Criterion Sundays: Eraserhead        
As the IFC Center describes it: "David Lynch once described his stunning debut feature simply as 'a dream of dark and troubling things,' but the unclassifiable ERASERHEAD is so much more: an expressionistic headtrip, a Grand Guignol nightmare, a pitch-black comedy of manners, and even a deeply personal allegory about the (post-) nuclear family. Amidst a monochromatic wasteland teeming with smoke and shadows, Jack Nance's wire-haired wage slave Henry struggles to navigate the horrors of mutant offspring, sinister hallucinations and, most terrifying of all, his new in-laws." How can you resist?

This week there will be no potluck, but feel free to bring snacks to eat during the movie. We're starting a little later than usual. Screening starts at 8pm sharp. Also: PLEASE RSVP, even if it's just to say maybe. This is being held in our living room, which is not infinitely large, so we need to know how many people are coming, and whether we should expect you. On deck for March 3: Orson Welles' The Complete Mr. Arkadin.

Sun February 24 at 8:00 PM, ocherdraco's apartment (#4D)
          Walmart’s Sweatshop Deaths tops 1000 in Bangladesh        
Merely Two Weeks after the Walmart Sweatshop Building Collapse in Savar, Dhaka in Bangladesh, which has topped the deaths of over a Thousand Wage Slaves (25 April, 2013 ), There has been Another Sweatshop Fire on 8th May 2013. This is a pattern here that is not only being followed by just one single factory […]
          Walmart attacks to kill Indian Jobs, and farmers        
It is a known fact that Walmart is a wage slaver, and they are bringing their putrid corporate system into India to make every citizen of the country into their wage slave. The zealots were not able to enslave the people forcefully which is the reason they use the economic system to keep their human […]
          Peace Revolution episode 047: Slavery is Death / Practical Applications of Irrationality        
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Notes, References, and Links for further study:

  1. Tragedy and Hope dot com (commercial-free educational media)
  2. Invitation to the Tragedy and Hope online community
  3. Log in page for the Tragedy and Hope online community
  4. Peace Revolution primary site (2009-2012)
  5. Peace Revolution backup stream (2006-2012)
    1. Includes the 9/11 Synchronicity Podcast (predecessor to Peace Revolution)
    2. You can USE THE BACKUP STREAM when podOmatic indicates this podcast is “over-bandwidth”.
  6. Francisco D’Anconia’s money speech from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”
  7. Alex Jones “The NDAA is a Hoax, You Can’t Legalize Tyranny
    1. www.Infowars.com / www.PrisonPlanet.tv
  8. “They Thought They Were Free” by Milton Mayer, read by Dave Emory
    1. See also: the She Who Remembers Archives @ Gnostic Media
      1. http://www.gnosticmedia.com/store/ (bottom of page)
  9. “The Spirit of 43” Pay Your Income Tax / 1943 Disney Propaganda (on YouTube)
    1. The single-most effective means to convince hard-working Americans to fund their own wage slavery.
  10. The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation (Volume One)” by Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
    1. The Gulag Archipelago is Solzhenitsyn’s attempt to compile a literary-historical record of the vast system of prisons and labor camps that came into being shortly after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia in 1917 and that underwent an enormous expansion during the rule of Stalin from 1924 to 1953. Various sections of the three volumes describe the arrest, interrogation, conviction, transportation, and imprisonment of the Gulag’s victims by Soviet authorities over four decades. The work mingles historical exposition and Solzhenitsyn’s own autobiographical accounts with the voluminous personal testimony of other inmates that he collected and committed to memory during his imprisonment. Upon publication of the first volume of The Gulag Archipelago, Solzhenitsyn was immediately attacked in the Soviet press. Despite the intense interest in his fate that was shown in the West, he was arrested and charged with treason on February 12, 1974, and was exiled from the Soviet Union the following day.
  11. Proof (that) Obama will NOT Veto the NDAA 1031 Bill that can Indefinitely Detain U.S. Citizens” (on YouTube)

Peace Revolution partner podcasts:

Corbett Report dot com

Media Monarchy dot com

Gnostic Media Podcast

School Sucks Project Podcast

Remedy Radio Podcast

Meria dot net

Other productions by members of the T&H network:

The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto (2012) a journey into the dark heart of public schooling, revealing how America became incoherent, one student at a time.

Navigating Netflix (2011) our video series wherein we conduct a critical analysis of films you might have missed; Navigating Netflix is available for free on YouTube.

"Memories of a Political Prisoner", an interview with Professor Chengiah Ragaven, graduate of Oxford, Cambridge, and Sussex; AFTER he was a political prisoner, who was exiled from South Africa, during Apartheid. (2011)

What You've Been Missing! (2011) is our video series focusing in on the history of corruption in our public education system.

Top Documentary Films dot com: Hijacking Humanity by Paul Verge (2006)

Top Documentary Films dot com: Exposing the Noble Lie (2010)

Top Documentary Films dot com: The Pharmacratic Inquisition by Jan Irvin (2007)

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! If you would like to donate so that we can continue producing independent media without commercial advertising, simply click the button below for a one-time donation:

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Yearly @ $120.00 / year

*Subscription details on Subscribe page in the Top Menu.


          Peace Revolution episode 041: The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto / Hour 1 + Commentary        
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Notes, References, and Links for further study:

  1. Use the donation buttons at the bottom of these notes, or on the sidebar of this site, or the sidebar of Tragedy and Hope dot com,  for “The Ultimate History Lesson: A Weekend with John Taylor Gatto” multi-DVD interview project, currently in post-production. With over 5 hours of interview footage, this is a collection of education which is invaluable.
    If you donate $50 or more towards the completion of this project, you will receive the entire DVD set; as our way of saying Thanks!
  2. Your invitation to the Tragedy and Hope online critical thinking community
  3. Peace Revolution Podcast’s primary hosting site (2009-2011)
  4. Peace Revolution Podcast’s backup hosting site (2006-2011, also includes the 9/11 Synchronicity Podcast episodes, starting at the bottom of the page)
  5. Tragedy and Hope dot com (all of our media productions, free to the public)
    1. On the top menu, there is a “Trivium” selection, which includes the Brain model discussed in Peace Revolution episodes.
  6. A Peaceful Solution” by Willie Nelson w/thanks to the Willie Nelson Peace Research Institute
  7. T&H Partner Podcasts: Media Monarchy, Corbett Report, Gnostic Media, & Remedy Radio
  8. Useful Tools:
    1. www.StartPage.com (It uses Google’s search algorithm, but doesn’t collect your private info and search history)
    2. StartPage search engine Firefox add-on
    3. The Brain (mind mapping software to organize your research) download for FREE
      1. The free version works for all functions except web publication
  9. Ultimate History Lesson Hour 1, minutes 1 -15 (approx.):
  10. Shield of the Trinity (on Wikipedia)
  11. Classical Trivium + 7 Liberal Arts (on Wikipedia)
  12. George Orwell (on Wikipedia)
  13. (Book) “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell (1984) (on Wikipedia)
  14. Newspeak (on Wikipedia)
  15. Walter Lippmann (on Wikipedia)
  16. (Book) “Public Opinion” by Walter Lippmann (1922)
  17. Aristotle’s Logic (on Wikipedia)
  18. Aristotle (on Wikipedia)
  19. Dialectic (on Wikipedia)
  20. Five W’s (+ How) (on Wikipedia)
  21. (Document) Abraham Lincoln’s Speech Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, September 30, 1859
  22. Mudsill Theory (on Wikipedia)
  23. British Class Structure / Social Structure of the United Kingdom (on Wikipedia)
  24. Vernon Louis Parrington (on Wikipedia)
  25. (Book) “Main Currents in American Thought” (Vol. I-III) by Vernon Louis Parrington (1927)
  26. Emancipation Reform in Russia (1861) (on Wikipedia)
  27. British Empire Slavery Abolition Act 1833 (on Wikipedia)
  28. Roundtable Discussion of minutes 1-15:
  29. (Book) “Social Science for Teachers” (Riverside textbooks in education, edited by E. P. Cubberley ... Division on secondary education under the editorial direction of A. Inglis); "Education a process of adjustment."
  30. Definition of Psittacism
  31. Definition of Mettle
  32. Hour 1, minutes 15 -30 (approx.)
  33. Wage Slave (on Wikipedia)
  34. (Video) Noam Chomsky on Wage Slavery (on YouTube)
  35. Welfare (on Wikipedia)
  36. Definition of Deadwood
  37. Simon Legree (character in Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe in1852) (on Wikipedia)
  38. Harriet Beecher Stowe (on Wikipedia)
  39. Count Leo Tolstoy (on Wikipedia)
  40. Chautauqua Movement (on Wikipedia)
  41. William Rainey Harper & Chautauqua Movement (on Wikipedia)
  42. Lewis Lapham & Harper Magazine (on Wikipedia)
  43. (Film) “The American Ruling Class” (2005)
  44. (Video) “The American Ruling Class” trailer (onYouTube)
  45. Carnegie + Homestead Strike (1892) (on Wikipedia)
  46. PBS special Homestead Strike
  47. John D. Rockefeller (on Wikipedia)
  48. Rockefeller  + Ludlow Massacre (1914) (on Wikipedia)
  49. Horatio Alger (on Wikipedia)  
  50. Charles Loring Brace (on Wikipedia)
  51. (Book) “The Dangerous Classes of New York: And Twenty Years’ Work Among Them” by Charles Loring Brace (1872):
  52. Orphan Train (on Wikipedia)
  53. Adoption (on Wikipedia)
  54. Indentured Servant (on Wikipedia)
  55. The Adoption History Project (University of Oregon Archive)
  56. (Document) “Orphan Train Myths and Legal Reality” by Rebecca Trammell (pdf)
  57. Minutes 15 -30 / roundtable discussion references:
  58. Definition of Rhetoric (on Wikipedia)
  59. Definition of Leverage
  60. (Book) “The Human Use of Human Beings” by Norbert Wiener (1950)
  61. (Book) “The Force of Fantasy: Restoring the American Dream” by Ernest Bormann (1985)
  62. (Book) “Foundations: Their Power and Influence” by Rene Wormser (1958)
  63. (Book) “The Babylonian Woe” by David Astle (1975)
  64. Thomas Jefferson / Sally Hemings (PBS “Jefferson-Hemings Story”)
  65. (Book) “Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time” by Carroll Quigley (1966) (PDF file)
  66. W. Cleon Skousen (on Wikipedia)
  67. (Book) “The Naked Capitalist” by W. Cleon Skousen (1970)
  68. Hour 1, minutes 30 -45 (approx.):
  69. (Document) “Frustration and Aggression” by John Dollard (Yale University Press, 1939)
  70. Adam Robinson (on Wikipedia)
  71. The Princeton Review (on Wikipedia)
  72. (Book) “What Smart Students Know” by Adam Robinson (1993)
  73. George W. Bush (on Wikipedia)
  74. John Forbes Kerry (on Wikipedia)
  75. Bush, Kerry, C-Average at Yale (The Chicago Tribune)
  76. Bush, Kerry, Yale, Skull & Bones (CBS News)
  77. (Book) “How The Order Controls Education” by Antony Sutton (1985)
  78. (Book) “America’s Secret Establishment: An Introduction to the Order of Skull & Bones” by Antony Sutton (1986)
  79. Citibank of New York Corporate History
  80. Citigroup (on Wikipedia)
  81. Minutes 30-45 / roundtable discussion references:
  82. (Document) “Frustration and Aggression” by John Dollard (Yale University Press, 1939)
  83. (Document) “The Great American Bubble Machine” by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)
  84. (Book) “The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One” by William K. Black (2005)
  85. (Book) “Power in the Highest Degree: Professionals and the Rise of a New Mandarin Order” by Charles Derber, William A. Schwartz, Yale R. Magrass (Oxford University Press, 1990)
  86. (Book) “Politics and Progress: The Emergence of American Political Science” by Dennis Mahoney (2004)
  87. Woodrow Wilson PhD (on Wikipedia)
  88. (Book) “Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine” by Norbert Wiener (1948)
  89. Thorstein Veblen (on Wikipedia)
  90. Conspicuous Consumption (on Wikipedia)
  91. Andrew J. Galambos (In “Sic Itur Ad Astra”, Galambos defines “Profit” as any increase in wealth or happiness which is achieved without violating the volition of another human being)
  92. Sic Itur Ad Astra: The Theory of Volition (Volume I) by Andrew J. Galambos
  93. Definition of Volition
  94. (Video) Tim Russert /Bush /Kerry /Skull & Bones (on YouTube)
  95. Yale Troika
  96. (Video) Trader Alessio Rastani on BBC (Youtube)
  97. Hour 1, minutes 45 –end:
  98. Outcome-Based Education (on Wikipedia)
  99. Prussian Education System (on Wikipedia)
  100. Robber Barons (on Wikipedia)
  101. Johann Fichte (on Wikipedia)
  102. (Book) “Addresses to The German Nation” by Johann Fichte (1806); trans. R. F. Jones & G. H. Turnbull (University of Chicago Press, 1922)
  103. The Battle of Jena (on Wikipedia)
  104. Baruch Spinoza (on Wikipedia)
    (Book) “Tractatus Theologico-Politicus” (or) “Theologico-Political Treatise” by Baruch Spinoza (1670)
    John Calvin (on Wikipedia)
  105. (Book) "Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin (1536)
  106. “Justified Sinners”/ Calvinism (on Wikipedia)
  107. “The Elect” / Calvinism / Predestination (on Wikipedia)
  108. Final roundtable discussion (min 45 –end) references:
  109. (Book) “War is a Racket” by Maj. General Smedley Butler (1933)
  110. (Video) “20/20 Hindsight: Censorship on the Frontline” Divergent Films (2010 /YouTube)
  111. Immanuel Kant (on Wikipedia)
  112. (Book) “Vom Kriege” (or) “On War” by Carl von Clausewitz (1832)
  113. Carl von Clausewitz (on Wikipedia)
  114. Eugenics (on Wikipedia)
  115. (Book) “War Against The Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race” by Edwin Black (2003)
  116. (Video) Maafa 21: The History of Eugenics and Slavery (Youtube)
  117. Johann Pestalozzi (on Wikipedia)
  118. (Book) "Godwin's letter to Olgilve, Friend of Jefferson, and the Federalist
    Propaganda" by Burton R. Pollin (source of Jefferson receiving a Pestalozzi book)
  119. (Book) "War and Education" by Porter Sargent (1943)
  120. (Book) “Compromised Campus: The Collaboration of Universities with the Intelligence Community, 1945 – 1955” by Sigmund Diamond (1992)
  121. (Book) “Universities and Empire: Money and Politics in the Social Sciences During the Cold War” edited by Christopher Simpson (1999)
  122. (Book) “The Impact of Science on Society” by Bertrand Russell (1952): (Fichte quote; page 51 -52)
  123. (Book) “The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives” by Zbigniew Brzezinski (1998)
  124. (Video) Comedian Lee Camp “Evil People Have Plans” (on YouTube)

End of Hour 1

Stay tuned for Peace Revolution Episode 042: The Ultimate History Lesson with John Taylor Gatto / Hour 2 + Commentary

 

Peace Revolution partner podcasts:

Corbett Report dot com

Media Monarchy dot com

Gnostic Media Podcast

School Sucks Project Podcast

Remedy Radio Podcast

Meria dot net

The Unplugged Mom Podcast

Other productions by members of the T&H network:

Navigating Netflix (2011) our new video series wherein we conduct a critical analysis of films you might have missed; Navigating Netflix is available for free on YouTube.

"Memories of a Political Prisoner", an interview with Professor Chengiah Ragaven, graduate of Oxford, Cambridge, and Sussex; AFTER he was a political prisoner, who was exiled from South Africa, during Apartheid. (2011)

What You've Been Missing! (2011) is our video series focusing in on the history of corruption in our public education system.

Top Documentary Films dot com: Hijacking Humanity by Paul Verge (2006)

Top Documentary Films dot com: Exposing the Noble Lie (2010)

Top Documentary Films dot com: The Pharmacratic Inquisition by Jan Irvin (2007)

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! If you would like to donate so that we can continue producing independent media without commercial advertising, simply click the button below for a one-time donation:

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT! If you would like to donate so that we can continue producing independent media without commercial advertising, simply click the button below for a one-time donation:

Alternatively, You can become a Member and Support our ability to create media for the public (while You make new friends and enjoy educating yourself along the way) by subscribing to the Tragedy and Hope Community: Monthly @ $14.95 / month

Yearly @ $120.00 / year

*Subscription details on Subscribe page in the Top Menu.


          The Paradox of the Wage Slave        
Once upon a time, there was no such thing as the hourly wage. If you were an independent farmer, you'd sell your grains, cows, pigs and vegetables at the market, and in general would try to stagger these so that you could have money coming in most times of the year. If you were a tenant farmer, when the land lord sold the goods you produced, you'd get a percentage of the sales based upon the amount of land you farmed. A smith would negotiate by the piece or the lot, and usually took a down-payment to cover the costs of the materials. Farmhands and soldiers would be paid a set amount each week, usually at the end of the week after the work in question was done, but might also get a certain proportion of their wages from a share of the harvest or a chance at the spoils. Sailors would get a share of the shipping proceeds (or plunder if the ship in question was a pirate or privateer vessel), plus a stipend for completed voyages and occasionally a small signing bonus.

In general, the per week payments were intended to keep the laborer involved until the final payout - in effect the laborer was part of the venture and would share in the rewards, or was paid per piece with just enough to cover the artisan's or tradesman's costs and basic sustenance paid in advance.

Industrialization changed that, along with the arrival of the mechanical clock. People have always had the ability to tell approximate time via candles or hour glasses, but because such resources were both expensive and required maintenance (and were at best very approximate) most timekeeping was managed by church bells sounding the times of worship. With the advent of the clock, however, it became possible to measure tasks more precisely, and as a consequence to break up time into discrete units during the day.

The machine paradigm also broke the normal agricultural rhythms of working at dawn, getting a big breakfast, working until the sun reached it's peak, taking a short siesta, then working until near dark. Instead, you worked to the clock. In the factory paradigm, it made less sense to pay the workers an small initial payment then pay them a share of the proceeds after the project was done, because there was never a "done" point - the machines ran twelve hours a day, every day. Because industrialization was going on in tandem with the break up of the feudal tenant farm system, there were a lot of laborers available for factory jobs, and consequently, factory owners could limit the laborers to hourly stipends without any hope of final renumeration. This was also the stage where factory labor diverged from trade or artisanal labor, although the former also depressed wages for the latter.

In the 1940s in both the US and England, most able bodied young men went to war, where they learned regimentation, and where both officer and enlisted class became intimately familiar with command and control structures. The military had standardized on hourly wages, but also had standardized on the concept of a standard work week for those not in theater in order to simplify wage accounting. In practice, that meant that you got paid for 48 hours of work a week, period. Senior grades had a higher pay structure per hour, and officers made more than enlisted for the same number of hours of service.

When the war ended, the officers went into the newly booming corporations as managers as they switched over from war time to peacetime production of goods, while the enlisted went into the factories as foremen and line managers. The terms "white" and "blue" collar jobs reflected this - naval daily officer uniforms were white cotton, while the ratings and seamen wore blue chamoise-cloth shirts.

Wages began going up both because of increased demand for skilled workers and because the management class was also getting wages - they were still hirelings of the rentier or investor class, but because they were doing management type activities they typically had far more involvement in the longer term success or failure of the company. Moreover, much of that management was involved with sales, which in addition to wages, paid a commission on sales made that boosted the income of the management class significantly in the years after World War II.

Meanwhile, unions, which had struggled during the Depression and World War II, exploded in popularity in the 1950 and 60s, in part because there was a massive demand for people in the building trades - skilled carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and so forth who had until then perforce taken temporary jobs on an as available basis, and in part in manufacturing, where again high employment demand had meant that a system that both guaranteed competence and provided an environment for younger union members to gain experience made them attractive. As many of the companies involved were comparatively weak, the management of these companies were unable to stop this phenomenon, as they needed people too much not to concede to labor demands.

By the 1970s, labor unions had become very pervasive, and arguably had become too powerful, at least from the perspective of corporations that were now facing increasingly severe headwinds. In the 1950s, the United States was effectively rebuilding both Europe and Asia. By the 1970s, however, these economies had recovered, and were increasingly competing against the United States in critical areas. Additionally, the Breton Woods agreement in 1944 that had established a global reserve currency (the US dollar) and pegged that dollar to gold was seen more and more as a burden by the US, since it meant that US banks were very limited in the amount of money that they could loan out. When French President Charles de Gaulle demanded that the US make payments to France in gold, not dollars (as the French were concerned about the Americans' depreciation of their currency during the 1960s), President Richard Nixon severed the tie between gold and the dollar. This had the immediate effect of causing the oil producing states of the Middle East to band together in order to raise prices in response, which in turn began an inflationary spiral that didn't really end until Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker raising interest rates to nose bleed levels,

The massive spike in inflation caused demand for American produced goods to fall dramatically, exacerbating problems that the unions faced. With reduced demand, corporations were able to close plants with impunity. People paid into unions because they had been successful in raising wages and work standards (including reducing total work time to 40 hours per week), but as manufacturing jobs disappeared, so too did the clout of the unions, because there were far more people competing for jobs than there were jobs available. This has always been the Achilles heel of the union movement. Ironically, those places where unions have remained strongest are also those where educational requirements and continued training have also been the most stringent - teachers, nurses, engineers, fire and police professionals,

It's also worth noting the distinctions in types of inflation. Talking about a broad "inflation" rate is misleading, because in general, inflation is the rise of labor or resources relative to the nominal price of other resources. wage inflation occurred in the 1950s and early 60s relative to commodities, energy and finished goods because labor was comparatively scarce for many jobs. Wages largely stagnated since about 1971, but there was massive inflation in managerial salaries and dividends. Energy has inflated relative to wages since '71, while commodities inflated during the period from 1998-2008, and real estate inflated dramatically from about 2000 until the market collapsed in 2008.

Most corporate managers and rentier class investors prefer it when labor costs fall while finished goods inflate (which increases their profit), but fear when labor costs rise and raw material goods inflate (which can often squeeze margins at a time when the economy is tight). Not surprisingly, when the main stream media discusses the desire of the Federal Reserve to increase inflation, what they are usually referring to is the inflation of finished goods (from cars and houses to computers, packaged foods and so forth) rather than wage inflation, even though in this case wage inflation is precisely what needs to happen, relative to other asset classes).

In the late 1970s, a new class of business consultants such as Peter Drucker began making the argument that the primary purpose of a corporation was not to create goods and services but to maximize shareholder value. This credo was part of a shift in thinking pushed largely by the Chicago School of Economics and the monetarists, led by Milton Friedman. Along with this came the belief that the senior management of a corporation, such as the CEO or CFO, should be incentivized to increase stock value (which was widely seen as a good proxy for "shareholder value") by giving them options to purchase stocks at a greatly reduced price.

With skin in the game, these senior managers would then have more reason to keep stock prices up. In point of fact, all that this did was to transfer a significant amount of wealth from the employees (who were not similarly compensated) and the investors to the managerial class. Ironically, this has served in the long term to significantly reduce shareholder value, while at the same time making such manageables largely unaccountable as they ended up stocking boards of directors with their cronies. Weighed down with expensive senior management contracts many companies ended up reducing long term wages on employees that weren't critical to success to compensate - additionally, because stock price became the only real proxy for a corporation's value, corporate raiders emerged who would push the stock value of a company down through market manipulation, buy it out, reward the senior managers and fire the labor force, often gorging on pension funds and patents in the process.

The rise of unemployment that resulted was partially masked by the rise of the IT sector. The information technologies revolution started in the 1970s with big iron systems that began to reduce accounting staffs, but it really was only the marriage of the personal computer in the 1980s with networking technology that things began to change dramatically. One of the first things to happen was that as software reached a critical threshold in the mid 1980s, it began to erode the last real bastion of wage employment - the non-managerial white (and pink) collar jobs that had been indispensible to the command and control corporate structure.

The creation of presentations provides an interesting illustration of the impact this had. Until the mid-1980s, many corporations had graphic design departments. If a manager needed to make a presentation, he would need to work with a designer to design the slides, who would then work with a typesetter, a graphic illustrator and photographer to create the slides, a copy-writer, and possibly a printer, and would often take a month of lead time. With the introduction of presentation software such as Harvard Graphics and later Powerpoint, the manager could do all of these jobs himself, eliminating these positions and drastically reducing the time to do this work. Adaptable artists and designers did eventually go to work for themselves to provide such services, but for every person that became successful in this milleau, three or four did not, and in the process it caused a shift away from the monolithic culture into more of a  freelance and studio arrangement.

Ironically, such a process served to hinder the women's movement for at least a few decades. Falling real wages coincided with a rise of women's empowerment to bring a whole generation of women into the corporate workforce as secretaries, which often provided a stepping stone into mid-level management (typically office management or administration). The introduction of personal computers into the corporate workforce actually initially proved beneficial to secretaries, because they were often the first to get access to these typewriter-like devices and consequently ended up getting a leg up on their male managerial counterparts. However, as more people began using PCs in the work environment, it also radically thinned the number of secretaries required in an organization (although in a fitting twist of irony it also had the same effect on mid-level managers a few years later). This is part of the reason that there's something of a gap between older and younger women in most organizations, especially as IT itself became increasingly seen as a specialized domain for nerdy young men.

For manufacturing, however, the IT revolution was devastating for workers. Once you networked computers, it became possible to distribute your workforce, and from there it was a short step to moving work outside the US in particular to countries with low labor costs, low taxes and lax regulatory regimes. Standardization of shipping containers made shipping raw goods to these external factories for processing and sending the finished goods back easier, and new telecommunication systems meant that it was easier to coordinate production eight to ten hours ahead or behind you globally. This served to inject huge amounts of money into the Asian economies, which had the unintended effect of raising the wage levels of Chinese, Indian, Japanese and Korean workers dramatically. This outsourcing drained manufacturing from the US, leaving much of the Midwest and MidAtlantic as derelict ghost towns.

This also had the effect of reducing the overall import costs of foreign goods, which companies such as Walmart took strong advantage of. The outsourcing on manufacturing not only eliminated manufacturing jobs, but also had an adverse on the many service jobs that supported these manufacturing jobs, driving down wages in these areas and giving rise to the McJob - part time, no benefits, paying minimum wage, offering little opportunity for advancement and making an insufficient amount of money to catch up on with steadily rising food and housing prices. Automation generally affected services economies less directly - services almost by definition require either human intervention or human knowledge - but it did mean that mid-level management jobs (which typically provided a career path for people in these sectors) disappeared, leaving fewer ways for a person to break out of the "wage-slave" trap.

Dramatic rises in energy and commodities due both to scarcity and a growing realization on the part of countries that they were being pillaged by Western corporations caused the machine to falter even more. As the opportunities for the giant petrochemical companies to get access to foreign oil at highly profitable rates disappeared, cries for energy independence began to arise in the US. Energy independence in this context should be read, however, not as an increase in the use alternative energy sources (which currently receive a very small subsidy by the US compared to the oil companies) but as increased drilling for shale oil, offshore oil and natural gas deposits via rock fracturing (aka fracking). These deposits were considered less economical (in part because of the remediation and political costs) than foreign oil and natural gas, but at this stage there are considerably fewer alternatives left to the oil companies (in 1960, oil companies owned roughly 85% of all oil deposits globally, in 2010, that number is closer to 10%, as most of these has been nationalized by their respective governments).

This has led to an increase in the number of hydrocarbon engineering and maintenance jobs in the US, but this is a labor market that runs hot and cold. The jobs will be around until the fields play out, then will be gone - this will likely happen within the next decade.

We are now in what has been described as a bubble economy - government stimulus is frequently needed to create a temporary market, but these markets, unregulated, quickly grow to a point where they are oversupplying the available demand, attracting parasitic speculators that then cause the system to collapse, causing inflation in that sector followed by rapid deflation and despoiled ecospaces. This happened in IT in 2000, in housing in 2008, and in education and energy production likely in the next couple of years. The housing collapse in particular is still playing out, primarily in Europe, though it has left a legal tangle of housing ownership that will take decades to untangle, if ever (I expect that ultimately much of this will end up being written off as uncollectable).

It is against this backdrop that it becomes possible to understand what will happen to jobs over the next couple of decades. There are two additional factors that play into the picture as well. The first is demographic. People born in 1943, which I consider the start of the Baby Boom, turn seventy this year. In the depths of the recession that started in 2008, when this group reached 65, many of them went back to work - and for a while it was not at all uncommon to see a lot of low wage jobs being held by people in their seventh decade. However, even given advancements in geriontology, the ability of people to work into their seventies deterioriates dramatically. The Boomer generation peaked around 1953. If you assume that only a comparatively small fraction of those age 70 or above are still in the workforce, this means that this gray workforce will fade fairly quickly from the overall workforce just in the next five years. This will have the effect of clearing out a large proportion of upper-level management as well, which has been heavily dominated by Boomers just given the sheer number of them.

GenXers are a trough generation - as a group there is perhaps 65% as many of them as there are Boomers. These people are now entering into policy making positions in both government and business, but because of numbers, the Boomer peak for leaving the workforce hits at approximately the bottom of the GenXer trough for entering into senior management and senior professional positions. This actually translates into a relative scarcity of executive and professorial level talent by 2020, now only seven years distant. GenXers, for the most part, are engineers. Many of them, in their 20s through 40s, were responsible for the low level implementation of the web in the 1990s and the 2000s. A large number were contractors, people who generally benefited far less overall monetarily from the emergence of the computing revolution and the web, and as such they see far less benefit in large scale corporate structures.

Indeed, the GenXer view of a company is increasingly becoming the norm. It's typically small - under 150 people, in many cases under twenty people. It's distributed and virtual, with the idea of an "office" as often as not being a periodically rented room in a Starbucks, and with people working on it from literally across the world. Participants are often shareholders without necessarily being employees. Their physical facilities are on the cloud, and staffs are usually two or three people devoted to administration while the rest are "creatives" - engineers, developers, artists, videographers, writers and subject matter experts. The products involved are often either virtual or custom as well, and usually tend to have a comparatively small life cycle - often less than six months. This could be anything from software to customized cars to media productions to baked goods.

In effect these microcompanies are production pods. They may be part of a larger company, but they are typically autonomous even then. They can be seen as "production houses" or similar entities, and they may often perform specialized services for a larger entity - a digital effects house for a movie, a research group for a pharmaceutical company, a local food provider, specialized news journalists. When they do have physical production  facilities, those facilities may be shared with other microcompanies (the facilities themselves are essentially another company).

One of the longer term impacts of ObamaCare is that it also becomes possible for such pods to enter into group arrangements with health insurers, and makes it easier for people to participate in such insurance systems without necessarily being tied to a 40-hour paycheck. Health insurance was once one of the big perks of the more monolithic companies, but until comparatively recently changing companies typically involved changing insurance companies as well, a process that could become onerous and leave people with gaps in insurance that could be devastating if a worker or her child was injured. As command and control companies end up putting more of the costs of insurance on the employee, the benefit to staying with that employer diminishes.

The same thing applies to pension plans - it has become increasingly common for companies to let go of employees that are close to cashing out their pensions for retirement, often leaving them with little to nothing to show for years of saving. The younger generations are increasingly skeptical of large companies to manage their retirement, usually with good reason, especially since the average 40 year old today may have ten or more companies under their belt since they started work, and can expect to work for at least that many more before they reach "retirement age". This means that GenXers and younger (especially younger) are choosing to manage their own retirement funds when possible, independent of their employer.

Once those two "benefits" are taken out of the equation, the only real incentives that companies can offer are ownership stakes and salaries. As mentioned earlier, salaries are attractive primarily because of their regularity - you have a guarantee that you will receive X amount of money on this particular date, which becomes critical for the credit/debit system we currently inhabit. Ownership stakes are riskier, but they constitute a long term royalty, which can be important because it becomes itself a long term semi-reliable revenue stream. If you receive royalties from three or four different companies, this can go a long way to not having to be employed continuously.

The GenXers will consequently be transformers, pragmatists who are more interested in solving problems than dealing with morality, overshadowed by a media that is still primarily fixated on the Boomers, quietly cleaning up the messes, establishing standards, and promoting interconnectivity and transparency. Many of them now are involved in the technical engineering involved in alternative energy and green initiatives, next generation cars, trucks and trains, aerospace technologies, programming, bioengineering, information management and design, and so forth. While they are familiar with corporate culture, they find the political jockeying and socializing of the previous generation tedious, and though they are competent enough managers, GenXers generally tend to be more introverted and less entrepreneurial. Overall, as they get older, GenXers are also far more likely to go solo - consulting or freelancing. They may end up setting up consulting groups in order to take advantage of the benefits of same, but there is usually comparatively little interaction between consultants - they are more likely to be onsite with a client troubleshooting.

From a political strategist standpoint, one of the great mysteries of the modern era has been the disappearance of the unions. Beyond the strong automation factors discussed earlier as well as a politically hostile climate to unions, one factor has always been generational. GenXers are probably the most disposed personality-wise to being union members, but because unions generally gained a blue collar reputation, many GenXers (who in general see themselves more as engineers and researchers) have tended to see unions as being outside their socioeconomic class. Moreover, the consultant or freelancer mentality is often at odds with the "strength in numbers" philosophy of most unions.

I expect this generation to also end up much more in academia, especially on the technical and scientific side, or to migrate towards research, especially by 2020 or so as they finally reach a point where passing their knowledge on to the next generation outweighs any gains to be made by consulting. As is typical, the relatively inward looking GenXers will lay the groundwork for the very extroverted generation following after them - the Millennials.

Millennials were born after 1982, with the peak occurring in 1990, and are the children of the latter wave part of the Boomers (many of whom started families comparatively late - in their very late 20s, and had children until their late 40s). However, there's also an overlap with the children of the GenXers that creates a double crested population hump, with the trough in 1997 and then growth until 2007 (which actually exceeded the number of births per year of the Baby Boomers). After that, however there's been a sharp drop off to the extent that in 2012 the number of births is expected to approach the trough levels of 1971. For all that, the Virtuals (those born after 2000) will likely be a fairly small generation, given the drop off (most likely due to the economy's collapse).

The oldest Millennials are now thirty years old. Displaced by the gray workforce and facing the hardships in the economy by 2007, many started work four or five years later than in previous generations, had more difficulty finding work, and were often forced when they could find work to take MacJobs. They are distrustful of corporations, and are in general far more bound to their "tribes" -- connected over the Internet via mobile phones and computers -- than they are to work. Their forte is media - writing, art, film production, music, entertainment programming, social media, all of which lends itself well to the production house model, and which will likely mean that as this generation matures, it will end up producing the first great artists of the 21st century.

What it won't do is make them good workers in the corporate world, or in traditional blue collar positions. Overall, math and science scores for high school plummeted for the Millennials during the 1990s and 2000s, and enrollment in STEM programs in college declined dramatically after 2000 (when the Millennials started into college). Most Millennials are very good at communicating within their generation - this is the most "connected" generation ever - but overall tend not to communicate well with authority figures outside that demographic. (I've discussed this in previous essays.)

While I've seen some commentators who are critical of the Millennials because they see them as spoiled and entitled, instead, I'd argue that these characteristics are actually more typical of a generation that overall is just not heavily motivated by financial factors. Most have learned frugality after years of having minimal jobs. They will likely marry later and have fewer children than any generation before them, and their social relationships may actually prove stronger than their marital ones. On the other hand, they will also likely focus more strongly on their craft because of these factors, which means that as they age, they will prosper because of their innate skills and talents.

Temperamentally, the Millennials will tend to act in concert to a far greater extent than the generations before them. They will not join unions, but they will end up creating constructs very much like them. Moreover, they will be inclined to follow authority, but only if that authority is roughly in their generation. Consensus politics will be very important to them, and this will be the first generation that really employs a reputation economy as currency.

Given all this, it is very likely that the nine-to-five, five day a week job is going the way of the dodo. It won't disappear completely for quite some time, but the concept of a salaried employee will become increasingly irrelevant as the production house model obviates the command and control structure corporation. If you're still learning, you would get paid at a fixed rate plus time, but once you reach a point where you add significant value to a project, you would get points in the project towards a return royalty. Service jobs, similarly, will likely revert to a work for hire basis, coupled with some profit sharing. Manufacturing is shifting to a combination of insourcing with pod companies and artisanal production. Legal and accounting services, where they haven't already shifted to web-based delivery, are pretty much already done on a work for hire basis, with partners getting profit-shares.

The biggest changes that are taking place are in the sales sector. The rise of eRetailing is beginning to hit brick and mortar businesses hard. Christmas hiring at physical retail stores has been dropping consistently in the last five years, even as the economy itself has begun to recover. This is primarily because more and more retail is shifting online, to the extent that it accounts for nearly half of all retail activity in the United States during the last three months of the year. Mobile continues driving that as well, as it becomes far easier to "impulse buy" when your computing platform is constantly by your side.

The only real exception to this trend is in groceries and restaurants, though even there online purchases are accounting for a larger percentage of sales than a few years ago. Many grocery chains now offer online ordering and delivery services for nominal fees, up from only a couple specialized services a few years ago. Supermarket shopping is perhaps more ingrained in people than other retail shopping, so it is likely that this trend will take longer to play out there, but it is happening, especially in cities where grocery shopping is more complicated than it is in the suburbs.

Ambiance stores and restaurants are perhaps the only ones truly bucking the trend, and this has to do with the fact that most restaurants ultimately are as much about entertainment as they are about food. It's why there's been a slow death of the fast food industry, but places such as Starbucks do quite well. They are the modern day equivalent of pubs.

Note that I do not believe that such service jobs will go away completely, but they will diminish, and at some point it is often more profitable for a common to only be virtual and not maintain the costs of storefronts. No storefronts means fewer stores in malls, and already many malls are closing or being converted to other purpose buildings, while there are very few new mall or strip mall projects starting. Similarly, the number of "big box" stores has been declining as well. On any given day, go into an Office Depot or Best Buy, and what's most remarkable is how little traffic there generally is. Yet people are buying from their online sites, and the stores stay open increasingly to keep the brand alive in people's minds. At some point I expect these expensive "advertisements" to finally close down or turn into general distribution points, with only token merchandise on the floor.

This brings up the final paradox of the wage slave. The number of jobs being created is smaller than the number of jobs that are going away by a considerable degree, even in a "healthy" economy. These jobs are not being outsourced, they are being eliminated due to automation. The jobs that are being created in general require specialized skills, skills which used to be acquired via "on the job training", but increasingly these low and mid-tier jobs that provided such training are the easiest to automate, and hence are going away as well.

It is possible to train people some of these skills in the classroom, but the 10,000 hour rule of mastery generally applies - in order to understand a particular topic or acquire a given skill, it usually takes 10,000 hours worth of study, experimentation and practice to truly acquire competency in that area. In practice, this usually correlates to about ten years of fairly rigorous working with the topic. This means that while education is a part of the solution, the time required to impart that education can often make these skills obsolete.

The upshot of this is pretty simple - eventually, you end up with a large and growing percentage of the population that simply become unemployable. They are not lazy - most of them had positions until comparatively recently, but those positions are now gone. Meanwhile, profits that are made from the automation do not go to the people who lost the jobs, but the people who purchased the automation, and from there to the people who commissioned the creation of that automation in the first place. Put another way, productivity gains over the last fifty years were privatized, while the corresponding unemployment was dumped on the public domain. That unemployment in turn created emotional and financial hardship, foreclosures, a rise in crime and in the end a drop in the overall amount of money in circulation.

This last point is worth discussing, because it lies at the crux of the problem. In a capitalistic society, the velocity of money is ultimately more important than the volume of money in circulation. When money moves quickly through the system, more transactions take place, and in general more value is created in that economy. When money ceases moving, no one buys or sells, no investment takes place, no jobs are created (though many may be lost), and money becomes dearer, because you have a fixed amount - you can't count on additional moneys coming in, you can't get loans, even the simplest economic activity stops. This was close to what happened in 2009. As automation replaces work, billions of man hours of work payments disappear - money that would have gone to labor instead goes to the investors, who generally contribute a far smaller acceleration to the global economy than middle and working class individuals do in the aggregate. The wage-hour ceases being an effective mechanism for transferring wealth in society.

Eventually, a tiny proportion of the population ends up with most of the money in that society, and there is no way for the rest of the population to get access to that money to get the goods they need. We're not quite there yet, but the imbalance is already sizable and only getting worse.

One solution to this problem is to tax wealth that's not in use. This transfers money from wealthy individuals to the government, but given that government has become increasingly captured by those same individuals, the result of those taxes end up as corporate kickbacks to the same rentier class in terms of subsidies. Taxes can be reduced on low income individuals, but for the most part, low income individuals generally pay little in the way of payroll taxes, though they do pay in hidden taxes and fees arising from having to buy the smallest units of finished goods and services, which is generally the most expensive per item cost. Money can be distributed to everyone to spend, but the benefits of such stimulus usually tend to be short-lived, because the amounts are too small to make an appreciable difference in the same extractive mechanisms still exist in society.

Government mandated minimum wage floors can be set, but while this will help some, it is precisely these jobs that are most heavily impacted by automation. Moreover, the same corporate capture of the government provides a chokehold on the ability to impose such requirements on corporations. In effect the oligarchical control of the government continues to pursue policies that locally increase their profits, but at the systemic cost of destroying the consumer base upon which those profits depend. It is, in many respects, yet another example of the tragedy of the commons.

In many respects this is what the end state of a capitalistic society looks like - stalemate. Fewer and fewer jobs exist. Money becomes concentrated not in the hands of those who have jobs, but in the hands of investors, yet investment money is seldom sufficient to create a market, only to bring a product or service to that market. Wages become two tiered - bare subsistence level or below, and lavish for those with specialized skills, but only at the cost of continuous learning and training, and the concommittant loss of expertise as skilled workers choose not to share their skills at the risk of losing their marketability.

Because needs are not being met in the formal market, an informal or gray market emerges that is outside of the control of both the government and the corporatocracy, one with lax quality controls and legal redress in the case of fraudulent transactions, and consequently one where organized crime can play a much larger role. While this may seem like a Libertarian wet dream, the reality of such markets is typically like Russian markets in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet empire, in which crime lords created monopoly markets where basic goods were only available for high prices or coercive acts, and where legislators and activists who tried to bring such crime lords under control were regularly assassinated.

So how does a society get out of this trap? My own belief is that in the end, it decentralizes. Power production shifts from long pipelines of petroleum based fuels to locally generated power sources - solar, wind, geothermal, hydrothermal, small nuclear (such as small thorium reactors), some local oil and natural gas production, intended primarily to achieve power sufficiency for a region with enough to handle shortfalls elsewhere in a power network. This provides jobs - both constructing such systems and maintaining them - and insures that energy profits remain within the region.

Establish a minimal working wage but also provide mechanisms for employees to become participants through profit-sharing and royalties, rather than options and dividends.

Make healthcare and retirement saving affordable and universal, rather than as a profit center for insurance companies and pharmaceuticals.

Tax financial transactions in exchanges, and use this to provide a minimal payment to individuals as a way of redistributing the costs of automation (and financial malfeasance) on employment.

Eliminate the distinction between salaried and hourly workers in the tax code, which has created an artificial two tiered system designed primarily to make it possible for unscrupulous employers to have a person work up to 39 hours a week and still not qualify for benefits.

Eliminate the 40 hour workweek - it's an anachronism. Instead, establish a government base payment that provides a floor for subsistence living for everyone, coupled with wage payments from jobs to fill in towards a production royalty payoff that provides wealth for people willing to put in expertise and effort.

Eliminate the income tax, and replace it with a value-added tax. The Federal income tax has in general been a disaster, increasing class warfare, often being used punitively by various administrations to favor one or another group, is extraordinarily complex, requires too much effort to maintain records for independent workers and small businesses, and usually being easily subvertible by the very wealthy, putting the bulk of the burden on the middle class. A value-added tax, while somewhat regressive, is generally easier to administrate, does not require that employees maintain detailed records, can be automated easily, and can in general be fined tune to encourage or discourage consumption of certain things within the economy.

Tax employers for educational support. Too many corporations want their workers to have specialized knowledge or skills, but in general do not want to pay for the training. Some of that tax can be in kind knowledge transfer from people that do have those skills in those corporations , at which point the corporation pays for that employer/contributor to teach.

Similarly, tax employers for infrastructure support that directly or indirectly benefits them. Much of the last half century has seen the maxim of privatizing profits and socializing costs become almost holy writ, but this has generally resulted in ghettos and gated communities that benefit a few at the expense of millions.

Encourage telecommuting and virtual companies, while taxing those corporations that require large numbers of employees onsite at all times. If telecommunication tools were good enough to outsource to China, they are good enough to provide telecommuting. This generally has multiple benefits - less need for infrastructure, far fewer carbon emissions, less energy consumption, less time wasted in traffic, fewer monster skyscrapers serving as corporate shrines.

These changes (and others like them) are feasible, but in general will only work if they are attempted locally - at the state or even city level. These are transformative changes - as different regions attempt these, facets that work and don't will emerge, and local variations will no doubt come about based upon cultural temperament, but overall success will beget success. Demographic changes, as discussed in this essay, will accelerate this process - those regions that are already investing in twenty-first century technologies are already doing a number of these things, and are seeing benefits, but those that are heavily petroeconomically bound will resist them. The irony here is that this means that in these latter areas, the wage slave paradox will only get worse, and the economy more dysfunctional over time.

It is likely that thirty years from now the economy of the United States will look very different - mass customization through additive printing techniques, millions of virtual pod corporations that number in the dozens of people only distributed all around the country (and probably the world), cities that will be in a state of controlled disintegration, powered locally and with much more local autonomy, with the rise of a strong creative class supported by an elderly engineering class and a youthful research cadre. None of this will happen overnight, nor will it happen uniformly, but I feel it will happen.
          Be our guest?        
The U.S. should be a good host and protect the migrant workers who knock on our door.

 

In the colonial period the destitute and desperate escaping the poverty of European backwaters made their way to America as indentured servants, signing away the only commodity they had to offer: themselves. Frequently used up to the end of human endurance by their "employers," these earliest members of America's working class experienced a dehumanization that was only exceeded by the treatment of Africans brought over as slaves.

The pattern of desperation finding exploitation has characterized the history of America's laboring masses ever since-from 19th-century European migrant "wage slaves" in America's mills and mines right through to the Bracero program for imported Mexican agricultural workers in the 1940s through mid-1960s. According to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, the pattern persists today under the guise of the nation's H-2 temporary worker visa program.

The SPLC charges that thousands of workers in American agricultural, forestry, food production, landscaping, and construction industries are essentially enthralled to the employers who "import" them, denied the right to seek other work if their wages are too low or their treatment too appalling. Though the program looks good on paper, the SPLC says the current system tolerates widespread abuses: workers paid below the minimum or prevailing wage, enduring "squalid" working and living conditions, held virtually captive by employers or labor brokers who seize their documents, denied medical benefits for on-the-job injuries, and generally silenced within a legal structure that fails to protect their rights.

That federal authorities are having such a difficult time enforcing existing standards now, with no more than 121,000 guest workers, is a cause for grave concern as Congress debates comprehensive immigration reform. A cornerstone of that reform is a proposal for a vast expansion of America's guest worker program that one day could include millions of people abandoned to the perhaps not-so-tender mercies of employers across the country.

While a huge expansion of the program will no doubt satisfy those seeking new flows of cheap labor into the United States, folks interested in throwing a stick into the spokes of this next historical cycle of labor exploitation need to get active. Can we become the first generation of Americans to get it right-to pull together a system that protects the basic human rights of guest laborers, offers new opportunities to native workers for a better standard of living, and provides ethical employers the human capital they need to propel our economy into the next century?

It all depends on how well we citizens supervise those who work for us in Washington. Many of our lawmakers, befuddled as they are over how best to respond to the "problem" of immigration, seem less doubtful about public displays of Christianity. I'll save them some Bible-thumbing as they puzzle over the WWJD on guest workers.

Try Leviticus: "When an alien resides with you in your land, do not molest him. You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God" (19:33-34). Wow. That's really not too hard to parse at all.

President Bush has called for a "legal and orderly path for foreign workers to enter our country to work on a temporary basis" so "they won't have to try to sneak in." This is a laudable goal. How to make it a practical reality is the challenge we must take up today. The SPLC offers a number of recommendations, including freeing more resources for enforcement, guaranteeing acceptable living standards and wages for workers, and fundamentally liberating guest workers from a kind of enslavement to a specific employer or the human traffickers who now prey on them.

These are commonsense proposals well worth incorporating into an ethically sensible temporary worker visa system. After all, when you throw out the welcome mat, you shouldn't hit your guests over the head with it.

Image: 

          A Small Protest        
Graffiti inside a bathroom stall in a Brooklyn grocery store. Feed all people Free the wage slaves Question the system The response. And protest by writing on a bathroom stall instead of actually doing something.   Filed under: Brooklyn, Consumerism, Food & Drink
          Help Bob make money in Sticks, a fun physics game        
sticks
Sticks is another one of those rare games where the intro is actually worth watching. It introduces you to office worker Bob, who is basically a wage slave fantasizing about a better existence.

Then, on his way back home from another grueling day at the office, he passes a huge sign which says "Sticks." This is where the game starts.

Each level has a number of coins hovering in mid-air, and your goal is to place sticks that lead those coins to Bob -- but you only have a limited amount of wood to play with. As soon as you're done placing your sticks strategically, hit the big Play button and let nature, or rather gravity, run its course. The coins will drop down, and if you place your sticks correctly, they will roll all the way to Bob.

The soundtrack is soothing and playful, and didn't get on my nerves even after playing for quite a while. All in all, a very cute game, especially for a day at the office.

Help Bob make money in Sticks, a fun physics game originally appeared on Download Squad on Fri, 18 Feb 2011 17:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Source: http://downloadsquad.switched.com/2011/02/18/help-bob-make-money-in-sticks-a-fun-physics-game/

ASML HOLDING ASUSTEK COMPUTER ATandT AUTODESK AUTOMATIC DATA PROCESSING AVNET


          The Information University        
by
Marc Bousquet
2003-10-04

Class struggle is basic to the capitalist mode of production in the region of “mental” labor, just as it is to be found in the realm of physical production. It is basic not because it is a sign of the special quality of mental labor, but because it is simply labor.
-George Caffentzis, “Why Machines Cannot Create Value”

In this essay, I want to explore what can be called the informatics of U.S. higher education - the managerial logic through which university administrators have transformed the academic workplace on the model of information, so that education (and the labor providing it) is increasingly “delivered” as data, flowing in a bitstream highly responsive to managerial direction. As David Noble, Randy Martin, Gary Rhoades and others have observed, the new realities of managed education strongly correspond to the better-understood realities of managed care. The structural correspondences between the health maintenance organization (HMO) and the managed university (whose ideal form is the for-profit EMO) can be elaborated in many registers: both education and health have been increasingly “marketized,” transformed into sites of unprecedented capital accumulation by way of the commodification of activities and relationships, the selling-off and spinning-off of public assets and activities into private hands, the introduction of market behaviors (such as competition for resources and profit-seeking) into professional cultures, the unapologetic delivery of degraded service or even denial of service to the vast majority of the working class, and the installation of corporate-managerial strata to direct professional labor toward this neoliberal agenda. Not all readers will be aware that the term “EMO” is already in use on Wall Street, describing for-profit education vendors such as Sylvan and Phoenix. This usage does not discriminate between higher, secondary, and vocational education, so long as the organizational structure enables investors to collect profits from student fees, licensing, teacher work, and so forth. In this essay I prefer the term Randy Martin’s term “managed university,” which characterizes the subordination of higher education more generally to an administrative class aggressively pursuing the “corporate ideal” (Barrow). The non-profit university cannot directly transfer wealth to investors in the form of profit, but the “education organization” managed on the corporate ideal can and does accumulate wealth in the form of buildings, grounds, books, endowments, and the like. This is to say that Wall Street’s designation EMO describes an education organization managed for profit; the “managed university” describes higher education institutions managed for accumulation more generally. Many readers may be willing to grant that distinguishing between profit-taking and accumulation is in this context a distinction that makes very little difference, as the president of the University of Florida indicated when he confessed, “We have taken the great leap forward and said: `Let’s pretend we’re a corporation.’” (Steck & Zweig 297).

There are, however, interesting differences in the social reception of managed health care and the managed university. First, there is a striking contrast in the overall affect displayed toward these transformations: the HMO is universally reviled, while “student satisfaction” with management-dominated higher education has never been higher, at least according to corporate-university surveys. According to these sources, students in all institution categories are overwhelmingly satisfied with the learning dimensions of their college experience, in many cases reserving their complaints for the quality of food and availability of parking. See for example the “1999 National Student Satisfaction Report,” conducted by Noel-Levitz, a higher education consulting firm and subsidiary of the USA Group, the major education lender (which in 2000 merged with Sallie Mae). The report claims to reflect survey data from over half a million students at nearly 900 institutions. The survey is evidently based on the firm’s trademarked “Student Satisfaction Inventory,” which is primarily used by client educators to “assess client [student] satisfaction,” and is not offered here as an authentic record of the student voice. Nonetheless it is clearly an instrument that serves as the authentic record of student voice or “demand” for at least some university administrators, who have been investing heavily in the “parking, food and comfortable living quarters” that Noel-Levitz claims are the top issues for students, while continuing to divert funding from instructional labor, an area in which Noel-Levitz reports continuing high levels of “client satisfaction.” Second, the transformations in higher education are widely perceived as technology-driven. Much of even the most-informed and committed discourse in the field is obsessively focused on information technology as the engine of change. This leads to the likely-mistaken concern that the “real issue” with the management revolution in higher education is that all campus-bound activities will be vacated in the metastatic spread of distance education - as in Noble’s widely-known formulation of “digital diploma mills” producing the “automation of higher education.”

It is important that these two differences in the social reception of the managed university push toward partly conflicting conclusions. On the one hand, the concern with technology represents the faculty’s idea that students are willing to accept a disembodied educational experience in a future virtual university of informatic instruction. On the other hand, the student concerns are overwhelmingly attentive to the embodied character of their experience - where to park, what to eat, and so on. Why do the faculty envision students willing to give up the embodied experience of the campus, when the students are in fact increasingly attentive to embodied experience? Campus administrators continue to build new stadiums, restaurants, fitness facilities, media rooms, libraries, laboratories, gardens, dormitories and hotels: are these huge new building projects, funded by thirty years of faculty downsizing, really about to be turned into ghost towns? In my view, the claim that (future) students will generally accept a disembodied education experience is at least a partial displacement of the underlying recognition, not that future students will accept an “education experience divorced from the body,” but the extent to which present students have already accepted an embodied experience divorced from “education.” While the dystopic image of distance education captures the central strategy of the information university (substituting information delivery for education), that dystopia erroneously maps the strategy onto the future, as if informationalization were something “about to happen” that could be headed off at the pass, if we just cut all the fiber-optic cables.

What does it mean for students and teachers that informationalization has already happened? It means that we have met the Info. U., and it is us - not some future disembodiment, but a fully-lived present reality already experienced in the muscular rhythm of everyday life.

Understanding the information university as an accomplished fact means understanding that we’ve already done a pretty good job of translating education into information delivery over the past 30 years, and further understanding that this substitution has been accomplished by transformation of the academic workplace rather than by stringing optic cable.

Informationalization without Information Technology?

“I am very troubled by it,” said Tom Hanks. “But it’s coming down, man. It’s going to happen. And I’m not sure what actors can do about it.” The spectre of the digital actor - a kind of cyberslave who does the producer’s bidding without a whimper or salary - has been a figure of terror for the last few years in Hollywood, as early technical experiments proved that it was at least possible to create a computer image that could plausibly replace a human being.
- “Movie Stars Fear Inroads by Upstart Digital Actors,” Rick Lyman, The New York Times, July 8, 2001

The text that in some ways strikes nearest and in other ways less close to this understanding is the well-known series of articles drafted by David Noble in the late 1990s (subsequently revised and released as a monograph by Monthly Review Press, November 2001). Taking Noble’s work in the Digital Diploma series as a starting point is helpful not only because it has been widely disseminated across the World Wide Web, but also because the analysis originates in the actual workplace struggle of faculty in California and Canada, and because it maps the area of starkest contrast in the technology conversation: at the bargaining table, with the tenure-stream faculty mostly “against technology” and the administration mostly “for technology.” This conflict is at least partially chimerical: the faculty and the administration aren’t primarily struggling over technology, but rather what they think “it” will do - something they agree on, and regarding which they’re quite possibly both wrong. The faculty and administration are fighting over what is essentially a shared vision, a vision of a future “created by” information technology, of a fully downloadable and teacherless education (at least for some people). The material base of this shared vision is a real struggle over the elimination of the jobs of teachers and scholars: the administration seeks to employ ever fewer teachers and scholars, and the tenured faculty seeks to preserve their own jobs and even occasionally exerts themselves to preserve a handful of positions for a future professoriate. (The recent CSU contract, through which the California Faculty Association compelled the administration to raise tenure-track hiring by 20% annually over the life of the contract in exchange for concessions in their cost of living adjustment is an eye-opening, and heartening, exception to the rule.) Technology fuels an enormous fantasy on both sides of this fence. On the administration side, it drives an academic-capitalist fantasy of unlimited accumulation, dollars for credits nearly unmediated by faculty labor - as Noble says, an “automated” wealth creation. The professoriate has its own equally fantastic idea, that they are preserving teacher work by taking a stand “against technology.”

The shared vision of a fully-downloadable education creates the scene of a pseudo-struggle, with the depressing consequence that it drains off the energies seeking to preserve the dignity of academic work. Noble himself acknowledges that the struggle over technology is a surface conflict (“a vehicle and disarming disguise”); beneath the technological transformation, “and camouflaged by it” is the major transformation represented by the commodification of higher education. Noble narrates the commodification process as a two-stage affair: phase one begins about 1980 with the commodification of research (“the systematic conversion of intellectual activity into intellectual capital and, hence, intellectual property”), converting the university into a purveyor in the commercial marketplace of the products of mental labor. Phase two as he tells it (and this is the chief point at which I vary with his analysis) is what he describes as the more recent corresponding corporate colonization of teaching, the “commoditization of the education function of the university.” Throughout the body of the essay I am quoting from the widely-available online versions of Noble’s essays (I use the authoritative versions housed on the UCSD server; see citations below), on the theory that these versions will continue to be more widely circulated than the short hardbound volume from Monthly Review press. Nonetheless, some readers will find citations to the monograph helpful. The claims regarding the “second phase” of education commodification are found on pp 26-27, and elaborated in the introduction (x), and page 37: “For most of the last two decades this transformation has centered upon the research function of the universities. But it has now [!] shifted to the instructional function.” In his extremely persuasive discussion of the relationship between correpondence schools at the turn of the last century and distance education, Noble associates the correspondence movement with the emegence of a “casualized workforce of `readers’ who worked part-time and were paid on a piece-work basis per lesson or exam (roughly twenty cents per lesson in the 1920s). Many firms preferred `sub-professional’ personnel, particularly untrained older women, for routine grading. These people often worked under sweatshop conditions, having to deliver a high volume of lessons in order to make a living, and were unable therefore to manage more than a perfunctory pedagogical performance.” (9) My quarrel is obviously not with Noble’s historical observation here, or with his claim that more distance education will mean more deskilling of this kind, but with his exclusive association of commodification and deskilling with technology. The university already has an established preference for a gendered and `sub-professional’ work force apart from distance education or any potential future expansion of it. The massive casualized work force already established in the managed university seems to me to call for additional analysis in the vein of Harry Braverman’s work (in which office technology is seen as called forth to serve already-existing transformations in the management of office labor). That is: must we not see the technologization represented by online learning as at least partially the result of a rationalized (“scientifically managed”), casualized and deskilled work force, rather than its “cause”? Several useful insights flow out of the commodification heuristic as applied by Noble, including the understanding that universities are increasingly in open partnership with software, hardware and courseware vendors in the conversion of student learning activity into a profit center, and that - in an area also importantly discussed by Stanley Aronowitz and Dan Schiller - this partnership extends beyond the education vendors into the corporate world more generally, with the university eager to provide corporate training and retraining services (“lifelong learning”), an activity for which the rubric of “higher education” serves largely as a kind of academic-capitalist’s flag of convenience. In a scathing indictment of the growing “mission differentation” of postsecondary institutions (providing tiered learning horizons corresponding closely to the class fractions of their constitutencies), Stanley Aronowitz argues that most college students receive “higher training” and not higher learning and that overall “there is little that would qualify as higher learning in the United States” (2000: 157-172).

The primary way in which Noble makes use of the “commodification of teaching” heuristic is to relate faculty labor to “the historic plight of other skilled workers” for whom technological change provides a vector through which management can impose reductions in workplace autonomy and control - so that for academic administration the ultimate goal of technological deployment is to “discipline, deskill and displace” the skilled faculty workforce, just as in any other labor circumstance. (This is a point that Gary Rhoades has also made quite well.) For the most part, again, this approach is enormously helpful (to a real extent because it generates an accurate description of administrative intentions regarding technology). Furthermore, because - as Harry Braverman and the Italian autonomists have been at pains to demonstrate - mental labor is in fact labor (despite the folk-academic sense of exceptionalism), Noble’s series of observations paralleling skilled academic work with other forms of skilled work largely ring true. It’s worth underscoring that my divergence from Noble is overall nonetheless primarily one of emphasis: he focuses on distance education, technologization, and the tenure stream, and I focus on casualization and the work of students and other contingent labor. Far more important than any differences, however, is the wide shared ground represented by the fact that we both fundamentally approach academic work with a labor theory of value, by contrast to the predominant vision aptly described by Dan Schiller as an “information exceptionalism” that attempts to substitute a “knowledge theory of value” (Schiller 1997:105-106). As indicated in detail above, I wish to associate myself firmly with his analysis of education commodification more generally and with his indispensable ramification of that analysis for the traditional faculty. Management dissemination of technology has been used to surveil, punish, regiment, censor, and control faculty; to direct how they allocate time and effort; to cement administrative control over the curriculum, and to impose supplemental duties including technological self-education and continuous availability to students and administration via email. In some cases technology has even displaced living labor entirely with automated learning programs tended by software maintenance and courseware sales personnel.

Nonetheless, any discussion of “technologization” is going to leave us room to say more about what is “informationalized” about the information university. Noble is right that the administration’s motive in attempting to get faculty to convert their courses to courseware is ultimately to dispense with faculty altogether. He compares the plight of the tenure-stream faculty to the plight of the machinist Rudy Hertz in Vonnegut’s Player Piano: “They buy him a beer. They capture his skills on tape. Then they fire him.” But does dispensing with the “skilled academic labor” of the tenured faculty result in the workerless academic environment Noble pictures? Not at all: there are more academic workers than ever before. Noble writes as if the information university were a fully “lights-out” knowledge factory, an entire virtual u. on a bank of hard-drives facelessly dispensing information to students across the globe. This science-fiction view of an automated higher-ed completely captures administrative ambition (i.e., for academic capital to emancipate itself from academic labor, realizing value magically in a workerless scheme of dollars for credits completely unmediated by teaching). It equally captures the anxiety of the tenure-stream faculty regarding the systematic imperative relentlessly driving toward the elimination of their positions. Nonetheless it risks missing the underlying reality: dispensing with the skilled professoriate is accompanied by the installation of a vast cadre of differently-skilled workers - graduate students, part-time faculty, technology specialists, writing consultants, and so forth. (Similarly: replacing Tom Hanks with a “digital actor” doesn’t result in a workerless artistic production, but instead involves a battalion of talents that are differently but perhaps not “less” skilled: programmers, choreographers, caricaturists, physical anthropologists, animators, scene painters, photographers, voice artists, continuity experts, caterers, writers, and so forth.)

In trying to understand what is “informationalized” about the information university, we need to shift our focus to the consciousness and circumstances of the new group of education workers called into being by this transformation of the work process. This transformation cannot be exclusively a question of delivering labor, teacher labor or any other kind, in a commodity form - it is after all a general feature of all capitalisms that workers are required to “sell their labor” in order to live. Rather, informationalization is about delivering labor in the mode of information. A word about informationalization and the material world is probably in order. Generally speaking, informationalization does not mean that we cease to have or handle things, or that we have and handle virtual objects “instead of” the material world (as in Negroponte’s formulation that we move bits “instead of” atoms). Instead it means that we continue to have and handle material objects (more and more of them, at least in the thing-rich daily life of the northern hemisphere) but that we have and handle these objects in what Mark Poster calls “the mode of information,” which means that we manipulate objects as if they were data. It’s not that we don’t have car parts, novels, and armored divisions - only now we expect those things to be available to us in a manner approximating the way in which information is available to us. A fully informationalized carburetor is available in the way that electronically-mediated data is available - on demand, just in time. When you’re not thinking of your carburetor, it’s off your desktop. When you need to think about it, the informationalized carburetor lets you know. When it does manifest itself it gives the illusion of a startling transparency - you have in the carburetor’s manifestation the sense that you have everything you need to know about carburetors: how they work, fair prices for them here and in the next state, and so on. Informationalization means that artifacts are available on an informatic logic: on demand, just in time and fully catalogued; they should feel transparent and be networked, and so forth. Informationalization creates data streams alongside, crossing, and enfolding atomic motion, but doesn’t in most cases replace atomic motion. To the contrary, informationalization is a constant pressure accelerating and multiplying atomic motion toward the ideal speed of the bitstream and toward the ideal efficiency of capturing (as profit) the action of every fingertip, eyeball, and synaptic pulse. This is in part why Terranova argues for getting beyond the debates about who constitutes a “knowledge class” and “concentrating instead on `labor’ ”(41). In this context “labor” refers to Lazzarato’s notion of “immaterial labor,” those activities of the eyes, hands, speech organs and synapses of a “mass intellectuality” - channel-changing, verbal invention, mouse-clicking, fandom, opinion-formation and opinion-sharing, etc. - that are “not normally recognized” as labor, but which can be described as “knowledge work” yet one divorced from “the concept of creativity as an expression of `individuality’ or as the patrimony of the `superior’ classes, and which are instead collectively performed by a creative social subjectivity (Lazzarato133-134; 145-146). Terranova’s understanding that the production of Internet culture absorbs “massive amounts” of such labor, only some of which is “hypercompensated by the capricious logic of venture capitalism” (48), can be partially mapped onto our understanding of higher education and the labor-power it composes. For one thing, it is quite clear that much of the “free labor” that goes into creating higher education culture, such as the work of “playing” basketball, cheerleading, blowing a horn in the marching band, attending the game - even checking the box scores - can be harvested by university capital as surplus value: the university valorizes the uncompensated labor of the editor of the student newspaper and its “interns” and “service learners,” together with the “work-study” efforts of its student dining-hall workers, just as easily as it valorizes the radically undercompensated labor of the faculty and graduate students editing a scholarly journal, or its janitors and librarians. For another: it seems equally evident that any movement likely to transform academic capitalism at the level of structure will have to unfold in the consciousness and muscles of an insurrectionary mass intellectuality of all of the fractions performing this un- and under-compensated labor, and can hardly flow from one segment alone, or one segment “leading” another.

So what does it mean to labor “in the mode of information?” Above all, it means to deliver one’s labor “just in time” and “on demand,” to work “flexibly.” As Castells observes, the informational transformation relies even more on just-in-time labor than on just-in-time supplies (289). One doesn’t have to be employed “part time” to be forced to work in this fashion - one can have a “full-time” job and experience contingency (as many as a third of even the most economically privileged quartile of the work force, 4-year college graduates, report involuntary unemployment of several months or more in the years after graduation, while moving between what is usually a string of “full-time” jobs, often without benefits or seniority protections.) Nor does laboring in the mode of information necessarily imply “being an information worker,” but instead, the application to information workers of the management controls developed for the industrial workplace. In many respects this can be viewed as the extension of the process of scientific management to all forms of labor, as Braverman observed in his study of the rationalization of office work (293-358), even the work of management itself (see Bill Vaughn’s “I Was an Adjunct Administrator”). Constrained to manifest itself as data, labor appears when needed on the management desktop - fully trained, “ready to go out of the box,” and so forth - and after appearing upon administrative command, labor in this form should ideally instantly disappear.

When the task is completed, labor organized on the informatic principle goes off-line, off the clock, and - most important - off the balance sheets. This labor is required to present itself to management scrutiny as “independent” and “self-motivated,” even “joyful” - that is, able to provide herself with health care, pension plan, day care, employment to fill in the downtime, and eagerly willing to keep herself “up to speed” on developments transpiring in the corporate frame even though not receiving wages from the corporation; above all, contingent labor should present the affect of enjoyment: she must seem transparently glad to work, as in the knowledge worker’s mantra: “I love what I’m doing!” See Andrew Ross’s description of the way that universities, digital industry and other employers of “mental labor” have succeeded in interpellating intellectual workers more generally with the “bohemian” ideology previously reserved for artistic occupations: large new sectors of intellectual labor have proved willing to accept not merely the exploitation of wage slavery but the super-exploitation of the artist, in part because the characteristics of casual employment (long and irregular hours, debt subsidy, moonlighting, the substitution of reputation for a wage, casual workplace ethos, etc.) can be so easily associated with the popular understanding of normative rewards for “creative” endeavor. As with other forms of consumerist enjoyment, the flex-timer generally pays for the chance to work - buying subscriptions to keep up, writing tuition checks, donating time to “internships” and unpaid training, flying herself to “professional development” opportunities - in all respects shouldering the expense of maintaining herself in constant readiness for her “right to work” to be activated by the management keystroke. Contrary to the fantasy of the sedentary knowledge worker who “telecommutes” and never leaves home, the actual flex-timer is in constant motion, driving from workplace to workplace, from training seminar to daycare, grocery store and gym, maintaining an ever more strenuous existence in order to present the working body required by capital: healthy, childless, trained, and alert, displaying an affect of pride in representing zero drain on the corporation’s resources.

Laboring in an informatic mode does not mean laboring with less effort - as if informationalized work was inevitably some form of knowledge teamwork scootering around the snack bar, a bunch of chums dreaming up the quarterly scheduled product innovation. Laboring in an informatic mode means laboring in a way that labor-management feels effortless: the relevant perspective is the management desktop, from which labor power can be made to appear and disappear with a keystroke. Informationalized labor is always informationalized for management, i.e., so that management can always have labor available to it “in the mode of information,” called up effortlessly, dismissed at will, immediately off the administrative mind once out of sight. Indeed: for labor-management to feel so transparent and so effortless, a great deal of additional effort has to be expended (just not by management). For capital to have labor appear and disappear at the speed of the bitstream might, for instance, require concrete labor to drive sixty miles between part-time gigs, gulping fast food on the highway, leaving its children unattended: the informatic mode doesn’t eliminate this effort, it just makes it disappear from the management calculus. Informationalism cannot present labor in the form of data without offloading the costs of feeding, housing, training, entertaining, reproducing, and clothing labor - power onto locations in the system other than the location using that labor power.

To return to the Hollywood producer’s fantasy of the “cyberslave” that will “do his bidding without a whimper or a salary”: really understanding the informational transformation means acknowledging that Hollywood producers already have an enormous army of “cyberslaves” who don’t complain or ask for a salary: they’re called actors. (In All About Eve, Bette Davis comments on the cost of a union caterer - presumably a would-be actor - by grumbling that she “could get an actor for less,” i.e., that she could pay an accomplished actor less to “perform the role” of catering her party than she would have to pay a would-be actor to “be the caterer.”) Under the regime of information capitalism, a film producer can often get a human being to act informationally - to leap at his command, even anticipate the snap of his fingers, and then obligingly disappear - at a labor cost to himself of exactly zero, except where restrained by the talent unions. But these living and breathing, unwaged “slaves” of the representational economy aren’t fed and housed and educated at no cost - just at no cost to the film producer.

So in reality it “takes a village” to present informationalized labor to capital. This form of the work process, “flexible,” “casual,” permanently temporary, outsourced, and so on, offloads the care and maintenance of the working body onto society - typically, onto the flex worker’s parents or a more traditionally-employed partner, as well as onto social institutions. This means especially, in the U.S., the health care provided at the emergency room and the job training provided by “higher education.” As Barrow among many others observes, higher education’s continuously enlarging contributions to personnel “training and the provision of a scientific-technical infrastructure” have historically been the two areas in which the “costs of private production” under advanced capitalism have been most successfully displaced onto society (8). In the northern hemisphere, the operation of global capital somewhat cushions the care of higher-latitude flex workers by providing cheap consumer goods produced by contingent labor in the southern factories, so that, without the assistance of a parent or traditionally-employed partner, northern-hemisphere flex workers commonly cannot afford to buy real property (a home) or services (health care, legal services, day care, etc) at northern-hemisphere prices. Nonetheless they may be otherwise rich in possessions fabricated by southern labor (compact discs, computer hardware, clothing, assembly-required furniture). The most substantial expenditures made by the northern-hemisphere flex worker are commonly the debt-funded car and tuition payments that for many of them figure as prerequisites for entering the flex-time economy in the first place.

The research of Saskia Sassen and others has been helpful for understanding the relationship between sites of high technological sophistication, especially cities of the advanced economy, and the enormous growth of low-wage, low-profit economic activity in those sites (a fact that confounds most information-society propagandists). Some of this work is formally casual or contingent (legal part-time or term work), some of it is legal full-time but with extremely low degrees of worker security and on-the-job protection (Sassen observes that under globalization, firms migrate not to where labor is cheapest but to where labor can be most easily controlled, including the urban centers of advanced economies with large migrant populations), and much of this low-profit, low-wage work is informal. As Sassen observes, the “informal” sector is not easy to define and, while akin to elements of the “underground economy” (i.e., dealers in illegal goods and services such as drugs and prostitution, and financial services associated with tax evasion), the “informal economy” encompasses activities that would otherwise be legal (garment manufacture, child care, gardening, home renovation) but are performed in illicit circumstances, either by being performed outside of or in an unclear regulatory environment, or by persons working illegally (such as underage or undocumented workers). This group includes an extremely disparate collation of workers: high-school baby-sitters, sweatshop labor, neighborhood day care providers, construction day laborers, farm hands, and gypsy cab drivers. The informal sector has grown swiftly and unexpectedly in the U.S. since 1980, and Sassen has argued forcefully that this expansion is structurally related to the characteristics of the “formal” economy itself. In her work on immigrant workers in urban centers, for example, she observes that the rapid expansion of the informal sector of advanced economies is neither accidental nor the consequence of the “failings” or “inabilities” of third world economies, from which cheap labor migrates to the first world. Instead, the informal sector is in her view “the structured outcome of current trends in advanced economies”(1997: 4-5; also see 1988: 7-9; 151-170). Which is to say: immigration and other “external” factors don’t “cause” sectors of advanced economies to become informal; advanced economies require the emergence of informality within themselves, resulting from “the structural characteristics of advanced capitalism” itself and the “flexibility-maximizing strategies by individuals and firms” in that system (1997:19). Samir Radwan redacts Sassen’s observation as follows: “If the informal economy did not exist, the formal economy would have to invent it” (Sassen 1997: 2). The processes of rendering-informal are for Sassen the “low-cost equivalent” of the expensive, arduous, and politically charged activities of formal deregulation (that transpire in high-profit sectors of the economy), a corresponding shadow or de facto deregulation “which rests on the backs of “low-profit firms and low-wage workers” (1997:19). These insights might be brought to bear on the present discussion by saying, “It takes a high-tech city (or at least a college) to deliver informationalized labor to capital.”

Certainly any understanding of the relationship between the murkily “informal” and the deceptively transparent “informational” in the advanced economies requires a great deal of further research and theorization. Even limited research questions such as “What role might the information university play in helping the formal economy to `invent’ the relations sustaining the informal economy?” beg book-length empirical studies of their own.

But I do think we might make at least some theoretical progress by asking ourselves what can be gained by seeing colleges and universities as a version of these “low-profit firms” operating, not in a fully informal fashion, but to a certain degree in a less-than-formal fashion, that is, in an environment of under-regulation, or in which the regulatory status of its workers is less than clear.

In terms of university accumulation, the emphasis has been to look at the activities of the top 100 research universities in the U.S., and in the light of deregulation of patent law, for instance, see the activities of these institutions as the bellwether of the university’s emergence as at least potentially a “high-profit, high wage” information industry. (And this line of approach has appeared reasonable, in connection with such visible developments as the university’s emergence as a competitor with entertainment capital to provide sports and other programming to media outlets.) With Bill Readings, many have been inclined to view the university as a transnational bureaucratic corporation that, in a deregulated environment, is increasingly a global purveyor of educational services and research commodities.

But this construction of the informational transformation within academic capitalism is hardly typical of the other 4,000-plus U.S. institutions of higher education. Strict attention to the expenditure of labor time in these other locations gives a radically different picture of the information university than the fantasy of a workbench for faculty information entrepreneurs or a gateway to the “information society” for students.

What would happen if we asked, pursuing Sassen, to what degree is the university’s role in the advanced economies of the informational society structurally related to the relative informality of its employment relations? In raising this question, I am not at this time making an analogy between university workers and day laborers or migrant workers (though such analogies have been made, with greater and lesser degrees of applicability), or pointing to the financial relations between universities and garment sweatshops (such as those opposed by USAS and other student protest organizations). Nor am I addressing the university’s exploitation of its staff, as documented in the recent Harvard and Johns Hopkins living wage campaigns, for example (see Harvey 126-129), though these connections can and must be made as a matter of analysis and workplace organization. For purposes of this particular effort, I am pointing primarily to the actual legal and social confusion regarding the workplace status of the most visible and even traditional members of the academic work force, the professoriate itself, together with graduate and undergraduate students.

Perhaps the most obvious legal confusion surrounds the status of the graduate employee, many of whom over the last two decades have engaged in legal battles to win recognition that they are in fact workers (as in California and Illinois, and at Yale, NYU, and elsewhere), some lasting eight or ten years. Increasingly the designation ” graduate student” has over the past thirty or thirty-five years served as a vector for the university’s cultivation of a “semi-formal” employment relation, in which graduate employees have all of the responsibilities of labor, including a teaching load heavier than many of their professors, commonly an employment contract, supervision, job training, a taxable wage, and so on, but enjoy fewer protections than the regular work force. For instance, graduate employees are generally ineligible for unemployment benefits, and unlike regular workers can be compelled to pay “tuition” for their on-the-job training, shoulder job-related expenses, including the production of course-related materials, supplement a sub-living wage with unforgivable debt (student debt, unlike commercial debt or even consumer credit, cannot be forgiven in bankruptcy) and engage in various forms of unpaid labor (in keeping with various ideologies of “apprenticeship,” “mentoring,” and “professionalism,” even though for most the term of mentoring and apprenticeship will not lead to professional employment). Nor can a graduate employee who doesn’t like her working conditions quit her employer and go to an alternative employer in the usual fashion: students who are unable to live on their stipends cannot easily move to a higher-paying program, and those who are not economically situated to take on debt to finish their degrees on the gamble of winning a professorial job are likely to quit rather than change programs.

This is not to say that justifications cannot be offered for the unusual circumstances of graduate employee labor. It is only to observe that the circumstances are indeed “special” enough for universities to fight to keep the specialness of the “student” designation, including in some cases spending lavishly on union-busting law firms. Correspondingly, many graduate employees find the “specialness” of this designation so disempowering that some are willing to struggle during the whole term of their graduate careers to escape from “specialness” and win the rights of labor, including collective bargaining. Whether one supports graduate employee unionism or not, it is simply an observable fact that significant numbers of graduate employees are eager to enter circumstances resembling the more regulated environment of other workers.

For most of the past quarter century, the faculty also have worked in a contested and murky regulation environment. This is obviously the case with term workers and part-time faculty, some of whom for example have sued the state of Washington for retirement benefits. But the move to substitute flexible labor for faculty labor also transformed the role of the remaining tenure-stream faculty, who acquired additional supervisory duties in relation to the new graduate students and other flex workers. The 1980 Supreme Court decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva (444 U.S. 672) barred faculty at private universities from unionizing because the court viewed the activities of tenure-stream faculty as essentially managerial. Here again, the various efforts of faculty to overturn the Yeshiva decision don’t erase the “specialness” of their place in the academic labor process, which indeed commonly includes managerial responsibility, but it does indicate the preference of the employer to conserve the special relationship, and the degree to which at least some faculties, finding this specialness disempowering, seek to clarify it in law and policy.

Of course if it is at all useful to theorize the university as a semi-formal employer, discussing the conversion of graduate education to labor in the mode of information and the increasing managerialism of the faculty is only to have scratched the surface. To go on, we must investigate the ways in which the Info U. has transformed undergraduate experience in the quest for new wage workers, and critically examine the forms of semi-formal work to which the undergraduate has been increasingly dedicated over the same period of time.

To return to the three forms of labor commonly employed by “low-wage, low-profit” firms (casual, full-time but pragmatically contingent, informal): it is clear that since the late 1960s that higher education has expanded its reliance on casual, full-time contingent and the semi-formal labor of students, while also winning new “informalities” in its relationship with the professoriate (this de-formalization can be understood not just in the above-noted sense of the murkiness of the faculty role in the labor process caused by increased dedication of professorial labor time to the work of management, but even in the everyday withdrawal of support for research-related expenses: in my discipline, many faculty even at schools where research is required for tenure, pay most of their research and conference travel expenses out of their salaries, salaries that are in most cases already far lower than those with other “professional” degrees). There are, of course, other sectors of higher education (sci-tech, finance) that can be analyzed in relation to “high profit, high wage” dimensions of information capitalism (though even at the handful of top research universities where such analysis is appropriate, the financial return on research dollars is notoriously low, considered as a capitalist “investment,” rather than a social good).

But the evidence of the other, larger trends with which I am concerned appears to suggest the necessity of considering the university’s role in information capitalism to be in many respects a role understandable in connection with the sort of “low wage, low-profit” firms with which Sassen has been concerned, where pressure toward “informality” is highest, and where workforces are chosen not merely for their cheapness, but also for ease of managerial control. As Sassen observes, “it is also their powerlessness which makes them profitable” (1988: 40), a powerlessness that emerges not only from the deskilling observed by Noble, and the industrialization of office work observed by Braverman, but also, especially in the low-cost, low-wage firm, from a “system of control” that is “immediate and personal,” in which employers can respond to worker dissatisfaction and complaints simply “by firing them” (1988: 42). The observation that low-wage, low-profit firms are driven (by competition) toward informalization of the workplace (hiring undocumented workers or evading other regulations), and derive competitive advantages from increased control over the worker, would seem to have at least some parallel importance for understanding transformations in the academic labor process.

This would lead us to ask in what ways the informatic logic of the university’s labor process - its dedication to the casual, full-time, contingent and semi-formal processes of labor “in the mode of information” - contributes to an increasing powerlessness of faculty, students and the citizens who emerge from the higher education experience?

Academic Employers and the Informatic Sabotage of Education

Escaping the regulatory apparatus of the formal economy enhances the economic opportunities of such firms.
-Saskia Sassen

While it is highly questionable how many professors have been fired in consequence of having “their skills captured on tape,” we are nonetheless witnessing the disappearance of the professoriate. The teacherless classroom is no future possibility, but instead the most pressing feature of contemporary academic reality: it is difficult to find any sector of higher education institutions in North America where the full-time professoriate teaches more than thirty percent of course sections - even in the Ivy League (Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions 2000). The elimination over three decades (chiefly by attrition and retirement incentives) didn’t reduce the amount of teacher work being performed; it just handed teacher work to term workers who serve as administered labor and not collegially. In some departments of public institutions, as little as ten percent of the teaching is done by professorial faculty. With occasional exceptions, most of this cadre of students and former students serving as term workers figure as the ideal type of labor - power “in the informatic mode” - they can be called up by the dean or program administrator even after the semester has begun, and can be dismissed at will; they have few rights to due process; they are frequently grateful to “have the chance to do what they love;” most rely on parents or a traditionally-employed partner for shelter, access to health care, day care and so on; of the rest, many are willing to finance their own sometimes-continuous training with as much as one hundred thousand dollars of debt. Surely this transformation of the academic work process, the substitution by attrition of contingent labor for faculty labor, is the core feature of educational informatics - a perfected system for recruiting, delivering, and ideologically reproducing an all-but-self-funding cadre of low-cost but highly-trained “just in time” labor power. Little wonder that every other transnational corporation wants to emulate the campus. By nearly any measure, the university represents the leading edge of labor in the informational mode.

What needs to be added to the commodification critique represented so well by Noble’s analysis is a systematic accounting for the core transformation represented by casualization. On the one hand, this analysis is pushing toward exactly the right pressure point - informationalization as a matter of the workplace - and yet by focusing on the question of transmitting course content over a distance, the commodification critique incompletely addresses the experience of living labor, especially the majority of academic labor represented by flex workers. Another way of saying this is to observe that Noble has a hold of what is incontestably the likeliest agent for resisting and controlling that transformation, and for articulating the labor of the North American academy to global proletarian movements - the faculty union - but then goes on to share into the thirty-year disappointing failure of academic unions to confront casualization. As I’ve written previously in Workplace: this is a story that deserves to be told in the key of Shakespearean tragedy, where one’s virtues are equally one’s flaws (Lear’s fondness, Hamlet’s phlegm): since 1970, the academy has become one of the most-unionized sectors of the North American workforce, and yet it’s been a unionization inattentive to management’s stunningly successful installation of a casualized second tier of labor. While 44% of all faculty and nearly 2/3 of public-institution faculty are unionized (by comparison to about 14% of the workforce at large and 30% of public-sector employees), consciousness regarding what to do about the contingent workers of the second tier has been slow to develop in faculty unions.

What is inescapably and enduringly important about Noble’s work in this series is its grounding in workplace struggle: it is only unionists like Noble who have mobilized any significant opposition to any dimension of the informational transformation, and who are capable of sustaining the necessary vision articulated by an organized faculty, as at the University of Washington, who insist that education can’t be reduced to “the downloading of information,” and is an “intersubjective and social process” (Noble 53). Nonetheless, the rhetorical and mistaken portait of informationalization as the “firing of professors” and a lights-out knowledge factory rather than the substitution of nonfaculty labor for faculty labor needs to be thoroughly confronted and reconsidered by faculty unionists, as well as by other persons situated by the academic-industrial complex.

Why does it matter? For one thing, the idea that academic informationalization can be equated with “the future” and “distance education” leads Noble to suggest in part III of the Digital Diploma series that the battle’s been won, even before it was properly started. For instance: in the aftermath of some 1998 consolidation and retrenchment among online vendors, he writes that the “juggernaut” of instructional technology “appears to have stalled” and that “faculty and students have finally become alert to the administrative agendas and commercial con-games behind this seeming technological revolution.” Would that it were so! Noble comes to this conclusion (November 1998) with his “Part III” just 8 months after issuing a call in part II (March 1998) to defend faculty intellectual property rights in “the coming battle.” Few people seriously engaged in critical information studies would necessarily jump to the conclusion that defense of faculty IP rights can serve as a core strategy for combating informationalism, This is not to suggest that there aren’t circumstances where the notion of intellectual property rights, as in the struggle to resist the exploitation of indigenous knowledges, can’t be mobilized with great tactical effectiveness (Coombs). but the real issue is the sudden swiftness with which Noble’s informatic struggle seems to have opened and closed. If academic informationalization isn’t just another Hundred Days’ War, then what is it? These chronological problems result from the decision to employ a “commodification-of-instruction” heuristic to the exclusion of a heuristic featuring the casualization-of-instruction. By naming technologization as the key measure of informatic instructional delivery, Noble dates instructional transformation as a recent second wave, one which follows the 1980s commodification of research, one which is only happening “now” and which can be averted, even one which by 1998 may already have been averted.

But if casualization and not technologization is understood as the key measure of informatic instruction, we see a far more plausible chronology beginning much earlier - in the 1960s, first observed circa 1968, and continuously unfolding in a process of steady implementation, current commitment, and with no end in sight. Noble’s history of university informatics essentially recapitulates the two-century transition in manufacturing modes of production (from artisanal production to industrialization to post-fordism) but compresses that narrative into just two decades, as if university knowledge work were primarily artisanal before 1980 and primarily industrialized thereafter. This is already problematic: university knowledge work may remain artisanal in certain sectors, but it was also in many other sectors enormously industrialized - especially in the sciences - much earlier. Rather than viewing this transformation as relatively smooth and uniform, it might be better to follow Virno, for example, who sees informationalization not as determining a single “compulsory mode of production” but as supporting a radically uneven terrain of work practice, preserving “myriad distinct” productive modes, serving as an umbrella “under which is represented the entire history of labor” in synchronic form, “as if at a world’s fair” (18-19). (Indeed, this was also Marx’s observation in Capital; that many modes of production exist side by side.) Stitching Virno’s understanding together with the “taxonomy of teacher work” offered by Stanley Aronowitz in the The Jobless Future, we recognize a plausible portrait of our own academy, in which some researchers work in entrepreneurial and corporate modes of production and others produce artisanally, but these pockets of “entrepreneurial,” “industrial,” and “artisanal” practice are inescapably conditioned by the umbrella presence of the contingent labor of graduate students and former graduate students working on a subfaculty basis.

One good way to make sense of the “commodification of teaching” narrative, then, is to approach it as a narrative about the informationalization of academic labor by the sector of academic labor that has been least informationalized. That is: while the tenured faculty (what remains of it) are increasingly becoming what Gary Rhoades terms “managed professionals,” which is to say increasingly subordinated to the corporate values, ease of command, and bottom line of the management desktop, the degree to which this informational transformation of the tenure stream has been accomplished is very limited. Indeed, despite efforts to reverse the Yeshiva decision, a recent case before the NLRB involving a small Catholic college in Connecticut demonstrates the degree to which the faculty function can be read before the law not so much as that of “managed professionals” as that of “professional managers” (who can be denied the right to bargain collectively). The degree to which the tenured now present their labor to management in “the mode of information” presents only a narrow ledge of understanding regarding the fully-informationalized working reality of contingent academic labor. As tenurable faculty labor moves toward increasing subordination to management, lower pay, and so forth - toward “proletarianization” - it is possible that they will come to better understand that the degradation of their own work is systematically related to the super-degradation of the contingent workers teaching in the same classrooms. But insofar as there is now, and will likely remain, a very large gap between the work experience of the flexible and the tenured: we might be pressed to conclude that what remains of “artisanal” faculty practice since 1970 has - at least in part - been preserved by the compliance of the tenured with management’s development of a second tier of labor.

Certainly that sense of faculty complicity drives much of the graduate-employee labor discourse, which is to say, the discourse of the most vocal segment of those subjected to the informatic logic of higher education. Graduate students rightly feel that their mentors, frequently the direct supervisors of their work, owe them something more structurally significant than moth-eaten advice about “how to do well” in the job search. One of the reasons that graduate employees are so vocal is bec

          A dense but disappointing conclusion to the Spin Series in Ghost Spin        
From The Week of July 15th, 2013

For centuries, philosophers and thinkers have attempted to arrive at a coherent, all-encompassing answer to the question of what it means to be human. Their avenues of thought, though legion, have focused on the spiritual, the dutiful, the attitudinal, even the cognitive. And in this, they have missed the most critical path, the technological. After all, the question takes on a whole new universe of significance when we consider that, soon, humans won't even be exclusively flesh and blood, that they will extend their lives by using artificially grown replacement organs, that they will adapt themselves to life under Earth's oceans and in the skies of other worlds. We are on the brink of revolutions in cybernetic enhancement, genetic engineering and quantum computing that will eventually collapse the nation state and end capitalism as we know it. Defining humanity will become meaningless because to define it will be to define life in all its intelligent forms. This Chris Moriarty explores in the concluding work to her Spin Trilogy.

It is the 25th century and humanity, under the semi-authoritarian aegis of the United Nations, has taken to the stars. Utilizing the half-understood technologies made possible by breakthroughs in the quantum universe, artificial intelligences have been created to operate infrastructure and spacecraft, biomechanical wirejobs have been fused into the human brain and nervous system to create cognitive and physical enhancements, and exotic matter has been mined and deployed to create faster-than-light relays through which humans can explore the galaxy. This ought to be a utopia, a world beyond strife and discord. And yet, political corruption, wage slavery and widespread distrust of humans for the intelligent machines upon which they rely has forged a fractured civilization, one in which deep disparities in income equality and opportunity have lead to an unimaginable gap in the standard of living between elites on earth and colonials elsewhere.

Into this toxic stew of exploitation floats Catherine Li. A veteran of the UN's military arm, she has paid her dues and, thanks to Cohen, the oldest AI in human space, she has forged some kind of life. Sure, there is still the question of her past war-crimes, for which some would hang her, but her enduring relationship with Cohen keeps her largely safe from their manipulations. Until, one day, she learns that Cohen is gone, the victim of someone else's murderous intentions or his own suicidal instincts it's hard to say. But armed with a spun-off remnant of his personality, she intends to get to the bottom of why she's lost the only man she's ever loved. In doing so, she will come to understand the universe, and humanity's future in it, IN WAYS both frightening and fearsome.

A long, meandering conclusion to Ms. Moriarty's engaging, thoughtful, and confronting trilogy, Ghost Spin is equal parts success and failure. Taking up the structure of whodoneit crime fiction that worked so well in the trilogy's excellent first volume, it is essentially a 400-page rumination on the spectacular possibilities and perilous pitfalls of technologies sure to be churned out by the quantum revolution. Atop this, Ms. Moriarty has welded a plot framework that unites an updated version of the sea-pirate story with a mysterious murder-suicide that is entertaining without managing to be engrossing. For the plot here feels secondary, little more than a delivery system for the payload that is the author's philosophical ruminations on humanity's habits and foibles.

Catherine Li, the trilogy's protagonist, has always been a deliberate cipher. Having had her memories scrubbed as a consequence of the technological constraints of her job as a soldier for the UN, she is a benumbed and largely empty vessel animated by instinct and desire. These were deliberate choices on Ms. Moriarty's part and they worked when Li had a mission to complete and a status quo to overturn. Here, though, Li, once a badass of the first order, has been reduced to a woman desperate to find the only man who she invited inside her head, to fill up those empty spaces left blank by her past. And though the author couches this eager search in posthuman terms -- the man as artificial intelligence and Li herself as a copy of a copy --, this does not obfuscate the basic framework of a very old, very tired story.

But while Ms. Moriarty may have overexposed her characters and their deeds, few authors of popular fiction can speak with such eloquence about the nature of existence. In Spin State, she revealed a remarkable talent for terrifying technologies that ate away at what humans hold most dear, identity. Here, she takes up this most sacred virtue and smashes it upon the altar of science. The fragments that result are the fragments of her tales and in this she is, at least for this writer, a must-buy. But the Spin Universe has reached its end, at least with these characters. New ground must be sought out and mined for value.

Problematic, but no less thoughtful or imaginative for that... (3/5 Stars)


          Philosophy Q and A on Kindle        


CONTENTS

Academic philosophy woes
Agreeing to disagree
Atheism as the best explanation
Being in two places at one time
Capitalism and the poverty of desire
Choosing your own reality
Collingwood on absolute presuppositions
Definition of a solipsist
Degrees of agreement
Does knowledge entail certainty?
Eliminating the masses
Ethics and advertising
Ethics and suicide
Ethics of monetary interest
Exact meaning of 'philosophy'
Existentialism and advancing years
Explaining time to a 10 year old
Gifford Lectures Russell never gave
God, ethics and Euthyphro's dilemma
How our dreams can change us
How to prove your free will
Human test tubes
Instinct and epistemic luck
Is Socrates the wisest man?
Is anatomy destiny?
Is the world created by our minds?
Jobs for philosophers
Knowing the limits of knowledge
Knowledge and pragmatism
Life in a well-oiled machine
Making sense of the world
Metaphysical explanations
Morality of the moral philosopher
Nietzsche: If truth be a woman
Nothing is what it seems
On identity and belonging
On the existence of holes
On the idea of international law
On the obligation to testify
On the possibility of comparison
Origin of ethics and moral values
Personal survival
Philosophy as a process
Point of being a philosopher
Possibility of non-existence
Pragmatism, induction, and belief in God
Presentism and the cosmos
Proofs in metaphysics
Putting oneself before another
Quid est ergo tempus?
Realism, idealism, solipsism
Rescuing capitalism
Rewiring the brain
Selfishness as a virtue
Semantics of 'except'
Sophistry, wisdom and wonder
Suitable work for a pessimistic misanthrope
The benefits of war
The case for idealism
The egocentric predicament
The elephant in the room
The end of religion
The fear of death
The fierce urgency of now
The philosopher as entertainer
Thought and language
Uniqueness of the self
Uses for the dead
Vacuum of a posteriori thought
What a philosopher might think about
What any god can do or know
What is a goy? joke
What is the point of living if we're going to die?
Where ignorance is bliss
Why is the sky blue?
Why people die
Wiggins on the Ship of Theseus


The book cover is 'Socrates Teaching a Young Man' by José Aparicio Inglada (1811) housed in the Musée Goya, Castres, France. Public domain image sourced from Wikipedia.



With gratitude to anyone who
has ever submitted a question
to 'Ask a Philosopher'



Philosophy is for everyone
and not just philosophers

Philosophers should know lots
of things besides philosophy


About this collection

Ask a Philosopher was launched in 1999. In the beginning, I was the only philosopher answering questions. A year later, I had been joined by a panel of experts helping me out with answers on every conceivable philosophical topic. Since then we have seen numerous changes to the panel of Ask a Philosopher, but I have continued my regular contributions right up to the present day. For this collection, I have gathered together my answers posted between 2009 and 2011. These were originally featured on my blog Tentative Answers. The questions have been re-arranged in alphabetical order. In the text, there are references to my books The Metaphysics of Meaning, Naïve Metaphysics and Ethical Dilemmas. All are available on Amazon Kindle. There are also references to my original blog 'The Glass House Philosopher', now offline but permanently archived at http://web.archive.org. My current blog is http://metaphysicaljournal.blogspot.com. For the latest questions and answers, please visit the 'Ask a Philosopher' page at http://askaphilosopher.wordpress.com.

Geoffrey Klempner
21st July 2017


Academic philosophy woes

Andy asked this question:

I have spent my entire life feeling distant and lost among my peers. But it all seemed to come clear in my freshman Intro to Philosophy class. I want to learn philosophy. I want to find my true answers for my world and existence but I disagree with today's academic approach towards philosophy. Philosophy for me has never been sitting in a class room and reading out of a book. To me philosophy is an examination of our true spirit we can take our minds anywhere they want to go, answer any question that we are vexed by. The human mind is a an amazing place to go and to see what we are really made of.

So I say the true path to philosophical reasoning is to look inward. I am by no means a genius I just do not want to study philosophy in the same old boring lame 20th century academic system. If you could shed a little light on my predicament and help me find my way to a more ethical and reasoning life.

I deserve this question. As someone who has in the past criticized contemporary academic philosophy - and put no small effort into laying out my alternative vision of how philosophy might be practised and taught - it is only poetic justice that I should be required to come to the defence of academic philosophers and 'Intro to Philosophy 101'.

When I was a Philosophy undergraduate at Birkbeck College London in the early to mid-70's there was a group of students who seemed to spend much of their time discussing 'what was wrong' with academic philosophy. They called themselves 'radical philosophers'. Things haven't changed much. Here's the blurb from the Radical Philosophy web site which I looked up today:

Radical Philosophy is a journal of socialist and feminist philosophy. It was founded in 1972 in response to the widely felt discontent with the sterility of academic philosophy at the time (in Britain completely dominated by the narrowest sort of 'ordinary language' philosophy), with the purpose of providing a forum for the theoretical work which was emerging in the wake of the radical movements of the 1960s, in philosophy and other fields.

In the interests of historical accuracy, in 1972 (my first year at Birkbeck) the dominating interest in British philosophy was not ordinary language philosophy (J.L. Austin, John Wisdom, the later Wittgenstein). That was already on the way out. The new thing was W.V.O. Quine and Donald Davidson and truth conditional semantics.

Philosophers in the analytic tradition were once again looking at the great work of Frege and Russell and the early Wittgenstein, and showing an increasing preparedness to question the 'givens' of ordinary language. (Again, for the sake of historical accuracy, it should be noted that J.L. Austin did write a fine translation of Frege's Foundations of Arithmetic which fans of ordinary language philosophy seemed to have largely ignored.)

I would argue that the new technical, semantic approach had something of the spirit of radical philosophy in that it raised the possibility that much of the time we don't really understand what we mean, that accepted linguistic forms hold our minds captive - an idea not so far away from the notion of 'false consciousness' which the Birkbeck radical philosophy group talked incessantly about.

Of course, much of the new stuff was coming from the USA, and this did get up the nose of many young British philosophers. But I think it would be fairer to say that the emphasis on formal logic and semantics seemed the epitome of the kind of thing Heidegger was warning against in his strictures about technology. And I do agree with this to some extent. (But then again, I'm not such a great fan of Heidegger either.)

I will accept that history is bunk. I've just told a story which touches on how things were back then which seems true, based on my own experience, and possibly is still true (or maybe more true) today. Other philosophers will tell the story differently. It doesn't matter. To my ear, one thing that grates more than boringly minute academic debates over the analysis of Russellian definite descriptions or the Davidsonian truth conditions for action statements, is boringly minute academic debates over Marx, Althusser, Marcuse etc.

In German Ideology Marx set the standard for emotively hyperbolic diatribe which to some radically minded philosophers seems to have provided the model of 'committed' philosophical discourse. Then again, some of the more convoluted passages in Sartre's Being and Nothingness possibly pip Marx for the prize for sheer muddy obscurity. Next to these examples, the clean, austere writing of the likes of Quine and Davidson seems like a model of how words ought to be used in the pursuit of truth.

But I'm digressing.

The question isn't, 'Which style or tradition of academic philosophy do you prefer?' (analytic philosophy, continental philosophy, radical philosophy, process philosophy, eastern philosophy etc.) but rather, 'Why does philosophy have to be academic?' (Or, as a variant, 'Why does philosophy have to be so academic?')

The Pathways School of Philosophy which I run, offers courses in academic philosophy. It's called 'academic' philosophy because that's what you study if you enrol at an academic institution for a course in philosophy, anywhere in the world and regardless of the dominating tradition there. Philosophy has a history, or, rather, several alternative histories depending on which version best fits your tradition. If you don't like studying other philosophers or the history of philosophy remember, 'Those ignorant of the history of philosophy are doomed to repeat it.'

The irony is that I am not academic. I've done my share of sitting at lectures and poring over books. But books and lectures bore me to tears. I like to talk. I talk with my students (admittedly, via email mostly). In partnership, we create something that, as I once wrote, 'is neither yours nor mine - something neither of us could have created by our own unaided efforts - the dialogue itself as it takes on an independent life of its own' ('Can Philosophy be Taught?' http://klempner.freeshell.org/articles/teach.html).

Does Intro to Philosophy 101 bore you? Do you hate listening to professors droning on? Get over it. Don't mistake the style for the substance. The style is clunky, because clunky is what academic institutions do best. It doesn't have to be pretty so long as it works. Don't look to others to provide you with inspiration. That's what you've got to find within yourself. But don't think if you look into your own mind you will find philosophy there. Everything that's in your mind right now came from somewhere. And most of it is a cliché.

You want to follow Descartes' example and write your own 'Meditations on First Philosophy'? Fine. Start off by sitting through lecture after boring lecture by Jesuit priests. That's what Descartes did, and what provided him with the tools to pursue his own original philosophical investigations. That, and reading the great classics of philosophy that were available in his day.

This isn't a sales pitch so don't expect me to tell you how at Pathways we do things differently. Maybe we're a little less clunky, but that's just the beauty of the internet. A laptop can be your professor and your library. And when you've had enough of study, you can play games or DVDs on it too.

- Don't knock it, you academic philosophers: it's the future.

-o-

Agreeing to disagree

Vernon asked this question:

I know this question has been asked at least once before yet people still seem to use a term I think doesn't make sense.

Does the term 'agree to disagree' make sense? To me there are two problems with the term. The first is the structure of the phrase seems to be contradictory. Secondly, how is it that two can agree to disagree? Wouldn't that in fact remove the argument entirely?

Vernon's question has the air of a paradox: there's nothing philosophers love better than getting their teeth into a good paradox. The problem with viewing the question this way is that it tempts us to think that what we are searching for is a solution, something that would either tame the paradox or, better still, remove it entirely.

Bertrand Russell spent years trying to solve the paradox of 'the class of classes which are not members of themselves'. His solution was the Theory of Types. Various other solutions have been proposed to Russell's Paradox, but each like Russell's has its 'cost'.

Let's see if we can work something similar with Vernon's question:

A1. X and Y agree to disagree.

Therefore,

A2. X agrees with Y.

A3. X disagrees with Y.

A4. Contradiction!

I won't labour the point by offering a version of the mini-analysis that shows that by agreeing to disagree X and Y have 'removed the argument entirely'.

Anyone with a grasp of elementary logic can see the fallacy in the above 'proof'. The term 'X agrees with Y' is not a simple relation like 'X is taller than Y' or 'X is the father of Y'. People don't 'agree' or 'disagree' simpliciter, they agree about some question or topic. Therefore, the correct form of the argument should be:

B1. X and Y agree to disagree.

Therefore,

B2. X and Y agree about P (where P is the statement 'X disagrees with Y').

B3. X and Y disagree about Q (where Q is anything you like).

B4. No contradiction!

If only things could be that simple. Vernon would no doubt be quick to point out that X and Y already know that they are in disagreement. This isn't something they need to agree about because it is patently obvious. What they more or less reluctantly agree to is to let the disagreement stand, or not make any further attempt to resolve it.

Vernon finds difficulty with this idea, and I agree. The difficulty isn't, as Vernon represents it as being, that the statement 'X and Y agree to disagree' is blatantly self-contradictory or meaningless. It's more subtle than that.

In order to take this further, we need to look at some actual examples of 'agreeing to disagree':

'We're not going to resolve our argument, so let's carry on because we've got work to do.'

'Let's call a truce; otherwise, we'll only end up fighting.'

'I think you're wrong, but I'm happy to wait until you discover that for yourself.'

'I don't see why you see things so differently from me, but, frankly, I don't care.'

'I love you, and I value the fact that we hold different beliefs.'

What is interesting here is that in each of these cases there is an extra dimension which we have so far not considered: the question of what is at stake in the disagreement.

1. We can't stand arguing all day if we need to get the job done. That's a good reason for agreeing to disagree provided that the disagreement isn't about how to do the job because then we can't proceed another step until the disagreement is resolved.

2. Other things being equal, human beings should try their best to resolve their disagreements, in the interest of truth. However, there is something worse than failing to agree, and that is going to war over the disagreement.

3. It would take too much effort to persuade you to change your mind. But I'm confident that in time you will anyway.

4a. It would take too much effort to persuade you to change your mind. However, the issue on which we disagree is unimportant, so I'll let it go.

4b. It would take too much effort to persuade you to change your mind. I am not going to try because you are unimportant to me. I couldn't care less what you believe.

5. I care greatly what you believe because your belief is important to you, and you are important to me.

- I'm certainly not claiming to have exhausted the range of possibilities. But already one can see that there is no simple logical structure common to all agreements to disagree.

Some beliefs have practical consequences; amongst these, some are ethical while others are not. But not all beliefs have practical consequences. For those that do not, there remains the 'interest of truth'. If it matters to you that your beliefs are true, then, other things being equal it should also matter to you whether what another person believes is true or false.

Religious beliefs are a different case again, especially when one of the disputants is religious and the other not. Atheists rarely get so worked up about theists as theists get about atheists.

No doubt in many cases, we agree to disagree when we shouldn't, where we should be doing our absolute utmost to reach an agreement because the stakes are so high. Equally, there are cases where we pursue disagreements needlessly, out of a belligerent desire to win the argument at all costs, or intolerance, or plain bigotry.

However, we in danger of losing sight of the problem now because you might well think that it is no big deal that we sometimes have to agree to disagree. In which case it would follow that Vernon is just wrong. But I don't think he is, at least not totally.

The real problem is about ethics. Surely, in ethics the stakes are always too high to allow disputants to agree to disagree. If we disagree about abortion, then one of us is a would-be 'murderer'. Maybe there are things that one holds as personal ethical belief - like vegetarianism - which one doesn't necessarily insist in foisting on everyone else. But even here, there must surely be some discomfort in the acknowledgement that you are prepared to let others indulge in a practice, eating meat, which you do not permit yourself to indulge in because you regard it as ethically wrong.

When I first considered this question, some years ago, I came up with a solution which worked for me at the time, the notion of an 'ethics of dialogue' (see my articles The ethics of dialogue and Ethical dialogue and the limits of tolerance). The idea is that true respect for the other requires that we are prepared to engage in earnest dialogue and debate, but also, for the very same reason, that we are prepared to accept the fact that arguments are not always resolved.

I still hold this: but I now see immense problems. The more seriously you enter into dialogue, the harder it is to accept failure to reach agreement. This looks like a real paradox: surely, agreeing to disagree means you're not taking the argument seriously enough? What is dialogue anyway, if it is not just two persons vehemently stating their own case, i.e. talking past one another?

Or maybe this should be seen as not 'agreeing to disagree' but rather the tragic acknowledgement of our human-all-too-human failings? - You can't agree to something like this, you can only sorrowfully accept.

-o-

Atheism as the best explanation

Kalyan asked this question:

I claim and proclaim to be an atheist as well as a skeptic rationalist. But then, my question, is it a contradiction in the sense that as a skeptic and a rationalist, I don't have enough evidence to prove my arguments as an atheist?

The short answer to Kalyan is that you can be an atheist while holding a reasoned skeptical stance ('reasoned' because your skepticism isn't either pathological or mere blind obstinacy) without believing yourself to be in a position to offer a proof that God does not exist. It suffices that you can offer arguments in favour of the view that atheism is the 'best explanation'.

'Best explanation for what?' is the question. The existence of a world (rather than no world) is one possible explanans, or thing to be explained. Another possible explanans is the existence of a Moral Law (if you believe in such a thing). But there are many more, maybe as many as there are views on the nature of the godhead.

I have never undergone the experience of a religious revelation. But supposing I did, would I be in a position to consider theism and atheism as alternative explanations and, moreover, choose atheism on the grounds that it provided a better explanation for my experience than atheism? Well, yes, that is what one has to say as an atheist. But I admit it sounds rather odd to say it. I can see a case of arguing that an experience wouldn't be the experience of religious revelation if you regarded it as possibly illusory. But then again, that problem doesn't arise if the explanans is another person's (alleged) religious revelation.

The idea that a scientific theory is an 'inference to the best explanation' goes back to the American philosopher of science C.S. Peirce who distinguished what he termed abduction from the process of Baconian induction. The idea was more recently revived by British philosopher of science Peter Lipton, and has become part of the vocabulary of contemporary analytic philosophy.

My University of London external students taking the BA Philosophy of Science module have been sending me essays on this topic, along the general theme, 'Is inference to the best explanation a distinctive kind of explanation?' I find Lipton's idea somewhat hazy, and yet there seems undoubtedly to be a core notion, which the God question illustrates nicely. You wouldn't seriously claim to have inductive evidence for atheism. Yet it seems to make perfect sense to say that atheism is a better explanation for any alleged evidence that a theist might put forward than theism.

According to Occam's Razor, other things being equal the better explanation is the one that posits fewer hypothetical entities. God is an unnecessary posit. Any explanation that does any work, works just as well without God directing things behind the scenes. That would be the moderate atheist view.

Enter Dawkins. In 1976, in my first year taking the Oxford B.Phil, there was a rumour going round that the redoubtable Gareth Evans was offering his undergraduate tutees and graduate students a free hardback copy of The Selfish Gene (which had been published that year) provided they promised to read it. With such a great testimonial, I could never bring myself to indulge in the fashionable Dawkins-bashing, despite Dawkins' somewhat embarrassing reductive views of the nature of philosophical inquiry, as a mere illustration of the theory of 'memes'.

Apropos of the meme theory, the Presocratic philosopher Xenophanes is the first recorded philosopher to employ a genetic argument against a religious claim:

Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair.

Kirk, Raven and Schofield The Presocratic Philosophers §168, p. 169

As Xenophanes must surely have realized, this isn't an argument that God cannot be black and have a snub nose. What the observed 'coincidence' shows, in our terms, is that the Ethiopians' reasoning to the best explanation is likely to have been somewhat biased. Having said that, if you believe that man is 'made in God's image' and your only experience of human beings is of people who are black and have snub noses, then it is surely reasonable to infer that God is black and has a snub nose.

However, by the same token, someone who had travelled a bit and discovered that different races have different physiognomies, would realize that this inference was not reasonable, and that any claim of 'resemblance' between God, or the gods, and man must allow for racial variation.

What this shows, if anything, is that you can undermine a purported inference to the best explanation by either pointing out grounds for possible suspicion of bias, and/or showing that the explanation relies on an impoverished evidential base. At any given time, however, the explanation remains in place until either a better explanation comes along, or the grounds for putting forward that explanation are undermined.

I would therefore be quite happy to accept that the belief that atheism is the best explanation for the existence of the world, or the phenomenon of religion - or anything you like - is a 'meme', in Dawkins' sense, whose evolutionary history goes back to the great historic clashes between established religion and the emerging sciences. That doesn't decide the question whether atheism is or isn't in fact 'the best explanation'.

But doesn't our very sense of what makes one explanation 'better' than another depend on prior conditioning, on the memes that have been transmitted to us? Is there a fact of the matter here? Couldn't we be completely wrong about what is or is not a good explanation?

For Dawkins, the spectacular success of science is a major consideration. The kinds of criticism that any scientific claim is subjected to by other scientists do not vindicate themselves (because the same argument can be run with 'the kinds of criticism that any theological claim is subjected to by other theologians'). However, the advantage science has over theology, is in its results. Religious belief has 'results' too, but the results arise from the belief - its psychological effect on the believer - rather than the truth of the belief: a vital distinction.

As I've said, it all depends on the explanans. Here, there is a nice finesse in that the atheist isn't the one who has to state what the explanation is intended to explain. Atheism is not a claim, but rather the denial of a claim. The onus is clearly on the one who makes the claim - the one who asserts that God exists - either to offer a proof, or, failing that, to justify the view that God's existence is a better explanation for XYZ, whatever 'XYZ' may be, than any alternative.

-o-

Being in two places at one time

Farnaz asked this question:

Is it possible that a person can be in different places at the same time?

The ability to be (or, alternatively, 'appear' - that's one of the questions we have to decide) at two different places at the same time is known as bilocation. This cropped up in a story I once wrote:

The giant out door auditorium was filled to capacity. Overhead, robot drinks and ice cream vendors darted about amongst the hovering TV cameras. On the podium a man in a blue tunic had just started to speak. Distorted images of his friendly features loomed on scores of giant video screens.

'...Some of you might remember me from the old television series, Star Trek. For the benefit of those who haven't seen any of the episodes, my name is Captain Kirk. And yes, I am a real Star Ship Captain. The series is substantially based on true events, though of course we had to simplify things to fit each story into a fifty minute slot. Followers of the series will be glad to hear that all your favourite characters are here. You might even get the chance to meet some of them. You will all have met Mr Spock of course...'

Captain Kirk's words were almost drowned in wild cheering. He paused to salute his Science Officer, who was seated behind the podium. Spock stood up briefly to take a stiff bow.

'...Like the rest of us here today, Spock has para-psychic powers. In his case it is the relatively rare but extremely useful gift of bilocation, the ability to appear in several different places at one and the same time. Some of the Catholic Saints were able to bilocate, I believe.

'Well that is by the way. The main question that seems to be on everyone's lips is, 'Where is Heaven?' That's a little difficult to explain. But if you give me a few minutes, I'll do my best to fill you in. Mr Spock has written a useful little book for those of you who've done a bit of maths and physics, complete with equations and flow diagrams, but I shall just try to keep things simple.'

Kirk paused for a few moments to collect his thoughts. The famous smile beamed down from scores of video screens. One thing you knew for sure. The maths and physics weren't above his head.

The Possible World Machine Unit 12: Space Hopper
http://www.philosophypathways.com/download.html

In the story, a group of persecuted telepaths escape to an alternative universe existing in a different space from our actual universe (but not in a different time). The idea was to test Kant's claim that there necessarily can exist only one space using a thought experiment which doesn't rely, as Anthony Quinton's does, on a subject falling asleep and appearing to 'dream' of a life which is no less coherent than his 'waking' experience (Anthony Quinton 'Spaces and Times' Philosophy 37, pp 130-147 1962).

In my tale, there is said to be a fully scientific explanation of how there came to be two spaces. It's the 'simplest explanation' of the data. (There was a 'cataclysmic explosion', and a fragment of space 'split off' from the universe to form a space of its own.) There's no reason, in principle, why experimental evidence couldn't lead us to conclude that Kant was wrong about there being one space, just as Quantum Mechanics has shown that he was wrong about the a priori truth of determinism.

I don't know if that's acceptable as a response to Kant. It amounts to little more than stating the very thing that Kant denies. Unlike the case of QM, we don't have the least bit of scientific evidence for multiple spaces (ignoring things like the many-worlds interpretation of QM which seems to be a different thing entirely). It is pure speculation about what we would conclude if such alleged evidence turned up. In this case, we really need to consider the argument Kant gives (in the first part of Critique of Pure Reason), and whether the argument is in fact logically sound. (Many commentators agree - e.g. P.F. Strawson in Bounds of Sense [1966] - that Kant's argument for the necessity of determinism is over-ambitious: the most he can claim is that experience should exhibit sufficient regularity to enable us to make reliable predictions.)

If there were overwhelming logical objections to the very idea of a person being located at different places at the same time, then no amount of empirical 'evidence' would be sufficient to persuade us otherwise. We would have no choice but to offer an alternative explanation. However, it is worth pointing out, that at least some of the things said about the bilocating Catholic Saints can be understood in the weaker sense of the individual in question appearing to observers at a place (as a realistic apparition) as opposed to actually being there in the flesh.

But is genuine bilocation - actually being in two different places at the same time - such a nonsensical idea?

Before we can even consider that question, we have to address the prior question of what it is to be located at a space. For trees and rocks, or planets and stars, there is a simple and conclusive test. Spatial position is one of the criteria (or, indeed, the main criterion) for identity. If an object, say, a paperweight is seen at two places at the same time, then we have two exactly similar paperweights, not one paperweight. If I scratch the paperweight on my desk, and an identical scratch mark simultaneously appears on the matching paperweight on my coffee table, or if smashing one paperweight with a hammer immediately results in the destruction of the other, then the conclusion would be that some kind of unknown causal influence has occurred, not that this is proof that the 'two' paperweights were in fact one and the same object or entity.

Of course we are free to call the matching paperweights by a single name, describe it as an extended 'object'. This might even be a useful thing to do. (We might want to distinguish superficially matching paperweights from genuine pairs which exhibit this remarkable property.)

With persons, on the other hand, an entirely new factor is brought into play. Persons have a point of view. If I have a twin on Twin Earth - or for that matter Doncaster - even if the same things appear to happen to my twin as happen to me and at the very same time, we are not the same person. I have my point of view and my twin has his point of view.

The problem with this intuition, as Daniel Dennett entertainingly shows in his piece 'Where Am I?' (originally in Brainstorms 1978, reproduced in Dennett and Hofstadter Eds. The Mind's I 1981 pp 217-229) is that if we assume the materialist hypothesis that the mind is a kind of program which 'runs' on the brain, then there are various science fiction scenarios where we simply don't know how to answer the question, 'where I am'.

I'm not going to pursue Dennett's idea of brains being simulated by computer programs. If the self is a program, and a program is (as it necessarily must be) a kind of thing, a set of instructions which can be written in any language, realized on any suitable hardware (or 'wetware'), if that's all it is, then it's hardly surprising that you can't 'find' the location of the self, or even decide whether you are dealing with one self or more than one self. The 'GK program' would be like Windows XP.

So I'm going to assume we don't know whether or not you could 'write' the program for GK. In other words, I'm assuming that you can be a materialist without being committed to Dennett's version of materialism.

The US flying drone which destroyed the alleged Al-Qaeda cell last Saturday was 'flown' by a GI operative sitting comfortably at a laptop. In World War II, the Japanese kamikaze gave their lives to achieve the same objective. But what exactly is the difference between being there, at the moment the high explosive detonates, and not being there?

Let's notch this up a bit. Instead of a metal and plastic flying drone, let's have a fully functioning robot which reproduces my bodily movements via a broadband radio connection. To make this really effective, I need the ability to feel when my robot is damaged. This is a very expensive piece of equipment, what better way to protect it than to give the operator a suitable jab of pain? As my robot engages in battle (presumably with other robots) I have the most vivid sense of 'being there'. Only, I am not there. It's just an illusion, isn't it?

Let's say that as a result of carelessness or lack of sufficient fighting skill, my robot gets destroyed, and I feel the pain of its destruction. After receiving a severe dressing down from my commanding officer, I'm issued with another robot with the warning not to let this happen again, or else. This time, I will not only feel the pain. I will receive the same injuries, in the same body parts that my robot receives. If it dies, then I die.

Remember that my robot doesn't have a brain, or a computer simulating my thought processes. It is just a sophisticated drone. And yet, in this extreme case, wouldn't it be correct to say that where my robot is - where the action is happening - there I am also?

If I put my hand into a fire, then the fire doesn't only burn my hand, it burns me. Whereas a drone under my control is just like an extended artificial hand. What puts me there, in the flames, is nothing other than the fact that it is my life that is at stake. I am where my vulnerable parts are.

It helps to have 'eyes' and 'ears' where your vulnerable parts are located otherwise you will injure yourself too easily. But merely having eyes and ears at a location (as in the case of the Al-Qaeda drone) isn't sufficient for being there.

If Dennett is right about the possibility of a brain program, then human beings do not, in principle, have any vulnerable parts. As noted above, the self program can be endlessly reproduced. On the other hand, if Dennett is wrong, and brain function cannot be duplicated in a program (more precisely, by a Turing Machine) then the living human body which I call 'mine', or at least that part of me (say the brain) whose destruction would lead to my death, is necessarily where I am.

I have noted that 'genuine' bilocation must be more than just appearing in a place. The appearance must correspond to reality. As we have also seen, it must be more than my manipulating a robot or simulacrum of me at that place, because the destruction of the robot or simulacrum does not entail my destruction. To be in a place is to risk death at that place. If I can do this in two or more places simultaneously, then I can bilocate, but not otherwise.

-o-

Capitalism and the poverty of desire

Kramer asked this question:

How can philosophy help in addressing a poverty of desire? Living in a capitalist society leads to spending most of my time towards earning a living and caring for my dependents. I feel I must try out different vocations to figure out the job I would like best but then you would not know if you really like a job unless you put in sufficient time. And I don't have much time and I don't know what I like. I just live and this causes a poverty of desire.

The claim that human beings in capitalist society work 'just to live' rather than to fulfil their 'human essence' was the criticism famously levelled by Marx originally in his Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844. As a capitalist sympathetic to Marx's ideas about the human essence and the need to fulfil it, I feel sorry that so many people spend so much of their lives in dead-end jobs just working to make ends meet, I really do. It's something of which I have hardly any experience, not because I am capitalist living of the sweat of the working class, but because of my innate laziness. I lack the Protestant work ethic. You won't get me to work by threats or rewards. Only the prospect of fulfilling my human essence is sufficient to motivate me.

As a result of this, I am poor. If I had been more 'responsible', my family would be better provided for but at least we have a roof over our heads and we don't starve. I have spent two thirds of my six decades doing more or less what I do now. I reckon I'm pretty good at my job - philosophizing on a point. I don't get a lot of praise, but then I never needed other people's approval to motivate me either.

This morning, I knew that another answer was overdue. I looked forward to the prospect with a mixture of apprehension, nervousness and slight annoyance at myself for not having written my weekly answer last week so that I could spend the rest of my day watching the clouds go by as I love to do.

But then, part of being lazy is not doing a task at the first opportunity, but rather on the deadline when you absolutely know that you can't postpone it another day.

What advice can I give Kramer?

First, about Marx. It is absolutely wrong to think that the need to work at a task you don't like is a criticism that Marx laid at capitalism's door. Not at all. How much work is required and what kind depends to a large extent on things out of our control. In the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust the survivors will be working their guts out just to stay alive. In a future super-technological age of plenty, perhaps very little work will be needed at all, maybe just a couple of hours on a Friday.

But let's just tackle things as they are.

Regardless of how society is organized or what political system human beings live under, work will be necessary. Marx understood this. Doing what is necessary, pulling your weight, making your contribution to society is part of what is required to fulfil one's human essence. There are some jobs that only a masochist would enjoy, and there are not nearly enough masochists to go round. But the jobs have to be done, nonetheless. Say, it's your turn to clean out the lavatories. The point, however, is that provided everyone pulls their weight (and barring the nuclear holocaust scenario) you have sufficient time time to do things that you enjoy, which enhance you and express your individuality.

The young Marx's criticism of capitalist society was that the very best of the worker is used up in the daily grind. The worker's only pleasures the animal pleasures of eating, sex and sleeping. Then the whole thing starts again. Marx believed that to sell your labour rather than give it freely out of the joyful desire to make a useful contribution (including cleaning out lavatories) already condemns you. You're nothing better than a prostitute. But then so are the all those talented people who choose wealth and comfort over artistic integrity. In a world that runs on money, we sell our souls because we lose our sense of value - regardless of whether the general standard of living is high or low.

Criticism of materialism is nothing new. Gloomy Diogenes was there before Marx (see http://follydiddledah.com/image_and_quote_6.html). Pissing and shitting in the street, begging coins of passers by in return for a caustic philosophical discourse, that's not my idea of the good life. But freedom to express your human essence has a value, and that's one way to be free if you can accept the discomfort. Be a bum. - But I forgot, you have a family.

(This reminds me of a beautiful short novel Knulp - actually three short stories - written by Herman Hesse in 1915, which makes a good case that the life of a tramp isn't that bad if you are one of those rare people who has the right qualities.)

This isn't the place to launch into a criticism of Marxist philosophy. I will just say that a society of brotherly and sisterly love, where we are all just one happy family and everyone does the work required without needing to be motivated by material reward isn't something that anyone has ever believed possible, apart from maybe the early Christians. That's what you would have to achieve in order to get rid once and for all of the evil of money.

Kramer, your problem isn't about the evils of capitalism, real though they may be. Accept that you may need to choose between jobs you don't like, and that the best choice you can possibly make is more likely than not a job you won't enjoy doing - at least not too much. But still, there's the pleasure of social contact, work mates, the various compensations that help you get through the day. Be prepared to take a cut in pay, in order to work for someone human rather than a bastard (as many bosses unfortunately are). You have obligations to your family but those obligations don't include self-sacrifice. If you sell yourself into miserable wage slavery, your value to them reduces to the money you earn.

(Which reminds me of another novel, or novella, Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis coincidentally also written in 1915.)

Find an interest in life, outside work or family. You can probably guess what I'm going to say. You found the Ask a Philosopher web site searching for sites related to philosophy. Take a philosophy course. Develop your mind. Don't do it because of the super-slim chance of making philosophy your career. The chances are, you're not cut out for it. Do it because it is one way - very satisfying, as I have discovered - to realize your human essence.

And do other things. Don't forget your friends, keep yourself fit, engage in something artistic, look after your garden. Whatever talents you have, exploit them. Accept the necessity for work but have a life as well.

-o-

Choosing your own reality

Ruth asked this question:

(I apologise for asking such a basic question, but I have googled and googled and... nothing.)

I was reading a discussion online the other day and one of the participants posited that 'all experience essentially takes place in the mind'. My question is, if there is no such thing as 'objective' reality, are people altered by the things they experience and change because of outside stimulus, or do they 'change' the things they experience to suit their own framework? Which choice is preferable?

At first glance, Ruth's question looks like a question about idealism. But I don't think it is. The idealist doesn't say that 'there is no such thing as 'objective' reality'. On the contrary, Berkeley's immaterialism, Kant's transcendental idealism, or Hegel's objective idealism are all theories about the nature of objective reality. In these theories, mind plays an important role, but it is not your mind or my mind but Mind (with a capital 'M').

It is fair to say that the current philosophical climate is predominantly realist rather than idealist. Yet even the staunchest realist would agree that our point of view is not the 'View from Nowhere' as Nagel terms it (Thomas Nagel The View From Nowhere 1986). The way we gain knowledge about the world outside us, our ability to access the 'objective' facts, depends on many factors including our mental constitution, sensory capacities, concepts and linguistic resources. Human beings differ from one another in this respect, although there is a also sense in which there exists a specifically 'human way' of perceiving and gaining knowledge of the world, by contrast, e.g., with that of a whale or a bat.

So in response to the question, 'Do we change because of outside stimulus, or do we 'change' the things we experience to suit our own framework?' my answer is, both.

I am writing this answer today because when I checked my 'Questions In' mailbox I found Ruth's question there. If there hadn't been a question that interested me, I might have been doing something else. When Ruth clicked the button at Ask a Philosopher to submit her query, that action in a small way changed the course of my life.

Yet it is also true that the things I experience, the way the world impresses itself on me and stimulates me to action, depends on my desires, attitudes, moods. By working on myself, by reflecting on the way I feel and think, I effectively change my world. The world is the world, the same world for all of us; but I can choose where to live in that world, my intellectual habitation - be it high or low, austere or lush. In a very real sense, it is up to me to create my own reality.

Which choice is preferable? How do you choose when to open yourself up and let the world impress itself on you, and when to work on yourself in order to make the world - or your world - different? That's a fair question. Each person, I would argue, differs in this respect. It is a particularly tricky question for the philosopher.

As a seeker after truth, my aim is or ought to be to make my subjective contribution as small as possible so that I can accurately reflect the nature of objective reality. It isn't up to my free choice whether to be a materialist, or a dualist, a realist or idealist. I have to let the arguments impress themselves upon me, and then decide. I am nothing and reality is everything. That attitude is often taken as definitive of the 'philosophical standpoint'.

And yet, truth seeking would be a pointless exercise, if it were not part of a strenuous effort to make sense of things. It's not as if any 'truths' will do. A philosopher is only concerned with ultimate or universal truths, truths which would remain true even if the actual world as we find it was different in so many different ways. But that's still too many. My world is meaningful, or meaningless, depending on choices I make, for example, choices about which truths to focus upon, which questions to live with.

As regards 'how to live' in a practical sense, there don't seem to be many choices open to me, given my resources and ongoing commitments, my place in society. And yet as regards making sense of things intellectually, all the work is yet to be done. As I remarked last time, the world seems to me like a puzzle that doesn't add up. That impression, that feeling: is it an accurate reflection of reality, or is it rather the reality I have merely chosen to inhabit?

It feels like a choice. I have chosen to be gripped by a question which, if the reactions of students, colleagues, friends are anything to go by, not many people nor even many academic philosophers find puzzling. I don't have to spend all my time thinking about it. I don't have to slip into this mood. But I do, because that is what I will.

I don't find much comfort in the thought that the thoughts I am thinking now are merely the product of two and a half thousand years of the history of philosophy. That somehow I am merely 'continuing a tradition'. The past is the past, water under the bridge. It's true that 'those ignorant of the history of philosophy are d
          Names of the counties in new york state        





































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My chief amusement was watching the Indian families as they came to buy little articles at the rancho where we stayed.
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          How The Fashion Industry is Killing the Planet, Its Workers, and Humanity        


The fashion industry is the epitome of the destructiveness, slavery, wastefulness, pollution, genocide, structural violence, classism, sexism, and racism of market capitalism. This documentary "True Cost" documents this. Our cultural obsession with fashion is a direct by-product of the vanity, materialism, superficiality, consumerism, vain status display, and narcissism directly promoted and created by the brainwashing, hundred billion dollar a year advertising industry. Our addiction to shopping and buying endless amounts of clothing is a product of the disconnection, disenchantment, disillusionment, and disenfranchisement that most of us feel as a result of being mere human resources, disposable wage slaves a.k.a. employees, and commodities in this global predatory capitalistic system. The clothing is made to be disposed of in a matter of weeks, new fashions are constantly being invented every two weeks, we are constantly being told to buy more of it so we can be "cool", "fashionable", and "hip", and we crave the crab because of the emptiness and insecurity that we feel inside. All the stuff we have has only made us bigger, highly anxious assholes. We are less empathetic, more disconnected from loved ones, more depressed, more anxious, and more anti-social. This obsession with material goods has also destroyed relationships and made them less genuine and authentic. We see each other as commodities or objects to be bought, used or exploited, and discarded.

Meanwhile, the fashion industry is destroying the environment through the endless of amounts of pesticides, GMOs, monocrop agriculture, and industrial pollution from clothing factories. It is destroying literally via death hundred of thousands of poor Indian farmers who commit suicide after their genetically modified cotton crops fail which is bound to happen as GMO cotton produces less cotton even though it is more expensive. Thousands of people are poisoned and have health problems and birth defects through the vast amounts of pesticides and fertilizers which the cotton crops require. Cotton also requires very high amounts of water and the global production of cotton is responsible for the water scarcity that the world is witnessing. Thousands of workers unnecessarily die from the unsafe, sweatshop working conditions. The people who suffer these workplace deaths are poor women of color in the Third World. These women live in absolute, abject poverty and paid slave wages to make clothing for billionaire corporations where the owners have a collective combined wealth of $48 billion dollars. The fashion industry is a huge user of highly exploited child labor and even outright slavery too. Millions of pieces of clothing are discarded and dumped into ever expanding landfills because of the huge planned obsolescence built into the fashion industry where is clothing is made to be inferior and made to last for months thus forcing you to buy more clothing. Even more, millions of piece of clothing are donated or thrown away due to the perceived obsolescence where fashion companies constantly creating new fashions. These donated clothes are then usually dumped into third world countries thus exacerbating the grinding poverty found in these countries by destroying local garment industries. However, several of the richest men on the planet are in the fashion industry and this predatory industry has produced millions off the backs of the poor and highly marginalized. Every year, more and more clothing is sold to the planet's and humanity's detriment. This is the epitome of capitalism. It is all the pathological pursuit of profit and continued growth. The negative costs are socialized and the rewards i.e. profits privatized by a few billionaires. The farming of cotton under Soviet style state capitalism i.e. communism destroyed the fourth largest lake in the world and brought the area to ecological collapse. It is a rapacious machine totally disconnected from the realities of the natural world which cannot stop until it only eats itself. Endless economic growth on a finite world is utterly impossible and utterly insane, suicidal, and homicidal. Capitalism can only destroy itself and everything along with it. We must destroy it and or will bring us to the point of human extinction.

Learn more about a new sane economic reality as proposed by the Zeitgeist Movement here

References:
http://www.rt.com/news/206787-monsanto-india-farmers-suicides/
http://www.thefashionglobe.com/modern-day-slavery-in-the-fashion-industry
http://wwd.com/media-news/fashion-memopad/fashion-and-retail-shine-on-forbes-worlds-billionaires-list-10093179/
http://guardianlv.com/2015/06/capitalism-the-cause-of-human-extinction-in-the-next-100-years/
http://ihscslnews.org/view_article.php?id=65
http://www.ecouterre.com/vanessa-friedman-driving-force-of-fashion-is-planned-obsolescence/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/overdressed-book-elizabeth-cline_n_1587413.html
http://threaddocumentary.com/learn/faqs/
http://www.mediaed.org/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=101
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Re5DgTJE0S4
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120409175915.htm
http://www.treehugger.com/economics/materialism-leads-to-depression.html
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/15/psychology-materialism_n_4425982.html
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/freshwater_problems/thirsty_crops/
http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/mar/20/cost-cotton-water-challenged-india-world-water-day
http://electrictreehouse.com/cotton-and-the-disappearance-of-the-aral-sea/
http://www.whydev.org/dont-be-clothes-minded-understanding-the-impact-of-donated-clothes/
          2017 Best of Arkansas editors' picks        
Pie, dog-chasing-geese watching, wrecked groceries, etc.

Best place to get up close and personal with a pegbox

"Rachel, are these all done? Are you working your way down?"

Joe Joyner, violist and owner of the Little Rock Violin Shop, stands behind a row of violins, each instrument sitting on its side, like dominoes, atop a workbench. Rachel Herman, the shop's bookkeeper and sales associate (and an award-winning violinist), is photographing one violin after another as part of the shop's move to offer an increased inventory of restored and repaired violins for sale online. One of the shop dogs — two chocolate long-haired dachshunds named Truffles and Omobono, the latter of whom takes his name from the son of a famous Italian violinmaker, Antonio Stradivari — barks, sensing that the attention has shifted away from him.

At first glance, even for someone who's spent time around orchestras, the violins all look pretty much the same. If you stare at the row long enough, though, variations emerge. One's a muted amber color; another a ruddy orange. A few have pristine, hard candy complexions, others have been around the sun a few more times. Each instrument contains around 80 pieces of hand-carved wood, and a few of the older models have begun to deepen and mature, as organic materials are wont to do. On those models, there's a warmer complexity to the wood, and despite an expert restoration — a replaced chinrest, a new bridge — a couple of them look like they've been around long enough to have a few good stories.

Joyner and his team do much of their business renting instruments, giving lessons and setting beginners up for a trouble-free first year, but old instruments are their passion. "Every instrument has its own story to tell," the shop's website reads, "from the fabled histories of the craftsmen who made them to the remarkable journeys of the musicians, collectors and restorers who have preserved them over the past four centuries. At LRVS we recognize our role as temporary caretakers for these tools of art whose useful life may well exceed our own."

One such temporary caretaker, Josh Wheeler (another accomplished violinist), is seated at another workbench along the shop's perimeter, violin in hand. Like Joyner, he's wearing a heavy canvas apron, and the workspace he's hunched over is lined with at least a dozen plastic bottles, stacks of small cylindrical vials and an assortment of small hand tools. Overhead, violins hang from a rack as if they were pots and pans, and a pegboard lining the wall is equipped with paper merchandise tags, bridges of various sizes and tiny drawers full of tuning pegs and screws.

Joyner picks up a violin that Wheeler restored a year or so ago. "For this one, we took it apart. It was a major restoration. It's from the 1820s, 1830s, probably." It's priced at $6,500. "With a lot of older instruments, you can't really attribute it to a specific maker. The really nice instruments — the old Italian ones that are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — they spend a lot of time and effort to figure out exactly who made it." I ask about the frequency of forgeries, instruments meant to pass as an Italian rarity, worthy of a pedestal and glass case in a museum somewhere. "Absolutely," he said. "That happens, and they're not always intending to pass instruments off as fakes." He tells a story about a violinmaker in England ("one of the best in the world," Joyner says) who used an Italian antique to make what's called a "bench copy" — a replica of a treasured original made with the original instrument present, or, in violinmaker parlance, "on the bench." Once in the hands of a new owner, the violin was passed off as the genuine article and picked up by a big-name auction house, making it to the cover of the house's auction catalog before the violinmaker, seeing it, recognized his own work and called foul.

In the violin world, questions of authenticity are ever-present — and maddeningly subjective. "There are makers today that are every bit as good as Stradivarius," Joyner said. "But their instruments aren't 300 years old. They don't have these fabled histories and they don't inspire players the way playing a 300-year-old instrument does." Blind and double-blind studies tend to support what Joyner says about living violinmakers: Most often, new violins aren't distinguishable or preferred overwhelmingly to those crafted by the old masters.

Joyner should know. He's heard a lot of violins since 1998, when he began playing viola with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. After those first two seasons, Joyner headed for school in Houston, where he played with Orchestra X, the Texas Music Festival Orchestra and the Victoria Symphony. Before returning to Little Rock in 2007, Joyner attended the Bow Making School of America in Salt Lake City, where he honed the skills he'd use to start up his workbench operation the Little Rock Bow Shop, now the much more comprehensive (and tenured) LRVS.

When it comes to his own choice of instrument, Joyner's put his trust in the shop's own luthier, Wesley Rule. Rule makes his home in El Paso (White County), and is in the shop Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Like many luthiers, Rule uses measurements from the old Italian masters to make new ones. For Joyner's instrument, Rule used a pattern based on a viola by the Brothers Amati, two famous luthiers from late 16th century Cremona. "Brothers Amati violas are always my favorite violas to play on. I love the way they sound, so I commissioned him to make one." SS

The Little Rock Violin Shop is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. For more information, visit littlerockviolinshop.com.

Best conspiracy theory

Courtesy of Turnt Woolridge on Twitter (@twooldridge):

"2006: Houston Nutt is forced to hire Gus Malzahn in order to land Mitch Mustain. Nutt resents it, treats Malzahn badly. Malzahn leaves.

2007: In large part due to outrage over Nutt's treatment of Mustain/Malzahn, a message board FOIAs phone records that help take Nutt down.

2011: Freeze coaches ASU for one year, leaving for Ole Miss to replace fired Nutt, and getting replaced by none other than Gus Malzahn.

2017: Nutt gets Freeze fired using the same message board tactics that got him fired, which were precipitated by his treatment of Malzahn.

If Mitch Mustain hadn't decommitted from his first commitment to Arkansas, none of this would have happened."

Best pie

Everyone knows (or should) that Rhoda's Famous Hot Tamales in Lake Village is an essential stop en route to New Orleans or the Redneck Riviera for Delta-style tamales, but don't forget pie. Rhoda's half-and-half pecan and sweet potato pie is unrivaled. The secret ingredient, I suspect, is 20 sticks of butter. Or scoops and scoops of lard. Or something else bad for you. But how can a pie so good you dream about it be bad for you? LM

Best place to see a border collie run after geese

There's a big, white bird. I've been told it is a goose but it looks to me like a swan. It hangs around MacArthur Park, near the pond. This bird is an asshole. Whenever I go running in the park and come anywhere near it, the goose-creature-thing makes eye contact, turns up its ugly face, and charges me. I run away scared. While fleeing, the lack of support from any of the other geese always pisses me off. I never get an "I'm sorry for my friend doing that" or "Oh man, the goose-swan is such a jerk, it's actually just working out its own insecurities." These other geese enable the swan-goose by milling about in total silence near the water or pooping in the grass. Their silence damns them, too. Why can't we both enjoy the park, geese? You poop; I run and step in your poop. That's harmony! There does not have to be a conflict! But, there is. So, I called the Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department to learn more about my enemies, to hopefully bridge the gap even. I was only disheartened. I learn these are "resident geese." They do not migrate, sticking around the area for the entire year. This is their turf and they are not going to adjust to me. Attempts to relocate them have gone poorly, too — a rope around the pond and flashing yellow lights at night both failed. What to do then? (And, no, I am not anti-goose enough to advocate for the idea of hunting them as was proposed a few years back). But, there is a light in the darkness. "Her name is Jill," Eric Bowden, assistant facilities supervisor for Rebsamen Golf Course tells me. Jill is a border collie that runs after these geese. The geese fly away when they see Jill (safely to another spot where they can relax). "She's a certified goose dog," Bowden told me and "very effective." The geese are scared of Jill because, to them, she has "got that fox look" and so when they land they think it's a predator but it's just Jill and "a scare tactic," Bowden said. No harm to the geese. He also explained to me how the whole geese-clearing process works, he said, "If we see geese, we get her out." Here are some perks of being Jill: She has an AC kennel, she has a steady job with good benefits and she is a hero that runs after the damn geese. Go be a certified goose dog watcher and check out Jill at Rebsamen Golf Course. JR

Best summer jams from a White County native you haven't heard

In this age of music on demand, does a song of summer have to be one that you can't escape, that soundtracks every visit to the pool or roller rink or snow cone stand? Can't you simply decide on your own song of the summer in the comfort of your headphones at work? Of course! In that spirit, consider the new solo record from Judsonia native Beth Ditto, "Fake Sugar," especially the first half of it — tracks 1 through 6 could all be on your S.O.S shortlist. Ditto, who led the now defunct pop-punk band Gossip for more than a decade, has a voice as big as anyone this side of Adele, but until now, it's mostly been used in a kind of agro blues belt. On "Fake Sugar," the arrangements are stripped down and poppy, leaving plenty of room for Ditto to offer up the full range of her vocals. In an interview with Rolling Stone, she name-checked Bobbie Gentry as an influence on the album, and listening to Ditto's Southern-accented riffs on the title track, with lines like "hambone, hambone, where you been," does make me daydream about the possibility of a self-described queer, feminist, fat girl from White County becoming a country pop radio darling. LM

Best summer jams from a White County native you haven't heard, part II

"Hopelessness is a catchy tune we can't get out of our head," Isaac Alexander sings on "Silver Line," one of the many summer bummery pop gems on his new album, "Like a Sinking Stone." Alexander, a Searcy native who lives in Little Rock, has been making music prolifically since he was a teenager (Screaming Mimes, Big Silver, The Easys, The Boondogs, Greers Ferry), but he's slowed down in recent years as he's been putting out solo records. This is his first record in five years. It's sonically and lyrically of a piece of his previous two highly recommended releases, "Antivenin Suite" (2012) and "See Thru Me" (2008): Like those albums, he recorded it in Nashville with Joe McMahan (Luella and the Sun) and other ace session musicians, and he's still writing about the sort of things all of us in middle age obsess over: love, fate, faith, identity, death, boredom. It's dark in spots, but Alexander has a warm sense of humor and an unwavering commitment to melody — the record sticks to you. LM

Best place for weird pantry supplies

Smoked paprika is some next-level stuff, and they don't carry it at my neighborhood Kroger. For that — or for beeswax, or mosquito-repellent citronella essential oil, I need to plant myself just downhill from Professor Bowl on Reservoir Road, squarely between Natural Grocers and Drug Emporium No. 240. Between these two businesses, you could score a giant vat of sunflower oil, soy-based meat substitutes you thought went out of print, a few dozen types of flour, bulk spices like cumin and chili powder, and tempeh that tastes like bacon. And, if you're so inclined, you can choose from a dizzying collection of knock-off designer fragrances the likes of which have not been seen since "Electric Youth" came out. SS

Best place to go if you have a need for speed

The heat off the pavement melts the horizon as tires scream for their lives, forced by the mountainous fury of an 8.4-liter V10. Dozens of bright orange traffic cones denote a winding track. Drivers from all across the region are competing to complete the fastest lap ... in the parking lot of War Memorial Stadium. Welcome to Autocross. The ARSCCA (Arkansas Sports Car Club of America) has been putting on Autocross events for years and have held races at War Memorial, Blytheville Aeroplex, Walnut Ridge and other locations featuring large swaths of flat asphalt. The concept is simple: Make your way through a cone track in as little time as possible. The rules are a bit more complex, however. Cars are inspected and placed into designated classes based on their performance from the factory as well as any modifications installed by the owner. If you're thinking your family sedan isn't fit to make the cut, that's all right. Motorheads of all ages can have a blast at Autocross events even as spectators. If you ask nicely, most of the drivers are happy to oblige a ride-along for those enthusiastic about speed. Stay tuned to arscca.org for scheduling or head up to War Memorial on Aug. 19 for the next event in Little Rock. JL

Best thrifting

The Goodwill store at 16924 Cantrell Road in Little Rock, a.k.a The Good Goodwill (as opposed to The Badwill on Markham), where wage slaves like you and me can pick up McMansionite castoffs galore, including designer clothes, shoes, decent furniture, solid sports equipment and housewares. It's a bit of a haul out there from downtown, but there's always a better class of junk to be had at The Good Goodwill than the stuff at your average thrift store, and all just as cheap as you'd expect. DK

Best gastronomic Everest

That would be the "Free Steak" at Brangus Steakhouse in Russellville, a mammoth 4-pound hunk of choice sirloin, which is yours free if you are able to move it from the table to inside your body in less than one hour. Sadly, you have to bring your own wheelbarrow to have yourself hauled out, groaning. The big 'un does come with two side orders and toast, though, in case you really want to tie one on. If you don't summit Mount Beef in under 60 minutes, no worries: The Free Steak becomes a $60 steak (which, come to think of it, is actually a dang good bargain for a pound of sirloin per person if you want to split that sucker with four friends). Check out their full menu at facebook.com/BrangusSteak/menu. DK

Best place to buy semi-questionable grub

When a truck hauling food crashes, the insurance company pays off. It would be a little crazy to throw all that food out, though, which is where Wild West Salvage Grocery, at 215 S. Redmond Road in Jacksonville comes in. The fare changes every week and varies by quality (and expiration date... keep an eye on that), but recent offerings in their store (photos at facebook.com/wildwestsalvagegrocery) include cans of Diet Coke 10 for a buck, jars of Heinz chicken gravy two for a dollar, five- pound bags of fully cooked and frozen popcorn chicken for $6.99, five-pound bags of raw catfish fillets for $9.98, plus grocery-store sized cases of name brand candy, orange juice, Starbucks drinks, Gatorade and more for prices that fairly scream: "Why you cheap, cheap bastard!" Yeah, you have to be a little adventurous to shop there, so if all this skeezes you out a bit, pass on by and head to the boring old grocery store, you wastrel. If you're looking for a deal, though, it's an option. DK

Best beach within reach

While we all wish we could teleport to the white sands of the Redneck Riviera down in Florida whenever we want, that day has not yet come. Until then, you can placate yourself with some of the sand beaches available on various lakes around the state. It's definitely better than nothing. Though the long, curving beach at DeGray Lake Resort State Park has been our go-to for several years, it can get a bit crowded on weekends. Our secret fallback is the little beach at Crystal Springs Campground, just off Highway 270 west of Hot Springs. Quiet, secluded, situated on a broad, clear, spring-fed inlet a good ways off the main body of the lake, it's all a bit rustic, but features a combination bathroom and changing house, built-in charcoal grills, a playground for the kiddies and — most importantly — a clean sand beach under the shade trees. The ocean it ain't, but if you're looking for a place to do some swimming, lounging and drinking on the sand, it'll do in a pinch. DK




          After he encountered a party of Welsh miners from the Rhondda in London, Paul Robeson built a rich relationship with Wales and its working classes.        
Paul singing with a choir in a scene from The Proud Valley
Paul Robeson possessed one of the most beautiful voices of the 20th century. He was an acclaimed stage actor. He could sing in more than 20 different languages; he held a law degree; he won prizes for oratory. He was widely acknowledged as the greatest American footballer of his generation. But he was also a political activist, who, in the 1930s and 1940s, exerted an influence comparable to Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in a later era.
The son of an escaped slave, Robeson built his career despite the segregation of the Jim Crow laws – basically, an American apartheid system that controlled every aspect of African American life. He came to London with his wife Eslanda – known as Essie – partly to escape the crushing racism of his homeland. Yet later in life he always insisted that he became a radical as much because of his experiences in Britain as in America. In particular, he developed a deep bond with the labour movement – particularly with the miners of Wales. That was why, in 2016, I travelled from my home in Australia to visit the landscape that shaped Robeson’s politics.
Pontypridd was a village carved out of stone. Grey terraced cottages, grey cobbled streets, and an ancient grey bridge arching across the River Taff.
The sky was slate, too, a stark contrast with the surrounding hills, which were streaked with seasonal russet, teal and laurel.
I was accustomed to towns that sprawled, as white settlers stretched themselves out to occupy a newly colonised land. Pontypridd, I realised, huddled. Its pubs and churches and old-fashioned stores were clutched tightly in the valley, in a cosy snugness that left me feeling a long way from home. I’d come here to see Beverley Humphreys, a singer and the host of Beverley’s World of Music on BBC Wales.
“I have a strong feeling that we might meet in October!” she’d written, when I’d emailed her about the Paul Robeson exhibition she was organising. “I know from personal experience that once you start delving into Paul Robeson’s life, he just won’t leave you alone.”
In that correspondence, she’d described Pontypridd as the ideal place to grasp Paul’s rich relationship with Wales and its people. I knew that, in the winter of 1929, Paul had been returning from a matinee performance of Show Boat [in London] when he heard male voices wafting from the street. He stopped, startled by the perfect harmonisation and then by the realisation that the singers, when they came into view, were working men, carrying protest banners as they sang.
By accident, he’d encountered a party of Welsh miners from the Rhondda valley. They were stragglers from the great working-class army routed during what the poet Idris Davies called the “summer of soups and speeches” – the general strike of 1926. Blacklisted by their employers after the unions’ defeat, they had walked all the way to London searching for ways to feed their families. By then, Robeson’s stardom and wealth were sufficient to insulate him from the immiseration facing many British workers, as the industrialised world sank into the economic downturn known as the Great Depression.
Yet he remembered his father’s dependence on charity, and he was temperamentally sympathetic to the underdog. Without hesitation, he joined the march.
Some 50 years later, [his son] Pauli Robeson visited the Talygarn Miners’ Rehabilitation Centre and met an elderly man who’d been present on that day in 1929. The old miner talked of how stunned the marchers had been when Robeson attached himself to their procession: a huge African American stranger in formal attire incongruous next to the half-starved Welshmen in their rough-hewn clothes and mining boots.
But Robeson had a talent for friendship, and the men were grateful for his support. He had remained with the protest until they stopped outside a city building, and then he leaped on to the stone steps to sing Ol’ Man River and a selection of spirituals chosen to entertain his new comrades but also because sorrow songs, with their blend of pain and hope, expressed emotions that he thought desperate men far from home might be feeling.
Afterwards, he gave a donation so the miners could ride the train back to Wales, in a carriage crammed with clothing and food.
That was how it began. Before the year was out, he’d contributed the proceeds of a concert to the Welsh miners’ relief fund; on his subsequent tour, he sang for the men and their families in Cardiff, Neath, and Aberdare, and visited the Talygarn miners’ rest home in Pontyclun.
From then on, his ties with Wales only grew.
Robeson remained [living] in Buckingham Street, London. He and Essie maintained a public profile as a celebrity couple, still mixing easily with polite society and the intelligentsia. But Robeson was now aware of the labour movement, and began to pay attention to its victories and defeats. His frequent visits to mining towns in Wales were part of that newfound political orientation.
“You can see why he’s remembered around here,” Humphreys said. “He was so famous when he made those connections, and the Welsh mining community was so very cowed. In the wake of the general strike, people felt pretty hopeless.”
A Robeson exhibition opened in Pontypridd in October 2015 and was an echo of a much grander presentation from 2001, which Humphreys had assembled with Hywel Francis, then Labour MP for Aberavon, and Paul Robeson Jr [Robeson’s son died in 2014]. It was first shown at the National Museum in Cardiff and then toured the country.
Staging that event had been a revelation for Humphreys. She’d known that memories of Robeson ran deep in Wales, but she’d still been astonished by the response. Every day of the exhibit, people shared their recollections, speaking with a hushed fervour about encounters with Paul that had stayed with them for ever.
Paul’s interactions with Wales were shaped by the violence of mining life: the everyday hardship of long hours and low wages, but also the sudden spectacular catastrophes that decimated communities. In 1934, he’d been performing in Caernarfon when news arrived of a disaster in the Gresford colliery. The mine there had caught fire, creating an inferno so intense that most of the 266 men who died underground, in darkness and smoke, were never brought to the surface for burial. At once, Robeson offered his fees for the Caernarfon concert to the fund established for the orphans and children of the dead – an important donation materially, but far more meaningful as a moral and political gesture.
That was part, Humphreys said, of why Wales remembered him. He was by then among the most famous stars of the day, the recording artist whose songs many hummed, and yet he was showing an impoverished and struggling community – people who felt themselves isolated and abandoned — that he cared deeply about them.
And the continuing affection for Robeson was more than a recollection of generosity. “The Welsh sensed the relationship was reciprocal, said Humphreys. “That he was deriving something from their friendships, from seeing how people in the mining communities supported one another and cared for one another. He later said he learned more from the white working class in Wales than from anyone.”.
Certainly, Robeson discovered Wales – and the British working class in general – at just the right time. He’d signed up, with great hopes, for a film version of [Eugene O’Neill’s play] The Emperor Jones in 1933 – the first commercial film with a black man in the lead. But the process played out according to a familiar and dispiriting pattern. Robeson’s contract stipulated that, during his return to America, he wouldn’t be asked to film in Jim Crow states. Star or not, it was impossible to be shielded from institutional racism. At the end of his stay, as he arrived at a swanky New York function, he was directed to the servants’ entrance rather than the elevator. One witness said he had to be dissuaded from punching out the doorman, in a manifestation of anger he’d never have revealed in the past.
The Emperor Jones itself was still very much shaped by conservative sensibilities: among other humiliations, the studio darkened the skin of his co-star, lest audiences thought Robeson was kissing a white woman. Not surprisingly, while white critics loved the film and Robeson’s performance, he was again attacked in the African American press for presenting a demeaning stereotype.
A few years earlier, he might have found refuge in London from the impossible dilemmas confronting a black artist in America. But he’d learned to see respectable England as disconcertingly similar, albeit with its prejudices expressed through nicely graduated hierarchies of social class. To friends, he spoke of his dismay at how the British upper orders related to those below them. He was ready, both intellectually and emotionally, for the encounter with the Welsh labour movement.
“There was just something,” Humphreys said, “that drew Welsh people and Paul Robeson together. I think it was like a love affair, in a way.” And that seemed entirely right.
The next morning, Humphreys and I walked down the hill, beneath a sky that warned constantly of rain. We made our way to St David’s Uniting Church on Gelliwastad Road. From the outside, it seemed like a typically stern embodiment of Victorian religiosity: a grey, rather grim legacy of the 1880s.
Inside, though, the traditional church interior – the pews, the pulpit, the altar – was supplemented by a huge banner from the Abercrave lodge of the National Union of Mineworkers, hanging just below the stained-glass windows. Workers of the world unite for peace and socialism, it proclaimed, with an image of a black miner holding a lamp out to his white comrade in front of a globe of the world.
The walls held huge photos of Paul Robeson: in his football helmet on the field at Rutgers [University]; on a concert stage, his mouth open in song; marching on a picket line. These were the displays extracted from the 2001 exhibition.
We chatted with parishioners, who were taking turns to keep the Robeson display open during the day for black history month.
The service itself reminded me of my morning in the Witherspoon Street church, except that, while in Princeton [where Robeson was born] I’d marveled at the worshipers’ command of the black vocal tradition, here I was confronted by the harmonic power of Welsh choristers: the old hymns voiced in a great wall of sound resonating and reverberating throughout the interior.
Robeson, of course, had made that comparison many times. Both the Wesleyan chapels of the Welsh miners and the churches in which he’d worshiped with his father were, he said, places where a weary and oppressed people drew succor from prayer and song.
His movie The Proud Valley (released as The Tunnel in the US), which had brought him to Pontypridd in 1939, rested on precisely that conceit. In the film (the only one of his movies in which he took much pride), Robeson played David Goliath, an unemployed seaman who wanders into the Welsh valley and is embraced by the miners when the choir leader hears him sing.
Throughout the 1930s, the analogy between African Americans and workers in Britain (and especially Wales) helped reorient Robeson, both aesthetically and politically, after his disillusionment with the English establishment.
His contact with working-class communities in Britain provided him with an important reassurance. He told his friend Marie Seton about a letter he received from a cotton-spinner during one of his tours. “This man said he understood my singing, for while my father was working as a slave, his own father was working as a wage slave in the mills of Manchester.”
That was in northern England, but he experienced a similar commonality everywhere, and it pleased and intrigued him. If the slave songs of the US were worth celebrating, what about the music emerging from other oppressed communities? What connections might the exploration of distinctive cultural traditions forge between different peoples?
Significantly, it was in Wales where Robeson first articulated this new perspective. In 1934, he gave a concert in Wrexham, in north Wales, between the Welsh mountains and the lower Dee valley alongside the border with England. Yet again it was a charity performance, staged at the Majestic Cinema for the benefit of the St John Ambulance Association.
During the visit, Robeson was interviewed by the local paper, and he told the writer he was no longer wedded to a classical repertoire. He’d come to regard himself as a folk singer, devoted to what he called “the eternal music of common humanity”. To that end, he was studying languages, working his way haphazardly through Russian, German, French, Dutch, Hungarian, Turkish, Hebrew, and sundry other tongues so as to perform the songs of different cultures in the tongues in which they had been written. He had become, he said, a singer for the people.
The confidence of that statement reflected another lesson drawn primarily from Wales. In African American life, the black church had mattered so much because religion provided almost the only institutional stability for people buffeted by racial oppression. In particular, because Jim Crow segregated the workplace, black communities struggled to form and maintain trade unions. Wales, though, was different. The miners found consolation in religion, with every village dotted with chapels. But they believed just as fervently in trade unionism.
The Gresford disaster showed why. In an industry such as mining, you relied on your workmates – both to get the job done safely and to stand up for your rights. The battle was necessarily collective. A single miner possessed no power at all; the miners as a whole, however, could shut down the entire nation, as they’d demonstrated in 1926.
In particular, the cooperation mandated by modern industry might, at least in theory, break down the prejudices that divided workers – even, perhaps, the stigma attached to race. That was the point Robeson dramatised in The Proud Valley, a film in which the solidarity of the workplace overcomes the miners’ suspicion about a dark-skinned stranger. “Aren’t we all black down that pit?” asks one of the men.
“It’s from the miners in Wales,” Robeson explained, “[that] I first understood the struggle of Negro and white together.”
“To understand Paul’s relationship with Wales,” Humphreys told me the following day, “you need to understand Tiger Bay.”
She introduced me to Lesley Clarke and to Harry Ernest and his son Ian. The three of them came from Tiger Bay, the centre of Wales’s black community. They’d worked on the original exhibition in Cardiff, after Humphreys had insisted that the National Gallery employ black guides, and now they’d come to Pontypridd to witness the new display.
At 82, Lesley Clarke was thin but sprightly and alert. She spoke slowly and carefully. “I hadn’t realised there was a colour bar until I left Tiger Bay. When I went to grammar school, I realised for the first time that there were people who just didn’t like coloured people. Didn’t know anything about us, but didn’t like us. I didn’t know I was poor and I didn’t know I was black: all I knew was that I was me.”
Tiger Bay was forged by some of the worst racial attacks in British history. In June 1919, returning soldiers encountered a group of black men walking with white women. Outraged, the troops, led by colonials (mostly Australians), rampaged throughout Butetown, attacking people of colour, destroying houses, and leaving four dead.
For Clarke and Ernest’s generation, the colour bar was very real, especially in employment. Ernest was impish and bald, and his eyes crinkled as he spoke, almost as if he took a perverse humour in the recollection. “We’d ask if a job was open,” he said, “and soon as they said yes, we’d say, ‘Can I come for an interview right now?’ To narrow the gap, because the minute you got there they would say, ‘Oh, the job is gone.’”
“The minute they saw you were black, that was it,” said Clarke. “You just took it for granted that it was going to happen. There were very few outlets, especially for girls. You either worked in the brush factory or you worked in Ziggy’s, selling rags and whatnot, or there was a place just over the bridge that did uniforms.”
“I worked in the brush factory for a while,” Ernest said. “Oh, Jesus!”
He shook his head and laughed in dismay. “Jesus.”
Robeson had reached out to the Welsh miners when his career was at its height. They came back to him at his lowest ebb, almost two decades later, at a time when all he’d achieved seemed to have been taken from him. In the midst of the cold war, the FBI prevented Robeson from performing at home. [He’d proclaimed his sympathy for the Soviet Union ever since the mid-30s. That leftism now made him a target. He became, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”, effectively silenced in his home country,] Worse still, the US state department confiscated his passport, so he could not travel abroad. He was left in a kind of limbo: silenced, isolated, and increasingly despairing.
On 5 October 1957, the Porthcawl Grand Pavilion filled with perhaps 5,000 people for the miners’ eisteddfod. Will Painter, the union leader, took to the microphone. After welcoming the delegates, he announced that they would soon hear from Paul Robeson, who’d be joining them via a transatlantic telephone line.
Addressing the National Eisteddfod of Wales, Ebbw Vale, 1958.
When Painter spoke again, he was addressing Robeson directly. “We are happy that it has been possible for us to arrange that you speak and sing to us today,” he said. “We would be far happier if you were with us in person.”
Miraculously, Robeson’s deep voice crackled out of the speakers in response. “My warmest greetings to the people of my beloved Wales, and a special hello to the miners of south Wales at your great festival. It is a privilege to be participating in this historic festival.”
He was seated in a studio in New York. Down the telephone line, he performed a selection of his songs, dedicating them to their joint struggle for what he called “a world where we can live abundant and dignified lives”.
The musical reply came from the mighty Treorchy Male Choir, the winners of that year’s eisteddfod, and a group that traces its history back to 1883. Robeson joined the choir in a performance of the Welsh national anthem, Land of My Fathers, before the entire audience – all 5,000 of them – serenaded him with We’ll Keep a Welcome. “This land you knew will still be singing,” they chorused. “When you come home again to Wales.”
• This is an edited extract from No Way But This by Jeff Sparrow, published by Scribe (£14.99)
Jeff Sparrow is a writer, editor and broadcaster, and an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University.







          i've got a job        
yes, that is correct, i have a job, and it's the best job in the whole world. i know you'll agree because i now work at home video! that's right, free movies for me!!! and i didn't even have to get interviewed and the best friend that i have here, bee, also works there. she works at the coffee counter. they have a coffee shop inside a video store. i start tommorow and boy am i pumped. i also started an autobiographical story about christmas when i was 7. i like it so far, and it seems like a good starting point to write something autobiographical. i can't wait to start working which is weird since i think the whole system of having to be a wage slave and not make a living wage is messed up. but anyway, i'm employed and i'm really really excited.
i am going to go dumpstering now. last night i was at whole foods and my bike got a flat. so i had to walk my bike 2 miles home and so i didn't really get all the things there were to be had.
          Poem: Undeclaration        
My friend Alan Maki sent me this poem written by a friend of his.

I like this poem a lot so I thought I would share it with everyone.

It looks to me like a lot of thought went into writing this poem. It takes a lot of thought to read. I like the poem because it makes me think about the history of our country and why things are as they are today.

Rita




Undeclaration


It was a good idea once
inalienable rights and the abolition
of tyranny but
we've mucked it up, this great
American Experiment
our own inbred aristocracy madder
that noon-baked Englishmen with
crimes and usurpations running amok,
torn bodies and new hatreds in every
casbah tentacles
in every pocket and a
knife at every throat
and we wage slave
descendants of the free
sinking in the refuse of yesterday's bargains
punch clocked and jackbooting our way
to the fossil record at the speed of credit
with no payments 'till January --
a toxic spoor of ruined
places, broken lives and gulags.

We had a bad run but it's time
to come clean,
to admit our failure to
examine the bloody Manifest
of our imagined Destiny.

Time to Repent
for mass graves and wars of false premise,
for all those dictators, our murky turkeys lurking
in every hot satrapy with trained goons keeping
bloody order and a quota of disappeared.

Time to admit
it was all a mistake
made in the bravado of our youth and
rejoin the Commonwealth
Stop seeing stars and turn in our
bloody stripes
be British again
take tea and healthcare claim
our place lordless
in the house of commons where
Empire is only a memory
best forgotten.

-- Al Markowitz
          Happy International Workers' Day!        
August Spies, matyr of the workers' movement of the late nineteenth century, read this statement at his sentencing hearing:

"But if you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labor movement – the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil and live in want and misery, the wage slaves, expect salvation – if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread upon a spark, but here, there and behind you, and in front of you, and everywhere the flam...
          Government Governing the Least Is Best; Except In Indiana        
In the past couple of weeks the Indiana's Religious Freedom Reformation Act (RFRA) has shown a division not just between inclusionary liberals and exclusionary conservatives, but also among conservatives that hold to the principle of limited government and those who will toss the principle aside for the convenience of escaping civil liabilities of prejudicial business practices. The defenders of the Indiana RFRA, will point to the federal statute, or Connecticut statute (only being compared due to that state's governor barring of state travel to Indiana) that is similar in name but not spirit and differs in letter where it counts from the Indiana's RFRA variant. If the differences were innocuous as the defenders claim, then why wouldn't they protest against a redundant legislation? If the differences are innocuous then what is the purpose of the law, and why won't the limited government conservatives come out and chastise the Big Government conservatives? Is it not so, that the government that governs the least governs the best, or that only the least number of laws that are absolutely necessary should be passed and enforced? Where are the tri-corner hats claiming that the what happens between a customer and a business should stay between a customer and a business and no more bail outs for businesses reckless liabilities even if they were discriminatory business practices? Sec 9 of the Indiana RFRA clearly stated that an individual that was "substantially burdened or likely to be substantially burdened" could invoke their RFRA rights as a defense in any lawsuit or binding arbitration. The amended statute included clear anti-discrimination language, which in essence voids section 9 for being used as a defense in civil lawsuits making the whole legislative effort by Governor Mike Pence futile, so I ask again where are the small government conservatives pointing out the superfluous nature of the Indiana RFRA? Even if the liability shield for discriminatory businesses remained shouldn't the small government conservatives still have joined the big government liberals in protesting this law as unnecessary?

The reason why there isn't an open schism among conservatives regarding this social issue or a bevy other conservative social issues is that the conservative establishment knows that social issues are for the hoi polloi that are being hoodwinked by the big business to distract them so that they don't find common interest with the fellow wage slaves and demand a diffusion of power away from corporate boardrooms and back into family's living rooms. As Lyndon Johnson so aptly said fifty years ago "If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket." In this case, if you can convince a believer to be judgmental and prejudicial towards others he won't notice that his pockets are being picked clean by a supposedly fellow believer.

          The life of submission        

The life of submission
Tell me what’s so great about the life of submission. What’s so great about a hundred thousand worries and a life of hurry? What’s so great about spending most of your life participating in activies that you’d rather not or trying to get back and forth between them? The teachers, your parents and other family members, most everyone who has ever given you “mature” advice has misled you. They not only misled you, they did it unknowingly and to your detriment. Because this is what they have been trained to do. When speaking to others, to gain acceptance, they must say what others find to be acceptable. Obviously. But also, they actually believe all the mumbo-jumbo about studying hard (being submissive), paying attention (being docile), being mature (internalizing all this nonsense), and building a resume (showing your enslavers that you really are a good boy or good girl). How do I know they lied? Well, the matter at hand is subjective. But, a life of submission is a life of submission. There is nothing subjective about that. When you put on a nametage, put on a uniform, dress appriorately, do what your told, sit at your desk, stand at your station, do what you were hired to do, you’re being submissive. You’re nothing but a slave. Maybe a happy one too. Throughout history, there have been happy slaves. Many of them. Because they didn’t know any better. And because if you know you’re going to be a slave your whole life, it’s easier on yourself if you just internalize your role and your place and you accept it. Slavery is slavery. Getting told what to wear, what to do, how to do it, and only handing you money or something else if you play along is slavery. Young conservatives and libertarians can talk about freedom all they want but when they go put on that Chick-Fil-a costume and tuck in that shirt and don’t forget the black belt and the name tag, they are nothing more than slaves. Part time at least. I mention Chick-Fil-A here because it is a fast food restaurant that many young people work at. It is renown among the people who have nothing to fill their lives with but talk about the quality of service at different fast food restaurants as a restaurant where the service quality is very good. Humiliatingly, all workers at this restaurant chain must reply with “my pleasure” when a customer says “thank you.” And politicians and libertarians and liberals and conservatives and every other statist has the audacity to talk about freedom? This is serfdom, plain and simple. And it’s sad. When I go to this restaurant, I can barely look the workers in the eye. Because it is sad. Despite the smiles, I know underneath, there is nothing but pain. From fear of a customers complaint, from fear of the wrath of a manager and the ensuing discipline. I know their pain. I know the humiliation. I know the feeling that you are and idiot and stupid when you do nothing but press on the pictures of the food on the ordering screens. I know the feeling of someone asking to “speak to your manager.” I know the feeling of having the nametag on your chest so that you do not even have the freedom to decide who knows your name. And also so customers can report unsubmissive workers to the boss. Bitch, go make your own food. But slavery is not limited to only the Chick-Fil-A plantation. It is everywhere and all around us. It exists in all workplaces. Among all workers and even among all bosses. Even the highly paid workers with their trips to all inclusive resorts that are infantile and babyish. With the forced fake niceness of the slaves of the second and third and first world. Every worker, by definition, is restricted and their freedom compromised. That is the nature of work. You do this by this time and you are rewarded according to this contract. Unless of course you are one of the low wage, low education, low wealth workers that is so easily swindled. In that case, you get fucked. But still, high pay won’t get you anything but more obligations. That nice car? Car payment, maintenance (both fees and time), insurance, taxes. Plus, those leather seats and big engine don’t mean much. If they mean anything, it’s that you’re gullible. So think twice about what that stupid teacher tells you. Do you really want to spend you life in the office, only dreaming about when your master lets you go home or steal a quick break? Do you really want to deal with the humiliation of showing up to an interview with Human resources people to show just how much of a good worker you will be? Human resources people are some of the most despicable people. Although sometimes, they do help the slaves out a little bit. However, only ever in ways that don’t hurt their employer too much. They are like the internal police. They are the ones that have internalized so much of the stupidity. Do you know that at a hotel I use to work at, the employee handbook had a rule that if a security guard walked into a restroom and found you on a cell phone, you would get in trouble? And then of course you would get written up and have to deal with human resources. Maybe a catastrophic event wouldn’t be so bad after all, if only it could be so damaging as to prevent civilization from ever coming back, but not damaging enough to wipe out all humanity. But anyways, to the person out there who this is written for, whoever you are, try to make your own way. Forget about the tyranny of the success/ failure dichotomy. It might be nearly impossible to avoid wage slavery, but you can often times choose to live simply enough to maintain some of your freedom. What little you can grab back from civilization.


          National Occupy in Support of Prisoners Day: Feb 20 2012        


Website: Occupy4Prisoners.org

Read the book by Michelle Alexander: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Statements from People in Prisons for February 20th – National Occupy in Support of Prisoners Day

From: http://occupy4prisoners.org/statements-from-people-in-prisons/

(Please note that there are more statements being submitted, please continue to check back for more! If you are having an action on February 20th, please feel free to incorporate these statements as part of your program. If you have a statement to submit please send to occupy4prisoners@gmail.com.)

In Respect to the February 20th 2012 Protest
We are With You In Spirit !!!

TO: All Occupy Wall Street Participants

FROM: Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement Hunger Strikers in Solidarity (PHSS)
Sitawa Jamaa, s/n Dewberry C35671; Todd Ashker C58191; Antonio Guillen P81948; and Arturo Castellanos C17275

Corporate Amerika has coalesced its efforts around the exploitation of Human Beings, while using the political apparatus of the U.S. government, federal, state and local to institute policies that set in motion the creation of a corporate police state, which has targeted the poor as a surplus for incarceration and exploitation.

Those of us housed in solitary confinement throughout California and Amerika, support “Occupy Wall Street” and understand the necessity to resist against corporate greed. We will no longer willingly accept the subjugation, oppression and exploitation of Humanity.

Banks and the “prison industrial complex” are corporate empires that prey on the souls of Humanity. Therefore we officially join you all in Struggle.

One Love, One Struggle
Pelican Bay Human Rights Movement
---------
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Souls on Ice
(Col.writ. 2/2/23) @’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal

When I heard of the call, just raised in Oakland, California, to “Occupy the Prisons”, I gasped.

It was not an especially radical call, but it was right on time.
For prisons have become a metaphor; the shadow-side, if you will, of America, With oceans of words about freedom, and the reality that the U.S. is the world’s leader of the incarceration industry, its more than time for the focused attention of the Occupy Movement.
It’s past time.

For the U.S. is the world’s largest imprisoner for decades, much wrought by the insidious effects of the so-called ‘drug war’—what I call, “the War on the Poor”.

And, Occupy, now an international movement, certainly has no shortage of prisons to choose from. Every state, every rural district, every hamlet in America has a prison; a place where the Constitution doesn’t exist, and where slavery is all but legalized.

When law professor, Michelle Alexander, took on the topic, her book, the New Jim Crow, took off like hotcakes – selling over 100,000 in just a few months.

And where there are prisons, there is torture; brutal beatings, grave humiliations, perverse censorship–and even murders—all under a legal system that is as blind as that statue which holds aloft a scale, her eyes covered by a frigid fold of cloth.
So, what is Occupy to do?

Initially, it must support movements such as those calling for the freedom of Lakota brother Leonard Peltier, the MOVE veterans of August 8th, 1978, the remaining two members of the Angola 3: Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, Sundiata Acoli, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, and many other brothers and sisters who’ve spent lifetimes in steel and brick hellholes.
But, the Occupy Movement must do more.

As it shifted the discussion and paradigm on economic issues, it must turn the wheel of the so-called ‘Criminal Justice System’ in America, that is in fact, a destructive, counter-productive, annual $69 billion boondoogle of repression, better-known by activists as the Prison-Industrial-Complex.
That means more than a one-day event, no matter how massive or impressive. It means building a mass movement that demands and fights for real change, and eventually abolition of structures that do far more social damage than good.

It means the abolition of solitary confinement, for it is no more than modern-day torture chambers for the poor.

It means the repeal of repressive laws that support such structures.

It means social change—or it means nothing.

So let us begin—Down With the Prison Industrial Complex!
----------
Lynne Stewart
This occupy rally is what Must happen at every jail in the United States–a direct challenge to Arbitrary Power that thinks it can lock up those with the greatest grievances against the system and systematically demonize them to their fellow citizens.

I speak now for all the 2 Million but of course. particularly on behalf of those political prisoners who actively fought and tested this unjust system and now suffer in SHU’s, and other forms of Solitary, for that. Many have been tortured for the last thirty years or more. When they were captured in the heady political days of the ’60s and ’70s, we were convinced that fundamental change was inevitable –indeed that it was right around the corner. It still remains inevitable but now we understand the protracted struggle necessary to breach this evil system.

I for one am recruited to accomplish the freedom of political prisoners and as my comrade Chairman Fred says “FREE ‘EM ALL” !!!
------
Khalfani Malik Khaldun
Greetings:
All power to the people. I am in support/solidarity with your work to expose the contradictions existing at San Quentin prison, and all prisoners across the country.

Please extend my clenched fist salutation to brother Kevin Cooper/those men on death row.

I am a political prisoner here in Indiana. I have been in prison for 26 years now, with 18 years in isolated confinement. I am currently being held in a Secure Housing Unit, where the conditions are cruel and unusual punishment, and there are deplorable violations of state and federal policy all across the unit.

Those in charge have used criminal tactics to keep many of us in perpetual isolation. We could use some organized, principled help here in Indiana. Could you provide me and e-mail or other address of other occupiers in solidarity against prison injustice? We need to organize a force here to Occupy the Indiana SHU. I have some committed supporters…along with others we can move mountains. I agree with Kevin: just never forget us.

Khalfani Malik Khaldun (L. McQuay) #874304, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility
SCU A-1205 PO Box 1111 Carlisle, IN 47834
---------
Kevin Cooper

We Dissent – An Occupy Death Row Production

A few of the definitions of the word dissent are: to withhold assent; to differ in opinion; difference of opinion; religious nonconformity; a written statement in which a justice disagrees with the opinion of the majority.

The above word “Dissent” and these few definitions speak in part to what all the different “Occupy Movements” are about.

While they all, each and every one of them, have different thoughts, ideas, tactics, agendas, and people who they represent, they all have, for the most part, “dissented” from what has been going on, and going on for decades, in this world and country.

We all disagree with, and do not want to be part of, the norm anymore! Nor do we want what is considered “normal” to be part of us, because the status quo is outright harming us on all of life’s different levels.

We all are saying in our own unique way that we don’t trust the people who are running the system, just as we don’t trust the system itself.

All across the world, people who don’t eat the same food, or wear the same garb, speak the same language, belong to the same religion or pray to the same named God, if they do pray, are dissenting.

Everywhere, people are standing up and fighting back, and speaking out from under the universal umbrella of humanity. This umbrella provides protection for the oppressed, from the oppressor.

The Occupy Movement as a whole is another form of the universal umbrella for human rights. From within this movement, we dissenters can speak the truth as to how the status quo, the ruler’s agenda, has a negative effect on “We the People” and this one planet we all must live on, and share.
Something must be seriously wrong and it is not us! The system is wrong and it’s has always been wrong and will always be wrong!

Some in the top 1% use their subordinates to ask, “What is it that they want?” Each movement within Occupy may want different things, especially since we all come from different places and have different real life and death experiences.

So while I can’t speak to what any one movement wants per se, I can speak to what all these different occupy movements don’t want.

We don’t want terrorism of any kind, against any people. We don’t want pollution of the air or water and other natural resources that Mother Earth produces; We don’t want a government that uses the mainstream news media to help a President send its people to war based on lies; We don’t want war in any of its forms; We don’t want sexism, racism, classism, or poverty!
We don’t want corruption, the death penalty, the prison industrial complex — either public or private prisons. We don’t want unions to be busted, nor do we want jobs sent overseas to other countries. We don’t want to go without healthcare or a good education. We don’t want police brutality or intimidation of any kind!

These few things mentioned above should go a long way to help people understand that there are two sides to every story, and while many seem to want to focus on just one side… “What is it that they want?” they must now come to terms with some of what we don’twant! If they do, then they will truly understand why we dissent. Everything that we don’t want is a very real part of what is wrong within this country and world, and it is having a very negative affect on the quality and quantity of life of the masses of people—the poor!

All these manmade ills are happening and have happened simply because of greed and the very real fact that the powers that be – They really don’t care about us!
So, we respectfully dissent!
---------------
Jane Dorotik, CIW

The 2.3 million individuals that we as a nation incarcerate has become one of the defining qualities of this country of ours. Never before in the history of civilization has a country locked away so many of its own people. Have we as society become so violent, so incorrigible that we must lock away so many? How did we get to this point under the guise of ‘public safety?’

The cost of incarcerating women is immense. The average annual cost to incarcerate a woman is $50,000 and the average cost to incarcerate a woman over 55 is a staggering $138,000. Because of their role as mothers, the costs and consequences go far beyond the criminal justice system. Their children are either raised by other family members or are sent to the state’s foster care system. Children whose parents are incarcerated are 4-5 times more likely to become incarcerated themselves, thus perpetuating the intergenerational incarceration cycle. Since 1991, the number of children with a mother in prison has increased by more than 131% and nationwide more than half of children whose mother are incarcerated are under age 10.

The prison system is a system gone awry, gravely compromised and rampant with abuses. It is a terrifying breeding ground for anger, hatred, sexism, homophobia and dominating exploitation of other human beings. We are warehousing people, punishing them and then returning them to society worse off than when they entered the system. The violence that then comes out of these prisons is a much greater threat to public safety than any foreign terrorist group ever could be.
--------
Krista Funk, Central California Women’s Facility
The bankers are legal racketeers. They are rewarded for their crimes. But the people at the bottom of the 99%, the poor, we are warehoused in the Prison Industrial Complex. They take away our ability to vote once we are inside because that might change the way things are. The rich get richer, the poor give up, and out of desperation they turn on their families and their communities. This cycle has to change!
-----------
Herman Wallace # 76759
Elayn Hunt Correction Center,
St. Gabriel, Louisiana

Most all U.S. citizens benefit in some way from the capitalist mode of production, a system that exploits underdeveloped nations as well as 99% of it’s own nation’s people. This creates a vast contradiction that causes much emotional pain.

In 1865, Union Generals admitted to Lincoln that they were on the verge of losing the war and could only turn the tides if Lincoln would free the slaves. Of course, slaves were never freed, it was only the form of slavery practiced in the South that was disrupted, moving from chattel slavery to wage slavery as has been so well documented.

Defy permits to occupy, civil disobedience is a form of struggle, and where there is no struggle, there is no change.

We must strengthen our forces by uniting with the Occupy movement and liberation movements throughout the world in order to disrupt the capitalist mode of production and send capitalism to it’s grave.

Free All Political Prisoners and Prisoners of Consciousness
All Power to the People
Herman Wallace
-------------
Robert King
First of all I would like to applaud and salute those in the Occupy movement for focusing on the hideous corruption of corporate America and the effects this corruption has on all of us in the 99%, including the well over two million individuals that fill our detention facilities and their families.

“Being in prison, in solitary was terrible. It was a nightmare. My soul still cries from all that I witnessed and endured. It does more than cry- it mourns, continuously. I saw men so desperate that they ripped prison doors apart, starved and mutilated themselves. It takes every scrap of humanity to stay focused and sane in this environment. The pain and suffering are everywhere, constantly with you. But, it’s was also so much more than that. I had dreams and they were beautiful dreams. I used to look forward to the nights when I could sleep and dream. There’s no describing the day to day assault on your body and your mind and the feelings of hopelessness and despair “

There is far more than a causal relationship between the Occupy Movement and the work so many of you are doing to change the criminal justice system.

The same people who make the laws that favor the bankers, make the laws that fill our prisons and detention centers. We have to continue to make the connection between Wall St. and the prison industrial complex. The growth of the private prison industry is just one symptom of this unholy alliance.

I stand in solidarity with the Occupy 4 Prisoners rally and hope these rallies shed further light on the insidious effects of prisons for profit and politics.
Free all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience,
Robert King
Angola 3
-------------
Steve Champion

I want to thank all the participants of Occupy San Quentin for being here today. Thank you for reading my statement.

My name is Steve Champion. I’ve been incarcerated for over 30 years and twenty-nine of those years and counting, have been spent on San Quentin’s death row.

We are living in a critical time in history. There is a global and domestic crisis going on. Our body politics is under siege because it is dominated by crony capitalism and social and economic indifference. We are fast moving toward a bicentric society of “haves” and “have nots.” If we fail to take a strong stand to transform this nation then we can expect an ill forecast for the future.

One of the most powerful unions in the state of California is the Correctional Peace Organization Association (CCPOA). As tuition for students are being raised, schools being shut down, cuts being made in the fields of Education, Social programs, Nurses and other care-givers, everyone is being forced to make a sacrifice. But we don’t hear cuts being made in the salaries of Prison Guards. Why is that? Because the CCPOA (through rigorous lobbying in Sacramento) have the ear of California State Legislators. They make huge campaign contributions to both the Governor and State Legislators. This allows them to peddle influence and get implemented the policies they want in place.

What this ought to tell those of us who are concerned about social justice, prison reform and the abolishment of the death penalty is we have to up the ante of our struggle. If we want to see the eradication of the death penalty and the prison, requires a multifaceted approach. It is not enough for prisoners to struggle on the inside; it is not enough to picket, protest or occupy specific places. Those things are important. But we also need to have a robust voice and seat among the decision makers who shape, influence and create policies that we vehemently oppose. We need to build a grassroots political organization to challenge those in power.

Too often, our social movements are on the defensive. We react as opposed to being proactive and taking initiative on programs we want implemented and policies we want changed. Building a grassroots political organization can facilitate a lot of the fragmentization that exist in our movements by uniting us. It would give focus to our objectives. If we don’t do this, then who? If we don’t do this now, then when?

The one percent who dominate the political and economic system in this country is not an accident. It was carefully planned. They want a government for the one percent and by the one percent, but not by the people.

We have to strengthen and intensify our struggle. We have to become more committed. We have to remember that our struggle isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. What we do today will alter the course of history tomorrow. Thank you.

Long live the struggle.
---------
Todd Ashker Letter of January 26, 2012
You all know we’ve been on a “counter propaganda” campaign here since Dec. 09 and much of what myself, Castellano, Sitawa, and Mutope have in mind in our writings about our struggle & resistance 24/7 is in line with our counter propaganda campaign!! Actually, I’d prefer criminal prosecution because 1) I’d be acquitted and 2) the publicity it would garner would be real great for the cause. Now that it’s not a DA referral (I expect due to legislative inquiry), I expect to be railroaded & found guilty administratively (first time guilty of a serious rule violation since Jan 94).

This will be used by the Board of Parole Hearings to issue me a longer parole hearing deferral when I go in Aug 2012 (probably a 7-10 year deferral). It will mean no art material or photos for a year, etc., etc., etc. This bogus CDC 115 RVR should be getting propagated out there as much as possible as well as other CDCR/PBSP dirty shit.

This is where I (and many others) stand on this struggle: For more than 30 years CDCR policy and practice has been “us vs. them” — viewing us as the enemy who they are at war with.

The 1st thing one does in war is propagate against and dehumanize the enemy. For 22+ years PBSP has been propagated as housing “the worst of the worst,” responsible for all the state’s gang problems.

We see it in reverse. CDCR (the prison industrial complex) are the criminals committing multi billions in fraud and many murders each year (law makers and courts are enablers and just as guilty). CDCR is housing us to put money in their pockets. All of which is part of the bigger problems – the class war in this country, the 1% vs. the 99% (the poor v. ultra rich). It’s no longer a “people of color v. white man” issue; it’s a “poor vs. ultra rich” issue. The so-called middle class is long gone.

We’re at war (the poor 99% including the prisoners) and the people in power are scared to death and they should be. Most of us should have been out long ago. A life sentence has never meant “life” until the last 30 years. Most of us are many years beyond our minimum eligible parole dates.
We’re not serving a legally valid sentence anymore. We’re here illegally, immorally, and unethically based on politics and money.

Our supporters need to propagate against the system at every opportunity and tie our struggle to that of the poor and disenfranchised at large.
This is just the start. We plan to force CDCR to open up all the level IV General Populations and spend money on our benefit, such as rehab programs, etc. and force change to sentences and paroles.

Our supporters need to see the system for what is really is and to educate people about it to bring more support in. It’s important to humanize and decriminalize us to the mainstream. Granted we’re “convicted felons,” but we’ve already served above and beyond any form of a valid prison term.
We shouldn’t even be recognizing that these CDCR “criminals” have any power over us. We really should be actively resisting our illegal confinement a lot more and our people outside should be doing so too, with all of our beings, until these “criminals” cut us loose or kill us.

Right now we’re waiting – waiting to get out to these General Population prisons. Then we’ll straighten out the B.S. on them so these people can no longer justify warehousing everyone. Then, we’ll go from there. People need to realize these “criminals” are the real enemy who we’re at war with and act accordingly in a smart way. The time is coming when they will fall and it’s not too far in the future. But we all must stay strong and do our part to make it happen. We need strong outside support. People should not fear nor be intimidated by CDCR’s “crime syndicate” staff. They’re really cowards in truth and need to be forced to get right.
As always, I send my best to all.
In solidarity and with respect,
Todd
---------
FROM CCWP WOMEN (Alisha, Veronica, Margarita)

Truth is…

The picture I’m about to paint can only be heard,
so listen closely to every word.

Innocent until proven guilty?
They can’t be serious,
In a system where
Drug dealers get more time
than serial killers,
juveniles get tried as adults,
before they become one.
I guess nobody musta warned’em
about playing with knives and guns.

Guilty by association?
That’s what it’s called
then they get hauled
off to the pen,
where some girls become boyz and some boyz
become women.
Sitting around
unaware of who they are,
wounded while in the belly of the beast.
I call’em invisible scars,
the kind that can’t be healed
by Neosporin and stitches.

Went in walkin’
came out switching.

Could you imagine what it’s like?
Being told that the beginning
is really the end of your life.
3 strikes and you’re out!
Some think it’s a game,
but it’s really outta my hands.
Lord knows, I’m not tryna do life
on installment plans.

Everybody wanna be a part
Of the occupy system,
I need to occupy my life and
find something to do with it,
otherwise it’s useless.

Some may mistake my words as verbally abusive,
But the truth is…

How do we expect our kids to grow
from concrete,
accept defeat,
have to fend for themselves
in cells where it is dark
and hot as hell?
More parents come to see kids in jail
than they do at graduations.
That’s cuz the new diploma
is parole or probation

Fucked up situation
No contender.

“Now I’ll be gone until November”
Listening to a public pretender
telling me to plea
Y?
Cuz I’m young, black, and sell crack in da streets.
Babies committing robbery,
1st degree.

Even with blind eyes
I could see it ain’t cool.
They building prison programs
and tearing down schools.
We all got an opinion
just like we all have a choice.
No one can hear you speak
if you don’t use your voice!

Alisha Coleman, SF County Jail

My name is Veronica Hernandez and I am a 20-year-old young woman that has been incarcerated since I was 16-years-old and tried as an adult at 17-years-old.

Prior to being charged as an adult I was appointed a no-good attorney that couldn’t have cared less about me or the outcome of my case and consequently; had put absolutely no effort into representing me adequately. There are no law libraries or legal services at Juvenile Hall so a juvenile rather it be for better or for worse had literally no choice but to be dependant on his or her court-appointed attorney and trust that him or her will lead them in the right direction. Unfortunately, for me that direction was to adult court where I now face a life sentence should I be convicted.

In California, 16-years-old are eligible to be tried as adults and in some states, the minimum age to be tried as an adult is 13-years-old and in others, there is no age limit at all depending on the nature of the crime. Regardless of the age, juveniles that are tried as adults are subjected to harsher punishments that juvenile court judges lack the power to impose such as life without the possibility of parole or sentences that are so outrageous like “43 to life” or “51 to life” that those sentences might as well be life without the possibility of parole.

Although a juvenile’s right to a hearing before a case can be transferred to adult court was established by Kent V. U.S. (U.S. Sup. Ct. 1966) there are still cases that get transferred to adult court without a hearing at all and that is known as a “direct filing.” The D.A> can file a direct filing on a juvenile that is 14-years-old or older and that contradicts California’s so-called minimum age of 16-years old or older to be eligible at being tried as an adult and a juveniles so-called right to a hearing.

The human mind doesn’t stop developing until the age of 25, so it is ridiculous that a judge can even be given the power to determine that a juvenile can never be rehabilitated and will remain at the same state of mind that the juvenile was in at the time of their crime was committed for the rest of his or her life. Aside from ridiculous…it is outrageous…oppressive…opprobrious…and something that needs to cease…abolish this oppression and give children the chance at life that each and everyone of them deserves.

Veronica Hernandez, SF County Jail
---------
My name is Margarita and I’m gonna tell you my story. I ran away from home at 11 years old and fucked up my whole life and career. My dad used to molest me when I was very young. I can remember as far back as age 2. He sure did some foul things to me. I didn’t know any better but he use to tell me if I said anything he would take me off the team. You see I raced downhill snow skiing on the U.S.A. women’s division ski team and I was very good at what I did. My father knew it to so he used that as bait. By molesting me and doing ungodly things to me that father’s wouldn’t dream of doing to their daughters.

I was very active growing up, a tomboy some would say. I raced motorcross, BMX, swimming, dance, karate, etc. I traveled all over for my snow skiing though. I ran away at my last speed skating race when I was 11 ½ years old. My parents were already divorced. I told my mom what Daddy did at age 6. Of course she didn’t believe me so she put cameras in the room and caught him on tape. Back then we wanted it kept quiet. My dad owned the leather factory and growing up in Black Hawk, California would have ruined his name. Anyways, I left and went to Los Angeles, from Los Angeles to Watts, California. At age 13 ½ I caught my first case and was convicted as a young adult; the first female for a 187 at age 14 to be convicted as an adult. I got 15 years to life and did 12 years. I started in Juvie and then transferred to Youth Authority and from Youth Authority to California Institute for Women.

Me and this other inmate caught an escape. We stole the fire truck at CIW and was transferred to Chowchilla. There I did my first stretch of 8 years; 4 in lock-down and 4 on the yard. They tried to give me 3 years more in lock-down for an assault on a C.O. He came into my cell and tried to rape me. So, when I was out in the day room, ironing my pants, I took the iron and hit him over the head with it. I stayed 6 months in confinement. I also had a petition going around letting all the girls sign it cause I wasn’t the first victim he did this to. But he wasn’t gonna keep getting away. I ended up with 560 signatures and he was escorted off the yard and his rights were stripped from him. No longer in the state of California or in the United States can he become a legal Correctional Officer in any federal or state prison.

After that I did my last 4 years at N.C.W.F. Stockton, California. I left Stockton and went straight to Delancy Street where I did 5 years and graduated here in San Francisco. I was sitting on top of the world. I had 2 cars, 2 bank accounts, 3 jobs, doing super good then one day I said, “Fuck it all.” I left my apartment in Oakland with everything I owned, closed both bank accounts and withdrew the money I worked hard at and my savings which was a total of $30,000 dollars. Down the drain. I smoked it, shot it, all that. But thank the lord and knock on wood that I never went back to prison but if I don’t stop and start giving a fuck I will be. I’ll be on the first train smoking. Which now leads me to San Francisco County Jail.

Margarita, SF County Jail
---------
Enceno Macy

The Chance to Make a Difference by Enceno Macy With no access allowed to computers or internet, prisoners in this state receive news only via major networks on a few prison-controlled tv channels. We therefore knew little or nothing of the Occupy Wall Street actions until police brutality drew reluctant media coverage. Quietly, many of us cheered. Prisoners are after all the most disenfranchised and voiceless segment of the 99%. Our very survival is totally at the mercy of an industry that makes obscene profits, grossly overcharging a literally captive market for out-dated, condemned food products, factory-reject clothing, expired medicines, and defective, unsalable merchandise. The Occupation has now faded from corporate news, but for a while there I dared to hope they would persist and maybe even score some victories against our corporate masters. I want to cry out now to each of them not to give up, not to blow this chance to make a difference. I was so young I blew my own chance without even knowing I had one, and trying to regain it has been a long, hard journey. The young mind, caught up in self, focuses mostly on the immediate future and the common daily occurrences that directly affect a youth’s current situation. Young people therefore often fail to comprehend the world as a whole. Other countries might as well be other planets, politics and global relations are grown-ups’ business, and things appear generally to be everlasting. Caring, compassion and empathy are often limited to the things and people closest and most familiar to us at the time: our family, friends, possessions and pets. Some kids may grow up more worldly, but the above is what I knew and was at 15 years old: simple and self-absorbed. I came to prison then – back when cell phones were rare and primitive and Palm Pilot was the only hand-held computer.

When I came to jail, Clinton was considered the closest thing to a minority president that we would get. Global warming and peak oil had not become common terms or concerns. Terrorism wasn’t being used to justify conflicts and military campaigns that depleted our debt surplus and contributed to a crashing economy. Our planet wasn’t being murdered as blatantly with countless pollutants in our air and water (or to be honest, I hadn’t noticed). Prison does different things to different people. For some it is a chance to regroup and prepare to try harder to get away with the things that put them in their cage to begin with. Others try to change, try to look at themselves and correct their flaws. Maybe they will seek the help of a church or A.A., or they attempt to exercise will power that they’ve never had. Some with long sentences end up trying to improve their education to advance their character, knowledge and understanding. Having gone through only my ninth grade year (and failing terribly) at the time I fell, it was imperative that I take the path of improvement.

I didn’t have a curriculum, only my mom’s encouragement and support from a few family friends. Often my interest would fade in and out, and I had no specific subject I wanted to learn about. To see my journey clearly, I need to be honest and share my progression and the reasoning behind it. Influenced by my surroundings (see my race article from a year ago), I first got into radical black literature. Growing up on the wrong side of the law, I equated the police and all authority as my enemy, a very basic association with why my life was so hard. The pro-black books I picked up referenced the police under a blanket that included politicians and the government as a whole.

This is where my adolescent anger turned, against “The Man,” or “Them.” That part of my education was generally negative. I think of it now as an old way of thinking, but what it did was open me up to the idea of oppression. From there my perception widened, and I saw that many different races and cultures fall into the category of the oppressed. For a couple of years, I studied many aspects of history and saw how governments always find someone to keep a foot on. I looked at all the attempts to change that had been made, and I saw the changes that were made were mostly for appearances and that things stayed fundamentally the same under the surface: there were always the haves and the have-nots. I was disgusted with people for accepting this, for believing what their government told them, and for how they treated each other.

I saw society as cold, selfish, and unfair. It seemed to me that social reforms and public outcry did nothing to address the true reasons why things were the way they were. I felt America needed a wake-up call – to be reminded of the basics and be brought back to their roots as humans, to be reminded of what it means to need each other. I thought the only true way things could be fixed was by breaking them. I was going to cause a revolution. I was going to build a nuclear bomb. This began my next phase.

I began to research how to build this bomb. My ambition was short-lived, as I discovered how hard it is to get uranium or plutonium. But I uncovered something else that totally changed my way of thought and the direction of my path. Understanding how a nuclear reaction worked introduced me to physics and, in turn, to theoretical physics. It opened my eyes to how big the universe is and how small my various concerns are within it. Studying physics made me think of things below the surface and causes of actions that may be subtle or indirect. I began to relate this to human nature, and to think about the circumstances that led people to think and act the way they do. What happened was that I discovered empathy. I no longer blamed people themselves for what they did and thought, but instead looked to things like upbringing, education and lack of diverse experiences as the cause. I learned that a person may treat another a certain way based on preconceptions of the other person’s style, culture, or race. For example, I ran into a kid early in my sentence who had been taught by his community that black people had special muscles, bones, and blood vessels that whites didn’t have; that’s what made him dislike and fear minorities and gave him a racist outlook. Could I blame him or hate him for what he had been taught? It was hard to see people in this new light. I hadn’t usually felt much sorrow for anything except myself before, but now I felt it for all the people who couldn’t fend for themselves – for babies born into such a deceptive and cruel world, for victims of bullying, for kids brain-washed to believe racist or sexist or political lies. Just when I was having this revelation, 9-11 happened, and this country went to bully a less organized, less advanced country out of their oil and way of life. To me, democracy may not have been the worst form of government, but even if it were the best, forcing it onto a thousands-of-years-old culture without its consent was wrong. To me, it was the same as a father (not unlike the one I’d had) beating his child to correct a flaw and causing far more damage than good. Meanwhile, all around me I saw people every day treat each other with the lowest level of regard and respect over the smallest issues. The mentality in here is to bring others down to build yourself up, and what I saw going on in the world was a horrifying mirror of what goes on in prison. Although I don’t agree with the murders and retain my own doubts about the truth behind 9-11, I look at the official story and ask anyone to think what they might do if they watched someone bully others over and over as the U.S. has done. Would you not wonder when your time will come? Would you not try to appear stronger and more aggressive than you are in order to put off the bully? Each person may differ greatly in opinions about it, but at that time I felt empathy for the alleged attackers’ desperation. I had to be much the same as they, acting stronger than I was so as not to fall victim to the gangs and predators that are the top of the food chain in here.

People in prison have plenty of time to think. Fundamentally, all we are doing is waiting – waiting to get out and begin to resume a life, or waiting to die. This is not living. The only part you might consider living is the mind, but for many lost souls, not only is their mind not living or even existing, it may already be dead. I kept mine alive by reading and learning, tried to keep up on headlines and the alternative versions of events that my mom would send me from the internet. While I have been waiting, my mind has brooded on how things could change. Hope for change is not enough. Too often hope is mistakenly used as a crutch by people who do not know what to do – not an excuse, but an unconscious substitute for taking things into their own hands.

By no means do I refer to someone ill hoping to live or someone with a life sentence hoping to get out. No, I mean a voter who votes for an asshole and hopes he will change things for the better. Then when the elected party fails to deliver on his promises, the voter keeps on hoping instead of demanding changes or taking assertive action. That isn’t hope, it’s delusion, the kind of delusion that feeds chronic gamblers. I am thirty years old and have never been allowed to vote. Maybe because it’s forbidden I have a warped view of what voting is: either a cruel joke or something people ought to take a lot more seriously.

Either way, I have serious doubts about the process, because necessary changes won’t be made through elections, which are too easily rigged by money. So when they ask, I encourage people to find out what they can do and then go and do it. Don’t wait for rigged elections or for others to lead you. Complaining of an injustice will do nothing to solve it or make it right: channel your anger or grief into doing what you can do, without dwelling on what you can’t. Otherwise, you may just be contributing to the problem. Outside the wire, many people take for granted the resources made available to them every day. They fill their cars with gas and complain about its prices, but never think of how many people died in order to power their vehicles. They get frustrated that wildfires, hurricanes, and tornadoes devastate their property and disrupt their lives, but reject the concept of global warming. Whether they want to believe the idea or not, what happened to the old saying, “Better safe than sorry?” Wouldn’t it be reasonable to avoid non-biodegradable products, shrink their carbon footprint, and use less fossil fuel and more recycled materials rather than contribute to the possibility that climate change is real? I have sat or lain awake many nights pondering how detached humans are from their connection to the earth. The slumbering breath of my cellmate is a background of white noise to visions of hunger and illness and suffering all over the world. As a youth I did not see my connection to the suffering.

I used to get down on myself for not being able to make any difference and for not having the discipline to do the few things I could do to help. But no one is perfect, as we all know. I came to understand that what I was capable of doing and what I could afford to do were two different things, and that I have to act within the confines of my situation. I am not rich or free. I have little control over what items I can recycle. I can not go door to door with petitions advocating change. For other reasons, you also may not be able to afford the time or resources, either, but doing what is possible, however small, may help you sleep better at night – maybe not totally at peace, but at least with a shred of satisfaction. To keep a goal of change always in mind, a person has to truly care about an issue or cause. Initial rage may die out – a product of the moment. Think of something like the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Do you remember how sad you felt? Or how much you hoped FEMA would be able to help? Do you still care as much as you did at first? If so, there are still plenty of victims in need of assistance. If you truly care and want to help, you might spend part of your next vacation helping build and repair houses in New Orleans. Just because those people’s sufferings are no longer in the news doesn’t mean they stopped existing or stopped needing what we can do. That’s just one example, illustrating how important it is to remember what caused us to feel concerned and want to take action – and to stick to it even after the issue fades from the news. There is blessing not only in being helped but in being able and willing to provide that help. You are lucky if you have the chance to make a difference, because some of us don’t have that opportunity. My many progressions and transformations, too numerous to mention, came from educating myself. Once I understood my connection to the things I saw wrong in the world, I looked for changes I could make to help. Efficient energy use is something I now think about daily, and the disaster of the tsunami in Sri Lanka inspired me deeply to want to be trained in search and rescue operations. I wanted so badly to go over there and save lives, even if it was just filling sand bags. Today it’s hard for anyone to help, as the economy shrinks, the jobless rate is higher than any time since the Great Depression, and people are losing their homes right and left.

I know even more things will hinder me in the uphill battle I face with my impending release because so many obstacles face ex-cons: Although our rules and laws are now officially colorblind, they operate to discriminate in a grossly disproportionate fashion. Through the war on drugs and the “get tough” movement, millions of poor people, overwhelmingly poor people of color, have been swept into our nation’s prisons and jails, branded criminals and felons . . . and then are ushered into a permanent second-class status, where they’re stripped of the many rights supposedly won in the civil rights movement, like the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, and the right to be free of legal discrimination in employment, housing, access to education and public benefits.

I am far from the kid who wanted to build a bomb, and though I have a voice from in here, I cannot make the difference that I want to, which is sad and frustrating at this point. My goal now is to equip myself with the knowledge and strength to be able to fight for a cause when the time comes. What would happen, I wonder, if just one relative or friend of every prisoner and ex-con in the U.S. got together in an Occupy event? That would be more than 2.2 million people – enough to have an impact, maybe? When that seems impossible, I tell myself over and over again what I wish I could tell the Occupiers:

whatever differences you try to make, there will be those who oppose you and tell you your goals are impossible. Don’t let them stop you no matter how powerful they are or how futile it may seem. Giving up makes all your efforts – and others’ – worthless. If you’re passionate enough and determined enough, you may find the satisfaction and peace I mentioned earlier.

Prison not only confines, it also limits my choices, so the differences I can make are few. But thanks to Planet Waves, I do have a voice, and maybe convincing others who can make a difference is the best action we can take. In some cases it takes only a single voice to change everything. The world is not ours, we are borrowing it from future generations. The only meaningful pursuit is to find something outside of ourselves to care about: to love the world and everything in it as the gift that it is.
---------
Sean Swain

Occupy, Liberate, De-Colonize: A Statement for Occupy Columbus from Prison by Sean Swain

In 2007, in a published interview I observed that if Ohio prisoners simply laid on their bunks for 30 days, the system would collapse. I wasn’t talking about just the prison system, but Ohio’s entire economy.

I came to that conclusion because I recognized that 50,000 [Ohio] prisoners work for pennies per day making the food, taking out the trash, mopping the floors. We produce parts for Honda and other multi-nationals at Ohio Penal Industries (OPI), making millions of dollars in profit for the State. If we stopped participating in our own oppression, the State would have to hire workers at union-scale wages to make our food, take out the trash, and mop the floors; slave labor for Honda and others would cease.

Ohio would lose millions of dollars a day in production. The State’s economy would not recover for a decade.

When I made that observation, I didn’t know for certain that I was right. I suspected I was. But more than a year later, prison officials came to get me. My cell was plastered with crime tape. All of the fixtures, including lights, sink, and toilet, were removed and inspected, something that I haven’t seen happen in 20 years of captivity. I was taken to segregation and slated for transfer to super-max.

The reason? My observation in a year-old published interview, that Ohio’s economy would collapse without prison labor. That’s when I knew my observation was right. The enemy confirmed it.

I eventually avoided super-max because friends and supporters made enough noise, but I am now on a Security Threat Group list even though I have never been part of any organization, and my incoming mail is screened.
I share all of this in order to underscore how seriously and irrationally terrified the state is about the possibility of anyone awakening the prisoner population to its own power. The state is hysterically shit-their-pants petrified of an organized prisoner resistance, the way plantation owners feared a slave uprising.

I was subjected to repression in 2008. Since then, the situation for the State has become even more dire. Given austerity cuts and privatization of a few prisons, the guard-to-prisoner ratio has drastically dropped, leading to more disruption in the standard prison operations. On top of that, the Kasich administration’s efforts to bust public workers’ unions, though a failure, has destroyed morale of guards and staff, the majority of whom now only care about collecting their pay checks. With each downturn in the economy, the prison system takes more essential services from prisoners- from medical to food to clothes -and thereby increases hostility and resentment of the prisoner population.

With very little effort, very little money, and a great deal of advanced planning, Ohio’s prison population could be inspired to completely disrupt the operation of the entire prison complex. If such a disruption were to occur, it would cause more than the economic collapse of the State that I already discussed. Such a disruption would ultimately seize from the State the power the power to punish. This would pose more than a simple political problem for the government: in such a scenario, it loses all power to enforce its edicts and impose itself; the government ceases to be the government.

Such a development would be a great benefit to the Occupy Movement. While Occupy directly challenges the crapitalist system, it must be remembered that the global crapitalist Matrix uses governments as factory managers. If you protest private bankers, you get beaten by public cops. Given the recent bail-outs, the public trust is nothing more than a corporate slush-fund. It is nearly impossible in this blackwater-enron out-source era to tell where governments end and corporations begin- and vice-versa.

The prison complex is an essential component to the larger crapitalist Matrix. If an Occupy-prisoner collaboration in Ohio could take the prison system out of the enemy’s control- if the Occupation could expand to the prisons -we can collectively create a prototype for the larger movement to replicate, building momentum that collapses prison complex after prison complex, paralyzing state government after state government, spreading like a computer virus, liberating and de-colonizing the most-essential and intimidating bulwark against freedom the empire relies upon: the prisons.
For those of you who are part of the 99% but don’t really want to identify with this segment of the 99% and object to the possibly causing all of these criminals to go free, I remind you: The most hardened and irremediable criminals, the most ruthless killers and rapists, currently run the Fortune 500; they dictate US foreign policy; they drive cars emblazoned with “To Protect and To Serve”. You serve the agenda of those criminals if you turn your back on these “criminals.” Without us, you’re not the 99%. If my math is right, without us, you’re only about 94%.
This 5% is only waiting for the invitation. You can let your enemy keep his slaves and possibly defeat you over time, or you can liberate his slaves and defeat him quickly. To me, it’s a no-brainer. It’s a matter of actually living up to what you present to be– something your enemy has never done.

We’re still waiting for that invitation.
------
William Noguera

Orange County Superior Court Department 39
Friday, January 29th, 1988 – in open court:

“William Adolf Noguera, it is the judgement and sentence of this court that for the offense of murder, you shall suffer the death penalty. Said penalty to be inflicted within the walls of the State Prison at San Quentin, California in the manner prescribed by law and at a time to be fixed by this Court in a warrant of execution; it is the order of this court that you shall be put to death by the administration of lethal gas. Said penalty to be inflicted within the walls of the State Prison at San Quentin, California. You are remanded to the care, custody and control of the sheriff of Orange County to be by him delivered to the warden of the State Penitentiary at San Quentin, California within 10 days from this date. In witness whereof, i have hereunto set my hand as judge of said Superior Court and have caused the seal of the said Court to be affixed hereto. Done in open Court this 29th day of January, 1988. Signed, Robert R. Fitzgerald, Judge of the Superior Court of the State of California, in and for the County of Orange. Good luck to you, Mr. Noguera.”

That sentence was read to me over a quarter of a century ago and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I remember thinking;

I feel like one,
who treads alone
Some banquet hall deserted
whose lights are fled
whose garlands dead
and all but departed”

I was alone, but something inside of me came to life…at that exact second. Since then, I have become an author and artist whose work has transcended these walls and given me a voice not easily silenced.

For this, I thank each and everyone of you who has come out today and let me know I am not alone and that my voice, even in the middle of a storm, can be heard…

I continue on because of you and because the hearts tally of the griefs I have undergone from childhood upwards, old and new, and now more than ever, for I have never not had some new sorrow, some fresh affliction to fight against…

In Solidarity

William A. Noguera
---
Leonard Peltier Statement
Monday, February 6, 2012

http://lpdoc.blogspot.com/2012/02/06-february-anniversary-message-from.html

06 February Anniversary Message from Leonard Peltier
Greetings to my relations, my friends, and to my many supporters the world over.

It is that time again. Another year has passed, and on February 6th I will be marking 36 years since my arrest. During all this time, my family and allies have discovered just how far the government will go to wrongfully convict and imprison someone they know is innocent. They do this as a message­first to Indians, and further to anyone who might stand up to injustice­as if to say, “We will do as we please”.

From the day of my arrest until now, through you my supporters, I have been honored with many activist and humanitarian awards. I thank you for keeping awareness of me and my case alive. Your commitment has really been a special experience for me.

In addition many celebrities, political figures, and organizations have called for my release, including 55 members of Congress. This last November, the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed a permanent resolution calling for my release. Well let’s hope its not that permanent. The NCAI has committed to being directly involved with my case so that the message from Washington to Indian people does not remain, “We will do as we please”.

Still, despite all this attention and with all the leaders and people of conscience calling for my release, I have been kept in this iron cage. They have even kept me longer than their own laws say they can. With evidence corroborating that I did not receive a fair trial, with proof of government misconduct, with admissions by government officials that they do not know who killed those two agents that day at the Jumping Bull property, here I sit. “We will do as we please.”

Recently, as many of you know, an act was passed and signed into law that allows for indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial. This is perhaps the final straw, the final nail in the coffin of American freedom, the end of habeas corpus and due process. “We will do as we please.”

We Indians said it for generations: If they can kill us indiscriminately, they will do it to anyone. If they can take our land, they will do it to anyone. If they can kidnap our children and take them to prison schools, they will do it to anyone. If they can starve us and lie to us, they will do it to anyone. If they can wrongfully imprison us, they will do it to anyone. Now, sadly, this is another Indian prophecy fulfilled. “We will do as we please.”

Our ancestors and tribal people all over the world prophesized a time of upheaval and great change. I believe that time is fast approaching. I believe a part of this is the government’s ongoing overreach of its authority­until the people rise up and tell Washington, “You will NOT do as you please! We are NOT your slaves! We will NOT be subjugated! We will NOT be ruled by an iron fist! We will NOT allow you to steal our liberty or our justice!”

My friends, my relatives, my supporters­Be a part of this latest, perhaps the last “Indian uprising”. Make your voice heard! Be a part of the brave Movement to come, the Movement that will change the course of human history. Make change and hope and peace and justice a part of your personal legacy. Be the change that you envision and know in your heart must take place.

Do this, and on the day you take your last breath and prepare to meet Creator, you will know your life on this Earth was well spent. Close your eyes knowing you used your breath and energy to Creator’s good purpose. Smile as you cross over knowing you changed the world so that the next seven generations can know a good life. Do these things and know that I am with you. I will embrace you as my relations­in this life or the next.
Mitakuye Oyasin.
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier
-------
Gerardo Hernandez

On behalf of the Cuban 5 we send you our solidarity on this the National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners. We know first hand about the injustice inherent in the US judicial system. In our case we are serving long sentences for defending our country against terrorist attacks by monitoring groups whose whole existence is to carry out violent acts against Cuba. It is our hope that what you are doing today will bring attention to the plight of those behind bars and help bring about a more humane society that provides jobs, housing, education and opportunity instead of incarceration.
A big embrace to you all
Venceremos!
Gerardo Hernandez
Victorville Penetentiary

http://occupy4prisoners.org/statements-from-people-in-prisons/
          tyler hansbrough        
Names like Robert Kiyosaki, Ken McElroy and Donald Trump tend to make it into the common language. Even people who don't exactly know Robert Kiyosaki's name recognize “the Rich Dad, Poor Dad” guy. But Trump? Everybody knows of him. They know he owns a LOT of investment properties. People really don't know, however, how much they actually have in common with someone like Mr.Trump or Rich Dad.

The only real difference between people like Robert Kiyosaki and the average American is that he has made the time to learn about buying investment property. Of course, Trump may have grown up investigating the various parts of real estate, just as another young man may have grown up studying the various aspects of football or perhaps his favorite genre of music. These gurus realized that learning about buying real estate is a perfectly respectful accomplishment for a reasonably smart person to set out and do. All you have to do is understand what you need to know and do it.

The Rich Dad book-series helps you do just that.

You have to learn the actions of investing in real estate, a how the whole thing works. You have to understand that you need to learn some basic accounting and finance, and familiarize yourself with property law. You don't have to learn a lot, but you do have to be conversant with your accountant and your attorney. After learning how to read the language of real estate, so to speak, it is then time to study the markets. It is extreamly important that you learn how to study and keep on top of the real estate markets that hold your interest.

Then there is the business of the negotiation and knowing what to do to make sure that you get all the information on a piece of property that you need to make an intelligent decision – even information that the seller may be withholding. The experienced investor gets this information by making sure to check out the property his or herself, and by bringing along the member(s) of the team of experts he will have hired. This team are your eyes and ears. They will see the things that you may miss and they will give you valuable feedback.

The newbie investor has to know how important his or her team is, so he won't attempt to invest without them.

These are the things that the real estate investing gurus know. It is a process that they have mastered. Of course, they have been through that process so many times that it has become 2nd nature for them. But it is something that you can learn as well.

And that is the main difference between the gurus and someone like you is that the gurus understand how possible buying investment property actually is.

Robert Kiyosaki is a man who recognized an opportunity when he saw it. The son of an educator, he could have grown up believing that his destiny was to spend his life as a “wage slave”. In his Rich Dad book-series, he writes that his father was an incredibly intelligent man, but he referred to him as his “poor dad.” The opportunity Robert saw was that of listening to the rich father of his friend, who advised him a better future lay ahead for him if he simply got into real estate investing. He took this advice from his “rich dad” to heart and began studying how to do it.

He is still growing today. All the teachers are, because property investing is an ever-changing endeavor. The markets are constantly fluctuating, and tend not to stay stationary. All it takes to become rich is to simply decide that you are going to learn how it is done. All you need is the commitment to studying. Alex Anderson Specializes In Connecting Investors With Money-Making Real Estate Investment Property. If You Are Interested In Real Estate Investing - Visit Alex's Website For A Free Copy Of "The Investor's Rental Guide" At: http://www.GreatInvestmentProperty.com.


          Comment #19        
After taxes under our always corrupt government each co-worker will have to give up their first born and will be indebted to the state as a wage slave until death.

Congrats! LOL
          Setting the Record Straight A Response to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.        



Setting the Record Straight A Response to Henry Louis Gates, Jr.


We, the undersigned, take strong exception to the Op-Ed, “Ending the Slavery Blame-Game,” published in the New York Times, April 23, 2010 by Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. There are gross errors, inaccuracies and misrepresentations in Gates’ presentation of the transatlantic European enslavement system. Moreover, we are duly concerned about his political motivations and find offensive his use of the term “blame game.” It trivializes one of the most heinous crimes against humanity—the European enslavement of African people. Gates contradicts his stated purpose of “ending” what he refers to as a “blame-game,” by erroneously making African rulers and elites equally responsible with European and American enslavers. He shifts the “blame” in a clear attempt to undermine the demand for reparations.

The African Holocaust or Maafa, as it is referred to by many, is a crime against humanity and is recognized as such by the United Nations, scholars, and historians who have documented the primary and overwhelming culpability of European nations for enslavement in Europe, in the Americas and elsewhere. In spite of this overwhelming documentation, Gates inexplicably shifts the burden of culpability to Africans who were and are its victims. The abundance of scholarly work also affirms that Europeans initiated the process, established the global infrastructure for enslavement, and imposed, financed and defended it, and were the primary beneficiaries of it in various ways through human trafficking itself, banking, insurance, manufacturing, farming, shipping and allied enterprises.

No serious scholar of African history or reparations activist denies the collaboration of some African rulers, elites, merchants and middlemen. Indeed, collaboration accompanies oppression as a continuing fact of history. Historians have described collaborators in two other major Holocausts: the Jewish Holocaust and the Native American Holocaust. Yet Gates, ignoring the historical record, makes the morally unacceptable error of conflating three distinct groups involved in the Holocaust of enslavement: perpetrators, collaborators and victims. The Jewish Holocaust had its Judenräte, Jewish councils which chose Jews for enslaved labor and for the death camps and facilitated their transport to them, as well as its kapos, Jewish camp overseers, who brutalized their fellow prisoners along with the SS guards. In the Native American Holocaust, there were also Native American collaborators who fought with the Whites to defeat, dispossess and dominate other Native Americans. Thus, such collaboration in oppression is not unique to Africa and Africans.

Gates makes it clear that the article is written in the context of “post-racial posturing,” eagerly set forth by a nation citing its first Black president as false evidence of the declining significance of race and racism. Indeed, this is a period of resurgent racism reflected in the rise of the Tea Party movement, increasing hostility toward immigrants, open public recommitments to embracing and celebrating the history of racial oppression, joined with the fostering of fear to facilitate the continued denial of civil and human rights.

The purpose for Gates’ misrepresentation of the historical record is to undermine the African and African descendant reparations movement, and to make it appear to be based on unfounded demands. An accurate reporting of the history of the Holocaust of enslavement and the period of segregation and other forms of oppression which followed it, attests to the importance, in fact, the essentiality of reparations. The widespread opposing responses to Gates and the anti-reparations interests and sentiments he represents in his article, provides us with an excellent opportunity to renew the just demand for reparations for centuries of enslavement and continued economic disadvantage and exploitation Black people endured in the Jim Crow era and subsequent years of wage slavery.

Gates’ flawed and misconstrued presentation of the global reparations movement to redress the injuries of the Holocaust of enslavement and subsequent labor exploitation attempts to leave the reader with the impression that the movement is only a product of misguided African Americans. However, legal battles regarding reparations for the European enslavement of Africans are being waged throughout the United States, Jamaica, Brazil, South Africa, The Virgin Islands, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Martinique, Canada, Namibia and Barbados. The United Nations declaration that 2011 is the International Year of People of African Descent will afford yet another opportunity to expand the reparations movement for the longest unpunished crime against humanity --- the European enslavment of African people. In this country, reparations scholars, activists and others will continue their efforts in support of the House Judiciary Committee, HR-40, which calls for a study of the economic, cultural and psychological impact of enslavement on United States citizens.

The record of the United Nations World Conference Against Racism (WCAR), held in South Africa in 2001, offers additional evidence of the global reach and relevance of the reparations movement and the work of Africans and African descendants in Africa and throughout the African Diaspora. Gates’ omission of these efforts and WCAR seems to suggest either a deliberate misrepresentation or a reflection of his distance from contemporary political movements in the international African community.

We, the undersigned, intellectuals, activists, artists, professionals, men and women from various fields of focus, assemble here from a call by the Institute of the Black World 21st Century united in our profound commitment to African people and with a long history of involvement in national and international issues involving Africa and people of African descent. Signing this letter is not simply to respond to Gates’ clear inaccuracies, misrepresentations and questionable timing, but rather to honor and defend the memory and interests of the victims of the Holocaust of enslavement. We have come together at this historical moment to bear continuing witness to this gross human injury and the continuing consequences of this catastrophic and horrific event and process, and reaffirm our renewed commitment to continue and intensify the struggle for reparative and social justice in this society and the world.

Committee to Advance the Movement for Reparations

Rick Adams Dr. Leonard Jeffries
Atty. Adjoa Aiyetoro Sister Viola Plummer
Dr. Molefi Kete Asante Brother James Rodgers
Herb Boyd Atty. Nkechi Taifa
Dr. Iva Carruthers Dr. James Turner
Dr. Ron Daniels Dr. Ife Williams
Dr. Jeanette Davidson Dr. Ray Winbush
Dr. Maulana Karenga Dr. Conrad Worrill


Signatories

Adisa Alkebulan, San Diego State, President, Diopian Institute
Dr. Mario Beatty, Chair, African American Studies, Chicago State University
Keith Beauchamp, filmmaker
Dr. Melanie Bratcher, University of Oklahoma
Dr. Sundiata Keita, Cha-Jua, President of National Council for Black Studies
Dr. Lupe Davidson, University of Oklahoma
Dr. Joy DeGruy, author of "The Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome"
Dr. Daryl Harris, Howard University
Eddie Harris, filmmaker
Juliette Hubbard, Australian Aboriginal Activist
Rev. Dr. Bernice Powell Jackson, North American President World Council of Churches
Iya Marilyn Kai Jewett, Progressive Images Marketing Communications
Darryl Jordan, American Friends Service Center-Third World Coalition
Prof. Chad Dion Lassiter President, Black Men at Univ. of Penn School of Social Work, Inc
Haki Madhubuti, President/CEO, Third World Press
Dr. Emeka Nwadiora, Temple University
Dr. Patricia Reid Merritt, Stockton State University
Dr. Segun Shabaka, National Association of Kawaida Organizations--New York
Dr. Michael Simanga, Fulton County Arts Council, Atlanta
James Lance Taylor, President of National Conference of Black Political Scientists
Dr. Christel Temple, University of Maryland
Dr. Ronald Walters, Professor Emeritus, University of Maryland
Dr. Valethia Watkins, Chair, African American Studies, Olive Harvey College
Dr. Komozi Woodard, Sarah Lawrence College
Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Pastor Emeritus, Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago
Atty. Faya Rose Sanders, President, National Voting Rights Museum, Selma, AL
Leonard Dunston, President Emeritus, National Association of Black Social Workers
Betty Dopson, Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People
Bob Law, National Radio Personality

Contact Information

Press Inquiries and Interviews via Herb Boyd: 917.291.1825 - Email: herbboyd47@gmail.com
General Information and/or Responses: 888.774.2921 - Email. info@ibw21.org
          *From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women        
Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Spring 2006, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.

************

Spartacist English edition No. 59
Spring 2006

The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women

Spartacist English edition No. 59
Spring 2006



The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women

(Women and Revolution Pages)

“‘Liberation’ is an historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the development of industry, commerce, agriculture, the conditions of intercourse.”

—Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,
The German Ideology (1846)

Today, millions of women even in the advanced capitalist “democracies” endure nasty and brutish lives of misery and drudgery. In the United States, to name just two instances of anti-woman bigotry, abortion rights are under increasing attack and quality childcare is scarce and too costly for most working women. Conditions for women in the Third World are worse by orders of magnitude. But even 15 years ago women in the Soviet Union enjoyed many advantages, such as state-supported childcare institutions, full abortion rights, access to a wide range of trades and professions, and a large degree of economic equality with their male co-workers—in short, a status in some ways far in advance of capitalist societies today.

The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution made these gains possible. No mere cosmetic gloss on the surface, the Russian Revolution was, in the words of historian Richard Stites, a

“classical social revolution—a process not an event, a phenomenon that cannot be fused, triggered, or set off by a mere turnover of power which confines itself to the center and confines its efforts to decrees and laws enunciating the principles of equality. True social revolution in an underdeveloped society does not end with the reshuffling of property any more than it does with the reshuffling of portfolios; it is the result of social mobilization. Put in plain terms, it means bodies moving out among the people with well-laid plans, skills, and revolutionary euphoria; it means teaching, pushing, prodding, cajoling the stubborn, the ignorant, and the backward by means of the supreme component of all radical propaganda: the message and the conviction that revolution is relevant to everyday life.”

—Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978)

This thoroughgoing effort to remake society was made possible by the smashing of tsarist/capitalist rule and the Bolshevik-led seizure of power by the soviets—workers and peasants councils—in October 1917. The estates of the landed nobility were abolished and the land nationalized; industry was soon collectivized. The new workers state took the first steps toward planning the economy in the interests of the toilers. This brought enormous gains to working women. The Russian Revolution sought to bring women into full participation in economic, social and political life.

Since the counterrevolution that restored capitalism in 1991-92, women in the ex-Soviet Union face vastly worse conditions somewhat akin to the Third World. Massive unemployment, a plummeting life expectancy, and a resurgence of religious backwardness—both Russian Orthodox and Muslim—are just three examples. From 1991 to 1997 gross domestic product fell by over 80 percent; according to official (understated) statistics, capital investment dropped over 90 percent. By the middle of the decade, 40 percent of the population of the Russian Federation was living below the official poverty line and a further 36 percent only a little above it. Millions were starving.

Women’s Liberation and World Socialist Revolution

The Bolsheviks recognized that without qualitative economic development, the liberation of women was a utopian fantasy. Working to maximize the resources at hand, the early Bolshevik regime did all it could to implement the promise of women’s emancipation, including the formation of a party department that addressed women’s needs, the Zhenotdel. But at every step their efforts were confronted with the fact that short of a massive infusion of resources, the results were limited on all sides. Leon Trotsky, the leader together with V.I. Lenin of the Russian Revolution, explained that from the beginning the Bolsheviks recognized that

“The real resources of the state did not correspond to the plans and intentions of the Communist Party. You cannot ‘abolish’ the family; you have to replace it. The actual liberation of women is unrealizable on a basis of ‘generalized want.’ Experience soon proved this austere truth which Marx had formulated eighty years before.”

—The Revolution Betrayed (1936)

The grim poverty of the world’s first workers state began with the economic and social backwardness inherited from the old tsarist empire. Foreign investment had built modern factories in the major cities, creating a compact, powerful proletariat that was able to make the revolution in a majority-peasant country. The revolutionary workers were, in most cases, only one or two generations removed from the peasantry. The workers supported their cousins in the countryside when they seized the landed estates and divided up the land among those who worked it. The alliance (smychka) between the workers and peasants was key to the success of the revolution. But the mass of peasant smallholders was also a reservoir of social and economic backwardness. The devastation wrought by World War I was compounded by the bloody Civil War (1918-1920) that the Bolshevik government had to fight against the armies of counterrevolution and imperialist intervention, throwing the country’s economy back decades. The imperialists also instituted an economic blockade, isolating the Soviet Union from the world economy and world division of labor.

Marxists have always understood that the material abundance necessary to uproot class society and its attendant oppressions can only come from the highest level of technology and science based on an internationally planned economy. The economic devastation and isolation of the Soviet workers state led to strong material pressures toward bureaucratization. In the last years of his life, Lenin, often in alliance with Trotsky, waged a series of battles in the party against the political manifestations of the bureaucratic pressures. The Bolsheviks knew that socialism could only be built on a worldwide basis, and they fought to extend the revolution internationally, especially to the advanced capitalist economies of Europe; the idea that socialism could be built in a single country was a later perversion introduced as part of the justification for the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution.

In early 1924 a bureaucratic caste under Stalin came to dominate the Soviet Communist Party and state. Thus, the equality of women as envisioned by the Bolsheviks never fully came about. The Stalinist bureaucracy abandoned the fight for international revolution and so besmirched the great ideals of communism with bureaucratic distortions and lies that, in the end in 1991-92, the working class did not fight against the revolution’s undoing and the restoration of capitalism under Boris Yeltsin.

The Russian Revolution marked the beginning of a great wave of revolutionary struggle that swept the world in opposition to the carnage of WWI. The October Revolution was a powerful inspiration to the working class internationally. Germany, the most powerful and most advanced capitalist country in Europe, was thrown into a revolutionary situation in 1918-19; much of the rest of the continent was in turmoil. The Bolsheviks threw a good deal of the Soviet state’s resources into the fight for world socialist revolution, creating the Communist International (CI) for this purpose. But the young parties of the CI in Europe had only recently broken from the reformist leadership of the mass workers organizations that had supported their own bourgeois governments in WWI and were not able to act as revolutionary vanguard parties comparable to the Bolsheviks. The reformist, pro-capitalist and deeply chauvinist leadership of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) was able to suppress the proletarian revolutionary opportunity in Germany in 1918-19, with the active collaboration of the military/police forces.

Social-democratic parties like the German SPD and the British Labour Party bear central historical responsibility for the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. Yet they howl along with their capitalist masters that the early Bolshevik regime under Lenin inevitably led to Stalinist despotism, that communism has failed and that capitalist “democracy” is infinitely preferable to communism. They are echoed by many of today’s leftist-minded youth, who equate communism with the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet workers state. Anarchist-influenced youth hold that hierarchy is inherently oppressive, that small-scale production, decentralization and “living liberated” on an individual basis offer a way forward. This is a dead end.

Despite the triumph of the bureaucratic caste in 1924 and the consequent degeneration of the Russian Revolution, the central gains of the revolution—embodied in the overthrow of capitalist property relations and the establishment of a planned economy—remained. These gains were apparent, for example, in the material position of women. That is why we of the International Communist League, standing on the heritage of Trotsky’s Left Opposition, which fought against Stalin and the degeneration of the revolution, stood for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack and an intransigent fight against all threats of capitalist counterrevolution, internal or external. At the same time we understood that the bureaucratic caste at the top was a mortal threat to the continued existence of the workers state. We called for a political revolution in the USSR to oust the bureaucracy, to restore soviet workers democracy and to pursue the fight for the international proletarian revolution necessary to build socialism.

Heritage of Bolshevik Work Among Women

A host of books published over the last decade and a half speak to the enormous gains made by women in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks immediately began to put into place civil law that swept away centuries of property law and male privilege. Wendy Goldman’s valuable Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) focuses on the three Family Codes of 1918, 1926 and 1936 as turning points in Soviet policy, serving as markers for the party and state program on the woman question. The 1918 Code, the “most progressive family legislation the world had ever seen,” gave way to the 1926 Code, which came into effect in a period of intense political struggle between the Stalinist bureaucracy and oppositional currents arrayed against it, centrally Trotsky’s Left Opposition. The 1936 Family Code, which rehabilitated the family in official Stalinist ideology and made abortion illegal, codified the wholesale retreat under Stalin in the struggle for women’s equality.

Goldman’s book is only one among many publications since 1991 that have profited from the increased access to archives of the former Soviet Union. Another, Barbara Evans Clements’ Bolshevik Women (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) is a group biography, centering on selected longtime party members. Clements has assembled a database of several hundred Old Bolshevik (party members before 1917) women cadre, which she analyzes for trends in origins, education and party activity.

Bolshevik Women focuses on prominent party members such as Elena Stasova, a Central Committee member and the CC secretary in Petrograd in 1917. Another is Evgeniia Bosh, described by Victor Serge (a one-time member of the Left Opposition who later broke with Trotsky) as one of “the most capable military leaders to emerge at this early stage” of the Civil War (quoted in Clements, Bolshevik Women). Bosh committed suicide in January 1925 when the Stalin faction purged Trotsky as People’s Commissar for War. Yet another was Lenin’s close friend and collaborator, Inessa Armand, the first head of the Zhenotdel until her death in 1920.

Less well known are Konkordiia Samoilova, another longtime party cadre, whose work after 1917 focused on Zhenotdel field activities; Klavdiia Nikolaeva, removed as head of the Zhenotdel in 1925 due to her support to the anti-bureaucratic Opposition; Rozaliia Zemliachka, who became a stalwart bureaucrat and the only woman to sit on the Council of People’s Commissars under Stalin; and Alexandra Artiukhina, who headed the Zhenotdel from 1925 until its liquidation by Stalin in 1930.

The International Communist League’s work among women stands on the traditions established by Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Some of the earliest issues of Women and Revolution published original research on the Russian Revolution and Bolshevik work among women by Dale Ross, W&R’s first editor, based on her PhD dissertation, The Role of the Women of Petrograd in War, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, 1914-1921 (1973). The second and third issues of W&R (September-October 1971 and May 1972) published in two parts the Bolsheviks’ “Methods of Work Among the Women of the Communist Party” from the Third Congress of the Communist International (1921). The new information available has further confirmed and enriched our solidarity with the Bolshevik road to the emancipation of women.

Subsequent issues of W&R explored other aspects of the fight for women’s liberation in the USSR. Of special significance is “Early Bolshevik Work Among Women of the Soviet East” (W&R No. 12, Summer 1976). This article detailed the heroic efforts of the Bolshevik government to transform conditions for the hideously oppressed women of Muslim Central Asia, where Zhenotdel activists themselves took to the veil in order to reach these secluded women. It is beyond the scope of the present article to deal with this important subject.

Marxism vs. Feminism

For Marxists, the special oppression of women originates in class society itself and can only be rooted out through the destruction of private property in the means of production. The entry of women into the proletariat opens the way to liberation: their position at the point of production gives them the social power, along with their male co-workers, to change the capitalist system and lay the basis for women’s social independence from the confines of the institution of the family. Marxism differs from feminism centrally over the question of the main division in society: feminists hold that it is men vs. women; for Marxists, it is class, that is, exploiter vs. exploited. A working woman has more in common with her male co-workers than with a female boss, and the emancipation of women is the task of the working class as a whole.

The Marxist view of the family as the main source of the oppression of women dates from The German Ideology, where Marx and Engels first formulated the concept that the family was not an immutable, timeless institution, but a social relation subject to historical change. In the classic Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Engels (working with the material available at the time) traced the origin of the institution of the family and the state to the division of society into classes. With the rise of a social surplus beyond basic subsistence, a leisured, ruling class could develop based on a private appropriation of that surplus, thus moving human society away from the primitive egalitarianism of the Stone Age. The centrality of the family flowed from its role in the inheritance of property, which required women’s sexual monogamy and social subordination. Engels termed this “the world historical defeat of the female sex.”

A collectivized, planned economy seeks to productively employ all adults with the goal of maximizing the wealth, including leisure time, available to all. In contrast, in the boom-bust cycle of a capitalist economy, each capitalist enterprise seeks to maximize its rate of profit. Inevitably, capitalist firms seek to reduce costs (and increase profits) by reducing both wages and jobs, leading to an impoverished working class, a pool of chronically unemployed workers and long hours for those who do work. Isolated in the family, women make up a large component of the reserve army of the unemployed, hired during economic booms and sent “back to the kitchen” during hard times. When women are drawn into the workforce in great numbers, the capitalists then try to reduce real wages for men, so that it takes the income of two working adults to raise a family.

The necessary role of the family—the function that must be replaced and cannot be abolished—is the rearing of the next generation. Under capitalism, the masses of youth are slated for wage slavery and service as cannon fodder in the bourgeois army, and the family plays an important role in training them to obey authority. It is also a major source for inculcating religious backwardness as an ideological brake on social consciousness.

While many aspects of the capitalist system serve to undermine and erode the family (the employment of women and public education are two examples), capitalism cannot provide a systematic solution to the double burden women shoulder, and must seek to bolster its weakened institution. Bourgeois feminists, whose quarrel with the capitalist system is their own subordinate status within it, address this by arguing for a redivision of household tasks within the family, increasing men’s share of domestic responsibilities. Marxists seek to transfer housework altogether to the public sphere. As the Bolshevik leader Evgeny Preobrazhensky (later allied with Trotsky) said, “Our task does not consist of striving for justice in the division of labor between the sexes. Our task is to free men and women from petty household labor” (quoted in Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution). Thus one of the tasks of the socialist revolution is the full replacement of the institution of the family with communal childcare, dining halls and laundries, and paid maternity leave, free health care, and special efforts to draw women fully into social and political life.

In Russia, the feminist movement was part of a broader bourgeois-democratic current that opposed tsarism and wanted to modernize Russia as an industrial capitalist society. For example, in 1906 amid the continuing ferment of the first Russian Revolution, the three main feminist organizations, the Women’s Equal Rights Union, the Women’s Progressive Party and the Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society, directed their efforts toward the passage of equal rights and woman suffrage bills in the newly established Duma (parliament). When the predominantly liberal First and Second Dumas were dissolved by the autocracy, the Russian feminist movement went into decline.

In 1917 the main “women’s issue” in the eyes of the working woman was opposition to the bloody imperialist war that had been raging for three years. The war sparked the February revolt, which began with the mass outpouring of women on International Women’s Day. After the abdication of the Tsar and the establishment of the bourgeois-democratic Provisional Government, most of the ostensible parties of the left and of reform—including the Russian feminists—considered the main goals of the revolution to have been accomplished. Therefore, they abandoned their opposition to the war and supported the renewal of the imperialist slaughter in the name of “democracy.”

The Bolsheviks fought for the soviets of workers and peasants deputies to become organs of the rule of the exploited and oppressed, including women, and to end the war immediately without annexations of other countries. The best fighters for women’s liberation were the Bolsheviks, who understood that the liberation of women cannot be isolated from the liberation of the working class as a whole. Nor can it be fully achieved, least of all in a backward country—even one with a revolutionary government—in political, social and economic isolation from the rest of the world.

Early Bolshevik Work Among Women

Russian society was permeated with the grossest anti-woman bigotry. In 1917 peasants barely 50 years out of serfdom made up some 85 percent of the population. They lived under a village system with a rigid patriarchal hierarchy, without even a rudimentary modern infrastructure, lacking centralized sewage, electricity or paved roads. Ignorance and illiteracy were the norm and superstition was endemic. The ancient institutions of the household (dvor) and the communal village determined land ownership and livelihood and enforced the degradation of women. This extreme oppression was the inevitable corollary of the low productivity of Russian agriculture, which used centuries-old techniques. Peasant women were drudges; for example, a batrachka was a laborer hired for a season as a “wife” and then thrown out upon pregnancy. One peasant woman described her life: “In the countryside they look at a woman like a work horse. You work all your life for your husband and his entire family, endure beatings and every kind of humiliation, but it doesn’t matter, you have nowhere to go—you are bound in marriage” (quoted in ibid.).

However, by 1914 women made up one-third of Russia’s small but powerful industrial labor force. The Bolshevik program addressed their felt needs through such demands as equal pay for equal work, paid maternity leave and childcare facilities at factories, the lack of which had a severe impact on infant mortality. As many as two-thirds of the babies of women factory workers died in their first year. The party made efforts to defend working women from abuse and wife-beating, and opposed all instances of discrimination and oppression wherever they appeared, acting as the tribune of the people according to the Leninist concept put forward in What Is To Be Done? (1902). This included taking up a fight after the February Revolution within the trade unions against a proposal to address unemployment by first laying off married women whose husbands were working. Such a policy was applied in the Putilov munitions works and the Vyborg iron works, among other enterprises, and was opposed by the Bolsheviks as a threat to the political unity of the proletariat. Hundreds of women were members of the Bolshevik Party before the revolution, and they participated in all aspects of party work, both legal and underground, serving as officers in local party committees, couriers, agitators and writers.

Confined to the home and family, many women are isolated from social and political interaction and thus can be a reservoir of backward consciousness. But as Clara Zetkin said at the 1921 Congress of the Communist International, “Either the revolution will have the masses of women, or the counterrevolution will have them” (Protokoll des III. Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale [Minutes of the Third World Congress of the Communist International]) (our translation). Before World War I the Social Democrats in Germany pioneered in building a women’s “transitional organization”—a special body, linked to the party through its most conscious cadre, that took up the fight for women’s rights and other key political questions, conducted education, and published a newspaper. The Russian Bolsheviks stood on the shoulders of their German comrades, most importantly carrying party work among women into the factories. Building transitional organizations, founding the newspaper Rabotnitsa (The Woman Worker), and, after the October Revolution, the Zhenotdel, the Bolsheviks successfully mobilized masses of women in the working class as well as the peasantry whom the party could not have otherwise reached.

Rabotnitsa called mass meetings and demonstrations in Petrograd in opposition to the war and to rising prices, the two main issues galvanizing working women. The First All-City Conference of Petrograd Working Women, called by Rabotnitsa for October 1917, adjourned early so that the delegates could join the insurrection; it later reconvened. Among its achievements were resolutions for a standardized workday of eight hours and for banning labor for children under the age of 16. One of the aims of the conference was to mobilize non-party working women for the uprising and to win them to the goals that the Soviet government planned to pursue after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The revolutionary beginnings in Russia took hold in no small measure due to the political awakening of the toiling women of the city and village to this historic mission. Even the most bitter political opponents of the October Revolution, such as the Russian Menshevik “socialist” proponents of a return to capitalist rule, grudgingly recognized the Bolsheviks’ success. The Menshevik leader Yuri Martov wrote to his comrade Pavel Axelrod, demonstrating as well his own contempt for the proletarian masses:

“It would be hard for you to imagine how in the recent past (just before my departure) there was a strong, genuine Bolshevik fanaticism, with an adoration of Lenin and Trotsky and a hysterical hatred of us, among a significant mass of Moscow women workers, in both the factories and workshops. This is to a notable degree explained by the fact that the Russian woman proletariat, due to its illiteracy and helplessness, in its mass could only have been drawn into ‘politics’ by means of the state mechanism (endless educational courses and ‘cultural’-agitational institutions, official celebrations and demonstrations, and—last not least [original in English]—by means of material privileges). Thus the words that one runs across in letters from women workers to Pravda, such as, ‘only after the October overthrow did we women workers see the sun,’ are not empty phrases.”

—“Letter to P. B. Axelrod, 5 April 1921,” Yu. O. Martov, Letters 1916-1922 (Benson, Vermont: Chalidze Publications, 1990) (our translation)

The Early Soviet Government and the 1918 Family Code

The revolution released a burst of optimism and expectations for a society built on socialist principles. Discussions raged among young people on sexual relations, child rearing and the nature of the family in the transition to socialism. Creative energy gripped cultural fields as well, where priorities and tasks changed to reflect the widely held view that the family would soon wither away (see “Planning for Collective Living in the Early Soviet Union: Architecture as a Tool of Social Transformation,” W&R No. 11, Spring 1976).

Soviet legislation at that time gave to women in Russia a level of equality and freedom that has yet to be attained by the most economically advanced “democratic” capitalist countries today. But there was a problem, succinctly addressed by A. T. Stelmakhovich, chairman of the Moscow provincial courts: “The liberation of women...without an economic base guaranteeing every worker full material independence, is a myth” (quoted in Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution).

Just over a month after the revolution, two decrees established civil marriage and allowed for divorce at the request of either partner, accomplishing far more than the pre-revolutionary Ministry of Justice, progressive journalists, feminists and the Duma had ever even attempted. Divorces soared in the following period. A complete Code on Marriage, the Family and Guardianship, ratified in October 1918 by the state governing body, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), swept away centuries of patriarchal and ecclesiastical power, and established a new doctrine based on individual rights and the equality of the sexes.

The Bolsheviks also abolished all laws against homosexual acts and other consensual sexual activity. The Bolshevik position was explained in a pamphlet by Grigorii Batkis, director of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene, The Sexual Revolution in Russia (1923):

“Soviet legislation bases itself on the following principle:

“It declares the absolute non-interference of the state and society into sexual matters, so long as nobody is injured, and no one’s interests are encroached upon.”

—quoted in John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935) (New York: Times Change Press, 1974)

To draft the new Family Code a committee was established in August 1918, headed by A. G. Goikhbarg, a former Menshevik law professor. Jurists described the Code as “not socialist legislation, but legislation of the transitional time,” just as the Soviet state itself, as the dictatorship of the proletariat, was a preparatory regime transitional from capitalism to socialism (quoted in Goldman, op. cit.)

The Bolsheviks anticipated the ability to “eliminate the need for certain registrations, for example, marriage registration, for the family will soon be replaced by a more reasonable, more rational differentiation based on separate individuals,” as Goikhbarg said, rather too optimistically. He added, “Proletarian power constructs its codes and all of its laws dialectically, so that every day of their existence undermines the need for their existence.” When “the fetters of husband and wife” have become “obsolete,” the family will wither away, replaced by revolutionary social relations based on women’s equality. Not until then, in the words of Soviet sociologist S. Ia. Volfson, would the duration of marriage “be defined exclusively by the mutual inclination of the spouses” (quoted in ibid.). Divorce would be accomplished by the locking of a door, as Soviet architect L. Sabsovich envisaged it.

The new marriage and divorce laws were very popular. However, given women’s traditional responsibilities for children and their greater difficulties in finding and maintaining employment, for them divorce often proved more problematic than for men. For this reason the alimony provision was established for the disabled poor of both sexes, necessary due to the inability of the state at that time to guarantee jobs for all. The 1918 Code eliminated the distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children, using instead the carefully considered wording “children of parents who are not in a registered marriage.” Thus, women could claim child support from men to whom they were not married.

The Code also established the right of all children to parental support until age 18 and the right of each spouse to his or her own property. In implementing the Code’s measures, judges were biased in favor of women and children, on the grounds that establishing support for the child took priority over protecting the financial interests of the male defendant. In one case, a judge split child support three ways, because the mother had been sleeping with three different men.

During the debate on the draft, Goikhbarg had to defend it against critics who wanted to abolish marriage altogether. For example, N. A. Roslavets, a Ukrainian woman delegate, recommended that the CEC reject the marriage section of the Code, arguing that it would represent a step away “from the freedom of marriage relations as one of the conditions of individual freedom.” “I cannot understand why this Code establishes compulsory monogamy,” she said; she also opposed the (very limited) alimony provision as “nothing other than a payment for love” (quoted in ibid.).

Goikhbarg later recounted, “They screamed at us: ‘Registration of marriage, formal marriage, what kind of socialism is this?’” His main argument was that civil marriage registration was crucial to the struggle against the medieval grip of the Russian Orthodox church. Without civil marriage, the population would resort to religious ceremonies and the church would flourish. He characterized Roslavets’ criticisms as “radical in words” but “reactionary in deed.” Goikhbarg pointed out that alimony was limited to the disabled poor, and that it was impossible to abolish everything at once. He argued, “We must accept this [code] knowing that it is not a socialist measure, because socialist legislation will hardly exist. Only limited norms will remain” (quoted in ibid.).

Uneven and Combined Development

The October Revolution put power in the hands of a working class that was numerically small in a country that was relatively backward. The Bolsheviks thus faced problems that Marx and Engels, who had projected that the proletarian revolution would occur first in more industrialized countries, could not have anticipated. It was envisioned by the Bolsheviks that the Russian Revolution would inspire workers in the economically advanced European countries to overthrow their bourgeoisies, and these new revolutions would in turn come to the aid of the Russian proletariat. These workers states would not usher in socialist societies but would be transitional regimes that would lay the foundations for socialism based on an internationally planned economy in which there would be no more class distinctions and the state itself would wither away.

The seizure of power in Russia followed three years of world war, which had disrupted the food supply, causing widespread hunger in the cities. By the end of the Civil War, the country lay in ruins. The transport system collapsed, and oil and coal no longer reached the urban areas. Homeless and starving children, the besprizorniki, roamed the countryside and cities in gangs. In the brutal Russian winter, the writer Viktor Shklovsky wrote that, because of the lack of fuel, “People who lived in housing with central heating died in droves. They froze to death—whole apartments of them” (quoted in ibid.).

The collapse of the productive forces surpassed anything of the kind that history had ever seen. The country and its government were at the very edge of the abyss. Although the Bolsheviks won the Civil War, Russia’s national income had dropped to only one-third and industrial output to less than one-fifth of the prewar levels. By 1921 Moscow had lost half its population; Petrograd, two-thirds. Then the country was hit with two straight years of drought, and a sandstorm and locust invasion that brought famine to the southern and western regions. In those areas, 90 to 95 percent of the children under three years old died; surviving children were abandoned as one or both parents died, leaving them starving and homeless. There were incidents of cannibalism.

The toll on all layers of society was terrible. Of the Bolshevik women cadre in Clements’ study, 13 percent died between 1917 and 1921, most of infectious disease. Among them were Inessa Armand, head of the Zhenotdel, and Samoilova, both of whom died of cholera. Samoilova contracted the disease as a party activist on the Volga River. Horrified by the conditions on the delta, she spent her last days rousing the local party committee to take action.

As Marx put it, “Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural level which this determines” (“Critique of the Gotha Program,” 1875). The Bolsheviks knew that, given centuries of oppression and the devastation of the country, even the most democratic laws could not protect the most vulnerable, the working-class and especially peasant women, who continued to suffer misery and degradation. Until the family was fully replaced by communal living and childcare, laws addressing the actual social conditions were a necessary part of the political struggle for a new society.

The Protection of Motherhood

Immediately after the revolution the government launched a drive to provide social and cultural facilities and communal services for women workers and to draw them into training and educational programs. The 1918 Labor Code provided a paid 30-minute break at least every three hours to feed a baby. For their protection, pregnant women and nursing mothers were banned from night work and overtime. This entailed a constant struggle with some state managers, who viewed these measures as an extra financial burden.

The crowning legislative achievement for women workers was the 1918 maternity insurance program designed and pushed by Alexandra Kollontai, the first People’s Commissar for Social Welfare and head of the Zhenotdel from 1920 to 1922. The law provided for a fully paid maternity leave of eight weeks, nursing breaks and factory rest facilities, free pre- and post-natal care, and cash allowances. It was administered through a Commission for the Protection of Mothers and Infants—attached to the Health Commissariat—and headed by a Bolshevik doctor, Vera Lebedeva. With its networks of maternity clinics, consultation offices, feeding stations, nurseries, and mother and infant homes, this program was perhaps the single most popular innovation of the Soviet regime among Russian women.

In the 1920s and 1930s women were commonly allowed a few days’ release from paid labor in the form of menstrual leave. In the history of protection of women workers, the USSR was probably unique in this. Specialists also conducted research on the effects of heavy labor on women. One scholar wrote, “The maintenance of the health of workers appears to have been a central concern in the research into labour protection in this period” (Melanie Ilic, Women Workers in the Soviet Interwar Economy: From “Protection” to “Equality” [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999]). Strenuous labor could lead to disruption or delay of menstrual cycles among peasant women especially. The resolution of this problem—machine technology that limits to the greatest possible extent the stress and potential danger of industrial and agricultural labor for all workers, men and women—was beyond the capability of the Soviet economy at that time.

Abortion: Free and on Demand

In 1920 the Soviet government issued a decree overturning criminal penalties for abortion—the first government in the world to do so:

“As long as the remnants of the past and the difficult economic conditions of the present compel some women to undergo an abortion, the People’s Commissariat of Health and Social Welfare and the People’s Commissariat of Justice regard the use of penal measures as inappropriate and therefore, to preserve women’s health and protect the race against ignorant or self-seeking profiteers, it is resolved:

“I. Free abortion, interrupting pregnancy by artificial means, shall be performed in state hospitals, where women are assured maximum safety in the operation.”

—“Decree of the People’s Commissariat of Health and Social Welfare and the People’s Commissariat of Justice in Soviet Russia,” translated from Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (Communist Women’s International, April 1921), in W&R No. 34, Spring 1988

In carrying out this decree, again inadequate resources clashed with the huge demand, and because of the shortage of anesthetic, abortions, horribly enough, were generally performed without it. The law required that all abortions be performed by a doctor in a hospital, but the country lacked adequate facilities. Working women received first priority. In the countryside, many women had no access to state facilities. As a result, unsafe abortions continued to be performed, especially by midwives, and thousands were treated in the hospitals for the effects of these dangerous procedures.

Doctors and public health officials argued that there was an urgent need for quality contraception, which in backward Russia was generally unavailable. In the mid 1920s, the Commission for the Protection of Mothers and Infants officially proclaimed that birth control information should be dispensed in all consultation offices and gynecological stations. The shortage of contraception was in part due to the lack of access to raw materials like rubber—a direct result of the imperialist blockade against Soviet Russia.

While acknowledging that the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to grant women legal, free abortion, Goldman claims that the Bolsheviks never recognized abortion as a woman’s right, but only as a public health necessity. Certainly the reference elsewhere in the decree to abortion as “this evil” sounds strange to 21st-century ears, accustomed to hearing such language only from religious bigots. However, abortion was much more dangerous in the 1920s, before the development of antibiotics and in a country where basic hygiene remained a serious problem. The Bolsheviks were concerned about improving the protection of mothers and children, which they viewed as the responsibility of the proletarian state and a central purpose of the replacement of the family with communal methods.

Goldman’s claim is undermined by Trotsky’s statement that, on the contrary, abortion is one of woman’s “most important civil, political and cultural rights.” He blasted the vile Stalinist bureaucracy for its 1936 criminalization of abortion, which showed “the philosophy of a priest endowed also with the powers of a gendarme”:

“These gentlemen have, it seems, completely forgotten that socialism was to remove the cause which impels woman to abortion, and not force her into the ‘joys of motherhood’ with the help of a foul police interference in what is to every woman the most intimate sphere of life.”

—The Revolution Betrayed

The Zhenotdel Mobilizes the Masses of Women

The Zhenotdel, founded in 1919, infused energy into the party’s frail and disparate women’s commissions. It played a major part in the mobilization of women behind the struggle for socialism in Russia. In 1920 Samoilova reported that people were describing a “second October Revolution” among women (quoted in Carol Eubanks Hayden, Feminism and Bolshevism: The Zhenotdel and the Politics of Women’s Emancipation in Russia, 1917-1930, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1979). The Zhenotdel’s fundamental organizing precept was “agitation by the deed.” Historian Richard Stites described it as “the deliberate, painstaking effort of hundreds of already ‘released’ women injecting their beliefs and programs and their self-confidence into the bloodstream of rural and proletarian Russia” (Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia). That so many women became members of the Soviet government and of the party illustrates the extraordinary social mobility the party was encouraging.

A major vehicle for this work was the system of “delegate meetings” developed by the Zhenotdel and designed as a school in politics and liberation. Elections would be held in a factory for women workers to choose one of their ranks as delegate to the Zhenotdel for a period of three to six months. The election itself was a step forward in consciousness. The delegatka, wearing a red scarf as her badge of office, served as an observer-apprentice in various branches of public activity such as the factory, soviet, trade union, schools, hospital or catering center. After her sojourn in the world of practical politics, she would report back to the Zhenotdel and to her co-workers about what she had learned in the process of acting as an elected politician, administrator, propagandist and critic. One observer described the delegatki as “a menace to bureaucrats, drunkards, kulaks, sub-kulaks, and all who opposed Soviet laws” (quoted in ibid.).

In addition to the journal Kommunistka, which carried articles on major theoretical and practical aspects of the woman question, the Zhenotdel published women’s pages (stranichki) in many national and local party newspapers. Working-class women were encouraged to become correspondents, sending reports and letters to the press. Conferences and congresses brought women of different regions together in great number and variety. The last important meeting was the 1927 Congress of Women Deputies to the Soviets, a massive witness to the work that had been done in the preceding ten years where women displayed “a sense of power and achievement” (ibid.).

Communal Living: Replacing the Household Pot

Early measures to institute communal living in Soviet Russia were heavily influenced by the Civil War. In the effort to mobilize the population to fight the war, the Bolsheviks instituted “war communism,” which included state rationing, public dining halls, free food for children and wages in kind. By January 1920 Petrograd was serving one million people in public cafeterias; in Moscow, 93 percent of the population was served in this way. Meals were of poor quality, but in the revolutionary optimism of the time this was seen as a temporary problem. In later years, many expressed nostalgia for the idealistic future promised by communal living under “war communism” as opposed to the harsh reality that was to come. Party leader I. Stepanov captured it:

“All we adults were insanely and dreadfully hungry, but we could justly say to the whole world: The children are the first privileged citizens of our republic. We could say that we were moving toward the realization of freeing love…from economics and women from household slavery.”

—quoted in Goldman, op. cit.

A key component of freeing women from the household prison was the socialization of child rearing. The Bolshevik program rested on a concept that all individuals should have full access to all the cultural and social benefits of society, as opposed to restrictions dictated by social and economic status. An All-Russian Congress for the Protection of Childhood was convened in 1919. The delegates debated theories of childcare and the degree of state vs. parental involvement with the upbringing of the very young. The words of one of the members of the Presidium of the Congress, Anna Elizarova, captured the general understanding of the majority: “There must be no wretched children who don’t belong to anyone. All children are the children of the state” (quoted in ibid.).

A provision of the Family Code put forward the year before had banned adoption altogether in favor of the state’s assuming care for orphans. This measure was especially important because adoption in Russia was notoriously used by peasants as a source of cheap labor. Instead, the government would take on the task of a quality upbringing for all children.

But the enormous contradiction between aspiration and reality remained. The state was unable to care for the millions of homeless orphans in Russia, the besprizorniki. This problem predated the revolution, and seven years of war followed by famine brought the numbers up to an estimated 7.5 million by 1922. The government authorized free food for all children under 16; kitchens and homes were set up, and the estates of the ex-nobility were turned into homes for orphans, with partial success. Goldman caught the vicious circle caused by the lack of resources to meet the need: “Without daycare, many single mothers were unable to search for work, and without work, they were unable to support their children, who in turn ran away from impoverished homes to join the besprizorniki on the streets” (ibid.). Although the numbers shrank in the decade after the famine of 1921, the besprizorniki remained a problem for the Soviet government well into the 1930s.

Temporary Retreat: the New Economic Policy

As the Civil War drew to a close in late 1920, the limits of the policy of “war communism” became clear. Industry had virtually collapsed. The most politically advanced workers had been killed in the Civil War or drawn into state and party administration; many of the remaining workers had gone back to the countryside to eke out a living from the land. Peasants in the south began rebelling against forcible requisitioning of grain (see “Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution,” page 6).

To revive production and maintain the alliance with the peasantry, in early 1921 Lenin proposed the New Economic Policy (NEP), in which the forcible requisitioning of grain was replaced by a tax on agricultural products, with the peasantry now allowed to sell much of their grain on the open market. The government sought to stabilize the currency; rationing of food and scarce consumer goods was ended and small-scale production and distribution of consumer goods for profit was allowed. While these concessions to market forces revived the economy to a great extent, they also tended to exacerbate the existing imbalances, with heavy industry getting little or no investment, and the pre-existing layer of better-off peasants (kulaks) becoming richer at the expense of the poorer layers in the villages. A tier of newly rich small producers and traders (NEPmen) flourished.

As would be expected, the NEP had a negative impact on conditions for women and children. Women suffered a general rise in unemployment through 1927, and were pushed back into “traditional” sectors such as textiles and light industry. “Free market” practices meant discrimination against women in hiring and firing—especially given the expenses of paid maternity leave and on-the-job protection for pregnant and nursing mothers. Charges were instituted for previously free public services, such as communal meals. Half the childcare centers and homes for single mothers were forced to close, undermining any attempt to liberate women: mothers had little opportunity to study, get skills or participate in social and political life.

Perhaps the most tragic consequence of the NEP for women was the re-emergence of prostitution. Prostitution was not illegal in Soviet Russia. Rather, the government sought to “return the prostitute to productive work, find her a place in the social economy,” in the words of Lenin as reported by Zetkin (“My Recollections of Lenin,” in The Emancipation of Women [1934]). A 1921 government commission reaffirmed opposition to state interference in private matters:

“In fighting against prostitution, the government by no means intends to intrude into the sphere of sexual relations, for in that area all forced, regulated influence will lead only to distortion of the sexual self-determination of free and independent economic citizens.”

—quoted in Elizabeth A. Wood, The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997)

Unemployed women and besprizorniki were the largest groups of urban prostitutes during the years of the NEP.

Goldman notes that delegates to a 1922 meeting on female labor angrily called attention to “the catastrophic position of services designed to protect mothers and infants due to state budgeting pressures under NEP” (Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution). Delegates stressed that women’s problems were “closely connected to the overall position of the working class and under no condition should be considered apart from the proletarian state.” The government tried to replace the lost resources through voluntary contributions and labor, and the commissariats issued decrees aimed at stopping anti-woman discrimination.

But these measures had little effect. In early 1923 a debate over whether further measures should be taken to address these problems broke out among leading women cadre, including Vera Golubeva and Alexandra Kollontai, who argued that the scope of the party’s work among women should be widened. Golubeva, the deputy director of the Zhenotdel, argued that with the increasing unemployment among women, the party had to extend its reach into sectors of the population beyond the working class, drawing unemployed and peasant women into special (“transitional”) bodies of work linked to the party. The question was discussed at the April 1923 party congress.

In the end the Soviet government had no other choice but to resort to the NEP. The alternative, to maintain the policies of war communism in the conditions of social collapse, would have led to massive peasant revolt and counterrevolution. But the NEP brought its own dangers of that kind. As Trotsky said, “With the transfer to the NEP bourgeois tendencies received a more copious field of action” (The Revolution Betrayed). Even within the constraints imposed by national isolation and economic weakness, however, the degradation of women’s status was not preordained but was rather determined by a political struggle over changeable government policies.

In fact, the broader policies advocated by the Left Opposition could have opened the road to a real improvement in the situation of women even within the framework of the existing material conditions. The implementation of a systematic plan of industrialization as laid out by the Opposition in 1923 would have undercut the bourgeois tendencies fueled by the NEP, while greatly increasing the employment of women in industry and changing the functioning of factory managers. Discrimination against women workers in wages and employment was a manifestation of bureaucratic degeneration within the industrial managerial apparatus that could have been fought and reversed.

The “Sea of Peasant Stagnation”

The most intense conflicts between the goals of the Bolshevik Revolution for the liberation of women and the actual conditions of Russian society occurred in the countryside. The 1922 Land Code abolished private ownership of land, water, forests and minerals and placed all land in the hands of the state. By law all citizens regardless of sex, religion, or nationality had rights to the land, and each adult was to have a voice in the skhod or village assembly. The Family Code granted individuals the right to live apart from a spouse, to divorce, and to receive alimony and child support. Extreme poverty exacerbated the gap between law and life, making it almost impossible for many peasant households to pay women their legal due. As long as the family remained the basic unit of production, as long as patriarchy determined the institutions of village life, neither peasant women nor men could realize the individual freedom promised by Soviet civil law.

The contradictions could not be resolved by law; the problem was inherent in the very nature of the Russian Revolution. The relatively small proletariat was able to carry out its revolutionary dictatorship because it embraced the fight of the peasantry against feudal barbarism. But once in power the proletariat had to go beyond the bourgeois-democratic tasks posed by the abolition of tsarist absolutism. As Trotsky predicted even before the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution, in addressing such questions as the length of the working day, unemployment, and protection of the agricultural proletariat, “the antagonism between the component sections will grow in proportion as the policy of the workers’ government defines itself, ceasing to be a general-democratic and becoming a class policy” (Results and Prospects [1906]). The deepgoing process of uprooting feudalistic social relations in the countryside required a huge investment of resources to build the necessary infrastructure of schools, roads and hospitals, as well as the mechanization of agriculture. The Bolsheviks looked to workers revolution in the advanced European countries, which could provide the technological resources to enable the Russian proletariat to prove the benefits of collectivized agriculture to the peasant masses.

The Commissariat of Justice set up several commissions to investigate the tangled problems facing women and children in the countryside. The jurists upheld their commitment to equal rights in the face of powerful peasant opposition. For example, land ownership was based on the male-dominated family unit (dvor), and alimony was awarded based on family assets. Faced with a demand for alimony, peasants developed ruses for avoiding payments by creating a fictitious division of the family unit, thus reducing the extent of property that the court could award a divorced woman. Officials in the Commissariats of Land and Justice repeatedly refused to accede to peasant demands to abolish divorce and alimony, and continued to support the rights of the vulnerable, the weak, and the landless peasant woman. The Land and Family Codes established rights for women that could result in smaller farm plots and decreased production, at a time when increasing grain production was a state priority. The Moscow commission declared: “To agree that the dvor should bear no responsibility for alimony means to flood our Soviet law in a sea of peasant stagnation” (quoted in Goldman, op. cit.).

Despite the difficulties, the laws, enforced by the Soviet state, did have an impact. Melnikova, an impoverished batrachka thrown out of her husband’s dvor, came to the judge saying, “I heard in the village that now there was this law that they could no longer insult women in this way” (quoted in ibid.). While there was often much resistance based on fear, ignorance and the inertia of tradition, once they were functioning, the institutions and changes in daily life throughout the early and middle 1920s gained the increasing support of the peasantry, especially the women.

A small but significant minority of peasant women found their lives transformed by the party’s educational efforts, the activities of the Zhenotdel and their new legal rights. Delegates at one women’s congress spoke proudly of their struggle as single women to retain their share of the land, to attend meetings of the skhod, and to organize agricultural cooperatives for women. Mothers of illegitimate children and divorced peasant women defied centuries of patriarchal tradition to fight the household in court for the right to child support and alimony.

Problems of Everyday Life

In 1923, a discussion developed within the Bolshevik Party on the question of how to improve the quality of byt (daily life). This seemingly mundane issue cuts to the heart of the struggle to create wholly new economic and social relations. At its core is the question of the emancipation of women, which is the political prism for “everyday relations” in a broader social sense. No other question reaches so far into the daily life of the masses, weighed down by centuries of custom, habits of social deference and religious reaction, especially in a backward, impoverished country as was Russia in the early 20th century—comparable to Iran or India today. As Trotsky said two years later, “The most accurate way of measuring our advance is by the practical measures which are being carried out for the improvement of the position of mother and child…. The depth of the question of the mother is expressed in the fact that she is, in essence, a living point where all the decisive strands of economic and cultural work intersect” (“To Build Socialism Means to Emancipate Women and Protect Mothers,” December 1925, Women and the Family).

Even party members, shamefully, sometimes derided the Zhenotdel as “bab-kom” or “tsentro-baba” (baba is a derogatory term for woman). Zetkin recalls Lenin saying:

“Our communist work among the masses of women, and our political work in general, involves considerable educational work among the men. We must root out the old slave-owner’s point of view, both in the Party and among the masses. That is one of our political tasks, a task just as urgently necessary as the formation of a staff composed of comrades, men and women, with thorough theoretical and practical training for Party work among working women.”

—Zetkin, “My Recollections of Lenin”

Neither the social reorganization nor the material conditions yet existed to inaugurate a new and higher order of family life, which in any case would requ
          *From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women        
Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Spring 2006, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.

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Spartacist English edition No. 59
Spring 2006

The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women

Spartacist English edition No. 59
Spring 2006



The Russian Revolution and the Emancipation of Women

(Women and Revolution Pages)

“‘Liberation’ is an historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the development of industry, commerce, agriculture, the conditions of intercourse.”

—Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels,
The German Ideology (1846)

Today, millions of women even in the advanced capitalist “democracies” endure nasty and brutish lives of misery and drudgery. In the United States, to name just two instances of anti-woman bigotry, abortion rights are under increasing attack and quality childcare is scarce and too costly for most working women. Conditions for women in the Third World are worse by orders of magnitude. But even 15 years ago women in the Soviet Union enjoyed many advantages, such as state-supported childcare institutions, full abortion rights, access to a wide range of trades and professions, and a large degree of economic equality with their male co-workers—in short, a status in some ways far in advance of capitalist societies today.

The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution made these gains possible. No mere cosmetic gloss on the surface, the Russian Revolution was, in the words of historian Richard Stites, a

“classical social revolution—a process not an event, a phenomenon that cannot be fused, triggered, or set off by a mere turnover of power which confines itself to the center and confines its efforts to decrees and laws enunciating the principles of equality. True social revolution in an underdeveloped society does not end with the reshuffling of property any more than it does with the reshuffling of portfolios; it is the result of social mobilization. Put in plain terms, it means bodies moving out among the people with well-laid plans, skills, and revolutionary euphoria; it means teaching, pushing, prodding, cajoling the stubborn, the ignorant, and the backward by means of the supreme component of all radical propaganda: the message and the conviction that revolution is relevant to everyday life.”

—Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia: Feminism, Nihilism, and Bolshevism, 1860-1930 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978)

This thoroughgoing effort to remake society was made possible by the smashing of tsarist/capitalist rule and the Bolshevik-led seizure of power by the soviets—workers and peasants councils—in October 1917. The estates of the landed nobility were abolished and the land nationalized; industry was soon collectivized. The new workers state took the first steps toward planning the economy in the interests of the toilers. This brought enormous gains to working women. The Russian Revolution sought to bring women into full participation in economic, social and political life.

Since the counterrevolution that restored capitalism in 1991-92, women in the ex-Soviet Union face vastly worse conditions somewhat akin to the Third World. Massive unemployment, a plummeting life expectancy, and a resurgence of religious backwardness—both Russian Orthodox and Muslim—are just three examples. From 1991 to 1997 gross domestic product fell by over 80 percent; according to official (understated) statistics, capital investment dropped over 90 percent. By the middle of the decade, 40 percent of the population of the Russian Federation was living below the official poverty line and a further 36 percent only a little above it. Millions were starving.

Women’s Liberation and World Socialist Revolution

The Bolsheviks recognized that without qualitative economic development, the liberation of women was a utopian fantasy. Working to maximize the resources at hand, the early Bolshevik regime did all it could to implement the promise of women’s emancipation, including the formation of a party department that addressed women’s needs, the Zhenotdel. But at every step their efforts were confronted with the fact that short of a massive infusion of resources, the results were limited on all sides. Leon Trotsky, the leader together with V.I. Lenin of the Russian Revolution, explained that from the beginning the Bolsheviks recognized that

“The real resources of the state did not correspond to the plans and intentions of the Communist Party. You cannot ‘abolish’ the family; you have to replace it. The actual liberation of women is unrealizable on a basis of ‘generalized want.’ Experience soon proved this austere truth which Marx had formulated eighty years before.”

—The Revolution Betrayed (1936)

The grim poverty of the world’s first workers state began with the economic and social backwardness inherited from the old tsarist empire. Foreign investment had built modern factories in the major cities, creating a compact, powerful proletariat that was able to make the revolution in a majority-peasant country. The revolutionary workers were, in most cases, only one or two generations removed from the peasantry. The workers supported their cousins in the countryside when they seized the landed estates and divided up the land among those who worked it. The alliance (smychka) between the workers and peasants was key to the success of the revolution. But the mass of peasant smallholders was also a reservoir of social and economic backwardness. The devastation wrought by World War I was compounded by the bloody Civil War (1918-1920) that the Bolshevik government had to fight against the armies of counterrevolution and imperialist intervention, throwing the country’s economy back decades. The imperialists also instituted an economic blockade, isolating the Soviet Union from the world economy and world division of labor.

Marxists have always understood that the material abundance necessary to uproot class society and its attendant oppressions can only come from the highest level of technology and science based on an internationally planned economy. The economic devastation and isolation of the Soviet workers state led to strong material pressures toward bureaucratization. In the last years of his life, Lenin, often in alliance with Trotsky, waged a series of battles in the party against the political manifestations of the bureaucratic pressures. The Bolsheviks knew that socialism could only be built on a worldwide basis, and they fought to extend the revolution internationally, especially to the advanced capitalist economies of Europe; the idea that socialism could be built in a single country was a later perversion introduced as part of the justification for the bureaucratic degeneration of the revolution.

In early 1924 a bureaucratic caste under Stalin came to dominate the Soviet Communist Party and state. Thus, the equality of women as envisioned by the Bolsheviks never fully came about. The Stalinist bureaucracy abandoned the fight for international revolution and so besmirched the great ideals of communism with bureaucratic distortions and lies that, in the end in 1991-92, the working class did not fight against the revolution’s undoing and the restoration of capitalism under Boris Yeltsin.

The Russian Revolution marked the beginning of a great wave of revolutionary struggle that swept the world in opposition to the carnage of WWI. The October Revolution was a powerful inspiration to the working class internationally. Germany, the most powerful and most advanced capitalist country in Europe, was thrown into a revolutionary situation in 1918-19; much of the rest of the continent was in turmoil. The Bolsheviks threw a good deal of the Soviet state’s resources into the fight for world socialist revolution, creating the Communist International (CI) for this purpose. But the young parties of the CI in Europe had only recently broken from the reformist leadership of the mass workers organizations that had supported their own bourgeois governments in WWI and were not able to act as revolutionary vanguard parties comparable to the Bolsheviks. The reformist, pro-capitalist and deeply chauvinist leadership of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) was able to suppress the proletarian revolutionary opportunity in Germany in 1918-19, with the active collaboration of the military/police forces.

Social-democratic parties like the German SPD and the British Labour Party bear central historical responsibility for the degeneration of the Russian Revolution. Yet they howl along with their capitalist masters that the early Bolshevik regime under Lenin inevitably led to Stalinist despotism, that communism has failed and that capitalist “democracy” is infinitely preferable to communism. They are echoed by many of today’s leftist-minded youth, who equate communism with the Stalinist degeneration of the Soviet workers state. Anarchist-influenced youth hold that hierarchy is inherently oppressive, that small-scale production, decentralization and “living liberated” on an individual basis offer a way forward. This is a dead end.

Despite the triumph of the bureaucratic caste in 1924 and the consequent degeneration of the Russian Revolution, the central gains of the revolution—embodied in the overthrow of capitalist property relations and the establishment of a planned economy—remained. These gains were apparent, for example, in the material position of women. That is why we of the International Communist League, standing on the heritage of Trotsky’s Left Opposition, which fought against Stalin and the degeneration of the revolution, stood for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union against imperialist attack and an intransigent fight against all threats of capitalist counterrevolution, internal or external. At the same time we understood that the bureaucratic caste at the top was a mortal threat to the continued existence of the workers state. We called for a political revolution in the USSR to oust the bureaucracy, to restore soviet workers democracy and to pursue the fight for the international proletarian revolution necessary to build socialism.

Heritage of Bolshevik Work Among Women

A host of books published over the last decade and a half speak to the enormous gains made by women in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. The Bolsheviks immediately began to put into place civil law that swept away centuries of property law and male privilege. Wendy Goldman’s valuable Women, the State and Revolution: Soviet Family Policy and Social Life, 1917-1936 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993) focuses on the three Family Codes of 1918, 1926 and 1936 as turning points in Soviet policy, serving as markers for the party and state program on the woman question. The 1918 Code, the “most progressive family legislation the world had ever seen,” gave way to the 1926 Code, which came into effect in a period of intense political struggle between the Stalinist bureaucracy and oppositional currents arrayed against it, centrally Trotsky’s Left Opposition. The 1936 Family Code, which rehabilitated the family in official Stalinist ideology and made abortion illegal, codified the wholesale retreat under Stalin in the struggle for women’s equality.

Goldman’s book is only one among many publications since 1991 that have profited from the increased access to archives of the former Soviet Union. Another, Barbara Evans Clements’ Bolshevik Women (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997) is a group biography, centering on selected longtime party members. Clements has assembled a database of several hundred Old Bolshevik (party members before 1917) women cadre, which she analyzes for trends in origins, education and party activity.

Bolshevik Women focuses on prominent party members such as Elena Stasova, a Central Committee member and the CC secretary in Petrograd in 1917. Another is Evgeniia Bosh, described by Victor Serge (a one-time member of the Left Opposition who later broke with Trotsky) as one of “the most capable military leaders to emerge at this early stage” of the Civil War (quoted in Clements, Bolshevik Women). Bosh committed suicide in January 1925 when the Stalin faction purged Trotsky as People’s Commissar for War. Yet another was Lenin’s close friend and collaborator, Inessa Armand, the first head of the Zhenotdel until her death in 1920.

Less well known are Konkordiia Samoilova, another longtime party cadre, whose work after 1917 focused on Zhenotdel field activities; Klavdiia Nikolaeva, removed as head of the Zhenotdel in 1925 due to her support to the anti-bureaucratic Opposition; Rozaliia Zemliachka, who became a stalwart bureaucrat and the only woman to sit on the Council of People’s Commissars under Stalin; and Alexandra Artiukhina, who headed the Zhenotdel from 1925 until its liquidation by Stalin in 1930.

The International Communist League’s work among women stands on the traditions established by Lenin’s Bolsheviks. Some of the earliest issues of Women and Revolution published original research on the Russian Revolution and Bolshevik work among women by Dale Ross, W&R’s first editor, based on her PhD dissertation, The Role of the Women of Petrograd in War, Revolution and Counter-Revolution, 1914-1921 (1973). The second and third issues of W&R (September-October 1971 and May 1972) published in two parts the Bolsheviks’ “Methods of Work Among the Women of the Communist Party” from the Third Congress of the Communist International (1921). The new information available has further confirmed and enriched our solidarity with the Bolshevik road to the emancipation of women.

Subsequent issues of W&R explored other aspects of the fight for women’s liberation in the USSR. Of special significance is “Early Bolshevik Work Among Women of the Soviet East” (W&R No. 12, Summer 1976). This article detailed the heroic efforts of the Bolshevik government to transform conditions for the hideously oppressed women of Muslim Central Asia, where Zhenotdel activists themselves took to the veil in order to reach these secluded women. It is beyond the scope of the present article to deal with this important subject.

Marxism vs. Feminism

For Marxists, the special oppression of women originates in class society itself and can only be rooted out through the destruction of private property in the means of production. The entry of women into the proletariat opens the way to liberation: their position at the point of production gives them the social power, along with their male co-workers, to change the capitalist system and lay the basis for women’s social independence from the confines of the institution of the family. Marxism differs from feminism centrally over the question of the main division in society: feminists hold that it is men vs. women; for Marxists, it is class, that is, exploiter vs. exploited. A working woman has more in common with her male co-workers than with a female boss, and the emancipation of women is the task of the working class as a whole.

The Marxist view of the family as the main source of the oppression of women dates from The German Ideology, where Marx and Engels first formulated the concept that the family was not an immutable, timeless institution, but a social relation subject to historical change. In the classic Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884), Engels (working with the material available at the time) traced the origin of the institution of the family and the state to the division of society into classes. With the rise of a social surplus beyond basic subsistence, a leisured, ruling class could develop based on a private appropriation of that surplus, thus moving human society away from the primitive egalitarianism of the Stone Age. The centrality of the family flowed from its role in the inheritance of property, which required women’s sexual monogamy and social subordination. Engels termed this “the world historical defeat of the female sex.”

A collectivized, planned economy seeks to productively employ all adults with the goal of maximizing the wealth, including leisure time, available to all. In contrast, in the boom-bust cycle of a capitalist economy, each capitalist enterprise seeks to maximize its rate of profit. Inevitably, capitalist firms seek to reduce costs (and increase profits) by reducing both wages and jobs, leading to an impoverished working class, a pool of chronically unemployed workers and long hours for those who do work. Isolated in the family, women make up a large component of the reserve army of the unemployed, hired during economic booms and sent “back to the kitchen” during hard times. When women are drawn into the workforce in great numbers, the capitalists then try to reduce real wages for men, so that it takes the income of two working adults to raise a family.

The necessary role of the family—the function that must be replaced and cannot be abolished—is the rearing of the next generation. Under capitalism, the masses of youth are slated for wage slavery and service as cannon fodder in the bourgeois army, and the family plays an important role in training them to obey authority. It is also a major source for inculcating religious backwardness as an ideological brake on social consciousness.

While many aspects of the capitalist system serve to undermine and erode the family (the employment of women and public education are two examples), capitalism cannot provide a systematic solution to the double burden women shoulder, and must seek to bolster its weakened institution. Bourgeois feminists, whose quarrel with the capitalist system is their own subordinate status within it, address this by arguing for a redivision of household tasks within the family, increasing men’s share of domestic responsibilities. Marxists seek to transfer housework altogether to the public sphere. As the Bolshevik leader Evgeny Preobrazhensky (later allied with Trotsky) said, “Our task does not consist of striving for justice in the division of labor between the sexes. Our task is to free men and women from petty household labor” (quoted in Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution). Thus one of the tasks of the socialist revolution is the full replacement of the institution of the family with communal childcare, dining halls and laundries, and paid maternity leave, free health care, and special efforts to draw women fully into social and political life.

In Russia, the feminist movement was part of a broader bourgeois-democratic current that opposed tsarism and wanted to modernize Russia as an industrial capitalist society. For example, in 1906 amid the continuing ferment of the first Russian Revolution, the three main feminist organizations, the Women’s Equal Rights Union, the Women’s Progressive Party and the Women’s Mutual Philanthropic Society, directed their efforts toward the passage of equal rights and woman suffrage bills in the newly established Duma (parliament). When the predominantly liberal First and Second Dumas were dissolved by the autocracy, the Russian feminist movement went into decline.

In 1917 the main “women’s issue” in the eyes of the working woman was opposition to the bloody imperialist war that had been raging for three years. The war sparked the February revolt, which began with the mass outpouring of women on International Women’s Day. After the abdication of the Tsar and the establishment of the bourgeois-democratic Provisional Government, most of the ostensible parties of the left and of reform—including the Russian feminists—considered the main goals of the revolution to have been accomplished. Therefore, they abandoned their opposition to the war and supported the renewal of the imperialist slaughter in the name of “democracy.”

The Bolsheviks fought for the soviets of workers and peasants deputies to become organs of the rule of the exploited and oppressed, including women, and to end the war immediately without annexations of other countries. The best fighters for women’s liberation were the Bolsheviks, who understood that the liberation of women cannot be isolated from the liberation of the working class as a whole. Nor can it be fully achieved, least of all in a backward country—even one with a revolutionary government—in political, social and economic isolation from the rest of the world.

Early Bolshevik Work Among Women

Russian society was permeated with the grossest anti-woman bigotry. In 1917 peasants barely 50 years out of serfdom made up some 85 percent of the population. They lived under a village system with a rigid patriarchal hierarchy, without even a rudimentary modern infrastructure, lacking centralized sewage, electricity or paved roads. Ignorance and illiteracy were the norm and superstition was endemic. The ancient institutions of the household (dvor) and the communal village determined land ownership and livelihood and enforced the degradation of women. This extreme oppression was the inevitable corollary of the low productivity of Russian agriculture, which used centuries-old techniques. Peasant women were drudges; for example, a batrachka was a laborer hired for a season as a “wife” and then thrown out upon pregnancy. One peasant woman described her life: “In the countryside they look at a woman like a work horse. You work all your life for your husband and his entire family, endure beatings and every kind of humiliation, but it doesn’t matter, you have nowhere to go—you are bound in marriage” (quoted in ibid.).

However, by 1914 women made up one-third of Russia’s small but powerful industrial labor force. The Bolshevik program addressed their felt needs through such demands as equal pay for equal work, paid maternity leave and childcare facilities at factories, the lack of which had a severe impact on infant mortality. As many as two-thirds of the babies of women factory workers died in their first year. The party made efforts to defend working women from abuse and wife-beating, and opposed all instances of discrimination and oppression wherever they appeared, acting as the tribune of the people according to the Leninist concept put forward in What Is To Be Done? (1902). This included taking up a fight after the February Revolution within the trade unions against a proposal to address unemployment by first laying off married women whose husbands were working. Such a policy was applied in the Putilov munitions works and the Vyborg iron works, among other enterprises, and was opposed by the Bolsheviks as a threat to the political unity of the proletariat. Hundreds of women were members of the Bolshevik Party before the revolution, and they participated in all aspects of party work, both legal and underground, serving as officers in local party committees, couriers, agitators and writers.

Confined to the home and family, many women are isolated from social and political interaction and thus can be a reservoir of backward consciousness. But as Clara Zetkin said at the 1921 Congress of the Communist International, “Either the revolution will have the masses of women, or the counterrevolution will have them” (Protokoll des III. Weltkongresses der Kommunistischen Internationale [Minutes of the Third World Congress of the Communist International]) (our translation). Before World War I the Social Democrats in Germany pioneered in building a women’s “transitional organization”—a special body, linked to the party through its most conscious cadre, that took up the fight for women’s rights and other key political questions, conducted education, and published a newspaper. The Russian Bolsheviks stood on the shoulders of their German comrades, most importantly carrying party work among women into the factories. Building transitional organizations, founding the newspaper Rabotnitsa (The Woman Worker), and, after the October Revolution, the Zhenotdel, the Bolsheviks successfully mobilized masses of women in the working class as well as the peasantry whom the party could not have otherwise reached.

Rabotnitsa called mass meetings and demonstrations in Petrograd in opposition to the war and to rising prices, the two main issues galvanizing working women. The First All-City Conference of Petrograd Working Women, called by Rabotnitsa for October 1917, adjourned early so that the delegates could join the insurrection; it later reconvened. Among its achievements were resolutions for a standardized workday of eight hours and for banning labor for children under the age of 16. One of the aims of the conference was to mobilize non-party working women for the uprising and to win them to the goals that the Soviet government planned to pursue after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The revolutionary beginnings in Russia took hold in no small measure due to the political awakening of the toiling women of the city and village to this historic mission. Even the most bitter political opponents of the October Revolution, such as the Russian Menshevik “socialist” proponents of a return to capitalist rule, grudgingly recognized the Bolsheviks’ success. The Menshevik leader Yuri Martov wrote to his comrade Pavel Axelrod, demonstrating as well his own contempt for the proletarian masses:

“It would be hard for you to imagine how in the recent past (just before my departure) there was a strong, genuine Bolshevik fanaticism, with an adoration of Lenin and Trotsky and a hysterical hatred of us, among a significant mass of Moscow women workers, in both the factories and workshops. This is to a notable degree explained by the fact that the Russian woman proletariat, due to its illiteracy and helplessness, in its mass could only have been drawn into ‘politics’ by means of the state mechanism (endless educational courses and ‘cultural’-agitational institutions, official celebrations and demonstrations, and—last not least [original in English]—by means of material privileges). Thus the words that one runs across in letters from women workers to Pravda, such as, ‘only after the October overthrow did we women workers see the sun,’ are not empty phrases.”

—“Letter to P. B. Axelrod, 5 April 1921,” Yu. O. Martov, Letters 1916-1922 (Benson, Vermont: Chalidze Publications, 1990) (our translation)

The Early Soviet Government and the 1918 Family Code

The revolution released a burst of optimism and expectations for a society built on socialist principles. Discussions raged among young people on sexual relations, child rearing and the nature of the family in the transition to socialism. Creative energy gripped cultural fields as well, where priorities and tasks changed to reflect the widely held view that the family would soon wither away (see “Planning for Collective Living in the Early Soviet Union: Architecture as a Tool of Social Transformation,” W&R No. 11, Spring 1976).

Soviet legislation at that time gave to women in Russia a level of equality and freedom that has yet to be attained by the most economically advanced “democratic” capitalist countries today. But there was a problem, succinctly addressed by A. T. Stelmakhovich, chairman of the Moscow provincial courts: “The liberation of women...without an economic base guaranteeing every worker full material independence, is a myth” (quoted in Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution).

Just over a month after the revolution, two decrees established civil marriage and allowed for divorce at the request of either partner, accomplishing far more than the pre-revolutionary Ministry of Justice, progressive journalists, feminists and the Duma had ever even attempted. Divorces soared in the following period. A complete Code on Marriage, the Family and Guardianship, ratified in October 1918 by the state governing body, the Central Executive Committee (CEC), swept away centuries of patriarchal and ecclesiastical power, and established a new doctrine based on individual rights and the equality of the sexes.

The Bolsheviks also abolished all laws against homosexual acts and other consensual sexual activity. The Bolshevik position was explained in a pamphlet by Grigorii Batkis, director of the Moscow Institute of Social Hygiene, The Sexual Revolution in Russia (1923):

“Soviet legislation bases itself on the following principle:

“It declares the absolute non-interference of the state and society into sexual matters, so long as nobody is injured, and no one’s interests are encroached upon.”

—quoted in John Lauritsen and David Thorstad, The Early Homosexual Rights Movement (1864-1935) (New York: Times Change Press, 1974)

To draft the new Family Code a committee was established in August 1918, headed by A. G. Goikhbarg, a former Menshevik law professor. Jurists described the Code as “not socialist legislation, but legislation of the transitional time,” just as the Soviet state itself, as the dictatorship of the proletariat, was a preparatory regime transitional from capitalism to socialism (quoted in Goldman, op. cit.)

The Bolsheviks anticipated the ability to “eliminate the need for certain registrations, for example, marriage registration, for the family will soon be replaced by a more reasonable, more rational differentiation based on separate individuals,” as Goikhbarg said, rather too optimistically. He added, “Proletarian power constructs its codes and all of its laws dialectically, so that every day of their existence undermines the need for their existence.” When “the fetters of husband and wife” have become “obsolete,” the family will wither away, replaced by revolutionary social relations based on women’s equality. Not until then, in the words of Soviet sociologist S. Ia. Volfson, would the duration of marriage “be defined exclusively by the mutual inclination of the spouses” (quoted in ibid.). Divorce would be accomplished by the locking of a door, as Soviet architect L. Sabsovich envisaged it.

The new marriage and divorce laws were very popular. However, given women’s traditional responsibilities for children and their greater difficulties in finding and maintaining employment, for them divorce often proved more problematic than for men. For this reason the alimony provision was established for the disabled poor of both sexes, necessary due to the inability of the state at that time to guarantee jobs for all. The 1918 Code eliminated the distinction between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” children, using instead the carefully considered wording “children of parents who are not in a registered marriage.” Thus, women could claim child support from men to whom they were not married.

The Code also established the right of all children to parental support until age 18 and the right of each spouse to his or her own property. In implementing the Code’s measures, judges were biased in favor of women and children, on the grounds that establishing support for the child took priority over protecting the financial interests of the male defendant. In one case, a judge split child support three ways, because the mother had been sleeping with three different men.

During the debate on the draft, Goikhbarg had to defend it against critics who wanted to abolish marriage altogether. For example, N. A. Roslavets, a Ukrainian woman delegate, recommended that the CEC reject the marriage section of the Code, arguing that it would represent a step away “from the freedom of marriage relations as one of the conditions of individual freedom.” “I cannot understand why this Code establishes compulsory monogamy,” she said; she also opposed the (very limited) alimony provision as “nothing other than a payment for love” (quoted in ibid.).

Goikhbarg later recounted, “They screamed at us: ‘Registration of marriage, formal marriage, what kind of socialism is this?’” His main argument was that civil marriage registration was crucial to the struggle against the medieval grip of the Russian Orthodox church. Without civil marriage, the population would resort to religious ceremonies and the church would flourish. He characterized Roslavets’ criticisms as “radical in words” but “reactionary in deed.” Goikhbarg pointed out that alimony was limited to the disabled poor, and that it was impossible to abolish everything at once. He argued, “We must accept this [code] knowing that it is not a socialist measure, because socialist legislation will hardly exist. Only limited norms will remain” (quoted in ibid.).

Uneven and Combined Development

The October Revolution put power in the hands of a working class that was numerically small in a country that was relatively backward. The Bolsheviks thus faced problems that Marx and Engels, who had projected that the proletarian revolution would occur first in more industrialized countries, could not have anticipated. It was envisioned by the Bolsheviks that the Russian Revolution would inspire workers in the economically advanced European countries to overthrow their bourgeoisies, and these new revolutions would in turn come to the aid of the Russian proletariat. These workers states would not usher in socialist societies but would be transitional regimes that would lay the foundations for socialism based on an internationally planned economy in which there would be no more class distinctions and the state itself would wither away.

The seizure of power in Russia followed three years of world war, which had disrupted the food supply, causing widespread hunger in the cities. By the end of the Civil War, the country lay in ruins. The transport system collapsed, and oil and coal no longer reached the urban areas. Homeless and starving children, the besprizorniki, roamed the countryside and cities in gangs. In the brutal Russian winter, the writer Viktor Shklovsky wrote that, because of the lack of fuel, “People who lived in housing with central heating died in droves. They froze to death—whole apartments of them” (quoted in ibid.).

The collapse of the productive forces surpassed anything of the kind that history had ever seen. The country and its government were at the very edge of the abyss. Although the Bolsheviks won the Civil War, Russia’s national income had dropped to only one-third and industrial output to less than one-fifth of the prewar levels. By 1921 Moscow had lost half its population; Petrograd, two-thirds. Then the country was hit with two straight years of drought, and a sandstorm and locust invasion that brought famine to the southern and western regions. In those areas, 90 to 95 percent of the children under three years old died; surviving children were abandoned as one or both parents died, leaving them starving and homeless. There were incidents of cannibalism.

The toll on all layers of society was terrible. Of the Bolshevik women cadre in Clements’ study, 13 percent died between 1917 and 1921, most of infectious disease. Among them were Inessa Armand, head of the Zhenotdel, and Samoilova, both of whom died of cholera. Samoilova contracted the disease as a party activist on the Volga River. Horrified by the conditions on the delta, she spent her last days rousing the local party committee to take action.

As Marx put it, “Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural level which this determines” (“Critique of the Gotha Program,” 1875). The Bolsheviks knew that, given centuries of oppression and the devastation of the country, even the most democratic laws could not protect the most vulnerable, the working-class and especially peasant women, who continued to suffer misery and degradation. Until the family was fully replaced by communal living and childcare, laws addressing the actual social conditions were a necessary part of the political struggle for a new society.

The Protection of Motherhood

Immediately after the revolution the government launched a drive to provide social and cultural facilities and communal services for women workers and to draw them into training and educational programs. The 1918 Labor Code provided a paid 30-minute break at least every three hours to feed a baby. For their protection, pregnant women and nursing mothers were banned from night work and overtime. This entailed a constant struggle with some state managers, who viewed these measures as an extra financial burden.

The crowning legislative achievement for women workers was the 1918 maternity insurance program designed and pushed by Alexandra Kollontai, the first People’s Commissar for Social Welfare and head of the Zhenotdel from 1920 to 1922. The law provided for a fully paid maternity leave of eight weeks, nursing breaks and factory rest facilities, free pre- and post-natal care, and cash allowances. It was administered through a Commission for the Protection of Mothers and Infants—attached to the Health Commissariat—and headed by a Bolshevik doctor, Vera Lebedeva. With its networks of maternity clinics, consultation offices, feeding stations, nurseries, and mother and infant homes, this program was perhaps the single most popular innovation of the Soviet regime among Russian women.

In the 1920s and 1930s women were commonly allowed a few days’ release from paid labor in the form of menstrual leave. In the history of protection of women workers, the USSR was probably unique in this. Specialists also conducted research on the effects of heavy labor on women. One scholar wrote, “The maintenance of the health of workers appears to have been a central concern in the research into labour protection in this period” (Melanie Ilic, Women Workers in the Soviet Interwar Economy: From “Protection” to “Equality” [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999]). Strenuous labor could lead to disruption or delay of menstrual cycles among peasant women especially. The resolution of this problem—machine technology that limits to the greatest possible extent the stress and potential danger of industrial and agricultural labor for all workers, men and women—was beyond the capability of the Soviet economy at that time.

Abortion: Free and on Demand

In 1920 the Soviet government issued a decree overturning criminal penalties for abortion—the first government in the world to do so:

“As long as the remnants of the past and the difficult economic conditions of the present compel some women to undergo an abortion, the People’s Commissariat of Health and Social Welfare and the People’s Commissariat of Justice regard the use of penal measures as inappropriate and therefore, to preserve women’s health and protect the race against ignorant or self-seeking profiteers, it is resolved:

“I. Free abortion, interrupting pregnancy by artificial means, shall be performed in state hospitals, where women are assured maximum safety in the operation.”

—“Decree of the People’s Commissariat of Health and Social Welfare and the People’s Commissariat of Justice in Soviet Russia,” translated from Die Kommunistische Fraueninternationale (Communist Women’s International, April 1921), in W&R No. 34, Spring 1988

In carrying out this decree, again inadequate resources clashed with the huge demand, and because of the shortage of anesthetic, abortions, horribly enough, were generally performed without it. The law required that all abortions be performed by a doctor in a hospital, but the country lacked adequate facilities. Working women received first priority. In the countryside, many women had no access to state facilities. As a result, unsafe abortions continued to be performed, especially by midwives, and thousands were treated in the hospitals for the effects of these dangerous procedures.

Doctors and public health officials argued that there was an urgent need for quality contraception, which in backward Russia was generally unavailable. In the mid 1920s, the Commission for the Protection of Mothers and Infants officially proclaimed that birth control information should be dispensed in all consultation offices and gynecological stations. The shortage of contraception was in part due to the lack of access to raw materials like rubber—a direct result of the imperialist blockade against Soviet Russia.

While acknowledging that the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to grant women legal, free abortion, Goldman claims that the Bolsheviks never recognized abortion as a woman’s right, but only as a public health necessity. Certainly the reference elsewhere in the decree to abortion as “this evil” sounds strange to 21st-century ears, accustomed to hearing such language only from religious bigots. However, abortion was much more dangerous in the 1920s, before the development of antibiotics and in a country where basic hygiene remained a serious problem. The Bolsheviks were concerned about improving the protection of mothers and children, which they viewed as the responsibility of the proletarian state and a central purpose of the replacement of the family with communal methods.

Goldman’s claim is undermined by Trotsky’s statement that, on the contrary, abortion is one of woman’s “most important civil, political and cultural rights.” He blasted the vile Stalinist bureaucracy for its 1936 criminalization of abortion, which showed “the philosophy of a priest endowed also with the powers of a gendarme”:

“These gentlemen have, it seems, completely forgotten that socialism was to remove the cause which impels woman to abortion, and not force her into the ‘joys of motherhood’ with the help of a foul police interference in what is to every woman the most intimate sphere of life.”

—The Revolution Betrayed

The Zhenotdel Mobilizes the Masses of Women

The Zhenotdel, founded in 1919, infused energy into the party’s frail and disparate women’s commissions. It played a major part in the mobilization of women behind the struggle for socialism in Russia. In 1920 Samoilova reported that people were describing a “second October Revolution” among women (quoted in Carol Eubanks Hayden, Feminism and Bolshevism: The Zhenotdel and the Politics of Women’s Emancipation in Russia, 1917-1930, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 1979). The Zhenotdel’s fundamental organizing precept was “agitation by the deed.” Historian Richard Stites described it as “the deliberate, painstaking effort of hundreds of already ‘released’ women injecting their beliefs and programs and their self-confidence into the bloodstream of rural and proletarian Russia” (Stites, The Women’s Liberation Movement in Russia). That so many women became members of the Soviet government and of the party illustrates the extraordinary social mobility the party was encouraging.

A major vehicle for this work was the system of “delegate meetings” developed by the Zhenotdel and designed as a school in politics and liberation. Elections would be held in a factory for women workers to choose one of their ranks as delegate to the Zhenotdel for a period of three to six months. The election itself was a step forward in consciousness. The delegatka, wearing a red scarf as her badge of office, served as an observer-apprentice in various branches of public activity such as the factory, soviet, trade union, schools, hospital or catering center. After her sojourn in the world of practical politics, she would report back to the Zhenotdel and to her co-workers about what she had learned in the process of acting as an elected politician, administrator, propagandist and critic. One observer described the delegatki as “a menace to bureaucrats, drunkards, kulaks, sub-kulaks, and all who opposed Soviet laws” (quoted in ibid.).

In addition to the journal Kommunistka, which carried articles on major theoretical and practical aspects of the woman question, the Zhenotdel published women’s pages (stranichki) in many national and local party newspapers. Working-class women were encouraged to become correspondents, sending reports and letters to the press. Conferences and congresses brought women of different regions together in great number and variety. The last important meeting was the 1927 Congress of Women Deputies to the Soviets, a massive witness to the work that had been done in the preceding ten years where women displayed “a sense of power and achievement” (ibid.).

Communal Living: Replacing the Household Pot

Early measures to institute communal living in Soviet Russia were heavily influenced by the Civil War. In the effort to mobilize the population to fight the war, the Bolsheviks instituted “war communism,” which included state rationing, public dining halls, free food for children and wages in kind. By January 1920 Petrograd was serving one million people in public cafeterias; in Moscow, 93 percent of the population was served in this way. Meals were of poor quality, but in the revolutionary optimism of the time this was seen as a temporary problem. In later years, many expressed nostalgia for the idealistic future promised by communal living under “war communism” as opposed to the harsh reality that was to come. Party leader I. Stepanov captured it:

“All we adults were insanely and dreadfully hungry, but we could justly say to the whole world: The children are the first privileged citizens of our republic. We could say that we were moving toward the realization of freeing love…from economics and women from household slavery.”

—quoted in Goldman, op. cit.

A key component of freeing women from the household prison was the socialization of child rearing. The Bolshevik program rested on a concept that all individuals should have full access to all the cultural and social benefits of society, as opposed to restrictions dictated by social and economic status. An All-Russian Congress for the Protection of Childhood was convened in 1919. The delegates debated theories of childcare and the degree of state vs. parental involvement with the upbringing of the very young. The words of one of the members of the Presidium of the Congress, Anna Elizarova, captured the general understanding of the majority: “There must be no wretched children who don’t belong to anyone. All children are the children of the state” (quoted in ibid.).

A provision of the Family Code put forward the year before had banned adoption altogether in favor of the state’s assuming care for orphans. This measure was especially important because adoption in Russia was notoriously used by peasants as a source of cheap labor. Instead, the government would take on the task of a quality upbringing for all children.

But the enormous contradiction between aspiration and reality remained. The state was unable to care for the millions of homeless orphans in Russia, the besprizorniki. This problem predated the revolution, and seven years of war followed by famine brought the numbers up to an estimated 7.5 million by 1922. The government authorized free food for all children under 16; kitchens and homes were set up, and the estates of the ex-nobility were turned into homes for orphans, with partial success. Goldman caught the vicious circle caused by the lack of resources to meet the need: “Without daycare, many single mothers were unable to search for work, and without work, they were unable to support their children, who in turn ran away from impoverished homes to join the besprizorniki on the streets” (ibid.). Although the numbers shrank in the decade after the famine of 1921, the besprizorniki remained a problem for the Soviet government well into the 1930s.

Temporary Retreat: the New Economic Policy

As the Civil War drew to a close in late 1920, the limits of the policy of “war communism” became clear. Industry had virtually collapsed. The most politically advanced workers had been killed in the Civil War or drawn into state and party administration; many of the remaining workers had gone back to the countryside to eke out a living from the land. Peasants in the south began rebelling against forcible requisitioning of grain (see “Kronstadt 1921: Bolshevism vs. Counterrevolution,” page 6).

To revive production and maintain the alliance with the peasantry, in early 1921 Lenin proposed the New Economic Policy (NEP), in which the forcible requisitioning of grain was replaced by a tax on agricultural products, with the peasantry now allowed to sell much of their grain on the open market. The government sought to stabilize the currency; rationing of food and scarce consumer goods was ended and small-scale production and distribution of consumer goods for profit was allowed. While these concessions to market forces revived the economy to a great extent, they also tended to exacerbate the existing imbalances, with heavy industry getting little or no investment, and the pre-existing layer of better-off peasants (kulaks) becoming richer at the expense of the poorer layers in the villages. A tier of newly rich small producers and traders (NEPmen) flourished.

As would be expected, the NEP had a negative impact on conditions for women and children. Women suffered a general rise in unemployment through 1927, and were pushed back into “traditional” sectors such as textiles and light industry. “Free market” practices meant discrimination against women in hiring and firing—especially given the expenses of paid maternity leave and on-the-job protection for pregnant and nursing mothers. Charges were instituted for previously free public services, such as communal meals. Half the childcare centers and homes for single mothers were forced to close, undermining any attempt to liberate women: mothers had little opportunity to study, get skills or participate in social and political life.

Perhaps the most tragic consequence of the NEP for women was the re-emergence of prostitution. Prostitution was not illegal in Soviet Russia. Rather, the government sought to “return the prostitute to productive work, find her a place in the social economy,” in the words of Lenin as reported by Zetkin (“My Recollections of Lenin,” in The Emancipation of Women [1934]). A 1921 government commission reaffirmed opposition to state interference in private matters:

“In fighting against prostitution, the government by no means intends to intrude into the sphere of sexual relations, for in that area all forced, regulated influence will lead only to distortion of the sexual self-determination of free and independent economic citizens.”

—quoted in Elizabeth A. Wood, The Baba and the Comrade: Gender and Politics in Revolutionary Russia (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1997)

Unemployed women and besprizorniki were the largest groups of urban prostitutes during the years of the NEP.

Goldman notes that delegates to a 1922 meeting on female labor angrily called attention to “the catastrophic position of services designed to protect mothers and infants due to state budgeting pressures under NEP” (Goldman, Women, the State and Revolution). Delegates stressed that women’s problems were “closely connected to the overall position of the working class and under no condition should be considered apart from the proletarian state.” The government tried to replace the lost resources through voluntary contributions and labor, and the commissariats issued decrees aimed at stopping anti-woman discrimination.

But these measures had little effect. In early 1923 a debate over whether further measures should be taken to address these problems broke out among leading women cadre, including Vera Golubeva and Alexandra Kollontai, who argued that the scope of the party’s work among women should be widened. Golubeva, the deputy director of the Zhenotdel, argued that with the increasing unemployment among women, the party had to extend its reach into sectors of the population beyond the working class, drawing unemployed and peasant women into special (“transitional”) bodies of work linked to the party. The question was discussed at the April 1923 party congress.

In the end the Soviet government had no other choice but to resort to the NEP. The alternative, to maintain the policies of war communism in the conditions of social collapse, would have led to massive peasant revolt and counterrevolution. But the NEP brought its own dangers of that kind. As Trotsky said, “With the transfer to the NEP bourgeois tendencies received a more copious field of action” (The Revolution Betrayed). Even within the constraints imposed by national isolation and economic weakness, however, the degradation of women’s status was not preordained but was rather determined by a political struggle over changeable government policies.

In fact, the broader policies advocated by the Left Opposition could have opened the road to a real improvement in the situation of women even within the framework of the existing material conditions. The implementation of a systematic plan of industrialization as laid out by the Opposition in 1923 would have undercut the bourgeois tendencies fueled by the NEP, while greatly increasing the employment of women in industry and changing the functioning of factory managers. Discrimination against women workers in wages and employment was a manifestation of bureaucratic degeneration within the industrial managerial apparatus that could have been fought and reversed.

The “Sea of Peasant Stagnation”

The most intense conflicts between the goals of the Bolshevik Revolution for the liberation of women and the actual conditions of Russian society occurred in the countryside. The 1922 Land Code abolished private ownership of land, water, forests and minerals and placed all land in the hands of the state. By law all citizens regardless of sex, religion, or nationality had rights to the land, and each adult was to have a voice in the skhod or village assembly. The Family Code granted individuals the right to live apart from a spouse, to divorce, and to receive alimony and child support. Extreme poverty exacerbated the gap between law and life, making it almost impossible for many peasant households to pay women their legal due. As long as the family remained the basic unit of production, as long as patriarchy determined the institutions of village life, neither peasant women nor men could realize the individual freedom promised by Soviet civil law.

The contradictions could not be resolved by law; the problem was inherent in the very nature of the Russian Revolution. The relatively small proletariat was able to carry out its revolutionary dictatorship because it embraced the fight of the peasantry against feudal barbarism. But once in power the proletariat had to go beyond the bourgeois-democratic tasks posed by the abolition of tsarist absolutism. As Trotsky predicted even before the outbreak of the 1905 Revolution, in addressing such questions as the length of the working day, unemployment, and protection of the agricultural proletariat, “the antagonism between the component sections will grow in proportion as the policy of the workers’ government defines itself, ceasing to be a general-democratic and becoming a class policy” (Results and Prospects [1906]). The deepgoing process of uprooting feudalistic social relations in the countryside required a huge investment of resources to build the necessary infrastructure of schools, roads and hospitals, as well as the mechanization of agriculture. The Bolsheviks looked to workers revolution in the advanced European countries, which could provide the technological resources to enable the Russian proletariat to prove the benefits of collectivized agriculture to the peasant masses.

The Commissariat of Justice set up several commissions to investigate the tangled problems facing women and children in the countryside. The jurists upheld their commitment to equal rights in the face of powerful peasant opposition. For example, land ownership was based on the male-dominated family unit (dvor), and alimony was awarded based on family assets. Faced with a demand for alimony, peasants developed ruses for avoiding payments by creating a fictitious division of the family unit, thus reducing the extent of property that the court could award a divorced woman. Officials in the Commissariats of Land and Justice repeatedly refused to accede to peasant demands to abolish divorce and alimony, and continued to support the rights of the vulnerable, the weak, and the landless peasant woman. The Land and Family Codes established rights for women that could result in smaller farm plots and decreased production, at a time when increasing grain production was a state priority. The Moscow commission declared: “To agree that the dvor should bear no responsibility for alimony means to flood our Soviet law in a sea of peasant stagnation” (quoted in Goldman, op. cit.).

Despite the difficulties, the laws, enforced by the Soviet state, did have an impact. Melnikova, an impoverished batrachka thrown out of her husband’s dvor, came to the judge saying, “I heard in the village that now there was this law that they could no longer insult women in this way” (quoted in ibid.). While there was often much resistance based on fear, ignorance and the inertia of tradition, once they were functioning, the institutions and changes in daily life throughout the early and middle 1920s gained the increasing support of the peasantry, especially the women.

A small but significant minority of peasant women found their lives transformed by the party’s educational efforts, the activities of the Zhenotdel and their new legal rights. Delegates at one women’s congress spoke proudly of their struggle as single women to retain their share of the land, to attend meetings of the skhod, and to organize agricultural cooperatives for women. Mothers of illegitimate children and divorced peasant women defied centuries of patriarchal tradition to fight the household in court for the right to child support and alimony.

Problems of Everyday Life

In 1923, a discussion developed within the Bolshevik Party on the question of how to improve the quality of byt (daily life). This seemingly mundane issue cuts to the heart of the struggle to create wholly new economic and social relations. At its core is the question of the emancipation of women, which is the political prism for “everyday relations” in a broader social sense. No other question reaches so far into the daily life of the masses, weighed down by centuries of custom, habits of social deference and religious reaction, especially in a backward, impoverished country as was Russia in the early 20th century—comparable to Iran or India today. As Trotsky said two years later, “The most accurate way of measuring our advance is by the practical measures which are being carried out for the improvement of the position of mother and child…. The depth of the question of the mother is expressed in the fact that she is, in essence, a living point where all the decisive strands of economic and cultural work intersect” (“To Build Socialism Means to Emancipate Women and Protect Mothers,” December 1925, Women and the Family).

Even party members, shamefully, sometimes derided the Zhenotdel as “bab-kom” or “tsentro-baba” (baba is a derogatory term for woman). Zetkin recalls Lenin saying:

“Our communist work among the masses of women, and our political work in general, involves considerable educational work among the men. We must root out the old slave-owner’s point of view, both in the Party and among the masses. That is one of our political tasks, a task just as urgently necessary as the formation of a staff composed of comrades, men and women, with thorough theoretical and practical training for Party work among working women.”

—Zetkin, “My Recollections of Lenin”

Neither the social reorganization nor the material conditions yet existed to inaugurate a new and higher order of family life, which in any case would requ
          Professor Jodi Dean’s most amazing confidence trick        
So, here is an interesting way to pose the problem of realizing the abolition of wage slavery by Jodi Dean: “[Insofar] as the people politicized are people divided…the place from which the people are understood is necessarily partisan.” Dean takes this to mean, “The question of the party precedes the question of the state.” By […]
          What to do after you've been Sh*t-Canned Part 2        
I hope you enjoyed our previous discussion about attempting to smear your former boss's good name, or bad name, as the case most assuredly is.

I spoke in the previous installment about getting to know your town. You will want to familiarize yourself with the following locations 1. Fast Food restaurants 2. Banks 3. Bars 4. Walmart 5. Seven-11 6. movie theaters.

Civil unrest begins with baby steps. Not that we're planning to go full-bore revolution anytime in the immediate future. But if you've taken the steps, as I have outlined them, to collect unemployment you've got some time on your hands. Certainly there are no jobs just now, not even in the highly-covetted fast-food service, "opportunity structure." So, you must fill your time with something. And if the spouse is hounding you to "get out there," by all means make that away-from-home time productive and healing.

You're angry at big business, not any one particular political party; let's face that fact. It's corporate America, giant non-feeling entities hiding behind laws designed to protect individuals, who have forked all of us, over and over, in the anus, and left us smarting as we woke up from the credit-bubble hangover, trying to find out who stole our economy?

Getting some "get back" as James Brown called it, need not entail violence, but it should entail snide disobedience. And while you're at it, why wouldn't you hunt down the great, white whale: the huge payday?!

As Robert Kennedy said, some people look at the impossible and ask why? I choose to ask, why not?

Einstein had an equation. Energy is related to mass using his simple formula, allowing you to covert one into the other. So too, dollars, and time share a similar, directly proportional relationship. They have taken away your dollars for no good reason, but, in money's stead, they have left you something perhaps of infinitely greater value: time.

Time to explore all sorts of things you've never dreamed of. Look at the world sideways with me now. Observe as the grand, cafe-colored delivery truck makes the same turn, every Tuesday into the shopping plaza at precisely the same time of day. That turn, often as not, is taken rather haphazardly isn't it? The driver, often as not, busily fielding an angry phone call from his wife, and not pleased at all. Pity the driver, but damn the company, I say.

Are we on the same page, now? Are we smiling to each other across the gap between the time these fingers hit the keys and you read the words? Yes we are. Here I go, I am smiling to you, are you smiling back?

You set your black coffee down now on the table, look at the busy restaurant, patrons coming and going, managers shoulder-riding the downtrodden fry cooks and cashiers. So wonderful that cup of coffee, in its double, re-inforced styro shell, isn't it? Why? Why so much care taken with the construction of a cup? Well Virginia, some unlucky patron poured flaming hot coffee on her lap, didn't she? Ten years ago, wasn't it? Well, you say to yourself, the company - that rips down more Brazilian rain forest every day, than a hurricane could in a month of sundays - had to protect itself, didn't it? Thus these lovely, strong cups. Strongest styrofoam produced by science!

But, has the faceless corporation missed something? Let's consult our allies, TIME, and OBSERVATION. You note that every day, down to the minute almost, an hourly wage slave takes a bucket and a mop outside and slathers that walkway with soapy water. Strange, that the employee is directed to do this just after 9 a.m. every, single, day.

Hmmmnnn, that coffee is goooooood, isn't it? Take another sip, why don't you, and allow yourself a reptilian smile of satisfaction.

Oh, go ahead. Mark it down in a little notebook. Just don't put it in an email or on a blog, like I am doing. Look how giving I am to you! And I don't even know you! That's love, people. Can you feel it? I'm with you. I'm there for you.

Take your measely unemployment check to Walmart and get it cashed. Oh, we'll come back to Walmart: yes we will. Now, take the cash over to your greed-head bank. Open an account with some of it, or all of it.

Do they have egregiously bad terms? Take the time, as they make you wait, to observe the lobby. Do you see little old ladies whining to the bank manager that they simply cannot understand the statement? And that somehow they were smacked with $45 in fees to checking and savings, they were unaware of? Do you see other patrons quibbling with customer service because the bank card was hacked?

Welcome home. Poor service bordering on outright theivery to you, a recently unemployed father of three down on his luck, sounds like the beginnings of an intriguing legal case, doesn't it? Here you sit waiting for them to deliver the poor service, which is now your future asset.

Please feel free to comment with vigor: more when we come back.

And in the meantime, see below. Why here's a bright young fellow in Ontario, Canada. After he was "administratively partitioned in a reductive capacity" from his job, he very nearly jumped from that bridge into those frigid waters. Now look at him.

His wife thinks he's "out there pounding the pavement," right now.


          5 talks in a lecture series at OSU. Only 4 are promoted on OSU’s YouTube page. Why?        

In fall 2015, a student group, Allied Students for Another Politics (ASAP!), on campus organized a series of five panels called “Radical Visions Towards Another Politics”: Revolutionary Unions and the Abolition of Wage Slavery “We Won’t Pay!”: How Debtors’ Unions and Strikes Can Lead the Fight for Tuition-Free Education Racism, Capitalism, and the Prison Industrial […]

The post 5 talks in a lecture series at OSU. Only 4 are promoted on OSU’s YouTube page. Why? appeared first on Glencora Borradaile.


          Life Sucks        
Life Sucks
author: Jessica Abel
name: The Loft
average rating: 3.40
book published: 2008
rating: 0
read at: 2009/11/01
date added: 2009/11/27
shelves: ya-vampires
review:
Would you drink human blood to become a vampire? Does a chance at eternal beauty with silky, smooth (and shimmering) skin, luscious red lips, and “gold and butterscotch” eyes sound enticing? In the recent world of vampires, whether it’s Twilight’s Edward, Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Angel, Vicki from Vampire Diaries, Eric or Deborah from True Blood, vampires are hot.


And then there’s Dave.


Dave from Life Sucks prefers to steal his nutrition from the blood bank rather than kill humans. And the fact that his life will drag on to eternity does nothing to improve his mood. Pretty much deemed a loser as far as bloodsuckers go, Dave endures his wage slave status working the night shift at a convenience store and kow-towing to his master Vlad. His friends call him a “wuss.” Dave is smitten with cute goth girl Rosa, though she doesn’t even know he exists. When Dave finally gets her attention, she wants to let the sunlight into his tiny apartment, or go outside with him in the daytime. The last person Rosa suspects of being a vampire is Dave. She’s too busy glamorizing the world of vampires and is desperate to be bitten. Given Rosa’s highly idealized vision of vampires, how could Dave possibly fit the bill?


"I picture this vast network of dark, beautiful, intellectual, artistic people, living forever with only the best things, the best food, the best clothes, beautiful homes…it would just be a better life, living amidst beauty and with all the time and energy in the world to concentrate on the finer things…"(Rosa, Life Sucks: p. 139)

Dave wants to protect Rosa from the realities of vampirism as he knows them, but then there’s surfer dude and vampire Wes, Dave’s archenemy. Wes is hot, hot, hot – unscrupulous, lives in a mansion, and wouldn’t think twice about the kill and ”becoming Rosa’s Master.”


Sometimes, life sucks. But the book definitely doesn’t! This new and witty spin on the vampire tale is complimented by Warren Pleece’s striking drawings and Hilary Sycamore’s vibrant colors.

          Overthrowing Smith and Marx: Profits, Not Wages, as the Original and Primary Form of Labor Income. Reisman's Remarks at the Conferral of His Honorary Doctorate from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, July 9, 2013        


A video of the degree ceremony appears at http://newmedia.ufm.edu/reismandoctoraldegree

Vice President Calzada (President Calzada as of next month), Provost Castillo, Treasurer Parellada, and friends.

I want to thank Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in the persons of these three of its highest officials, for the great honor just conferred on me, of an honorary doctorate in social sciences.

Universidad Francisco Marroquin is a rare beacon of light in a world growing intellectually dark. It is a relatively new light, founded in 1971 by the late Manuel Ayau, the leading advocate of liberty in Latin America and UFM’s first President. (I’m glad to say that in 1987, my wife and I met President Ayau in San Diego, when he was a guest lecturer at the summer conference of our organization The Jefferson School of Philosophy, Economics, and Psychology.) Hopefully Universidad Francisco Marroquin’s example will inspire the establishment of other universities throughout the world that are dedicated to upholding the value of individual freedom and capitalism.

I know that the award just bestowed on me is all the more valuable for having previously been bestowed on men of such caliber as Henry Hazlitt, F.A. Hayek, Leonard Read, and William H. Hutt. All of these men, through their writings, were my teachers, most especially Henry Hazlitt.

Now I would like to accept this honor not just on behalf of myself but also on behalf of the two most outstanding teachers in my life: Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand. Mises was the source or inspiration for most of what I know and consider important in the fields of economics and social philosophy. His overall, outstanding accomplishment was to present a comprehensive, in-depth, intellectually powerful, and uncompromising case for laissez-faire capitalism. This was something that no one else had ever done before and which urgently needed doing—more than anything else in the world if individual rights and the founding principles of the United States were to be upheld. Ayn Rand greatly supplemented that knowledge, above all by explaining, the precise nature of individual rights. I also acquired a great deal of other knowledge from her as well, which I’ve described in my book Capitalism.

***
The first thing I want to accomplish in the time available for me to speak, is to explain what I consider to be one of the most important of my own original contributions to economics, namely, my demonstration that profits are not a deduction from wages.
The belief that profits are a deduction from wages goes back to Adam Smith, who is believed by many to be the leading advocate of capitalism. In The Wealth of Nations, Smith claims that wages are the original and primary form of income and that profits are taken from what naturally and rightfully belongs to wage earners.
He postulates a state of affairs that he refers to sometimes as “the early and rude state of society” and sometimes as “the original state of things.”
In this state of affairs he imagines that workers are producing and selling products and that the income they receive from the sale of their products is wages. He imagines that as yet there are no businessmen or capitalists present. Just manual workers. He assumes that because the workers are performing labor, the income they receive must necessarily be wages. Labor and wages in his mind are inseparable concepts. Where labor is performed, its income must be wages, he believes.
The conditions present in his alleged “original state of things” stand in his mind as a kind of economic Garden of Eden insofar as he believes that the situation represents one of economic justice. It is just, he believes, because the workers who produce the products, get to keep the full value of the products they produce. Their wages are allegedly 100 percent of the value of the products they produce.
But then comes the economic version of the Fall from the Garden of Eden. Businessmen and capitalists appear on the scene. And because they provide capital and must be remunerated for doing so, in the form of earning profits on their capital, the workers are no longer able to keep the full value of the products they produce. The capitalists’ profits are deducted from what originally went completely to the workers as wages.
The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776. Ninety one years later, in 1867, Karl Marx’s Das Kapital was published.
Marx took over these ideas of Smith and carried them further. He too argued that profits, along with all other income that was not wages, constituted a deduction from wages, and that this deduction started with the coming into being of capitalists and their capital.
Where Marx differs from Smith is that he goes further and develops “the exploitation theory.” Smith provided merely the framework of the exploitation theory. Within that framework, Marx propounded an elaborate analysis that attempted to show that the nature and extent of the alleged deduction of profits from wages was comparable to the process by which a slave owner gained from owning a slave and that the wage earners of capitalism were in fact virtual slaves. (This is the source of the expressions “wage slave” and “wage slavery.”)
What made the workers of capitalism slaves, according to Marx, was the fact that, like slaves, all of their product in excess of the portion required to keep them alive was taken by the capitalists. Indeed, the capitalists, according to Marx, were not only willing and able to extort profits to the extent of driving wages to the level of bare minimum subsistence but were also motivated by the quest for profit to extend the hours of work to the maximum humanly endurable while making working conditions brutal and driving small children into the mines.
To this day, this is the popular assessment of the effects of the profit motive if it is not restrained by such things as labor unions, minimum wage and maximum hours’ laws, and child labor laws. I believe that practically all the members of the Democratic Party and perhaps half or more of the members of the Republican Party believe that these are the conditions that would result in the absence of labor unions and these laws. When it comes to an understanding of the operations of laissez-faire capitalism, that is, capitalism free of such government interference, the great majority of people today are Marxists, and have been since the late 19th Century.
Now it’s impossible for me to fully answer all of these beliefs in the course of a talk as brief as this one. But I assure you that I do fully answer them in my book Capitalism.
I will start by demolishing the framework of the exploitation theory—the notion that originally all income is wages and that the emergence of capitalists serves to bring into existence the phenomenon of profit and its deduction from what allegedly was originally all wages.
All we need do to accomplish this demolition is to realize that when a worker sells a product, such as a loaf of bread, or a pair of shoes, he is not being paid wages. There simply are no wages present. A wage is money paid in exchange for the performance of labor, not for the products of labor. Again, a wage is money paid in exchange for the performance of labor, not for the products of labor. In contrast, the money paid in exchange for the products of labor is a sales revenue. The workers producing products that they sell do not earn wages. They earn sales revenues.
Thus what the workers in Smith’s original state of things and Marx’s equivalent, which he called “simple circulation”—what these workers receive are not wages but sales revenues.
And because there are no capitalists and thus no spending to buy anything that would serve in the production of the goods the workers are selling, there are no money costs to deduct from the sales revenues these workers earn.
Let me pause here. Costs of production are always the reflection of expenditures of money made for the purpose of bringing in sales revenues. These expenditures are made by capitalists.In fact, Marx and Smith agree that the essential feature of capitalistic activity is buying for the sake of selling at a profit. Where there are no capitalists, there is no such buying. But if there is no such buying, there can be no money costs. At the same time, for the same reason, there are no wages paid in production. Wages paid in production are the money that capitalists pay to workers to produce the products that the capitalists plan to sell.
The inescapable implication of this is that in the starting point that Smith and Marx have chosen, namely, workers producing and selling products in the absence of capitalists, the income of these workers is profit, not wages. These workers have sales revenues but they have no money costs of production to deduct from their sales revenues, because no one has acted capitalistically and spent any money to bring in those sales revenues. It follows that 100 percent of these workers’ sales revenues is profit.
It follows further that so far from being responsible for the creation of profit and its deduction from wages, what the capitalists are actually responsible for is the creation of wages and costs of production, including costs of production on account of spending for capital goods such as materials and tools, and thus for the reduction in the proportion of sales revenue that is profit. A true statement, in direct opposition to Smith and Marx, is that capitalists create wagesand reduce the proportion of income in the economic system that is profit.
***
I’ve established so far that profits are an income attributable to the performance of labor in the conditions postulated by Smith and Marx as their starting point, indeed, the only such income in those conditions, since there are no wages paid in production without the existence of capitalists.
Now are profits earned by capitalists, rather than the manual workers of Smith’s “original state of things,” are these profits also an income attributable to the performance of labor—namely, to the labor of the capitalists, the people who earn them in the conditions that follow “the original state of things”?
Can the profits of business Titans, ranging from John D. Rockefeller and Henry Ford to Steve Jobs and Bill Gates be understood as being earned on a foundation of their labor? For their manual labor may go no further than jotting down thoughts, dictating memos to subordinates, and reading reports.
Remarkably, a major clue to the answer is provided by none other than Adam Smith, about 200 pages after he presented the views I’ve criticized. Here he points out that what drives the economic system and determines how the great bulk of its labor is used, is the various plans and projects of the capitalists, who use their capital for the purpose of earning profit.
I believe that all by itself this qualifies capitalists as workers and producers. It captures the essential element of being a producer, namely, providing guiding and directing intelligence to the means required to achieve the goal of producing a product.
A manual worker uses his arms to produce his product. What makes him a producer is not the fact that he uses his arms, but that his mind directs the use of his arms to achieve the goal of producing the product. His mind provides guiding and directing intelligence to his arms and to whatever tools, implements, or machines he may use in the production of his product.
Now a capitalist supplies goals and provides guiding and directing intelligence not merely to his own arms and whatever tools or implements he may personally use, but to an organization of men,whose material means of production he has provided. A capitalist is a producer by means of the organization he controls and directs. What is produced by means of it, is his product.
Of course, he does not produce his product alone. His plans and projects may require the labor of hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of other workers in order to be accomplished. Those workers are appropriately called “the help”—in producing his products. Thus, the product of Standard Oil is primarily the product of Rockefeller, not of the oil field and refinery workers, who are his helpers. It is Rockefeller who assembles these workers and provides their equipment and in determining what kind of equipment, tells them what to produce and by what means to produce it.
I hasten to point out that the standard of attribution I have just used, is the standard usually employed, at least in fields outside of economic activity. Thus history books tell us that Columbus discovered America and that Napoleon won the battle of Austerlitz. What is the standard by which such outcomes are attributed to just one man? It is by the standard of that one man being the party supplying the goal and the guiding and directing intelligence at the highest level in the achievement of that goal.
Now I also want to point out that everything I have said is perfectly consistent with the well-known fact that in business the amount of profit a firm earns tends to vary with the size of its capital. Of course it does. A businessman who owns one store or one factory will earn a certain amount of profit. If he owns ten such stores or factories, it should not be surprising that he earns ten times the profit. His labor is of an intellectual nature and thus can be applied the more extensively the larger is the capital he owns. In ignorance of this fact, Adam Smith assumed that in order for profits to be attributable to the labor of a capitalist, they would have to be proportional to his labor, and since they were more likely to be proportional to his capital, this precluded their being attributable to his labor.
***
Now I think I have succeeded up to this point both in demolishing the framework of the exploitation theory and in demonstrating the fact that the profits of capitalists are a fully earned income, attributable to their labor by virtue of their providing the goals of their firms and the highest level of guiding and directing intelligence required to achieve those goals.
I now want to demonstrate in briefest essence how capitalism operates in diametric opposition to the claims of the exploitation theory about wages, hours, and working conditions.
Here’s how it does so. Namely, based on the combination of saving and investment, mainly by capitalists, and the profit motive and competition that drives the capitalists, the output of goods per worker under capitalism tends continually to increase.
This is the source of progressively rising real wages. Accordingly, the average wage earner can afford to buy more and more as time goes on.
A major advantage of being able to buy more is being in a position in which one can afford to earn less. In the early years of the Industrial Revolution it was necessary for many people to work 80 hours a week to earn enough to be able to live. (Before that, many such people didn’t live. They died of malnutrition and accompanying disease.) A generation or two later, after the output per worker had doubled or tripled, thanks to the capitalists, the average worker came to be in a position in which he could afford to accept the lower earnings of a shorter work week. In fact, he could afford to accept wages lower in greater proportion than his hours were reduced. This made it actually profitable for employers to shorten the work week, with or without any laws or regulations requiring it.
On the same foundation, people could afford to keep their children at home longer. This was because the earnings of children were less and less required for families to survive. In this way, with or without legislation, child labor progressively disappeared.
And again, on the same foundation, workers came to be able more and more to afford to bear the cost of improvements in working conditions of a kind that benefitted them but did not pay for themselves through improved efficiency. They could afford to accept lesser earnings accompanying more desirable jobs.
***
My overall conclusion is very simple. It is that contrary to Smith, Marx, and the prevailing state of public opinion, a profound harmony of interests exists between wage earners and capitalists. Capitalists not only earn their incomes, but in the process benefit everyone else. They pay wages and use their wealth in the production of ever more and better products that the wage earners can afford to buy. The more and bigger the capitalists, the greater is the demand for labor and the larger the supply of products. Everyone’s actual self-interest lies with the capitalists being free to earn the profits they richly deserve and use them to accumulate as much wealth as possible, for that wealth serves everyone who sells his labor and buys products.
The case for capitalism is virtually unknown, however. And when it is presented, it is viewed with great suspicion, because the influence of Marxism is so ingrained that it is widely taken for granted that capitalism can serve the interests of no one but a handful of capitalists, who are allegedly the exploiters of the great mass of mankind.
Nothing will change until capitalists themselves learn to value their achievements and recognize the actual good they accomplish for everyone. And neither that nor anything else that is necessary will occur until universities begin to teach the value of capitalism.
Universidad Francisco Marroquin is in the forefront of the enormous and vital intellectual change that is needed. I’m proud to have been recognized by it for my contributions to this cause.
Thank you.
 


          Episode 86: #86: Drone Tortoise        

This week Dave and Gunnar talk about: optimizing experiences! Drones, dressing rooms, airplane seats, ads, and software licensing.

leon

Cutting Room Floor

We Give Thanks

  • Coffee correspondent Uzoma Nwosu for the Keurig update!
  • Martin Preisler for the great SCAP work!
  • Mrs. Egts for the career conundrum!

          Comment on Getting beyond ‘regime change’ (Part 4) by John Hanson        
The Pareto principle comes to mind, here. I don't think we need to educate 50-60% of the population to understand Capital in order to create recognizable changes. Far less, in fact - let's say somewhere around 20%. Remember how small groups of Bernie supporters went and put lighted signs over freeways all over the country? It didn't do much because people simply drove past, but there were quite a few. Remember all the times BLM protesters shut down freeways? All we need is a coordinated movement of similar scale to do exactly that - shut down major infrastructure, starting with one day a week. I wouldn't use Fridays Off as the main rallying cry, though, because that brings to mind the 4day/40 hour work-week. Instead I'd think something like "Abolish Wage Slavery! We're Taking Fridays Back!" would be more to the point; the first part would always stay, and the second could change to suit the circumstances. I also don't think we would need to really worry about replicating this in China or the rest of Asia at first. There's some interesting stuff going on in the CPC to watch. Most of global capital is centered in the USA and Europe, so if - like Occupy - we get enough people interested on both sides of the Atlantic the initial shutdowns could in fact have a massive effect. Especially in port cities and major transit hubs. Either way, this is something that is going to require a bit of advocacy beforehand. As for the tactical implementation, getting that many people organized in local groups will mean they'll need to take some precautions against COINTELPRO operations. Such as not leaving paper signup lists around (*cough*DSA*cough*) or other easily-compromised systems. Who knows? Maybe with some luck, the police could be tricked into "helping." A large police response almost always snarls up traffic, after all.
          Views on Likes        

@uniqueideaman wrote:

I don't understand this. Why has the last post been liked by 3 people ? Am I missing anything here ? I can understand us liking Techno Bear's post mentioning the php 7 free ebook and anyone liking this post due to it having creative ideas at the end.

All John did was sigh a relief that the internet exists and made his life easier to search & check the codes online. Just speaking out his mind aloud. That's all. Right John ?

So, why you people like his post just for that ? Not that I have anything against John receiving likes but should not he be getting likes when he posts solutions (links, codes, etc.) within the hour or the day/night. Infact, I've never seen anyone contributing more code than him in this forum but yet again those posts don't get that many likes. Ah me! (sigh)! I hope I don't get 3*3=9 likes just for sighing that! Lol!

Yet again, he sighs and gets likes. Likes at the wrong time. Strange!

Would farting out aloud here get anyone any likes ? (joke)! Lol!

I wonder if all these likes issue here is just another starting point for me to thinkup a game or some coding/programming solution/tool. I usually thinkup of things over nothing or small things out of the blue.

You know, I have been reading on how to get things go viral. Like your articles, webpages, youtube videos, etc. And, they teach you to create content (text/video) that will make people either laugh or cry (sad) or angry (controversial) as these things go viral. For 6 mnths been searching for the perfect template to make things go viral. Now, I'm wondering, how about some content that makes people "sigh". Readers/viewers will pass onto others to sigh: Ah me!

It will go viral. I reckon.

Let's see, if I can come-up with a "sigh releasing" content. Wish me luck! :slight_smile:

This post is not really off-topic because as soon as I thinkup the perfect viral template, it will be part of the script that uses the member reg-login that I'm building here.

I wonder if a free membership site would attract subscribers where people signup to access content that makes them: sigh.

People, in some parts of the world (nearly 1bn people), go and watch movies just to cry and feel sad. You guys are not aware of that. I heard them say it on videos. They watch sad movies because it makes them cry. They like to watch them and like to cry aswell. Maybe, a psychologist can tell me that it is just one way to release toxic (9-5 wage slavery stress) feeling from yourselves.

I probably have not mentioned in this forum, but I have in others that I'm interested in psychology (I don't study any school crse) and I'm into pondering and finding out what makes people behave the way they do. How to predict their behaviour or control their behaviour (no, I'm not into mind control or hypnosis but more into what makes them do things such as buy things or what makes them spread the news and make it go viral, etc. Prediction for marketing purpose.). Anyway stopping now before I go off-topic. Might aswell open another thread on these "human psych control/prediction" topic.

See, I told you, I can make things out of the blue and thin air out of nothing. Look what I did from just 3 likes to John's post. Created something out of nothing. And that something is not some dirt you can sweep under the carpet. :wink:

My friend tells me, I have a problem and that is I read into things too much. See things that aren't really there (try reading peoples' thoughts and intentions too much to "figure" them out).

Oh well. Might aswell build a php bot script that engages with you (like Kitt does with Michael Night in the Knight Rider). A 3D avatar. A script that can give you feed back or talk back to you. Keep you company when you feeling bored or down. Later-on can turn that into a mobile app. An app that has an avatar that engages with you. :wink:

PS - If you guys ever come across a website that shows pics of different kind of peoples' facial limbs (eyes, ears, nose, mouth, lips, cheeks, foreheads, hairs, etc.) that exists in the world. Then let me know. Eg. pic of long nose, short nose, African nose, German nose, African lips, Asian lips, European forehead, etc. (you know what I mean).

Gonna build a script where you get a list of different looking limbs which you can pick and combine to build your own face to your liking. Build your dream girl/boy. I reckon a membership site like that would definitely go viral. What do you think ? :wink:

And people can register to my website just to have access to features to build their dream boy/girl and then see if they can find any real human with those exact features. They will have to signup to my website. And guess what script would sign them up ? Yes, the one we are working on now. :wink:

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          Comment on US court overturns prison sentences of Blackwater mercs in 2007 Baghdad killing by Sn SM        
Loyalty is gained from the minions of the state. The blackwater thugs and military psychopaths are loyal because they know they can ignore the "rules". This is a very powerful perk...immunity from act that get you the wage slave life in solitary or the electric chair... Folks then wonder why cops execute teenage black guys in the streets....hmmmm...
          Feminism fails. And it's men's fault        
A new study by Yale University has discovered that a "dearth of marriagable men has left an oversupply of 'amazing, attractive intelligent women' taking desperate steps to preserve their fertility. The first global study into egg freezing found that shortages of eligible men were the prime reason why women had attempted to take matters into their own hands. "Terrifying” (sic) demographic shifts had created a “deficit” of educated men and a growing problem of “leftover” professional women, with female graduates vastly outnumbering males in in many countries."

And as ever, men are to blame. Apparently we men 'feel threatened by their success and so are unwilling to commit to starting a family together'.

Errr.....no. It's more that men are not attracted to 'successful' women in their late thirties, preferring a girl who will put his family ahead of her career, someone young, good-looking and loyal. No man, not even a a house-broken mangina, wants to come home to some ball-breaking work-focused jargon-spouting feminist. He doesn't want to compete with his wife. Especially a wife who's spent the best part of twenty years riding the cock carousel and whose 'success' is based on her 'Masters' in Gender Studies and a six-figure government 
Diversity Manager job.


But I can understand the dilemma of the exemplar in the Yale survey. Having focused on career at the expense of settling down she's now horrified at the speed with which her child-bearing years are disappearing, while all those disposable 'good men' whom she confidently put to one side at an earlier time are no longer available. They're married and/or interested only in girls a lot younger than she. The liberated kind of girl who dispenses sexual favours with reckless abandon....like she herself once did. And that career isn't all glamour. Today record numbers of women live alone, childless, on psychiatric medication, facing a life-time of wage slavery in grinding jobs that they can never leave. And now as her eggs atrophy the terrible realisation dawns that she's in a kind of Darwinian cul-de-sac with her cats as a surrogate family.

It's tempting to feel a small tinge of schadenfreude at the fate of such women. But they're also victims. Victims of feminism, the single most evil and destructive movement ever to beset the White race. It utterly corrupts girls, turning them from fresh-faced feminine young women into masculinised harpies. It subverts every value and tradition underpinning the greatest civilisation the world has ever seen. It neither kills outright nor inflicts apparent physical harm, yet the extent of its destructive toll is already greater than that of any war, plague, famine, or natural calamity on record. Its potential damage to the quality of human life and the fabric of civilised society is beyond calculation.

But it's hard to awaken women (generally weak-minded conformists) to this reality given the full spectrum control wielded by the (((nation wreckers))) and their goy quislings. They've drunk so deeply of the feminist Kool-Aid that any change in their diet would probably kill them. But changing men's attitudes just might force that awakening. Because increasingly men are disengaging from formal commitment. Men Go Their Own Way (MGTOW). Why get married and risk impoverishment through divorce rape? Why have children when in the event of a break-up they'll be taken from you while you get stuck with the bill for their upkeep? Certainly not for non-committal sex which, ironically thanks to feminism and the societal rot it engendered, is freely available to any man looking for it. 

What we see here is the bitter harvest of feminism. And for women the fruits will be bitterest of all. Yet if you distill that survey and the related MSM analysis it emerges that the solution is actually more feminism. Well if that's what you feel then go for it ladies. You're culling our race of its decadent stock and as such, and this will really horrify you, you're doing the Lord's work.


          After America        
This story was inspired by the entertaining and thought provoking series on how the American Empire might encounter defeat, and how the USA might be dissolved as a consequence. See
http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/how-it-could-happen-part-five.html
He ends his story on an optimistic note.

I suspect that the optimism would soon give place to acrimony, and that matters would pass from harsh words to harsher blows.

Beyond that , I wondered how not just the power but also the presence and the attitudes that have defined America and it's place in the world might pass away, and what might replace them.

This is a 'politically incorrect' vision. Caveat lector.


AFTER AMERICA


Prologue


    "Look granddad!", said my young granddaughter, showing me an animated display on her laptop computer screen."It's a satellite image of the earth at night. See all the lights across Europe and Russia. Not many in Africa.There's lots in India, South East Asia and Australia. China is completely lit up. Isn't it pretty! I started where we are and followed the lights eastward, into the night. Now see the Americas come up out of the Pacific. There's plenty there, especially along the Atlantic coast of Brazil; but there's hardly any in North America. Isn't it funny? We now have two Dark Continents!", she said, laughing. "Tell me granddad, Africa I know about, but why do we see and hear nothing about North America? It used to be quite important, didn't it?"

    That made me pause, and ponder for a while. "To tell that tale, my child", I said at last "would be to tally  'a great reckoning in a little room', as the Bard put it." "Don't people live there any more?", she asked. "What happened to them? Is that why we hear ever so much about the Chinese, the Indians, the Russians, the Europeans, the Brazilians and everyone, but nothing about the North Americans? Do please tell me granddad, if you know, I would so like to hear."

Part One.

Awakening from the American Dream to the American Nightmare


Initial Excitement

     At first there was a great deal of excitement about the dissolution of the United States.The chattering classes of the whole world were transfixed by the event. It was the gift which kept on giving. The long drawn out, although remarkably smooth political process of elections, debates, arguments, demonstrations, celebrations, reorganisations and renewed lobbying and jostling for power, wealth, influence and publicity stoked a prolonged world wide media frenzy. Reporters for every TV station and newspaper wanted to be there, to bring breathless commentary to their audience as events unrolled or unfolded and the USA unraveled or underwent rebirth. The exact nature and significance of what was happening was subject to a variety of interpretations; all grist for the media mill. It was a dream assignment, far preferable to coverage of riots and revolutions in the Middle East or epidemics and tribal atrocities in Central Africa. It was still safe, comfortable, civilised. The natives who mattered spoke English and were easy to interview. There was no difficulty in obtaining human interest and vox populi stories. Life on expenses was wonderful. The shopping was great. The opportunities for one-up-man-ship over worsted rivals left at home or in less favoured destinations were outstanding. It was the highlight and most fondly remembered period in the careers of most of the media folk. Naturally they milked it for all it was worth.

    Initially the world had watched in horrified disbelief as the American fleet burned and sank, the American airforce was blown out of the sky and the cream of the American army was beaten and captured. All in a short time and on an obscure part of the world which had been of very little interest to the American public or to the rest of the world. How had Tanzania, aided by Chinese 'volunteers' done this? Were the Chinese about to emulate the amazing success of the initial Japanese attacks in the Second World War? Was Diego Garcia the equivalent of Singapore? Was this a Pearl Harbor attack on an unprepared American fleet? Would the Americans nuke China back to the stone age? Many questions were asked. The answers were seriously embarrassing to American pride. None of their remaining forces were able to change the situation. Russian Support for China prevented a nuclear attack and the rest of the world was not ready to join America in a suicidal war. In a way the Americans were lucky.Their own territory was not damaged or threatened. The Chinese were magnanimous in victory. The Americans could abandon the war abroad to focus on recriminations at home. The world watched in renewed amazement as the American ship of state scuttled itself,after the suicide of it's captain, following it's navy under the waves of history, whilst the squabbling and mutinous crew attempted to escape in the lifeboats. 

    This was all good fun for the media. The scandals just kept coming. Military disaster; attempted cover-ups; the suicide of the President responsible for the military disaster and cover-ups; impeachment and flight of his successor accused of attempting a military coup which the military rejected! You couldn't make it up. The gutter press was in ecstasies for months, life just couldn't get better for them. The 'quality' press of the Western world was filled with anguished assessments and laments. 'How are the mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished' was the text of many a media sermon by pundits, preachers and prophets, not all of whom were well acquainted with the Bible, despite the general tendency to conflate America and Israel as both a literary conceit and a present concern. There was plenty of concern, of course, not just for the fate of Israel and the effects on other countries, but mostly for the effects on the journalists own careers. Would their expertise, contacts and talking points cease to be relevant as America ceased? Should and could they rush over there to renew acquaintances and scrape acquaintance with newly influential figures? If America was going down, one had better hurry to make as much money and reputation as possible out of it before it all disappeared.The instant-book writers got busy and soon a tide of purple prose poured forth producing eulogies which also served as epitaphs for the people, personalities, history and geography of the United States. At least the geography would still be there and for a while it would still be easy and pleasant to visit, The cartographers would be busy, as they had been after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and those of the public who were interested would get used to more colourful maps. 

    At a higher level It kept the Chancellories of the world busy assessing the likely course of events and their probable consequences. The sum of the parts obviously being much less than the whole, American power and influence had shriveled. In a few months, as the United States dissolved,it went from a giant to a gang of squabbling dwarves. From America to Pakistan during a single nightmare from which there was no awakening.it's successors were themselves unstable and fissiparous. Their strength was untried, their territory and identity uncertain, their interests clashing. No one had confidence that any of them would last long. Easy come, easy go; here today, gone tomorrow, were maxims all too likely to apply to them and to any promises they made. Only a fool would trust any of them. The 'full faith and credit' placed in the promissory notes of a faithless and discredited  and now vanished government, had been sadly misplaced. The successors of those thieves, often the same people new-minted in shiny new political identities would take a long time to earn any faith and credit from the publics of their own new countries let alone from the rest of the world; a world now experiencing economic woes which were largely blamed on the deceitful and larcenous Americans. It was a poor omen and bad precedent for the financial prospects of the successor states of the old USA. Every foreign government immediately began to think harder about the Chinese, the Indians and the Russians. They were the important powers now. The EU was too sclerotic to count for much, but Brazil was now more influential than the fragments of the United States, and a better prospect for investment and trade. Even it's bonds were more highly rated than those of the disunited states.

     The disappearance of the influence of the United States was like taking your hand out of a bucket of water and seeing how little impression was left behind. The American impression on the world's organisations was just as transient. American membership of most international organisations ceased,and the organisations declined in importance as no-one else would pay the share that the Americans had done. The American veto in the Security Council of the United Nations lapsed as the UN would not allow it to any of the squabbling successor states, none of whom could even assert a successful claim to membership of the Security Council and all of whom had to apply for membership of the General Assembly as newly independent states. There were even anxious discussions, chaired by Pakistan, about how the safety of ex-American nuclear weapons might be assured. How were the mighty fallen, indeed. The previously dominant American influence in organisations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund evaporated. Plenty of American voices were still heard in their halls, but now it was a babble of American voices arguing with each other, until the Americans were left to argue amongst themselves and the rest of the world adjusted to the economic powers of the east. Attention soon shifted from the setting to the rising sun and countries and businesses began to pay a lot more attention to the newly important powers,anxiously analysing political nuances and seeking economic opportunities. Even the world's media paid less and less attention to the fragments of America, they were scarcely more important politically, economically or culturally than the smaller countries of South America. The strident voices were still vocal in north America, telling everyone what to do and predicting doom if they didn't, but few paid attention any longer. All the previously trendy liberal causes were forgotten by the rest of the world, although still influential within the ruling class of the EU. The Chinese, Indians and Russians were not interested in them, and Chinese, Indian and Russian opinion, or at least that of their rulers,now mattered to the rest of the world, far more than the noises within the North American freak show.

Adverse Consequences


    The disappearance of the United States and the insouciant manner in which it's successor states sought to shrug off liability for it's debts had consequences. Adverse consequences. The loss of the reserve currency status of the dollar and the devaluation and disappearance of the dollar had made imports very expensive for Americans, and made international trade more uncertain for other countries. The banking system which had dominated the finances of the world had been a fount of corruption and scandal. The government and banks of America had manipulated everything to suit their immediate interests, and the additional strains caused the web of arrangements to become entanglements strangling everyone involved. Financial panics ensued in which the collapse of major American banks and the credit of the American government, and then the collapse and disappearance of the American government and the whole political entity of the United States were dominoes whose fall pushed over the already very weak banks of Europe and the credit of their governments. The debts of the old American government were worthless, and no one would or could lend to the new ones, and now the same inability to borrow to roll over existing debt caused European governments to default and their banks became zombies owned by the state, which repudiated liability for the banks speculative gambles, whose paper now also became worthless, ruining the funds and institutions and persons who had invested in them. Bankers were already loathed, now those who wanted to stay alive went into hiding. It became difficult for governments to maintain even a simple retail banking system completely freed of speculation. Confidence in the currency was shaken, and hyperinflation loomed in both Europe and America.

     This mess was worsened by the fact that the gold held by American banks on behalf of many clients, including foreign governments was found to have been used, and lost, in the corrupt banking and regulatory malpractices which had been used to subsidise the banks and the governments my keeping interest rates low. Keeping gold prices low by surreptitious selling and speculation had helped reduce pressure to raise interest rates. The government had kept interest rates down, cheating savers and crippling capital formation in order to give profits to banks and to reduce their own interest charges, which made it easier for them to continue wasteful expenditure for so long.When they had to pay the piper, they had instead run away, and there was hell to pay. Much of the gold had been bought by the governments of China and India, and other rising countries. They may have had their suspicions as to what had been going on, but they were certainly not going to give back the gold, even if it could be determined whose gold it had really been. The main foreign losers were the governments of Germany and the Netherlands. The EU ceased to be on friendly terms with the old or new governments of America.

    Americans had long thought that they held the world's greatest hoard of gold, more than 8,000 tons of it, in Fort Knox, Kentucky. This site was heavily guarded. It had been chosen because it was near the centre of the American landmass, for fear that foreign invaders might seize it. There had been bitter wrangling over how it was to be divided between the successor states of the USA. Although other Federal property went to the state in which it lay, and Kentucky was very eager to claim it, none of the other states were willing to allow them to have much of it. Now it was near the borders of several of the successor groupings of states, and many greedy and envious eyes turned to it. Kentucky's local forces took control, and when representatives of the other states arrived, it was opened for inspection - a process of audit which had been resisted for decades by the old Federal government. To the surprise of no one who had followed the tale of the gold held by New York's banks - the same banks who had effectively controlled the financial policy of the Federal government, the cupboard was found to be bare.

    The days of being able to buy things from the rest of the world by simply printing their own currency or selling government debt abroad, were now over for Americans. Now they would have to sell something abroad, either by exporting some product or service or by selling a tangible asset before they could buy anything from abroad. This was difficult. No one would buy promises to pay from governments on that continent any more. No one would lend them anything, and the international financial collapse meant no one had much to lend anyway, and they would require good security for any loans. Hence many Federal assets were sold at fire-sale prices, after financial collapse and devaluation, by state governments desperate to get cash from any source, especially if it was foreign currency, particularly because tax receipts had fallen drastically due to the economic dislocation. Exports were also a cause of contention. The main exports of the old USA had been food and raw materials from the south and west and financial chicanery from New York and Washington. The latter would be accepted no longer, so it became difficult to feed let alone maintain the previous standard of living of the inhabitants of the big cities of the north, where government and welfare claiming had been the main activities after finance.

    The south and west could sell their products to the rest of the world. Even if it was not sufficient to maintain the old lifestyles in the new circumstances, they hoped to get by with a lot of belt-tightening. Now many Americans were foreigners to each other, and their money was definitely not as good as that of other foreigners. The northerners were more closely associated with the old regime, and much of the odium for it's financial and political scandals attached to them. Quickly their ex-fellow countrymen, together with much of the rest of the world came to loathe them. They were blamed for the financial and economic collapse and regarded as thieves and layabouts. They were blamed for causing the loss of the old prosperity and power and prestige. They were abused as fast talking Yankee crooks, although most of them had more negro and Amerindian than Yankee blood in them by that time. They were not popular. The population of the south and west was far more inclined to fundamentalist Christianity than the atheism and exotic superstitions more prevalent in the north, so it was widely believed that God was punishing America for it's sins, and the main sinners were in the north.

    This aversion was fully reciprocated by the northerners. They despised many of the beliefs, practices and identities of most of their ex-fellow-countrymen. For decades before the defeat and dissolution of the United States, 'Political Correctness' had reigned. The whole value system was inverted. White men, especially Southerners, were increasingly insulted and demonised, blacks were exalted, and G-d forbid anyone should say 'boo' to a Jew. In this evil atmosphere it had become common for statements to be made, such as the following direct quote from a Jewish commentator who looked to see what was wrong with America, and saw, 'poorly-educated Southern suburban white trash religious fanatics'. Black crime, arrogance, sense of entitlement to live at the expense of whites and over-estimation of the own abilities and worth were all approved and encouraged by the loathsome vermin in control of America. Many of them therefore felt justified in attempting to seize what they wanted from these politically incorrect racist redneck rural retards, and confident of success. Big mistake.  

International Reaction


    The disappearance of the United States was so quick and so slick that it left many people astounded and incredulous. It had a fictional quality about it. The 'with a single bound he was free' type of implausible escapist fiction. It seemed to be a conjuror's trick, providing an escape from responsibility and punishment for those who had caused and profited by the mess they left behind. There was an impression of debtors making a midnight flit, changing their identities and hoping to carry on blithely fleecing the gullible. These were impressions which the rest of the world did not like, especially when they had been left holding the baby, or in this case holding the now worthless government paper. Just as after the fall of the Soviet Union there were suspicious souls who suspected that it was all a trick and the communists would suddenly come together again when they had lulled the West into a false sense of security; so now there were people who suspected that this was just another trick by the cunning, corrupt, devious and treacherous Americans to shrug off their debts whilst continuing their larcenous ways.

    In this atmosphere of anger and suspicion, it was an act of folly, insensitivity and chutzpah for the northerners to revive the name of the United States of America for their new confederation whilst simultaneously disowning the liabilities of it's predecessor of the same name. It was even pretty much the same bunch of politicians and bankers and bureaucrats sitting in exactly the same buildings! It was like a fraudulent bankruptcy where the criminals started a new company with the same name, in the same premises and run by the same directors whilst denying responsibility for the previous enterprise. Insolent contempt just couldn't get more blatant.Nor was there any sense of contrition or realisation that they needed to do anything different this time to avoid the same results that had destroyed the previous effort. No, that had all been someone else's fault or just bad luck. Even if they failed again they would once more attempt to shrug off responsibility, dust themselves down and get back in the saddle as soon as possible. That, after all was the American way, was it not? 

    All the old arrogance was still there and on display. At first foreign visitors who had known the old America were a bit confused. So little seemed to have changed. The same, but increasingly stale,hot air was emitted; 'land of opportunity', 'hope and change','new birth of freedom','temporary difficulties','reform', 'equality', 'feminism','racism', 'climate change', 'minority rights' ad nauseam. The second time around it was even less convincing; 'the first time as tragedy, the second as farce'. The people who had demonstrated their incapacity and dishonesty were still in charge! The lunatics really were running the asylum. It was a smaller asylum with more and poorer inmates, on bad terms with their neighbours, but as far as they were concerned it was everyone else who was mad.  The old Americans had been keen to 'win friends and influence people', their successors appeared indifferent to losing friends and making enemies, despite no longer being the Masters of the Universe that they still assumed themselves to be.

     This was a dangerous attitude to have. The world had changed. It was no longer dominated politically, militarily, economically and culturally by the United States version one, and would not accept the same nonsense from it's small brother United States version two. At least the other successor states showed some signs of prudence and adjustment to the new reality, trying to cut their government spending and increase their exports to achieve solvency. They did not continue to spout nonsense whilst threatening their neighbours, hectoring the rest of the world and demanding that they invest in their new financial scams or just give them stuff for free because they were so wonderful!

       The rest of the world looked to the new United States to reimburse them for losses caused by the old USA. When those politicians simply shrugged and turned out empty pockets, the reaction of many countries was to seize any American property that they could lay hands upon, without caring about it's relevance to their losses or regard for which successor state it was now affiliated to. This included the personal property of American individuals including bank accounts, investments and real estate. Such assets were likely to belong to rich and politically influential Americans, so they received a painful message, and relations between all of the American successor states and the rest of the world rapidly soured. All those ill-gotten gains squirreled away in offshore bank accounts and safe deposit boxes were suddenly at risk. Some countries remembered and revived the old custom in modernised form, of issuing Letters of Marque and Reprisal to privateers who were thereby authorised to wage private war on the persons and property of Americans to obtain compensation for their losses. Discreet bankers in places like the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Lichtenstein, Switzerland and the Channel Islands became discreetly richer as American depositors were no longer able to reclaim what they had thought was theirs, not all of which went to governments and privateers. A good many affluent Americans abroad were simply kidnapped for ransom, tortured and murdered, sometimes by the men they had paid to guard them. Poorer Americans were likely to be assaulted by aggrieved individuals or enraged mobs, under the indifferent gaze of local authorities. Foreign travel became almost impossible for Americans, and foreigners soon became almost as unpopular in America.

    This meant that media as well as tourist travel to America almost ceased. The mood had changed in any case. The elation and interest which had greeted the first developments changed to impatience, disgust and anger. There was still plenty of news from America, but it was of a harsher and more strident sort, with no good resolution expected. The great cities and their citizens were becoming shoddier, down at heel, unkempt, malnourished and aggressive or surly in demeanor. The old American openness and sunniness of disposition disappeared. It became difficult to get useful interviews with prominent officials and politicians, who were the only people who still appeared to be doing well. The hotels and the shopping deteriorated, life there became unpleasant, restrictive and dangerous. The international media circus moved on.There was still electronic communication, but the rest of the world's attention moved away from America. They lost interest and knowledge and understanding of the place and the changes it underwent. America became like Africa as far as most of the world was concerned, a faraway place about which little was known except that it was dangerous and uncomfortable, a place whose ferocious native tribes murdered each other in varying combinations for obscure reasons but with tiresome predictability. It ceased to be news except for the most dedicated specialists.
 

 American Word


    With apologies to St. John, in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. That word was America, the same which was Washington and New York and occasionally Boston, Chicago or San Francisco. Foreign correspondents rarely went anywhere else. That's where the people they talked to lived and worked, and those were the people who mattered as well as the people who nattered in print and on TV. Thus it was the views of the northern elite which formed the view which the rest of the world had of America. By no coincidence these views were very similar to those held by the elites of Europe and the academic and media personalities who gave them publicity. The lessening  of the influence of these people in America and around the world was distressing to their ilk in Europe, all the more so as relations with their government deteriorated and the European elites themselves came under pressure. Their parroting of American ideas and policies had brought similar evils upon their own countries. The loss of American influence, the growth of poverty and the rapidly increasing arrogance and violence of the 'culturally enriching' immigrants at the expense of the British and European natives, produced angry reactions and made it difficult for the 'liberal elite' to cling on to power and have their ideas universally trumpeted as the only acceptable possibility. These were the people who had performed the black magic of perverting the good name of America into the opposite of what it had originally meant.



 Part Two.

Words come to blows


Angry Words

    Initial euphoria at finding themselves free from the ghost of the United States had not dissipated or exorcised it's surviving spirit of moralistic declamation and legalistic wrangling. There was much to argue over. Even the most amicable divorce could leave questions, not only about division of the property. How much of the old legal system would survive, for instance. Whether or not it had been intended, the dissolution of the United States ended the relevance of the Constitution and all that stuff about freedom and rights. Even when the newly sovereign States made grandiloquent pronouncements on such subjects, they were unenforceable rhetoric, irrelevant to the new situation. The Federal laws which had been used to extend the crushing power of a centralised bureaucratic state had not been popular in many states, and a new jungle of local legal codes and jurisdictions sprang up. Extradition of criminals from state to state became more difficult. Federal programs, entitlements, contracts, employment and pensions disappeared. Even when the states and their new groupings promised to honour them, they were now at the back of the queue behind local interests and were squeezed out as money became harder to find. Federal handouts had maintained many blacks in the South, and when they ceased, many blacks flooded north, convinced that they would have a better chance there of continuing to be supported by the taxpayers.They were able to vote themselves money from the remaining productive people, even though this led to even faster inflation as the northern government printed more money. There were many bureaucratic casualties. Florida, for instance, found itself the owner of a space program which it neither wanted nor could afford. Science turned out to have less political clout than the illiterate denizens of the barrios and ghettoes. America's loss provided a slight boost for the space programs of China, Russia, India, the EU and Brazil. The desperate need of the newly powerful states for increased revenue led to much wrangling over fees and tariffs imposed on each other's products, people and trade. The vast American common market, standards, legal system and currency dissolved in a welter of snarling and competing local interests. The need for a visa to visit an adjacent state was something few Americans had anticipated, and fewer still that it would be expensive and hard to obtain, or that the journey might be to a strange and dangerous foreign country where they did things differently and the accustomed legal and constitutional protections no longer applied. Nonetheless the vast new boundaries were porous and impossible to police strictly. Many confused angry and fearful people were on the move, some of them in search of prey.

 Scapegoats

    The loss of wealth status and power was deeply resented in all quarters of the old America. Although the chosen villains differed, there was widespread agreement that it was all the deliberate fault of someone else. Americans who lost their 'previously advantaged' lifestyles were generally not easily resigned to the passing. Nor were many willing to 'cultivate their gardens' when they could cultivate their grievances.

Reorganisations

    The First War Between the States had been highly organised, with little disorder behind the fighting lines. The Second was much more confusing. There was a great deal of disorder behind the fighting lines, which themselves were more often zones of desolation, debatable burning lands of raids and counter-raids than firmly defined front lines. This was partly caused by each side's aerial bombardment and special forces infiltration of the other, to destroy their infrastructure; but mainly it was caused by the chaotic breakdown of the old society, itself already in advanced moral decay, and the emergence of several 'new world' orders. Their births and stillbirths were midwifed  by a fistful of ideologies and attended by much suffering, bloodshed and tears. The formal 'war between the states' defined by solid blocks of colour on maps, could hardly get started or be more than a secondary consideration until those solid blocks of colour had been assembled.

    Each state was consumed by the fires of ambition and jealousy as aspirants for power and influence vied with each other. Not much government business could be done until it became clear who was to govern and who would be governed and by what means. The old way was dead but there were many claimants for a share of the spoils and innumerable would-be Madisons, Jeffersons, Hamiltons and so on out-shouting each other before coming to out-shooting each other. Whilst the politicians wrangled, the bureaucrats intrigued, and the thieves and opportunists made out like the bandits they were. The public became increasingly fearful, confused, divided, angry,hungry, lawless and violent. The police and military kept out of the way and served their own interests by protecting themselves and the closest officeholders who might be able to pay them. Only later could there be much question of cooperation or conflict between the states.

    People soon sought safety by sticking close to those who were most like themselves in race, language, religion and attitude, fearing others and directing their hostility outwards towards them. This led to much violence and to people fleeing from areas where they were actually or potentially at risk.

    In the South the churches became the framework upon which society organised itself, much as it had originally been. The church leaders became the political, social, economic and even military leaders. Loyalty to race and religion became the basis of citizenship; social and political institutions became organs of that godly society rather than separate and superior. Anyone who was not known to be active within a well respected church could not be trusted in other matters, and soon became the target for suspicion.

    In the North, it was the other way about, or perhaps one could say that there atheistical Lefty organisations were the Churches. In North as in South, as in medieval Europe, there was to be No Salvation Outside the Church. 

 Provocations

    The Second War Between the States began and continued in a manner more confusing than the First. The Pharaoh Lincoln had refused to let the Southern People go, and lacking a Moses capable of performing miracles they had by force of arms been subdued, humiliated, butchered and execrated; obliged to remain in a union they despised, under an identity which was not their own. At the time of the Dissolution, both North and South were glad to see each other's backs. They opted for Apartheid, for Separate Development. They did not want to conquer each other, they wanted to ignore each other. This state of happy ignorance the South was willing to maintain, they wanted nothing from the North, they did not want to tell them what to do; had the continent split and the northern portion sank beneath the waves, they would have felt no sense of loss. Problems arose because Northerners did not maintain the same detachment. Instead of minding their own business, they increasingly made it their business to meddle in their neighbours affairs.

    To begin with they had not intended to do so. Once again, it was embroilment with the negroes which got them into trouble, seconded by their habit of self righteous and hypocritical preaching and interference with other people's business - and it was very noticeable that the causes which they preached, the moral and financial superiority of wage slavery over the chattel variety, 'democracy', 'human rights', 'free trade','colour revolutions' richly and chiefly benefited their own business interests.  This two-fisted assault had beaten much of the world into submission, the left broke up other peoples identity and institutions with their propaganda attacks, and the military and economic strength of the right reaped the benefits of wealth and power, recycling some of it to feed the left via grants from foundations and government. The Left made great play with Eisenhower's reference to the military-industrial complex, but smothered the whisper that he had also contemplated making a similarly minatory reference to the government-research complex where they luxuriated. However much public antagonism the two factions showed towards each other, they worked well together.

    After the Dissolution, and even before it, Big Business had turned away from America in search of bigger fortunes elsewhere. Interfering leftists and bureaucrats in large numbers were left as outsized mouths on a shrunken body, screaming all the more shrilly for food and ordering everyone else around. The Northern government became increasingly dominated by these shrill self-righteous leftists. They and their favoured supporters, the black criminal and beggar class, throve basically at the expense of the remaining white population, who were the victims of the crime and the taxation and the regulation that occupied their rulers. Now, as the economy crumbled, and the socialist demands of the state increased, the black underclass got increasingly out of control. Venting their savage lusts on their miserable white fellow citizens and overburdened tax-slaves was no longer sufficient. They started to make pillaging raids into the South and West. At first this was simply criminal enterprise and completely unofficial. When the Southerners responded by killing the raiders and making revenge raids of their own, at first also unofficial, the Northern lefties were completely outraged by this. Outrage was what they did best, (both in sentiment real and false and in perpetration). It was meat and drink to them, they were uncomfortable without it. As blacks in the South and West, still under the comfortable Federal delusion that rioting and violence would frighten the whites into giving way to them, went on their own rampages and were shot down, the Northern lefties attained paroxysms of indignation and ecstasies of outrage that blacks should be submitted to justice and that whites should stand up for themselves. That threatened their whole mental universe - and it would loosen their own grip on power.

 The Magnolia Revolution.

    The North still did not want to conquer, occupy and directly rule the South again. They were also aware that any such attempt would be difficult, dangerous, bloody and expensive. Casting their minds back to the American instigated 'colour revolutions' of the early twenty first century, they devised what they thought would be a cheap and cunning plan. A 'Magnolia Revolution' would be fomented in the South. This would leave a bunch of violent and corrupt black thugs in charge of each of the Southern states, and they would do more or less what the Northern lefties told them. Reconstruction Mark Two.

    Of course it was botched. The South soon became aware of the infiltration of Northern agitators and saboteurs and their recruitment and payment of local thugs. There was no longer much tolerance for the 'civil rights' nonsense. They knew they were fighting for their families, homes, identity and way of life. TV was no longer an effective lefty weapon. Government was no longer in the hands of enemies. Southerners were enraged, not only by the attacks but also by the hypocrisy. They organised and fought well. Tens of thousands of whites were killed or maimed. Hundreds of thousands of blacks were killed and millions fled or were driven north. Any who remained were extremely well behaved and polite and eager to prove useful, or at least very humbly and ostentatiously Christian. None were enslaved; slaves have to be productive and hence valuable. Soon there was a chaotic situation as refugees packed the roads, blacks fleeing north and whites fleeing south or west. Skirmishes began between regular military units, semi-regular militias and informally armed mobs on both sides. This was in addition to the widespread opportunistic criminal upheavals, murder and looting across the whole continent.

 Oil War

    Another route to conflict was provided by economics. Oil was becoming scarce, and increasingly expensive to import. The main domestic oil and gas fields were in the South and West, who were disinclined to sell it to the North when they could use it themselves or export it for harder currency than the wastepaper emanating from the North, which had little with which to barter. What the North did have in abundance was a self righteous sense of entitlement and a large population with criminal tendencies and poor self control. Self interest and self righteousness combined to launch raids intended to capture oil wells and facilities and refined fuel from those evil- white-racist Southerners and Westerners. This left them on the wrong side of a guerrilla war, with long lines of communication to protect, vulnerable garrisons and the need for strong escorting forces to take the oil out and bring empty tankers and replenishments of supplies back. This substantially reduced the net gain. There were other losses. Large Northern convoy movements were road bound and their movements were highly predictable. Southern and Western Americans proved as adept at the use of mines, roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices as the Iraqis and Afghans had been, and it was more difficult for the North to replace their destroyed or damaged vehicles than it had been in those earlier conflicts.In contrast, cannon fodder was now much cheaper and more readily available.

 Diplomacy

    The Northern political and diplomatic losses were perhaps the most severe. Initially the North had been the biggest, strongest and best coordinated group of states, which had perhaps fed their arrogance and determination to throw their weight around. The other states were far more individualistic, reluctant to combine in a single strong group. It was Northern aggression and arrogance which convinced them that they needed to co-operate , that what they had in common - the hostility of the North -was more important than what divided them. They ruefully revived Franklin's realisation that unless they hung together, assuredly they would be hanged separately. The Southern and Western states were soon screaming to the United Nations about Northern aggression, and they had the evidence to prove it. The UN was no longer a vehicle for American propaganda. The rising powers of the world had little sympathy with the leftism espoused by the old USA, and even less for the more extreme creed evangelised by the USA v2. The rest of the world was heartily sick of America and it's financial deceits and ideological aggression. It was no longer a source of wealth and stability. In it's new incarnation as the Northern states, it was just a dammed nuisance. The rulers of these countries had no desire to find their own lower classes agitated and enthused by American propaganda and infiltration. America was no longer significant in world trade and finance; it was spending it's military strength to destroy itself; it was time to act against it. Hence the complaints against the North were well received, and the UN imposed sanctions against it. These were mainly of moral effect, making clear that the rest of the world disapproved of the North, and creating some sympathy for the South and West. It sent the Northern lefties into renewed paroxysms of indignation, bitterness and outrage. How dare anyone criticise them! Their racism card was trumped; the Chinese, the Indians, the Pakistanis, the Indonesians, the Egyptians; indeed the leaders of all the large non-white countries in the world opposed them. Even the Africans, who well knew which way the wind was blowing, failed to support them. This was infamous! After all they had done and continued to do to advance the coloured man at the expense of whites, such ingratitude was intolerable! In practice it was the economic bankruptcy of the North which kept them out of world trade and finance, UN sanctions were just a formality which justified refusals to become involved. There were no eager blockade runners happy to profit by bringing in much wanted goods in exchange for equally valuable goods or bullion. The UN did not need to bother imposing a more than formal blockade, although it did give the Russian, Chinese and Indian navies the chance to discuss co-operation in mounting such a blockade or joint patrols of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of America, perhaps from a base in Brazil or Panama.

    A few years later the Russian navy was actually in action in the North Atlantic against what was left of the Northern navy. As their economic circumstances went from bad to worse they could no longer maintain much of a fleet to venture out of port beyond the protection of their anti aircraft and anti missile defences. Fuel was almost unobtainable anyway. It was the imminence of starvation which drove the North to desperate measures. Memory of their commerce raiding New England predecessors and their current political approach to the level of Somalia, made the Northerners take to the Atlantic as pirates. Small ships roamed the sea-lanes seeking prey. Prize crews sought to bring home the stolen merchant vessels with their cargoes of food or oil or anything at all. By then the south had also run out of rockets and fancy technology, so a lot of them managed to sneak in to a quiet bay or small port along the northern coast. Some crews took to voyaging on their own account, forgetting America and selling what they captured in out of the way places in Africa or South America or the Levant with the aid of bribes and false papers. This piracy became a nuisance to world trade and the Russians were willing to garner some prestige by taking the lead in sinking these pirates. Times had indeed changed when the Russian navy patrolled the coast of the North, close inshore, seizing or sinking any vessels found, bombarding coastal settlements and generally behaving like cocks-of-the-walk, even landing parties to seize and hang Americans on their own soil.

    The descent from sole superpower to pariah state in a single lifetime was steep and shocking. It had been a rapid slide down the sequence of grandeur; Sole Superpower, Unclothed Emperor, Successor State, Just-Another-State, Failed State, Pariah State, 'Hu dey?'

    One sign of the declining situation came when the rest of the world voted overwhelmingly in the United Nations that the USA v2 was a threat to world peace and that sanctions should be imposed against it. Outrage, scandal, riots in New York! The trendy lefties and their underclass followers were energised for weeks, marching, waving placards,shouting slogans,appearing on TV, throwing rocks and firebombs at diplomats and other foreigners. Previously such antics would have been the main feature of world news and the subject of earnest confabulations within many governments. Now the world and it's media was bored and impatient with American news. The main effect was to energise the assembled worthies in the UN to make the sanctions more stringent and to move themselves and their headquarters to Geneva. The shopping was now much better in Geneva than in New York. The city was much cleaner and safer and more central to the concerns of the world. Those world famous Swiss banks were at hand, their clients freed of concern that they would be forced to disclose any information to prod-nosed investigators and their media contacts in New York or Washington, which cities would be free to relapse into their primeval state of swamp or urban jungle at their own pace. Geneva had been the setting for the short-lived League of Nations, short-lived because of American refusal to participate in it. Now it's successor would be happy to return there, freed if possible from the incubus of the dead but still blustering corpse of America. Geneva was a city and in a country far more congenial than USA v2 was proving, to it's distinguished diplomatic community. Those tiresome humanitarian agencies which the old Americans had insisted on appending to the UN as a means of meddling in other countries affairs, although they had largely to pay for the privilege, had withered away. Now the diplomatic community could resume their proper business of discreet back-scratching and back-stabbing and equally discreet visits to even more discreet bankers, without all that tiresome humanitarian claptrap.

Escalation

    In any case, by that time there was very little in the way of American foreign trade or financial transactions for the rest of the world to monitor or prevent. The Americans had already done an excellent job of sinking each others' ships, and the ships of neutrals visiting each others' ports. North and South watched each others' ports and used rockets and torpedoes and mines from drones, small boats and submarines to sink ships moving in or out. There was no pretense of applying the old fashioned rules. It was not possible to stop and search ships for contraband or to take off passengers and crew before sinking them. Those were niceties from bygone days. Any ships in the vicinity of the enemy's coast were simply sunk on sight. Since the South had still had an export trade whilst Northern trade had dried up, this exchange tended to benefit the North.

    Part of the reason that the North no longer had an export trade, in addition to their economic problems, was that the export of grain from the mid-west and ore from the Great Lakes region via the St. Lawrence Seaway had ceased. To begin with, after some hesitation these productive areas had joined the North or USA v2, and thereby had provided it's main source of foreign exchange. As the economic situation worsened the government had insisted on selling as much as possible of these materials abroad to gain the money with which to buy oil and chemicals and other things they needed. At the same time the need for food increased as more and more refugees flooded the northern cities. One day a freighter loaded with explosives transiting an important lock had  blown up and put the whole system out of action for years. Around that time ships plying the Great Lakes began to disappear. Suspicion soon fastened on the South. Survivors reported that their ships had suddenly blown up and sank. It became clear that mines, frogmen attaching limpet mines, rockets from drones and torpedoes from small boats had been responsible for a very successful campaign of destruction which had crippled the North's ability to move large quantities of material or men by water, or to replace the lost ships.

    As a result, the North had lost it's main source of foreign exchange, and found it very difficult to transport food to the starving cities of the east coast. At first the attempt to transport food by road and rail imposed a further strain on their limited supplies of fuel and on their rolling stock. Further developments caused the virtual cessation of such attempts. One was the liberal way in which each side bombarded the others' infrastructure and transport facilities. Americans, North and South, proved very adept at dealing out large doses of 'shock and awe' to each other, as long as their fancy munitions and the capacity to resupply them lasted. The targeting of railroad bridges and freight trains soon made the rail service extremely unreliable. Another was the fact that much less food was being produced, because of the economic and social and military disruption, and there was little left for transport to the east because of the fighting and the claims of local cities on what food they could find. The third factor was the devastation caused by the incursions of raiders from the South. The link between the farming and mining area of the mid=west and northwest and the big cities of the Eastern coast was a relatively narrow territory between the water to the north and the hills and mountains of the east and south which were inhabited by predatory enemies.

Nature's Law

    The previous raids from the north, together with economic stringency and the growing war fever had aroused the fierce instincts of the hillmen. Seeing their hated foes, the despised Yankees, in trouble, the immemorial habits of the hillmen who saw opportunity at hand took over and they gleefully sallied forth to 'spoil the Egyptians'.

    The hillmen knew opportunity when they saw it. Like Wordsworth's Rob Roy, and as free of moral qualms, they followed nature's law and fell upon the booty of the plains.

    "The creatures see of flood and field,
          And those that travel on the wind!
          With them no strife can last; they live
              In peace, and peace of mind.

          "For why?--because the good old rule
          Sufficeth them, the simple plan,
          That they should take, who have the power,
              And they should keep who can.                          

          "A lesson that is quickly learned,
          A signal this which all can see!
          Thus nothing here provokes the strong
              To wanton cruelty.

          "All freakishness of mind is checked;
          He tamed, who foolishly aspires;
          While to the measure of his might
              Each fashions his desires.

The War Song of Dinas Vawr may not have been upon their lips as they leapt forth from their hills of West Virginia and Kentucky to harry the plains to their north, but it's spirit, redolent of the age old conflict between the desert and the sown, hillman and plainsdweller, Abel and Cain, doubtless sang in their hearts.

    The mountain sheep are sweeter,
    But the valley sheep are fatter;
    We therefore deemed it meeter
    To carry off the latter.
    We made an expedition;
    We met a host, and quelled it;
    We forced a strong position,
    And killed the men who held it.

The Politically Correct denied it with all their venom and hysteria, but the poet Horace had told the truth long before: 'Naturam expellas furca, tam usque recurret..'. You can drive nature out with a pitchfork, but she always comes back, over your foolish contempt. Those whose plans and actions accorded better with nature fared better than those who strove to alter nature and deny her reality.   

God's Shadow

    Jungians could say that the Devil functions as God's Shadow. Whilst the government of each side saw itself garbed in robes of light and it's opponent robed in the darkest hues, their intelligence services functioned in the same murky shadows using the same dark means to the same dirty ends. The old tradition in American intelligence services of criminal involvement and participation in the trade in illegal drugs was maintained, partly to extend their reach, partly to finance themselves and partly to undermine the morale of the opposing population. This had more effect on the North, because in the more godly South, drug dealers and addicts were fewer, more likely to be caught, and when caught were usually executed promptly. God's quality controller found much that was lacking on both sides, but when they were weighed against each other in the balance it was the sins of the North which weighed more heavily; and it was upon Northern walls that the writing appeared, 'Mene Mene Tekal Upharsin',although the readers thought it was just graffiti.

 Apostolic Blows and Knocks

    In the South, Christianity of a somewhat anarchic sort, fissiparous and vociferous, was strong and prevalent.If these congregations might have been considered theologically or philosophically weak, yet they were strong in emotion and physical action - an excellent basis for a Church Militant. Those amongst their members who were more intellectually inclined were sympathetic to the idea that the originally strongly Christian settlers of America had been subverted and betrayed by deists or atheists, who had engineered the coup that replaced the original confederation and subordinated the States to the Federal government, changing from a Christian people, via religious neutrality, to an oppressive anti-Christian rule. They easily accepted that the subsequent corruption, decay and decline of the United States was God's punishment for these sins. The Dissolution of the Union appeared as a providential gift from God to his faithful remnant, blessing them with the opportunity to regain his favour by mending their ways and returning to organising themselves as a Christian Commonwealth. All that religious tolerance and separation of Church and State malarkey had been an error, grievous in the eyes of the Lord, who now gave them the need and the opportunity to repent.

    God, it seemed, despite the saying, 'vox populi vox dei', was not a big fan of democracy, elections, majority voting and minority rights. There had been that still unresolved issue with Satan over which of them was to rule in Heaven, and the loser had been expelled along with about one third of the angels. That had been a shock. He had had no idea that he was expected to curry favour with an electorate. He was known to be keen on hereditary monarchy. He had made his son his Chief Operating Officer. He liked families. It was horrifying to consider that Lefties might have pressured the Virgin Mary into having an abortion, or encouraged a divorce because of her husband's mental cruelty in forcing her to travel by donkey when she was heavily pregnant, and given her and her offspring government subsidised housing and medical attention after that inappropriate birthplace in a stable. Lefties always seemed to hate Christmas.Strangely, so had Puritans. Cromwell had abolished it. It was confusing. Much prayer would be needed, and many appeals for divine guidance before they could see what sort of political system God wanted them to adopt. Perhaps a heavily armed Commonwealth, retaining Christmas?

    As among Galapagos finches, so among Christian Fundamentalists who preached against evolution, a certain Darwinian selection became evident. As their environment changed they adapted. Those who prospered in the competition for followers and resources were those  preachers who best adapted their message to the circumstances of the time. In a time of Liberalism the gospel had been social. When red war, famine and disorder was at the door it became Old Testament. Biblical Joshua and Oliver Cromwell became favoured models. It was not lost upon them that the New Model army had been the most formidable host of it's time, and that the Lord of Hosts had abundantly favoured it with victory in a civil War and made it, for a time, the mainstay of a godly government. It was not a canonical text, but it might as well have been the text of many days, that 'the God of Battles has an eternal preference for the better troops', and there were indeed many amongst those grim, tough, disciplined, passionately prayerful, earnest, efficient and deadly serious men whom the Lord Protector would have praised God to be able to welcome amongst his Ironsides. Naturally all units were not of such a high standard, but the leadership and their best units set the standard and the tone for the others to emulate as best they could.

    Those who searched the scriptures pondered upon texts such as Matt. 10:34, 'think not that I come to bring peace, but a sword.'They noted that their Father Yahweh was a god of war who delighted in his servants smiting his enemies 'hip and thigh'. The precise anatomical significance was obscure, but easily translated as 'terminate with extreme prejudice'. Prejudice became extreme, terminators abounded and the pace of the smiting waxed mightily and the smiters waxed mighty wroth. A godly thorough reformation was underway. Another great and terrible day of the Lord was at hand, and this time the terrible swift sword of the Lord was to be wielded by Southern hands.

     Putting aside doubts and books they submitted their cause to trial by combat, girded up their loins and followed, all unknowing, but with less bathos, the example of the Puritans of Sir Hudibras, and became:

    Such as do build their faith upon
        The holy text of pike and gun;
        Decide all controversies by
        Infallible artillery;
        And prove their doctrine orthodox
        By apostolic blows and knocks;
        Call fire and sword and desolation,
        A godly thorough reformation,


Oliver Cromwell

    Oliver Cromwell seems an unlikely figure to be the godfather of the renewed South, but his energy, rectitude, ruthlessness, military and political ability, prolix and passionate prayerfulness seeking God's guidance and approval and finding it in the results of battle and debate appealed strongly to the newly aroused Southerners. Like him and his Cause, they felt that they and theirs were beset by enemies determined to destroy them and undermined by the less godly brethren on their own side. God's Englishman with Welsh connections had not been expected to influence the history of America; but there had been Americans involved in the English Civil War. Now Cromwell's great and brooding spirit was more welcome in the new South than in his native land.

    Many of the Southern religious groups were of an independent spirit. Although the Independents of his time had been Cromwell's supporters, he had well known the risks of anarchy which a drift in that direction could pose. He had opposed the Levellers and the Diggers, imprisoned Lilburne and resisted that tendency in the Putney Debates. In America such trends in religion and society had been associated with the North, becoming Abolitionists and Lefties. Somehow, the spirit of the Lord, or at least of the Lord Protector, kept the Southern divines sufficiently united to give their people firm and united leadership.

 Jihad vs Crusade vs Revolution

    In the decadent dying decades of the old America, an amazing number of Muslims had infiltrated or been encouraged to settle there. They added their invocations and imprecations to the cacophony of confusion, and their murders and martyrdoms to the tears and bloodstains that bespattered the land. The Dissolution and the consequent chaos and criminal bonanza provided superb opportunities to those obliged by religion and inclination to rob murder or enslave infidels. Jihadis roared into action. This was a heaven sent opportunity to show their mettle to Allah and to each other, enrich themselves, kill Americans and spread Islam in the traditional way - by force. In the South this soon proved to be a fatal error. Nothing else could so efficiently have united Southerners, crystallised the new identity of the South as a Christian nation of Christian soldiers marching as to war, and enabled them to cast off any remaining liberal secular tolerant 'American' attitudes, as to find themselves trea
          Christmas on Strike        
The Sprit of Christmas
or
When Vought Stole Christmas

For many families of Vought strikers in Tennessee, this will be the toughest Christmas in years. For many, it’s hard to remember the kudos Vought had given its workforce, for vastly improved safety, productivity and return on investment.

The kudos, of course, stopped at the bargaining table. Vought demanded their employees take big takeaways. When the proposal was rejected, instead of coming back to the table and listening to their fine workforce, they decided instead to PUNISH the workers. They quickly hired out-of-state scab temporary workers, spent millions on private union-busting security and buses, in an attempt to break the union and the workers.

At the table, Vought negotiators said they were the only one that cared about the employees. One wonders, when they are at their Christmas tree tomorrow morning with their families, stuffed with presents for their kids, what they will think about the families of those on strike.

For many years, we thought the world of Charles Dickens was a relic of the past. Bob Cratchit was a wage slave, with a sick child. The greedy, ruthless Ebenezer Scrooge hoarded his wealth, never caring about his hard-working employee. Some things, it seems, never changes.

Sadly, there seems to be no Ghosts of Christmas past, present or future in Tennessee this year to change the hearts of Vought management. They want to HURT the workers, break their will, make them come crawling back, happy to work for whatever crumbs they deign to give you.

And they want you to be GRATEFUL for it.

One wonders, as they watch those Christmas retellings of Dicken’s classic story, whether they see themselves in it, or if they root for Scrooze, telling him not to give in to HIS ungrateful employee?

Remind your children and family that this strike is about a brighter future for all the workers at Vought, for better Christmases in the future. Sometimes sacrifice now is needed to ensure better days ahead. Tell them that other sacrificed so that we could have a good life, and that we can’t give up what they fought so hard to get.

Here’s the bottom line. Our strike continues to work, the pickets hold up well. The company did everything they could to break our will, and they are more than willing to ruin our Christmases and punish our children, too. Our Solidarity ensures we will win our strike. The TRUE Spirit of Christmas resides in each and every one of us, on this Christmas Eve, because we have our families, we have our pride, and we stand up together for a better life.

Greed has no place in the true Christmas Spirit. We can only pray that a spirit DOES touch the hard hearts of Vought managers, and heal them and make them remember that millions of dollars in their pockets does nothing to cover up the pain they’ve caused to make it.


          Behind the Counter: chapter six : Frollicking with FiFi        

If I saw one person try to bring a dog into Wal-Mart, I must have seen a thousand in the six years I worked there.

I also laid eyes on customers trying to walk in with hamsters, ferrets, a three-foot lizard, a pair of matched macaw, a smattering of felines, three parakeets and a grand total of five actual service dogs. Four were leading vision impaired customers, the fifth was trained to detect some sort of condition in a young girl. .

Nothing really exotic (no livestock) ever came through though, unless you count the customers. That zoo never ended.

One leggy, spray-tan, crystal belly ring type smuggled a dog past the door greeter under her Pinky-pink Juicy Couture velour track suit.

She pops the dog out as soon as she's past a register, so of course someone asks her to please take the animal outside.

She doesn't argue. She just keeps walking. Away.

The visibly perturbed supervisor, a short, squat man named Nick who has always loved ordering the rest of us around, chases her and orders the dog out of the store.

The girl cries fake tears, pleads, whines and then raises her voice a little.

Nada.

As she leaves, she gets about 10 feet away starts talking to the dog loud enough for us to hear.

Her opening sentence? "I bet if I was Paris Hilton they wouldn't throw me out of here!"

About ten feet from the door and half the store from Nick, she yells out: "F**** you, a######," flips off the door greeter, kicks the trash can and leaves.

What a delightful morning.

Afternoons could be even better. Too hot for the snowbirds to be outside, early bird specials don't start till four. What to do? Shop at the Wal-Mart!

The persnickety type.

The type that shop at Wal-Mart.

The incredibly stupid type.

The type that try to bring in a cute little Yorkie so sweet sweet FiFi there can lay in all the beds and see which one fits her best, yes princess can!

The door greeter stopped Mr. Smith as he walked in, put FiFi in a buggy and tried to enter the store. Mr smith took FiFi to his car, zipped her into a breathable mesh and durable leather puppy traveling case and tried the opposite door. SuperCenters have multiple entrances; ours had five but much larger stores existed.

I'd have put more than even money on him getting the dog through, but he ran into a bit of bad luck when the dog yapped right by the greeter.

He demanded a "manager."

Somehow, I got sent over. The stance on dogs is clear: no. He finally got that.

So, to punish me for ruining such a lovely Thursday afternoon of shopping for Mr smith and FiFi, he decided to get even.

Mr. Smith: "I want a dog bed."
Me: "ok sir. But you cannot take the animal into the store with you."

Mr. Smith: "I can't leave her in the car!"
Me: "can you take her home and come back?"

Mr. Smith: "that's six miles each way in traffic! That's about 20 minutes and we are already right here. Wait. Can you watch her? Or how about that black girl right there? She just stands here by the door anyway. I'll be right back!"
Me: "sir. We cannot be responsible for your animal. "

Mr. Smith: "well I have to buy a bed. "
Me: "I don't know what to tell you sir. Maybe go to a pet store?"

Mr. Smith: "pet stores are expensive. Why do you think I'm here? The service?"
Me: "I don't know sir. "

But this does prove a break to the impasse. I offer to bring him samples of dog beds, although I refuse to allow the dog to sit in them.

Me: "Sir. Would you want FiFi wallowing around after 30 other dogs?"

But the comity enjoined at reaching a bipartisan customer-wage slave agreement quickly broke down.

Emboldened by the advance of his dog bed agenda, mr smith assumed a commanding tone.

Mr. Smith: "Now you take a good look."
Me: "oooooooo-Kay???"


Mr. Smith: "you get a REAL good look"

I'm clueless. Like a ballet student dumped on the ten-yard line at Homecoming with an ox of a lineman bearing down on one side and crushing self doubt on the other.

I have no idea what this man is telling me to "Get a look" at. I say so.

Mr. Smith: "I want you to pick out a bed that is exactly right for FiFi." This comes out at something between a shriek and a yell.
Me: "ok sir. I got it. She's a small dog. I'll bring those out first."

Five trips later, he's looked at every small and medium pet bed we have, even ordering me to bring out the medium and large cat beds "just in case."

He wants to know if we have blankets. I refuse.

He asks for different colors of two beds, which I fetch. And then a slight fault in the stitching means I'm sent back to Pets, which is left past 24 registers, 5 aisles of Pharmacy, the Pharmacy window, 8 aisles of HBA (health & beauty, ie personal care) and then! Pets yet again.

I got exercise that day.

I had a smile pasted on, although I was steady projecting "DIE BASTARD DIE" via the death ray in my mind.

I finally produced something he was willing to buy.

Of course he wanted to write a check.

He returned that dog bed less than two hours later, saying the dog would never lay down in it and it "looked much more uncomfortable in better light."

I said nothing about all the dog hair in the bed, on the bed and on the sides. The telltale dusting of FiFi's white hair stood out like Mormons in a brewery.

Return. Defective. Next.

The dog had no issue with the bed. But after we wouldn't let him in with his precious FiFi, damned if he was going to give us money. Running me like a raw recruit was just a bonus.

ZZZZAAAAAPPPPP!!!!!

          Dirty Old Man: In the style of Stephen King        
Here's the story: This old man came up to Customer Service. He had a pack of pinochle cards. He wanted regular playing cards. I told him the regular cards were out on Register 15 - about 20 feet away and within sight of Customer Service. His answer? "That's too far to walk." So I had to go get the cards and bring them back to Customer Service for this contrary old fart.

Now, here's the story as if written by Stephen King.
Previously: Jane Austen | Old Testament | Gabriel Garcia Marquez | What's going on

The last thin rays of the feeble winter sunlight shone off the gleaming glass doors of the suburban mega-store. The black asphalt parking lot seemed to stretch on for miles.

George Wilson shuddered, pulled the edges of his leather bomber jacket closer and tried not to think how the thousands of rows of straight lines of painted parking spaces resembled teeth in the mouth of a giant parking lot monster – and how far he was going to have to walk right down the middle of those rows of teeth to reach the doors.

“Nothing to do but start walking,” he thought.

“MISTER, HEY MISTER, LOOK OUT.” George could hear the screaming somewhere behind him. He broke from his reverie and looked back just in time to lunge to the side and avoid a whole line of shopping carts that had broken free of their machine and taken off, as if with a mind of their own, across the lot toward him. CRASH

Someone with a black Honda Accord was going to be very unhappy very soon.

“Hey, are you OK Mister? Them carts get loose sometimes. We tie a rope around them but sometimes it comes loose.”

“I’m fine. I’m fine. I just need to return something.”

“OK then. I’m real sorry Mister.”

George considered his narrow escape, gritted his teeth and continued walking.

Upon reaching the entrance, George was struck by how monolithic the building was, how it dominated the landscape around it, how it seemed to exert an inexorable pull on the shoppers to enter the maw of the sliding doors and spend, spend, spend.

Slide, chop, slide. Slide, chop, slide. Slide, chop, slide. Slide, chop, slide. Slide, chop, slide. George watched in fascination as the automatic doors slid open, then closed. Open. Closed. Three of them side by side by side – like the triple heads of hell hound Cerberus – devouring the livelihoods of all those who dared enter.

“Nothing to do but keep going,” he thought.

Once inside the triple doors, George saw that it was yet a few more yards to the actual entrance, where a blue-smock-clad worker stood guard over the store, murmuring to the oncoming swarm, tagging the people coming in and verifying the paper of the few able to scrape together the cripplingly penurious fees required to exit the mega-store.

It’s like the gullet on a creature from the deepest hells, George thought, you pass through the mouth and slide down right through to the stomach.

CLANG CLANG CLANG CLANG. George nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of yet more carts coming into the store. The sound brought to mind the gnashing of teeth, or the grinding of jaws of some inhuman monster of the dark gnawing the bones of the unwary.

“Nothing to do but keep going,” he thought.

George lurches forward, drawing his jacket tighter about him. The blue-smocked worker begins to speak and George decides to strike first, before any destructive spell can be cast. “I JUST WANT TO RETURN THIS.”

The worker looks taken aback, but nods and shoots a sticker from her gun onto the pack of playing cards in George’s hand and points toward the Customer Service counter further down the store.

Taking a deep breath, George steps onto the shiny white tile surface and into the cacophony of aural, visual and olfactory pollution that is a suburban mega-store.

The assault on his senses was deafening in every way.

The bright florescent lights shone down from above, from points perched somewhere in the cavernous ceiling and only slightly less strong beams splashed back up again from below, reflected off the shining white floor.

The noise threatened to deafen him. A thousand beeps from dozens of cash registers. Shrieks from babies, screams from wronged customers, cries of hapless employees and the endless drone of buggies sliding across the floor combined to dull the senses and cloud the mind.

“Nothing to do but keep going,” he thought.

George jerked himself forward with effort, lunging toward the Customer Service counter. It was a predictable chaos. A double wedge of buggies sat like stone gargoyles guarding (or confining, George wondered) a single harried clerk.

There was a rogue’s gallery of customers with a white elephant selection of merchandise waiting for a return. Dead rosebushes. A watermelon. A live chicken.

One of the buggies standing guard reared up on its back two wheels and edged closer to the chicken, causing the crone with the chicken to deliver a hard smack with her staff.

George wondered if he had slipped past sanity into a waking dream. Surely he had not seen a live chicken nearly be devoured by a shopping cart – only to be fought off by a witch.

He shook his head and looked again. There was an old woman in a cornflower-blue pants suit holding a cane and white sweater folded over one arm. George could see that she had craft supplies, likely skeins of wool – in her shopping bag.

The line edged forward. George could hear the clerk talking to customers now. “Return or exchange?” “Sign here. PLEASE HELP ME! DELIVER THIS MESSAGE TO SOMEONE OUT ON THE FLOOR.”

George looked up, but a middle-aged woman returning some shoes was only signing her return receipt. It must be the ventilators causing George to hear things. “That’s it,” George thought. “I bet a place like this has huge air ducts. I’m just hearing the pipes rattling.”

The line inched forward. The man at the counter was arguing about returning a pack of pinochle cards. Although old, he appeared to George’s eyes to be perfectly healthy. He wasn’t in a wheelchair and had obviously walked from the parking lot to the store and into Customer Service without the aid of so much as a cane.

The clerk was becoming visibly frustrated. “Sir, I can’t go out and look for you a new pack of cards just because you want me to. There are many other people in line. It isn’t fair to make them wait because you don’t want to walk thirty feet over to Register 15 to get a new pack.”

The old man was resolute. “I’m not moving. I’m old and I’m tired.”

In his eagerness to hear the unfolding drama, George did not notice store employees adding more carts to the dozens already lining the walls of the Customer Service bay. The harried clerk finally snapped in his argument with the crotchety old man, slapped his hands down on the counter and said, “Look. You’re just going to have to wait. I’ve got to call someone to come help me out. I can’t make all these people wait because you’re old and stupid.”

Inwardly, George cheered. He saw the clerk pick up the telephone to dial for assistance and then saw a look of sheer terror mask the features of the clerk’s face. George turned and saw only three more employees adding yet more carts to the area surrounding Customer Service.

Carts now surrounded customers on all sides. Anyone wanting to return something had to pick their way through shopping buggies with all the care taken by soldiers picking their way through a minefield.

George thought this was rather careless and inconsiderate of the employees, but realized this was a low-wage, low-training dumping ground for the least well able to function of society’s wage slaves. He renewed his resolve never to shop here again after returning the items in his hand.

The line edged forward. A young mother with a toddler in an infant stroller and shopping bags hung off the handles rolled up to the counter. “I’d like to return my daughter, please.”

The harried clerk nodded unhappily.

George recoils in shock and shakes his head sure that he’s heard wrong. He looks again sees only that the woman has taken the child out of its stroller because it is crying and sat it on the counter. She is fishing for something in a shopping bag. “That must be her return,” thought George. “I really need to get my ears checked.”

The child began to howl louder. The screams covered up the sounds of the grinding of wheels as the buggies in the area began to push closer, trying to completely encircle the area around Customer Service.

Customers in the main store area were completely oblivious. SCAN. BAG. SCREAM. THAT RANG UP WRONG. SCAN. BAG. DISCOUNT. COUPON. SCREAM. YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. SCAN. BAG. SCREAM. YOU SQUASHED MY BREAD. SCAN. BAG. SCREAM. I WANT A MANAGER.

George swept his gaze side to side. The entire Customer Service bay was a mass of buggies. It seemed like half the merchandise of the store was here instead of on the shelves.

Were the buggies edging closer? George didn’t want to believe it, but he didn’t remember that rusty cart with the wonky wheel from five minutes ago. It must be the heat. These big box stores never have good heating systems he told himself.

Up ahead, George could hear the clerk asking “Ma’am, do you have a receipt for this baby?” George dug his finger into ears in an effort to clear a non-existent blockage, desperate to believe that he simply didn’t hear the word “outfit” on the edge of that sentence. The child was starting to calm down now, although the mother seemed to be getting more emotional.

“We just can’t afford it,” George heard her tell the clerk. “We work all day and still can’t afford another one. Can I return the stroller and the diapers too?”

“If you have a receipt,” George heard the clerk say begrudgingly.

George thought to himself, “I hope I’m never that poor that I have to return baby clothes.

“Ma’am. This receipt is from last July. The return period on babies is 15 days. You’ve had little Carrie here for eight months. I’m sorry, but we can’t take her back.”

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU WON’T TAKE HER BACK. I’VE GOT A RECEIPT. SHE’S IN GOOD CONDITION. YOU WILL TAKE HER BACK. I WANT A MANAGER RIGHT NOW.”

The clerk leaned over the counter. “Ma’am. Seriously. You need to calm down. Bad things will happen.”

“I’M NOT GOING TO CALM DOWN. I WANT MY MONEY BACK FOR THIS SHITTY BABY THAT SHITS ALL THE DAMN TIME AND DOESN’T EVEN TALK YET AND YOU’RE GOING TO GIVE IT TO ME.”

George couldn’t believe he was hearing this. He looked straight ahead, transfixed by the scene that was playing out. Then he heard a cluck-cluck. It was a chicken. The old woman in front of him really DID have a chicken.

She was talking to George. “Dearie. Dearie. I say dearie. You need to pay more attention. We need to back up. There’s about to be a scene here. Can’t you see the buggy-horde getting ready to attack? Dearie? You don’t’ look so well.”

The buggy-horde. It was real. It was very real. What was once a pack of purchase conveyances was now a metal mass of grinding wheels and razor-sharp teeth transformed instantly into a living, breathing killing machine.

“But …” George sputtered. “But what about …”

“Come dearie. We’ll go over to the café and have a coffee. The old man and the mother are history. Once they start to make a scene they’re a goner. There’s nothing you can do. Those are the rules of the returns at the House of the Wahl. Satan is a manager. Hitler works in grocery. Now. Can you hold my chicken? I need to clear a path through the buggy-horde.”

Wordlessly George reached out to grab the chicken’s feet. The old woman brandished her cane with the skill of a hockey pro, sweeping a path through the ravenous metal creatures.

Behind him, George began to hear screams. First a loud wail from the mother, then a high, thin scream from the old man with the pinochle cards. The screams continued for a while, then nothing.

The next thing George heard was the tired, oh-so-tired voice of the clerk “Maintenance to Customer Service with a blow torch and a mop. Maintenance to Customer Service with a blow torch and a mop.”

Welcome to the House of the Wahl. Do you have your receipt?

          _Metropolis_, Modernity and the Economy: Or why it was a flop! by        

Introduction

Metropolis is an awkward film to write about. It is contradictory, eclectic, it has a visual imaginary which is both in awe of modernity and seemingly petrified by it.

Metropolis 9

Ultimately the film seems to accept a society led by a .technocratic elite which recognises that the rather ignorant and stupid workers don’t deserve to be treated totally like slaves. The leader should nevertheless be benign and remain connected to the people. But it is an unconvincing ending.

Metropilis 5

Metropolis has been written about from many different perspectives with another book on the film produced this year (2006).This piece remains focused on trying to understand Metropolis within the context of its times. It also probes some issues which are raised by the failure of this flagship blockbuster film amongst the audiences it was meant to have been targeting. There is a huge mythology which tends to focus on the character of the director Fritz Lang which detracts from this from this fundamental question.

Another key issue is the numerous different versions which were deliberately made to target different audiences. This history is summarised in a separate blog entry. What remains an issue is the fact that the original version screened in Berlin for about 16 weeks has been lost and is unlikely to be ever reconstructed. This is important because, given its Expressionist impulse with an emphasis upon form as a method of making meaning rather than plot and script, then any viewing and analysis is strictly limited. The fact that this apparently best version wasn’t successful with audiences makes some provisional analysis of its failure with audiences even more important.

Metropolis represented a society without a spiritual vision which like the ancient Greeks was dependent upon workers who appeared to be slaves – not even wage slaves. Certainly, there were no consumer outlets for workers to spend an income although the elites clearly had their pleasure palaces.

Metropolis 7

Politically the film could be read as populist in the sense that it was a recognition that the plebs did have needs beyond pure slavery. Slavery is clearly signified in both the Greek athletics stadium and the reference to the Egyptian Moloch. The film could thus be read as supportive of the centre-right coalition which had taken power in the Weimar after the Dawes plan of 1923 but it is more complicated than that. However there is much in this film that could be read as supportive of NSDAP principles.

Germany & Modernity

Going back to basics means briefly analysing what was happening on the economic front in the Weimar at the time Metropolis was released in 1927. By doing this I will argue that there has been an overemphasis on what Kaes has described as the cultural resistance to modernity:

The war had been fought, according to the ideologues, to defend traditional German Kultur against the onslaught of Zivilisation, i.e. the mechanisation of life, democracy and modern mass culture. (Kaes p 59).

Whilst this attitude described the position of many landowning aristocrats, provincial landowners and peasants, this was hardly the concern of the great industrialists, and empire makers. Nor was it the concern of the largest social democratic party in the world prior to the First World War. Their historical compromise with capitalism (to paraphrase Lenin) was to sacrifice their internationalism on the sword of nationalist empire building. This was sold to them as a pre-emptive defence against a greedy Russian empire keen to eat away at Germany. Without the support of the German working class the war could not have been fought effectively.

By 1914 Germany was an industrial powerhouse second only to the USA. Certainly Britain had been outstripped in terms of industrial production by the turn of the previous century. Wilhelmine Germany had a core leadership with great imperial ambitions. It was a modernising country which under Bismark had introduced the first welfare state to discourage rebellion and revolution.

Like other countries Germany had its tensions. These were more pronounced partly because the pace of change was faster than in Britain which as the first industrial nation grew slightly more organically. Uneven development meant that there was a greater cultural shock of the kind which Marx wrote about: all that is solid melts into air. The sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies had written about the process in his well known identification of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, in which the more organic face to face relationship of small communities was being replaced by much larger and more impersonal structures. The famous sociologist Max Weber wrote about the process as one of increasing bureaucratisation which he dubbed an iron cage.

Metropolis 8

Visually Lang’s film represents these strands of thought. Control, surveillance, the replacement of natural rhythms by clock time and lack of meaningful human interaction were all described visually by Lang. These were represented in what Kracauer has described as ‘mass ornament’ where the workers are choreographed in geometric patterns. This also relates to an expressionist love of visual form and this is an important aspect of the construction of menaing within the film.

Political and Economic Modernity

In terms of political modernity Germany failed to make the transition effectively to a more democratic society. Although the SDP were a large party they had very little power in the German constitutional structure which remained a very top down affair with real power residing with the Kaiser through leaders such as Bismarck in the past.

Britain had gone through its major recent constitutional crisis in 1910 when the House of Lords had to give up its right to veto absolutely the power of the elected government through the House of Lords. Of course there were still British aristocrats who resented the incursion of democracy and like lord Londonderry they looked upon Mussolini and Hitler as their saviours against potential Bolshevism.

In Germany democracy was hastily awarded so that the Prussian elites could escape the blame for the First World War. The Social Democrats took power and had to negotiate the Armistice. Known as the November criminals purveyors of the stab in the back to the German nation these unjustified slogans reverberated around the political right. Certainly their grab for power landed them with responsibility for the war and its aftermath.

The situation was made far worse because large numbers of the armed forces didn’t understand that Germany had been defeated. This was not the time of rapid modern communications and the troops on the Eastern front had successfully forced a peace deal with the new Bolshevik regime having previously trounced the Czarist troops so badly that the Bolsheviks were well positioned to win their revolution. Hindenburg and Ludendorff, the main architects of the German High Command managed to escape criticism from the centre and the right.

The first few years of the ‘peace’ were marked by severe internal strife with attempts to seize power such as Hitler’s ‘Beer Hall Putsch of 1923’ always on the agenda. This was made against an economic background of inflation leading to hyperinflation as the Government attempted to stand up to the French takeover of the industrial Rhineland because they could afford to pay the war reparations. The Weimar republic of 1923 was a hollow democracy redolent of today’s Iraq.

The Dawes stabilisation plan worked wonders. However it left Weimar Germany with something closer to a three speed economy. Consumer electronics and chemicals industries became the biggest in the world providing the hungry American market. The workers and the cities they lived in such as Berlin and Munich were highly successful. Berlin became the cultural capital of Europe, in the mid to late twenties. There were no doubts about modernity here, it was a cause and means of celebration amongst large sectors of the population.

However, the heavy industries based upon coal, iron and steel in the Ruhr regions were stagnant, there was overproduction on the global market but they were coping. The strong communist party unions ensured that the NSDAP gained no serious foothold in these cities.

The third strand of the economy was the agricultural economy. They had been hit hard by hyperinflation with their savings eroded rather than spending them. Foolishly many borrowed when inflation was under control after 1923 to invest in better agricultural machinery, just as world agricultural overproduction knocked the bottom out of the food commodities market. The period of 1923 to 1929 was one of extreme hardship for over one third of the population. It was amongst these people that Nazism was finally to flower for nobody else was dealing with their plight. It was for them that anti-modernity was a fundamental enemy:

for a broad spectrum of anti-modernist and volkish Germans Berlin and all that it stood for as the devil incarnate, Berlin had become the crystallisation point of resentment against industrialisation, capitalism and democracy and the cultural influence of the West… Anti-modernists penned the term ‘asphalt culture’ to refer to the lack of genuine culture and social values promoted by urban life. (Natter 1994: 214-215 cited McArthur).

Why did Metropolis flop?

A core question to be asked of Metropolis is why did it flop with audiences? Arguably in terms of both form and content is entirely failed to resonate with those who were its target audience, in short it was not a zeitgeist film. In the light of the above it becomes much easier to offer explanations.

In terms of the Berlin based sophisticated and cosmopolitan audiences, this film must have been distinctly out of kilter with their expectations, lifestyle and ambitions. The Gothic and Prehistoric architectural spaces of cathedral and catacombs would have had little resonance with their experience. The elitist sports athletics stadium was an irrelevance at a time of rapidly growing health and sports activities. [Click on ‘Exhibition Tour’ and then Room 11]. Good health was an important part of international interwar modernism. The elitist night club space in the film seemed to be a grumpy critique of what large numbers of workers enjoyed every weekend and was a major source of wealth and status.

Culture was putting Berlin on the map. It was the city of Hitchcock, Pressburger and Isherwood to name but a few. Exotic cosmopolitanism with shows from people like Josephine Baker were enormously popular. The ethnography of People on a Sunday would have had far more resonance. Young professionals were being housed in Batchelor developments built by contemporary architects and loving it.

Josephine Baker

Modernist intellectuals were hardly likely to approve. The interesting and enjoyable spaces of the city such as parks and cafes shopping arcades and even cinema itself went entirely unrepresented. The representation of the ‘bad Maria’ would have seemed like a critique of young women who were enjoying their freedom in terms of earning money and sexuality. This was the ‘free air of the city’ as the old Hanseatic slogan had it made real in modernity. For the first time in history these freedoms were available to the working classes who would have been farm or domestic labourers in previous times. Neither church nor state was controlling them.

If workers in Berlin were going to be unimpressed by the naïve, desexualised and feeble storyline of Metropolis the communist dominated workforce of the heavy industry areas would also find the film entirely unappealing. It was scornful of the power of organised labour and represented the working classes as entirely stupid. So much so that they were easily led to disaster by an agent provocateur the ‘bad Maria’.

The intellectual and professional classes who might have been more attracted to the expressionist sentiment exploring the underside of modernity might well have been put off by the simplicity of the plot leave alone the anti-Semitic sentiments coming through around the Rotwang character.

Metropolis 4

There were no big name German stars and this was an audience used to the best Hollywood had to offer in terms of stars, technology and genres. As Taylor (1998 r.e.) notes; in 1926, the year before Metropolis was released, American feature films had 44.3% of the market compared to Germany’s 38.2%. In short films American dominance was absolute with an astonishing 94.9 % of the market compared to Germany’s 1.2% of the market. Even these statistics don’t tell the whole story for the Parafumet agreement which gave the American producers access to all the first run UFA cinemas situated in all the large and therefore modernistically inclined city populations signifies that Metropolis was a film which rather than being futuristic was decidedly behind the social and cultural zeitgeist of contemporary German cultural life.

Band in Berlin

There is little doubt that the visual effects are stunning, they are good to an audience now and in 1927 they were undoubtedly fantastic but good SFX doesn’t make a good film. Unlike a modern day blockbuster there is no clear audience. There wasn’t a genre of science fiction well established at that time, the romantic plot was feeble with an unconvincing hero in Freder who was a stand in actor anyway. Previously Lang had been able to create stars but that was when German cinema was in a highly protected environment. Metropolis was a serious but deeply flawed attempt by Pommer and Lang to establish a blockbuster formula to break into the American market.

Why would the rural anti-modernity and anti-modernist audiences in the rural areas flock to see the film? Something marketed strongly as science-fiction to a poverty stricken hinterland more used to ‘B’ movie standard comedy and dramas as their form of escapism were unlikely to buy into it. It would of course be fascinating to know just what the box-office breakdown of Metropolis was. Of course they would not have seen the original Berlin version in any case.

Perhaps it is to the American film executives reaction to the original print we can turn to, to provide us with an explanation for why Metropolis flopped. Horrified by its length, its lack of clear plot, lack of stars and with no clear generic market it was clearly a nightmare for them. Studying the reviews and the failure of the film to ignite Berlin audiences would have confirmed their well-honed business instincts. The Berliners liked Hollywood and they didn’t like Metropolis. Clearly this message got through to the UFA board and it was why the general release cut for Germany was very close to the American one. Despite global release in the main cinema markets of the world the film made a huge loss and almost bankrupted UFA.

Elsaesser argues that perhaps the coming of sound later in 1927 cut short Metropolis. This seems unlikely. There was only one significant sound film The Jazz Singer and like any technology sound needed time to bed in and be installed in cinemas across the world. It took time to make the sound films to go with the cinemas. While this was a relatively quick it is questionable whether this was a primary reason for the failure of Metropolis to attract significant audiences..


          Getting Started in Trading Forex Info for Newbies with Elliott Wave        
Imagine if you will, you have a computer at home with a broadband internet account. You discover that you can do something called "trading forex" online. At the same time, you discover a principle that allows you to predict the direction a forex market will move in. This is very powerful stuff. You could get rich!

A recent discussion with a colleague, who asked what I did with my time at home, led to me wondering about how to convey to a total newbie how to trade forex using the Elliott Wave Principle.

I started by pointing him in the direction of the wonderful online documentary, History's Hidden Engine at the Socionomics institute. This will give anyone who has never heard of the Elliott Wave Principle a brief overview of the big idea, and how it can relate to market movements.

Next I advised him to purchase a copy of "Elliott Wave Principle" by Frost and Prechter. I use this book as a textbook, on a daily and even hourly basis. It seems there is always something new to learn about the Elliott Wave Principle, and this book is invaluable as a thorough guide. I advised him to read it at least twice.

The third step would be to learn how online accounts work. You need to learn the jargon; what's a pip? A buy? A sell? What's a market order? How about stops and limits?

The next step would be to open an online demo account with an online forex trading company. This is where you can put your new knowledge to the test, with no financial risk at all. My first demo account I completely rorted within a couple of weeks, getting many mistakes out of my system and learning some very valuable lessons in the process.

This process would take a newbie at least two months, from beginning to end. It is important if you are serious about using online forex trading to make decent money, to not rush the initial learning process. If you go too fast you will make too many mistakes with real money, and so not only will you lose financially but this could sour your outlook on how useful the Elliott Wave Principle is in making money online.

So, take it easy, be patient. The Elliott Wave Principle is at it's heart fairly straightforward and obvious. But when it comes to daily market movements there are many subtleties to consider, and without a good understanding of how the market can move you could stand to lose financially.

But, if you take the time to learn how to apply the Elliott Wave Principle correctly, you could free yourself from wage slavery and give you and your family a decent income from anywhere you choose to be on the globe. All you need is a computer, a reliable broadband connection, and your textbook the Elliott Wave Principle.

Here at forexinfo.us I will be writing future articles on guiding newbies through the process of becoming proficient and profitable online forex traders. Watch this space!
          She's ALIVE!!!        

So it has been a really long time since I updated. I wish I had a good explanation as to why, but I don’t. 

 

Essentially, my summer = one long stint as a minimum wage slave. 

I was a telemarketer and it was Hell on Earth. It takes a special kind of person to withstand 8 hours of belligerent housewives and old kooks on the phone everyday. If people hate telemarketers so much, then why don’t they get on the Do Not Call List and be done with it?

 

I have a secret for you; DO NOT HANG UP ON TELEMARKETERS!!!!

 

When you hang up, it is an automatic call back. If the telemarketer is particularly sadistic, he or she will call you back immediately. Just tell the person that you’re not interested.

 

Also, don’t hate on the lowly tele-sales representative. Most of us already despise ourselves and our jobs way more than you ever could.

 

 

Anyway, now I’m unemployed and back at school! Now I can dedicate all the time to sleeping and wasting time on the interwebz.

 

 Peace, love and hair grease!

 


          We can't do it alone        

Editor: The Wage Slave (@wageslavez) affinity group has asked us to announce that they are not doing this FOR you. They hope YOU will join them at this critical time. This requires that you properly plan for your affinity group on a decentralized level. Once a critical mass has been reached of people who are ready, planning meetings between representatives from your affinity group can begin. It is hoped that each group is prepared for and planning independent actions and also ready to join the larger groups in a public march and sit-in at Snowbowl. Wage Slave is not a group of Monkey Wrenchers or ecoterrorists. They just love the mountain and will defend it, even if it means some of them lost their jobs to do this. They want to see all the people who have spent the last decade fighting this project to step up now. No more letter writing, no more marches, it will not work. We must occupy the ski area until they stop construction and let the court cases continue until a verdict is reached.


          A call for decentralized action        

editor: This came in over the email system with a request to post for all the world. This is from the second affinity group to form and start their basecamp. They are calling themselves wage slave.

Take to the forest. Set up shop and start your plans. It has never felt so good to take your own power back. They can't stop you from camping in the woods - it is not illegal. Set up your basecamp now. Become what your heart desires. All walks of life in Flagstaff look to the mountain for all kinds of relief. From the most necessary medicines to a playful romp in the snow, she gives it all. It is time we give back. The earth cannot handle the strain we are placing on her and further artificial means will only hasten her demise. Help stop the madness now.

We hear you grumbling in offices, restaurants and coffee shops about how much like Mr. Burns (the Simpsons tv show) Eric Borosky is and how much you would like to tear down the ski area. And we know you are not anarchists or dirty punks or some overheated kiddies. You are a woman (thanks m) in her mid 50's or 60's who grew up with the mountain. You are a 30 year old mother of two who's children are not guinea pigs. You are a medicine man who relies on the mountain to keep his family and community healthy. You are the 23 year old dude who just does not want a mouth full of toilet water every time he face-plants while snowboarding. You are the Snowbowl employee that realizes you will be forced to WORK IN POOP-WATER EVERY DAY, and that is a risk nobody should have to take.

Organize now, before it is too late and we all have to live with the decisions of one greedy business owner who thought he could play god. If the mountain really is a sacred place worth defending, that time is right now!!!

Start a twitter page and start tweeting with the hashtag #nopoopsnow and we can start to talk to each other. Besides truesnow.org you can go to http://hashtags.org/nopoopsnow to see this hash's feed. You can also make more hashes and use hashtags.org to aggregate them on the fly and see how it all works.

Take your power back! Camp the Peaks!


          12 Tricks to Get Travel Upgrades Without Demanding Them        

Commonly, the advice for how to get an upgrade at your hotel, your flight, or your car rental company was to generally be a pest. By hassling the poor wage slaves who work there, you could essentially berate them into giving you free stuff. This hard sell approach has fallen into disuse in recent years, […]

The post 12 Tricks to Get Travel Upgrades Without Demanding Them appeared first on TheCoolist.


          The True Reason behind The 40-Hour Work Week And Why We Are Economic Slaves        

What is the true reason behind the 40-hour work week? Economic slavery, or wage slavery, refers to one’s total and immediate dependence on wages to survive. Although people throughout history have had to work to get by, we now live in a culture where we are led to believe we have economic freedom, when unbeknownst to

The post The True Reason behind The 40-Hour Work Week And Why We Are Economic Slaves appeared first on NewsProPro.


          May Day 1894: Peckham anarchists in Hyde Park        
'The May Day demonstrations - The London anarchists - Violent scenes'

'A demonstration arranged by the Social Democratic Federation was held today in Hyde Park. The processionists, who did not exceed 3000 in number,  were for the most part orderly, and included contingents from Camberwell, Hammersmith, Bow, Bromley, Deptford, Greenwich, etc. Among the speakers were Dr Aveling, Messrs Keir Hardie, W Morris, J H Watts, P Curran. Congratulatory telegrams were sent to workers assembled throughout the world urging them to neglect no means towards their emancipation from wage slavery, and to work unceasingly for the establishment of the international co-operative Commonwealth, in which all the instruments of industry will be owned and controlled by the organised communities. The International Anarchist Communist group from Peckham brought a black banner inscribed "away with authority and monopoly, with free access to the means of life".

The Commonweal Anarchists held a meeting close to the Federation meeting place. At one platform a speaker was hurled from his place and the red flag was torn to pieces, but, protected by the police, the speaker managed to escape before receiving further injuries. Several disturbances occurred, but none of a serious character. There was a large body of police in attendance. After the excitement had subsided the anarchists restarted the meeting, when speeches were delivered by Samuels, Mowbray, and Louise Michel, who was followed by a man named Tochatti. He was frequently interrupted with cries of "shut up" and finally thrown to the ground by a crowd, by whom he was roughly handled. The police, after much exertion, rescued Tochatti and started him in the direction of the marble arch, where he was again set upon, and received several ugly blows on the head and face. The police again intervened, and to Tochatti was eventually placed in a cab in a very exhausted condition and driven away.

(Daily Express, 2 May 1894; James Tochatti (1852-1928) was a Scottish-born anarchist living in Hammersmith. For more on the Peckham anarchists of this period see Pressure Drop in Peckham by Nick Heath at libcom; the Paris Communard exile Louise Michel's time in South London is covered in this earlier Transpontine post; see also William Morris and South London)

My historical overview of 'May Days in South London' (50 page pdf pamphlet) is available as a free download here

          What I've Played.        
It’s been about a year since I bought that xbox. Here’s what I’ve learned. This started out as a simple list of pithy generalizations. But, after looking around and noticing that many of my points had been made by others, I decided to focus on a few issues in the context of specific games that I have played. Wage slave games Project Gotham Racing 2 and Madden Football are nearly perfect games for the wage slave, with Gotham having the slight advantage.
          Orchestra Musicians Head Off to Summer Camp        

By MICHAEL COOPER / JULY 5, 2015 / The New York Times At this time of year it is a common fantasy for wage slaves who slog to the office in the city: If only work could be relocated to the mountains, or the shore, or maybe a lake. But it is a reality for …

The post Orchestra Musicians Head Off to Summer Camp appeared first on Joel Revzen - Conductor.


          Rescuing Los Angeles        
"How can we use our hard wiring to communicate to the herd that it is time to veer off from a race towards the cliff’s edge which most don’t yet see?"



  In the concrete desert that is downtown Los Angeles we were blessed to find a green oasis at the corner of Vermont and 1st Avenues known as Los Angeles Eco-Village.

LAEV has taken a two-block area of random residents and small storefront businesses, alleys and churches and transformed it into a traffic-calmed and car-restricted promenade with fruit trees, mosaic tables and cob benches built around larger canopy trees, verge gardens, interior courtyards and attractive outdoor classrooms. It has created attractive residences affordable to lower income people, stores and kiosks selling products and services made or provided by neighbors. It has converted large apartment complexes to low income, ethnically diverse cooperative housing, and is transforming four-plex garages to 3 or 4 story mixed use development with retail, offices, and super affordable “tiny” housing, with small ecological footprint and no parking. It created California's first bicycle kitchen (starting literally from the kitchen in an apartment house) — a way of cooperatively building, sharing and maintaining bicycles and the skill-set that goes with that.

A recent purchase of an abandoned building and vacant lot on the corner of Vermont Avenue will allow them to create People Street Plaza with two parklets and an enclosed bike corral, a solar arbor for small electric neighborhood plug-in vehicles and pedal hybrids, plus metered parking and expanded city repair functions at two intersections.

Next year the ecovillage plans to eliminate sidewalks and parking lanes on north side of White House Place and install an urban organic working farm/food forest.  In the future they would like to acquire 5 four-plexed apartment houses on White House Place to ensure permanent affordability for 80 to 120% of poverty-level income if existing/future qualifying residents will commit to going car-free within a specified time, and providing convenient car share options.  They would power these new homes by installing neighborhood solar PV over the school parking lot. Beyond 2030, when the parking lot is no longer needed, they would create an urban farm.

More ambitious, and requiring more city approvals, are plans to acquire and retire the auto repair shops, raze them and reopen the concreted-over hot springs, Bimini Baths, that were overtaken by sprawl and pavement almost a century earlier. They'd like to open a center for therapeutic and recreation and to offer affordable housing for healers (so they can charge lower rates for lower income residents). They'd like to bring back the trolley service to the tracks that used to carry bath patrons to and from other parts of the city. For the immediate future, a vegan café and outdoor garden is planned to replace the auto repair shops. 

Much of this will be accomplished by local residents, using a Cooperative Resources & Services Project (CRSP) Ecological Revolving Loan Fund (ELF) which has the potential to generate about $2.5 million every three to six month period.

Imagine, for a moment, all cities transformed from the bottom up in this fashion. LAEV does not plan to produce all its own food, water, power and other needs from within its two-block area, but it could. Instead, it encourages doing some of that while also participating in cooperatives that join together the products and services of other parts of the city. Once upon a time the founder of permaculture, Bill Mollison, was asked how cities could become sustainable. He responded that it was only by providing for all their needs within their boundaries. Los Angeles, even now, at 5000 persons per square mile, could do this. But then, like LAEV, it would need to take another step and begin the process of producing food, fiber and energy while progressively withdrawing carbon from the atmosphere.

Ecovillages similar to LAEV — The Farm, Earthaven, Findhorn, ZEGG and Seiben Linden — have already demonstrated their ability to net sequester more than their own carbon in order to reverse climate change, even while implementing the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, using a combination of for-profit and non-profit social enterprises and a holistic, deliberative approach. Over the past few years they have risen still another step and are embarked, with Global Ecovillage Network, Gaia University and Gaia Education, upon a process of building curricula and the cadre of trained instructors that will carry the work to a global scale. This core idea, brought by ecovillages at the cutting edge of an historic shift, is part of the British Commonwealth's new Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change strategy announced at COP-22. It is also allied with the Chinese Two Mountain policy we described here in December.

Ecovillages are like a shadow world government. They are not top-down electoral, C3I or Deep State puppeteers; they are grass roots, spontaneous, semi-autonomous networked infiltrators. Their weapons are not Death Stars or enslaving financial schemes but viral memes spread by new media, art and gardening. They run on the energy and creativity of youth. They are a bullet train on a return track back out of the Anthropocene.

What is needed now, today, is exactly that sort of low cost, rapidly deployed, hugely scalable approach to reversing human misery, ecological destruction and climate change that will find apolitical social acceptance, quickly, without the requirement of carbon taxes or offset markets that only serve to line the pockets of the obscenely obtuse. Indeed, to scale quickly, it should use tested, off-the-shelf technology, be antifragile, employ lots of young entrepreneurs, and provide a sensible return benefit for those in the older generations who hazard their limited time and resources to assist.

The adoption process for carbon-sequestering economies could benefit from the ideas Malcolm Gladwell expressed in The Tipping Point: How Small Things Make a Difference (2000). Gladwell argued that the ability of viruses (whether diseases or ideas) to spread quickly, and universally, depends on their ability to be attractive and sympathetic. They need to be able to cross cultures, genders, age groups, and races.

Gladwell pointed to three elements that cause epidemics to spread, and said these same elements are fundamental to any large-scale social change. They are:
  1. The Law of the Few — some people spread disease (and ideas) better than others.
  2. The Stickiness Factor — the potency of viruses (or ideas and actions) to become universal. Ideas and actions to reverse climate change need to continue evolving and draw in people from around the world. The greater context of our climate dilemma suggests that if a favorable human tipping point is to occur, it needs to be able to cross cultures and to be sticky across all those differences.
  3. The Power of Context — the conditions under which the change is considered tend to either reinforce the change or thwart its spread. Commitment is not enough. The committed have to act, and share their commitment with others.
If a cultural tipping point is required, the tools most associated with cultural evolution should be employed. These include artistic movements (visual arts, performance, music, etc.), fashion (attraction to styles), and celebrity endorsements, among others. Humans evolved as herd animals and we constantly signal to each other our affiliations, tastes and choices. Tapping into this natural process allows memes to propagate when stickiness and context cohere.

This leads us to an examination of the concept of style. What is it in the human genome that makes us such dedicated followers of fashion? Likely it is hard wired by an evolutionary choice our species made several million years back. We hairless apes are more like army ants, gray wolves, dolphins, lions, mongooses and spotted hyenas than jaguars, frogs and horse flies. We are pack hunters.

Herd behavior has a defensive purpose, too. Witness zebras crossing a river full of crocodiles or a young buffalo calf being stalked by wolves. Some will be picked off, but most will survive.

We continuously signal to others in our herd that we are with them. We are part. We are in this tribe. We seek tribe approval, acceptance, respect. We may do this the way birds do, with colorful plumage, or the way horses do, with speed and agility. A necktie or a pants suit are forms of that signaling. A sports car is another.

How can we use our hard wiring to communicate to the herd that it is time to veer off from a race towards the cliff’s edge that most of our group most don’t yet see?

We need to make the change in direction fashionable.

For many if not most, the need to survive is ever present. To Westerners captured by the meme of money, their fragility can be measured by the number of digits left of the decimal point in their bank accounts, real estate valuations or securities portfolios, or by the (thin) thread of an enduring job with health benefits. Standing at the edge of the Seneca Cliff, all of those indica are profoundly perilous routes forward.

Is it possible to break the fantasy of citizens of industrialized countries — that our jobs can continue to provide a magic elixir to meet our needs and debts? Difficult. Not impossible, just difficult.

Greed and familiarity cushion against sensibility. In other cultures, survival is bound by the timing and amount of rains needed for good crops, or the attractiveness of a female to acquire a supportive mate, or the fighting skills and tools for a warrior to dominate. But these also have a dark side.

Given how essential to survival rain, a mate, or fighting skills may be, they are also powerful drivers of aberrant behavior, like the magical belief that if we dance and pray that rain will come, or that anyone who can act the part of ruthless, selfish seducer can attract wealth, power or handsome mates.

That is all going to change, and quickly. Either that or we will all be extinct, and soon. If you want to get in on the change sooner, and avoid the hardship of late adoption, look into joining an ecovillage.

There is one trend afoot that few have seemed to notice. In the two-thirds world trade and commerce have always been dominated by nimble opportunists who see niches, swoop in and exploit them, and move on when the niche is no longer productive. This independent spirit runs against the grain of wage slavery and so harsh sanctions like the withholding of health care and the destruction of public education have been used like cudgels to beat “employees” back into their roles as cogs in the machine. So it was that Columbus destroyed the unsuited-as-slaves Taino and Arawak, or Francisco de Toledo instituted the mita system to compel Quechua and Yanacona encomienda to work the silver mines of Potosí.

Today, the tuned-in, spirited youth force of the world has undergone an evolutionary shift from encomiendista to free-agent. They want to be social impact entrepreneurs, not cubicle rats — blackmail-style benefits be damned. That instinctual shift provides the fuel to ignite the ecovillage revolution.


This post is part of an ongoing series we're calling The Power Zone Manifesto. We post to The Great Change on Sunday mornings and 24 to 48 hours earlier for the benefit of donors to our Patreon page.

          Going to top 1%        
Here is a question and answer from Quora on getting to top 1%

http://www.quora.com/How-can-one-become-part-of-the-1/answers/8734078


Quoting the interesting takeaways... summary...


******************

1. Be mentally tough. Learn to get over your fears. I might have been lucky to have been born what is the tail end of the Cultural Revolution, a time of mass chaos and destruction, both figuratively and literally. I might also have been blessed with a natural tendency of being rebellious, going against the grain and paid no respect for authority, all qualities that could have made life miserable in a conservative Asian society. But I was lucky, I left not by my choosing. The point is, I had plenty of personal turmoil at an early age, where there wasn't a lot of security and stability, so you sort of get use to it. It is also this experience that made me realize that most people are afraid, and for the most part, irrationally afraid. What happens when one is afraid? You retreat, you hold back, you dither, you procrastinate. Worse, you become more prejudice, or even take on extreme forms of hate. You miss out on opportunities, you become a prisoner of your irrationality. So learn to ask a simple question when you are uncomfortable with something, what have I got to lose? In most cases, nothing, nothing but that quickening of your heartbeat, nothing but that little burning sensation on your face, nothing but that ego of yours getting pinched. Here is thing, once you realized the absurdity of those fears, you soon realize that vast majority of people around you are pre-occupied with those same idiotic fears! So if you really want to get head and shoulders above the rest of people, you don't need to have better looks, you don't need to have more money, you don't need to have better education, you don't need .... well the list goes on and on. But you only need one thing that is actually in all of us, just reach down a bit more. You have the courage, the toughness, yours skin is thick enough, your time here is only getting scarce... so get over it already!
2. Live within your means. Don't be an idiot like me.
3. Learn how to make money, not how to save money.
4. Learn how to scale yourself and the business. This means learning how to delegate, how to motivate others and recruit great talent to do works you don't know how or can't. My company is filled with people I recruited and most of them are unconventional successes as well. My sales guy Joe is a great example of this. Without the efforts of others, there is no way I am where I am today.
5. Learn all the time, I read 10-20 books on Kindle or Audible a month.
6. Learn from history and previous success as well as failures.
7. Ask a lot of whys. Usually 5 whys in a row will help you dig out the truth of the matter.
8. Work with smarter people, people who like to hack mostly. Learn, steal their ideas, they won't mind.
9. Travel as much as you can afford, you will have a much broader perspective. Go get your passport already!
10. Laugh at adversity, have fun. Life can be really hard, don't take it personally, even Bill Gates have really really shitty days.
11. Don't be a victim, don't make excuses. Nobody gives a shit about your problems.
12. Learn a trade that can make you money in good times and bad. I personally can always fall back on my trading no matter what. This makes me fearless.
13. Find an outlet for your stress. When I really really feel like I can't deal with things anymore, or just don't want to face anything I get in my car and go on a road trip, all by myself. I am fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful part of the world, so I don't have to venture far to find peace. So of my favorite places to drive have been Death Valley, Highway 1 up and down the West Coast of USA. The other option for me is to go sea kayaking. There is no way I am going to get stressed when I am sitting down in a kayak paddling around the ocean. When I didn't have much money, I spent my zen time listening to music, mostly classical music to escape.
14. It's good to have a chip on the shoulder, it gets you motivated. But it is an annoying personality quirk too, so balance it well.
15. Maybe you are just not born with it, I mean motivation. My brother is nothing like me, he is perfectly happy being average and couldn't give a shit about my struggles and successes.
16. It is nice to be in a county or a system that has plenty of opportunities. I was lucky to have been in US all this time. If you can, move.
17. Don't believe the BS about inequality. The real inequality is the level of personal drive and intelligence. I came from nothing, dropped out of college with IQ no higher than George Bush. If I can join the 1% 3 times, so can a lot of people.
18. Yes, it is you against the world.
19. Learn how to sell. This is perhaps one of the easiest way to get above everyone else. Whether you are a doctor, lawyer, accountant or any other professional, you will notice the ones on top are usually people who can sell. They sell themselves, they sell their ideas, they sell and motivate others to do their bidding (this is scaling). Bottomline, sales people are some of the highest paid out there, and it requires no specialization or education.
20. Don't take yourself too seriously. Make sure you are having fun. The American cliche about working on something you love or having passion is grossly overrated. It is far easier to find something you can fun in. Business can certainly be fun. Often times fun and not taking yourself too seriously can be the key differentiator for your business success. Who wants to do business with a bunch of boring and sour puss?
21. For most people this is the part that is hard to take: you will never get rich working for someone else. You might still be able to join the 1% if you have a highly paid job, but you are still someone else's wage slave. Fair or not, capitalism is about the ownership of capital, the means of production. In a world where long term growth stagnates (Europe, Japan and even America), ownership takes on even more importance because access to capital is constrained and return on capital is low (try to get a small business loan these day). So the only way out for most people is through entrepreneurship. Try and figure this out early in your life. I got lucky because I didn't arrive at this notion twenty years ago through thought and analysis, it was pure drive.
22. I am probably going to offend a lot of people with this one. Yes, I am Chinese, or what might be considered a minority in US. But I never view myself as such. I mean I never considered myself as Chinese, Asian, yellow-skinned and so on. It absolutely helps to be in a country such as US where there is such a mix of race and culture. BUT, the race and culture aspect has been played far too much by the minority groups, including the Chinese. I am not suggesting there isn't racism, nor am I saying there isn't a glass ceiling for some. You can decry all the "unfairness" that is in life or you can ignore it and fight on anyways. I am grateful for the likes of MLK who helped to pave the way for minorities and the disadvantaged, but life is short, you don't want to wallow in your self-pity just because your circumstances. Race, skin color, where you are from are just some of the small bumps in your long struggle in life, so get over it. I have personally experienced what some might considered racism, but I never let it get to me. I simply try harder. You will be surprised that even racist appreciates someone who doesn't give a fuck and simply out hustles. Effort is infectious!

I should add this little tidbit. My son was diagnosed with a rare form of blood disease in 2009, while I was going through my divorce. He nearly died if not for the efforts of Children's Hospital in Seattle. He spent a month in chemo at the time he is now in remission. I am not exactly an old man yet, so this may be presumptuous at this point. If I get to stay in the 1% and even get to be a billionaire, I have no intentions of going back to my former young and stupid lifestyle again. I'm living in a middle class neighborhood this time around. I don't have multiple properties or a bunch of fancy cars. My only splurge is travel. I want to live way beneath my means and leave all of my money to Children's Hospital when I die. This doesn't mean I won't do my best to make as much money as I can at the meantime :)
  



          Dear NSA: Nothing to See Here        
 
 
One of my very closest friends asked me to post my views on PRISM, the phone records sweep, Edward Snowden, and our modern surveillance state. I should be feeling more outrage, as the Fourth Amendment is now quite obviously dead and gone. Actually, it was killed with the passage of the Patriot Act but we now have official confirmation of the death. "American Freedom" was a grand experiment, but it's no longer practical due to "terrorism", you know. "Civil Liberties" are fine, as long as they remain within the bounds of what is considered "civil", and it's all helping to keep you "safe" from the boogeymen.
Actually, this all should come as no surprise to anyone who's been paying attention. Corporate America figured out long ago that data mining is an effective tool in manipulating the masses in the digital age. The government is now a wholly owned subsidy of Corporate America, which never really respected privacy anyway, so any and all information has now been made accessible (note: Snowden worked for a corporation as a contractor to the government). Nothing to see here, citizen; just keep consuming.
The only thing that is being revealed is that the surveillance is no longer hidden. Anybody with any sense knew that there was no privacy on the internet (duh), but we liked to think that our phone calls, texts, and emails were private. And in reality, almost all of them are really boring. We're not criminals, right? So, 'nothing to hide', right? Well, that "sex chat" with the mistress or the pic of the pubes sent to a lover might be a bit embarrassing...imagine the poor, bored NSA watcher sifting through millions of messages. I'm guessing that the sexy communications are the only thing that keeps them from sleeping on the job. After a few billion messages, I doubt they'd notice a terrorist communique unless it included a crotch shot. Which is why computers are doing the actual monitoring, sifting for "keywords" and such. Good luck with that when it comes to text messages, which are making "words" a thing of the past. And any attempt to make sense of Twitter is doomed to failure.
"Slavery" was ended in America, but over time in the quest for cheap, controllable labor the rich elite developed a subtle system of "wage slavery" to harness the labor of the masses. When you own the media, the market, and the government, you can sell "freedom" to the populace in the form of "consumer choice" at a massive profit. Keep the public poor and uninformed, but afford them enough of the modern version of bread and circuses to keep them pacified.
And Corporate America has already shown that they know how to handle dissent. Remember the "Occupy" movement? Remember how the media portrayed it? "Look at the 'occupy' freaks with their drum circles!" for a 45 second spot, then take the microphone away. Mock, marginalize, and ignore; the 'public' wasn't interested anyway. "American Idol" (or whatever show is popular on TV now; I don't pay attention anymore) will keep everyone distracted from their poverty. A few corporations did cash in by selling "occupy" t-shirts, obviously. Bradley Manning? The main thing the media will tell you about him is that he's gay, and then move on to a story about a missing white woman or a murder trial full of soap opera sexiness. Mock, marginalize, and ignore. While Edward Snowden (and/or Glenn Greenwald) may be prosecuted, it is far more likely that some embarrassing fact from the past will be exposed, and then the media focus will move on to another story. Within a couple of months, very few will remember their names.
Despite all the dystopian fiction ever written, this is our modern dystopia. Anything you say can and will be used by your corporate overlords to sell you the velvet chains that bind you. The one percent have built a system which keeps them virtually invulnerable, and we masses of drones will be kept powerless to change it. The revolution will be mocked, marginalized, and ignored, and the general populace will be too distracted to notice.
Yeah, I should feel outrage. But, and perhaps this is just a symptom of my depression, I only feel a cynical resignation to a reality beyond my control. It's not like I was using that "freedom", anyway.


          Eleven Discourses on Global Collapse        
1. The Big Sky

* It's sometimes useful to divide people into those who have read Catton's Overshoot and those who haven't. Which of the two groups people belong to determines most of their major decisions over the coming decades.

* In various countries, it's a curious indication of modern mentality that anyone walking along a road, rather than driving, is assumed to be an outcast, a parasite, living off the earnings of others. Before I left Oman to come back to Canada, I sold my car early, preferring not to be dealing with the hopeless Omani red tape while I was trying to get out of that dysfunctional country. Later, both in Oman and in Canada, I was carrying a knapsack and I was therefore a bad person. Someone who drives a car from one shop to another, although these are only a hundred meters apart, is a good person.

* I once showed a colleague the usual graph of the likely rise and fall of global oil production over past and future decades. I mentioned that one can apply simple mathematics to the available statistics on population and resources to see that windmills and solar panels aren't going to do the trick. "Yes," he said. "I know. It's amazing how people hang on to their illusions." A few days later he told me he was planning to go back to school in a couple of years to get an M.A. in some utterly anachronistic subject. Cognitive dissonance: one part of the brain doesn't want to know what the other part is thinking.

* I know several people who use most of their monthly paycheck to pay off a mortgage on a house that has had declining market value for years. They say, "We'll sell it when the market picks up again." I tell them that the credit crisis that began in 2007 is not part of a "cycle" of any sort. Anything that goes down for eternity is not a cycle. They give me a puzzled look and wander off.

* "Never mind all this doom and gloom. You have to tell us what to do." Well, it's been more than 250 years since Voltaire said, "Let us cultivate our garden," so I don't know if I have the patience to tell people what to do if they haven't already figured out what Voltaire meant. Anyway, with a dangerously declining economy, the most important rule is to do the opposite of what most people are trying to do, and get out of that economy.

* Canada has an area of 10,000,000 km2. Most of the population lives in the strip along the US border, 100 km wide and 5,000 km long, i.e. 500,000 km2. That's 20 percent of Canada's total land area. The other 80 percent, for the most part, has such a low population density that it might be regarded basically as uninhabited. I am perpetually intrigued by the possibility of a certain amount of self-sufficient human settlement there. After all, the native people long ago inhabited (in some cases quite sparsely, of course) nearly every part of North America, with only primitive technology.

* I'm starting to get a clear picture of the future livability of various parts of Canada. My research methodology is a mixture of government statistics, real-estate ads, and local gossip. Since I don't intend to be a wage slave, an ideal area for me would be one with low prices, especially low house prices, basically caused by a low employment rate. For someone still hoping to be part of the global economy, on the other hand, an area of that sort might not be so ideal.

* Statistics Canada has a somewhat mind-boggling publication entitled Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories, which indicates that the populations of the East Coast provinces will stay flat or decline over the next few decades, whereas those of the rest of Canada will rise. The reason is that the oil and gas industry, and the decline of fishing, have caused many people to leave the East Coast. It's also typical of the Pollyanna nature of the mainstream news-media that this dichotomy between "East Coast" and "other" does not appear in print, or not to my knowledge.

* My frequent spot-checking of house prices indicates that in all the East Coast provinces there are many livable houses for sale at less than $60,000, whereas in the rest of Canada such houses are rare.

* Even in northern Ontario the house prices are high, although there are no booming businesses there. A friend of mine living in the "near north" of Ontario thinks part of the reason is that retirees from the Toronto area no longer want to move a mere 200 km north of Toronto, where he is, but would rather move 500 km north, to the Kapuskasing-Cochrane area, where there is more elbow room. He himself has a second house in that more-northern area. Of course these people are the last of the rich pensioners, and when they are gone the prices might drop.

* I think the kind of analysis I use for Canada might also be used by people in other countries. Might as well make use of the Internet before the screen goes permanently black.

* I'm not sure if "Bangkok" was the "B" Lester Brown had in mind when he spoke of "Plan B," but in case there's ever an unpleasant surprise in one's first choice of location it's probably best to keep one or two alternate places in mind, perhaps quite different from one's basic selection. Canada's Presbyterian mentality can obscure the fact that there are those who have a different approach to the Apocalypse: an early death from AIDS or alcohol wouldn't necessarily be worse than a late death from boredom.

* Anyone thinking about "investment opportunities" should realize that most growth industries will be those that are now labeled criminal. Misha Glenny points out that tax evasion and organized crime already constitute 15 to 20 percent of global GDP.

* When I once questioned people in Canada about frugality, several suggested shopping at second-hand stores, but those stores will be closed when China stops shipping goods 12,000 km. A better frugality would be learning to appreciate the beauty of empty spaces, as in traditional Japanese houses, reducing our material possessions not as a form of arduous self-denial but as a blessing.

2. Looking for the Uncrowded Country

A couple of fridge magnets might hold the following desiderata: a place in the country with a couple of hectares of forest for firewood, another hectare for a garden, and a nice muddy beach for clam-digging (well okay, at least one of those three); and a small income or a large savings account as a buffer to the occasional but inevitable need for cash (until all dollars become Confederate dollars).

How fast things will decay is a debatable point. Personally, I would put my money on "faster" rather than "slower." There's a problem with perception: although the world's economy is collapsing rapidly, because it's all on a mammoth scale we don't notice it happening. In 2011 I mailed two boxes of used books, each of which was light enough for one person to carry easily. I sent them from Oman back to Canada by the cheapest parcel post, no registration, no insurance. The cost was $180 Canadian. Later I had to use a car to get those books and bring them somewhere else in Canada. The cost of the gasoline was greater than the cost, a few years ago, of the books. Nothing is cheap anymore, even if there aren't many people who register all the implications of that fact. It's true that collapse is not essentially an economic matter, since economists live in an unreal universe, but the economics of daily life should at least act as a signal.

Then one must deal with the enigma of concrete farmland. Finding a place in the country is central to surviving the next few decades, but the best land for gardening is both crowded and expensive. To a very large extent, where we need to live is not where we can live.

Canada's province of Ontario serves as a good illustration of this bind, although my own years of living there are part of my reason for focusing on that area. Roughly speaking, the province has 13 million people and 1 million km2 of area. But the province is commonly regarded as consisting of "northern Ontario" and "southern Ontario," more or less divided by the 45th parallel. Northern Ontario is about six times larger than the south. The division reflects many things, all interrelated. Partly it is history: the south was the area first settled by Europeans. Partly it is geology: northern Ontario is part of the Canadian Shield, mostly barren rock. Partly it is population: in contrast to area, the population of the tiny south is 12 times larger than that of the north. And partly it is agricultural: nearly all the good farmland is also south of latitude 45. To get to most of that usable land, one would have to dig up a fair amount of asphalt and concrete. Yes, there are pockets of farmland still in use, but to buy a few hectares one would have to pay a considerable price.

One of my own favorite computer games, therefore, has been to wade through the maps of the Canada Land Inventory, created from the 1960s to the 1980s (again, a sign of lost abundance) and now almost unobtainable. I compare these maps of agricultural and hunting land to the properties available at real-estate Web sites. I also compare them to various forms of demographic data, in particular to information on unemployment and depopulation; in a sense, I am profiting from the misfortunes of others: parts of Saskatchewan and the East Coast are losing population because of emigration to the relatively wealthier provinces. As a result, however, some usable land becomes available to intrepid "survivalists" with their shovels and hoes and collections of doomsday literature.

A constructive, non-fatalistic response to what I call "the coming chaos" might also include a reading of three particular documents by Ferguson, Lee, and Pimentel, on the topics of foraging, farming, and the social consequences. I prefer them to hundreds of other books and documents that present various viewpoints on those topics.

In "Energy Flows in Agricultural and Natural Ecosystems," Pimentel explains, among other things, some of the basic facts that would underlie any practical form of agriculture that does not rely on fossil fuels -- although, yes, any form of agriculture is ultimately destructive to the soil. Much of what he says is contrary to the conventional wisdom (or nonsense) offered by armchair gardeners, particularly in terms of the amount of land needed. Pimentel's article is rather brief and dry, but it provides a good starting point for any realistic appraisal of the limited agriculture that will be possible in the coming decades.

Ferguson's "Birth of War" is the best response I have seen to Hobbe's dictum that human life in early times was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." I think my recommendation of Ferguson's article is not on the basis of my own preconceptions or prejudices, because for a long time my reading was based on the assumption that Hobbes was right.

Lee's article, "What Hunters Do for a Living," like those of Pimentel and Ferguson, can be juxtaposed by many writings that make the opposite claim, or at least lead to opposite conclusions. That is to say, there are writers, including professional anthropologists, who basically assert that a foraging (hunter-gatherer) life is one of hard labor and near-starvation. Again, though, I should explain that my own more-optimistic conclusions come after a lengthy examination of the opposing theories. I eventually came to agree with Lee's statement (on his first page) that "with a few conspicuous exceptions, the hunter-gatherer subsistence base is at least routine and reliable and at best surprisingly abundant."

3. Collapse -- The Practical Paradigms

The entire global economy is collapsing, although very few people are aware of this: mainly the very rich and the highly educated. By understanding this, one becomes a member of the illuminati oneself, or if not at least an enlightened refugee.

The word "economy," however, is a misnomer, because economics is based on a misconception, like alchemy or astrology. Economists think everything can be explained in terms of money, which is seen as a closed system, perfect and eternal, like pure mathematics. What is happening, though, is not a closed system: the decline in natural resources, especially petroleum, and conversely the terrible rise in global population. It is a once-only event.

The decline in resources cannot be remedied. Those who believe in windmills and solar panels are closing their eyes to all questions of scale. Unfortunately we live in an age in which it is considered more important to have an opinion than to have an education.

Truth is another scarce resource: in particular, no one should trust television. A TV set is a machine for spreading lies, like the manure spreader behind a tractor. TV is controlled by an ever-shrinking number of corporations, and its goal is neither to inform nor to entertain, but to make profits. This is done by censoring the fundamental truths, and by depicting human society as a sitcom of seven billion characters, each of them too rich to be real and too mindless to be human. Yet we stare at the screen, longing for that illusory paradise, and then wander off to spend our hard-earned money -- hard to win, easy to lose.

Overpopulation is good for business. If a company in China or India can sell a product at a fraction of the price charged by an American company, that is because the cheaper product is based on what is virtually slave labor: the backbreaking misery of the poor.

The world is divided into a small number of the very rich and a much greater number of the poor. There is also the middle class, a vanishing breed who have neither the money of the rich nor the leisure of the poor.

Overpopulation is also correlated with crime (I mean "crime" in the usual sense of the word, although "white-collar crime" may be a greater evil). Contrary to its depiction on TV, there is nothing mysterious about crime. Anyone born in a poor neighborhood must occasionally break the law in order to survive. Prostitution, for example, is not an occult society: to a large extent, it is just a way of paying the rent.

As global society decays, those who plan wisely to survive and succeed must head for the hills, or if not the hills then the forest, the prairies, the seacoast. Nevertheless, for the next few years, until money as such is no longer the principal means of exchange, a little cash will probably still be necessary.

The most common mistake in such a transition "back to the land," therefore, is to recreate an urban house in an rural setting: the same house but with a greater distance to one's neighbor. One's cost of living has not changed, while one's income possibilities have droppped considerably. To renounce a modern income in order to break the ties to the collapsing global economy, one must also renounce "modern conveniences."

The future will be the Great Lurch Forward, crazier than Mao's Great Leap Forward and far deadlier. It will not be a mere extension of the American Dream, with fatuous executives guiding TV crews through a "green" domicile the size of a palace.

The transformation will be more than superficial. It will be psychological, philosophical, spiritual, and long-term, not technological and temporary. In the process, those who find the way must reconsider the ancient virtues, from fortitude to charity. They must recover their lost humanity, their identity as Homo sapiens, devoid of its plastic accoutrements. They must stop acting as if they were aliens on their own planet.

4. The Man Who Fell to Canada

The last leg was a tiny plane that left New York City and bounced down onto Halifax airport, at 10:00 p.m., on July 2, 2011. The taxi driver was Arabic, so we got along well. From Oman to Nova Scotia had meant three separate planes. I lost track of the number of hours because of the time zones, but I'd guess about 24 hours, crushed into an economy-class seat with little chance to sleep. But that left me dazed enough to get through five security checks: empty your pockets, remove your shoes and belt. The trick, of course, is to say as little as possible, keeping any dialogue bland and neutral. The questioning wasn't really aggressive, but it was still intrusive and disturbing. Strange how the USA devolved from liberty and equality into neo-nazism with a snap of the fingers. The Space Age died and became the Homeland Security Age.

There's a curious form of culture shock that accompanies returning to one's own country after long absence. I dose myself with Omani perfume on the airplane in lieu of taking a shower, then discover that Canada is now a "scent-free environment." I'm not only a dumb immigrant, I even smell like one. Never mind: I can still use my blue eyes to bully my way into getting priority service.

I brought a lot of dress clothes in case I end up looking for a job, but I'm still hoping that I can now completely retire. It's hard to say: the prices of everything seem ten times higher than when I was in Canada three years earlier. How can a sandwich cost five or ten dollars?

I'm not sure of the right metaphor for what I'm now doing. I don't know anybody in Nova Scotia, and I must therefore rely on my suitcase and my knapsack, both of which I had packed so carefully, opening them up to produce a car, a house, all the necessary plastic cards, and so on. The two containers are like an acorn that must become an oak, a spore that must become a mushroom, a space vehicle that must stick out its spidery legs and start collecting geological samples. My "return to the primitive" may be delayed for a while: I don't want to be recognized as a Luddite. But if all unfolds well, metaphorically and otherwise, I can one day relax and have a cup of tea at the edge of the ocean.

5. Last Days of the City

Like many other cities, Halifax, Nova Scotia is mostly a vast and somewhat ugly twilight zone, even if Lonely Planet Publications generally prefers the term "urban detritus." It has a tiny fashionable downtown area, mainly serving the affluent top 5 percent, but even that downtown has nothing resembling a "shopping center" -- "center" meaning "middle"; it's not easy to accomplish two tasks in one trip. Also, the public transit consists of about 60 bus routes, weaving and tangling, and even the locals don't seem to understand those routes. To some extent Halifax is dysfunctional because it is unsophisticated, but it is not an especially unusual city.

About 40 percent of Nova Scotia's population lives in Halifax. That's probably a fairly typical case of modern urbanization. Such a concentration of population may be useful in the sense that so many goods and services are available within a few hours' drive, but I can see how anyone not tied to a job might prefer to avoid such centralization, because what it really means is congestion. I would guess that many people who have either the money or the leisure to make choices would prefer an environment that is not a 24-hour-a-day traffic jam.

Because there is no common sense to the way things are located, nothing at "pedestrian scale" (as if pedestrians were a subspecies), Canada is probably one of the worst countries in the world in terms of forcing one to buy a car. Although it goes against my Luddite and primitivist principles, not to mention my bank account, I think I myself must now concentrate on getting a car, having just returned to this land. Then I will try to get out of the "urban detritus" of Halifax and take to the road for a while, hoping I can find that little cottage with the white picket fence. After all, it was the non-urban that drew me back here.

Canada has also become terribly addicted to electronics. Unless one is a homeless panhandler, there seems no way to live comfortably in a city without electronic communcation devices and a car. We live in an ocean of electronics, although not one person in a million could adequately describe the workings of any one of those gadgets. ("Don't own anything you can't personally repair.")

I'm almost inclined to accept Tainter's theory that our civilization will collapse from excess complexity. I'm sure overpopulation and resource-consumption are the main issue, but complexity certainly comes in there. My attempt to negotiate Heathrow and (far worse) JFK airports taught me that we all live in a teeth-grinding environment threatened by gridlock.

Perhaps above all, though, it is roads that are both the archetype and the metaphor for the problem: no matter how fast we build our ill-named "freeways," it is only a matter of time before they are clogged. The day will come when we will start turning off the engines and walking away.

6. Collapse -- The Enigma of Town and Country

In these early years of systemic collapse, as population soars and petroleum and other natural resources go into decline, the question is not so much "how" to live one's life, but "where." At the risk of oversimplification, the question can be reduced to the common term "town and country," or more accurately "city and wilderness and a few points in between." There are good arguments for various choices, although I shall not consider suburbia, which in the future will entail the worst of everything, in particular great expense and a total reliance on automobiles.

Pure wilderness is tempting. The Cochrane Southwest Unorganized Area, in northern Ontario, for example, consists of 553 km2 and a population of zero. There would be no serious problems with water, firewood, game, and fish, and probably even arable land. Once a house or cabin had been built, money would be almost unnecessary; all houses in Canada must adhere to the Canada Building Code, which requires electricity and plumbing, which in turn require money, but in remote locations there is less enforcement of these laws. And a time will come when no laws will be enforced. The long, harsh winter would be the main drawback, requiring the cutting and stacking of a great deal of wood. In addition, such a location would only suit a physically fit person who enjoyed long-term solitude. Another catch with wilderness life is that the distance to any settled area is so great that it cannot easily be covered without a motorized vehicle; if a long journey were ever necessary, the "simple life" might no longer be simple.

On the other hand, in a world with diminishing fossil fuels an argument could be made in favor of living in the center of a big city. The public transit system might be good enough that there is no reason for buying a car. For that matter, one can generally get anything needed simply by walking. Renting an apartment may be better than buying a house; why spend thousands of dollars on a house if one has no intention of reselling it later or passing it on to one's descendants? The most common disadvantage of such a location may be the problem of noisy neighbors. A longer-term and more serious danger is that the center of a city is "ground zero" for any form of systemic collapse when it has truly arrived: food, water, fuel, and electricity would suddenly vanish. Cities have always been the weak spots in any form of widespread disaster.

Between those two extremes might be a location in a small town, or on the outskirts of one. An ideal property might be one that had a few hectares of land for vegetable gardening and for the sustainable harvesting of firewood, and with a well or at least a river for supplying fresh water. House prices and property taxes in such rural areas are much lower than those in a city, although higher than those in more remote locations. Shops, doctors' offices, and post offices might be within walking distance. The company of good neighbors might be valuable, especially in times of trouble. There might be electrical power, and perhaps even a municipal water supply, although all these "mod cons" defeat one's purpose of disconnecting from a collapsing economy. The main advantage of small towns is that, although they can sometimes be hit by the same kinds of shortages as cities, they are generally more self-sufficient.

As with pure wilderness, small towns can nevertheless present the irony that the distances make the use of motorized vehicles quite addictive: this problem is caused largely by the fact that modern small towns often replicate "urban sprawl." In earlier centuries, towns and villages had a radial structure, with the houses and shops in the center and the farmland at the perimeter, allowing greater self-sufficiency with less traveling.

In a rather complex manner, there is a further touch of irony, if not a genuine self-contradiction, in "getting away from it all." The most visible aspect of systemic collapse is the disappearance of one's own finances: the frightening imbalance between one's expenses and one's earnings, even after cutting back on what used to seem necessities -- everything from gasoline to education now seems an unaffordable luxury. Abstract theories of either economics or ecology seem tangential when staring at one's empty wallet. The irony is that by leaving the city one might be dealing both with smaller earnings and with smaller expenses, but at the same ratio: if the ratio is not changed, no advantage has been gained. Rural poverty and urban poverty are thereby the same, merely on different scales. Any genuine solution must therefore include shifting that balance. Eventually the money economy will collapse, and those who live furthest from the cities will do best: in general it was farming families who managed to get by during the Great Depression of the 1930s. It's the waiting that may kill us. The problem is not that the global economy is collapsing, but that it is not collapsing fast enough.

There is a final matter to consider: particularly in the affluent West, most people have lost the ability to make choices about the future. We neither know nor care what the next few decades may bring. We may have some vague intimation of storm clouds on the horizon, but our fears are quickly dispelled by the glib fantasies of the mainstream news-media. We must start to give up our computers, cars, and other toys, before we have forgotten how to live in a non-electronic world. We must rediscover how to live as a part of Nature, not in opposition to it.

7. Handy Hints for Turbulent Times

The following is a set of principles that might make it easier to deal, on a personal or individual level, with global issues arising in the first few decades of the twenty-first century. After that, there will be changes far more alien to our accustomed word-view: the demise of government and with it the end of money as a means of exchange.

* The present issues can be summarized by saying that oil, electricity, and metals are going into decline, and that as a result all other goods and services are also in decline. In terms of money, the general effect is "stagflation": stagnant incomes combined with increasing prices. The ultimate cause of all these issues is overpopulation.

* Dealing with the future requires two approaches: financial and non-financial.

* The first approach is to accumulate as much money as possible in the next few years and live on those savings. Of course, there is not so much "easy money" these days. One trick is to find a high-paying job that most people do not have the fortitude to accept.

* This financial approach means one must stop living in denial. In the first place, many people deny that they are short of money, while in reality their debt-to-asset ratio is atrocious: they are burdened with credit cards, mortgages, car payments, student loans, and so on. Secondly, many people are ashamed of their financial state and therefore keep it a secret; the same thing happened during the Great Depression. But this is absurd: If every family is poor, how can poverty be shameful?

* The non-financial approach is what the glossy magazines call "country living": learning how to provide oneself with food, clothing, and shelter in ways that do not involve being so connected to the global economy. These skills can vary greatly in the degree to which they are "pre-industrial" ("primitive"). The extreme approach would constitute going off into the bush with only a gun and an axe; less off-beat would be learning not to pick up a telephone and call for outside assistance every time something around the house needs a minor repair.

* The catch to the financial approach is that money is ephemeral, perhaps more so now than at any time in the past. To use a common expression, money nowadays is just dots on a screen; what do we do when we cannot see the dots? It can be rather frightening to consider that one's hard-earned life-savings are nothing but electronic impulses in a vast and complex network that nobody really understands.

* In general the word "electronic" should be a danger signal. Although modern industrial society is based on fossil fuels, it is not these but electricity that is the most fragile part of our way of life. Of all the really distinct stages of systemic collapse, the failure of electricity will be the first to arrive. The great blackout of northeastern North America in August 2003, among others, was an warning of things to come. Also, most people have forgotten that in the 1960s the extreme sensitivity of computers to electronic impulses (EMP) from nuclear weapons was recognized as a serious weakness. Our dependence on electronics becomes greater with each passing year: anyone without a mobile phone and a laptop computer is ostracized, alienated from middle-class society.

* Acquiring independence from the industrial leviathan takes many forms. One good rule of thumb is that every time one learns to do something without spending money, one has acquired a new "survival skill." A related principle is, "Don't own anything you can't fix." Obviously the use of a mobile phone does not follow those two rules of thumb.

* We should keep in mind the old lie perpetuated by Marshall McLuhan: that the medium is the message. The Internet probably uses about 5 percent of the global electricity supply, and about 10 percent of the US supply, although nobody knows for sure. Yet there is an important distinction between data and information. Most of the data carried by the Internet could be deleted with no loss to our species. We can no longer distinguish between quantity and quality. In reality, "more, bigger, faster" just means "dumber, dumber, dumber." One should get rid of the TV set and try having a conversation.

* There are not many problems that cannot be solved with a good knapsack and a few mountains. A look down any city sidewalk will reveal another form of denial: that most human beings in modern society are fat, pale, and pimply. The future belongs to those who are both mentally and physically fit. As Marx and Engels said in a somewhat related context, you have nothing to lose but your chains.

8. The Year 2050

Looking back on the early 21st century from its midpoint, historians (of a sort) will regard it as the Age of Insanity. Who would believe that such a large proportion of the world's grain harvest would be turned into fuel for automobiles, each of which was a colossal example of inefficiency, a 1,000-kg metal vehicle with a single passenger? And who would believe that most newspapers would laud the efforts of "our peacekeeping forces," who marched into countries where they did not belong, committing acts which were blatantly offensive rather than defensive, all in the name of a euphemistic "hegemony"? Hadn't such thinking gone out with Adolf Hitler? And who would believe that the top mannequin, the President of the United States, would tell the citizens that the solution to multi-trillion-dollar debt was to go further into debt? And who would believe that the US would surrender its manufacturing to other countries, leaving itself nothing but a nation of service industries, oblivious to the fact that nobody wanted to be "serviced"? (And why does this word remind me of prostitution?) And who would believe that in a world literally dying of overpopulation, the topic would receive less coverage than a Hollywood divorce, since it was an issue that both the left and the right regarded as inconsequential?

The bookmakers will have had fun with World War III. In McMafia, Misha Glenny explains that in the Soviet bloc there was never such a thing as "law" in any normal sense of the word. Western concepts of law are very complex, very detailed, and they were built up over many centuries. The Communist equivalent for law was little more that bullying: what the boss said was about the closest thing to a law, and what his own boss said was an equally vague "law." Consequently, when the Soviet world fell apart, but had neither law nor law enforcement to fall back on, the so-called mafias filled the vacuum. Russia is therefore dissolving in anarchy. China's threat to the rest of the world will disappear as it loses all its resources: while the West believes China has its fingers into everything, the reality is that China is geographically almost identical to Canada but has about 40 times the population. China will be fatally short of rice, water, coal, and almost everything else. The only competitor with the US for "global hegemony," if some problems of cooperation can be solved, will be the cluster of Muslim countries. Unlike Westerners, many people in those countries know the oil is running out, and that they will have to nationalize everything before too many more American fortresses are built in their lands.

One great weakness of the West is the sad farce of democracy. It was always a wonderful idea, but the present concept of the "vote" now tends to undermine the whole effort. Some people say democracy is all about money: who can be bought, and for how much. Other people say it's based on power: one power group vs. another, one lobby group vs. another ("You take the model railroaders, we'll take the birdwatchers"). But "money" and "power" are basically the same thing. In its present form, in other words, democracy is merely a struggle for popularity; such matters as truth, freedom, and justice get lost in the brawling. At the same time, "communications technology" has become a misnomer, as the endless innovations are largely used to deceive the populace. The final blow is that democracy works smoothly only in small groups anyway, as the ancient Greeks could have told us. When the "voter" can no longer look the "politician" in the eye, it's inevitable that the liars will take over. "Dunbar's number" is 150, the maximum practical size for human association: with a population of 312 million, the US is far beyond that number, and China has never even bothered to be democratic.

There are people such as R.B. Ferguson who have good arguments for a sustainable global population of something like one million. That was the population about 10,000 years ago, just before agriculture was invented. Not only was agriculture detrimental to the land, but the resulting population explosion led to urbanization, which led to major socio-economic differences, which in turn led to warfare, and the overcrowding of the urban areas led to epidemics. That figure of one million would be 1/7,000 of the present population, or slightly more than the present population of Fiji. In the year 2050, when oil production falls to a small percentage of its present level and mechanized agriculture collapses, we won't need a doomsday virus to adjust those numbers. While the results will be horrifying, there will ultimately come a redemption of some sort: a little peace and quiet.

9. Back to the Land (but You First)

"Well, this is the end of civilization. What are we going to do about it?" My answer is always the same: "Move out to the country. You can't stop the collapse, but you can get away from it." At that point, however, the conversation itself collapses: all I'm getting is a blank stare. So the entire dialogue, brief and simple as it may be, has a flaw of some kind. It's a defect that neither of us, apparently, can quite explain. The silence isn't from dishonesty or secrecy, I would think, but merely from some sort of confusion, some problem that results from the complexity of the subject matter. Country living, it seems, is too expensive, too hard, too alien. Something like that.

Let's go over those issues one by one. But first I should say: it's not all hopeless. Many people do in fact make that transition. They tend to be people who've beat the game by going either above the rules or below them. People who have income or savings well above average can certainly move to the country, or perhaps have a second residence out in the country. Those who truly don't care about keeping up with the Joneses can also do all right.

With the first category, that of those who "go above the rules," I don't mean those who own an uninsulated summer cottage perched on a square yard of lakeside rock, squeezed in between two families with extremely loud children. It's true that owning a cottage of any sort puts you at a reasonable level of snobbery, but a lump of granite isn't going to provide you with the right to call yourself a true survivalist. No, by "above the rules" I mean you have what the real-estate brochures call "acreage." You have enough land that you can neither see nor hear the satanic offspring that your neighbors are raising.

By going "below the rules," on the other hand, I mean that you're single (most likely), you live in a shack, you ride a one-speed bicycle, and all your clothes were acquired second-hand. It's also fairly likely that you're young, since middle age has a way of whispering in your ear that what you're doing isn't "voluntary simplicity," it's the terrifying vacuum of poverty, and that anyone who lives like that is at least borderline mentally ill.

Another catch to country living, if you aren't born to it, is that it's too difficult. But that's not really the right word. It's too bewildering. I've just discovered, for example, that until quite recent times people didn't have the habit of bathing every day, or changing their clothes every day -- and that these habits are probably not even good for us in the first place. The Merk Manual of Medical Information tells me now that the solution to a problem of chronically itchy skin (as I've had for a long time) is to go easier on the soap and water, and avoid scrubbing the skin -- all the contrary of our general but misguided belief that "cleanliness is next to godliness." The point I'm getting at here is that the countryside has too much DIRT. The dirt of the countryside can send us into a tailspin of "culture shock." When I was running a market garden, one of my best customers stopped buying my baby potatoes when I told her that washing them before selling them was ruining the skins, and from now on I would simply let the potatoes dry somewhat and then lightly brush the dirt off. She couldn't accept the fact that vegetables grow in dirt. If your crops don't grow in the air, you can't sell them.

In a sense, the "country" no longer exists. Conversely we're locked in to the urban life. The world -- any part of the world -- has been taken over by civilization, so the difference between city and country isn't what it used to be. You can be at the top of a mountain, thinking about the Paleolithic, and a wealthy tourist with a high-powered rifle can come in over your shoulder by helicopter and shoot that grizzly bear you've been admiring. You can't get away because there is no "away." To a very a large extent, the extinction of the countryside is -- once again -- the fault of the money economy. (But, yes, ultimately overpopulation is to blame.) A trip to a hardware store can easily cost a thousand dollars. Even before that, having house inspectors look at a piece of property you like will also cost you a thousand dollars. The lawyer who handles the transaction will want another thousand. Need a new roof? Need to install gutters? Need a water heater, a sump pump, better plumbing, new windows or doors? You might as well go to your bank and ask them to give you a bundle of thousand-dollar bills, because you won't have any use for smaller denominations.

Of course, it's very easy to make the mistake of thinking you're living the "country" life when all you're doing is living in a "city" house with a greater distance between neighbors than your former colleagues have to accept. Your cost of living, in that case, is the same as in the city, but your income is probably far less. Part of the solution, therefore, is to lower your standards.

Sadly, it must be said that we're prisoners of the city. Big Brother has got us. There are transponders, motion detectors, and closed-circuit television cameras ensuring we don't escape. And the economy itself has certainly got us trapped in either downtown or suburbia: the guidelines may tell us that our debts shouldn't exceed our earnings, but who has the ability to keep even a single credit card in line? This is the age of inflation. No, even that is a euphemism, it's the age of stagflation: prices go up, but incomes stay down. We can't afford even a tent in the country, let alone a cottage.

For that matter, maybe the country never was the country. What happened to the back-to-the-landers in that great migration of the 1970s? Most of them went back to the city. Each of them now regards himself (or herself) as a "sadder but wiser man (or woman)." Very few of them stayed, and if they did it was only because they found themselves jobs with steady paychecks. The same is true today. There may well be a need for astrologers out in the countryside, but the income won't be enough to help you out when you're pushing your shopping cart up to a cash register in a hardware store. Before I bought my first house in the country, a local woman in a restaurant said, "Kids always move away. There's nothing here but Bell, Hydro, and the police." (Bell and Hydro are Canadianisms for telephone and electricity.) In other words, you're either getting your paycheck from "the government," which means in essence that those "rich, lazy city folks" are keeping you alive thorough their income taxes, or you're just out of luck. No, there's no employment office in an average village: if there are any jobs coming up, they always go to someone's cousin, and don't waste your breath trying to define "nepotism."

The problem of the nonexistent -- or at least, disappearing -- countryside certainly goes back a few years. Throughout my life, my favorite book has been Thoreau's Walden. I suppose it still is, but I no longer carry a copy. Partly that's because I have the book memorized and therefore have a permanent copy in my brain, but also it's because no one has ever given me a good answer to the question, "Why did Thoreau leave Walden?" He was there for only two years. If "the answer" was Walden, why didn't he spend his whole life there? Most studies of Thoreau say he left because his mentor Emerson offered him a sinecure, a place in the Emerson household as a sort of tutor or resident scholar. My own guess is quite different. During his first year he had an enormous garden, and he sold beans and other crops at the end of that year. He mentions, however, that he later thought it might be wiser to tend a much smaller piece of land, and to do it more for self-sufficiency than for money. He speaks of the "miles" of his bean field. My guess, in other words, is that he found it all too hard. He couldn't live without money, and although he never had much of an income he did have various skills, from surveying to lecturing, that paid more than beans.

But I'm still convinced that it can be done. There's nothing finer than to see a few perfectly straight rows of seedlings showing themselves above the ground. And there's nothing more evocative of the spirit of Nature than to watch, each spring, the shimmering whirlpools of a river in flood. Maybe I can even keep my Internet connection, so that I can stay in touch with distant friends of a similar mind, and we can convince one another that we may be crazy but we aren't stupid.

10. Doomers and Boomers

I keep trying to figure out how it is that doomers and boomers (or at least mere semi-doomers) have the same data but different totals. But maybe (a) they're not different totals and (b) maybe it's their half-full vs. my half-empty. We all seem to agree that there's a fair chance that oil production will stay somewhat flat for a while, and also that the next few years after that will probably see only a 2 percent average annual decline, or something like that, before going crazy. Of course, it's a sigmoid curve, and, as I discovered at age 12, when you're on your skis you can't turn around.

When I say "fair chance," of course, I'm excluding what might be called the Matt Simmons hypothesis, that some Middle Eastern countries are just lying through their teeth about how much oil they have left in the ground. If they are lying, it's time for each of us to start loading up the station wagon.

However, I was also thinking that another issue to consider (and maybe others have been thinking the same) is that if the next few years are "flat" and the ensuing years are only 2 percent, then why worry? Or, more precisely, why should you and I worry? We'll be dead by the time the S hits the F. Or as Louis XV said, "Apres nous, le deluge." After us, the deluge, so the hell with all those revolutionaries.

No, I'm not sarcastically hinting that it would be selfish not to care about the next generation. Or maybe I should say: I have mixed feelings. As far as I can tell, most Westerners under the age of 30 are mainly concerned about their tattoos. Also, the average American spends two and a half hours a day watching TV, which is basically a non-stop stream of little white lies, chopped into 5-second fragments. I'm not a neurophysiologist, but I suspect that a TV set has roughly the same effect on the human brain that a microwave oven has on an egg, even if only metaphorically speaking. So how many humans do I really want to save?

If the difference between the doomers and the boomers is a non-issue -- I mean, between the members of the two groups who have looked closely and carefully at the data -- then it may be that "getting out of Dodge" is also a non-issue. I've certainly had no luck getting my geriatric friends to study the Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants, and my guess for today is that they assume that the deluge will only happen long after they're safely dead.

11. Sermons in Stones

I've been trying to figure out why my "back to the land" sermon usually falls on deaf ears. I'm getting some answers, but it gets complicateder and complicateder. I suppose the question dates back several years, when a friend in England was preaching the same thing, and most people (even among those closely following "peak oil" and similar problems) were really not listening to him. In those days, the main reason was what might be called the religion of solar energy -- 5 or 10 years ago, it was a common belief that we would soon be back to Business as Usual, but with solar panels nailed to the roofs of our cars. (Sorry, it's hard not to be sarcastic.)

But to him, as to me, it was basic arithmetic. There was no way, with the colossal disproportion between global population and global decline in resources, that the world could ever hope for a return to anything like "normal." Like me, he tended to use the word "survivalist" to describe a person who predicted an inescapable global disaster and then outlined the steps for providing food, clothing, shelter, etc. for the few who could be saved. And it was certainly "few," partly because of that initial seven billion -- or, at least, it was then headed in that direction, and now it's well over that number. That's the population of rats in the world, not the population of wolves. There was no way that seven billion of anything could fit at the top of the food chain. (In fact, as a citizen of the UK, he was living in a country with a horrendous problem of overpopulation.) But it was also "few" because the overwhelming majority of human beings were not listening. That's still the case: far less than one percent of the world's population have read The Limits to Growth (1972) or any of the other books with similar messages. Probably far less than one percent of one percent.

I remember one Canadian friend once telling me, with great pride, that he'd written a letter about peak oil to his Member of Parliament. Ho hum.

Then someone whose opinion I always respect and trust said she enjoyed my article about the year 2050, but felt that it didn't offer any "closure." I had thought that by ending the article with a paragraph on the reduction of population from seven billion to ten million, I was getting about as "closed" as mathematically possible. But obviously there was still a problem.

Then I tried to describe the nitty-gritty of "survivalist" behavior, with all the tedious complexities of going back to the Simple Life that is sometimes not so simple, but that is in fact possible, since it's an empirical fact that people do live in rural areas -- and not only the people who've lived there for generations. I got only one response, but a positive one, and I was glad to hear that it was from someone who'd grown up on a farm.

Later I was told that my only advice was to "run away," when I should really be "engaging." That kind of behavior might leave me with my compatriot who'd cheerfully written to his MP. In any case, I don't feel that by sharing practical advice on rural living I am doing anything that constitutes either negativity or selfishness or any other form of non-engagement. On the contrary: far better to say "game over" and help others to survive than to go into business selling solar panels for car roofs. Or writing to MPs.

I don't like the word "survivalist," of course, because that brand name has already been taken by people who can barely handle English grammar, and who think every solution must include a detailed description of guns and ammunition. Well, OK, I'd rather have a few gun nuts on my side than someone who writes letters to MPs, but surely there must be some who can talk about what I call "beans and corn" and not just the mathematics of hydrocarbon decline. But that probably makes me come across as rather self-righteous: even if they're far too quiet about any solutions they've come up with, there are in fact many people who are practicing what they preach -- or even practicing instead of preaching. Most of them seem to live in the Republic of Cascadia, but there may even be a few out east here as well. (What is it, a secret handshake?) But the silence prevails. Oh, well, maybe I should take a vow of silence myself, since I want to buy land again and don't want to start a stampede and drive up the prices. Maybe Lao Tzu had it right 2,500 years ago, when he said, "Those who know do not speak."




Peter Goodchild

Author of Tumbling Tide: Population, Petroleum, and Systemic Collapse(London, Ontario: Insomniac Press, 2014)


          O Robot, Where Art Thou?        


“The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production,” Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels declared in The Communist Manifesto. To Marx, capitalism was oppressive, immiserating and dehumanizing but, in the final analysis, progressive because the technological leaps it entailed paved the way for a rational, socialist society.

Nearly a hundred years later another economist, Joseph Schumpeter, made a very similar point, but this time from a pro-capitalist perspective. He referred to the “gale of creative destruction … that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one and incessantly creating a new one”.

The sociologist Randall Collins, whose essay on the cognitively astute robots that will progressively decimate middle class employment I reviewed in part one, relies on the same intuition. Capitalist competition dictates that the replacement of human labour with machines will inexorably go on for the next 20, 100 or theoretically 1,000 years, he claims, unless something extrinsic to the system calls time on capitalist competition.

However, capitalist competition isn’t proving as revolutionary as it’s supposed to be. Were the digital/robot revolution to be merrily scything through the analogue economy, this would show up in soaring productivity figures, which measure output per worker. In reality, productivity in the advanced capitalist countries has rarely been lower. It currents stands at 0.3%, down from the 1% of the pre-crisis years. And nothing like the 5% achieved in the 1960s and early ‘70s. In Britain, productivity fell by 0.5% in the first three months of 2017. And the productivity enigma is not limited to advanced economies – regions like Latin America show similar inertia. The gale of creative destruction has turned into an oppressive stillness.

Equally, unemployment shows scant signs of the robot revolution. If robots were stealing all the jobs, thousands of people would find themselves surplus to requirements. The official unemployment rate is 4.8% in the UK and 4.7% in the US. Assuredly, these figures need to be read in the light of the millions who have given up looking for work or are economically inactive, but they do not appear to mask steadily rising structural unemployment caused by technological displacement.

And the jobs being ‘created’ are not ones entailing the supervision of machines; they are menial. The number of hand car washes in Britain now stands at 20,000 while their mechanised equivalent, the rollover cash wash, has halved in number in ten years. In the words of one commentator, this is“a kind of reverse industrialisation”.

Collins himself notes that the “biggest area of job growth in rich countries has been low-skilled service jobs, where it is cheaper to hire human labour than to automate.” In the US, he says, one of the most impressive employment growth areas is (as of 2013 when he was writing) tattoo parlours.

This is not to claim that new technologies are not being conceived or realised. Most people, by now, have heard of 3-D printing, self-driving cars and nano-technology. But they are not being utilised in the economy. This is not a new development, though perhaps it is new for capitalism. The steam engine was invented during the Roman Empire but was not commercially exploited until the 18th century.

David Graeber attributes part of the reason for technological stagnation to the corporate form. In Marx’s London, says Graeber, scientific and technological innovation was the order of the day because individual capitalists, rather than conglomerates, dominated. But in the 20th century, corporations gradually extended their iron grip and creativity declined.

There is something to be said for this. The point of a corporation is not to encourage competition but stamp it out – to achieve monopoly and restrict entry to the market to other firms. Once market dominance has been achieved, you then aim to maximise take-up of your products (two or three of the same gadget for everyone) and to restrict labour costs (by moving your production to China for example). But technological innovation brought by a rival company breathing down your neck is less desirable.

However, I don’t think this tells the whole story. The really glaring declines in productivity have occurred after the 2008 financial crisis. The official story is that government stepped to make sure credit continued to flow through the system and to set the private economy back on the virtuous path of self-regulation. But in reality what emerged was the simulacrum of a competitive system, and one particularly ill-suited to technological innovation. The priority was to preserve the system, and that overriding aim sacrificed what technological dynamism there was.

It’s undisputed that what characterised the world economic system before 2008 was overwhelming debt – debt miring banks, corporations and subsequently governments, debt asphyxiating consumers as wages failed to grow. But far from falling after the crisis, debt has continued to mount. In 2015 it was revealed that global debt had risen by over 40% since 2008, climbing to $57 trillion. Ultra-low interest rates throughout the world have made that debt manageable (by minimising interest payments) even while it continues to mount.

But this ‘preservationism’has facilitated the after-life of a growing number of ‘zombie’ companies – firms so much in debt that their income only covers the interest payments they have to make. According to the OECD, across nine European economies (including the UK), between 5 and 20% of the total sum of private capital is sunk in zombie companies. It is estimated that there are between 108,000 and 160,000such undead companies in the UK. And there are presumably many more near zombies. It no accident that genuine technological innovation is the preserve of a few mega corporations, such as Apple, who are awash with cash. Most companies don’t want to risk investment in untried technology.


This might explain the growth of menial, low paid, temporary work rather than robotic technology. Such work guarantees profit but requires minimal capital investment in new equipment. According to Adair Turner, the former head of the UK’s Low Pay Commission, “there is something about the economy which – left to itself – will proliferate very, very low paid jobs.” But, of course, the economy has not been ‘left to itself’ – its financial system has been subject to a multi-trillion dollar bail-out and central banks across the world are still in the process of ‘tapering down’ a Quantitative Easing programme that has created $12.3 trillion out of thin air.

This economic settlement also indicates that the scenario painted by Randall Collins – one where capitalist competition ordains the rapid robotization of the economy, throwing 50 or 70% of people out of work by mid-century – will take much longer to come to pass, if it does at all. A new and deeper financial crisis will almost certainly get their first.

However, there is, at root, something strange about dreading technological progress – desultory or transformative. Collins’ nightmarish near-future – where a tiny elite owns all the automated businesses and computer equipment and the vast majority of people fight over the scant number of jobs serving them – is peculiar to a very particular kind of social structure. One in which a person’s livelihood is dependent on whether they can make themselves useful to the ‘productive apparatus’. In these circumstances, being displaced by a machine is clearly very threatening.

But automation loses its menace if people’s income is divorced from work; if the income they receive to live on has nothing to do with their ability to sell themselves to an employer, or the capacity of a machine to perform a task more efficiently than a human can. Once this practical and conceptual breakthrough has been made, far from being something to be dreaded, technology acquires a very different complexion. It becomes something to be welcomed.

The thinker who most embodied this leap in understanding was Murray Bookchin. Back in 1965 (its five decades old lineage revealing in itself) he wrote an essay entitled Toward a Liberatory Technology that belied contemporary attitudes of ‘deep pessimism’ and fatalism towards the effects of technology. “After thousands of years of tortuous development,” Bookchin wrote, “the countries of the Western world (and potentially all countries) are confronted by the possibility of a materially abundant, almost workless era in which most of the means of life can be provided by machines.”

The real issue to Bookchin was not whether this technically transformed economy could eliminate repetitive and thankless toil, “but whether it can help to humanize society”. Technology, he claimed, did not have to enslave humanity or result in legions of passive automatons mesmerized by gadgets. It could just easily facilitate a revival of craftsmanship, producing products that people can personalise themselves or freeing them to pursue ‘unproductive’ activities.

But the primary liberatory potential of technology lay in the fact that it could give people the free time and energy to manage society themselves. Past revolutions, such as the French or the Russian, had shown tantalising glimpses of this possibility. The Parisian sections of 1789 or the Petrograd soviets (councils) of 1917 were democratic assemblies which everyone could attend and participate in the hitherto privileged act of ‘policy making’. However, the brute fact that these societies were mired in conditions of material scarcity meant, said Bookchin, that the mass of people had to return to the role of mute wage slaves reproducing the means of subsistence, while “the reins of power fell into the hands of political ‘professionals’”.

Future society – and specifically the robotized society predicted by Collins – has no such restraints. It is only the outcome of a perverse social structure that, in a material environment where robots and computers carry out the vast majority of work, people fight among themselves for the right to serve the elite. Nor is it inevitable that, as Collins predicts, that post-capitalist society oscillates between the bureaucratic oppression of central planning and market capitalism. Fully automated luxury communism can not only facilitate a self-managed society but also satisfy myriad wants far better than the Stalinist planned economies of the post-war years. “From the moment toil is reduced to the barest possible minimum or disappears entirely,” said Bookchin, “the problems of survival pass into the problems of life, and technology itself passes from being the servant of man’s immediate needs to being the partner of his (sic) creativity.”

I think three things are becoming increasingly clear: (i) Automation determined by capitalist competition will magnify current inequalities of wealth and power, leading to a dystopian future (ii) Far from revolutionizing the ‘productive forces’, the corporate, debt-riddled, state-reliant economy that has emerged from the 2008 global financial crisis is proving conspicuously bad at instituting technological innovation, preferring old-fashioned exploitation of human labour, and (iii) A post-capitalist society can choose which technologies to expedite, without any concern about the consequences of throwing people out of work. It can also facilitate enduring democratic self-management for the first time in history. Given (i) and (ii) are not remotely desirable and will likely precipitate huge conflict and war, getting to (iii), however difficult, is the only rational course of action.

          News of Opposition: September 2015        


september 2015

woman writing 2 japanesishSS163CLburn it all down graffiti

“My favourite poem is the one that starts ‘Thirty days hath September’ because it actually tells you something.”
– Groucho Marx

Wailsday, 30/9/15:

Argentina, Salta: the heat feel the heat…as indigenous occupy gas company, cut off routes

Mexico, Campeche: various actions by workers in 3 towns – cutting water off, depositing garbage in streets etc., demanding payment of salaries before end of local mayors’ mandates…Chiapas: riots against the new mayor “The protesters set cars ablaze and people vandalized the Municipal Presidency”

Cambodia: report on increases in strikes and likelihood of further increases

Colombia, Carupano: riot over arrests after protest over lack of water supply; roads blockaded, car and motorbike burnt; 1 person killed by the state…Cundinamarca: similar protests over lack of drinking water; roads blocked, police station attacked

South Africa, North West: 3 schools and clinic burnt down in service delivery protest…KwaZulu Natal: students pelt insecurity guards with stone, property damaged as movement over funding continues

India, Kerala: plantation workers strike inspired by wildcat strike in Munnar taken over by Trade Unions eager to recuperate and bathe in the reflected glory of the earlier victorious wildcat strike

US, Illinois: high school students walk out of school in support of teachers More here “…the union contacted the district to get back to bargaining as soon as possible. He said the agreement was turned down by an “overwhelming margin.” On Tuesday night, members of the East St. Louis football team decided to organize the student walkout, said Elijah Smith, 16, a sophomore and right tackle on the varsity team. The students met in the cafeteria Wednesday morning and left before classes started, he said. They walked more than two miles down State Street to the administration building. Police cars with flashing lights waited and officers watched. When the gathering of more than 100 students blocked the entrance and gathered near windows, a security officer shooed them away …They said they planned to stay until they could meet with administrators….One substitute teacher, Marshata Caradine, was on the parking lot with the students. She said she is encouraging them to do this. “I’m bending their ear, ‘Come and do it,’ because they’re doing it in Ferguson and turning the world around,” Caradine said….”What I see on a daily basis is atrocious because I know it is not preparing our children for a better tomorrow,” she said. Teachers with the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers, Local 1220, are worried about a district proposal that would double the amount of years it would take a new teacher to get through the salary schedule”. East St.Louis is on the other side of the Mississipi river from St.Louis itself and is in another state – Illinois. State workers in Illinois can strike, but in Missouri it is forbidden. A friend writes: “…one news report i saw said the union encouraged the teachers to approve the contract, but teachers voted it down anyway.“

Tearsday, 29/9/15:

Colombia, Bogota: Universidad Pedagogica closed after hooded students and riot cops clash

Peru (south east): after having killed 4 protesters against mine construction, the state declares state of emergency “The Peruvian government declared a state of emergency today in six south-eastern provinces of the country after the death of four people in a violent demonstration against the largest mining project in Peru, led by a Chinese consortium. …The establishment of the state of emergency includes suspending rights of assembly and the inviolability of the home. The clashes began after a meeting of the inhabitants of the area who refuse the construction of an ore processing plant at Las Bambas main mining site in Peru, which extracts copper. They believe that the plant will pollute their water and their cultures….the Chinese consortium MMG… bought the assets of Glencore Xstrata for nearly $ 6 billion in April 2014.” [see entry for yesterday, 28/9/15]

France, Paris: victorious striking chambermaids hold fashion week for the poor to celebrate

Lebanon, Beirut: protesters clash with cops as they block Energy Ministry doors Conservative side of this:“…the demonstrators stressed they want accountability, saying their intention is not to ransack the ministry….“The authorities are stealing public money without being held accountable…” Radical side: “They also stressed that they refuse to negotiate with any of the relevant parties”

Mexico, Zumpango: 7th day of occupation of town hall by municipal workers demanding unpaid salaries before mayor (PRI) is replaced….Tierra Colorada: 80 municipal workers strike for the same reason (PAN mayor)

Israel, Jerusalem: wildcat strike by train drivers during week-long festival

Denmark, Birkerod: cop stabbed by Palestinian in asylum-seekers’ detention centre

South Africa, KwaZulu Natal: furious protests over student funding close down several campuses “Protesting students brought traffic to a standstill in Newholmes Way and Pietermaritz Street last week, when more than 1 000 gathered and went on a rampage, burning tyres and barricading the road. Buildings on all three campuses were also damaged, with windows and water pipes being broken. Light fixtures in lecture theatres were also ripped out and bins upturned and litter strewn all around the campus and in classrooms…Lectures have been postponed and the campuses shut down until further notice.“…. Western Cape: whole “community” protest arrests with burning tyres, rocks and stone-throwing There is something very confused and confusing about these events. The arrests were for the killing and burning of 2 drug dealers who’d plagued the area for some time. Drugs are obviously used to pacify and divide proletarians and to intensify our impoverishment (and have been ever since heroin was brought into the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in the aftermath of the soft-drug-induced “summer of love” – and certainly before then in black areas of the US). However, the complaint is that the cops weren’t “doing their job” and had failed to detain these people after the locals had told them about them. Moreover, though one can understand the rage, is killing and burning fairly low level drug dealers (ie not the ones organising the supply routes and the whole business) – getting at the easiest targets – a strategic method of attacking the use of drugs by this society? After all, as long as present conditions continue, drug-dealing with all its inherent risks, is still going to be seen as preferable to normal wage slavery with its crap wages. This is certainly not to assume the aloof luxury of moralist finger-wagging, but if we are to struggle against the inhumanity inflicted on us, we have to reduce our own inhuman tendencies to the minimum. As Nietzsche said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

Moanday, 28/9/15:

France, Seine-Saint-Denis: 3 cars overturned, bin burnt, at high school student demo supporting migrants…la Manche: wildcat strike against sacking of worker

Peru, Challhuahuacho: cops kill at least 3 as anti-copper mine protesters try to enter mining area “… ambulances couldn’t reach Challhuahuacho, the town of about 10,000 residents where the clinic is located, because police had shot at a vehicle carrying doctors.”

Italy, Sardinia: miners occupy mine shaft as part of resistance to redundancies

Stunday, 27/9/15:

Switzerland, near Zurich: 9 army vehicles set alight and destroyed in military base

France, Caen: undocumented squat disused church building…la Drome: about 20 youths stone passing cars; cop car window broken; municipal building also attacked…Yvelines: gendarmes attacked with stones and metal bar by half a dozen youths

Shatterday, 26/9/15:

Germany, Leipzig: as 800 cops protect fascists, various masked youths attack both of them with stones etc.; pacifist priest condemns attack on cop car as “violence” (also reports – in French – from other areas of Germany)

Mexico, Mexico City: cop, fast food restaurant, cafe and adverts attacked on demo about the 43 disappeared students (anarchist article here)

UK, London: cafe selling bowls of cereal for ridiculous prices in poor area attacked by angry mob of a few hundred with paint and smoke bombs Video here Eyewitness participant account here “…a number of upmarket Estate agents got smashed up and kicked in with boots and flying metal street furniture. As riot cops tried to keep up with the bloc and occasionally try to cut it off or snatch people, they were very obviously outnumbered and the crowd weren’t having any of it, with missiles flying, confrontations and very physical scuffles breaking out continuously, leading to a decent amount of pighats flying about…There was a “hipster cop pig” effigy set alight, bins pulled into the road and put on fire, which was helpfully much exacerbated by the clueless cops who struggled with the burning effigy spreading the fire. De-arresting was fearless, as at one point almost fifty people swarmed to try and take back one of their own, driving riotcops with shields and batons back off the road.“

India, Bangalore: locals sabotage stench-producing compost plant “…a few people from the villages entered the plant premises and damaged computers and office equipment…Angry villagers damaged the unit. They set the dry waste on fire and destroyed a few properties belonging to the compost.”

Frightday, 25/9/15:

Mexico, Michoacan de Ocampo: students hijack bus for demo, clash with cops, attack professional manipulators (more info about Mexico here)

Colombia, Cucuta: 3 main roads barricaded by protesting informal sellers of petrol; clashes with cops (video)…Barranquilla: 2 roads barricaded in protests against 3-day electricity cut

South Africa, Limpopo: service delivery protesters dig trench across road “…protesters blocked roads with stones. Police removed the obstacles, but a deep hole has been dug across the road”

Thumpsday, 24/9/15:

South Africa, KwaZulu Natal: compromise deal reached after taxi strike stops all public transport for 4 days “Durban public transport was disrupted for a fourth day on Thursday after minibus taxi operators went on strike last week demanding the release of hundreds of impounded taxis. Thousands of commuters have been without transport since Monday afternoon. More than 160 minibus taxis were impounded by the metro police for operating without legal route permits. In some parts of the city, private buses and taxis have been stopped and prevented from transporting people.”

Wailsday, 23/9/15:

US, Illinois: demonstration outside prison in support of prisoners’ hunger strike (more here from anti-state sl)

Canada, Montreal: indigenous women shut down phoney pipeline consultation

India, Bihar: Congress Party workers smash up Congress Party offices This they did whilst shouting pro-Congress Party slogans. This is the essence of how ideology works – colonising proletarians’ point of view even as they oppose aspects of a world that denies them any genuine voice. Either the self-contradiction is confronted by such people striving to discover the words and theory expressing their physically expressed antagonism or they just don’t make sense.

UK, London: mass eviction clashes (video here) More here

France, Grenoble: 2 cops hospitalised after their car windows are smashed by young man…Beauvais: small prison riot

Ukraine, Kharkiv: no idea what this is about “Unknown persons dressed in camouflage and wearing balaclavas, who had reportedly picketed the house of former Kharkiv Governor Mykhailo Dobkin, have come to the Kharkiv town hall…”We’re at Kharkiv City Council where a session is taking place now. Prior to that, more than 200 people wearing balaclavas came to the house of Mykhailo Dobkin. Now they’ve moved to the city council’s building and asked [Kharkiv Mayor] Hennadiy Kernes to come out…There have been several clashes between police and people wearing balaclavas. A few minutes ago, someone released tear gas. The city council’s doorway is surrounded by a thick cordon of police. The guys stepped about 20 meters back. No specific demands were announced by the people in balaclavas, but while standing outside Dobkin’s house, they said their task was to throw Dobkin away from the city and make everything possible so that Kernes would not become Kharkiv mayor…They attempted to brawl at Kernes’ outer office, broke a telephone set and went away. At the exit, they clashed with police. They had pepper-spray balls with them. They beat a police officer, tore his uniform. Then they quickly got into several buses and left”

Tearsday, 22/9/15:

Uruguay, Montevideo: video of students hurling rocks at riot filth after being ousted from occupation of government building over education funding…report in English here “Various sectors of Uruguay’s transportation and education movement held a 24-hour strike after a group of students was forcefully evicted from the Uruguayan public education administration headquarters. The incident took place after students demanding increased funding for education, were forcefully removed by police from the public building… On Wednesday, several trade union movements criticized the government’s handling of the incident. “On national teacher day, the national government makes use of the repressive aparatus to fight with students and teachers, for demanding better education for our students and workers,” the Associations of High School Teachers (ADES) said in a statement. ….”Those of whom participated in the violence were the taxi unions and other organizations that have little to do with the complaints of the students,” Uruguayan Minister of Education Maria Julia Muñoz stated.”…Santa Catelina: cops surrounded, stoned, burning barricades after cops wrongly arrest 2 youths

Mexico, Guerrero: students seize 12 buses to go to demo; petrol bombs thrown at cops; lorry torched “On Monday, protesters had ransacked the prosecutor’s office in Chilpancingo.” Video here “…the students descended from the buses, placed a truck across the tunnel and set fire to it, local media reported. The students then reportedly threw rocks, molotov cocktails and rockets at the police, who responded with tear gas to try to disperse them…..Four police officers – including two female officers – were held hostage until 10.30am when they were released and sent back to Chilpancingo on board ambulances”…Radical university radio programme organisers increasingly subjected to state-manipulated violence in the run-up to the anniversary of the disappearance of the 43 students

South Africa, Gauteng: lessons and tests suspended after doors broken, tyres burnt as students protest crime, stale food and bad accomodation More here…KwaZulu Natal: court prohibits student and sugar workers’ protests “…at the Edgewood campus…strikers broke windows, removed students from classes…Of the mill strike… amendments were made to the Labour Relations Act that required the company to reconsider its casual labour policy…. Those not offered permanent jobs went to the CCMA and lost. They then began a strike that included threats of violence, setting alight a company bakkie and a private vehicle.“…policing the police “Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger said it appeared that the attacks on police were on the rise and this was “extremely worrying”. “The attacks on police need to be seen in the context that all levels of violence are increasing, and examples of this can be seen in mob justice and community protests.”…taxi drivers stop all public transport…North West: municipal property destroyed, chief finance officer assaulted as demonstrators demand jobs “I’m sick and tired of stealing. There is nothing to steal any more here in Vryburg. Let them give us jobs,” said one….Two municipal security guards and a bystander were also attacked during the chaos.“

Kenya, Nairobi: journalists and cops stoned as students demonstrate about delays in loans

UK, Durham: prisoners sunbathe on prison roof and wreck a bit of it This trashy article illustrates a typical journalistic contempt for basic human desires – so what else is new?

Moanday, 21/9/15:

South Africa, KwaZulu Natal: student riots cost university about 2 million euros

Eire, Dublin: homeless and anti-austerity group occupy part of private estate construction site demanding social housing

France, Dijon: anarchist squatters successfully resist demolition bid & tear gas, attack ERDF attempts to cut off electricity, barricade social squat for asylum seekers and themselves

Hungary: army authorised to shoot refugees

Stunday, 20/9/15:

South Africa, Western Cape: as “mob justice” kills criminals who add to people’s misery, it also attacks cops, burns cop car, puts up barricades

Lebanon, Beirut: clashes with cops as “You stink” movement tries to march on parliament

India, Delhi: youths clash with cops

Shatterday, 19/9/15:

Mexico, Chietla: city hall, cop motorbike & 2 cars burnt in response to police indifference to torture and murder of elderly woman

South Africa, Johannesburg: report about clever method of opening upmarket squats

Canada, British Colombia: indigenous win anti-fish farm battle (see entry on 9/9/15)…or did they???

Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou: 3rd day of barricades, burning tyres, etc.

India, Ahmadabad: sit-ins, roads blocked and cops pelted after farmer’s leader is arrested “Ahead of Patel’s detention, the Gujarat state government banned mobile Internet services to prevent protests and rumours from spreading. The ban remained in place late Saturday.”

Frightday, 18/9/15:

Switzerland, Basel: anti-militarist demo attacks cops, newspaper building etc; rubber bullets & tear gas fired “…fireworks and stones the size of fists were thrown at officers,” police said. It also claims that the protesters tried to blind several police using lasers. …The police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas on protesters…Several buildings were damaged with thrown stones, steel screws, construction equipment, bottles… According to various witnesses, several windows of the building housing the Basler Zeitung were broken. Several vehicles of border guard police, police and delivery vehicles were damaged. …Nearly two to three hundred people marched late Friday afternoon in Basel to protest against the holding of the military exercise called “CONEX 15” … The exercise, scheduled until September 25 particularly wants training for the army in order to restore security in the event of a breach of the Swiss border” More here in French

Finland: General strike (more here and here)

Thumpsday, 17/9/15:

Colombia, San Andresito de San José: fly pitchers riot against cops after cop shoots & wounds one of them

Burkina Faso: barricades as demonstrations against military coup spread throughout country; house of member of party of former president torched; shops close in several cities (in French) More here in English “…they had to shoot in the air to disperse hundreds of people who threw stones, burned tyres and blocked streets in the capital”

burkinas faso sept 2015

burkina faso sept 2015 2nd

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

South Africa, Western Cape: arrests after strikers burn down and destroy warehouse…KwaZulu Natal: authorities close down all student facilities, on or off campus, after campus residence is burnt down in continuing protests about debts “Thursday, a Westville campus residence was torched and students staying there were taken to other residences. On Monday night, a private bus which the university contracted to transport students was burnt to ashes. On Sunday night, two cars and the building which houses the office of vice-chancellor Albert van Jaarsveld were torched. Police spokesman Thulani Zwane said at 2.05am on Thursday, a group of people wearing balaclavas set a laundry building at the Westville campus alight. About five rooms and the laundry were set alight while students were sleeping inside….After the announcement on Thursday that students had to leave, violence erupted at the Pietermaritzburg campus where a car was overturned.”

Greece, Athens: police station attacked with molotovs (more here)

UK, London: immigration enforcers’ van windscreen smashed

Wailsday, 16/9/15:

France, la Manche: nuke transportation delayed for several hours due to fake bomb on tracks “The organisation Greenpeace, in a statement, denied any participation in this action, as explained by Yannick Rousselet, in charge of its nuclear campaign, “Obviously, there is a clear link between the departure of the train from Valognes and the presence of this material on the railways, (…) we just need to make it clear that we would not oppose such transportation, that we do not intend to disrupt it; now there are different movements in the anti-nuclear movement and the fact can’t be excluded that people have wanted to express their disagreement with nuclear power by this method, but it is not ours’.” See this official French document on transportation of nuclear substances and this map illustrating routes:

france map nuke transportation

Germany, Dresden: SPD offices attacked with very putrid smelling stink bombs (butric acid)

India, Kerala: women workers begin tea strike 3 days after successful women workers’ wildcat in Munnar See also this, from 23/9/15 “…only 1 per cent of the profit from global tea trade goes to the picker. The rest gets split between the retailer, blender, factory owner, trader and the auctioneer. But rather than the economics of it, tea workers are let down by a system that treats them akin to slaves in the 21st century….The trade unions of KDHPL…were dumped by workers because they failed to address the iniquities perpetuated by the feudal-capitalist legacy of colonial planters.” And this (from 19/9/15). See also this (28/9/15)

green blood revolution

South Africa, KwaZulu Natal: university closes for 2 more days in response to continuing protests; campus property and vehicles damaged; insecurity guard hospitalised

Lebanon, Beirut: decomposition intensifies

Switzerland, Zurich: offices of anti-abortion party trashed

Hungary (Serbian border): cops tear gas and water cannon refugees as they try to break through border “Baton-wielding Hungarian riot police unleashed tear gas and water cannons against hundreds of migrants Wednesday after they broke through a razor-wire fence and tried to surge into the country from Serbia. Crying children fled the acrid smoke and dozens of people were injured in the chaos. … On the sealed border into Hungary, frustrated men — many of them war refugees from Syria and Iraq — hurled rocks and plastic water bottles at the helmeted riot police as they chanted “Open” Open!” in English. Children and women cried as the young men, their faces wrapped in scarves, charged toward the police through thick smoke from tear gas and tires set on fire by the crowd. …“We fled wars and violence and did not expect such brutality and inhumane treatment in Europe,” shouted an Iraqi…Serbian state television said three of its staff members reporting at the border were beaten by Hungarian police with batons and that their equipment was broken. Radio-Television Serbia said that Hungarian police pushed a cameraman against the wall and then beat him on the head and back and then smashed his camera. A reporter’s arm was also hurt. The beatings occurred while the journalists stood between police and the migrants even though they identified themselves as journalists”…opposition politician claims clash was manipulated by the government

US, Minnesota: school students walk out after school board member’s anti-Muslim remark

Greece, Thessaloniki: anarchist report on resistance to gold mine

UK: celebrities do something useful

Tearsday, 15/9/15:

France, Toulouse: 5 cops hurt as 15 surround them during intervention over bar brawl

India, Delhi: art students do what artists invariably do – paint over cracks

South Africa, Western Cape: cop van torched, cops stoned in vigilante protest about criminal killing 14-year-old…University closes all of its campuses in Durban and Pietermaritzburg following protests…KwaZulu Natal: university unrest spreads to 2nd campus “Students have embarked on a violent protest torching and damaging university property. “

New Zealand, Wellington: nicey nicey goody goodies continue to parade their credentials on behalf of all those who can’t be bothered “Citizens have come from around the country to participate in our search and seizure action, putting themselves on the line for the hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders who can’t. All those participating have undergone practical training in non-violent civil disobedience, the principles of which will be maintained throughout our action”

UK, Manchester: 3rd day of rooftop protest by prisoner gets support from demo outside prison walls More here “A protest party complete with DJ and fireworks was set up on Monday night in the street outside the Victorian prison”

Japan, Tokyo: cops pushed to ground and punched on demo against insecurity bill

Moanday, 14/9/15:

Germany. Hamburg: courtroom windows broken, “Fuck the Nazis and the state” written on its wall… Ingolstadt: railway army convoy attacked, painted over and damaged with handgun bullets

South Africa, KwaZulu Natal: vehicles and building set alight as students get angry over lack of accomodation & ending right to pay debts in instalments whilst continuing studying “Students damaged buildings and burnt at least two cars at the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s Westville campus on Monday in protests that again focused on funding and lack of accommodation. Roads near the campus were barricaded with rocks, turning the area into a traffic nightmare. Five campuses across the province were involved in the protests…Students emerged occasionally from residences to hurl stones and bottles at the university’s security guards …Campus security guards, known by students as the Red Ants because of their red uniforms and black bullet-proof vests, were armed with crowd control weapons similar to paintball guns. They used tear gas on Monday to fend off the students. The students used ironing boards as shields against the crowd control weapons. The smell of charred wood and melted metal hung over the campus, with the two burnt vehicles, twisted by the flames, in front of the university’s Risk Management Services offices. The offices had also been damaged by fire. Campus security came under attack from stone- and bottle-throwers who hid in the residences.” More here, here “Rubber bullets were eventually fired to disperse the throng that attacked police with stones and bottles. Fire Department officials were also at the scene after a bus parked on the campus was set alight. Several buildings on the main campus in Alan Paton Road were damaged after students threw rocks at the windows” and here “the main administration block was set alight. Protests continued through to Monday morning with the police’s Public Order Policing unit being deployed. Two cars were also torched and numerous tyres were set alight and staff arriving for work in the morning found the entrances blocked by protesters.”…Durban: roads blocked with burning tyres etc. for over 5 hours in protest over lack of electricity…Cape Town: local state destruction of homes met with stone throwing v. rubber bullets…report on illegal occupation of houses…Gauteng: workers demanding unpaid back pay blockade ANC regional executive committee and staff in building

1657749848

Street-sweepers burn their municipal uniforms while ‘arresting’ the mayor and Regional Executive Committee of the South African capital city, Pretoria (Tshwane ), who they locked inside the mayoral building

For more about the above action and other stuff see “South Africa: street-sweepers “arrest” mayor…& MORE!!!” – on this site

Greece, Agia Triada: anarchists smash up privatisation finance company’s office “The comrades levelled the floor. Computers, laptops, offices, windows, printers, cameras etc. were broken. Files were also destroyed “

Indonesia, Bandung: empty police station attacked with molotovs

Stunday, 13/9/15:


The Latin noun "proprietas" itself comes from the proposition "pro" meaning "for" and the noun "privo" meaning "individual." The phrase "pro privo" then meaning "for the individual" or "belonging or relating to the person or thing in question." From this idea, we have, for example, our proper name - the name that is proper to us.

So, I think we need to start with the most basic question, or the most general question, before we can go on to talking about what is proper to any particular individual - such as their proper name.

The first question this is: What is proper to the human being, as a human being? In other words, what is special to human beings that is not special to other creatures or to inanimate things? In philosophical terms, this is asking the question: What is the "specific difference" that sets mankind apart from all that is not of mankind? What is the essence of mankind?

Marx, in his Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts of 1844, makes it clear that he believes that there is some essence or special characteristic or "specific difference," that sets the human race apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. And not just the fact that we are more intelligent. In other words, there is something that is proper to humanity. Now, this would hardly have been an unusual idea in 1844. Christianity, for example, has always said that we are special because we have a soul. (The Greeks believed that every living creature had a soul, but that the human soul was the most developed.) But, Marx, as a materialist, could not depend on the concept of a metaphysical soul. He had to find some other specific difference, if he wanted to set man apart. And not only set man apart, but say that there is some essence that is proper to mankind in every era. Some essence that defines humanity.

Marx claims that there is one special characteristic, in every era, be it Primitive Communism, Feudalism, Capitalism or Communism (or any other possibility) that sets man apart. That characteristic is what Marx terms "free conscious activity." The word "activity" covers all types of labour, including thinking or physical labour. But what makes this activity "free?" What does Marx even mean by "free?" Marx realized that in the human race, labour \ activity is not connected to any specific task. Capitalism had proved this to be the case. Labour is abstracted from any particular purpose - hence the term "abstract labour" that Marx often uses. Most animals carry out their activity according to instinct. (I say most, as it may well be that some of the higher animals have some level of freedom from instinct.) They gather berries, or hunt, because they are genetically programmed to do so. And, for most of human history, if you asked any person why he or she did what they did, they would have been amazed at such a question. The peasant worked the land, the carpenter made tables etc., because that was their position in life. They were born to it.

But, capitalism changed all that. The peasants were driven off the land, and were forced to sell their labour, as a "thing," on the open market. No longer did they do what they were born to do - but only what the capitalist would pay them to do. As Marx puts it in Das Kapital, the peasant had become "Vogel frei," or Bird Free. He was free as a bird, and just as without land. Labour then was no longer connected to any specific job. Labour was something that humans did, and could be applied to any task.

But, labour as a free force, does not entirely set mankind apart. It may be that the higher animals also do things that are not instinctually programmed or not tied to any specific task. Something more is needed. And that is consciousness. Human beings are capable of being conscious that their labour is free of instinct or specific task, and may make conscious decisions in regard to that labour \ activity. We may, if we wish, spend huge amounts of labour on things that seem to have no logic whatsoever. Indeed, in capitalism, we usually do.

However, this is not to say that actual human beings, at all times, really are conscious that they can make decisions about their labour. In Feudalism, I think its clear that they weren't. Many people in Capitalism have been sucked into treadmills of consumer culture that blank out all consciousness. Decades go by, and people look back and ask themselves: What the hell was I doing? And they are lucky ones. Probably most don't even get as far as asking that question.

But, for all that, Marx claims that the essence of human kind, what is proper to human kind, in every era, and separates us as a species, is our potential for Free Conscious Activity.

This is a very interesting idea, in several respects. Marx is, in effect, defining an entity, i.e. mankind, with reference to something that for periods of even thousands of years, may not be manifested in reality at all - may remain virtual. For example, we said that Free Conscious Activity was probably not generally manifest during the Feudal period. Even kings just did what kings were supposed to do. And, of course, peasants seemed to have no possibility of free choice in their labour at all - particularly as serfs.

Be that as it may, Marx is saying that this virtual human being, this human being of Free Conscious Activity, always set the human being apart.

And, I think Marx has good reason for saying so. Every so often, this virtual human being would crash into reality. Take Sparticus. He said no. He led a revolt against the powers that be. He preferred to die a free man than live a slave. Socrates is another example. His labour was of the mind. But, he set it free of the traditional requirements of his day. And, for that, they forced him to drink hemlock.

It is in these moments of rebellion against imposed order that the human essence breaks through. Without these moments of rebellion, there would be no humanity.

I think then, we can say that the form of society that best allows Free Conscious Activity is the best form of society for mankind, since this would be the form of society that least alienates man from his essence.

Marx openly admits that it is capitalism that, of all forms of society hitherto known to man, that makes labour free of instinct or purpose. Does that mean that capitalism is the best form of society?

Marx, in answering this question, looks to Aristotle. In the introduction to the Grundrisse, Marx refers to Aristotle's concept of the Zoon Politikon - the political animal. Marx writes: "The human being is in the literal sense a Zoon Politikon, not merely a social animal, but an animal that can only individuate itself in society."

Marx, following Aristotle, is saying that the human essence is only realized within a community. Our ideas of the world are given to us from the language our community has given us (and this is the reason why the loss of language is such a tragedy to any nation - when we lose our language, we lose an essential part of our humanity, we lose our community.) Marx points out that all human labour is social labour, as human labour is only carried out through the language of our community. The scientist working alone in the lab is carrying out social labour.

If this is the case, then we must suspect that a form of society that claims that social labour should be appropriated as private capital is not be the best form of society for human beings.

If we take Free Conscious Activity to be the hallmark of humanity, then we are clearly defining ourselves in relation to our activity.

Kant's famous advice to the world on how best to live was to always treat human beings, including yourself, as an end and never a means to an end. That means never to exploit other people as a way to get money or fame or whatever, and, indeed, never to exploit yourself either.

Hegel and Marx hold that the human individual is what he or she does. The person\subject is not inside the human being, ready made and always the same no matter what that human being does. No, the person is always in the process of being created - by his or her actions.

So, is it not true that if you sell your labour as a means to an end (to get wages), that you are selling yourself, and treating yourself as a means to an end? After all, you spend most of your waking day getting ready to go to work, going to work, working, coming home from work, and then being too exhausted to do anything else after work.

If work is to be regarded as a means to an end, i.e. wages, then the people who do that work are also a means to an end.

And this holds for all types of human labour\activity. If we are not in the process of self actualisation in our everyday lives, then we are becoming alienated from ourselves, and becoming a pawn in someone else's game.

And what is that end that the person must be? What is it to treat yourself as an end and not a means to an end? Hegel points out that:

"Mind is only what it does, and its act is to make itself the object of its own consciousness."

Hegel explains this concept in terms of a carpenter making a table. He put his heart and soul into that work, like an artist, and he makes a table that is an expression of himself. When he looked at that table he can see before him a physical manifestation of his own mind. The table had become, for that moment, the mind of the carpenter physically before him as he consciously regards and appreciates it.

Slavishly toiling our lives away for luxury commodities or simply for the means of survival, can hardly be described as Free Conscious Activity. There is nothing free about slaving just to eat and have a roof over our head, and there is certainly nothing conscious about working our lives away for commodities that brainwashing advertising says we must have. Such a life is no different from the lives of the animal kingdom - in many respects, its far worse.

So, we see that at the root of Marx's thought is that idea that we are not just living machines, that can be programmed in any way that seems the most "efficient" - as, unfortunately, much of Cognitive Psychology tries to claim, and as, of course, capitalists would like to believe.

Marx fully accepts that we are subject to the mode of production in which we live - capitalism in our case - and that capitalism determines the form of our interpersonal relationships (as Cognitive Psychology also recognises.) As we saw above, Marx fully accepts that we are a social animal, and that what we are, at any given time, determined by our interpersonal relationships. This being the case, Marx would seem to be agreeing with Cognitive Science that we are just what the society we live in programs us to be.

But, Marx is not saying this. Marx is positing a virtual human being. A virtual essence of humanity, that is always implicit - even when it is not generally manifest in any given society. This virtual human being is the human being who carries out Free Conscious Activity. In other words, the person who consciously chooses to do what he\she does, and always treats him\her self as an end, never a means to an end.

Needless to say, capitalism could not exist in a world where human beings consciously choose to do what they do, and treated themselves as ends.

In Marx's view, inhuman modes of production prevent or distort the expression of human essence, i.e. Free Conscious Activity, and properly human modes of production facilitate its flourishing.

Its clear from the above, the argument is now turning towards a concept that has been central to German philosophy, in a line of thinkers, including Fichte, Hegel, Feuerbach and Marx himself, and that is the Dialectic of Recognition.

Hegel's Master \ Slave Dialectic is probably the version of this concept that most people will be aware of. The argument runs something like this:

The Master looks at the Slave, and fully expects to have his humanity recognised in the eyes of the Slave. But, since the Master cannot (by virtue of being a Master) fully recognise the humanity of the Slave, then the reflection of his humanity that he receives from the slave must be defective and unsatisfactory - since, in the Master's mind, that reflection is not coming from a being that could adequately reflect it, i.e. another human being.

The Slave looks at the Master and sees a human being before him, but a human being that is determined not to recognise or reflect his humanity back to him. In the Master's eyes, the Slave sees nothing but fear, contempt and hatred.

So, in a society of Masters and Slaves, humanity is blocked. Hegel says that in such a society, the Slave is actually the more human, since he is able to look in the Masters eyes and see a human being - but since that human refuses to reflect his humanity back to him, the relation, or dialectic is defective. The Slave's humanity is also diminished.

Marx continues in this line of thought, and in his Ökonomische Studien, he writes:

Suppose we had produced in a human manner. Then each of us would have, in his production, doubly affirmed himself and the other. I would have:

1) Objectivised, in my production, my individuality and its peculiarity and, thus, in my activity enjoyed an individual expression of my life. Also, in looking at the object of my activity (i.e. the product of my work) have had the individual pleasure of realising that my personality was objective, visible to the senses and thus a power raised beyond all doubt.

2) In your enjoyment or use of my product, I would have had the pure enjoyment of realising that I had both satisfied a human need by my work, and also objectivised the human essence, and, therefore, fashioned, for another human being, the object that met his need.

3) I would have been for you the mediator between you and the species, and thus been acknowledged and felt by you as a completion of your own essence and a necessary part of yourself, and have thus realised that I am confirmed both in your thought and in your love.

4) In my expression of my life, I would have fashioned my own essence, my human, my communal essence. In that case, our products would be like so many mirrors, out of which our essence shone. My work would be a free expression of my life.

Later in the same text, Marx writes:

”Thus in work, the peculiarity of my life would have been affirmed, since it is my individual life. Work would, then, have been genuine, active, property.”

What could this concept of "genuine active property" mean? What would the opposite to that concept be - ungenuine passive property? Well, that would be a good description of labour in the capitalist system. As Workers, we passively sell our labour, and passively do what whoever buys our labour tells us to do. You can hardly get more passive than that. And, of course, the capitalist system does treat labour as property. We are told that we are all capitalists, since we have property, i.e. our labour, and that we can sell this property for whatever money we can get for it. But, Marx also regards labour as "property," in the sense that labour \ activity is proper to the human being. We cannot be human without it. If that is the case, how can we sell what makes us human? In this sense, selling our labour for money is ungenuine property, it is property that negates what is proper to the human being.

For example. If I am a plumber, and a farmer with private landed property calls me to fix a pipe on his private land, then I must sell him my labour for a price. I have turned what should have been my "genuine active property" into ungenuine passive property. I do this labour because I need money - not because I am part of the functioning of all of society in general, and, thus, of that farm in particular. Only if that land is nationalised, and I fix the pipes on it as a act of social labour - given that those pipes and that land belong to me and to all my comrades - social labour that improves the lives of myself and all my comrades - can my labour flourish as genuine active property.

I think we can say, without serious contradiction, that if labour is proper to the human being, then so is the material on which to carry out labour, i.e. the earth. At one time, this would have seemed an obvious thing to say. But, now that every corner of the earth has been fenced in or enclosed as private property, and those who have done the fencing have been elevated to the position of Masters, we don't hear the obvious stated very much.

For all that, it seems clear to me that Mother Earth is proper to her children, i.e. to every man, woman and child, and, beyond that, to every living creature on the earth.

If we take the example of the farmer and the plumber above, the farmer must look in the eyes of the plumber as one who has taken, as private property, what is the rightful property of all - including the plumber. Will there not be a certain shame, and thus hatred, in the eyes of the farmer, as he turns the living labour of the plumber into a sellable "thing." How could such a farmer look in the eyes of the plumber, and clearly reflect his humanity back to him? Or if the farmer does look in the eyes of the landless plumber without shame, can this be anything other than a lack of consciousness? And how can we have our humanity reflected back to us from the eyes of the unconscious?

A system of interpersonal relations, which engenders fear, shame, hatred, envy and lack of consciousness, as private landed property does, can only lead to a system of violence. This system of violence is manifested, on one hand, in the increased police and surveillance regimes, and on the other, in the increased turning of hatred against one's self in the form of addictions, destructive behaviour and massively increasing suicide figures. As Freud would have put it, the Death Drive becomes separated from Eros, and a regime of isolation and the breaking of bonds becomes the norm.

Instead of human bonding, we get aggressive individualism and private greed. Every man is condemned to being an island. And, talking about farmers, it is no accident that so many farmers never marry. The fear of loosing half the land in a divorce case overcomes the natural human need for love and companionship.

Private property in land cuts man off from the earth, and cuts man off from his fellow man. His living labour, which should be the expression of his humanity, becomes a dead "thing" to be bought and sold at the market price. His awareness of nature withers away. Even those who work directly on the land now regard it merely as an instrument of profit, and have no second thoughts about abusing it with chemicals, GM crops, etc. It's no wonder that young people today seem to care about nothing. Their parents have, in effect, reared them to believe that the very earth on which they stand is of no interest - except as an instrument of profit. A corrupt government could build a motorway through the most sacred place in Ireland, Tara, and hardly anyone cared at all.

In effect, the Dialectic of Recognition has been replaced by the Dialectic of Having. Instead of seeing our worth in the eyes of others, we see it only in the "things" that we have - including bits of land. Instead of giving our love to our brothers and sisters, we give it to those things that help us dominate others, i.e. all forms of capital, (including the earth itself, now reduced to the level of capital.)

Instead of being what we do, we now become what we have.

And since all we can have are things, we have become as dead as the things we own.

And, of course, we rear our children in this diseased way of thinking - particular children that we expect to inherit our ill gotten gains and keep the family name above the rest of humanity.



WHERE DOES THE DESIRE TO OWN LAND AS PRIVATE PROPERTY COME FROM?

Conservatives will point to nature for the answer to this question. They will present the dog who pisses on a lamp post, marking out his territory. Our laws of private landed property, they will claim, are nothing but this genetic coding codified into law. To oppose private property is to oppose nature herself, they will claim.

Well, this argument is weak, in at least two points:

1) Human genetic coding hasn’t changed to any significant degree in the last 100,000 years. And for most of that period, the human race lived the lives of hunter gatherers, and showed no need for private landed property at all. A the very most, a group would claim usage over a territory, for as long as the group was able to use it. When it could no longer use it, it moved on. Even today, there are peoples who show no desire to hold land as private property. This being the case, it seems that there really is no private property gene.
2) An animal marking out his territory is structurally completely different to private landed property. An animal marks out territory to let rivals know that this territory is in use, and will be defended by the marker, for as long as the marker has the strength to defend it. The minute a stronger animal comes along, or the minute that animal leaves the territory, that mark no longer has any validity or effect. This is in complete contrast to the concept of private property. A deed of property is valid regardless of use. It is not the claimant himself who defends the claim, but the armed power of a state. Private landed property is always a function of a state power. And the deed remains valid, even after the death of the owner. It clear that private property has nothing whatsoever to do with nature or genetics, but of social relations only.


But, it is clear that there is a deeply ingrained desire in many human beings to own land. We are told that the Irish have a particular love of private property. As it happens, this is completely false. Ireland is about 18th place in Europe for home ownership, and 86% of Irish land is owned by about 4% of the population. In reality, it seems the average Irish person has only an average, or even less then average love of owning land. It’s that 4% that we really need to wonder about.

So, regardless of who actually has this love of land ownership, we would be foolish to think we don’t have to account for this love \ desire.

We saw above that Marx recognised that human labour is abstract in nature, i.e. it is not instinctually determined or tied to any specific task. The human being can spend his or her labour on any and every activity possible.

It was Freud’s greatest discovery – even greater than his work on the unconscious, which had been anticipated by many before him, including to a very high degree Nietzsche – that not only is human labour abstract, but human desire is equally abstract. Our sexual and other drives are not instinctually determined. In his Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, 1905, Freud describes the infant as “polymorphously perverse.” In other words, the infant will get sexual pleasure from any and every part of its body. He or she must be trained to direct his desire towards the genitals and towards sexual reproduction. This is in complete contrast to most of the animal kingdom, where sexuality is strictly determined, by instinct, towards reproduction.

So, now we have three great phenomena which mark out the human essence:

1) Abstract Labour
2) Abstract Desire
3) Consciousness

Not having our desire fixed by nature is a huge benefit to human freedom, but, as Deleuze and Guattari point out in their book, Anti-Oedipus, the down side of having a free floating desire is that it is very easily captured – and that’s what the capitalist system does very well. A captured desire is no longer a free desire.

But, it would be nonsense to suggest that capitalism is exceptional in its capture of human desire. Indeed, Deleuze and Guattari claim that the capture of desire is one of the primary functions of all hitherto known human societies. They point out that in hunter-gatherer societies, what a person is supposed to desire is literally tattooed or branded onto the skin of each member of the tribe. They call this system of Primitive Communism a system of cruelty, as many of the rituals of manhood, womanhood, marriage and birth are rituals involving great amounts of pain. In such a “primitive” society, the means of life are always close to hand. Human desire, unmoderated, will fix itself directly on the means of life – as animals do. The social will become impossible – as will the properly human, which is always social. Deleuze and Guattari claim that primitive societes use large doses of ritual pain to break this direct connection with the means of life. A bride’s womb is literally marked with the function of producing children for one particular alliance of families. A warrior or a hunters body is branded with the functions he must carry out. Nobody in such a society would ever think of asking who they are – it is literally cut into their bodies. I think it is no accident, that as Capitalism breaks down, we are seeing a huge increase in people getting tattoos. Capitalism is no longer able to tell them who and what they are. Indeed, capitalism must not tell them, as capitalism needs them to be whatever and whoever is most profitable for the capitalist at any given time – and this identity must be constantly wiped out and remade every few years, so as to keep a new line of commodities churning off the conveyer belt.

So, within the hunter-gatherer community, belonging to the tribe, and carrying out the ascribed function given to you, was considered the most desirable thing to do. Your whole desire was contained within the functioning of the group. Personal freedom was, of course, out of the question. Such a concept would be totally alien. Every child was the child of the group. Incest was not wanting to sleep with your mother – all the women in the tribe were your mother. Incest was wanting to consume for yourself what you had produced. Indeed, in the 20th century, there were still tribes which forbade a hunter from eating his own kill. Exogamy was merely a special case of the taboo on incest. As you didn’t selfishly consume the food you produced, you didn’t selfishly enjoy the children you had produced. Such a society did not need police or prisons. The greatest and most lethal proscription was exclusion from the tribe. Once a person had been excluded, his whole personality had been taken from him, and, not only that, but his chances of survival became very poor.

The coming of tillage brought a whole new from of society – at least, after a time. Fixed communities of farmers offered a huge opportunity for a new form of beast in the world – the despot. And with the despot, came a new form of writing. Instead of having your existence written on your body, now your existence was written down in the ledger of the despot. You still knew who you were. There was no question about that – you were the vassal of the despot \ god. And the despot always claimed to be the descendant of a god. God’s representative on earth. Now, instead of having your desire contained by the tribe and its rituals, your desire was directed to this despot god. You owed everything to this king. The land you worked on was the land of the same lord who owned you. You were part of that land. Such a despot needed an organised religion to glorify himself – and to collect all the dues owed to the god. Desire had now been freed from the local rituals of the tribe – only to be captured by the state religion of the despot. And with the despot came money. The despot didn’t care much for chickens and wheat. He wanted his due in gold and silver. So, now the threat was no longer being excluded from the tribe – but not having enough gold to pay the despots taxes and rents. Sudden death by execution became the daily possibility that hung over every man and woman. You literally owed your life to the despot \ god, and he could take it away any time he pleased. Incest also changed its function. Instead of being a general taboo. Now incest became general. But, exclusively for the despot. The king was the son of the god, and the father of all his vassels. Instead of everyone belonging to separate tribes and families, all related to the earth, now everyone was equally related to the despot, and so related to each other. For the first time in history, the masses come into being. Each individual is separately related to the despot, and so is totally undifferentiated from every other individual. That’s not to say that brothers and sisters were now free to sleep together if they wanted to. Far from it. Only the lord or king was allowed this privilege. This was made manifest in ancient Egypt, were only a sister of the Pharaoh was deemed worthy to be his bride. But, in the Feudal era, it manifested itself in the Droit du Seigneur, the right of the Feudal lord to take the virginity of every bride on his estate (remember that every one of his vassels are considered his children.)

Now, instead of the taboo on sexual relations between family members being an after effect of the general rule on not enjoying privately what you have produced yourself, in other words, instead of exogamy being a positive rule to keep sexual and economic production social, the ban on incest becomes entirely negative. In other words, since incest is the prerogative of the lord, we are all supposed to envy this privilege, and incest is supposed to be what we all really want. Religion then steps in to stop us doing what we are all supposed to really want to do – sleep with our mothers and sisters.

And then capitalism changed everything. You no longer knew who you were. In fact, you were nobody. You just had something – labour. And you could sell that labour to whoever would buy it. You didn’t matter personally to the employer, and he didn’t matter personally to you. Gone were the days of having a tribe, or a lord, or an ancestral homeland. You moved to wherever you could sell your labour – be that on the other side of the planet. Moving around like this, all previous extended family and tribal ties were destroyed. The family became the nuclear family. Instead of the child having a multitude of mothers and fathers, it now only had one mother and one father – who took on an exaggerated role in the life of the child. No longer was the child’s desire spread across a multitude of personalities in the extended family and tribe, but was now obsessively focused on one couple, or one person of that couple. The era of the Oedipus Complex was born, and incest really was all in the family. In such an enclosed space, the father took on the role of the despot (now called a boss), and the mother gave the only physical pleasure a child could expect to get. Breaking the child out of its “natural” incestuous tie to its mother, and getting him to accept the social order of the father \ surrogate boss, seemed to be the main purpose of child rearing and socialisation.

(It will be clear from the above account, that the nuclear family is a reflexion, in miniture, of the social order of capital – and not the origin of the capitalist order, as conservatives would have it. In other words, the father is the reflexion of the king – not the king the bigger version of the father.)

The “deal” that the Oedipux Complex offers the child, as Freud and Lacan have pointed out, is that Being is exchanged for Having. (And we remember that Marx had recognised this dynamic in society sixty years before Freud did.)

Instead of Being in direct communion with the mother, the child is offered Having instead - social positon, wealth and a woman of his own, outside his parents family.

Incest has, in capitalism, become totally confused and displaced. It is pure life and the means of life that the child wants – but the bourgeois nuclear family reduces all that to the body of the mother – and then tells the child its unhealthy to want the mother like that. Now falsely convinced that it’s his mother that he really wants – but cannot have, the child is offered “things” as a replacement. Things that can never fill the hole, because it was life the child wanted – and things are dead. But, sadly, for the rest of his or her life, that individual will try to accumulate things – including bits of land – as a replacement for life.

The desire to own land is the extreme level of this displaced incestuous desire. It is a return to doing precisely what the incest taboo had originally prohibited – private enjoyment of your own production. The mother’s body is directly possessed and enjoyed in effigy – in the body of the land. All other claims to this body are rejected. The landowner, as selfish, incestuous, infant, will have what he thought he always wanted. And the social world can go to hell (but not completely – as, infant like, the landowner still wants his free milk, i.e. state subsidies.)


SOME COMMON ARGUMENTS FOR PRIVATE LANDED PROPERTY REFUTED

I quote:
In Chapter 5 of his 2nd Treatise of Government, John Locke makes an extremely important argument concerning the origin of property rights. His argument has 4 main premises. First, Locke begins by assuming that the Earth is originally held in common by all men. Second, Locke says that, though he has no property in a pre-human all-natural world, man does have sole ownership of property in his own person to which no one else has any claim. Further, the activity of labor falls into this category of property in man's person. Third, Locke believes that mixing one's personal property with un-owned or natural substances improves, or at least alters, the substance and "annexes" an owned piece of the laborer to that substance. It is also an implicit premise, from the conclusion which Locke draws, that he believes that the act of mixing personal property with natural substances removes the raw substance from its natural state, and, thus, from the field of potential objects which other men can use or appropriate or own.


From all of this Locke deduces that labor leads to the creation of property. Labor upon raw substances improves their use-value, or, at the very least, takes them out of the state in which nature originally provides them, and, because labor is something which the laborer owns, and because that labor is mixed with the raw substance, the laborer comes to own the fruits of his labor. Furthermore, due to Locke's first premise, the laborer must not take however much he wants or can, but only enough so that there is "enough and as good" left for everyone else. This is because the Earth is held in common by all men, so all deserve an original fair share or, at least, fair chance at a share, of it.

Read more: http://www.infobarrel.com/John_Locke%27s_Argument_for_Private_Property#ixzz1avCwoZEj


Refutation:

We have seen above, that is is illegitimate to consider human labour as private property. It is only legitimate to consider human labour as social activity. That being the case, Locke’s argument above is rendered a paralogism, or a misconception arising from faulty reasoning.

Quite apart from any definition of labour, Locke’s argument is also a formal fallacy of the type:

X + Y = Y

Where X is not equal to zero

In other words, Locke is claiming that if there is land X, and private property Y, in
the form of labour, is added to it, then the total becomes private property Y.

This is the same as arguing that if there is a hydrogen atom X in the universe, and a helium atom is added to it, the result is a helium atom.

This, of course, is nonsense.

Locke, would, of course, come up against another problem. For example, if there is land held in common between two people, and one of them erects a fence and claims the lands as his private property – just because he has added labour to it, how could that be legitimate? Would that mean that private property would never have a secure basis – as all anyone would have to do is go into a field or a factory, do some labour in it, and it would automatically become their private property.

Locke tries to solve this problem by use of an argument which has become known as the Lockean Proviso.

The Lockean Proviso
On each of Locke’s accounts of the origin of private property rights, unowned property can only be acquired subject to the Lockean proviso. This proviso is an ‘enough and as good’ clause on original acquisition, stating that we can only appropriate unowned property if we leave enough and as good for others.
Where resources are scarce, according to this proviso, I cannot legitimately stake a claim to something by annexing my labour to it. Neither can I make it mine by enhancing its value. If the resource is necessary for the continued well-being of others, then the fact that I was the one who developed or improved the resource does not give me exclusive rights over it. My entitlement to reward for my labour is overridden by the entitlement of others to that which is necessary for their survival. On Locke’s view, people have a right to charity from others’ plenty.

http://www.politicalphilosophy.info/lockeanproviso.html


In other words, I may fense in a commons – only if I give, in the form of charity or wages, at least as much to those who have lost out because of my claim of private property.

This argument is of vital importance, as it is the main argument used by Right Wing elements everywhere. They claim that private property in the means of production leads to the population in general, including those who have now been dispossessed , having a higher material standard of living. They point to the experience of the USSR as practical support for this claim.

Given our discussion of Free Conscious Activity above, the flaw in this argument is obvious. By taking that land as private property, even if I give those who have been dispossessed at least, or more than the material wealth they had, I have still not given them what they once had, i.e. the ability to carry out Free Conscious Labour. I have turned them into wage slaves. Even if they are highly paid wage-slaves, they are still wage slaves. Their ability to create their own world has now been taken from them, and their labour has been turned into a dead sellable thing.


Another common argument used to justify private property in the means of production is known as the Tragedy of the Commons:

The Tragedy of the Commons

The tragedy of the commons is a term coined by scientist Garrett Hardin in 1968 describing what can happen in groups when individuals act in their own best self interests and ignore what’s best for the whole group. A group of herdsmen shared a communal pasture, so the story goes, but some realized that if they increased their own herd, it would greatly benefit them. However, increasing your herd without regard to the resources available also brings unintentional tragedy — in the form of the destruction of the common grazing area.

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/07/29/the-tragedy-of-the-commons/


Refutation:

Again, this is an extremely common argument used by neo-liberals particularly, when arguing for the privatization of lands in the Third World.

The jist of the argument is that only a private landowner will be motivated to look after the land. Those who do not privately own it, will use it to exhaustion, and then just leave it.

However, it seems that this argument was more of a thought experiment on the part of Hardin than an argument based on any kind of empirical data. Indeed, he didn’t give one single example of his theory in operation.

Empirical data refutes this argument completely. Feeny et al, in their 1990 paper “The Tragedy of the Commons: Twenty Two Years Later,” Human Ecology, Vol 18. and E. Ostrom in “Handbook of Agricultural Economics,” 2002., give extensive impirical data, showing that communities are well able to limit use of common land in a fair and efficient form. They show that, far from improving the situation, in the Third World, and elsewhere, the privatization of land has led to private farmers pulluting rivers with chemicals and waste, as the social controls which once prevented such behavior have been broken down by privatization.

Indeed, Fredrick Engles had already refuted this argument in the 19th century, by his study of the German “Mark” system, in his “Socialism, Utopian and Scientific,” 1892.

Another argument that is often used is that a free market in land leads to inefficent farmers being driven out of farming, and the land put into the hands of the most efficient farmers. This argument, like the Tragedy of the Commons, is very common, and always made without the slightest regard to empirical data. This argument is, in fact, so false, that even the World Bank, in its 2003 report, Land Policies for Growth and Poverty Reduction, has called for restrictions on the ability of farmers to sell land in the Third World. The report notes that far from a free market leading to land coming into the ownership of efficient farmers, land is, instead used as an inflation safe means of storing value by wealthy speculators and others, who have no interest in farming whatsoever. Land prices increase far beyond the value that its possible production could justify, and efficient farmers are driven out of the market. Of course, this phenomenon is equally found in the West – not least in Ireland. But, in places like Ireland, subsidies have made efficiency irrelevant anyway, and have totally divorced land values from yields.


CONCLUSION
To finish, I would like to direct my arguments onto Ireland specifically. We see that farmers now get two thirds of their income from hand outs paid for by the urban worker. So its clear that the current structure of farming is uneconomical and can only be sustained by putting a massive burden on urban workers. Farm collectivisation has a bad name, but, in reality, this is what the EU has being trying to do for a long time, i.e. to push out the small and middle sized farmer in favour of the large ranch. This system puts incredible and unmerited wealth in the private hands of the rancher. Larry Goodman, for example, collects a single hand out every year of half a million euro - just for owning so much land. It makes much more sense to run these large farms/ranches as state farms, with workers doing a 40 hour shift, like any other worker. As I say, all Irish farms are massively subsidised already by the taxpayer. Even if the state farms were no more profitable, or even a good bit less profitable, it would still mean a massive saving for the population in general, as land for roads, schools, homes, hospitals, etc. would already be in state hands, so no addition fee would have to be paid. This would make an enormous change to the very structure of Irish society, as increases in productivity in the workforce would no longer be converted into higher land prices - as happened over the last ten years, and during all times of prosperity over the last several hundred years. Instead of increased productivity being swallowed up by land price inflation, it could instead be put into building up a native Irish industry that would lessen our junky like dependence on the multi-nationals. This retardation of Irish industry that is a real cost of leaving the land in the hands of about 4% of the population.

Private property in the land of Ireland has never worked for the Irish people. Since the privatizing of the clan lands by the English conquerors, it has only brought us famine and emigration and class domination – and, now, state bankruptsy and dependency on the IMF.

          Class Consciousness and the Republican Movement        
The great advantage the RM has at present is the awaking class-consciousness of the Working Class, but the handicap we have is our own lack of ideological and theoretical rigor. This lack of rigor leads to a certain unsureness, which, in turn, leads to a rigidity of thought and action. This is a crucial point at the present time. The anger of the people needs direction, and, above all, education. People need to know how the bourgeois system works, and how it can never work for them. At present, the only direction it is getting is from the lackey trade unions and reformist elements such as the Labour Party. The Socialist Party and People Against Profit are certainly giving better council, but, tragically, it is still reformist council. I believe that the Republican Movement is the only movement in Ireland capable of real Revolutionary action. Only the RM can direct the righteous anger of the people in a truly Revolutionary Proletarian direction, one based on solid class-consciousness. But to do this we need to be flexible and imaginative in our thought. The only way to achieve such powerful thought is by having a rock solid ideological and theoretical base to stand on. Éire Nua and Saol Nua need to be thoroughly revised, purged of all contradiction and equivocation, and made suitable for a Revolution in progress. As our very minimum policy we must have full nationalization of the land and banks. Anything less is petty bourgeois superstition, and leaves us among the ranks of the hapless reformers and against Revolution. Revolution is nothing other than the transfer of state power from one class to another. State power cannot be transferred to the Proletariat while we still have landowners and private bankers. There can be no fulfillment of the promise of the Easter Proclamation to cherish all the children of the nation equally, while some children look forward to inheriting landed wealth, and others face lives as wage slaves.

The preparation and distribution of a pamphlet explaining the class struggle and carrying on from Raymond Crotty’s essay, The Failed Modernisation of Ireland in the Late Nineteenth Century, on land ownership and its retarding effects on the Irish economy (one of the very few attempts by any Irish academic to address this question) would be a welcome step. In it's newspaper, Saoirse, the RM has a wonderful instrument of Revolutionary Struggle and such a pamphlet could be serialized in its pages.

How can we make a connection between the workers protests and the struggle to end the occupation of our country by a foreign power? Even Republicans have not always seen the connection between the two, and even today, some Republicans think that the question of Labour can be put off till after the National Struggle has been won. This is folly. If you try to push the National Struggle separate to the class struggle, then you are, in reality, putting the whole weight of it on the Nationalist people of the six counties – less than a tenth of the whole population of Ireland. The class struggle will naturally smash the border with its weight and power. What we need to explain to people is how the presence of British Crown armed forces in any part of Ireland secures the bourgeois system in all of Ireland.

The inability of the RM to formulate a fully consistent ideology, and its continued attempts to compromise with landed property, has left it in a state of stasis. This stasis has lead to a continual drip of members going off to faddish “unity projects,” that are actually in a far worse ideological cul-de-sac than the RM is. It must be remembered that those who deny the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, i.e. the Governmental Authority of the 32 County Irish Republic, such as the IRSP, Éirígí and the 32CSM, actually boost up the claims of the bourgeois, partitionist, statelets and their British Crown overlord to legitimacy in Ireland. There can only be one legitimate state power in Ireland. There is no fence to sit on. Either you are with the Dictatorship of the Proletariat or you are with the British/free state. Any activity within the bourgeois system strengthens the bourgeois system. That’s why it’s essential that the RM begin the work of building the Community Councils right now. As I say, any activity within the bourgeois system, such as taking part in bourgeois elections, strengthens the enemy. But we may begin to benefit more than we lose from taking part in these elections, if, and only if, we already have an alternative state power in operation, i.e. the Community Councils under the protection of the Army. To take part in bourgeois elections before this alternative power is in place is to work against the Republic.

As Lenin often pointed out, and Marx before him, the spontaneous form of Working Class activism is trade unionism – not for Revolution, but for a “fairer” slice of the capitalist cake. Our participation in the struggles of the Working Class, under the misleadership of the lackey trade unions, will only tend towards the modernization and copper fastening of the capitalist system. If the current economic crisis is to play any part in the Republican struggle, or vice versa, if Republicanism is to play any role in the current crisis and workers reaction to it, then we must make it clear that our enemy is ALL aspects of the bourgeois system – the councils, the police, the lackey trade unions, the capitalists, bankers and landowners. We must throw in our lot with the people of no property, who must become the people of ALL landed property. We should not be afraid of the slogan: “A free home for every citizen.” If we can’t stand behind this slogan, then we offer nothing to the Irish people and they will rightly continue to ignore and reject us. We must educate people and carefully explain to them that their demands are too small. The Proletariat, i.e. the class conscious workers, should not ask for a “fairer” slice of the cake – but should take ALL of the cake, by force. The change in perspective from petitioning their masters for a “fair deal” to abolishing the masters completely can only come about through careful and patient education. It’s impossible to educate people if you are unsure yourself of what you believe in. People can spot ambiguity a mile away; they would rather a Fianna Fáil cute hoor who believes fervently in his cute hoorism, than a milk and water Republican Socialist who doesn’t really know what he wants – as long as the Brits are out.
          Towards a Republican Socialist Strategy for the 21st Century        
Towards a Republican Socialist Strategy for the 21st Century

Thesis

That Irish Republicans do not need to worry about creating the conditions for Revolution in Ireland in 2009 – the Revolution has already begun. Young people are already in almost open revolt. Unemployment has reached over 11% in the free state and is rapidly rising. Pension funds have been wiped out and savings are in the process of being wiped out by price inflation. In the 06, the devaluation of Sterling has already wiped out the saving of Working Class people to a large extent. The only question Republicans need to ask is on what basis, for what objectives, and using what tactics and strategies, do we join an already started and present Revolution.


The Financial Crisis

A major change in the actual conditions that Republicans face today is strongly in our favour. Both the British state and free state have been severely weakened by the global recession. How long this crisis will last is hard to tell, but optimistic capitalist economists are predicting it to last between five and ten years more. Since the signing of the GFA, armed struggle has been all but impossible, as both the Brits and free staters could pump billions into creating the illusion of "progress" and "consent." Today we see the economic crisis revealing the harsh reality behind the fireworks and glitter of the GFA. This gives Republicans a once in a lifetime chance to press home our project - but only if that project has been firmly tied to the economic struggle of the ordinary people. The Fenians realised this fact, in the 19th century, when they got full square behind the land agitation of Michael Davitt's Land League. We must do the same. Today people will ask "what's in it for me" and I’m glad they do. Too many IRA Volunteers have selflessly given their all, just to have some Gombeen cash in on their sacrifice. We must be able to tell people what's in it for them, not be disgusted at their question. The Republic must offer the Irish people better conditions of living, not just change the accent of their exploiters, as Connolly put it. Republicans must take advantage of the financial crisis and fully harness the anger of the landless workers.


A review of types of strategy tried in the past

I think the first step in considering what might work as successful tactics in the struggle ahead is to discount what certainly wont work. Here are the strategies, which have been tried and shown to be failures:

In the first place is British Constitutionalism. This has been tried since Daniel O'Connell and never got anywhere - indeed it just fortifies British misrule by co-opting enough of the native population to subvert resistance. The core of the PSF Stormonteer strategy is pure opportunism. It is a pacification process, which leads to the abandonment of class struggle and the promotion of a native petty gombeen class, tied to the party. It also leads to the criminalisation of righteous Working Class resistance and to the justification of the armed robbery and violence of the landed ruling class. This is treachery to Republicanism and Socialism.

In the second place is the liberation of territory. This has been tried many times in Irish history. The IRA made certain parts of Ireland very difficult terrain for the enemy during the Tan war, but British promoted counter revolution saw the whole of the 26 counties being misruled by proxy after 1921 and the continuation of English common law and the capitalist economic system. The last attempt at winning territory from the enemy was ended at Loughgall, when eight of Ireland's finest gave their lives. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anam dílis. So, given the massive force of British arms in Ireland, winning territory seems out of reach. Another tactic that has been used is to hope that the British people will put pressure on their government to leave Ireland. Towards this end, several bombing campaigns over the decades have been carried out in England along with campaigns in the six counties. However, political and humanitarian considerations have made it impossible to carry out a bombing campaign that would inflict enough casualties to make a major impact on English public opinion. The RM has never been able to stomach inflicting the large numbers of casualties, including civilian casualties that would put significant pressure on the British government. The idea of embarrassing the British government into leaving with a few bombs like the Baltic Exchange and Canary Wharf is unrealistic. There is no embarrassing a system that is inherently evil.

A bombing campaign, which would damage the British economy enough to bring pressure to bear would involve thousands of tons of Semtex or other high explosive, and cost tens of millions of euro per year to the IRA, along with the loss of many Volunteers. Such a campaign seems very far off, and there is nothing to power, finance and supply it.

Propaganda by deed is always useful in any war, but is never considered a strategy in itself. The Easter Rising is probably one of the world’s most famous examples of propaganda by deed. It certainly kick started a Revolutionary process, but as soon as that famous week was over the questions had to be asked “where to now, and what for?” Tragically for Ireland, reactionaries and counter revolutionaries supplied their own answers – and made them stick.

And finally, the tactic of making the occupied 06 ungovernable has been tried. One obvious problem with this tactic, in itself, is that it has been tried for long periods, especially during the 1970s and early 80s, and it simply hasn’t worked. It is possible to give the 06 a highly militarised atmosphere without a great expenditure of resources. The almost complete dependence of the 06, as a political entity, on British state violence is relatively easy to demonstrate. You can certainly make the 06 a very tense, surreal and even dangerous place to live, but making it actually ungovernable is another matter. Enough people will always be dependant on state money and state structures to allow government to continue to a quite acceptable level. Supporters of the occupation will continue to derive enough benefit from it to outweigh the discomfort of living in a militarized zone. This can only be even more true now that PSF have joined the state system, so that there will be individuals in every single neighbourhood who have a vested interest in the continuance of the occupation and the colonial capitalist system. To make the 06 actually ungovernable would take a very great expenditure of resources. The problem is that it always requires much greater energy to stop people doing something than it takes for them to continue doing it, i.e. the RM has taken on itself the major expense of trying to stop the British state functioning in Ireland. This leaves the RM with no time, energy or resources left to actually begin the work of building the Socialist Republic, which certainly can be done while the occupation continues. Instead of putting the British state at the disadvantage of trying to stop the running of the Republic, Republicans have put themselves at the disadvantage of trying to stop the running of the British state.

As far as I can see, the above are the tactics that have all been tried in one way or another and have all failed completely. However, that is not to say that one, or a combination, of the above may not prove useful in certain circumstances and for the achievement of specific strategic objectives. But none of the above, or no combination of the above, furnishes the strategic ground for a successful campaign. Something else is needed.


The South Vs the North as the Driving Force of Revolution

From a psychological perspective, Revolution is always driven by anger. Anger is the motivating force - anger against some injustice.

So where does the Irish Revolution source it's anger from? There are two main sources of political anger in Ireland. On is ethnic and one is economic. In my view, the conflict in the 06, while limited to the 06, is always going to be essentially ethnic in character. The economic conflict is sidelined. In the past great efforts were made to seek the sympathy and understanding of people in the 26 for this British Vs Irish conflict. Naturally enough, when you think about it, neither sympathy nor understanding were generally forthcoming, as hardly anyone in the 26 has ever experienced ethnic conflict personally.

So we see that ethnic anger is limited to the 06, and will not resonate in the 26. What about economic anger? At the moment the 26 is positively bubbling with economic anger. So here we have a massive source of Revolutionary anger which will also resonate in the 06, as most Irish people are subject to economic injustice. In short, while ethnic anger is limited to the 06, economic anger is generated by all 32 counties.

It seems clear to me that the Revolution must be based solidly in economics and must be fought equally in all 32 counties. I believe it was a great mistake in the 1970s to limit the conflict to the 06 and use the 26 simply as a supply base. Limerick is just as much a stage for Revolution as Belfast - maybe even more so. Republicanism has always morally shunned participation in the ethnic conflict between native and planter, and yet, has often left itself in a position where that was the main conflict it was actually involved in. This fact was made crystal clear when PSF agreed to enter an assembly in Stormont, where the ethnic conflict is institutionalised and positions guaranteed, indeed frozen, along ethnic lines. Economic conflict is left entirely outside the door. Every day, ethnic micro-ministers perform virtual ethnic battles so that their camp followers can get their sectarian/ethnic jollies without any blood being spilt. How long can such a farce continue?

So if you allow that the only truely Revolutionary force in Ireland is anger at economic injustice, where does that leave Unionists in the Revolution? Well, to be honest, the Unionist landed elite will always be able to play the Green Card successfully to keep the Unionist Working Class in thrall. We should not make the mistake the Officials made in thinking that the Unionist Working Class will join the Revolution - they wont. Once the Irish landed elite - both Catholic and Protestant - have been broken, the Unionist Working Class will not have the power to resist a Revolutionary Republic, though there is bound to be sporadic efforts for a while. We should really regard the problem of Unionism and the problem of landed wealth as two aspects of the same problem, i.e. the ideology of extreme individualism, which is in contradiction with the communal good. Ultimately, they are the same reactionary force. A native Irish landowner is just as much a problem as a Unionist, in fact more so. Republicans get too obsessed about what to do with the million Unionists, and completely forget the native landowners and their lackys.


A Republican Blindspot

Since DeValera’s infamous “labour must wait” pronouncement, Republicanism has, while condemning this imperative, actually gone about following it. The stress has been on defeating the occupation and leaving the class struggle till after “freedom” has been won. This is a dangerous cop out that leaves the Working Class open to losing everything just at the moment of victory. Many Republicans say that we should have a Constitutional Conference after the Brits have gone and decide what kind of Ireland we want to have. All this would do is give the forces of reaction time to regroup. We should be absolutely clear from day one what we are actually fighting for. It’s not that ending the occupation is not a good thing in itself. It certainly is, in the sense that ending all colonial misrule is a good thing. But, what we can never forget for an instant is that in Ireland’s particular case we are always and at once fighting two distinct, though symbiotic, enemies, i.e. the native landed elite and the British imperialist state. Any attempt to fight one of these symbiotic partners without fighting the other at the same time is doomed to complete and utter failure. This fact is the rock that both Republicanism and reformist Socialism has always foundered on in the past. Reformist socialists, such as the Workers Party and the Socialist Party necessarily fail because they do not attack the ultimate military guarantee of the native landed ruling class – the physical presence of the British army on Irish soil. Republicans fail because they, time and time again, fail to attack the ultimate object of the British state in Ireland – the native and planter landed elite. The truth of what I’m saying was clearly shown when Jim Callaghan asked his civil servants to look at ways of disengaging from Ireland. The free state elite frantically sent Jack Lynch and Garret Fitzgerald to demand, in no uncertain terms, that the British army should stay in Ireland. To begin a campaign against the British state forces, while leaving the native landed ruling class unmolested would surely be folly of the most unforgivable kind. I have mentioned the traditional Republican response to this criticism: We will deal with the native exploiter when the Brits have gone. Let’s get one thing clear; while the native landed elite still wield power, the Brits won’t be going anywhere. And even if they did, it would not be a case of us dealing with the landed class, but of them using their still untouched massive wealth to buy tens of thousands of mercenaries and weapons of the most sophisticated type to deal with us – as they already did between 1922 and 1924.


Nationalisation of ALL Lands and Banks

The nationalisation of banks can hardly be a very controversial ideal for Socialists, as one bank has already been nationalised under the free state capitalist regime and the rest of the banks are already in a state of semi-nationalisation. But Socialists should wish to see not only the debts of the banks, in bad times, being nationalised, but also the profits in good times. Quite apart from this, the fact that private banks “create” 97% of the money in the system, with governments in the Western world printing only 3% of it, means that democracy has no place in banking and the money supply. This state of affairs needs to stop, and the People need to take full control of their economy and money supply.

The land of Ireland needs to be nationalised. We see that farmers now get two thirds of their income from hand outs paid for by the urban worker. So its clear that the current structure of farming is uneconomical and can only be sustained by putting a massive burden on urban workers. Farm collectivization has a bad name, but, in reality, this is what the EU has being trying to do for a long time, i.e. to push out the small and middle sized farmer in favor of the large ranch. The trouble with this system is that it puts incredible and unmerited wealth in the private hands of the rancher. Larry Goodman, for example, collects a single hand out every year of half a million euro - just for owning so much land. It makes much more sense to run these large farms/ranches as state farms, with workers doing a 40 hour shift, like any other worker. As I say, all Irish farms are massively subsidized already by the taxpayer. Even if the state farms were no more profitable, or even a good bit less profitable, it would still mean a massive saving for the population in general, as land for roads, factories, schools, homes, hospitals, etc. would already be in state hands, so no additional fee would have to be paid. This would make an enormous change to the very structure of Irish society, as increases in productivity in the workforce would no longer be converted into higher land prices - as happened over the last ten years, and during all times of prosperity over the last several hundred years. Instead of increased productivity being swallowed up by land price inflation, it could instead be put into building up a native Irish industry that would lessen our junky like dependence on the multi-nationals. It’s this retardation of Irish industry that is the real cost of leaving the land in the hands of about 3% of the population.

Anything less than the full nationalization of the land and the banks is merely reformism and opportunism, and in no way merits the sacrifices of IRA Volunteers. It seems to me an obscenity to put the lives of young Volunteers at risk for reformism.


Éire Nua and Saol Nua

I wish to suggest some possible developments on the excellent Éire Nua and Saol Nua documents. As these proposals are set out now, they are a blue print for a future Irish Republic. They assume that the Republic will have been re-established when they are put into effect. To my mind, this is to ignore the full potential of these documents. The Community Councils they propose could and, to my mind, should be the engines of Revolution today, and in the very teeth of the enemy. For this to become a reality, the size of the Community Council needs to be greatly reduced to a maximum of 200 citizens. Community Councils could be set up right now with as little as five to ten citizens, providing goods and services that the community needs and providing employment. Community Councils of 20 members are already common in Venezuela. Funding would be provided by the Army, after an extensive campaign of capital recovery from the 1% of the Irish population who have expropriated 50% of Ireland’s capital. (Most Republicans still have very little idea of the colossal scale of the wealth of these individuals. In 2006 Irish citizens held 2.3 trillion euro in foreign property and stocks, I know it is less now, but it still amounts to almost unimaginable wealth. Getting a billion euro of this, the Republic’s rightful property, would be far less risky than the noble deeds the Volunteers carried out in recent times, and would be equally noble in its conclusion.) Expropriate the expropriators, as Marx put it. These Community Councils would then become institutions of the really existing 32 County Irish Republic. Nobody could then ask where is the Republic – it would exist before their eyes in Irish Working Class communities building a new life for themselves and their children. We already have communities organising themselves around the drugs issue – this would be just one small step further from the excellent work they are already doing, but a step over the Rubicon of actual Revolution.

Even though it sounds like a scandalous suggestion, the enemy social structure can be made to help our struggle in so much as it provides a relatively stable incubator for the building of the Community Councils and the federal structure of the Republic. At all times we use the enemy mercilessly. The Republican Socialist chick feeds happily on the capital which has been ordered and arranged by the capitalist monarchy and free state, and when it is big and strong enough, it casts off the monarchy and free state as a dried up and useless shell.

As Lenin wrote: "To develop democracy to the utmost, to find the forms for this development, to test them by practice, and so forth - all this is one of the component tasks of the struggle for the social revolution." In other words, if we are not actually in the process of testing revolutionary forms of society, then we are not engaged in revolution - we are merely engaged in reformism.

The bottom line is we dont have to wait until the deafeat of the British state in Ireland to start living in the really existing Republic. The Republic can function through Community Councils in the same time and space as the British state. This was achieved to some extent between 1919 and 1921, when Dáil Éireann, the Army, the Republican Courts and some of the county councils operated as institutions of the Republic.

The great lack here was that all these institution, being representative in nature, were necessisarily at a distance from the average citizen. So that when the Treaty of Surrender was put to a vote in 1922 it was generally accepted by people who had never actually been part of the Republic themselves and had viewed it more as an aspiration than a reality.

Community Councils fill in this lack and close the gap between the citizen and the Republic. The citizen is no longer an interested spectator, but a participant and legislator. He or she lives in and through the Republic. The British state and the free state become contemptable intruders.


Direct Democracy

I believe that Éire Nua needs to take one step forward, away from the Anglo-Saxon representational parliamentary system, and fully embrace Direct Democracy. We don’t need leaders. What we need is self empowered Community Councils, organised along the Federal basis set out in Éire Nua. In a Revolutionary situation, where the enemy is using their armies and paramilitary police forces to try and crush the Revolution, representational democracy is a non starter anyway. What we need is Community Councils that can function in themselves, even when isolated by enemy offensive. Every Community Council is a microcosm of the whole Republic. The enemy cannot destroy the Republic until it has destroyed each and every Community Council. The Community Council, as stated in Éire Nua, is the basic democratic unit of the Republic. All elements of the Republic are contained within the structure of the Community Council. Sounds fragmented? Certainly. Too fragmented for the enemy to defeat, but held together by the great ideals of the Irish Republic and the dignity of Labour, which are, in fact, one and the same ideal.

The Irish people may not be quite ready for this proposal right now, but the free state is falling apart, as is the British state. Even now, working class youth is in revolt, but only the drugs gangs are harnessing their energy and righteous anger – when it should be the Republican Movement.

There is a wonderful scene in the film Doctor Zhivago, where two Revolutionaries have been ordered to join the Tsarist Army marching to meet the Germans, an older man and a young man. The young man sets out straight away to convince the troops to revolt, but the older man holds him back. He points to the boots on the soldier’s feet, and says: Wait till they have no boots.

Spreading the Revolution to Britain is an essential component of success. We have to start looking on the British Working Class as our potential allies and comrades. They are fine people and good fighters. I tell you it made my blood boil to see old age pensioners in England, who had fought the Nazis, cutting back on cups of tea because they can’t afford the water and electricity charges the bástard privateers are inflicting on them.


The Liberal Democratic State

What is a Liberal Democratic State? It is primarily a capitalist state, based on class division and the right of private property. In such a state, the landed elite rule permanently behind a screen known as Representational Democracy. The people put some numbers on a page once every five years, and after that they have no say in what goes on.

The word "liberal" very specifically refers to the right of the landed class to liberally exploit the the landless masses. If you take this right away from them, if you restrict the freedom of the exploiters to exploit, then you no longer have a liberal democracy. A liberal democracy is a mechanism for the minority to suppress and exploit the vast majority.

Certainly anyone who wants the future of Ireland to be a united liberal democracy should support PSF, as they might well, over time, get it. It really dosnt matter how long they take to get it, because you wont notice any difference between the united liberal democracy and the partitioned liberal democracy. If you were a wage slave before, you will be a wage slave after.


Representational Democracy

Representational democracy is based on class conflict. A party is chosen to rule for five years, i.e. is chosen to use organised state violence (including state radio and television), in such a way as to maintain the privilege of the landed elite. We see that clearly in the case of Fianna Fáil. Over 40% of voters in the free state voted for FF in the last election and the one before, but did they protect even the interests of the 40% who voted for them? Certainly not. We now see clearly how FF arranged things so that a tiny minority could use their land to make massive profits off the backs of ordinary people - tens of thousands of them FF voters. Even now, FF continues to rob the Irish People, including their own voters, to bail out the wealth and privilege of the landed elite.

Representational democracy will always maintain the division of society into classes. In a representational system the landed elite can always use their wealth and position to make sure that the party they have bought will win the election. The election of Barak Obama was as clear an example of this rule as you could wish for. We saw that Wall Street favoured him with hundreds of millions of dollars in donations, and he has returned this favour by appointing Wall Street insiders to oversee the financial crisis, i.e. to bail out the oligarchs at the expense of the workers.

So, if we agree that a classless society, or a society of the one universal class, to give it its more rigorous Marxian term, can never come about through representational democracy, then we must accept that the class conflict can only come to an end through Revolution. So the question is: after the Revolution has gotten rid of class division, i.e. "when there is no distinction between the members of society as regards their relation to the social means of production," as Lenin puts it in "State and Revolution," why would we want to put back a system of election and government based on class division? What good is representational democracy in a society where parties are not representing the interests of one class over another? Where there is only one class interest - the interest of the whole people?

You might say, well, what if one party wanted, say, legal abortion and another party wanted it banned, would that not be a good argument for representation? Not at all. There is no reason to give one party the rule of the whole nation because of such issues. These issues are better dealt with through Direct Democracy, as they come up. No doubt there will always be pressure groups around various issues in any free society, but there is no need to give one of these pressure groups a virtual dictatorship for five years because of it. This is just a good way to undo the whole work of the Revolution and bring back the class system. Direct Democracy is all that is needed in any classless society.

The superstitious reverence that today's political parties try to promote for representational democracy should be seen for the self serving sham it is. Not only a sham, but an insidious device for the subjugation and robbery of the vast majority by a tiny minority.


The Republican "State" in the Revolutionary Period

It seems to me that during the Revolutionary Period, the Governmental Authority of the Irish Republic should remain "abstract" in relation to the citizens and not make laws for the civilian population. It's functions should be to make war on the landed elite and their partitionist states, and to keep the Community Councils supplied with the capital they need. It will be left to the Community Councils to make laws for themselves. Being institutions of the Irish Republic, their laws will become the operating, de facto, Laws of the Republic, while The Law of the Republic remains the de jure existence of the Governmental Authority and the lawful proceedings of the Army.

So, in effect, we have the state continued in the form of the Governmental Authority and Army, and the state abolished in the form of the Community Councils. The state becomes the excluded element, which gives consistency to the whole (the set of all Community Councils.)

Put in more concrete terms, as there will be no class division inside the Community Councils, there will be no need for a state inside the Community Councils. But, as the landed elite and petty gombeen classes will continue to exist outside the Community Councils, it will be necessary to maintain the state, outside of the Community Councils, for its normal purpose, i.e. the crushing of one class by another (in this case, the crushing of the landed elite and the petty gombeens.) Thus the "fading away of the state" that Marx and Engels looked forward to, happens for the Workers, but not for the class enemies.


Conclusions

The GFA does not give a democratic peace, but a peace imposed by the violence of the native landed class and their British allies, and Irish Working Class capitulation before this violence. Republicans are very frightened by the thought of civil war, that is only natural, but we should remember the words of Lenin on the subject: “We fully regard civil wars, i.e. wars waged by the oppressed class against the oppressing class, slaves against slave owners, serfs against landowners, and wage-workers against the bourgeoisie, as legitimate, progressive and necessary.” (V.I. Lenin. Socialism and War.) The landed elite will never give up their ill-gotten gains and privilege without a bloody struggle; it is folly to think otherwise. But a Republican Socialist campaign based on capital recovery and Community Councils would, from the Republican side, be much less bloody than a campaign based on sending numbers of British soldiers home in boxes. In such a campaign armed force would only be used to capture capital with the least possible casualties and to defend the gains of the Working Class, again aiming for the least possible number of casualties. Killing people is a very costly business, economically, psychologically, socially and in terms of the loss of weapons and Volunteers. It should be kept to an absolute minimum, and certainly no campaign should be based on it.

There are two minorities who press their hegemony on the rest of the population through the threat and use of violence – the native landed class and the Unionists. I believe we should regard the Unionists and the native landed elite and their lackys as, in fact, the same group and not become unnecessarily focused on the Unionists alone. We should begin the work of building the really existing 32 County Republic right now, and take what we need, when we need it from the landed elite. Neither the gardaí nor the free state army are particularly dependable at the present time, as, particularly among the guards, many of them are under severe financial pressure due to their speculations in the crashing property markets at home and abroad. The free state is, thus, in a very vulnerable position. This, combined with the increasing desperation of the landless workers, would lead me to believe that the building of the Republic in the south would be more fruitful today than at any time since 1921.
                  
POLITICAL ASTROLOGY 
THE YEAR OF THE YANG FIRE MONKEY


I have written about Political Astrology before and in particular about the impact of unexpected change created in the Year of the Monkey.      

It has been twelve years since the last one, and at that time I used it to predict the minority government of Paul Martin and his and the Liberals fall from power. That was 2004, I also used it as the basis of predication of the coming Obama campaign for POTUS and the auspicious birth it would have in the year of the Monkey.

With the topsy turvy politics that began a year ago with the totally unexpected win by the NDP in Alberta and later the Trudeau Liberals federally in Canada and the Trump and Sanders campaigns in the US change of the trickster kind, the unexpected is the norm, it flows right into the year of the Monkey. As I said back in 2004;

And why should we put such credence into the Year of the Monkey? Well it occurs on a twelve-year cycle, and in Canadian politics the year of the Monkey has seen the fall of many PMs and their parties.In the monkey year1992, Brian Mulroney stepped down as PM and was replaced by Kim Campbell, who went down to defeat in the 1993 election.In 1980 Pierre Elliot Trudeau came out of retirement to defeat PC Prime Minister Joe Clark, who had held his office for only a year. Of course PET had the year of the Monkey on his side having become PM in 1968, a crucial and revolutionary year of the Monkey.1968 is a quintessential year of the Monkey, with the Paris uprising of students and workers, the Tet offensive effectively defeating the Americans in Vietnam, the Chicago riots at the Democratic Convention which led to the election of two time loser Richard Nixon. The assassination of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the Russian invasion of Chezslovakia.The Year of the monkey in 1956 saw John Diefendbaker elected Leader of the Progressive Conservatives who win the 1957 election with a Minority Government, the first minority government in Canadian history, which lasted only one year.

The Unexpected Should Be Expected should be the motto of this year of the Monkey as it is the norm.

Today we are seeing a much broader range of change occurring as this is the year of the Male Fire Monkey a much more active trickster. With a Jupiter nature, the Monkey Trickster spirit is sure to impact on mundane politics which Jupiter rules. The rise of both Trump and Sanders are reflective of this spirit. And so is the win by Leicester in the Premier League of Football, their first such win in 132 years, at 5000-1 Odds !!!




Hoary astrology is the practice of Political Astrology; it uses a base style of chart first developed in England by the father of modern political astrology William Lily who predicted the Great London Fire of 1666. I do not have those abilities nor do I use the standard astrological tools. I use an intuitive method looking at events that would fit in the spirit of this year of the Monkey.

Hanumanwhich is the Monkey God in Asia is the spiritual nature of Man the Trickster, which we find in other cultures with their tricksters; Set of the Egyptians, Loki of the Norse, Coyote and Raven of North American first peoples, the Fox in Aesop’s Tales and in Japan, and Mercury for the Greeks.  All of them turn the world on its head, spin the magician or shaman around the leave folks guessing. They do it with a laugh, either on you or on them. While the tricks can teach a lesson that lesson may not be benevolent nor without some pain or other form of unexpected event.

In this the campaigns of Trump and Sanders actually reflect that Fire Yang of this year’s Monkey Tai Sui the Grand Duke of Jupiter. Jupiter rules politics, the Twentieth card in the Tarot; XX The World or Aeon
.



Both candidates for POTUS came from behind, with nothing but negative expectations and media prognostications the magick of the media appointing or anointing their winner and their loser, as though they were Thoth himself.

But here the truth of Ptah did not come from the lips of the media but rather from the people, change was in the air, as the saying goes. In the spirit of the Monkey King, the people decided to support these two politicians because they were not the usual kind of politician. One was a seventies anti war activist a self avowed Socialist, the other a racist bigoted businessman who was both a Democrat and a Republican.  Such Janus like archetypes now fill the imagination of the mass of the American public.

The seventies, which is when I became a young radical activist, have returned, to remind the yuppies, nerds and geeks that they are the baby boomers who lived in the seventies, making it a time of both mass anti war protest and organizing for a political revolution, a music and cultural upheaval and finally a spirit of change, that society as well as the individual could change, it was Yippie culture and Hippie culture combined, it was protest and self help/inward awareness, paganism and Buddhism began to expand in North America. All of the counter culture, freak culture of the Woodstock generation is wrapped in an old guy who was a hero of mine when I was a teenager and he was an anti war socialist elected mayor in Vermont.

This particular historical moment in time, on the way to the second decade of the 21st. Century with its millennial generation is exactly where we were at fifty years ago, ironically. All the Occult and Revolutionary revival of the seventies is coming to be the norm in this new age. The concept of an alternative consciousness, a worldwide ascendant consciousness of humanity and the idea of a revolutionary consciousness baptized the new century in Seattle and Chiapas in 1999. And five years ago its zeitgeist became apparent to all of us with the Weltanschauung of the Arab spring.

Both Trump and Sanders reflect this zeitgeist in the year of the Monkey, the anti free trade movement has a left and right base and both these candidates reflect these bases, while their parties the Democrats and GOP do not.

They are the Left and Right of the same coin, a libertarian urge to social change for the good of the individual and for society. Unfortunately as we have learned from history this left right deviation occurred in the thirties and created fascism, which has returned as the zeitgeist of the Trump movement. White America is being swept up in final campaign, before it becomes a minority in the United States. 

Both Sanders and Trump reflect this, both are appealing to predominately white voters, and in both cases they are appealing to the working class, there is no middle class that was a socioeconomic myth of  sixties sociologists to confuse producers with consumers, creating new classes such as blue collar and white collar, to separate them into economic categories. Everyone wants to be white collar, middle class, a consumer, who may or may not be a direct producer, like auto workers, or secretaries, both jobs created for post WWII North America.

Trump appeals to the older white working class, while Sanders appeals to the new generation their children and grandchildren who now live in a pre socialist world of postmodern capitalism. Like Star Trek that my generation grew up with the advanced communications, social media, internet world which is very much the creation of the 21st Century, is real change occurring instantly give or take a couple of months or years of development.




Apps reflect this change, this shift from consumer based capitalism, to active ameliorating capitalism on its way to becoming socialism, not just the conditions for socialism but actually shifting productive relations into socialist relations of production.

Everyone under advanced capitalism is becoming a producer user, even this blog is reflective of that change, by its very nature the blog allows me to create more than just an article but an actual autonomous media form, that can be spread everywhere on the internet, no different than the New York Times.

The modern technology being used by millennial’s attests to this sense of coming socialism, socialism of the association of free producers, artisans not wage slave labourers,  using apps they create and share. We have a sharing economy bursting through a capitalist economy, whether you and I like it or not. Revolutions are radical change whether people like it or not and we are in a period of revolutionary change unseen since after WWI.


The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

Uber is one of these kinds of disruptive technologies it confronts the old taxi culture that grew out of the forties to sixties when a small group of capitalists dominated and created an industry based on ownership of state sanctioned cab licenses. 

The ultimate purpose of Uber and other such apps, is to eventually be used by us to call autonomous vehicles to our home, workplace or shopping mall, we will no longer own cars, but use a new form of public transit, privatized as it is now. It will change because we are now actually talking about socialism in North America. 

Currently Uber is destroying the taxi industry, and transferring that ability to drive people, to people themselves, taking it out of its specialized role in society, in much the same way the car itself replace the horse drawn carriage or the street trolley.

But eventually once Big Auto starts producing autonomous vehicles, there will be an app used to call up a vehicle, but there will be no need for Uber.

Cars would be leased and once they outlived their lives they would be returned for recycling and reuse, this idea has been in circulation for twenty years now.

Socialism is the natural result of the contradictions of capitalism, which is a failed economic model, based on continuous growth of at least 3% annually, as Prof DavidHarvey has pointed out. Socialism occurs when capitalism reaches the point of restricting the growth of technology, robotics, automation, which can free us from the drudgery of wage slavery. We move from an economy based on production and waste, to one that is that is green, that uses natural resources in a way that considers their finiteness, that then relies on reusing and recycling these products.

Green economics is one aspect of socialism it involves current research in areas like green manufacturing, green chemistry, etc. These are actual fields of research and development. The idea is to take responsibility for your product from cradle to grave and when we go to bury it we find ways of breaking it down and reusing it.

Autonomous production; the freedom to choose, that supposed gift of capitalism is actually central to socialism, the concept of the free association of producers comes with the change in technology, like 3D Printing. This allows for manufacturing at home, a return of home based work, an end of the factory.
The Internet of Things, IoT allows us to administer things, not people, Engels ideal of the socialist state.

Millennial’s understand this, they grok the potential in the social media they use, they live in and live with. They used this to create the Arab Spring, the first world wide revolutionary struggle since the Bolshevik and Spanish revolutionary  struggles in the twentieth century . This consciousness of change was not lost on them.

It is this spirit of hope and change of that revolutionary potential that makes them embrace Sanders call to political revolution and Socialism.

It is the fear of job loss, of destruction of the norm, of the end of power of the white race that drives their parents and grandparents to Trump.

Like the turn of last Century which saw a horrifying war of Capitalist expansion that cut short the lives of an entire generation in Europe, and the creation of Modernism as a result, we are in a period of change, where consciousness, our social and personal self awareness is aware that we and the times we live in are full of potential for change and are changing.

Unlike the lost generation of WWI our Millennial’s as well as members of Gen X, Y, Z are all here. And like the generation of revolutionaries, modernists, they are the voice of the future, of a socialism that is not 19th or even 20thcentury, but a new model of an advanced technology shared for free in open source. 

Where work is what we all do because it is something we want to do, not because we are selling our time to someone else. Technology is on the edge of history, like Marx predicted in his work the Grundrisse, we can transform capitalism into socialism, by using technology to free us from wage slavery.

The followers of Trump are the heirs of the post WWI reactionaries and traditionalists who also appear at this time with the futurist and modernists movements, they are the founders of Fascism. 

They are not quite conservative or aristocratic, though these values and images of power appeal to them, they are actually as much a part of the revolutionary change in consciousness that is occurring, their spokespeople on the right talk about dialectics, gnosis, Hegelianism, all the left topics that while they dispute them consider them important enough as an ideology to continuously confront despite their protestations that Socialism has failed, and is a failed ideology.

It is more than an ideology; it is a historical zeitgeist originating in capitalism once capitalism develops industry and technology to a level of autonomous use it transforms into the potential for a socialist political economy.

It is here that the conspiratorial ideologues of the right, like Eugene Volokh, influence the readers of both the National Review and the National Enquirer. 

This movement of radical traditionalism of Evola and Volokh appeals to the American conspiracy theory imagination which Trump uses very effectively.

 However the white working class, like the coalminers in Appalachia who have abandoned Clinton for Trump, do not see that their jobs, their lives, their very existence being sacrificed by their bosses but because of Free Trade deals.

 With a reactionary consciousness they look to the very same boss who sold them out to save them, the left and the Democratic party has failed them. But they too embrace Sanders political revolution from the right, and support Trump because he will end trade deals. He will save their jobs. Even if the Republican Party is the party of free trade the very reason they have lost their jobs, they do not care, they are not republicans they are Trumpites.

Sanders and Trump’s political revolution also calls into question the whole two party system and Trump more than even Sanders has exposed what a rigged game it is.

In a sense Trump as post modern aristocrat has stepped down from his lofty heights to save the people. His politics are not of reform or revolution but of the great man in history no different from Mussolini or Bismarck who created state socialism in order to unify Germany.


Sanders political revolution harkens back to the seventies, to the ideals of the anti war movement which was the first post WWII movement to seriously threaten the establishment, even more so than the very successful CND anti nuke movement that it originated from.

He has not announced its structure, because as a transitional program it is made up of demands like #Fightfor15, ending Big Money in politics, etc. are all tactics for change, they are not a real program for socialist change. He is using this campaign like a big anti-war teach-in.

America’s political system is broken, this election has proven it.
 
And the Monkey King knows it and is only too glad to show it.








          Pumpkin spice drinks are gross – but they are sweet reminders of mortality | Dave Schilling        

Everyone gets excited about Pumpkin Spice Lattes and their ilk, even though they’re nasty sugar bombs. Scarcity is enticing

Here in America, Labor Day weekend is upon us – an occasion meant to honor the wage slaves and the clock punchers, but more practically is a signpost declaring the end of summer frolics and the beginning of the slow, frigid descent into fall and winter.

Unless, like me, you live in Los Angeles, a place where seasons are subtle, rain and snow are practically alien concepts and it doesn’t start to dip below 70F until after Halloween. How does one mark the passage of time in a city where it seems like it stands still? Pumpkin spice, of course.

Related: Orange is the new yuck: why autumn foods make me sick

Continue reading...
          On the Shadow Catalyst (Part II)        
Living in the Shadows

One of the differences between Shadowrun and Dungeons & Dragons is that Shadowrun is a more difficult game to run. It's not because of the usual complaints about managing spotlight time between classes or Deckers overtaking the game. It's because fundamentally, you are playing someone who is not you; the primary way in which they are distinguished from you is that they are a criminal by definition.

It's actually one of the most poetic parts of Shadowrun. Every wage slave, every corporate employees is given a System Identification Number. It is this number that both allows them to live a life of slavery dominated by the corps and gives them their legal rights. However Shadowrunners by their very nature are SINless; it is how they can commit crimes and not be tracked.

Even though Shadowrunners are without sin, they are still, to put a fine point on it, hyper-violent criminals. But what is a criminal?

One of the most interesting things about research into criminal behavior is that from the criminals perspective, crimes are rational responses to the environment. Violent criminals often have personal space bubbles that are meters larger than non-violent people. Thieves believe that everyone steals and if they don't steal then they will be falling behind. They justify their illegal behavior due to a misperception of the reality of the situation. 

But the Shadowrunners (at least those that are alive and minimally competent) are supposed to represent the people on the outside, those who can act to make a difference. Meaning although they aren't simple criminals, they do vary somewhat on their moral reasoning ability. Most of us are instinctually aware of moral reasoning.

When you are very young, your moral choices are about what doesn't get you into trouble. As you grow and develop, you look at how your decisions can benefit you. Eventually you move forward into "fitting in" and moral behavior being about what's acceptable and what's not. Eventually most people move beyond that phase into moral authority. This is the law and it's the law because it maintains the social order.

Criminals usually have stunted moral reasoning. They aren't concerned about an abstract like social order. They are still reasoning based off of what they can get away with that meets their needs.

Conversely some people move beyond social order and begin to view morality as something that is part of what is owed for being human, or even basing their choices on ethical principles. You've seen this in a movies, where the rogue decides to leave, but eventually goes against his "better judgement" and puts himself at risk to help his friends because "it's the right thing to do".

This is what is challenging about running Shadowrun. The players have to all be on board with the possibility that the other player's characters are untrustworthy criminals. Of course, what goes around comes around. The need to have players being able to separate out the behavior of other players characters from the player is challenging in a way Dungeons & Dragons is not.

This little sidebar brings out the question though: If because of your job you had access to money, would you take it without the consent of your business partners? I can unequivocally answer for myself that I would not. Why? Because it's objectively wrong.

Like FASA and FanPro, Catalyst Labs frequently had cash flow problems, and didn't pay its bills. Catalyst didn't pay bills to single mother freelancers and people who had already done work for them. They didn't get paid. Would you take the money? Would you