to withhold rent from a slumlord. Student organizers ensure their protests and strikes coincide with trustee meetings, alumni days and parent weekends — occasions when the stakes are highest for administrators. With political elections, however, once the votes are cast, you’re done; there is little way to escalate, or for broad-based movement-building to develop.

Getting the Goods: Social Movements and Class Power

When political elites agree to adopt progressive reforms, it has never been because of a burst of sympathy for those of us at the bottom. It’s been because they saw a systemic, existential threat to their collective power that made concessions unavoidable. We didn’t get Social Security, the Wagner Act, or the eight-hour work day because of electing the right individual politicians, winning primary fights or clamoring from the sidelines on behalf of a third party. We won them because we had built massive, militant movements that threatened open revolt against our nation’s economic and political rulers.

For those of us who want a world beyond capitalism, we know that we should be spending our limited time, energy and money investing in people-powered movements strong enough to topple our unjust social order. For those who want reform, understand that the only time liberals and progressives in power actually make good on the reforms we want is when we’re capable of posing a fundamental threat to the status quo. Following the “Great Recession,” President Obama said in 2009 to the nation’s bankers that, “I’m the only one standing between you and the pitchforks.” We don’t need more Obamas, or even Sanderses and Sawants. We need more pitchforks.

Despite hopeful spurts of activity, social movements in the United States remain weak, unable to impose their demands beyond a small scale. While most advocates of electoral politics acknowledge that the balance of power is not in our favor, they argue that running candidates — or better yet, winning elected office — will complement or strengthen social struggles. However, the historical record is clear: Electoral campaigns tend to defang, demobilize and drain social movements of limited resources, not strengthen them.

We should resist the calls to organize as an electorate and pick up once again the task of organizing as a class. Only through popular organizations that are democratic and accountable to their members, can we improve our living and working conditions right now while building the power needed to create a better world. These combative popular organizations should be based on our particular location within the economy and society: labor unions at work, student unions at school, tenant unions at home, popular assemblies in our neighborhoods and communities. They’re important not just because they are the sites of struggle most accessible to us as individuals, but because they amplify our power to disrupt and halt the flow of production, distribution and profit. More importantly, they are the necessary basis of a society free from oppression.

This is not a call to disengage from politics, or somehow to operate outside of capitalism and the state. It is exactly the opposite — a call to engage in politics, organizing, and the state in the only meaningful and empowering way available to us. Because we exist as objects, not subjects, of the economic and political system in which we find ourselves, our true power lies in our ability to collectively disrupt, dismantle and replace that system. The state in general, and electoral outcomes in particular, play a critical role in shaping the political terrain in which we all struggle, but we don’t need to “take” the state in order to affect the playing field. You don’t need the excuse of canvassing for a politician to knock on your neighbor’s door; you don’t need to cast a vote to influence an election; and we don’t need a campaign rally to advance our vision for a better world.

Dedicating precious resources to electoral work isn’t just a mistake, it’s malpractice. While many socialists rightfully refuse to try to take back the Democratic Party, the perpetual appeal to independent party politics maintains an instrumentalist approach to the state, fostering the illusion that with the right people in office, along with the right balance of forces, we can wield state power to advance our interests. But even if we want limited social reforms, electoral strategies are dead ends. At the moment, we’re all short on people, resources and — thanks to climate change — we’re short on time. Instead of an “inside-outside” approach, it’s time to commit ourselves to organize where we live, work, study, play and pray — outside, against and beyond the current system.

This piece was originally published at If you enjoyed this piece we recommend our “Electoralism” tag for other articles discussing electoral politics critically and our “Strategy” tag with additional articles looking at revolutionary strategy.

Frank Ascaso is a historian, active with Seattle Solidarity Network and member of Black Rose Anarchist Federation based in Seattle, Washington

Enrique Guerrero-López is an educator and a member of the Industrial Workers of the World and the Black Rose Anarchist Federation based in North Carolina.

Patrick Berkman does graphics design work and is a member of the Black Rose Anarchist Federation. He is based in Burlington, Vermont.

Adam Weaver is a member of Black Rose Anarchist Federation and based in Miami, Florida.

The Factory in the Family: The radical vision of Wages for Housework

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 02:24

via The Nation

By Sarah Jaffe

Wages for Housework: The New York Committee 1972–1977

By Silvia Federici and Arlen Austin, eds.

In 1975, women in Iceland went on strike, from their domestic responsibilities as well as their day jobs. The strike, organized by women’s councils across the country after the United Nations declared 1975 as International Women’s Year, saw some 25,000 women in the streets of Reykjavík alone. In the strike’s aftermath, Iceland elected Europe’s first female president, and the country formally outlawed gender discrimination in 1976. Iceland’s gaps in pay and education became among the world’s smallest.

To the women of the Wages for Housework movement, the Icelandic strike was a salutary example of their politics in action. Internationalist, anti-capitalist, and feminist, the movement argued that by focusing on women’s unpaid labor inside the home—child care, cleaning, emotional support, even sex—activists could highlight more fundamental inequalities based on gender. And the best way to do so was to refuse to do that kind of work. As the International Feminist Collective (IFC), which launched the Wages for Housework campaign, wrote in a press release: “We don’t want just to demonstrate our strength but to use it and increase it to get what we want…. We are tired of our work and of not having any time of our own.”

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The demise of the nation state

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 02:08

via The Guardian

By Rana Dasgupta

What is happening to national politics? Every day in the US, events further exceed the imaginations of absurdist novelists and comedians; politics in the UK still shows few signs of recovery after the “national nervous breakdown” of Brexit. France “narrowly escaped a heart attack” in last year’s elections, but the country’s leading daily feels this has done little to alter the “accelerated decomposition” of the political system. In neighbouring Spain, El País goes so far as to say that “the rule of law, the democratic system and even the market economy are in doubt”; in Italy, “the collapse of the establishment” in the March elections has even brought talk of a “barbarian arrival”, as if Rome were falling once again. In Germany, meanwhile, neo-fascists are preparing to take up their role as official opposition, introducing anxious volatility into the bastion of European stability.

But the convulsions in national politics are not confined to the west. Exhaustion, hopelessness, the dwindling effectiveness of old ways: these are the themes of politics all across the world. This is why energetic authoritarian “solutions” are currently so popular: distraction by war (Russia, Turkey); ethno-religious “purification” (India, Hungary, Myanmar); the magnification of presidential powers and the corresponding abandonment of civil rights and the rule of law (China, Rwanda, Venezuela, Thailand, the Philippines and many more).

What is the relationship between these various upheavals? We tend to regard them as entirely separate – for, in political life, national solipsism is the rule. In each country, the tendency is to blame “our” history, “our” populists, “our” media, “our” institutions, “our” lousy politicians. And this is understandable, since the organs of modern political consciousness – public education and mass media – emerged in the 19th century from a globe-conquering ideology of unique national destinies. When we discuss “politics”, we refer to what goes on inside sovereign states; everything else is “foreign affairs” or “international relations” – even in this era of global financial and technological integration. We may buy the same products in every country of the world, we may all use Google and Facebook, but political life, curiously, is made of separate stuff and keeps the antique faith of borders.

Yes, there is awareness that similar varieties of populism are erupting in many countries. Several have noted the parallels in style and substance between leaders such as Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. There is a sense that something is in the air – some coincidence of feeling between places. But this does not get close enough. For there is no coincidence. All countries are today embedded in the same system, which subjects them all to the same pressures: and it is these that are squeezing and warping national political life everywhere. And their effect is quite the opposite – despite the desperate flag-waving – of the oft-remarked “resurgence of the nation state”.

The most momentous development of our era, precisely, is the waning of the nation state: its inability to withstand countervailing 21st-century forces, and its calamitous loss of influence over human circumstance. National political authority is in decline, and, since we do not know any other sort, it feels like the end of the world. This is why a strange brand of apocalyptic nationalism is so widely in vogue. But the current appeal of machismo as political style, the wall-building and xenophobia, the mythology and race theory, the fantastical promises of national restoration – these are not cures, but symptoms of what is slowly revealing itself to all: nation states everywhere are in an advanced state of political and moral decay from which they cannot individually extricate themselves.

Why is this happening? In brief, 20th-century political structures are drowning in a 21st-century ocean of deregulated finance, autonomous technology, religious militancy and great-power rivalry. Meanwhile, the suppressed consequences of 20th-century recklessness in the once-colonised world are erupting, cracking nations into fragments and forcing populations into post-national solidarities: roving tribal militias, ethnic and religious sub-states and super-states. Finally, the old superpowers’ demolition of old ideas of international society – ideas of the “society of nations” that were essential to the way the new world order was envisioned after 1918 – has turned the nation-state system into a lawless gangland; and this is now producing a nihilistic backlash from the ones who have been most terrorised and despoiled.

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Why the US will never say sorry for destroying Iraq

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 18:50

via Middle East Eye

The United States waged a two-decade war against Iraq, causing the deaths of 1.7 million civilians – half of whom were children.

It did this with crippling sanctions during the 1990s, before ruining Iraqi civil society with its illegal 2003 invasion, which took hundreds of thousands more lives, unleashing a sectarian civil war and giving birth to the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS).

But this tells you only part of the nightmare that the US has inflicted upon the people of Iraq.

The US occupation has also been accused of causing an “alarming” increase in the number of cases of cancer, leukemia and congenital birth anomalies due to the US army’s use of chemical weapons and dumping of toxic waste, including depleted uranium, into the soil and waterways.

This not only poses an existential threat to those alive today, but also to future generations of Iraqis, as the remaining traces of depleted uranium “will remain radioactive for more than 4.5 billion years“.

Scott Ritter, the former UN weapons inspector observed: “The irony is we invaded Iraq in 2003 to destroy its non-existent WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. To do it, we fired these new weapons, causing radioactive casualties.”

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