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A few more Marxist myths

Lun, 02/25/2019 - 19:38

via Anarchist Writers

by Anarcho

Since last blogging, I’ve been concentrating on my two talks. Both were well attended (beyond official capacity) and seemed to go down well, although obviously the audience decides that. I tried to get too much in the first talk, but then I had to cover a lot of ground (maybe in ten libertarians would have been better?). Still, it was nice to go through such important activists and thinkers – particularly women libertarians, as these are often overlooked (which was why the Five Leaves people wanted it organised).

This summation work has helped me clarify A Libertarian Reader, which is now definitely being organised in two volumes based on eighty periods – one from 1857 to 1936, then from 1937 to 2017. While eighty years is a strange cut-off point, I think it makes sense in this case – not least because it makes volume 1 end with the Spanish Revolution. Not quite ending with Durruti’s rightly famous interview (due to a Camillo Berneri article that needs to go in), but it does end with a rare Emma Goldman speech. While the texts are not completely finalised, the introduction is now at its first draft stage – so progress is being made.

In relation to the talks, I’ve tracked down a few André Léo texts from the Commune which are going in. I’ve also thought about adding another Lucy Parsons one. Which brings me to my first Marxist myth of this blog, namely the contrast made by Marxists between Parsons and Goldman. Needless to say, these add to the various Marxists myths about anarchism already debunked in AFAQ.

After reading quite a few accounts, I think it is fair to say that Leninists really hate Emma Goldman with a passion – even to the extent of systematically distorting both her life and her ideas. For example, my reply to an ISO diatribe can be joined by another to be found here on Lucy Parsons:

‘By the turn of the century, Emma Goldman was the most popular anarchist in the U.S. Her focus was on the freedom of the individual, primarily around the question of sexual independence and “free love.” Goldman and Parsons became fierce, lifelong adversaries over their differing perspectives on revolution.

‘Parsons charged Goldman with ignoring the class struggle and “addressing largely middle-class audiences.” Goldman attacked Parsons for failing to prioritize the fight to “smash monogamy.”

‘For Parsons, it was ridiculous to talk about women’s sexual liberation without a struggle around economic issues. “I hold that the economic is the first issue to be settled,” she writes. “That it is woman’s economical dependence which makes her enslavement possible…How many women do you think would submit to marriage slavery if it were not for wage slavery?”

‘As the anarchist label came to be associated with those moving away from a focus on the working class, Lucy Parsons became increasingly disenchanted with anarchism. Soon she would be writing, “Anarchists are good at showing the shortcomings of others’ organizations. But what have they done in the last 50 years?…Nothing to build up a movement; they are mere pipe-dreamers dreaming. Consequently, anarchism doesn’t appeal to the public.”

‘In 1905, Lucy Parsons would participate in the founding of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), a revolutionary-syndicalist organization.”

I must note when the text quoted after “Soon she would be writing” dates from. Given the context of the article, the reader would be forgiven to thinking it was written sometime between 1900 (“the turn of the century”) and 1905, the founding of the IWW. No such luck. The quote is from a letter written on 27 February 1934 – soon, at least for the ISO, means around 30 years! The dishonesty is simply shocking, but sadly not an isolated case.

What of the feud between Parsons and Goldman? Well, it seems to be true the two did not get on (an issue not limited to anarchists, as shown by numerous splits by Marxists over the years). However, the rest is an invention – I particularly like the “smash monogamy” quote, as if Goldman used such words (or anyone used such terminology before the late 1960s at the very earliest…). Goldman – it must be stressed – was fully aware of the class nature of both capitalism and how to change it. I’ve indicated this in my review of Carolyn Ashbaugh’s terrible book – which is the main source for the ISO’s invented narrative.

There is a strange quality to this kind of diatribe, namely that anarchists are painted as being unable to hold more than one idea in their heads at any one time, combined with similar monolithic approach to tactics. Thus anarchists are class struggle orientated (like Parsons, and so “syndicalists” and so good because they are nearly Marxists) or they are culture orientated (like Goldman, and so “individualists” and express “anarchism”). In reality, anarchists are like everyone else and can hold multiple ideas and advocate multiple tactics – thus Goldman advocated syndicalism along with personal transformation, she recognised the importance of individual liberation along with having a class analysis of society and social change. These positions are not mutually exclusive, in other words.

As she recounts in Living My Life, Goldman was a worker and she took part in strikes while a worker – and supported strikes when she became a full-time anarchist activist, along with writing on and lecturing about syndicalism. Hell, Lucy Parsons sold Goldman’s pamphlets – including we can assume the one advocating syndicalism! Which makes claims like “Parsons’ merciless and principled critique of lifestyle anarchist and Zinn hero Emma Goldman” laughable – but clearly Leninists feel that they can come out with this kind of nonsense, presumably being sure that their readers will not find out the reality of the situation by reading the authors in question – indeed, why would they given the picture pained?

Just to state the obvious, Goldman was not a “lifestyle” anarchist but rather a class struggle anarchist and her feminism was rooted in class analysis and class struggle – for example, “how much independence is gained if the narrowness and lack of freedom of the home is exchanged for the narrowness and lack of freedom of the factory, sweat-shop, department store, or office?” (Anarchism and Other Essays, 216) Ironically, she critiqued the feminists of her time for ignoring the reality of class society long before her later critics put pen to paper – but, then, they clearly did not read her books before doing so (a better option than knowingly lying, the only other option).

So the picture painted by Ashbaugh and repeated by the likes of the ISO is simply an invention. I suppose the narrative of an anarchist critical of anarchist orthodoxy, who became a syndicalist and moved towards Marxist principles is just too appealing to reject. It is a morality tale for young anarchists to help them see the errors of their ways and so evidence and logic are not necessary. Likewise, articles like these are for young party members, to discourage them from reading the likes of Goldman and their eye-witness accounts of the failure of Bolshevism in practice. Indeed, her critique of Lenin in power was rooted in a very clear class analysis:

“There is another objection to my criticism on the part of the Communists. Russia is on strike, they say, and it is unethical for a revolutionist to side against the workers when they are striking against their masters. That is pure demagoguery practised by the Bolsheviki to silence criticism.

“It is not true that the Russian people are on strike. On the contrary, the truth of the matter is that the Russian people have been locked out and that the Bolshevik State – even as the bourgeois industrial master – uses the sword and the gun to keep the people out. In the case of the Bolsheviki this tyranny is masked by a world-stirring slogan: thus they have succeeded in blinding the masses. Just because I am a revolutionist I refuse to side with the master class, which in Russia is called the Communist Party.” (My Disillusionment in Russia, xlix)

Goldman was more than able to have more than one idea in her head… and in terms of her enriched perspective, she was right. Class struggle politics do not need to exclude a concern over other issues, nor a desire to expand individual freedom in the here-and-now. It is only the impoverished politics of Leninism which concludes it must.

Which raises a question, did Parsons join the Communist Party of the USA in 1939 as Ashbaugh claimed? Her book has no footnote indicating any evidence or source – given the claim, this seems strange. The wikipedia entry on Lucy Parsons shows the problem – for it refers to post-Ashbaugh texts which repeat her claims uncritically as if they were proof of the initial claim. Given the tone of her book as well as the inaccuracy of many of her statements (particularly as regards anarchism and anarchists), it seems that anything in that book should be taken as questionable.

It is interesting to note the influence of Ashbaugh’s claims. Thus we find Sam Dolgoff stating in 1971-2 that “I met Lucy Parsons” when she attended an anarchist talk and that she “later became a Communist sympathiser, leading her name to their affairs, petitions, and causes.” (Anarchist Voices, 422) In the 1980s, he quotes her stating “[a]lthough I am not a Communist Party member, I do work with them because they are more practical” before adding: “According to Carolyn Ashbaugh’s biography of Lucy Parsons, she became an outspoken member of the Communist Party”. (Fragments, 41-2) So in spite of being active at the time, Dolgoff was not aware she had joined the Communist Party and only mentions it after Ashbaugh’s book made the assertion!

Interestingly, in 1986 Ashbaugh presented some oral history which seems on the face of it to contradict her claim. She quotes an interview of James P. Cannon who worked with Parsons in the International Labor Defense in the 1920s: “But we never talked Party. I never talked Party to her. I just assumed she was an anarchist and that didn’t affect my willingness to cooperate with her – nor her with me, apparently.” (“Remembering Lucy Parsons”, Haymarket Scrapbook, 187). He makes no reference to her joining the party later, which seems a strange omission.

This is hardly irrefutable evidence (although more than Ashbaugh gave!). Cannon became a Trotskyist in 1928 and after attempting to form a Left Opposition within the Workers (Communist) Party was expelled in October that year. He may have wished to save Parsons’ memory from association with Stalinism…. Which raises an obvious question – why Trotskyists are so keen to defend the assertion Parsons joined the Stalinists in 1939? On the face of it, it is hard to understand. This is after the defeat of the Russian Revolution, the attack on Trotskyism in Russia and then internationally (not that there was a great deal of difference between the two…), the Moscow show trails, the 1933 Soviet pact with fascist Italy, the (cross-class) Popular Front, the betrayal of Spain, the 1939 Hitler-Stalin pact, etc., etc., etc. To join the Stalinists after all this should, surely, be unworthy of praise?

Moving to another question, namely the issue of the “Chicago Idea” and the Haymarket Martyrs. These will be the subject of my second Precursors of Syndicalism article –I’m including an article by Albert Parsons in A Libertarian Reader on how they viewed unions as the embryos of a free society. It ends as follows:

‘The International recognises in the Trades Unions the embryonic group of the future “free society.” Every Trades Union is, nolens volens [whether willing or not], an autonomous commune in the process of incubation. The Trades Union is a necessity of capitalistic production, and will yet take its place by superseding it under the system of universal free co-operation. No, friends, it is not the unions but the methods which some of them employ, with which the International finds fault, and as indifferently as it may be considered by some, the development of capitalism is hastening the day when all Trades Unions and Anarchists will of necessity become one and the same.’ (The Alarm, 4 April 1885)

Lucy Parsons made the same point a few years later in an article included by Albert in his very good 1887 book (see my review):

“We hold that the granges, trade-unions, Knights of Labor assemblies, etc., are the embryonic groups of the ideal anarchistic society.” (Anarchism: Its Philosophy and Scientific Basis, 110)

This is the second Marxist myth I want to discuss, namely the contrast between anarchism and syndicalism (as reflected in accounts of the Goldman/Parsons feud). It is quotes like these made Ashbaugh claim both Parsons and the other Haymarket Anarchists were not anarchists but really syndicalists – indeed, she insisted on putting anarchist in quote marks! Strange, given that Ashbaugh argued that Lucy Parsons had been ignored because she was a worker, a woman and black, that Ashbaugh herself ignores her politics and proclaims she knows better than Parsons herself what she believed…

This seems to be a common position. Historian Bruce C. Nelson, for example, proclaims in his Beyond the martyrs: a social history of Chicago’s anarchists, 1870-1900 (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1988) that “[i]f European anarchist is identified with Proudhon and Kropotkin” and “immigrant anarchism with Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman, then the membership of Chicago’s IWPA was not anarchist” (153) and later adds Bakunin (171) – indeed, Chapter 7 has the title “Bakunin never slept in Chicago.”

Of course, it would be churlish to note that Marx likewise never slept in Chicago – nor in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Peking, Havana, etc. Still, let us look at the arguments being made in order to evaluate the case being made. Nelson is not, as far as know, a Marxist but his arguments reflect an all-too-common Marxist narrative that anarchism and syndicalism are different things (see, for example, my critique of Darlington).

Nelson states that the issue “should not be approached with twentieth-century labels”. (153) While, of course, Nelson is right to suggest that current notions should not be projected backwards, he seems to forget that anarchism and socialism were nineteenth-century “labels.” As such, we need to understand what the terms meant at the time – and their meaning in the twentieth-century reflects that use, to some degree.

He states that the Internationalists were “Political Republicans,” “Economic Socialists,” “Social-Revolutionaries,” “Atheists and Freethinkers.” This meant that this “was not an evolution from socialism to anarchism but from republicanism, through electoral socialism, to revolutionary socialism.” (171) He is somewhat confused in his claims, noting “Republican images pervaded socialist and anarchist rhetoric” (171) and that “[i]f the Martyrs moved ideologically from socialism to anarchism, the active membership seems to have moved from republicanism, through parliamentary socialism, to revolutionary socialism.” (173)

Yet at the time – and now, for that matter – anarchism was a form of revolutionary socialism, one which rejected “political action” (parliamentary socialism) in favour of economic action and organisation. So the likes of Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin all called themselves socialists, indeed revolutionaries. In terms of “republicanism,” Proudhon considered himself as part of the French republican tradition – although a member deeply critical of its mainstream which was centralised, unitarian, Jacobin. Thus we find him advocating in 1857 an “industrial republic” along with “industrial democracy” (Property is Theft!, 610) while 1848 he suggested:

“The Republic is the organisation through which all opinions and activities remain free, the People, through the very divergence of opinions and wills, thinking and acting as a single man. In the Republic, all citizens, by doing what they want and nothing more, directly participate in the legislation and the government as they participate in the production and circulation of wealth. Therefore, all citizens are kings because they all have complete power; they reign and govern. The Republic is a positive anarchy. It is neither liberty subject to order, as in the constitutional monarchy, nor liberty imprisoned in order, as the provisional government understands it, but liberty delivered from all its obstacles, superstition, prejudice, sophistry, speculation and authority; it is a reciprocal, not limited, liberty; it is the liberty that is the MOTHER, not the daughter, of order.” (280)

Bakunin, likewise, in 1868 wrote that the Alliance of Social Democracy “acknowledge[ed] no political form other than the republican form” (Selected Writings, 174) and later that “States must be abolished, for their only mission is to protect individual property, that is, to protect the exploitation by some privileged minority, of the collective labor of the mass of the people; for in that very way they prevent the development of the worldwide economic republic.” (The Basic Bakunin, 196) He also pointed out the former (and do note he calls his ideas socialist):

“If socialism disputes radicalism, this is hardly in order to reverse it but rather to advance it. Socialism criticizes radicalism not for being what it is but, on the contrary, for not being enough so, for having stopped in midstream and thus having put itself in contradiction with the revolutionary principle, which we share with it. Revolutionary radicalism proclaimed the Rights of Man, for example, human rights. This will be its everlasting honor, but it dishonors itself today by resisting the great economic revolution without which every right is but an empty phrase and a trick. Revolutionary socialism, a legitimate child of radicalism, scorns its father’s hesitations, accuses it of inconsistency and cowardice, and goes further” (The Basic Bakunin, 87)

So Proudhon and Bakunin moved from republicanism to socialism and a rejection of electoral politics – and in Bakunin’s case, to social revolution. Kropotkin made the same journey, as did many anarchists. As did many in the First International – as shown by the rise of revolutionary anarchism within it. As such, the process of the 1880s in America does mirror that of the late 1860s and early 1870s in Europe. Anarchism did not just pop into being, it evolved and we should not be surprised that it did so in different periods experiencing similar environments and experiences – particularly when the latter evolution clearly knows of and is informed of the previous one!

In addition, in term of “Republicanism,” well, along with noting that Nelson admits they rejected change by the ballot-box we can simply indicate that Proudhon and Bakunin came out of the European Republican tradition and did not aim to abolish the idea of “one-person, one-vote” within their preferred federal socio-economic self-organisation. As for the Chicago anarchists called themselves socialists… as if Bakunin and Kropotkin did not! Here is Emma Goldman stating the obvious some decades latter:

“While it is true that I am an Anarchist. I am also a Socialist. All Anarchists are Socialists, but not all Socialists are Anarchists. Anarchism is the higher form of Socialism. All Socialists who think and grow will be forced to the Anarchist conclusion. Anarchism is the inevitable goal of Socialism. We Anarchists believe in the socialisation of wealth and of land and of the means of production. But the doing away with capitalism is not a cure-all, and the substitution of the Socialistic state only means greater concentration and increase of governmental power. We believe in the revolution. The founders of Socialism believed in it. Karl Marx believed in it. All thinking Socialists of today believe in it. The political Socialists are only trimmers and they are no different from other politicians. In their mad effort to get offices they deny their birthright for a mess of pottage and sacrifice their true principles and real convictions on the polluted altar of politics.” (“Anarchists Socialists” The Agitator, 1 April 1911)

Nelson also noted that Albert Parson’s book included extracts from Marx’s economic analysis along with anarchists like Kropotkin. (161) This means little, given that Bakunin recognised the importance of Capital and its analysis. If agreeing with the idea that capital exploits workers by appropriating the surplus-value of labour then Bakunin – and Kropotkin, etc. – were all “Marxists.” Indeed, this analysis predates Marx’s Capital for Proudhon expounded a similar analysis twenty-years before – and, years before that, so did many of the so-called British “Ricardian Socialists.”

So Nelson seems to have, against his own warnings, applied the twentieth-century dictionary definitions of anarchism and socialism onto the activists of the 1880s. I say “seems” for it is left for the reader to work out what is meant by that, for the politics of Bakunin and Kropotkin are not actually defined. Perhaps just as well, for both rejected “political action” in favour of reforms and revolution by direct struggle by labour organisations – which is precisely “the Chicago Idea.” As Kropotkin noted:

“Were not our Chicago Comrades right in despising politics, and saying the struggle against robbery must be carried on in the workshop and the street, by deeds not words?” (“The Chicago Anniversary,” Freedom, December 1891)

Indeed, Goldman repeatedly referenced the Martyrs – including noting “that in this country five men had to pay with their lives because they advocated Syndicalist methods as the most effective, in the struggle of labor against capital” (Syndicalism: the Modern Menace to Capitalism)  – and Mother Earth explicitly linked itself to them twenty years after their judicial murder before arguing the following clearly “lifestyle” position:

“Bitter experience has gradually forced upon organized labor the realization that it is difficult, if not impossible, for isolated unions and trades to successfully wage war against organized capital ; for capital is organized, into national as well as international bodies, co-operating in their exploitation and oppression of labor. To be successful, therefore, modern strikes must constantly assume ever larger proportions, involving the solidaric co-operation of all the branches of an affected industry – an idea gradually gaining recognition in the trades unions. This explains the occurrence of sympathetic strikes, in which men in related industries cease work in brotherly co-operation with their striking bothers – evidences of solidarity so terrifying to the capitalistic class.

“Solidaric strikes do not represent the battle of an isolated union or trade with an individual capitalist or group of capitalists ; they are the war of the proletariat class with its organized enemy, the capitalist regime. The solidaric strike is the prologue of the General Strike.

“The modern worker has ceased to be the slave of the individual capitalist ; to-day, the capitalist class is his master. However great his occasional victories on the economic field, he still remains a wage slave. It is, therefore, not sufficient for labor unions to strive to merely lessen the pressure of the capitalistic heel ; progressive workingmen’s organizations can have but one worthy object — to achieve their full economic stature by complete emancipation from wage slavery.

“That is the true mission of trades unions. They bear the germs of a potential social revolution; aye, more – they are the factors that will fashion the system of production and distribution in the coming free society.” (“The First May and the General Strike,” Mother Earth, May 1907)

So it would seem that not only Lucy Parsons, Albert Parsons and the other Haymarket defenders were ignorant of anarchism but also Bakunin, Kropotkin… and Goldman! At least Paul Avrich knew enough about anarchism to note the following:

‘The “Chicago idea,” in its essential outlines, anticipated by some twenty years the doctrine of anarcho-syndicalism, which, in a similar way, rejected centralized authority, disdained political action, and made the union the center of revolutionary struggle as well as the nucleus of the future society. Only two notable features were lacking, sabotage and the general strike, neither of which was theoretically developed until the turn of the century. This is not to say, however, that anarcho-syndicalism originated with Parsons and his associates. As early as the 1860s and 1870s the followers of Proudhon and Bakunin were proposing the formation of workers’ councils designed both as a weapon of class struggle against the capitalists and as the structural basis for the libertarian millennium. A free federation of labor unions, Bakunin had written, would form “the living germs of the new social order, which is to replace the bourgeois world.”’ (Paul Avrich, The Haymarket Tragedy, 73)

I should note that the General Strike was raised by Bakunin, amongst others, in the First International (Marx and Engels were against it, obviously). Malatesta and Kropotkin were raising it again in 1889 onwards, as did Louise Michel who was lecturing on it in London in 1890. Talking of Louise Michel, I found this report of a lecture of hers in London as reported in New Zealand Herald, 8 November 1890, in one long paragraph:

MDLLE. LOUISE MICHEL ON THE GENERAL STRIKE.

A Meeting was held in the Athenaeum, Tottenham Court Road, on September 4, when Mdlle. Louise Michel spoke upon the “General Strikes and the Social Revolution.” Mdlle. Michel said the general strike which was imminent would in all probability be brought about. by the employers themselves. The tendency in all the methods of production was towards an increased use of machinery; in fact, so perfect was machinery becoming that more and more workmen were thrown out of employment every year and left to starve. In Paris they found a refuge in the bosom of the Seine, which told no tales; in England, the workman who was unable to obtain subsistence for himself and his family was driven into the workhouse. This state of affairs could not last. Workmen were held down by soldiers and police, but when the time came when the soldiers and police saw that the balance of power inclined to the working classes, they would at once come over to their side ; and when that happened the time would soon arrive when they would see the downfall of the capitalists. The unemployed in Paris, if they demonstrated, were shot, down; in London they had the privilege of walking about the streets in their misery. This state of things could only end in a general strike against all laws and Governments. They could not continue to be driven like animals to the slaughterhouse. They saw great magazines of food and raiment all round them, whilst they were naked and starving. What was to prevent them from going in and helping themselves? The whole of the capital of the world was getting into the hands of great financiers, who used it to exploit the workers, and this was only a gigantic system of robbery. Religion had been suggested as a means to bring a better state of affairs, but the only valuable principle and teaching in Christianity was the precept to do unto others as they would that men should do unto them, but the system of rewards and punishments, by which the teachings of Christianity were enforced, was a fatal drawback to its value as an elevating agent. Faith in the future progress of the human race was necessary for them all. Machinery was an obstacle in that progress, and should be replaced by intelligence. It was only by raising men to the higher state of intelligence that they could satisfy the growing needs of humanity. When labour was free the cultivation of the soil would be much more perfect. The fields were ready to supply all their needs if properly treated, but the present system of cultivation brutalised the workers, who reaped no benefit from their labours. The present system of government was a system of robbery by assassins, who shot down those who differed from them. It was the same in Republican France as in Monarchical England. She looked forward to the time when they could put an end to the struggle for existence now going on and bring about a true Republic – the Republic of Humanity, in which all would work together for the common good.

Two things. First, Michel talks of “a true Republic” and so reflects the same “Republican” symbolism Nelson mentions, talk which he suggests means the Chicago activists were not anarchists. Second, all this places the “standard” narrative (as repeated by Leninists) that anarchists turned to syndicalism in the mid-1890s after the failure of “propaganda by the deed” in the early 1890s. Yet this is nonsense, given the actual writings of the likes of Malatesta, Kropotkin, Michel, etc. – and the ideas and activities of Bakunin in the First International. The key date is 1889 and the London Dock Strike but here is Kropotkin from 1892 at a Martyrs commemoration:

“No one can underrate the importance of this labour movement for the coming revolution. It will be those agglomerations of wealth producers which will have to reorganise production on new social bases […] to organise the life of the nation […] and means of production. They — the labourers, grouped together — not the politicians.” (“Commemoration of the Chicago Martyrs,” Freedom, December 1892)

In terms of politics, the links with the “Chicago Idea” to anarchist politics is pretty clear – once you have a basic grasp of anarchism and its history.

Similar comments are applicable to historian James Green who, in Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America (Anchor Books, 2007), suggested that the Chicago Anarchists had “turned away from electoral competition and adopted Karl Marx’s strategy of organising workers […] building class-conscious trade unions as a basis for future political action.” (50) He repeats the claim: “they faithfully adhered to the lesson they had learned from Karl Marx: that socialism could be achieved only through the collective power of workers organised into aggressive trade unions.” (130)

Except, of course, Marx advocated no such thing. Yes, Marx supported unions but he did not think the workers movements should be based on it. Rather, he argued for the creation of workers’ parties and the use of “political action” in the shape of standing for elections. Indeed, he explicitly mocked Bakunin’s programme in 1870 for advocating the ideas Green proclaims as Marx’s:

“The working class must not occupy itself with politics. They must only organise themselves by trade-unions. One fine day, by means of the Internationale they will supplant the place of all existing states.” (Marx, Engels, Lenin, Anarchism, and Anarcho-Syndicalism, 48)

Surely Green should know that? There is a long, long history of Marxist attacks on syndicalism – social-democratic and Leninist – which echo Marx’s attack on Bakunin, namely that it ignores the need for political organisation (workers’ parties) and political action (electioneering). So if Green’s summary is correct – and in terms of their ideas, if not their source, he is – then the Chicago activists were… Bakuninists. Or, as he puts it elsewhere in his book:

“The Chicago militants thought of themselves as socialists of the anarchist type –that is, as revolutionaries who believed in liberating society from all state control, whether capitalist or socialist.” (129)

As anarchists were and are socialists, aiming for an anti-state socialism, his point is confused. In terms of individual acts of violence, it should be noted that Bakunin never advocated that. As for Kropotkin, he suggested “the spirit of revolt” as an alternative to “propaganda by the deed” and urged – in 1881 – an approach identical to that advocated by the Chicago Anarchists a few years later in a two part article entitled “Workers’ Organisation”:

“The French proletariat thus announces that it is not against one government or another that it declares war […] it is against the holders of capital […] that they wish to declare war. It is not a political party that they seek to form either: it is a party of economic struggle. It is no longer democratic reform that they demand: it is a complete economic revolution, the social revolution. […] the enemy is capital, along with all the Gambettas and the Clemenceaus from today or in the future who seek to uphold it or to serve it. The enemy is the boss, the capitalist, the financier – all the parasites who live at the expense of the rest of us and whose wealth is created from the sweat and the blood of the worker. […] The great struggle that we are preparing for is essentially economic, and so it is on the economic terrain that we should focus our activities.” (Le Révolté, 10 December 1881)

And:

“In order to be able to make revolution, the mass of workers must organise themselves, and resistance and the strike are excellent means by which workers can organise. Indeed, they have a great advantage over the tactics that are being proposed at the moment (workers’ representatives, constitution of a workers’ political party, etc.) which do not actually derail the movement but serve to keep it perpetually in thrall to its principal enemy, the capitalist. The strike and resistance funds provide the means to organise not only the socialist converts (these seek each other out and organise themselves anyway) but especially those who are not yet converted, even though they really should be. […] What is required is to build societies of resistance for each trade in each town, to create resistance funds and fight against the exploiters, to unify [solidariser] the workers’ organisations of each town and trade and to put them in contact with those of other towns, to federate across France, to federate across borders, internationally. […] We must marshal all of our efforts with the aim of creating a vast workers’ organisation to pursue this goal. The organisation of resistance [to] and war on capital must be the principal objective of the workers’ organisation, and its methods must be informed not by the pointless struggles of bourgeois politics but the struggle, by all of the means possible, against those who currently hold society’s wealth – and the strike is an excellent means of organisation and one of the most powerful weapons in the struggle.” (24 December 1881)

I guess that makes Kropotkin, like Bakunin, a Marxist?

The problem is that Nelson and Green do not define what they mean by “anarchism” or what it meant at the time (these are not automatically the same thing). Thus we get an implicit suggestion that anarchism and socialism are different things rather than anarchism being a school of socialism. Which means saying that the Chicago anarchists aimed for socialism means little – Bakunin aimed for that, as did Proudhon , Kropotkin, etc. They differed from other socialists on tactics and on what constituted a genuine socialist society – hence Kropotkin arguing social democracy would produce state-capitalism, not socialism.

In short, having an awareness of the ideas of anarchism and its development within the First International would result in a better understanding of the “Chicago Idea” – and why the Chicago militants called themselves anarchists. Instead, we get myths – myths in which Bakunin’s ideas are assigned to Marx…

The next myth relates to the International and Proudhon, as expressed by David Harvey in his Paris, capital of modernity (New York: Routledge, 2003). I know, Harvey again, but this book is of note for its contradictory nature and unwillingness to really engage with ideas and movements being discussed. It is very much informed by the Marxist myth of how the victory of “collectivism” in the International in 1868 meant the end of “Proudhonism” rather than its transformation – and it definitely did not mean the victory of Marxism.

In terms of activists, Harvey notes “the eclipse of the mutualists like Tolain and Fribourg and their replacement by communists like Varlin and Malon” (299) Yet this is extremely misleading given that the term used – “communist” – is loaded with a lot of subsequent history. In short, the reader is encouraged to conclude they were Marxists when, in reality, they were not.

Yes, the right-wing mutualists would have called both Varlin and Malon “communists” for they had both argued for the collectivisation of land along with industry. For reasons better explained by fear of a rural backlash as happened during the 1848 revolution rather than Proudhon’ actual ideas, the “mutualists” rejected extending association to land ownership (given that most land in France was worked by families, there was not much wage-labour to abolish). Varlin did call himself a “communist,” but with a significant qualification:

“The principles that we must strive to uphold are those of the almost unanimous delegates of the International at the Congress of Basel [in 1869], that is to say collectivism or non-authoritarian communism”. (James Guillaume, L’internationale: documents et souvenirs [Paris, 1905-09] I: 258).

Varlin and Malon both had contact with Bakunin before the Commune – afterwards, Malon worked with the Federalist wing against the Marxists, being expelled from the Geneva International for his troubles.

Sadly, Harvey makes no use of the standard work on Malon. For if he had, he would have discovered a radical very far from a “communist.” Thus, “all active militiants shared a great deal” and the “intellectual orientation of this collectivism was primarily Colinsian and anarchist, not Marxist” (Colins being a Belgium socialist, who influenced César de Paepe). Their “ultimate goal was a decentralised control of property, with administration by workers’ cooperatives. The majority of French militants, in short, though collectivist, still favoured a federalist structure of society.” In short, we must appreciate “how federalist and mutualist – hence a-Marxist or pre-Marxist – this collectivism was.” Malon, post-Commune, argued the International had “to avoid Jacobin and Blanquist centralisation, and to pursue a vigorous program of federalist socialism.” (K. Steven Vincent, Between Marxism and anarchism: Benoît Malon and French reformist socialism [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992], 16, 20, 40)

So definitely not Marxists, as most people would conclude by the use of the term “communist.” Ah, but perhaps I’m being unfair as Harvey earlier defined “two sorts” of communists (283), but neither Varlin nor Malon were followers of Blanc, Blanqui, Cabet and others of that type. Both were influenced by Proudhon and so were federalist socialists. If Malon in the 1880s did embrace a reformist social-democracy, it did not make him a Marxist in the 1860s.

Early Harvey admits as much, noting “most workers seem to have looked for some form of association, autogestion, or mutualism rather than centralised state control.” (154) Except, of course, mutualism advocated self-managed (autogestion) associations in production to replace wage-labour, a concept Harvey seems to have difficulties understanding. His presentation of Proudhon’s ideas starts as follows:

“Buchez […] argued for bottom-up associations of producers with the aim of freeing workers from the wage-system […] factory owners and employers were just as parasitic as the aristocracy and landowners. This idea was later taken up […] by Proudhon.” (75)

I should note that he does not reference a single book by Proudhon, but does at least reference K. Steven Vincent’s excellent Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and the Rise of French Republican Socialism. He quotes Vincent (pages 144-6) and then asserts that Proudhon “never sought to abolish the distinction between capital and labour.” (76)

This is nonsense, as shown by Vincent – for Harvey stops short of the quote provided by Vincent in which Proudhon notes “the member of the association is essentially […] wage giver and wage earner” (146) and the page following were Vincent writes “in Proudhon’s system there was no owner of the association other than the associates themselves: there was, therefore, no idle proprietaire who could appropriate profits.” (147) Likewise Harvey fails to quote Vincent on how Proudhon aimed at “abolishing the wage system” and “ushering in the regime of associations – a regime in which the exploiters of labour and the idle rich would be eliminated.” (160)

So Harvey should know better. Yet even if we do not check his reference, he does contradicts himself in the space of a few short paragraphs by going from how Proudhon took up the idea of “bottom-up associations of producers with the aim of freeing workers from the wage-system” as “factory owners and employers were just as parasitic as the aristocracy and landowners” to asserting he “never sought to abolish the distinction between capital and labour.” (75, 76) As a Marxist, he should know that abolishing wage-labour means reuniting the worker with the means of production, of abolishing the distinction between capital and labour. Proudhon was well aware of it, explicitly and repeatedly arguing for the combination of the two roles in the same people. As Harvey puts it latter:

“Cooperation and mutualism meant a new conception of workers’ democracy in the labour process, and it was to be backed by mutual credit and banking, mutual insurance and benefit societies, cooperative housing schemes, and the like.” (283)

So if association did aim to “reorganise work and reform the social relations of production” how would this be possible without “abolish[ing] the distinction between capital and labour”? (155, 76)

Harvey also suggests that “Proudhon supported private property in housing” (283) while at the same time noting “a whole wing of the workers’ movement, particularly influenced by Proudhon, [which led it] to disapprove of strikes, push for association, and confine their opposition to financiers, monopolists, landlords, and the authoritarian state rather than to private property and capital ownership.” (155) Of course, by “private property” in housing Proudhon did not mean having landlords – that was a form of property which produced theft. Nor is it clear that Proudhon favoured private property in housing – Engels suggested so, but he misrepresented Proudhon’s ideas. Sadly, Harvey presents no actual references to support his claim so we cannot confirm or refute.

Likewise, association within production automatically meant opposition to “capital ownership.” As for “private property,” Proudhon argued that individual associations would control their own affairs (in determining what they produce, how to produce it, how much to sell it for, etc.) rather than being dictated to by some central authority. It confuses two radically different things to proclaim this “private property.” As it stands, Harvey ignores Proudhon’s repeated calls for the socialisation of property.

Harvey, then, contradicts himself again. After noting how the mutualists expressed “opposition to […] landlords” (155) he then suggests that Proudhon was “in favour of individual home ownership for workers […] Proudhon’s influence was so strong that no challenge was mounted to property ownership under the Commune, when resentment against landlords was at its height.” (200) What is it? Were they opposed to landlords or not?

In terms of the Paris Commune, I doubt that the lack of a “challenge to property ownership” is best explained by Proudhon’s influence (assuming Harvey is correct!), particularly given that the majority of the Commune’s council were Jacobins. Rather, I would argue that it is better explained by the fact the council was overloaded with issues and focused on political and social issues. Even the attempt to promote co-operatives was marked by a bureaucratic mentality – the call was not to expropriate workplaces but rather to call form a commission to look into the matter:

Decree on convening workers trade councils

Journal officiel de la République française, 17 April 1871

The Paris Commune (16 April 1871)

Considering that a number of factories have been abandoned by those who were running them in order to escape civic obligations and without taking into account the interests of workers;

Considering that as a result of this cowardly desertion, many works essential to communal life find themselves disrupted, the livelihood of workers compromised.

Decreed:

Workers trade councils [chambres syndicales ouvrières] are convened to establish a commission of inquiry with the purpose:

1. To compile statistics on abandoned workshops, as well as an inventory of their condition and of the work instruments they contain.

2. To present a report on the practical requisites for the prompt restarting of these workshops, not by the deserters who abandoned them but by the co-operative association of the workers who were employed there.

3. To develop a constitution for these workers’ co-operative societies.

4. To establish an arbitration panel which shall decide, on the return of said employers, on the conditions for the permanent transfer of the workshops to the workers’ societies and on the amount of the compensation the societies shall pay the employers.

This commission of inquiry must send its report to the Communal Commission on Labour and Exchange, which will be required to present to the Commune, as soon as possible, the draft of a decree satisfying the interests of the Commune and the workers.

I translated this decree for A Libertarian Reader, but it probably will not be included – it is hardly an example of a libertarian approach even it goal is. Indeed, reading this decree you can appreciate Kropotkin’s critique of the Commune and the need for workers to “act for themselves” in taking over their workplaces rather than waiting for a commission to be convened, its investigations made, its report written, then read and – finally! – acted upon. All done before the word “prompt” can be in a position to be actioned! To include it would mean to summarise all that, so the introductory comments would be longer than the text…

I cover this in an article on the Commune which I am in the process of revising (another project which I need to get back to!) so I will leave it here.

All this is more than sloppy research – I think it shows the negative impact of Marxist myths on Proudhon, the International, the Commune, amongst others. Suffice to say, contradicting yourself in the course of a few pages is unfortunate but it does show what happens if you let ideology get in the way.

Finally, I came across this claim recently:

“Many of the left intellectuals Marx and Engels most strongly criticised had antisemitic or proto-antisemitic leanings: not just the young Hegelian Bruno Bauer, to whom Marx’s essays ‘On the Jewish Question’ were a response, but also the anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the co-operative socialist Charles Fourier, the radical philosopher Eugen Dühring, the insurrectionist socialist Louis-Auguste Blanqui, and the revolutionary anarchist and pan-Slavist, Mikhail Bakunin. Marx’s and Engels’ criticisms of these and like-minded authors were directed in part at their anti-Jewish prejudices and more especially at the political and intellectual limitations of which these prejudices were symptomatic. These critiques indicate how actively and purposefully Marx and Engels confronted anti-Judaic and antisemitic currents running through the ‘left’.” (Robert Fine and Philip Spencer, Antisemitism and the left: On the return of the Jewish question [Manchester University Press, 2017], 33)

Surely Fine and Spencer must know that this claim is nonsense? They must know that Marx and Engels made no mention of these author’s anti-Semitism when they attacked them? So, yet another myth is created – one which I am sure Fine and Spencer sincerely wish were true but for which no evidence is presented because none exists. I made a similar point before against another Marxist:

Looking at the fate of Jews in Russia, what is significant is “the total silence Marx and Engels seem to have observed, in private as well as in public,” about the anti-Jewish pogroms in Russia in the spring of 1861. While, of course, this means little, it “does suggest a significant blind spot” (along with “the stream of vituperation [of Jewish people] that runs for decades through the private correspondence of Engels and Marx”). A similar combination of public silence and private racism marks their opinions of Blacks ([Peter Fryer, “Engels: A Man of his Time”, The Condition of Britain, John Lea and Geoff Pilling (eds.)]). (A reply to Louis Proyect’s “A Marxist Critique of Bakunin”

Fryer’s account is, sadly, the accurate one of the two – having read a lot of Marx and Engels, particularly their attacks on Bakunin and Proudhon, I can state that a desire to combat anti-Semitism was not an aspect of them. Nor did Marx write much about anti-Semitism, even “On the Jewish Question” is usually quoted as being an anti-Semitic screed (“misread” or “selectively quoted,” scream Marxists – which seems poetic justice in so many ways!). Similarly, Marx made no public comment against Proudhon’s sexism (all I have found is a passing comment on “the miserable patriarchal amourous illusions of the domestic hearth” in his letter to Annenkov on System of Economic Contradictions) – Indeed, I did think about including some sexist comments by Marx in my second talk but decided against it as mostly irrelevant (the slide still exists, but in an appendix which remained unshown on the night).

Then there is the question of the article “The Russian Loan,” published in the New-York Daily Tribune on 4 January 1856. This was included by Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling in the 1897 collection Karl Marx, The Eastern Question (London, S. Sonnenschein & co., 1897) but has been excluded from the Marx-Engels Collected Works – due to its anti-Semitism. Perhaps the editors are right and Marx did not in fact write the article, but that his daughter included it must suggest that she at the very least did not think it completely at odds with what she knew of his views on the subject?

And what if he did write it? Does that mean his other contributions are nullified? Sadly, due to the standard attacks on Proudhon and Bakunin by Marxists, Marxists have painted themselves into a corner here. If they say Marx was a man of his time and occasionally expressed ideas we now reject as wrong, then they must say the same about Proudhon and Bakunin. Then they would be left with critiquing their actual ideas – or, more likely, a caricature of them or an invention – and that would be awkward for them given how right and relevant those are.

So this Marxist myth is counter-productive. Attempts to portray Marx and Engels as enlightened people expressing all the sensibilities of the late-twentieth or early twenty-first century left are simply misplaced – and historically inaccurate and unlikely, and – surely? – a violation of historical materialism? People are embedded in their times and while they can and do question aspects of the dominant culture we cannot expect them to predict every aspect of over 150 years of social development in their writings.

Thus I read Proudhon’s sexist comments and despair at his backwardness but read his 1863 defence of giving black slaves full citizenship (as they were equal members of the human race) and – along with the white proletariat – property to stop the wage-labour the republicans aimed to give them as liberty (when not seeking to transport them from the country!) and see that here he was in the vanguard of opinion. We can attack the first while still recognising his contributions to socialism.

Ultimately, attacking the personal failings of individuals gets us nowhere – it is the pathetic “likeability” factor raised during American Presidential elections. Who would be fun in the pub is not a firm basis for political decisions…

The question is whether these opinions are in contradiction to the underlying core principles and are whether they a significant aspects of their ideas – can they be removed without impact the rest of the ideas? The answer is yes to both, in the case of Proudhon’s sexism and anti-Semitism as well as Marx, Bakunin, etc. We should deplore the comments, note the palpable contradictions and seek to do better.

Ultimately, if the critique of Proudhon – or Marx! – is based on their unpleasant personal bigotries and ignore the bulk of their ideas, then its not a serious critique. Not least because it will come back to haunt you as it will, inevitably, be applied to your tradition by those with the same low standards of debate. We can see that by the numerous right-wing blogs on Marx as anti-Semite – let us hope they don’t come across Engels’ writings on unhistoric peoples

Finally, talking of Proudhon, I must note that his papers from the 1848 revolutionLe Représentant du peuple : journal des travailleurs and successors – are how available at Gallica, where they join Les Temps Nouveaux and a host of other important texts. When is the British Library going to the same for its archives? A full set of Freedom, at the very least, would be nice!

Until I blog again, be seeing you….

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When Being an Opponent of White Supremacy Means Being Not Nice

Sáb, 02/23/2019 - 21:11

via Brown Girl Magazine

by Saira Rao

“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than ‘politics.’ They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.”

These are the words of author Naomi Shulman, whose mother spent her childhood in Nazi Germany.

Nice. It’s a word I hear a lot, mostly as an instruction from white women. There are variations, of course:

“Honey attracts more bees than vinegar. Saira, think about employing a different strategy. Stop being so divisive. You’re alienating people.” (By people, they mean other nice white women.)

At first, it was confusing. How was calling out white supremacy “not nice?” Now, I’ve come to understand it.

When I am told to be nice, it means a variation of the following:
  • Shut up.
  • Stay in your lane.
  • Stop saying things that require me to self-reflect and take ownership of my own white supremacy.
  • Stop making me feel guilty.

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News Arts Music Screens Food & Drink Calendar Best Of SA Slideshows Promos + Events Subscribe Advertise Tweet Email Print Share New Worlds Man: Groundbreaking Science Fiction Author and Editor Michael Moorcock...

Sáb, 02/23/2019 - 20:54

via San Antonio Current

by Sanford Nowlin

Even if you haven’t read Michael Moorcock, you’ve likely encountered his ideas and influence in the fantastic end of the pop culture spectrum.

The gritty, morally ambiguous fantasy of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire? Moorcock went there first with his Elric sword and sorcery novels. The mashup of science fiction and rock ‘n’ roll? The dirigibles and steam-powered Victoriana of steampunk? Science fiction as literary fiction? Moorcock was hitting on all of those present literary conventions as well — and as early as the ’60s and ’70s.

Moorcock isn’t a regular at science fiction conventions, so his presence at the upcoming San Antonio Pop Con is a rare treat for local fans — an opportunity to interact with one of the grand masters who helped redefine a genre.

While the British author, who now lives part of the year in a small town east of Austin, is best known as the guy who made fantasy and SF part of ’60s counterculture, he’s never been willing to hang his hat on that alone.

Moorcock’s published more than 80 books, edited a groundbreaking science fiction magazine and, unlike a lot of his contemporaries, he didn’t just inspire lyrics for spaced-out rock bands. He directly collaborated with them, cowriting songs with Hawkwind and Blue Oyster Cult and drafting members of both to play on his own musical projects.

“In my era, almost everybody in rock ’n’ roll read science fiction,” Moorcock said during a recent interview in his home. “I could pretty much go anywhere, talk to anyone in the music business and say, ‘I like your work a lot,’ and they’d say the same back to me.’ That went for Pink Floyd very early on, Syd Barrett anyway. He said, ‘Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun’ was based on one of my books.’”

Beyond his credentials as a member of London’s psychedelic counterculture, Moorcock was also a groundbreaking editor and tastemaker. While running the British science fiction magazine New Worlds, he was among the first to publish writers that represented a more literary and experimental side of the genre, many of whom — J.G. Ballard, Brian Aldiss and Thomas Disch among them — went on to become icons.

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‘Office Space’ Is Low-Key a Masterpiece About Unionizing Your Workplace

Sáb, 02/23/2019 - 20:35

via Vice

by Stacie Williams

When Office Space premiered in 1999, I was still revolving through a series of low-stakes retail jobs on campus where I called in sick at least once a month due to a hangover-related ailment. I finally watched the cult classic a few years later with some Gen X friends who were determined to work their way up in industries that were going extinct even then. We laughed with tears in our eyes about Gary Cole’s smarm-laden request to “go ahead and come in” to work on Saturday.

The movie was spot on about so many things that remain relevant. Cubicles are the worst; women are still being reduced to their sexual desirability and ability to perform happiness on the job for the privilege of being paid less than their male counterparts; tech culture still lacks a moral center; white people are still microaggressing people of color about their names. And above all, corporate executives continue to believe that firing human beings is the only way to maximize profits.

To recap the film, Peter Gibbons—played by Ron Livingston as a breathing approximation of Marx’s theory of alienation—is unmotivated by his boring job at a tech company in one of those indistinguishable suburban office parks that’s adjacent to mid-range chain restaurants. He gets hypnotized one evening and returns to work giving even fewer fucks than ever before. He doesn’t go to work, doesn’t call in, and guts a whole fish on his desk after an impromptu fishing trip. For this he fails upward into a promotion, given by the consultants hired to lay off his co-workers. Peter and his newly unemployed friends use a computer virus to embezzle funds from the company. Mild hijinks ensue. Along the way, the audience is treated to the banality and inanity of white collar and food service work through now-memed phrases about TPS reports, a “case of the Mondays,” and counting flair. Corporate banners that could have been ripped from any number of dystopian flicks posted around the office trumpet “Is it Good for the Company?” and “Planning to Plan.” It’s the late 1990s, so racist, sexist and homophobic jokes abound, though in the present-day, those parts of the movie read less as comedy and more as matter-of-fact documentary about working in predominantly white and male environments.

Looking back on the movie today on its 20th anniversary, it’s clear that the post-WWII labor model skewered so darkly by director Mike Judge (Idiocracy, King of the Hill) was not destroyed solely by the Great Recession and Silicon Valley. Technology simply blurred the lines of pre-existing exploitation, and of work and personal space until they were indistinguishable. The increase of technological advancements into all labor sectors met weakened unions to create a perpetual state of precarity. Fewer jobs have permanence or the health insurance benefits that the Greatest Generation offered as incentive during the war to retain employees when an Executive Order froze pay raises.

Anyone with a phone or internet connection can be a brand that makes money, or join the gig economy, which promises people freedom to make money on their own time by offering up their homes or cars or personal items for use. On the other side of that, people have to use their homes or vehicles to make money, and use them a lot in order to make the kind of money that keeps food on the table. Not to mention that even when you are at rest, those apps are gathering data on you to further monetize your person and figure out what you’re more likely to buy. Also, the gig economy is rife with inhumane output expectations that can lead to serious health ramifications.

Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox

At his lowest point, Peter opines that “human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles looking at computers all day.” But in the 20 years since the movie came out, that is increasingly how human beings spend their days—sitting in front of computers, or using their phones, not just to make a living but also because it’s become an integral part of living. There exists a deep, rich irony when you consider Peter’s phrase in light of the fact that The Matrix also came out that same year. We could envision ourselves as alienated enough from our labor to flip off our boss or we could choose the blue pill and continue living in a virtual reality while AI harvests our soft, hairless bodies like human-formed Duracell batteries. The movie’s focus on Peter’s developer job and on Joanna’s (Jennifer Aniston) waitress job at the fictional TGIFridays-esque Chotchkie’s in hindsight seemed to foreshadow tech and the service industries as the jobs experiencing strong growth in an economy marked by its deep divide between the 1 percent and everyone else. One industry pays its engineers so well they have negatively altered the social ecosystems in large cities, displacing low-income workers outside of the metropolitan areas. Workers in the other industry are still lobbying elected officials to reach $15 an hour as a minimum wage.

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How to decentralize social media, according to Wikipedia’s co-founder

Sáb, 02/23/2019 - 20:03

via The Next Web

by Larry Sanger

The problem about social media is that it is centralized. Centralization empowers massive corporations and governments to steal our privacy and restrict our speech and autonomy.

What should exist are neutral, technical standards and protocols, like the standards and protocols for blogs, email, and the Web. Blockchain technology — the technology of decentralization — is perfect for this, but not strictly necessary. Such protocols would enable us to follow public feeds no matter where they are published. We would eventually have our pick of many different apps to view these feeds. We would choose our own terms, not Facebook’s or Twitter’s, for both publishing and reading.

As things are, if you want to make short public posts to the greatest number of people, you have to go to Twitter, enriching them and letting them monetize your content (and your privacy). Similarly, if you want to make it easy for friends and family to follow your more personal text and other media, you have to go to Facebook. Similarly for various other kinds of content. It just doesn’t have to be that way. We could decentralize.

This is a nice dream. But how do we make it happen?

After all, the problem about replacing the giant, abusive social media companies is that you can’t replace existing technology without making something so much more awesome that everyone will rush to try it. And the social media giants have zillions of the best programmers in the world. How can we, the little guys, possibly compete?

Well, I’ve thought of a way the open source software and blockchain communities might actually kick the legs out from under the social media giants. My proposal (briefly sketched) has five parts. The killer feature, which will bring down the giants, is (4):

1. The open data standards

Create open data standards and protocols, or probably just use adequate already-existing ones, for the feeds of posts (and threads, and other data structures) that Twitter, Facebook, etc., uses. I’m not the first to have thought of this; the W3C has worked on the problem. It’d be like RSS, but for various kinds of social media post types.

2. The publishing/storage platforms

Create reliable ways for people to publish, store, and encrypt (and keep totally secret, if they want) their posts. Such platforms would allow users to control exactly who has access to what content they want to broadcast to the world, and in what form, and they would not have to ask permission from anyone and would not be censorable. (Blockchain companies using IPFS, and in particular Everipedia, could help here and show the way; but any website could publish feeds.)

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Error 404: digital party democracy not found

Sáb, 02/23/2019 - 19:24

via ROAR magazine

by Julia Rone

n the 1960s, German student activist Rudi Dutschke put forward the concept of “the long march through the institutions,” described by Herbert Marcuse as a strategy to work “against the established institutions, while working within them.” It referred not simply to subverting existing order, but to something much more elegant: to do one’s job properly and learn how institutions work while at the same time remaining critical. In order to change the rules of the game, one first has to master it.

But as social movements’ scholar David Meyer noted, the problem is that marching through the institutions usually transforms the marchers more than the institutions.

Fifty years later, transforming radical indignation into positive change seems no less challenging. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, activists came up with a techno-utopian vision, a brave new idea about how to institutionalize, while preserving their critical impulse and democratic inclusiveness.

The solution was to radically “update” and democratize the party form itself through the use of digital media and advanced online platforms for decision making. Following the example of the Pirate Party’s Liquid Feedback software, The Five Star Movement in Italy set up its own platform called Rousseau, while Podemos in Spain created Participa.

But have these “digital parties” become really more democratic? Has “marching through the platforms” not created its own power imbalances? The Digital Party, the latest book by Paolo Gerbaudo, lecturer at King’s College London, addresses these thorny questions on the basis of 30 interviews with party insiders and experts and a comprehensive analysis of party publications.

The Greatly Exaggerated rumors of the Party’s demise

The Digital Party revisits Gerbaudo’s earlier work on power relations and the movements of the squares, some of which have now re-emerged as political parties. Entering in a productive dialogue with the recent book by della Porta et al., Movement parties against austerity, Gerbaudo analyses the rise and organizational structure of digital populist parties, including the Pirate Party in Germany and Sweden, the Five Star Movement in Italy, Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise in France and the digital campaigns of British Labour and Bernie Sanders in the US.

In times when political scientists were despairing about declining party memberships and general apathy in society, the political party made an impressive comeback in a radically transformed form. As Simon Tormey and Ramón Feenstra have shown, despite fierce criticism of party politics, 295 new political parties were registered in Spain between 2009 and 2010 alone, and this number nearly doubled in the period of countrywide protests that occurred between 2011 and 2012.

Yet it is safe to assume that, apart from people with expansive knowledge of Spanish politics, no one has even heard of most of these parties. The case is different when it comes to digital parties that managed to rise from obscurity and gain thousands of members in very short time with their particular brand of techno-populism. How did they do it?

To begin with, the rise of the digital party reflects the appearance of a new political cleavage in response to two separate and yet intertwined events: the Great Recession beginning in 2008 and the “digital revolution.” The new cleavage observed is the one between the “political and/or economic insiders” and the “connected outsiders” — the people who

though having levels of education and internet access above the average of the general population, often face serious economic hurdles, precarious working conditions, spells of unemployment, low wages and more generally a sense of alienation from the political system and its forms.

These young and educated but often broke people have found in digital parties a channel to voice their demands on digital freedoms (privacy and transparency above all), real democracy, and economic justice — demands that mainstream parties have failed to respond to and that have become the basis of digital parties’ impressive electoral success.

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Arts Organizing Lifts Oakland Teachers Strike

Sáb, 02/23/2019 - 19:07

via Common Dreams

by David Solnit

“The Power of Youth. The Power of Educators. The Power of Labor. The Power of Community. The Power of The Art Build.”
—Keith Brown, President, Oakland Education Association

“Culture is a space where we can introduce ideas, attach emotions to concrete change and win enthusiasm for our values. Art is where we can change the narrative, because it’s where people can imagine what change looks and feels like.”
—Favianna Rodriguez, one of the artist’s contributing artwork to the Oakland teachers strike.

Surrounded by a hundred teachers and supporters painting banners, screen printing fabric picket flags, and learning strike songs, Oakland teachers union president Keith Brown held a press conference announced that Oakland teachers would hold a strike vote. Every square inch of the union hall offices and parking garage was filled with people making art and singing strike songs. This is one key part of how Oakland teachers built momentum and got ready to strike. The victorious Los Angeles teachers strike last month held a similar pre-strike arts mobilization. Teacher and union arts organizer Joe Brusky says, “the art created for L.A. played a major role in winning a victory.”

For the last two months a massive #strike-ready art-making collaboration between the Oakland Education Association, local artists and a team of arts organizers has been building momentum, participation and created thousands of pieces of hand made art that has been used in public actions leading up to the strike and will be seen on the picket lines.

San Francisco Bay Area socially engaged artists Favianna Rodriguez, Micah Bazant, Miriam Stahl, Eric Norbert, Melanie Cervantes and Jesus Baraza, Kim Cosier, Emory Douglas, Claudio Martinez, Jeanette Arellano and Paul Kjelland all contributed designs to support the teachers, and teachers and students also contributed designs.

Joe together with a team of artist-organizers from Milwaukee (Kim Cosier, Nicolas Lampert, Paul Kjelland, Claudio Martinez, and Josie Osborne) started this model of ambitious large scale art builds for teachers unions. They went on to co-organize the art builds in Los Angeles and Oakland, where I was the local arts organizer working with Oakland teachers. Joe, a photo journalist, was the UTLA teachers union official photographer for the LA Strike, both documenting and pushing out images and stories on social media like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Lu Aya of the Peace Poets worked with teachers to write and train each other on strike songs.

Milwaukee art team member and artist-education Nicolas Lampert writes, “Art builds – at their core – are community building events. They produce banners, picket signs, patches, and signs for the movement, but more so they brings together teachers, students, parents, and the community in a common struggle. The OEA art build was no different and the OEA union space and their parking garage was transformed into an art build space with hundreds of people taking part, often staying for six-to-eight hour shifts or longer.”

For two decades I have been organizing arts with a range of movements—from the shutdown of the WTO in Seattle in 1999 and other global justice mobilization to the victories of the Florida farm workers of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, to the climate justice movement marches and actions– bringing the arts into the center of our organizing, education and actions. I have never seen a national union place arts at the center of the strategy to win, as the National Education Association has.

I asked Joe some questions about how this all happened and about it’s impact. Here’s what he said.

How did you start making art with teachers’ unions? What impact or use did it have for teachers’ fights?

I guess the beginning of my making art with teachers’ unions was bringing Overpass Light Brigade (after-dark visibility action using l.e.d.-lit words on signs) messages to school board meetings, but my first art build with the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association was in February, 2017. I had been to the People’s Climate March in NYC in 2014 and was in the May Day Space to see that art build. I also saw art builds in Milwaukee for the group Voces de la Frontera. I saw immediately the power of those events and I figured we could apply the idea to public education advocacy and union issues, so we organized one to build protest ephemera (art) for a series of budget hearings taking place around the state.

That art build was transformative for our union. We brought many new activists and artists into the union movement in addition to building a huge inventory of signs, posters, and banners. We activated many local artists who designed images but also started to become more involved. They started showing up to school board meetings, public hearings, and actions organized around our issues. The art was well received and we got requests from around the country to use the art and share the idea. The art traveled with the budget hearing around the state and we saw photos posted around the state of the art made in Milwaukee, so the effect was massive.

How did it come about that the NEA made art builds a major part of the support for striking teachers unions?

NEA took notice of our first MKE art build and a subsequent art build in Minneapolis, and wanted to try and replicate some of the ideas for their National Conference on Racial and Social Justice in June 2018 in Minneapolis. We painted 15 parachute banners on the conference floor over two days with participants from all over the country. NEA loved the idea and the high level of participation from conference goers. They knew they wanted to expand the idea nationally, and the L.A. strike happened to be coming up around the same time. They also noticed the buzz we created using social media around the art build — and the creation of photos from the art build could be used to generate social media content far after the event was completed. Since L.A. needed a ton of picket signs, banners, and posters, the art build idea was put to use full scale, and we’ve seen the success of that art in helping to build a successful victory for L.A. Teachers.

What role did the art build and the art play in the LA Teachers Strike victory? How does the art help win a strike?

I think the art created for L.A. played a major role in winning a victory. Nisha Sethi’s “Teachers: We Work for the People” and Ernesto Yerena’s “Stand with L.A. Teachers” both were designs created from portraits of actual California educators, which really helped humanize and personalize the fight for educators. These two images alone were visible at every action I attended. The very act of building the art together at the art build really seems to galvanize and unite those organizing on the ground. When you build the art together you want to hold the art together. The designs were able to take often very complicated education issues and made them easy to understand and sympathize with. Privatizers have purposely made the education landscape confusing, and the art produced helped make it easy to understand for all.  Another powerful component was activating local artists in the struggle. The artists who designed images may have been supporters of public education, but by producing designs they publicly staked their claim as activists fighting for change. This brought many of their followers into the fold who might otherwise never have entered the movement. The L.A. images are already iconic and will forever hold special meaning.

What is the role of photo/video documentation and social media in the arts-making and the strikes . . . your role?

An art build and the actions following never happened if they aren’t documented. Documentation is critical. I use social media to tell the story of the art build as it unfolds in real time. It’s important to capture not only the pieces produced, but the people producing them and the reason behind their efforts. These stories not only humanize those participating, but bring the art and the struggle into the view of those who might not be informed. Our documentation has also sparked interest from other groups and has captured the audience of people who might otherwise never have supported. The art build provides amazing optics that are easily digested on social media and help to build buzz around the issue or event being organized around. Not only is the union sharing the stories and the visuals, but other participants are generating their own social media and stories as well. This exponentially increases the amount of people talking about and sharing your issue.

For strikes, my role is to just capture moments and share stories that help sustain those on the line. The beauty is, the art created in the hands of those picketing tells so much of the story on their own. As a released classroom teacher working for my union, I try to tell stories from the point of view of an educator who has been in the classroom experiencing the issues we’re organizing around. This helps me when I’m interviewing or speaking to other educators. I tell them I am a teacher taking photos. They feel very comfortable taking photos or interviewing with me because they know I am one of them. It helps them let their guard down and be more real. I see my role as capturing spectacle, emotion, and joy. I want people to see my photos and feel like a part of the action. I want my photos to capture the essence of the moment but to also pull in those on the fringes waiting to be called in.  Social media must occur before, during and following an art build or strike. I’ve found the images I use live on long after they are posted. Since I put a non-commercial, attribution creative commons license on my photos, they are used far and wide by other unions, non-profits, and independent media outlets. I want to provide these groups with quality content they can use to help build wherever they are. I also tag my photos so they are easy to find on Google searches and the World Wide Web.

All photos throughout by Joe Brusky or Brooke Anderson. Some related links for this article:

Joe Brusky photos
Brooke Anderson Photos Essay: Oakland Teachers Ready to Strike
Art Build Video: Fighting to Keep Teachers in Oakland

CBS NEWS: Oakland Teachers Hold ‘Art Build’ To Make Statements Ahead Of Potential Strike

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

The post Arts Organizing Lifts Oakland Teachers Strike appeared first on Infoshop News.

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

Vie, 02/22/2019 - 01:15

via Center for a Stateless Society

by Kevin Carson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us back to the Green New Deal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 Steps to Detecting Conspiracy Theories & Bullshit

Jue, 02/21/2019 - 04:56

by Pink Panther – AWSM

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

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

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

I. Use of Vague Statistics.

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

II. Awe with Percentages.

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

III. Emotive Manipulation.

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

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

IV. The Defying of Reality.

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

There’s at least four major problems with that:

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

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

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

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

V. Ignorance of basic facts.

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

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

VI. Confusing Authority with Expertise.

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

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

VII. Playing on prejudices.

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

VIII. Treating the masses with contempt.

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

IX. The Obsession with the word “Big”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jue, 02/21/2019 - 04:46

via Anarkismo.net

by Wayne Price

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We Will Not Negotiate

Mié, 02/20/2019 - 04:36

Via Commune

by Andy Battle

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

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

Long Island City

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How the NYC Left Took on Amazon and Won

Mié, 02/20/2019 - 03:51

via Jacobin

By Liza Featherstone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Coming of age in cohousing

Mié, 02/20/2019 - 03:38

via Curbed.com

by Courtney E. Martin

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

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

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

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

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

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“It’s Eco-Socialism or Death”

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 15:09

via Jacobin

An interview with Kali Akuno

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Mystification of Voting

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 05:04

via the Fifth Estate

An Anarchist Critique

by Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AK Press & Anarchist Publishing

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 04:52

via Fifth Estate

Interview: Why We Do It

by Fifth Estate # 402, Winter 2019

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

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

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

What is anarchist publishing?

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

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

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

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

How do we do it?

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

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

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

Why do we do it?

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

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

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

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

Strengths? Weaknesses? Hopes?

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

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

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

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

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

AK Press catalog is available at akpress.org

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

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Eco-Marxism and the Green New Deal

Sáb, 02/16/2019 - 04:25

by Vaios Triantafyllou 
Truthout, February 9, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more

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What’s new with LBC – Winter 2019

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 17:11

via Little Black Cart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Delirious Momentum of the Revolt

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

For more information – The Delirious Momentum of the Revolt

At Daggers Drawn

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

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

For more information – At Daggers Drawn

Armed Joy

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

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

For more information – Armed Joy

A Project of Liberation

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

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

For more information – A Project of Liberation

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

The Totality is Incomplete

Stirner – The Unique and Its Property

From the translator’s introduction:

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

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

The Unique and Its Property

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

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

Live the anarchy. Attack!

The rest
Want to help?

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

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

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

Social Networking
Here is our dumb Twitter feed

Stupid Facebook

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

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

Jackdaw 4 out now!

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 17:08

via Anarchist Communist Group

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

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

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

Jue, 02/14/2019 - 16:30

via Black Rose Anarchist Federation

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

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

Original Link

A Public Statement on the Situation in Venezuela

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solidaridad, February 2019

Notes

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

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

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