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Human Survival and IOPS

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 Human Survival and IOPS

Must admit I’ve got a little problem with IOPS at the moment. The way it’s going. Missing something.

Like the end of the world, and I don’t mean the Mayan bullshit. I mean survival. The mounting threat of the end of a livable planet for further human evolution within civilised parameters. Could be just a little relevant.

Since the beginning of this month, at least, it’s official: we’re heading for plus 4-7 degrees C, i.e. IPCC worst case scenarios (1.5-2 degrees is considered ‘safe’).  This means runaway climate chaos, trapped methane release from permafrost and warming seas, forest and ocean carbon sinks becoming carbon sources, an interlocked cascade of positive feedback loops, less oxygen, further mass dieback of species, mega-fires and desertification, oceans as acidified dead zones, huge swathes of whole continents becoming unsuitable for human habitation, collapse of food production on land and sea, famine, chaotic mass migrations, resource wars, police states. Locking in a chaotic climate for thousands of years into the future. Over the 3-6 million years of human evolution, we have never had any experience of this kind of a hot planet. This is an evolutionary turning point.

As far as I can see, this went unremarked in IOPS. Meanwhile core IOPS debate (of the minute percentage that participate at all) is often focussed on organizational matters, chapter building, recruitment, education, outreach, conditions for an international founding convention etc. All fine and good if that’s your thing, but to me this too often feels like form over substance, means over ends, fiddling while the world burns. Maybe I’m a fairly solitary dissenter in feeling that, but I need to say it. The gap between current interim IOPS and the urgency of the global survival crisis is simply too huge and painful to further ignore. Is this just my problem, I wonder.

I know the arguments. Don’t be impatient. We can’t have debate on adding anything to the vision/mission/ or discuss programs/campaigns, we can’t decide on anything before there are a certain number of members/chapters and before the organisation has been formally constituted. Recruitment, self-education, outreach. Anything else would be undemocratic.  

Well then, let’s make it all more democratic  now. Like Kuan Phillips (http://www.iopsociety.org/blog/my-view-of-iops), I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to have voting on debated issues on the website right now. Not enough people would vote? Well, getting a quorum of some kind might be a problem whether online or face to face in chapters. That seems to be a general IOPS problem, not one specific to online voting per se. The general interest in meeting face to face and forming local chapters has been very minimal, and that’s probably an understatement. I reckon that should be reflected and acted upon rather than ploughing ahead on the same unpromising path with gritted teeth. At some point, you have to know when you’re pissing against the wind and think about that before you get drenched. Would it not be reasonable to say that point has long been reached?

However, that’s not my main concern. What I’m mainly missing is something more substantial: the fact that IOPS does not project this concern about human(e) survival, as central to its mission, on its ‘face’, the website main page, its mission and vision statements. Of course there are welcome blogs touching on the subject by individual members (ex-member Collins, Stresing, Atkinson, Jones, myself etc.), but these fade from sight like ephemeral flowers. I am not saying that this glaring absence is a main reason why not more people are joining IOPS, since this is probably so for quite a few reasons. My only question is, should it become part of IOPS’s main message? I would here like to argue: yes, and soon.

If this were done, perhaps some would fear that it would it invalidate the other ‘spheres’ or concerns and struggles IOPS members are involved in. This is simply not the case. Rather, as Naomi Klein has pointed out (http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/12/13), climate chaos could be the highly needed ‘meta-narrative’ that links all our other many concerns and struggles. It could bind us all together beyond all our particular issues, political and philosophical differences, both as radicals and beyond. Without an ecologically and climatically viable planet, all other IOPS spheres and struggles and aspirations become pretty irrelevant. Question is, will IOPS realise this obvious opportunity and draw the consequence? (Guess I’m not too hopeful about that, to be honest, but I digress.)

To put it in terms of a slogan. As a revolutionary organisation I would suggest that our overarching core message should be a clear and simple either/or: it’s either the end of capitalism or it’s the end of nature. The end of civilisation. It’s system change, not climate change. It’s either some yet to be evolved form of participatory eco-socialism/anarchism or it’s the barbarism of civilizational collapse, resource and/or nuclear wars, authoritarian ‘solutions’ from police states to geo-engineering that make everything even worse in a downward spiral of self-destruction.

Why yet to be evolved? We have various sketches of radical, participatory alternatives to capitalism, but, I would argue, no more than that (e.g. the old anarchist and council communist legacies, Parecon, Inclusive Democracy, Social Ecology, Eco-Socialism, Earth Democracy, the Simplicity/Subsistence Perspective etc.). As Joel Kovel states: ‘In truth, we are all groping toward a transformative vision deeper and wider than any yet subsumed under the labels of past struggles.’ And he adds: ‘One enemy we should all be able to agree upon is sectarianism, simply because such an attitude forecloses, indeed, denies, the depth of the problem.’ (The Enemy of Nature, p. 198). IOPS has an extremely attractive commitment against sectarianism but I’m wondering whether it is really, loudly, manifesting a clear realisation of ‘the depth of the problem’.  

The reason we only have these ‘gropings’, these theoretical sketches, is, from an historical materialist perspective, not some individual failing of intellectuals but because that’s all we have in historical and current praxis, in actual social movements. Their development and creative synthesis into a convincing new theory and vision is thus also, or even primarily, a matter of the development of social movements and practical struggles, of the collective mind, as it were. Challenge and response, trial and error.

This is where IOPS, I would hope, could play its central role of being a friend and catalyst for such movements, a place of coherent, anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist theoretical stimulus and reflection to and on various forms of evolving global social praxis. A place for ‘social imaginaries’ (Castoriadis) about a self-managing future (as in Znet’s welcome Re-imagining Socialism project) and for making conscious what may be happening unconsciously, incoherently and without direction in potentially radical social movements themselves (e.g. WSF, Occupy, anti-austerity movements, climate justice movements, anti-fossil fuel and –nuclear movements, post-carbon Transition movement).

My impression is that IOPS seems a little confused on this matter. Many seem to think IOPS should and will be so large that it will in a real sense be the movement itself. Some have, I think seriously, suggested the present 3000 members should or will expand to 1-7 billion. (Maybe this is supposed to be a Monty Python kind of joke I’ve just missed. At current projections it would take decades for IOPS to reach even the half a million members of the British scouting movement. And nine tenths of the world would probably still be awaiting a local IOPS chapter consisting of even one or two members.)

What is true, however, is that any complex, fluctuating, movement-of-movements or ‘meta-movement’ to move beyond capitalism and save humanity from ecocide and nuclear war will either consist of a critical mass of conscious people (not necessarily a numerical majority), or it will not be.  This is our radical, anti-authoritarian, democratic dilemma. Of course (I would have thought it obvious) IOPS will not be this great meta-movement itself but, hopefully, a very small, conscious and potentially important, part of it.

In terms of revolutionary theory and strategy, I think it’s important to realise that social movements, while of course influenced by individuals and groups, are not mechanically ‘built’ like Lego models but, like all complex living systems, display spontaneous self-organizing properties of ‘emergence’, ‘unpredictable forms that emerge through new associations, new networks, new solidarities’ (V. Shiva, Soil Not Oil, p. 143).  As an anti-authoritarian organisation of coherence and diversity IOPS could facilitate, support and link to these vital movements, but neither seek to dominate (‘organise’, ‘recruit’?) like traditional authoritarian ‘avant-gardes’ nor somehow ‘replace’ them with itself.

I assume, or would hope , that motivating all IOPS activity and debate is a sense of extreme urgency. The scientific consensus is that we only have very little time left on the climate clock to start radically decreasing emissions and turn away from fossil fuels before tipping points and runaway climate chaos eventuate. In fact, it is highly likely that they are already starting. Thus within this logic, the first struggle must be a defensive one against the giant fossil fuel corporations in order to keep all remaining coal, oil, tar sands, gas in the ground. The second struggle is to individually and collectively radically reduce our own affluent average energy consumption, and thus economic growth, NOW.  The third struggle is to make sure the huge costs of this transition beyond fossil fuels and industrial capitalism are not borne by workers, the poor and powerless in any country but by the corporations, the rich and powerful (‘ecological/climate justice’). It is the rich who are destroying the earth.

This is the science, the common sense, the radical morality of our global situation. Because we have  long overshot global carrying capacity and it is ecologically impossible for everyone on the planet to live at our affluent levels of resource consumption, to struggle for ecological and social justice are now inseparable. Ecological justice means we have to pay the real debt, our affluent debt to the world’s poor (including within our own countries) for two centuries of fossil fuel squandering that have brought the world to the brink of the abyss.

Because there is no more ecological space for economic growth and capital accumulation, while the poor can and should lift their consumption, we have to contract our rich world economies and globally converge to an ecologically sustainable level of energy and resource consumption much lower than our present average one in the overdeveloped nations. The future might look more like low-tech Havana than hi-tech Singapore… To alleviate poverty, we have to share our wealth. We, the ‘99%’ that are also the rich 20% of the world, have to live more simply so that others, the 80% majority world, can simply have access to the commons of land and water, food and fibre, air and energy.

This de-growth, contraction and wealth redistribution in affluent countries means we will have to re-localise to a large extent and radically democratise our economies and polities and this will at some point entail a struggle with ‘the 1%’, the power elites that run the show. All this thus constitutes a political, economic, psychological and cultural system change, i.e. revolution.

Concrete proposals:

(1) debate on whether to change the website to add the core ‘meta-narrative’ of ending capitalism to secure human survival, prevent climate chaos, resource/nuclear wars and authoritarian police states

(2) introduce voting mechanisms on the website to be able to make such decisions

And, possibly, beyond that (no doubt jumping the proverbial gun),

(3) encourage and support members to network internationally to locally fight fossil fuel extraction and use and the nuclear non-alternative

(4) encourage and support members to network internationally to reduce their own energy and resource consumption, build participatory, pre-figurative alternatives and begin to re-localise their economies to be ecologically based on renewable carbon and biodiversity

(5) encourage and support members to internationally discuss and implement ways and means of direct mutual aid, especially by transferring wealth to the poor in developing countries and exchanging low energy technologies and ideas about living more simply with them

A final note on the all-important feelings that, whether we acknowledge the fact or not, drive all our rational thoughts and debates. Pleading for prioritising survival, security, climate chaos is not pleading for the comfortable passivity of ‘doom and gloom’. It is driven by grief AND joy, both.

Grief at the past and future losses and at the huge gap between what needs to be done soon and the state of general consciousness. Grief that it may be too late. Joy at being alive in such a pivotal time in human and planetary evolution, at struggling together for One World with such wonderfully diverse, imperfect people such as ourselves. Joy at the daily miracles of light on water, wind in the trees, steam over gutters, pigeons in the park, small children, human kindness. The realisation that this warp of grief and weft of joy has always been the deep texture of our lives as humans on this sublime and wonderful planet, now endangered as a livable habitat by our common enemy: the interlocked system of industrial capitalism, empire, consumerism, wealth and power.

In grief, in joy, can IOPS rise to the challenge of this humanity-unifying ‘meta-narrative’ with all the urgency it requires? If not, why not? If not now, then when?



Discussion 20 Comments

  • John Keeley 21st Dec 2012

    A very good article with good concrete proposals.

    I would go further & suggest that it means merging IOPS & ZSocial, changing the name to something like 'creating another world', & using the new website as a way to introduce people to new ideas & a new way of living. Many will come just for the social networking, which should be free (funded by political subs), & other on-line needs such as gaming, music, film, but to also have the counter-capitalist lifestyle. This real alternative lifestyle could include a section on sharing land allowing active gardeners to grow food on other people's land, perhaps people who are physically unable to, or just have too much land & want to share it. We can then start organising local food cooperatives. The same concept can extend to shelter, with people combining their resources, maybe taking over a farm & building communes. The political activism of IOPS would continue within a broader organisation, hopefully attracting more interest. And yes, this political activism can more overting state that capitalism is destroying the world.

    The need to change the world couldn't be more pressing.

  • Ian R. 21st Dec 2012

    Did you miss the fact that we´re about conquering space and the deep seas and that we´re more embedded and merging with our technical framework?

    • Ian R. 21st Dec 2012

      Sorry, I tried to provoke a little bit, because there is one thing about all these ecological doomsday scenarios that´s usually not mentioned: Climate change affects the poor much more than the rich.

      It´s a wide spread myth that natural disasters are affecting the rich and the poor equally. You were more precise in your article that some others, but every time when I read a text about climate change giving a message which - in an oversimplified way - would be like "Everybody will suffer and die through climate change", I get a little bit funny.

      It´s simply not true, yes most of us will be affected, for many people in the global south and on many coast lines it will be a matter of life and death. All the consequences you mentioned are right, but not for everybody.

      In Naomi Kleins book "Shock Doctrine" there´s an interesting chapter about red zones which are fully affected by poverty, natural disasters and so on and green zones with an own infrastructure and supplie network, which will be less affected and in case of emergency - easily and with priority evacuated.

      Especially climate change, diseases, migration and many related topics give terrifiying examples how wide the gap and how big the difference in possibilities in coping with them between rich and poor is nowadays.

      This should be pointed out, in the case IOPS is adding climate change as a priority issue.

      To the online voting topic: I don´t miss it in the current state of IOPS to be honest. I wouldn´t bother having it either.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 22nd Dec 2012

      Hi John, I.N., and many thanks for your comments, much appreciated both in tone and content. It's lovely to get friendly debate now and again, isn't it?

      John, I like your ideas for a more comprehensive kind of IOPS website including practical grassroots initiatives. My only fear I guess is that I'd hope it would not degenerate into a kind of 'lifestyle' site and we thus potentially lose our comprehensive, radical, anti-capitalist thrust and theory debates.

      I.N. nice to see we thoroughly agree on the need to stress the poor-rich/powerless/powerful divergence in all matters climate change. Yep, Klein's points in that great book Shock Doctrine are highly relevant, and I'd be all in favour of your suggestion re adding something like that if IOPS were to take up the climate-abyss-as-meta-narrative proposal I'm making. Nochmals vielen Dank fuer den Kommentar!

    • John Keeley 23rd Dec 2012


      Yes, there is a danger that it would focus too much of our energy on 'lifestyle'. But we need to get large, even vast numbers of people interested.
      Those that more on from the more 'lifestyle' things to true political activism & either pay dues &/or do a lot of political work will be the ones involved in decision-making & shaping the organisation.

      We need a way to get beyond being a cult & get the world population to turn against capitalism.

      P.S. Kovel's book was a good read!

  • Mark Evans 22nd Dec 2012

    "As far as I can see, this went unremarked in IOPS. Meanwhile core IOPS debate (of the minute percentage that participate at all) is often focussed on organizational matters, chapter building, recruitment, education, outreach, conditions for an international founding convention etc. All fine and good if that’s your thing, but to me this too often feels like form over substance, means over ends, fiddling while the world burns. Maybe I’m a fairly solitary dissenter in feeling that, but I need to say it. The gap between current interim IOPS and the urgency of the global survival crisis is simply too huge and painful to further ignore. Is this just my problem, I wonder."

    That is an interesting statement Peter. I wonder why you think IOPS is ignoring this crisis. I wonder how you could think this.

    If we understand the current crisis as a result of the forms and logic of current social institutions and systems, then to organise for alternative social institutions and systems that have a different logic and outcome is not ignoring the issue. Quite the contrary - it is getting to the root cause of the problem and addressing it, which is what radical politics is about and is what IOPS is trying to do.

    The hope is that many people from around the world who are concerned about such issues as the environmental crisis will join IOPS and start to set-up these new and desperately needed social institutions and systems. The idea, the ultimate goal, is for these new social institutions and systems to gain such popular support that they become dominant within society and in-so-doing generating a new social logic with positive outcomes for both human and nature more generally - replacing corporations with self-managed workplaces, "representative democracy" with some form of participatory politics, etc.

    So debates within IOPS that focus on "organizational matters, chapter building, recruitment, education, outreach, conditions for an international founding convention etc" are not ignoring this, or any other, major crisis or issue as you seem to think. Rather, we are identifying the root cause of the problem and attempting to address it.

    You also write - "What I’m mainly missing is something more substantial: the fact that IOPS does not project this concern about human(e) survival, as central to its mission, on its ‘face’, the website main page, its mission and vision statements."

    Really? If you go to the "Mission" section and look at our "Core Values" it states "Ecological Stewardship: Care for natural habitats and environment in accord with sustainability and the thriving of diversity for species and humans." Again the idea is that the new institutions described within the IOPS Vision will facilitate this ecological stewardship.

    PS. I would suggest you take another look at the rationale for the interim phase as your characterisation is also not quite correct.

  • Pontus Proteus 22nd Dec 2012

    I don't get the criticism, or the suggestions. The organization has barely started. No? The site's open to contributions. No? Are you saying that all individuals need to have apocalypse at the absolute forefront of their minds & so the site/organisation must be deliberately pushed in a specific direction by "a quorum"? At this stage I can't think of anything more important to an organisation than...it's organisation... There's opportunity to create content and share ideas on any foundation subject in equal space. Why would it be any more helpful to people or environmental campaigns to have it as THE lodestone of the organisation or the site? You say the current approach is "pissing in the wind" but I'm not sure "iops: the post-apocalyptic organisation that's here for you when God isn't" is going to advance things any quicker.

  • Jon Doe 22nd Dec 2012

    Some IOPS members are on the front lines of the climate fight, the organization has ecology as one of its core values and some specific IOPS educational projects have addressed the climate crisis:

    But a "meta-narrative" around climate change could overshadow people's legitimate concerns about the other ways the "world could end". A strong proponent of Nuclear Weapons abolition could make a very convincing an argument for why IOPS "must" embrace a "meta-narritive" around the abolition of Nukes in order to preserve the human species (in fact Chomsky does this in "Hegemony or Survival") but the organization has to be bigger then either concern if we are to scale to the size and power we need to accomplish both legitimate fears about the way "the world could end".

  • Kuan Phillips 23rd Dec 2012

    Hey Peter. Thanks for posting your article. I very much enjoyed it and the interview with Naomi Klein that you linked to. I agree that the environment should probably be higher on the list of priorities of IOPS, though IOPS’s core documents do talk about it, as others here have pointed out. I also agree with you, Jon Doe, that weapons (particularly, in my view, ones that might be invented in the future) pose perhaps as great a risk as climate change.

    Thanks also, Peter, for supporting my online voting proposal. I personally think that logically it’s best to focus on our internal democracy first and then debate specific changes in our core documents, as right now such arguments are faced with the fait accompli of core documents that are fixed for the next 3 years.

    In response to your point about the organisation’s name, John (Keeley), I personally like “Parsoc”, but I also like your idea of bringing “Another World” into it somehow. By the way, this is my first time involved with a global organisation, and I’m really liking that.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 24th Dec 2012

    Would also like to thank you Mark, Pontus, Jon and Kuan for taking the time to comment and critique.

    Mark, I think we agree that IOPS is trying to address the capitalist root causes of ecocide and this is what makes it so valuable and different to various purely environmentalist or single issue orgs. One reason I joined. Where we seem to diverge a little at this point in time is in your (and others') envisioning IOPS ITSELF as the mega, all-embracing organisation (or maybe that should be capitalised to Organisation) whose members set up the post-capitalist institutions needed until these somehow become 'dominant' and replace the present system. This is not my view of how systemic change is likely to happen, if it ever does. This notion to me has just a little touch of delusions of grandeur about it ('a billion members' etc.). I envision IOPS more as an internationalist self-management propagandist, affinity group and catalysor, a radical PART of a potential coming together of many and varied global movements for systemic change, not the global movement itself. Don't know if that difference is clear.

    Several responses have stressed we already have 'the environment' in the Core Values. Of course we do. However, the discourses around 'ecology' (radical) and 'the environment' (non-radical) are not always on the same page. No time to develop that here, but climate chaos goes way beyond the usual notion (as implied in the Core Values) of 'the environment' ('natural habitats', 'species diversity', as in the Core Values). This is not about feel-good, motherhood statements about the 'environment' but about human(e) survival, mass extinctions, setting the atmospheric and climatic parameters for the earth's future, capitalism as inherent 'the enemy of nature' (Kovel).

    Jon and Kuan mention the nuclear weapons issue. Thnaks for the extension, I'm all for it of course, just didn't want to overload the original blog with another issue. Not either/or but both climate chaos AND nuclear WMDs need core emphasis if we are to get real about surviving and building a better, post-capitalist society, as Chomsky and Street (like many others) rightly stress.

    Jon, you also linked to Atkinson's phantastic song about climate chaos/Sandy ('Worth It Then'). Thanks for that. I also mentioned Atkinson in my original seventh paragraph. Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I remember, I was the only member to bother (enthusiastically) commenting on it. Which, again, ties in with my main point in the blog...

    Wishing you all a merry solstice/festive season too on this rainy Xmas day here in rural Bundanoon.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 24th Dec 2012

    Just two extra links that might be of interest to this discussion. A great article by Rebecca Solnit at Common Dreams also sums up a little of what my blog is trying to get at:


    And this article of mine tries to clarify some of the differences between 'ecology' and 'environmentalism':


  • Jason Chrysostomou 25th Dec 2012

    I think what is being missed here is that IOPS is not an organisation yet. It's under creation. To be able to effectively engage in programme and construction of alternative social structures guided by our vision that further values such as ecological stewardship means first having an organisation with a large and capable membership, which means first constructing the organisation and hence why many interim members are focusing their energies on that.

  • Gary Hoover 25th Dec 2012

    I barely have time to visit the IOPS website or to engage in the activities of many "environmentalist" organizations. I struggle to make a living, to help one child through university, to help another child through high school, and to do things in my life that are about building a better way of life -- such as riding cargo bikes and trikes and pedicabs.

    I do read as much as I can. I find that the enormous frustration for me is that the approaching global habitat tsunami is so overwhelming and obvious, and it is so difficult as we all stumble along in the face of this change which is simply out of human control.

    Meanwhile, how to best live a compassionate, hopeful, and positve life?

    I feel like if we make the most authentic choice3s we can, tat's about all we can do.

    I choose to engage with IOPS because In believe in the ideas, the process, and in the integrity of the people involved. I am not sure how much I am able to contribute. I do believe that my own sense of urgency about the "Die Off" we are already experiencing pushes me to want to dispense with all of the niceties and formalities of careful organiziation. On the other hand I feel that rushing around to form organizations to make positive change at best provide illusions of progress to counter the despair many of us feel over the massive destruction we experience.

    There are many good people doing many good things. Maybe the contribution of IOPS is a slower process than I like. Maybe I need plenty of action in trying to explore and create change in my local neighborhood and city in order to remain sane. Even so, the connection to IOPS seems to me to be important. IOPS may simply give some people experiences and ideas which will be helpful through the chaos of the next few decades. That may be all we can hope for with so many of our efforts.

    Authenticity in living and choosing in the now are important to me. As frustrating as I find the "slow" process of creating and growing IOPS, it still seems authentic and so may bear surprizing fruit one day.

    It is hard to predict what efforts will be the most fruitful in the future. I will try to be patient with the process even as I experience frustration when progress appears to be "too slow" and engagement with the "6th Great Extinction" now underway seems too far off.

    This is a tough thing for me to do. The blog and responses above have helped me to think through the root of my own frustration with IOPS. Thanks!!! I am holding on to my connection with IOPS -- still hopeful, in spite of my frustration with the "speed" of progress.

    Velocity is relative. We humans actually control so little. The unknown and un-intended consequences of our actions often have far more impact than the known and intended. So when hope is dim, this can be of some comfort. Not all unknown and un-intended consequences are destructive. Maybe IOPS will, together vwith other efforts, bring some vital changes that we cannot foresee.

  • Dave Jones 26th Dec 2012

    Daniel Bensaid (RIP) talked about a "measured impatience... an urgent patience", melding Peter's impassioned plea with Gary's metaphor of fruit bearing trees. He also warned us "not to adjust to weariness and fatigue" and for this we will need each other and whatever bonds of solidarity we can build, hopefully through IOPS.

    Times are weird but Naomi Klein is talking to Bill McKibben and Bill is talking to the Sierra Club and I imagine Joel Kovel could talk to Naomi. The task (both metaphorically and practically) is getting Kovel to talk to the Sierra Club! On the local level we could all be reaching out to "environmentalists" and Transition Town folk and social justice NGO's and respectfully but critically engaging them. The slogan "there is no economy on a dead planet" ( while overly apocalyptic) does lay out the fact that prioritization is an issue we will have to face as individuals and as an organization.

    For those with particular eco-concerns, actions, theory, whatever,there is a great forum at the E.A.R.T.H. project where you are welcome to throw down.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 26th Dec 2012

    Gary, I deeply appreciate your response and agree with absolutely everything you say. It is so good to meet up with people who think in similar terms within IOPS. I think you perfectly capture our dilemmas that we feel so strongly every single day vis-a-vis impending ecocide and climate chaos. Also both your frustrations with and hopes in/for IOPS. As Dave has mentioned, we would both love to have you over at the EARTH project for further conversations at your/our leisure once this blog's discussions have hit the inevitable wall of invisibility and disappear into the site's black hole of history. BTW also love the trike (?) photo.

    Dave, camerado, muchas gracias for the comment as always, and hope the legal situation is progressing as you would hope? (What about that donations appeal blog...?) As for reaching out to the local Transitioners/environmentalists etc., am giving that some thought again at the moment after 25 years of trying... Thinking about penning a missive suggesting a monthly gathering where we openly talk about feelings and thoughts and local possibilities re ecocide (Robert Jensen had a similar setup for a while in Texas which I found interesting...).

  • kapil bajaj 27th Dec 2012

    1. Peter, I can appreciate the alarm you've expressed over our collective inability to fully comprehend and respond to the urgency of the crisis.
    I suspect too that it's like 'fiddling while the world burns', even though I've yet to think through the merits of the way IOPS is shaping up.

    2. Living as I do in India, I can tell you that something very sinister has already been happening, particularly in terms of 'resource wars', mass hunger and 'police state'.
    The neo-liberal assault over the poor, i.e. the majority of India's population, over the last few years has been such that I've a feeling there is already a tacit consensus among the global elite that the poor people -- starting with the densest spots like India that has the advantage of a corrupt, sold-out government -- just need to be culled at a rapid pace to bring the world population to more manageable two billion or so.
    And the elite seem to be going ahead with it.

    3. After shrugging off recently a countrywide movement against corruption (which is actually a massive ongoing loot of public resources by the State-corporate nexus, resulting in an unprecedented upward redistribution of wealth), Government of India has been going full steam ahead in carrying out the neo-liberal agenda dictated by those who own the world.

    4. The Indian State is pretending to be acting like its rich Western counterparts -- as if it had already provided its miserably poor population with many decades of welfare and ‘subsidies’ and could no longer be expected to put up with such nonsense.
    As if India's social wage -- (non existent or sparse) publicly-funded schools, hospitals, insurance, pension -- has risen to such unsustainable levels that it could no longer be deemed viable.
    As if millions of India's children haven't stopped growing due to hunger, as if hundreds of thousands of farmers haven't been committing suicide in recent years and there is no mass poverty, illiteracy, malnutrition and ill health.
    As if the rich-poor gap has stopped widening to unprecedented levels.

    5. And so public provision of grains, kerosene and several other benefits to the poor households, which desperately need to be expanded, can just be replaced with a 'direct cash transfer' of Rs 600 (US$ 12) a month for a family of five, in a generally inflationary economy.
    The owners of the world have also dictated that there is no need to make public investments in agricultural support services, such as warehousing and trading; there should actually be wholesale disinvestment in agriculture in favour of privatization and big business control.
    And so there have been reports of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of grains getting destroyed in rains for want of warehousing, while millions live in hunger.
    (Food - and water - security has worsened to the degree that the government has considered a legislation to guarantee minimum food supply to the poor, which is another cosmetic measure, of course.)

    6. Apart from looking to replace whatever little exists in terms of public provision with 'direct cash transfer', the government has been implementing ominous schemes like biometric data-based ID, 'national population register', 'national intelligence grid', collecting, for the first time, personal data from the citizens on a massive scale, on the pretext of better targeting of the potential welfare recipients.
    (Biometric ID and data collection schemes are being implemented in relative secrecy; their overall objectives remain obscure and many vital details, such as agreements with technology companies located mostly in the US and Europe, have been denied even to Right to Information requests.)

    7. The diabolical policies include State-mediated transfer of fertile farmland to the industrial capitalists, resulting in worsening of poverty and unemployment in rural areas, privatization of public services (including provision of roads, water, electricity, education and health), and huge tax breaks for big business.

    8. Since the advent of neoliberal 'reforms' in 1991, the rich have been spiriting away billions of dollars to overseas banks with State connivance while the masses have been bludgeoned with the propaganda that nothing will move without the transnational corporate investment replacing domestic entrepreneurship in every sector of the economy and destroying self-reliance.
    The free run that Indian State has allowed to the resource-extracting, Earth-destroying capitalists does not admit of environmental regulation (and worker protection) that's more than cosmetic.

    9. As the air and water get increasingly poisoned, the poor are also paying the price with their health and lives. In the absence of public provision, majority of India's population have no choice but to pay out of their pockets for private healthcare. That often means households, including the lower middles class ones, sinking (back) into poverty even if they are lucky enough to access effective treatment.
    A Right of Information query revealed in October 2012 that 10,000 children died over a period of five years in just one State-run hospital in New Delhi.

    10. Information such as this is being suppressed with the help of mass media that's largely corporate-controlled and compliant. The government has also taken recently a lot of repressive measures against the users of the Internet and social media to browbeat them and prevent them from criticizing its polices.
    I believe Indian mass media is one of the best examples of the 'propaganda model' proposed by Herman and Chomsky, which means 1.21 billion people are constantly being fed transparent falsehoods by a kleptocratic elite implementing policies that have nothing to do with public opinion, public needs and public interest.

    11. India's democracy is hollower than it ever was and the domestic elite have reduced it to merely an extension of the American Empire which has pushed itself and the world into a kind of corporate feudalism.

    12. I fear that a dystopia is already upon us -- that we are already at a point in history when the line between the world elite and the expendable masses has clearly been drawn, with respect to the consumable resources such as land, air, food, water, etc.
    And the silent, undeclared but ruthless war on the expendable masses has long begun without most people realizing its full global form and pattern -- such as in the form of cutbacks in social services and infrastructure even in the developed countries.
    It's clearly a no-holds barred resources war which is increasingly shedding even pretenses of a rights-guaranteeing State or Constitution.

    13. I think the reason most people across the world are not able to join the dots and get a clear sense of the enormity of this situation is that the mass media internationally -- to the exception of some sources available on the Web -- has become a huge propaganda system controlled by the elite.

    14. I suspect that this dystopia, consisting of the ecocide and devastation wrought by corporate feudalism, is most clearly and unmistakably evident in 'developing countries' like India. It's as if for huge swathes of humanity trapped in developing countries, earth is shrinking fast and breath is increasingly coming in short gasps.

    15. As I.N. Reiter suggested, the consequences of ecocide are first and foremost to be borne by the poor in the global South. And IOPS' most active members belong to the global North.

    16. The Titanic is sinking and the most dispensable passengers are already saying their prayers.

  • Dave Jones 28th Dec 2012


    Thanks for taking the effort with your articulate points. Understanding the developmental North/South structural divide is key and I agree there is a genocidal/racial aspect to it.

    The question for us is resistance. We have seen how your country deals with armed uprisings. Can we build a non-violent alternative based on equality and ecology? Because neoliberal ideology is collapsing in it's own logic (on a global scale), will your middle classes start to share in the negative effects and become mobilized?

    As for organizational linkages, the state where I live here in the US is producing coal which multi-nationals would like to sell to your country for energy to run the growth machine. In this way I can use your story to show my neighbors the effects of their jobs.

    One question: Since your country has used government for mass social provision for so long, does the left still support it even though it is now an instrument for reactionary Capital?

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 28th Dec 2012

    Hi Kapil, I very much appreciate your extensive and illuminating comments on the Indian situation. That's what makes IOPS exciting for me, quite frankly. Thank you. IMO we have to explore and find ways of working together and helping each other somehow.

    I tend to read the situation in India and other emerging countries as one of what Marx called 'primary capital accumulation', i.e. the state-aided terroristic enclosure of the commons, dispossession of the peasants and artisans and general destruction of subsistence economies to replace them with the 'structural violence' (Galtung) of the market system. This economic and state violence of course took place first in Europe a few centuries ago and is now finally globalizing.

    I wonder if you know IOPS-member Vandana Shiva's work on these issues and her own Navdanya movement for subsistence systems and an ecological agriculture free of toxics? Her holistic view, which I share, is that 'defending the rights of Mother Earth is the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.' (Sydney Peace Prize Speech 2010). Ecology, social justice, peace, human rights, now inextricably one (and IOPS could reflect that more explicitly).

    Re land grabbing in India. There also seems to be an important Indian Gandhian organisation of landless peasants called Ekta Parishad. Have you heard of it? What do you think? According to an article I'm currently working on in part translating for my blog (taken from a non-violent German anarchist paper called Graswurzelrevolution), a campaign led by this org, in alliance with 2000 further orgs of peasants, tribal Adivasi people and Dalits, started marching (in a Jan Satyagraha) on the government with over 65,000 people in October with the aim of achieving guaranteed land and forest use rights and significant land reform. The movement is organised as direct democracy and also celebratory with music, dance and song. Apparently the government agreed to a concrete 10 point land reform program with time frames even before they reached New Delhi. Each of the marchers took a copy of the agreement home with them to their villages. However, of course more domestic and international pressure will be needed to actually implement the program. Wondering what your opinions on that might be, Kapil?

    And, folks, echoing my impulse in penning the blog, here's another voice in the broad progressive spectrum calling for a revolutionary coming together of the single-issue movements in order to dismantle capitalism and save the planet:


    • kapil bajaj 30th Dec 2012

      Thanks, Dave and Peter, for your comments.

      Dave, I belong to the same urban middle classes of India that are part of the problem of criminally unjust, extractive and exploitative economic growth.

      Despite some awakening that some of us have shown in recent times, the vast majority remains ignorant of or indifferent to the larger issues, lost in its own selfish world of survival, earning, accumulation, consumption, etc.

      Currently, the gap between the urban and rural India is so vast and seemingly unbridgeable that commentators talk of two different countries -- India (mostly urban with such privileges as English-medium schooling, employment in the formal economy and prospects of upward mobility) and Bhaarat (the native name for India; consisting of the majority of the population, rural and urban, without the benefits of competitive schooling, formal economy and good prospects of upward mobility).

      Recent mobilization of the urban middle classes against corruption have only raised hopes -- not proven in any meaningful way -- that a larger democratic awakening and a cultural shift might be underway.
      So an understanding of the problem in much of its complexity is by no means shared widely among the urban middle class citizens.
      Among those who do share it, the prospects that they have of translating their understanding into activism and resistance through being part of a community or organization are currently nothing to write home about.

      By 'armed uprising', you've perhaps alluded to the Maoist insurgency currently going on in at least 60 districts of India. Being cut off completely from Bhaarat, as indicated above, I claim no competence or even moral right to make a value judgment as regards the path that Maoists have taken.

      However, my limited understanding is that the state capitalist assault -- in terms of resource extraction, land grab and theft of public funds -- has been so unchecked that it could only have resulted in a kind of response that Maoists have preferred.
      So the 'non-violent alternative based on equality and ecology' does not seem probable to me unless and until circumstances change dramatically.

      It's heartening to learn that 'neo-liberal ideology is collapsing in it's own logic', but I have yet to see any sign of that in India in terms of even a discussion of any possible change in course that the State has taken since 1991.

      The State-corporate nexus continues to ram neo-liberal 'reforms' down the public throat through their monopoly over the mass media and complicity of the ‘intellectual’ community, with very little resistance; those who can offer alternatives continue to be marginalized or hounded out of public space.

      It's also clear that economic policies come ready made from outside, such as the recent decision to allow foreign direct investment in retail trade that will unleash Walmart into India – a policy widely opposed by the public.

      In recent years, successive governments have left no stone unturned in aligning themselves closely with the US imperialism so that space for independent and democratic policy making has been shrinking, allowing the Americans to dictate policies ever more cheekily.

      The middle classes can mobilize themselves against neo-liberalism only if there is some letup in propaganda and repression of vox populi and more democratic space becomes available.

      The Left parties, who have recently suffered a massive electoral setback in Bengal, still support social provision but with declining efficacy. It’s because social provision is also now allowed only in various flavours of neoliberal ideology, such as a pension fund closely aligned with the markets.

      Peter, I am aware of the great work done by Vandana Shiva, but wonder why such 'movements' (assuming that Navdanya is indeed a 'movement') can't coalesce into big political platforms with nationwide grassroots participation.

      I am less sure about the work of Ekta Parishad, led by P.V. Rajagopal, even though it does seem like a really grassroots mobilization of needy/deprived people.

      I can't make any sense of this 'agreement' between Ekta Parishad and the government because the policies favoured by the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh are the very antithesis of land redistribution.

      Since promising land redistribution in its 'common minimum programme' 2004, when it first came into office, the UPA coalition has nothing to show for its effort. Singh himself chairs National Council for Land Reforms, which is in existence since 2008 without doing anything in the nature of land redistribution.

      The UPA government never needed any 'agreement' with Ekta Parishad to make a national plan for land redistribution and then persuade state governments to implement it.
      The ruling coalition does need a few gimmicks, however; the next general elections are due in 2014.

      What we continue to witness in India is the most vicious assault ever on land, water and forest use rights through accelerated use and abuse of Land Acquisition Act 1894 (the colonial law), enactment of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Act 2005 (the neo-colonial law), huge infrastructure projects like Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, and other measures.

  • Dave Jones 30th Dec 2012

    In many ways your account reads like the history of US- Mexico/ Central America relations of the last century, Kapil, and I guess it is a model being replicated in many other places as well.
    When I speak of the crisis of neoliberalism, I am taking a long, structural view- looking at the increasing RATE of crises, the bubbles and stagnation and structural unemployment and idle investment capital etc. Combining this with the crisis of democracy, growing inequality and State/State competition, this is definitely a system in flux. Which is obviously no consolation to those now suffering its effects here and now, nor can we be assured that what follows won't be worse, right?

    As for that project of "coming together" Peter, part of what needs to happen IMO, is understanding and learning from indigenous and peasant struggles- not because middle class people can emulate them- but because there might be ways to mutually support one another. I would love to see some outreach from IOPS at some point.

    Our Montana branch will be participating in a conference call with a member of the Zapatista community later this month in an effort to dialogue. I looked at the Commondreams article and saw the the call for discourse but could not find a venue on their webpage. I believe an important conversation needs to take place with progressives, such as the author, to better understand how they see "corporatism" as distinct from capitalism. All the alliance building that needs to happen must start from this point, this conversation, but it is intrigueing that the failure of the single issue, Non Profit complex is coming to the fore.