The Presidential Election

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When we vote for anyone or anything, we should always do so with our head, heart, hands and feet.

Chileans who enthusiastically expropriated more than 60 (!) Walmart-owned department stores just last week voted with their hands.

The tens of thousands of Chicago teachers who defied yet another mayoral boss to go on strike for worker dignity and the kids they teach voted with their hearts.

When Carola Rackete captained the Sea Watch 3 to escort international workers and refugees to safe havens across the walls of fortress Europe, she voted with her feet.

Before being run out of town, Gregory Stevens, the queer First Baptist Church of Palo Alto pastor voted with his head when he declared: “The tech industry is motivated by endless profit, elite status, rampant greed, and the myth that their technologies are somehow always improving the world”

When we engage in multifarious forms of direct action, we are voting without ballots. What we do in our daily lives to strengthen revolutionary movements is our preferred form of voting.

In short, when we vote through direct action we demand nothing of our ruling class; on the contrary, we act so as to achieve everything. We say to them: everything we want is in the end of you.

In a capitalist democracy we also may vote as a ‘citizen’, but begrudgingly and with the full knowledge that this routinized, bought and paid for and largely symbolic act is still an act of will, however much it is diluted through representation. Then, if a particular candidate might be assessed as furthering our more important votes for direct democracy, then we vote in these bourgeois elections, for something greater than democracy many times removed.

In this presidential election there is only one candidate who passes such a litmus test: Bernie Sanders. It seems to me that the only presidential candidate worthy of our ‘vote’ is the one who has been leading a ‘political revolution’ within a political party (Democratic) that is itself quite at odds with such a revolution. One can criticize the Sanders campaign on a variety of fronts from the left and below, but we should bear three things in mind.

First, the Democratic Socialists of America is a member in good standing of our larger political family. Their strategy of organizing within the Democratic Party is Quixotic, but it is bearing fruit. It should garner our tactical support.

Sanders has been making the same speech for forty-years, a source of both consternation, because it hasn’t changed, but also consistency and reliability, as we know full well what his political philosophy and program are. He’s a known quantity. Sanders is no neophyte to the struggle against inequality, nor is he a triangulator or schemer. He is, for better or worse, a democratic socialist within the American tradition–what most elsewhere we might more accurately describe as a social democrat. We can reason from here what a Sanders presidency might look like, warts and all. And such a thing would be a political revolution of sorts.

Second, and of more importance is the DSA itself, and the 50,000 or so new members that have recently signed up. It is instructive to note that during its convention in August, 2017 the DSA withdrew from the so-called ‘Socialist International’. The SI has long counted such august ‘socialist’ parties as the PRI in Mexico, the French Socialist Party, and the SPD in Germany. As such it is neither socialist nor internationalist. While the DSA’s withdrawal was a positive development, it remains to be seen whether the Sanders Presidential campaign will amount to a net positive or negative for our movement. Has his campaign, replete with ad nauseam funding pleas and other trappings of capitalist electoral politics, inadvertently stalled the growth of membership and development of the DSA? Is the Sanders campaign both a source of growth for socialism but also a limit to its horizons? We can influence the answers to these questions.

Third, all other candidates are outspoken defenders of the capitalist order; they do not have a place within our political traditions. They cannot be trusted nor supported, at least not so long as an obvious better alternative is available.

Vote often, vote everywhere, vote as though our lives depended on it. Vote Sanders for President–at least while he represents a move towards our more full-throated revolution. But above all continue to vote in all the ways that will truly make a difference. Remember–direct action gets the goods.

END

An Antifascist Army

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As a ghost of antifascism I sometimes take the liberty to be somewhat controversial. I will now take that liberty.

I despise professional sports. The more popular the sport, the more I hate it. The larger the audience, the louder the crowd, the brighter the fireworks, the faster the jets–the more I want to throw up.

Even the term ‘professional sports’ is offensive, seemingly calculated to help us forget that these ‘professionals’ are skilled workers engaged in labor within a capitalist enterprise. That enterprise rakes in considerable profits from the surplus value created by those workers. These corporations are for profit, and share the same means of enforcing exploitation and domination as an oil company, weapons manufacturer or, for that matter, a charitable foundation.

Furthermore, the non-millionaire workers who park cars, cook hotdogs, clean bathrooms and stitch hats are invisible. As with all corporations, it is from the least powerful that the lions share of value is created and then stolen by others; then that process is hidden from us. In coliseums and arenas it seems our otherwise sharp ‘critical criticism’ is set aside to allow for unbridled support for a team or competitor. There is also a certain fidelity to white settler state militarism often aptly represented by mascots, e.g., cowboys and Indians.

Professional sports are also prime vectors for the reproduction of the pathological male gaze: men, beer and hot dog in hand and mouth watching men, balls in hand in combat with one another; meanwhile women busy themselves watching those men watching men and imagine how they look to those men. Ugh. This is the male supremacy algorithm that dominates professional sports, and why there is still no out gay (American) football player who hasn’t faced organized and violent opposition of one form or another. Give it time, you might say, by the turn of the next century I’m sure there will be an out gay quarterback, or perhaps even a transgender one. But that’s precisely my point–there is no point to this short of transforming the very nature of competition by obliterating that which upholds it all–private property. Capitalism has proven itself to be the most efficient means by which to organize a form of ‘free time’ that is misogyny masquerading as sport. Big fucking deal. What an accomplishment. Oh, and don’t get me started about the grotesque enslavement that is ‘college sports’ and its cannibalism practiced on higher education, two things that should never be spoken of in the same breath. Finally, it seems that within the American tradition of professional sports ‘politics’ is verboten. If you ask me, not much to recommend here. Since when did a radical cheer on a corporation?

Remember, corporations are legalized dictatorships–they practice a form of economic totalitarianism fundamentally at odds with democracy and equality. This is what Milton Friedman meant by making the economic realm supreme, where the profit motive can replace democracy altogether. That’s the neoliberal agenda and it is not necessarily at odds with a white nationalist and male supremacist one. They can function hand and glove. Get it?

Not all sports are subject to my scorn; just those that are capitalist enterprises. Amateur sports, especially kids sports, are another matter entirely. Here, as with all facets of social life that have managed to remain at least partially outside ‘the economic’ one can find healthy and wholesome competition. Some of my most precious memories are of amateur sports. Sporting competition outside private markets and organized capitalist insanity used to be enshrined in the Olympics. Remember when it was for amateurs only? Friendly competition between nations? Remember when those scrubs from the beer league bested the Soviet hockey team? Now it is a loathsome spectacle of corporate corruption, preening celebrities and vicious gentrification programs that vacuum up the wealth of entire cities.

So it is with such disdain in mind that I turn to the Portland Timbers, a professional sports corporation no different from those discussed above, but with a fan club, the Timbers Army, unlike any other, except perhaps one: FC St. Pauli Hamburg (Germany).

First some bona fides. I have been an antifascist for more than 30 years and spent a good part of the 1980s and 1990s making that a full time occupation. During 1996 I visited 15 cities throughout Germany on a speaking tour in a concerted effort to meet and better coordinate with comrades fighting the far right there. In the United States the Oklahoma City bombing had recently taken place while Germany was in the throes of an insurgent mass-based racist anti immigrant movement. My speaking tour was hosted by radical antifascists, autonomists, ‘refoundation’ communists, squatters, anarchists and trade unionists. In Hamburg (my favorite venue of the tour) I was given the t-shirt pictured above by antifascist supporters of FC St. Pauli.

The far left, antifascist credentials of the FC St. Pauli club go back to the 1980s, which is when the Antifa began to be revived in Europe and North America. There are other European football clubs with one foot in socialism, but few that are as militant as FC St. Pauli. There are many more fan clubs with both feet in fascism.

The Timbers Army antifascism owes much to this left wing political tradition, and it is a welcome development. The Timbers Army are to antifascism in the United States what FC St. Pauli are to German and European antifascism. But the Timbers Army is also a creature of its social milieu and therefore a football fan club. I don’t live in Portland or follow any sort of football. But so long as a sports club is antifascist, I’m interested in what they mean by that and what they do about it.

Now, I am partial to the original antifascist symbol, that of the red and black flag, but I can accept others.

Also, I might chafe at Timbers Army supporters using one of three iconic arrows to target ‘communism’, or other ‘Iron Front’ antifascists distancing themselves from groups self identified as ‘antifa’, or the distinction without a difference made between ‘patriotism’ and ‘nationalism’, but I will uphold their rightful place within the larger antifascist movement. I would expect the same in return.

If the Timbers Army were to reach its full potential, what might that look like? Here the limits of a fan club become a bind. But there is a way forward: don’t just bite the hand that feeds you, take the whole arm and use it to beat the living shit out of your master. And you do have a master.

The Timbers football team is owned by Hank Paulsonthe guy who helped orchestrate the bailout of America’s plutocrats and ensure the continued immiseration of the rest of us after the global shitting of the bed that was the ‘financial crisis’ of 2007-2009. During a recent match where Timbers Army supporters observed 33 minutes of silence to protest a ban on their antifascist symbols, Paulson, together with his son, also an owner, is said to have blamed the loss of that match on this vocal antifascism. It seems to me that what should be done here is pretty clear.

Radicals within the Timbers Army should agitate for the obvious next step in political development, a step that should exacerbate contradictions and divisions within the enemy camp and reinforce solidarity and unity within ours: It’s time for a community-owned Portland Timbers. The decommodification of our leisure time is an antifascist action and goal, or should be.

At issue here is not whether the owners are antifascist enough, but why anyone should own our leisure time? Here is a political movement on a platter: a loathsome dictator (every CEO is that) who is also shoving nepotism down the throats of supporters all the while undermining popular antifascism. This is also an issue all antifascists–antifa and social Democrat’s alike–could agree on. Some, however will undoubtedly cry in their beer: the defense of private property, rather than its abolition, is antifascist. Such nonsense presents itself as an opportunity to separate the antifascist wheat from chafe and reclaim that which belongs to the commons.

In any case I will always hate professional sports, perhaps not as much as corporations that manufacture cluster bombs, but not much less, either. What’s important is that there is an alternative that is possible and that we are willing to fight for it.

END

The Worst Crimes of the Wealthy are Legal.

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The world we live in is indelibly marked by organized and systematic theft and violence, facilitated by the dual fictions of Law and Order. The worst crimes of capitalism, perpetrated by capitalists, are legal, and therefore hidden in plain sight.

The crimes of Jeffrey Epstein, of which we know of only a few, took place over decades and were also never really hidden, only dissembled. Through the sophistry of a Law and Order beholden to money and influence, and a ruling class that loves the smell of its own shit, this particular atrocity exhibition was, in a word, enabled by that scatalogical fixation. If our ruling class can be said to have a culture, this is it. But, however despicable Epstein’s predations undoubtedly were, in terms of sheer injury they pale in comparison to, say, the crime of a luxury condominium development and the homelessness that results therefrom. While shocking and outrageous, its important to place Epstein’s organized rape along a continuum where it can be viewed alongside the daily violations of wage labor, gender inequality, racism and the general plunder that characterizes the world we live in. So when considering Jeffery Epstein, we would do well to do so in light of the ongoing evisceration of women’s reproductive health services, especially abortion rights, and the hundreds of miles and dollars a woman must often travel and spend to try and secure what should belong to her as an inalienable human right. Epstein’s crimes were illegal, after a fashion, while these other outrages are legal. But I insist: they are different not in kind, only degree.

When treated exclusively as a form of extreme pathology allowed to fester because of cracks in that edifice of Law and Order, Epstein’s crimes are diminished. On the contrary: Epstein’s crimes are the plaster and glue that hold that edifice together. He is not an outlier; he is emblematic. Their moral reasoning was sound according to the depraved precepts it follows. Refusing to say as much sets the crimes of the rich aside, in relief, where they can continue to be repackaged as progress. The ‘Epstein affair’ becomes spectacle when it is ripped from the only context that can explain it: The crimes of our ruling classes.

Showing how Epstein’s crimes are symptomatic of, rather than exceptions to, elite domination is one task of the radical. This must involve a refocusing from the spectacular to the quotidian, from the retail to the wholesale, from the individual to the political economy, and from there to an examination of what the Epstein criminal syndicate tells us about capitalism and its ruling classes. What do his predations share in common with other forms of oppression? How were they different? Then, finally, what do they tell us about ending their rule?

The toxic masculinity Epstein practiced for decades, out in the open and with the full support of his peers is inconceivable without those international pleasure palaces. It is from such a position of invulnerability that those heinous assaults on women were organized again and again. They are inseparable–the palaces and the pimping–and work well together. Private property and the theft it is based on is also an expression of illegitimate power; that this is currently legal in our society doesn’t change that universal human truth.

Just as there is no moral equivalence between neo Nazi violence and antifascist resistance, there is no analogy to be drawn between the depravity of the rich and the violence of the poor. The rich are the grand heavy weight champions of exploitation and domination; we are the only social force that can end their rule.

Capitalism and justice are mutually exclusive terms, as are capitalism and feminism.

A socialism of the 21st century must by definition be a feminist one. Where there is gross inequality, mass predation, and immeasurable suffering, one will always find the powerful justifying it all through Law and Order. That means we will never be rid of the Jeffrey Epsteins of the world, or for that matter the Elizabeth Holmes, until we are rid of the rich.

END

Occam’s Razor Applied–Part Two

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Introduction

21st century socialism must recognize that one of the most earth shattering, horizon expanding, revolutionary developments in human history is hidden in plain view: money, once the great elixir of progress, the indispensable lubricant of trade, the sine qua non of exchange, the sinew of capitalism, the lifeblood of state socialism, is now an impediment to progress. The question of money is no longer that of more or less, public or private, sovereign or dependent, supply or demand, ‘classical’, ‘Keynesian’, or ‘modern monetary theory’, but how soon we can get rid of it, how quickly we can usher in a world where there is no longer a need for it.

Consider that it is entirely possible to measure, weigh, track, render, monitor, surveil, coordinate, network, and evaluate in real time any unit of capital or labor, all manner of goods and services, such that one knows their precise physical state everywhere and at every moment of existence, from production to distribution, consumption to disposal and/or recycling. If that is the case, we need only establish the use value of a commodity (its utility) and forego the fictitious accounting associated with its ‘stored value’ such that a commodity can be truly ‘decommodified’, becoming the ‘thing for us’. If time and space has been so utterly transformed that trust and risk (competition) no longer provide an organizing principle for our economy, what is the purpose of money? Without a need for storing value, why do we need money? Why must we store value when its use can be determined by and immediately available to all? What would be the purpose of wage labor? Of private property? Of banks? Of insurance? Of advertising? Isn’t this the whole point of a truly communist economy–to do away with these things? Isn’t this what we anarchists and communists all agree we want to rid ourselves of? For the first time in human history it may be possible to achieve this, but it won’t happen because of some inexorable law of economics, or because capitalism will collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. It will only happen if we will it to happen.

Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

The above was popularized by the philosopher William Rapaport in the early 1970s. The period is there at the end because it is a grammatically correct sentence. Deceptively simple, Rapaport’s word-play requires a key to unlock the logic at work. The word ‘buffalo’ conveys three distinct meanings: as a proper noun it is a city, as a common noun it is an animal (aka bison) and as a verb it means to bamboozle. These nouns and verbs conspire with one another to transform an absurd list into an entirely reasonable thought. The sentence diagram above helps, if you are into that sort of thing, or just substitute the word ‘bamboozle’ for the verb ‘buffalo’ and the sentence can be understood as ‘buffalo from the city of Buffalo are bamboozled by other buffalo from Buffalo and in turn bamboozle still other buffalo from the city of Buffalo’.

That’s a lot of crafty buffalo.

Much later Rapaport, in his book Great Insights of Computer Science, makes another observation about a seemingly mundane matter, yet one that he shows has complex and far reaching implications. The first great leap in the theory of computer science was “Gottfired Wilhelm Leibniz’s, George Boole’s, Alan Turing’s, Claude Shannon’s, and Samuel Morse’s insight: there are only two objects that a computer has to deal with in order to represent ‘anything.’ All information about any computable problem can be represented using only 0 and 1 (or any other bistable pair that can flip-flop between two easily distinguishable states, such as ‘on/off’, ‘magnetized/de-magnetized’, ‘high-voltage/low-voltage’, etc.).”

Huh. All of the most spectacular advances in computer science can be reduced to such humble origins–the binary digit, or Bit. What a relief! For someone who is mathematics illiterate, such as myself, this is comforting. All that rarified knowledge has been constructed upon a foundation that is so simple an eight-year-old can understand it. Cool. What can we do with that?

To answer this question Rapaport identifies a second great insight that belongs to Turing alone:

“…there are only five actions that a computer has to perform in order to do ‘anything’. Every algorithm can be expressed in a language for a computer consisting of only five basic instructions:

  • move left one location;
  • move right one location;
  • read symbol at current location;
  • print 0 at current location;
  • print 1 at current location.”

From this the modern electronic computer was born.

Turing, a gay man in mid-twentieth century England, is also largely credited with solving the cipher to the Enigma machine that encrypted and thereby safeguarded Germany’s most secret communications during WWII. Cracking the code facilitated an Allied victory. But what of Turing, the man? How was this singularly brilliant individual treated by the British state? He was hounded and incarcerated then subjected to chemical castration and psychological torture so as to ‘cure’ him of homosexuality. His signature contribution to solving Enigma was kept a state secret until long after his death, itself perhaps directly at the hands of that state.

The British state (as all states) pillaged the insights and innovations of its brightest ‘deviants’ then wrapped them up in the Union Jack and called it progress. The contrast between Turing’s contributions to science and the manner in which he was treated is emblematic of the difference between those insights and the political and economic system that claims them for itself. The film The Imitation Game acknowledges the injustices suffered Turing, but upholds the right of the state to pillage that which belongs to it by sovereign right. Anarchists and communists refuse to uphold that right, because all capital and labor, and the science and technology that drives inventions and innovations, belong to us, not bureaucrats or capitalists, innovators or influencers. They steal it from us. Our task, as always, is to take it back.

From the two insights above the Information Age has evolved. There are, of course, other insights and innovations, but few, it seems, are as fundamental as these two. The scaling up of Bit logic, and its service to capitalist political economy is reshaping the biosphere we call earth and our relationship to it. The so-called ‘Information Age’ with its computerized networking power, artificial intelligence and machine learning, genetic engineering, robotics and automation, are ‘disrupting’ concepts once considered fundamental to capitalist and state-socialist economics, such as trust and risk, space and time. However one assesses what are undeniably monumental, deep, broad and fast changes one thing should be crystal clear: In the hands of bosses and bureaucrats such power will only further our collective immiseration. There is no ‘progress’ here without attendant forms of domination. We must find a way to create a rupture with this process.

Value

Marx wrote something about ‘value’ that might be of some use here (pardon the pun).

Capitalism has always been characterized by an effort to instrumentalize the trust and risk intrinsic to trade so as to guarantee profits for the property owner. This presupposes the prior existence of private property owners and workers–the former with the power to compel the latter to sell the only thing that ensures their continued mutual existence: the labor power of the worker. That labor power is the basis for all value. Yet for those economists who believe that something other than labor produces value, its easy to formulate trade in an abstract, ‘pure’ form and construct what I call the Santa Claus theory of economics: Someone needs something they don’t have, so they trade something in order to obtain it. Goods and services intermingle through the magic of competition and pricing and everyone is happy. Everyone gets what they deserve in the form of presents under the tree; only the lazy and undeserving get a lump of coal in their stocking. In this way inequality is justified and reproduced.

“But ‘profit-making’ is just capitalist exploitation. Its secret gave rise to the study of political economy; and since Marx disclosed it orthodox economics has been devoted to covering it up again…Capitalism is unique in hiding its method of exploitation behind the process of exchange, thus making the study of the economic process of society a requirement for its transcendence.” (A Dictionary of Marxist Thought. Tom Bottomore, Eds., 1983).

In order to overcome great distances and long periods of time associated with much trade, money served as a fungible representation of the value such goods and services contained. While this now seems natural, and no doubt was in many ways superior to other forms of storing value associated with earlier modes of production, it was never, and can never be, a definitive and accurate accounting of that value; it can only ever be a social construction of that value. Stamp that coin with a number, print currency with heads of state and corresponding digits, watch the stock market hit 26,000, it is still constructed by human beings in relation with one another. It does not have an existence independent of that social reality. Marx wrote that money in each of its moments mediates a social relation and has a dual nature:

“Commodities come into the world in the shape of use values, articles, or goods, such as iron, linen, corn, &c. This is their plain, homely, bodily form. They are, however, commodities, only because they are something two-fold, both objects of utility, and, at the same time, depositories of value. They manifest themselves therefore as commodities, or have the form of commodities, only in so far as they have two forms, a physical or natural form, and a value form.” (Capital. Volume 1. Part 1. Section 3).

Neither the physical form nor the value form can ever be captured through a number, only approximated. Such “depositories of value” are encoded in money, be it precious metal, fiat or digital. Here, I think, a conceit is indulged, or if you prefer, a sleight of hand is performed. This sleight of hand has proven more efficient, more powerful and most of all more fungible than competing forms of valuation. Private property, capital accumulation and markets organize trade–rationalize it–and facilitate the speeding up and expansion of the forms of monetary endcoding of exchange value necessary to overcome the long periods of time and often great distances involved in buying and selling labor and capital in the form of goods and services. But, regardless of its ability to outperform competitors, it was still an imprecise and arbitrary operation that also codified relations of exploitation and domination that are intrinsic to it. This operation appears to us as naturalized, by which I mean represented as an authentic and eternal, just and good, embodiment of the value of that good or service. When economists employ mathematical formulas and assert ‘laws’, it is as though the realm of capitalism is eternal. While some of these formulas can be helpful in understanding the nature of capitalism, such as Thomas Picketty’s R > G, they are only applicable within the narrow field of economics. However many econometricians may don white lab coats to assert their empirical knowledge, what they practice is still, at best, numerical anthropology or mathematical sociology. Value in a Marxist sense is always, everywhere and throughout all of history, something human beings determine. These laws and the numbers that make them appear so solid do not stand outside of time, outside of history. This misrepresentation, (conceit, sleight of hand) lies at the heart of capitalist, and much socialist, political economy: that part of the value of a good or service can be ‘stored’ and rendered as an amount expressed by the numerical symbols of whatever currency is deemed legitimate.

Non Marxist economists believe that ‘stored’ or ‘deposited’ value can be calculated one way, through pricing signals and monetary mechanisms toward that ever elusive market equilibrium, or the cosmic balance between supply and demand; Marxist economists, through the labor theory of value, another. Both economic theories, on paper and in practice, rely on a pricing mechanism and a monetary system together with banks, private or public, as institutions necessary to facilitate trade and the meeting of human needs, however imperfect. Socialist states sought to quantify the exchange value of labor and capital in monetary forms–every socialist state has had a currency, banks, an insurance industry, etc.,–no less than capitalist states.

With the public realm of the state it was possible to socialize (usually ‘nationalize’) values, to one degree or another; with the private the goal was, and is, to privatize them. Both approaches sought to expand and speed up economic growth and thereby social development. Socializing surplus value, on the one hand, or lifting all boats by expanding the pie, on the other. Private property and ‘free’ markets have proven to be more adept at this. All things being equal the military and economic might to command large armies of labor from which super profits and surplus value can be extracted, especially from the global South, has been a constant advantage throughout the recent history of capitalism. But how that growth and development is distributed is, of course, its Achilles heal. With the public and private, everyone is fixated on monetizing labor and capital, then dividing the fruits according to the logic of either system. Both only considered communism as an economic system free from private property and wage labor, money and exploitation, as a distant utopia or an ever present threatening dystopia but not, in any case, realizable in the here and now.

Bit Logic and a Communist Future

The explosion in computing power that Bit logic has unleashed threatens to upend this by potentially making the public/private binary obsolete because it is rapidly transforming the space and time involved in trade. It is simultaneously opening up a heretofore impossible communist future while also enabling a more exploitive and domineering state and corporate nexus. The gig economy and Bitcoin are responses to this change in the fundamentals of classical economics–both represent an intensification of private capital accumulation and control. That intensification is proceeding at a frenetic pace. Well meaning politicians who bemoan workers having to live ‘paycheck to paycheck’ are missing the fact that in our increasingly informal and digitized economy workers live from gig to gig, which is to say hour to hour, in their cars or cars they rent, while corporations continue to slough off the social costs of doing business onto the backs of those workers. As the gig economy grows–and it will grow unless we strangle it–other better paying, more secure, safe and fulfilling jobs disappear. But the freedom to set a work schedule of our own desire, or to take breaks when we need them, or not have a boss up in our face is greatly diminished when we must work 12-14 hour days and the only other options to this digital treadmill are prison or homelessness. Fully half of Google’s workers are now gidgets (my word, which is a portmanteau of widget and gig), i.e., contract workers with all the flexibility of someone unemployed but none of the benefits of an employee. Dismissing or applauding the growth of the gig economy ignores the inescapable logic inherent to its spread: capital is able to massively socialize costs while increasing accumulation. What allows for this is the increase in digital networking power, the massive disenfranchisement of the masses that accompanies the privatization of electoral politics and the general speeding up of the circulation of money. Workers have no choice but to work these jobs because, as a comrade once noted, labor always follows capital, as it doesn’t wish to starve or be imprisoned. The key here, much like the key to Rapaport’s sentence above, is understanding that this power belongs to us and must be returned to us and in order to bring that about we must fight for all of it. We must wrest that power from them, not enable it. No half-measures such as increased taxes, higher wages, a reclassification of workers or more democrats in office will do. Nothing less than everything will do.

Did you know that bluetooth beacons in grocery stores track cell phones to within centimeters and can send push notifications to nearby ‘shoppers’? These changes are not coming; they are already here. The good news is that many of them prefigure an anarcho-communist future. That future will not come about by its own volition; it must be won.

Developments in Bit logic and networking power, especially during the past 10 years, expose the increasingly unnecessary and wasteful aspects of capitalism while laying the groundwork to make it possible to forego these operations altogether. Some untethered radicals and discombobulated libertarians believe that ‘data’ will supplant ‘pricing’ in the near future, a signature development of a ‘post-capitalist’ future. Call it what you may, it will be worthless without a massive redistribution of wealth.

What is different today, or at least since 2010 is that whereas at one time such advances in technology facilitated trade and the meeting of human needs, now they hamper them. This is what continues to be misunderstood about the Great Recession of 2007-09: The upheaval was less about housing bubbles or asset overvaluations per se than about a balance that needed to be re-calibrated. An explosion of value was being unleashed through technological changes and that value had to be captured–privatized–by corporations and the state. But the velocity and breadth of these changes are outstripping the ability of the modern nation state to corral it. Bitcoin and the gig economy are efforts to intensify the privatization of these advances.

Instant and Inevitable Communism

Two recent articles, one a fluff piece the other more serious fare, address something similar. Aaron Bastani’s concept of “Fully Automated Luxury Communism” first made the pages of the New York Times on June 11, 2019, but it has been around for awhile. The nut of his argument, which is equal parts preposterous and loathsome, not least because it serves as a bridge between the affluent and entitled left and the soulless libertarian right, is as follows: “The case of cultured food and drink, far from a curiosity, is a template for a better, freer and more affluent world, a world where we provide for the needs of everyone–in style.” The article reads as if it was written by a 40-something neurotic boy-man channeling Lenin as a ‘salesman’, rather than he who gave the order to put the Romanovs in the ground. The breathless prose comes off as a promotional pitch for an inevitable technological revolution–no molotov cocktails or general strikes needed. As despicable as his article is and forthcoming book will be, Bastani highlights something of importance: automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and other advances in science are transforming the world, in particular the nature of work and workers. Most radicals know this, but it is an open question as to whether our theory has changed accordingly. The problem, which most radicals also understand, and that is left entirely unaddressed by Bastani, is in whose hands this transformational power resides. The answer, of course, is theirs. The struggle to reclaim that power will not be a cake walk. It will be brutal, and of necessity lightening fast and global, while hopefully successful. But it will not come about because Sergey Brin has decided to fund another vanity tech start up that produces genetically engineered meat. The significance of the article is in the fact that intellectual elites have taken notice of such changes and are planning accordingly. Some, full of dystopian dread, are buying land in New Zealand while others believe the Bolsheviks will never come for their Doggy Hotels because the rough edges of capitalism will be smoothed over through the invention of a better mousetrap delivered to their door by a drone.

The other article of interest, with more heft to it, is that by Evgeny Morozov in New Left Review (No. 116. June 2019). “Digital Socialism? The Calculation Debate in the Age of Big Data” is concerned with similar developments in science and technology. But where Bastani laps up genetically engineered hamburgers made of petri dish grown cellular matter with squirts of commodity fetishism to sweeten the taste, Morozov is more concerned with whether Silicon Valley can cough up fresh “legitimating narratives” and “regenerative mythologies” to buttress actually existing capitalism. The most important aspect of this requires revisiting the “socialist calculation debate” and something called the “New Deal on Data” a concept that derives from a paper presented to the 2009 Davos forum. Morozov writes:

“I will go on to suggest ways in which the development of digital ‘feedback infrastructure’ offers opportunities for the left to propose better processes of discovery, better solutions for the hyper-complexity of social organization in fast-changing environments, and better matches of production and consumption than Hayek’s solution—market competition and the price system—could provide.”

Here is the whole weight of the material determining our political possibilities–sort of a reiteration of the base and superstructure debate. Mozorov is essentially arguing for a more sophisticated ‘Fully Automated Luxury Communism’ with a tweak from Picketty and perhaps Hayek. Both articles are largely non-starters because of where they begin. For Morozov a compelling argument has been made by Viktor Mayer-Schonberger through his works Big Data and Reinventing Capitalism in the Era of Big Data (or, provocatively titled in the original German Das Digital) that data will replace the pricing mechanism as the guarantee of the internal logic of capitalism.

Morozov writes:

“Das Kapital, they argue, is out of date: once it is efficiently utilized throughout the economy, Big Data will not just reinvent capitalism—the English title is too modest on this point—but end it. ‘It may be time to close the door on history and officially eliminate the term “capitalism”’, they proclaim. In place of finance capital and firms, data-rich markets will empower humans to work directly with each other. More dramatically, data will supplant the price system as the economy’s chief organizing principle.”

While Morozov does not buy this argument, he does seem to relax his critical faculties when it comes to the proliferation of feedback mechanisms associated with the big data of Amazon and related Gig economy ‘disrupters’. His casual mention of Bla Bla Car, a rideshare startup in France that allows a rider to set a ‘chattiness’ level of a driver neglects to note that this is a form of labor discipline exercised by capitalists. This feature of new data as it intersects with the gig economy is left unexplored, which is a shame because it is the nexus for the anti-labor, anti-human character of this emerging economy. Morozov forgets that the very notion of a ‘consumer’ is bound up with enforcing labor discipline as much as it is about limiting rat feces in bologna. For Marxists, there is no such thing as a consumer, only my labor power and the assholes who steal the surplus value from it. Mozorov evinces no recognition of this fact about the new gig economy.

Whether it be pricing or data, there is no way to definitively quantify the value of capital and labor, goods and services through money, although this is precisely what capitalist and socialist states and their theorists have argued over for the past two hundred years–not if it could or should be done, only how it could or should be done. That’s what the great ‘Calculation Debate’ should have been about. To suggest that it needn’t have taken place at all is not necessarily a fools errand that romanticizes ‘primitive’ modes of production, such as bartering, ‘pre-capitalist’ economies or those such as that practiced by the Zapatistas for more than twenty years throughout the region of Chiapas. We must relentlessly interrogate the notion that there are ironclad stages of development that define and constrain our ability to realize a communist future, aka the stage theory of socialism. We are constantly told that we can eventually overcome this, but to push for too much too soon is to court disaster because it is impossible. The elimination of work, of money, of private property and the state is something that must come about, but can only come about in the distant future. So we have been told. But if capitalism is experiencing a crisis of confidence, so too is the guiding logic of state socialism. Something is different from then and now. Why? Big data, with or without flexible and recursive mechanisms for ‘bringing people together’, will always trend toward monopoly and dictatorship because the dna of the modern corporation is that of domination and exploitation. They are by definition totalitarian regimes. This is not addressed by Mozorov. Small or large, if the corporation remains, our future is bleak. Right now the modern corporation is in almost complete control of all the most important advances in science and technology, not to mention the erasure of politics and culture. To theorize the state as a vector of opposition to ‘globalization’ is to miss the fact that it has been largely captured by capitalists, be they national or ‘international’ in outlook. It just doesn’t make much of a difference.

What is fundamentally different about our situation today is that if we wait, it will be too late. We court disaster by not pushing for everything now, because only everything will stave off total disaster of one type or another. Whether that imminent threat be climate change, fascism, species collapse and pandemics, or just the continuation of neoliberal digital dictatorships wobbling about as a hollowed out and emaciated liberal democracy, is irrelevant. Any one or more of these threats will end the dream of an equalitarian and democratic future. Organized human societies and the democracy and equality that give them meaning are increasingly at risk of collapse. While one could argue that making a leap toward an anarcho-communist future risks destabilizing liberal democratic alternatives, it is becoming more apparent than ever that the risks associated with not making such a leap outweigh those of attempting it.

All Accounting is Fictitious.

All ‘costs’ could be socialized without a monetary system, banks, loans, insurance, or any type of symbolic semiotic absurdity mediating the lifespan and use of a given good or service. Strip from that rutabaga plant or taxi ride, domicile or space shuttle every aspect of pricing and markets, money, buying and selling, wages and ownership, advertising and insurance–what do you have? The thing in itself which we make the thing for us, that which belongs to the commons. If we weren’t spending our time and energy fixated on monetizing exchange value, what could we spend our energy and ‘cognitive capital’ doing? All of those things above that define a good or service sans the elaborate and wasteful exercise in fictitious accounting. In other words, all accounting is fictitious. The operation, while undoubtedly surreal, is not without real world consequences, but it is and can only ever be a misrepresentation of the value it is said to embody. We arrive at that value through our collective control of the process, or it is imposed on us.

Another way of looking at this: What an extraordinary waste of human energy! If there is no longer a need for assurances of trust necessary for the taking of risk, because that trust and risk has been socialized in the commons, for what does one need money? If those great distances and long periods of time have been effectively overcome, what is the point of money? The answer is to maintain inequality. Today it is increasingly only that. It is a system that has lost its ability to project a future worth projecting so it resorts to the doctrine of TINA–There Is No Alternative. The very forces it has unleashed have become fetters on further development, as someone once said, so it forecloses on any future other than that of its continued domination.

Bit Logic ≠ Money

Consider the difference between Bit logic and money. Bit logic is perfectly logical, its operations by definition must solve an equation, complete an algorithm. It’s an arrangement of zeros and ones. This is behind that annoying statement that coders and software engineers are fond of quipping: a computer program can never be wrong; it can only be programmed (by a human) incorrectly. Exchange value, on the other hand, is not strictly logical in the above sense; it is a social construction that employs a certain logic in its execution, but can only ape bit logic. It always reflects whatever values a ruling class is able to impose on subordinated classes, something decidedly social in nature. That value is mediated by the class struggle, not independent from it. There is no ‘value’ apart from this. In this sense the value of money lies in the ability of a ruling class to live in a manse, impose a border, enforce a regime of labor, and organize all of this from its computerized citadels. It has no existence independent from this.

Try and imagine a world without finance, debt, deficits and loans, without corporations and governments, without advertising and without wage labor, without work. It is difficult because it cannot be done without an understanding of the functional and structural basis of capitalism and the state together with a theory of what can replace them, and how to bring that about. It’s also the case that such a dream of the future cannot be piecemeal, because it is always subject to the death of a thousand cuts. You want open borders? What about the chaos that would ensue? And so on. Additionally there is a dynamic to capitalism such that whatever we are able to wrest from one hand they will take back (and more) with the other. This is what we radicals mean by a ‘systemic’ analysis, or “the system”. Bit technology can help facilitate this transformation–it can be used to help us replace capitalism because it is different from it.

Now, it should be clear that I am not a Luddite. But I am also not a futurist nor a technological determinist. This technology which exists on a world-changing scale must be controlled and shaped by the commons for the common good. We ought not hide from, organize around, ignore or destroy it. We must make it serve the common good. We can only accomplish this through political struggle. Left in their hands it will bring us nothing but more misery. What we yearn for, the prize that we must always keep our eyes on, is what is meant by this quote from Marx, altered for gender clarity:

“For as soon as the distribution of labour comes into being, each woman has a particular exclusive sphere of activity, which is forced upon her and from which she cannot escape. She is a hunter, a fisherwoman, a shepherd, or a critical critic and must remain so if she does not wish to lose her means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any branch she wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, to fish in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner, just as I have in mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherwoman, shepherd or critic.” (The German Ideology). 

This year the British state will adorn a 50 pound note with a visage of Alan Turing. Such a conflation of the scientific genius of Turing with that of the unscientific power of money is obscene, and perfectly in keeping with the odious nature of the United Kingdom.

This is not our future, much less the only possible future; it’s no fucking future at all. I will have none of it. Let’s bring something different into existence. Let’s take a leap toward a 21st Century socialism, in a word Anarcho-Communism.

 

END

If You Insist on Driving in San Francisco

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If you are a tourist, just don’t drive in the city. Don’t even consider it. This is the most unforgiving and forbidding, bat shit crazy city to drive in throughout the entire United States. Oakland is a close second, with the crappiest roads in the country, but nothing beats San Francisco’s hybrid transportation hell with its one-way, dilapidated streets, steep, winding hills, constant construction, horrific traffic and the most aggressive pedestrians and bicycle riders on the planet.  If you must travel to San Francisco–and we prefer you did not–don’t drive a car. If, however you insist on doing so, here are some vehicular pastimes that beat the crushing stupidity and corporate mendacity of those tourist traps like Fisherman’s Wharf and The Embarcadero. You might as well learn something from your intransigence.

If you are not above indulging in a bit of schadenfreude proceed to Washington and Jefferson streets where they cross Snob Hill east-west and west-east. Both streets are one way and are cable car equipped. The cable cars, long since abandoned as a means of proletarian conveyance, now cater exclusively to that most despicable of social creatures, the tourist.  Get your video ready. Note that in place of four-stop-sign intersections the cable car is granted the right-of-way, making for two-stop-sign intersections, something unexpected and counterintuitive to anyone unfamiliar with San Franscisco’s insane transportation environment. You will watch as driver after driver stops when they ought not to stop, and do not stop when they should. This, despite the prominently posted signs north and south that read Cross Traffic Does Not Stop. It makes no difference, as no-one reads a sign posted below a stop sign, unless it is for a yard sale; but it does make for constant near catastrophes, and the occasional full-on crash. Hours of enjoyment here, much superior to those creepy mobs lined up outside the Full House house, which is not the house at all, merely the exterior that formed a shot for the show. Besides, sitcoms with laugh tracks are the television equivalent of easy listening muzak.

Americans are congenitally allergic to Round-a-bouts. San Francisco is no exception. The Round-a-bout at 8th and Townsend is a shit show worthy of a Three Stooges skit. The physical comedy of vehicles, bicycles, scoots and scooters, skateboarders and pedestrians all aggressively competing for the right-of-way through a circle whose logic escapes everyone is perfectly emblematic of the future Big Tech has in store for us. And this is ground zero of Big Tech in San Francisco, with the offices of Adobe and Air BnB yards from the chaos. They have figured it all out, you see, because an algorithm can never be wrong (only the person who programmed it) therefore everything that derives from the algorithm is right and good. Now comes the pesky Round-a-bout and the many nuanced social cues and codes and all that other stuff that escapes the ironclad logic of the Bit. The logic of the Round-a-bout is straight forward and simple, yet flouted by practically everyone: if you are in, you have the right of way. If you are out, watch out. Exceptions, as always, are pedestrians and bicycles. The point system is always in effect, which is my way of saying Big Tech is Big Stupid.

Set aside time in your itinerary for the onramp to the Bay Bridge at 1st and Harrison and the neighborhood known as SoMa (South of Market). Deeply ensconced within this cradle of plutocracy is the leaning Millennium Tower (fall over already) and the worlds most posh freeway entrance. While you are there let them know we are coming with pitchforks and molotov cocktails, and a particular emphasis on those $5,000-a-month doggy day cares. During rush hour (5am-10pm everyday) watch for Lamborghinis with a right-of-way my Toyota just doesn’t have. They will cheat through that bike lane while pretending to ignore horns blaring around them then park right in the middle of the fucking intersection, stopping traffic in all directions. Taking their time, they will pretend to have misinterpreted the giant sign that reads “Do Not Block Intersection” and the civil code cited below it. Milkshakes are in order.

While not particular to San Francisco, the mantra Look, Signal, (then) Pull out should always apply. Don’t do the opposite–pull out, signal and look as an after thought. Doing the opposite means you will ram your vehicle into mine and I will be forced to exit my vehicle and beat you about the head with a copy of Das Kapital. This elementary principle, so simple and unambiguous, so very difficult to misinterpret, is unobserved everywhere. There is a phrase for doing otherwise: aggressive stupidity.

Don’t stick your phone, much less your iPad, into the middle of your front windshield. Are you daft? You will not be able to take out that Salesforce executive without backing up to finish the job. Furthermore, while you may be able to track your progress through that gps navigation program, you won’t get wherever it is you are going because you will have hit something you ought not to have hit along the way. Those large spaces at the front and sides of your vehicle called windows are transparent for a reason–so you can see through them.

Autonomous vehicles in training are legitimate targets for milkshaking and the old Issac Asimov I Robot conundrum: roll a baby carriage from one direction and an elderly person from another directly in front of the Waymo vehicle and force it to make a decision, thereby exposing bias at work in the algorithm. If it chooses to run over the baby, autonomous vehicles are baby killers; if it chooses the elderly person, it is guilty of geronticide. If it stops altogether, get your milkshake ready.

Two noteworthy tidbits of trivia to keep in mind about the Golden Gate Bridge. First, is that it was Iron workers who died building it and should be honored for it. Architects and engineers can fuck off. Second, the suicide deterrent system currently being installed on both sides of the bridge to the tune of $240 million is emblematic of the priorities of San Francisco’s city leaders. It is far more important to obstruct people trying to die with dignity, and perhaps a bit of notoriety, than do anything about the homeless crisis–which is not a crisis of too few homes available for too many people, but that of the 100,000 empty homes that the wealthy indolent and real estate industry purposefully leave uninhabited. That’s right 100,000 empty fucking homes. Occupation and expropriation are the only solution here.

The Tenderloin District is the last bastion of lumpen proletariat resistance in the entire city. Drive careful through there because God’s children are selling the dope all those Big Tech twits need to make it through their twenty-hour work days while they pray to the crack in the wallet of a Tech billionaire. That’s right, San Francisco’s African-American population has contracted by almost half in the past twenty years, which makes driving through The Tenderloin, Bayview and Hunter’s Point neighborhoods the rough equivalent of visiting a concentration camp or Indian reservation. You are witnessing a program of urban genocide carried out under the banner of Big Tech. So remember, with every  floor of a shiny new office building, a tent city is erected in its shadow.

Welcome to the City on the Hill.

END

Occam’s Razor Applied

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Here’s something you have probably heard before: As we grow older we become more conservative in our politics because maturation implies moderation. Within every young anarchist or communist is a reactionary just waiting to emerge.

This assertion is often presented as a value-neutral descriptive that merely reflects a principle of human sociality beyond all politics. Quite the opposite is true, as the assertion contains within it a hidden prescriptive: implied is that one should become more reasonable with advanced age and ‘grow up’ by tossing aside youthful excesses, like political radicalism, in favor of capital accumulation, the responsibilities of ‘raising’ a family, and the moderation in all things that this apparently entails. This is often framed as natural, something that just happens because that’s just the way the world is. This is almost always the way this concept is wielded. There are endless variations of this meaningless mantra and they often begin with a red diaper baby and end up with someone like Norman Podhoretz. The trajectory is everything–one doesn’t ever go from right to left, always from left to right.

Together with that other old canard, history repeats itself, these two maxims serve to paralyze thought and action.

Using Occam’s Razor we can make a very different assertion: Older people appear more conservative not because they mature in their beliefs, nor because reactionary values are ‘natural’ or inevitable, but because rich assholes live longer–much longer–than the rest of us.

Furthermore most rich people have more conservative values than the rest of us because they began with wealth and power they want to conserve; then, when they get older, they are proportionately more of any given population than when they began their incessant exploitation of us. As inequality kills us quicker, their social footprint–financial, electoral, golf–becomes that much greater. As we die in greater numbers more quickly than they do, they accumulate more wealth and power as they grow older. They don’t become wise with old age; they defend that which they have stolen with greater zeal. It just appears to be the case that the older people get the more right wing they become, when in fact there are just more right wing assholes because they live longer.

What a shame.

It would seem a simple corrective to begin reversing this trend; if need be by taking some of them with us.

Willem Van Spronsen, the 69-year young anarchist who went down fighting ICE with firearms and molotov cocktails is living proof of my argument. Honor his contribution accordingly.

 

The Tyranny of Adverbs and Twits.

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Literally used now more than ever.

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Way back in 2012, Joe Biden was criticized for using the adverb ‘literally’ nine times in one speech. How quaint. I recently listened to a level 5 Google engineer use it nine times in the space of two minutes.

This particular soulless quant had another annoying habit: He would begin every other sentence by restating my name, “Jonathan, I understand what you are saying…” If such feigned familiarity is coupled with a light touch on the arm, I feel free to reach for a knife. Most people who do this are trying to overcome skepticism and inculcate credulity. As a mnemonic device, it is annoying at best; more often it is cloying and insincere and a sure sign to distrust, even despise someone.

Honestly? Like. Literally. Actually.

While I don’t miss Obama much, I do miss his particular elocution, that patient, preternaturally calm, baritone voice and the halting ‘ums’ and ‘uhs’ that stitched together his verbal output. By today’s standards, those pauses are pleasant by comparison. They don’t have any pretense; they are space fillers that allow him to think. While I have many disagreements with what he said, I could always understand it. He was thoughtful and nuanced to a fault; dithering on the golf course while fascism made a comeback. But in this he was not alone, nor particularly exceptional. Plenty of socialists, for instance practically the entire seven-year history of Jacobin Magazine and Blog, join him in this regard. But back to those adverbs.

With Trump, it is as though every wealthy, entitled, and neurotic teenager has suddenly been given carte blanche to release their own unfiltered insanity. While I think the parallels here can be overstated (Trump as a teenager) there is still something to it. Will Trump bomb Iran or just berate the housekeeper? Will he begin in earnest the rounding up of undocumented families or just do a stint in rehab?

His verbal diarrhea is pockmarked with superlatives such as ‘winner’, ‘terrific’, ‘tremendous’ and of course, ‘great’ and ‘greatest’. It’s as though his mother, or au pair, never stopped telling him how special he was, even when he was caught eviscerating the neighbor’s cat. Good boy.

If Trump were a pornography category it would be ass-to-mouth, mouth-to-ass, with all those A-list ruling class enablers from both political parties, across every imaginable capitalist enterprise, sucking and fucking to form one giant, unending, gangrenous human centipede, just like the horror film. Jeffrey Epstein is in there somewhere.

Today it seems that adverbs, and certain nasty ones, in particular, have mounted an attack upon the nonviolence of ums and ahs, completing a scorched earth assault on the quiet dignity of anodyne place fillers so as to replace them with crutch words that, whether used correctly or incorrectly, amount to obfuscation and disorganization–i.e., bullshit. These lexical tics impulsively resorted to by the verbally disabled add emphasis where none is needed, assert drama where there is only triviality, state the obvious rather than the nuanced, and (my favorite) suggest strongly that everything said beforehand was a lie (honestly?…). The standard Trump teenage verbal diarrhea disaster asserts a recklessness with meaning that can only be regarded as aggressive stupidity. This is the hallmark of the powerful, the invulnerable, the masters of the universe who say and do as they please without repercussions, and is the hidden in plain view secret behind Trump’s attraction to some people. We have heard it again and again: Trump ‘says out loud what we can only think to ourselves’. My own take on this is that Trump says out loud, in ways some people would never even hazard, the despicable ideas that belong in the basement. They generally stay there because someone will kick your fucking ass if you say them out loud elsewhere, which is as it should be, but, alas is no longer.

The terrifying ephemeral nature of Twitter is the dominant mode of communication for this viral and noxious hate speech. But together with the sheer hatred and assault of such verbiage, there is something else underway: where everything is equally dramatic, nothing is important. Aside from links to longer written work, this platform, like instagag and snapcrap is useless for leftists. The ‘twit’ in Twitter is there for a reason. Those who are prolific in these mediums are the same shallow dipshits who prosecute juvenile intra-leftist fights. Tankies vs. insurrectionists, statists vs. anarchists, etc.

No complex thoughts or arguments are possible here, only half-ass hashtags, silly memes, and depraved gossip. Chomsky once remarked that in order to engage an audience about ideas which break with orthodoxy one must spend some time setting the groundwork to do so–you need at least 15-30 minutes to tear down presumptions that prohibit ‘out of the box’ thinking. If you are not afforded the opportunity to do this you sound insane. This fact alone means the instant ambush culture of social media and the talking heads that wallow in cultish Marxisant Zizekian nonsense ensures no such thinking is possible within such a format. Zizek and his ilk thrive there because they are full of shit. That’s why Chomsky didn’t go on cable news programs or engage in celebrity debates. Chomsky has all the more integrity because of that. More leftists, certain antifascists, in particular, need a reminder on this point. Otherwise, you are just engaging in a debate on their terms. The only corrective to this sorry state of affairs is aptly provided in the wonderful allegory of revolution that is the film Snowpiercer, by Bong Joon-Ho. If you get to the front of the train, don’t listen to the conductor, don’t even allow him to talk–cut his tongue out and remember: Kronole is a bomb, you idiot!

This is why it is largely pointless to troll celebrities and engage in the shadow boxing preferred liberals and conservatives. The questions determine the parameters of possible answers. Liberals and conservatives, establishment types, and pols consumed with issues and policies are congenitally allergic to our thinking and action. Are they concentration camps? Is Jeremy Corbyn an antisemite? Was Brett Kavanaugh qualified for the Supreme Court? Is there a U.S. presidential candidate other than Bernie Sanders worth two shits? Did Jeffrey Epstein receive preferential treatment for his predations? If you debate these questions, you have lost before you begin because there is no debate. To debate what is obvious is the death of debate. It is to die a dithering death, full of thoughtfulness and nuance, that amounts to nothing. It won’t stop fascism or overcome capitalism. Enough already. Try a long-form essay, FFS, and mind your adverbs

END

Here Fascism, There Fascism, Everywhere Fascism

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To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism. By Rob Riemen. W.W. Norton and Company. 2018

Just because a verbose twit decries ‘fascism’ doesn’t mean said scribbler is onto something. If, while pointing at a chair, someone screams ‘fascism!’ we would look askance and wonder about their mental state.

So it is with this pulp fiction.

The problem appears immediately, in the opening sentences. Having ‘courageously’ announced the return of fascism way back in 2010, Riemen, all too comfortable writing about himself, assumes the role of reluctant soothsayer, only to be dismissed by his fellow patrician academics.

He told you, but you refused to listen. ‘You’ are that most reasonable and cautious of thinkers, steeped in the eternal values of liberal democracy, perhaps a fellow at The Nexus Institute or the Templeton Foundation, which seems to mine similar philosophical terrain. A liberal, a conservative, a neo-this or neo-that, perhaps even a ‘progressive’.

Of course what Reimen considers to be fascism is so elastic and untethered from reality as to be an hallucination. If a brute of any political persuasion were to vomit in his precious ivory tower, staining the parchment rolls of wisdom poured over by so many serious thinkers, the sulphur pits could not be far behind. But he was ignored not because his colleagues failed to grasp the reemergence of fascism in the 21st century–an indisputable fact about which there is now little argument–but because they didn’t give a shit. Riemen’s account of fascism is so preposterous as to lend credence to their dismissal, which says a lot, I suppose.

This bit of nauseating self congratulation is quickly followed by laughable cautionary tales about why ‘civilizations’ self destruct. In short: Elites fall prey to their own hubris, their aggressive stupidity opening the door to the passions and naïveté of the masses, which is the real problem here, and far worse than ruling class shortsightedness.

Ruling elites get too greedy and self absorbed–go all Caligula–mindlessly following the pagan shock and awe of an amoral capitalism, and thereby undermine the natural order of things, which depends upon the endless interpretations of philosophers such as Reimen. Not change that order of things, mind you, but explain it. The problem is in the style of elite rule, rather than the rule itself. Here fascism is just another variant of anything that challenges the status quo, which is eternal.

Artists and philosophers are seen as repositories of the values that humanize capitalism, and are counterposed to technocrats and economists.

But capitalism cannot be humanized, only overthrown.

Besides, the fight against fascism proceeds not through the words and ideas of so many scholars and celebrities, but through the class struggle, the true motive force of history.

Elite rule, in today’s world, as that of old, involves brutal and unrelenting exploitation and domination. This is the hidden source of the reappearance of fascism as an exit strategy from the contradictions of capitalism. To ignore this means misunderstanding fascism and thereby being helpless to thwart it.

This is why the philosopher above, and many of his colleagues alike, will end up aiding it. Most of these sophisticates will find their way back to supporting this 21st century fascism (still in early development) precisely because they cannot see their own ideas and the institutions that sustain them as enablers of that same actually existing fascism–to use a turn of phrase. They are faux antifascists, their ideas, floating in a rarified atmosphere of abstract metaphysical absurdity, should be ridiculed, their institutions allowed to rot from within so we can immolate their edifices and warm ourselves by the embers. If your idea of a popular front is so anemic as to include such monstrous stupidities in its theoretical formulation, you have already surrendered.

What’s at stake here is, again, the definition of fascism, so important to the task of defeating it.

I haven’t included any direct quotes from To Fight Against…I don’t want to imply that there is something there with which one should engage. There isn’t.

END

Wine Country

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Such a strange mixture: Eucalyptus, palm and pine trees. This blending of old and new worlds, south and north, afforded by a most temperate clime, is a theme of Northern California wine country.

We can develop this theme well beyond flora.

The precise, computer rationalized and seemingly endless matrices of grape vines suggest progress, only to be disrupted by the altogether incongruous appearance of desperately poor and exploited farm workers, their bent backs evoking the cotton fields of the antebellum South, the rice paddies of Asia, the banana and coffee plantations of Central America, and the corporations and death squads that still rule so many of them. Little distinguishes this agricultural-industrial abomination, at least in its effects upon the poorest among us, from its obvious precursors.

The huddled port-a-potties an unintended admonition of the condition of the wage laborers that prop up the political economy of wine country.

Soon the grapes will make some room for endless rows of marijuana plants. The crops may vary; the port-a-potties are eternal.

Likewise the segregation between rich and poor, dark and white, so omnipresent as to be invisible, is a remarkable testimony to the continuity in forms of domination. There is virtually no mixing of social classes in Sonoma or Napa, and less upward mobility, only a seamless segregation reigns, the material base of a faux diversity no less a myth than those proffered the benevolent despotisms of yesterday.

So too the lavish estates of today, with names like Domaine Carneros and Chateau St. Jean, call to mind the landed aristocracy of France. This nod to the old world is found throughout the language of wine country. ‘Meritage’, a neologism coined by a plantation master with the name of Mondavi, is a clever linguistic transversal of the two worlds. To the novice it is pronounced “mer-i-tahzshe”, as a word of French origin might be. But it is not pronounced that way, rather as the word “heritage”. The confusion is by design, I think, so as to elicit a correction by an enthusiastic initiate, enhancing the prestige of the brand by way of deeper discussion.

However the wine is pronounced, farm workers can’t afford it.

In wine country the Kentucky Derby is celebrated without an ounce of irony, single vine varietals next to Mint Julip’s, parasols and wide brimmed hats flapping in the breeze, white leisure suits tended by servants at beck and call. All invited to the party wax nostalgic and are enthralled with that other breeding they are so in love with, that of an equestrian nature.

No surprise then that the ‘industry’ of grape cultivation also cultivates the most despicable values and social mores of an aristocracy, or Slaveocracy, even if they think of themselves as ‘cosmopolitan’ or celebrating the ‘modern South’.

But their ‘global culture’ is the damnable culture of a ruling class that steals everything, then forces us to reassemble it as a pastiche of conspicuous consumptions flaunted as the spoils of the class warfare it relentlessly prosecutes, yet denies.

Farm workers eat mangos and flavored ice from humble roadside stands, bittersweet reminders of how far away lie their homes and loved ones.

Wealthy oenophiles line up by the thousands at spittoons–a sure sign of a ‘healthy’ economy.

I agree, if we want economic development, let’s line them up.

END