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Don’t despair – climate change catastrophe can still be averted

Sáb, 08/11/2018 - 18:54

via The Guardian

his is the summer when, for many, climate change got real. The future looks fiery and dangerous. Hot on the heels of Trump, fake news and the parlous state of the Brexit negotiations, despair is in the air. Now a new scientific report makes the case that even fairly modest future carbon dioxide emissions could set off a cascade of catastrophe, with melting permafrost releasing methane to ratchet up global temperatures enough to drive much of the Amazon to die off, and so on in a chain reaction around the world that pushes Earth into a terrifying new hothouse state from which there is no return. Civilisation as we know it would surely not survive. How do we deal with such news?

As a research scientist in this field, I can give some nuance to the headlines. One common way of thinking about climate change is the lower the future carbon dioxide emissions, the less warming and the less havoc we will face as this century progresses. This is certainly true, but as the summer heatwave and the potential hothouse news remind us, the shifts in climate we will experience will not be smooth, gradual and linear changes. They may be fast, abrupt, and dangerous surprises may happen. However, an unstoppable globally enveloping cascade of catastrophe, while possible, is certainly not a probable outcome.

Yet, even without a hothouse we are on track to transform Earth this century. The world, after 30 years of warnings, has barely got to grips with reducing carbon dioxide emissions. They need to rapidly decline to zero, but after decades of increases, are, at best, flatlining, with investments in extracting new fossil fuels continuing, including last month’s scandalous announcement that fracking will be allowed in the UK. Temperatures have increased just 1C above preindustrial levels, and we are on course for another 2C or 3C on top of that. Could civilisation weather this level of warming?

The honest answer is nobody knows. Dystopia is easy to envisage: for example, Europe is not coping well with even modest numbers of migrants, and future flows look likely to increase substantially as migration itself is an adaptation to rapid climate change. How will the cooler, richer parts of the world react to tens of millions of people escaping the hotter, poorer parts? Throw into the mix long-term stagnating incomes for most people across the west and climate-induced crop failures causing massive food price spikes and we have a recipe for widespread unrest that could overload political institutions.

It is then easy to see these intersecting crises dovetailing with calls from the new far-right populists for strong authoritarian leaders to solve these problems. Inward-looking nationalists could then move further away from the internationalism needed to ensure the continuation of stable global food supplies and to manage migration humanely. And without cooperative internationalism serious carbon dioxide mitigation will not happen, meaning the underling drivers of the problems will exacerbate, leading to a lock-in of a deteriorating, isolationist, fascist future.

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Tomato Canning as Protest: How a Community Resisted Corporate Farming

Sáb, 08/11/2018 - 03:06

via YES!

by Margot Ford McMillen

It’s mid-August, about 7:30 in the morning, and it’s going to be a hot one, probably in the mid-90s. It’s a good day to spend in a basement. A church basement, for example, where our rural neighborhood is gathering.

This is tomato-canning day, and about 20 of us will pass in and out of the basement kitchen, “working up,” as we say in Missouri, tomatoes for the winter.

Everything comes at once in the tomato business. Our neighbor Lee woke up one day last week to acres and acres of tomatoes, all coming on at the same time. Lee sells her tomatoes at three farmers’ markets in mid-Missouri, but she knew she’d never be able to sell all these. She didn’t have time to put up any herself, but she’d supply the tomatoes if we’d can a share for her.

Free food? A chance to get together with neighbors? Of course we’ll do it!

So I’ve just pulled my pickup up to the building, the bed loaded with boxes, bushels and styrofoam crates of tomatoes. Red ones, yellow ones, purple, pink, and striped ones. Romas for sauce and a fat red slicing tomato Lee has bred over the years and calls Lee’s Pride.

I carry a box into the church where three or four women and some kids have gathered. The whole bunch comes pouring out the door to the truck. They can’t believe how many tomatoes we have. The grown-ups look at each other with delight, but the kids look scared to death. They think we’re going to make them work. Been there, done that, they’re thinking.

In the basement, people have already started washing jars and developing a system. The kindergarten table becomes a peeling station. Teresa and Barb sit on the low benches with a pot of boiling water to loosen tomato skins and start peeling.

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In New York, A Harm-Reduction Organization Is Leveraging Participatory Defense To Empower Its Clients

Sáb, 08/11/2018 - 01:55

via The Appeal

by Christopher Moraff

Grassroots group VOCAL-NY is teaching people with substance use disorder how to avoid getting ensnared in the criminal justice system.

VOCAL-NY, a Brooklyn-based grassroots organization seeking to empower low-income people affected by substance use disorder, recently launched a participatory defense program teaching people how to avoid getting ensnared in a criminal justice system that often works against them.

The goal is to combine traditional harm-reduction services, such as syringe exchange and HIV and hepatitis C testing, with less tangible resources, such as knowing how to de-escalate an encounter with law enforcement.

Participatory defense is a companion to Court Watch NYC, a collaborative program between VOCAL-NY and public defenders that trains community members to observe and document trends in criminal court arraignments and hearings.

“I realized we needed a program that did more than Know Your Rights and ‘CopWatch’ trainings, which focus on filming police encounters, de-escalation and documenting, and don’t necessarily go through all the court processes,” explained Jason Del Aguila, who is in charge of the participatory defense effort. “The idea was, how do we help you navigate through the everyday legal gauntlet, from the streets to the courts and even after doing time. We’re creating community efforts to keep people from becoming another victim of an injustice system.”

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Darkness Falls: Revisiting anarchist politics in the age of collapse

Vie, 08/10/2018 - 23:07

by Uri Gordon

Ten years ago I published a short and not very rigorous essay titled “Dark Tidings: Anarchist Politics in the Age of Collapse”, in which I attempted to anticipate forthcoming trends in the terrain of social struggle, and suggest responsive stategies for social transformation in view of ecosystem degradation and climate change. Since the news cycle has again come around to these themes, the topic may be worth revisiting.

My major preoccupation in the essay was the evident prospects for an uneven, protracted and irriversible collapse of industrial civilisation, along with an unknown extent of the earth’s capacity to sustain life, over the coming generations. Any discussion of strategies for liberation, I argued, must now abandon hopes for a global revolutionary transition to sustainable modernity under workers’ control, and plan resistance to hegemonic programmes of transition to austere post-capitalist modes of exploitation and oppression. In line with the consistent anarchist strategy of unity between means and ends, such resistance can only be successful if rooted in mass movements which develop and defend material and social infrastructures for equality, voluntary association and mutual aid.

While the prognosis of collapse has become less and less of a public secret over the past decade, my expectation that a peak in fossil fuel extraction would begin to undermine global flows of capital has proven premature. Fracking, offshore drilling, dirty coal and a resurgent nuclear industry are for now expected to allow for several more decades of continued growth in energy throughput. As a result, and given the practical impossibility of decarbonising capitalism and the state, formerly “nightmare” scenarios of runaway climate change are more likely than to transpire. Indus trial capitalism has reduced entire ecosystems to lower phases of complexity and set the evolutionary path for the coming millions of years.

Another failed prediction was that hegemonic responses to public awareness of collapse would focus on recuperation — referring specifically to the neutralisation of radical practices and discourses through their absorbtion, and distorted recoding, into hegemonic modes of sociality. Generic current examples range from the wide adoption of horizontal and informal structures within tech corporations, disruptive tactics used to support of reformist or far-right agendas, and the zombified intersectionalism of liberal identity politics. However, the hype surrounding green capitalist agendas, which prevailed when the essay was written, was soon to capsize with the advent of the global financial crisis. While current trends may still give way to new social-democratic formations, capital has obviously tended to opt for full-blown reaction as a first option — expressed in climate denial as well as national chauvinism.

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Graphic: Clifford Harper

The Rank and File Strategy

Vie, 08/10/2018 - 22:10

via Jacobin

by Kim Moody

One of the first questions most people who decide they’re socialists is, “How should I think about the labor movement?” Many new socialists don’t find immediate answers to this question.

They know instinctually that the labor movement is good — that unions as institutions can serve as a check on massive inequality, that workers going on strike is brave and should be supported, that the labor movement has historically constructed the sense of solidarity that is needed to remake the world into one that is humane and democratic.

Beyond that, though, the details get fuzzy.

Should socialists just “support” unions, joining picket lines when they pop up and advocating for them in the abstract? If the questioner didn’t grow up in complete destitution, they might ask, aren’t unions for some other kind of workers, some more marginalized and exploited and somehow more authentic segment of the working class? Should socialists try to get hired as union staffers, where they can put their ideological support to good use as full-time, paid organizers?

It can get more complicated after reading some left critiques of unions. Don’t unions often try to hold back more militant action like wildcat strikes in favor of a tame, bureaucratized form of collective bargaining? And isn’t there a long history of some unions being openly reactionary on key issues like immigration or admitting members of color — even a few of them backing Trump? The conclusions drawn from these queries sometimes lead radicals to condemn unions: they aren’t vehicles for working-class power, but a vehicle to steer the masses away from real confrontation with the forces of capital.

Kim Moody shares some of the critiques of the labor movement, but he doesn’t think leftists should abandon unions. Far from it: he argues that socialists should get deeply involved as rank-and-file members.

Moody has been a socialist and labor activist for over half a century. As he explained in a recent interview in Jacobin, he was part of the sixties-era New Left that decided to “turn towards the working class,” a current of leftists who went to work in auto plants or telephone companies or social work offices.

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‘I’m not fatalistic’: Naomi Klein on Puerto Rico, austerity and the left

Vie, 08/10/2018 - 21:55

via The Guardian

Naomi Klein’s latest book, The Battle For Paradise: Puerto Rico Takes on the Disaster Capitalists, examines recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria. It is the first time the acclaimed author and journalist has focused on Puerto Rico and is based on a reporting trip earlier in the year. Klein talks to the Guardian’s senior reporter Oliver Laughland about the book and the island’s future.

I was in Puerto Rico shortly after Maria hit and found it a particularly shocking assignment. It reminded me a little of covering the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and observing an entire population let down by infrastructure and government. What sort of personal impact did it have on you, being on the ground?

When I was in Puerto Rico, I met people from Detroit, Michigan, who were there to talk about the emergency management boards and the impacts on schools. People from New Orleans were there, sharing information about what had happened to their school system after Hurricane Katrina. I found that pretty moving and different – that these kinds of grassroots, community-to-community exchanges were happening so soon after the disaster.

Where you have overwhelmingly black and brown communities, an economic crisis or natural disaster becomes the pretext to just do away with any pretense of self-government, of democracy, and impose austerity measures. So-called “structural adjustment programs” are often done in the aftermath of a shock, to take advantage of people’s state of emergency; the fact is that it’s really hard to engage in any kind of political participation when you have to wait in line three hours for food and water. To just stay alive is a full-time job.

It’s an incredibly cynical political tactic, and even so, people do manage to resist it, under these extraordinary circumstances.

What I found really moving in Puerto Rico was seeing the capacity to organize under such impossible circumstances, and I think that speaks to the island’s deep, deep history of resistance to colonization, and the [activist] infrastructure that predated Maria, in terms of the resistance to what Puerto Ricans call La Junta, the fiscal control board.

I didn’t realize that the anti-austerity movement in Puerto Rico had really peaked just a few months before Maria, that May Day of last year was the second-largest mass demonstration in Puerto Rico, second only to the protests against the US navy base in Vieques.

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NFL Player Protests Were Never About the Anthem or the Flag

Vie, 08/10/2018 - 21:30

via The Nation

by Dave Zirin

On Thursday night, at the first preseason NFL games, players continued to protest racial inequity and police violence by kneeling or raising a fist during the National Anthem.

After two years of the players’ patiently explaining that these are not “protests against the anthem,” or “protests against the troops,” or protests against apple pie, many in the mainstream media are being willfully obtuse in their headlines and reporting—surely to the delight of people who want the players to “shut up and play.” This isn’t just happening in the confines of Fox News. Even NPR sent a tweet with the headline, “The national anthem protests live on in the NFL.”

The greatest cheerleader of this willful ignorance is, of course, Donald Trump who railed against the players Monday morning in yet another effort to distract, demonize, and deflect from the numerous scandals engulfing his administration. People can find the tweets for themselves. It’s his usual shtick, although with the new addition that the players don’t even know what they are protesting against. He hates these players not only because it’s red meat for his base. He hates them because they are using their platform to force a dialogue about racism, criminal justice, and police violence.

It is remarkable that, despite this social pressure, a core of players is still being stubbornly insistent with their actions and painfully patient explanations.

Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson of the Miami Dolphins took a knee before their preseason game on Thursday and teammate Robert Quinn raised his fist. Malcolm Jenkins of the Eagles continued his practice of raising his fist, while teammate Chris Long put his arm on his shoulder. Other players stayed in the locker room while the anthem played. Some wore T-shirts and tweeted messages about the criminal-justice system or the phrase of protest against media misinformation, “You’re Still Not Listening.” They are making it plain that this will continue be a feature of the most popular sport in the country.

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Missouri Voters Overwhelmingly Reject ‘Right to Work’

Jue, 08/09/2018 - 05:42

via Labor Notes

By Chris Brooks

Unions in Missouri are declaring victory after voters shot down a Republican-backed “right-to-work” law by a hefty 2 to 1.

The final vote count was 937,241 against the legislation to 452,075 in favor.

Missouri became the 28th state with a right-to-work law on the books in February 2017, when Republican Governor Eric Greitens signed the law at a ceremony in an abandoned factory.

In response, thousands of union members hit the streets to gather enough signatures to trigger a referendum vote that could repeal the law. Over the course of six months, activists gathered 310,567 signatures—more than three times the number needed. Right to work was put on hold until voters could decide.

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Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”

Dom, 08/05/2018 - 05:28

via The Intercept

by Naomi Klein

This Sunday, the entire New York Times Magazine will be composed of just one article on a single subject: the failure to confront the global climate crisis in the 1980s, a time when the science was settled and the politics seemed to align. Written by Nathaniel Rich, this work of history is filled with insider revelations about roads not taken that, on several occasions, made me swear out loud. And lest there be any doubt that the implications of these decisions will be etched in geologic time, Rich’s words are punctuated with full-page aerial photographs by George Steinmetz that wrenchingly document the rapid unraveling of planetary systems, from the rushing water where Greenland ice used to be to massive algae blooms in China’s third largest lake.

The novella-length piece represents the kind of media commitment that the climate crisis has long deserved but almost never received. We have all heard the various excuses for why the small matter of despoiling our only home just doesn’t cut it as an urgent news story: “Climate change is too far off in the future”; “It’s inappropriate to talk about politics when people are losing their lives to hurricanes and fires”; “Journalists follow the news, they don’t make it — and politicians aren’t talking about climate change”; and of course: “Every time we try, it’s a ratings killer.”

None of the excuses can mask the dereliction of duty. It has always been possible for major media outlets to decide, all on their own, that planetary destabilization is a huge news story, very likely the most consequential of our time. They always had the capacity to harness the skills of their reporters and photographers to connect abstract science to lived extreme weather events. And if they did so consistently, it would lessen the need for journalists to get ahead of politics because the more informed the public is about both the threat and the tangible solutions, the more they push their elected representatives to take bold action.

Which is why it was so exciting to see the Times throw the full force of its editorial machine behind Rich’s opus — teasing it with a promotional video, kicking it off with a live event at the Times Center, and accompanying educational materials.

That’s also why it is so enraging that the piece is spectacularly wrong in its central thesis.

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Barbara Ehrenreich and Alissa Quart on Changing the Narrative of Poverty in Media

Dom, 08/05/2018 - 05:24

via Bitch Media

By Andi Zeisler

Twenty years ago, investigative journalist Barbara Ehrenreich set out to test the premise of 1996’s welfare-reform act, which offered two key assurances: that unskilled labor was available to anyone who sought it out, and that such jobs were the key to rising out of poverty. Nickel and Dimed: On Not Getting by in America, her 2001 report from the front lines of low-wage feminized labor, was a damning corrective to ivory-tower economists who believed that wealth trickled down and that the working poor simply weren’t pulling hard enough on their bootstraps. Chronicling a dizzying calculus of ugly working conditions, food and housing insecurity, and constant anxiety, the book painted a picture of a country that tells its most vulnerable citizens to try harder even as it sets them up to fail.

Alissa Quart’s Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America, published in June 2018, seems like a Dickensian Ghost of Capitalism Future for the world Ehrenreich documented in Nickel and Dimed. Reporting on what would formerly have been called the middle class (Quart renames them the “Middle Precariat”), Squeezed captures the dazed uncertainty of a post-recession generation of would-be parents for whom stagnant wages and ever-rising housing costs make them can’t-be ones. The working poor still can’t make ends meet—but now neither can their counterparts many steps up the income ladder.

Quart and Ehrenreich share a knack for immersive, in-depth reporting, as well as an often-bruised sense of unlikely optimism. (Ehrenreich’s most recent book, Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer, explores the cultural fear of dying and the geyser of wellness interventions that accompanies Baby Boomers into their six and seventh decades.) So I wasn’t surprised to find out that the two women are the brains behind the Economic Hardship Reporting Project (EHRP), an initiative that funds writing on income inequality, unemployment, and other facets of an economic landscape denuded by the very wealthiest. They took some time to talk to me—and each other—about their respective books, the EHRP, and #MeToo.

Income inequality is a key issue now, more than ever, but I think EHRP might be flying under people’s radar because there’s so much else going on right now. Can you talk how the project got started and why it’s so necessary?

Barbara Ehrenreich: In 2009, during the recession, I called the New York Times and said I wanted to do some writing for them about low-income people who were already struggling. All their recession coverage had been, like, “Somebody can’t afford a personal Pilates class because of the recession.”

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Captive Audience: How Companies Make Millions Charging Prisoners to Send An Email

Sáb, 08/04/2018 - 17:31

via Wired

by Victoria Law

Last July, as she has for the past 10 years, Dianne Jones spent 45 minutes on a city bus heading to the local WalMart. There, under fluorescent lights, she scanned rows of brightly colored birthday cards to pick out the perfect greeting for her son—let’s call him Tim—who is imprisoned more than 100 miles from his mother’s home just outside New Orleans. The card she settled on was dark brown with trees and a birthday message that read, “For the best son in the world.”

Tim was in his 10th year of a 30-year prison sentence for an armed robbery he committed at age 17; he would not be able to see, let alone sit under or touch, a tree for the next 20 years. (Citing safety concerns, Jones asked that her son’s name not be used.) After Jones, her daughter, and her three grandchildren signed the card, she mailed it off, happy that Tim would know that his family was thinking of him.

Days later, the card was returned. Puzzled, she called the prison where she learned the facility had instituted a prohibition on greeting cards. If she wanted to send a card, a prison official told her, Jones would have to pass along her greeting electronically using JPay, a company bringing email into prison systems across the nation.

Prisons are notoriously low-tech places. But urged on by privately owned companies, like JPay, facilities across the country are adding e-messaging, a rudimentary form of email that remains disconnected from the larger web. Nearly half of all state prison systems now have some form of e-messaging: JPay’s services are available to prisoners in 20 states, including Louisiana.

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What Is Prison Abolition?

Sáb, 08/04/2018 - 17:14

via The Nation

by John Washington

It’s difficult to fully capture the negative repercussions of keeping millions of people—overwhelmingly black, brown, or poor—in jail, prison, or under some form of “correctional supervision.” How do you calculate, for example, the impact on families and communities across our country when almost half of all black adult women in America have a family member locked up? Or that at least 80,000 people are, at any given time, resigned to some form of solitary confinement? Or that the aggregate cost of total incarceration in the United States (including costs borne by the families of those incarcerated, lost wages, and health impacts) is, by some estimates, about $1 trillion a year? A trillion dollars, the break-up of families, the destruction of lives, and little to show in the way of rehabilitative effects—and yet this system is just a part of life?

The long-lasting impact of our incarceration complex is, it seems, receiving increased mainstream attention. The cause of criminal-justice reform has been taken up by everyone from liberal champion Van Jones to the arch-conservative Koch brothers. A Republican-co-sponsored bill that would bring long-overdue changes to conditions inside prisons even passed the House this spring. Inmates staging work strikes and protests, including a major strike being planned for this August, have also brought increased scrutiny to the plight of those consigned to life behind bars. But what if softening the jagged corners of prison life, or even reforming the whole system, is not enough?

For a hundred years, at least since Emma Goldman quoted Dostoyevsky to call prison hell on earth, a variety of community groups and prisoner activists have been working not only to reform the prison-industrial complex, but to dismantle it entirely. Now, as critiques of the inherent racism and classism—and transcendent harm—of our criminal-justice system have gained attention, a growing collection of activists and writers have not only been working to humanize the cages, and not only to tear down the cages, but to build a more equitable society in which we don’t need to rely on cages at all. This is the prison-abolition movement.

Who Are the Prison Abolitionists?

The prison-abolition movement is a loose collection of people and groups who, in many different ways, are calling for deep, structural reforms to how we handle and even think about crime in our country. There are de facto figureheads (such as Angela Davis and Ruth Wilson Gilmore, the most famous contemporary abolitionists) and organizations (such as Critical Resistance, INCITE!, the Movement for Black Lives, the National Lawyers Guild, and Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee—all of which, if not explicitly abolitionist, at least engage in abolitionist ethics), and there are converging or at least overlapping political ideologies (anarchist, socialist, libertarian), but there is no structured organizing group or coalition. Masai Ehehosi, a co-founder of Critical Resistance and longtime member of the New Afrikan Independence Movement, pointed me to the overlap between organizations promoting civil rights and abolitionists: “We want freedom” can just as easily be applied to ending Jim Crow or the New Jim Crow, to unlocking iron shackles or swinging open prison doors.

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The Resurgence of Political Authoritarianism: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

Vie, 08/03/2018 - 03:27

via Truthout

By C.J. Polychroniou

Following the end of World War II, liberal democracy began to flourish in most countries in the Western world, and its institutions and values were aspired to by movements and individuals under authoritarian and oppressive regimes. However, with the rise of neoliberalism, both the institutions and the values of modern democracy came rapidly and continuously under attack in an effort to extend the profit-maximizing logic and practices of capitalism throughout all aspects of economic and social life.

Sketched out in broad outlines, this story explains the resurgence of authoritarian political trends in today’s Western societies, including the rise of far-right movements whose followers feel threatened by the processes unleashed by neoliberal economic policies. In the former communist countries and in the non-Western world, meanwhile, authoritarianism is also on the rise, partly as a residue of authoritarian legacies, and partly as a reaction to perceived threats posed to national culture and social order by global capitalism.

Is it possible to counter this rise in extreme populism? In this exclusive Truthout interview, the world-renowned linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky — the author of more than 100 books and thousands of academic articles and popular essays — offers his unique insights on this and more, bringing into the analysis issues and questions that are rarely addressed in the current debates taking place today about the resurgence of political authoritarianism.

C.J. Polychroniou: In 1992, Francis Fukuyama published an intellectually embarrassing book titled The End of History and the Last Man, in which he prophesied the “end of history” after the collapse of the communist bloc, arguing that liberal democracy would become the world’s “final form of human government.” However, what has happened in this decade in particular is that the institutions and values of liberal democracy have come under attack by scores of authoritarian leaders all over the world, and extreme nationalism, xenophobia and “soft fascist” tendencies have begun reshaping the political landscape in Europe and the United States. How do you explain the resurgence of political authoritarianism in the early part of the 21st century?

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An Anarchist View of the Class Theory of the State

Mié, 08/01/2018 - 14:21

via Anarkismo.net

by Wayne Price

A Libertarian Socialist Defense of the Class Theory of the State

In order to understand government politics, it is necessary to have a theory of the state. The essay reviews classical anarchist and Marxist views of the class-based, pro-capitalist, nature
of the state. But there are also non-class and non-capitalist influences on the state.
These need to be integrated into a class theory of the state.

For anarchists and other radicals to really understand the Trump administration, and what is generally happening in U.S. politics, requires an analysis of the U.S. government. This, in turn,
requires a theoretical understanding of the state, the basic framework of government. Yet,
as Kristian Williams writes, in Whither Anarchism? “For a group so fixated on
countering…the state, it is surprising how rarely today’s anarchists have bothered to
put forward a theory about[it]….The inability or unwillingness to develop a theory of
the state (or more modestly, an analysis of states)…has repeatedly steered the anarchist
movement into blind alleys.” (Williams 2018; 26-7)

Of the theories which place the state within the context of the capitalist economy and all
other oppressions (patriarchy, racism, ecological destruction, etc.), anarchism and
Marxism stand out. Yet few Marxists know anything of the anarchist view of the state, and
few anarchists know anything of Marxist state theory. (For that matter, as Williams
implies, few anarchists know much of any state theory.) For example, most Marxists believe
that anarchism denies that class factors are important for the state-and that it
contradicts anarchism to believe that they are. They see anarchism as focused solely on
the state, ignoring factors of class and political economy. Meanwhile, many anarchists
believe that Marxists see the state as simply a reflex of the wishes of the capitalist
ruling class, with no independent interests of its own and no reaction to other class and
non-class forces.

I am going to review the classical anarchist and Marxist theories about the nature of the
state and its relationship to classes and political economy. By “classical anarchism,” I
mean essentially the views of J-P Proudhon, Michael Bakunin, and Peter Kropotkin (and not
the views of individualists, Stirnerites, or “post-left”/”post-anarchists”). By “classical
Marxism,” I mean the views of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (and not the views of social
democratic reformists or Stalinists).

When writing of “the state,” I do not include any and every means of social coordination,
collective decision-making, settling of differences, or protection from anti-social
agression. Humans lived for tens of thousands of years in hunter-gatherer societies (also
called “primitive communism”) and early agricultural villages. They provided themselves
with social coordination, etc., through communal self-management. What they did not have
were states. The state is a bureaucratic-military institution, dominating a territory
through specialized armed forces (police and military) and bureaucratic layers of people
who make decisions, ruling over-and separate from-the rest of the population.

“The State…not only includes the existence of a power situated above society, but also
of a territorial concentration as well as the concentration in the hands of a few of many
functions in the life of societies….A whole mechanism of legislation and of policing has
to be developed….”
(Kropotkin 2014; 254) The state is a “public force[which]consists not merely of armed men
but also of material appendages, prisons, and coercive institutions of all kinds…organs
of society standing above society…representatives of a power which estranges them from
society….” (Engels 1972; 230-1) This is the view of both Kropotkin and Engels. When
speaking of the end of the state under socialism/communism, they did not mean the end of
all collective decision-making, etc., but the end of this bureaucratic-military,
socially-alienated, elite institution.

The Views of the Classical Anarchists

The first person to call himself an “anarchist,” Proudhon, wrote, “In a society based on
inequality of conditions, government, whatever it is, feudal, theocratic, bourgeois,
imperial, is reduced, in last analysis, to a system of insurance for the class which
exploits and owns against that which is exploited and owns nothing.” The state “finds
itself inevitably enchained to capital and directed against the proletariat.” (Proudhon
2011; 18)

Bakunin, who as much as anyone initiated anarchism as a movement, wrote, “The State has
always been the patrimony of some privileged class: the sacerdotal class, the nobility,
the bourgeoisie-and finally…the class of bureaucracy….” And “Modern capitalist
production and banking speculations demand for their full development a vast centralized
State apparatus which alone is capable of subjecting the millions of toilers to their
exploitation.” (quoted in Morris 1993; 99)

Kropotkin elaborated anarchist theory: “All legislation made within the State…always has
been made with regard to the interests of the privileged classes….The State is an
institution which was developed for the very purpose of establishing monopolies in favor
of the slave and serf owners, the landed proprietors,…the merchant guilds and the
moneylenders, the kings, the military commanders, the ‘noblemen,’ and finally, in the
nineteenth century, the industrial capitalists, whom the State supplied with ‘hands’
driven from the land. Consequently, the State would be…a useless institution, once
these[class]monopolies ceased to exist.” (2014; 186-8)

In brief, the classical anarchists saw a direct connection between the state and
exploitative class society, serving the various upper classes as they lived off the lower,
working, classes. This is the “class theory” of the state, also called the “materialist”
or “historical materialist” state theory.

The class theory of the state is frequently criticized as a “reductionist,”
“instrumentalist,” theory, which crudely reduces all government activity to the desires of
the capitalist class. It is criticized for allegedly ignoring conflicts within that class,
the pressures of other classes (such as lobbying by unions), and non-class forces.
Non-class forces include all subsystems of oppression: sexism, racism, sexual orientation,
national oppression, etc.-each, in its own way, maintained by the state. There are other
pressures on the state, such as by the churches. As an institution, with its personnel,
the state has its own interests. Supposedly, the materialist or class state theory ignores
all this. In my opinion, it is this criticism which is itself oversimplified, as I will
try to show.

The Views of the Classical Marxists

As with the anarchists, the Marxist form of the class theory of the state has been accused
of being class reductionist, oversimplified, and mechanical.
In the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote, “The executive of the modern State is
but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” (in Draper
1998; 111) Draper calls this sentence, “the most succinctly aphoristic statement by Marx
of his theory of the state.” (same; 207)

This is often taken to mean that the state is merely a passive reflex of the capitalist
class, with all the influence going from the bourgeoisie to the state. In fact, the
sentence says that the state-or rather its executive branch-actively manages the interests
of the bourgeoisie, as opposed to merely reflecting them. In any case, it is a brief and
condensed (“succinctly aphoristic”) statement, by no means a whole exposition of a theory.

Over the years, Marx and Engels developed their analysis of the state (an excellent
overview is in Draper 1977). Marx’s major work on the state appears in The Eighteenth
Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. It was written in 1852 and covered French politics leading up
to the elected president, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte (nephew of the Emperor Napoleon),
seizing power and establishing his dictatorship (Marx 2002). Here and in other works he
goes into the details of French politics. It become clear that Marx regards the state as
full of conflicts among classes, fractions of classes, and agents of fractions of classes.

He uncovered the political-economic conflicts among the financial aristocracy (who
supported one claimant to the monarchy), the large landowners (who supported another), the manufacturing bourgeoisie, the “republican” bourgeoisie (an ideological current within the
bourgeoisie), the “democratic-republican” petty-bourgeoisie, and, below them all, the
proletariat (mostly passive due to a recent major defeat), and the peasantry (who gave
their support to the conman Louis-Napoleon, partially due to his name). There were splits
within each of these forces. Marx also included the government officials and the army
officers (all seeking money). He was clear that there were personal hostilities,
ideological commitments, prejudices, and ambitions through which these conflicts worked
themselves out.

Applying this approach to the current U.S. government would analyze the differing
fractions of the capitalist class and its ideological and political agents and hangers-on,
in their conflicting relations with each other and with sections of the middle and working
classes.

The other main theme of Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire is the increasing independence of the
state from all classes, including all sections of the bourgeoisie. Balancing between
conflicting class forces, the executive branch of the state tends to rise above them all.
Marx called this “Bonapartism,” and it has been discussed as the “relative autonomy” of
the state. With the dictator’s abolition of the legislature and its political parties, as
well as censorship over political discussion, the bourgeoisie lost direct control over the
government. The capitalists were made to focus on running their businesses and making
money, while Louis Bonaparte ran the state (declaring himself the new “Emperor”). This he
did through the state bureaucracy, the army, and a quasi-fascist-like mass movement, as
well as with popular support from the peasants.

In Defense of the Class Theory of the State

So, there are many fractions of the capitalist class, other classes, and non-class forces
all competing for state influence. And the state itself has its own interests and a degree
of autonomy from even the bourgeoisie. Does this mean that the class theory of the state
is wrong?

I do not think so. In itself, that there may be multiple determinants of something does
not decide the relative weights or importance of each determinant. There are many
influences on the state, all of which may have some effect. Still, the overall need of a
capitalist society is to maintain the capitalist economy, the growth and accumulation of
capital, the continued rule of the capitalist class. Without the surplus wealth pumped out
of the working population, the state and the rest of the system cannot last. This is the
primary need of the society and the primary task of the state. Even if the bourgeoisie has
little or no direct control of the government (as under Bonapartism or fascist
totalitarianism), the state must keep the capitalist system going, the capitalists driving
the proletariat to work, and profits being produced. The extreme example of this was under
Stalinist state capitalism (in the USSR, Maoist China, etc.). The stock-owning bourgeoisie
was abolished, yet the collective state bureaucracy continued to manage the accumulation
of capital through state exploitation of the working class. (That is, until it fell back
into traditional capitalism.)

This has been elaborated by Wetherly (2002; 2005). The class theory “involves a claim that
the capitalist class is able to wield more potent power resources over against pressure
from below and the capacity for independent action on the part of the state itself….The
political sway of the capitalist class[is]not exclusive but predominant.” (Wetherly 2002;
197) “It does not claim that the economic structure exclusively explains the character of
the state, but it assigns these other influences a minor role….Economic causation plays
a primary role in explaining state action to sustain accumulation as a general feature of
capitalist society. The state normally sustains accumulation and this is largely explained
by the nature of the economic structure.” (same; 204-5)

Others have theorized the interactions and overlapping of oppressions with each other and
with class exploitation as “social reproductive theory” (Bhattacharya 2017). The different
oppressions are not simply separate while occasionally intersecting; rather, they
co-produce each other, within the overall drive of the whole system to reproduce and
accumulate capital. For example, the oppression of women is directly related to the need
for the system to reproduce the labor power of all workers (a necessity for capitalist
production), which is done through the family. Similarly, Africans were enslaved to create
a source of cheap labor. African-Americans remain racially oppressed in order to maintain
a pool of cheap (super-exploited) labor, as well as to split and weaken the working class
as a whole through white racism. (These factors are not the whole of sexism or racism, but
are their essential overlap with capitalist exploitation.)

The state is not something added onto the capitalist economy, but a necessity if the
capital/labor process is to go (relatively) smoothly-just as (reciprocally) the efficient
functioning of the capitalist production process is necessary for the state to exist.

Primitive Accumulation and the State

The classical bourgeois economists, such as Adam Smith and David Riccardo, had speculated
that capitalism began by artisans and small merchants gradually building up their capital,
until they had enough to hire employees. This was called “primitive (or primary)
accumulation.” Marx rejected this fairy tale, showing how the state and other non-market
forces played major roles in the early accumulation of wealth. There was state-supported
dispossession of European peasants; slavery of Africans and Native Americans; looting of
Ireland, India, and South America; piracy; and plunder of the natural environment. In
Capital, Marx wrote of “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….Force is…itself an economic power.” (Marx 1906;
823-4)

Kropotkin criticized Marx’s concept of primitive accumulation-not because he disagreed
that state coercion played a major role in the development of capitalism! He completely
agreed with Marx on that point. Rather, Kropotkin insisted that state support for
capitalism had never stopped; there was no distinct period of early accumulation, followed
by a period of state non-intervention in the economy.

“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?….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.”
(Kropotkin 2014; 193)

Similarly, the Marxist feminist Silvia Federici writes, “The need of a gendered
perspective on the history of capitalism…led me, among others, to rethink Marx’s account
of primitive accumulation….Contrary to Marx’s anticipation, primitive accumulation has
become a permanent process….” (2017; 93)

However, Marx had expected that once capitalism had reached its final development, its
epoch of decline, it would once again rely heavily on non-market and state forces. In his
Grundrisse, he wrote, “As soon as[capital]begins to sense itself as a barrier to
development, it seeks refuge in forms which, by restricting free competition…are…the
heralds of its dissolution ….” (quoted in Price 2013; 69)

In any case, no one could deny today that government intervention is an essential part of
the economy-from massive armaments expenditures to central banks to regulation of the
stock exchange, etc. The key point is that the state is not an institution truly distinct
from the capitalist economy. On the contrary, it is a central instrument in the creation,
development, accumulation, and eventual decay of capitalism. “Force is itself an economic
power.”

Disagreement between Anarchists and Marxists on the State

Revolutionary anarchists and Marxists agree that the working class and the rest of the
exploited and oppressed should overturn the power of the capitalist class. The workers and
their allies should dismantle the capitalist state, capitalist businesses, and other forms
of oppression, and organize a new society based on freedom, equality, and cooperation.

But they draw different conclusions from the class theory of the state. Marxists say that
since the state is the instrument for a class to carry out its interests, then the workers
and their allies need their own state. They need it in order to overthrow the capitalists
and create a new socialist society of freedom and solidarity. The new state will either be
created by taking over the old state (perhaps by elections) and modifying it, or by
overthrowing the old state (through revolution) and building a new one. Over time,
Marxists say, the task of holding down the capitalists and their agents will become less
important, as the new society is solidified. Then the state will gradually decline. There
may still be a centralized public power for social coordination, but it will become
benevolent and no longer have coercive powers.

However, anarchists have a different conclusion. Since the state is a
bureaucratic-military elite machine for class domination, it cannot be used for
liberation. Such a supposed “workers’ state,” however it comes into existence, would only
result in a new ruling class of bureaucrats, exploiting the workers as if the state was a
capitalist corporation or set of corporations. This was predicted by Proudhon, Bakunin,
and Kropotkin, way back in the beginning of the socialist movement. History has more than
justified the prediction.

Instead, the anarchists propose that the workers and oppressed organize themselves through
federations and networks of workplace assemblies, neighborhood councils, and voluntary
associations. They should replace the police and military with a
democratically-coordinated armed population (a militia), so long as this is still
necessary. Such associations would provide all the coordination, decision-making,
dispute-settling, economic planning, and self-defense necessary-without a state. It would
not be a state, because it would not be a bureaucratic-military socially-alienated machine
such as had served ruling minorities throughout history. Instead it would be the
self-organization of the working people and formerly oppressed.

Conclusion

The class theory of the state claims that the bureaucratic-military social machine of the
state exists primarily to develop and maintain capitalism, the capitalist upper class, and
capital’s drive to accumulate. There are also other influences on the state. These include
factional conflicts within the capitalist class, demands by the working and middle
classes, pressures to maintain other oppressions (race, gender, etc.) and resistance by
these oppressed, other non-class forces, ideologies, and also the self-interest of the
state itself and its personnel. Yet these myriad forces work out within the context of the
need for capitalism to maintain itself and to expand. Therefore the political sway of the
capitalist class is not exclusive but it is predominant. The fight against the state,
against capitalism, and against all oppressions is one fight. It is a struggle for a
society of freedom, individual self-development, the end of the state and of classes,
self-determination and self-management in every area of living.

References

Bhattacharya, Tithi (2017) (ed.). Social Reproductive Theory; Remapping Class, Recentering
Oppression. London: Pluto Press.

Draper, Hal (1977). Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. 1; State and Bureaucracy. NY:
Monthly Review Press.

Draper, Hal (1998) (ed.). The Adventures of the Communist Manifesto. Berkeley CA: Center
for Socialist History.

Engels, Friedrich (1972). The Origins of the Family, Private Property, and the State (Ed.:
E. Leacock). NY: International Publishers.

Federici, Silvia (2017). “Capital and Gender.” In Reading Capital Today; Marx After 150
Years. (Eds.: I. Schmidt & C. Fanelli). London: Pluto Press. Pp. 79-96.

Kropotkin, Peter (2014). Direct Struggle Against Capital; A Peter Kropotkin Anthology
(Ed.: Iain McKay). Oakland CA: AK Press.

Marx, Karl (1906). Capital; A Critique of Political Economy; Vol. 1 (Ed.: F. Engels). NY:
Modern Library.

Marx, Karl (2002). “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (Trans.: T. Carver). In
Cowling, M., & Martin, J. (eds.). Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire; (Post)modern
Interpretations. London: Pluto Press. Pp. 19-109.

Morris, Brian (1993). Bakunin; The Philosophy of Freedom. Montreal/NY: Black Rose Books.

Price, Wayne (2013). The Value of Radical Theory; An Anarchist Introduction to Marx’s
Critique of Political Economy. Oakland CA: AK Press.

Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph (2011). Property is Theft; A Pierre-Joseph Proudhon Anthology
(Ed.: Iain McKay). Oakland CA: AK Press.

Wetherly, Paul (2002). “Making Sense of the ‘Relative Autonomy’ of the State.” In Cowling,
M., & Martin, J. (eds.). Marx’s Eighteenth Brumaire; (Post)modern Interpretations. London:
Pluto Press. Pp. 195-208.

Wetherly, Paul (2005). Marxism and the State; An Analytical Approach. NY: Palgrave Macmillan.

Williams, Kristian (2018). Whither Anarchism? Chico CA: To The Point/AK Press.

*written for www.anarksimo.net

Kris Kobach’s Lucrative Trail of Courtroom Defeats

Mié, 08/01/2018 - 14:10

via ProPublica

Kris Kobach likes to tout his work for Valley Park, Mo. He has boasted on cable TV about crafting and defending the town’s hardline anti-immigration ordinance. He discussed his “victory” there at length on his old radio show. He still lists it on his resume.

But “victory” isn’t the word most Valley Park residents would use to describe the results of Kobach’s work. With his help, the town of 7,000 passed an ordinance in 2006 that punished employers for hiring illegal immigrants and landlords for renting to them. But after two years of litigation and nearly $300,000 in expenses, the ordinance was largely gutted. Now, it is illegal only to “knowingly” hire illegal immigrants there — something that was already illegal under federal law. The town’s attorney can’t recall a single case brought under the ordinance.

“Ambulance chasing” is how Grant Young, a former mayor of Valley Park, describes Kobach’s role. Young characterized Kobach’s attitude as, “Let’s find a town that’s got some issues or pretends to have some issues, let’s drum up an immigration problem and maybe I can advance my political position, my political thinking and maybe make some money at the same time.”

Kobach used his work in Valley Park to attract other clients, with sometimes disastrous effects on the municipalities. The towns — some with budgets in the single-digit-millions — ran up hefty legal costs after hiring him to defend similar ordinances. Farmers Branch, Texas, wound up owing $7 million in legal bills. Hazleton, Penn., took on debt to pay $1.4 million and eventually had to file for a state bailout. In Fremont, Neb., the city raised property taxes to pay for Kobach’s services. None of the towns are currently enforcing the laws he helped craft.

“This sounds a little bit to me like Harold Hill in ‘The Music Man,’ “ said Larry Dessem, a law professor at the University of Missouri who focuses on legal ethics. “Got a problem here in River City and we can solve it if you buy the band instruments from me. He is selling something that goes well beyond legal services.”

Kobach rode the attention the cases generated to political prominence, first as Kansas secretary of state, and now as a candidate for governor in the Republican primary on Aug. 7. He also earned more than $800,000 for his immigration work, paid by both towns and an advocacy group, over 13 years.

Kobach’s recent legal struggles have been widely reported. In June, a federal judge handed him a sweeping courtroom defeat, overturning a Kansas law that required proof of citizenship to register to vote. The judge went so far as to order him to attend six hours of continuing legal education after he repeatedly botched basic courtroom procedure. Another recent Kobach endeavor, a federal commission aimed at combating voter fraud, which he co-chaired, shut down after a bevy of lawsuits challenged it.

Read more

U.S. Military Is World’s Biggest Polluter

Mié, 08/01/2018 - 13:54

via Ecowatch

By Whitney Webb

Last week, mainstream media outlets gave minimal attention to the news that the U.S. Naval station in Virginia Beach had spilled an estimated 94,000 gallons of jet fuel into a nearby waterway, less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean.

While the incident was by no means as catastrophic as some other pipeline spills, it underscores an important yet little-known fact—that the U.S. Department of Defense is both the nation’s and the world’s, largest polluter.

Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among others.

In 2014, the former head of the Pentagon’s environmental program told Newsweek that her office has to contend with 39,000 contaminated areas spread across 19 million acres just in the U.S. alone.

U.S. military bases, both domestic and foreign, consistently rank among some of the most polluted places in the world, as perchlorate and other components of jet and rocket fuel contaminate sources of drinking water, aquifers and soil. Hundreds of military bases can be found on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) list of Superfund sites, which qualify for clean-up grants from the government.

Almost 900 of the nearly 1,200 Superfund sites in the U.S. are abandoned military facilities or sites that otherwise support military needs, not counting the military bases themselves.

“Almost every military site in this country is seriously contaminated,” John D. Dingell, a retired Michigan congressman and war veteran, told Newsweek in 2014. Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina is one such base. Lejeune’s contamination became widespread and even deadly after its groundwater was polluted with a sizable amount of carcinogens from 1953 to 1987.

However, it was not until this February that the government allowed those exposed to chemicals at Lejeune to make official compensation claims. Numerous bases abroad have also contaminated local drinking water supplies, most famously the Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa.

Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. tested 66 nuclear weapons near Bikini atoll. Populations living nearby in the Marshall Islands were exposed to measurable levels of radioactive fallout from these tests. National Cancer Institute

In addition, the U.S., which has conducted more nuclear weapons tests than all other nations combined, is also responsible for the massive amount of radiation that continues to contaminate many islands in the Pacific Ocean. The Marshall Islands, where the U.S. dropped more than sixty nuclear weapons between 1946 and 1958, are a particularly notable example. Inhabitants of the Marshall Islands and nearby Guam continue to experience an exceedingly high rate of cancer.

The American Southwest was also the site of numerous nuclear weapons tests that contaminated large swaths of land. Navajo Indian reservations have been polluted by long-abandoned uranium mines where nuclear material was obtained by U.S. military contractors.

One of the most recent testaments to the U.S. military’s horrendous environmental record is Iraq. U.S. military action there has resulted in the desertification of 90 percent of Iraqi territory, crippling the country’s agricultural industry and forcing it to import more than 80 percent of its food. The U.S.’ use of depleted uranium in Iraq during the Gulf War also caused a massive environmental burden for Iraqis. In addition, the U.S. military’s policy of using open-air burn pits to dispose of waste from the 2003 invasion has caused a surge in cancer among U.S. servicemen and Iraqi civilians alike.

While the U.S. military’s past environmental record suggests that its current policies are not sustainable, this has by no means dissuaded the U.S. military from openly planning future contamination of the environment through misguided waste disposal efforts. Last November, the U.S. Navy announced its plan to release 20,000 tons of environmental “stressors,” including heavy metals and explosives, into the coastal waters of the U.S. Pacific Northwest over the course of this year.

The plan, laid out in the Navy’s Northwest Training and Testing Environmental Impact Statement, fails to mention that these “stressors” are described by the EPA as known hazards, many of which are highly toxic at both acute and chronic levels.

The 20,000 tons of “stressors” mentioned in the Environmental Impact Statement do not account for the additional 4.7 to 14 tons of “metals with potential toxicity” that the Navy plans to release annually, from now on, into inland waters along the Puget Sound in Washington state.

In response to concerns about these plans, a Navy spokeswoman said that heavy metals and even depleted uranium are no more dangerous than any other metal, a statement that represents a clear rejection of scientific fact. It seems that the very U.S. military operations meant to “keep Americans safe” come at a higher cost than most people realize—a cost that will be felt for generations to come both within the U.S. and abroad.

A spectre is haunting us: it’s the past weighing like a nightmare on the present

Mié, 08/01/2018 - 12:34

via anarkismo.net

by Shawn Hattingh

The context we now exist in is one that is defined by glaring contradictions everywhere,
its fractured, changing, unstable and confrontational. It is a time of despair, but also
pockets of hope.

On the one hand, a spectre is haunting us, but it is not the one that Marx spoke of. Rather an authoritarian and extreme right wing form of capitalism, last seen on extensive scale in the 1930s, is rearing its hideous ghost-like head.

This right wing extremism has become an ‘acceptable’ form of politics amongst some people
in the context of the unresolved capitalist crisis. It is the ‘solution’ amongst sections
of ruling classes in many countries to a crisis that is not going away. As part of this,
many states are passing laws attacking basic rights that oppressed classes have won
through decades and even centuries of struggle (including in South Africa); states are
beginning to bare their teeth more often rather than being in a position to rule by
consent; toxic nationalisms based on exclusionary racial, ethnic and religious identities
(including within sections of the population in South Africa) have once again become
acceptable and even embraced by sections of the population (giving rise to the likes of
Trump, Le Pen and Duterte and xenophobia and other ills in South Africa); and bigotry and
hate are back.

Yet there is also hope. In many parts of the world, sections of the working class have
fought back. This has seen movements of protests in some parts, attempts to revive unions
in others and in some cases the re-emergence of left political parties and projects. But
it is also a restructured working class, a working class that is fundamentally different
from even the 1970s. New or different forms of organising happen next to the old. It is
thus also a working class in which the past weighs like a nightmare on the present in
organisational terms; experimenting with the new and different ways of organising, but
also falling back into the old.

Unresolved capitalist crisis

It is clear that the capitalist crisis is not over. It has its origins in the problems of
over- production and over-accumulation that arose initially in the 1930s. The problem was
exacerbated in the 1970s with the implementation of neoliberal policies and the rise of
financialisation, as ruling classes across the globe, including in South Africa, attempted
to restore profit rates-something which has not happened.
But the rise of financialisation has made the system extremely unstable. By some accounts
there have been over 70 different ‘financial’ crises in various parts of the world since
1970, with the biggest being in 2008/09.

The reality is that the legacy of 2008/09 is still firmly with us. Despite bailing out
corporations and undertaking Quantative Easing (QE), the underlying problems of
over-accumulation and over-production have not been solved. Hence, all the money
corporations have received from states has been used to continue to speculate-as this is
the only ‘profitable’ outlet for their vast surpluses.

Growth has, therefore, been anemic in most parts of the world over the last ten years.
Some countries, such as Greece and Venezuela, have experienced conditions akin to the
Great Depression. In South Africa growth has often hovered below 1%, and in the last
quarter the economy contracted by 2%.

In the last few months, countries such as South Africa, have in fact become extremely
vulnerable. The money provided to financial institutions via QE and bailouts was used to
speculate on bonds in so-called emerging or developing markets. With interest rates rising
in the U.S.-under the guise of controlling inflation, but in reality to keep wages low-and
with the tapering and ending of QE, speculators have been returning their money to the
U.S. and dumping bonds of so-called emerging markets. This has led to the Rand dropping in
the last two months and a full-blown crises in countries such as Argentina.

We are in a context, therefore, where the bubbles that have been created, and that have
led to minimal growth at best, will burst-it is not a matter of if, but when. When they
do, it is states such as South Africa that could be worst hit. This is not a reason for
celebration: the social, politcal and economic consequences for the working class could be
catastrophic. Misery does not lead like a straight line to revolution or even resistance.

An unraveling of traditional parties of the ruling classes

The fact that the capitalist crisis has been unresolved has led sections of the ruling
classes in countries such as the US, Britain, Italy, Philippines, Hungary and France to
begin to look for political alternatives to the status quo. That traditional parties of
the ruling classes, including social democratic and national liberations parties, have
imposed neoliberalism and austerity means they have also lost credibility in the eyes of
working class voters, meaning they cannot keep neoliberalism and austerity going by consent.

Sections of the ruling classes in a number of countries have come to realise this and have
begun to build and promote alternatives to these parties and politicians. Most, but not
all, have been extremely right wing parties and politicians, which these sections of the
ruling classes are hoping can restore profits through authoritarianism. This has led to
the rise of Duterte, Trump, the Front Nationale, Lega, Jobbik and the Five Star
Movement-politicians and parties that were solidly on the fringe as recently as a decade
ago. They portrayed themselves as outside the so-called ‘establishment,’ and as defenders
of the interests of the ordinary people. In reality they push a strongly pro-ruling class
agenda, including massive tax cuts for corporations and the rich. Some of these parties
and politicians, such as Lega and Jobbik, are neo-fascist; others, like the Five Star
Movement and Trump, have been described as right-wing ‘populists’.

In South Africa too we have seen that in the context of the unresolved capitalist crisis,
the unraveling of the party of the ruling class since 1994, the ANC, has also occurred to
a degree. This has seen other parties, such as the Democratic Alliance (DA) and to a
lesser degree the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), increasing the percentage of the vote.
The reality is that under this, the ANC could turn to some populist measures, whilst
maintaining the core of neoliberalism, to maintain its share of the vote. But should its
decline continue, and should Ramaphosa fail to revive the ANC, sections of the ruling
class too in South Africa will begin looking for an alternative that can shore up the
system. Already aspirant sections of the black middle class and black capitalists are
looking to the EFF as an alternative to the ANC, with the EFF being sold as a party that
will further the interests of the black working class, when in reality if it is in power
its agenda may be very different.

The rise of toxic nationalisms as a ‘solution’

To shore up the agendas of these parties and politicians-and to try and win over sections
of the working class-there has been an appeal to nationalisms based on exclusionary
notions of race, religion and ethnicity in many parts of the world. In the U.S., France,
Italy, and Britain there a rise in a form of white supremacist Christian nationalism and
even neo- fascism. Immigrants from Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have been
scapegoated as being the cause of the pressure and attack working and middle class people
face as a result of the capitalist crisis and the actions of states-in the form of
austerity to protect the interests and wealth of the ruling classes.

This to some degree has worked, as sections of the working and middle classes have bought
into these narratives. This has become possible partly because under neoliberalism, class
as a notion and form of politics has been under relentless attack from the ruling class,
the media and sections of academia. Linked to this, politics based on identity have been
promoted within public discourse-with the unintentional consequences in reality being an
opening of space for nationalism based on essentialised notions of race and
ethnicity-defined by the ideology that everyone belonging to certain race or ethnic groups
share the same innate characteristics. Few would have believed such overt racist politics
could and would become popular again, but sadly it is a spectre that has arisen from the
grave.

Along with this, postmodernism has also inadvertently opened space for demagogy. Blatant
lying, character assassination and scapegoating are the order of the day in such
‘populist’ politics, with facts at best being relative or not important at all. This too
has filtered into some of the politics in South Africa from the national level right down
to even sections of grassroots politics. Indeed, battles around positions in local
councils for example involve this type of politics and more frighteningly actual
assassinations.

This poses a major challenge for progressive politics, including in South Africa. The
reason is, it avoids dealing with the root causes of the problems faced within society,
namely class rule and capitalism. In fact, various nationalisms based on race and
ethnicity have once again risen to prominence in South Africa. A white form a nationalism
remains popular amongst large sections of white capitalist, middle, and working
classes-and it was the basis around which apartheid was built. Using identity based on
race and religion, a false cross- class alliance was built supposedly based on whiteness,
and the legacy of this remains in place. Today remnants of this politics influence
sections of the DA and groups such as Afriforum. This is stirring increased racial
tensions in South Africa with potentially explosive consequences.

The reality is that the class consciousness that underpinned sections of the
anti-apartheid struggle has been severely eroded in South Africa over the last 20 years,
partly due to the ideology of neoliberalism. In the mainstream media, academia and amongst
sections of the NGO sector, class has become something that is dismissed, denied and
downplayed; while identity politics has been elevated.

In this context, where class politics is extremely weak, sections of the black working
class too (but by no means a majority) are turning to nationalisms based on supposed
ingrained race and ethnic identities in the face of exploitation and oppression. This too
has lead some to adopt a toxic form of politics, including xenophobia. Indeed,
sections-but certainly not the whole of the working class-sometimes turn to blaming
‘foreigners’ from other parts of Africa for their oppression-instead of the ruling class
and the capitalist system. This has led to instances of violence towards people from other
parts of Africa. This is not surprising as the ruling class in South Africa has been
promoting xenophobia for decades now. It is not an accident that the vast majority of
refugees seeking asylum in South Africa are turned down, and so-called illegal immigrants
from the rest of Africa are effectively imprisoned in horrendous conditions by the state
before being deported.

We also see a toxic form of nationalism beginning to be expressed by political parties
such as the EFF whose leadership often subjects South African people of Indian decent to
racial slurs and insult. Likewise, sections of the so-called ‘coloured’ working class have
also begun to mobilise around a supposed shared ethnic identity against a so-called ‘black
African’ section of the working class. In KwaZulu-Natal, the remnants of the IFP, the Zulu
royal family, so-called traditional leaders and a faction around Zuma, have also been
stirring up the spectre of Zulu nationalism. Apartheid created fertile ground for such
forms of politics and in the recent period-marked by a profound social, political and
economic crisis-this is gaining ground unfortunately even amongst a minority of the
working class.

Internationally these toxic forms of nationalism, especially of the neo-fascist variety,
are also appealing to false mythic histories and ‘traditions,’ which incorporate
patriarchy and indeed embrace it, despite some of the extreme right-wing parties in Europe
having women leaders, such as Marine Le Pen.

The resurgence of imperialist rivalries

With extreme right wing nationalist politicians and parties gaining power in key
states-such as the U.S.-the push for yet more austerity has only strengthened. Under
Trump, social protection and welfare for the working class has been gutted-it was already
eroded under neoliberalism, but this has now deepened.

It has, however, not just been right-wing parties and politicians that have imposed
austerity but all parties that have been head of, or have come to head, states in this
period of crisis. For example, despite claiming left credentials, when in power and under
pressure from finance capital and EU institutions, Syriza in Greece has been imposing
harsh austerity. In South Africa too, the ANC has capped the state’s national budget, it
has reduced transfers to local government (where services are delivered) and has even
proportionately reduced its spending on housing over the last few years. This despite
undertaking its own populist actions like expanding free education to a degree, and under
pressure from #FeesMustFall. Thus growing austerity on state spending on the working class
is escalating, shifting the burden even more onto the shoulders of working class women in
terms of the reproduction of the class.

As the capitalist crisis has continued, rivalries amongst imperialist states has also
intensified at the behest of sections of the ruling classes of the most powerful states.
This has seen the U.S. begin to implement a form of protection, in terms of trade tariffs,
against up and coming rivals such as China and even its erstwhile allies in the EU.
Politically this has enabled the U.S. state, for example, to please sections working and
middle class people-who fear the loss of their jobs in terms of offshoring and competition
from imports-whilst still implementing austerity.

The Chinese ruling class for its part has responded to the U.S. state’s tariffs with their
own. In fact, China is attempting to build a trade block with countries, such as South
Africa, Brazil and even the EU, outside the influence of the US. The growing rivalry
between the U.S. state and the Chinese state is one of the key features internationally.
In Europe, sections of the ruling class, such as in France and Germany, are attempting to
ensure so-called Free Trade remains in place, but they too are reluctantly being drawn
into the possibility of a trade war by the onslaught of the Trump regime.

As inter-imperialist rivalries have intensified or renewed in the context of a capitalist
crisis, proxy wars-such as that in Syria-have become more vicious. These proxy wars have
and will destroy the lives of millions of people-forcing them to immigrate not so much for
a better life, but to survive. It is these refugees that are being scapegoated by the
extreme right in Europe.

The restructured working class

It is now common knowledge amongst progressive forces that the working class
internationally and in South Africa has been restructured under neoliberalism. Permanent
nine to five jobs, with the same employer for years, are becoming ever scarcer. Under lean
production, more and more jobs have been outsourced, shift work has become a feature of
production and precarious work has arisen. In South Africa too, labour brokering has
become very common.

Globally, structural unemployment has been on the rise, especially amongst youth. This is
the case even amongst states in Europe, such as Spain, where youth unemployment stands at 35%. In South Africa, the problem of structural unemployment has been in place for almost two decades-with the expanded unemployment rate hovering between 35 and 40 percent over that period. There are in fact, some sections of the working class that have come to exist outside of the relations of production, not because they don’t want to sell their labour, but rather because they will never be able to.

Under this onslaught, wages for those who are employed have tended to stagnate and lose
value in real terms. To try and maintain a semblance of a decent lifestyle, sections of
the working and lower middle classes have become extremely indebted. This has been a
feature of financialisation and it has been a key weapon that the ruling classes
internationally have used to extract wealth from the working class. It has also been
ideologically seen as a way to explicitly discipline the working class-the notion being
workers that are heavily indebted are less likely to strike.

The burden of the reproduction of the working class-as noted above-has also fallen more
and more upon working class women. The days of states providing education, electricity,
water and decent housing for the working class as social services have gone. They were won
in struggle by the working class over decades; they have now been take away by the ruling
classes through their own political struggle against the oppressed and exploited. Today’s
services, including housing, have been commercialised or hollowed out at best-they are an
avenue for actual and potential profits for corporations. Those without money don’t get
the services and it is generally women that have to step in to ensure families can survive.

This state of affairs has been rationalised through the promotion of the ideology of
neoliberal restructuring. The state and sections of the media strongly reinforces
individualist ideology, which has consequently taken hold in sections of the working
class. Class consciousness has been eroded and even traditional social organisations of
the working class, such as sports clubs and workers’ clubs, have been undermined globally.
The goal is to atomise the working class and to break it into sections so that organising
becomes increasingly difficult, leaving workers disunited, fragmented and, therefore, more
controllable.

With the unresolved capitalist crisis, the restructuring of the working class by the
ruling classes and their states has continued apace. As part of this, growing automation
and mechanisation-which is also a response to workers’ militant struggles in countries
such as China-has accelerated. This attack by the ruling classes has been camouflaged
under the ideological notion of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution.

It is more of the same

A number of states in the last few years too have attacked the rights workers have won. In
the U.S. the state has passed laws allowing greater over-time and in France the state
attempted to severely curtail rights. In South Africa too we have seen the state
attempting to amend the labour laws to undermine the right to strike and to curtail the
length of strikes. Ruling classes, using their control over states, are rolling out such
laws in an attempt to restore profits in manufacturing and mining and it is a feature of
the current context.

Likewise, most states are also strengthening their law enforcement arms and many,
including South Africa, have used the supposed threat of terrorism to do so. In the
process, human rights, won through decades and centuries of struggle by the oppressed
classes, are being rolled back at an ever alarming rate by many states in the context of
the capitalist crisis. This is so whether states are governed by extreme right wing
politicians and parties, traditional parties of the ruling class or so-called social
democratic and even leftist parties (such as Syriza)-the only thing that does differ is
the pace at which it is happening with the extreme right moving more swiftly under the
cover of nationalism.

The reality is that sections of the working class have resisted both the attacks and the
shift rightwards in many parts of the world. Prime examples of this have been the earlier
struggles of the Arab Spring, the occupy movement, the uprisings in Greece, and strike
waves in China. In South Africa we have also seen resistance at the point of production
and within communities. This has included Marikana and the continuing wave of community
protests against a lack of urban land, housing, water and electricity.

Many of the people involved in these protest movements have tried to find
ways-unconsciously-to organise in a new or different way to the traditional vehicles of
working class organisations, in terms of political parties and trade unions. As part of
this, these initiatives have tended to use direct action as their most potent weapon. It
must be stressed through that it has often not been a conscious choice to organise
differently, but was rather done out of necessity.

Part of the reason for the arise of new or different forms of organising is because left
parties and trade unions have proved to be largely ineffective in resisting neoliberalism,
let alone new challenges such as the rise of extreme right wing nationalisms and even
neo-fascism. But these experiments with new or different forms of organising have largely
not been sustained. The mass assemblies and protest movement, which was the Arab Spring
for example, was crushed by a counter-revolution throughout the Middle East. In South
Africa, in the face of the labour law and state repression, the workers at struggles-such
as Marikana-drifted back into a union, AMCU, despite it being as equally bad as NUM.

A problem which also plagued many of the experiments with new or different forms of
organising internationally is that progressive alternative politics did not fully
emerge-it existed only amongst small sections of these movements and never became
hegemonic-and neither did a counter-culture to capitalism fully emerge. This was a
weakness that had consequences, including the fact that in some cases initiatives, such as
the Arab Spring, could not be held together and lost momentum in the face of electoral
politics and state repression.

On the other hand, when sections of the working class have drifted into parties, militancy
has tended to decline-for example in Greece. While the protest movement to a degree gave
birth to Syriza, once in the state power-defined by the pressures of the state’s
hierarchical structure, its bureaucracy and under pressure from capital-its leadership
capitulated, were co-opted and in reality abandoned their political principles. Indeed, a
class that needs to desperately go beyond old ways of organising often can’t seem to
escape the hangover of the past, resorting to what is known, despite the glaring limitations.

It is clear, new or different forms of organising are vital to working class resistance
under the current context and given the classes’ restructuring. But there are also
challenges in creating these for activists and those that wish to support them, including:

  • The question of how to begin to sustain these or even should there be attempts to make
    such forms lasting (or are they forms that by definition only arise when there is mass
    struggle and hence will rise and fall with the rhythms of struggle?)
  • The need to begin to bring class analysis back in to such movements and re-build progressive class politics as a force in the face of a context where it has become extremely marginalised-this too is vital even for the co-ordination of struggles in cities, let alone provincially or nationally
  • The need to explore how to build a working class counter-culture in a context where it has been decimated
  • The need to build and contest space for a progressive anti-capitalist politics, principles and visions that not only inform the future, but how we build movements, practice politics and conduct ourselves in the present.

https://www.anarkismo.net/article/31079

Israeli intervention in US elections ‘vastly overwhelms’ anything Russia has done, claims Noam Chomsky

Mar, 07/31/2018 - 23:25

via The Independent

Veteran activist Noam Chomsky has accused Israel of “brazenly” interfering in US electoral politics in a way that vastly outweighs any efforts that may have been carried out by Russia.

In comments in which he accused much of the media of concentrating on stories he considered marginal and ignoring issues such as the “existential threat” of climate change, the 89-year-old linguist said in much of the world, the US media’s focus with Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 was “a joke”.

“First of all, if you’re interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous support,” he said.

Speaking to Democracy Now, Mr Chomsky added: “Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done, I mean, even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president’s policies – what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015.”

In March 2015, at the invitation of then Republican House Speaker John Boehner, and assisted by Israel’s Ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the joint houses of Congress about the yet to be signed Iran nuclear deal. He did so without formally informing the White House, something said to have infuriated Barack Obama, whose administration would the following month join a seven-party agreement to limit Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons ambitions.

Read more

Communism: A short guide for confused journalists

Jue, 07/26/2018 - 17:58

via Freedom (U.K.)

Following Ash Sarkar’s recent “I’m literally a communist” moment on Good Morning Britain, there’s been a lot of fairly messy attempts by media names to explain what communism is — hopefully the following will help them out (apologies for the elderly Drake meme).

From Matthew Parris suggesting “communism means State control of the means of production, distribution and exchange, it means no private property, it’s perfectly clear” to Suzanne Moore’s odd suggestion that “the really great stuff being discussed by young leftists is not communism, it is anarcho-syndicalism – participatory local democracy” there is clearly an educational deficit at the heart of media punditry.

Because pundits have short attention spans the list below isn’t intended as a comprehensive or nuanced rundown, think of them more as flash card notes.

Communism

Amazingly, every part of what Parris said was wrong. In defence of the Cambridge and Yale scholar, former MP and senior political journalist of 30 years’ standing, perhaps he’s just ignorant of his subject matter. The key problem is actually in his last line “it’s perfectly clear.” This literally could not be further off the mark. In reality there are two working definitions of communism, one being the popularly-understood summary he repeated (the result of decades of deliberate mislabeling), the other being used by actual communists and most good dictionaries.

In this second definition, we find that communism means public, communal control of the means of production and distribution (exchange largely being eliminated through the core concept of “from each according to ability, to each according to need”) and owning stuff is absolutely fine, no-one’s getting carte blanche to commandeer your favourite jumper.

The italics are quite important, because the use of the State to achieve this is not required. The communist society is one in which we, as communities, decide how the resources and machinery of producing our collective wealth is used. We decide what the factory makes, how much we want, if we fancy doing big projects like say, a space programme or converting our homes to solar, rather than leaving it to the “will of the market” (ie. whatever makes profit regardless of need or long-term consequences), the whims of Jeff Bezos, or the decisions of distant national institutions.

Marxism

Is again, much more complicated than the definitions pundits tend to work with, but broadly Karl Marx’s ideas about capturing State power to enforce working-class control over the means of production on the way to achieving communism is the point Matthew Parris is starting from.1

Marxism is not the same thing as communism however, more some key ideas and an approach towards achieving it, and even when he was first talking about his concepts there were numerous dissenting opinions from other communists, which led to major splits within the broader movement, most famously from the First and Second Internationals.

Leninism

Also known as Marxist-Leninism, Bolshevism and most confusingly, Communism (note the capital C, I’ll get back to this in a moment), this is where we get to what’s really meant by Mr Parris, Suzanne Moore and every loudmouth under the sun who thinks communism = gulags and mass murder.

Lenin had a very specific, brutal interpretation of Marx in which he substituted the needs of his Communist Party for those of the working classes. For him, capturing the State was the means of achieving communism, and once he had, it became the ends for maintaining “Communism” (which was not, as explained above, in fact communism at all but just State power).

The USSR’s “Communism” was not just rejected by capitalism but by many communists, from the anarcho-communists such as Alexander Berkman and Emma Goldman to Rudolf Rocker and the anarcho-syndicalist IWMA, to the council communists and libertarian socialists such as Maurice Brinton. Quite a lot of Russian anarcho-communists died at Bolshevik hands. Unfortunately, due to the habit of the USSR (China, North Korea , etc) of calling their national command economies Communist (capitalise that C!), and the enthusiastic acceptance of this by capitalists everywhere, we ended up with a wacky linguistic compromise throughout the Cold War where communists would regularly berate Communists for their many outrages against human life and decency.

Anarcho-communism

“Aha!” I hear some of you cry, “this is an oxymoron!” Well you’re an oxymoron. Because anarcho-communism has been around for nearly as long as Marxism. And the important thing here is that the main difference between the two is in the means to the end (remember, full communism does not involve State control, I can’t believe you forgot that already, it’s been like six paragraphs mate, get it together).

Marx, on the one hand, believed that working-class capture of the institutions of the State — a dictatorship of the proletariat — would clear the way towards implementing the structures required for communism proper. His direct opponent Bakunin (a collectivist, which kind of pre-empted anarcho-communism as an idea) made the extremely good point that capturing State power merely changes who rips off the workers, rather than abolishing the process of ripping them off altogether. Anarcho-communism therefore suggests a direct path, in which the State is abolished by the revolution, rather than the revolution taking place in an effort to capture the State so it can then eventually abolish … er … itself.

Yeah.

Anarcho-syndicalism

This is a strategy to implement (usually communism but also potentially other social forms) by organising labour unions and community organisations along the lines of the society desired and using them as tools to end capitalism via general strike, armed rebellion and suchlike. Think of it as building the new world inside the old and then busting free like the Alien out of Kane’s rib cage. Or something more wholesome I guess. A version of this approach can be seen in the collectives which sprang up in the Spanish Revolution.

While participatory democracy can be part of how anarcho-syndicalist groups operate, they are not one and the same concept and you don’t have to be either a communist or an anarchist to do it. Which Suzanne Moore, as a former Marxism Today writer, should probably know. I guess it was just hard to get the staff back then.

I think that’s enough droning on, but in sum, bear all this in mind for future Newsnight “analysis”.

~ Robbie Tomminson

1. Though Parris’s active sneering over the last few decades has mainly been aimed at Russia, China, Cuba etc, which were of course Leninist, Maoist and Castroleum in their early stages and now are mostly just bizarre hybrids of State diktat and neoliberalism (eg. China is quite happy to have free trade zones throughout the country).

Cooperating with Chaos: Portraits of Anarchists at Studio Place Arts

Jue, 07/26/2018 - 16:06

From Montpelier Bridge

A philosopher leans with his right elbow against a table, looking broodingly into space. His ruffled, gray beard and receding hairline, possibly encouraged to withdraw after years of pensive pulling, contrasts his formal suit. Though still, the painting feels active as a flurry of colorful brushstrokes swirl about him, illustrating some sort of creative ether.

“Hazen,” is just one of the 24 pieces of art that make up Storm: Nihilists, Anarchists, Populists and Radicals, an exhibition at Studio Place Arts (SPA) in Barre. The exhibition, located on the second floor, includes oil paintings, classical drawings, and watercolors by Nitya Brighenti.

The paintings mostly focus on figures of the 19th century and feature portraits of writers and political thinkers such as Mikhail Bakunin and Fyodor Dostoevsky, as well as a few of Brighenti’s visions, such as the oil painting, “The Russian Bear.”

Brighenti also brings extensive knowledge of the figures he had chosen to paint. As he walked through the gallery, speaking about each featured philosopher as if he were talking about a friend, he finally settled in front of the mixed media piece, “Itinerary.” With lines linking over the face of German philosopher, Georg Hegel’s face, the piece resembles a spider web, connecting small, circular images of different political, literary, and philosophical figures.

For Brighenti, engaging in the literature that these political thinkers wrote was as essential part of his creative process. At the opening, he explained, “I like to paint something that I feel some passion about. I feel passionate about Bakunin, about these stories, and I want to see the faces, but I also want to risk a new interpretation. I’ve painted Bakunin many times, and I still I feel as though I didn’t really get him.”

The term “anarchy” brings a very specific set of wild images to mind. Its very definition seems to invoke chaos. The anarchist movement led to bombings and assassinations. It is a series of images that invoke fear and fire, but this is not true for Brighenti, as none of the paintings in this exhibition feature the destructive fire that sometimes came with anarchy. When asked why, Brighenti highlighted the difference between the original ideas of anarchy and what the movement later became:

“Anarchism, unlike communism, as far as I know, didn’t have many theories about the dictatorship of the proletariat. Anarchism is about cooperation among the people, owning the means of production. For example, if you work in a factory, wouldn’t it be good if all the workers owned the factory, organized the factory, and shared the profits?”

While Brighenti finds himself attracted to the idea of business shaped and owned by the workers, he is not sympathetic to the thinkers who did incite violence. For him, there seems to be two anarchisms: the philosophical side reflected in the portraits and a destructive movement that ultimately failed. This rejection is evident not only in how Brighenti speaks about these violent insurgents, but also in how he has rejected the presence of these figures in his collection.

This exhibition coincides with the Barre Heritage Festival, which is more than serendipitous. Indeed, Barre has its own history of Anarchism. Amongst the Italian community of Barre anarchists was Luigi Galleani, writer and publisher of the Anarchist newspaper, Cronaca Sovversiva. When asked about Barre’s most famous Anarchist, Brighenti said that he found Galleani to be a complicated figure. “They had this idea of connection, mutual support, and helping each other. There is a newspaper in New York that chronicles the arrest of Galleani. All of the Italian people got out on the street to protest. He was a leader, an important leader. He was the guy who was supporting their hopes.”

When asked if Brighenti saw Galleani as a positive figure, he responded, “I would see him as positive, but I disagree with the type of violence he was inciting because if I were an anarchist, and I’m not too sure I am, I would be a pacifist.”

Storm: Nihilists, Anarchists, Populists and Radicals runs until August 24 at Studio Place Arts

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