Friday, October 23, 2020
Electoral politics is a contest to see who can promise the most jobs for Americans. In the presidential debates, one candidate will protect existing fossil fuel jobs while another will create "millions" of new renewable energy jobs. To sell their Green New Deals, campaigners must always include these same promises of jobs, jobs and more jobs. The DSA ecosocialists want to focus energies on a Federal Job Guarantee for a displaced workforce. Americans are traumatized by work. Pathetically, for many it is a thing which gives life meaning. The Situationist International was in fierce opposition to this valorization of work. Raoul Vaneigem noted how the "cult of work is honoured from Cuba to China...wherever submission is demanded, the stale fart of ideology makes its headway, from the Arbeit Macht Frei of the concentration camps to the homolies of Henry Ford and Mao Tse-Tung." My point is that there is an ecological problem with all this demented love of jobs and work as well. All those workers with those millions of new jobs are going to spend their paychecks on tons of useless, earth destroying crap. Most of which will end up in the atmosphere, the oceans or the landfill. Work is the promise and the threat, the carrot and the stick, that Capital uses to control the worker. No work = no money = misery. A form of tyranny libertarians never seem to notice, by the way. But what we will need to survive our current confluence of crises is fewer jobs and less work and less consumption. And more life. The late David Graeber pointed out how most of those jobs were "bullshit" in the first place, just as a giant part of the workforce in China is kept busy building ghost cities and superfluos infrastructure. Of course there are necessary tasks that need to be accomplished. And work can be creative and fulfilling. When profit is abolished, work will be rational and a job will be a small part of life
Friday, October 16, 2020
I have long argued that (unfortunately) things sometimes need to get worse before they get better. It is in this sense that Trump the disrupter has succeeded in shredding many of the fantasy illusions Americans have never truly had challenged before. This process is what Paul Butler, African American author of Chokehold, calls "productive apocalypse". Along those lines, the current brouha over a Trump coup is "productive" in the way it is forcing to the surface uncomfortable questions elites would prefer stay repressed and buried. There won't be any coup attempt. All the same, the very notion lays bare the ugly truth that we are just another bannana republic with lipstick. Armed camo knuckleheads roam the streets protecting our liberty. Their ass clown leader retweets nonsense about Bin Laden to those still hoping to find the weapons of mass destruction. No doubt people will get hurt in isolated, useless confrontations and the aftermath of a "peaceful transfer of power" is going to be a full display of uniquely American wierdness. But as Mao put it: "Everything under heaven is utter chaos. The situation is excellect." What the Left needs needs to figure out is how to describe capitalist "democracy"; that is, to what degree, if any, it is still useful for creating positive change. All too often, well-meaning leftists tell us we live in an oligarchy and then ask us to work for progressive legislation, all in the same sentence. They are pumped up about defending the mythologized "sacred" institutions and rule of law blah blah, instructing oppressed people that "the best thing you can do is vote", poking fun at the "patriots" while promoting their own nationalist fantasy. A stylized kubuki theatre of the absurd that is dissolving into discordant chaos as the band plays on.
Monday, October 12, 2020
It was refreshing to come across a document-in-progress called the Glasgow Agreement, named for the city where the next UN COP will take place. Folks from the Global Ecosocialist Network have been discussing the types of opportunities this COP might present and the "agreement" presents a radical departure from past organizing and a new way forward. It also incorporates some new-old tactics which I have been promoting for some time. This is from the work of Erica Chenowith: "Second, contemporary movements tend to over-rely on mass dem-onstrations while neglecting other techniques—such as general strikes and mass civil disobedience—that can more forcefully disrupt a re-gime’s stability. Because demonstrations and protests are what most people associate with civil resistance, those who seek change are in-creasingly launching these kinds of actions before they have devel-oped real staying power or a strategy for transformation. Compared to other methods, street protests may be easier to organize or impro-vise on short notice. In the digital age, such actions can draw partici-pants in large numbers even without any structured organizing coali-tion to carry out advanced planning and coordinate communication.21But mass demonstrations are not always the most effective way of applying pressure to elites, particularly when they are not sustained over time. Other techniques of noncooperation, such as general strikes and stay-at-homes, can be much more disruptive to economic life and thus elicit more immediate concessions. It is often quiet, behind-the-scenes planning and organizing that enable movements to mobilize in force over the long term, and to coordinate and sequence tactics in a way that builds participation, leverage, and power.22 For the many contemporary movements organized around leaderless resistance, such capacities can be difficult to develop. Very possibly related to movements’ overemphasis on public dem-onstrations and marches is a third important factor: Recent movements have increasingly relied on digital organizing, via social media in par-ticular." They also call for a shift in focus; away from "institutional struggle" ( UN climate negotiators, governments,multi-national corps, etc) and towards direct action to disrupt fossil fuel infrastructure,"shift from symbolic disobedience in city centers" to the places of production. Andrea(s) Spreck lays out the case in an article from Waging Non-violence.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
I truly hope "the best" have some conviction but it is increasingly obvious "the worst are filled with passionate intensity." As the social fabric is shredded, there will be a correspondening tendency for liberals to preach tolerance and understanding. But we should not tolerate intolerance. History is nothing if not a record of how quickly society can slide into barbarism and to assume civilty will somehow reign is both delusional and dangerous. Reactionaries don't want dialogue. They see it as weakness, the thing they despise above all else. Liberals owe Hillary Clinton an apology. She was endlessly castigated for the term "basket of deplorables" but as the images of armed militia thugs increase, as the racist, nationalist, nativist rhetoric grows louder, as the threats against the left grow more violent and extreme, we have to admit Hillary pegged it. This is Tea Party 2.0 replete with sophisticated weaponry, flags and fascist symbolism. It is irrational and passionate and way beyond resonable,civil debate- precisely because liberals have for too long prefered to ignore the signs and look away and wish away all conflict and confrontation. I heard the sentiment expressed at a vigil for RBG last night. It is New Age fantasy. Some will insist on trying to persuade and recruit the deplorables to the cause of human emancipation but given my experience here in the heart of Americanism, you would be wasting your breath. These people are damaged on so many levels and will do what the tribe asks. At a presentation this afternoon, Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson said they are asking people to mobilize en mass as the election results are released. He envisions chaos or worse. I have been insisting we need to heighten the contradictions and accelerate a rupture. For better or worse I may be granted my wish...
Sunday, September 13, 2020
From my mailbox I extract the latest agitprop claiming that Steve Bullock accepted campaign contributions from "Hanoi Jane". Wow. You have to be of a certain age to even get the reference, but when Jane Fonda went to Hanoi in 1972 it opened a wound old cultural warriors can never, will never, heal. They will hate her till their dying breath while supporting a billionaire New York con man who got a deferment due to "bone spurs". Yeah right. The ultimate "Fortunate Son", totally clueless about the meaning of the lyrics. (shocker) Fonda never called our soldiers "losers and suckers" but she did correctly point out the US as an imperialist aggressor fighting revolutionaries trying to defend their own liberation. And getting their asses kicked, despite millions of tons of bombs and agent orange and napalm. I have no problem calling those soldiers who volunteered losers and suckers. Anyone with half a brain could see the injustice of supporting a corrupt regime and slaughtering peasants. Those who were drafted faced a horrific dilemma. Either way, so many came home damaged, physically, mentally, spiritually, and have yet to fully recover. Many ended their own lives, many glorify/ reify the experience and adopt it as a permanent marker of their identity. And live each day with a bitter hate for "Hanoi Jane".
Thursday, August 27, 2020
Vindicated yet again, this time through an interview on NPR. David Green was talking to some ex-New Yorker now living in Sun City Arizona about her politics and she confirmed my suspicion (documented on this blog) that much of Trump's support comes from the fact that he is a great entertainer. The ex-New Yorker said she and her recently deceased husband ( two weeks ago "he just dropped dead") loved sitting around together and laughing hysterically at Trump's schtick, his comedy routine. They also loved that "he pisses people off"- according to this woman, a very New York thing. Which affirms my theory that it is the Donald's Rodney Dangerfield impersonation that most inspires loyalty. This is a woman who voted with the Democrats her whole life but she fell in love with the Trump Show. Green, trying hard not to condescend, kept asking if comedic brilliance was enough to qualify a person for the Presidency so she struggled to come up with another good reason: "He's a builder". Then she said there were "many, many people just like her" there in Sun City and I have no doubt this is true. When pressed, she said she was worried about "our cities"; the rioting and looting and anarchy ( code for shwartzers) that was consuming the places she used to enjoy shopping in, dining, the theater, etc.. Welcome to democratic capitalism. We miss Huntrt S Thompson and William Burroughs ( both great gun enthusiasts) and we miss Frank Zappa and Kurt Vonnegut and the list goes on. People who could capture the horror and obscenity, the grief and the terror, the fear and loathing of an underbelly that no longer cares to hide. Just go to UTube and dial up Rodney Dangerfield / Caddyshack and you will witness how Trump rose to power.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
The Group just listened to Michelle Alexander talk about mass incarceration and the new Jim Crow where at the end she hopes that American's can experience a "Great Awakening". I'm always a little skeptical at these vague, religious prescriptions for social change (there was an Enlightenment but that's a different story). Then I was reading a piece in the Atlantic on Q anon and the author was saying The Great Awakening is a big meme in that miliue as well. Then I started thinking: what if Michelle Alexander is Q ? Yes, there are events when great intellectural and cultural shifts occur, disruptions, ruptures, etc. often preceded by technological innovation. But given the ecological timeline and the new media landscape of memes and influencers, an Idea isn't going to sweep humnity to a new understanding- in time. And it certainly isn't going to convince the power elite to surrender their wealth and status and property.