Decommodify Labor

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Peter Kropotkin, anarchist communist

The sky and water are crisp and clear, as Autumn mornings crossing the New York harbor should be. I leave the Staten Island Ferry and see the beggars out in force this morning. More aggressive today, they insist on a toll to pass into the subway. I avert my eyes and tiptoe around them. There but for the grace of God…

It doesn’t have to be this way. Business Insider reported on October 9, 2020 about a Canadian study where $7500 was given to 50 people between the ages of 19 and 64 who recently became homeless. Did they use the money to binge on their favorite drug? No. It was spent on food, rent, and transportation. Many moved into housing over the course of the year. Spending on drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol went down by 39%. On top of all that the shelter system saved $8100 per person.

We need to fiercely imagine a livable future if there is any hope of getting out of this mess. We are hypnotized by a seemingly iron law of nature that the only way we can survive as individuals is to make our labor power valuable enough that someone will buy it, enabling us to live. We are commodities, the market value of our labor is the measure of our worth. Wage slavery is our life, we are Sisyphus doomed to eternally roll the rock up the hill, that is, if we are even lucky enough to be a wage slave.

We need to find a way to decommodify labor, and unhook it as a measure of human value. Universal basic income is a step in that direction.

This pandemic has accelerated the trend toward massive structural unemployment. That means that the economy no longer needs millions of workers. Workers who may face a lifetime of unemployment. And yet the economies of the world are producing as much as before. Thomas Piketty notes in his Capital in the 21st Century that in 2012 the world GDP was 71 trillion euros. This amounts to 10,000 euros for every man, woman, and child on the planet. In 2017 it was 80 trillion. Less and less people are needed to produce more and more, thanks to AI and robotics.

So what would happen if income from that 80 trillion procured the basic needs of every human: housing, healthcare, food, without the need to have a job? Basic needs, no frills. The bare minimum.

On the other hand, who would pick up NYC garbage if they didn’t need the job? Here’s the key to decommodify labor. UBI is a step into what Marx called the “realm of freedom” whereby productive activities are no longer a necessity forcing us into wage slavery. Labor becomes voluntary. So then, WHO will pick up the garbage? As we are still in a capitalist system, supply and demand still operates. If the supply of sanitation workers become scarce, their price goes up. People who volunteer to work in the Sanitation Department would be paid more to do unpleasant work. They would not be forced to do so out of desperation. In time, people will find a balance between doing what they love and supplementing their basic income.

How will we pay for it? The stimulus money sent out by the federal government gives us a fleeting glimpse of the possibilities. The Federal Reserve System, the creator of money in the US, is slowly revealing itself to be the master conjurer of this mystical entity, money. It’s a social construct, which can be reconceived for the benefit of all.

We can do it.


Return to Eden

Out of AI and ecological catastrophe, we may just evolve into an anarcho-communist world of equality and abundance.

Will we survive the 21st century? Hard to say. If AI doesn’t take over all our jobs, maybe the atmosphere will choke us to death. On the other hand, we managed to survive the 20th century, didn’t we?

In spite of the dire reading on the Doomsday Clock, we have managed to avoid a nuclear holocaust. The jury is still out on ecological catastrophe. And yet, as Steven Pinker documented in his Enlightenment Now, the lives of average people have improved over the centuries.

Peter Frase, in his book published by Verso Press, neatly summarizes four possibilities for the 21st century:

Image courtesy of Freemachine.org

If we are lucky, we might achieve Eden. If not, a benevolent variety of socialism may prevail. Elysium is the nightmare scenario. In my humble opinion, we are already in a rentism regime, moving inexorably toward “Elysium.”

All we need to do is look at the real beneficiaries of the Covid-19 crisis to understand that we are drifting steadily toward the bottom right corner of the chart. Common Dreams reported in late May that: “In the first 23 days after the initial lockdowns began, America’s billionaire class raked in over $282 billion in personal wealth, according to the Institute for Policy Studies.” For most of my life I accepted inequality as price we pay for a society that rewards innovation and effort. I have come to realize that the current extremes of wealth inequality have created an aristocracy that dictates policy. Plutocracy. Peter Frase sums up the consequences in his book:

To the extent that the rich are able to maintain their power, we will live in a world where they enjoy the benefits of automated production, while the rest of us pay the costs of ecological destruction–if we can survive at all. To the extent that we can move toward a greater equality, then the future will be characterized by some combination of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity, depending on where we are on the other, ecological dimension.

Peter Frase, Four Futures, page 29

Can we work within the system to make reforms that erode the power of the plutocrats? Andrew Yang’s UBI and the Green New Deal may be a start. If we look at history, we see that FDR’s New Deal was under assault by the end of WWII, courtesy of the newly installed Military-Industrial Complex. Organized labor sold its soul to have a seat at the table, only to be kicked aside by neoliberalism led by Reagan and Thatcher.

All I can say for certain is that the power elite will attempt to preserve itself by any means necessary.


The Power Elite Win

The Anointing of Yesterday’s Man insures nothing will change

In anarchist circles, there is a saying: “If elections changed anything, voting would be illegal.” Super Tuesday’s results appear to validate that claim.

In all the coverage of Tuesday’s primaries, I don’t think I heard a word about what Joe Biden stood for. That’s because there’s not a hair’s breadth of difference between Donald J. Trump and Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

Branko Marcetic, author of Yesterday’s Man: the Case Against Joe Biden, supports this fact in 200 pages of fully researched detail. His long career not only proves he’s more than willing to give Republicans what they want, but he has also tried to outdo the likes of Ronald Reagan and G.W. Bush.


  • Joe Biden long ago abandoned the New Deal and aligned himself with the “conservative”, neoliberal new world order.
  • Lower taxes, especially for corporations (same as Trump).
  • Less government (i.e. cut social security, medicare.. same as Trump).
  • Less government interference in the marketplace (i.e. deregulation..same as Trump)
  • Preserving full-spectrum dominance: that is, keep our Roman Empire like control of the world with our military. Uncle Joe will not cut military spending, the same as Trump.
  • Drugs: he advocated that a drug czar should supersede that the Attorney General and wanted to enlist the FBI, DEA, Coast Guard, Treasury, and even the NSA to fight the “war on drugs.” African-Americans suffered more drug arrests than all other groups, ruining countless Black lives.
  • Crime: Uncle Joe bragged that his crime bill in the 1990s included the death penalty for 51 offenses. The NAACP and the ACLU lobbied against his bill. Jaywalking was not included among the capital offenses.
  • Uncle Joe made sure that students couldn’t get rid of student loans through bankruptcy protection. Thanks, Joe. Do you work for the banks? Yes, I do.

Let’s breathe and stay peaceful. Let’s learn from Gandhi. Let’s occupy Congress, the Pentagon, and Wall Street. The 2020 elections are a scam, a fraud, a distraction. Let’s picket polling places. Boycott the election as fraudulent. No mandate. Illegal. The world produces enough for everybody. People want peace and prosperity.

The problem is the Donald Trumps and Joe Bidens of the world, kneeling before the Power Elite, who operate behind the curtain.


Anarchist Individualism as a Life and Activity

French anarchist Emile Armand published this in 1907. It is a manifesto for a way of life that is ever so gradually disappearing in the face of relentless online living. The following are lengthy excerpts from that paper:

Persecutions, difficulties and conflicts of all kinds, demand that whoever professes anarchism should be possessed of a mentality which is out of the ordinary, which is reflective, and which is in a state of continual reaction against a society composed of people who, on the contrary, are not reflective and are
inclined to accept ready-made doctrines which make no demands on their intelligence.

As the word “anarchy” etymologically signifies the negation of governmental authority, the absence of government, it follows that one indissoluble bond unites the anarchists. This is antagonism to all situations regulated by imposition, constraint, violence, governmental oppression, whether these are a product of all, a group, or of one person. In short, whoever denies that the intervention of government is for human relationships is an anarchist. But this definition would have only a negative value did it not possess as a practical complement, a conscious attempt to live outside this domination and servility which are incompatible with the anarchist conception.

An anarchist, therefore, is an individual who, whether he has been brought to it by a process of reasoning or by sentiment, lives to the greatest possible extent in a state of legitimate defense against authoritarian encroachments. From this it that anarchist individualism – the tendency which we believe contains the most
profound realization of the anarchist idea — is not merely a philosophical doctrine — it is an attitude, an individual way of life.

The anarchist individualist is not simply converted intellectually to ideas which will be realized one day some centuries hence. He tries now – for the present is the only time which matters for him — to practice his conceptions in everyday life, in his relations with his comrades, and in his contact with those others who do not
share his convictions. The anarchist individualist tends to reproduce himself, to perpetuate his spirit in other individuals who will share his views and who will make it possible for a state of affairs to be established from which authoritarianism has been banished. It is this desire, this will, not only to live, but also to reproduce oneself, which we shall call “activity”.

Tending to live his own individual life at the risk of clashing intellectually, morally, and economically, with his environment, the anarchist individualist at the same time tries to like himself, are free from the prejudices and superstitions of authority, in order that the greatest possible number of men may actually live their own lives, uniting through personal affinities to practice their conceptions as far as is possible.

His relationships with his comrades are based on reciprocity, on mutualism, on comradeship, and take numerous forms, all voluntary: free agreements of every type and in all spheres; respect for the pledged word and the carrying out of promises and engagements freely consented to. It is in this fashion that the individualist of our kind practices mutual aid in his species.

A conscious individual – seeking to create and select others – from being determined by his environment, he tends to become self-determining, to live his own life fully, to be active in the normal sense of the word. One cannot conceive the anarchist individual in any other way.

Anarchists no more want to be masters than they want to be servants – they no more want to exercise violence than to submit to it. They expose, they propose, but they do not impose. They are pioneers attached to no party, nonconformists, standing outside herd morality and conventional “good” and “evil” “a-social”. a “species” apart, one might say. They go forward, stumbling, sometimes falling, sometimes triumphant, sometimes vanquished. But they do go forward, and by living for themselves, these “egoists”, they dig the furrow, they open the broach through which will pass those who deny anarchism, the unique ones who will succeed them.


Collectives in Revolutionary Spain: The People Take Over

Part 1: James Madison Fears “The People”

James Madison didn’t trust the people: “Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Thus he expressed his fear. While he may be regarded as the Founding Father who urged checks and balances, let us not forget that he worked to exclude the people from having a direct role in government.

The people, he said, would be swept away by passions. Our current passion mongering demagogue of a President seems to validate Madison’s fear that Enlightenment Reason would be sacrificed to the rule of the “deplorables”, as his voters have been described. “The people” will always be incapable of self-rule.

Anarchists would disagree. Our thesis centers on the success of anarchist principles at a certain time and place: Spain 1936-1939, during the Spanish Civil War. The people in Northern Spain stood up to the Fascists and the Bolsheviks and opted to live a libertarian communist lifestyle: collectivizing the land, the factories, the workshops, and social services. It worked. The people ruled. More of that in Part 2.

Before we dive into the collectives of the Spanish Revolution, a look at today’s headlines shows just how powerless the people are. Gleaned from this morning’s newspaper (January 11, 2020), we see the following: “Crisis Reveals Sick Culture Inside Boeing”; “It’s Up, but Puerto Rico’s Grid is Crippled, Broke, and Vulnerable.” In the case of Boeing, 346 people died in 2 crashes of poorly designed aircraft. Internal documents show that senior employees ridiculed and mocked FAA and airline pilots, regulators and clients, as “dogs watching TV’s”, “idiots”. It took a year to get rid of the CEO, who is still walking away with $60,000,000 in compensation. That’s $173,410 for each person killed in planes made by his company. An isolated case, or systemic disease? “Sully” Sullenberger, the famed pilot who had to land his plane in the Hudson River, said that taking necessary precautions in design and training “is hard to do in this world run by Wall Street.”

The people of Puerto Rico already pay some of the highest rates for electricity. Before Hurricane Maria, in July 2017, the power authority was already $9 billion in debt. But their power is out again after the recent earthquake, and again after another one this morning (January 11). According to the New York Times, the Puerto Rico power authority’s recent history has been checkered by questionable management: corruption, bizarre choices of contractors. An isolated case, or systemic rot?

Maybe it’s because the elites who sit at the top of our “meritocracy” live in a bubble. They need not concern themselves with the 95 million adult Americans who are out of the workforce, or the families of 346 victims of the Boeing crashes, or the people of Puerto Rico who live in darkness because of the willful negligence of the Power Authority managers (the workers are said to be working themselves to the bone trying to get the power back on). Are these the people Madison wants us to fear, or should we fear the “natural aristocrats”, who were meant to populate the Senate and provide cool reason?

Andrew Yang, in his book War on Normal People, neatly clarifies how we live in this bifurcated society: with one small segment isolated in their bubble, while the rest of us face job insecurity, inadequate health insurance, or food insecurity. In Chapter 9 of the book, he writes that “smart people in the US will do one of 6 things in 6 places-finance, consulting, law, technology, medicine, or academia, in New York, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Washington, DC.” (p. 85) To me, this signals the formation of a distinct class, in that “money, status, training..and an elevated career trajectory all seem to lead in the same direction.”(p.88) There is an implicit social darwinism in all this. Graduates of Harvard, Yale, Stanford, et al. are all extravagantly recruited. They have jumped all the hoops. They are the winners. Their lives are set as long as they maintain allegiance to their “class.” The parameters of their beliefs and actions are set and understood.

My point is that those sitting on top of the apparatus of state capitalism may well be “smart”, but their allegiance is not necessarily to the well being of the people, or even the country. They are not the inflamed mob as feared by Madison. But should we, the 95%, trust them with designing airplanes, maintaining power grids(remember Enron, anyone?), with collecting all our private data for the purpose of extracting profit from us, or even steering us away from war or preserving the planet?

In part 2, I will present historical evidence that another way is possible. It happened in the middle of a civil war in Spain. Maybe it only happened because of a special set of circumstances. Maybe the times were simpler. In any case, we must be alert to the encroachments of totalitarian democracy, friendly fascism. It can be better than this, and we, the people, can choose another way. James Madison was wrong, our hope rests with the vast majority of the people.


UBI: it’s not anarchy, but…

Our economic system will never eliminate poverty. Even in our triumphant economy, over 45,000,000 Americans are officially poor (PovertyUSA.org). 14%, 1 in 7. Think it can’t happen to you? From Andrew Yang to Forbes to Elon Musk, there is an emerging consensus that artificial intelligence will be released from the lab and eliminate humans from a wide spectrum of jobs. Yet, you say, surely our system will self-correct, creating new jobs to replace the old. Really?

That has not been the experience in many places across the US where jobs have been lost to global competition. Some have called it “flyover country” as if we can ignore the interior of the United States. Take a look at Youngstown, Ohio. This steel town never recovered from the closing of its steel mills. Today it is still the fastest shrinking city in the US. Chris Hedges wrote that “Youngstown, like many postindustrial pockets in America, is a deserted wreck plagued by crime and the attendant psychological and criminal problems that come when communities physically break down.”

Way back in 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King organized his last crusade, called the “Poor People’s Campaign”. He was assassinated in April 1968, before they could march on Washington. During the campaign, he spoke about the need for universal basic income. He said that poverty was a society-wide curse that affected all people. He said that American capitalism can never sufficiently eliminate poverty. He said that past attempts to eliminate poverty were ineffective. He said civil rights depended on broader equality.

The power elite, our Big Brother state capitalism, seems to be against this idea. How did they react to Dr. King’s mobilization of poor people to march on Washington? Gerald McKnight, in his book about King’s “last crusade”, offers a chilling account about how our domestic security apparatus treats our democratic process:

In 1967 Hoover and his top internal security  chiefs escalated their political warfare against  King to a new level of intensity when the SCLC  announced its intention to bring an army of the poor to Washington to pressure the government to address the pressing needs of the politically  unrepresented and the economically dispossessed. In light of the SCLC’s projected  Washington campaign, FBI elites decided to  single out King for special attention. According  to bureau ideological standards, King was now  no longer viewed as a troublesome  “racial agitator” but as the most dangerous  radical in America and a diabolical threat to  Hoover’s way of life, his bureaucracy, and his  vision of a white Christian racial state where  blacks knew their place.

(Gerald McKnight, The Last Crusade: Martin Luther King Jr., the FBI, and the Poor People’s Campaign, Westview Press, p. 3)

Assassination is perhaps not necessary these days. The social Darwinists at the Heritage Foundation will dominate the media with views on UBI experiment in Canada like the following:

For example, a UBI might create a mindset that income is rightly derived from someone else’s productivity. This would likely result in people using the political process to vote themselves higher incomes rather than work to improve their own standard of living by creating a better world for others to live.


In other words, the poor, who are lazy losers, should quit expecting freebies from productive people, get off their asses and start working hard, like the winners. The winners deserve their wealth, while the poor deserve their poverty.

By the way, the Canadian experiment was terminated by a conservative government. Later, an economist from the University of Manitoba analyzed the results and found dramatic improvements in many quality of life measurements, AND, people did not work less. (Yang, The War on Normal People, p. 173)

Andrew Yang has proposed a modern version of UBI. While he has qualified for all the debates, and generating increasing support, he is generally ignored by corporate media. His version of universal basic income guarantees an economic floor to every adult in the country. He proposes a $1,000 a month, or $12,000 to everyone, with no strings attached. He makes the excellent point that it is not really an expense, but a transfer because much of it will be paid for by a VAT which requires that corporations pay their fair share which they have been able to avoid through current tax measures. In other words, some of our $20 trillion GDP will be transferred to the 99%. As Andrew Yang says, it will help get the boot off their neck. Martin Luther King, Jr. would approve.


The Park and the Party

By Alex Utopium

When we reduce societal organization to something that can only be done in exclusive, rather than inclusive, teams we miss the mark of the revolution against the old world Ivory Tower inhabitants. When what sort of party affiliation you swear your allegiance to is the deciding factor, rather than who you are and what you can contribute with, who really won the revolution? 

I am no friend of Party Politics.

I view party politics and Parliamentarism as one of the lowest form of democracy – and both party politics and Parliamentarism have kidnapped and infected the idea of being sovereign, having self-determination and being in a mental state of freedom for so long that even the brightest and most well-meaning souls use Democracy as a Power-Word, when they really mean something else they can’t quite identify themselves.

But, still, I have a weakness for the younger parties. [1] They are a fascinating bunch. With a wonderfully untainted and almost naive spirit in regards to the political process. Without an inherited place at the table of power that drags your ideas down to compromised principles there is a glimpse of something that ‘could be’. Something we as a society lost along the way. The most hopeful among us, the ones with a natural urge to change, make up most of the younger parties.

I had the pleasure of witnessing a (Norwegian) Green Party meeting at the microbrewery I work at. The last election went fantastic for the Greens, especially here in Oslo where they took a lot of local seats, so they had reason to celebrate – and to present what the different representatives were looking forward to do for the city as a  party.

A projector was set up to help in the meeting and when the gathering started, the projector was showing photos of the people in the crowd and the activist work they did during the election: Smiling, handing out pamphlets, and having a good time.

Lots of numbers had to be gone through first before any issues and plans could be discussed. Real politicians need to present numbers and talk with their political voice: Not in camaraderie or on an even footing, even these freshly baked representatives knew they had a role to play in the political theater and what was expected of them.

The projector stopped showing happy pictures and numbers started to get paraded out and I tuned out. These numbers were not meant for me: The abstract math of victory is for the initiated only. Everybody else lost, technically. 

I tuned back in when I heard a select few keywords from the stage: One of the representatives was explaining how her parents had an urban farm on their land lot when she was growing up, how they were almost self-sustaining (she mention 90%, if I recall correctly) on vegetables and that she had an idea of how wonderful it would be to do this kind of thing on a slightly larger scale: Her idea was to turn an underused park into a productive food-farm. Or at the very least, parts of the park.

The idea was great and she presented it from the heart; The projector that minutes ago showed dull numbers was now presenting childhood photos of a happy girl sitting between grow beds full of greens. She wanted to replicate this wonderful time and share it with as many as possible – Through action.

This hits at the core of why I like these smaller, more intimate parties; You won’t hear these kinds of fantastic ideas in a meeting by the Conservatives or the Labor Party. You can only hear it in a meeting of this size, in a small microbrewery in the neglected part of the country’s capital. The only time was then, right there.

In a flash, this magical moment was gone. The other party officials started muttering about budgets and that it would be complicated to raise funds for such a project. That punctuated that topic and they moved on to the next.

And this is why party politics leaves such a bad taste in my mouth. If you accept the role as a bureaucrat, this so-called job, you have to step into the mindset of one. You have to adapt to it and place yourself into a very tiny box of allowed ways to do things. Rules and regulations have to be upheld, your very existence depends on it: You are a cog in the machine and what is a cog without its machine?  

People that only think in terms of tax money have very little fantasy when it comes to more important resources around them. You don’t need to collect taxes when you have around 25,000 people living near the park – How many hands do you need to transform parts of a park? How many of those people have a shovel? How hard are seeds to get hold of for free? With that many people close by, you think you couldn’t find at least a handful to give up a little free time for the opportunity to farm? 

I don’t want to be in a party. I want to be in a team. A team that can take a slice of a park neglected by its ‘Landlord’ and turn it into fruit and herbs.

– Alex Utopium

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The true question is thus not who directly holds power, a coalition of political agents or the ‘dictatorship’ of one sole agent, but how the very field in which the total political process takes place is structured: is it the process of parliamentary representation with parties ‘reflecting’ the voters’ opinions, or a more direct self-organization of the working classes, which relies on a much more active role of the participants in the political process?” – Slavoj Žižek

Alex has written extensively on these and similar topics, and I am grateful for his contribution to my blog. Check him out: https://utopium.blog/author/alexutopium/ https://twitter.com/utopiumtinkerer?lang=en

  1. Some clarification for any American readers: The United States are almost unique with only two major players in party politics, the rest of the West have several where they need to negotiate with each other. Here in Scandinavia, for example, what Block your party belongs to is a key factor, at times more so than your party.

Seven US Wars, more Patriot Act. Hey, where is my pension?

Even my union comrades are drinking the Kool-Aid. When a lunchtime discussion turned to the French national strike, my economics teacher friend said that pensions are unsustainable. And yet, as of today (December 7, 2019), the New York Times reports that “about half of Americans have no access to retirement savings plans, and have little or nothing saved for retirement.” Perhaps the elderly can sell their body parts.

Blame the warfare State, the American Empire. The neoliberal race to the bottom, protected by the US security apparatus. Elected officials are mere puppets to it, including Nancy Pelosi, including the clueless Donald. Why else would the Democrats sneak a provision into a stopgap funding bill to extend the Patriot Act? We are surrounded by enemies, aren’t we? The Patriot Act, passed in October 2001 with bipartisan support, following 9/11, empowers the intelligence community to engage in mass surveillance, just like Google does every day. Wait a second, weren’t the Google founders funded by DARPA to keep tabs on the population? Google, Amazon, Microsoft, all have huge government contracts. Huawei has a huge Chinese government contract. State capitalism in both China and the US? A cyber Cold War? Hmmm.

“War is the health of the State”, as Randolph Bourne once famously said. The U.S. military is officially fighting wars in seven countries, according to the White House’s latest war report. Unknown to most Americans, we conduct ops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger — all bypassing Congress in the name of the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force to fight al-Qaeda-linked militants, at the discretion of the Emperor. Surely a trillion dollars tax on the middle class is well spent by the Defense Department and Homeland Security since they protect us from non-existent enemies. A lot of money to be made here, by someone.

It’s not a welfare state, it’s a warfare state. Soft totalitarianism herding us toward the right attitude and behavior. The State needs perpetual war to accomplish this, as Orwell noted. Michel Luc Bellemare writes in his Structural-Anarchism Manifesto, on page 27, a warfare state is at war internally against its citizens in addition to ostensibly being at war with external enemies. The American Empire has been practicing this at home and around the world, as I have written. Evo Morales of Bolivia is gone. He wanted to use the Bolivian lithium monopoly to reduce poverty, by setting the world price. Suddenly, after 13 years, he has been removed from office. Pompeo backs Duque in Colombia because the US prefers the trillion-dollar worldwide drug trade over the well-being of the population. Why should the Colombian people have a minimum wage or state-run healthcare?

State-capitalism is the name when the corporations run the government. Corporate fascism prefers profits over people. They never liked the New Deal. They have been chipping away at it for decades. Trickle-down economics is one of their big lies. Their state by state cookie-cutter legislation has been systematically undercutting unions, culminating in the Janus Supreme Court decision. This neoliberal agenda is worldwide and its enforcement is the reason the US has 800 military bases around the world. Enforcing the race to the bottom is the key.

If working people of the world could somehow organize into One Big Union, so much suffering could be averted. As a species, we produce more than enough for everyone on the planet. We don’t have to burn down the Amazon rainforest to accomplish it either. Unionized, democratized production, responsive to the needs of people, will never decide to slaughter millions in senseless wars and waste trillions of dollars.

The first step is to stop drinking the Kool-Aid.


Purge in Colombia?

The people call it a general strike. The unions started it, teachers and students joined in, and then everybody, in the hundreds of thousands, took to the streets to peacefully protest against the fascist policies of the recently installed Ivan Duque. Some say it was millions. No leader, no institution, no group, is in charge of it. A moment of anarchy, a moment of justice demanded.

The people are furious because labor, pension, and tax “reforms” (read the killing of a minimum wage, pensions, and increasing taxes) are being discussed Duque and the national Congress. Also, there are plans to privatize state-run services. The paramilitary has stepped up killing community organizers and indigenous leaders. “In my community, in my department of Cauca, they’re killing our social leaders in our indigenous lands … they’re killing us selectively,” said Almayari Barano Yanakuna, a 48-year-old indigenous woman who stood among crowds of thousands.

In Orwellian newspeak, President Duque said, the night before the strike, that the military was there to guarantee freedom of speech and to protect citizens. His orders were different than his words. The military joined with the police to shoot tear gas into the crowds, impose curfews, and bomb camps to kill indigenous dissidents. Purge dissent.

Let’s step back and take a look at the big picture. Over the last two decades, the US has established military bases, provided billions of military assistance to the Colombian military, sent hundreds of millions of foreign aid to the “right-wing government. It was called Plan Colombian, to “fight” drug trafficking. Funny, the drug trade is larger now than before, and the street price of these drugs from Colombia are cheaper now than they were before.

In her briefing on the US military presence in Colombia, ICPJ reporter Leigh Wedenoja writes that the anti-drug efforts have destroyed half of the fertile land worked by the indigenous people, forcing the displacement of millions. The paramilitary has killed hundreds of trade unionists and teachers. Thousands of civilians have been murdered. Because of ongoing agreements with Colombia, there is very little oversight both of the US financial aid and, our military assistance to the Colombian paramilitary. Recently, John Bolton recommended sending an additional 5000 troops to Colombia, aimed at Venezuela. Purge all opposition.

Since there is no change in drug production and distribution, and since we are propping up the security apparatus in Colombia, is it possible, just possible that US taxpayer-funded US military reinforcing the American Empire, also known as the neoliberal agenda? And what’s the neoliberal agenda, supported by Republicans and Democrats: privatization, deregulation, free trade, austerity, reductions in government spending in order to increase the role of the private sector in the economy and society.

Wait! Doesn’t Duque want that too? Coincidence? Just sayin’


Challenging Conventional Wisdom

Peter Kropotkin certainly challenged conventional wisdom

Conventional wisdom smells. Conventional wisdom is the rotting corpse of desiccated thought. Conventional wisdom gave us Vietnam. Iraq. Conventional wisdom is groupthink, It is crowdsourcing. Conventional wisdom is our system where 40% of workers are a $400 bill away from a financial crisis. Emerson wrote that “society everywhere is in a conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.” (Ralph sends his apologies for his 19th-century sexism) Mr. Emerson goes on to assert that for the sake of our daily bread, each bread eater sacrifices his liberty and culture. 

Culture? Do the shackles of conventional groupthink, whoops, I mean wisdom, lurk within the culture of compulsory schooling? For thirty years I didn’t teach history, I taught “school”, as my late friend John Taylor Gatto would say. And what is school? School teaches conformity, obedience, dependence. Gatto wrote that it is difficult to make self-confident spirits conform, especially if their parents have given them unconditional love. School teaches conditional love. Report cards, certificates, rewards, punishment. Walk into a classroom in an NYC public school and read all the rules posted on the walls. Points gained for answering a question. Rules for going to the bathroom. Emotional dependence on approval. Intellectual dependency on receiving the right answer. Conventional wisdom says we need more school. College as the ticket to the good life. Really? An admissions official at Harvard said that the admissions process has created a nation of hoop jumpers. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs didn’t buy into it. Just tell me how high to jump, sir, please let me in. Conventional wisdom, for $50,000 a year, just to learn obedient thinking.

Emerson goes on to write that it is easy to live in the world if you just go along with conventional wisdom. It takes some grit to keep with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude in the  “midst of the crowd.” The crowd is conventional wisdom, solitude is treading a path where everyone might not agree. The Taoists tried to tell us, there at the beginning. 


It is said that the Tao Te Ching may be the greatest classic to challenge conventional wisdom. Do we flourish best when we are left alone by authority, such as the Chinese Communist Party, the official repository conventional wisdom? Or do we need to be told by Party officials how to flourish? Wu-wei. Follow your inner guide, who resides in your secret place. Reject imposed authority, conventional wisdom.

At this point, I should confess that I, like everyone, rely on conventional wisdom a lot. My grandfather taught me the conventional way to dig up a potato when I was four. When I reached the age of reason I questioned his religion. I’ve been an outsider ever since. I walk into a room and reflexively think that whatever you are for, I’m against. That includes this course. It may just be a nasty habit

To reject conventional wisdom is to live on the tightrope of uncertainty. There are no definitive answers anyway. We try, we fail, we try again, but we need to open up to a universe that has wisdom embedded within it. The universe may just be a conspiracy to push everyone to fulfill their inner truth. And yet this wisdom is a tightrope we must tread carefully, not only because it changes with Time, but if we impose desiccated conventional wisdom, we fall into the abyss.


Free Machine: a new framework for anarchic thinking?

Can organizations like freemachine.org help us counter the domination of Big Tech?

On their website, freemachine.org poses the following two question drawn straight from the river of anarchy:

How do we create space to envision a future that is based on democratic values: one that will be equitable, abundant, and sustainable? And how do we encourage individuals and communities to see themselves as having a crucial role in achieving this future?

AlphaGo delivered a Sputnik moment
Can we organize a public alternative to Big Tech?

Hardly anyone is offline for very long these days. We are addicted to media and their connected devices. We are subjected to the blur and blend of entertainment and information. We have drowned in a tidal wave of distraction by corporations who have designed these weapons of mass distraction…to sell us stuff. The sheer ubiquity, and our reliance, on the feeds from our phones and tablets and netbooks, has made them, in effect, an Overton window. That is, these media and tech conglomerates plop their images and content into our minds in such a way that they have become authorities determining what is possible and what is acceptable. Since these companies are an integral part of what Chomsky called the state-capital complex, we can’t assume that the goal of amassing wealth will have benign outcomes for the average person.

The directors at Free Machine have devised a game called Tomorrowland that helps us to start thinking about all this as a people, helps us to answer the two questions above. As a group, we imagine ourselves as a city council and thrash out how we move toward an objective, four of which are neatly summarized in the chart below:

One of the reasons I decided to study the history and philosophy of anarchy was to discover ideas and techniques to help us move toward that Eden. The current of anarchy is present whenever illegitimate authority is challenged. The courage of determined people in the face of plutocrats and dictators may help us in our quest to democratize the amazing revolution offered by artificial intelligence.


Watcha Gonna Do When They Come for You?

Posted on November 10, 2019 by Kim Broadie

Chinese state security agencies are likely using the technology to target human rights activists, pro-democracy advocates, and critics of President Xi Jinping’s regime, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals.

Ryan Gallagher, How US Tech Giants Are helping to Build Chinas Surveillance State, The Intercept, July 11, 2019.

Today’s New York Times website carries an article by Cade Metz describing improved facial recognition technology. Databases of faces compiled without the people’s knowledge. I fear age-old methods of resistance have become obsolete. It’s all adding up to total control.

After 30 years, the methods have become invisible

During the heyday of Empire, in the 18th and 19th centuries, the British Empire also appeared all-powerful. Unassailable. The notion of resisting the most powerful government on Earth seemed ludicrous. And yet there were courageous leaders in both the American Revolution, and the Indian independence movement that dared the impossible and succeeded.

Before I get to Mr. Gallagher’s article in The Intercept, I would like to call your attention to one who dared. In Peter Heeh’s excellent biography, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, he describes in detail the more obscure aspects of the early Indian independence movement. While Aurobindo Ghose is not as well known as Gandhi, he is revered in India as one of the liberators. Before he began his more famous spiritual journey, he was quite the radical mastermind plotting independence, swaraj, or self-rule for India. He designed a multifront campaign starting with journalism but also included terrorism, complete with bombs. The final stage would be total noncooperation. Thrown into prison, Aurobindo was almost executed. Gandhi carried on, but for him, it finished him tragically. In the late 19th century, overthrowing British rule seemed unthinkable to both the Indian political elites as well as the average person in the street. It was Aurobindo’s belief that once it was demonstrated that independence and self-rule was possible, it would become a fixed idea in enough people so that success became inevitable. Surveillance technology may make that belief obsolete.

Now, the Chinese Communist Party is cranking up state-controlled surveillance in a way that seems to be a throwback to the overt oppression of the 19th century European empires. No more Tiananmen Squares. Thanks to American innovation, they are using techniques almost unimaginably more insidious than the secret police of yesteryear. And who’s to say that the US government won’t emulate it, especially now that China is asserting itself as a global power? The point is that, with the surveillance technology that is being employed by the Chinese government, the methods Aurobindo used and encouraged in India would never get off the ground in today’s China. It does not bode well for dissent and adequate information in the US.

Blame the OpenPower Foundation. The Intercept article has described it as a nonprofit led by executives from Google and IBM. This sweet and innocent “driver of innovation” has arranged a collaboration with Chinese and American companies resulting in “Aegis”, a new, more powerful surveillance system. Let’s let Mr. Gallagher speak:

Aegis can provide “a full view to the virtual world,” the company claims in the documents, allowing government spies to see “the connections of everyone,” including “location information for everyone in the country.”
The system can also “block certain information [on the] internet from being visited,” censoring content that the government does not want citizens to see, the documents show.
Chinese state security agencies are likely using the technology to target human rights activists.
Aegis equipment has been placed within China’s phone and internet networks, enabling the country’s government to secretly collect people’s email records, phone calls, text messages, cellphone locations, and web browsing histories,

Ryan Gallagher, “How US Tech Giants Are Helping To Build China’s Surveillance State”

So far, it appears that the Chinese government is able to monitor 200,000,000 people. If you think it’s a little creepy for Google to ask you to review a place you just visited, imagine a government focusing on signs of dissent based on what you’ve, said, read, visited, or who you’ve befriended. Its companies are selling this technology to other governments, especially in the Middle East.

How could an Aurobindo, a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King, or even a Thomas Paine mount massive resistance in the face of such a technology capable of nipping it in the bud?

Can Democrats Block Barrett Vote?

Corporate fascists are ramming Barrett down our throats to consolidate their power and authority. Under the guise of the moral high ground, Barrett is being put forward as a protector of the Constitution.

Her controversial membership in the People of Praise cult along with her views on abortion, are simply distractions from her mission: to be an anti-labor, pro-corporate tool.

Jacobin magazine has published a summary of some of her rulings. It reads like a corporate wish list: limiting enforcement of age discrimination laws; reducing consumer’s rights against predatory lenders; restricting federal agencies’ power to punish companies that mislead consumer’s. More recently she ruled in favor of Grubhub that denied workers overtime pay. She sided with corporations 76% of the time in her 55 cases on the federal court.

The big question: can senators break quorum long enough to stall the vote until after the election?

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