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One Cheer — More or Less — For the Green New Deal

Vie, 02/22/2019 - 01:15

via Center for a Stateless Society

by Kevin Carson

In critiquing and analyzing a state policy proposal like the Green New Deal from an anarchist perspective, I should throw in the usual disclaimers about my working assumptions. I’m not an insurrectionist and I don’t believe the post-capitalist/post-state transition will be primarily what Erik Olin Wright called a “ruptural” process. Although the final transition may involve some ruptural events, it will mostly be the ratification after the fact of a cumulative transformation that’s taken place interstitially.

Most of that transformation will come from the efforts of ordinary people at creating the building blocks of the successor society on the ground, and from those building blocks replicating laterally and coalescing into an ecosystem of counter-institutions that expands until it supplants the previous order.

Some of it will come from political engagement to run interference for the new society developing within the shell of the old, and pressuring the state from outside to behave in more benign ways. Some of it will come from using some parts of the state against other parts, and using the state’s own internal procedural rules to sabotage it.

Some of it will come from attempts to engage friendly forces within the belly of the beast. Individuals here and there on the inside of corporate or state institutions who are friendly to our efforts and willing to engage informally with us can pass along information and take advantage of their inside positions to nudge things in a favorable direction. As was the case with the transition from feudalism and capitalism, some organizational entities — now nominally within state bodies or corporations — will persist in a post-state and post-capitalist society, but with their character fundamentally changed along with their relationship to the surrounding system.  If you want to see some interesting examples of attempts at “belly of the beast” grantsmanship and institutional politics, take a look at the appendices to some of Paul Goodman’s books.

A great deal, I predict, will come from efforts — particularly at the local level — to transform the state in a less statelike direction: a general principle first framed by Saint-Simon as “replacing legislation over people with the administration of things,” and since recycled under a long series of labels ranging from “dissolution of the state within the social body” to “the Wikified State” to “the Partner State.” The primary examples I have in mind today are the new municipalist movements in Barcelona, Madrid, Bologna, and Jackson and the dozens and hundreds of cities replicating that model around the world, as well as particular institutional forms like community land trusts and other commons-based local economic models.

There is no “magic button” that will cause the state to instantaneously disappear, and it has currently preempted the avenues and channels (to paraphrase Paul Goodman) for carrying out many necessary social functions. So long as the state continues to be a thing, I prefer that its interventions in society and the economy take the least horrible forms possible, and that its performance of the necessary social functions it has preempted be carried out in the most humane and humanly tolerable ways possible during the period of socializing them — i.e., returning them to genuine social control by non-coercive, cooperative forms of association. I prefer that reforms of the state be Gorzian “non-reformist reforms” that lay the groundwork for further transformations, and bridge the transition to a fundamentally different society.

In dealing with cases like catastrophic climate change, where lifeboat ethics comes into play and it’s justifiable to forcibly shut down economic activities that actively endanger us, when the regulatory state has already preempted the avenues for otherwise shutting down such activities, stepping back and allowing the state  to actually do so — especially when it’s acting against entities like corporations which are abusing power and privilege granted by the state in the first place — may be the least unsatisfactory short-term option. When the state has created and actively subsidized the entire economic model that threatens the biosphere, intervening to partially curtail and reverse that model is probably the form of intervention I’m least likely to lose any sleep over.

To take a case from ten years ago as an illustration, something like Obama’s stimulus package was necessary, given the existence of corporate capitalism on the current model and its chronic crisis tendencies towards surplus capital and idle productive capacity, to prevent a Depression. So long as capitalism and the state existed, some such intervention was inevitable. Given those facts, I would prefer that the hundreds of billions of dollars in stimulus spending go towards fundamental infrastructures that would bridge the transition towards a more sustainable and less destructive model. I recall reading at the time that for $200 or $300 billion dollars — about a third or less of the total package — it would have been possible to build out the bottlenecks in the national railroad system and transfer around 80% of long-haul truck freight to trains, thereby reducing carbon emissions from long-distance shipping to a fraction of their former value. Instead, Obama elected to dole out the money to “shovel-ready” projects, which meant local infrastructure projects already promoted and approved by local real estate interests and other components of the urban Growth Machines, to promote further expansion of the ultimately doomed model of car culture, sprawl, and monoculture.

Given that massive deficit spending to avert Depression was inevitable, it would have been far less statist to simply spend money into existence interest-free along the lines suggested by Modern Monetary Theory, either by appropriation for government projects or simply depositing it into people’s checking accounts as a Citizen’s Dividend, than to finance deficit spending by the sale of interest bearing securities to rentiers. It would have been less statist to carry out quantitative easing functions by eliminating the current central banking model of authorizing banks to expand the money supply by lending it into existence at interest, and instead creating new money by simply issuing in the form of a Basic Income. It would have been better to make the bank bailout conditional on banks marking mortgages in default down to their current market value and refinancing them on more affordable terms. You get the idea.

Which brings us back to the Green New Deal.

Getting back to our earlier principle that, if the state has already entered the field, I prefer state interventions that are less shitty rather than more shitty, I would definitely prefer that tax money be spent building public transit that partially reverses or undoes a century of social engineering through state subsidies to highways and civil aviation, to interventions that continue to subsidize the further expansion of car culture.

The question is, to what extent does the Green New Deal actually do this?

Insofar as it proposes shifting public funding from the automobile-highway complex and civil aviation system to local public transit and intercity passenger rail, or reducing fossil fuel extraction and shifting to renewable energy, I think it’s about the best line of action we could possibly expect from a state given the likely realities in the near-term future.

But there are two main structural problems with the Green New Deal as proposed by Michael Moore, Jill Stein, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. First, it takes for granted most of the existing economy’s patterns of energy use and simply calls for decarbonizing actual power generation.

As an illustration of the general spirit of this approach, Alex Baca mentions a Berkeley parking garage:

It’s got “rooftop solar, electric-vehicle charging stations, and dedicated spots for car-share vehicles, rainwater capture, and water treatment features” — not to mention 720 parking spots. It cost nearly $40 million to build. At night, it positively glows. And it’s a block from the downtown Berkeley BART station.

That America’s most famous progressive city, one where nearly everything is within walking distance, spent $40 million to renovate a parking garage one block from a subway station suggests that progressive Democrats remain unwilling to seriously confront the crisis of climate change.

In fairness to Ocasio-Cortez, she does favor shifting a considerable share of public subsidies from highways to public transit. But the overall thrust of her approach is far more towards decarbonizing power generation than changing the ways we use energy.

The Green New Deal, Baca says, “has a huge blind spot.”

It doesn’t address the places Americans live. And our physical geography — where we sleep, work, shop, worship, and send our kids to play, and how we move between those places — is more foundational to a green, fair future than just about anything else. The proposal encapsulates the liberal delusion on climate change: that technology and spending can spare us the hard work of reform.

Baca points, in particular, to the car-centered urban design model — promoted by decades of social engineering by the automobile and real estate industries in conjunction with urban planners — which locates housing and work/shopping in monoculture enclaves widely separated from one another and linked by freeways. More than anything, we need to return to the kind of urban layout that prevailed before widespread car ownership: compact population centers with a mixture of residences and businesses where people can get to work and shopping by walking, wheelchair, bicycle, bus, or streetcar. And rather than just replacing internal-combustion vehicles with electric ones and coal plants with solar panels, we need to travel fewer miles and consume less power.

Baca’s focus on urban layout, as on-the-mark as it is, doesn’t go nearly far enough. Equally important is industrial organization and the need to relocalize production and change the fundamental ways that production and distribution are organized.

Because of a combination of massive subsidies to energy consumption and transportation, entry barriers that promote cartelization and enable oligopoly firms to pass on overhead from waste and inefficiency to consumers on a cost-plus basis, socialization of the cost of many material and social inputs to production, and artificial property rights like trademarks and patents that facilitate legal control over the disposal of products whose manufacture is outsourced to overseas firms, we have market areas, supply chains, and distribution chains many times larger than efficiency-maximizing levels if all costs were internalized by capitalist firms. And even when production within a plant is rationalized on a lean or just-in-time basis, the existence of continental or trans-oceanic distribution chains means that the old supply-push model of the mass production era is just swept under the rug; all the in-process inventories stacked up by the assembly lines and warehouse inventories of finished goods that characterized Sloanist production have just been shifted to warehouses on wheels and container ships.

Ultimately, what we need is a relocalized economy on the lines described by Kropotkin, Mumford, and Borsodi, which capitalizes on all the advantages offered — but ignored — by the introduction of electrically powered machinery in the Second Industrial Revolution. Namely, we need high-tech craft industry with community and neighborhood workshops using general-purpose CNC machine tools to produce for consumption within the community, frequently switching between product runs as orders come in on a just-in-time basis. This would eliminate not only a huge share of the transportation costs embedded in the current system, but additional costs associated with mass marketing in an environment where production is undertaken without regard to existing orders, and the cost of waste production (planned obsolescence, the Military-Industrial Complex, car culture and suburbanization, etc.) that is used as a remedy for idle production capacity.

Building “infrastructure” as such is not progressive. It’s only progressive when it’s compatible with things like industrial relocalization and the replacement of the car culture with compact mixed-use communities.

Second, the Green New Deal is very much an agenda for saving capitalism in the same spirit as the original New Deal. It’s an anti-deflationary program to create new outlets for surplus labor and capital and provide “jobs” for everyone, instead of directly confronting the fact that technical progress has drastically reduced the amount of labor and material inputs required to produce a high standard of living and seeing that the leisure and productivity benefits are distributed fairly.

This was central to the Green New Deal model proposed by Michael Moore several years back, and it’s central to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s version.

The Wikipedia article on “Green New Deal” attributes first use of that phrase to Thomas Friedman, who envisioned it as a way to “create a whole new clean power industry to spur our economy into the 21st century.” And the creation of new “green” industries as a huge source of “jobs” has been the chief selling point of every Green New Deal proposal since. More broadly, it’s the defining theme of the whole “Progressive Capitalist” or “Green Capitalist” paradigm promoted by Warren Buffett, Bill  Gates and the like. The idea is to use new technology as a weapon against capitalism’s chronic problem of surplus capital without a profitable outlet, by enclosing it as a source of profit, and using it to create new industries and new support infrastructures that will provide a new “engine of accumulation” or “Kondratiev wave” to soak up capital for another generation or so. This creation of new industries is one of the “counteracting tendencies” to the tendency for the direct rate of profit to fall that Marx described in volume 3 of Capital.

And that’s basically the same vision promoted by Michael Moore: run those Ford and GM factories at full capacity and put millions of auto workers back to work building buses and bullet trains, and employ millions more building solar panels and wind generators. The problem is that the cheapening and ephemeralization of production technology is rendering a growing share of investment capital superfluous at such a rapid rate that building buses and trains and generators will barely put a dent in it. And in any case, a major share of existing production is waste that just needs to be ended, not run on a different power source;  while replacing necessary transportation with more environmentally friendly forms is a great idea, the fact remains that most existing transportation is also unnecessary and should be eliminated by restructuring the layout of cities and industry. The buses and bullet trains may take up the slack left by ceasing to produce cars for a few years, at most.

There is simply no way to invest enough money in producing alternative energy, trains and public transit to guarantee 40-hour-a-week jobs, get the assembly lines moving in Detroit again, and prevent the bottom from falling out of the capital markets, without enormous levels of waste production.

So to the extent that AOC and her friends want to keep oil and coal in the ground and promote decarbonization, and end America’s subsidies to car culture, I wish them well. But “green jobs guarantees,” promises of economic expansion through new “green industries,” and similar approaches aimed at prolonging the long-term survival of capitalism, are a dead end.

Where does that leave us? What do we do in the meantime?

In framing the alternatives, I start from the assumption that our primary purpose is actually building the post-capitalist society, and that our engagement or lack of engagement with the state is a secondary course of action whose main purpose is to create a more conducive, less harmful environment in which to do the building. If you want to vote strategically for the sake of damage mitigation, or try to push the state in less environmentally harmful directions, or shift its existing interventions in a more environmentally favorable direction, more power to you.

It was this kind of thing that Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt referred to, in Declaration, as part of a symbiotic strategy between the horizontalist left with its practice of building prefigurative counter-institutions, and leftist parties attempting to influence state policy. It’s fine for grassroots movements engaged in constructing a new society outside the state to throw support behind political actors who are taking specific measures to push things in the right direction, or enlist their help in running interference for us and creating a more favorable environment for the process of building the new society. But it’s absolutely vital to retain total autonomy and freedom of action, and resist being turned into the social movement auxiliary of a political party as Van Jones tried to do with Occupy, and not let leftist parties in government divert suck up all the energy and oxygen from those engaged in building counter-institutions like Syriza did to Syntagma after coming to power in Greece.

Our most important strategic focus must be on institution-building. The most important form of institution-building is at the local level, and some of it may or may not entail incidental engagement with local government.

Pressuring local government to scale back zoning laws that mandate sprawl and monoculture, and to stop actively subsidizing sprawl through below-cost extension of utilities to outlying developments, may well be fruitful. But the most productive path in local decarbonization will be the work of actually retrofitting suburbs and strip malls into mixed-use communities with diversified local economies.

These things will become a matter of necessity for survival, as the combined effect of Peak Fossil Fuel and monkeywrenching efforts aimed at keeping it in the ground make long commutes prohibitively expensive for growing numbers of people, and growing numbers at the same time are forced by rising unemployment, underemployment, and precaritization to supplement or replace their wage incomes with direct production for use in the social economy.

When it comes to strategic action to promote decarbonization, direct action to make the fossil fuel industries unprofitable and fossil fuel projects unworkable in practice are at least as important as any local “carbon free” initiatives. Physical obstruction of pipeline projects, the use of the legal system and bureaucracy to sabotage them with their own system of rules, divestment efforts, and sabotage of existing pumping stations and other vulnerable nodes, together offer great hope for making such projects increasingly risky and decreasingly attractive and hastening post-carbon transition.

And it’s the people engaged in open hardware and micro-manufacturing efforts, hackerspaces, neighborhood gardens, community currencies, community broadband projects, squats in abandoned buildings and vacant lots, community land trusts and cohousing projects, tool libraries and other genuine sharing efforts, who are actually building a society that will function on zero waste and sustainable energy.

In the end, I think it’s a mistake to put our hopes in a party or in progressive celebrities like Bernie Sanders or AOC, no matter how much better they are than more mainstream politicians. I have much more modest hopes for whatever level of political engagement with the state I choose. A political party — the Millennial wing of the Democrats, the Greens, DSA — will not be the avenue by which we create a post-state, post-capitalist society that’s worthy of the human beings who live in it. Our main goal, and most attainable one, is simply using whatever opportunistic center-left non-entity is most likely to get elected to stave off the immediate fascist onslaught and buy time. At best, in the most ideal situation — and this is at least plausible as the demographics of both the country and Democratic Party shift toward leftish Millennials — we might hope for a caretaker state that offers a somewhat less virulent social democratic model of capitalism and allows a relatively benign atmosphere for our own efforts.

But if you want to see the actual future, look at what people are building on the ground. As a character in Marge Piercy’s Woman on the Edge of Time put it, revolution, was not uniformed parties, slogans, and mass-meetings; “It’s the people who worked out the labor- and land intensive farming we do. It’s all the people who changed how people bought food, raised children, went to school… who made new unions, withheld rent, refused to go to wars, wrote and educated and made speeches.”

The post One Cheer — More or Less — For the Green New Deal appeared first on Infoshop News.

10 Steps to Detecting Conspiracy Theories & Bullshit

Jue, 02/21/2019 - 04:56

by Pink Panther – AWSM

When the Internet made its appearance there was a lot of talk about the information super highway in which people would be able to click on a few buttons and get whatever information they were looking for.

Cue forward to 2019 and the information super highway is looking a lot more like the information rubbish tip. While its undeniable there is some good solid stuff out there, it’s also true that not only is some of the information irrelevant to what we’re looking for (as anyone who has used Google Search can attest to) but it is also unreliable. One of the reasons is the number of charlatans such as conspiracy theorists who have made the Internet their home.

Despite what you might think, lots of different kinds of people can be sucked in by conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, it is becoming all too common for people who should know better, to fall victim to this nonsense. This matters because we can only fight back against the very real material and political problems of the world as it is, by understanding reality. Once we know what is really going on, we will have a sound basis for organising resistance to it. So how can we detect if what we are reading is nonsense or a conspiracy theory? The ten step guide below is what I use to sift fact from fiction or half-truths. When that fails I turn to sites like www.skeptoid.com and www.snopes.com which are both non-partisan debunkers of bullshit, no matter what side of the political spectrum it comes from.

I. Use of Vague Statistics.

Any claim that uses a statistic like “One in three people are…” should always be treated with great scepticism because they’re meaningless. Without knowing anything like the number of people who were studied or surveyed, the terms of reference for the study or research undertaken or the people or organisation who conducted the research, we cannot determine if the statistic is real or made up. More often than not studies which use such vague references are made up or conducted by highly partisan groups trying to convince people that “research” backs what they say.

II. Awe with Percentages.

How many times have you read a poll that claims that “40% of Americans support Trump” or something similar? Most polls conducted by a polling company tend to interview between 1000 and 1500 people over a given time period and are chosen from electoral or other voting rolls. It’s not hard to realise that it is impossible to determine what millions of people think about anything on the basis of what 1000 or so people say. You also have to consider that such a sample excludes people who aren’t on electoral rolls for various reasons. Despite the claims that such polls are scientific no one has been able to explain just what part of the polling process actually involves science. Percentages without context are another problem. Informing us that the average house price has increased by 35% in a particular area doesn’t tell us anything. Telling us that the average house price in that area was $250,000 back in 2012 then telling us that house prices in that area have increased by 35% gives us information that is useful.

III. Emotive Manipulation.

In some news networks there is a lot of pressure to try and get as many people to support a certain viewpoint or to galvanise support for a particular cause. One way this is done is to get a hysterical parent wailing about how her child is a victim of a certain social or other evil in order to rally support for that cause. The problem with such news stories is little, or no, attempt is made to find out if anything the said parent has claimed is true, false or an combination of both. Also, no attempt is made to put things in context.

The problem with anecdotal, human interest and other stories of this nature is they exaggerate the extent of a social evil in the minds of the public.
An example of this is when a child is snatched off the streets and murdered. Parents stop letting their children walk to school out of fear the same thing will happen to their own children. This is despite the fact that crime statistics from the United States and other countries repeatedly show that the chances of anyone, let alone a child, being snatched from the streets and killed by strangers is very rare. For example, according to the New York Times (August 17th, 2016), the FBI reported that only 1,381 of the 11,961 homicides reported within the United States in 2014 involved people who were unknown to the victims.
Emotionally manipulative news items can also have serious consequences. U.S President Donald Trump’s crack down on undocumented immigrants and his so-called “Muslim ban” was largely the result of emotive hysteria whipped up by Fox News about crimes committed by undocumented migrants and terrorist acts by Islamic State in Europe.

IV. The Defying of Reality.

Let’s be blunt. Most conspiracy theories and incorrect news stories are exposed as such because they fail to pass the most basic test of “Is it practical or realistic that such a thing could happen?” The 9/11 Truthers often come unstuck on this one. They would have us believe that multiple American government agencies conspired to murder thousands of their fellow Americans so that George W Bush could justify invading Afghanistan for its oil and gas reserves.

There’s at least four major problems with that:

1. A plot to kill thousands of people would’ve required a degree of co-operation between various government agencies that did not exist at the time – and still doesn’t. U.S government agencies are notorious for jealously guarding their jurisdictions and tend to avoid co-operating unless circumstances or the law requires them to do so. It was the lack of co-operation between government and intelligence agencies that enabled the 9/11 hijackers to enter the United States despite the terrorists involved in the hijackings being on known or suspected terrorist watch lists. It was to ensure better information gathering and sharing between these agencies that the Department of Homeland Security was created. Yet, despite this, co-operation between various government agencies is the exception rather than the rule.

2. American civil servants are required to take an oath to uphold the U.S Constitution. As the U.S Constitution forbids extra-judicial killings (of which plotting to kill thousands of Americans would be an obvious breach of said Constitution) public servants would’ve had the legal requirement to come out and denounce such behaviour.

3. Afghanistan was not invaded for either gas or oil because Afghanistan has neither. It was invaded because George W Bush believed that the Taliban were harbouring the man they believed was responsible for orchestrating the 9/11 attacks.

4. Genuine whistle-blowers go to credible news organisations like CNN, ABC or NBC or newspapers like the L.A Times, Washington Post or New York Times. They don’t go to websites like InfoWars or tabloids like National Inquirer.

V. Ignorance of basic facts.

Conspiracy theorists often lack a basic understanding of the relevant fields they are lecturing about. None of the 9/11 Truthers or so-called “Scholars for 9/11 Truth” have relevant qualifications or expertise in the fields that would be most relevant in any investigation into the 9/11 terrorist attacks such as building demolition, structural engineering, air crash investigation, architecture, disaster management, building and construction or even chemistry. Instead, the 9/11 Truthers are made up of people like celebrities, religious scholars, former intelligence officers, ex-military officers and sports stars. In other words, people who simply don’t have the expertise or knowledge to answer if a building can collapse pancake-style from causes other than an explosion or if molten steel would contain thermite independent of any explosives. That’s why air crash investigators, arson investigators and police detectives don’t just look for one or two things when they suspect damage might’ve been caused by a bomb. They look for many things because sometimes explosive residue can be found at the site of a disaster that has been caused by something else.

For example, explosive residue was found on Partnair Flight 394 which crashed off the coast of Denmark on September 8th, 1989. Many people, particularly in Norway, initially believed it was a bomb because of reports of a loud explosion and because the Prime Minister of Norway had recently flown on the same aircraft. The reason why explosive residue was found on the wreckage was the result of contamination resulting from military ordinance littering the sea floor from various naval battles fought in the area. The cause of the crash was the failure of counterfeit aircraft parts used during aircraft maintenance.

VI. Confusing Authority with Expertise.

Yes, there is a difference between authority and expertise. Authority is gained from one’s position or title within a group or organisation. Expertise is gained from learning, working in and mastering a particular skill, trade or area of knowledge.

Among conspiracy theorists there is a tendency to ignore the experts in their chosen fields in favour of authority figures. The more common authority figures they listen to are celebrities, ex-wrestlers like the former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, former military officers and former police officers.
Few conspiracy theorists see the absurdity of debunking authority figures who have the expertise to back up what they are saying by claiming they’re all in cahoots with the evil, omnipresent government or Big Something-or-other but not the authority figures who go along with their conspiracies.

VII. Playing on prejudices.

They play on people’s prejudices to advance their nonsense. Despite what the moral relativists may claim it’s not necessary to be a white heterosexual male to indulge in stereotyping. Stereotyping is attributing to all persons within a certain group attributes – both negative and positive – that may or may not be held by many people within that group. Some of the more obvious stereotypes are the hard working and well educated Asians who are all work and no fun, the Muslim terrorists who want to impose Sharia law upon us, the lazy drug addicted welfare queen… I’m sure there’s many other stereotypes that one can think of. Stereotyping often comes about as the direct result of selective reporting about certain groups within both traditional and social media that is picked up and used to vilify anyone who belong to those groups. All arguments presented by anyone from those groups will be greeted with comments like “Oh you would say that because you are one of them!” and people who defend those being stereotyped will be attacked with comments like “That’s what we expect from an apologist for these people.”

VIII. Treating the masses with contempt.

For people who claim to speak for the ordinary person in the street or who desire to “educate” them the conspiracy theorists regularly abuse and vilify the masses by labelling them “sheeple”, “muppets”, “ignorant” or “liars”. Rarely, if ever, do they assume the masses might have enough intelligence to work out the facts for themselves. A search on YouTube for anything to do with debunking anti-vaccination campaigns, 9/11 Truthers or Pizzagate will provide ample examples of this contempt in the Comments section.

IX. The Obsession with the word “Big”.

An obsession is prefixing any sector of society they dislike with the word “Big” as in “Big Pharma”, “Big Agriculture”, “Big Business” and “Big Government”. Everything they say and write ends up being about how something prefixed with the word “Big” is behind everything they dislike. Accusing people of belonging to Big Something-or-other is a sure-fire way to try and discredit anyone who challenges the claims made by a conspiracy theorist.

That leads us to the single biggest indicator that something is wrong or a conspiracy theory.

X. Using supposedly “Anti-Establishment” sources because they provide “alternative sources of news”.

A British conservative may be happier reading The Times while a liberal counterpart may be more contented with reading The Guardian but both newspapers contain the same basic content. What separates the two newspapers is their bias. The former is biased towards its conservative readership and the latter is biased towards its liberal readership. Bias doesn’t make a news story fake or the news organisation a fake news peddler or a bunch of conspiracy theorists.
While both The Guardian and The Times are Establishment publications they employ editors, sub-editors, fact checkers, reporters and journalists who actually go out and find out if what is being told to them is true. They usually come back with different interpretations of what has happened but they don’t differ when it comes to the basic facts. They also distinguish between opinion pieces where a writer peddles their viewpoint and the news. Most supposedly “Anti-Establishment” or alternative news sources have none of these things. They don’t distinguish between facts and opinions. They don’t bother to find out if what is being written or broadcast is true or false. They only care that what they produce fits in with their world view. That usually means they cite from sources of like-minded groups and individuals.

‘All’ that most multi-billion dollar media companies want us to do (which is bad enough in itself!) is read stories while they harass us with endless advertising and marketing campaigns that keep the money rolling in for these companies. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is the multi-billion media empire it is because it encompasses newspapers, magazines and websites that have at least some diversity of opinions. That correspondingly brings in at least some diversity of readers and viewers whom Murdoch’s advertisers can harrange with advertising. They have a vested interest to tell us the truth most of the time, even if it’s usually biased in favour of Capitalists and Capitalism.

Don’t be fooled by the news charlatans and conspiracy theorists. They aren’t providing you with ‘alternative facts’ from alternative news sources. They make up what they say and they’re playing you for suckers as they laugh all the way to the bank with the money they got from hacking your personal data when you clicked on their site. You might find it temporarily comforting to believe you’ve been handed the mysteries of the universe via a website run by somebody living in his Mum’s garage. Spending hours listening to podcasts about chem-trails, our alien lizard overlords, the flat earth or the moon-landing ‘hoax’ etc. will perhaps provide psychological distraction from wondering how you’re going to pay this week’s rent. What it won’t do is give you the tools necessary to overcome and struggle effectively against the hard, cold and sometimes ‘boring’ realities of the world we really live in.

Related Link: http://awsm.nz/2019/01/22/10-step-guide-to-detecting-conspiracy-t…shit/

The post 10 Steps to Detecting Conspiracy Theories & Bullshit appeared first on Infoshop News.

What is “Primitive Accumulation”? Marx’s and Kropotkin’s Viewpoints—A Background

Jue, 02/21/2019 - 04:46

via Anarkismo.net

by Wayne Price

Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. 1 (my emphasis)

[Adam Smith and other theorists of bourgeois political economy explained “primitive accumulation”—also translated as “primary” or “original” accumulation—this way:] In times long gone by there were two sorts of people; one the diligent, intelligent, and, above all, frugal, elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance, and more, in riotous living…Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort had at last nothing to sell except their own skins. And from this original sin dates the poverty of the great majority…and the wealth of the few….Such insipid childishness is every day preached to us…. [Instead, Marx refers to the enclosures which drove European peasants off their land, colonialism in India and elsewhere, African and Native American slavery, etc.]

In actual history it is notorious that conquest, enslavement, robbery, murder, briefly force, play the great part….The so-called primitive accumulation, therefore, is nothing else than the historical process of divorcing the producer from the means of production. It appears as primitive, because it forms the pre-historic stage of capital….The history of this, their expropriation, is written in the annals of mankind in letters of blood and fire….

The advance of capitalist production develops a working class…. [Today] direct force, outside economic conditions, is of course still used, but only exceptionally. In the ordinary run of things, the laborer can be left to the “natural laws of production,” i.e., to his dependence on capital….It is otherwise during the historic genesis of capitalist production. The bourgeoisie, at its rise, wants and uses the power of the state to “regulate” wages…to keep the laborer himself in the normal degree of dependence. This is an essential element of the so-called primitive accumulation….

The discovery of gold and silver in America, the extirpation, enslavement, and entombment in mines of the aboriginal population, the beginning of the conquest and looting of the East Indies, the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of blackskins, signalized the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production. These idyllic proceedings are the chief moments of primitive accumulation….They all employ the power of the state, the concentrated and organized force of society, to hasten, hothouse fashion, the process of transformation of the feudal mode of production into the capitalist mode, and the shorten the transition. Force is the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one. It is itself an economic power….

Peter Kropotkin, The State: Its Historic Role
(Kropotkin’s views on the origins of capitalism and the modern state are consistent with those of Marx)

The role of the nascent state in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in relation to the urban centers was to destroy the independence of the cities; to pillage the rich guilds of merchants and artisans; to concentrate in its hands the external commerce of the cities and ruin it; to lay hands on the internal administration of the guilds and subject internal commerce as well as all manufactures, in every detail to the control of a host of officials….Obviously the same tactic was applied to the villages and the peasants. Once the state felt strong enough it eagerly set about destroying the village commune, ruining the peasants in its clutches and plundering the common funds….

Such was the role of the state in the industrial field. All it was capable of doing was to tighten the screw for the worker, depopulate the countryside, spread misery in the towns, reduce millions of human beings to a state of starvation and impose industrial serfdom.

Peter Kropotkin, Modern Science and Anarchism
(However, Kropotkin had criticisms of Marx’s concept of “primitive accumulation.”)

What, then, is the use of talking, with Marx, about the “primitive accumulation” —as if this “push” given to capitalists were a thing of the past? In reality, new monopolies have been granted every year till now….Everywhere the state has been, and is, the main pillar and the creator, direct and indirect, of capitalism and its powers over the masses….The state has always interfered in the economic life in favor of the capitalist exploiter. It has always granted him protection in robbery, given aid and support for further enrichment. And it could not be otherwise. To do so was one of the functions—the chief mission—of the state.

Karl Marx, Grundrisse [unpublished notebooks]
(Marx says that in the epoch of capitalist decline, capitalism returns to its earlier, non-market, methods, such as monopolization and state action.)

As long as capital is weak, it still itself relies on the crutches of past modes of production, or of those which will pass with its rise. As soon as it feels strong, it throws away the crutches and moves in accordance with its own laws. As soon as it begins to sense itself and become conscious of itself as a barrier to development, it seeks refuge in forms which, by restricting free competition, seem to make the rule of capital more perfect, but are at the same time the heralds of its dissolution and the the dissolution of the mode of production resting on it.

David Harvey, A Companion to Marx’s Capital.
(Harvey is a well-known Marxist geographer and theoretician. My emphasis.)

There were important aspects to the dynamic [of primitive accumulation] that Marx ignores. For example, the gender dimension is now recognized as being highly significant, since primitive accumulation frequently entailed a radical disempowerment of women, their reduction to the status of property and chattel and the reenforcement of patriarchal social relations….

There is…a real problem with the idea that primitive accumulation occurred once upon a time, and that once over, it ceased to be of real significance…Rosa Luxemburg put that question firmly on the agenda nearly a century ago….The long history of capitalism centers on this dynamic between continuous primitive accumulation on the one hand and the dynamics of accumulation through the system of expanded reproduction described in Capital on the other…

Since it seems a bit odd to call them primitive or original, I prefer to call these processes accumulation by dispossession.

(Harvey cites Luxemburg, but, like Federici, apparently is not aware that Kropotkin had made a similar criticism of Marx’s “primitive accumulation.” However, it could be argued that this criticism is unfair to Marx, since he did recognize that “direct force, outside economic conditions, is of course still used” and indicated that there would be a return to the methods of “so-called primitive accumulation” when capitalism “become conscious of itself as a barrier to development”— that is, in its epoch of decay, with the rise of modern imperialism, monopoly-finance capitalism, and the anthropocene.)

For further discussion see
: From the Great Witch Hunt to the Epoch of Capitalist Decay—Review of Silvia Federici Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation

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We Will Not Negotiate

Mié, 02/20/2019 - 04:36

Via Commune

by Andy Battle

I’m standing on a lonely, dog-shit-covered pier at the western tip of Long Island, the winter wind eating through my denim jacket. Before me lies Roosevelt Island. once home to New York’s hospitals, prisons, and asylums, now full of luxury apartment and a Cornell University “tech campus” meant to drain money and talent from Silicon Valley. Beyond that is Manhattan’s east side—United Nations headquarters, the gaudy Trump World Tower, and the subdued money behind the bricks of tony Sutton Place. To the north rises the steel hulk of the Queensboro Bridge, which ferries 170,000 automobiles a day between Manhattan and its sister to the east, while behind me sit a shuttered restaurant, a rotting wooden pier, and a series of brick warehouses. This site, hard by the shore of the East River, was to be the footprint for Amazon’s “HQ2,” where tens of thousands were supposed to toil for the world’s most aggressive retailer. But now the deal is dead, cut down by a swell of opposition from neighborhood activists and elected officials that caught the company and its supporters flat-footed.

Amazon’s retreat is significant. Subsidies to private firms are not new, but HQ2 was the moonshine of development deals—strong, pure, and harsh. For many New Yorkers, the deal became a symbol of everything they find objectionable about contemporary urban politics. Amazon’s market valuation exceeds a trillion dollars; its founder, Jeff Bezos, is the world’s richest man. Nonetheless, city and state officials offered the firm at least three billion dollars in subsidies on the heels of a year-long search process that doubled as a humiliating showcase for the sovereignty of private wealth over desperate municipal governments. The deal, shrouded in secrecy and engineered to abrogate whatever democracy remains in New York’s planning process, stood as a monument to the contempt with which both corporate and elected officials treat ordinary people in any role except that of customer.

Long Island City

During the last ten years, Long Island City has changed as much as any place in New York. Real estate developers have converted large swaths of industrial waterfront into glass-fronted playgrounds for today’s rich. At midcentury, Long Island City sat at the center of a vast belt of industry folded around the western fringe of Long Island. The intensity of this landscape drove the scribes of the Federal Writers’ Project to rhapsody:

Long Island City, fronting the East River and Newtown Creek around the approach to the Queensboro Bridge, is a labyrinth of industrial plants whose harsh and grimy outlines rise against the soot-laden sky. Within an area of a few square miles, gridironed by elevated lines, railroad yards, and bridge approaches, are gathered about 1,400 factories, producing chiefly spaghetti, candy, sugar, bread, machinery, paint, shoes, cut stone, and furniture. Its bakeries alone turn out about five million loaves weekly; its paint and varnish factories, about ten million gallons a year; its stoneyards handle about 90 percent of the cut stone and marble imported into the United States. On the oily waters of Newtown Creek, which separates Queens from Brooklyn, tugboats and barges plow busily all day long, entering with coal and raw materials and leaving with manufactured products.

Food and chemicals were the neighborhood’s mainstays. When La Guardia Community College opened in 1971, the neighborhood smelled like “bread and gum,” recall teachers. When the Chiclets factory exploded in 1976, workers poured out of the plant “still smoldering,” reminding a shaken witness of photographs depicting Vietnamese children attacked with napalm. In retrospect, the blast feels like the coda to an era, an angry outburst by machines protesting their impending retirement. By the 1980s, the deindustrialization of New York was virtually complete, leaving the city hooked on finance and real estate as motors of the local economy. While its Rust Belt counterparts descended into penury, New York parlayed its historical advantages into a new season of opulence, riding high on asset bubbles and debt-gorged turbulence administered from its downtown boardrooms. New York may be built on quicksand, but at least it is built on something.

“Competition suffuses every inch of Amazon’s soul.”

Other historical legacies abound in Long Island City. The Queensbridge Houses, the largest public housing project in the United States, sit five blocks north of the HQ2 site. Completed in 1939, the twenty-nine squat brick structures evoke an abandoned American social democracy. Today, while luxury towers rise to the south, the New York City Housing Authority lurches from crisis to crisis. Eighty percent of public housing residents went without heat some time last winter. Some have lived like this for ten years. Lead paint, piles of trash, dirty water, no water—an archipelago of Flint, Michigans stretches across each New York borough.

Between the 1960s and the 1980s, the Queensbridge Houses, like other New York public housing complexes, became sites of concentrated, racialized poverty, the consequence of a slowing economy, labor markets cleaved along racial lines, and state policies that fostered segregation. More than most projects, though, the Queensbridge Houses spoke to the world. The compound is famous for its poets. In the 1980s, MC Shan, Marley Marl, Roxanne Shante, and the Juice Crew helped set the template for New York hip-hop. Their ‘90s descendants—Nas, Cormega, Tragedy Khadafi, and others—honed the style into something harsher, less playful, more world-weary.

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How the NYC Left Took on Amazon and Won

Mié, 02/20/2019 - 03:51

via Jacobin

By Liza Featherstone

Dear Amazon,” the Valentine’s Day meme read. It was the day Amazon announced it would not, after all, be setting up a second headquarters in Long Island City. “It’s not us. It’s you.”

The meme, created by CAAV Organizing Asian Communities, one of many groups fighting the Amazon deal, was cute and funny, but only partly true.

After all, it was “us” — the combined forces of the New York left, from new kids on the block like Queens Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), to community groups like CAAV and DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving), who have been in Queens for years, to RWDSU (the Retail Wholesale and Department Store Union) and many other people and organizations. This coalition deserves credit for defeating Governor Cuomo’s terrible plan to give a highly profitable, famously tax-evading company billions in tax breaks to enrich developers and make Long Island City even less affordable for the many working-class people who live there.

It’s an astonishing victory for the working-class and the Left. The global elite sees it as a bewildering defeat, far beyond a local story.

Amazon’s decision to pull out of Long Island City was on the front page, not only of the New York Times but also the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times, and all three papers have given it significant coverage, much of it hand-wringing from the business perspective: “how could this have gone so wrong?” Bourgeois commentators are blaming Amazon for mishandling the situation, the way a normal person might blame a victim of violent crime (“he was probably a drug dealer”; “why was she walking alone so late?”) to reassure themselves they’re safe.

Amazon wanted this deal. The governor wanted it. The mayor wanted it. Most importantly, the real estate industry wanted it: there was so much money to be made gentrifying Long Island City. Even as little as a year ago, nothing else would have mattered.

What worked for the Left here? “The organizing,” says Abdullah Younus of DSA.

The Left argues — a lot! — about the best approach to fighting capital. Should we focus on electing progressive or socialist-leaning politicians to office? Or should we build a base by talking to people about the issues? Public education or protest? Do we work with labor unions or with immigrant workers outside of such structures? Do we pressure politicians at the city or state level or organize working-class people in the community?

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Coming of age in cohousing

Mié, 02/20/2019 - 03:38

via Curbed.com

by Courtney E. Martin

At the last minute, Kathryn McCamant had to take her 4-year-old daughter Jessie along with her to a meeting. The story of her life, it seemed. McCamant was one of the architects hell-bent on spreading the word about cohousing to America. A Danish invention in which families live in separate homes but share communal space and meals, it wasn’t an easy sell. There were so. Many. Meetings.

At this particular one, Jessie sat at her mom’s feet under the table and drew in her sketchbook as the adults babbled on and on about “the hard knocks of real estate development,” as McCamant put it. As the end of the meeting drew near, she looked down and burst out laughing. “She had written WOW on my shoes,” McCamant remembers. “It took me a while to realize it was ‘MOM’ from her perspective. Great juxtaposition! While they were my dress leather shoes, luckily, they were purchased second-hand. Our kids teach us so much!”

When Jessie Durrett was just starting to toddle, architects McCamant and Charles Durrett were putting the finishing touches on the first distinct cohousing community in America: Muir Commons, in Davis, California. McCamant and Durrett became interested in cohousing while studying in Copenhagen in the ’80s and played a key role in spreading it across America over the next couple of decades. Katie, as she’s known, and Charles lived in two different cohousing communities while they were raising Jessie, one in Emeryville, California, and another in Nevada City, California.

The archetypical cohousing community is made up of a couple dozen private households that are built to face one another around a central courtyard. They share common spaces, like a kitchen and eating area, a garden, tool shed, and laundry facilities, as well as a belief in the value of intergenerational interdependence. In practical terms, this usually means shared meals and communal workdays on the land. In spiritual terms, it means “you’ve got my back, I’ve got yours.” Today, there are more than 160 cohousing communities in 25 states across the country, according to the Cohousing Association of America.

When I asked Durrett, now 27 and studying public policy and international relations at Princeton, whether she ever rebelled against the family business, as it were, she shook her head and answered: “Look, they did all the hard work. They brought cohousing across an ocean, and got so many people to care about it, and convinced planning commissions that didn’t get it that it was a good idea, and actually found the financing, and built these communities. I just got to soak up all the benefits!”

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“It’s Eco-Socialism or Death”

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 15:09

via Jacobin

An interview with Kali Akuno

The Green New Deal (GND) is now part of the national conversation. But for decades, social movements have been doing the on-the-ground work to resist fossil capitalism and envision a different future. Such grassroots social mobilization — but at a massive scale — is vital to ensuring the GND catalyzes transformative social change.

Cooperation Jackson is at the forefront of eco-socialist organizing to create a new society and economy from the bottom up. Cooperation Jackson encompasses a network of worker cooperatives and supporting institutions fighting to build a solidarity economy in Mississippi and beyond. Jacobin’s Green New Deal editorial team spoke with Kali Akunothe cofounder and executive director of Cooperation Jackson, and coeditor of Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, MS.

In this wide-ranging interview, we discussed the links between local eco-socialist action, national movement-building, and an internationalist orientation; tactics and strategies for interacting with electoral politics to radicalize the GND — and much more. Throughout, Akuno draws on a long history of environmental justice activism in the United States and around the world, providing key lessons about how to move forward — and quickly — to generate a militant, mass movement for a just planet.

E: We’re in an interesting political moment where there’s a lot of excitement around a GND coming from insurgent left-wing Democrats, but also a lot of pushback from centrists in the party who have a lot of power, as we saw in Nancy Pelosi’s move to weaken the Select Committee on a GND. How can we be strategic about interacting with different representatives and power players? Looking forward to 2020, how can we orient ourselves towards the most radical GND possible? KA: Organizing is the answer. We have to organize a strong independent base to advance the transition program we need, be it the Green New Deal or anything similar. Without that this epic issue will be held hostage to forces seeking to maintain the capitalist system as is, whether it be the Democratic or Republican variety of this worldview and its articulated interests. And we have to build this base to advance two strategies at once.

One, we have to organize a mass base within the working class, particularly around the job-focused side of the just transition framework. We have to articulate a program that concretely addresses the class’s immediate and medium-term need for jobs and stable income around the expansion of existing “green” industries and the development of new ones, like digital fabrication or what we call community production, that will enable a comprehensive energy and consumption transition. This will have to be a social movement first and foremost, which understands electoral politics as a tactic and not an end unto itself.

For our part, one of the critical initiatives that we as Cooperation Jackson are arguing for is the development of a broad “union-co-op” alliance that would seek to unite the three forms of the organized working-class movement in this country — i.e. the trade unions, workers’ centers, and worker cooperatives — around what we call a “build and fight” program. It would seek to construct new worker-owned and self-managed enterprises rooted in sustainable methods of production on the build side and to enact various means of appropriation of the existing enterprises by their workers on the fight side, which would transition these industries into sustainable practices (or in some cases phase them out entirely). We think this is a means towards building the independence that is required to dictate the terms of the political struggle in the electoral arena.

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The Mystification of Voting

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 05:04

via the Fifth Estate

An Anarchist Critique

by Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

Since the 19th century, anarchists have made opposition to representative democracy and electoral politics central to our critique of the state and all forms of hierarchy. As radicals who envision a world without government, we don’t want to lend legitimacy to the system of politicians and parties. The theme of this Fifth Estate issue is Anything Can Happen. This is not an empty slogan!

The Surrealists, the Situationists, and other artistic and political movements have taught us the critical importance of fighting the ways that powerful hierarchical institutions not only physically repress us with cops and soldiers, but narrow the horizons of what we believe is possible, of our ability to envision different worlds outside the logics of the state, capitalism, and social hierarchies.

This is why the 1968 Situationist slogan “All Power to the Imagination” continues to have so much resonance.

In the 21st century information economy, the limits imposed on our imaginations are more comprehensive and subtle than one could have imagined in previous eras. For example, censorship need not take the crude form of banning a book, a movie, or a speaker. Rather, the corporate bottlenecks through which our infinitely expanded seas of information and communication flow can adjust the algorithms that determine what we see and in what context.

Genuinely subversive ideas simply won’t appear in your feed, or won’t surface when you search Google or YouTube. Unlike the old model of censorship, which provided a basis around which resistance could catalyze, the new soft censorship happens mostly without anyone knowing, via private rather than state mechanisms (though at times in coordination with the FBI and such agencies), and coexists with the illusion that we have the freedom to consume whatever media and ideas we choose.

In this context, it is more imperative than ever that we struggle not just against the batons of the police, the tanks of the National Guard, and the drones of the Trump (or Obama) administrations, but also against the limits imposed on our ability to dream of a world that doesn’t rest on our domination by a revolving door of Democrats and Republicans.

As a small but inspired minority of radicals with the courage and foresight to recognize that politicians are the cause, not the solution to our problems, anarchists have a critical role to play—freeing the imagination from the shackles of electoral thinking.

The impact we can have in this role infinitely exceeds whatever puny effect we could exert on the electoral process, even if we gave up our principles (and our sense of reality) and voted as a bloc.

Consider: how many anarchists are there in the United States? Perhaps a few thousand dedicated anarchist militants, and perhaps several tens of thousands of fellow travelers inspired by our ideas, mostly concentrated in cities and regions that tend to vote Democratic.

Even if every single one of us abandoned our anarchist convictions and voted—indeed, even if we all decided to move to a single district to maximize our electoral power—the impact we could have on national or even state/local elections would be puny. Anarchist electoralism is the worst kind of defeatism, a pathetic embrace of our own irrelevance.

By contrast, anarchists believe that our true power is qualitative, not quantitative. That is, we can make an impact through the incisiveness of our critiques, the vitality of our ideas, the creativity of our direct action tactics, and the force of our determination to change the world—not through reducing ourselves to indistinguishable units of exchange and competing mathematically to become part of a majority.

It may be democratic to believe that the majority should rule, and that the belief held by the largest number must be legitimate—but anyone who believes that need look no further than the 2016 presidential election to see what side that puts them on.

Where anarchists differ from all political aspirants to power is in opposing rule itself—whether by majorities or minorities. Instead, we stand for the idea that all of us are entitled to control our own lives and make the decisions that affect us without representatives.

How then, the skeptic asks, does this look in practice? Sounds fine as a theory, but we live in Trump’s America today, and we should respond to the reality we actually live in.

The most powerful way we can respond to any of the issues of oppression and exploitation that plague us is through direct action. Whether we’re fighting against war, environmental destruction, deportations, or racist policing, we can act directly to shift the power balance away from these forces and institutions and back into our own hands.

In some cases, it may mean withdrawal—from social media, corporations, landlords—and self-organization, forming autonomous institutions to meet our needs for communication, information, housing, and other areas of our lives.

In other cases, it may require disruption and attack: using hacking, doxxing, sabotage, protest, and numerous other forms of resistance to shut down the institutions that are making our lives and others’ unlivable. No matter what problem we’re trying to solve, voting is one of the least direct, least reliable, and least effective methods of making actual lasting change.

So, what might replace parties and elections? While anarchists don’t propose a single blueprint or platform—we’re not trying to recruit for our party, but tear down the barriers that keep all of us from deciding for ourselves—we do have a lot of models and ideas. Some prefer a council system akin to what is happening in autonomous Rojava, Syria, with decision-making organized into face to face meetings in neighborhoods, workplaces, and self-defined groups, with authority federated, starting from the most local level possible.

Others like consensus processes in popular assemblies such as in the Occupy model. Some prefer a more syndicalist vision, where self-organized workplaces coordinate production and distribution across industries. Still others prioritize the informal ways through which we make most decisions and resolve most conflicts every day as the best way to stave off hierarchy.

The Paris Commune in 1871 enacted rotating bodies staffed by short-term representatives organized to prevent power from ever concentrating or specializing. The Zapatistas in Chiapas, Mexico formed caracoles reflecting the local collective core of decision-making that spiraled outward into coordination across communities and regions.

These and countless other examples from across history and cultures reflect the incredible diversity of ways we can organize our lives without recourse to politicians, voting, or hierarchy.

Most of these models have two features in common: first, they emerged in moments of crisis (the Syrian Civil War, the imposition of NAFTA in Mexico, mass protests or uprisings); and second, they drew on the pre-existing networks, tactics, and cultures of the people who experimented with them. It’s unquestionable that we are in a period of crisis in the United States.

Political differences have mutated into extreme polarization, a remarkably wide swath of the population sees the current regime in power as illegitimate, and the solutions put forward by traditional power structures—the Democratic Party, the intelligence and policing structures—are laughable.

The most important thing that we can do as anarchists and other people of conscience in this political moment is to explore the networks, tactics, and cultures we can draw on to propose alternative solutions for resolving our problems outside of the electoral system.

One of the first steps we can take is to demystify voting. Let’s show it for what it really is: a meaningless ritual cloaked in the symbolism of participation and civic responsibility; a smokescreen to hide how power really operates; an expression of our powerlessness and our inability to live our lives on our own terms.

We will never defeat Trump and all he stands for by replacing him. It will only happen by making him and all of his would-be successors irrelevant, by reclaiming the power representative democracy steals from us, using it to solve our problems directly and organizing our lives and communities on our own terms.

Clara is a participant in Crimethlnc: s Ex-Worker Podcast collective, and is not registered to vote in any municipality in the U.S. crimethinc.com/podcast

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AK Press & Anarchist Publishing

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 04:52

via Fifth Estate

Interview: Why We Do It

by Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

AK Press is a worker-run anarchist collective that publishes and distributes radical books as well as visual and audio media. The collective was established in 1990 and is now run by seven people in five cities and two countries. They currently publish around twenty books each year.

Four collective members, who have been involved from 12 to 28 years, posed questions to themselves about anarchist publishing to take a look at their project.

They are Alexis in Edinburgh, Scotland, Charles in Berkeley, Calif., Suzanne in Baltimore, and Zach in Chico, Calif. where the AK Press distribution warehouse is located.

What is anarchist publishing?

Alexis: It’s being part of a long tradition which has always tried to look both backward to the development of the core ideas of anarchism (the classics of our history) and look forward to see how those principles relate to current and future struggles, hopefully giving people tools to build our movements and navigate towards fundamental social change.

Suzanne: Part of what we do is publishing specifically anarchist books, but equally important is how our politics inform our day-to-day operation. Nobody at AK Press is an owner or manager or boss. We all make decisions together, we all pay ourselves the same, and we have an equal say in the running of the business.

Charles: Not that that guarantees anything. There are plenty of non-anarchist collectives out there. White supremacist creeps could organize collectively, on a small scale. But it’s still a necessary aspect. It’s a question of form plus political content.

Alexis: I’d go with the combination of being anarchists ourselves, organizing ourselves in line with those principles, and publishing (mostly) anarchist material. All three things come together to make an anarchist publisher. There’s a coherence to the whole that you don’t find when mainstream publishers take on anarchist work that they think they can make money from.

How do we do it?

Suzanne: We never sleep. No, but really, we have a small-but solid collective and an incredible network of authors, editors, translators, designers, bookstores, tablers, and, of course, enthusiastic readers.

Alexis: It’s a collaborative effort. Working with archives like the Kate Sharpley Library, relying on the expertise of anarchist translators or the academics who dig through historical material. It’s definitely not all us.

Charles: We spend most of our waking hours doing this. Part of the political project means that you have to be very dedicated. It takes consistent, daily effort to get to a point of, you hope, affecting the wider culture.

Why do we do it?

Zach: Like Malatesta wrote, “Every blow given to the institutions of private property and to the government, every exaltation of the conscience of man, every disruption of the present conditions, every lie unmasked, every part of human activity taken away from the control of the authority, every augmentation of the spirit of solidarity and initiative, is a step towards Anarchy.”

Charles: It’s easy to lose sight of the “why” when you’re caught up in the day-to-day, so you have to stop and assess. Sure, you’re doing it “for the revolution,” but what does that mean if you’re not thinking strategically about how to get from A to B? Who are you trying to reach? With what messages? Why? How do you best do that?

Zach: There’s a balance you maintain between being in tune with the contemporary anarchist scene and standing back to see where more attention is needed. We follow the nuances of anarchism in real time: Who is engaged? What ideas are important to them? How can we add to that conversation?

Then, there are times we try to nudge people in new directions: How are people stuck politically and what can help get us moving again? And, importantly, we want to grow—find new readers, increase engagement with anarchist ideas, provide entry points for those looking for alternatives to capitalist democracy or less-than-libertarian socialisms.

Strengths? Weaknesses? Hopes?

Suzanne: Over the years, we’ve evolved as a project—like splitting into more specialized departments and becoming more geographically dispersed. I like that we’re able to change the way we do things to better meet the demands of our work and create the collective we want to have.

Alexis: I’ve been thinking about how group dynamics work, and how fragile they can be, but how vital they are to a long-term project. It’s always been the case that most everybody gives more than their basic hours. It means we are really invested in AK, we have a strong sense of ownership.

There’s something complicated that must happen with trust, good faith/bad faith actions, and probably a few other things.

Suzanne: Where would we like to head? Smashing the state! Meanwhile, I’d just like to publish and distribute as many books as possible, reach as many people as possible, and continue to become more sustainable as a project.

Alexis: Yes, being sustainable. It’s already amazing that it’s become what it is, especially given some significant hurdles. I’d like to see us become/remain a strong part of a healthy and diverse anarchist publishing scene, because the movement is very much better served by a multiplicity than a monolith.

AK Press catalog is available at akpress.org

or AK Press,
370 Ryan Ave. #100,
Chico, CA, 95973
Phone: (510) 208-1700
info@akpress.org

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Eco-Marxism and the Green New Deal

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 04:25

by Vaios Triantafyllou 
Truthout, February 9, 2019

A professor of sociology at the University of Oregon, John Bellamy Foster is also the editor of the socialist magazine Monthly Review. He has written widely on capitalism, Marxism and ecological crises. In this interview, Foster discusses why a Green New Deal is just an entry point to an ecological revolution, and why any economic-social system that hopes to address the climate crisis must transcend capitalism. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Vaios Triantafyllou: Do you believe that combating the climate crisis is feasible within a globalized capitalist economy? The common liberal narrative is that financial incentives and economic regulations, along with booming clean technologies, can provide a cure to the problem (despite scientific evidence and the recent UN report claiming otherwise). What is your position on the Green New Deal, as proposed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and what is the interplay between here-and-now and long-term, socialist solutions?

John Bellamy Foster: We cannot deal with the climate crisis, much less the overall planetary ecological emergency, in an effective way while conforming to the logic of a globalized capitalist economy. But we currently live in such an economy, and we have a very short time in which to respond to climate change. So, it becomes a question of immediately choosing to steer society toward putting people and nature before profits, as opposed to what capitalism does, i.e. putting profits before people and nature. We have to go against the logic of the system even while living within it. This is what is meant by a “movement toward socialism,” as first articulated by William Morris.

Capitalism is not just a system, it is a system of social relations and socio-metabolic processes, and we have to change many of those relations and processes radically from within and very quickly in order to deal with the current ecological emergency. In the long run, of course, we have to have a full ecological and social revolution, transcending existing capitalist relations of production. But right now, we are in an emergency situation, and the first priority is eliminating fossil fuels, which entails the destruction of what is called fossil capital. The object is to avoid what Earth system scientists are calling “hothouse Earth” where catastrophic climate change is locked in and irreversible, and which could set in a couple of decades or less.

With respect to Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal on the Green New Deal, I am impressed by some aspects of it. She calls for mass mobilization, which is indeed necessary. She also calls for innovative forms of financing, such as setting up a network of public banks to finance it directly, modeled after the New Deal, and through much higher marginal tax brackets on the rich and corporations, going back to what we once had in the United States. The revenues could be used to finance a massive shift toward solar and wind power. She connects this to a wide array of social issues.

But none of this will really work, even if it were possible to legislate it, given the system, unless it takes on the character of an ecological revolution with a broad social base. Hence, a radical Green New Deal is, at best, just the entry point to such wider, eco-revolutionary change, involving the self-mobilization of the population. If it does not spark an ecological revolution, its effect will be nil.

As far as your question on the role of financial incentives and regulation, none of this will work as a strategy. It would be mere spitting into the wind. What kind of financial incentives could be given to energy companies when they own trillions of dollars in fossil fuel assets, and they have a vested interest in this system? Exxon-Mobil has declared hey will extract and burn all the fossil fuel assets that they own, which are buried in the ground, because they own them and because they can profit from them—knowing full well that this would be a death sentence for humanity. There is no way that mere incentives are going to change that. So far, even the subsidies for fossil fuel exploration have not been removed.

Read more

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What’s new with LBC – Winter 2019

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 17:11

via Little Black Cart

Welcome to the quarterly newsletter of Little Black Cart. (It is a little late this quarter because we were waiting on an external printer who was rather late with some bad news.) We distribute anarchist anti-political books, pamphlets, and newspapers. This quarter we have a new book that we are rather proud of (it was put together by Aragorn!), and the annual BASTARD conference journal.

We also are growing our selection of zines with some titles from the “insurrectionary pack.” This year (2019) we are slowing down but focusing on high quality anarchist content with some surprises in store. For those of you who do the whole podcast thing we have added a third to our list of frequent audio content.

  1. The Brilliant – a podcast of anarchist theory
  2. The Anews Podcast – a podcast of weekly anarchist news
  3. Anarchy Bang – a call-in show of anarchist discussion and commentary

Check them all, but the weekly live show is a lot of fun (with live chat of nearly 50)

New Titles
The Fight for Turtle Island
This book is a culmination of several years of interviews between Aragorn! and a variety of Native people who are or were in anarchist circles. Mostly the conversations are in and about the intersections of, and tensions between, indigeneity and anarchism, through stories and experiences with anarchists.

Turtle Island is the land beneath our feet and it is the imaginary place that existed before colonization and that will exist when colonization is over. It is a true myth and an impossible dream. The fight for it requires warriors, tricksters, and medicine stronger than we know. How will we learn? Who will we do it with? Can anarchists help or are they just hurting this fight?

As a place that doesn’t exist (but did) Turtle Island is the type of no place usually referred to as myth. Perhaps this is true, perhaps Turtle Island is merely the fantastic story of a people who have since disappeared, or the story I’d prefer to tell about the place I live.
If I live in Turtle Island and not The United States of America, I can differentiate between my life and the life violently imposed upon me. I might be powerless to do much about it but it somehow feels important to assert that I would if I could, not an end-of-the-movie inspirational assertion about how We Are Powerful Together, but a personal declaration that I am on the side of a myth vs Manifest Destiny, that I believe in something-like-struggle if not the particulars of a specific fight, that I walk on the back of turtles and not on a spinning globe that’ll be discarded as soon as the powerful are ready to leave.

For more information – The Fight for Turtle Island edited by Aragorn!

BASTARD Chronicles 2018
The Chronicles for 2018, came out later this year because the conference was later, and here it is! The theme was Hyphenated Anarchisms, and included are pieces from all of the five workshops, including two pieces by joint presenters Daniel and Jason McQuinn. Workshop titles were Can Anarchism be Saved?, Anarchism with and without Adjectives, Anarchism in a Futureless World, Notes Toward an Anarchist Numerology, and fragments from Lew’s workshop on Freake Anarchism.
For more information –
The BASTARD Chronicles 2018

Insurrectionary Pack
This year we tried to do a xmas sale. It was cute. It was an effort. It was a failure financially. But since we wanted to do (so much) more we put a pack of titles together and wrapped them up with an aesthetic flourish. Here are the individual titles from what were packs for the sale.

The Delirious Momentum of the Revolt

A.G. Schwartz produced the book We are an Image from the Future, one of two good books on the 2008 insurrections in Greece. These essays provide an international insurrectionary perspective of events in the U.S. in that same time period. “The Logic of Not Demanding”, the Greek insurrection in 2008 and lessons that can be learned from it, and discussions of various attempts to try insurrectionary approaches in the United States. Schwartz is writing mostly under different names now, but continues to be thought-provoking, considered, and intelligent.

For more information – The Delirious Momentum of the Revolt

At Daggers Drawn

This is a classic of Italian insurrectionary anarchy, written and known well before insurrection was a gleam in the eye of americans.

On the one hand there is the existent, with its habits and certainties. And of certainty, that social poison, one can die. On the other hand there is insurrection, the unknown bursting into the life of all. The possible beginning of an exaggerated practice of freedom.

For more information – At Daggers Drawn

Armed Joy

Along with At Daggers Drawn, this is a classic of insurrectionary anarchism, by the single writer who has done the most to explain and explore the Italian insurrectionary perspective (with many thanks to Jean Weir and to Wolfi Landstreicher for the translating efforts they have both put in over the years!).

In Italy it seemed essential to prevent the many actions carried out against the men and structures of power by comrades every day from being drawn into the planned logic of an armed party such as the Red Brigades.
That is the spirit of this book. To show how a practice of liberation and destruction can come forth from a joyful logic of struggle, not a mortifying, schematic rigidity within the pre-established canons of a directing group.

For more information – Armed Joy

A Project of Liberation

A collection of insurrectionary essays from unnamed individuals north of the border. Includes February, 2003, Activist Practice and Revolutionary Struggle, Towards An Insurgent Social Movement in Vancouver, Anarchists, Base Organizations and Intermediate Struggles, The Woodwards Squat, Social Struggle, Social War, An Anarchist Concept of Value, and Revolutionary Initiative.

Inspiring, and more current than most of the other good insurrectionary writings.

For more information – A Project of Liberation

Recent LBC Titles & Distro Items
The Totality is Incomplete
Alex Gorrion will be familiar to anyone who has paid attention to The Anvil, which was (and still is, in a lingering fashion) primarily a journal of anarchist reviews of non-anarchist culture. Alex has done some of the most fun, exciting, interesting, and personal writing on that site, like a more accessible frere dupont. Alex is one of my favorite anarchist writers, and I wish for more writing by them, but until then, here are Alex’s favorites from that site, collected for your reading pleasure, far away from the glowing screen. These articles include thoughtful and critical responses to Tiqqun texts; popular music icons like Jewel and Kanye (yes, I did just put them in the same sentence); thoughts on brilliant anarchists like Novatore and Isabelle Eberhardt (anarchist in spirit, if not in name), and so much more.

The Totality is Incomplete

Stirner – The Unique and Its Property

From the translator’s introduction:

I made this translation for those who rebel against all that is held sacred, against every society, every collectivity, every ideology, every abstraction that various authorities, institutions, or even other individuals try to impose on them as a “higher power,” for those who know how to loot from a book like this, to take from it those conceptual tools and weapons that they can use in their own defiant, laughing, mocking self-creation, to rise up above and against the impositions of the mass. In other words I did this translation for those who know how to treat a book not as a sacred text to either be followed or hermeneutically dissected, but as an armory or a toolbox from which to take whatever will aid them in creating their lives, their enjoyments

This new version of Wolfi’s translation includes an index and a gorgeous cover that refutes expectations.

The Unique and Its Property

  1. Relations Without End – Animism
  2. Last Act of the Circus Animals – Sean Swain, Travis Washington, Anarchist Animal Farm
  3. Toward an Army of Ghosts
    – The second volume by Tom Nom@d on insurgent strategy

Internship
We have a living space (and good company) in Berkeley California to offer someone who wants to intern with us and work on exciting anarchist projects for three months starting in Spring 2019. Contact us at our primary email for more information and logistics.

Live the anarchy. Attack!

The rest
Want to help?

Are you in the Bay Area and would you like to help make LBC projects happen?
Drop us a line.

Are you a writer?
Send manuscript proposals to us at info@lbc

Become an Intern
In a program that we’re really happy with, LBC hosts a new intern every three months. If you are interested in becoming a close friend with LBC and being exposed to the ideas and personalities around the project and our environs, if you’ve been wanting time and encouragement to work on or start that awesome anarchist project you’ve had in mind, feel free to reach out to us at our email address for more information. We are currently looking for interns for the whole of 2019!!!

Social Networking
Here is our dumb Twitter feed

Stupid Facebook

Politics is the enemy of anarchy, and it knows it.

The post What’s new with LBC – Winter 2019 appeared first on Infoshop News.

Jackdaw 4 out now!

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 17:08

via Anarchist Communist Group

Issue 4 of Jackdaw, the ACG’s free bulletin, is now out and is available at various bookshops, handed out at meetings, demos and street distributions. This issue contains articles on Universal Credit and Basic Income, The Con of Full Employment, Fat Cat Friday, This Septic Isle, Greenhouse Gas, and more. If you don’t manage to pick up a copy, you can download it (and earlier issues) by going to our Publications Page.

The post Jackdaw 4 out now! appeared first on Infoshop News.

A Public Statement on the Situation in Venezuela From Chilean Libertarian Communists

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 16:30

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation

The following is a statement on the current political crisis and U.S. backed coup underway in Venezuela produced by Solidaridad, a libertarian communist political organization in Chile. In the coming days we will be publishing an additional statement written jointly by anarchist groups in Brazil and Uruguay. For additional analysis we recommend our archive of articles and statements on Venezuela.

Translation by Francisco C., Black Rose/Rosa Negra.

Original Link

A Public Statement on the Situation in Venezuela

Venezuela is going through a profound crisis of which it is impossible to exempt the responsibility of the leadership of Chavismo: the failure in opening a path that allows the country to overcome the dependence of oil, the inefficiency in implementing measures that better the economic situation of the country, the bureaucracy that is drowning the popular initiative and the cases of corruption that affect officials who move key aspects of the economy. These are some of the unresolved problems.

Nevertheless, this situation is within the framework of a polarization and conflict of classes where the Venezuelan right-wing, the loyal representative of the well-off sectors in the country in conjunction with diverse administrations from the U.S. government, has unfolded a destabilizing strategy intended to asphyxiate the Venezuelan economy contributing to the deterioration to the living conditions of millions of people. The objective of this effort is to undermine the popular support that has mainly sustained the process of change in Venezuela.

Even worse, this right-wing, which presents itself as a democratic alternative and which hides its despise for the working class behind a false language that appeals to justice and respect to a constitution they had once insulted, operates in a criminal manner sharpening the levels of violence. Behind the figure of [self-proclaimed interim President] Juan Guaidó and the Voluntad Popular or Popular Will party, hiding behind the high-flown speeches amplified by the media has been an insurrectionary strategy which unfolded with armed attacks on military barracks, [1] destruction of health centers, [2] the burning of warehouses with food destined to vulnerable, [3] among other multiple actions of sabotage went on during these years. It came to the point where social leaders were being killed by hired hitmen [4] and to the burning alive of people simply for being Chavistas. [5]

From what’s mentioned above we’ve learned that if the right gains power in Venezuela again, not only will it implement adjustment policies that include privatization of public enterprises, massive indebtedness with bodies like the IMF, and the opening of oil projects where private companies assume as principal shareholders, [6] but it will also be a government of revenge where the hate accumulated during these years will unfold brutally against organized sectors of the people who dared to dream of a country that would transition to non-capitalist ways of living together.

The realization of a profound balance between Latin American progressives and in particular from the Venezuelan experience,even with all its contradictions and potential is a pending task for the left. Suffice it to say that many of these experiences have given way to political processes that directly harm the working class. Nevertheless, and despite the legitimate differences that we openly express with those who lead the Venezuelan process, the left and the people have to be emphatic in rejecting this new coup attempt – the ominous interference of the U.S and the other countries related to the destabilizing strategy which includes the government of [Chilean President Sebastián] Piñera and the political sectors who support its foreign policy all the way from Chile. Along with this we must demand the governments who quickly squared with the position of the United States to respect the rights of the Venezuelan people to its own conflicts without the interference of other states establishing as a minimum floor the non-recognition of the diplomatic delegations won over by Guaído.

We manifest our solidarity with the people of Venezuela directly from our organization, especially with the fringes who even against the grain of the Chavista leadership and assuming all the contradictions of the change in process, protagonize [fight for] new experiences in building popular power that range from the takeovers of the land, the socialization of self-managed companies by its own workers or the government from below in rural and urban communities, [7] and obtaining spaces that prefigure the path of the people who fight against the ominous consequences of patriarchal capitalism we want to overcome.

Solidaridad, February 2019

Notes

[1]  https://www.eltiempo.com/archivo/documento/MAM-53579 [2]  https://www.hispantv.com/noticias/venezuela/408335/ataque-incendio-hospitales-opositores-violencia [3]  https://actualidad.rt.com/actualidad/242996-50-toneladas-alimentos-quemadas-venezuela [4]  http://www.resumenlatinoamericano.org/2018/08/03/asesinados-tres-voceros-de-la-lucha-campesina-en-venezuela/ [5]  https://red58.org/cr%C3%ADmenes-de-odio-derecha-venezolana-quema-viva-a-personas-en-sus-protestas-923cfc58012c  [6] https://www.elinformador.com.ve/2019/01/31/descargue-aqui-el-plan-pais-lo-que-viene-para-venezuela/ [7] For an idea about the concrete experiences in building popular power in Venezuela we recommend you visit the following article written in 2016 written by two comrades of Solidaridad, “Political Situation in Venezuela: Crisis, Trends, and the Challenge of Class Independence.”

The post A Public Statement on the Situation in Venezuela From Chilean Libertarian Communists appeared first on Infoshop News.

Libertarian Socialism in Latin America: A Roundtable Interview, Part III, Brazil

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 16:22

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL/SPANISH VERSION

VERSÃO PORTUGUESA/PORTUGUESE VERSION

In the United States, growing segments of the population are undergoing a period of profound politicization and polarization. Political elites are struggling to maintain control as increasing numbers of people seek out alternatives on the left and the right. In the wake of the 2016 presidential election, political organizations on the left have grown significantly, most notably expressed in the explosive growth of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). Meanwhile, the Trump administration has joined other far-right governments emerging around the globe, emboldening fascist forces in the streets. These developments have sparked widespread debate on the nature of socialism and its distinct flavors within and outside the US.

Among the various branches within the broad socialist tradition, libertarian socialism is possibly the least understood. For many people in the US, libertarian socialism sounds like a contradiction in terms. The corrosive influence of the Cold War has distorted our understanding of socialism, while the explicit hijacking of the term “libertarian” by right-wing forces has stripped it of its roots within the socialist-communist camp. Outside the exceptional case of the US, libertarianism is widely understood to be synonymous with anarchism or anti-state socialism. In Latin America in particular, libertarian socialists have played a critical role in popular struggles across the region, from mass student movements to the recent wave of feminist struggles. To expand and enrich the current debate on socialism in the US, we spoke with several militants from political organizations in the tradition of libertarian socialism in Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, exploring the history, theory and practice of libertarian socialism.

Due to the length of responses, we have published this roundtable interview in installments (Part 1, Chile: Spanish and English; Part 2, Argentina: Spanish and English). For Part 3, we spoke with Fábio from the Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (FARJ) / Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

We also wanted to thank everyone who contributed to our Building Bridges of International Solidarity Fundraiser which made this interview series possible.

—Introduction and interview by Enrique Guerrero-López. 

Spanish translation by Ricardo, Portuguese translation by Cí Melo

Enrique Guerrero-López (EGL): Can you introduce yourself, tell us the name of your organization, and give a short summary of its origins and your main work?

Fábio: My name is Fábio and I’m a member of the Anarchist Federation of Rio de Janeiro (FARJ), which is a member of the Brazilian Anarchist Coordination (CAB). I’m a professor of Mechanical Engineering, and I’m active in the professors’ union in my workplace as well as in the Campaign for the Freedom of Rafael Braga.

EGL: What are the roots of libertarian socialism in South America?

Fábio: The roots of libertarian socialism in South America are connected to a long tradition of struggles and revolts of the Black working class, indigenous people, and popular sectors in general against colonial domination. Although libertarian socialism (anarchism) is an experience typical of the second half of the 19th century, there is a continuity between the popular struggles, the strikes, the insurrections spread over Brazilian territory and the moment of consolidation of the first socialist experiences. For us, especially here in Brazil, the working class doesn’t arise with the arrival of white Italian and Portuguese immigrants. It’s been in action since the 19th century, with struggles of the quilombos, the strikes in the middle of the slave and imperial Brazilian structure, and the actions of the poor and Black workers against oppression and domination. In continental terms, we can point out as important markers the founding of the Federación Regional de la República Oriental del Uruguay (FRROU) [1] in 1875 and of the Centro de Propaganda Obrera (CPO) in 1876 in Argentina. The first countries in South America to shape and promote anarchism, in chronological order, were Uruguay and Argentina. In Brazil, dominant elites spread the myth that anarchism was an “exotic flower” and that it was restricted only to the Italian and Portuguese immigrants, when actually anarchism was equally rooted in the native working class. During the last years of the 19th century, there was a period of insertion and maturing of anarchism in Brazil that contributed to the formation of the Confederação Operária Brasileira (COB) in 1908 in Rio de Janeiro. It is also important to emphasize different experiences of anarchist political organization in the ‘20s and ‘40s. We are the fruit of this historical work which connects generations of anarchist militants over decades.

EGL: What differentiates libertarian socialism from other branches of socialism?

Fábio: Libertarian socialism, or anarchism, differentiates itself from other branches of socialism by its characterization of the State and by its strategic propositions, which aim to overcome the capitalist system. Anarchism is an ideology, a socialist and revolutionary doctrine, which is founded on certain principles that can be traced through its 150 years of history. Its roots are defined by a critique of domination and a defense of self-organization. Regarding domination, anarchism emphasizes a critique of class oppression along with other types of oppression— for example, imperialism, gender, and race or ethnicity. For anarchists, the State is responsible for domination and exploitation together with the capitalist system. The State isn’t just a reflection of the economic relations. It is a political organism of the ruling class and, because of that, it is our job to build another power through the direct action of the masses in urban and rural popular movements.

“We argue that popular power has to be built inside popular struggles, organized and led by the various sectors of the oppressed classes, around more immediate questions, aiming for more profound processes of rupture.”

Anarchism also supports self-organization in general and conceives of revolutionary subjects as sectors of the oppressed classes, constituted in struggle through actions of the dominated classes— peasants, poor people, and workers in general— rather than seeking out a revolutionary subject in advance. Throughout history, anarchists have diverged over strategy. Our especifista current, part of a long-standing tradition inside anarchism which advocates a mass-oriented strategy and the need for political organization, believes that it is through class struggle and struggles against all forms of domination that we can create a social force capable of building the basis of anti-state and anti-capitalist popular power.

EGL: What role does political organization play within social movements and how does that fit into your vision of libertarian socialist politics?

Fábio: Especifismo has contributed a lot of energy to this topic, with the Uruguayan Anarchist Federation (FAU) being a fundamental reference point. Modestly, we have also dedicated ourselves to this issue, together with our sister organizations from the CAB. Throughout the history of anarchism, important contributions— mainly from Bakunin, Malatesta, the Platform, FAU, and the experiences of anarchist political organizations in Brazil from the beginning of the 20th century— have fueled our perspectives.

Summarizing our position, we can say that an especifista organization defends some clear points: the political organization as active minority, emphasis on the necessity of organizing, theoretical and tactical unity, the production of theory, the importance of social work and social insertion, the understanding of anarchism as a tool for the class struggle in search of a libertarian socialist project, the differentiation between political (anarchist organization) and social (social movements) levels of organization, and the defense of a militancy carried out with strategy. Obviously, our organization wasn’t born working with all these concepts, but we have been improving our work in this sense over the years and have made some advancements.

We understand the social and political levels as complementary. We don’t intend to establish a hierarchical relationship between these levels (as would the typical Leninist vanguard) nor let the specific anarchist organization (SAO) simply react to things as they happen. However, we understand that the anarchist organization, by means of its active minority, must build shoulder-to-shoulder a political and social program that deals with the needs of the people. The organization also works with objective criteria for integrating militants and gathers anarchists not by an “abstract” or “philosophical” identity, but by ideological coherence and agreement with the organization’s program, principles, and strategies.

We understand that the political organization must influence and be influenced by the social movements, but also work within them to promote direct democracy, autonomy, combativeness, and self-organization. Inside the political organization, we expect a high level of commitment and discipline— a self-discipline that is collectively built, but that doesn’t provoke harmful practices of only doing what we want or of not carrying out what was previously planned by the collective (unfortunately common in libertarian socialist groups).

This model of organization argues that the role of the specific anarchist organization is to coordinate and converge the forces that have emerged from militant activities, building a solid and consistent tool of struggle which aims for a final objective: social revolution and libertarian socialism. We believe that struggle without, or with little, organization— where people do what they want, poorly articulated or isolated— is inefficient. The model of organizing that we support aims to multiply the results and the effectiveness of militant forces. We also develop “conjunctural analysis,” or an analysis of the political, social, and economic conditions of the current moment, to inform our strategy. For that to be done with coherence, it is developed strategically inside the political organization: this is where we deal with local, national, and international contexts, where the movements and popular forces are analyzed: their influences and potentialities. Strategy must answer the question, “How do we get from where we are to where we want to be?” It’s the macro-level analysis— diagnostic and short, medium, and long term objectives— that we call strategy. Then, it is detailed in a micro-analysis— the tactics— which will determine the actions that will be put into practice by militants, or group of militants, in order to reach our goals. The organization also works with a federalist perspective and has fully direct democracy, where things are organized from the bottom up with sections, fronts, and secretaries, and where the whole organization decides, participates, and develops the broader strategic lines.

EGL: In the U.S., there is widespread debate over electoral politics on the left. How do libertarian socialists in South America relate to electoral politics?

Fábio: On this topic, it’s important to affirm that for us as anarchists, drawing on the words of Errico Malatesta, our means must be consistent with our ends. [2] Tactics must always be subordinated to strategy. If we have the strategy of building popular power and a self-organized society, it is inconceivable to be subordinated to any type of electoral politics or to defend voting inside bourgeois democracy. We look at elections as a farce built to massacre and to dominate. We vote inside our class entities: inside the unions, in student centers, in neighborhood assemblies, where the embryo of popular power is practiced day by day. We don’t believe in electoral politics, even the ones that claim to be socialist. We maintain fraternal relations with other branches of socialism inside social struggles, but we disagree with maintaining any type of action inside the bourgeois parliament or, worse, to link the popular struggle to the elections. It’s important to make explicit that recent history shows that every time socialists have attempted to revitalize this issue, they ended up embracing the worst of bourgeois politics. In Brazil, we have a huge historic example: a political party, the Workers Party, which was born in the midst of popular struggle in the ‘70s and early ‘80s with unions, social movements, and peasant support. This party decided to take the electoral path, and rapidly, all the buildup of more than thirty years of social force in class entities was emptied in the name of bourgeois politics. Thirteen years of governance and more than thirty years of buildup, and today, we’re watching the popular conquests be destroyed one by one.

As pointed out by FAU in a text from the ‘70s, “To talk about elections is to make allusion to a part of a power structure which is much wider,” and “The rules of the game of the bourgeoisie are strong and involved; they sew with steel thread.” Elections are part of this mechanism, and we, especifista anarchists, reject any type of subordination to this mechanism.

However, this doesn’t prevent us from analyzing the different scenarios, including the electoral, and trying to predict the specificities of our class enemies. The movements, strategies, blocks of power, all this must be analyzed with seriousness. People talk a lot about how the State is a form of domination— and we agree— but less about how it’s exercised. The system of domination operates in short and long terms. It is indispensable that anarchist political organizations be able to analyze these changes and to predict political scenarios so that they can act efficiently.

EGL: In South America, many libertarian socialists have put forward a theory and practice of building “popular power.” What is popular power and what forms has it taken in practice?

Fábio: The Brazilian Anarchist Coordination has some theoretical materials on this topic. Especifismo has been engaging with the concept of popular power for more than a half-century. Our concept of popular power constitutes, simultaneously, an objective and a strategy, both of which give the basis for a political practice anchored in our historical and geographical context in a manner that strengthens our intervention in the set of forces in actuation. Hence, it’s not merely a theoretical or philosophical discussion that aims only to know or to think abstractly about popular power. We conceive of power as an established social relation arisen from the confrontation between several social forces, when one or more forces impose themselves over the other.

Every society has a dynamic and permanent relation between social forces. Because of that, any society has a relation of forces. Individuals, groups, and social classes have the capacity for realization, which may or may not become social forces. Therefore, social force is constituted when the possibility becomes reality. When we organize, we multiply our social force and we always put our hopes in popular movements. We conceive of popular power as a generalized model of power— rooted in self-organization and established by oppressed classes in relation to the ruling classes— which provides the basis for a new society. So popular power aims at the suppression of capitalism, the State, and relations of domination in general, substituting for these with a new power structure, established through the workplace, through the neighborhood. It can only be consolidated through a revolutionary process.

Therefore, we argue that popular power has to be built inside popular struggles, organized and led by the various sectors of the oppressed classes, around more immediate questions, but also aiming for more profound processes of rupture. Building popular power and creating a strong people implies, besides carrying out short-term struggles, advancing for medium- and long-term struggles, and, therefore, we have been supporting popular organization in a formation of the oppressed classes which can permanently strengthen the social force of the dominated classes, putting them in direct opposition to the forces mobilized by the ruling classes. This process of popular organizing must be built as “a result of a convergence process of different social organizations and different popular movements, which are the fruit of class war” (Social Anarchism and Organization, FARJ). It’s about organizing the oppressed around a common project of social transformation. In this sense, the embryo of popular power is being built in combative strikes with direct action, in urban occupations, in rural settlements, in student assemblies and occupations, and in every experience from the oppressed that can create stable bottom-up organizing and challenge the domination of patriarchal-racist-capitalism. Building popular power means to build social relations that put the economic, political, judiciary, military, ideological, and cultural institutions of the ruling class at risk. It’s about daring to beat the system of domination and accomplishing, through solidarity in popular struggle, the accumulation of social forces necessary to disrupt the social relations imposed by the ruling classes and, by means of social conflict, to advance, accumulate, and break up the actual systemic structure. Popular power also needs to accumulate and develop militants and to create stable structures for popular organization. These structures can only be made with the creation and maintenance of popular movements. Popular power is not about a big insurrectionist night, even though insurrection is a step toward this kind of power.

Our anarchism, a motor capable of impelling popular struggles at national and continental levels, is intimately connected to this project of popular power that we continue to support: a strategy and objective that we consider to be consistent with our time and place.

Special thanks to Mackenzie Rae who provided copy editing for this article.

For more on libertarian socialism, we recommend the excellent piece “Socialism Will Be Free, Or It Will Not Be At All! – An Introduction to Libertarian Socialism.”

Notes

1. The first labor group with the intention of organizing workers nationally and based its founding principles on the resolutions of the First International.

2. The reference is to Malatesta’s essay “A Little Theory”: “The end justifies the means: we have spoken much ill of that maxim. In reality, it is the universal guide of conduct. One could say better: each end contains its means. It is necessary to seek morality in the end; the means is fatally determined.”

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Scientists Are Totally Rethinking Animal Cognition

Mar, 02/12/2019 - 03:30

via The Atlantic

by Ross Andersen

Amid the human crush of Old Delhi, on the edge of a medieval bazaar, a red structure with cages on its roof rises three stories above the labyrinth of neon-lit stalls and narrow alleyways, its top floor emblazoned with two words: birds hospital.

On a hot day last spring, I removed my shoes at the hospital’s entrance and walked up to the second-floor lobby, where a clerk in his late 20s was processing patients. An older woman placed a shoebox before him and lifted off its lid, revealing a bloody white parakeet, the victim of a cat attack. The man in front of me in line held, in a small cage, a dove that had collided with a glass tower in the financial district. A girl no older than 7 came in behind me clutching, in her bare hands, a white hen with a slumped neck.

The hospital’s main ward is a narrow, 40-foot-long room with cages stacked four high along the walls and fans on the ceiling, their blades covered with grates, lest they ensnare a flapping wing. I strolled the room’s length, conducting a rough census. Many of the cages looked empty at first, but leaning closer, I’d find a bird, usually a pigeon, sitting back in the gloom.

The youngest of the hospital’s vets, Dheeraj Kumar Singh, was making his rounds in jeans and a surgical mask. The oldest vet here has worked the night shift for more than a quarter century, spending tens of thousands of hours removing tumors from birds, easing their pain with medication, administering antibiotics. Singh is a rookie by comparison, but you wouldn’t know it from the way he inspects a pigeon, flipping it over in his hands, quickly but gently, the way you might handle your cellphone. As we talked, he motioned to an assistant, who handed him a nylon bandage that he stretched twice around the pigeon’s wing, setting it with an unsentimental pop.

The bird hospital is one of several built by devotees of Jainism, an ancient religion whose highest commandment forbids violence not only against humans, but also against animals. A series of paintings in the hospital’s lobby illustrates the extremes to which some Jains take this prohibition. In them, a medieval king in blue robes gazes through a palace window at an approaching pigeon, its wing bloodied by the talons of a brown hawk still in pursuit. The king pulls the smaller bird into the palace, infuriating the hawk, which demands replacement for its lost meal, so he slices off his own arm and foot to feed it.

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How Flight Attendants Grounded Trump’s Shutdown

Sáb, 02/09/2019 - 23:34

via Jacobin

By Liza Featherstone

On Sunday, January 20, speaking at an AFL-CIO dinner honoring Martin Luther King, Jr, Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), called for a general strike to end Trump’s government shutdown.

The following Friday, Nelson, a United Airlines flight attendant since 1996, told the media that flight attendants were “mobilizing immediately” for a strike of their own. A couple hours later, President Trump agreed to provisionally reopen the government for three weeks.

Nelson’s power moves have a backstory — and a future.

She was raised to serve the public, in Corvallis, Oregon, in the 1970s and 1980s, an era when the earning power of public servants had already begun to wane. Her mother was a teacher, but her father, though trained as a physical education teacher, never found a job in that field due to budget cuts in the public school system. He worked first in a lumber mill, then selling lumber.

In college, Nelson majored in English and education. She did her student teaching in inner-city St Louis. “I really would have loved to be a teacher,” she said. But she struggled to make ends meet after graduation, facing student loans. One of her best friends became a flight attendant. “We sort of thought it was funny, and that she would do it for a year or two,” Nelson recalls. Not long after, her friend called from a beach in Miami, toes in the ocean, announcing firmly that it was time to stop laughing at her new career: among other benefits and perks, the money was better than Nelson’s first-year teacher salary.

Nelson drove to Chicago the next day to interview with United Airlines, and was hired. After weeks of unpaid training, her first paycheck was delayed by several more weeks. She ate nothing but plane food and Ramen, her bank balance at zero. She went to United’s Boston office to beg for help and was met with indifference. Standing in the office weeping, she felt a tap on the shoulder. “And there was someone standing there who looked just like me. I’d never seen her before. She was in the same uniform, holding her checkbook and asking me how to spell my name. She hands me a check for $800 and she says, ‘Number one, you take care of yourself, and number two, you call our union.’”

“And I always tell people, I called my union, and I had my paycheck the next day,” Nelson continues. “But, I learned everything I needed to know in that moment when she was standing in front of me with that check. And that is, that flight attendants are union members. There is almost nobody better at taking care of each other. And in our unions we are never alone.”

Not long afterward, her local called her up. ‘We’d like you to get involved,’ they said. I was so honored,” she laughs, “I didn’t realize people said no.”

Nelson’s union, the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), which today represents nearly fifty thousand workers at twenty airlines, had an impressive history even before she joined.

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Salvaging the Revolution – Anarchist Historiography on the Spanish Civil War

Sáb, 02/09/2019 - 23:27

via Anarchist Studies

by Morris Brodie

Until relatively recently, there has been little scholarly attention paid to the anarchist contribution to the Spanish Civil War in a positive sense. Anyone who has read general histories of the civil war period will be familiar with the trope of the anarchists in Spain either as hopelessly idealistic dreamers or, paradoxically, as bloodthirsty butchers whose only real input on the course of the war was to sow terror in the rearguard.

These caricatures were of course never wholly representative of the scholarship on the anarchists in Spain, but they maintained a certain mythical quality for a number of decades after the war’s end in 1939. In the last twenty or so years, however, there has been something of an ‘anarchist renaissance’ in civil war historiography, with increased attention paid to their contribution from both anarchists and non-anarchists. This article[1] will seek to give a (necessarily curtailed and imperfect) summary of the main trends in anarchist historiography on the civil war from its end until the present day.

Immediately after the Republican defeat in 1939 there were few ‘mainstream’ academic histories that sought to defend the anarchists in Spain or to assess their behaviour with any real depth. Francoist historians portrayed the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour, CNT) and Federación Anarquista Ibérica (Iberian Anarchist Federation, FAI) as essentially evil due to their anticlericalism, symbolised by the widespread murder of clerical figures and burning of churches in areas controlled by anarchists. They also made little attempt to differentiate between the different Republican groupings e.g. left republicans, communists, socialists, anarchists, and Catalan and Basque nationalists. For Franco and his defenders, Reds were Reds.

Liberal and Republican histories attempted to defend the democratic nature of the Second Spanish Republic and to downplay the extent of the achievements of the anarchists and other revolutionaries, such as the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (Workers’ Party of Marxist Unification, POUM) and the left wing of the Unión General de Trabajadores (General Workers’ Union, UGT). The anti-revolutionary tendencies within the Popular Front condemned these revolutionary experiments (characterised by the collectivisation of land and factories, workers’ control of industry, and the preponderance of revolutionary militias over the traditional Republican Army) as counterproductive (or treacherous) in the ultimate fight against fascism. The Cold War was an important backdrop in these polemics, with those critical of the Republic keen to paint it as a satellite state of the Soviet Union (the USSR gave limited aid to the Republic during the period). Those favourable to the Republican cause were loath to acknowledge the existence of a robust revolutionary movement committed to the ultimate overthrow of the state and of capitalism.

There were some favourable interpretations of the anarchist role, such as George Orwell and Gerald Brenan, but these were few and far between, and in general anarchists saw it as their duty to defend themselves against the slanders of their erstwhile comrades in the Popular Front. Activists became the primary historians of the movement, and each sought to justify their own behaviour during the civil war period. The leading anarchist historian after 1939 was José Peirats, a vocal critic of the official CNT-FAI line and activist in the Libertarian Youth of Catalonia during the civil war. In exile in France, he began work on a history of the revolution, which was published in 3 volumes between 1951 and 1953.

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The Cautious Case for Climate Optimism

Mié, 02/06/2019 - 03:40

via New York magazine

By David Wallace-Wells

Adapted from The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells, to be published on February 19 by Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Copyright © 2019 by David Wallace-Wells.

It’s not too late. In fact, it never will be. Whatever you may have read over the past year — as extreme weather brought a global heat wave and unprecedented wildfires burned through 1.6 million California acres and newspaper headlines declared, “Climate Change Is Here” — global warming is not binary. It is not a matter of “yes” or “no,” not a question of “fucked” or “not.” Instead, it is a problem that gets worse over time the longer we produce greenhouse gas, and can be made better if we choose to stop. Which means that no matter how hot it gets, no matter how fully climate change transforms the planet and the way we live on it, it will always be the case that the next decade could contain more warming, and more suffering, or less warming and less suffering. Just how much is up to us, and always will be.

A century and a half after the greenhouse effect was first identified, and a few decades since climate denial and misinformation began muddying our sense of what scientists do know, we are left with a set of predictions that can appear falsifiable — about global temperatures and sea-level rise and even hurricane frequency and wildfire volume. And there are, it is true, feedback loops in the climate system that we do not yet perfectly understand and dynamic processes that remain mysterious. But to the extent that we live today under clouds of uncertainty about the future of climate change, those clouds are, overwhelmingly, not projections of collective ignorance about the natural world but of blindness about the human one, and they can be dispersed by human action. The question of how bad things will get is not, actually, a test of the science; it is a bet on human activity. How much will we do to forestall disaster and how quickly?

These are the disconcerting, contradictory lessons of global warming, which counsels both human humility and human grandiosity, each drawn from the same perception of peril. There’s a name for those who hold the fate of the world in their hands, as we do — gods. But for the moment, at least, many of us seem inclined to run from that responsibility rather than embrace it. Or even admit we see it, though it sits in front of us as plainly as a steering wheel. That climate change is all-enveloping means that it targets us all and that we must all share in the responsibility so we do not all share in the suffering — at least not share in so suffocatingly much of it.

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Are the Digital Commons condemned to become “Capital Commons”?

Mar, 02/05/2019 - 05:21

via Guerilla Translation

calimaq Translated by Maïa Dereva, edited by Ann Marie Utratel

Last week, Katherine Maher, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, published a rather surprising article on the Wired site entitled: “Facebook and Google must do more to support Wikipedia”. The starting point of her reasoning was to point out that Wikipedia content is increasingly being used by digital giants, such as Facebook or Google:

You may not realise how ubiquitous Wikipedia is in your everyday life, but its open, collaboratively-curated data is used across semantic, search and structured data platforms  on the web. Voice assistants such as Siri, Alexa and Google Home source Wikipedia articles for general knowledge questions; Google’s knowledge panel features Wikipedia content for snippets and essential facts; Quora contributes to and utilises the Wikidata open data project to connect topics and improve user recommendations.

More recently, YouTube and Facebook have turned to Wikipedia for a new reason: to address their issues around fake news and conspiracy theories. YouTube said that they would begin linking to Wikipedia articles from conspiracy videos, in order to give users additional – often corrective – information about the topic of the video. And Facebook rolled out a feature using Wikipedia’s content to give users more information about the publication source of articles appearing in their feeds.

With Wikipedia being solicited more and more by these big players, Katherine Maher believes that they should contribute in return to help the project to guarantee its sustainability:

But this work isn’t free. If Wikipedia is being asked to help hold back the ugliest parts of the internet, from conspiracy theories to propaganda, then the commons needs sustained, long-term support – and that support should come from those with the biggest monetary stake in the health of our shared digital networks.

The companies which rely on the standards we develop, the libraries we maintain, and the knowledge we curate should invest back. And they should do so with significant, long-term commitments that are commensurate with our value we create. After all, it’s good business: the long-term stability of the commons means we’ll be around for continued use for many years to come.

As the non-profits that make the internet possible, we already know how to advocate for our values. We shouldn’t be afraid to stand up for our value.

An image that makes fun of a famous quote by Bill Gates who had described the Linux project as “communist”. But today, it is Capital that produces or recovers digital Commons – starting with Linux – and maybe that shouldn’t make us laugh.

Digital commons: the problem of sustainability

There is something strange about the director of the Wikimedia Foundation saying this kind of thing. Wikipedia is in fact a project anchored in the philosophy of Free Software and placed under a license (CC-BY-SA) that allows commercial reuse, without discriminating between small and large players. The “SA”, for Share Alike, implies that derivative works made from Wikipedia content are licensed under the same license, but does not prohibit commercial reuse. For Wikidata data, things go even further since this project is licensed under CC0 and does not impose any conditions on reuse, not even mentioning the source.

So, if we stick strictly to the legal plan, players like Facebook or Google are entitled to draw from the content and data of Wikimedia projects to reuse them for their own purposes, without having to contribute financially in return. If they do, it can only be on a purely voluntary basis and that is the only thing Katherine Maher can hope for with her platform: that these companies become patrons by donating money to the Wikimedia Foundation. Google has already done so in the past, with a donation of $2 million in 2010 and another $1 million last year. Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Google have also put in place a policy whereby these companies pledge to pay the Wikimedia Foundation the same amount as their individual employees donate.

Should digital giants do more and significantly address the long-term sustainability of the Digital Commons that Wikipedia represents? This question refers to reciprocity for the Commons, which is both absolutely essential and very ambivalent. If we broaden the perspective to free software, it is clear that these Commons have become an essential infrastructure without which the Internet could no longer function today (90% of the world’s servers run on Linux, 25% of websites use WordPress, etc.) But many of these projects suffer from maintenance and financing problems, because their development depends on communities whose means are unrelated to the size of the resources they make available to the whole world. This is shown very well in the book, “What are our digital infrastructures based on? The invisible work of web makers”, by Nadia Eghbal:

Today, almost all commonly used software depends on open source code, created and maintained by communities of developers and other talents. This code can be taken up, modified and used by anyone, company or individual, to create their own software. Shared, this code thus constitutes the digital infrastructure of today’s society…whose foundations threaten, however, to yield under demand!

Indeed, in a world governed by technology, whether Fortune 500 companies, governments, large software companies or startups, we are increasing the burden on those who produce and maintain this shared infrastructure. However, as these communities are quite discreet, it has taken a long time for users to become aware of this.

Like physical infrastructure, however, digital infrastructure requires regular maintenance and servicing. Faced with unprecedented demand, if we do not support this infrastructure, the consequences will be many.

This situation corresponds to a form of tragedy of the Commons, but of a different nature from that which can strike material resources. Indeed, intangible resources, such as software or data, cannot by definition be over-exploited and they even increase in value as they are used more and more. But tragedy can strike the communities that participate in the development and maintenance of these digital commons. When the core of individual contributors shrinks and their strengths are exhausted, information resources lose quality and can eventually wither away.

The progression of the “Capital Commons”

Market players are well aware of this problem, and when their activity depends on a Digital Commons, they usually end up contributing to its maintenance in return. The best known example of this is Linux software, often correctly cited as one of the most beautiful achievements of FOSS. As the cornerstone of the digital environment, the Linux operating system was eventually integrated into the strategies of large companies such as IBM, Samsung, Intel, RedHat, Oracle and many others (including today Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Facebook). Originally developed as a community project based on contributions from volunteer developers, Linux has profoundly changed in nature over time. Today, more than 90% of the contributions to the software are made by professional developers, paid by companies. The Tragedy of the Commons “by exhaustion” that threatens many Open Source projects has therefore been averted with regard to Linux, but only by “re-internalizing” contributors in the form of employees (a movement that is symmetrically opposite to that of uberization).

Main contributors to Linux in 2017. Individual volunteer contributors (none) now represent only 7.7% of project participants…

However, this situation is sometimes denounced as a degeneration of contributing projects that, over time, would become “Commons of capital” or “pseudo-Commons of capital”. For example, as Christian Laval explained in a forum:

Large companies create communities of users or consumers to obtain opinions, opinions, suggestions and technical improvements. This is what we call the “pseudo-commons of capital”. Capital is capable of organizing forms of cooperation and sharing for its benefit. In a way, this is indirect and paradoxical proof of the fertility of the common, of its creative and productive capacity. It is a bit the same thing that allowed industrial take-off in the 19th century, when capitalism organised workers’ cooperation in factories and exploited it to its advantage.

If this criticism can quite legitimately be addressed to actors like Uber or AirBnB who divert and capture collaborative dynamics for their own interests, it is more difficult to formulate against a project like Linux. Because large companies that contribute to software development via their employees have not changed the license (GNU-GPL) under which the resource is placed, they can never claim exclusivity. This would call into question the shared usage rights allowing any actor, commercial or not, to use Linux. Thus, there is literally no appropriation of the Common or return to enclosure, even if the use of the software by these companies participates in the accumulation of Capital.

On the other hand, it is obvious that a project which depends more than 90% on the contributions of salaried developers working for large companies is no longer “self-governed” as understood in Commons theory. Admittedly, project governance always formally belongs to the community of developers relying on the Linux Foundation, but you can imagine that the weight of the corporations’ interests must be felt, if only through the ties of subordination weighing on salaried developers. This structural state of economic dependence on these firms does make Linux a “common capital”, although not completely captured and retaining a certain relative autonomy.

How to guarantee the independence of digital Commons?

For a project like Wikipedia, things would probably be different if firms like Google or Facebook answered the call launched by Katherine Maher. The Wikipedia community has strict rules in place regarding paid contributions, which means that you would probably never see 90% of the content produced by employees. Company contributions would likely be in the form of cash payments to the Wikimedia Foundation. However, economic dependence would be no less strong; until now, Wikipedia has ensured its independence basically by relying on individual donations to cover the costs associated with maintaining the project’s infrastructure. This economic dependence would no doubt quickly become a political dependence – which, by the way, the Wikimedia Foundation has already been criticised for, regarding a large number of personalities with direct or indirect links with Google included on its board, to the point of generating strong tensions with the community. The Mozilla Foundation, behind the Firefox browser, has sometimes received similar criticism. Their dependence on Google funding may have attracted rather virulent reproach and doubts about some of its strategic choices.

In the end, this question of the digital Commons’ state of economic dependence is relatively widespread. There are, in reality, very few free projects having reached a significant scale that have not become more or less “Capital Commons”. This progressive satellite-isation is likely to be further exacerbated by the fact that free software communities have placed themselves in a fragile situation by coordinating with infrastructures that can easily be captured by Capital. This is precisely what just happened with Microsoft’s $7.5 billion acquisition of GitHub. Some may have welcomed the fact that this acquisition reflected a real evolution of Microsoft’s strategy towards Open Source, even that it could be a sign that “free software has won”, as we sometimes hear.

Microsoft was already the firm that devotes the most salaried jobs to Open Source software development (ahead of Facebook…)

But, we can seriously doubt it. Although free software has acquired an infrastructural dimension today – to the point that even a landmark player in proprietary software like Microsoft can no longer ignore it – the developer communities still lack the means of their independence, whether individually (developers employed by large companies are in the majority) or collectively (a lot of free software depends on centralized platforms like GitHub for development). Paradoxically, Microsoft has taken seriously Platform Cooperativism’s watchwords, which emphasize the importance of becoming the owner of the means of production in the digital environment in order to be able to create real alternatives. Over time, Microsoft has become one of the main users of GitHub for developing its own code; logically, it bought the platform to become its master. Meanwhile – and this is something of a grating irony – Trebor Scholz – one of the initiators, along with Nathan Schneider, of the Platform Cooperativism movement – has accepted one million dollars in funding from Google to develop his projects. This amounts to immediately making oneself dependent on one of the main actors of surveillance capitalism, seriously compromising any hope of building real alternatives.

One may wonder if Microsoft has not better understood the principles of Platform Cooperativism than Trebor Scholtz himself, who is its creator!

For now, Wikipedia’s infrastructure is solidly resilient, because the Wikimedia Foundation only manages the servers that host the collaborative encyclopedia’s contents. They have no title to them, because of the free license under which they are placed. GitHub could be bought because it was a classic commercial enterprise, whereas the Wikimedia Foundation would not be able to resell itself, even if players like Google or Apple made an offer. The fact remains that Katherine Maher’s appeal for Google or Facebook funding risks weakening Wikipedia more than anything else, and I find it difficult to see something positive for the Commons. In a way, I would even say that this kind of discourse contributes to the gradual dilution of the notion of Commons that we sometimes see today. We saw it recently with the “Tech For Good” summit organized in Paris by Emmanuel Macron, where actors like Facebook and Uber were invited to discuss their contribution “to the common good”. In the end, this approach is not so different from Katherine Maher’s, who asks that Facebook or Google participate in financing the Wikipedia project, while in no way being able to impose it on them. In both cases, what is very disturbing is that we are regressing to the era of industrial paternalism, as it was at the end of the 19th century, when the big capitalists launched “good works” on a purely voluntary basis to compensate for the human and social damage caused by an unbridled market economy through philanthropy.

Making it possible to impose reciprocity for the Commons on Capital

The Commons are doomed to become nothing more than “Commons of Capital” if they do not give themselves the means to reproduce autonomously without depending on the calculated generosity of large companies who will always find a way to instrumentalize and void them of their capacity to constitute a real alternative. An association like Framasoft has clearly understood that after its program “Dégooglisons Internet”, aimed at creating tools to enable Internet users to break their dependence on GAFAMs, has continued with the Contributopia campaign. This aims to raise public awareness of the need to create a contribution ecosystem that guarantees conditions of long-term sustainability for both individual contributors and collective projects. This is visible now, for example, with the participatory fundraising campaign organized to boost the development of PeerTube, a software allowing the implementation of a distributed architecture for video distribution that could eventually constitute a credible alternative to YouTube.

But with all due respect to Framasoft, it seems to me that the classic “libriste” (free culture activist) approach remains mired in serious contradictions, of which Katherine Maher’s article is also a manifestation. How can we launch a programme such as “Internet Negotiations” that thrashes the model of Surveillance Capitalism, and at the same time continue to defend licences that do not discriminate according to the nature of the actors who reuse resources developed by communities as common goods? There is a schizophrenia here due to a certain form of blindness that has always marked the philosophy of the Libre regarding its apprehension of economic issues. This in turn explains Katherine Maher’s – partly understandable – uneasiness at seeing Wikipedia’s content and data reused by players like Facebook or Google who are at the origin of the centralization and commodification of the Internet.

To escape these increasingly problematic contradictions, we must give ourselves the means to defend the digital Commons sphere on a firmer basis than free licenses allow today. This is what actors who promote “enhanced reciprocity licensing” are trying to achieve, which would prohibit lucrative commercial entities from reusing common resources, or impose funding on them in return. We see this type of proposal in a project like CoopCycle for example, an alternative to Deliveroo; or Uber Eats, which refuses to allow its software to be reused by commercial entities that do not respect the social values it stands for. The aim of this new approach, defended in particular by Michel Bauwens, is to protect an “Economy of the Commons” by enabling it to defend its economic independence and prevent it from gradually being colonised and recovered into “Commons of Capital”.

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With a project like CHATONS, an actor like Framasoft is no longer so far from embracing such an approach, because to develop its network of alternative hosts, a charter has been drawn up including conditions relating to the social purpose of the companies participating in the operation. It is a first step in the reconciliation between the Free and the SSE, also taking shape through a project like “Plateformes en Communs”, aiming to create a coalition of actors that recognize themselves in both Platform Cooperativism and the Commons. There has to be a way to make these reconciliations stronger, and lead to a clarification of the contradictions still affecting Free Software.

Make no mistake: I am not saying that players like Facebook or Google should not pay to participate in the development of free projects. But unlike Katherine Maher, I think that this should not be done on a voluntary basis, because these donations will only reinforce the power of the large centralized platforms by hastening the transformation of the digital Commons into “Capital Commons”. If Google and Facebook are to pay, they must be obliged to do so, just as industrial capitalists have come to be obliged to contribute to the financing of the social state through compulsory contributions. This model must be reinvented today, and we could imagine states – or better still the European Union – subjecting major platforms to taxation in order to finance a social right to the contribution open to individuals. It would be a step towards this “society of contribution” Framasoft calls for, by giving itself the means to create one beyond surveillance capitalism, which otherwise knows full well how to submit the Commons to its own logic and neutralize their emancipatory potential.

Photo by Elf-8

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“A Fundamentally Illegitimate Choice”: Shoshana Zuboff on the Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Mar, 02/05/2019 - 05:08

via The Intercept

by Sam Biddle

Shoshana Zuboff’s “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” is already drawing comparisons to seminal socioeconomic investigations like Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Karl Marx’s “Capital.” Zuboff’s book deserves these comparisons and more: Like the former, it’s an alarming exposé about how business interests have poisoned our world, and like the latter, it provides a framework to understand and combat that poison. But “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” named for the now-popular term Zuboff herself coined five years ago, is also a masterwork of horror. It’s hard to recall a book that left me as haunted as Zuboff’s, with its descriptions of the gothic algorithmic daemons that follow us at nearly every instant of every hour of every day to suck us dry of metadata. Even those who’ve made an effort to track the technology that tracks us over the last decade or so will be chilled to their core by Zuboff, unable to look at their surroundings the same way.

An unavoidable takeaway of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” is, essentially, that everything is even worse than you thought. Even if you’ve followed the news items and historical trends that gird Zuboff’s analysis, her telling takes what look like privacy overreaches and data blunders, and recasts them as the intentional movements of a global system designed to violate you as a revenue stream. “The result is that both the world and our lives are pervasively rendered as information,” Zuboff writes. “Whether you are complaining about your acne or engaging in political debate on Facebook, searching for a recipe or sensitive health information on Google, ordering laundry soap or taking photos of your nine-year-old, smiling or thinking angry thoughts, watching TV or doing wheelies in the parking lot, all of it is raw material for this burgeoning text.”

Tech’s privacy scandals, which seem to appear with increasing frequency both in private industry and in government, aren’t isolated incidents, but rather brief glimpses at an economic and social logic that’s overtaken the planet while we were enjoying Gmail and Instagram. The cliched refrain that if you’re “not paying for a product, you are the product”? Too weak, says Zuboff. You’re not technically the product, she explains over the course of several hundred tense pages, because you’re something even more degrading: an input for the real product, predictions about your future sold to the highest bidder so that this future can be altered. “Digital connection is now a means to others’ commercial ends,” writes Zuboff. “At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.”

Zuboff recently took a moment to walk me through the implications of her urgent and crucial book. This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.

I was hoping you could say something about whatever semantic games Facebook and other similar data brokers are doing when they say they don’t sell data.

I remember sitting at my desk in my study early in 2012, and I was listening to a speech that [Google’s then-Executive Chair] Eric Schmidt gave somewhere. He was bragging about how privacy conscious Google is, and he said, “We don’t sell your data.” I got on the phone and started calling these various data scientists that I know and saying, “How can Eric Schmidt say we don’t sell your data, in public, knowing that it’s recorded? How does he get away with that?” It’s exactly the question I was trying to answer at the beginning of all this.

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