Friday, December 30, 2011

The Fowley, MN security debate

Two good Strib editorial pieces will fill you in here (contra) and here (pro).

I'm approaching from the perspective of a political radical, a heretical marxist, and a security officer when I consider this controversial issue. That's part of my disclaimer.

And part of how my marxism has deviated from all those endlessly arguing, worthless factions is that I don't think "The State" should control everything. And I don't think the market is perfect, either. So there's that.

Personally, I applaud experimentation. Fowley is brave in examining new models of public safety. The finance sector-sponsored recession is making unique demands on our traditional institutions and until we as communities can reclaim our losses (ha! right....), we've got an opportunity to find new ways to operate. I think that's great.

It bugs me when people put their ideology before the well-being of society. It's putting the cart before the horse. Some radical lefties might say, "Worker's patrols can secure the streets." Sure, they could, like they did in the early Soviet Union and Minneapolis 1933 and plenty of other revolutionary situations. But they don't just spring up out of the ground.

I like the security industry. Security professionals can do a lot of things the regular cops just don't have time to do. Why pull out the big guns before you know if a situation warrants it? Traffic stops, parking or curfew violations, barking dogs or loud radios ... let public security handle it, save your cops for the domestic abuses and armed robberies that they're qualified for.

Any number of OWS protesters would probably agree that they'd rather have been monitored by security folks than arbitrarily brutalized by the NYPD or other baton-happy riot goons. You don't need cops at a protest until things get hairy.

Using security officers for routine, low-hazard stuff adds a layer of finesse to civilian law. If it saves over-worked cops from having to work too much overtime, and saves the city from having to pay too much overtime, that's cool. I say, let the community decide what to do about safety and security. If they get some buy-in, they're more likely to view law enforcement as a partner than an oppressor, and that's the way a community ought to run.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Blogwatch: Socialism and/or Barbarism

Watch Evan Calder Williams' influential blog Socialism and/or Barbarism "mutate" over the coming months. Must-read stuff for people serious about "making sense" of the world. Or at least conceptions of the world. I look forward to what he has in mind.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Resolutions for Radicals

2012: the last year on earth, or at least the last year before a major paradigm change, if you believe the New-Agey whackos, like some of my friends in California. Quackery aside, it's a good opportunity to look at all your cookie-cutter, consumerist New Year's resolutions and think, what can I try something new?

You'd better make some damn good resolutions this year.

Let's face it: we can be really reactionary creatures. A lot of what we do and think is really just a response to our environment and we don't question many of the underlying reasons for what we do. A radical is just a person who digs a little deeper, examines a little closer, looks for innovative ways to approach a rather mundane life.

Many people take on the small potatoes for New Years. They want to lose weight, exercise, quit smoking, read more, take a nice vacation, spend more time with the kids, get a promotion. The problem is, these resolutions are largely the vows of consumers, people's whose mindsets are bogged down in the work-eat-sleep routine of goddamn farm animals.

When the fuck are you going to stop just reacting?

When are you going to stop bleating like a sheep about your little resolutions?

When the fuck are you going to make New Years revolutions?


Well, the problem for most folks, I imagine, and yes even for most wanna-be radicals who are usually too caught up in "activism" to actually ever be effective, is they don't know where to start. A lot of people don't consider themselves "political" - and the people who do are almost entirely all assholes. In America being "political" just means being a dishonest opportunist. We want to get away from that.

So I'm making a list we can start looking at and, shockingly, working with right away. We can, believe it or not, start using existing alternatives to undermine the global power structures and their oppressive narratives. We don't have to waste time "building a movement" from scratch or waiting for social conditions to be "right." Social conditions aren't wrong; our narratives are wrong.

These resolutions will require a lot of unpacking, so to speak, and as you can probably tell I haven't had much internet access lately. So there isn't a lot of reasoning or defense. Fuck it. Endless agonizing and arguing is what brings us to impasses anyway. Take a look and decide for yourself.

Join a credit union. On November 4th, somewhere between 200,000 and 700,000 people in the US switched from a bank to a credit union as part of OWS and Bank Transfer Day. Credit unions keep consumer profits out of irresponsible financial conglomerates and help the local economy. Plus they're more accountable to their members (as opposed to customers!) and we aren't at their mercy when it comes to sneaky fees and outrageous tolls. This site should help you find one near you.

Shop at a co-op. For newby radicals, try finding a grocery co-operative near you and checking out the yummy, locally and sustainably grown foods. Most grocery co-operatives (at least here in the Twin Cities) aren't necessarily worker's co-ops but consumer co-ops (transforming shoppers from consumers to members), which is a good model for holding the institution responsible. There are other kinds of co-ops, too, if you look around; bicycle co-ops are especially valuable to cyclists and will liberate you from a dependency on cookie-cutter sports stores. The knowledge and service found in a bicycle co-op will make you better engaged with your two-wheeled tool.

Join a co-op. The real benefits come to members: profit sharing, voting rights, sharing passions with other enthusiasts. Instead of mindlessly wandering the big-box stores like a zombie, buying all your "needs" off a list like you've been programmed, roll up your sleeves and get involved in how your community institutions run. This is a great introduction to local economics - the kind that actually matter to communities and individuals.

"Co-Op City" in New York. Housing cooperatives could be really helpful in this economy....

Start a co-op.
For the truly radical. Identify a need in your community, even (or especially) one provided by big corporations. Get some friends and neighbors interested. Provide that good or service for one another and the community. All you'll need is a charter and some by-laws, maybe some start-up funds, and a lot of grit, determination, and willingness to learn. Find some resources here and here. It may seem ambitious, but co-operatives will need to form the backbone of future sustainable and democratic societies.

Start a garden. Go all-out. As a species, we've been digging in the dirt our entire history. Urban living has wrecked that for a lot of folks. Don't let it. Even if you live in the city, in an apartment or other shared living space, get your hands on some green. Herbs and other expensive meal components can be grown on a window-sill and the savings can add up. Even better, if you're really radical you can take up window-farming and make the most out whatever space you've got. Try container gardening, too. Sneak some potted plants into the common areas of your buildings - more green, living plants are proven to make more enjoyable living spaces, decreasing stress and making even the dumpiest shithole a more pleasing habitat. If you've got an actual yard, cultivate it. Share your bounty with neighbors and take the excesses to farmer's markets. Nothing undermines the greed of capitalism like sharing. Just ask Napster.

Compost. Goes hand-in-hand with gardening, and lessens your carbon footprint too. Don't rely on industrial fertilizers that wreck the global soil system. Read up on the best ways to recycle nature's materials. You might surprise yourself with how much of your waste is actually compostable and keep useful waste out of those god-awful landfills where they benefit no one and nothing.
Support a local political party. One important lesson of the Occupy movement that doesn't seem to get much discussion is how local politicians have tipped their hand. They're as in the pocket of global capital as much as our federal "representatives." Don't think third-parties and local elections are without consequence; in fact, it might just be the only way we can make some real fucking change around here. Take the local, and then state, offices in cities and important districts out of the hands of the mass parties and see how that changes the dialogue. It'll be important to have allies in office when OWS takes to the streets again next year. Plus the most influential economic policies actually happen on the state and local levels. Find someone sympathetic to your political beliefs locally, or there's always the Green Party, which could certainly use some energy and a swift kick in the pants.

This post inspired by some of the most radical thinkers in American history.

Yeah, localism. Yeah, individualism. Maybe middle-class aspirations. Or maybe working class aspirations, with the platform of historical inclusion in the middle-class. But it's movement and it's direction and that's what we need in 2012, not rebuilding the wheel or waiting for a Leninist Superman. Only dirty hands are worthy of the black and red!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

This Year's Gift To Myself

Most of my comrades support the 2nd Amendment and are thus tolerant of my frequent firearm purchasing binges. They know I can't pass up a good deal. Even if it isn't exactly practical, like two years ago when I ordered five thousand 62 gr 5.56mm bullets for my reloading bench. Turns out the box was so big it would not fit inside of my components safe. My solution was perfectly logical to other shooters- go to the range and shoot as much stored 5.56mm ammo I had so I could reload the brass with my huge stash of 5.56mm bullets. Thus the fewer the bullets, the smaller the box I need to store them in. Ergo, the new box will fit in the safe. I'm still working on that solution...
This holiday season was no exception. After two months on the front lines of The War On Christmas with my fellow Far Left conspirators, sabotaging Santa's sleigh and sodomizing various barnyard animals in nativity displays, I decided I deserved to treat myself. I was combing the local gun shops, seeing nothing special on the shelves. What? Yet another variation of the M1911? Yawn.
Elbowing my way through crowds of little bald macho dudes showing off in front of their leather faced fiftysomething girlfriends at the Glock display, I made my way towards the much less crowded surplus firearm section of the store. There were a couple of aging and overweight militia types, decked out in the latest digital camo fashion, hauling crates of ancient Mosin- Nagant rifles over to the register. I breezed past them, classifying them as Mostly Harmless.
I ignored the various overpriced AKs, ARs, H-Ks, etc. and headed for the used handgun section. Now I am sort of on the fence when it comes to the great semi- auto vs. revolver debate, but when it comes down to it there is something old- school sexy about a revolver. Sam Spade, Elliot Ness, or any other detective from the classic film noir period of the 1940s and 50s carried revolvers. Then there is the whole Zen of swinging out the cylinder and dropping another six rounds into the chambers. Hollywood has tried to make slapping a magazine ( the ignorant refer to them as " clips" ) into the butt of a semi- automatic look sexy but the hero usually squinches up his face when doing it, and appears to be in the process of pinching a loaf. It ain't the same, baby.
So back to the used revolver display. I see a Webley in pretty decent shape, and priced accordingly. Numerous Colt Police Specials- nice, but again priced well above the $500 dollar mark. I want a deal, dammit.
So then I come across some Taurus revolvers, Model of 82. Brazilian police surplus, caliber .38 Special. Holy crap, these poor guns look like they have been run over by a tank. The bluing on the barrels are worn down by holster wear. The grips looked like a bored dog had been gnawing on them. But they were priced accordingly: $ 169.00. This required a closer look.
I called the clerk over and asked to handle one of the revolvers. With one in my hand I checked the bore, the cylinder, and tested out the hammer. Everything checked out. I had to have it and bought it.
Other guys were putting layways on $1,000.00 + M1911s, the latest 9mms with 30 round magazines ( again, don't call them " clips", dummy ), or Berettas tricked out with a dozen " tacticool" items. Me, I paid in cash and walked out the door with my ugly duckling. I was shooting it on the same day I first saw it.
How did my beat up Model 82 do? It exceeded my expectations in every category. The chewed up grips fitted my hand nicely. The Model 82 is well balanced and solidly built, so its a little heavy for a revolver in .38 Special. But that keeps recoil minimal, so its a plus. The trigger pull is a little mushy, but no big deal. Double action firing is remarkably smooth. At 7 yards, three shot groups easily stayed within 2".
All in all, this was a great deal. And nothing gives me more holiday cheer than a good deal.
Merry Christmas, Comrades!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My Experience At D12 Seattle

The following is a requested re- post of a reply a comrade made to this article:

I was at the Seattle port action. I think that there is a lot of truth in this article about the role unions play, and the role of management in major actions such as this. I feel the article fails to differentiate between self- appointed managers ( approved by either individual groups or no one ) and that managers that were elected/ approved by GA's for specific roles ( such as peace and safety ). It is important for revolutionaries to note that whenever you have an action as large as this there will be some sort of management system on some kind of level. The real question should be what role those managers have, what is the LIMIT TO THEIR AUTHORITY, and what is their mission statement. Those managers who attempted to co- opt, or limit the scope of the shut down failed, but I think those are the managers that the article is targeting.
This brings me to an interesting point that I would really like to discuss. We are now observing and analyzing the polarity of this struggle- and that is not necessarily a bad thing, or a new thing. The polarity of this struggle is primarily between the reformists, and the revolutionaries. The hard- line reformists on the one hand work for the bourgeoisie ( ruling class ), while the hard- line revolutionaries work against capital and for the proletariat ( working class ). Now here is the issue- we have a highly decentralized collective of revolutionary networks in America. Revolutionary Anarchists ( because some self- described anarchists are reformists or lifestyle-ists ) don't work with Marxists ( except when they are concerned with immediate survival ), and Marxists don't work with each other ( ISO, FSP, SA, RCP, CVO, non- aligned, etc. ). This sectarianism on the revolutionary front weakens it, and allows the reformists to use divide and conquer strategies to throw a wedge between those who know what is going on, and the undecided workers. This also weakens the revolutionary pole, which aids the reformists in the information war ( bringing undecided workers to their side ).
I felt the greatest strength of the port shutdown in Seattle was that revolutionaries came together to shutdown Gate 18 ( where the shit went down at ). The reformist liberals stayed in the safer yellow and green zones. We created a 5' barricade, and adjusted that barricade to meet our needs against the cops. While many of us were pepper sprayed and hit by bicycles, we were able to limit that police violence through our collective cooperation. This is really important because the Seattle protesters that came to shut down the ports were not a very large group ( considering the scope of the work ). Overcoming sectarianism is what allowed the revolutionary left to maintain that shutdown- and I have never seen the cops so frightened in my life.
Now which pole do the Trade Union Bureaucrats ( TUBS ) belong to? They belong to the reformist pole. They have a history of funneling the vote of their membership into the Democratic Party. Does that mean unions are worthless institutions? Hardly. Many of the key infrastructure on the coastlines and in the north are maintained and run by union workers. The hard truth of the matter is that they will be integral to the success of any revolution in America. I am against the notion of alienating the unions and working without them- however I do think it is important that we recognize the difference between union bureaucrats and union rank- and- file. Anarchists, in my opinion, have had trouble with this differentiation, and as a union member, it bothers me. I feel that this is a critical part of understanding where unions are why they are there. The institutions  have become reformist because of the points laid out in the article regarding Taft- Hartley, but also because the TUBS have become comfortable in their positions. They are the reason that unions have moved away from the paradigm of class struggle and into a paradigm of capital- labor cooperation. I am not as pessimistic about unions, and I think we should be trying to provide outreach to their rank- and- file, but we should ignore the reformist protest of their leadership. The TUBS will plea that we ignored a democratic union, but many unions are democratic at only a local level.
Differentiating the rank- and- file and the TUBS is critical! There were many union members at the shut down who supported it wholeheartedly!
I feel the article did a great job outlining the importance of the non- union workers, but also did a great job of  explaining why we must hold our ground and not give in during major direct actions such as D12 regardless of who wants to cross.
Sectarianism Is A Cancer.

Back to my experience at Gate 18, which should be a subject on the minds of every revolutionary who participated in the shutdown. Sectarianism is destroying the revolutionary left, and only serves the bourgeoisie. We need to build bridges between the revolutionary sects on both ends of the Marxist- Anarchist aisle. Currently the strategy for Anarchists and these various Marxist groups is to build walls against each other. The Anarchists are building a wall, and the ISO, SA, RCP, etc are building walls. This strategy is " whoever builds the highest, strongest wall will be the victor of the revolution !" Unfortunately history has shown that this strategy is a bust, and that it allows the bourgeoisie to easily rip us apart. All of these groups have been failures for the past fifty years in creating a revolution ( I am using fifty years because of McCarthyism ). All sectarianism has created is a handful of weak cargo cults who think they are better than each other.
How Do We Overcome Sectarianism?

cultish dogma and open that up for a debate and discussion. There are a ton of unanswered questions of previous revolutions that every group has tried to answer but failed. No one has the answer to everything regarding a revolution, and my evidence is the fifty years of failure in the United States. I have meet individuals in every organization that wish to address the problem of sectarianism. We need to network with these individuals so that we can overcome our differences. We also need to be willing to have our dogma and theory poked and prodded at so that we can improve upon it. This will not be pretty- it will be ugly, it will hurt feelings, and it will smash egos. It will also likely destroy or radically change many of these sects since their survival relies on secrecy, avoidance of criticism, internalized discussion, dogma, and a blockade of debate and communication with other revolutionaries. As revolutionaries, we will have to re- visit the age old debates of the State, democracy, consensus, bureaucracy, management, and the shortcomings of the Russian Revolution.
I have created a Facebook page to help build this network here:

I hope that you all will build the networking sites needed or Facebook pages to network revolutionaries in your respective districts.
I consider Anarchists and Marxists as comrades and i am open to any comments, discourse, concerns, suggestions, questions, or proposals. Please use the FB page so that we may get started.
I also recommend a review of Ben Seattle's strong polemics regarding sectarianism and Party building.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Presidential Selection of 2012

No, that is not a typo in the title. That is a more accurate description of our current political process, particularly of the presidential contest, than the sappy bullshit about our Republic you hear Ken Burns or other amateur historians spouting. The candidates are selected for us by the elite and then we chose between the Democratic and Republican wings of the Property Party.
Whether the GOP finally decides on Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney is a small matter ( the other contenders having been displaced by the inevitable winnowing process as big money throws its weight behind those candidates who can talk right- wing crazy on cue but who won't actually rock the boat too much ). Never in the history of American politics have the two parties been closer in their ideologies. Contrary to what the few remaining true believers in Obama think, bombs do not magically stop killing people just because the guy in the White House as a ( D ) after his last name. The very same liberal democrats who took to the streets to protest Bush's War suddenly fell silent on the subject once their hero assumed power. And Obama's political foes in the GOP do not question the President's drone campaign in Central Asia on moral grounds, but in terms of how much more tons of high explosives those drones would drop if they were President.
Civil rights? The Obama administration took over the continuing erosion of the rule of law from that of George W. Bush without missing a beat. The National Defense Authorization Act now makes it legal for the U.S. Military to arrest American citizens overseas or in their own homeland. Goodbye, Posse Comitatus Act. Again, the GOP candidates do not criticize the actual destruction of our rights as U.S. citizens. Their complaint is that the President is not throwing more people in jail.
Both the President and the Republican candidates agree on the fact that Capital must be dominant over Labor. Again, it is a matter of degree. The Democrat must make promises to organized labor and throw a few scraps to the workers now and then. Of course the promises to the Unions can be ignored until the next election cycle comes up ( remember the Employee Free Choice Act ? ) and workers can be distracted by minor cuts in payroll taxes while our Democratic President quietly praises indentured servitude programs like Georgia Works. The Republican candidates have it easier- they do not have to pretend they are a friend of the working class. Their solution to unemployment is to build more prisons.
" Why am I voting for Obama? Two words: Newt Gingrich ( or Mitt Romney )." With President Obama sounding like Ronald Reagan and Newt Gingrich sounding like, well, Newt Gingrich, even the standard shitty reason of Democrat diehards to vote for their idol falls flat. More and more people are waking up to the fact that the Two- Party system is a pretty crappy form of representative government that is unresponsive to the needs of 99% of its citizens.
The rallying cry of America's workers for the upcoming Occupy campaigns in the spring should be simple: We Deserve Better.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nationalism, Political Parties, and Team Sports

Since the Obama Administration has continued renditions (and has since the new administration was barely a month old), CIA black ops secret prisons (there's one in Somalia now), the extrajudicial assassination of American citizens, wars public and secret throughout the globe, GPS tracking of American citizens, and all the other worst abuses of the Bush Administration, dedicated Democrat Party loyalists have been forced to either abandon their team or give in to their baser impulses and change their ideology to support their team. In other words, many Democrats, in Congress and in the public at large, have rediscovered their inner neoconservative. But don't tell them this. See, "neoconservative" is a word associated with the Enemy, their opposing Team, and as such is an object of hatred.

In George Orwell's 1945 "Notes on Nationalism", he wrote of nationalists:
All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

To put it more simply, it's not the action that matters, but the team that does the action. Political parties in our binary political system are as meaningless as a college football team, and the rivalries between groups are identical in their pointlessness.

If you live in a college town, like Columbus Ohio or Oklahoma City, you see this mindless fanaticism from team fans (short for fanatic) all the time. In "Buckeye" country, the blue and gold of their Michigan rivals are hated and reviled. It's only scarlet and gray here, thank you very much! Both teams just play football. Big fucking deal, right? And yet, there's a sense of moral righteousness in one team's support, and their opposition to the other team. People will be genuinely outraged if you wear the wrong colors. Fights may even start. For what?

The Democrat and Republican parties, especially over the last couple decades, have been different in word, but not significantly different in deed. During the 8 years of Bush, these deeds were associated with Republicans, and neo-conservatives. Those are on the opposing team, so members of the Democrat team opposed it. Now the Obama administration continues and expands what the Bush administration did. But the current administration is a Democrat administration, so for a member or supporter of the Democrat team they must oppose anything that challenges the Democrat administration, and they must support anything done by the Democrat administration. If it was a Republican administration, as members of the Democrat team they would oppose it.

You can see this in how members of the Republican team opposed Democrat military intervention in Libya. Obama has been a conservative in nearly all his actions, has been since the beginning, and yet the "conservative" team members still complain, and the "liberal" team members still support him. Not because of the actions themselves, but because of the team undertaking those actions. The actions don't objectively matter, what matters is Team. If you try to explain this to a member of the Republican/conservative team, or to a member of the Democrat/liberal team, they will just shut down. Or they will get very angry. They hate to have this sort of thing pointed out to them. Objective thought is impossible. Team is all.

For a related comparison, look at the reaction to that coach at Penn State, who covered up the rape of children, and was forced to resign. There were riots, not because children were being raped (which I would consider an excellent reason to riot), but because the coach that turned a blind eye to it was being forced to resign. All the anger and hatred of the fan(atic)s was directed not at the rightful target (child rapists and their defenders) but at the people in the media and at the college who dared to reveal this and demand accountability for it. Classic nationalism, it is not the objectionable act they oppose, but the revelation of that objectionable act and the associated discredit it brings upon the object of their worship.

With college teams, their coaches are looked at as being the team. Attacks on the coach are attacks on the Team. With national politics, the president is looked at as being the embodiment of the team, the political party. A verbal attack on the president and his actions is considered an attack on the Team, and this cannot be allowed to stand by the team's supporters.

If we can't get past our slavery to team politics in our country, we'll never be able to make any progess. Instead we'll continue dancing like puppets on the strings of the people who control both parties. They're able to do whatever they want, and the team supporters back it or oppose it depending on which team is committing the actions this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

O Verdugo!

American Public Media's segment Marketplace has been running stories on my hometown of San Bernardino and the Inland Empire region all week. Every morning I drive into work listening to NPR and feel my heartstrings ache to hear stories about "Verdugo" (as the thugs call it) and Rialto, where I lived on my own and first organized as a socialist. 17% unemployment, epidemic-level foreclosures, businesses shutting down and boarding up.

Today's article in particular hit me hard because it was an issue my friends and I noticed and discussed a lot in political terms. Why is the area so religious? Why is it so conservative? Along with crime and drugs and alcohol abuse, pollution and traffic and apathy, the religious thing colors the IE with crayons of nihilism. This community seems nigh suicidal.

So I had to write a comment, and I'm reproducing it below:

I spent the first 25 years of my life growing up in San Bernardino. I had to move to Minneapolis, Minnesota with internet friends to get a real job, even after 4 years of college. This was just ~before~ the recession hit - the economy in the Inland Empire is nothing short of abominable. I was always disappointed when members of the community turned towards religion in times of hardship. It's a rather conservative area and voted Republican for as long as I was conscious of politics. Republican strategy seemed to strangle the Inland Empire, and the Democratic Party - disorganized, no message, Republican-lite when it gathered influence at all - hardly bothers with the area.

Having blinded themselves to politics, never banding together in an economic sense, struggling with poisonously high real estate costs ... and then to turn to religion? It never failed to look like escapism to me. The same with the meth epidemic, or the rampant alcoholism. I don't generally have a problem with Christianity, and I especially appreciate it when churches provide services to the poor - services gutted from county, state, and federal levels of government. But the brainwashing makes me uneasy, as do the homophobia and oppression of women and the, yes, racism - not all churches accept blacks and Latinos.

Even as an aid to the poor, these churches only address the symptoms, not the disease. The real disease is an economy that systematically keeps down the poor. Prison rates in the IE are huge. Gangs are a problem because there are no concrete, constructive alternatives. The school system is a wreck. No churches can possibly alleviate all the conditions that cause these problems. The region needs good jobs that pay a living wage and keep cash in the local economy rather than sending it to faraway home offices and Wall Street as profits and investments for the few. Sadly, until then all churches can provide is an sedative for the groaning, pained residents living in this post-industrial wasteland I'm pained to call my home town.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

OWS evicted from Zucotti - not over yet

Thank you for the invitation. I give you, a post!
OWS was evicted in the dead of night early 11/15. I can't imagine who thought it would be a good idea. From Twitter:
" 'NYPD Counter Terrorism' unit sent in. Unfuckingbelievable when the terrorists are @ Goldman Sachs."
"#OWS RT @NewYorkObserver: Here with credentialed photogs from NYT, WSJ and Reuters they're also being barred from #occupywallstreet"
"Isn't it against the law for the NYPD to bar credentialed press from entry to Zuccotti and #occupywallstreet? What are they trying to hide?"
"#OWS NYPD breaking domestic and international laws right now. livestreams: 1. 2."
"Watching NYPD laugh as they tear up the library. This is like Fahrenheit 451. Or Clockwork Orange. #ows ... t-by-nypd/"
‎"@wilw @occupywallst BBC reporting NYPD barred press from observing. Reporter quoted saying "I'm Press", Officer: "Not tonight"."
"FRONT PAGE of the @nytimes using the #OccupyWallStreet livestream as media is denied entry into Zuccotti Park #OWS"
"Residents near Zuccotti Park not being allowed out of building to watch; NYPD telling doormen to lock up, per reporter Melissa Russo."
"NYPD has closed the airspace above the park to prevent news helicopters from filming them. It's an unprecedented violation of free press."

Capital has used their mercenary arm to remove the inconvenience in Zucotti Park, the nexus of the OWS movement. They are, perhaps, under some illusion that this will be the end. Clearly they are not inhabiting the same reality as the rest of us. You do not kill a story about the fascist takeover of our economic and political process with a fascist takeover, particularly when you go out of your way to violate Constitutional rights.

You see, there's an ever bigger fuck-up in all this than the jackbooted thugs themselves, and that's the barring of the news media from covering it. Who the hell thought that would work? The NYPD seems to think they can boldly restrict information and cover up major actions and nobody will notice. They think they can kill a story just by blocking news coverage of it. That's a bold violation of Freedom of the Press, and corrupt though they may be you can be certain the Press in NYC will notice and react. On top of that, smartphones were on hand, and in hours the activities of the fascist army of Capital will be all over the internet in video and picture form. They will also be all over the traditional media, because the media won't have its own materials and will instead be going to the "citizen journalists".

So then, if the goal was to kill OWS and end public opposition to private ownership of our government, this eviction will be a massive failure. That should not be a surprise. Every time Capital has reacted to the existence of opposition to it, they have overreacted. I don't think they can help it. I don't think they know how to have a measured and reasonable response to opposition, perhaps because it has been so long since they truly faced any.

Capital should have called up their old puppet George W for some advice. When people were protesting his ridiculous and costly illegal war in Iraq, he just ignored them. When Cindy Sheehan was occupying space along a road near Bush's ranch in Texas, he just ignored them. And for the most part it worked. Bush was able to stay in Iraq, funnelling contracts to his buddies in the defense industry, until he left office. Obama, himself an ally of Capital and the 1% (populist costuming to the contrary), was able to use opposition to the war to get himself elected. Then he started another war, kept Gitmo open, and expanded a pattern of illegal drone-based assassinations (lately even of minors and US citizens), but that's neither here nor there.

Point being, the only way for Capital to fight a movement like this, the only way that will ever succeed, is to ignore it. Period. If you mention it at all, decry them as whining kids, and leave it at that. Of course, I wholeheartedly support OWS and the Occupy events and camps throughout the country. I only provide the method of the movement's defeat because of my absolute certainty that this method will not be used by the forces of Capital. They can't. It's not something they are capable of doing, restraint is not a word in their vocabulary.

Instead we will see the mercenary police forces (and when they receive massive donations from Capital and ignore the will of the public to carry out the will of Capital, could they be described as anything other than mercenaries?) continue to overreach. They will continue to trample Constitutional rights. They will continue to react disproportionate to the situation. And in return, the movement will continue to grow. Like steel tempered by blows, the resistance will make it stronger. It may even come to a revolution.

Now, I mention constitutional rights not because I think there's an mystical sacred significance to the document, but because most Americans do, and most Americans are under the illusion that it means a damn. It's easy to believe you have freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, when nobody is trying to remove these freedoms from you. What Capital is doing is they are dispelling the notion in the mind of the public that the public actually possesses these freedoms in anything other than name. But when you provide the public with clear physical evidence that they do not have freedom, you make the condition ripe for a revolution to gain the freedoms we've been told we have.

I can think of few moves worse for Capital to have made than to boldly attack the freedom of the Press as they did in Zucotti last night.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Thoughts from Camus on Rebellion

Karl Marx isn't the "only" "great thinker" worth reading. For those of us who want to have a diversified theoretical toolbox for our interaction with the world, it helps to sift through the whole of human history and pick the seeds with the most vigor to take root in one's life. (Contrast this with the niche writing produced by microsects around the world, these hard and mostly barren clusters of stagnant thought, which cannot make the proper connections with mainstream culture but try anyway to co-opt or influence popular movements....)

It is impossible for any one philosopher or school of thought to sum up the whole of human experience and prescribe a program for operation. It's entirely necessary, however, to venture some sort of guess about what's going on. But even with the homogenizing effects of globalization, thinkers run the risk of over-simplifying complicated interactions. This is the lesson we the revolutionaries of the 21st century learn from post-modernism: that no single thought is ever entirely accurate, that no one philosophy can address all the factors in play, that any number and variations of paradigms can operate simultaneously within the social environment.

So after some time of laying off the political writings, I've recently turned to Albert Camus and his philosophical examination of different types and movements of dissent, a frayed old book entitled The Rebel. Written in 1951, The Rebel takes a good hard look at many thinkers who are still relevant to - and studied by - us today. Many, like Nietzsche and de Sade, are tarnished by reputation and still discouragingly misunderstood by our contemporaries.

The point of this post is not to discuss the ideas, but to encourage my readers to pick up this obscured essay in light of recent developments in the United States. So then, for your consideration, a condensed quotation from Camus, and a picture from the news that rocked California and the #Occupation movements Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Analysis of rebellion leads at least to the suspicion that, contrary to the postulates of contemporary thought, a human nature does exist, as the Greeks believed. Why rebel if there is nothing permanent in oneself worth preserving? It is for the sake of everyone in the world that the slave asserts himself when he comes to the conclusion that a command has infringed on something in him which does not belong to him alone, but which is common ground where all men - even the man who insults and oppresses him - have a natural community....

[A]n act of rebellion is not, essentially, an egoist act.... Moreover, the rebel - once he has accepted the motives and at the moment of his greatest impetus - preserves nothing in that he risks everything. He demands respect for himself, of course, but only insofar as he identifies himself with a natural community.

Then we note that rebellion does not arise only, and necessarily, among the oppressed, but that it can also be caused by the mere spectacle of oppression of which someone else is the victim. In such cases there is a feeling of identification with another individual.... Therefore the individual is not, in himself alone, the embodiment of the values he wishes to defend. It needs all humanity, at least, to comprise them. When he rebels, a man defines himself with other men and so surpasses himself, and from this point of view human solidarity is metaphysical.

I rebel - therefore we exist.
- Camus, from "The Rebel"

Protesters struggle to get a woman in a wheelchair away from the teargas and rubber bullets at #occupyoakland, 10/26/2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Victory Without Demands

Within the spectrum of thoughts that take #OWS seriously there are two prominent currents creating a discussion I enjoy. The question is over whether or not a movement can be "successful" with a "tactic" of "no demands." One current of thought points to Occupy California, which issued no concrete demands at first (statement) and, at least temporarily, seemed to end in "defeat"; ie, not a lot of institutional gains appear to have been made.

The other opinion on this subject looks at absence of these tactics as a positive, or at least inevitable, aspect of the movement. This is the side towards which I lean. I wasn't a part of Occupy California, and only watched at a distance from here in Minnesota where a similar campaign (opposed to budget cuts, etc.) generated virtually zero publicity (statement from one of the participating groups here). It had clearer demands, such as a moratorium on tuition hikes (if memory serves me correctly). But it didn't go anywhere. Last year around this time, a march around the Loring Park neighborhood with a hip-hop show featuring Guante (an artist I admire and respect a lot) was energetically attended and yet made zero lasting splash.

This dog has done more for "the movement" than that march in Oct 2010 (not pictured).

All across the country for decades, grassroots activists have been building their protests and vocalizing their demands. Even the biggest demonstrations - such as those against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or for LGBTQ rights - have been ludicrously slow in gaining attention in the media, much less institutional traction. We have, in fact, seen a decade or more of entrenched corporate politicrats ramrodding their own agendas through the federal government. One reason Obama was able to win by such a large margin in the '08 elections is that he spoke, however abstractly, to the very concrete and diverse hopes of tens of millions of people: an end to war and torture, the beginning of new health and jobs reforms. But he only passed half-measures watered down by Republicans and remained faithful to the cash ambitions of corporations and Wall Street.

We should all know what happens to a dream deferred - and if we didn't already, we see it now - and it is not in fact one dream, which is the agenda of the totalitarian clique - it is many dreams, myriad dreams. A collective and participatory dream.

People who try to "draw valuable lessons from history" often end up dismissing old methods by insisting "they didn't work" at x, y, or z period. There is an almost lazy ignorance of the role of material conditions and changes in society. As Nietzsche put it, "The historian looks backward; eventually he also believes backward." If we're serious about fidelity to realism, in opposition to idealism and denial of the life experience, we can't get hung up on terms like victory and defeat. We need to foster the growth of movements that liberate our human potential. That means understanding very well the causes and conditions under which they operate.

You have to recognize that #OWS doesn't just represent a shared emotion, isn't just another protest, isn't just going to go away. It's a trend in our social arrangements. It's a product of the interaction of complicated factors. Its persistence - it's flourish and contagion in even just a few weeks - is indication of a new watershed. A deep and lasting change in how the global citizen sees the world.

New York City, Capital of the World that was, birthplace of the world to come?

This is the cutting edge of the folks who no longer accept the debate as it has been inherited. For the occupiers it isn't about debt and taxes, safety nets and healthcare and retirement benefits. This is the language of the bourgeoisie, of the middle class, of the bought-off proletariat that fought hard and settled for being included/deluded/diluted in the American Dream. Some of these words can still be found in the signs and rhetoric, but they are dying off like desiccated branches. They begin to taste like ash. The occupation, seated at the edge of a new experience, gropes in the dark for new props, new signs, new words to explain what will be next.

We build the old from the new. Boil, distill, mix ... human is the alembic.

There is no guarantee they will be "successful." Of course not: history takes dictation from no one. That's the fundamental downfall of totalitarian thinking! There is no such thing as "summing up," no such thing as "the final word." (Because life is beautiful.) But every morning that you wake up and you have the option of wandering over to a public space occupation and picking up a book from a book tent and sitting and listening to a drum circle, or reading Vonnegut on a bench, or drinking free coffee from a small business that proactively supports free speech and democracy, or can have a civil conversation with an environmentalist, or an anarchist, or an End the Fed advocate, and feel calm and at ease and thrilled by a deeply social satisfaction - some instinct in us unfed by the privatization of public space - that is the thrill of life. Of living. Of experiencing humanness differently than advertised or advocated or inherited.

If we need to redefine "victory" in order to overcome the limitations of the term, then we can say every day where and when there is an occupation, there is something of the old victory, and something of the new. Who can say how long it will last?

But the real question you should ask is, you detractors and/or critics and/or skeptics, is this: what will make these people go home? Now that they've come together and learned just how widespread and interlinked their net of oppression is - now that they've seen an entirely new arrangement is possible - how could they possibly ever stop?

A sentiment that may be finding its conditions ripe, for once.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Defense of the Security Industry/Field/Function

Since Friday, I have visited Occupy Minnesota several times and slept on the lawn of the People's Plaza once. I'm planning a much more detailed account of my experiences there, one that a blog cannot encompass, but one part of the discussion at last night's general assembly touched on my own field of work: safety and security.

As gossip tells it, the occupation movement is "disorganized." I would rather describe it as "dynamically organized," as each person gives input and discussion sets policy, always open to revision. Currently this structure is proving very adaptable and inclusive. A lot of ground work and precedent is being set right now. And of course we have a tendency to criticize new endeavors, and a healthy dose of that is good, very good. So last night the general assembly discussed a case in which the role of the security working group was examined.

I had not heard the rumors, but someone was kind enough to explain to 50 or so attendees what had happened. The previous night, a group of people decided to split off from the occupation with an impromptu march. In the course of the march, a smaller group of people fell behind. At one point some young gentlemen got off a bus and proceeded to beat up an old man and mug a young girl. It isn't clear what condition these folks are in now, or whether or not the attack was politically motivated, or if the police or downtown security did or can do anything about it.

It caused quite a bit of debate. The occupation has an internal team of people, ostensibly all volunteers, to make sure conduct in the People's Plaza remains safe. What exactly they do, I don't know - I heard nothing about this except the call on Twitter for some volunteers, preferably people with security experience. And although I'm now officially on the record as both an occupier and a security guard, I wasn't feeling particularly moved to answer that call. (First of all, I'm actually a "Certified Protection Officer," thank-you-very-much, although the term "guard" has a historical appeal that resonates with me.) Mostly that's because I can't spend all my days at the occupation - unfortunately - so I don't want to have responsibilities that carry outside of the limited time I have there.

The guards of Ashurbanipal, an Assyrian king. Alabaster relief, ca. 645 BCE. Security is an ancient and honorable responsibility.

But listening to people debate the role of the security working group really raised some questions about the industry and how it relates to society as a whole. Some of the more decentralization-minded folks (whom the media would likely broadbrush as "anarchists") have legitimate and vocal concerns about authoritarianism. When one facilitator suggested that no marches leave the plaza without some security escort the phrase "slippery slope" immediately came up. No one wants their spontaneous actions to be babysat. But nobody wants our activists to get the snot kicked out of them, or be too intimidated to participate, either.

"Slippery slope" is often used in a way that bypasses spectrum thinking and reinforces all-or-nothing dichotomies - and I think this is such a case. Behavior cannot be split neatly into "fascism" on one hand and "freedom" on the other. Just as we cannot divide up our experiences neatly into "privilege" and "oppression."

"If I had more time and could speak," my fiancee said to me afterwards, "I would have told them that walking alone downtown at night is different for me than it is for them. They need to check their privilege."

We were of course short on time. In the end, the facilitator (who did a good job with the meeting on the whole, I must say) made us aware of the issue and then dropped it. Essentially this leaves everyone to make their own decisions but doesn't raise the security-consciousness of the occupation. If anything, it is dangerously dismissive. This would be a prime opportunity for a teach-in, covering de-escalation (which every activist should have in their tool belt, IMHO) and personal safety. Self-defense lessons could be invaluable, too.

Call me a starry-eyed hippy, but I believe everyone is more or less capable of engaging in the kind of critical thinking necessary for security. Some people may be more vigilant than others, or more charismatic (which could help in de-escalation) or may have just plain more experience. But, as my fiancee once again put it succinctly, it's really a matter of cost-benefit analysis. If you leave the encampment and go out into the (sometimes dimly lit) streets of Minneapolis, you run risks considerably different than if you're in your sleeping bag among your fellow activists. The People's Plaza works because folks trust each other. I find that inspiring. But you do run the risk of getting in a shouting match with other impassioned people who happen to disagree with you, and you run the risk of being held liable if others make bad mistakes and cross the police. So, you know, all our behavior is a matter of cost-benefit analysis on some level or another. It's just not that everybody sees it that way.

So that is one function of security I strongly endorse - the raising of awareness. If you or a group of your friends want to do something risky outside of the plaza, liability falls on y'all. I feel like it is the responsibility of the collective to provide both training to the members as well as specialized members for escorts to meet the safety needs of the individuals and groups who require those services. But it shouldn't be mandatory; adults must be allowed adult freedoms.

The fresh look this gives me on my own field of work in the capitalist system is significant.

Education and protection services provided by security are useful in any society, no matter the complexity or level of industrial development. In a decentralized community, every member has a responsibility for their own safety and the safety of the collective. It's a foolish and unfair bourgeois conceit that any given member be treated as a representative or "unofficial leader" of an avowedly leaderless movement, an experiment in direct democracy, a horizontal organization. The only reason to put a single face on such a movement is to make targets, martyrs, to diffuse collective thought and united action. This is why a more successful and mature occupation should probably cycle members through all working groups, including security working groups. Everyone ought to have some taste of each job as well as receiving daily updates from all other working groups. Only then will everyone have an appreciation of exactly what security (and other) challenges face the individuals and the occupation.

This is one of the advantages of the horizontally organized community: the direct sharing of knowledge. Unlike government, academia, and business, all members of a collective share their information as freely as possible. If everyone hoists a part of the work, it is more fulfilling to our humanity than working the same repetitive drudgework day in and day out. For almost 100 years we had our days divided into three segments, one for work, one for recreation, and one for sleep. That informal social contract has informally expired: work now follows us home through technology, and involuntary furloughs and temp work makes our livelihood much more precarious. (Labor arrangements that provide alternatives to hourly wage have yet to be fully explored; take the initiative yourself!)

Likewise, the social need for security - like the need for sanitation, socialization, civic participation, education, and rest - extends beyond the conventional workday. Industrial and federal bureaucracies expand to deepen the management of these needs at many removes from general society. But neither this society or its constituents can continue to function under increasing structural and mental stress.

"What? You need me to come again? I feel like I just left!!"

Despite the tangential nature of this discussion, I hope I've made the structural implications of the security/direct democracy dynamic more clear, if for nothing else than to exercise and clarify our critical thinking. A community that does not take its security concerns seriously and incorporate it in all aspects of its functioning will continue to run into adversities that impede its expansion and evolution. In short, if the embryos of these occupation movements do not develop responsible safety ethics relative to their own needs, the social environment will abort them and resist their re-establishment until future catastrophes.

The function of security often carries with it a hint of authoritarianism to folks whose prime concern is liberty and democracy. It needn't. Like all the other functions of institutions, it can, with enough mindfulness on the part of collective associates, be effectively distributed in a fair manner. Like many other fields, it needn't be the exclusive domain of trained "professionals," but instead part of human development in a free-affiliating society with voluntary and negotiated division of labor.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our One Demand: *Everything*

Revolution is ballet on the back of a bull.

It's been far too long, and it is far too late past our naivete to presume we can make some totalitarian summary of what has occurred since the Arab Spring.

With no more or less than that hesitation, the pause of someone who has not commented on the game despite watching closely for a summer - and most of an autumn - I turn my analysis towards Occupy Wall Street, the populist movement that has grown from a dozen protesters in Zuccotti Park to a swarm of tens of thousands in New York and thousands more in over 70 cities in the nation and the world.

It is, of course, a direct employment of the same tactics used to bring down Ben Ali and Mubarak, the same tactics leveled in the tilt against (a medievally entrenched) Gadhaffi, against the tyrants of Bahrain and Syria and Yemen and Iran. For different reasons, not all of them have "succeeded," at least as far as having their demands met.

And a lot of U.S. critics are especially derisive of #OWS because their demands seem nebulous, without realizing that this is a manifested symptom of how terribly fucked up this country has become. There are at least a dozen strong demands among the protesters, and countless other intelligent, thoughtful, and creative ideas coursing through its collective veins. A lot of people come out waving a sign about their "pet issue," but see others with different issues and think to themselves, or say aloud, "Right on!"

It is a conglomeration of decades of unmet demands.

And as such, it neither can nor needs to articulate "clear" demands. We the occupation as a whole have little faith that such demands would even be met, and even if they were the Democratic spirit of "bipartisanship" and the Republican ideal of "obstructionism" would only leave us further dissatisfied.

This is the next stage of the global populist uprising, what protesters and commentators are very rightly calling the "American Fall." Government as it has existed in this country for the last sixty years, ruled by oligarchical cash, cannot continue. Nor can it facilitate its own further evolution. The very social forces that gave rise to the state have changed into the anathema of the state. Its products have made it obsolete. The institutions of tradition are bankrupt, having spent the last 150 years careening through a menagerie of manifestations: monarchy, bourgeois republic, state socialism, Stalinism, fascism, authoritarianism. With the internet and all of human history now at our fingertips, we see through every cynical maneuver the ruling elite take to re-establish their rule of profit.

I'm faintly amused whenever I hear one side or another take up a debate about whether or not #OWS "wants" the "end of capitalism." Is it "anticapitalist"? Certainly one key demand is "the end of corporate personhood," a cornerstone of capitalist structure. But you can no more call for the "end" of capitalism than you can call for the end of the west wind.

Social forces are material forces, governed by social and material causes. No matter to what degree the protesters are aware of the fact, capitalism has run into one of its greatest impasses in unprecedented ways. Socially, ideologically, even physically - even the Earth itself has slid past the brink of ruin without any clear way back. The protesters from #OWS are only evidence that more folks feel the crush and the worry and the lack of alternatives than ever before.

The bottom is falling out. Some are losing their fear. Others will follow.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Minnesota State Shutdown

File this one under "Recovery Strategies: Failed." How do you justify putting more people out of work? It can only take an ideological hatred of government that puts some anarchists to shame.

Not that I'm a big fan either, mind you, of the parliamentary form of capitalist democracy. I'm much more of a hands-on kinda guy myself.

But the hypocrisy is sickening. Why the tax-or-cut fetish? Republicans are so set on "not raising taxes (for their rich backers)" that they'll shut down the government entirely?

To prove what, exactly? That we don't need building codes approved, or children educated, or highways paved? Or perhaps just that their rich backers can be made even more wealthy by stepping into these roles themselves, and charging extravagantly for the services.

Don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining. The GOP consistently runs a strategy of deception, blame-shift, and obstruction. The DFL, on the other hand, is relatively good-natured, if still much too constrained by in-the-box thinking and totally inept at handling the sheer batshittery of the Repubs. This is their fault, and the fault of an electoral and representative system that cannot represent everyday people, but of course everyday people, who are honest and eager to "contribute to society," get fucked because that society barely even belongs to them.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Grand Illusion

" I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high- class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street, and the bankers. In short I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."- Major General Smedley Butler, U.S.M.C.

Memorial Day is here and time once again to be unceasingly reminded that this day is not just about beer, BBQ, and having a party. Without fail some pious jackass will somberly point out that this day is to honor those who gave the Ultimate Sacrifice for all those freedoms you enjoy.
O.K., before we really get rolling in rant mode, let me point something out, particularly to you Professional Patriots out there, who wait eagerly to pounce on anyone who you perceive as " disrespecting the troops." This little post is not attacking the soldiers, Marines, airmen, or sailors who are currently serving, have served in the past, or became casualties in the many wars this country has fought. So just sit back and cool your your ass down. I know, I know- you really want to prove what a big ass American ( more like a nationalistic, neofascist cur, but more on that next time )you are and really give in to a bout of More Patriotic Than Thou shit- flinging indignation- but settle. It ain't happening. In fact I will take special pleasure in deleting any comments made by red, white and blue flag waving jingoistic assholes make on this post. This blog isn't a democracy- so don't bother.
So let's get to the problem I have with our two holidays honoring our people in military service ( the other being Veteran's Day, which used to be Armistice Day, a commemoration of the day World War One ended- but somber reflection on the cruelty and wastefulness of modern war was for pussy Europeans so we renamed it Veteran's Day ). First of all, there is something dishonest about the whole thing. On these days you get your average American asshole pimping out himself in " patriotic" wear. You know, he is going to respect the fallen and the maimed by stretching an t- shirt with the Stars and Stripes emblazoned on it over his beer gut. Over burgers and brats he may take a few seconds and get a beer induced tear in his eye as he thanks the troops for preserving his freedom. And then goes back to stuffing his fat face.
All right, now let's examine an uncomfortable truth. If you study the military history of the United States you will quickly become aware of the fact that most of the wars our military has fought has been not in the name of freedom but for the purpose of taking shit away from other people- their land, their rights, and their lives. Ask Native Americans in what way were they such a threat to the American way of life that they had to be virtually exterminated. Or the Filipinos who in 1898 were freed from Spanish rule- only to be attacked by the American Army when they had the temerity to declare their independence. Four years and 200,000+ corpses later the Philippines became America's only true colony.
A history of the banana wars is also educational in the application of freedom by our military. Haiti, Nicaragua,and the Dominican Republic, were all visited by the United States Navy and Marine Corps when the profits of a few wealthy owners of American fruit and sugar companies were threatened. The rebels in those countries were hardly a threat to the rights and liberties of the American citizen.
And how can one stand before the monument to the miners, their wives and children who were gunned down by the Colorado National Guard at Ludlow in 1914 and talk of how the U.S. military's primary purpose is to protect our freedom? Again, an unflinching look at our history shows that along with the Pinkertons, Uncle Sam's favorite strike breaker was the National Guard.
And the military is not shy about turning its bayonets on veterans either, when they defy the Establishment. General MacArthur did not hesitate to use the Army to shoot at veterans of the First World War who marched on Washington D.C. in 1932 to protest the non- payment of promised bonuses for their service.
In fact I can think of only four wars out of the many fought by our country in which the result was the protection of, or the expansion of liberty- The War Of Independence, The Civil War, The Second World War, and The Korean War ( can any of you Reds seriously tell me the South would be better off if it had fallen to Kim Il Sung's army in 1950? ). The rest were either outright acts of conquest or conquest with a little sugar to make it more palatable for our gullible citizenry.
Notice too that those four wars were fought by citizen- soldiers: volunteers in the Revolution, volunteers and conscripts in the others. But citizen- soldiers are not the best material for conquest. Their cause for fighting is largely tied to home. Send them overseas to a far- away land to fight in someone else's war and they begin to resent it. Conquest is the province of the professional military. The British had their Redcoats, we have what one journalist has called " Imperial Grunts".
Professional soldiers are rotten representatives of freedom. They exist in a highly structured world where there is no debate, no questioning of authority. Civilian society is held in contempt, whether it is that of the country being occupied or that of their homeland. The usual answer to a problem is to annihilate it- using reason is for pussies.
One of our grand illusions in this country is to pretend that the troops are fighting for our freedom, that if Afghanistan or Iraq was not occupied then a horde of jihadi would somehow swim across the ocean, past our Navy, and invade California. The real truth is that there are relatively few people who actually defend our country from nations that could actually launch a serious attack on us. These are the Air Force technicians sitting underground in bunkers maintaining the nuclear tipped ICBMs in their silos or sailors in submarines prowling the oceans, ready to retaliate against any nation that seriously posed a threat to us.
What about terrorists? As we have recently seen, a handful of elite fighting men can take care of them ( not having our ruling class create the conditions that breed terrorists would help too- more on that next time ). Special Forces have done more to eliminate terrorist threats than the thousands of conventional forces occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.
Face the facts. The grunts in the infantry, artillery, and armored forces are used these days by our ruling class like they were one hundred years ago. They are the instruments of an imperial policy, not the defenders of your freedom.
The expansion of American liberty has most often been the work of civilians, by ordinary citizens who stood up against the injustice of the elite. Your rights as a worker were not given to you by the military. The Civil Rights Movement was not a movement of soldiers or won at the point of a bayonet. Indeed, if you look back on the struggles of ordinary Americans to win basic human rights and dignity more often than not you will find the rifles of U.S. soldiers pointing at them.
P.S. I may be a bitter old bastard, but I do acknowledge some of the good the military services provide. Here's a short list:
1)The Coast Guard for their rescue work during natural disasters, especially during Hurricane Katrina when every other Federal service had its head up its ass.
2) The Army Corps Of Engineers, without whom the Mississippi River valley would be one big fuckin' lake every spring.
3) Finally, the GI Bill that provides the means for people to get into college who otherwise could not afford to go ( since I benefited personally from this one I am a little biased).

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How many Parliamentarians does it take to screw together an industrial restoration?

Out of the "amorphous," "uncertain" Libyan rebellion rises a road-map towards parliamentary government. More opportunity to elucidate my own apocalyptic Marxist heresy.

Note how in the early days of the rebellion, the media was unable to articulate the "character" or "direction" of Gaddhafi's antagonists. It defied their paradigms. Some on "the left," including conventional Marxists, made a big deal of the early use of the pre-Gaddhafi monarchist flag (which has pretty much been adopted, it seems, now that the rebellion's leadership is developing into a "legitimate" institution). There are complaints that the leaders of the rebellion are too pro-Western, in bed with the imperialists, making deals with the devils, etc. etc. And clearly this is true. And clearly there are times when people's movements are all-to-eager to compromise, even when they have the upper hand (*cough*Wisconsin*cough*).

Other times, there just isn't the higher-level thinking prevalent enough to make and stick to reasoned, virtuous choices. (Funny, how in that photo, I can't make out a single black person, despite gathering outside a black President's home in a city that roughly half black.) You can argue all you want with people about the things they ought to know better about. It isn't that people are immutably evil. It's simply that sometimes they are just too engaged in the habit of ego to be good. Their capacity isn't any generally less.

Anyway, I digress; points about individual egoism is only circumstantial to Libyan "leaders" and their promise to make a conventional parliamentary government. In my experiences with "politicized" folks (approximately meaning in this context "folks who have become passionate about the socialization of enmity enough to 'do something' about it") most people gravitate towards (or rattle around between) one of three positions when it comes to leadership (perhaps more acutely "management" - so-called "leaders" whose function is to mystify through a process called "government"):

  1. High respect, and/or apologism for perceived bad policy. This is how liberals in the U.S. usually treat Democrats and how conservatives in the US treat Republicans.
  2. Moderate respect, and/or criticism or even hostility towards perceived bad policy. This is how liberals and conservatives in the U.S. generally feel towards their opposing parties; how conventional Marxists think of parliamentary politicians on the whole. This latter point is because, in my experience, conventional Marxists can't imagine an imminent reality that isn't governed by parliamentary procedure but they do want the formation of their own Party (a "working class" party) to take the helm of it (functionally restoring the industrialist paradigm).
  3. Nil respect and/or apathy and/or hostility towards leadership's existence and whatever institutions support them/enact their policies. Superficially, the whole gamut of anarchism fits in here - but I think there is room for something else, a creative anti-Parliamentarianism, an antagonistic philosophy that combs the social ruins of bureaucracy in decline and recombines the fluid constitution of what we once conceived of as concrete institutions.
The rebellion against Ghaddafi's eccentric, chaos-chronistic tyranny (unpacking it: this green-flagged government ostensibly linked "outdated" [the scare quotes of bourgeois perspective] tribal government with "advanced" [and the scare quotes of Vanguardist perspective! Look Ma, no hands!] people's council governments - by arbitrating past and future modes via cult of personality a la Stalinism or "third-world socialism") ... the rebellion against Ghaddafi's eccentric, chaos-chronistic tyranny ought to reveal to us the interstices between "forms" of "government."

The question that comes to mind: if a people can voluntarily enter into a war against a hated tyrant, "how much" government do they need? What is the purpose of "government" as we know it - "rule of law," as many Western politicians claim, or the negotiated slavery of populations, organized into classes, to an industrial mode of production? A mode of production whose harried, unresting, replicative logic extends beyond the control of any singular class or class alliance. A mode of production which blindly and mindlessly pillages the living and the dead and all the "useful" things of nature and leaves swaths of ruins and polluted wastelands in its wake?

an interim government would immediately take over to provide day-to-day governance and keep order, the Associated Press news agency reports.

It would comprise members from the NTC, technocrats from the Gaddafi regime, senior military and intelligence officers and a supreme court judge, he said.

A constitution would be drawn up and put to a referendum, followed a few months later by parliamentary and presidential elections.

What we see in Libya is a habitual surrender of the vital forces of rebellion to the industrial mode of government, which domesticates the human animal in order to turn the gears of the earth's mal-apportionment. Their instinct is to destroy that which oppresses them, but in doing so their only choices has been an alliance with the devil they don't know (yet).

But, precisely because of the unusual historic balance of powers that I described in my last post, more of that interstitial space has been revealed than might normally appear in "simple" (perhaps better explained as "previous") civil war scenarios. To glance a moment at our own Civil War (because I assume our readers are most familiar with that), the South adopted the old Articles of Confederation without batting an eye. Hell, it was a handful of property owners who went to the state governments to instigate secession - it wasn't a people's movement at all until the ruling powers capitalized on regional patriotism. It simply went from being states in the United States to being a Confederacy without a struggle for form in between. Those rulers had cohesion as an organized class.

These people, in a Libyan refugee camp across the border in Tunisia, are not represented by any "real" (parliamentary) government and might never be.

The Libyan rebels have slipped, however temporarily, through the cracks of the industrial mode, and these cracks are widening. There is very much a chance the "22-nation contact group" working with the transitional government can foster a parliamentary government and bring the rebellion under control, declare a revolution "complete," and integrate them all some way into the current world order. But as resources become scarce, as labor becomes redundant and what industrialization has deemed "work" becomes "scarce" and commodities, environments, modes of living become antagonistic to the survival of our species, more of these interstitial gaps will yawn open with less opportunity for "appropriate" re-incorporation.

Who will build the new infrastructure for millennial capitalism's catastrophic zones? Where will they get the resources? Who will pay for it? And who will benefit? Worse yet - how, in light of peak oil and capitalism's sociopathic waste of resources - how can it possibly be sustainable?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Libya, ghosts, and the grinding balance of power.

The salvage and armament workshops of the Libyan Rebellion are not a conscious choice for "badassery," although that is certainly one easy (shallow) reading of it which a sympathetic audience informed by a particular kind of American ("Developed World"?) aesthetic could (will, does) make on first engagement. Something like this:

The theme of institutional collapse resonates with me. I see evidence of, I sympathize with, the post-industrial character of its teleology (christ, I hope I'm using that word right). I oppose dictatorships and blatant totalitarianism. Therefore, when these rebels whip a bunch of weapons together, I am inspired/entertained/thrilled.

Yet this isn't a case of life imitating art. It goes without saying that the rebels are not forging caltrops and cobbling armored trucks out of spare parts because they watched Mad Max or read any of Axler's Deathlands books and thought to themselves, "You know what would really take the wind out of Ghaddafi?..." It's proof of ... something resembling the converse, not "art imitating life" (certainly not "high art") but something along the lines of "tropes and memes and narrartives gaining recognition because of their realistic relationship with the characteristics of our time." It's about reflecting our attitude and understanding of what forces are in play, on the surface and underneath.

Libya might be seen as something like the first post-American war. While Iraq and Afghanistan were official operations of a desperate empire, and the mission creep conflicts in Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere are a spreading transitional stain (culminating in bin Laden's capture, a hollow victory come much too late and at a high cost).... Libya has been a conflict for which the United States proper is much too busy and much too overstretched.

There were times when the U.S. would have been glad for an opportunity to swat Gaddfly, although he proved capable of playing his cards at opportune moments well enough to avoid too harsh conflict with The Cowboy and Co. But he and his country were never really priorities. The Superpowers of the Cold War could and did prop up the most necessary markets with dictators and take down the others through cold calculations. When America was a hyperpower it acted with still more impunity - hawks could argue this leverage was even wasted on "humanitarian" missions in countries like Iraq and Bosnia. 9/11 provided pretext to dispose the humanitarian approach that focused on crumbling countries and promote a more geopolitical strategy. Amidst these concerns Ghaddafi mattered very little.

A vortex of revolution.

Today one might think Libya would matter more to the United States, with the oil crisis and a Middle East more uproarious than any point in the last twenty years. There are interests to protect and promote. Yet the Obama administration is showing significant - and wise - constraint, electing to bust in the door but let NATO - France and Britain especially - sweep out the room and allowing the rebels to redecorate. That makes this an operation unlike any other in U.S. history. In its infancy, the U.S. was nearly at the mercy of the European powers, depending more on diplomacy to play one side off another while consolidating territory in the Americas. In the next period the United States openly pursued European-style imperialism, right down to owning colonies and conducting extra-territorial development projects, but differing in that after two World Wars the United States came out far ahead. At the beginning of the Cold War, post-imperial Europe depended on the United States to clean up its sloppy actions. After the USSR plummeted, the U.S. called on European powers to back it up or take on leading roles in volatile but less profitable crises.

Clearly one can read the current conflict in Libya as more of the latter. Or could - if it didn't happen within several broader historical contexts, of which I think three are decisive:

  • The "Arab Spring" and the failure of the Arabic dictators and terroristic jihadism to liberate and provide for the young generation or the populations in general.

  • Second, the inability and/or half-measures of neoliberalism (contemporary colonialism) to either a) incorporate these cultures and markets into the world economic order or b) continue to re-create/rejuvinate the existing oppressive orders and thus secure bargain-rate (globally competitive) exploitation from the native masses. Whereas b) is a trend that can be bypassed in the future by slaughter and destruction (resetting capital and labor), the self-determination of these markets in the global scene is not something neoliberalism wants nor encourages. Arabs beware: Western contractors have a hard-on for your wholesale catastrophes.

  • Third, a historic crisis of millennial capitalism - a term I use with malignant facetiousness, purposefully mocking the "new golden age" promised to us in the 1990s - a capitalism not only grown on the bones of neoliberalism and directed by the delusions of Western political egoism, but fed by the growth of the Internets and now starved of fattening credit. What we commonly call "the recession" ushered in this crisis, but in reality it is a watershed in economic decay. This form of capitalism goes out with a wimper, not the bang of the 1920s ... so far.
Libya's ragtag army illustrates particularly what is happening globally: a sort of conjoined wearing down of major global forces, with nothing waiting in the wings - no relief and no expectation of relief. NATO has not yet proven strong enough to oust Gaddhafi, nor is the United States prepared or willing to boot him forcibly. Gaddhafi is too weak to stay and too strong to leave (but not too strong to leave civilian targets alone, of course). His oil legacy and his mercenaries prop him up as artificially as NATO missiles and jets artificially clear the air for the ground-bound rebels. What happens to a war deprived of its decisive victories? Unless by the grace of Allah Gaddhafi is torpedoed sometime soon, we're about to find out.

My argument is that all around the world, in every government and in every social struggle, the whole balance of powers is on life support. No side of the antagonism clearly holds the power. Not in the case of Scott Walker vs. Wisconsin unions, where legalism has detoured either justice or tyranny into marshland courtrooms. Not in US/China trade relations, where devaluing the yuan remains necessary and impossible. Not a single traditional actor can act, and no traditional opponent retains the strength or street cred to pose a threat. Everyone seems to be in a race against time yet no one can move forward.

Scuffles certainly lie ahead - and by no means will I declare "decisive" victories a thing of the past. Yet the "decisive victory" over bin Laden also proves a divisive victory with the already-teetering Pakistan. Bold actions become fewer and far between because, unlike pre-Hiroshima Earth, post-Hiroshima Earth is all but incapable of World War. The atom bomb and worse still haunt our memory. I lay that scenario of ultimate nuclear annihilation to the side, here and in the future, because I want to believe it unlikely (we know better, there is limited prospect for conventional victory) and there's very little we can do collectively in the case it approaches that. (Except maybe turning to your Republican friends and saying, "I told you so.") (Nuclear terrorism and limited exchange are still very, very much in the scope of my analyses; in fact I would describe them as "almost inevitable.")

Without the mass destruction of capital and manipulated reconstruction, capitalism has to walk a very fine line. Too much reset and the situation could spiral out of control (for the individual actors as much as the species, thank god). Too little reset and profits plummet - you begin to *gulp* break even. Because anything approaching sustainability threatens growth, you can believe that not only is "green capitalism" predominately a PR hoax, you can also pretty much count out significant jobs programs that consider labor before the needs of business.

How long is the "fine line" itself sustainable? Isn't a balance of forces a good thing, something we should be thankful for after the long and bloody 20th century? Couldn't we, say, let the giant firms greenwash the polluters a lot in exchange for just a little energy efficiency, and blow up and rebuild terrorist hideouts so contractors generate some cash, and let the markets cycle Joe Stiffs through - you know, all for the sake of some rather 2000-2010-style dependability? Just to avoid all that gosh-darn insecurity that comes with too much conflict or not enough growth?

I think not, and for one very good reason that I humbly take zero credit in discovering: climate change.

Whereas humanity is becoming increasingly slow to act, it seems as though La Madre is sort of coming around. And her timing, from an anthrocentric perspective, couldn't be any worse. How long has it taken to recover from Hurricane Katrina? How long will it take to recover from the 100+ tornados that just whipped through the Midwest? NYC can't even figure out a monument to replace the Twin Towers from a man-made disaster 10 years ago and we're being asked, not as a city or nation, but as a species, to try to persevere against unusual weather patterns, and the awful effects of unconsciousable agricultural and industrial practices, and on top of that the "usual" shit, like the earthquake in Japan, which because of our haughty spread across the globe now have increased opportunities to hit us in vulnerable places simply because we have more vulnerable places than ever before and more disastrous consequences of being hit in each.

Add to that the fact that we have less and less of an idea where our gas, not to mention our food and water, is going to come from over the next 15-20 years. Not only do we, as a nation and as a species, have less of an ability to resolve our current problems, but those problems are only going to snowball and we have less of an ability to keep up.

Libya not only illustrates and hints at these trends, but it also shows the hope. It provides a snapshot of not, as Lenin once said, what is to be done, but instead what someday we will all have to do, in one fashion or another. Instead of bringing "new" products into production, which requires raw materials and fresh resources (preferably from a poorer neighbor), we can, should, and someday (if we're survivors) will - cannibalize, salvage, retool, repurpose. To illustrate another way, this process of reclaiming industry's product is to capitalism what necromancy would be to magic. To reinvest life into what has already been discarded. To find purpose in all the pointless doggerel of capitalism by rearranging it, now at no cost because, especially under duress, it has no exchange value.

And because, as capitalism insists is not true but as we know in our hearts, there is no real price on material things, and we enter into a contract with the earth as well as with our peers when we agree to use nature's bounty. All sociable nature, all rational humanity, detests the dictator, too, and the ghosts of labor that still abide in commodities can be cajoled into rising up and destroying such fiends, if we're willing to pay the price. This has been a long entry, but I want to end by saying that I hope that the Libyan rebels win their freedom against the tyrant who is equal or worse than bin Laden. And I hope in doing so they can point the way forward to all of us who yearn for the freedom to build our own lives out of the haunted scraps provided us.