Monday, July 29, 2002

My archives are fucked up....but for anyone just finding this site through a search engine please bookmark this page and check back later--because the archives have a ton of interesting stuff in them while the front page is relatively boring in comparison
Wow, some intrepid soul has posted my essay "Mastering Everyday Life, Worker's Autonomy in a Situationist Context" on Interactivist...don't know how they managed to psychicly get the revisions that I planned for it but ya never know what those pesky Anarchists can do....

I'd like to add to the essay a thought which I implied but which wasn't really developed. It's that the Spectacle, in my opinion, isn't really a-historical and a-territorial at all. In the real world the local Spectacle is defined more by the culture and the traditions of struggle in that particular area than it is by the wizards of ads working in NYC. Because of this the Spectacle can be overthrown, weakened, broken, on a local level. From this comes all the business about negotiation. There's a reality, a work-world, underlying your local Spectacle that presents a better alternative to the status quo--in the form of the interests and beliefs of working people. These traditions can prove a very proper rallying point against Spectacular Capitalism.

The other point which I wish that I'd made clearer is that at some point the Spectacle and Work intersect....meaning that there are points in capitalism where resistance against the Spectacle becomes more than just anti-consumerism but almost naturally takes a pro-workerist form. These points of vulnerability should be identified and exploited.

It's there that negotiations are the most potent. The points of vulnerability for the Spectacle in this vein go beyond resistance by people involved in the media, or in advertising. I'll have to think about where these points are....but in general anywhere where you have to buy into a party line in order to participate is a location where the Spectacle exists. Freedom means not just workers' autonomy but also not having to buy into any party line in order to *be* autonomous.

Sunday, July 28, 2002

The mastering of everyday life: worker's autonomy makes sense in a situationist context as well as in a straight Marxist one. The idea, or at least one of the ideas, behind worker's autonomy is that at some point in the capitalist system actual work has to be done by people who have some sort of knowledge of how the system works.But society is not so alienated that it's the machines versus us, yet. Real workers still figure in in a real way in the process of production and distribution. All of society in Capitalism tends to alienate the worker from control of his work, alienate the worker from the inner workings of the society he lives in, so that ideally a person goes to a job where he does a mindless task all day, then goes to a supermarket after work, and then relaxes in his anonymous apartment in his anonymous neighborhood watching processed media on his TV. But the Spectacle is more porous than that. Workers' autonomy consists, in part, in having the work process mastered enough so that people can actually take control of their jobs and proceed to manage it themselves--proceeding from the work knowledge. At some crucial points work knowledge and the foundation of the spectacle come together, and knowledge of how things work becomes knowledge of how to mess up the spectacle itself. Taking back everyday life from alienation, both at work and at home/free time, can proceed from taking those opportunities in the spectacle when life isn't totally mediated, when people actually matter, and working them open so that the non mediated part of life gets a little bigger. Force the spectacle to negotiate with YOUR real life instead of letting it dictate it's terms to you. After all, the Spectacle did come from somewhere: no matter how distorted an image it is it’s ultimately a reflection of real life.

There's a paralell with this in legal history. Laws aren't science. The legal system is largely a product of continued negotiations between the powerful and the powerless to determine what is and is not permissable. But the laws themselves are only abstract, they only exist in people's minds....so without anything material backing them up it's easier to push open legal potentials and fight for a redefinition of the Law as a whole. But Laws are then acted upon and interpreted by the dominant culture of society itself. Because of this Laws can be considered the foundation of a part of the Spectacle, and legal wrangling a cousin of the struggle for Workers’ autonomy. Society as a whole can itself be considered as operating in a way parallel to the drama of the law as established by struggle and the law as interpreted by dominant society, in that the lines of demarcation between the greater Spectacle and real work in this capitalist system is also largely abstract and located in people's minds as a product of struggle and negotiation. This is where the idea of culture comes in. Material situations open up potentialities for people to change society, but society itself lags behind the material change in it's cultural component, taken in it’s most expansive sense, but the material has already produced something new....this means that the change leading to a non-capitalist society has to first proceed from cultural negotiations. Indeed it has to. Cultural negotiations between real life, as denoted by both the mechanics of private living and work, and the Spectacular aspects of capitalism open up a new door to more concrete changes later on. The negotiation at work, in the community, and at home, which might take the form of a forced legal-type negotiation--with one party asserting by direct action the rights of the non-Spectacular life over the mediated life, if succesful, can then lead to opportunities for more concrete changes in the way work and everyday life proceed. Which can eventually lead to serious systemic change. But points of resistance in real life, not in cyberspace, (although it is a good support resource), but in actual living and in actual militant protest, have to be identified both by individuals and groups, and exploited at some level first for any of that to happen. Someone has start doing something--and it doesn’t have to be big, it doesn’t have to be illegal, it just has to open up work and life--which hitherto is assumed to be closed to change--to negotiation. After that deeper change can be planned, but it has to start on some level, no matter how petty or abstract. Local battles fought again and again to establish a right in a particular place, to keep that right, and to expand the reach of that right in real life have been the motor and base of social change--but it had to start somewhere. Think Rosa Parks. Resistance that goes on long enough does become de facto permanent. Once a permanent platform has been established, so to speak, it can then be used as a launching pad for further progressive projects aimed at deeper social change. Unions, consumer groups, alternative spaces, as well as rights established by protest and widely supported by the community can all serve this role. But I’d argue that for groups to open up the space for social change there have to be individuals who have resisted in their everyday life in some way, and who by constant resistance have built up an understanding of how resistance and change, negotiation, works on a basic, simple level. Their experience can serve as the spark that gets people who haven’t built up a culture of resistance involved, at which point the individual who threw off the first sparks can step back and let the newly empowered individuals go their own way. But that’s a digression.

What has been missing in anti-consumerism campaigns has been the reality component. The Spectacle is still an artificial entity, after all, which is produced by work itself--no matter how alienated people may be from the process of production. I believe that anti-consumerism campaigns which combined pro-work and pro-real life aspects, which provided people with a guide to how these issues correspond to real life--and what to do about it, would be more succesful than simply advertising criticism. After all, people can’t live on the Spectacle. They live on work. And if you want to destroy the Spectacle you have a responsability to have something to advance in it’s place. How about Workers’ Democracy?

Resistance in general is based on reality, which corresponds to a reality where there really are workers and bosses, work, life etc...so the cause of reality against the spectacle is also the cause of the reality of work and of the advancement of the class struggle against the managers and owners. If one starts from reality instead of mediation through party or State the conclusion follows that the resistance to the Spectacle, and through it Capitalism, has to be done by the working class itself, in a way in which resistance will provide all the teaching and education in the process of struggle that people need. The bourgeois leftists will have to step aside once the Workers start to organize themselves. Indeed, a component of the struggle within the Anti-Capitalist movement today seems to be revolving around the death of the old and the birth of the new.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

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There's a lesson to be learned from Isaac Deutscher's description of Stalinism as primitive magic. Or Stalin using Marx as primitive magic. The theory Deutcher puts forward, in several books (Stalin, a political biography; The Soviet Union after Stalin) is that the Georgian Stalin incorporated Marxism into the general schema of tribal beliefs and superstitions that he grew up with in the Caucasus. And that he used this pseudo-system to win over the peasants of Russia, speaking in their language as it were. Less perceptive people might just call all this bourgeois ideology, but it really comes from a feudalistic, pre-capitalist culture. All of this is important because in many ways the U.S. is dominated by ideologies that are pre-capitalistic themselves. Surely not in the big cities, but as you go farther out to the more rural and less built up areas reactionary feudal concepts gain strength. Because the U.S. is so decentralized, plus our wonderful system of apportioning seats in congress, these pre-capitalist communities have a whole lot of influence over our political lives.

It's also these areas that Bush and co. appeal to for support for the newest invasion of civil liberties. Red necks can be counted on to support draconian politics, and then be relied upon to try to force others to follow the party line. Having lived both in big cities and in the country I can say that there are two fundamentally different meanings to the word "Americanism". In the cities it's a vague, sort of puzzling word that people don't really know what to do with, but in the country it refers to a very specific, all encompassing, set of social beliefs, which, combined with religion, family, whatever, serve to do the individual's thinking for them. And also dominate all individuality. It's this Americanism which Bush is appealing to, and which the media have been incessantly pushing on a wider range of U.S. citizens.

Feudalism is characterized by the fact that all the beliefs are held out there-outside of the individual- and that individuals simply assent to what's considered commonly accepted truth; while capitalist and (hopefully) socialist societies are characterized by the internalization of beliefs. I don't just assent to something that everyone else believes in, I make my own decisions and believe in something because I feel that it has arguments with merit behind them.

In our society patriotism is swiftly forming a system of primitive magic like the kind that Deutscher observed Stalinism partaking of. He comments that primitive magic is only believed in places backward enough not to have known the benefits of capitalist society--in terms of work and goods. I think this is a fair assesment of our rural and less developed areas. Both of those facts combined shed a whole lot of light on how this country actually works. You see, primitive magic is a losing game. It's something that is only there because of scarcity, and which in an economicly developing world loses out to other strands of thought, like liberalism. But on the other hand belief in primitive magic is supremely useful for the people who control society--because it provides a ready made jack boot force to enforce the new heavenly mandate. It also provides the people in charge with others gullible enough to believe the party line on their own.

So there are incentives to keep the population here in the U.S. relatively poor--or at least unequal and undeveloped--and ignorant. This doesn't effect the wealth of those on top because poverty can be produced by enourmous inequality just as easily as it can be produced by non-developmment. And in a country as vast as ours it's possbile for the rich to still be very rich even while most people are poorer. Or at least a significant portion of the population, those in rural areas, are poorer. They're useful to have around. City challeng all of this. But it also applies to people in general on a lower level.

What does that have to do with us? In the working class the future is largely presented as a mythic narrative replete with magical thinking. It's useful in keeping people in line, and is itself a compensatory reaction by people who's potentials in life have been drasticly restricted. If we want to change anything in this country we're going to have to get at the working class people who buy into primitive magic, magical thinking, narratives, etc... along with everyone else who, by being members of our society, also share in these features. Somehow this narrative consciousness has to be challenged, somehow people will have to disengage themselves from this, break the seal, see past the patriotic lies, and see the reality behind it all. People should do that on a personal level.

Personal experience says that on a more basic level that the difference between posing and genuineness is also the participation or non-participation in myth beliefs. It doesn't matter if someone professes to be a socialist, a communist, a marxist, an anarchist, an anti-authoriatrian, or any of the other little subgroups: if they still believe in the mythic and magical consciousness promoted by society they will not stick with their beliefs in the long run. The challenges to those mythic beliefs will simply be reincorporated into the bigger magical system and thereby defused. Long term success in this game means big deprogramming......and this in a world where programming, from television to video games to everything else, makes up the bulk of what youth and young adults think is reality.

To bring this back to Deutscher's economic analysis I can say that the more that myths dominate society, the more people treat life and life's stages as magical phenomenon with their own rules for navigation, the less real content and real life people have. Myths and magic exist to compensate for scarcity. Of what? Goods, sure, opportunity, sure, but also the actual process of living life itself, in today's world. Stalinism covered for a system that was so regimented that people were reduced to nothing but tools. The life process was totally coopted by the state. In that situation people could look at government newspapers, listen to speaches, talk to party members, who would feed them the mythic line about how society was really wonderful and was really accomplishing wonderful things, so that people could use this second order knowledge to pretend that life was really going on. Much the same is today's society. Especially with regards to the youth. Nothing is left to chance, everything is mythicly coded for......pride in patriotism, in the system, whatever, conceals the fact that for many people there isn't anything else of worth in their existence. Kids are tools. Nothing else. Produced by Reagan and his minions. Believing in myths violates Kant's dictate to treat people as ends and not means only. In believin in the myths of society you turn yourself into a tool for the realization of those myths. To treat yourself with dignity, as a person, as an end and not just a tool, a person has to break through those myths, discard them and everything that follows from them, and reclaim their own minds and their own lifes. People who can't even respect themselves will have no respect for others, and in that situation gas chambers have had a interesting proclivity for appearing.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

Disruption often plays a part in stimulating creativity. I've come to the conclusion that the critique that society needs is drasticly different than what I've thought before....to spell it out I think that what society needs the most right now, or that is the most relevant, is a synthesis of Primitivism, Anarcho-Communism, and Anarcho-Syndicalism...Unfortuanately, Blogs aren't good for working out ideas in uncharted waters. That, one has to do on ones' own. The reason I was able to come up with so much stuff before was because it was all things I'd come up with a while ago but had no place to air it. Blogging might flag for a while.....or it might just become a news service or a general info service. Who knows.
Addendum to that: as far as I know NO Marxist groups are banned via my library's filtering software while ALL anarchist sites (that they know about) are banned....so that finding the CPUSA is no problem but finding anything other than the most obscure anarchist sites is impossable.

Friday, July 05, 2002

Ah, my phone line is temporarily dead, so I've resorted to using my local libraries computer to surf the net. I just did a check up on their filtering software, getting to a couple link banks and poking around, seeing what's permitted and what's not. This site didn't load--a good sign! but, alas, the trade mark blocking screen didn't come up-so I guess I'm not that unpopular yet :( . Well, for all of those that don't know about the ins and outs of library blocking here's the deal: the Progressive Labor Party, which wants to kill all rich and middle class people when it gains power is permitted. Infoshop.org, which is just a news and information service which represents a whole spectrum of legitamate activity, is not. The Spartacist League, a bunch of extremist Trotskyists who openly espouse violence as a means to attain social change, and who have used it both against other leftists and presumably against other targets, is not banned. The Anti-Capitalist Convergence, which is a site that exists purely for the benefit of putting up info about protests, logistics, lodging info, etc... is banned. The Mobilization for Global Justice, tellingly, is not banned. The Revolutionary Communist Party, which has also openly advocated violence, and which advocates Maoist dictatorship from it's front page to it's last, with all that that implies, is not banned. But Raise the Fist, another news service oriented towards militant people, is. Maoist International Movement, one of the most extreme Marxists groups in America, along with being one of the smallest, is not banned, although thanks to their shitty web hosting the page takes a while to load. Anything having to do with the Zapatistas is banned, but not the Workers' World Party. The Workers' World Party was even DESIGNATED a potential terrorist organization by the FBI thanks to the fact that it likes both Iraq and North Korea, and that members have even traveled to North Korea, met with it's leaders, and praised it's system of government. But all domains in the Tao.ca space are banned. This includes, again, A-infos news service along with a host of harmless organizations and sites. What else, oh, the Anarchist Archives are banned (although you can get on them through a mirror), but the Marxists archives get through just fine. This means that you can go on the Marxist internet archives and download Che Guevara's plans for guerilla war, along with the new Military section of Trotsky's writings, which details his strategy and command during the Russian Revolution, as well as speeches by Malcolm X advocating either "The Ballot or the Bullet", as well as the Marxists archives writings about the Black Panthers.....but you can't access Mutual Aid by Kropotkin. Obviously, a book dedicated to the idea that altruism and helping is a basic factor of the human experience is much more dangerous than a plan for guerrilla war, you know?
I'll make some more regular comments once I'm back on my computer...just a little bit to tide you over.