Friday, July 20, 2018

Invisibility

The front page of the NYTimes perfectly encapsulates capitalism's inability to deal with it's existential crisis. One article describes how climate change is affecting migrating geese and the next article describes the next big oil boom in Guyana (without once mentioning climate change). While most small children would instantly recognize the disconnect, this deadly dissembling is invisible to adults indoctrinated by capitalist ideology.

The author of the oil boom article presents a trite, sophomoric rundown of all the other problems a "boom" can create for "poor, under-developed" countries but the notion that the emissions from burning the oil will further the current ecocide just never seems to occur. It is cloaked in a way that is terrifying if you stop to think about it. So don't.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

How Will You Pay For It?

The first question (after congratulations) a reporter asks the newly elected official with ambitious , progressive plans is: where is the money to pay for all this? This is what they are asking AMLO, Mexico's new "populist" president and it is what they will ask the young, idealistic candidates I met at the recent DSA statewide meeting held in Helena. While campaigning, the rhetoric is filled with new programs to help all the disadvantaged people, all wonderful reforms that would make working class life and/or poverty more tolerable. But in a capitalist democracy the money has to come from somewhere, from an "already tight budget".

You can propose to expand the pie, and most politicians do. More economic growth for everyone will produce a new surplus! It's a win win! Till Capital looks at your "progressive proposals" and decides to go on strike, create a little downturn in the "business cycle", and poof! there goes your surplus, time to tighten belts. Or the Climate Folks start harping about the fossil fuel it takes to bring on your economic growth and you have to lie there at night, knowing the bargain you are making with the devil.

The old song by Alvin Lee goes: Tax the Rich, Feed the Poor, Till there are no, Poor no more. I'd love to change the world, but I don't know what to do.

The DSA has embarked on an ambitious "electoral strategy" because they believe power lies in the government of by and for the people. Democracy at work. Self rule. Leftists and "Progressives" are gaga after the primary win of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez but she will quickly run into the question of "balanced budgets" and raising taxes and the coalition gets strained. This is where you have to bring in all the millions of new "green" jobs to keep the economy humming.

When asked "What is a socialist?", NY state Senate candidate Julia Salazar said: "To have a vision of a world where everyone is taken care of...in which people are valued over profit, in which everyone has access to the things they need..." This is the idealist version, with no mention of ownership of the means of production.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Crypto-capitalism

I saw an article on the local explosion of bit-coin mining operations taking place in our region. Is this not the perfect expression of late-capitalism, a totally abstract, speculative waste of energy and resources which produces absolutely nothing useful yet generates huge profits?

Ans as for that waste, one operator of such a "mine" states he moved here for "cheap" energy and since coal-fired electricity still "competes" on the market he says he is incentivized to use it. To maximize his profit and accumulation. Perfectly rational, right?

Meanwhile, an independent study found that energy customers with net-metered solar on their houses are paying too little per mega-wat, that the "cost" of transmission is being unfairly distributed. the Public Service Commission will use this info to argue these customers should be paying a "competitive" price and the local 350 group will have to argue solar should be subsidized by non-solar customers. Which might not be too popular. NW Energy will just say they are trying to provide the "cheapest, most cost-effective" energy. And around and around they will go.

Once you have locked yourself into capitalist logic/ language ( cheap, competitive, cost-effective, etc) you find yourself in the double-bind house of mirrors. Yes, you can righteously produce studies showing renewables are "cheaper"- but some bean-counter will have his own study showing the "cost" of finance and depreciation and disruption and the population will furrow their collective brows and squint and sigh. As the system is legitimized and mystified at the same time.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

General Agreement

I have joined a DSA "working group" set up to formulate a coherent strategy for the organization as concerns climate action. The proposal is to research the history of the climate justice movement and the different players (NGO's, Blockadia, UN COP, etc..)then try to identify ways to be more effective going forward.

I just re-read an essay by Andreas Malm titled Revolution in a Warming World and noticed lots of convergence with my own thinking on strategy. So I would love to see the working group give it a read. Here are some of the main points: "Any climatic spark will always burn through relations between people on its way to an explosion."
Here Malm points to Syria as an example, a place where severe drought heightened already existing tensions and precipitated the implosion of a society. In other words a "climatic impact is articulated through a particular social formation." Malm then claims that because "it is getting hotter at work", class conflict is heating up, at least in the so-called "developing world". Which brings us to the concept of "uneven and combined development", or the way capitalism takes on different modes in the Center and the Periphery and here Malm uses the Russian Revolution to support his argument that war induced threat of famine led to the crisis and the revolution's authoritarian turn. "Climate change is likely to be the accelerator of the twenty-first century, speeding up the contradictions of late capitalism"

This, of course, was Naomi Klein's basic thesis as well, a la Shock Doctrine, that the crisis contains a kernel of opportunity, a very rare opportunity for radical transformation. Many liberal and moderates will call for "adaptation" and peaceful ways to "transition" incrementally but that isn't how it is going to go down. Humans have a remarkable capacity to only see what they want to see until the catastrophe actually grabs them by the throat and starts shaking. Even then they might turn to religion or meditation or fentenyl.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Citizen Participation

I was just invited to "comment" on a proposed expansion of a coal mine. This is part of the "public process" which must legally take place before the coal company starts digging; they apply for a permit, the State decides whether it meets their "standards" then they invite citizens to comment. Sounds pretty damn democratic!

The first thing you need to do is step back and consider a few things like: Mining more coal? Really? Cause I thought there was a climate emergency? So isn't the proposal itself insane? But once we have decided to "participate" in moving the deck chairs around on the Titanic ( to immerse ourselves in the mad dance) we see lots of strange rules. Our comments can't consider how many deck chairs, we can only comment on the configuration: rows, circles, randomly scattered perhaps. We aren't allowed to consider the cumulative arrangement of chairs, only the ones on the deck. In other words there are lots of little parameters already set up by the capitalists and their lobbyists outside of which your "comments" are meaningless, not worthy of consideration by the powers that be.

The beauty of this "process" ( from the capitalist perspective) is that is sucks up tons of activist energy and directs it into a bureaucratic, regulatory black hole. These hearings and decisions all take forever and if you can't take time off work to go attend you get to feel guilty and thankful at the same time that a handful of committed, retired folks can go waste their time for you. This "participatory process" also serves the important function of re-legitimizing "democratic capitalism" as a fair, open system of governing. Look at how they want to include our voices!

Of course at a psychological level it causes all sorts of dissociation and trauma as you get sucked into an "irrational rationality". Arguing about how much poison you should be giving your grandchildren can only result in a psychotic break leading to "President Trump" and reality TV shows and religious cults and mass shootings and Texas. Golf. Christian rock.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

More Elections

The email from 350.org says : "the 2018 and 2020 elections will be some of the most important in our lives." So following the disastrous route taken by the labor movement, the climate movement will invest all its energy in the Democrats. The party of Pelosi and Schumer will talk a good game about a new green capitalism of jobs and economic growth and consumption and who knows, the party might even win back a majority in the Senate (if Trump is caught humping a fifteen year old), and liberals will smile with self-satisfaction and say "see you silly revolutionaries, the system really does work just as designed". But don't expect anything close to the radical action required to avert climate catastrophe. Look instead for a new emphasis on nuclear energy ( years of endless debate) and geoengineering (they will let NPR take the lead on this). Maybe a few billion will get put into the Global Climate Fund to help with useless "adaptation". Some solar energy, a few electric cars, another UN COP agreement to reduce emissions.

But after the first year the conservative backlash will grind all action to a halt and all the movement energy will have been dissipated and another generation of activists will go back to their game consoles. You know the drill, anyone backing a carbon tax is labeled a socialist and Capital goes on strike and the economy goes into recession and the fascists point to all the global chaos and on and on it goes. Stuck on the merry-go-round of "capitalist democracy", the terrifying nightmare where you helplessly watch yourself repeat the same mistakes over and over and over. The pathology of disavowal whereby you know you are trapped but you act AS IF you aren't.

I can imagine Bill Mc Kibben and Naomi Klein looking at each other and saying "Well, really there is no alternative", then with slightly embarrassed smiles, heading off to write fundraising letters. And in a tragic twist, we can say that Bernie Sanders and his "political revolution" are to blame for perpetuating the illusion of "progressive" government, an illusion in which DSA and 350.org are now fully invested.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Capitalist elections

In a capitalist democracy "the people" supposedly express their "general will" through capitalist elections. In this sense, The American People chose the tweeting clown prince, the Russian people chose their buff macho prince, the El Salvadorian People just chose a neoliberal, the Italian people chose neoliberals, etc, etc...These results would suggest the interests of Capital and the interests of the People around the globe amazingly just happen to coincide perfectly! Who knew?

Because who can contest the Will of the People, given freely through the miracle of the ballot box? So when Joe Biden considers a possible run for the presidency, or Clint Eastwood or Rebecah Mercer or even me, it demonstrates the wisdom of an inclusive, pluralist system where ideas are debated and contested in the public sphere and the majority eventually rules.

As opposed to that outdated, decrepit system in Saudi Arabia where a royal family just passes down rule through inheritance. How illegitimate! They should let The People decide, like they do in Turkey or Niger or Brazil. Yeah.

The Election Cycle is an elaborate ritual of catharsis, a proscribed event in which to vent and express opinions (within certain boundaries)and let off some steam. It totally absorbs all the energy and sucks all the oxygen out of "social movements" and directs it into the mass drama, the theater of "political" change, acted out by "non-politicians" for the benefit of the colonizers.