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Rupture Considered

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Just finished re-reading Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, the penultimate anti-rupture argument. In it the Brotherhood works to ignite a rupture, in this case a race riot, hoping to spark revolution. It does not work out so well. Echoing many of the sentiments of those who respond to my rupture essay.

I've been reading lots of crazy-ass fiction lately but Invisible Man takes it to a new level. Some of the surreal, nightmare scenes just left me stunned and I'm sure I'm mising half the mythology and references, but this basic idea around invisibility and history is what makes it an important, enduring work. There is a thorough look into the process od sublimation of the individual into group-think and a confrontation with the notion of "sacrifice". In the end, Ellison falls back on a basic humanism guided by Enlightenment "principles".  Most folks who react to the concept of rupture with a fear of dystopian anarchy are influenced by these same principles, as am I.

The question is: what differences exist between the Ellison narrative and our current conjuncture? Liberalism has reached its limits; "the old world is dying while the new struggles to be born". It certainly isn't hard to picture The Riot. Distrust, betrayal, anomie and barbarism lurk in the neighbor's eyes. ( Not to mention Dick Cheney- watched Vice last night!) But they'll also stop by to chat if your package accidently get's delivered to their door, and they'll bring some garden fresh tomatoes along. And you start talking about the crazy weather and the recent fires....

Discussion 81 Comments

  • Alex of... 13th Jan 2019

    well, i haven't read Invisible Man, so not sure how well i could answer what differences or similarities i believe exist between that narrative and today's real world shit.

    i might suggest that reasons for revolt are more clear in certain scenarios than others. like i mentioned in a previous comment on your slimey post, about the obvious nature of fascism. slave and slave master.. too obvious to last. the lines aren't clear in our current society in that oppressed vs oppressor model-kind-of-way. it's not completely absent either.

    there's a disjointed yet bubbling ideological war when it comes to distribution of wealth. then there's our ecological constraints.. and how clear are those lines? a good chunk of the rest of the globe probably has more clear reasons to rupture the US. go all Bin Laden on our asses.

    i just imagine that most people don't see why you would rupture shit at all.. why you would want to spark a revolution. what's to be gained?

    SLC Punk!

    enjoyable movie, though the main character constantly equates anarchy to lawlessness and chaos. Chomsky would disagree. he ultimately decides to fight the system from within. booo!

  • Irie Zen 14th Jan 2019

    1000 1000 Plateaus >> Understanding Society | Innovative thinking about a global world >> "The rhizomatic apparatus and slime® mold." by Irie Zen

    Haven't read Invisible Man (yet); checked into it; interesting; big 1; milestone in 'Black History'*. Couldn't find a free* ;P digital copy; There's an audiobook on YT but the robot reading it is horrible; compelling start though (1st sentence below).. sounds unputdownable. Thanks for (still) sharin' your thoughts Dave.

    "I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids -- and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me."
    - Ralph Ellison, "Invisible Man" (1952) 
    I. Z. Nessuno-Raskolnikov (2019)

    What differences exist between the Ellison narrative and our current conjuncture?

    66 years later; IOPS* Black* History Day #3 or #4(?); Invisible Man >> Dr. King >> Some "Hipple De Hopple De" I'd like to highlight here; "Cuz it's part o' me* subsubKKKULTURAL ID* kkkoncept!": Universal Zulu Nation (!) >> 1992 Los Angeles riots >> lotta rupture pop-rap YOLO MOFO's "Hi De Ho" and.. ehh.. GENERATIONS OF BUFFALO SOLDIERS* of course!! *insert* SUPPORT THE TROOPS bumper sticker >> Obama (!); First hand experience here. XD >> Jajaja.. ;P 1! lived in rural Wisconsin ten years ago.. Blacks: Invisible; there were almost none. I talked to 1 of the rarities; Jamaican migrant co-ed.. ohh-yeah.. ; and there was 1 worn out pavement princess in Chicaco. She followed me for a mile or so; I was lookin' for some local color; but that.. Ohh-no.. Nooo; Thought of giving her my sandwich but I was too hungry; couldn't spare a single buck.. XD >> I remember 1 time my roomie Jordan accidentally dropped the N-'bomb'; I've noticed some degree of shame around his eyes, when he realized that he had just revealed his true face to me.. We never talked politics* but he was pro McCain/Palin.. I sharpied a Hitler beard on a McCain portrait painting in a magazine and pinned it to our fridge a few days later.. Jordan wasn't amused. >> King won the Nobel Peace Prize for combating racial inequality through nonviolent resistance; Obama won for being the first president at WAR during his entire reign? Maybe "cuz he's a black-ish* dawg";

    Here's a piece on Obama I made >>> 1492_hailthechief.jpg. My "three fiddy"*!

    Some things have changed. Some haven't. That's why, as you say, Invisible Man is IMPORTANT and ENDURING. No doubt; we have more Invisible Men; and Women; and Children today, and not just blacks; also browns and yell0s and a shit load of invisible "pinky skins"* et cetera.. in the US; Here; Everywhere.. as Alex said: "A good chunk of the rest of the globe probably has more clear reasons to rupture [you*] the US." // There you go. THE anonymous, invisible WALKING DEAD*; a LEGION of the doomed is coming; The Wall* didn't stop the Canadians. "WINTER IS COMING!"* XD >> The world collapses; Millions are leaving the cities: Only the strongest survive; and they'll reach rural Montana* to ask for the last garden fresh tomatoes*; Guess who's coming to dinner; will it be a golden AK-47* or good ol' AA-12? We're keefed*; Humans stew! Smells like chicken and swine. // Gotta go now; 1 has a meeting with Eloi and Morlokk in A.D. 802,701.

    RELATED(?) :: REFERENCES(!) :: Referencing w/ 7H3 R3V

    Betty* is the MC of "Making Stars", a stage revue* introducing the "stars of tomorrow": a series of performing babies*. Acts include the Colorful 3* (a trio of stereotyped Black* babies* singing "Hi De Ho"), an Asian* baby marksman®*, and a bouncing(!) Russian* baby* named Little Miss Trotsky®*." by The Psychedelic Bolsheviks

    Betty Boop in ***Making Stars*** (1935)

    Strike up the band | Get ready for something grand | A wonderful treat | You're going to meet | The stars of the future.

    Ooooooh.. | Wait till you see | The ones who make history | On screen and on stage | They'll all be the rage | My stars of the future.

    If you think that Charleston s'great | Hanter an getel too | MAMMY! | Whiltfolks sign right here to state | My stars outshined all those you knew | So hold everything | You'll see how they dance and sing | They really now how | You'll find them a wow | My stars of the future!

    Boop-Oopy-Doop! | Bop!

    Why is it always clouty* @ iopsociety.org? ;P

    IOPS BLACK HISTORY DAY #1 @ http://www.iopsociety.org/projects/iops-braincloud-powwow-2018/ancient-books-of-war

    Read more :: Related :: Recently @ the IOPS.org



  • Irie Zen 14th Jan 2019

    • Irie Zen 14th Jan 2019

      This scene; the first of 3 times in my life when a movie made me cry; Still gives me goosebumps every time; Jungle Monkey King Louie.. LOVE!

    • Irie Zen 14th Jan 2019


  • Irie Zen 14th Jan 2019

  • Irie Zen 14th Jan 2019

  • Dave Jones 14th Jan 2019

    Scene in the book where a black revolutionary is selling Black Sambo dolls that dance a little minstrel jig. I'm old enough to remember Amos and Andy on a black and white tv and yesterday was putting syrup on my pancakes and realized it was Aunt Jemima. Crazy marketing shit if you think about it.
    Then I was living in the Bay Area when the Panthers decided to be visible and Angela Davis posters at the post office, with that hair, that amazing hair, and Cassius Clay become Mohammad Ali and James Baldwin tells Dick Cavett he is unwilling to risk the lives of children "on some idealism which you assure me exists in America, which I have never seem." Shit oh dear...idealism. Ask Fred Hampton about that idealism, oh yeah...

  • Alex of... 15th Jan 2019


    "Given its history, some consider the character to be an offensive embodiment of racist stereotypes and attitudes, while others see the brand with nostalgia and object to criticism as political correctness."

    sounds about right as far as today's big dumb american conversation goes. she's like the confederate flag of pancakea and syrup.

  • Alex of... 15th Jan 2019

    i'll add a thought.. if we're talking about racial movements now vs then.. there's issues like police shootings, broken communities and disparities in opportunity.. but i wouldn't say it's manifesting into some kind of anti-capitalist black revolutionary voice. besides no more trigger happy cops, is it mostly just seeking better access.. Obama's "fair shake"?

    maybe radical lefties would often like to consider themselves aligned with "the black struggle" but i don't necessarily see a radical movement like the 60's brewing out of BLM at this point. yes, black folks did not vote heavily for Trump (far less Republican voters there), so there's a different spectrum with whitey which has of course now erupted into some cultural identity clashes feeding into the duopoly, out the media, thru the ears and back around again. so, black is mostly from that center line over, but not really much different than the white left.

  • Dave Jones 15th Jan 2019

    Agree Alex, although this Cooperation Jackson thing is interesting. And a radical black movement in places like Richmond CA has inspired folks into thinking more about autonomous community organizing, but yeah, isolated. I heard a BLM founder speak about "intersectionality" - race/ class/ other? but they are up against formidable obstacles, much of it mythology; the great "victories" of civil rights, the Church, Corey Booker....

  • Alex of... 15th Jan 2019

    i've read some bits here and there put out by Cooperation Jackson on their site and following their FB page. intriguing but yes, a bit isolated like a lot of things. interesting i've seen some references to them from NSP but not really the other way around. they have an offer up to start a connected chapter, which is kind of vague... https://cooperationjackson.org/start-a-friends-of-jackson ...and not indicating activity. autonomy is good, but sometimes i wonder if these kinds of movements are working too hard to isolate themselves. become a chapter of our organization! rather than hooking into each other. sounds strangely familiar. just sayin.

    quick blurb on NSP with a mention: https://thenextsystem.org/equality

    Collective Courage i have not read, but was suggested to me by someone i had an e-conversation with last year about my aspirations to do some filmwork on Coops. i had compiled a list of existing documentaries on coops, with this http://mightysmallfilms.com/This_Way_Out.html being the only one i found really examining the inner workings, by JJ Noire. he also has some vids up on https://www.youtube.com/user/JJNoire/playlists

    it's pretty dry with no production behind it. the No Way Out piece is a little better like that. informative, but not all that engaging otherwise. i think i could do better. i'm toying with a concept for a website for cooperative shit as well.

    ya know, believe it or not (i have no proof), i actually came up with the idea of worker-owned cooperatives, and networking them, when i was 20, not ever having heard of their existence or knowing shit about anarcho-syndicalism and all that socialist type shit. i assure you, that was not in my public schooling program.

    basically, i had a couple small business ideas, but after a trip to the SBA it became quickly apparent that if you aint got no money or collateral already, aint gettin no loan. i started wondering how it would be possible to filter ideas and offer training/support to those who are committed, toward providing some startup capital. it would need funding itself, so i thought that a network of businesses committed to that idea could use a small percentage of profits to maintain the help center to grow new businesses. then i thought, what if some of the ideas presented suck or the person just lacks experience. rather than just turn them away, perhaps the help center would also act as a job placement center for the network. this led me to an idea of those jobs being more than jobs, but partnerships after working for a period of time, where the person becomes an owner with a share of the business. and, in the long run, with enough thriving businesses, some profits could be used for social services.

    i had no idea what to really do with those thoughts at the time. but we have the internet now. you can find some of this shit and other people out there much easier. still, it is not being connected very well yet.

  • Dave Jones 15th Jan 2019

    Check out At Home In Utopia , a documentary about "the coops" in the Bronx back in the day. By PBS Independent Lens. Commies made shit happen back then.

    Here is Pynchon on invisibility, from Against the Day (2006) : "Lew enjoyed wandering around, trying on different rigs, like every day was Hallowe'en, but he understood after a while that he didn't have to. He had learned to step to the side of the day. Wherever it as he stepped to....it was apparently not that easy for anyone in "Chicago" to be that certain of his whereabouts. Not exactly invisibility. Excursion."

  • Bat Chainpuller 16th Jan 2019

  • Alex of... 16th Jan 2019

    have not watched At Home in Utopia yet, but looks pretty interesting. docos i had sought.. those focused more on contemporary worker-ownership models, but clearly the builders of "Little Moscow" would be down with that.

    as fer making shit happen, it probably helps when you've got a pack of folks that already think that shit is just normal. certainly not something eye had in my early conceptions, or even now (but a bit more, mostly due to connections built online).

    kind of what i mean when i talk about worker-coops changing people's expectations and ways of relating.. that it carries beyond the workplace into your mentality and social behavior.. and am doubtful that anything along the lines of participatory economics will be pursued much without.

    that JJ cat, from the Bay area, pointed to what he believed the number one killer of housing and worker-coops.. escalating prices in real estate, particularly as cities go. early Bronx was probably a bit easier in that respect. but 60's as well.

    a local small worker-coop i'm interested in profiling, Patty Pan Grill, does catering and food at street markets. their HQ is in a sub-urban neighborhood just north of Seattle lines. big difference trying to open, say, a restaurant in an inner city hood!

    i'd like to see some of the models that CAN work right now, outlined for others to replicate or use for tips and considerations. if thinking down the road, the larger-scale models could potentially help leverage some of that real estate difficulty, perhaps if ya got both that economic base and some DSA'ers in local offices.

  • Boulder Dash 16th Jan 2019

    This just arrived in inbox, via Loomio. It’s a draft of some doc. Sometimes the P2P shit andvyhings like Loomio are forvtye techie in crowd. Fuckin’ beyond my tiny mind sometimes...not all but some of it...sometimes a lot of it...


  • Boulder Dash 16th Jan 2019

    “These new patterns and solutions, which created a proto-capitalist sub-system (dominant at first in the Italian cities and new medieval city-communes) (Spufford, 2002), were paradoxically first used by forces in the dominant feudal society, such as the monarchy, for their own ends. However due to this allegiance and investment the seeds of the new system were allowed to grow under the direction of the "capitalists"[2] themselves. Seed forms emerge and slowly find each other to form more coherent subsystems- which eventually become the new dominant norm . This is not a smooth or conflict free process. Nevertheless, it is important to pay attention to the emerging forces rather than merely focussing only on the established power structures and conflicts. Today, this requires making a priority to analysing and supporting post-capitalist forms of human activity, rather than only pay attention to the fights for redistribution within the old system, or mere ‘anti-capitalism’ that is waiting for a ‘final overthrow’ of the system as a whole. These latter struggles remain an important part of reality, which must be honoured and understood, but are not creating the necessarily seed forms, though it is important that forces of resistance also become prefigurative in their demands[3]. What we propose is to construct seed forms that concretely solve social and environmental challenges, and a kind of politics that seeks to initiate policies that can replicate or scale such solutions.”

    Within this idea I guess you find the emergence also of what they call over at CommonsTransition the Partner State...a set of institutions, political, that aid, support and foster the production of cooperatives and other commons type developments.

  • Boulder Dash 16th Jan 2019


  • Boulder Dash 16th Jan 2019

    “In today’s context, we see on the one hand that the traditional, natural-resource based commons identified by Elinor Ostrom are under stress by the development of capitalism, while, on the other hand, we observe the growth of new types of commons. For example, we have seen the rapid emergence and growth of open source communities, co-producing shared knowledge, software and design. After the crisis of 2008, this was followed by the emergence of the platform economy, which brings supply and demand together in corporate owned platforms, but also the emergence of alternative platform cooperatives that are co-owned and/or co-governed by their stakeholder communities. And as the crisis was felt concretely in the cities where most people now live, we saw the emergence of urban commons, where commoners start taking the infrastructures for provisioning into their own hands. In our study of the city of Ghent[9], we saw an exponential growth of urban commons, in every area of human provisioning, i.e. food, mobility, habitat etc .. . However, except for the sectors of organic food and distributed energy, which have highly developed ecosystems with commons-centric forms of organization, most of these urban commons pertain to a different distribution of the goods and services, not to the production of them. Nevertheless, the two latter examples point to a future where physical production itself could become commons-centric in its organization.

    It is important to see what we are already capable of doing in terms of our techno-social capacities:

    1.open source communities are able to scale small-group dynamics by interconnecting tens of thousands of individuals and small groups, as well as larger groups, into large eco-systems for open coordination through ‘stigmergy’, i.e. coordination through signalling, by relying on open and transparent systems; the creation of shared knowledge (Wikipedia), shared software (Linux), and shared design (Arduino), already operates that way.

    2.platforms allow for the easy exchange of idle objects and services, using massive person-to-person interaction on a global basis

    3.urban commons communities are able to organize access to resources that are more equitable and ecologically responsible.

    The next step in the evolution of the ongoing transition to commons-centric ways of producing and distributing value is therefore ‘physical production’ itself. The central concept of the P2P Foundation in this context is ‘cosmo-local production’[10] or DGML[11]: design global, manufacture local. This means that the technical, social and scientific knowledge needed to organize production is available through global open design communities, but that a large part of production for human needs can be relocalized through distributed manufacturing. What we favour is the subsidiarity[12] of material production, i.e. to produce to minimize the huge costs of transportation currently necessary under neoliberal globalization. In this new model, ‘economies of scale’, i.e. bringing down the costs of production per unit by a massive scaling up of productive capacity through centralization, which necessitates ever more natural resources and transportation, are replaced by economies of scope[13], i.e. making global knowledge and innovation instantly available to all nodes of the network, which can then apply circular economies, biodegradable materials, and more, to produce more directly for local need, as these needs emerge, without necessitating constant over-production and the constant promotion of over-consumption. With economies of scope, the object of production becomes, ‘doing more with less’, creating value through variety, rather than through volume.

    Figure: Cosmo-local production, http://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/images/Cosmo-localism_-_table.png

    The socio-technical requirements for this shift are essentially the following:

    -We need open and shared supply chains to instantiate a perma-circular economy[14], so that all the players in the ecosystem can plan and coordinate their production and distribution activities. The circular economy refers to ‘circular’ production systems, where the output of one process, becomes the input for another, thereby drastically reducing waste. The ‘perma’ qualifier refers to the need to stabilize the growth of our usage of matter and energy so as to to make these processes sustainable over the long term. The limit to material growth has been calculated to be a maximally one percent per year[15].

    -We need shared accounting systems and distributed ‘ecosystemic’ ledgers, so that value streams can be exchanged. These systems need to allow permissionless contributions, and need to reward these contributions in a fair way. Open and contributive accounting will be discussed in chapter x.

    -The open and shared accounting systems also need to reflect a integrated or ‘holistic’ knowledge[p][q][r][s] of the actual ‘metabolic streams’, i.e. thermo-dynamic flows of matter and energy, and create a context-based sustainability for all the players in the ecosystem. What this means is that the limits to the usage of resources, should be directly visible in the ecosystems that create and distribute the particular product and service. Solutions for this will be discussed in our third chapter. As James Gien Wong explains: “Here we have the concept of localizing planetary boundaries down to a granular level. There should be thresholds that signal that a value exchange is coming close to exceeding a regional boundary. We need to have multi-scale setpoints that alert us that we are within acceptable ecological footprint boundaries.”

    The aim of this study is to offer an overview and synthesis of the seed forms that are emerging to make this a real possibility in the coming decades. The concepts, prototypes, experimentations and actual practices already exist, i.e. many of the seed forms have been developed, but they are as yet fragmented, and have not yet created generative ecosystems, with some exceptions.

    The next step of creating such budding ecosystems requires giving attention to the technical systems being developed as we speak, for example the extraordinary developments around the deployment of distributed ledgers for shared accounting and coordination of production. The key issue that needs to be solved in order to achieve truly sustainable production for human needs, is whether what we produce is compatible with the survival of our planet and its beings. Equally necessary, is to pay attention to the value distribution. Indeed most models developed today involve using open source and the commons to develop highly unequal extractive capitalist market forms, and do not use generative market forms that would help strengthen the autonomy of the commons and the commoners.

    Technology is of course not neutral, since its design reflects human intentions, material interests, and a balance of power between developers, funders, users etc ..”

  • Dave Jones 17th Jan 2019

    I'm down with all this pre-figurative- building the new seed forms and all, and I can imagine open source as a crack in the system. At the same time I hear these words from the EZLN in Chiapas:

    "Alone we rose up to awake the people of Mexico and of the world, and today, 25 years later, we see that we are still alone. But we did try to tell them, compañeras and compañeros, you were witness to the many gatherings we held as we tried to wake others, to speak to the poor of Mexico in the city and in the countryside.

    Many people did not listen. Some did and are organizing themselves—we hope they continue to organize themselves—but the majority did not listen."

    Socialists who have been inspired by Bernie and the growth of the DSA are calling for the building of a "mass revolutionary movement"- but they use the organizing model of the last century. We are to convince people to join in. Appealing to their rationality. Community organizing on the Alinsky model, face to face.Or using a Leninist Party model. To "wake" people. Hoping they will "listen". Unfortunately unions won't lead ( despite teachers). Rank and file won't lead.

    But the clock is ticking and "the masses" show little inclination to rebel, beyond a vote here or a march there. Which is why I am convinced a major disruption will be necessary, as a kick start, as it were. To first create the conditions , an opening, where a radical critique is listened to.

    A recent example of what this might look like is the threat of PGE in California to declare bankruptcy. All major institutions are beginning to understand their climate exposure, liabilities that no one is going to want to insure.Yet that infrastructure is critical to capital accumulation AND to preserving hegemonic rule ( making sure the lights stay on, trains run on time etc..)

    But of course that is just one node. The question is: what can be done outside of discourse to accelerate the process of de-legitimization? We saw how fragile the finance sector was in 2008, other crises in banking and energy but other systems of provision are also fragile. Just needing some creative help. And of course Mother Nature will help in Her own way without any prompting.

  • Dave Jones 17th Jan 2019

    I also tend to think for most people all this talk of autonomous local community and pre-figuration ends up being community gardens.Which is fine. But what about steel and glass and concrete, things you aren't going to produce out on the commune. And what about taxes.

  • Alex of... 17th Jan 2019


    seed forms.. well ya.. connecting cooperative/participatory seedlings into a more coherant subsystem within our current dominant system, so there's something to transition to, which can also guide reforms or demands (prefiguratively!). commoning, right? planned revolution? building a solid enough framework so it can't be co-opted into hierarchy.

    perhaps there should be some effort toward commoning the language used. something about that P2P doc bugs me in general, like it seems so intent on using every meta-termification of peer-developed proto-analysis toward post-powwowian-centric optimization of emerging pre-cosmo-collaborative transitions during the neo-commodification-era netarchical extraction platform (what some call 'liberating the precariat').

    but maybe i'm not their intended audience.


    these guys seem to be on the right track as far as trying to bring shit togther:

    "It was immediately clear, following the presentations about the various social movements, that there is enormous potential for greater co-ordination and collaboration. To be sure, each movement has its own distinctive history, geographic clusters, political critiques, strategic approaches, and so on. Yet it appears that the commons orientation and language could serve as a strong basis for broad political and social collaboration – a unifying general theme and sensibility for highly disparate movements.

    But how might such a convergence happen? What specific sorts of projects, campaigns and policy agendas could help forge closer, more meaningful collaborations?"

    more readable as well.

    i of course support the efforts to outline these various related movements toward more unified aims and expansion. much of it is based on the ground-work being accomplished by the getshitdunnianites, which is probably more my personal focus.

    when i consider my intentions for pursuing some film-work or creating a website aimed at cooperative development, i start asking... how can i inspire people? and how can i help provide a pathway for everyday worker bees? how can we create that base to build a framework from?

    there seems to be more attention to theory than creation and access. hey, there's a few coops, let's build a world model! i want something people can touch and feel and experience. something for the exhausted reformists to redirect some energy towards. something for the frustrated service industry worker to get an ownership job at.. or the carpenter, the welder. templates and people to talk to, to get shit done, with basic principles of theory that connect.

    (wrote this before seeing your last comments Dave - posting as is)

  • Boulder Dash 17th Jan 2019

    Was interested in how you guys would react. Thought so.

    I was going to post the bit where the authors talk about the second law of thermodynamics. Short paragraph but good example of the bullshit and language they, p2p and commons folk use. Particularly the techies, the hackers...shit like “deep dive” instead of just “detailed analysis” or such. Fucking “blockchain” and shit. The site that sent it through, Loomio, freaks me out language wise...fucking techies.

    But that aside, all the rest is just the same fucking shit people have always done and talk about. Commoning is just coops and community shit, building new ways, and even anarchist type thinking, just using slightly different terminology...ways that have been around for centuries because, well, we’re still only human as far as I can tell. I am aware the terminology is off putting. But nothing’s really fucking changed under the surface of the terminology and crap...always hated the p2p language and way of framing shit....hate endless discussions about value and the like...waste of fucking time. But really it’s all old-been-around-for-decades shit.

    But I also do not think a rupture would do much at all. Won’t shift people’s ability to be swayed by radical critique...start to act and in a unified way or whatever. Many, as now, probably won’t understand a lot of it or be extremely skeptical. Radical critique will be there, along with every other critique and solution you can think of...including the all powerful Big Daddy White Geezer Hegemonic Power Grid solution/s. No one will really know which way to go...why would they when they didn’t before and when even those on the left can’t really get their acts together and form the necessary mass movement. And it is necessary.

    Things haven’t changed from Proudhon or Robert Owen. Same shit. “Form coops.” “We all must organise.” “Form worker owned businesses.” “Let’s organise.”

    Just as Dave said the DSA is doing. But really, even if you bring about rupture you are still in the same fucking position, you’ve just hurried along necessity. It’s not as if the rupture will unify everyone ideologically or around the best possible solution. You’ve just added chaos to the picture, and more anxiety. Won’t really help matters.

    Of course some people, in fact usually very few, will theorise and project some kind of world model stemming from practical action. That’s what some people do and it can be helpful. Just something worth considering in the mix. The truth is theorising world models is done far less often than practical shit, like organising small groups to chat at coffee shops, terrorise shit, build a community garden, coops, or community whatever’s. In fact, I would suggest the theorising needs to be done more and taken far more seriously...the practical on the ground shit hasn’t done what they all say it’s gonna for centuries...partly or even mainly because no one really knows how to tackle the allocation problem..they kind of ignore it or hope a better one will just “self emerge” out f practice...allocation is massive and probably why participatory planning is the complex heart of Parecon...the main artery. The NSP doesn’t really push theory. The P2P theory is more about self emergence over time which is essentially what the NSP is about. Coops are just coops. Nothing beyond that other than growing some kind of new mentality about how to go about work relations, that may spread, self emerge, become ubiquitous. Commoning, anarchism, coops, the Chiapas, on the ground practice as Alperovitz says, self emergence...all pretty much the same really..

    That’s another reason why I posted that shit. It came into my email so I had a geez and really, all the theorising and crap language aside, it just sounded like what Alex is suggesting. To me at least. Really the same shit. Feel and experience the commons, the coop, the new ways, the new community work/social relations, and then hope to spread the ideas as people’s experiences change...real visceral shit...sounds like prefigurative, seeding-the-new-in-the-old shit, self emergence to me. Modern day Proudhons and Owens.

    Dave’s more about self emergency. Create the emergency and see what happens. Frankly I do not see that affecting anything differently other than perhaps creating a sense of panic in some which would affect their ability to think through the plethora of rational, and some not so, responses to rupture.

    But the ruptures probably gonna come anyways, at some point..so what they hey!

  • Alex of... 18th Jan 2019

    ya, you're correct, it is largely what i've been suggesting, and essentially the same thing i came up with on my own when i was younger, not knowing there was a history behind it. i don't so much pat myself on the back for that, so much as it just suggests a natural response to concentration of power and limited access.

    but, just because it's not new doesn't necessarily make it incorrect. not fully realized, yes. but i would argue we should take advantage of the communication/organizational tools that are unique to this period of human history.

    and yes, theorizing done more is a good thing i think. i'm not arguing against it. hand in hand with groundwork as you've also mentioned. but, it gets to the point that the basic concepts are mostly the same, but maybe so are the people discussing it. i mean hey, allocation is an important piece, but what's the transition? don't you need a production base to start integrating that into?

    what are the choices?.. a vanguard to overthrow and set-up the new rules? tearing shit apart and hoping for the best? or building the framework? i lean to the last one most.

    ..which leads me to labor. worker-cooperatives form the base. without it, you aint got no people. coops are basically a mini-parecon, but can't account for the transactions around it that it still must relate to. but the principles are there, with people making equitable decisions in a participatory process. the food vendor coop is buying produce from the farmer coop. ok, we're forming a chain. that chain needs to be a web. further theoretical options then become more available.

    it's self-emergent and prefigurative. it should be that ground and theory are constantly cycling through each other to evolve and adapt for the best strategy to take steps forward.

    a person doesn't really need a comprehensive understanding of global economic theory and the history of movements to learn how to function in a collaborative workplace and realize the benefits. but how much is that an option? i can barely find video work on the practical elements of starting a small coop. why not an online library of the business plans people used to start their successful coops? and creation of business templates based on what models carry the least risk, with choices that have been made by others that deal with the obstacles created by the existing market? what existing entities can be brought together to create the anchor models in my city, similar to how they brought it together in Cleveland? where's the outline for that?

    that's i why i mention the lack of creation and access. there's some really basic shit missing from the potential. i can find more online resources for theory than what would actually be helpful to get people into a participatory workplace.. to expand on what exists, but in scattered amounts, and seems to me what is the necessary building block for what theory is talkin bout.

    and, if you have a nonprofit helping facilitate this in each city, kind of like the Cleveland dilly, then you are networking those as hubs for ground and theory to cycle through. in theory.

  • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

    Jason Chaplin started a coop here with some other people. A cleaning service. Used Earth Worker here as guide. It was a mind fuck...two years of work and getting shit together. And because Jadon is familiar with Parecon, he is aware of issuecwithin coop pertaining to holidays, sick leave, decisionmaking stuff...small things you don’t see coming.

    The Democracy Collaborative or somewhere around Alperovitz connected websites are guidelines for setting up coops, or workerowned shit. I remember seeing it. Yucky stuff to read through.

    As far as allocation goes...it’s the piece that integrates coops with each other...if it’s markets, it seems to be problematic...from what I’ve read pertaining to history of coops in various places as written upon by Hahnel and Albert. What I mean reallynis that there has to be some clear end goal as to allocation and this area never gets spoken about much. Coops and commoning folk set up shit, go about allocating within small local community spaces hoping to expand out but the allocation system hasn’t really been looked at much. I mean, Hahnel and Albert spend a great deal of time discussing and detailing a participatory planned allocation system...whereas the commoning folk, coop folk, NSP folk tend to notvreally talk about it as if it will just take care of itself...self emerge...to me there is an assumption that market allocation will be usurped naturally over some time span into some kind of stigmergic one, or from the NSP perspective, it will be by using anchoring institutions, which they call a planned type of system but I’m not so sure really what it is...a planning of sorts sitting inside markets that tend to poison and erode the new better relations over time.

    I think allocation is super important. Just as the internal structures are f coops or worker owned businesses are...but just as are remuneration systems, or as they really are, access to the social pie systems.

    But I have little confidence in much changing soon and for the better, even with rupture. And that little confidence is being eroded fast.

  • Alex of... 18th Jan 2019

    there's plenty of reading material on coops yes, and some useful toolkits, but not the things i mentioned as far as my searches have gone. there's classes in some places too, but only in some, and not always so simple for everyone to attend and still pay rent. financing of course is a difficult obstacle. and a local guidance center in not always available either. and other shit that can be worked on. i'm looking at what keeps these working models from going forward, or the obstacles people face. some shit i look for and don't find. needs work.

    sure, i'm referring to the integrating pieces when i say coops by themselves still have to relate to the surrounding transactions, the ones that occur in current market arrangements. there's limitations on how to approach allocation from just that much. and there's not a huge amount that can be approached with just a small cluster in a community. you need more to work with, and to a degree it can effect local politics.. work with party socialists. that's not an endgame, it's a strategy.

    i don't hold any particular assumptions about what will be ursurped, and anchor institutions are just one way to kickstart a coop base as far as i see.

    for me, it comes down to identifying what i think needs to happen and looking for a way to contribute to that. cliche maybe, but the most predictable amounts of change are the outcomes from not doing anything.

    • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

      I agree, but I think there is a basic assumption by commoners, p2pers, NSPers, etc., that nasty market allocation will be usurped, or eventually overcome, replaced or at the very least, somehow tamed by new practice...by people like yourseof, Jason and others doing stuff. Hence why it doesn’t get discussed much.

  • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019


  • Alex of... 18th Jan 2019

    few things i've looked at as far as some of the available information from demo-collab/commie-wealth..

    Pathways to Scale
    The Anchor Mission
    Origin Stories and Strategies

    one mention in some of that is a cooperative cleaning service called WAGES (Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security). i participated in webinar with them years back. old website now redirects to http://prosperacoops.org/

    one interesting topic in that discussion was their ability to survive through the 2008 recession times while many of their friends and family members were losing their jobs. that came through making decisions together rather than cutting people.

    and while there's some hurdles to get going, the startup capital is relatively low for that form of business, and the work itself is very accessible. perhaps what factored into Jason's pursuits?

    looked at: https://earthworkercooperative.com.au/
    is this his efforts? http://redgumcleaning.coop/

    • Alex of... 18th Jan 2019


      We are a fully registered cooperative business and comply with all industrial obligations to ourselves, the members, such as wages at the appropriate award rate (including travel time), superannuation and workcover. Other funds go towards expenses such as supplies, administration, taxes, and website costs, with some being re-invested back into the co-operative.

      As a member of the Earthworker Cooperative Network, once we reach a certain level of financial sustainability a portion of our profits will be allocated to supporting the establishment of other sustainable co-operative enterprises, as well as a social justice fund.


  • Alex of... 18th Jan 2019

    also, some interesting docs on collaboration:


    she was featured in a section on process and decision making in Jai Jai Noire's This Way Out DVD i mentioned. in general, that set is more useful than shit-tons of docs i've seen on coops.. what i might call "real world shit" when it comes to logistics and the human element.

    as for Sassy, she raised a lot of familiar "issues" that come up in collaborative interaction i can relate to. from a few of my experiences, outside of financial obstacles, i would say that process is the big thing to familiarize with.

    it seems to be common enough that people just want to do whatever it is they want to do, and won't commit to anything. i've found myself more than once just doing as much as i can to get done the things that need to be done, and not much of what i want to do either, while others just kind of hang around and sometimes even blame me for being too controlling. from my perspective, i'm working my ass off and no one is offering help or stepping up on shit they said they'd help with, and they don't want to talk about tasking anything or setting some roles, which would offer more balance.

    i don't believe i will engage in another goal-oriented collaboration without more initial definition and commitments. live and learn, eh.

  • Alex of... 18th Jan 2019

    also! this is a website i like when it comes to diy documentary shit:


    some free stuff and fairly cheap paid stuff. this kind of thing for starting coops might be good.

    maybe i'm straying from the initial blog topic. on the other hand, the internet is something that is different from then and now :)

  • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

    This just arrived in email along with couple of books. I bought one. Essentially what is being said here. Essentially the sort of stuff that Dave feels is moving too slow and not ecologically focused enough perhaps which feeds his desire for rupture...perhaps a different kind of rupture to the usual revolutionary rupture one finds in history.

    Over the past 10 years, Gar Alperovitz has played a central role in creating the quiet revolution of on-the-ground models and experiments of economic democracy. He’s a practical visionary who’s working to advance public ownership, community and worker-owned businesses and cooperatives, and intergenerational community wealth creation. And he has the experience to add weight to his powerful message and mission: Alperovitz co-founded The Democracy Collaborative in 2000, followed by the Next System Project, of which he’s co-chair. He has operated on the frontlines of real world politics, running political campaigns, House and Senate staffs, and policy planning in the state department and has a distinguished career as a historian, political economist, and author — most recently of Principles for a Pluralist Commonwealth.

    In his 2018 Bioneers keynote address, titled “Why We Need a Next System,” Alperovitz discusses his work with the Next System Project, breakthrough models for community-based political-economic development, and how we can begin to build and work toward the systemic change we need to save both democracy and the planet.

    Gar Alperovitz:

    The system is failing all around us.

    Our infrastructure is falling apart, our jails are full and can’t hold more people, our young people are burdened with a trillion dollars in student debt. The temperature of the Earth is starting to rise. In a country like the United States, the fact that anywhere from 45 to 50 million people are hungry — we’re in a heap of trouble.

    We can’t go on like this. We can’t keep moving toward climate catastrophe, nuclear war, the systems of inequality, poverty, famine. There is a systems problem. It’s time to talk about alternatives. It’s time to talk about what’s next. We need to be aspirational and be clear about the vision of the world that we want.

    As systems fail, individual and community creativity explodes, and that’s what we have seen. People in this country are solving the problems themselves. They’re coming up with new models and strategies, and within those models and strategies are the kernels of a systemic way to move forward. Land trusts, cooperatively owned businesses, sustainable energy, state-owned banks, urban gardening, urban farming — these small successes taken together are a proof of concept that this can happen on a larger scale.

    We’re compelled to search for alternatives, not just analytically but in how we live and in what we do, how we organize our daily lives. And that has tremendous potential. All bets are off in terms of our previous thinking, our ways of thinking about economy and our ways of thinking about politics have proven an abject and utter failure. The good news is we have no choice but to adopt revolutionary thinking.

    How We Can Change the System

    We can do better. We can build a better system. That’s not impossible. We can do it, collectively, neighborhood by neighborhood, step by step.

    If there’s one thing I’d like to do, it’s to take this abstract idea — the system — and bring it down to, “What is it I can do tomorrow to change the system?” The task in this period, in my view, is to lay down an irreversible foundation when it comes to projects, organizing, politics, etc., that establishes the basis for a transformation.

    My heroes are the Civil Rights workers in Mississippi in the 1930s. We don’t know many of their names. They laid the foundation for the 1960s. That is where I think we are, and to see ourselves in that role is empowering.

    Everybody knows we live in something called corporate capitalism. That means there’s extreme concentration of wealth ownership. The top 400 people have more wealth than the bottom half this society — that’s 150 million, 160 million people. There is extraordinary income inequality and ecological damage. We know all about this. But the systemic problem is how you organize an advanced system so that you can reverse these trends with the institutions moving with you rather than against you.

    Who are the dominant institutions? In the Medieval times it was the church, and the Medieval lords had the lands and the power. In the modern corporate system, the people who own the corporations have the money and the power, and overwhelmingly influence politics. In the 1960s I worked in the Senate with Gaylord Nelson, the founder of Earth Day, and there still was a countervailing balance to corporate power, particularly on environmental issues. The labor movement was part of that, and Gaylord Nelson was a labor lawyer. He depended on having labor support in order to do environmental work.

    Labor unions in the United States have collapsed from 34% of the labor force down to 6%. There is an overwhelming attack by conservatives and corporate leaders to drive it down further. Labor is becoming a weak force in politics, which means that if Gaylord Nelson were alive today, he probably couldn’t be elected, and he probably couldn’t do his environmental work. hat is one way of thinking about our current systemic design — corporate domination of the main sectors, countervailed and counterbalanced by another system.

    By contrast, the state socialist system kept all of the ownership in the state, and all of the power concentrated at the top. The ecological harm and damage to human rights and more proved that design was overwhelmingly negative.

    I want you to think about design. What is the nature of the design that you would actually want to live in? Who would own things? Where would the power come from? Would it be an expansionary system? Corporations have to expand. They’ve got to keep reporting more profits, and that has environmental implications for big corporations. So what is the nature of the design? What would it look like in the ideal? How do we get from here to there?

    That’s the nature of this program we call the Next System Project. At one level, we have a major debate going on amongst theorists and academics and activists on the design of different systems. But if you want to actually change the system, get it out of the abstraction of the academics. There is a lot there that can be built on and worked on.

    One way to start is with projects. We’ve worked a lot on the Evergreen Cooperatives Project in Cleveland, Ohio. This is in a very poor neighborhood — 40,000 people, mostly black, the average unemployment is 20%, family income averages $20,000 a year. In the middle of that neighborhood is the Cleveland Clinic, Case Western Reserve University, and University hospitals. All three of those institutions have a lot of taxpayer dollars in them — Medicare, Medicaid, education money. They buy a lot of things just to exist, and they can’t move. They are so-called “anchored” because there is a huge investment of capital in those buildings and facilities. This is a technical term these days — anchor institutions.

    One of the designs that we’ve developed is using the purchasing power of these big institutions and focusing it on this community to establish a community-wide nonprofit corporation to benefit and reflect the community’s interest as a whole. What is interesting about it is that it begins with the principle of community — not corporation, not state socialism — but local community, and it has attached to it another idea: worker ownership. That is a systemic design in miniature.

    Now I’m going to use a dirty word. It also has a planning system. Public money in these big institutions focusing downward to help stabilize the community is a planning system. It’s not simply the market. It may be checked by the market. The market forces may make these guys a little more competitive. That’s fine.

    But it’s stabilized that way.

    There are three major industries in the Cleveland model. Evergreen Cooperative Laundry is probably the most ecologically advanced industrial scale laundry in the Midwest, possibly in the nation, employing 300 workers. It also has a large greenhouse, Green City Growers, producing something like 4,000 heads of lettuce a month. Then there’s Evergreen Energy Solutions, the most advanced solar installation company in the Midwest which is also a worker-owned company attached to this community complex.

    What you see there has been picked up in Preston, England by the Labor Party. Preston has advanced that whole idea, it’s become the policy of the Labor Party, and is now being picked up in other European countries. It started in Madrid, where they said, “Our community is the starting point of how we build a system.”

    That’s a different design. It’s not corporations, and it’s not state socialism, and it’s not small business. It privileges community and institutionalizes it somehow, in the Evergreen model via a nonprofit corporation. In the case of Preston, the city government — which is very like a corporation — makes that the centerpiece of the design and then builds out from there. It says we want to build community. If you don’t have community, you don’t solve a lot of problems, including ecological problems.

    This is something very rarely talked about in this country, but it needs to be faced directly. This is a continental scale system. It is literally an empire, internally. With roughly 3,000 miles coast to coast with 340 million people — how do we have participatory democracy?

    It’s a system that is gargantuan, and just as it was in the 1920s and 30s, the question of scale itself is very important today. To the extent that you believe the system must be highly centralized, you lose participatory democracy. But if you go the other direction, you lose the benefits of scale. So it is a real problem, not a phony problem.

    Addressing Issues at Home

    Where might you see the idea of dealing with the scale problem thoughtfully and intelligently in the United States? By way of comparison, just let me mention to you how big the U.S. is. You can drop Germany into Montana. You can drop France easily into Texas. This is a very big empire, internally. If you think about where the fault lines may occur and where the debate might begin for the longer term redemocratization of America, California is an obvious target.

    We may learn something from the last election, but California is so far advanced in many ways, particularly on environmental issues, on high-speed rail and on use of the public facilities. There is the possibility of beginning to develop over time a realistic, practical vision of how we decentralize as we move the population from 350 million to 400 and 450 million. It is inevitable that we have to decentralize. This is the most interesting part of the country where we could actually begin that experimentation.

    So we’re beginning to think about systems, not as abstract things for an academic debate, but in practical terms: How would you actually begin practically to build on the existing models?

    One of the most interesting things that’s happening around the country, and it’s happening here in California particularly, is that the idea of building banks that are public banks.

    It draws on the Bank of North Dakota, which is currently one of the most conservative states in the country. It also has the most radical banking system in the country, which derives from the people who built it 100 years ago. The conservatives kept it because it’s so good. The small businessmen, the farmers, the co-ops — everyone likes the Bank of North Dakota and it’s become a model around the country. The last time I looked, there are maybe 15 different places where people are trying to set them up.

    Some of them are going to work and some of them are not, but what is important about this is that somebody is actually looking at one of the central institutions of the system – the banking system – and saying, “Why could this not be made much more responsive to the public by changing the ownership and control?”

    I don’t think people actually look in the mirror and say, “I could actually participate in changing the system.” It’s a hard confront. Who, me? Who else?
    You can start by looking at concrete elements of the system. A system, after all, only is a lot of elements pasted together in a particular design. This one gives predominance to the large corporation and to the money behind it, so they overwhelmingly run the game now in politics. But if you built up a mosaic of alternative institutions and a movement — environmental, political, cultural, feminist, etc. — that actually began to understand that the way to make progress on all of these things is going to require us to change the powerful institutions that we are confronted with, then it becomes less abstract, less academic. Don’t make the system problem an academic problem, but see it as something that is our problem. We could do this if we wanted to, like those people in the 1930s in Mississippi.

    We not only need to build a vision of a different kind of system design, and a pathway and personal roles, but on the way we need to think about how we build political economic power — institutional power, like the labor movement did to support Gaylord Nelson so he could do environmental work. What is interesting about the kinds of things that are happening around the country — the Cleveland model, the Evergreen model, etc. — is that they also become places where you can build political and institutional power, even as you’re laying groundwork for a larger systemic vision.

    So if you take these abstractions seriously, and then break them down, you can begin to see pathways forward in many parts of the country.

    I want to leave you with this one message:

    Bring system design down from the clouds and think about it almost like a recipe that you’ve decided to change or make from scratch. Begin to think, “It’s not too big for me.” Then do two things: Call a bunch of friends and start reading about this and talking about what you can do tomorrow to support each other.

  • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

    The above, the modus operandi of the NSP, is much the same to most of those promoting coops, worker democracy, community economics. Pretty much the same as the ideas at Commons transition, p2p foundation and others like Erik Olin Wright and Little Dickie Wolff.

    “How to Think About (And Win) Socialism


    A revolutionary rupture is not on the horizon, but capitalism can still be overcome.

    Dylan Riley’s essay, “An Anticapitalism That Can Win” raises two clusters of criticisms of my book Envisioning Real Utopia and my Jacobin article “How to Be an Anticapitalist Today.” The first concerns my conception of socialism as an alternative to capitalism; the second my approach to the strategies of social transformation needed to transcend capitalism.

    I think, in fact, we are not as far apart in our understanding of socialism as he seems to think, but we do differ in fundamental ways in our understanding of how to get there.

    Economic Ecology

    Riley is quite critical of my proposal for a reformulation of the concept of socialism. I will first briefly describe my argument, and then respond to Riley’s criticisms.

    In Envisioning Real Utopias, I argue that three different kinds of power are deployed in all economic structures: economic power, based on the control over economic resources; state power, rooted in control over rule-making and rule-enforcing over territory; and social power, which I define as power rooted in the capacity to mobilize people for cooperative, voluntary collective actions.

    Different kinds of economic structures (or modes of production) can then be distinguished on the basis of which of these three forms of power is most important in determining control of the process of production and the extraction and use of the social surplus generated through production. More specifically, capitalism can be distinguished in these terms from two post-capitalist alternatives:
    • Capitalism is an economic structure within which the means of production are privately owned and the allocation and use of resources for different social purposes is accomplished through the exercise of economic power. Investments and the control of production are the result of the exercise of economic power by owners of capital.
    • Statism is an economic structure within which the means of production are owned by the state and the allocation and use of resources for different social purposes is accomplished through the exercise of state power. State officials control the investment process and production through some sort of state-administrative mechanism.
    • Socialism is an economic structure within which the means of production are socially owned and the allocation and use of resources for different social purposes is accomplished through the exercise of “social power.”

    In effect this is equivalent to defining socialism as pervasive economic democracy. Democracy means “rule by the people,” but this expression does not really mean, “rule by the atomized aggregation of the separate individuals of the society taken as isolated persons”; rather, it means rule by the people collectively organized into associations (parties, communities, unions, etc.).

    This is rule through the exercise of social power.

    These definitions of capitalism, statism, and socialism are ideal types. In the world, actual economies are complex forms of combination of these power relations. They are ecosystems of economic structures that vary according to how these different forms of power interact and intermix.

    To call an economy “capitalist” is thus shorthand for a more cumbersome expression such as “an economic ecosystem combining capitalist, statist, and socialist power relations within which capitalist relations are dominant.”

    The idea of economies as ecosystems dominated by particular relations of production can be used to describe any unit of analysis — firms, sectors, regional economies, national economies, even the global economy. These power relations also interpenetrate within individual units of production, so particular enterprises can be hybrids operating in the economic ecosystem that surrounds them.

    Again, within such complexity we can still call an economy “capitalist” when it is the case that the distinctive form of power within capitalism — economic power — is dominant within the overall economic system. For example, in all capitalist economies, state power directly organizes significant forms of production of goods and services. The economy remains capitalist, however, to the extent that this exercise of state power in the economy is effectively subordinated to the capitalist exercise of economic power.

    There are all sorts of mechanisms built into the capitalist state which attempt, more or less successfully, to sustain this kind of subordination. Thus, while capitalist economies do contain forms of statist economic relations, the economic system remains capitalist. If such capitalist mechanisms of subordination of state power are weakened through some process, then the economy can be described as having an increasingly statist character.
    With this understanding of economic structures, the possibility of socialism depends on the potential to enlarge and deepen the socialist component within the overall economic ecosystem and weaken the capitalist and statist components.

    This would mean that in a socialist economy, the exercise of both economic power and social power would be effectively subordinated to social power; that is, both the state and economy would be democratized. This is why socialism is equivalent to the radical democratization of society.

    Riley agrees with the idea that socialism implies a radical democratization of the economy and the state, but he rejects my formulation of this idea in terms of social power within capitalist economies. He writes:

    “Capitalists and landowners in particular have historically been very effective at using social power. There are numerous examples of firms and agribusinesses cooperating to share technology, to control output and prices, to establish long-term relations with suppliers, to lobby the government to pursue their interests, or to exclude politically undesirable workers.

    Therefore, it’s important to emphasize that the relevance of social power for socialism depends on the class that wields that power. Without this sort of specification, there is little reason to think that the extension of social power by itself is likely to lead to socialism or to even move society in the direction of
    socialism . . .

    There is an additional problem with Wright’s concept of social empowerment. Associational power is not necessarily an independent source of power, but can be produced and conditioned by economic power. Capitalists can rather easily convert their resources into associational power.”

    Riley’s criticisms here reflect a misunderstanding of my argument. Riley is absolutely correct that the sheer existence of social power does not indicate the emergence of socialist relations. When voluntary association and collective action reflects the exercise of capitalist class power, this is a capitalist configuration, as in the examples Riley cites of firms cooperating for various purposes.

    But my argument in Envisioning Real Utopias is not that social power as such is the criterion for socialism; rather, the criterion is that socialism is based on the dominance of social power in determining the use of economic resources and the allocation of the surplus.

    To say that democratic social power is dominant over economic power and state power means that the capacity for collective action of workers and other popular social forces is the dominant form of power in the economy. This is a claim about class relations for it describes the power relations within the relations of production.

    If this occurs at the macro-system level we can call the economy socialist; when it occurs within specific economic organizations or spaces, then we say that those organizations and spaces have a socialist character even if they exist within an economic system that remains dominated by capitalist relations.

    This way of understanding the complexity of economic structures has a historical basis. Most Marxists recognize that proto-capitalist forms of economic activity emerged within societies that remained feudal.

    The long, slow development within feudalism of such proto-capitalist practices into capitalist relations is a central part of the analysis of the transition from feudalism to capitalism as dominant forms of economic organization.

    The fact that the emergence of proto-capitalist relations within feudalism helped feudal elites solve various problems does not imply that these new relations weren’t significant precursors to capitalism; it simply helps explain some of the conditions which helped stabilize these new relations and enabled them to take root and develop.

    What is less familiar is the idea that socialist relations of production can emerge as a salient feature of the economic structure of capitalist economies. What does this mean concretely? What are instances of socialist relations of production within capitalism? Here are a few examples:
    • Worker-owned cooperatives in which the means of production are owned by the workers and production is governed through democratic mechanisms.
    • The social and solidarity economy in which production is oriented to meeting needs and governance is organized in a variety of democratic and quasi-democratic ways.
    • Community land trusts in which land is taken out of the market, its use specified through the conditions of the trust, and the trust itself is governed by some kind of community-based board.
    • Peer-to-peer collaborative production of use-values such as Wikipedia or the Linux operating system.
    • State production of public goods to the extent the state is democratically subordinated to social power. This includes a wide range of goods and services: caregiving services — health care, child care, elder care, disability care; public amenities for community events and processes — things like community centers, parks and recreation facilities, theaters, art galleries, and museums; education at all levels, including continuing education, lifelong learning centers, and skill retraining centers; conventional physical infrastructure; and a range of public utilities.

    All of these examples, in different ways, embody some aspects of socialist relations of production insofar as democratic forms of social power plays a significant role in the organization of economic activities. But of course, these examples also often take a hybrid form in which features of capitalist relations are also present.

    Worker-owned cooperatives often have some non-member employees, for example. Capitalist corporations may pay some of their employees to participate in peer-to-peer collaborative production — Google pays some of its software engineers to contribute to the development of Linux, even though Linux itself is an open-source, free software system that is part of the creative commons.

    Enterprises in the social and solidarity economy sometimes get grants from private foundations and philanthropists whose resources come from capitalist investments. State provision of public goods is often heavily shaped by capitalist power.

    The articulation of the capitalist, statist, and socialist elements in this complex array of social forms is messy, ambiguous, and contradictory.

    Nevertheless, the above examples all constitute ways of organizing economic activities in which democratic social power plays some role. And to the extent that this is the case, we can describe these as socialist or proto-socialist forms within a system that remains dominated by capitalism.

    Riley rejects the strategy of “transforming societies from articulated wholes into hybrid structures combining elements of socialism, capitalism, and statism.” He adds dismissively that “From this point of view, even the US counts as ‘partly socialist.’”

    He is right: I do think the United States is “partly socialist” in precisely the sense that it already contains a significant set of diverse economic forms that would themselves fit comfortably in a socialist economy.

    The question, then, is whether or not it is possible to build a strategy for socialism around the task of expanding and deepening these socialist elements within capitalism.

    Strategic Logics of Transformation

    The general view of economic systems outlined above has implications for the way we think about social transformation. In particular, it allows for the possibility that alternatives can develop inside the world as it is, and potentially do so in ways that over time erode the dominance of capitalism itself.

    In my previous Jacobin article, I differentiated four strategic logics: smashing, taming, escaping, and eroding capitalism. There is no need here to go over the details of these. The smashing strategy corresponds to the classical idea of revolution; taming and eroding roughly correspond to the idea of transformation through some more gradual process of reform and metamorphosis.

    I reject the plausibility of rupture and endorse the possibility of transforming capitalism through taming and eroding capitalism. Riley is highly critical of this conclusion, arguing that a revolutionary rupture is the necessary condition for these more incremental strategies to have any real prospect of working. He writes:

    “Wright’s political instincts are obviously quite radical, but his strategic recommendations are woefully inadequate. The basic problem is that Wright tells us nothing about what is still the central task of any viable strategy for winning socialism: destroying the entrenched political and economic power of the capitalist class. Without some plausible strategy for at least decisively weakening the power of private owners of the means of production, it is unclear how a generous basic income or any of his other real utopias could be established . . .

    [T]he strategy of eroding capitalism requires a prior political break — a decisive confrontation with the capitalist state. To realize Wright’s real utopia, then, an approach informed more by military strategy and less by biology seems requisite.”

    Riley is especially dismissive of any variety of social democracy, and is thus quite critical of the attention I pay to exploring the possibility of taming capitalism (described as a “symbiotic transformation” in my book):

    “Wright’s account of strategy is marred by an enervating social-democratic orientation that leads away from a real engagement with the revolutionary socialist tradition. This is most evident in the contrasting discussions of ruptural and symbiotic transformations in his book on real utopias. Most of the short chapter on ruptural transformations is a critique based on the premise that they are unlikely to be in the material interests of the majority of the population. By contrast, Wright’s long and sympathetic chapter on symbiotic transformations devotes exactly one paragraph to critiques of social democracy.

    This distribution of attention is surprising, because ruptural transformations are the only examples of successful transitions to non-capitalist societies, however authoritarian they may have been. In contrast, social democracy and anarchism are, from the perspective of achieving socialism, clear examples of failure.”

    Riley is certainly correct in the claim that the revolutions of the twentieth century “are the only examples of successful transitions to non-capitalist societies,” but this is hardly an endorsement of ruptural strategies, at least if one accepts that the result of such attempts was authoritarian statism rather than an emancipatory alternative to capitalism.

    My argument was never that ruptures as such are not possible, but rather that the evidence suggests that system-level ruptures do not create favorable conditions for building socialism, understood as a democratic, egalitarian, solidaristic alternative to capitalism.

    I make two main arguments for the implausibility of ruptural strategies, especially in complex, advanced capitalist societies.

    First, I argue that if a revolutionary socialist party gained power and launched a system-level rupture as the starting point for socialist construction, this would generate a long transition in which the living standards of most people would significantly decline. Even if we assume that the rupture occurs against a background of long term economic decline, this would still impose great hardships on workers.

    Under democratic conditions (freedom of speech and association with open competitive elections, etc.) it is not plausible that the political coalition for the transition would remain intact over several election cycles in a context of deep economic disruption and widespread privation.

    The result would be, if elections were held, that the revolutionary party pursuing rupture would be defeated and the transition would be reversed.

    Second, if, in the face of these conditions, the socialists refused to give up power and opted for an antidemocratic solution in which opposition was repressed, then a transition out of capitalism might be sustainable, but the destination would not be socialism as understood here.

    Given the level of social disorder and conflict that would be unleashed under these conditions, the coercion by such a state would not simply consist of short-term emergency measures, but would be institutionalized as broad authoritarian statism.

    This has certainly been the outcome of attempts at revolutionary anticapitalist ruptures in the last century. Riley’s suggestion that “military strategy” is the appropriate way of thinking about the struggle for transcending capitalism is a recipe for the self-destruction of socialist aspirations.

    But what about Riley’s judgment that “social democracy and anarchism are, from the perspective of achieving socialism, clear examples of failure”? To be sure, twentieth-century social democracy never achieved “socialism” in the sense of creating an economic system in which socialist relations were dominant.

    But in terms of taming capitalism in ways that allowed for greater space for socialist relations within capitalist economies, social democracy achieved significant successes for at least some time: the dramatic reduction of risks faced by workers in the labor market through the partial decommodification of labor; the provision of an expansive array of publicly provided goods and services that constituted significant components of living standards and enhanced the quality of life; modest measures of worker social empowerment within capitalist firms through unions and works councils and other mechanisms; and the realization of a low level of income inequality in the economy as a whole.

    Capitalism remained dominant to be sure; all of these developments occurred within limits imposed by the continued capitalist control over investment.
    But this does not mean that they were failures from the socialist point of view: at its peak, northern European social democracy presided over a less capitalist capitalism, a capitalism with a stronger current of (though still subordinate) socialism.

    The fact that ultimately this development was arrested and at least somewhat reversed does not negate its achievement.

    The Problem of the Capitalist State

    Even if one accepts my argument that capitalist economic systems should be treated as heterogeneous ecosystems dominated by capitalism rather than as totalities, and that socialist economic organizations and processes can exist within a capitalism-dominated system, there is still the problem raised by Riley that the existence of the capitalist state ensures that such elements could never actually act like “invasive species” capable of eroding the dominance of capitalism.

    “The inauguration of socialism will not resemble the introduction of an invasive species,” Riley writes, “for the simple reason that capitalist economies, unlike ecosystems, are backed by political institutions that are specifically designed to eliminate such species as soon as they begin to threaten the system.”

    The central point of a rupture, then, is to transform the capitalist state in such a way as to make it a suitable instrument for facilitating the construction of alternative economic relations.

    I disagree with this account. While the capitalist state’s structures are not well-suited for facilitating the expansion of socialist organizations, they are beset with enough internal contradictions that they do not necessarily block such development.

    In particular, there is a chronic tension in capitalist states between the imperatives for state action in the short run to stabilize capitalism and the long-term dynamic consequences of those actions.

    These temporal inconsistencies can become contradictions in which the capitalist state would tolerate, and perhaps even encourage, economic practices rooted in social power because of the ways these help solve immediate problems even though they might have long-term effects that undermine the dominance of capitalism.

    Historical evidence for this possibility can be found first in the history of feudalism, and also in the experience of twentieth-century social democracy. The feudal state facilitated merchant capitalism even though in the long run the dynamics of merchant capitalism was corrosive of feudal relations. Mercantile capitalism helped solve immediate problems for the feudal ruling class, and this is what mattered.

    Similarly, in the middle of the twentieth century, the capitalist state facilitated the growth of a vibrant public sector and public regulation of capitalism associated with social democracy. Social democracy helped solve a series of problems within capitalism — it helped reproduce capitalism — while at the same time expanding the space for various socialist elements in the economic ecosystem.

    The fact that this array of state actions contributed to the stability of mid-twentieth-century capitalism is sometimes taken as an indication that there was nothing non-capitalist about these policies, and that they could not in any way be considered corrosive of capitalism.

    This is a mistake. It is entirely possible for a form of state intervention to have the immediate effects of solving problems for capitalism, and even strengthening capitalism, and nevertheless set in motion dynamics that have the potential to erode the dominance of capitalism.

    Indeed, it is precisely this property of social-democratic initiatives that eventually lead to the attacks on the capitalism-encroaching practices of social democracy under the banner of neoliberalism. Capitalists came to see the expansive affirmative state as creating progressively sub-optimal conditions for capital accumulation.

    One interpretation of the episode of social-democratic success and then reversal is that this just shows that reforms within capitalism that threaten capitalism are unsustainable. In the end, the capitalist state lives up to its mission of protecting capitalism by eliminating such threats.

    The alternative interpretation is that this arena of struggle and possibility is much less determinate. After all, even after four decades of neoliberalism, many of the achievements of the welfare state remain in place.

    Prospects for the Twenty-First Century

    The question in the twenty-first century, then, is whether or not this kind of temporal disjuncture is still possible within the capitalist state. Are there state interventions which could solve pressing problems faced by capitalism but which, nevertheless, also have the potential long-run consequence of expanding the space in which democratic, egalitarian economic relations can develop?

    There are two trends that suggest some grounds for optimism about possibilities for the kinds of state initiatives that could potentially foster long-term erosion of capitalist dominance.

    First, global warming is likely to spell the end of neoliberalism. Even aside from the issue of mitigating climate change through a conversion to non-carbon emitting energy production, the necessary adaptations to global warming will require a massive expansion of state-provided public goods.

    The market is simply not going to build sea walls to protect Manhattan. The scale of resources needed for such state interventions could easily reach the levels of the major wars of the twentieth century.

    Even though capitalist firms will profit enormously from such infrastructural public goods production — just as they profit from military production in times of war — the financing of such projects will require substantial tax increases and an effort ideologically at rehabilitating the role of the affirmative state in the provision of public goods.

    If these processes occur within the framework of capitalist democracy, then this will open up more space for broader, socially directed state interventions.

    The second trend with which the capitalist state will have to contend is the long-term employment effects of technological changes of the information revolution. Of course, with every wave of technological change there is speculation about the destruction of jobs leading to a widespread marginalization and permanent structural unemployment, but in previous waves, economic growth eventually created sufficient jobs in new sectors to overcome deficits in employment.

    The forms of automation in the digital age, which are now penetrating deep into the service sector, including sectors of professional services, makes it much less likely that future economic growth will provide adequate employment opportunities through the capitalist market.

    The magnitude of this problem is further intensified by the globalization of capitalist production. As the century progresses, these problems will only get worse and will not be solved by spontaneous operation of market forces.

    The result is increasing precariousness and marginalization of a significant portion of the population. Even aside from social justice considerations, this development is likely to generate social instability and costly conflict.

    These two trends taken together pose major new challenges to the capitalist state: the need for a massive increase in the provision of public goods to deal with climate change, and the need for new policies to deal with broad economic marginalization caused by technological change.

    This is the context in which popular mobilizations and struggles have some prospect of producing new forms of state intervention which could underwrite the expansion of more democratic-egalitarian forms of economic activity coexisting with capitalism within the economic ecosystem.

    More specifically, consider the following scenario: the necessity to deal with adaptations to climate change marks the end of neoliberalism and its ideological strictures. The affirmative state embarks on the needed large-scale public works projects and also takes a more intrusive role economic planning around energy production and transportation systems to accelerate the shift from carbon-based energy.

    In this context, the broader range of roles for the state is back on the political agenda, including an expansive understanding of the need for public goods and the state’s responsibility for jobs in the face of increasing marginalization and economic inequality. But full employment through capitalist labor markets seems increasingly implausible.

    One approach to responding to these challenges is unconditional basic income (UBI), a policy proposal that is already being given increased public discussion today.

    The design is simple: every resident receives a monthly income, without any conditions, sufficient to live at a culturally respectable, no-frills standard of living. It is paid for out of general taxation and paid out to everyone regardless of their economic standing.

    Of course, for people with well-paying jobs taxes would increase by more than the UBI they receive, so their net income (wages + UBI – taxes) would decline. But for many net contributors, it would still be the case that the existence of a UBI component to their income would be experienced as a stabilizing element that reduces the risks they face in the labor market.

    A basic income is a possible form of state intervention that responds to the difficult challenges confronting the state in the face of the decline of acceptable employment opportunities within capitalist markets.

    From the point of view of the reproduction of capitalism, UBI would accomplish three things.

    First, it would mitigate the worst effects of inequality and poverty generated by marginalization, and thus contribute to social stability.

    Second, it would underwrite a different model of income-generating work: the self-creation of jobs to generate discretionary income for people. UBI would make a wide range of self-employment attractive to people even if the self-created jobs did not generate enough income to live on.

    One can imagine, for example, that more people would be interested in being small farmers and commercial gardeners if they had a UBI to cover their basic costs of living.

    And third, UBI would stabilize the consumer market for capitalist production. As a system of production, automated production by capitalist firms inherently faces the problem of not employing enough people in the aggregate to buy the things produced. UBI provides a widely dispersed demand for basic consumption goods.

    If an unconditional basic income is an attractive solution to problems facing capitalism, how can it also contribute to the erosion of capitalism? A central feature of capitalism is what Marx referred to as the double separation of workers — separation from the means of production and from the means of subsistence. Unconditional basic income reunites workers with the means of subsistence, even though they remain separated from the means of production.

    A tax-financed unconditional basic income provided by the state would thus enable workers to refuse capitalist employment and choose, instead, to engage in all sorts of non-capitalist economic activities, including those constructed through social power.

    Worker cooperatives, for example, would become much more economically viable if the members of the cooperative had a basic income guaranteed independently of the commercial success of the cooperative.

    UBI would also help solve credit market problems currently faced by worker cooperatives by making capital loans to cooperatives more attractive to banks: such loans would suddenly become less risky since the income stream generated by a cooperative would not need to cover the basic standard of living of its members.

    UBI would underwrite a flowering of the solidarity economy, noncommercial performing arts, community activism, and much more. Unconditional basic income thus expands the space for sustainable socialist — socially empowered — economic relations.

    Furthermore, the same technological developments that create the problem of marginalization also, ironically, may contribute to a more robust space for the expansion and deepening of economic activities organized in a more democratic, egalitarian, and solidaristic manner.

    One of the material conditions of production that helps anchor capitalism is the increasing returns to scale in industrial production: when the unit costs of producing hundreds of thousands of something is much lower than producing only a few, it is difficult for small-scale producers to be competitive in a market.

    The hallmark of the industrial era of capitalist development is massive returns to scale. The new technologies of the twenty-first century are, in many sectors, dramatically reducing the returns to scale, making small-scale, localized production more viable. Basically, the amount of capital needed to buy sufficient means of production to be competitive in the market declines in a digital world.

    This, in turn, is likely to make solidarity economy enterprises and worker cooperatives more viable as well, since they operate more effectively at a relatively small scale oriented to local markets. The changing forces of production expand the possibilities for new relations of production.

    Other state policies, many of which can be organized at the local level, could further stabilize a dynamic non-capitalist sector. One of the obstacles to many varieties of social production is access to physical space: land for community gardens and farms, workshops for manufacturing, offices and studios for design, performance spaces for the performing arts, and so on.

    These could be provided as public amenities by local states interested in creating favorable infrastructure for these more democratic-egalitarian forms of economic activity.

    Community land trusts can underwrite urban agriculture. Publicly provided or subsidized makerspaces and fablabs with 3D printers and other digital manufacturing technologies can underwrite physical production. Educational institutions could also provide training specifically around issues of cooperative management and social production.

    The combination of a UBI facilitating the exit of people from the capitalist sector of the economy, new technologies facilitating the development of non-capitalist forms of production, and a congenial local state to provide better infrastructure for these initiatives, means that over time the sector of the economy organized through social power could develop deeper roots and expand in as yet unforeseen ways.

    All of this would occur, it is important to stress, within capitalism, and thus inevitably these non-capitalist forms of production would have to find ways of surviving within a still dominant capitalist economy. One key aspect of this is to provide, in one way or another, some positive benefits for the capitalist sector.

    Many inputs to the non-capitalist sector would be themselves produced by capitalist firms; producers in the non-capitalist sector would purchase some of their consumption, perhaps most, from capitalist firms; and the state’s production of public goods would also often involve contracts with capitalist firms.

    Even after this new configuration stabilized, the state would still be superintending an economy within which capitalism remained prominent, and almost certainly dominant. But the dominance of capitalism would be reduced insofar as it imposed much weaker constraints on the ways people gain their livelihoods and open new possibilities for ongoing struggles to enlarge the scope of social power within the economy.

    There is, of course, nothing inevitable about this trajectory. There is certainly no guarantee that a basic income would ever be instituted, or if it were instituted, that UBI would be accompanied by state initiatives to create supportive infrastructure for the expansion of democratic, socially empowered forms of economic activity.

    There is also certainly no guarantee that an unconditional basic income would be used by its recipients to construct socially empowered economic structures. UBI can also be used purely for individual consumption. As Philippe van Parijs argues in his book Real Freedom For All, UBI redistributes “real freedom” to people and thus enables beachcombers and couch potatoes as well worker cooperatives and the social economy.

    The specter of those who don’t work “exploiting” those who do is one of the potent moral arguments against UBI, and such claims could certainly block political efforts for UBI, or at least result in adding undesirable conditions of eligibility to the program.

    What’s more, an unconditional basic income sufficiently generous to set in motion a dynamic expansion of non-capitalist economic activities would be costly, although by no means beyond the fiscal capacity of capitalist states, and so it is likely that if a UBI were to be passed it would be set at a level below what is necessary for a decent life. This would also undermine the potential for UBI to have long-term anticapitalist effects.

    For these reasons, the prospects for eroding capitalism, aided by unconditional basic income and other interventions of the capitalist state, depends in significant ways on political mobilization and struggles over the state; it cannot rely on the enlightenment of elites.

    If, as Riley argues, the limits of possibility inscribed in the capitalist character of the state are so narrow as to prevent state actions that have the effect of facilitating the growth of these kinds of non-capitalist economic processes, then such mobilization can never succeed and the prospects of eroding capitalism are remote.

    But if disjunctures between present problem-solving and future consequences are possible, and if popular social forces mobilize around an agenda of consolidating alternative economic spaces, then it is possible that a significant expansion of economic activity built around democratic, egalitarian, and solidaristic values could be possible.

    And this, in turn, could provide the foundation for a socialist trajectory beyond capitalism through the interplay of reforms from above that open up new spaces for democratic social power and initiatives from below to fill those spaces with new economic activity.

    Of course, I could be wrong. I am a committed socialist and I want a theory of society that makes socialism possible. It could turn out that economic systems are not really like an ecosystem in which the dominance of capitalism can be eroded over time; the capitalist state might not be internally contradictory in ways that leave openings for meaningful emancipatory reforms. A coherent strategy for socialism may thus not be possible.

    Nevertheless, given the limitations of our current knowledge about how social systems work and given the great ambiguities and uncertainties about what the future holds, it is a reasonable working hypothesis that it is possible to combine the long-term goal of transcending capitalism with the practical struggles to create new possibilities within the constraints of the world as it is. The only way to test whether this is right or wrong is to try to change the world.

  • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

    Tom Wetzel critique of Wright.

    Erik Olin Wright on the transition to socialism

    July 24, 2015 Ideas&Action 0

    By Tom Wetzel

    In his new book Envisioning Real Utopias, Erik Olin Wright suggests that proposals for a what he calls “democratic egalitarian socialism” — and strategies for transition to such a society — should be evaluated “scientifically” — that is, based on evidence and our best understanding of society — and his book attempts to do this.

    In what follows I will look only at Wright’s discussion of strategies for the transition to democratic, egalitarian socialism.

    Wright divides transitional strategies into three types, which he calls ruptural, interstitial, and symbiotic.

    Ruptural transition

    In talking about “ruptural” transitions, Wright has in mind the traditional concept of revolution, of a fundamental break with capitalist institutions. For most Marxists historically as well as for anarcho-syndicalists, this was conceived of as arising out of the class struggle.

    But Wright completely ignores the syndicalist conception of a ruptural transition, which looks to events such as a mass general strike and a general worker takeover of industries. This is a major hole in Wright’s discussion.

    When thinking of ruptural strategies, Wright seems to have in mind traditional Leninist conceptions of a revolution. For example, he defines the force for transition as “classes organized into parties.” He then defines what he calls “an optimistic scenario” for a “ruptural” transition this way:

    “Suppose that in a democratic process an emancipatory socialist party were to gain control of the state with a large majority of the vote and had sufficient power to launch a serious program of socialist transformation.” And he considers that this “transformation” might be either his preferred solution of market socialism based on things like cooperatives and democratization of local government, or it might be “a democratic version of a statist socialist program of state ownership and control of the most important economic organizations.”

    Wright’s scepticism about an “insurrection” against the state in the present era is surely warranted, at least in the more developed capitalist countries. And not only because of the vast armed power of the state. In countries where Communist revolutions were propelled by guerrilla armies in the post-World War 2 era an authoritarian regime emerged in all cases where they “succeeded” and became an instrument of a bureaucratic dominating class.

    But Wright isn’t thinking about an extra-parliamentary path. He’s thinking about an electoral socialist party with a strong commitment to a rapid and totalistic sort of program of change. He thinks it unlikely that such a party would be able to sustain victories in elections long enough to be able to carry this out, given the likely degree of conflict and opposition such a program would invoke.

    In particular, Wright emphasizes the likely social costs of the conflict and struggle in such a period, and how this is likely to scare off “middle class” support.

    There is, as I see it, another problem to the socialist party path that Wright doesn’t consider…the way in which being a successful party undermines commitment to the empowerment of the working class. The aim of such a party is to implement its program through the hierarchical institutions of the state. An electoral party also tends to focus attention on the individual leaders who are presented for election. Both of these aspects of partyist socialism tend to favor concentration of decision-making authority and expertise into the hands of a few. This is itself the very basis of the class power of the bureaucratic class. Liberation of the working class requires that this concentration of authority and expertise be broken down, through
    democratization of skills and expertise, and by expanding the role of direct, participatory forms of democracy.

    Thus the mistake in Wright’s conception of a “ruptural” path is that he only thinks in partyist terms. It’s true that partyism was always a central feature of Marxism. But there is also the non-partyist alternative of mass movements rooted in the working class. Syndicalism was the main historical example of an extra-parliamentary path to socialism that tried to root this in directly democratic mass worker organizations…as an alternative to the hierarchy and bureaucracy that seem to be an inevitable consequence of the partyist strategy.

    Although Wright rejects a totalistic rupture with the institutions of capitalist society — at least in the advanced capitalist countries — he doesn’t
    totally reject the idea of rupture:

    “Partial ruptures, institutional breaks, and decisive innovations in specific spheres, may be possible, particularly in periods of severe economic crisis. Above all the conception of struggle within ruptural visions — struggle as challenge and confrontation, victories and defeats, rather than just collaborative problem-solving — remains essential for a realistic project of social empowerment.”

    Intersticial transition

    An “interstitial” strategy means building socialism “in the cracks” of capitalism through the development of alternative institutions such as worker and housing cooperatives. Wright thinks of this strategy as largely by-passing the state. Examples of alternative institutions Wright mentions are battered women’s shelters, worker coops, community land trusts, community-based social services, and fair trade organizations.

    An important figure in the origins of this strategy was Proudhon. Wright says this is “the anarchist strategy” but Wright is mistaken about this. Here I need to distinguish Proudhon and other individualist anarchists from class struggle-oriented forms of anarchism or libertarian socialism, such as anarchosyndicalism. Proudhon is best understood as an early advocate for market socialism. But most libertarian socialists reject market socialism.

    Most libertarian socialists do support worker cooperatives and other types of alternative institutions within the current society. But syndicalists conceive of libertarian, self-managed socialism as arising out of mass struggle, in confrontation with the dominating classes and the state, not by building alternative institutions.

    Proudhon is not representative of modern libertarian socialism, which only came together in the first International Working Men’s Association (the “first International”) in the 1860s-70s, and included figures like Michael Bakunin and Anselmo Lorenzo. In the first International the libertarian socialists joined with the Marxists to oppose the various proposals of the followers of Proudhon.

    Libertarian syndicalists support alternative institutions because of their practical value for movements at present and because they illustrate the workability of self-management as a more general solution for society. But syndicalists do not believe that the power of the capitalists and the institutions of the prevailing system can be overcome simply by building alternative institutions within the cracks of the existing system.

    Wright suggests that the advantage to an “interstitial” strategy is that it can develop a rich set of institutions apart from the logic of capitalist exploitation and domination that can sustain people and society through the difficult economic circumstances and conflicts in a period of transition. He conceives of the limits of this strategy as its unwillingness to engage the state, which stands as the main institution that can’t be changed or removed by the interstitial strategy. This is Wright’s main objection to the interstitial strategy.

    I think it rather unlikely that alternative institutions such as cooperatives can become large enough to provide the kind of large-scale social support to avoid the havoc that Wright fears in a period of transition to socialism.

    Here again a limit of Wright’s discussion is that he completely ignores the syndicalist strategy. He mentions the IWW as endorsing the idea of “building the new society in the shell of the old” but ignores how the IWW actually interpreted that. The IWW did not conceive of a transition to worker-managed socialism in terms of building worker cooperatives. In The General Strike for Industrial Freedom — the main IWW statement of their conception of transition — Ralph Chaplin paints a scenario of a “revolutionary general strike on the job” — workers in the various workplaces continuing production under their own control, evicting management from power.

    This also addresses somewhat the issue of the state because the syndicalist strategy envisioned a process of mass defection of the personnel in the public
    sector, not just in private industry. Thus Wright is incorrect when he says that anarchists only envision activity “outside the state.” Public sector workers are not “outside the state.”

    Moreover, if it’s a question of how to keep the economy going and meet people’s needs in a difficult period of conflict and transition, it seems to me the syndicalist takeover strategy is more plausible than the strategy of building up coops and other alternative institutions… because this alternative sector is unlikely to become large enough to play the role that Wright has in mind.

    In saying this, I’m not saying we should not also build up alternative institutions. Rather, I am suggesting there are limits to the change in society that can be achieved that way. And it’s not just due to the power of the state. Capital’s ability to grow through exploitation and the concentrated capitalist domination of many industries means that the alternative sector will tend to be marginalized.

    Wright argues that the state isn’t just functional for protecting and continuing the system of exploitation and domination but is a more complex institution with a variety of purposes. I agree with him on this point.

    I think the state is itself an internally conflicted institution. It’s separation from real popular control and its hierarchical internal structure and domination of work by managers and top professionals give it the separation from population control that is needed to play its role of defending the interests of the dominating classes.

    But the state also must be able to govern, maintain social peace and keep social conflict from getting out of hand. It needs to be concerned about the system’s legitimacy. And thus the state is the site of compromises with external movements and protests.

    The state embodies gains from past struggles and protests and previous concessions to the majority of the population…civil liberties, universal voting in
    elections, systems of regulation and limits on private power, and systems of benefits such as various public services.

    But it seems to me that the more independent a mass movement is, the greater its ability to put pressure on the state to obtain concessions. Thus I don’t
    see how this is an argument for a social-democratic strategy of working within the state hierarchy.

    Symbiotic transition

    Working through the state in the fashion of social-democratic parties is what Wright calls a symbiotic strategy. This is the idea of using the state to incrementally change society in the direction of socialism.

    Wright is aware that these parties typically enact reforms that often end up helping capitalism in various ways. Trade union gains, Keynesian economic policies, and the social wage all tend to sustain consumer spending for example, and thus increase the markets that capitalist firms need to make a profit. This is why he calls this strategy “symbiotic.” Moreover, social-democratic parties in power also show a tendency over time to identify with the needs of the dominating classes in their countries…they become coopted in various ways.

    One limitation of the social-democratic strategy of regulating capital and building up state services is that it leaves capitalist power intact. This power
    will inevitably be used to counter-attack and take back gains once the balance of power shifts in its favor. The past three decades of the “neo-liberal” tendencies in all the advanced capitalist countries is evidence of this.

    Moreover, I disagree that this is a strategy of “social empowerment,” as Wright sometimes calls it. Because of the state’s hierarchical structure and lack
    of effective popular control over it, it’s hard to see how this is supposed to be a means to “empowerment” of the oppressed and exploited.

    Just to take one example, Wright mentions the participatory budgeting process in some Brazilian cities under Workers Party governments, such as the city government in Porto Alegre. This is given as an example of what can be achieved through the “symbiotic” strategy.

    The anarchist groups in these cities have a different perception…they see it as more semblance than reality. In 2003, I interviewed Eduardo, a member of
    the secretariat of the Federacao Anarquista Gaucha in Porto Alegre. FAG is a group of about 60 anarchists involved in urban land takeovers, union opposition groups and other grassroots organizing. Eduardo told me that the mayor and top city officials can select among the proposals that filter up from the neighborhood assemblies in Porto Alegre. Thus there is no guarantee that the actual allocation of funds will really be set by the priorities decided at the base. And this process covers only 11 percent of the city budget.

    The historical trajectory of social-democratic parties does not seem to me to support the idea that this is a plausible transitional strategy towards working class empowerment. The European social-democratic parties have tended to abandon their socialist values and goals in favor of forms of liberalism that accept capitalism as a permanent part of the social landscape. The focus on building a party machine and winning elections inevitably tends to empower the party leaders and political figures. It tends to empower the “middle class” elements in these parties. And politicians tend to favor state control and statist programs because it emphasizes their role.

    Transitional pluralism

    Wright advocates what he calls “transitional pluralism”, that is, the use of all three of the transitional strategies that he defines — working through
    electoral politics and the state, building alternative institutions in the cracks of the system, and struggles by mass movements that can make breakthroughs — partial ruptures — in opportune moments.

    With the collapse of Communism and the decline of support for Leninism, many Marxists seem to have moved to a Left social-democratic point of view. And the socialist program among the Left social-democracy these days seems to be some form of market socialism. Cooperatives can be built up incrementally within the existing market framework. Thus mixing electoral party politics and the building of alternative institutions makes sense from the point of view of Wright’s preference for market socialism.

    My main criticism here is that I think Wright doesn’t sufficiently appreciate the importance of the independence of mass movements, from below, in relation to political parties, conservative trade union bureaucracies, and the state. In fact Wright’s discussion of the “symbiotic” strategy makes it clear that he is aware of the limitations of this approach.

    • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

      Review: Envisioning Real Utopias, by Erik Olin Wright
      Kevin Carson | @KevinCarson1 | Support this author on Patreon | December 15th, 2016

      Erik Olin Wright. Envisioning Real Utopias (London and New York: Verso, 2010).
      Although this book covers much of the same ground, and does much of the same work, as autonomist and post-capitalist theories like Hardt and Negri’s Commonwealth and Mason’s Postcapitalism, Olin-Wright comes from the entirely different tradition of analytical Marxism. This school approaches Marxist theory from a background of analytic philosophy and public choice theory; Wright himself is a sociologist, rather than a political economist.
      This may explain why he rules out any comprehensive theory of history from the outset. Specifically, in Chapter Four, he rejects Marx’s model of a historical trajectory which views capitalism as a historic system with an end as well as a beginning, and of socialism as something which will fully emerge following the terminal crises of capitalism. As I will argue below, this amounts to discarding some extremely valuable tools for anticipating the course of post-capitalist transition.

      I will say right now, just in passing, that Marx is far from the only thinker with historical theories of terminal crises and transition. Anarchist thinkers like Bakunin shared a very similar materialist conception of history with Marx. And a wide variety of thinkers including Thomas Hodgskin and J.A. Hobson have proceeded from non-Marxist theories of surplus extraction to overaccumulationist/underconsumptionist theories of terminal crisis that functionally overlap quite extensively with Marxist theories of late capitalism. Michel Bauwens’s theory of the twin crises of capitalism, threatening both the artificial abundance of natural resources and artificial scarcity of information that it depends on, are also quite convincing.

      In Chapter Five, ruling out any comprehensive, universal schematic for the one ideal socialist society, Wright sketches out a few axes along which progress towards basic socialist values can be measured. The metrics all cluster around the basic values implied by the “social” in “socialism.”

      He is less interested in dogmatic definitions of socialism based on formal ownership of the means of production than in squishy details like transfer rights and rights over distribution of the product. He also contrasts the concept of socialism, in the sense of “common” or “social ownership,” with both capitalist and state ownership. Social ownership can mean ownership by everyone in a given social unit — including a cooperative enterprise or a kibbutz. That doesn’t mean that state ownership can’t be a form of social ownership — but it requires a state that’s deeply democratic in character. In addition, Wright deliberately refrains from specifying the role of markets in a socialist system, explicitly leaving open the possibility that markets might be part of a system based on social power.

      Socialism, as an overall system, is one in which not only are the means of production socially owned but economic decisions are determined primarily by “social power” (i.e., “power rooted in the capacity to mobilize people for cooperative, voluntary collective actions of various sorts in civil society”). A “democracy” is a political system in which the state is firmly subordinated to social power.

      So the degree of “socialism” is measured by three basic axes specifying the extent to which various social functions are subject to control by social power: Social empowerment over the way state power affects economic activity, over the way economic power shapes economic activity, and directly over economic activity itself.

      “Social empowerment” on these three axes can be exercised through a wide variety of means and under a wide variety of models, which Wright elaborates on in detail in the following two chapters.

      In defining the state, Wright rejects Weber’s “territorial monopoly of force” definition in favor of Michael Mann’s: “the organization with an administrative capacity to impose binding rules and regulations over territories.” This can include a monopoly of force as one of the means of imposing those rules, but not necessarily the most important means.

      And a state according to Mann’s definition can take on an only tenuously statelike character, if the binding rules apply only to a network of self-selected bodies for whom agreement on basic rule-sets is necessary. In this regard it is compatible with a number of Saint-Simonian theories of the state’s function devolving (or “withering away”) “from government of people to the administration of things,” including Proudhon’s and Marx’s. The most relevant contemporary theory is probably that of the Partner State, originally formulated by Cosma Orsi and recently popularized by Michel Bauwens of the Foundation for P2P Alternatives. In this vision, the Partner State functions less as a traditional state than as a basic support infrastructure, utility or platform on which a society of commons-based peer production depends.

      In discussing alternative transitional strategies, Wright distinguishes between views of systemic change centered on rupture and those centered on metamorposis. The latter category he divides into interstitial and symbiotic strategies. Symbiotic strategies attempt to promote pro-working class transformations through changes that also simultaneously solve crises of capitalism (sounding a lot like Gorz’s “non-reformist reforms”).

      Ruptural and interstitial strategies, in particular, correspond fairly closely to (respectively) Old Left strategies based on organizational mass and insurrectional seizure of power, and contemporary horizontalist strategies based on prefigurative institutions and counter-power.

      “In ruptural strategies, classes organized through political parties are the central collective actors…. Interstitial strategies revolve around social movements rooted in a heterogeneous set of constituencies, interests, and identities. On one social category is privileged as the leader of the project of transformation. Different collective actors will be best positioned to engage in different kinds of interstitial strategies….

      Ruptural strategies envision a political process that culminates in a frontal attack on the state. State power is essential for transcending capitalism…. Interstitial strategies in contrast operate outside the state and try as much as possible to avoid confrontations with state power. The core idea is to build counter-hegemonic institutions in society. There might be contexts in which struggles against the state could be required to create or defend these spaces, but the core of the strategy is to work outside the state.” Symbiotic strategies, finally, envision treating the state as terrain for struggle “in which the possibility exists of using the state to build social power both within the state itself and in other sites of power.”

      Unlike ruptural strategies which treat war as a central metaphor, interstitial ones are “more like a complex ecological system in which one kind of organism initially gains a foothold in a niche but eventually out-competes rivals for food sources and so comes to dominate the wider environment.”

      Wright himself is “quite skeptical of the possibility of system-wide ruptural strategies” given the institutional situation in the early 21st century, and at one point seems to dismiss support for them as mainly the province of young, romantic activists. Nevertheless he considers them worthy of study not only to identify their shortcomings and delineate their differences with other strategies, but also because they may be more relevant under special circumstances or local conditions, and may become relevant on a large scale again as a result of unforeseen systemic changes.

      At the same time, in considering circumstances where a ruptural strategy may be viable, he blurs the practical lines between ruptural and symbiotic strategies. In Western liberal democracies, he argues, a successful ruptural strategy will be likely to take a primarily parliamentary and electoral route, with broad popular support, rather than an insurrectional one. The rupture, in the sense of radical systemic transformation, may be real; but it will be accomplished through democratic seizure of the state and “deepening democracy,” rather than overthrowing the state from outside.

      Wright’s “most likely scenario” for a successful ruptural strategy seems to reinforce his initial skepticism; he is pretty pessimistic for the retention of power and successful completion of socialist construction after electoral success. He concludes by suggesting that the interstitial strategy might be more realistic and promising.

      Like the postcapitalists, Wright mentions the transition from feudalism to capitalism as an example of interstitial transformation. He mentions the reference to “forming the structure of the new society within the shell of the old” in the I.W.W. Preamble and Colin Ward’s statement that “the parts are already at hand” in Anarchy in Action as examples of interstitialism as a conscious strategy. He also cites the WSF slogan “another world is possible”: “much of what they have in mind are anarchist-inflected grassroots initiatives to create worker and consumer cooperatives, fair-trade networks, cross-border labor standards campaigns, and other institutions that directly embody the alternative world they desire in the here and now.”

      Wright’s main disagreement with the post-capitalists is his dismissal of materialist theories of terminal crisis behind the transition process.
      Although interstitial and symbiotic strategies are conceptually distinct, and many of the advocates of each disparage the other, Wright considers them potentially complementary.

      “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.”

      Wright summarizes criticisms of the interstitial approach by insurrectionist movements, particularly Marxist ones:

      “Why many of these efforts at building alternative institutions may embody desirable values and perhaps even prefigure emancipatory forms of social relations, they pose no serious challenge to existing relations of power and domination. Precisely because they are “interstitial” they can only occupy the spaces that are “allowed” by capitalism. They may even strengthen capitalism by siphoning off discontent and creating the illusion that if people are unhappy with the dominant institutions they can and should just go off and live their lives in alternative settings. Ultimately, therefore, interstitial projects amount to a retreat from the political struggle for radical social transformation, not a viable strategy for achieving it. At best they may make life a little better for some people in the world as it is; at worst they deflect energies from the real political challenge of changing the world for the better.”

      In response to this criticism, Wright says that it presupposes that there currently is “an alternative strategy which does pose a ‘serious threat to the system,’ and… that this alternative strategy is undermined by the existence of interstitial efforts at social transformation.” But the fact is that no strategy poses a credible threat to the system under current conditions.  So the real task is to imagine “things we can do now which have a reasonable chance of opening up possibilities under contingent conditions in the future.”

      That leaves the question of the actual strategy of exactly how interstitial institutions and practices are supposed to be used to promote a post-capitalist transition — “how these interstitial activities could have broad transformative, emancipatory effects for the society as a whole. What is the underlying logic through which they might contribute to making another world possible?”

      “There are two principle ways that interstitial strategies within capitalism potentially point the way beyond capitalism: first, by altering the conditions for eventual rupture, and second, by gradually expanding their effective scope and depth of operation so that capitalist constraints cease to impose binding limits.
      I will refer to these as the revolutionary anarchist and evolutionary anarchist strategic visions, not because only anarchists hold these views, but because the broad idea of not using the state as an instrument of social emancipation is so closely linked to the anarchist tradition.”

      Even between the anarchists who envisioned a revolutionary rupture and the Marxists, there was a major difference in how they framed the relationship between prevolutionary practices and the actual revolution:

      “Where they differed sharply was in the belief of what sorts of transformations were needed within capitalism in order for a revolutionary rupture to plausibly usher in a genuinely emancipatory alternative. For Marx, and later for Lenin, the central task of struggles within capitalism is to forge the collective capacity of a politically unified working class needed to successfully seize state power as the necessary condition for overthrowing capitalism. The task of deep social reconstruction to create the environment for a new way of life with new principles, new forms of social interaction and reciprocity, would largely have to wait until “after the revolution.”

      For revolutionary anarchists, on the other hand, significant progress in such reconstruction is not only possible within capitalism, but is a necessary condition for a sustainable emancipatory rupture with capitalism. In discussing Proudhon’s views on revolution, Martin Buber writes,

      “[Proudhon] divined the tragedy of revolutions and came to feel it more and more deeply in the course of disappointing experiences. Their tragedy is that as regards their positive goal they will always result in the exact opposite of what the most honest and passionate revolutionaries strive for, unless and until this [deep social reform] has so far taken shape before the revolution that the revolutionary act has only to wrest the space for it in which it can develop unimpeded.”

      If we want a revolution to result in a deeply egalitarian, democratic, and participatory way of life, Buber writes,

      “the all-important fact is that, in the social as opposed to the political sphere, revolution is not so much a creative as a delivering force whose function is to set free and authenticate – i.e. that it can only perfect, set free, and lend the stamp of authority to something that has already been foreshadowed in the womb of the pre-revolutionary society; that, as regards social evolution, the hour of revolution is not an hour of begetting but an hour of birth – provided there was a begetting beforehand.”

      A rupture with capitalism is thus necessary in this strategic vision, but it requires a deep process of interstitial transformation beforehand if it is to succeed.”

      Wright sees four implicit arguments in this interstitial strategy:

      “First, supporters of the necessity of interstitial transformation within capitalism claim that such transformations can bring into capitalism some of the virtues of a society beyond capitalism. Thus the quality of life of ordinary people in capitalism is improved by such transformation….

      Second, the revolutionary anarchist strategy affirms that at some point such interstitial social transformations within capitalism hit limits which impose binding constraints…. Capitalism ultimately blocks the full realization of the potential of socially empowering interstitial transformations. A rupture with capitalism… becomes necessary to break through those limits if that potential is to advance further.

      Third, if capitalism has already been significantly internally transformed through socially empowering interstitial transformations, the transition trough will be tolerably shallow and of relatively short duration…. Successful interstitial transformations within capitalism mean that economic life becomes less dependent upon capitalist firms and capitalist markets as as capitalism continues. Workers co-operatives and consumer cooperatives have developed widely and play a significant role in the economy; the social economy provides significant basic needs; collective associations engage in a wide variety of socially empowered forms of regulation; and perhaps power relations within capitalist firms have been significantly transformed as well. Taken together, these changes mean that the economic disruption of the break with capitalism will be less damaging than in the absence of such interstitial transformations. Furthermore, the pre-ruptural transformations are palpable demonstrations to workers and other potential beneficiaries of socialism that alternatives to capitalism in which the quality of life is better are viable. This contributes to forming the political will for a rupture once the untransgressable limits within capitalism are encountered….

      And finally, egalitarian, democratic social empowerment will be sustainable after a rupture only if significant socially empowering interstitial transformations had occurred before the rupture. In the absence of such prior social empowerment, the rupture with capitalism will unleash strong centralizing and authoritarian tendencies that are likely to lead to a consolidation of an oppressive form of statism. Even well-intentioned socialists will be forced by the contradictions they confront to build a different kind of society than they wanted.”

      Interestingly, Wright compares this interstitial strategy to Gramsci’s war of position:

      “An alternative way of expressing these arguments is to use the language of Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci argued that in the West, with its strong civil society, socialist revolution required a prolonged “war of position” before a successful “war of maneuver” was possible. This means that the period before a rupture is a period of building an effective counter-hegemony. Gramsci’s emphasis was on building political and ideological counter-hegemony. While he did not directly discuss the issue of interstitial transformations in the economy and civil society, they could be viewed as transforming key aspects of the “material bases of consent” necessary for such a counter-hegemonic movement to be credible and sustainable.”

      The primary way that theories centered on Exodus differ from Wright’s pro-interstitial argument, I would point out in addition, is that they seriously downgrade their estimate of capitalism’s ability to impose insurmountable constraints, and of the need to seize control of the state to finish the transformation (more about which below)

      Wright adds that for evolutionary anarchists, the apparent limits to transformation at any given time are not necessarily hard and fast, but the limits themselves may be bypassed or altered by an interstitial strategy.

      “Capitalist structures and relations do impose limits on emancipatory social transformation through interstitial strategies, but those limits can themselves be eroded over time by appropriate interstitial strategies. The trajectory of change through interstitial strategy, therefore, will bemarked by periods in which limits of possibility are encountered and transformation is severely impeded. In such periods new interstitial strategies must be devised which erode those limits. In different historical periods, therefore, different kinds of interstitial strategies may play the critical role in advancing the process of social empowerment. Strategies for building worker cooperatives may be the most important in some periods, the extension of the social economy or the invention of new associational devices for controlling investments (eg. union controlled venture capital funds) in others. The important idea is that what appear to be “limits” are simply the effect of the power of specific institutional arrangements, and interstitial strategies have the capacity to create alternative institutions that weaken those limits. Whereas the revolutionary anarchist strategic scenario argues that eventually hard limits are encountered that cannot themselves be transformed from within the system, in this more evolutionary model the existing constraints can be softened to the point that a more accelerated process of interstitial transformation can take place until it too encounters new limits. There will thus be a kind of cycle of extension of social empowerment and stagnation as successive limits are encountered and eroded. Eventually, if this process can be sustained, capitalism itself would be sufficiently modified and capitalist power sufficiently undermined that it no longer imposed distinctively capitalist limits on the deepening of social empowerment. In effect, the system-hybridization process generated by interstitial strategies would have reached a tipping point in which the logic of the system as a whole had changed in ways that open-up the possibilities for continued social empowerment.”

      Of course it’s possible that an insurmountable block (like an authoritarian state) may genuinely require shifting to a ruptural strategy. The point, Wright argues, is that there’s nothing in capitalism as such that prevents gradually changing capitalism from within through interstitial activities.

      Despite his obvious sympathies for the approach and openness to incorporate it as a significant part of any hybridized transitional strategy, Wright’s view of the practical limitations of interstitial strategy is faulty.

      “Interstitial strategies may create enlarged spaces for non-commodified, non-capitalist economic relations, but it seems unlikely that this could sufficiently insulate most people from dependency on the capitalist economy and sufficiently weaken the power of the capitalist class and the dependency of economic activity on capital accumulation to render the transition trough in the revolutionary scenario short and shallow. And while interstitial strategies may expand the scope of social empowerment, it is difficult to see how they could ever by themselves sufficiently erode the basic structural power of capital to dissolve the capitalist limits on emancipatory social change.”

      At the end of Chapter 10, as a segue to the next chapter, he raises the question of the state’s role and the differences over that issue between the interstitial and symbiotic approaches.

      “The basic problem of both scenarios concerns their stance towards the state. The anarchist tradition of social emancipation understands that both civil society and the economy are only loosely integrated systems which allow considerable scope for direct action to forge new kinds of relations and practices. In contrast, anarchists tend to view the state as a monolithic, integrated institution, without significant cracks and only marginal potentials for emancipatory transformation. For revolutionary anarchists, in fact, the state is precisely the institution which makes an ultimate rupture necessary: the coercive power of the state enforces the untransgressable limits on social empowerment. Without the state, the erosion of capitalist power through interstitial transformation could proceed in the manner described by evolutionary anarchists.

      This is not a satisfactory understanding of the state in general or the state in capitalist societies in particular. The state is no more a unitary, fully integrated structure of power than is the economy or civil society. And while the state may indeed be a “capitalist state” which plays a substantial role in reproducing capitalist relations, it is not merely a capitalist state embodying a pure functional logic for sustaining capitalism. The state contains a heterogeneous set of apparatuses, unevenly integrated into a loosely-coupled ensemble, in which a variety of interests and ideologies interact. It is an arena of struggle in which contending forces in civil society meet. It is a site for class compromise as well as class domination. In short, the state must be understood not simply in terms of its relationship to social reproduction, but also in terms of the gaps and contradictions of social reproduction.

      What this means is that emancipatory transformations should not simply ignore the state as envisioned by evolutionary interstitial strategies, nor can it realistically smash the state, as envisioned by ruptural strategies. Social emancipation must involve, in one way or another, engaging the state, using it to further the process of emancipatory social empowerment. This is the central idea of symbiotic transformation.”

      Wright’s pessimistic view of the limits of interstitial strategy seriously neglects the fundamental shift in correlation of forces resulting from the radical downsizing of the majority production technology in terms of both scale and cost (which reduces the significance of “seizing the means of production” as a strategic goal), and the possibilities of networked communications and stigmergic organization (which reduce the significance of the old “commanding heights” command-and-control institutions for coordinating activity and overcoming transaction costs). These intellectual blinders are part and parcel, in my opinion, of his earlier rejection of all historical theories of material causation behind the transition process.

      He is entirely correct, I think, in refusing to treat the state as a monolithic entity and raising the possibility of engaging or transforming parts of it. And the possibility of “non-reformist reforms” should not be dismissed. But that’s not to say his vision of class compromise on the New Deal model is anywhere near as centrally important as he makes it out to be in Chapter Eleven. To the extent that class compromise is useful (in our day it might take the form of land value taxation plus basic income plus radical rollback of “intellectual property” law), it’s more for the purpose of creating a congenial environment for the primary tasks of transition, which will be carried out through interstitial institution-building.

      The New Deal/Social Democratic model of class compromise that Wright takes as his paradigmatic example, on the other hand, treats the institutional forms of mass production society — institutional forms which today are technologically obsolete — as its core logic. That really entails, as Negri and Hardt argued in Commonwealth, incorporating new technology into an archaic institutional framework in order to integrate or re-integrate the working class into the wage system. And, in turn, it means actively promoting such hierarchical, centralized and high-overhead models at the expense of interstitial counter-institutions based on opposing principles.

      Also Wright’s rejection in principle of all historical theories of terminal systemic crisis or phase transition severely constrains any hope of a class compromise that transforms the fundamental character of the state — unlike Bauwens’s development of the partner state as something defined by its relationship to a fundamentally altered society with commons and networks as its core logic.

      So Wright’s analysis, despite its weaknesses, is extremely useful to post-capitalist theories based on the hierarchies-to-networks transition, stigmergic organization and self-organized, prefigurative institutions. But it becomes far more valueable when rendered more coherent by grounding in a proper theory of history.

  • Boulder Dash 18th Jan 2019

    I look forward to Dave’s critique of both.

  • Dave Jones 18th Jan 2019

    OK men ( if that ain't your pronoun sorry) we are going for the longest thread record, talking Guiness Book, and now I kinda want a beer, and I have some, get this, peanut butter imperial stout, from the Empire. Actually from Vista CA. Unbelievable. Sin Tax, they call it (with a smirk). But I really appreciate your thorough engagement and Alex's work with coops causes me to look at my own pathetic activity- revolutionary typing- with a tinge of derision... but...I'm on the cusp of a project I can't say too much about yet, a project where I still type but with actual(possible) implications. All very hush hush.

    as for Wright, yeah, but what about the ticking climate clock, inexorable, relentless, deafeningly silent? Each second forecloses yet another option. If by "partial rupture" we mean something that puts the Capitalist State into a legitimation crisis yet falls short of an anarchic failed state, then let's figure out how. Derrick Jensen anyone?

    I'm feeling sort of expansive ( after that beer) so I'll just say it's good these folks are doing this theoretical work in a spirit of comradeship. Boulder is correct that these are old, familiar debates but nonetheless important. Just glad there are smart anti-capitalists out there.

    • Boulder Dash 19th Jan 2019

      Just went to a friends 50th...also had beers...late night...party raging across the fucking road...dj shit...I mean I just came from dj shit...what the fuck..drove home listening to Eddie Harris’ Freedom Jazz Dance and Lee Morgan’s Side Winder...loud...Jesus, next to both you and Alex my names spells pathetic...and I can’t even type...

    • Boulder Dash 19th Jan 2019

      My name...not names...see...can’t type.

    • Bat Chainpuller 19th Jan 2019

    • Bat Chainpuller 19th Jan 2019

      just in a mood...beers and that dj shit at the 50th and across the road requires an antidote...Mingus and Trane...fuckin' dj shit!

    • Irie Zen 19th Jan 2019

      >> Decent* content we grew here men. I kinda lost track -- but not interest -- somewhere around the Pynchon comment; anyhow.. tasty ingredients. // I'm curios what's coming next.. ^^ a hush-hush project.. XD

      :: We've got a stew going! :: KUDOS! ::

       >> Name(s!); Pathetic derives from PATHOS so it doesn't have to be bad thing; WE'LL NEED SOME FUNKIN' PATHOS! // I like(d) all ya "Avatars" J; from "Led Suit" to "Lycan Eye" to "Bat Chainpuller" to "Boulder Dash" (missed any?).. also diggin' YOUR "set" above DJ-J :) The Boogie Stop Shuffle is so BATMAN; The new inofficial "Batsy" Chainpullah theme?

      :: My REAL "Boulder Dasher" :: INDY! ::

      :: Catch ya later amigos! ::

    • Bat Chainpuller 19th Jan 2019

      never liked stout

    • Boulder Dash 20th Jan 2019

      Yeah, and Wetzel talks about mass movements...where are they? How ya gonna get them up and running? Mass workers strikes? What in India and China? South Africa? America? Latin America? All together now, go? Yellow shirts...mass movement? Occupy...mass movement? Tahrir Square...mass movement? Nuit Debout...mass movement? Where are they?

      Theoretical nitpicking. Even if you got some mass movement up...what’s it’s end goal? What’s it actually want? Could you expect internal unity on some vision? Selfemergence isn’t a vision. So you gotta sell something, some alternative. I mean, a mass strike or boss eviction or whatever is hard enough let alone one that somehow has a coherent sense of change, even if it be just economic.

      No one knows how to get a mass movement up. No one. And it seems to me that is the main problem. Not just getting it up but sustaining it. Let’s organise hasn’t worked and let’s just get to work on the ground now and do shit hasn’t worked and nor have Michael Moore films and they reach a lot of people.

      So it ends up being just a green new deal or something close, with the DSA, Corbyn, Sanders types as the only real hope because the left cannot agree on much more internally, and the more radical and revolutionary scatter themselves, distance themselves from more moderate ideas that don’t gel with theirs. But you still read all the hyperbole, the shit about the “WE”. Some mythical left “WE”. Some mythical left “WE” that must constantly organise...and it kinda does, but kinda doesn’t cut it.

  • Dave Jones 20th Jan 2019

    Carson seems to have a good grasp of the basic dilemma(s). Was reading about the old Meidner Plan and the Swedish Model, a modern story of "real existing socialism" and the various forces at work. Certain consistencies with Carson critique/ Commonwealth theory about how technological shifts and globalization changed the terrain and pulled the rug out from under the Swedish consensus that had held up for so long. All the nuts and bolts shit about keeping inflation at bay and wages "equalized" and creating "norms" for remuneration etc..They really had labor peace and a cool welfare state and growth and the whole shebang...till they didn't.

    At the DSA meeting yesterday a number of newbies, probably energized by Ocassio-Cortez, with no knowledge of any of this "theoretical nitpicking" as Boulder puts it,but looking for some tiny reason to hope. Old school socialists talking up the "Popular Front" and non-reformist reforms, me with my rupture and climate chaos, Wobblies raising funds to stop evictions and one guy who wants to re-design park benches. Medicare for All. maybe that is "interstitial strategy" and maybe "we got a stew goin".

    Is that the Mingus with Hog Killin Time? All that yelling and squeeking.

    Anyway, we proposed an ecosocialist working group and passed around a sign-up sheet and that seems to be one area where people unite, a common threat and a distilled theory ( growth = catastrophe) and decent plan of attack ( Keep it in the Ground). I am in the national working group as well and feel some real energy from some bright young people, which is refreshing. They'll probably be as inspired by Rupture as y'all but I'm used to rejection, become a way of life actually. I'm working on a Theory of Productive Spontaneity, which should also get a rousing reception.

    • Boulder Dash 20th Jan 2019

      Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting...yeah. There’s another more well known version. The bass intro is different. Mal Waldron on piano.

      I still don’t really know how you’d bring about rupture or even partial rupture.

      I’ve been involved in ‘practical productive spontaneity’ for years, so I know about those rousing receptions!!! The theory behind it is usually...you play that and I’ll play this...then it’s coffee time, or perhaps even tea...all those other beverages or post playing partakeables are done with...

  • Boulder Dash 20th Jan 2019

    “In our analysis, the current shift involves a shift towards netarchical capitalism, i.e. the direct exploitation and capture of value, not from commodity labour in factories and offices, but from peer to peer exchange in platforms and from participating in commons-based peer production. In other words, the new capitalism is a commons-extracting capitalism, which directly enables, but also exploits, human cooperation. One could say that we have evolved from a Marxian capitalism, with surplus value directly extracted from labour as a commodity, to a Proudhonian capitalism, since the latter argued that surplus value was derived from the extra value generated by human cooperation[28].

    In this particular conjuncture, we see the increasingly larger parts of the working class is evolving, at least in western countries,  from a subordinate salariat to a condition of generalized precarity (some call it ‘the precariat’) (Standing, 2011[29]), but which also involves the growth of post-subordinate autonomous workers who are simultaneously involved in networks, commons, and markets[30]. These workers need to participate in networks to create connections, expertise and reputational capital, and are often passionately involved in contribution-based and permissionless digital commons; but they often operate as freelancers in the market. They often have a strong desire and demand for autonomy and free cooperation. In many ways, this ‘cognitive working class’ is at the forefront of social change today, becoming an active agent in the transformation in the system, largely thanks to their vital place in the knowledge ecosystem. This is evident in the growth of open source economies, in their vital role in urban commons, but especially in what we will study in part in this report today, the growth of systems of production and distribution of value that are using distributed ledgers, i.e at this stage, the so-called blockchain or crypto economy.

    For the last year, one of the authors has been intimately involved with a large European platform cooperative, SMart (.coop), which is also called a labour mutual. In a labour mutual, formally independent workers, who in the best of cases have a passionate life project that allows them to filter their work engagements, are able to create solidarity, by converting their invoices into salaries, and thereby gaining access to the social protections of  the welfare state. These autonomous, post-subordinate workers, also represent a  convergence model between the precariat and the salariat,  and are prime candidates for the emerging commons economy, They have a big role in the creation of the post-corporate eco-systems that we will be describing in one of the chapters of this report. Please note that we do not see these new types of workers as the sole actors in transformation, but we do believe they play a very important role in this particular transition. To the degree that the labouring classes start to see themselves not as merely adversarial to the current system, but as active commoners in the creation of new life forms, to that degree they are also joining the new commoner or ‘hacker class[31]’.”

    The above is a good example of the fucked language of this crew. And it is fucked. It’s overly smart and very “young” in the sense of generational...like you gotta be hip to understand it all clearly...wear the right clothes or be academic in some sense...a hip nerd perhaps.

    But there’s this other thing that comes across. It’s all very “entrepreneurial”. All very go, go, go. Very market capitalist in nature in some ways. Like those involved have real drives and passions for this type of commoning, p2p, open source shit. It’s like everyone can get involved but the minute you stumble onto the lingo you just recoil...fucking Loomio. It ain’t that inviting really.

    And another thing...there’s a real naive kinda primitive attitude or knowledge of the headspace of say musicians or creativity. Most of it drawn from the head spaces or careers of those who have been successful within mainstream market capitalism. And there’s a very naive attitude toward this notion of creating spaces for creative expression as if that’s all that’s needed. Just find a ducking cafe or warehouse for people to do their thing. The NSP does this too. Kinda tacks on some sort of recognition of the creative/performance/art area and the need for it but really no one thinks it through in terms of the substance of the stuff being created. It’s as if it will be the same as what we have now. It’s as if in a better world you’ll still get the stars predominating and the lesser lights flailing away in dark alleys for nothing surviving predominantly on scraps here and there...

    Both these things kinda of ring of similar attitudes that predominate now toward creativity. I mean, in a post capitalist society would Van Gogh be the “great” he is considered now? I ask seriously because I consider most people’s ability to know greatness when they hear something or see something to be pretty limited. Most know greatness because they read about someone in a book or were told within current education facilities geared toward creating order givers and takers. Is Rembrandt any better than your local portrait painter? Really? Was Picasso a genius or a cunt or as Jonathan Richmond hinted at, an asshole? I mean, who is a “great” guitarist? Really? Who the fuck knows? Clapton? Chadbourne? Zappa? The kid down the block?

    The origins of hip hop come out of similar environs to the blues and any other folk expression. The “greatness” of the hip hop artist may be rooted in far more artificial commercial and economic concerns and environs that also determine popular attitudes, and in which the “artist” situates themself in order to gain from some opening or advantage...what does that have to do with the creativity side, really?

    Greatness really has nothing to do with creativity and I am a little concerned that even within the radical revolutionary movements, groups, organisations, music, the visual arts, is seen as not much more than like a kinda relief, or rest spot for the more seriously inclined. An aside to regain energy. Like fucking musicians showing up at rallies and protests and the like playing the odd folk tune or acoustic version of Killing in the Name or whatever to relieve the pressure. Always lyric inclined...hip hop, wrap, metal...lyric inclined...

    Where’s the Stockhausen or Derek Bailey and the ability of the radical to absorb far more than the mainstream and ALL the homogenised, perhaps with a slight twist, offshoots it spawns who are all actually, usually without exception, artists looking for that big break? Huh?

    Instrumental fucking music can be revolutionary too, if not more so, pushing attitudes and limits, but the promoters of it are still up against the usual lyric loaded, harmonically and melodically banal stuff that you can find in the top one hundred. It’s just now there are a plethora of top one hundreds to accomodate all the different so called genres out there in the digital world but when it’s all reduced to acoustic, it’s all pretty much the same folk song. And it better make you cry or dance or it’s fucked and shit.



    A rant from nowhere.

  • Alex of... 20th Jan 2019

    i have not read the material the quotes Boulder posted come from, so i had not read those quotes before at all. yet, they're talking about shit i've already identified. for some of it, i think it's just overcomplicating some very basic points. and most of what is being disagreed on just seems to be nuance or attempts to predict the future. Carson's concluding statement is funny to me. grounding in a proper theory of history? i don't even find his critique all that coherent.

    of course i have no objection to these guys trying to hash out whatever it is they think they need to hash out between each other, but again gets to the point of talking in circles, rather than cutting through the shit toward actual creation.

    what i just noticed Dave, in your comment about the DSA meeting.. you didn't mention the people at the meeting talking about changing our economic and social relationships through developing a worker-cooperative base. from what i've experienced, it's almost never there in activist groups. i can suggest a few reasons why..

    ..but hey, let's back up a second on what led me to invent the concept of networked coops before i was even aware of those theories, or really any economic theory or history behind much of anything at all. what was i looking at? accumulation of capital and lack of access. it was pretty obvious just from basic observation that once you have wealth, it becomes much easier to expand that wealth. when you have jack-shit, you can't invest in jack-shit. you mostly have a couple paths. get an education, if you can even swing that, toward a higher paying job. or, essentially win the talent lottery in some field.. become a famous rapper like eminem or something.

    sure, there are possibilities to start a business from very little. i had some success in selling tshirt designs i had further plans for, but constant lack of follow-thru by my so-called business partners that led to a lot of wasted effort. apparently there was also some bottled-up discomfort with some of my more militant designs as well, since most of what i was creating was dissident, anti-corporate, pro-working class shit. i'm still bitter about some of that experience, but that's another story.

    i started with a basic question on how funding and training could occur for broke-ass but interested people like myself. there, we already have one of the fundamental flaws in the promoted capitalist logic about innovation or meritocracy. there's tons of talent struggling paycheck to paycheck, while others are born into access to money, education and connections. that's just access.

    my answer was.. you need other businesses dedicated to funding that training and development. a network with a facilitator organization. then i thought, well, not every business idea needs to be pursued, or some might lack experience, so what then? this network needs workers, but if they're just workers, they're still stuck in the same place as before. i was familiar with partnerships but not coops. so i just thought, why not make everyone a partner? everyone will own a share and have access to participate in developing the business they are in.

    from there, i also thought you might eventually have a surplus to use toward some social services. at that point i thought, well shit, by continuing, you are basically creating an economy within the existing economy that could eventually replace the old one. and i did think it sucks that you would still be dealing with existing taxes that get used both for some social services as well as shitty stuff. and that's where i started to wonder at what point you come to head-to-head with the existing system.

    that very basic set of logic i went through is pretty much what i hear being talked about in the above quotes. though, i did not factor ecology into any of my thinking at that time. point is, none of that required me to have some grasp on history or pick through a stack of books analyzing this group and that group, or how such-and-such completely dismisses whatever in contradiction to the limits imposed by inter-stig-symbio-stitchery.

    and if anyone thinks the masses are going to pick through that crap, well, good luck. i'm not saying it's completely useless, but much of it is masturbatory. the masses are also not going to come to some big agreement on a comprehensive vision to build a movement around.

    but, here's the thing. people talk/write about some kind of participatory or cooperative future.. a true alternative to hierarchical ownership and decision making. it just seems obvious that you can't simply install that through a changing of the guard based on some big mass movement. it's a change in the way function that must be built. and it's correct that there is room to start building that within the freedoms of our current structure.

    no, the conditions are not entirely conducive to that process, but it remains that a participatory society cannot simply be installed as a set of new rules. it requires that we develop participatory relationships. that is the primary work to be accomplished. it requires that we build cooperative networks, in particular as an economic base.

    yes, we will also be dealing the political system that exists. socialist parties should work hand-in-hand with cooperative development. and, i would say it impossible to know where that will find its limits, if it can replace the current system entirely through transformation, or if hits a wall somewhere that requires some traditional elements of revolution.

    i have similar feeling to Alperovitz when he states that our task "is to lay down an irreversible foundation". that is, we must embed a better set of values and process as we create this kind of alternate economy within an economy, and build it to a solid point that it can't be dismantled and swept away by the concentrated powers, as they are prone to do.

    rupture away, but i agree with sentiments previously expressed that people will mostly just be confused. and more classic mass movements come at the point when shit is so oppressive that people don't feel like they have anything to lose, and are ready to play follow-the-leader with something that sounds better. see KO, the ICHING symbol for revolution, which also means molting: the animal's pelt becomes stagnant and nasty. shed it and start over toward the same outcomes. see definition of revolution: going in circles.

    however, i keep it open that it could still come to some need for rupture. we don't know. build the framework and find out. rupture without it won't lead to it. but rupture may be necessary to further it. plus, i believe that the empire is experiencing some early stages of collapse. we need a framework that can act like a net. as shit cracks, we catch the pieces rather than brew volatile desperation from misery. resilient structure. but, we don't know actually know when and where those cracks will be.

    it remains, that right now, there's no net to catch them with. and, not that much energy going toward the building process. why? i'd say mostly because people are working within the more familiar. and also, that creating a cooperative network is a long-term process to fundamentally change the our systemic relationships. people are often searching for the immediate or big change. the reform, the new party, the smashing.

    and, if you are interested, it is not that obvious where the entry point is. am i supposed to start a coop? what are the options to make any of that happen? which is a place some will just shrug and move on from.

    that is also not to say that all other work should be abandoned. it is only to say that a focus on cooperative development is a huge fundamental piece of the equation, and virtually absent from the majority of activism that i have encountered. and, i'm not going to get in the business of trying to get agreement on the necessity. what i see is a lack of tools and exposure i can help create.

    couple other thoughts out of that, too, but i'll leave it at that much fer now.

    and yes, ecology. transform shit or smash it all to pieces. your choice. there's not a not-fucked-at-this-point answer to that. but i'm skeptical a full on smash will actually save life. have fun with loose nukes and all that. still, room for a little smash. but why not focus on plans-on-the-table for what happens at the next Katrina?

    also, this aint 1950's Cuba, for those that romanticize the great overthrow of the empire.

    also, some things look great to an intelligent individual when ya map it out on paper, but it may not necessarily reflect human tendencies or capacity throughout the whole body. yes, some of our behavior is learned, and new/old/different behaviors and norms can be learned instead if the conditions are different. but truth is, we have to create new conditions and keep assessing from the differences it makes on how to proceed. understand capacity and preference.

    (written before your last couple comments Boulder and posting as is)

  • Alex of... 20th Jan 2019

    also, there seems to be a rupture with the formatting on this page. not displaying quite right. same for everyone?

  • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

    I agree with Alex. I essentially agree with Wrigh too. I mean in the end he reckons all three methods he outlines are probably necessary or useful...derr.

    I think these people don’t just talk in circles but they talk past each other almost as if critique, their critique, is more important than extracting the practical pragmatic elements and getting going, and must be elucidated, explicated. Masturbatory for sure to a point, particularly among the commoning/p2pers. I mean I like parecon as much for the fact you get very little ‘theory of history’ and there’s virtually no bibliography. It’s kinda just looking a how to organise economic shit and the implications...you don’t need theory necessarily or Marx for that matter or the second law of thermodynamics, or blockfuckingchain and “hacker” shit or even much of what Wright writes.

    Alex is right and I agree that no one is going to pick their way through all that shit. Like all the NSP publications. It does your fucking head in...really. Something like Parecon is hard enough. But most of the stuff being put out today is really pretty straight forward shit...localising, community, coop/worker owned shit...let’s try and network it. How? Don’t know for sure etc...

    But it does need publicising. The NSP stuff needs to get out there big time. At his core Alperovitz is quite radical. He’s talking a new system because the other one is fucked. I just don’t think the issue is what to do, it’s pretty clear when you look at the history of what people have done and are doing now. Not a great deal of diff. Coops/worker owned, solidarity economics, kibbutz, anarchist economics, community land trusts, soviets, syndicalism, p2p commoning, fuck, it’s all pretty ordinary, similar shit, and something like Parecon is merely an extension into the future, building on much of that stuff, elaborating a more total kind of destination, a possible eventual one, maybe...and Albert and Hahnel are all for all the other shit happening because that’s what people do.

    It’s just no one fucking gets it out there. It’s still just seen as marginal kind of peripheral stuff, like hippie shit. Fuckers like Brand who want an anarchist type shift get all bogged down in that personal spiritual transformative stuff and never mention basic practical stuff like the NSP, coops, or existing movements and ideas. It’s remains peripheral and sensible well spoken, careful talkers like Alperovitz don’t get heard outside of the inside, really. So none of this shit takes off in any real significant way so people just plug away locally, doing good stuff, maybe making some inroads, feeling good about themselves and shit but it’s easily ignored or invisible to most. Like even Mondragon is hardly a household word and it’s what, 90,000 - 100,000 strong...and been around since the fifties.

    I don’t know...just talking through my arse as usual...pointless shit really. I mean, like someone could rupture some shit but how big and significant would it be? What would be ruptured enough to cause such turmoil to spark people into jumping on the change wagon? And if it was big enough to scare the crap out of the ruling classes and everyone, would not that mean one already had a substantial number of people operating together strategically and significantly? How ya gonna get that even? Just to rupture shit? You almost need a mass or at least a massive movement to rupture shit because if it’s just a small group it goes down as some kind of evil terrorist nutter stuff and ordinary everyday person is probably not gonna be too happy with it. Or how would you get the system to rupture itself in an accelerated way, a swifter way, sooner than predicted, to make it clear it was the system itself to blame and not a bunch of radical lefty gulag ignorant identity concerned post modern overly politically correct whining global warming doomsaying cultists who need to be vaporised at the earliest opportune time?

    I don’t know.

  • Dave Jones 21st Jan 2019

    Alex, I think everybody at the meeting and all of what might be identified as the left (in this region) is completely down with cooperative work and consumption arrangements/ institutions and most participate however they can- a tool library, community gardens, a bike shop, a recycle place, etc.. Unfortunately the major food coop just imploded for lack of participation. There is always Transition talk, a community bank, alternative currency, day care exchange etc..But you could fit all of these inside one Costco and all the folks involved wouldn't compare to one day's traffic at WalMart.

    So the problem again is that tick tick tick...All that great social stuff (that the Swedes already had) has to be accelerated into warp drive...45% emissions reduction by 2030...it isn't like I morbidly enjoy this exercise of imagining a scenario short of a failed state but open to radical restructuring, interrogating the words we use; collapse, crisis, catastrophe, rupture, trying to extract meanings that aren't just pop culture dystopian Bruce Willis flicks.

    Imagine the power goes out and the stoplight in town stops working. Is it anarchy with everone trying to go at one, a demolition derby where the biggest truck wins? Or are people spontaneously "organized", does someone jump out and help direct, does the old civility and norm/ rules/ rationality prevail? So Yeah, New Orleans post-Katrina and Buenos Aires 2001 post economic meltdown and all the complexities of how people spontaneously self-organize.

    Obviously the Silicon Valley libertarian tech bros with their micro-dosing and skinny jeans will try to fix it all with algorythms and block chains but when there is no more Starbucks? It will be improv musicians and rappers and graffiti artists who will thrive without Capitalist Law. Gotta go

    Speaking of New Orleans, just bought tickets for Jazzfest 7 days oh yeah.

    • Irie Zen 21st Jan 2019

      Speaking of emissions reduction..

      Hamilton, Montana >> Nouvelle-Orléans, Louisiane
      Round trip ~4.200 miles (~6.800 km) >> ಠ_ಠ (LOOK OF DISAPPROVAL!!) ROUTE @ GOOGLE MAPS 

      No offence, but.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mggJHZ-uec

      XD -"Still love ya Dave!"

    • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

      Hypocricy arguments don’t cut it...the don’t help...smart arse shit...easy...on some level we are all.

      It is and will always be about new systems and structures and the willingness of people to embrace the possibility of change for the better...to somehow ram it home what those real actual non-hypocrites, at the very top of the heap,the brazen robber barons, where the dark money resides, already know, that the system, at its core, is rigged and not and never was intended to lift all boats...that ain’t why nor how it evolved...it’s absurd to rationalise it on that basis.

      But you have to convince enough that there are new and better ways and you gotta get around the scepticism...that position people always take because they don’t trust and don’t want to be duped or taken for a ride. Don’t want to be seen as stupid. Politicians have created enough distrust over the years. Conspiracy theories, talk of cult like behaviour and like provide people with enough bullshit so as they question everything. That’s what the Intellectual -it’s just a joke name - Dark Web does. It makes people feel more intelligent, less dupable, than those lefty radical gulag ignorant politically correct identity nutters. It’s all cult like behaviour. Parecon looks like a nut case scenario to many...a joke...too over the top...laughable...Alperovitz sees that as a negative...he drives down what he sees as a radical yet pragmatic path of least resistance...but it’s a longer road, as is that of self-emergence, and rubs against the tick tick tick. It’s a slow convince to bring the sceptical, we’ve already been hoodwinked and shat on a millions times over, around. Setting up the ground.

      Meanwhile the planes keep flying, the ships keep sailing and the cars keep rolling and the horrendous exploitative extraction methods of minerals and industrial procedures that bring us the computers and phones we, on the left, and everyone else, communicate with, continue.

      Rupture that! Anarchy-primmies wouldn’t mind, although Kevin Tucker would have to go all acoustic and cat gut string on his own metal arse!

      Capitalism and markets as we tend to know them today self-emerged due to people adopting modes of opportunistic behaviour that were useful for and promoted by those already cashed up and powerful and before anyone could say boo, a whole bunch of people felt the weight of the Big Daddy White Geezer’s heal on their heads.

      Nah, gotta convince people that new ways are possible not make them feel like cunts because the still eat meat, drive or take a plane to some joint for a modicum of enjoyment before they fucking cark it.

    • Irie Zen 21st Jan 2019

      Damn Batsy.. do you really think this comment was intended to make D. feel like a cunt* or are u just tryin' to funk w/ me as much as u can?
      Another drop in the bucket.. who cares; right? Oh wait.. I do.. smart-ass my arse. Sure; we're all hypocrites on some level.. doesn't make it any better. Put more fingers in the dike I'd say.. funking double-standards.

      XD // means Laughing. If you'll tilt your head to left and imagine that the D is the mouth then you can clearly see that somebody is laughing with his eyes closed. XD < see

      Links from the vid:

    • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

      Settle dude...yes I knew you didn’t do it to make Dave feel like a cunt...that would make you one, so you had to point that out...just in case...but why bring up the hypocrisy thing anyways. And it is a smart ass easy thing for people to say...don’t like it much...doesn’t help matters really...where do you draw the line...Kevin Tucker on Farcebook?

    • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

      The XD thing don’t matter to me. I saw it...I got it...I know you’re not a cunt too.

  • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

    It’s always the tick tick tick...it’s always been the tick tick tick!

    Rupture? Mass walk out or sit ins within the fossil fuel industry? Any industry?

    Self organising is innate, like internal language or the need to create. It’s what happens after a degree of stability is regained when shift breaks. What’s in people’s heads in regards to possibilities? New or old systems? And that would depend on the type of rupture, pre-rupture education/consciousness and knowledge which would affect and direct post-rupture vision.

    I understand Dave’s point....the simplicity folk would go further than 45% reductions by 2030 I reckon.

    But he’s right about improvisers, rappers and graffiti artists...they’re outside the Spectacle.

  • Alex of... 21st Jan 2019

    yes, the demographics are obviously a bit different in Seatown, and city structures hold differences with rural areas. but some examples you are talkin when it comes to coops are more the volunteer-oriented community stuff, like the tool libraries and community gardens.. also found in the city. those models are nice ideas, but they aren't actually giving someone a job. they require "support" instead of replacing some piece of the economy. or perhaps you need a membership fee. something has to pay rent for the tool library. so then, what does that add up to and how many people are going to use it enough that a membership fee saves them the cost of buying tools? varies so much individual to individual. what's the lasting model that won't fall apart from lack of donated time?

    it's not that different from some of the open-source models, where even with an internet-connected community, shit doesn't necessarily move along too swift. there's no money, just people's extra time being donated. which often leads to some hybrid-models for coders.. offering free stuff and paid stuff. there's some good structuring occurring in that, but ya can't really expect that people want to go to work to get paid, then spend all their leisure time working without pay. not a fair burden or generally realistic. so the question then comes, how do you take those structures and integrate them into the economy? how do you take those arrangements so that people still get paid, but it replaces corporate models? you can't change the whole set of economic arrangements around you by doing so, but can you establish working models that lay a foundation for further shifts?

    these aren't discussions i've heard much of in the activist communities. yes, lefties are "down" with coops, but that's about as far as it is usually getting, from what i've seen or experienced.

    i'd say there's more energy going into protest and petitions than there is discussing coop models. though there's a coop development center based in the state capital, there was only briefly an attempt for one in Seattle. must have not gotten much activity. here, we have Socialist Alternative, as ya know Kshama Sawant successfully got on the city council from. they helped push through a minimum wage increase. i get it, that's immediate and tangible. yet, i hear nothing from them about taking that energy toward alternative models for work. taxes yes. vague shout about taking over the Boeing factories, too.

    some of what ya mention, and some of what i mention, also requires people who have particular skill sets. not everyone, but still.. required for a community bank, which also does have some local efforts through SA and 350 and Native movements. so does some of the NSP type stuff. that's why i want to get a better understanding of what human resources are needed to bring those arrangements together. people don't really know how to lend support to that stuff.

    but, that anchor stuff does actually replace economic activity with cooperative models, where people earn a living, rather than volunteer. and i think it offers a way to create a hub in major cities for which other coop pursuits can attach to and center around. the smaller efforts need a root, and there needs to be further exploration on how to utilize that. and it needs to connect with a political party. symbiotic! just as was mentioned earlier about potential for establishing coops through green deals. transitions in labor both in what is manufactured as well as how. not a lot of chatter on that. so what's missing? what needs creating?

    i'm not honestly familiar the Swedish history. was there a heyday for coops that took a dive from external forces? what happened?


    those are things that could be discussed more, and not just from "experts" or those with particular skill sets. what are the hubs of activity for those discussions? are they just happening more internally with outfits like NSP?

    what was the model for food coop you mentioned? what kind of participation was it relying on that caused it to implode? would it have benefited from a support network?


    back to rupture. the stoplights go down.. well, it's not anarchy if it's a chaotic competition to get through. people generally just treat the disfunctional stoplight as a stopsign, which has a pre-established norm for using. it's just that high traffic convergence works a bit better with longer flow intervals. more efficient. then, in normal cases, taxes are used for the repair crew. if it does require direction, and someone hops out, how long are they expected to do that while others just continue on their drive? are they then hoping someone else will stop to offer a shift change? if prolonged, must the community then come up with a shift program for rotation? is that all volunteer or does it convert into credits/money they can use for food in this new job? is it replacing their old job, or were they jobless? what arrangements are now needed and through what institutions? and what is the basis by which people organize around that? was this just a traffic light or is all electricity now gone? do we still have a local government? what other effects has it had on the people besides a traffic light if wider scale? who is familiar with organizing in the chaos? what people will respect that? what people will lock themselves inside?

    sure, people spontaneously strip the stores and try to survive. where will the food come from now in a city that currently relies on it being transported in? federal gov? donations to the red cross? are their plans in place that could help? how wide spread is this?

    see, i don't know what you are aiming for. some of the Jensen argument is to tear the energy infrastructure down to the point it can't be rebuilt and deal with whatever happens. but even if one agrees, how would that even come about? hope you are familiar with Tor if trying to oragnize a simultaneous global attack. or perhaps Anon will hack all the financial systems and wipe them clean.

    i mean what? there's a norm for what happens when the power goes out briefly. you deal with it for a moment and it gets fixed. larger catastophe, the region wants aid and people struggle to survive. hey, what's happenin in Puerto Rico these days?


    ya trying to take out a city grid to "wake people up" or ya trying to take down the whole nation so it opens up to whatever global aid or hostility occurs after? there's other powers out there too. but that kind of gets into dystopian flicks.. some massive shit, so maybe not what you mean. don't know.

    Hedges talks about everyone driving their cars out to block some pipeline or fracking dilly and walking away. and just how many people are going to do that? and then what? walk 200 miles home as they've now lost their job from missing days and no longer have a viable way to commute? at least they don't have to deal with the stoplight. people have talked about system-abandonment. like, what, you walk out the door one day and start planting crops at the side of the road? or, not voting! well, almost have the adult population doesn't vite anyways. so, a bunch of lefties stop voting. did the gov shut down? no, it elected a complete body of Trumps.

    there's not much to Capitalist Law at the heart. but what is going to shift privatized ownership to public domain or cooperative arrangements? they will be spontaneously generated when we cut the power lines and smash the pipelines? and now the improv musician will be set free?

    how are you getting to New Orleans? walking? biking? driving? flying? taking a train? a couple last indulgences before the smashing?

    this is interesting:


    but note:

    "But a significant part of its success is rooted in Argentina’s rich history of co-operatives. Waves of Jewish and Italian immigrants brought the co-operative vision with them during the early 20th century. Co-ops were well established, especially in agriculture, prior to the financial and political meltdown in 2001. According to the International Co-operative Association (ICA), nearly a quarter of the South American country’s 40 million people are linked directly or indirectly to co-operatives and mutual societies."

    which goes to my premise of creating a resilient catch-net for collapses and catastrophies that will no doubt happen all on their own.

  • Alex of... 21st Jan 2019

    also! here's one of the online remnants of my old shirt printing activities. it's a an archived republished article from the original source. i had found that at the time looking at website logs that show activity like people clicking on links from another website. this article was republished in numerous libertarian/rightish type e-publications. my biz was the Mazui Foundation. check out the company we apparently keep lol..


    "It should be noted that websites from The Ku Klux Klan, The American Nazi Party, The New Black Panther Party, al Manar (the terrorist group Hezbollah's "news" website) and The Mazui Foundation – that offers a t-shirt that says "Kill Whitey" for $15 – are currently included in Google's search engine index. It should further be noted that The New Media Journal pieces cited by Google as "hate speech" are still available on Google through other publications."

    made me wonder how the author found us in the first place, haha.

  • Alex of... 21st Jan 2019

    and what about water and sewage in the city when the lines suddenly get cut? if that's the intention.

    • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

      An interesting aside about lefties being down with coops and different business models or structures is Albert’s critique of the bulk of left media...most is still structured hierarchically and not even cooperative.

    • Alex of... 21st Jan 2019

      FAMAS? - not the assault rifle or to be confused with HAMAS



      this is the area that needs attention:

      "Another possibility would be for FAMAS to undertake fundraising for its membership, globally, in one package. The Federation would go to the funding community at large and say support alternative media, support truth in the mainstream media, here, now, through us—or not at all. FAMAS would then channel the donor support in accord with the specific desires of the community of media activists. The Federation would be responsible to disperse moneys raised according to some internally agreed norms, bylaws, or votes, etc., rather than leaving all such decisions to the donors themselves.As to content, the Federation could propose areas of focus or information campaigns such as keying on affirmative action or on corporate responsibility for poverty, etc., so that there could be a degree of coherence in the member organization’s communicative efforts.FAMAS could also promote free exchange of ideas, fight censorship, fight media monopolization, work to counter mainstream media campaigns and spin, and fight particular Congressional bills, such as the recent telecommunications bill and other reactionary media policy at the national level, and could provide defense for FAMAS members under attack by the Right.

      FAMAS’s work could be funded by payments from member institutions and individuals. Each person joining as a freelance writer or artist, reader or viewer, could have yearly dues to pay. Each organization could likewise have a fee, pegged to its size and budget.

      As FAMAS becomes larger, and its financial needs greater, so too will its member organizations’ and individuals’ benefits."

    • Boulder Dash 21st Jan 2019

      Free improvisers are by definition are already set free from the social/economic norms that are demanded of conventional musicians/composers/song writers in order that the latter can survive with a solid career. Demands that define the way music is presented and built and musicians/artists are portrayed...basically homogenised. There is not a lot of difference between those great frontmen of great bands or celebrity musos in general and business/entrepreneurial types...really. Even within the I.P. sphere there’s this strong belief, completely fucking erroneous, that what they created came solely from them...that song is theirs and their creation alone. Dylan is the perfect example of the lie. Total bullocks...even within the jazz realm. Perhaps Parker was an exception, but it’s hard to know where and how Bird formulated his new approach and from whom he was influenced...Hawkins and others. Sonny Stitt. Where creativity comes from is a collective base of support that gets totally unacknowledged...the same is true for most things. Einstein twasn’tvthe only one thinking about the shit he was thinking about at that point in history, for sure. The collective state of the field was such that someone else would have nailed the problems round the same time as he did

      Music NEVER comes from isolated individuals within the conventional world. The closest you get to total individual expression on an instrument is a self sabotaging free improviser who tries desperately to destroy to trip himself up from moment to moment...from one sixtieth of a finger snap to the next...from one collapsing of the wave function to the next.

      Try to play an instrument in a non conventional manner andcfind out how hard it is. Try to talk babble and you wind up kind of repeating easy to articulate sounds at a nice comfortable tempo.

  • Alex of... 22nd Jan 2019

    quick note:

    interesting little take on cooperatives by some socialists. i like that they start with a question i have also pushed regarding "anti" stances.


    but, gets to a little of the difficulties of coop-values surviving in the market-place, using Mondragon as an example. (which also gets to a related set of thoughts i was considering doing a short blog on.. i'll come back to that at some point tho)

    and concludes (spoiler alert):

    "Economic democracy and workers’ self-management is absolutely central to any genuine socialist society, but they can only be permanently established by adopting a strategy aimed at dismantling the power of the capitalist state and expropriating the expropriators. In other words a political strategy, not one focused primarily on attempting to create alternative economic models within existing capitalist society."

    and no, i'm not suggesting networks of coops are sufficient just in themselves. i would suggest a political strategy is also insufficient in of itself. i would suggest that socialist political strategy and cooperative economic strategy form a natural bond for more effective strategy.