The Swelling of Leeches
How our Bones Build the Palaces of the Masters
Fractal Vision Two: Once Upon a Time
The more we study the hierarchical conspiracy, the more we realize how consistent it is with the pattern of modern history, that is, the Official discourse of human social development. From symbols and rituals, from the religious and cultural myths of Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia to high-tech subliminals and the propaganda in printed advertising that the eye doesn’t recognize, the pattern was set long ago, and there has been no deviation from it since the dawn of civilization. Although the facts have been doctored to fit the approved concepts of the Dominant Culture, there is little doubt that a New Order of domestication began with the march of agriculture, and the male accumulation of Capital and political power (patriarchy).
An immense institutional and ideological complex – a social pyramid – took hold and spread by contagion. Protection is the first necessity of opulence and luxury and the first Pharaohs had to be protected. The whole social order, favorable to their hygienic idleness and parasitism, required a cycle of conquest, extermination, and a chronic economy of war to quell the constant rebellions against Capital’s enclosure. Civilization was faced with the technical challenge of enforcing stringent parameters policing the levels of discontent within its boundaries. The slaves and prisoners were fed small humiliations, everyday defeats, despair and dullness in negligible doses that settled down in them, layer after layer, like sediment, until their souls were choked with sludge. They soon became blind and cannibalistic.
Fractal Vision Three: Dance of the Dead
The chimera of commodity culture has commodified anxiety (the surplus economy of the chattering classes reclining horizontally under the watchful beady eye of the psychiatric police.) Neurotic society thrives upon the crisis of its own insecurity; self-obsessed, picking at its own leaking sores to perpetuate irritation – the festering signs of its profitable dis-ease. It is the luminous specter of aesthetic pestilence and (s)existential illness, downgrading pleasure towards the sanctioned static of TV catatonia; an apparition of security and comfort delivering only inculcated fear and vexation.
A montage of cattle-like herds, grinding machinery and clocks litter the distressed landscape in which the putrescent waste pipes and factory death-fumes are evidence of the irreversible process of entropy. The prisoner continues to work, expending his/her energy to manufacture their own eradication, when freedom finally arrives in the form of death. The prisoners take on the nature of a commodity because the conditions that create their absolute dependence on the system are reproduced in the mesmerizing effects of THE PRODUCT. THE PRISONERS’ OWN ENERGY ENCASES THEM.
Capitalism has wired work and consumption with a morbid intimacy and the liberation of the prisoners is negotiated according to the axioms of industrial dispute, taking wage control and “benefits” to be the only effective bargaining tokens. “We want the right to work, we want equal pay” represents the demand for universal prostitution pimped out to the exhaustive transactions of “organized labor.” The prisoners continue to offer praise to the servile Machine, patronizing the dedicated slave mimicry of its parental masters; they extol the virtues of “the supreme and original program” – the work ethic – and have sentimental feelings for the test-tube from which they were conceived. THE HYPNOTIC STATE IS THE PSYCHOTIC STATE.
Thoughts on the City
Progress never destroys as thoroughly as when it builds
The necessity for space is eminently political. The places in which we live condition the ways in which we live, and inversely, our relationships and activities modify the spaces of our lives. It’s a question of daily experience, and yet we seem incapable of drawing the tiniest result from it. One only needs to take a walk through any city to understand the nature of the poverty of our way of life. Almost all urban space responds to two needs: profit and social control. They are places of consumption organized according to the increasingly strict rules of a market in continuous expansion: the security market. The model is that of the commercial center; a collective privatized space, watched by the people and instruments provided by the appropriate agencies. In the commercial centers, an increasingly “personalized” sociality is built around the consumer and his family; now, one can eat, play with children, read, etc. in these neon places. But if one enters without any money, one discovers that it is a terrifying illusion of life.
The same thing happens, more or less, in the metropolises. Where can one meet for discussion, where can one sit without the obligation to consume, where can one drink, where can one sleep, if one has no money? For an immigrant, for a poor person, for a woman, a night in the city can be long. The moderates, comfortable in their houses, don’t know the nocturnal world of the street, the dark side of the neon, when the police wake you up on the benches, when everything seems foreign and hostile to you. When the middle classes are enclosed in their bunkers, cities reveal their true faces as inhuman monsters.
Cities increasingly come to resemble fortresses, and houses, security cells. Social war - the war between the rich and the poor, the governors and the governed - is institutionalized in urban space. The poor are deported to the outskirts in order to leave the centers to the offices and banks (or to the tourists). The entrances of the cities and a great many “sensitive” areas are watched by apparatuses that get more sophisticated every day. The lack of access to determined levels of consumption – levels defined and controlled by a fixed computer network in which the data of banking, insurance, medical, scholastic and police systems are woven together – determines, in the negative, the new dangerous classes, who are confined in very precise urban zones. The characteristics of the new world order are reflected in metropolitan control. The borders between countries and continents correspond to the boundaries between neighborhoods or to the magnetic cards for access to specific private buildings or, as in the United States, to certain residential areas. International police operations recall the war against crime or, more recently, the politics of “zero tolerance” through which all forms of deviance are criminalized. While throughout the world the poor are arrested by the millions, the cities assume the form of immense prisons. Don’t the yellow lines that consumers have to follow in certain London commercial centers remind you of those on which some French prisoners have to walk? Isn’t it possible to catch a glimpse of the checkpoints in the Palestinian territories in the militarization of Genoa during the G8 summit? Proposals for a nightly curfew for adolescents have been approved in cities just two steps away from ours (in France for example). The houses of correction reopen, a kind of penal colony for youth; assembling in the inner courtyards of the popular condominiums (the only space for collective life in many sleeping quarters) is banned. Already, in most European cities, the homeless are forbidden access to the city center and beggars are fined, like in the Middle Ages. One may propose (like the Nazis of yesterday and the mayor of Milan today) the creation of suitable centers for the unemployed and their families, modeled after the lagers for undocumented immigrants. Metallic grids are built between rich (and white) neighborhoods and poor (and... non-white) neighborhoods. Social apartheid is advancing, from the United States to Europe, from the south to the north of the world. When one in three blacks between the ages of 20 and 35 get locked up in cells (as occurs in the United States), the proposal for closing the city centers to immigrants here can pass almost unobserved by us. And many may even applaud the glorious marine military when it sinks the boats of the undocumented foreigners. In an interweaving of classist exclusion and racial segregation, the society in which we live increasingly looks like a gigantic accumulation of ghettoes.
Once again the link between the forms of life and the places of life is close. The increasing precariousness of broad layers of society proceeds at the same pace as the isolation of individuals, with the disappearance of meeting spaces (and therefore of struggle) and at the bottom, the reserves in which most of the poor are left to rot. From this social condition, two typically totalitarian phenomena are born: the war between the exploited, which reproduces without filters the ruthless competition and social climbing upon which capitalist relationships are built, and the demand for order and security, produced and sponsored by a propaganda that is perpetually hammered home. With the end of the “cold war”, the Enemy has been moved, both politically and through the media, into the interior of the “free world” itself. The collapse of the Berlin Wall corresponds to the construction of the barriers between Mexico and the United States or to the development of electronic barriers for the protection of the citadels inhabited by the ruling classes. The criminalization of the poor is openly described as a “war of low intensity”, where the enemy, “the exotic terrorist”, here becomes the illegal foreigner, the drug addict, the prostitute. The isolated citizen, tossed about between work and consumption through those anonymous spaces that are the ways and means of transport, swallows terrifying images of treacherous young people, slackers, cut-throats – and an imprecise and unconscious feeling of fear takes possession of individual and collective life.
Our apparently peaceful cities increasingly show us the marks of this planetary tendency to government through fear, if we learn how to look for them.
If politics is defined as the art of command, as a specialized activity that is the monopoly of bureaucrats and functionaries, then the cities in which we live are the political organization of space. If, on the other hand, it is defined as a common sphere for discussion and decisions regarding common problems, then one could say that the urban structure is projected intentionally toward depoliticizing individuals in order to keep them in isolation and lost in the mass at the same time. In the second case, therefore, the political activity par excellence is revolt against urban planning as police science and practice; it is the uprising that creates new spaces for encounter and communication. In either sense, the question of space is an eminently political question.
A full life is a life that is able to skillfully mix the pleasure of solitude and the pleasure of encounter. A wise intermingling of villages and countryside, of plazas and free expanses could render the art of building and dwelling magnificent. If, with a utopian leap, we project ourselves outside of industrialism and urbanization, in short outside of the long history of removal on which the current technological society is built, we can imagine small communities based on face-to-face relationships that areas linked together, without hierarchies between human beings or domination over nature. The journey would cease to be a standardized transport between weariness and boredom and would become an adventure free of clocks. Fountains and sheltered places would welcome passers-by. Wild nature could once again become a place of discovery and stillness, of tremors and escape from humanity. Villages could be born from forests without violence in order to then return to being countryside and forest. We can’t even imagine how animals and plants would change when they no longer feel threatened by human beings. Only an alienated humanity could conceive of accumulation, profit and power as the basis for life on Earth. While the world of commodities is in liquidation, threatened by the implosion of all human contact and by ecological catastrophe, while young people slaughter each other and adults muddle through on psycho-pharmaceuticals, exactly what is at stake becomes clearer: subverting social relationships means creating new spaces for life and vice versa. In this sense, a “vast operation of urgent demolition” awaits us.
Mass industrial society destroys solitude and the pleasure of meeting at the same time. We are increasingly constrained to be together, due to forced displacements, standardized time, and mass-produced desires; yet we are increasingly isolated, unable to communicate, devoured by anxiety and fear, unable, above all, to struggle together. Any real communication, any truly egalitarian dialogue can only take place through the rupture of normality and habit, only in revolt.
In various parts of the world, the exploited refuse every illusion about the best possible world, turning their feeling of total spoliation against power. Rising up against the exploiters and their guard dogs, against their property and their values, the exploited discover new and old ways of being together, discussing, deciding and making merry.
From the Palestinian territories to the aarch (village assemblies) of the Algerian insurgents, uprisings free spaces for social self-organization. Often the rediscovered assembly forms are like applications of old traditions of face-to-face relationships, hostile to all representation, forged in the pride of other struggles, to the current agenda. If violent rupture is the basis of uprisings, their capacity to experiment with other ways of living, in hope that the exploited elsewhere will stoke their flames, is what renders them lasting, since even the most beautiful utopian practices die in isolation.
The places of power, even those that are not directly repressive, are destroyed in the course of riots not only because of their symbolic weight, but also because, in power’s realms, there is no life.
Behind the problem of homes and collective spaces, there stand an entire society. It is because so many work year after year to pay off a loan simply to keep a roof over their head that they aren’t able to find either the will or the space to talk with each other about the absurdity of such a life. On the other hand, the more that collective spaces are enclosed, privatized or brought under state control, the more houses themselves become small, grey, uniform and unhealthy fortresses. Without resistance, everything is degraded at a startling speed. Where peasants lived and cultivated the land for the rich as recently as fifty years ago, now the people of rank live. The current residential neighborhoods are the most unlivable of the common houses of thirty years ago. Luxury hotels seem like barracks. The logical consequences of this totalitarianism in urban planning are those sorts of tombs in which Japanese employees reload their batteries. The classes that exploit the poor are, in their turn, mistreated by the system that they have always zealously defended.
Practicing direct action in order to snatch the spaces for life from power and profit, occupying houses and experimenting with subversive relationships, is a very different thing from any sort of more or less fashionable alternative juvenilism. It is a matter that concerns all the exploited, the left-out, the voiceless. It’s a question of discussing and organizing without mediators, of placing the self-determination of our relationships and spaces against the constituted order, and of attacking the urban cages. In fact, we do not think that it is possible to cut ourselves out any space within this society that is truly self-organized where we can live our own way. Our desires are far too excessive. We want to create breaches, go out into the streets, speak in the plazas, in search of accomplices for making the assault on the old world. Life in society is to be reinvented. This is everything.
We kick off with the comrades
We pick locks with the comrades
Split like Trots from the comrades
Started disputing with comrades
But hardly Marx & Bakunin or Kronstadt
Party recruiting with comrades
Armies are shooting at comrades
Marching their troops into combat
For caviar, cruises & cognac
We come in a car fulla coup-starting comrades
First off, hashtag Black Lives Matter
Pink, white & blue, that's the trans rights banner
Think I'll mute that Thatcherite chatter
Till the workers are first & the parasites latter
A small hunch, we'll make their glass jaws shatter
They're all cunts, all fronts in the class war matter
From Anarcha-Feminists to Marxist-Leninists
Unite to fight Altright White Supremacists
MRAs sent away into banishment
With the entire bourgeois establishment
Light up a ten draw
Disrupt capital like Christ in the Temple
Christ, will they tremble
Like the eventual crash of the system
Capitalism is actually prison
And properly shite, yo our comrades are tight
And do not got the time for your property rights, bruv
We fundraise with the comrades
We bun grade with the comrades
Love Sundays with the comrades
Bare organising with comrades
Strapped to a chair forcing lies from a comrade
Closed files on that no-style comrade
Revisionist lyricists, show trial comrades
Yo, we only know vile comrades
No strikebreaking, go wild on scabs
Working Dead start the apocalypse
With Marxist economics
No pitiful, liberal Guardian columnists
Who don't stand for nothing, 'cept having a giggle
So I'm tagging a little Hammer n Sickle
On the busstop - next to the Anarchy symbol
Till you just stop - chatting actual drivel
Cos we know it just isn't such
And neoliberalism sucks
And even though we're seeking dough
The P we grow just isn't much
So please oppose the frigid touch, of the Hand of the Market
Five Year Plans, got Stalinist targets
Bandits & Marxists have to regard this
Destruction of the climate as Capital's target
Saving the planet means saving our class, and
Stop fascist dictators from raising a glass, and
Comrades are still waiting, debating the past
This procrastination's blatantly a pain in the ass, yo
We wage slaves with the comrades
Seek paydays with the comrades
Need AKs with the comrades
Overthrew Tsars with the comrades
You know it's true
Most of you aren't even comrades
Ideological sparring with comrades
Might need some horrible, gnarlier comrades
Each According To Their Need, with the comrades
Propaganda By The Deed, with the comrades
[Sample - Federica Montseny: Spanish Anarchist, Minister of Health during the Spanish Revolution. Translated]
"Had we taken power, because we were the majority, it would have meant betraying a pact of common struggle we had, in a way, sealed with the blood of so many of our men from many different sides - Communists, Socialists, Syndicalists, and above all, Anarchists
"It would have meant betraying that pact, and doing in Catalonia what Lenin and Trotsky had done in the Soviet Union, with the takeover of power by the Bolsheviks. We didn't do it and we have been criticised many times for it
"With hindsight who knows, perhaps, PERHAPS, we should have done it."
An Anarchism of the Working-Class: A Review of Whither Anarchism?, by Kristian Williams (To the Point/AK Press, 2018),
Reviewed by Miriam Pickens
I like that Williams is advocating for the opening of discussion, and recentering our primary values, and defining them. We are for freedom; we mean this to be for all people, without exception. We are for equality as human beings. Each of us deserves respect, to be treated fairly. We are against authoritarianism: bosses, masters, supervisors. None of this is possible under capitalism; we can attempt to treat each other rightly, but there are many structural indignities and unfairness, including the ones we have internalized.
But I part with Williams in that I don’t think we can leave this intellectual work only to “scholars,” unless we are clearly stating that working-class people can be included in this category of intellectuals and thinkers. Our society has limited this category of thinkers to the middle class and has not allowed working class people the time, energy or support to fully participate. As a result, the people most affected are not the ones whose ideas are accepted. Middle-class scholars are eager to substitute themselves for the working class. I am not against academics and those who make their livelihood within the realm of learning and teaching, however, I do think they need to be clear on the class basis from which they see the world. Theory will be developed by discussion, as Williams outlines, but who is doing this theorizing? If it is not working-class people engaged in working class struggle, it remains the province of an elitist middle class seeking, as always, to control, speak for, represent, and substitute themselves for the working class.
A leadership of ideas, rather than a leadership of cult celebrities, can cut through a lot of the pretension of the current anarchist movement, as described so aptly by Williams. However, we need people who are committed to organizing for these ideas, taking responsibility within the movements of which we are a part. In fact, this is a part of how we test our ideas against reality, refining our understanding of splits and differences within the capitalist class, evaluating which existing pressure points are to our advantage, etc.
Because of racism and ongoing segregation, white anarchists in the US often don’t look at people of color. They talk about themselves and each other as if their experience is universal. People of color, in turn, are themselves tokenized and their experiences discounted. This has led to a segregation of the movement which will doom us to defeat if it is not corrected. Fascists in the US include the Klan. They have terrorized African Americans through mob action, lynching, rape, murder, stealing businesses and homes, running them out of public space, with calling the police on them only being the current iteration. Yet when anarchists come out against fascists, as Antifa, they don’t even talk about this history. They talk about Nazi Germany and Europe. When Mark Bray wrote Antifa: The Anti-Fascist Handbook, he didn’t say anything about people who fought the Klan. He presented a very Eurocentric view of fascism. Why don’t we identify fascism in this country and fight it? Why don’t we join with African Americans who are fighting the Klan, and the police, and develop an understanding that this is the same struggle?
Anonymous asked: Why class struggle Anarchism? As in, why not any other type of Anarchism?
I’ve been asked this before and can’t remember what I said, so I’ll go again
I’m not trying to be particularly exclusive, I have no problem with any kind of anarchism that is anti-capitalist and anti-state (which should be all of them, but here we are), in fact as I get older it’s clearer and clearer to me that the widest possible reading and understanding of anarchisms old and new and their social contexts is best, as well as the many streams that flow in and out of the movement and the role they play. You can tell anarchists who never read or think outside of their ‘own’ tendency, talking to them is remarkably similar to talking to student trotskyists, with their minds already made up about things they’ve never heard of.
If it was the 1920s I’d probably call myself a proponent of anarchist synthesis, and in conversation I usually just say ‘anarchist communist’, so the ‘class-struggle’ part isn’t like, an identity I have or a specific position I’m pushing. Most of the neat classifications we have usually break down completely when you examine the real life trajectories and actions of anarchists too, especially the ones who were involved in ‘major’ events who invariably changed their ideas in response to them - the impulse to separate everything into discrete ideological entities has more to do with bourgeois party politics and academia than the way revolutionary insurgencies actually happen imo. So often, counter revolution is characterised by a re-imposition of old categories which had disappeared for a brief but vital moment.
I went for ‘class-struggle’ anarchism over ‘communist’ because in one respect, it’s a broad umbrella term for a lot of different tendencies, not all of which are necessarily communist. On the other hand, if I do part ideological company with another self described anarchist, class and class analysis is usually ground on which it happens. It seemed like the natural place to draw the line, not because it has something to do with the practical methods I’d propose or kind of society I’d like to live in, but because it’s about a starting point for understanding the way the world works.
Class struggle isn’t something I’m proposing we all get involved in, it’s the daily substance of life, internal and external. It places conditions and consequences on everything you do, every option open to you and every way you feel about them. I don’t see it as a principle to uphold or fight for so much as a reality to be apprehended before we can take the next step of deciding what to do about it.
A Century since the Bolshevik Crackdown of August 1918 : Tracing the Russian Counterrevolution
When you topple the monuments, be sure to take down the pedestals as well.
If we are to be charitable and believe that Lenin was a sincere revolutionary, we can only conclude that the problem was his Jacobin theory of revolution—in which it was necessary to seize the state in order to impose the revolution through mass terror. Unless we take the view of many of his contemporaries, who believed that he was simply a power-hungry dictator, the only explanation for his actions is that, conflating the success of the revolution with the seizure of state power, he was willing to put principles aside in order to do whatever was necessary to increase the power of the Soviet government. Yet the more power his government amassed, the more enemies he made, and the more violence was necessary to preserve his position.
Lenin made an alliance with Imperial Germany as a political expedient to free up the Russian army for domestic deployment against the supporters of the Constituent Assembly, but it caused the Left SRs to rebel. The Bolsheviks had to crack down on anarchists in April 2018 because anarchist propaganda and criticisms of the Bolshevik government were mobilizing increasing numbers of supporters, but this caused anarchists to redouble their efforts. After the Bolsheviks gave Ukraine away to Germany, they need war communism in order to feed the cities without giving concessions to the peasants. But war communism provoked more peasant protests. To stop the protests, Lenin crushed them with military force, and this catalyzed actual popular uprisings against the communist state.
An iatrogenic condition is an illness caused by medical treatment. As the song goes, “I know an old lady who swallowed a fly…”
“Death to the Bourgeoisie and its minions—Long live the Red Terror.” A propaganda poster in Petrograd, 1918
At the end of August 2018, SR Fanny Kaplan carried out the first attempt on Lenin’s life. Immediately thereafter, the Bolsheviks instituted the policy they called Red Terror. They claimed that the Terror was necessary to defend the revolution from a White conspiracy—but in reality, the White Army had not yet begun any effective offensive. The immediate causes of the Terror were the criticisms, protests, and attacks that the Bolsheviks were facing from anarchists, SRs, and the ordinary workers and peasants whose interests Lenin claimed to represent.
The purpose of the Terror was to defend the Bolsheviks from the Revolution. The authoritarian political character of their project becomes clear from a statement in the Bolshevik press: “Anyone who dares spread the slightest rumor against the Soviet regime will be immediately arrested and sent to the concentration camps.” This was a reference to the gulag system, already established after just ten months of Bolshevik authority, part of the apparatus of Bolshevik repression that would eventually claim millions of lives.
Today, one hundred years after the Bolsheviks turned their newly consolidated military might against protesting peasants, we can reflect on the folly of their strategy, and any similar belief that the state has revolutionary potential as a tool for liberating the masses. The state can only preserve its existence by controlling and repressing the masses. By very nature, it is a counterrevolutionary instrument.
The Bolshevik party contained many sincere revolutionaries, but they surrendered their free will to the dictates of a hierarchical party. In obeying their leaders, in believing in the revolutionary potential of the state, they became torturers, censors, jailers, and executioners. Those who refused, those who opted for more peaceful approaches or for tactics based in solidarity, were pushed out of the way. Only the bloodiest and most ruthless could rise in the party ranks, egged on by Lenin himself. Just ten months after seizing power, the Bolsheviks already had a functioning system of hit men, secret police, and concentration camps for revolutionaries who refused to accept their authority, and they were ready to use mass murder against the peasants and workers who did not bow down before them.
From there, it only got worse.
Does America Have Capitalist Stockholm Syndrome?
Why Are the Fiercest Defenders of Capitalism Those Who’ll Never Be Capitalists?
When I was a little boy — maybe six — I made a friend named Rick. An all-American golden boy, as athletic as he was whip-smart, all tousled blond hair and piercing blue eyes, and we met in an all-American way, too — in a knock-down, drag-out brawl, in the sweet spring Virginia mud, at the end of a football game, which my team had won, and his team had lost. Rick’s dad, separating us, gave us a stern moral talking to — moral fiber, boys!! — and after that, we became the best and oddest of companions, me this skinny, frail brown lost boy, and Rick the all American golden boy.
Fast forward a decade. We’re still friends. Only now I’m a punk with Soviet Doc Martens (which I wish I still had.) And every time Rick’s dad sees them he gives me another stern talking-to. “Son, you’re not a communist, are you?” No, I reply, laughing. I’m just a teenager. And then he extols, at great length, the many virtues of capitalism. Hard work! Responsibility! Manhood! And yet something strikes me as not quite right. It takes me a while, but one day I finally put my finger on it.
Rick’s dad isn’t a capitalist. He’s never been one. He’s just a middle manager at some midsize tech company — a government contractor of some kind. He’s never going to own the company. His income doesn’t come from capital. He’s wakes up in the morning to earn a wage, like anyone else. What gives?
I still talk to Rick’s dad. And having read some of my essays, he asks me, all over again: “son, you’re not a communist, are you?!” There he is. Still working more or less the same job. Never retired. He’s old, now. Living in that same old little house. He’s always just been another average wage-earner in the machine. There’s nothing wrong with that — except his infallible, unwearying, romanticized love of the system which failed him, never allowing him to retire, which made him work 14 hours a day to educate his kids, barely seeing them, which rarely allowed him even a vacation, which barely covers his healthcare bills. He never became a capitalist. He never had the slightest chance to — hence he’s still working. His capital income is pennies. He doesn’t own the company. But he’ll defend capitalism with his every breath. Don’t you think that’s strange? Funny? A little sad? I do.
And yet, I see Rick’s dad everywhere. Everytime I write an essay about economics here, up pops a veritable chorus telling me how wonderful capitalism is. It’s not just me — you can see the same thing at work everywhere, more or less, just read the comments (no! never read the comments!!)
The really strange thing about today is that most of the people who leap to capitalism’s defense fastest and most furiously…aren’t capitalists. And they never will be. They can’t be. Just 10% of America owns stocks, and even less owns bonds. Even less — maybe 1%, if that — make enough money from capital to call it their main income. And their incomes are shrinking, at a record pace. So the Rick’s dads of the world have never made enough money from capital income to live off it, and that’s why they’ll never really retire. They don’t send their kids to school with capital gains. They don’t pay for skyrocketing healthcare bills by liquidating trust funds. They’re just average wage-earning schmoes, like the rest of us. And yet despite the fact that they’re not capitalists and never will be, they’re also exactly the ones who defend capitalism most.
So the fiercest everyday defenders of capitalism in America are those who’ll never be capitalists— in fact, they seem to be those who are being exploited by capitalists. They’ll never be capitalists, in either the sense of ownership or income, since their already meager incomes are shrinking, so they own and make less, every year. What the? What gives? Shouldn’t they be the critics of capitalism?
Marx was wrong about many things. There’s no glorious communist revolution — and there probably won’t be. But he was right about many things, too. Capitalism has failed. And yet it has also produced what he called a “false consciousness.” That means, essentially, that capitalism — or more accurately, the capitalist values of self-interest, greed, and cruelty — captures the minds of the classes below it. They come to believe in capitalism as a substitute for religion, for a lack of spirituality, for faith, later thinkers, like Adorno, would say.
In Marxist terms, the Rick’s dads of the world are the “petite bourgeoisie” — at best. They might own a few stocks. Maybe a handful of bonds. But they’re not capitalists at all, in the sense of either owning companies, or making enough from ownership to live on. The real capitalists sit far, far above them. Who are they, in the American economy? Well, because the American economy is highly concentrated and monopolized now, they’re tiny in number. It’s people like Bezos and Zuck and all those dynasties, the Waltons and so on. The average American who defends capitalism is the furthest thing from a capitalist: he’s just another prole. And a downwardly mobile one, too, at that. How weird is that?
Do you see the kind of Stockholm Syndrome at work here? Let me make it clearer. Who are the biggest losers from capitalism over the last few decades? It’s white American men. Their life expectancy is falling. Their income is cratering. Their suicide rates are rising. They’re suffering what Angus Deaton, the renowned economists, calls “deaths of despair.” And yet they’re also the ones who defend capitalism most, tooth and nail — even while its sealing shut their coffins. Women don’t, minorities don’t, young people don’t — yet they haven’t lost nearly as much as middle-class white men have. Isn’t that strange? Bizarre? Gruesome?
How did Capitalism Stockholm Syndrome come to be? Probably because those middle class white men gained the most from capitalism, too. Once upon a time, they lived the dream. But then, as capitalism ran out of other people to exploit, it turned on them. The instant that segregation ended, American wages began to stagnate — both these things happened in 1971. Was that a coincidence? Or was it because American capitalism needed someone to prey on — and it didn’t care much, in the end, whether they were white or black, men or women, old or young? And yet, because they grew so attached to capitalism, now they seem unable to see the simple truth that it’s preyed on them, too. But attached in what way, precisely?
Stockholm Syndrome is a subtle thing. It doesn’t just mean people sympathize with their captors — it means that they internalize their values, to the point that their identities are remade, which is what Marx was trying to say, but perhaps didn’t have the language to. There’s Rick’s dad. He watches Fox News — he thinks, in a kind of ironic way, rolling his eyes at the more outrageous statements. But the message still seems to sink in. He pores over the Wall Street Journal every morning — as if he were the capitalist he never was, and he’ll never be. His identity seems to have been suffused into capitalism itself, and hence the moment that I try to question it, it’s as if I’m attacking him. Bang! Out pours the stern moral lecture on the virtues of capitalism. Isn’t that what all the Ricks’ Dads do, though? Their identity is inextricably woven into capitalism now — it’s part of them in an existential way, it seems. To question capitalism is to attack them — as providers, as men, as beings, as people, as husbands, as fathers.
So you can’t talk to the Rick’s Dads of the world with facts, reason, evidence, or logic. To say, “Italians and French people live five years longer than Americans!” is only to provoke disbelief and scorn and opprobrium. It just doesn’t work — because a very real sense, there is capitalism where a self should be. No capitalism — no self. But capitalism says that the self is only as worthy as it is wealthy — which is to say that is inherently worthless. Bang! The trap has sprung. Now the prisoner is trapped. He must forever try to regain the very self-worth, the sense of selfhood, that capitalism has denied him, through…more capitalism.
And that to me is one of the great tragedies of capitalism. Marx was right. Capitalism does produce a false consciousness. Those who’ll never be capitalists are exactly those who defend it most. The imploded middle classes — in Marxist terms, the upper proletariat and the petite bourgeoisie — these days, are capitalist’s staunchest and truest defenders. Not just because they “hope to be capitalists one day” — a cognitive cause. But because capitalism replaced their sense of self. They seem to be pushed to the edge of breakdown without it, unable to function at all as confident, optimistic, integral, empathic human beings with inherent self-worth, self-directedness, and self-knowledge. Remember Rick’s dad poring over the Journal, watching Fox News, and so on? First and last comes capitalism. Then comes everything else. Family, happiness, books, ideas, truth, beauty, life.
I still see Rick’s dad. Sometimes, we sit on the porch, and just take in the sweet Virginia air, watching the sun set over the little field in front of his house. The very same one Rick and I, all those years ago, used to laugh and roughhouse on. It’s the one thing he’s proudest of. Who am I to tell him how to live? I sip my drink quietly. The sun sets. He bid me good night. Old now, he tires easily. It’s going to be another long day at the office tomorrow.
"Face it. Generally and on the whole, Americans are programmed consumers. The US is 'the unconscious civilization' [John Ralston Saul]. If Americans aren't out shopping, out eating, or at home watching the television, then they just don't know what to do other than smoke more, drink more, do more and different drugs, or drive around more. They are for the most part as ignorant as stones, and therefore gullible in the extreme. If they have a roof and a television, they are harmless enough. If they are deprived, they can be a very savage and dangerous lot. Each one imagines him/herself a totally unique and precious individual who is entitled to everything, even though they dress, talk, act and 'think' alike. As deluded faux-individuals, they are utterly unconcerned with the welfare of others, and spend most of their lives cowering behind their locked doors nursing their pet fears and hatreds. Their thoughts seldom run deeply, they don't read books, are insecure, and emotionally unstable. Their knowledge is limited to various contrived doctrines, social orthodoxies, television shows, Hollywood movies, and several tightly controlled media. Good luck with that lot!"
by Yana Teplitskaya (original post in Russian)
translated by the Russian Reader (original post in English)
4 September 2018
Emotions are weird. I write “hogtie,” “taser,” and “Liteiny 4” [FSB headquarters in Petersburg] without feeling anything.
I wrote “interrogation in the middle of the night” and the tips of my fingers went numb.
I don’t understand what remains when you’ve run out of hatred, and fear has faded.
Navigating your way through fear gives you a lot of strength, but it doesn’t last long.
Love and solidarity.
However, their supply is probably limited, too, since I feel so little strength.
American Dream » Fri Jul 06, 2018 11:53 am wrote:The Network: Russia’s Odd, Brutal, and Maybe Invented Pre-World Cup Terrorism Case
By Joshua Yaffa June 3, 2018
When I met Cherkasov in St. Petersburg, he told me about visiting Filinkov in the pretrial detention facility that abuts the city’s F.S.B. building. At that meeting, Cherkasov said, Filinkov pulled down his pants, revealing his right thigh, which was covered in dozens of ruddy keloid spots, a spray of burn marks left by repeated strikes from an electric stun gun. Cherkasov said that Filinkov told him that the F.S.B. agents first took him from the airport to a polyclinic, for a checkup. It was a grim moment of pseudo-concern: the reason, Filinkov came to understand, was to make sure his body could withstand the tortures to come. Back in the van, Filinkov was handcuffed. One agent pulled his wool cap over his face; another began to strike him with heavy blows. Filinkov panicked—at which point his body was jolted with the first electroshock.
Over the next five hours, Filinkov was driven around the outskirts of St. Petersburg, while being beaten and repeatedly shocked with the stun gun. He later described the ghoulish process in a jailhouse diary entry, which he publicly released: “They asked questions. If I didn’t know the answer, they hit me with electric shocks. If the answer didn’t correspond to their expectations, they hit me with shocks. If I tried to think or formulate, I was hit with electric current. If I forgot what they said, I was hit with the current.” Some of the questions were impossible to answer (“Where are the weapons?”), but others he tried to answer factually (basic details about his wife and friends).
...Filinkov is not the only suspect in the Network case who has apparently endured torture. On January 25th, Igor Shishkin disappeared while walking his dog in St. Petersburg. Shishkin is twenty-six and has friends in the city’s anti-Fascist and anarchist circles. He is a vegan and runs an online store specializing in vegan food and nutrition products. “He is a vegan because he simply can’t imagine that you could relate to animals any other way,” his wife, Tatiana, told me, when we met for coffee near St. Petersburg’s central train station. Shishkin was missing for two days and then turned up in jail, charged with the same crime as Filinkov: membership in a terrorist organization—that is, the supposed Network cell.
Shishkin’s hearing was declared closed by the presiding judge at the last minute, and bailiffs rushed him past waiting journalists. One friend who caught a glimpse of him later said that he saw bruises under Shishkin’s eyes; his head was covered by the hood of his jacket, and a black mask obscured much of his face. Kosarevskaya and Teplitskaya called it a “special operation” to keep likely signs of abuse from becoming public. When the two volunteers went to see Shishkin in jail, they could see he had been badly beaten, with one eye dark and swollen. Shishkin said that he had injured himself during a training session. When they spotted what looked like burn marks on his left hand and, on a later visit, his back, Shishkin told them that he didn’t remember what happened. They didn’t press. “He knows that we understand, that the prison staff understands, that everyone understands,” Teplitskaya told me. Neither Shishkin nor his lawyer have filed a complaint alleging physical abuse.
Ilya Kapustin, a twenty-eight-year-old man from St. Petersburg, told me how, on the same night Shishkin disappeared, he was detained by five men in black clothes and masks. They ran up to him, near his apartment building in St. Petersburg, and, without saying a word, threw him on the ground, put his arms in handcuffs, and tossed him onto the floor of a waiting minivan. They asked about a friend and colleague who had been arrested, in January, on suspicion of carrying low-grade gunpowder, and who only later, this April, was added to the Network case. It turns out that Kapustin was simply unlucky—he had called the friend’s phone when he was being arrested, thus arousing suspicion. After detaining him, the five men asked why he had called his friend. “They said he was being held, that he was suspected of serious crimes,” Kapustin said. He recalled being in shock and completely disoriented. “I told them everything I knew—that is, practically nothing—but they were convinced I must know something else, that we are participating in some kind of plot together.”
The F.S.B. operatives then started to administer electroshock jolts to Kapustin. “They triggered the electric current and asked about something, and, when I didn’t have information they were after, they shocked me over and over, five or ten times in a row. Each shock felt like it lasted an eternity.” The pain was terrible, he told me. All he could do was gnaw at his teeth and wait for it to end. The agents threatened to take him into the forest, break his legs, and leave him there to freeze. “I could only think about how to end this, any way at all—let them come up with a fictitious case, or they could kill me. Any option was better than what is happening.”
https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-des ... orism-case
The Law Don’t Mean Shit
Instead of finding fault with the entire concept of “the law”, as we have patriarchy, slavery, and child abuse, we still worship a concept that has continually failed us; all while ignoring the very real evidence that human beings can live in large groups without any law, judiciary, or legislation.
Shakursky and Pchelintsev Formally Indicted for Organizing “Terrorist Community”
Protest against the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case on the steps of FSB headquarters in Petersburg, February 2018. Photograph by David Frenkel.
Ten years on, the crisis of global capitalism never really ended
In 2011, the world witnessed the outbreak of mass protests fueled by a combination of acute political and economic grievances. Starting with the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, a wave of popular revolts spread throughout the Mediterranean Basin and the wider Middle East, profoundly upsetting the established regional order in the process.
During the spring and summer, millions took to the streets of Greece and Spain in massive anti-austerity protests, directly inspired by the Arab Spring and in turn inspiring the Occupy Wall Street movement that would emerge in New York and quickly spread across the globe later that year. In 2013, similar uprisings convulsed Turkey and Brazil. The world was shaking.
It was in the Arab countries, however, that these spectacular social mobilizations had the most far-reaching political consequences, overthrowing or destabilizing a number of entrenched dictatorial regimes before collapsing into sectarian strife, counterrevolutionary terror and – most dramatically in Syria, Libya and Yemen – bloody civil war.
The violent conflict, foreign interventions and subsequent collapse of state authority in parts of Syria and Libya in turn fed into a major humanitarian crisis that saw millions of people seek refuge in neighboring countries. In 2015, a relatively minor share of these people briefly tried to make their way into Europe, where – despite widespread grassroots solidarity actions – they were often met with barbed wire, detention centers and an explosion of anti-immigrant sentiment whipped up by years of austerity-induced misery, in what controversially came to be known as the European “refugee crisis.”
Around the same time, a sudden outbreak of civil strife in the Ukraine brought Russia and the West to the brink of violent conflict. As historian Adam Tooze convincingly argues, these pre-existing tensions in the former Soviet sphere were also dramatically exacerbated by the economic fallout of the 2008 crash.
The Rule of the Roles
Everyday life is an orchestrated affair. Stage-managed and performed, an improvisation based on an array of presuppositions and patterns, it is becoming simulation. The organization of life, of social activity, is not immune to the modern ascent of representation, nor its ability to insinuate itself everywhere, becoming not only part of the fabric of society but the fabric of reality as well.
Representations are reproduced, inauthenticity perpetuated, as society reproduces itself daily. This includes the reproduction of the social relations that have come to define the individual in our society, and the reproduction of the socializing processes that form a psychic structure corresponding to the existing social order, an internalized representation of society, its divisions, its operations, its values, norms, and presuppositions. Molding the psychic structure of individual consciousness enables society to reproduce the forms of organization that predominate, and perpetuate a social life oriented towards economic growth, the development of society's productive forces, the reproduction of capital. Society is oriented towards this goal, and its achievement is given the appearance of a natural occurrence.
In a society organized for the reproduction of capital, individuals are valorized as commodities. Their exchange value is determined by their capacity for animating the roles they have assumed throughout their lives, the entire trajectory of the roles which make up their histories.
This trajectory is an education, a process of socialization: the accommodation of the self to roles in general and the tailoring required for any specific role. The individual learns how to handle his roles as well as develop the experience to interact with other roles within the enterprises and associations in which he participates.
The role is an inauthentic self; it's what makes the individual functional in capitalist society and its concentrated, state bureaucratic permutations. The role permits the manipulation of the individual as an object, suitable for authoritarian management, and more importantly (due to the cultivation of a psychology of dependence), incapable of self-management, a form of social life that would require the collective transcendence of the rule of the roles.
The role integrates the individual into the culture of domination and allows capital to colonize the individual through the entire artillery of ideology and the forms of organization that put the individual, through his role, in the service of the economy, of reproducing capital, creating wealth.
The role provides a context for the individual within the hierarchical enterprises through which social life is articulated and governed. The role is a home for those who have never gotten lost, a haven for those unnerved even by that prospect, and a prison-house for those engaged in the project of role refusal.
The role is the self-objectified. It is a thing which can be acted upon, stimulated, and modified, and makes the individual vulnerable to the force, persuasion, and seduction of social exigencies and the "spectacular media assault" designed and erected by skilled technicians, by the masters of conditioning, by all the artisans of commerce and production constructing the discourse of capital. Skepticism and refusal are the only antidotes to this pressure and exhortation, but that stance can be exhausting. Most are worn out and surrender. Those who pride themselves on maintaining their defiance are doomed to eventually discover themselves also typecast, as rebels, outcasts, bohemians, or sociopaths. These roles may be marginal, and only loosely linked to the dominant culture, but they are roles nevertheless and represent modeled behavior.
The reproduction of capital requires the reproduction of the society which makes that orientation possible. This requires the reproduction of roles, for it is roles that are the basic units of our society; individuals are recognized by the roles they animate. Individuals must be stereotyped into modeled forms of behavior facilitating their placement in society in the service of social goals.
This modeling is the continuous denial and repression of individual subjectivity. The role is the objectification of this denial. In it one can locate all the habits, practices, predispositions, and programmed behavior patterns, everything which allows the individual to survive in a society governed by competing and complementary hierarchies of roles. Some roles embody the values of the dominant culture; they are role models, the very model of modeled behavior, and are emulated by others who see in them "positive" images, behavior to be reproduced. Even the unconventional is emulated and becomes conformism. To be different without being distinctive is one way of being the same. Through their roles individuals are able to live stereotypes.
The role mediates authenticity, preventing the experience of directly lived life. One does not experience any particular generalized activity, one experiences the responsibilities and duties demanded by one's role in that activity. If at times it appears social life permits individuals to transcend their roles, this is merely the assumption, the animation of another preexisting role, or perhaps even the creation of a new role, but it is not transcendence at all. It is a new context, a replacement into the hierarchically structured enterprises that predominate: a new role, with new, specialized duties, and the power to execute those tasks or ensure their accomplishment.
The powers lodged in a role do not belong to the individual; the individual mediates the power residing in the role. Roles require the lives of their players; they absorb the energy of the individual. The individual abdicates his self-power to the hierarchies in which he participates. Participation is contingent upon this renunciation. It is the roles which animate society, and orchestrated, stage-managed activity is experienced as authentic.
An awareness of separation from authenticity must be prevented from emerging. Individuals are compelled to identify with their roles. It's what allows the individual to be more than a nothing or a nobody, a nincompoop or nogoodnik. The power of roles is attractive, like the moon to a moth, and is seen as the only possible form of human power. One is denied power as an individual, but can partake in or mediate the power exercised and allocated by the hierarchies of roles. One can advance through the hierarchies, skillfully meeting the demands of the roles encountered, becoming those roles, believing in those roles and all others. In this manner the power of roles is internalized.
The legitimacy of a "superior" role is acknowledged when that authority is internalized by others as they abdicate power over that part of their life to the dominion of the "superior" role. By internalizing the authority of another's role, the individual also internalizes his or her own powerlessness; then he or she enunciates it, advertises it, but it is a silent pronouncement. It is obedience and acquiescence, accommodation and submissiveness; it is the glue that holds together hierarchical enterprises and activity, and ensures the survival, the reproduction of the dominant social relations, social relations mediated by roles. Internalizing the power of roles facilitates and reinforces the idea of the necessary domination of some men or women over others and makes the existence of this domination appear natural.
This psychological process of internalization legitimates the division of society into hierarchies of roles. Having thoroughly identified their role with themselves, those in subordinate roles tend to instinctively defend their position, their role. They believe they are defending themselves, for in the culture of domination the role is necessary for the survival of the individual. It serves as both a threat and a protective shield. It is the projected self-image of the individual, obscured, refracted, mutilated in the mediating process; it is the personal organization of appearances. The role is animated by the individual, who brings it to life, makes it breathe and move, and then mistakes it for a self. The individual rationalizes the role, justifies it, makes it amenable, important, necessary, and rejects the idea of role refusal, seeing in it only the negation of self and not the negation of roles, not emancipation from the forms of social organization that have required the sacrifice of self-powers, that have denied people the right to create the situations in which they might be engaged, and that have instead constrained the range of desires to a limited but ambiguous set of predetermined choices and opportunities.
The circumscription of individuals and their lives into limiting roles tends to prevent a view of the structure of society as a whole and the individual's role within it. This lack of a structural view of the organization of society, the organization of roles, instills in many individuals insecurity, anxiety, and frustration, predicating impotence in the face of forces originating from the centers of power to which the individual has at best only a one-way connection, through the enterprises and associations in which he participates.
The centralization of decision making processes, apparent especially in the wave of mergers and acquisitions recently preoccupying the financial world, tends to subordinate community and personal interests to the exigencies of hierarchical enterprises and the larger context in which they function, the economy. The individual in the mass is distanced from the origin of the forces that affect him. This has, no doubt, contributed greatly to the creation of a population including many who have lost their will for rational discussion and social action. They have had no practice, there are no arenas or forums where their influence can be asserted and registered tangibly. The instruments and mechanisms for participation have been awarded to the specialists, to "superior" roles, and individuals have become both spectators and bit actors in an improvised drama, reproducing the predetermined. Most roles have no projects of their own, but merely fulfill the routines that already exist. Immersed in role routine and regimentation, most individuals are unable to transform or transcend their lives through reflection and discussion and action. They are dependent upon the hierarchies, in the service of the economy, regulated to maintain stable growth in the development of society's productive forces. Every role is involved in this project: producers, consumers, and the massive support staff which perpetuates both and therefore also itself. This project is dependent upon roles, and roles are dependent upon it. Accompanying the role is a loss of independence, leading to eventually the loss of the desire for independence. This is the achievement of capital: the reproduction of the organizational forms and social relations that make this mutual dependency possible and the establishment of the global hegemony, albeit in various guises, of these forms as the model of social organization.
Role routine limits the realization of desire, suppresses it, cleanses the individual for the insinuation of desires compatible with social organization ordering. Desires personal and private that are inconsistent with the role's function must be diverted or suppressed, and avenues for their realization reduced and eliminated, so that those desires, dangerous and unmanageable, can be forgotten without being missed. Desire is the source of the individual's will to act, to engage the self-power which has been relinquished. Without that engagement there remains a void unfulfilled and room for a certain dissonance, a tension between the role and the individual. A substitute must be found; individuals are reduced to searching for what could be the richest and truest part of themselves in the actions and functions of other roles, in the modeled behavior of other individuals. This search is a vicarious existence, lived through television, movies, and print media, through rumor and gossip and news. It is shallow, insubstantial, and inauthentic, yet succeeds in deflecting desire that would have to be sought outside the realm of the dominant forms of organization and social life.
The power embodied by roles and the hierarchies of roles originates in the living activity of humanity. Society is organized and reproduced by men and women everywhere, at all times. The hierarchies, the enterprises and associations, are not natural forces, but are man-made structures, contingent upon the renunciation of self-power, the denial of subjectivity, and the internalization of the authority of other roles, that proclamation of powerlessness.
These hierarchies can continue only as long as people continue to assume their roles by force of habit as well as perceived necessity. Allegiance to the rule of the roles in general, if not to any particular enterprise, is almost always given in exchange for a role. Some roles, however, are poorly constructed and are subverted as authenticity creeps through the cracks and fissures, exposing the role for what it is: an inauthentic self, an artificial construct, a representation reproduced.
Capitalist society is limited in its ability to organize all its members, including the poor and disenfranchised who are usually organized through social welfare agencies or the illegal, underground economy. If society bulges with potential "players" without roles—individuals swearing no allegiance to any hierarchy or enterprise—and the existing forms of organization can no longer sustain society, the rule of the roles itself will be doubted and seen as impeding the development of community. The ability of the hierarchies to deliver will fall into disrepute. The role-less and the role-weary will meet; at this juncture their interests coincide. Those willing to refuse their roles respond to the demand by the role-less that individuals begin to relate to one another without the mediation of roles, or the stultifying and corrupt hierarchies. Things invariably begin to fall apart, and this dysfunction is abetted by active intervention: direct action and agitation against the hierarchies, the forms of organization that predominate.
This will be a traumatic time for many. It is not an easy process, disillusionment rarely is, and those who refuse to abandon their roles before the hierarchies of roles perish will be condemned to perish with them. This process will, however, allow the emergence of new forms through which to articulate social activity, life itself.
Role refusal is the rejection of the stage-manager, the totality of mechanisms and structures presently organizing society. Through emerging new forms, the power once invested in roles is appropriated, and although the logic of the hierarchies may remain internalized, the roles themselves will be seen as no more than hollow, transparent shells, hiding something that no longer exists. It will no longer appear that it is the roles that animate social activity, and the power of roles will no longer remain internalized. The legitimacy of the hierarchies and the previous powerlessness are extirpated as new forms of social organization are discovered, invented, and reproduced. The real-life game of role playing comes to an end. Representation can be superseded by authenticity, and the creation of a new social unity involving the totality of whole men and women engaging their self-powers in social activity, building community, can finally commence.
American Dream » Wed Feb 22, 2012 6:04 pm wrote: http://www.prole.info/wcpw.html
WORK . COMMUNITY . POLITICS . WAR
“Everyone is asked their opinion about every detail in order to prevent them from having one about the totality.”
We look around us and see a world beyond our control.
Our daily struggle to survive takes place against an immense and constantly shifting backdrop…
…moving from natural disaster to terrorist attack… from new diet to new famine… from celebrity sex scandal to political corruption scandal… from religious war to economic miracle… from tantalizing new advertisement to clichés on tv complaining about the government… from suggestions on how to be the ideal lover to suggestions on how to keep sports fans from rioting… from new police shootings to new health problems…
The same processes are at work everywhere…
...in democratic and in totalitarian governments… in corporations and in mom n’ pop businesses... in cheeseburgers and in tofu… in opera, in country music and in hip hop… in every country and in every language… in prisons, in schools, in hospitals, in factories, in office towers, in war zones and in grocery stores...
Something is feeding off our lives and spitting back images of them in our faces.
That something is the product of our own activity… our everyday working lives sold hour after hour, week after week, generation after generation.
We don’t have property or a business we can make money from, so we are forced to sell our time and energy to someone else. We are the modern day working class—the proles.
"Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks."
We don’t work because we want to. We work because we have no other way to make money. We sell our time and energy to a boss in order to buy the things we need to survive.
We are brought together with other workers and assigned different tasks. We specialize in different aspects of the work and repeat these tasks over and over again. Our time at work is not really part of our lives. It is dead time controlled by our bosses and managers. During our time at work we make things that our bosses can sell. These things are objects like cotton shirts, computers and skyscrapers or qualities like clean floors and healthy patients or services like having a bus take you where you want to go, having a waiter take your order or having someone call you at home to try to get you to buy things you don’t need. The work is not done because of what it produces. We do it to get paid, and the boss pays us for it to make a profit.
At the end of the day the bosses re-invest the money we make them, and enlarge their businesses. Our work is stored up in the things our bosses own and sell—capital. They are always looking for new ways to store up our activity in things, new markets to sell them to, and new people with nothing to sell but their time and energy to work for them. What we get from work is enough money to pay for rent, food, clothes and beer—enough to keep us coming back to work.
When we’re not at work, we spend time traveling to or from work, preparing for work, resting up because we’re exhausted from work or getting drunk to forget about work. The only thing worse than work, is not having it. Then we waste our weeks away looking for work, without getting paid for it. If welfare is available, it is a pain-in-the-ass to get and is never as much as working. The constant threat of unemployment is what keeps us going to work everyday. And our work is the basis of this society. The power our bosses get from it expands every time we work. It is the dominant force in every country in the world.
At work we are under the control of our bosses, and of the markets they sell to. But an invisible hand imposes a work-like discipline and pointlessness on the rest of our lives as well. Life seems like a kind of show we watch from the outside, but have no control over. All sorts of other activities tend to become as alienating, boring and stressful as work: housework, schoolwork, leisure. That’s capitalism.
“Of course, the capitalists are very much satisfied with the capitalist system. Why shouldn't they be? They get rich by it.”
Work is experienced very differently depending on which side of it you’re on. For our bosses, work is the way that they get their money to make more money. For us, work is a miserable way to survive. The less they pay us, the less we make. The faster they can get us to work, the harder we have to work. Our interests are opposed, and there is a constant struggle between bosses and workers at work—and in the rest of the society based on work. The more we pay in rent or bus fare, the more we have to work to pay our rent or bus fare.
The current state of wages, benefits, hours and working conditions as well as politics, art and technology is a result of the current state of this class struggle. Simply standing up for our own interests in this struggle, is the starting point of undermining capitalism.
“Well, it is about time that every rebel wakes up to the fact that "the people" and the working class have nothing in common.”
Civilization is deeply divided. Most of us spend most of our time working and are mostly poor, while the owners, who are mostly rich, manage and profit off our work. All the communities and institutions of society are built up around this basic division. There are racial, cultural and language divisions and communities. There is division and community around sex and age. There is the community of the nation and citizenship, as well as the division between nations and those with and without citizenship. We are divided and united around religion and ideology. We are brought together to buy and sell on the market. Some of these identities have been around for millennia. Some are a direct result of the way we work today. But they are all now organized around capital. They are all used to help our bosses accumulate more of our dead time stored up in things, and to keep the basic division of this society from tearing it apart. Poor people from one country can be made to identify with their bosses from the same country and can be made to fight poor people from other countries. Workers have a harder time organizing a strike with workers who look different and speak a different language, especially if one group thinks it’s better than the other. These divisions and communities are reflected in and reflect the division of labor at work.
While these divisions and exclusive communities are being pushed on us from one side, an all-inclusive human community is sold to us from the other. This community is just as imaginary and false. It denies the basic division of society. Business owners run the government and the media, the schools and prisons, the welfare offices and the police. We have our lives run by them. The newspapers and television put forward their view of the world. Schools teach about the great (or unfortunate) history of their society and produce a spectrum of graduates and dropouts fit for different kinds of work. The government provides services to keep their society running smoothly. And when all else fails, they have the police, the prisons and the army.
This is not our community.
“Such power as the bourgeoisie still possesses in this period resides in the proletariat’s lack of autonomy and independence of spirit.”
They organize us against each other, but we can organize ourselves against them.
The whole point of talking about class and “the proles” is to insist on the very basic way in which people from different “communities” have essentially similar experiences, and to show that people from the same “communities” should in fact hate each other. This is the starting point to fighting the existing communities. When we begin to fight for our own interests we see that others are doing the same thing. Prejudices fall away, and our anger is directed where it belongs. We are not weak because we are divided. We are divided because we are weak.
The existing communities become irrelevant as they are attacked, and they are attacked by becoming irrelevant. Racism and sexism are unappealing, when working men and women of different races are fighting their class enemies side by side. And that fight becomes more effective by involving people from different “communities”. There will be no need for a stand-in for everything that can be bought and sold—money--when there is no need to measure work time stored in those things. This could only happen when we make and do things because there is a need for them and not in order to exchange them. There will be no need for a government to manage society, when society is not divided between management and workforce—when people can run their lives themselves. There will be no need for national or racial communities—and there could be a human community—when society is not divided into rich and poor. The way to create these conditions is to fight the existing conditions.
This tendency to create community by fighting against the conditions of our lives—and therefore against work, money, exchange, borders, nations, governments, police, religion, and race—has at times been called “communism”.
“The more we are governed, the less we are free.”
--The Alarm (anarchist newspaper from Chicago in the 1880s)
The government is the model for political activity. Politicians representing different countries, regions, or “communities” battle with each other. We are encouraged to support the leaders we disagree with least, and we're never really surprised when they screw us over. All a politician’s working class background or radical ideals are worthless once they begin to govern. No matter who is in government, government has its own logic. The fact that this society is divided into classes with opposing interests means that it is always at risk of tearing itself apart. The government is there to make sure that doesn’t happen. Whether the government is a dictatorship or a democracy, it holds all the guns and will use them against its own population to make sure that we keep going to work.
Not that long ago, an extremely unstable situation in a particular country could be diffused by nationalizing all of a country’s industries, creating a police state, and calling it “communism”. This kind of capitalism proved to be less efficient and less flexible than good old-fashioned free market capitalism. With the fall of the Soviet Union, there is no longer a Red Army to march in and stabilize countries in this way, and Communist parties around the world are becoming simple social democrats.
A working class political party is a contradiction in terms—not because the membership of a particular party can’t be largely working class, but because the most it can do is give the working class a voice in politics. It lets our representatives put forward ideas on how our bosses should run this society--how they can make money and keep us under control. Whether they are advocating nationalization or privatization, more welfare or more police (or both), the programs of political parties are different strategies for managing capitalism.
Unfortunately, politics also exists outside of government. Community leaders, professional activists and unions want to place themselves between workers and bosses and be the mediators, the negotiators, the means of communication, the representatives, and ultimately the peacemakers. They fight to keep this position. In order to do that, they need to mobilize the working class in controlled ways to put pressure on more business-oriented politicians, at the same time offering business a workforce that is ready to work. This means that they have to disperse us when we start to fight back. Sometimes they do this by negotiating concessions, other times by selling us out. Politicians always call on us to vote, to sit back and let the organizer negotiate, to fall in line behind the leaders and the specialists in a kind of passive participation. These non-governmental politicians offer the government a way to maintain the status quo peacefully, and in return they get jobs managing our misery.
Political groups are bureaucratic. They tend to mirror the structures of work where activity is controlled from the outside. They create specialists in politics. They are built on a division between leaders and led, between representatives and represented, between organizers and organized. This is not a bad choice of how to set up organizations, to be remedied with a large dose of participatory democracy. It is a direct result of what political groups and activities are trying to do--to manage a part of capitalism.
The only thing that interests us about politics is its destruction.
"Anarchism is not a beautiful utopia, nor an abstract philosophical idea, it is a social movement of the labouring masses."
–--Dyelo Truda Group
When we start to fight against the conditions of our lives, a completely different kind of activity appears. We do not look for a politician to come change things for us. We do it ourselves, with other working class people.
Whenever this kind of working class resistance breaks out, politicians try to extinguish it in a flood of petitions, lobbying and election campaigns. But when we are fighting for ourselves, our activity looks completely different from theirs. We take property away from landlords and use it for ourselves. We use militant tactics against our bosses and end up fighting with the police. We form groups where everyone takes part in the activity, and there is no division between leaders and followers. We do not fight for our leaders, for our bosses or for our country. We fight for ourselves. This is not the ultimate form of democracy. We are imposing our needs on society without debate—needs that are directly contrary to the interests and wishes of rich people everywhere. There is no way for us to speak on equal terms with this society.
This tendency of working class struggles to go outside and against the government and politics, and to create new forms of organization that do not put our faith in anything other than our own ability, has at times been called “anarchism”.
"Let us devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.”
So we’re in a war—a class war.
There is no set of ideas, proposals, and organizational strategies that can bring victory. There is no solution outside of winning the war.
So long as they have the initiative, we are separated, and passive. Our response to the conditions of our lives is individual: quitting our jobs, moving to neighborhoods with cheaper rent, joining subcultures and gangs, suicide, buying lottery tickets, drug abuse and alcoholism, going to church. Their world looks like the only possibility. Any hope for change is lived on an imaginary level—separated from our everyday lives. It’s business as usual, with all the crisis and destruction that this implies.
When we go on the offensive we begin to recognize each other and to fight collectively. We use the ways that society depends on us to disrupt it. We strike, sabotage, riot, desert, mutiny and take over property. We create organizations in order to amplify and coordinate our activities. All kinds of new possibilities open up. We grow more daring and more aggressive in pursuing our own class interests. These do not lie in forming a new government, or becoming the new boss. Our interests lie in ending our own way of life—and therefore the society that is based on that way of life.
We are the working class who want to abolish work and class. We are the community of people who want to tear the existing community apart. Our political program is to destroy politics. In order to do that, we have to push the subversive tendencies that exist today until we have completely remade society everywhere. This has at times been called “revolution”.
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