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IOPS Salem Chapter Meeting #40

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In attendance on March 23: Cheri Tebeau, Michael Tom, Michael Livingston, Sarah Owens, Sara Cromwell

Absent: Jaqui Eicher, Elliott Lapinel

Discussed: the usual plus Julia's course of study in marine biology.

Dues were collected.  Next meeting May 18 (not March 23, as was initially reported). 

Discussion 49 Comments

  • Dave Jones 29th Mar 2019

    Wondering how you folks interact with local DSA groups? We have formed a chapter here in Missoula and within that structure, an ecosocialist working group that I am putting my energy into. Many of the other IOPS folks have also gone this route.

    • Boulder Dash 1st Apr 2019

      Hey Dave, perhaps Michael Albert’s new series of articles should be read at DSA meetings across the US. You know to address any shortcomings. Whatever happened to OR? Is that what it was called...that Sanders initiative?

      “This is the first in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it seeks or will seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.

      The airwaves parade support for democratic socialism from converted candidates, activist advocates, and a great many young people. Some say socialism is conquering the Democratic Party. Others cry nonsense. Polls say Socialism has attained a plurality among younger generations, while diverse old-timers are responding by urging we are headed for calamity, unless we re-educate our young. So what does this surfacing of socialism mean?

      As I listen, it at least indicates many people support or are prepared to support justice, honest and empathetic integrity, ecological sanity, the ability for everyone to live a full life, and particularly free education and health care for all, among other progressive policies.

      This part is good, but we ought to acknowledge that it is not new. Anytime in the last half century huge numbers would have said they favored such aims. What is new, however, complements of Bernie Sanders and the last five years‘ activism, is that many people no longer avoid the label socialist. Call the same support years ago being socialist and you met an outcry of dismissive outrage, even though, if you called it caring for humanity, or liberalism, or whatever, it would have gotten support roughly like now.

      Another new meaning indicated by the upsurge, less semantic and more substantive, is that few with the indicated humane, liberal, or socialist views, now take as unchallengeable gospel that fixing current institutions by removing some bad people is all the change we need. Many do feel just that way. But many others reject not only being sexist, racist, elitist, and authoritarian, but capitalist institutions. Everyone favoring socialism in polls reject bad apples, but, and this is new, many also reject bad institutions.

      So how much does this growing verbal fearlessness about touting socialism, plus innovative openness to rejecting basic institutions matter? Will it lead to widely shared long-term commitments extensive enough to sustain multi-issue, multi-tactic, grassroots, participatory organization? Or will it surge but then retreat?

      The left has long suffered silos of separate focus. Activists almost universally believe all central concerns intersect and even entwine, yet few who focus on immigration, violence against women, war, feminism, racism, militarism, climate calamity, pollution, income distribution, market madness, police violence, election reform, OR other worthy concerns, actively support not only their own agenda, but also ALL the others.

      Why don’t we all aid the aims of every valid priority, not just with lip service, but with strategic care and sustained commitment? One reason is we don’t have overarching shared answers to the obvious question, what do we want, not just today, but for the long term? An “ism” should provide that, so is “democratic socialism” up to the task? Can it move from being a vague intimation of wanting better lives to being a serious touchstone of committed and comprehensive unity? Can it help us connect our siloed priorities and confidently posit aims that enrich our understanding of current relations and future possibilities, generate hope, and, as the saying goes, plant the seeds of the future in the present?

      To do all that, this series of articles exploring “socialism,” takes as a given that arriving at shared allegiance to a better future is going to require ample institutional substance. If we reject sexism, okay what does that imply for the kind of families and sexuality we want beyond the material equity that other innovations will yield and sustain? If we reject racism, okay, what does that imply for the kind of cultural interrelations between races, nationalities, and ethnicities that we want beyond the social enrichments that other innovations will yield and sustain? If we want an end to political subservience and subordination, okay, what does that imply for how we should arrive at laws, adjudicate disputes, and implement shared programs beyond the solidarity that other innovations will yield and sustain? And if we reject exploitation and class division, okay, what does that imply for how we ought to structure work and workplaces and determine allocation of products, rewards, responsibilities, and costs beyond the justice that other innovations will yield and sustain?

      If socialism continues to only mean nice values and progressive policies for the present, enlarging support for it will be a big step forward, for sure, and in truth despite justified semantic disagreements, that may indeed be the best way to now use the term, but, if it is, we who want new institutions will need a more encompassing term for a new type of society that doesn’t just ameliorate some ills, but that removes their structural causes and liberates full popular potentials. We will need to support and celebrate the emerging progressive socialist trend, not to dismiss or denigrate it, but also to put forth a larger and deeper perspective for it to hopefully lead toward. Or, if the term socialism is to become our label for our full array of desires, then what it conveys needs to be filled out quite a lot.

      Different people have different ideas about the needed extra substance. I favor something called participatory society, or, if it proves more compelling without being fractious, we could call it participatory socialism. As succinctly as possible, whatever name it takes, for me this would include: feminist kinship and gender relations emphasizing men and women not only having equal opportunity and rights, but also equally assertive and caring roles in social life; intercommunalist racial, ethnic, and other relations emphasizing people having means to elaborate and sustain cultural ties and commitments of their own choosing; participatory politics including collective self management via assemblies serving from neighborhood to society level, and renovated legal and executive relations stressing solidarity, justice, and self management; as well as participatory economics including federated workplace and industry councils, equitable remuneration, a new division of labor eliminating harsh hierarchies of empowerment, and participatory planning in place of markets or central planning.

      But my immediate point in this introduction to a series of explorations of “socialism” isn’t what the substance of a needed “ism” ought to be, whether the above or something else, but, instead, that the substance ought to be far more substantial than anything now generally supported, which means that even as activists oppose vile Trumpism and advocate for worthy Sanders-ism, whether we call our goals socialism or not, we should also mutually supportively and inclusively propose, explore, debate, and arrive at a far more substantial and clearly communicable shared vision of what we favor.”

    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      Socialism 2: Ethical Foundations

      By Michael Albert

      April 3, 2019

      [This is the second in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it will or ought to seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]

      Often allegiance to socialism (or to some other vision for the future) springs from one or another ideological commitment – marxism, anarchism, feminism, libertarianism, neoliberalism, and so on. But these allegiances tend to take for granted their underlying ideology and only rarely explicitly address its defining aspects. Later, nonetheless, people who support socialism or other aims ideologically often fight with each other over their unexamined and even unstated differences. A disturbing but undeniable truth is that such clashing can get more than a bit cultish. We are right, we are best, because we are us.

      A second approach to specifying that one is socialist is to support a few specific policies, for example, free healthcare for all, free schooling, open borders, or a guaranteed minimum income, but this doesn’t provide much guidance for going beyond those policies.

      In this series of articles I will try a different approach hoping to reduce the risk of both unexamined presuppositions and cultish disputes. The idea is to first settle on some values and only then assess institutions’ abilities to fulfill those values in society’s economy, polity, households, and other key areas of life. In other words, when we consider how society ought to best accomplish its various functions, our shared values will hopefully give us an agreed standard to organize our thoughts around – in short, how well does what we propose fulfill our preferred values, rather than how well does it ratify some old ideological scripture.

      So, the question immediately follows, what values might we adopt as a foundation for going on to envision specific aspects of a future society?

      We know societies impact how much goods, services, and opportunities we all receive; who makes decisions with what level of say; whether we tend to be hostile or supportive or even empathetic toward others; the range of choices and situations we each confront; and how we relate to our ecological surroundings. Even just considering these basic facets of what any society provides and delimits for its members, can we propose a list of values any worthy society ought to fulfill?

      First, regarding how much stuff we all get – don’t we favor that society be equitable and fair? Would anyone seeking a better society oppose that broad aim?

      Regarding influence, we know some people favor democracy, various other modes of voting, or consensus among other options. But isn’t our overarching aim that people should have ample self managed say over their own life choices and situations? Admittedly so far that is a bit undetermined, like equity is too, but even so, would anyone instead prefer people having little say over their own lives and inequitable outcomes?

      Regarding relations between people, surely we can agree that we would like society to foster positive, mutual, and even caring relations and not anti-sociality, can’t we?

      Regarding the range of options society promotes, does anyone not prefer diversity, a wide range, to homogeneity, a narrow range?

      And finally, regarding relations to the ecology, does anyone not prefer sustainability as a value, as compared to ecological decay?

      So suppose we take this list – equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and sustainability – as a starting place. Whether we call the system we seek socialism or something else, can we then say that a society, part of a society, or even a single institution is better to the extent it does a better job of fulfilling these values and worse to the extent that it violates them?

      Can we say that if a society is more equitable (where we determine just what this means for different aspects of social life) that’s better, and if it is more inequitable, that’s worse? If a society comes closer to delivering to all its members ample self managed say over their own lives, that’s better and if it denies people such say that’s worse? If a society fosters people being mutually supportive that’s better and if it causes people to constantly seek to oppose one another that’s worse? If a society has more diversity and less homogeneity, that’s better and if it has the reverse that’s worse? And if a society is sustainable rather that’s better and if it violates ecological balance that’s worse?

      However, indicating what’s better, what’s worse doesn’t demonstrate that any of our preferred values can be significantly attained by a society, much less all of them at once. And it doesn’t clarify the specific meaning of the proposed values in specific settings such as economic life, political life, family life, or culture. Nonetheless, the list already says, look at various facets of society, specify what the proposed values mean in each context, and then envision institutions that fulfill the values individually, and even all at once. If we can usefully carry out that instruction we will have a vision and also some insights into how to attain it. If we can’t carry out that instruction, then we will have to go back to the drawing board. But first, to get a little practice utilizing our proposed values, in our next essay I will take a brief look at our current societies, to see how they fare against our newly proposed ethical measure.

    • Sarah Owens 1st Apr 2019

      The Trump bump birthed a local (Salem) DSA chapter (group not groups), but the scenery hasn't changed much. A regrouping of the not at all "diverse old-timers [who] are responding by urging we are headed for calamity, unless we re-educate our young"). We don't interact any more. Sara Cromwell and Michael have been working on an account of our latest project, from which we were fired for offenses to the delicate progressive community sensibility. We'd rather build hugel beds in the community garden, where bullshit actually counts for something.

    • Boulder Dash 1st Apr 2019

      Counter the Albert with Schweickart’s Sense on Stilts so DSA folk don’t accuse you of anti-market bias or not Marxist enough.

      “1.4 Criteria

      Let me specify more precisely what I take to be the essential criteria for an adequate successor-system theory.

      The theory should specify an economic model that can be cogently defended to professional economists and ordinary citizens alike as being both economically viable and ethically superior to capitalism. Although necessarily abstract, the model should be concrete enough for us to foresee how it would likely function in practice when animated by the finite, imperfect human beings that we are.

      This model should enable us to make sense of the major economic experiments of the past century, which have been numerous and diverse. If the human species is indeed groping toward a postcapitalist economic order, successor-system theory should illuminate that process.

      The model should clarify our understanding of the various economic reforms for which progressive parties and movements are currently struggling, and it should be suggestive of additional reform possibilities. It is a tenet of historical materialism that the institutions of new societies often develop within the interstices of the old.

      Successor-system theory should help us locate the seeds and sprouts of what could become a new economic order, so that they might be protected and nourished. Successor-system theory should enable us to envisage a transition from capitalism to the successor system. It should specify a set of structural modifications that might become feasible under certain plausible historical conditions that would transform a capitalist economy into an economy qualitatively different and unequivocally better.

      Having said what an adequate successor-system theory should be, let me underscore what it is not . Successor-system theory is not the whole of counterproject theory. It is not even the whole of the economic component of this theory. Successor-system theory is centered on a rather abstract economic model. It does not concern itself with the actual history of capitalism and its development from feudalism, its relationship to slavery and colonialism, its curious mix of progressive ideals and brutal practices. It does not address, except indirectly, such Marxian concepts as alienated labor, fetishism of commodities, the labor theory of value, or the falling rate of profit. It does not concern itself with the ways in which the economic “base” of society manifests itself in other areas of society.

      Nor does successor-system theory address in a sustained or systematic fashion the issues of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of structural oppression. These issues are quite important to the counterproject, but they lie outside the purview of successor-system theory, at least as it will be sketched in these pages.

      Successor-system theory is further restricted in that it is not a theory about Marx’s “higher stage of communism,” that moneyless, stateless form of society governed by the principle, “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” It is concerned with what is both possible and necessary now—the immediate next stage beyond capitalism, a stage that will be marked by its origins within capitalism. One can speculate as to the evolution of a postcapitalist society such as the one I will describe, but such speculations extend beyond the range of the theory itself.”

    • Boulder Dash 1st Apr 2019

      Just for clarity and for seeing possible (likely) similarities between the Albert/Schweickart binary (just wanted to say binary).

      “1.5 Revolution

      Successor-system theory must address the transition question. Successor-system theory is meant to be theory with practical intent. If it cannot offer a plausible projection as to how we might get from here to there, successor-system theory remains an intellectual exercise in model building, interesting in its own right perhaps, and capable of providing a theoretical rejoinder to the smug apologists for capitalism, but useless to people trying to change the world.

      The successor-system theory marked out in these pages will not offer a full-blown “theory of revolution,” where, by “revolution” I mean a process by which the power of a dominant economic class is broken and new socioeconomic institutions put in place that significantly enhance the prospects and power of the subordinated classes at the expense of the dominant class. I am not sure that the time is ripe for such a theory. At any rate, I don’t have one. Nonetheless, I do think it is possible to sketch some plausible transition scenarios. This will be done in chapter 6. I also think it possible to discern the general direction a new theory of revolution should take.

      A new theory of revolution will recognize that the old models of social revolution, drawing their inspiration from the French, Russian, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions, are largely inappropriate to the world today, certainly to advanced capitalist societies, perhaps even to poor countries. The question of armed insurrection will have to be reexamined. The masses are never going to storm the White House, nor is a people’s army ever going to swoop down from the Appalachian Mountains and march up Pennsylvania Avenue. A revolutionary transition to socialism will almost certainly be a democratic transition.

      The new theory will recognize the need for a more concrete vision of structural alternatives than has been customary in the past. It is not enough to say, “Seize state power and establish socialism.” Blind faith in the laws of history or in an omniscient party has been justly discredited. The intelligence of ordinary people must be acknowledged and respected. Most workers, certainly those in rich countries, have far more to lose now than just their chains.

      The theory will emphasize the need for reform struggles now, before the conditions are right for a truly fundamental socioeconomic transformation. What we get, if and when space opens up for revolutionary structural change, will depend crucially on what we have already gotten—and on who, during the course of many struggles, we have become. (In struggling to change the world, we change ourselves as well.) As we shall see, radical structural transformation will involve a substantial deepening of democracy. But democracy, while a necessary ingredient of the kind of world we want, is not sufficient in and of itself. The output of a democratic procedure depends on the quality of the input. Hence the importance now of struggles against racism, sexism, and homophobia, against senseless violence, rampant consumerism, and environmental destruction. Hence the importance now of trying to figure out better ways of living with one another and with nature and changing our lives accordingly.

      The new theory will also emphasize the need for diverse strategies and diverse aims. The transition to a genuinely democratic socialism will likely vary, depending on whether the country is rich or poor, on whether or not the country has undergone a socialist revolution in the past, and on various other historical and cultural contingencies. Although there will be commonalities of vision, there will be differences as well—of tactics, transitional strategies, and ultimate goals. Unlike the program of neo-liberal capitalism, one size does not fit all. The counterproject does not envisage all nations aiming for the same patterns of development, or adopting the same technologies, values, and consumption habits. The counterproject calls for a halt to the McDonaldization of the world.

      Finally, an adequate theory of the transition from global capitalism to democratic, sustainable socialism will stress the need for an international social movement, not in the sense of a unified, centrally directed party, but in the sense of a common consciousness that recognizes a kind of unity in diversity and allows for cross-national cooperation and inspiration. The counterproject is nothing less than the project of our species.”

  • Boulder Dash 30th Mar 2019

    The ”usual” and the mysterious Julia and her studies. Obviously poor judgement on my part assuming that such posts on the homepage could elicit some excitement. Well, ya gotta try and Irie seems to have run out of a little steam. Happens. Perhaps Dave’s question will extract more. I look forward to the next instalment after the next meeting on the same day this one took place...Groundhog Day.


    • Sarah Owens 30th Mar 2019

      I commented instead of answered. Tune in to see my comment answer.

  • Sarah Owens 30th Mar 2019

    Wowie Zowies are for others, I guess. Irie overachieves, sets the net too high, probably needs a little what do you call it kip on the keyboard. Michael's a kipper. Supposed to be telling Dave how we interact with the local DSA groups, on account of he's planning a trip up Dave's way in the fall and (my idea) a natter (see, I pay attention) about DSA could lead to something fishy. Julia's the one in the middle of the next Groundhog Day meeting. We are groundhogs, only here we call them ground squirrels.

  • Boulder Dash 30th Mar 2019

    Kip will do. Chicken for Lambert. Maybe Irie’s knackered, can’t be arsed or doesn’t give a rats toss bag anymore. Who knows. Hope Michael’s walking, running or cycling up and across or at least planting stuff along the way...you know footprints and all that!! Spose fall means autumn and natter a chin wag. DSA slways sounds fishy...like some sort but of surveillance agency. The acronym should be ditched because the organisation contains social democrats as well...they like to party a tad more than the more dour (pronounced as for sour, not door or doer) democratic socialists. Everyday is Groundhog Day for most people, or maybe not! Glad someone’s paying attention. Just started rereading David Schweickart’s 2011 revised After Capitalism. Maybe Michael could grab it to read on the way. Could be some good stuff in there for those Democratic Socialists of America with market tendencies...probably all of ‘em except Dave. Anyway gotta go, I’m stuffed and deadset gotta go to the dunny.

  • Dave Jones 5th Apr 2019

    Yeah, bounce back and forth between internet and Springtime In Montana ( without Hitler) but with squalla hatch, greenhouse, taxes, Jazzfest... Anyway, while I and a few other Zoozaps still see some promise in DSA Ecosocialist Working Group, some of us also think Extinction Rebellion might be a better fit.

    Yesterday the Missoula city and county passed a 100% clean electricity resolution, but being the irksome radicals that we are, we weighed in with a letter that called the measure necessary but not sufficient...drumroll...eye rolling, perfect-enemy-of-good, etc.. Of course this caused a split in the Working Group...

    The thing is, and I'm not sure Michael Albert gets this, we (global society) just hit 411.66 ppm at Mauna Loa. In February ( it usually peaks in May). WE just saw a 2.6 percent rise in global emissions and record oil production. The proposed solar panels, wind turbines and hydo-power are nice ( not so much hydro) but mile long coal trains go through Missoula every day. Missoula grows and grows, spreading out in every direction, all those people consume and consume, in July smoke fills the valley, traffic backs up for miles at rush hour.

    So anyway, 350 shuns us, soon DSA will shun us, IOPS tolerates us but who knows for how long? And get this- six months ago a woman approached one of our members saying she was heir to a massive fortune and God had told her Zoozaps would be the vehicle to "change the world". So never a dull moment out here in Big Sky Country. I remember arguing with Michael Albert about the word socialism, which he said had too much baggage, hence, "Participatory Society". Which, as we know, caught on like wildfire. DSA wants to try and elect Bernie and I just picked up Debord's great Society of the Spectacle again. One study says in 60 years most of this trout habitat will be gone so I better get with it...

    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      Yep, get it Dave, agree ‘n all...things moving to slow...hey, that’s that Frank song, you know,

      Why (or is it whoa?)..are we moving so slow,
      Have you seen us,
      Uncle Remus?

      We look pretty sharp in these clothes, (yes we do)
      Unless we get sprayed with a hose
      It ain’ bad in the day
      If they squirt it our way,
      ‘Crept in the winter when it’s froze
      And it’s hard if it hits
      On the nose.

      When you say IOPS tolerates you, you talkin’ about me, us, here?...I more than tolerate you Dave...I dig talking with ya, reading you, listening to what you are doing and saying...fuck, you’re still actually inhabiting this dysfunctional space...and you dig Frank...ain’t that funky!

      You probably read it but I’m posting it here anyway, Albert’s slow multi part analysis, most of which you can probably guess...forgot to post the second one here. Will donabove under the first, or there abouts

      Socialism 3: Ethically Judging Current Societies

      By Michael Albert

      April 5, 2019

      [This is the third in a multipart series addressing the surge in interest in and support for Socialism. Subsequent entries will explore what the surge means, what it will or ought to seek, where it might extend, and how it might unfold.]

      If our current societies do well in fulfilling equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and ecological sustainability, we need not try to envision drastically altered ways of carrying out social tasks as the ways we have would be adequate. But if our current societies do poorly fulfilling our values, then we have great reason to envision drastically altered ways of carrying out social tasks, and good reason to proceed with an essay series attempting to do so.

      When a claim is made that Trump lies, while for some purposes listing a few thousand instances may prove helpful, really just a few choice instances make the case. Better to spend one’s time battling Trump and especially defining and seeking an alternative to Trumpism, than repeatedly excoriating him. And the same holds for the claim that contemporary societies violate our values. Though we could pile up evidence to mountainous levels, a few choice indicators should suffice.

      Regarding equity, in the U.S. three individuals — Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett — own more wealth than the bottom half of the country combined. Three stand on one side, a hundred million or so on the other side. That is as opposite to equity as one could imagine, and that is what I mean by a choice fact. Of course one could go on to statistically compare the top 20% to the bottom 80%, or one could impressionistically drive around various neighborhoods comparing homes — supposing one could get past the guards of the rich neighborhoods. One could also compare the wealth or income of various constituencies, men and women, Blacks, Latinos, and whites, and so on. The point is, contemporary societies offer nothing even remotely like equity. Most citizens who aren’t already desperate are one paycheck, one unexpected illness, or one personal misstep from disaster. Perpetual panic is epidemic.

      The inequities are perpetually enforced not only by armed guards, but by cultural repetition and celebration. Those suffering poverty are regaled with TV, movie, and other media images celebrating the rich and famous and their utterly unattainable and even inconceivable lifestyles. Even in sports talk shows, incredibly, the focus has broadened from analyzing the details of performance in years past to more recently studying the mechanics of contracts while commentators get wrapped up in knots of awed respect for one hundred, two hundred, and even three hundred million dollar contracts for single athletes, sagely telling us that it isn’t enough, or, in some cases, is a little too much. And we are given this as our entertainment, literally to root for and to find escape and solace and excitement in — and we do so, because what else is there?

      Look no further for equity unless you wish to wallow in the pain of an endless river of ever more depressing details. The bottom line, equity, is obliterated by a few people owning workplaces and the rest not, by a few people monopolizing skills and information and the rest not, and by many suffering the denials imposed by racism, sexism, homophobia and other social, geographic, and age related divisions. More, society not only generates and defends vast inequities, it celebrates them as if inequity is necessary and even virtuous, piling indignity and stupidity on top of subjugation. There isn’t even a contrary pretense denying uncountable accumulated wealth. Likewise, no one denies gargantuan yearly incomes, palatial mansions, inequitable health care, schooling, and diet. Equity? We don’t have any and everybody knows it.

      Regarding self management, the story is basically the same. Most societal decisions occur with the vast majority of the population not even knowing a decision is being made, much less having a say. Law and disorder, prosecution and revenge, war and military spending, what is produced with what means and norms, the composition of jobs and the distribution of responsibilities, what is available to consume and what isn’t, and the norms of admiration and ridicule that pervade the culture, all these are beyond even our purview much less our influence.

      It turns out that the abhorrent fact that candidates for office win and lose due to media and financial machinations and not due to honest informed accounting of substantive plans, is actually only the surface of society’s denial of people having a say in the outcomes most affecting their lives. Did any person addicted to opioids have any say in the pharmaceutical decisions that addicted them other than saying yes to a doctor’s advice or desperately seeking drugs on the street to survive pain and alienation? We all know the answer is no, and similarly it is no to dozens of similar questions we could investigate. For example, do policed communities have appropriate self managing influence over the policing they endure? In workplaces, do most workers, about 80%, have any say about anything at all…or do they have to accept a degree of subservience in many ways even exceeding that imposed by dictators. Not even Hitler or Stalin ever told a population when it could or could not go to the bathroom, something that occurs daily in many workplaces.

      In institutions across society a relative few decide virtually all outcomes, and the rest obey and endure. It isn’t just that we don’t have self management, it is that we have it’s opposite, and everybody knows it.

      What about solidarity? It is not for nothing that we say it’s a dog eat dog world, a rat race, every one for themself, and so on. It’s because that’s our experience. Market relations require that we buy cheap and sell dear, my gain is your loss and vice versa. Fleece or be fleeced. And then schooling, culture, and even upbringing ratify that this is how it is and how it will always be. You better get yours while you can, others be damned. In truth, in our societies, humans appear to be nastier to other humans than dogs to dogs and rats to rats. Our fetishization of numero uno, our competitive economics, and our perverse culture make it so.

      Consider the aphorism, “nice guys finish last.” First, it is basically true. My more extreme version would be “garbage rises,” which if you think about it, is also true. And, if you don’t want to be nasty, or garbage, and many people do retain enough humanity to opt out of those options, then to avoid being repressed on top of being denied you need to at least accept the subservience that inevitably punishes your civility. Second, all by itself the fact that nice guys finish last, or that garage rises, reveals that solidarity, much less empathy, is an ethical orphan in our society. We all know it and endure it or take advantage of it.

      On to diversity. Here I suppose an argument could ensue. Some will feel that with our hundred channels and countless brands of this and that, diversity is in the saddle. But I would contest even that. Consider blacks, whites, workers, professionals, women, gays, and other constituencies you can no doubt name. Each, to a considerable degree, differs from the rest in its modes of living, dress, music, film, sports, and even diet preferences. Is this all just free choice among options? Or is it the impact of homogenization defining opposed groups? For that matter, is the diversity of, say, the internet, really diversity when a handful of sites garner a huge percentage of all web views, and an even smaller handful mediate an even higher percentage of all online social communication?

      I won’t press this issue overly but perhaps you will take a moment to imagine you are arrested and hauled off. Suppose in jail there is a commissary. You arrive and find its offerings abhorrent. For a couple of weeks, you get nothing. But left with no other recourse, in pursuit of something better than nothing, you start to make choices among the limited offerings. Soon when you visit the commissary, the array of offerings seems reasonable, even plentiful, compared to, well, the nothing you had had for the two weeks you avoided it. You start to differentiate, to want this more than that. Are you enjoying diversity that speaks to your unfettered inclinations, or are you making the best of a horrible poverty of options? And, by analogy, are society’s citizens enjoying diversity in society’s malls, on its TV, seeking and doing its jobs, and all the rest, or are we making do with a horrible poverty of options by bending our preferences to fit the intellectually, socially, and ethically limited range of society’s offerings, in essence making the best of a horrible situation?

      The fifth value we offered was sustainability, or ecological sanity. This is arguably the most calamitous failing of the bunch, and, again, everyone knows it. The world is at risk, elites give lip service to global warming, and humanity barrels over a cliff of our own creation. Suffice to say, climate catastrophe, resource depletion, and poisonous pollution literally threaten human survival. You can’t get much more of a violation of a paramount value than that. And, yes, again, everybody knows it. (I keep repeating that we all know it, exaggerating only minimally, but Leonard Cohen, the poet/singer put the same observation vastly better in his song, Everybody Knows Take a look!)

      But, a question arises. If everybody knows, why are we not all up in arms? Why isn’t our knowing how horribly our societies restrict and even threaten our lives enough to galvanize massive, sustained, revolutionary desire, education, and activism? I think a Catch 22 is at work. Everybody does know all kinds of devastatingly horrible truths about our societies, but only a ridiculously small number of us think it is anything other than just the way things are, and even among that small number who do believe “another world is possible,” only a still smaller group believes they have any way to contribute to bringing it about. So we have a Catch 22. Without a compelling vision of how society could be better and an informed belief that the massive impediments to reaching that better society are overcome-able by actions we can contribute to, why should people give any time to that project, including to the initial task of generating and sharing vision and developing workable strategy. The greatest enemy of potential progress, cynicism, turns out to be a personally self serving albeit socially suicidal disposition. Maybe a series of articles addressing vision and strategy and whatever discussion might ensue, all at our unusual moment of a resurgent and surprisingly widespread espousal of socialist aspirations, can help. That is the hope of this essay series.

      Next Installment: Socialism 4 (Economics): Dividing Society’s Pie

    • Dave Jones 8th Apr 2019

      Sure, "everybody knows", but they act AS IF they don't. Albert never goes to the sub-conscious. This is where his explanation falters, he'll never be a sub-genius.

    • Sarah Owens 6th Apr 2019

      Thank you for your comment. We take this comment very seriously and will do everything in our power to talk about what we might reasonably do to address your concerns.

    • Sarah Owens 6th Apr 2019

      We at IOPS are very proud of our tolerance. Thank you for noticing.

  • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

    Shit, let’s face it Dave, most stuff hasn’t caught on. Debord’s Spectacle? Anarchist vision anyone? Marxists? The Monthly Review? Parecon? Castoriadis?

    There’s something wrong. It’s obvious to me that just constantly organising doesn’t work. That ships been sailing for centuries and it’s 2019 and we’re heading for a fucking cliff and most folks, The Next System Project and Commons Tradition, are kind of hoping for things to self emerge out of ‘on the ground’ practical pragmatic, don’t-push-the-revolutionary-language-thing-too-hard, action but without any real clear, coherent and convincing (the three C’s) alternative vision for the future...and that’s a slow process and probably relies more on younger generations building careers and lives around new emerging structures.

    Things haven’t really progressed much since Mick got ejected from the Internationale in The Hague by Karl and Co, and Karl looked on the Paris Commune thinking, “yeah, cool, but there needs to be a bunch of smart guys like meself and Freddy, like a vanguard party, to snap the masses out of their dumb fucked up false consciousness and organise things” and Mick said, “get fucked you pretentious wanker, that’ll just end up in fucking tears.”

    The Left, whatever it is, has shot itself in the foot, the arm, the leg, and elsewhere constantly because it has no fucking idea with what to replace the current organisation of production, consumption and allocation...it just fucking rolls it’s eyes, bickers and splits all the time and it can’t continue like that...well actually it can and has, much to the Big Daddy White Geezer Hegemonic Power Grids satisfaction and happiness.

    ALL the visionary groups should be operating TOGETHER, under some unifying banner or flag or whatever the fuck you want...don’t give a shit...that allows each group to autonomously pursue the things they are best at, while at the same time acknowledging their place inside a greater mass movement working for the greater good, accompanied by a clear, coherent, convincing vision. BUT THEY DON’T. And neither does Russell Brand god damn it!

    I mean, regardless of whether Albert knows you say he probably doesn’t, or that he may be moving too slow, I tend to agree with his position. But my question is, who else is reading this series of essays AND taking them very seriously AND promoting the basic thrust? Is the Next System Project publishing them? Nup (I’ve asked them to but why would they listen to me, I don’t belong to some left think tank or the Democracy Collaborative...I’m just a pest). Is Commons Transition reading them and publishing them and getting a whole bunch of European academics to conduct some scholarly forum discussing the ramafications and the meaning of Albert’s series? I doubt it, they probably don’t see ‘value’ in it! (That’s a joke). Inclusive Democracy, or Fotopoulos more specifically, dislikes Albert and ZNet, flips them off as a bunch of weakarsed liberals butbthen, no one has really heard of Inclusive Democracy or Fotopoulos apart from a minuscule bunch of people. Marxists would probably find Albert’s articles trite, intellectually, but nevertheless, is Monthly Review publishing them? Counterpunch?. Other sites?

    Joe Toscano here, an anarchist of decades experience, would probably be bored by them, certainly not bother reading them.

    So the efficacy of Albert’s series is questionable but I’m glad it’s there at the very least.

    I mean, your rupture idea may be more fun in some kind of warped way (grabbing a twelve gauge, bandoleer and tinned dig food) and at the very least snap people out of their stupor...but...who knows really...Clive Hamilton told me quite simply, we’re fucked. Well, if he be right...the shit’s gonna hit the fan at some point anyway...


    Now gotta get back to Agents of SHIELD S2E2...a lot to get through if one is trying to make their way through the Marvel Universe in order.

    • Boulder Dash 5th Apr 2019

      Tinned dog food...

    • Sarah Owens 6th Apr 2019

      Some of us are more fucked than others, that's the bother.

    • Sarah Owens 6th Apr 2019

      Best not to worry. Enjoy the ride down the drain.

    • Dave Jones 8th Apr 2019

      Exactly Sarah, my trailer house might leak and have rats nests under the porch, my transmission might have froze up, but dammit, at least I don't live in the slums of Mogadishu! Like the old John Prine song: "You don't know how lucky you are..."

  • Boulder Dash 6th Apr 2019

    But this is why I cannot enjoy the ride...

    “It is precisely with respect to the implacability of the technical and the associated problematic of autonomy and heteronomy that the second, the aesthetic axis of our perspectivization of the milieu concept emerges. We propose two key assumptions for further discussion: first, that the anthropological subject acquires a relative autonomy in relation to the ‘natural’ environment precisely through the appropriation of technical or artistic ‘organs’ respectively, one that can however tip over at any moment into what henceforth becomes a technologically conditioned heteronomy (Stiegler 2013); and secondly, that the possibility for transgressing such a metastable equilibrium state can be characterized as a genuinely creative and aesthetic faculty (Guattari 2014).”

    And these questions are answered.

    - Can current technological conditions be accorded the status of a historic caesura, or are they instead expressions of an undoubtedly strengthened, but never fully absent implacability of the technical?

    - Which developments argue for a historic caesura with regard to current technological conditions? What are the implications, on the other hand, of conceiving of the implacability of the technical as a suprahistorical constant?

    - To the extent that the ‘implacability’ of the technical is conceived literally rather than merely metaphorically, how can the internal logic of technogenesis be described with greater precision? How might we get to grips with it?

    - If self-transgression qua technology is grasped as an anthropological constant, what are the implications of this for anthropogenesis?

    - To what extent can a fundamental aesthetic faculty – both in the expended sense of imagination, as well as in the more restricted Kantian sense as an agency of freedom in relation to the realm of necessity – be assumed as a precondition of individuation?

    - Which positions, which aesthetic and artistic forms of resistance, are observable today in relation to the heteronomy of our natural and technological conditions? What are they capable of, and what limits do they encounter?

    - Is the inadequation of individual and milieu qua technology and aesthetics reserved exclusively to humanity? Which natural and artificial processes legitimate the discourse of a téchne in the sense of a technology and art beyond the bounds of the human?

    • Sarah Owens 6th Apr 2019

      Just got back from Bathtubs Over Broadway. We highly recommend it. Maybe seeing it will help you appreciate how much easier it would be to perspectivize the inadequation of the individual qua milieu, if only it were set to music.

    • Boulder Dash 6th Apr 2019

      Easily done!

    • Boulder Dash 6th Apr 2019

      Will get my artistic ‘organs’ onto it as soon as I can qua coffee and a bit of a lie down!

  • Boulder Dash 6th Apr 2019

    Perhaps the soundtrack is already done presenting the obvious answer to the rather banal and even unnecessary enquiries,

    - Which positions, which aesthetic and artistic forms of resistance, are observable today in relation to the heteronomy of our natural and technological conditions? What are they capable of, and what limits do they encounter?

    - Is the inadequation of individual and milieu qua technology and aesthetics reserved exclusively to humanity? Which natural and artificial processes legitimate the discourse of a téchne in the sense of a technology and art beyond the bounds of the human?

    Splash'n'Klang is a musical practice developed by Out To Lunch in response to various problems facing modern music. Over the course of the twentieth century, recording wrecked the old composer-score-musician arrangement, enabling advanced music to dissolve the distinction between documentary sound and composed score (see Derek Bailey, Iancu Dumitrescu and Frank Zappa's "Wolf Harbor"). However, although they play by ear and could invent every note, thus making each performance unique and extending musical variety and delight into infinity, most non-reading bands survive by reproducing known quantities. In order to encourage the musicians of AMM All-Stars to suspend musical time and pay attention to the sounds immediately in front of them, Out To Lunch records Splash'n'Klang in his bathtub: running taps, rattling the plug, pouring water from jugs, making bubble sounds, and striking floating bowls and glasses with plastic chopsticks. These rituals are then played during the weekly improvisation session by AMM All-Stars which constitutes Late Lunch With Out To Lunch, a radio show on Resonance FM (2-3pm Wednesdays). Splash'n'Klang was partly arrived at through email discussions with guitarist I Digress Indeed about listening to records whilst washing up, and noticing that emancipated music (Sun Ra, Derek Bailey, Tony Oxley, Eugene Chadbourne, Music With My Insane Friend, AMM All-Stars) renders each kitchensink noise vibrant, delicious and beautiful ("the thud of a saucepan as it hits the zink" as Richard Evans put it). OTL wanted to find a way of injecting these beauties into his broadcasts. He also acknowledges that humans and animals delight in water sounds because they remind them of urination (see James Joyce's Chamber Music), and also of time spent in the womb and ancestral memories of all life's oceanic origins. On 12th February 2019, possibly due to the drama of freeing a pigeon brought in by his two cats (Brella and Sox), OTL recorded a record-length Splash'n'Klang, and realised his application to this instrument had reached some kind of peak. So the soundfile was offered to I Digress Indeed (guitarist of Music With My Insane Friend) and this duet (one of three) resulted: "I can now join the pantheon of my personal household gods, and die happy" quoth Lunch.

  • Dave Jones 8th Apr 2019

    The first five minutes is almost accessible, but if I may offer a suggestion, you should bring in the pigeons a little sooner, if indeed, they are "artistic forms of resistance" or merely squab in their preternatural state.

    As for rupture, I think this concept needs to be de-constructed beyond "tinned dog food". We automatically go to dystopia for our images,( thanks Mel Gibson) but there are various scenarios we could insert instead. The point is, "organizing for revolution" has been a total non-starter ( as Boulder points out) so what other options pertain? The dual power folks love to imagine their community gardens are a "pre-figurative" model of autonomous self-direction, but that hardly infects finance capital with an infectious disease, or sends a poison dart into the neck of "the ruling class"- Davos- set.

    It seems obvious to me that the "hyper-object" that de-legitimizes the current order is climate chaos and that this same "system" is, to borrow from Zizek, like the coyote in the old cartoons who has chased the road runner off the cliff and is suspended in tragi/comic space. The task is to get the coyote to look down. In this sense the rupture is simply one of realization- but it better happen quick. What type of event forces us to look down?

    • Boulder Dash 9th Apr 2019

      There is nothing artistic nor resistant in what I do musically...The Spectacle takes care of it’s accessibility!!!

      You’d think the Left, with two hundred years of resistance and experience would know by now what would force us to look down. And even if it can be done where will the most forceful and coordinated response come from and how would the average person react to it all.

      Climate Catastrophe and Extinction Rebellion

      By Paul Street
      Source: Counterpunch
      April 9, 2019

      “In the last years of his life, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke against what he called “the triple evils that are interrelated” – economic inequality, racism, and militarism. If King were alive today, he’d be talking about the five evils that are interrelated, adding patriarchy and Ecocide, the destruction of livable ecology. He’d also be noting the dangerous rise of a new national and global fascism linked to the presidency of a malignant racist who glories in accelerating humanity’s environmental self-destruction while the media obsesses over matters of far slighter relevance.

      I was given three questions to answer today. The first question runs as follows: “How have you as a historian mapped the trajectory of Climate Change over time? What do we have to worry about right now?”

      Let me say as politely as I can that I don’t like the phrase “Climate Change.” It’s too mild. Try Climate Catastrophe. If a giant oak tree is about to collapse on to your little house, you don’t say that you are risk of housing change. You say “holy shit we’re about to die and we better do something fast.”

      I haven’t really tracked climate change as an historian. I am an urban and labor historian, not an environmental one. The climate issue really started being noticeable to me with the often-forgotten Chicago heat wave of July 1995, when hundreds of people, very disproportionately Black, died.

      I rely on climate scientists to crunch the time-series numbers on planetary warming and what they are telling us is not good, to say the least. We are at an oak tree tipping point for the house of humanity. It’s the biggest issue of our or any time. As Noam Chomsky told Occupy Boston 8 years ago, if the environmental catastrophe led by global warming isn’t averted in the next few decades, then nothing else we progressives, egalitarians, and peaceniks care about is going to matter.

      In 2008, NASA’s James Hansen and seven other leading climate scientists predicted “irreversible ice sheet and species loss” if the planet’s average temperature rose above 1°Celsius as they said it would if carbon dioxide’s atmospheric presence reached 450 parts per million. CO2 was then at 385 ppm. The only way to be assured of a livable climate, Hansen said, would be to cut CO2 back to 350 ppm.

      Here we are eleven years later, well past Hansen’s 1°C red line. We’ve gotten there at 410 ppm, not 450. It’s the highest level of CO2 saturation in 800,000 years, 600,000 years before the first fossil evidence of homo sapiens. I recently attended an Extinction Rebellion meeting in which it was reported that 22% of all human industrial-era carbon emissions have taken place since 2009, one year after Hansen issued his warning.

      The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report reflects the consensus opinion of the world’s leading climate scientists. It tells us that we are headed to 1.5°C in a dozen years. Failure to dramatically slash carbon emissions between now and 2030 is certain to set off catastrophic developments for hundreds of millions of people, the IPCC warns.

      The IPCC finds that we are headed at our current pace to 4°C by the end of century. That will mean a planet that is mostly unlivable. Tipping points of unlivable existence are already being reached by millions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Sub Continental and Southeast Asia, parts of Central America and other regions where climate-driven migration is underway, with significant political consequences.

      Numerous Earth scientists find the IPCC report insufficiently alarmist. It omits research demonstrating the likelihood that irreversible climatological “tipping points” like the thawing of the northern methane-rich permafrost could occur within just “a few decades.”

      We really don’t know how quickly the existential threat may unfold. This is an experiment that’s never been run. What do we have to worry about? Extinction. Current female life expectancy in the United States is 81 years. A baby girl born this year would in theory turn 81 in 2100, when, at the current Greenhouse Gassing pace, Antarctica will have melted and the Amazonian rain forest will have long ceased to function as the lungs of the planet.

      I was also asked by this conference’s organizers to discuss “connections between Climate Change, class inequity, and imperialism” and to offer ideas on why “this intersectionality [is] often overlooked.” Let me to be as brief as I can because that’s a doctoral dissertation or two. Eco-Marxists like John Bellamy Foster are right about capitalism. It is a system not just of class disparity but of plutocratic and corporate class rule, the rule of the owners and managers of capital. And there are a number of environmental problems with capitalist class rule. The fist problem is that the owners and managers of capital don’t really care about anything other than the accumulation of capital and profit. They are systemically compelled to commodify anything and everything they can get their hands on. They have always been perfectly content to profit from anything and everything. They cash in on slavery, fascism, mass-incarceration, endless war, and even on turning the planet into a giant Greenhouse Gas Chamber – a crime that quite frankly makes the Nazis look like small-time criminals by comparison.

      The second problem is that the owners and managers of capital are constantly throwing masses of human beings out of livable wage employment and off of social safety nets and out of common lands and public schools and public housing and the only so-called solution to the mass poverty that results from this constant Enclosure process they’ve ever been able to offer is the promise of new jobs through ever more expansion and growth, an environmental disaster on numerous levels.

      The third problem is that Wall Street and Bond Street and LaSalle Street and the rest of the big financial streets and exchanges have huge fixed and sunken investments in a vast Carbon Industrial Complex. They do not want to see that giant portfolio devalued by home sapiens choosing to survive by keeping fossil fuels in the ground where they belong.

      The fourth problem is that capital is inherently and systemically opposed to and threatened by social, public, and environmental planning on the scale required for the task of moving humanity off fossil fuels and on to renewable energy and broadly sustainable environmental practices.

      Fifth, class rule regimes insulate their top decision-makers from the worst environmental consequences of their growth-addicted systems. By the time people living in ruling-class bubbles begin to sense existential threat to themselves, it is generally too late for them to do anything about it except stuff like trying to get the Tesla guy to fly them to Mars or to download their consciousness into an Artificial Intelligence satellite to roam the galaxy for eternity.

      With imperialism the connections are less abstract. Eating up more than half the nation’s federal discretionary spending and sustaining more than 1000 military installations across more than 100 nations, the Pentagon system itself has the single largest carbon footprint of any institutional complex on Earth The so-called defense budget steals trillions of dollars that need to be spent on green infrastructure and green jobs if we are going to reduce carbon emissions to a livable scale. At the same time, America’s global super-power has long depended on U.S. control over global oil and gas reserves: the remarkable economic and geopolitical power that flows to control over the flow, pricing, and currency denomination of those reserves and the super profits that result from their extraction and sale. Oil control has long been a great source of American critical leverage in the world system. (The fact that the United States under Obama achieved so-called energy independence through accelerated fracking and drilling in the homeland doesn’t change the strategic calculation. It’s never been primarily about getting access to the oil for our cars and trucks and facilities. It’s been about the critical imperial leverage oil control grants Washington). A planet that depends on renewable energy rather than petroleum to run its economies will be less susceptible to that sort of imperial domination.

      Why are these intersectional connections overlooked? Because it’s a capitalist media and its sponsors are not interested in talking about how capitalism and its evil twin imperialism are about profit over people including in this case profit over people as an organized presence on the planet.

      The final question I was given is “What effective solutions and political strategies do you have to offer?” This isn’t what you are asking, but I do want to say six things regarding the path forward. First, there’s a whole bunch of information out there to use to counter the standard “cost and benefit” arguments that we can’t afford to undertake a national and global Green New Deal and that shifting to renewable energy is a job killer. Both of those arguments are false. The technologies are available and affordable. Green jobs do pay and will continue to pay better than fossil fuel jobs. I have sources I’ll be happy to share on all that.

      Second, we can’t afford NOT to make the transition. It is darkly hilarious to hear corporate Democrat and Republican right-wing commentators advance critical so-called cost-benefit analyses of the big scary Green New Deal. Whatever you think of whether or not the Green New Deal is radical enough to get the job done, at least Green New Dealers are talking seriously about the benefit of a livable earth. It seems like society might want to absorb significant costs to achieve the continuation of the species. It’s a green cliché but it’s true:there are no jobs on a dead planet. There is no economy on a dead planet.

      Third, we need to be ready to talk about green jobs and what they do and might pay and about how we can create social safety nets for fossil fuels sector workers if we want to sell environmental reconversion to the populace. The carbon-capitalist Exxon-Mobil-Donald Trump-Joe Manchin right has propagated the notion that green transformation is a giant job-killer. We must counter that claim in ways that show we understand and care about the concerns of the working-class majority.

      Fourth, we need to be existentialists, not catastrophists. It’s not about the crystal ball. We can’t care about the odds. The betting line on Green Transformation does not matter. Maybe it’s just 1 in 10. Maybe it’s better. It doesn’t matter. The odds go to zero in ten if we don’t take action. Let Vegas take the bets. We are on the field of action.

      Fifth, Howard Zinn was right. It’s not just about who’s sitting in the White House or the Governor’s mansion or the Mayor’s office or the city council seat. It’s also and above all about who’s sitting in the streets, who’s disrupting, who’s monkey-wrenching, whose idling capital, who’s occupying the pipeline construction sites, the highways, the workplaces, the town-halls, the financial districts, the corporate headquarters, and universities beneath and beyond the biennial and quadrennial candidate-centered big money big media major party electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us as “politics” – the only politics that matters. This is true about fighting racist police violence. It’s true about labor rights and decent wages. It’s true about all that and more and it’s true about saving livable ecology.

      Sixth, know your climate enemies. If you think it’s just the eco-fascist Republicans, you are sadly mistaken. Yes, unlike Donald Trump, Barack Obama did not deny the existence of anthropogenic, really capitalogenic global warming. But so what? As Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers noted last year, “Obama watered down global climate agreements and grew oil and gas output and infrastructure in the United States.…Obama presided over the highest gas production in history and crude oil production rose by 88%, the fastest rate in the 150-year history of the U.S. oil industry.” Obama bragged about this to a bunch of petroleum executives at the Baker Institute last year.

      Vote if you think it’ll make any difference but don’t drink the full Kool Aid of American electoral fake-representative politics, the longtime graveyard of American social movements. Become a Gilet Jaune or a Gilet Verde. Get your yellow, green, red and black vests on. Learn how to build barricades. Study civil disobedience. Join the great Extinction Rebellion, which has a dynamic new Chicago chapter and will be making some splashes here and around the world this year. Remember the words of Mario Savio: “There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop!”

      If you’re waiting for some elite politician to fix this ecological mess you will be hung out to dry well past humanity’s expiration date.“

  • Dave Jones 9th Apr 2019

    Our first XR event is on the 15th, something low key since we haven't had time to put together mass civil disobedience action. Think we'll pass out propaganda to people in line at the post office ( tax day) Ain't up to Mario's standards but we'll get there.

    Lots of consternation around the "just transition" language, labor in effect holding the climate movement hostage till they get some guarantee there will be a "seamless transition" ( to quote union official). Yeah right. Smooth as silk, just move from your high-paying oil rig job to your high paying green job the next day. When shit hits a fan the spray is random, folks, sorry. Should have considered that when you partnered up with Capital.

    And I see DSA putting lots of energy into electionism, just what Paul is warning us about. Talk about Spectacle! "No way to delay that trouble comin everyday". The Anybody But Trump folk will harass and threaten and next thing you know you're poll watching for "Regular" Joe Biden.

    • Boulder Dash 9th Apr 2019

      Who’s gonna take control when the shit spray settles? The Marxists? The principled anarchists? The nice simplicity folk? The degrowthers? Pareconistas? David Schweickart? The Next System Project? The free improvisers? The Rappers? The State....oh that could be the Marxists? And what happens when all the fossil fuel depots are set on fire? Food transport trucks are rolled over by thrill seekers? Cars can’t get any fuel? Will racehorses be reassigned? Wagons? But they’re made from trees? Whose making the rubber tyres for bicycles? What happens when it gets real cold?

      Ok, not that kind of rupture.

      Then what kind? Who decides what sort?

      In fact who’s gonna initiate it and will it be local, regional, national or global in nature? Like who are the Extinction Rebellion folk? Will Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben be told? Will Noam be taken to a safe house or cryogenic chamber? Will Michael Albert continue writing what he does?

      So really it’s just a bit of fun, albeit quite serious, while we wait for a bunch of fuckers to gain control of things, settle things down and install whatever it is they want to install. No?

      Or will everyone realise during the shit spray that we have to be nicer to each other and we have to rebuild a better world after we’ve all hung our heads in shame muttering, “look what we’ve done?” Then, out of fucking nowhere, the perfect system emerges...hallelujah.

      Sounds like what I do when I improvise...you know, make inaccessible shit up as I go along without paying attention to any arbitrary rules history seems to have imposed on music over the centuries, yet it is perfect every time.

      Anyway, everyone is partnered up with capital in some way or another. Foolish to think otherwise. Economic entanglement.

      It’s not about people being arseholes, it’s about systems and structures and it seems to me that that is where the lack is. A kind of terrified tendency in us all to embrace real clear, coherent and convincing vision and associated strategy, to wear thin an Albertism. . Even those who want change. The Russell Brands of the world have nothing but vague spiritual bullshit to offer...but they are ever so nice about it, and open minded...’we could be anything and we could make the world anything we want’. NO WE CAN’T.

      Fear of the blueprint. Fear of twentieth century “socialism”. In fact fear of anyone offering up any vision whatsoever. That’s why so many are so fucking vague.

      FEAR OF OUR FUCKING SELVES. That’s what it is.

      Rupture and tough talk is born of shear frustration....if the catastrophe is coming anyway, then let it come when it comes...and keep working on new structures until you’re sick in the guts of talking about it...then just take up heroin.

      I mean does the DSA work with the NSP? Is that a stupid question? What actually is the NSP other than some kind of elaborate consultative group? Seriously, what is it? CommonsTransition seems very similar. Wonder if DiEM25 (are they still around?) are working with Commons folk alongside genuine political parties?

      And if that’s all going on behind closed doors without the bewildered herd having any real access to those discussions, where’s the democracy in that shit?

      In fact, where’s the democracy in a few folk thinking of rupturing shit so the rest of us are forced into some form of action, the likes of which are not certain? Important question I reckon.

      And finally what about the small children? Are fuck ‘em. Do them good, builds character.

      Just riffing Dave. Glad you’re still here.

    • Boulder Dash 9th Apr 2019

      Some more inaccessible poot. The Psychedelic Bolsheviks plus one tear it up at a pub in Sheffield, England. Debord would have been proud, and if not, he could fuck off.

      For Tim Morton and Zizek.

    • Boulder Dash 10th Apr 2019

      It may also be helpful to read this that just came in from Timothy Morton. I’ve left the brief introduction off but it’s completely full of his favourite licks...they’re all there in their glory. If this doesn’t get you wanting to rupture something I don’t know what would!

      “II. Green

      From the foregoing brief analysis, we can see that queerness, in part, implies what here I call green. What is green? Quite simply, it is the necessary interrelatedness of beings and the thinking of that interrelation, the ecological thought.

      Yet, deeper even than that, if such beings exist, they are intrinsically green, with or without relation. This is because they subvert (under-green?) the anti-ecological world that has gathered strength since the Neolithic era and now threatens all life-forms with the sixth mass extinction event. For the sake of brevity, we shall call it Mesopotamia. Mesopotamia has an inner logic, an implicit set of thoughts about what it means to be a thing and how to act accordingly. This inner logic—always implicit and thus reduced to the mechanical functioning of a logistics—violently churns away at the queerness of beings since its logistics insist on straightening out what cannot be straightened.

      Growing in strength since the Neolithic, despite the mother goddesses.

      From what is green distinguished? Green is the thought that begins to undermine our Mesopotamian reality. We are Mesopotamians and most of our “world” religions originated in what is traditionally called the Axial Age, the age of post-Mesopotamian formalization of spiritualities.

      What is a Mesopotamian? A Mesopotamian is a vector for a certain virus. The virus is called agrilogistics. Agrilogistics is a compelling, logistical approach to agriculture that arose in rough synchrony around the world from about twelve thousand years ago. The most successful approach was practiced in Mesopotamia, the Fertile Crescent. In order to stabilize changing conditions due to a changing climate, and to reduce anxiety about the next meal—as well as an ontological anxiety concerning indigenous trickster beings—some humans began to farm wheat and other crops according to a program that enacted an implicit logic: a logistics.

      There are three axioms of agrilogistics. The first is “Thou shalt not violate the law of noncontradiction.” Since the law of noncontradiction has never formally been proven ever since it was formulated in Section Gamma of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, this axiom takes the form of a stern injunction. Strangely, the injunction was in place long before Aristotle himself formalized it because agrilogistics works by excluding (domesticated) life-forms that aren’t part of your agrilogistical project. These life-forms are now defined as pests if they scuttle about, or weeds if they appear to the human eye to be inanimate and static. Such categories are hardly stable and extremely difficult to manage.6

      It also results in the long history of the “Easy Think Substance.”

      Agrilogistical ontology, formalized by Aristotle ten thousand years ago, maintains that a being consists of a bland lump of whatever, decorated with accidents. It’s the Easy Think Substance because it resembles what comes out of an Easy-Bake Oven, which one subsequently decorates with sprinkles.

      If there are lots of people on a train heading over a cliff, it is ethical to switch the points to divert the train, even if the train runs over a single person stuck on the track onto which the train diverts. Only their number counts, the fact that they merely exist. Indeed, existing is better than any quality of existing, according to Axiom three, to which I shall return. It doesn’t even matter how many more people than one there are. Even the sheer quantity of existing is treated as a lump of whatever. Counting doesn’t count. For a social form whose early invention, writing, was so preoccupied with sheer counting (in surviving Linear B texts for instance), this is ironic. Say there were three hundred people on the track, and three hundred and one people in the train. The train should divert and run over the people on the track. More to the point, imagine seven billion people on the train and a few thousand on the track. This represents the balance (or lack thereof) between the human species and a species about to go extinct because of human action. This isn’t even a fully mathematizable world; just a lump, an amazing pudding of stuff.

      This implies Axiom two: “To exist is to be constantly present,” the metaphysics of presence. The metaphysics of presence is intimately caught in the history of global warming. Here is the field. I can plough it, sow it with this or that, or nothing, farm cattle, yet it remains constantly the same. The entire system is construed as constantly present, rigidly bounded, separate from nonhuman systems despite the obvious existence of beings who show up to maintain it (for instance the cats and their helpful culling of rodents chewing at the corn).7

    • Dave Jones 12th Apr 2019

      Rahsaan Roland Kirk would say ( from the grave) "shit, I could play all those instruments myself, simultaneously!"
      Hey, Just dug out an old John Mayall record I bought in Germany in 1973? Keef Hartley and Aynsley Dunbar on Schlagzeug
      other players: Clapton, Peter Green, John McVie, John Almond, Mick (s) Fleetwood and Taylor. Spectacular.

    • Boulder Dash 12th Apr 2019

      You see, when it comes to music people want structure, need structure, desire and crave it, can’t go five seconds without feeling for it...structure of a recognisable type, something to make them feel safe, with boundaries, familiarity, confirm their place in the world...

      Exorcise them and the listener is lost, left in a quandary, wondering about beginnings and ends, at a loss for signposts of meaning, purpose, of skill and talent that reaffirm The Spectacle’s hierarchies and everyone’s appropriate place in it, or delineations of art and Art, of pedestals that cast shadows over the ordinary...

      Free improvising is to shun the ubiquitous, to call out the visual artist who denies the figurative and recognisable forms whilst musically, inspired by the the banal, trivial and usual, and probably caught in a drug or alcohol induced haze...

      Matisse, oh yeah, but Webern, oh no...but Dire Straights, oh yeah.
      Kandinsky, oh yeah, but Nancarrow oh no...but Beethoven, oh yeah.
      Pollock, oh yeah, but Stockhausen, oh no...but Dylan, oh yeah.
      Mondrian, oh yeah, but Varese, oh no...but Hendrix, oh yeah
      Jean Dubuffet, oh yeah, but the music of Jean Debuffet, oh no...but Philip Glass, oh yeah.
      Rothko, oh yeah. but Derek Bailey, oh no...but a Miles Davis, oh yeah.

      With rupture comes questions. Of what to do, how to react, to rebuild, to change. The familiar and safe and easy will take hold first. Hierarchies will immediately re-emerge and people will assume their usual place...

      If information dispersal was bad before it will be worse after.

      Yes, the ideas will be there, new ones, unique and tempting, coherent and vague, variations on old themes, but generally people will revert to known familiar ways, old knowledge and habits intact, new knowledge and ways still unknown and unlikely to be embraced.

      Yes, people may be forced to collapse the wave function and not sit on the fence and choose between futures, but more wisely than before? In concert with most others? Will clear and coherent ways forward emerge diametrically opposed to those that landed us in the mess?

      Will the anarchy-primmies see a way in to force a simpler way, a rewilding, prohibit a recurrence of past bad practice and ensure that only just the right number of people occupy this planet in just the right way?

      People prefer the familiar. The bat to combat trouble over minimising the trouble through preferable and optimal institutional structure, because no one’s sure of what that is, unwilling to take that chance, out of fear the WE are really just to DUMB to get it right and WE don’t trust OTHERS.

      Free improvisation shuns the known, sabotages the habitual, and reorganises neural pathways every time it’s done. It is anathema to most.

      Derek Bailey was asked why the audiences are so small at free improvised gigs. People don’t like it, he answered. No great mystery in that.

  • Boulder Dash 10th Apr 2019

    Socialism (Economics) 4: Dividing Society’s Pie

    By Michael Albert
    April 8, 2019

    Call the total goods and services any society produces society’s pie. Socialists typically feel that society’s pie ought to be fairly divided among society’s workers. But is it sufficient to just say income distribution needs to get more fair?

    Don’t we need to say more to help dispel the widespread feeling there is nothing better beyond capitalism? Don’t we need to say more so our actions cumulatively take us where we want to go?

    One option for distributing income is to say that people ought to get more if they own property that contributes to the worth of society’s pie. If I have a deed that stipulates that I own Amazon, then with this approach I get profits back as part of my income even if I simply sit in a chair and “earn” as much each work day as typical workers earn in 100 years. (I am actually being conservative in the estimate for someone like, say, Jeff Bezos, because if Bezos earns $13 billion in profits next year – not impossible – then he earns about $50 million per workday. If Sam, working for Bezos at a pretty good job, earns $50,000 a year, he earns $50 million in a thousand years).

    If there is one thing nearly all past socialists agreed on, it was that property-based income creates dehumanizing poverty, propels holders to lordlike dominion over workplaces, causes ceaseless conflict over property-induced differences in income and power, demolishes diversity by homogenizing contending classes, and subverts sustainability by giving centralized power an interest in exploiting nature and accumulating ceaselessly.

    Rejecting property-based income for those reasons, a second income option is that people ought to get more income if they are strong enough to take more, and less income if they are sufficiently weak to be given less. If I can take more, great, I will. If you can’t take more, too bad, you won’t. Now it may seem that this thuggish approach to distributing income is so odious that no one would advocate it, but in fact, it is literally how markets operate. If you have bargaining power based on your having property, or having a monopoly on information or skills, or being aided by a bought-off government agency, a professional organization, or a union, you can take more than others. If you have less power because your society is racist and you are in a racially subordinated constituency or your society is sexist and you are female, or you are isolated and easily replaceable at work, you get less income. A power-based option to distributing income violates our favored values in the same ways as rewarding property does, albeit, a bit less extremely.

    Next comes an option that’s harder to dismiss and that many who say they are socialist explicitly support. This norm is that people should receive back from society’s pie a bundle of preferred items whose total value reflects the total value of what they contributed by their labor to society’s pie. If you and I pick cotton and you pick more each day, you should get that much more income each day. And likewise if we tend patients, play music, wash dishes, or whatever else – if you contribute more to society’s pie, you should get more income in that same proportion. After all, if we get less than what our work generated, someone else is getting some of the value we generated. If we get more than our work generated, we are getting some value others generated. Shouldn’t we get back the amount that we, by our labors, contribute to the total, and not more or less than that?

    But what might cause you to produce more worth than me, over the same period of time? You may be better equipped for the work, stronger, quicker, or better able to reason. Or you may have a plow and I only have a hoe. You may have a computer, and I only have pencil and paper. Or maybe you have workmates that better aid your ability to produce because they are more capable than my workmates are. Or, finally, you may produce brain repairs whereas I produce car repairs. You may make gourmet meals, whereas I sling hash.

    But why should your more productive inborn genetic characteristics, better equipment, more effective workmates, or more valuable output ethically entitle you to more income? In none of these cases would the extra income reward your activity but, instead, only your luck in the genetic, equipment, workmate, or assigned product lottery. And is rewarding luck in those lotteries economically fair? Doesn’t it subvert our other values similarly to how rewarding property or bargaining power does?

    Please note: a key thing about values is that they are not true or false. I can’t advocate a value on grounds that I can prove it is correct or reject another on grounds I can prove it incorrect. No one can prove any such thing. Instead, the distinction has to be that we like what fulfilling one value leads to for society and we don’t like what fulfilling another value leads to. This was true for our general allegiance to equity, self management, solidarity, diversity, and sustainability, all of which we found likable, and as we proceed we need to find likable whatever refinement of those values we settle on to further guide our approach to organizing particular aspects of social life.

    So, do we think a society will be better if it rewards a person for their luck in inheriting traits like strength, speed, smarts, etc? Should exceptional ballplayers, singers, calculators, and what have you, earn vast income for their special abilities? If you think the answer is yes, be aware that top athletes now signing contracts for as much as $35 million a year are actually getting less than the value they add to society’s pie in the enjoyment of people watching them, because much is taken by team owners, TV stations, shoe manufacturers, and the like who have sufficient bargaining power to do so. Or consider a less extreme example. Two farm workers go out in the field and work under the same sun, for the same duration, and using the same tools, but one is six foot four and really strong, and the other is five foot eight and of average strength. They both produce valuable output, but the bigger, stronger farmhand produces twice as much. Do we really feel it is morally desirable to pay the stronger farmhand twice what we pay the weaker one? Might it be better if the workers get income according to a different norm? Or do we think piling wealth on top of lucky genetic endowment is ethically sound?

    And should we reward people, as well, for luck in the equipment lottery? I have better tools at my disposal than you, so should my hourly income be more in the same proportion my tools let me produce more? Or, similarly, is society better if we reward luck in being with a more talented team of co-workers, or of happening to be assigned to produce objects of greater value?

    Socialists of every denomination don’t like rewarding property or bargaining power, but many do favor rewarding output. I would like to suggest, instead, that a worthy economic vision should give income for how long one works, for how hard one works, and for the onerousness of the conditions under which one works, as long as one is producing something that is socially valued. Socialists should favor receiving higher income for working longer, harder, or under worse conditions, but not for being stronger or more talented, having better equipment, better workmates, or producing something more highly valued.

    With this approach an average income will be payment for a workload of average duration, intensity, and onerousness. If I want more leisure than average, I will arrange to work less hours and get commensurately less income. And the same goes for the intensity of my work, or if it is more or less onerous. One way to look at this is that each worker gets a work assignment and an income. Society seeks to ensure that the sum of debits and benefits of one’s work and income taken together equalizes for everyone. If I work harder, or I work longer, or I work under more onerous conditions, the greater loss is offset by my getting more income for my efforts.

    I claim this approach to income distribution is economically equitable and highly consistent with all the values we seek to fulfill. Many will agree it is a fair approach but doubt its practicality and they are right it would do no good to have a fair approach that leaves everyone impoverished due to generating insufficient production. So can providing income for duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor not only be ethically sound, but also get the needed economic job done? The next essay in our series addresses that legitimate concern.

  • Boulder Dash 10th Apr 2019

    Socialism: Disputing Pie Slices

    By Michael Albert

    April 10, 2019

    In my last essay I suggested that the growing constituency of people aligning with “socialism” ought to be able to answer the question: In your better economy what determines how much income we each receive. While current activism rightly focuses on climate disasters, the Green New Deal, health, militarism, racism, and much else, we nonetheless need longer term vision to combat the widespread demobilizing belief that all efforts at change will dissolve back into the ills of the present, and, even beyond instilling hope, to provide positive direction and goals toward which our current actions can lead so they steadily enhance our prospects for comprehensive and lasting gains.

    I also suggested an answer to the equity question: Income ought to be for how long we work, for how hard we work, and for the onerousness of the conditions under which we work, as long we are producing socially valued product. But before we can proceed to other issues about which advocates of socialism ought to have answers, we have to acknowledge that many who hear our income formulation will doubt or even strongly reject the approach. What are their reasons? I have heard the following and if you have heard or you yourself have another doubt, please enter it as a comment beneath this article.

    1. The equity approach punishes anyone who can’t work, whether for age or health reasons. If you can’t have duration, intensity, or onerous conditions of work, you have no basis for getting an income, which is unacceptable.

    2. The equity approach doesn’t materially incentivize people to use their inborn talents and so fails to elicit potential output. We may share the social pie equitably, but the pie will shrink horribly, which is unacceptable.

    3. The equity approach doesn’t reward acquired skills. Why would I go to school to become a doctor if I can earn the same income per hour of my work time for doing jobs that require much less preparation? The approach will not yield enough doctors, or extended education for any purpose, and therefore again impose massive, unacceptable pie shrinkage.

    4. The equity approach doesn’t provide sufficient incentives to elicit desired effort/output from each worker. This is another version of the same problem. We will have pie shrinkage so severe it undercuts our more fairly sharing what pie there is.

    5. The equity approach doesn’t provide sufficient incentives to elicit innovation. Why develop new technologies and techniques if you don’t benefit from doing so? This causes yet more long-term pie shrinkage.

    6. In any event, even if the above problems have answers, which is to say even if the social product would not unduly shrink due to equitably sharing it, the final criticism of our equity approach is that no one can measure duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, so it is an unimplementable aim.

    Let’s consider the criticisms in turn.

    The first is only a misunderstanding due to incomplete exposition on my part. Of course, in a worthy economy if you are too young, too old, or otherwise unable to work you get a full adult or child income free, and of course all medical care is free. No one is left out of equity.

    The second concern has in mind someone with great inborn talent for some type of work. A potential pianist, mathematician, architect, athlete, or whatever else. The idea is that the equity approach doesn’t give such a person a material reason to pursue a path utilizing their talent. If you could be a great surgeon, but only a good cook, but you loved cooking, this approach would not give you an income-related reason to forego competent cooking and pursue superior surgery. The observation is true. My reply is threefold.

    First, almost everyone with exceptional talents inclines toward using them and would, indeed, have to be coercively prevented from doing so even if using their talent would yield them less income than not using it. Think artists, athletes, scientists, and so on. Second, the equity approach does include an incentive to utilize one’s talents in the form of the admiration, respect, self satisfaction, and self fulfillment that accrues to superior rather than only competent actions. And third, if you don’t feel a drive to utilize your inborn talents it is presumably because you don’t enjoy them and you more strongly incline toward some other pursuit sufficiently that you would forego the accolades that superior activity would bring. In that case isn’t it actually appropriate and perhaps even more productive that you make the preferred choice?

    The third concern has two parts. First why would anyone pay to go to school to learn new skills instead of immediately earning an income out of school, since continuing in school won’t earn you more later. And second, why would anyone want to become, say, a doctor when you can do something requiring less training, and earn the same? The answer is that in a future equitable economy and society, schooling, for example to become a doctor, is not only free, but you receive pay while in school as it is considered work since you are producing the learning and skills you will later utilize and thereby adding to the social product. And then, beyond the issue of time in school, if being a doctor doesn’t give you a greater rate of income than other jobs, why do it? To heal, to contribute, to utilize your talents. We are are more than financial beings. Imagine, even in our current society you are in high school. You want to be a doctor, and you know that it means you will have to go to college, and then medical school, and then be an intern, and only then be a full doctor, or, if you prefer, an engineer, lawyer, scientist, accountant, or whatever else that takes lots of training. You are suddenly told that there will no longer be massive income differentials in society. You will not wind up earning $500,000 a year as a doctor, while a coal miner earns, $75,000. Instead you will earn much less, though you will start to get paid it as soon as you begin your special training. How low do I have to set your doctor income for you to decide that you will forego four years of college, three years of graduate work, and some heavier than normal on the job training for a couple of years as well, all at your new salary level, for you to instead chose lifetime employment in the coal mine?

    I have done this thought experiment with a great many medical students who, at the outset, were aggressively ridiculing the equitable income approach on grounds that with it in place, neither they nor anyone else would opt to become a doctor. Then, however, as I lowered doctor salaries from $500 000 to $400,000 to $300,000, and so on, each step of the way asking if it was now so low that they were going to forego doctor training and being a doctor to instead work in a coal mine at $75,000 a year, they kept saying no, they wouldn’t. And I would get to $75,000 and finally each would say something like, I don’t know how low an income I could live on and still survive as a doctor, but you’d have to go below that for me to switch. The upshot is people need and deserve income for sacrifices, but not for being their most fully and freely expressed selves.

    The fourth concern is due to miseducation by intrination. In fact, our equity approach provides incentives correctly. Paying someone high income cannot cause them to have a different genetic endowment. There is also no incentive effect on our DNA. … and likewise for better tools or workmates. In fact, if you are working, the things you can yourself affect that impact the amount of product you generate are how long and how hard you work, and also your enduring harsh conditions if it is necessary for the work to get done. And these are exactly what the equitable income approach incentivizes, and properly so.

    The fifth concern is that society can benefit greatly from innovation. So, very often, pursuing innovations is highly desirable. Since equitable income means individuals don’t get to take most of the gain from innovations – unlike owners taking it as profit – that kind of pressure for innovation (as well as for unlimited growth and endless accumulation) disappears. To see why and how a new desirable economy pursues desirable innovations that benefit everyone, whether materially or otherwise, and avoids undesirable innovations that may benefit a few but hurt the rest much more, has to wait further exploration of new relations in coming essays. For now, hopefully the above brief reactions to criticisms are enough to suggest that a new approach can work, and will, when we see how a whole new system can operate.

    But what about the practicality of measuring duration, intensity, and onerousness of conditions to determine incomes? After all, the critics are correct that if we can’t do it, then advocating the equitable income approach is irrelevant to future prospects and plans. My answer is that duration is of course easy to measure. Intensity of useful effort is revealed partly by output, but is also known to and collectively agreed by workmates. And for onerousness, the same holds… but the main thing to realize is that as we proceed and see new ways of organizing work and making decisions, matters of measuring will become much simpler and more collective. So again, to more fully address this concern, some patience is needed.

    Regarding patience, a simple observation that bears on this whole undertaking is that a tenth of a bridge, even a half or nine tenths of a bridge, can’t get you across a river. Nonetheless if it is part of a whole bridge it can help. So our real question should be is there a whole good society, a whole socialism if you will, that our equitable income can be a workable and effective part of? And that is why this essay is part of a series of essays.

    Now you might say, sure, nice dodge, but that’s asking for a lot of reading and thinking. And you are right, it is. Then again, we are talking about whether a new world is desirable, possible, workable, and attainable. Is there something more important to determine?

    Last point: As we proceed with trying to arrive at ways to answer convincingly what socialism or a good society can or even ought to look like, we have to not only make a case for aims, but also describe how they can be implemented. And that’s another task we have to tackle later, once groundwork is laid.

  • Dave Jones 12th Apr 2019

    "How they can be implemented...." Not sure Morton's cats help us much but I suspect Albert is going to suggest we get out there and organize, educate, agitate, not necessarily in that order. And buy his book(s). No shortcuts, he'll say (with Chomsky)just the old, familiar formula. Present a better argument. Read more.

    Or you go to the mall tomorrow to pick up some underwear and a chainsaw and find the doors are chained shut and a sign in the window says closed till further notice. And all the people milling around are spreading rumors about Lloyds of London going under...

    • Boulder Dash 13th Apr 2019

      Yeah, I know. Metamorphosis (Interstitial/symbiotic) or ruptural.



      “It may seem odd at the beginning of the 21st Century to have an extended discussion of ruptural transformations of capitalism. While revolutionary rhetoric has not completely disappeared, few critics of capitalism today imagine that a revolutionary overthrow of the state in the developed capitalist countries is a plausible strategy of emancipatory social transformation. Quite apart from any considerations about the desirability of the ultimate outcomes that would actually be generated by such overthrow if it were to occur or moral considerations about the immediate consequences that would accompany such a strategy, the idea that the strategy itself could possibly succeed seems very far-fetched.

      In spite of this, I believe that there are four reasons why it is worthwhile discussing ruptural strategies. First, political activists, especially when they are young, are often attracted to the idea of a radical rupture with existing institutions. The existing structures of power, privilege and inequality seem so malevolent and so damaging to aspirations for human flourishing that the idea of simply smashing them and creating something new and better can be appealing. This may be because of wishful thinking or romantic illusions, but nevertheless the idea of revolutionary rupture continues to excite the imagination of at least some activists. Second, a clear understanding of the logic and limits of a ruptural strategy of social transformation can help clarify alternative strategies. Theoretical and political debates on the left have been waged since the 19th century in terms of the “reform” vs “revolution” opposition, and in important ways the specificity of the former comes from this contrast. Third, while I am quite skeptical of the possibility of system-wide ruptural strategies, more limited forms of rupture in particular institutional settings may be possible, and there are aspects of the ruptural strategy – such as its emphasis on sharp confrontation with dominant classes and the state – which can certainly be important under specific circumstances. The logic of ruptural transformation need not be restricted to totalizing ruptures in entire social systems. Finally, even if systemic ruptural strategies for social empowerment in developed capitalist countries are not plausible at the beginning of the 21st century, no one has a crystal ball which tells what the future holds. In the world as it currently exists, the robustness of the institutions of the state in developed capitalist democracies make ruptural strategies implausible, but it is possible in some unanticipated future the contradictions of these societies could dramatically undermine those institutions. Equilibria unravel. Systemic crises destroy the foundations of hegemony. Ruptures may happen rather than be made, and in such conditions a ruptural strategy may become what Marxists used to call an historical “necessity.”1 The idea of ruptural strategy still needs to be part of our strategic thinking about social transformation since such strategies may become more relevant in some places at some point in the future.”


      “The key problem to sort out, then, is this: Under what conditions is a ruptural strategy for socialism sufficiently in the material interests of the majority of people to render this a plausible strategy of transformation? The material interests of people with respect any large project of social change involving a sharp rupture with existing institutions depends upon three key parameters:

      1) The trajectory of their material wellbeing in the absence of the rupture. This is what life would look like if the existing structures of power and privilege continued.

      2) The trajectory of their material wellbeing after the period of rupture is over and the new institutions are fully in place and functioning effectively.

      3) The trajectory of their interests during the period between the initiation of the rupture and the new institutional equilibrium. Given that under any plausible scenario, a rupture with the existing economic structure is likely to be highly disruptive, this period of transition will almost certainly involve a significant decline in average material conditions of life. Adam Przeworski thus dubs this part of the long term trajectory of material conditions the “transition trough.””


      “If one believes that systemic ruptural strategies of emancipatory transformation are not plausible, at least under existing historical conditions, then the only real alternative is some sort of strategy that envisions transformation largely as a process of metamorphosis in which relatively small transformations cumulatively generate a qualitative shift in the dynamics and logic of a social system. This does not imply that transformation is a smooth, non-conflictual process that somehow transcends antagonistic interests. A democratic egalitarian project of social emancipation is a challenge to exploitation and domination, inequality and privilege, and thus emancipatory metamorphosis requires struggles over power and confrontations with dominant classes and elites. In practice, therefore, an emancipatory metamorphosis will require some of the strategic elements of the ruptural model: the history of the future – if it is to be a history of emancipatory social empowerment – will be a trajectory of victories and defeats, winners and losers, not simply of compromise and cooperation between differing interests and classes. The episodes of that trajectory will be marked by institutional innovations that will have to overcome opposition from those whose interests are threatened by democratic egalitarianism, and some of that opposition will be nasty, recalcitrant and destructive. So, to invoke metamorphosis is not to abjure struggle, but to see the strategic goals and effects of struggle in a particular way: as the incremental modifications of the underlying structures of a social system and its mechanisms of social reproduction that cumulatively transform the system, rather than as a sharp discontinuity in the centers of power of the system as a whole.1

      Understood in this way, there are two broad approaches to the problem of transformation as metamorphosis: interstitial transformation and symbiotic transformation. These differ primarily in terms of their relationship to the state. Both envision a trajectory of change that progressively enlarges the social spaces of social empowerment, but interstitial strategies largely by-pass the state in pursuing this objective while symbiotic strategies try to systematically use the state to advance the process of emancipatory social empowerment. These need not constitute antagonistic strategies – in many circumstances they complement each other, and indeed may even require each other. Nevertheless, historically many supporters of interstitial strategies of transformation have been very wary of the state, and many advocates of more statist symbiotic strategies have been dismissive of interstitial approaches.”


      “The basic idea of symbiotic transformation is that advances in bottom-up social empowerment within a capitalist society will be most stable and defendable when such social empowerment also helps solve certain real problems faced by capitalists and other elites. While there are historical moments in which it may be possible, through effective popular mobilization and solidarity, to deepen and extend forms of social empowerment even when this sharply threatens the interests of capitalists and other dominant elites, such gains will always be precarious and vulnerable to counterattack. Gains won in a period of heightened mobilization will therefore tend to be undone in periods where such mobilization declines. Forms of social empowerment are likely to be much more durable and to become more deeply institutionalized, and thus harder to reverse, when, in one way or another, they also serve some important interests of dominant groups, solve real problems faced by the system as a whole. Joel Rogers and Wolfgange Streeck formulate this idea in terms of the general conditions for the robust success of the democratic left: “The democratic left makes progress under capitalism when it improves the material well- being of workers, solves a problem for capitalists that capitalists cannot solve for themselves, and in doing both wins sufficient political cachet to contest capitalist monopoly on articulating the ‘general interest.’” 1

      Historically the most important examples of this mode of transformation were the relatively stable forms of “class compromise” between capital and labor mediated by the state in many developed capitalist countries in the second half of the twentieth century. Forging the conditions which make such class compromise possible has been at the center of the more progressive currents in social democratic politics. In this chapter we will explore the implicit logic of this kind of strategy and its emancipatory potential.”

  • Boulder Dash 13th Apr 2019

    Down in the trenches. What a GND dredges up, brings into the awareness. Makes public on a wider scale due to the ramifications. Looking at 2030. This just for a major overhaul of industry but on a doable scale that doesn’t usher in, or even leave room for discussion, a new system. That sort of discussion would be a distraction. The phrase, mass movement comes up. Something needed, yet something the Left has failed at so far. See, it you isn’t organising that’s the problem, it’s the messages being presented, how they’re presented, differences in focus and strategy with no real clear vision, even at the level of a GND, and a sense of a united front.

    But now, with a dead line, a worrying one, 2030, all of a sudden there is all this action. Like the exam is just around the corner, I’ve had all this time to study, write rough drafts of essays, but I’ve been partying a bit too much. But that’s cool, I’ll just cram during that last week and hope for the best.

    Perhaps that’s how shit gets done. Unless you go old school revolutionary or you get enough support for some major rupture that actually is in fact a MAJOR RUPTURE.

    Organizing to Win a Green New Deal


    The labor movement has to be central to winning a Green New Deal and reversing climate change. Recent labor victories show how we can do just that, from the ground up, and quickly.

    Demands for real climate justice got a welcome boost recently as youth walked out of schools worldwide on March 15, urged to go “on strike” by sixteen-year-old Greta Thunberg from Sweden. Images in mainstream and social media exploded with pictures of young people marching into plazas across the world, confronting intransigent elected officials and speaking truth to power. Youth have always brought two essential ingredients to social movements: moral compass and an exciting, unique form of energy. Their vision is bold, and they are uncompromising. But to halt and reverse the carbon economy, save the planet, and create a future with jobs that youth will look forward to requires far more power and a serious strategy.

    In the US, discussions about the climate crisis of late have fixated on the Green New Deal proposed by Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. Headlines have alternated between descriptions of the resolution’s big vision and more skeptical assessments of its prospects — including from important potential backers: “AFL-CIO criticizes Green New Deal, calling it ‘not achievable or realistic,’” reads one recent headline. The backdrop to the debates raging in the first quarter of 2019 have been a nonstop series of extreme storms predicted by climate scientists since the 1980s. So-called bomb cyclones hit the Midwest, massive rainstorms battered California after a devastating wildfire season, and killer tornadoes hit the South, with crops being wiped out. People are dying because of the lack of preparation in dealing with the crisis.

    And while the recent letter from the AFL-CIO criticizing the GND may seem like a willful refusal to face the scale of the crisis, we need considerably more than a bold vision to get labor to come out swinging for the Green New Deal. It simply doesn’t matter that everyone on the Left rejects the divisive frame of jobs-versus-environment — the Left has yet to prove it can move from rhetoric to reality about green jobs.

    To win, it’s crucial that we heed advice from union organizer Nato Green. In a recent article about how public service unions like the one he works for, local SEIU 1021 in California, can — and must — negotiate for climate justice, he wrote, “Any seasoned union campaigner worth her salt loves a contract fight because it has a hard deadline that focuses everyone’s attention—expiration and a strike threat. Climate science gives us a new deadline and an opportunity to show that we’re up to the task. We have 12 years.”

    Green is certainly right that good union organizers love a contract fight. If we take the twelve years outlined in the recent IPCC report as our deadline for drastically cutting carbon emissions, what’s a credible plan to win by 2030?
    For people serious about winning really hard fights — and there are virtually none more difficult than tackling the fossil fuel industry — making a plan starts by doing comprehensive power structure analysis and building a real war room.

    This is indeed a war, one that so far has been won by the Koch brothers and their ilk. Our side needs to get used to the military language because what we’ve been doing — being polite and going to big orderly marches — isn’t saving the planet or creating a fair and just economy, and it’s wishful thinking to imagine otherwise. War rooms are physical spaces where people with necessary experience and fortitude brainstorm, plot, and plan what it will take to win. They plan backwards from the world as it actually exists, facing the challenge of organizing a set of messy actors who are too easily divided-and-conquered and too infrequently able to hold the focus on that which unites us — which is much more than survival.

    The climate war room discussion will need to deal with a key reality: We are now stuck with courts that will rule against the planet and workers for another thirty to forty years. People in the US don’t yet feel the reality of losing the Supreme Court to the right wing, because the newly solidified majority hasn’t yet had time to overturn everything that it eventually will.

    Losing the SCOTUS balance makes major shifts in strategy necessary. During the past forty years, environmental groups have relied on advocacy, mobilizing, and legal strategies instead of doing the much harder, more powerful work of building a mass movement. The result has been an environmental movement with little in the way of a popular base, easily scapegoated as elitist, and thus lacking the power needed to win.

    Fortunately, there is one key strategy that has a track record of actually winning the hardest fights in our history, even in spite of hostile courts: organizing. Real organizing. Organizing may seem too slow for a fight we need to win in the very immediate future. But in fact, recent victories show that it’s possible to build serious power from the ground up in far less time than the Green New Deal’s 2030 deadline requires.

    Three recent examples include the incredible victories waged and won by educators in Chicago, West Virginia, and Los Angeles. In all three cases, smart, progressive, motivated workers with the future of public education at stake transformed moribund, do-nothing, organizations into unions capable of leading and winning all-out fights in which the opponents were strong, and the odds were stiff.

    In West Virginia, it took less than one year for a transformation that created a crisis powerful enough to literally flip a trifecta Republican, hard-right, fossil-fuel-beholden legislature on its head. All-out strikes can produce that kind of influence. Many of the educators who led the strike are the daughters and sons of coal miners who built on the legacy of miners’ strikes.

    In Chicago and Los Angeles, where the educators faced the other kind of power structure that needs to be confronted on climate — the Wall Street wing of the Democratic Party — it took each union four years to shift completely from top-down and do-nothing to bottom up and do-everything-well. Each faced real deadlines, and each met them. War rooms and a return to the fundamentals of organizing were key.

    If part of the power-structure analysis / war-room planning discussion is about what hasn’t been working and what won’t (such as the courts and big marches). and what has been working (such as massive 100 percent all-out strikes with active support from the community), are there examples in the climate-justice world that might inform what winning looks like? One important example is a recent three-year endeavor in New York, starting when unions sat down in 2014 to do something serious about climate change.

    According to Vincent Alvarez, the president of the New York City Labor Council, the official body of the largest regional organization of the AFL-CIO in the country, “We took a look at the frustrating discourse and inaction on climate issues that was taking place in Washington, D.C., and decided that we wanted to get something done on the ground that tackled the climate and inequality crises. We wanted to build a program that could start actually making measurable improvements in building a more resilient climate, addressing the dual crisis of climate change and inequality.”

    Alvarez explains that rather than focusing on the 10 percent of the issues that are divisive — such as the Keystone pipeline and fracking, the issues that have garnered the most media attention in the climate fight thus far — it makes more sense to start with the 90 percent of the issues that environmentalists and unions can easily agree on, including infrastructure, public transportation, energy production. Before we can address the 10 percent that divides us — of course we must — environmentalists need to demonstrate, with real actions, that they can help win high-quality union jobs in these three sectors. In the absence of concrete evidence that we can actually produce “shovel-ready” alternatives to pipelines, the fossil fuel lobby will drive division.

    Lara Skinner, the executive director of the Worker Institute, who has been driving the New York State union climate jobs initiative, says that establishing a union-only working group on climate was central to making progress. Skinner, like many unionists who care deeply about climate change, spent several years wracking her brains trying to bring environmentalists and unionists together. The fight to block the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline in the late Obama years made headlines but blew up a lot of good organizing work, leading to tensions and fissures in a budding blue-green movement.

    The fossil fuel lobby dug into the protests against the Keystone pipeline, using it as a wedge issue to turn workers against environmentalists who seemed to be out for their jobs. Environmentalists played into the fossil fuel lobby’s messaging by arguing, in lengthy diatribes, that there were fewer jobs at stake in the KXL fight than the industry claimed. But that wasn’t the point.

    Coming off a massive recession that had hammered the working class — wiping out savings, pensions, 401Ks, the value of people’s homes, and, bringing new construction to a standstill — high-paying unions jobs were hard to come by. Debating exactly how many workers would lose those jobs played right into the bosses’ hands: environmentalists seemed willing to accept job loss as collateral damage.

    Instead of nitpicking how many workers would keep suffering the effects of the recession, the environmental movement should have doubled down on lifting up the many infrastructure projects in states along the pipeline route and pushed back with “shovel-ready jobs” as a real alternative. But as some doors were closing because of the divisive nature of the fight, others opened.

    A few months after the height of Keystone dissent, Hurricane Sandy hit. According to Skinner, Sandy “drove home to union members in New York City how serious the issue was. And Irene had hit upstate New York, and everyone was realizing how unprepared we were for what’s coming.” The storms created an opening for a new conversation that Skinner and her team realized had to be a union-only discussion about climate change.

    Environmentalists pay lip service to green jobs, but in practice consistently fail to recognize that committing to winning high-quality, union jobs is essential to effective collaborations with unions. So, in 2014, a group of New York unions whose members were hit hard up and down state by Sandy decided to start a process to educate themselves about the climate crisis. They formed a working group that included unions key to the solutions: in the energy, transport, and infrastructure sectors, as well as the public service unions. They committed to meet once per quarter and to start by educating themselves by bringing in climate scientists to better understand the threats.

    As part of their self-education, the unions took a delegation from New York to Denmark last summer, hosted by Danish unions. According to Alvarez, “It was really important to get beyond the discussion and witness first-hand and meet with unionized Danish workers in the manufacturing plants, to see how the transition to wind power was experienced by and embraced by the Danish union workers.”

    In just three years, the working group produced a groundbreaking report co-authored by Skinner, titled “Reversing Inequality, Combatting Climate Change: A Climate Jobs Program for New York State.” The report — comprehensive, smart, with buy-in from all key unions — should serve as a blueprint for what ought to happen right now state by state and nationally. The unions quickly transitioned from the report to action, using union power to secure a huge victory: New York will get half its total energy needs met by renewable offshore wind power by 2035.

    The agreement they won, worth $50 billion so far, will be done with a union jobs guarantee known as a Project Labor Agreement, or PLA. And the coalition is just getting started. There’s no other state, let alone a big one, that has a concrete plan to reduce by half its reliance on fossil fuels that fast. It happened because, as Skinner says, “Unions educated themselves and got really clear on what we need to seriously get to scale on green jobs.” Green jobs plans must be driven by the people who will do the work.

    A real war room to win the Green New Deal must start with unions doing what unions did in New York: take initiative, be dead serious about the issue, educate themselves, and use their own knowledge and power to scale up and make a credible plan to win. Unions in New York did not sit around complaining, waiting to be invited to some half-assed policy table where everyone talks past one another and nothing much gets done, while opponents continue to drive wedges that leave lasting damage. The deal happened in New York precisely because the unions had the power to shift public subsidies — that’s taxes — into a deal that enabled them to meet both scientific standards for emissions reduction and the good unionized wage and benefit standards that union members expect and are willing to fight for. Both are key to shifting the economy at the pace and scale needed.

    How will we pay for it? Christian Parenti has recently pointed out that corporations are currently sitting on $4.8 trillion in cash — a subset of $22.1 trillion they hoard. That money could be used to quickly shift the economy to a robust unionized green economy, one that can reproduce a dignified quality of life for workers of the future and end the destructive jobs-versus-environment debate.

    But to access that money, it takes real power and know-how — the kind of power that unions in New York still have, along with a few other major states. To rebuild union power elsewhere, the environmental movement will have to stand up and fight alongside them — really fight, not just talk about green jobs. That means actively throwing their support behind workers’ right to strike and actively backing workers.

    That kind of organizing and the power it builds will be necessary to raise taxes on the rich (versus just talking about it) and make progress on shifting federal subsidies away from fossil fuels and toward a safe, resilient economy that works for humans and our planet. And it will be necessary to quickly rebuild the environmental movement by shifting away from what’s now clearly a losing strategy of litigation and advocacy, towards building a real base of mass support and the power that comes with it.

    To actually institute a Green New Deal means rebuilding a robust public sector. A robust public sector means a future filled with good jobs for women and people of color. But the right-wing attacks on what’s left of the public sector and its unions are going to continue with no end in sight. It’s not too late for environmentalists and all progressive allies to decide to really stand with workers and their unions — but there’s no time to waste. Good unions understand best how to run a hard fight with a serious deadline. It’s time for the 2030 war room — now.

  • Boulder Dash 13th Apr 2019

    From The Climate Mobilisation Victory Plan


    The broad objectives of the Climate Mobilization should be to:

    ■ Restore a Safe and Stable Climate that supports the continued existence of organized human society.

    ■ Reverse Ecological Overshoot by shrinking the ecological footprint of the global econo- my to approximately half a planet per year.

    ■ Halt the Sixth Mass Extinction by returning species (both vertebrate and invertebrate) extinction rates from the current highly elevated levels of 10-100 extinctions per million species per year to the previously normal baseline background rates of approximately 1 extinction per million species per year.

    ■ De-acidify the Oceans by eliminating net carbon dioxide emissions and drawing down (or removing) excess carbon dioxide.

    ■ Realize the Four Freedoms of the 21st Century (see below)

    ■ Principles

    Motivating this project are the following values, emotions, and ideals:

    ■ Profound alarm about the future

    ■ Desire to protect ourselves, our families, civilization, and the natural world

    ■ Commitment to the dignity and innate rights of every person on earth

    ■ Feelings of profound moral responsibility

    ■ Belief that humanity is capable of changing from a destructive force to a generative,
    life-protecting force

    ■ Belief in the power of democracy

    ■ Belief that America is capable of leading the world in this mobilization


    How to Restore a Safe & Stable Climate
    In order to restore a climate that is safe, stable, and supportive of human civilization, humanity must:

    ■ Drive the economy to net zero greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible using emergency economic measures. The U.S. must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2025, and the entire world community must reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2030.

    ■ Drastically slash annual global greenhouse gas emissions immediately. Indeed, global emissions must “drop off a cliff.”22 This should be accomplished with explicitly non-violent strategies, including international financial and technology transfers, and possibly economic sanctions.

    ■ Mount a large-scale carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas drawdown (or sequestration) effort immediately to restore pre-industrial greenhouse gas concentrations and cool the planet back to safe levels. Such an effort could take decades or even multiple centuries, depending on its scale and scope.

    ■ Calmly consider whether a near-term cooling of the planet is required to combat pos- itive feedbacks such as thawing permafrost and dying tropical rainforest that could take global warming out of humanity’s control. If needed, figure out if and how such a near-term cooling can be safely and humanely accomplished.


    How to Reverse Overshoot
    In order to reverse overshoot and stop the 6th mass extinction of species, humanity must:

    ■ Slow down and reverse global population growth using justice-based, non-coercive approaches

    ■ Phase out consumerism and planned obsolescence.

    ■ Considerably shrink the physical resource consumption levels of the global economy,
    and drastically increase efficiencies of production.

    ■ Set aside at least half the Earth’s land surface and oceans for preservation.

    ■ Halt the further expansion of agricultural land and restore degraded lands.

  • Boulder Dash 13th Apr 2019

    Sort bout that. That stupid link that probably doesn’t even work did it.

    Maybe someone can fix it. Like remove it.


    • Alex of... 14th Apr 2019


    • Boulder Dash 14th Apr 2019

      Yeah, the one above that shoots right across the page, under From The Climate Mobilisation Victory Plan. Or is that not what you call them?

    • Alex of... 14th Apr 2019

      have you clicked on the link i just posted?

    • Boulder Dash 14th Apr 2019

      Yeah, but I’m not getting you. I actually just wanted someone to remove the fucked up link from my comment above that runs across the page to restore sanity to this page’s form. But I have bookmarked your linked page for future reference, thanks. It’s just sometimes when I use that stuff it does even worse damage to pages...I test them elsewhere sometimes. But maybe I’ll get into them at some point.

    • Alex of... 14th Apr 2019

      future reference was all there was to get. place the url in the quotes, type some descriptive text between the greater/less than symbols.

      for the bonus round, scroll down to the example that uses this as well:


      that way it will open up a new tab/window for the link.

      i have a little text doc i keep with a few useful posting tidbits, so i can just copy/paste from that, and insert the link and text. there should probably be a downloadable doc in the resources section for such things.. things directly applicable/useful for posting on this website.

      try a few links, it will normalize with repetition..

    • Boulder Dash 14th Apr 2019

      Yeah, I know...it’s whether I can be bothered. It just shits me that the link I did, you know, a normal copy and paste one, fucked the form of the page for whatever reason. If someone can get rid of it and restore the page to its usual glory that would make me feel better...but it’s not all about me.

    • Boulder Dash 16th Apr 2019

      A “Green New Deal”?: The Eco-syndicalist Alternative

      By Tom Wetzel
      Source: idea & action
      April 16, 2019

      Capitalist dynamics are at the very heart of the current crisis that humanity faces over global warming. When we talk of “global warming,” we’re talking about the rapid — and on-going — rise in the average world-wide surface and ocean temperature. Thus far a rise of 0.8 degrees Celsius (1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since 1880. According to an ongoing temperature analysis conducted by scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, two-thirds of this temperature increase has occurred since 1975. A one-degree rise in temperature might seem like no big deal. As the NASA scientists point out, however, “A one-degree global change is significant because it takes a vast amount of
      heat to warm all the oceans, atmosphere, and land by that much.” We know that carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels is at the heart of the problem. For many centuries the proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ranged between 200 and 300 parts per million. By the 1950s the growth of industrial capitalism since the 1800s had pushed this to the top of this range — 310 parts per million. Since then the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen very rapidly — to more than 410 parts per million by 2018. This is the result of the vast rise in the burning of fossil fuels in the era since World War 2 — coal, petroleum, natural gas.

      The problem is rooted in the very structure of capitalism itself. Cost-shifting is an essential feature of the capitalist mode of production. An electric power company burns coal to generate electricity because the price per kilowatt hour from coal-fired electricity has long been cheaper than alternatives. But the emissions from burning coal travel downwind and cause damage to the respiratory systems of thousands of people — including preventable deaths to people with respiratory ailments. This is in addition to the powerful contribution to global warming from the carbon dioxide emissions. But the power firm doesn’t have to pay money for these human costs. If the firm had to pay fees that would be equivalent to the human cost in death, respiratory damage and contribution to global warming and its
      effects, burning coal would not be profitable for the power company. Firms also externalize costs onto workers, such as the health effects of stress or chemical exposures. The “free market” pundit or hack economist might deny that companies externalize costs onto workers. They might say that wages and benefits paid to workers for each hour of work measure the cost of labor. But the human cost of work can be increased without an increase in the compensation paid to workers. If a company speeds up the pace of work, if people are working harder, if they are more tightly controlled by supervisors, paced by machines or software, this increases the cost in human terms. Toxic chemicals used in manufacturing, in agriculture and other industries pose a threat to both the workers and to people who live in nearby areas. Usually working class people live in neighborhoods near polluting
      industries, and often these are communities of color. This is another form of capitalist cost-shifting.

      State regulation of pesticides or air pollution often ends up acting as a “cover” for the profit-making firms. Despite the existence of pollutants generated by leaky oil refineries and pollutants emitted by other industries in industrial areas in California — such as the “cancer alley” of oil refineries in the Contra Costa County area or the similar refinery zone in Wilmington — the government agencies set up to deal with air pollution in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County protected polluters for years by focusing almost exclusively on pollution generated by vehicle exhaust. In this way the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District have been an example of “regulatory capture” by corporate capital. Power firms that generate vast amounts of carbon dioxide emissions — and firms that make profits from building fossil-fuel burning cars and trucks or from the sale of gasoline and diesel and jet fuel — have not had to pay fees or penalties for the growing build up of the carbon dioxide layer in the atmosphere. The global warming crisis thus has its explanation in cost shifting and the search for short-term profits and ever growing markets — features that are at the heart of the capitalist system.

      If global capitalism continues with “business as usual”, the warming will have major impacts — killer heat waves, more ocean heat pumping energy into hurricanes and cyclones, rising ocean levels from melting of ice in the polar regions and melting of glaciers, destruction of corals in the oceans, and a greater danger to the survival of many species of living things. Previous attempts to get global agreement to cut back burning of fossil fuels have been ineffective. The Paris accords merely proposed voluntary targets. NASA scientist James Hansen described it as a “fraud”: “There is no action, just promises.” According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the dire situation calls for “rapid and far-reaching transitions…unprecedented in terms of scale.” The IPCC warns that there needs to be a 45 percent world-wide reduction in the production of heat-trapping gases (mainly carbon dioxide) by 2030 if humanity is to avoid dangerous levels of global warming.

      Clearly a global change is needed. But how to bring this about?

      The concept of a Green New Deal has been proposed by Green Party activists, climate justice groups and various radicals for some time. The slogan is based on a comparison with the statist planning used by President Roosevelt
      to respond to the economic crisis of the 1930s as well as the vast and rapid transition of American industry to war production at the beginning of World War 2. The idea is that the crisis of global warming should be treated with equal urgency as the mass unemployment of 1933 or the fascist military threat of the early 1940s.

      After the election to Congress of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a member of Democratic Socialists of America — the Green New Deal resolution was introduced into the US Congress by Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey. This lays out a set of ambitious goals, such as 100 percent electric power generation in the USA from “clean, renewable, and zero-emission energy sources.”

      Other goals include “removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from manufacturing…as much as is technologically feasible” and “overhauling” the transport sector “to eliminate pollution and greenhouse gas emissions” from transport “through investment in zero-emission vehicles, accessible public transportation and high speed rail.” Along with this resolution, a letter was sent to the US Congress from 626 environmental organizations backing the Green New Deal proposal. These environmental groups made it quite clear they oppose any market-based tinkering — reforms that we know won’t work — such as “cap and trade” (trading in pollution “rights”).

      Many have proposed “public-private partnerships” and public subsidies to private corporations. Robert Pollin, writing in New Left Review, talks about “preferential tax treatment for clean-energy investments” and “market
      arrangements through government procurement contracts.” All part of a so-called “green industrial policy.” A green capitalism, in other words. But workers are often skeptical of these promises. Companies will simply lay people off, under-pay them, or engage in speed-up and dangerous work practices — if they can profit by doing so. For example, low pay, work intensification and injuries have been a problem at the Tesla electric car factory which has received 5 billion dollars in government subsidies. Tesla recently laid off 7 percent of its workforce (over three thousand workers) in pursuit of profitability.

      An alternative approach that looks to statist central planning has been proposed by Richard Smith — an eco-socialist who is also a member of Democratic Socialists of America. Smith characterizes the proposal by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez this way:

      Ocasio-Cortez…is a bold, feminist, anti-racist and socialist-inspired successor to FDR…She’s taking the global warming discussion to a new level…She’s not calling for cap and trade or carbon taxes or divestment or other “market” solutions. She’s issuing a full-throated call for de-carbonization — in effect throwing the gauntlet down to capitalism and challenging the system…[1]

      Smith believes the goals of the Green New Deal can’t be realized through things like “incentives” — and he’s right about that. He points out that the Green New Deal resolution “lacks specifics” about how the goals will be reached. To realize the goal of “de-carbonizing” the economy, he proposes a three-part program:

      § Declare a state of emergency to suppress fossil fuel use. Ban all
      new extraction. Nationalize the fossil fuel industry to phase it out.

      § Create a federal program in the style of the 1930s Works Progress
      Administration to shift the workforce of the shut-down industries to “useful
      but low emissions” areas of the economy “at equivalent pay and benefits.”

      § Launch a “state-directed” crash program to phase in renewable
      electric power production, electric transport vehicles and other methods of
      transport not based on burning fossil fuels. Develop programs to shift from
      petro-chemical intensive industrial agriculture to organic farming.

      Even though “AOC explicitly makes a powerful case for state planning,” Smith says, a weakness of the Green New Deal resolution, from his perspective, is the failure to “call for a National Planning Board to reorganize, reprioritize and restructure the economy.” When he talks about nationalization, he notes “We do not call for expropriation.” He’s talking about buying out the shareholders at “fair market value.” This is essentially a proposal for a largely state-directed form of capitalist economy — a form of state capitalism.

      Smith’s proposal is wildly unrealistic. Are we to believe that the corporate-media influenced American electoral scheme can be used to elect politicians — through the business-controlled Democratic Party — to enact a multi-trillion dollar program of seizures of the fossil fuel industry, auto manufacturers, and chemical firms and set up a planning board to direct the economy?

      The American working class did make important gains in the Thirties — such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage, unemployment insurance) and Aid to Families with Dependent Children. These concessions were only won due to an uprising of the American working class in a context of vast struggles around the world — a working class revolution in Spain, plant occupations in France, a communist insurgency in China, the Communists holding on in Russia. In that moment capitalism faced a threat to its very existence. The USA saw a huge working class rebellion between 1933 and 1937 — millions of workers on strike, hundreds of thousands of workers creating new unions from scratch, rising influence for revolutionary organizations, a thousand workplace seizures (sit-down strikes), challenges to Jim Crow in the south. And in 1936 this angry and militant mood also pushed very close to the
      formation of a national Farmer-Labor Party that would have been a major threat to the Democrats. Many formerly intransigent corporations were forced to negotiate agreements with unions. The Democrats chose to “move left” in
      that moment.

      It’s also a mistake to romanticize the New Deal. People talk of the 1930s WPA as the model for “job guarantees” — that is, government as employer of last resort. But there was still 17 percent unemployment in USA as late as 1940. Workers in the WPA often had beefs such as low pay. Communists, socialists and syndicalists organized unions and strikes among WPA workers. The gains that working class people were able to win in the Thirties did not simply come about through electoral politics. Nor were the conservative, bureaucratic “international unions” of the American Federal of Labor the vehicle either. They were more of a road block — exactly why several hundred thousand workers had created new grassroots unions from scratch by late 1934.

      Smith is not alone in pushing statist central planning as a solution. This concept is being talked up lately by various state socialists — including people associated with Jacobin magazine and DSA. These advocates often assume the state is simply a class-neutral institution that could be taken hold of by the working class and wielded for its purposes. In reality the state is not class-neutral but has class oppression built into its very structure. For example, public sector workers are subordinate to managerialist bureaucracies just as workers are in the private corporations. The day-to-day workings of state institutions are controlled by the cadres of the bureaucratic control class — state managers, high end professionals employed as experts, prosecutors and judges, military and police brass. This is in addition to the “professionals of representation” — the politicians — who are typically drawn from either the business or bureaucratic control classes, that is, classes to which working class people are subordinate.

      As a top-down approach to planning, statist central planning has no way to gain accurate information about either public preferences for public goods and services or individual consumer preferences. Statist central planning is also inherently authoritarian. This is because it is based on a denial of self-management to people who would be primarily affected by its decisions — consumers and residents of communities, on the one hand, and workers in the
      various industries who would continue to be subject to managerialist autocracy. Self-management means that people who are affected by decisions have control over those decisions to the extent they are affected. There are many decisions in the running of workplaces where the group who are primarily affected are the workers whose activity makes up the production process. Taking self-management seriously would require a form of distributed control in planning, where groups who are primarily affected over certain decisions — such as residents of local communities or workers in industries— have an independent sphere of decision-making control. This is the basis of the syndicalist alternative of distributed planning, discussed below.

      State socialists will sometimes make noises about “worker control” as an element of central planning, but real collective power of workers over the production process is inconsistent with the concept of central planning. If planning is to be the activity of an elite group at a center, they will want to have their own managers on site in workplaces to make sure their plans are carried out. Any talk of “worker control” always loses out to this logic.

      Statist central planning can’t overcome either the exploitative or cost-shifting logic of capitalism, which lies at the heart of the ecological crisis. Various populations are directly impacted by pollution in various forms — such as the impact of pesticide pollution on farm workers and rural communities or the impact on air and water in various communities. The only way to overcome the cost-shifting logic is for the affected populations — workers and communities — to gain direct power to prevent being polluted on. For global warming, this means the population in general needs a direct form of popular power that would enable the people to directly control the allowable emissions into the atmosphere. As difficult as it may be, we need a transition to a self-managed, worker-controlled socialist political economy if we’re going to have a solution to the ecological crisis of the present era. But this transition can only really come out of the building up of a powerful, participatory movement of the oppressed majority in the course of struggles against the present regime.

      The Syndicalist Alternative for an Eco-socialist Future
      The problem is not that people struggle for immediate changes that are within our power to currently push for. Rather, the issue is how we pursue change. Changes can be fought for in different ways. The basic problem with the electoral socialist (“democratic socialist”) strategy is its reliance on methods that ask working class people to look to
      “professionals of representation” to do things for us. This approach tends to build up — and crucially rely upon — bureaucratic layers that are apart from — and not effectively controllable by — rank-and-file working class people. These are approaches that build up layers of professional politicians in office, paid political party machines, lobbyists, or negotiations on our behalf by the paid apparatus of the unions — paid officials and staff, or the paid staff in the big non-profits. Syndicalists refer to these as reformist methods (for lack of a better term). Not because we’re opposed to the fight for reforms. Any fight for a less-than-total change (such as more money for schools or more nurse staffing) is a “reform.” The methods favored by the electoral socialists are “reformist” because they undermine the building of a movement for more far-reaching change. The history of the past century shows that these bureaucratic layers end up as a barrier to building the struggle for a transition to a worker-controlled socialist mode of production.

      We can say that an approach to action and organization for change is non-reformist to the extent that it builds rank-and-file controlled mass organizations, relies on and builds participation in militant collective actions such as strikes, and builds self-confidence, self-reliance, organizing skills, wider active participation, and wider solidarity between different groups among the oppressed and exploited majority. Syndicalism is a strategy for change based on non-reformist forms of action and organization. Non-reformist forms of organization of struggle are based on control by the members through participatory democracy and elected delegates, such as elected shop delegates and elected negotiating committees in workplaces. And the use of similar grassroots democracy in other organizations that working class people can build such as tenant unions. Non-reformist forms of action are disruptive of “business as usual” and are built on collective participation, such as strikes, occupations, and militant marches.

      A key way the electoral socialist and syndicalist approaches differ is their effect on the process that Marxists sometimes call class formation. This is the more or less protracted process through which the working class
      overcomes fatalism and internal divisions (as on lines of race or gender), acquires knowledge about the system, and builds the confidence, organizational capacity and the aspiration for social change. Through this process the working class “forms” itself into a force that can effectively challenge the dominating classes for control of society. If people see effective collective action spreading in the society around them, this may change the way people see their situation. Once they perceive that this kind of collective power is available to them as a real solution for their own issues, this can change their perception of the kinds of change that is possible. The actual experience of collective power can suggest a much deeper possibility of change.

      When rank-and-file working class people participate directly in building worker unions, participate in carrying out a strike with co-workers, or in building a tenant union and organizing direct struggle against rent hikes or poor building conditions, these are situations where rank-and-file people are directly engaged — and this helps people to learn how to organize, builds more of a sense that “We can make change,” and people also learn directly about the system. More people are likely to come to the conclusion “We have the power to change the society” if they see actual power of people like themselves being used effectively in strikes, building takeovers, and other kinds of mass actions. In other words, a movement of direct participation and grassroots democracy builds in more people this sense of the possibility of change from below. On the other hand, concentrating the decision-making power in the fight for social change into bureaucratic layers of professional politicians and an entrenched union bureaucracy tends to undermine this process because it doesn’t build confidence and organizing skills among working class people. It fails to build the sense that “We have the power in our hands to change things.” Thus a basic problem with electoral socialism (“democratic socialism”) is that it undermines the process of class formation. The electoral venue is not favorable terrain for the working class struggle for changes because the voting population tends to be skewed to the more affluent part of the population. A large part of the working class do not see why they should vote. They don’t see the politicians as looking out for their interests. The non-voting population tends to be poorer — more working class — than the voting population. This means the working class can’t bring the full force of its numbers to bear.

      A strategy for change focused on elections and political parties tends to lead to a focus on electing leaders to gain power in the state, to make changes for us. This type of focus leads us away from a more independent form of working class politics that is rooted in forms of collective action that ordinary people can build directly and directly participate in — such as strikes, building direct solidarity between different working class groups in the population, mass protest campaigns around issues that we select, and the like. To be clear, I’m not here arguing that people shouldn’t vote, or that it makes no difference to us who is elected. Often in fact it does, and independent worker and community organizations can also direct their pressure on what politicians do. But here I’m talking about our strategy for change. I’m arguing against a strategy for change that relies upon — focuses on — the role of elected officials, a political party, or the full-time paid union apparatus. An electoralist strategy leads to the development of political machines in which mass organizations look to professional politicians and party operatives. This type of practice tends to create a bureaucratic layer of professional politicians, media, think-tanks and party operatives that
      develops its own interests.

      When the strategy is focused on electing people to office in the state, college-educated professionals and people with “executive experience” will tend to be favored as candidates to “look good” in the media. And this means people of the professional and administrative layers will tend to gain leadership positions in an electorally oriented party. This will tend to diminish the ability of rank and file working class people to control the party’s direction. This is part of the process of the development of the party as a separate bureaucratic layer with its own interests. Because they
      are concerned with winning elections and keeping their hold on positions in the state, this can lead them to oppose disruptive direct action by workers such as strikes or workplace takeovers. There is a long history of electoral
      socialist leaders taking this kind of stance.

      When electoral socialist politics comes to dominate in the labor movement — as it did in Europe after World War 2 — declining militancy and struggle also undermine the commitment to socialism. The electoral socialist parties
      in Europe competed in elections through the advocacy of various immediate reforms. This became the focus of the parties. Sometimes they won elections. At the head of a national government they found that they had to “manage”
      capitalism — keep the capitalist regime running. If they moved in too radical a direction they found they would lose middle class votes — or the investor elite might panic and start moving their capital to safe havens
      abroad. In some cases elements of the “deep state” — such as the military and police forces — moved to overthrow them. Most of these parties eventually changed their concept of what their purpose was. They gave up on
      the goal of replacing capitalism with socialism.

      Eco-syndicalism is based on the recognition that workers — and direct worker and community alliances — can be a force against the environmentally destructive actions of capitalist firms. Toxic substances are transported by workers, ground-water-destroying solvents are used in electronics assembly and damage the health of workers, and pesticides poison farm workers. Industrial poisons affect workers on the job first and pollute nearby working class neighborhoods. Nurses have to deal with the effects of pollution on people’s bodies. Various explosive derailments have shown how oil trains can be a danger to both railroad workers and communities. The struggle of railroad workers for adequate staffing on trains is part of the struggle against this danger. Workers are a potential force for resistance to decisions of employers that pollute or contribute to global warming. An example of working class
      resistance to environmental pollution were the various “green bans” enacted by the Australian Building Laborer’s Federation back in the ‘70s — such as a ban on transport or handling of uranium. A recognition of this relationship led to the development of an environmentalist tendency among syndicalists in the ‘80s and ‘90s — eco-syndicalism (also called “green syndicalism”). An example in the ‘80s was the organizing work of Judi Bari — a member of the IWW and Earth First!. Working in the forested region of northwest California, she attempted to develop an alliance of workers in the wood products industry (and their unions) with environmentalists who were trying to protect old growth forests against clear-cutting.

      Worker and community organizations can be a direct force against fossil fuel capitalism in a variety of ways — such as the various actions against coal or oil terminals on the Pacific Coast, or labor and community support
      for struggles of indigenous people and other rural communities against polluting fossil fuel projects, such as happened with the Standing Rock blockade in the Dakotas. Unions can also be organized in workplaces of the “green” capitalist firms to fight against low pay and other conditions I described earlier. Workers can also support alternatives to reduce global warming, such as expanded public transit, or railway electrification. The opposed strategies of syndicalists and electoral socialists tends to lead to different conceptions of what “socialism” and “democracy” mean. Because politicians tend to compete on the basis of what policies they will pursue through the state, this encourages a state socialist view that socialism is a set of reforms enacted top down through the managerialist bureaucracies of the state. Certainly state socialists are an influential element in Democratic Socialists of America.

      I think a top down form of power, controlled by the bureaucratic control class in state management, is not going to work as a solution for the ecological challenges of the present. The history of the “communist camp” countries of the mid-20th century showed that they were also quite capable of pollution and ecological destruction rooted in cost-shifting behavior. On the other hand, the syndicalist vision of self-managed socialism provides a plausible basis for a solution for the environmental crisis because a federative, distributed form of democratic planning places power in local communities and workers in industries, and thus they have power to prevent ecologically destructive decisions. For syndicalists, socialism is about human liberation — and a central part is the liberation of the working class
      from subordination and exploitation in a regime where there are dominating classes on top. Thus for syndicalism the transition to socialism means workers taking over and collectively managing all the industries — including
      the public services. This is socialism created from below — created by the working class itself. Syndicalist movements historically advocated a planned economy based on a distributed model of democratic planning, rooted in assemblies in neighborhoods and workplaces. With both residents of communities and worker production organizations each having the power to make decisions in developing plans for its own area, a distributed, federative system of grassroots planning uses delegate congresses or councils and systems of negotiation to “adjust” the proposals and aims of the various groups to each other. Examples of libertarian socialist distributed planning models include the negotiated coordination proposals of the World War 1 era guild socialists, the 1930s Spanish anarcho-syndicalist program of neighborhood assemblies (“free municipalities”) and worker congresses, and the more recent participatory planning model of Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert.

      A 21st century form of self-managed socialism would be a horizontally federated system of production that can implement planning and coordination throughout industries and over a wide region. This would enable workers to:

      § Gain control over technological development,
      § Re-organize jobs and education to eliminate the bureaucratic
      concentration of power in the hands of managers and high-end professionals,
      develop worker skills, and work to integrate decision-making and
      conceptualization with the doing of the physical work,
      § Reduce the workweek and share work responsibilities among all who
      can work, and
      § Create a new logic of development for technology that is friendly to
      workers and the environment.

      This means shifting production away from a dependency on burning fossil fuels (such as converting an auto plant to making electric delivery vans or trains), and a general green conversion program. A purely localistic focus and purely fragmented control of separate workplaces (such as worker cooperatives in a market economy) is not enough. Overall coordination is needed to move social production away from subordination to market pressures and the “grow or die” imperative of capitalism and build solidarity between regions. There also needs to be direct, communal accountability for what is produced and for effects on the community and environment. The protection of the ecological commons requires a directly communal form of social governance and control over the aims of production. This means direct empowerment of the masses who would be directly polluted on or directly affected by environmental degradation. This is necessary to end the ecologically destructive cost-shifting behavior that is a structural feature of both capitalism and bureaucratic statism. Direct communal democracy and direct worker management of industry provide the two essential elements for a libertarian eco-socialist program.

      Some might say that this eco-syndicalist program is “unrealistic.” But surely it is not as unrealistic as a program of state nationalization and shut-down of the fossil fuel firms through the avenue of American electoral politics.

  • Boulder Dash 15th Apr 2019

    Yeah bro, was that you Rod...right on. Feeling Alright. That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout. Order is restored. Cool.