Tag Archives: Economics

Sorry no, Reich is not the resistance.


Robert Reich is great. His historical analysis is sound, though hardly radical. His economics challenge the dominant media narrative. If his illuminations work for you, fine. But sorry no, Robert Reich is not the resistance. Reich is only playing the foil to Trump’s villain. And how hard is that, really? Reacting to Trump is the Democratic Party line. Resistance means more than the third law of physics. But this focus on the Mueller probe is not even that. It’s pure fourth fundamental state of matter.

Can a currency system be localized?

A friend of mine is studying alternative money systems in Boulder, and has solicited input from her varied professional circles. Here are the questions she poses about localizing community transactions:

What is money? What does money do? What are certain properties of money (properties/qualities of money, of the realm of money)? What is the current money system now? How does it work? What are ‘problems’ with our current money system? Any thoughts about solutions to these perceived problems? 
 
How do we ‘localize’ money to the community? Who/What are the communities we want to serve in developing a local currency infrastructure? Consumers/Citizens? Local business? Banks/Credit Unions?

Who would benefit from a local currency? Who would not benefit? What are the various ‘possible’ geographical boundaries of this local money system? One business? A block of business? City?  Watershed?

Bob Edwards asks “We still Top Dog?”

Longtime neo-liberal shill and NPR war drummer Bob Edwards consults a soothsayer to placate his weekend audience’s fears about where their hopeful handbasket appears to be headed. To his question about the USA still being top dog, the economic clairvoyant’s answer is YES. Also, America has the psyche and bipolarity of a teenager, leaving us to infer also the same self-unawareness. But the big question was about President Obama’s apparent inability to change the course set for him. YEP. The tracks of Bush’s trainwreck read like your palm. Nothing to be done.

Vaneigem on energy as commodity

NMT’s in-house Situationist has been conceptualizing a way forward well expressed in this May 2009 interview of Raoul Vaneigem:
Situationist“We are being “offered” biofuels on the condition we agree to transgenic rapeseed farming. Eco-tourism will accelerate the plundering of our biosphere. Windmill farms are being built without any advantage to the consumers. Those are the areas where intervention is possible. Natural resources belong to us, they are free, they must be made to serve the freedom of life. It will be up to the communities to secure their own energy and food independence so as to free themselves from the control of the multinationals and their state vassals everywhere. Claiming natural power for our use means reclaiming our own existence first. Only creativity will rid us of work. …

Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of.”
–Raoul Vaneigem, 2009

Interviewed by Hans Ulrich Obrist, for e-flux, Journal #6. See original article or the copy mirrored below:

In Conversation with Raoul Vaneigem

Hans Ulrich Obrist: I just visited Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau, who have written an appeal to Barack Obama. What would your appeal and/or advice be to Obama?

Raoul Vaneigem: I refuse to cultivate any relationship whatsoever with people of power. I agree with the Zapatistas from Chiapas who want nothing to do with either the state or its masters, the multinational mafias. I call for civil disobedience so that local communities can form, coordinate, and begin self-producing natural power, a more natural form of farming, and public services that are finally liberated from the scams of government by the Left or the Right. On the other hand, I welcome the appeal by Chamoiseau, Glissant, and their friends for the creation of an existence in which the poetry of a life rediscovered will put an end to the deadly stranglehold of the commodity.

HUO: Could we talk about your beginnings? How did your participation in situationism begin, and what was your fundamental contribution? At the outset of your relationship with the SI, there was the figure of Henri Lefebvre. What did he mean to you at the time? Why did you decide to send him poetic essays?

RV: I would first like to clarify that situationism is an ideology that the situationists were unanimous in rejecting. The term “situationist” was ever only a token of identification. Its particularity kept us from being mistaken for the throngs of ideologues. I have nothing in common with the spectacular recuperation of a project that, in my case, has remained revolutionary throughout. My participation in a group that has now disappeared was an important moment in my personal evolution, an evolution I have personally pressed on with in the spirit of the situationist project at its most revolutionary. My own radicality absolves me from any label. I grew up in an environment in which our fighting spirit was fueled by working class consciousness and a rather festive conception of existence. I found Lefebvre’s Critique of Everyday Life captivating. When La Somme et le reste [The Sum and the Remainder] was published, I sent him an essay of sorts on “poetry and revolution” that was an attempt to unify radical concepts, Lettrist language, music, and film imagery by crediting them all with the common virtue of making the people’s blood boil. Lefebvre kindly responded by putting me in touch with Guy Debord who immediately invited me to Paris. The two of us had very different temperaments, but we would agree over a period of nearly ten years on the need to bring consumer society to an end and to found a new society on the principle of self-management, where life supersedes survival and the existential angst that it generates.

HUO: Which situationist projects remain unrealized?

RV: Psychogeography, the construction of situations, the superseding of predatory behavior. The radicality, which, notwithstanding some lapses, never ceased to motivate us, remains a source of inspiration to this day. Its effects are just beginning to manifest themselves in the autonomous groups that are now coming to grips with the collapse of financial capitalism.

HUO: The Situationist International defined the situationist as someone who commits her- or himself to the construction of situations. What were those situations for you, concretely? How would you define the situationist project in 2009?

RV: By its very style of living and thinking, our group was already sketching out a situation, like a beachhead active within enemy territory. The military metaphor is questionable, but it does convey our will to liberate daily life from the control and stranglehold of an economy based on the profitable exploitation of man. We formed a “group-at-risk” that was conscious of the hostility of the dominant world, of the need for radical rupture, and of the danger of giving in to the paranoia typical of minds under siege. By showing its limits and its weaknesses, the situationist experience can also be seen as a critical meditation on the new type of society sketched out by the Paris Commune, by the Makhnovist movement and the Republic of Councils wiped out by Lenin and Trotsky, by the libertarian communities in Spain later smashed by the Communist Party. The situationist project is not about what happens once consumer society is rejected and a genuinely human society has emerged. Rather, it illuminates now how lifestyle can supersede survival, predatory behavior, power, trade and the death-reflex.

HUO: You and Guy Debord are the main protagonists of the situationist movement. How do you see Debord’s role and your role?

RV: Not as roles. That is precisely what situationism in its most ridiculous version aims at: reducing us to cardboard cut-outs that it can then set up against one another according to the spectacle’s standard operating procedure. I am simply the spokesman, among others, of a radical consciousness. I just do what I can to see that resistance to market exploitation is transformed into an offensive of life, and that an art of living sweeps away the ruins of oppression.

HUO: What were your reasons for resigning from the group?

RV: Following the occupation movements of May 1968, we knew that some recuperation was afoot. We were familiar with the mechanisms of alienation that would falsify our ideas and fit them neatly into the cultural puzzle. It became clear to us, during the last conference in Venice, that we had failed to shatter those mechanisms, that in fact they were shattering us from the inside. The group was crumbling, the Venice conference was demonstrating its increasing uselessness, and the only answers put forward were commensurate with the self-parody we had fallen into. Dissension intensified to the point of paranoid denunciation: of betrayals of radicality, of breaches of revolutionary spirit, of dereliction of conscience. Those times of catharsis and anathema are now long past, and it might be useful to examine how it is that we sowed the seeds of failure for which the group ended up paying such a heavy price. The shipwreck, however, did not indiscriminately sweep away to the shores of oblivion all of us who participated in the adventure. The group vanished in such a way as to allow the individuals to either consolidate their radicality, disown it, or lapse into the imposture of radicalism. I have attempted to analyze our experimental adventure in Entre le deuil du monde et la joie de vivre [Between Mourning the World and Exuberant Life].

HUO: You have written a lot on life, not survival. What is the difference?

RV: Survival is budgeted life. The system of exploitation of nature and man, starting in the Middle Neolithic with intensive farming, caused an involution in which creativity—a quality specific to humans—was supplanted by work, by the production of a covetous power. Creative life, as had begun to unfold during the Paleolithic, declined and gave way to a brutish struggle for subsistence. From then on, predation, which defines animal behavior, became the generator of all economic mechanisms.

HUO: Today, more than forty years after May ‘68, how do you feel life and society have evolved?

RV: We are witnessing the collapse of financial capitalism. This was easily predictable. Even among economists, where one finds even more idiots than in the political sphere, a number had been sounding the alarm for a decade or so. Our situation is paradoxical: never in Europe have the forces of repression been so weakened, yet never have the exploited masses been so passive. Still, insurrectional consciousness always sleeps with one eye open. The arrogance, incompetence, and powerlessness of the governing classes will eventually rouse it from its slumber, as will the progression in hearts and minds of what was most radical about May 1968.

HUO: Your new book takes us on a trip “between mourning the world and exuberant life.” You revisit May ‘68. What is left of May ‘68? Has it all been appropriated?

RV: Even if we are today seeing recycled ideologies and old religious infirmities being patched up in a hurry and tossed out to feed a general despair, which our ruling wheelers and dealers cash in on, they cannot conceal for long the shift in civilization revealed by May 1968. The break with patriarchal values is final. We are moving toward the end of the exploitation of nature, of work, of trade, of predation, of separation from the self, of sacrifice, of guilt, of the forsaking of happiness, of the fetishizing of money, of power, of hierarchy, of contempt for and fear of women, of the misleading of children, of intellectual dominion, of military and police despotism, of religions, of ideologies, of repression and the deadly resolutions of psychic tensions. This is not a fact I am describing, but an ongoing process that simply requires from us increased vigilance, awareness, and solidarity with life. We have to reground ourselves in order to rebuild—on human foundations—a world that has been ruined by the inhumanity of the cult of the commodity.

HUO: What do you think of the current moment, in 2009? Jean-Pierre Page has just published Penser l’après crise [Thinking the After-Crisis]. For him, everything must be reinvented. He says that a new world is emerging now in which the attempt to establish a US-led globalization has been aborted.

RV: The agrarian economy of the Ancien Régime was a fossilized form that was shattered by the emerging free-trade economy, from the 1789 revolution on. Similarly, the stock-dabbling speculative capitalism whose debacle we now witness is about to give way to a capitalism reenergized by the production of non-polluting natural power, the return to use value, organic farming, a hastily patched-up public sector, and a hypocritical moralization of trade. The future belongs to self-managed communities that produce indispensable goods and services for all (natural power, biodiversity, education, health centers, transport, metal and textile production . . .). The idea is to produce for us, for our own use—that is to say, no longer in order to sell them—goods that we are currently forced to buy at market prices even though they were conceived and manufactured by workers. It is time to break with the laws of a political racketeering that is designing, together with its own bankruptcy, that of our existence.

HUO: Is this a war of a new kind, as Page claims? An economic Third World War?

RV: We are at war, yes, but this is not an economic war. It is a world war against the economy. Against the economy that for thousands of years has been based on the exploitation of nature and man. And against a patched-up capitalism that will try to save its skin by investing in natural power and making us pay the high price for that which—once the new means of production are created—will be free as the wind, the sun, and the energy of plants and soil. If we do not exit economic reality and create a human reality in its place, we will once again allow market barbarism to live on.

HUO: In his book Making Globalization Work, Joseph Stiglitz argues for a reorganization of globalization along the lines of greater justice, in order to shrink global imbalances. What do you think of globalization? How does one get rid of profit as motive and pursue well-being instead? How does one escape from the growth imperative?

RV: The moralization of profit is an illusion and a fraud. There must be a decisive break with an economic system that has consistently spread ruin and destruction while pretending, amidst constant destitution, to deliver a most hypothetical well-being. Human relations must supersede and cancel out commercial relations. Civil disobedience means disregarding the decisions of a government that embezzles from its citizens to support the embezzlements of financial capitalism. Why pay taxes to the bankster-state, taxes vainly used to try to plug the sinkhole of corruption, when we could allocate them instead to the self-management of free power networks in every local community? The direct democracy of self-managed councils has every right to ignore the decrees of corrupt parliamentary democracy. Civil disobedience towards a state that is plundering us is a right. It is up to us to capitalize on this epochal shift to create communities where desire for life overwhelms the tyranny of money and power. We need concern ourselves neither with government debt, which covers up a massive defrauding of the public interest, nor with that contrivance of profit they call “growth.” From now on, the aim of local communities should be to produce for themselves and by themselves all goods of social value, meeting the needs of all—authentic needs, that is, not needs prefabricated by consumerist propaganda.

HUO: Edouard Glissant distinguishes between globality and globalization. Globalization eradicates differences and homogenizes, while globality is a global dialogue that produces differences. What do you think of his notion of globality?

RV: For me, it should mean acting locally and globally through a federation of communities in which our pork-barreling, corrupt parliamentary democracy is made obsolete by direct democracy. Local councils will be set up to take measures in favor of the environment and the daily lives of everyone. The situationists have called this “creating situations that rule out any backtracking.”

HUO: Might the current miscarriages of globalization have the same dangerous effects as the miscarriages of the previous globalization from the ‘30s? You have written that what was already intolerable in ‘68 when the economy was booming is even more intolerable today. Do you think the current economic despair might push the new generations to rebel?

RV: The crisis of the ‘30s was an economic crisis. What we are facing today is an implosion of the economy as a management system. It is the collapse of market civilization and the emergence of human civilization. The current turmoil signals a deep shift: the reference points of the old patriarchal world are vanishing. Percolating instead, still just barely and confusedly, are the early markers of a lifestyle that is genuinely human, an alliance with nature that puts an end to its exploitation, rape, and plundering. The worst would be the unawareness of life, the absence of sentient intelligence, violence without conscience. Nothing is more profitable to the racketeering mafias than chaos, despair, suicidal rebellion, and the nihilism that is spread by mercenary greed, in which money, even devalued in a panic, remains the only value.

HUO: In his book Utopistics, Immanuel Wallerstein claims that our world system is undergoing a structural crisis. He predicts it will take another twenty to fifty years for a more democratic and egalitarian system to replace it. He believes that the future belongs to “demarketized,” free-of-charge institutions (on the model, say, of public libraries). So we must oppose the marketization of water and air.1 What is your view?

RV: I do not know how long the current transformation will take (hopefully not too long, as I would like to witness it). But I have no doubt that this new alliance with the forces of life and nature will disseminate equality and freeness. We must go beyond our natural indignation at profit’s appropriation of our water, air, soil, environment, plants, animals. We must establish collectives that are capable of managing natural resources for the benefit of human interests, not market interests. This process of reappropriation that I foresee has a name: self-management, an experience attempted many times in hostile historical contexts. At this point, given the implosion of consumer society, it appears to be the only solution from both an individual and social point of view.

HUO: In your writing you have described the work imperative as an inhuman, almost animal condition. Do you consider market society to be a regression?

RV: As I mentioned above, evolution in the Paleolithic age meant the development of creativity—the distinctive trait of the human species as it breaks free from its original animality. But during the Neolithic, the osmotic relationship to nature loosened progressively, as intensive agriculture became based on looting and the exploitation of natural resources. It was also then that religion surfaced as an institution, society stratified, the reign of patriarchy began, of contempt for women, and of priests and kings with their stream of wars, destitution, and violence. Creation gave way to work, life to survival, jouissance to the animal predation that the appropriation economy confiscates, transcends, and spiritualizes. In this sense market civilization is indeed a regression in which technical progress supersedes human progress.

HUO: For you, what is a life in progress?

RV: Advancing from survival, the struggle for subsistence and predation to a new art of living, by recreating the world for the benefit of all.

HUO: My interviews often focus on the connections between art and architecture/urbanism, or literature and architecture/urbanism. Could you tell me about the Bureau of Unitary Urbanism?

RV: That was an idea more than a project. It was about the urgency of rebuilding our social fabric, so damaged by the stranglehold of the market. Such a rebuilding effort goes hand in hand with the rebuilding by individuals of their own daily existence. That is what psychogeography is really about: a passionate and critical deciphering of what in our environment needs to be destroyed, subjected to détournement, rebuilt.

HUO: In your view there is no such thing as urbanism?

RV: Urbanism is the ideological gridding and control of individuals and society by an economic system that exploits man and Earth and transforms life into a commodity. The danger in the self-built housing movement that is growing today would be to pay more attention to saving money than to the poetry of a new style of life.

HUO: How do you see cities in the year 2009? What kind of unitary urbanism for the third millennium? How do you envision the future of cities? What is your favorite city? You call Oarystis the city of desire. Oarystis takes its inspiration from the world of childhood and femininity. Nothing is static in Oarystis. John Cage once said that, like nature, “one never reaches a point of shapedness or finishedness. The situation is in constant unpredictable change.”2 Do you agree with Cage?

RV: I love wandering through Venice and Prague. I appreciate Mantua, Rome, Bologna, Barcelona, and certain districts of Paris. I care less about architecture than about how much human warmth its beauty has been capable of sustaining. Even Brussels, so devastated by real estate developers and disgraceful architects (remember that in the dialect of Brussels, “architect” is an insult), has held on to some wonderful bistros. Strolling from one to the next gives Brussels a charm that urbanism has deprived it of altogether. The Oarystis I describe is not an ideal city or a model space (all models are totalitarian). It is a clumsy and naïve rough draft for an experiment I still hope might one day be undertaken—so I agree with John Cage. This is not a diagram, but an experimental proposition that the creation of an environment is one and the same as the creation by individuals of their own future.

HUO: Is Oarystis based on natural power, like the Metabolist cities? Rem Koolhaas and I are working on a book on the Japanese Metabolists. When I read your wonderful text on Oarystis, I was reminded of that movement from the 1960s, especially the floating cities, Kikutake’s water cities. Is Oarystis a Metabolist city?

RV: When Oarystis was published, the architect Philippe Rothier and Diane Hennebert, who ran Brussels’ Architecture Museum at the time, rightly criticized me for ignoring the imaginative projects of a new generation of builders. Now that the old world is collapsing, the fusion of free natural power, self-built housing techniques, and the reinvention of sensual form is going to be decisive. So it is useful to remember that technical inventiveness must stem from the reinvention of individual and collective life. That is to say, what allows for genuine rupture and ecstatic inventiveness is self-management: the management by individuals and councils of their own lives and environment through direct democracy. Let us entrust the boundless freedoms of the imaginary to childhood and the child within us.

HUO: Several years ago I interviewed Constant on New Babylon. What were your dialogues with Constant and how do you see New Babylon today?

RV: I never met Constant, who if I am not mistaken had been expelled before my own association with the SI. New Babylon’s flaw is that it privileges technology over the formation of an individual and collective way of life—the necessary basis of any architectural concept. An architectural project only interests me if it is about the construction of daily life.

HUO: How can the city of the future contribute to biodiversity?

RV: By drawing inspiration from Alphonse Allais, by encouraging the countryside to infiltrate the city. By creating zones of organic farming, gardens, vegetable plots, and farms inside urban space. After all, there are so many bureaucratic and parasitical buildings that can’t wait to give way to fertile, pleasant land that is useful to all. Architects and squatters, build us some hanging gardens where we can go for walks, eat, and live!

HUO: Oarystis is in the form of a maze, but it is also influenced by Venice and its public piazzas. Could you tell us about the form of Oarystis?

RV: Our internal space-time is maze-like. In it, each of us is at once Theseus, Ariadne, and Minotaur. Our dérives would gain in awareness, alertness, harmony, and happiness if only external space-time could offer meanders that could conjure up the possible courses of our futures, as an analogy or echo of sorts—one that favors games of life, and prevents their inversion into games of death.

HUO: Will museums be abolished? Could you discuss the amphitheater of memory? A protestation against oblivion?

RV: The museum suffers from being a closed space in which works waste away. Painting, sculpture, music belong to the street, like the façades that contemplate us and come back to life when we greet them. Like life and love, learning is a continuous flow that enjoys the privilege of irrigating and fertilizing our sentient intelligence. Nothing is more contagious than creation. But the past also carries with it all the dross of our inhumanity. What should we do with it? A museum of horrors, of the barbarism of the past? I attempted to answer the question of the “duty of memory” in Ni pardon, ni talion [Neither Forgiveness Nor Retribution]:

Most of the great men we were brought up to worship were nothing more than cynical or sly murderers. History as taught in schools and peddled by an overflowing and hagiographic literature is a model of falsehood; to borrow a fashionable term, it is negationist. It might not deny the reality of gas chambers, it might no longer erect monuments to the glory of Stalin, Mao or Hitler, but it persists in celebrating the brutish conqueror: Alexander, called the Great—whose mentor was Aristotle, it is proudly intoned—Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Napoleon, the throngs of generals, slaughterers of peoples, petty tyrants of the city or the state, torturer–judges, Javerts of every ilk, conniving diplomats, rapists and killers contracted by religions and ideologies; so much high renown carved from baseness, wickedness, and abjection. I am not suggesting we should unpave the avenues of official history and pave the side alleys instead. We are not in need of a purged history, but of a knowledge that scoops out into broad daylight facts that have been obscured, generation after generation, by the unceasing stratification of prejudice. I am not calling for a tribunal of the mind to begin condemning a bunch of undesirables who have been bizarrely put up on pedestals and celebrated in the motley pantheons of official memory. I just want to see the list of their crimes, the mention of their victims, the recollection of those who confronted them added to the inventory of their unsavory eulogies. I am not suggesting that the name of Francisco Ferrer wipe out that of his murderer, Alfonso XIII, but that at the very least everything be known of both. How dare textbooks still cultivate any respect for Bonaparte, responsible for the death of millions, for Louis XIV, slaughterer of peasants and persecutor of Protestants and freethinkers? For Calvin, murderer of Jacques Gruet and Michel Servet and dictator of Geneva, whose citizens, in tribute to Sébastien Castellion, would one day resolve to destroy the emblems and signs of such an unworthy worship? While Spain has now toppled the effigies of Francoism and rescinded the street names imposed by fascism, we somehow tolerate, towering in the sky of Paris, that Sacré-Coeur whose execrable architecture glorifies the crushing of the Commune. In Belgium there are still avenues and monuments honoring King Leopold II, one of the most cynical criminals of the nineteenth century, whose “red rubber” policy—denounced by Mark Twain, by Roger Casement (who paid for this with his life), by Edward Dene Morel, and more recently by Adam Hochschild—has so far bothered nary a conscience. This is a not a call to blow up his statues or to chisel away the inscriptions that celebrate him. This is a call to Belgian and Congolese citizens to cleanse and disinfect public places of this stain, the stain of one of the worst sponsors of colonial savagery. Paradoxically, I do tend to believe that forgetting can be productive, when it comes to the perpetrators of inhumanity. A forgetting that does not eradicate remembering, that does not blue-pencil memory, that is not an enforceable judgment, but that proceeds rather from a spontaneous feeling of revulsion, like a last-minute pivot to avoid dog droppings on the sidewalk. Once they have been exposed for their inhumanity, I wish for the instigators of past brutalities to be buried in the shroud of their wrongs. Let the memory of the crime obliterate the memory of the criminal.
3

HUO: Learning is deserting schools and going to the streets. Are streets becoming Thinkbelts? Cedric Price’s Potteries Thinkbelt used abandoned railroads for pop-up schools. What and where is learning today?

RV: Learning is permanent for all of us regardless of age. Curiosity feeds the desire to know. The call to teach stems from the pleasure of transmitting life: neither an imposition nor a power relation, it is pure gift, like life, from which it flows. Economic totalitarianism has ripped learning away from life, whose creative conscience it ought to be. We want to disseminate everywhere this poetry of knowledge that gives itself. Against school as a closed-off space (a barrack in the past, a slave market nowadays), we must invent nomadic learning.

HUO: How do you foresee the twenty-first-century university?

RV: The demise of the university: it will be liquidated by the quest for and daily practice of a universal learning of which it has always been but a pale travesty.

HUO: Could you tell me about the freeness principle (I am extremely interested in this; as a curator I have always believed museums should be free—Art for All, as Gilbert and George put it).

RV: Freeness is the only absolute weapon capable of shattering the mighty self-destruction machine set in motion by consumer society, whose implosion is still releasing, like a deadly gas, bottom-line mentality, cupidity, financial gain, profit, and predation. Museums and culture should be free, for sure, but so should public services, currently prey to the scamming multinationals and states. Free trains, buses, subways, free healthcare, free schools, free water, air, electricity, free power, all through alternative networks to be set up. As freeness spreads, new solidarity networks will eradicate the stranglehold of the commodity. This is because life is a free gift, a continuous creation that the market’s vile profiteering alone deprives us of.

HUO: Where is love in Oarystis?

RV: Everywhere. The love affair, as complex as it is simple, will serve as the building block for the new solidarity relations that sooner or later will supersede selfish calculation, competition, competitiveness, and predation, causes of our societies’ dehumanization.

HUO: Where is the city of the dead? In a forest rather than a cemetery?

RV: Yes, a forest, an auditorium in which the voices of the dead will speak amidst the lushness of nature, where life continuously creates itself anew.

HUO: Have you dreamt up other utopian cities apart from Oarystis? Or a concrete utopia in relation to the city?

RV: No, but I have not given up hope that such projects might mushroom and be realized one day, as we begin reconstructing a world devastated by the racketeering mafias.

HUO: In 1991 I founded a Robert Walser museum, a strollological museum, in Switzerland. I have always been fascinated by your notion of the stroll. Could you say something about your urban strolls with and without Debord? What about Walser’s? Have other strollologists inspired you?

RV: I hold Robert Walser in high regard, as many do. His lucidity and sense of dérive enchanted Kafka. I have always been fascinated by the long journey Hölderlin undertook following his break-up with Diotima. I admire Chatwin’s Songlines, in which he somehow manages to turn the most innocuous of walks into an intonation of the paths of fate, as though we were in the heart of the Australian bush. And I appreciate the strolls of Léon-Paul Fargue and the learning of Héron de Villefosse. My psychogeographic dérives with Guy Debord in Paris, Barcelona, Brussels, Beersel, and Antwerp were exceptional moments, combining theoretical speculation, sentient intelligence, the critical analysis of beings and places, and the pleasure of cheerful drinking. Our homeports were pleasant bistros with a warm atmosphere, havens where one was oneself because one felt in the air something of the authentic life, however fragile and short-lived. It was an identical mood that guided our wanderings through the streets, the lanes and the alleys, through the meanderings of a pleasure that our every step helped us gauge in terms of what it might take to expand and refine it just a little further. I have a feeling that the neighborhoods destroyed by the likes of Haussmann, Pompidou, and the real estate barbarians will one day be rebuilt by their inhabitants in the spirit of the joy and the life they once harbored.

HUO: What possibilities do you see for disalienation and détournement in 2009?

RV: This is a time of unprecedented chaos in material and moral conditions. Human values are going to have to compensate for the effects of the only value that has prevailed so far: money. But the implosion of financial totalitarianism means that this currency, which has so tripped us up, is now doomed to devaluation and a loss of all meaning. The absurdity of money is becoming concrete. It will gradually give way to new forms of exchange that will hasten its disappearance and lead to a gift economy.

HUO: What are the conditions for dialogue in 2009? Is there a way out of this system of isolation?

RV: Dialogue with power is neither possible nor desirable. Power has always acted unilaterally, by organizing chaos, by spreading fear, by forcing individuals and communities into selfish and blind withdrawal. As a matter of course, we will invent new solidarity networks and new intervention councils for the well-being of all of us and each of us, overriding the fiats of the state and its mafioso-political hierarchies. The voice of lived poetry will sweep away the last remaining echoes of a discourse in which words are in profit’s pay.

HUO: In your recent books you discuss your existence and temporality. The homogenizing forces of globalization homogenize time, and vice versa. How does one break with this? Could you discuss the temporality of happiness, as a notion?

RV: The productivity- and profit-based economy has implanted into lived human reality a separate reality structured by its ruling mechanisms: predation, competition and competitiveness, acquisitiveness and the struggle for power and subsistence. For thousands of years such denatured human behaviors have been deemed natural. The temporality of draining, erosion, tiredness, and decay is determined by labor, an activity that dominates and corrupts all others. The temporality of desire, love, and creation has a density that fractures the temporality of survival cadenced by work. Replacing the temporality of money will be a temporality of desire, a beyond-the-mirror, an opening to uncharted territories.

HUO: Is life ageless?

RV: I don’t claim that life is ageless. But since survival is nothing but permanent agony relieved by premature death, a renatured life that cultivates its full potential for passion and creation would surely achieve enough vitality to delay its endpoint considerably.

HUO: The Revolution of Everyday Life was a trigger for May ’68, and you have stated in other interviews that it is your key book that you are continually rewriting. Was the book an epiphany? How did it change the course of your work? What had you been doing previously?

RV: The book was prompted by an urgent need I was feeling at the time for a new perspective on the world and on myself, to pull me out of my state of survival, by means other than through suicide. This critical take on a consumer society that was corrupting and destroying life so relentlessly made me aware and conscious of my own life drive. And it became clear to me very quickly that this wasn’t a purely solipsistic project, that many readers were finding their own major concerns echoed there.

HUO: The Revolution of Everyday Life ends on an optimistic note: “We have a world of pleasures to win, and nothing to lose but boredom.”4 Are you still an optimist today?

RV: “Pessimists, what is it you were hoping for?,” Scutenaire wrote. I am neither a pessimist nor an optimist. I try to remain faithful to a principle: desire everything, expect nothing.

HUO: What is the most recent version of the book?

RV: Entre le deuil du monde et la joie de vivre [Between Mourning the World and Exuberant Life].

HUO: What book are you working on at the moment?

RV: I would love to have the resources to complete a Dictionary of Heresies, so as to clarify and correct the historical elements included in The Movement of the Free Spirit and Resistance to Christianity.

HUO: The question of temporality also brings us to Proust and his questionnaire (see inset). What might your definition of happiness be in 2009?

RV: Living ever more intensely and passionately in an ever more intense world. To those who sneer at my ecstatic candor, I reply with a phrase that brings me great comfort: “The desire for an other life is that life already.”5

HUO: Do you have unrealized projects? Unrealized books, unrealized projects in fields other than writing, unrealized architectural projects?

RV: My priority is to live better and better in a world that is more and more human. I would love to build the “urban countryside” of Oarystis, but I’m not just waiting patiently, like Fourier at the Palais Royal, for some billionaire to decide to finance the project only to lose everything to the financial crash a minute later.

HUO: What about your collaborations with other artists, painters, sculptors, designers, filmmakers?

RV: I don’t collaborate with anyone. At times I have offered a few texts to artist friends, not as a commentary on their work but as a counterpoint to it. Art moves me when, in it, I can sense its own overcoming, something that goes beyond it; when it nurtures a trace of life that blossoms as a true aspiration, the intuition of a new art of living.

HUO: Could you tell me about Brussels? What does Brussels mean to you? Where do you write?

RV: I live in the country, facing a garden and woods where the rhythm of the seasons has retained its beauty. Brussels as a city has been destroyed by urbanists and architects who are paid by real estate developers. There are still a few districts suitable for nice walks. I am fond of a good dozen wonderful cafés where one can enjoy excellent artisanal beers.

HUO: Do you agree with Geremek’s view that Europe is the big concern of the twenty-first century?

RV: I am not interested in this Europe ruled by racketeering bureaucracies and corrupt democracies. And regions only interest me once they are stripped of their regionalist ideology and are experiencing self-management and direct democracy. I feel neither Belgian nor European. The only homeland is a humanity that is at long last sovereign.

HUO: You have used a lot of pseudonyms. Je est un autre [I is an other]? How do you find or choose pseudonyms? How many pseudonyms have you used? Is there a complete list?

RV: I don’t keep any kind of score. I leave it up to the inspiration of the moment. There is nothing secret about using a pseudonym. Rather, it is about creating a distance, most often in commissioned work. This allows me to have some fun while alleviating my enduring financial difficulties, which I have always refused to resolve by compromising with the world of the spectacle.

HUO: A book that has been used by many artists and architects has been your Dictionnaire de citations pour servir au divertissement et a l’intelligence du temps [Dictionary of Quotations for the Entertainment and Intelligence of Our Time]. Where did that idea come from?

RV: It was a suggestion from my friend Pierre Drachline, who works for the Cherche Midi publishing house.

HUO: You have often criticized environmental movements who try to replace existing capitalism with capitalism of a different type. What do you think of Joseph Beuys? What non-capitalist project or movement do you support?

RV: We are being “offered” biofuels on the condition we agree to transgenic rapeseed farming. Eco-tourism will accelerate the plundering of our biosphere. Windmill farms are being built without any advantage to the consumers. Those are the areas where intervention is possible. Natural resources belong to us, they are free, they must be made to serve the freedom of life. It will be up to the communities to secure their own energy and food independence so as to free themselves from the control of the multinationals and their state vassals everywhere. Claiming natural power for our use means reclaiming our own existence first. Only creativity will rid us of work.

HUO: Last but not least, Rilke wrote that wonderful little book of advice to a young poet. What would your advice be to a young philosopher-writer in 2009?

RV: To apply to his own life the creativity he displays in his work. To follow the path of the heart, of what is most alive in him.

Translated from the French by Eric Anglès

The economic quicksand that sinks us

quicksandFunny how it is that when both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party both have the same economic program, that so many of the same actors are pointing fingers at each other? But then again what could we really expect from these two partisan camps run by the same economic interests?

What we have now is a situation where More of the Same means CHANGE, and those that push CHANGE actually push More of the Same! Most of us just kind of watch from our points stuck in the economic quicksand and hope that somehow, somebody manages to throw us all a rope to help pull us out with. Good luck…

Salon has an article where it mentions some of the critics of the Obama Presidency’s economic policies. None of the summaries mentions anything about the War Budget’s effects on the greater economic quicksand we currently reside in! That’s kind of amazing, really it is. Still, check Salon out and see who are the people the article highlights… The Prophets of Doom– Meet the Cassandras, 14 economists, bloggers, politicians and businesspeople of all political stripes who have become the most strident critics of President Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

Amazingly, the author at Salon who selected these 14 people missed including Joseph Stiglitz! Well here he is then with his latest commentary, Obama’s Ersatz Capitalism

And what about James Galbraith? Here below is what he says on Democracy Now back in February.

Economist James Galbraith: Bailed-Out Banks Should Be Declared Insolvent

With estimates of the cost of addressing the financial crisis exceeding $9.7 trillion, we speak with economist and University of Texas professor James Galbraith, author of The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too. Galbraith says rather than pouring billions into propping up troubled giant banks, the government should declare them insolvent.’

There are so many notable people who don’t like Obama’s economic policy that trying to include only 14 people in the list by Salon was a little bit unwise on their part. It is simple reality that Obama and his recycled Clintonistas are in quick danger of becoming sunk in this economic quicksand, too, since they seem to only know how to pour gasoline on the fire…. uh… I meant pour water into the quicksand…. or is it to throw tax monies into the economic quicksand?

Oh well, the idea is the same. Obama only knows how to sink us all yet further into the economic quicksand not get us out of it like some sort of fantasy Super Hero Economist could. HOPE for CHANGE is now underneath the muck.

Apres nous, le Depression

If it matters what to call this financial crisis, what is it? Is America in a recession? When does a deep recession approach a depression? When is an economic crash revealed to be a collapse? Before we can rename the Great Depression, as we did the Great War (WWI), in deference to this latest, we would do better to address the cataclysm which left this depression.

It was not a meteor, not the foot of Godzilla, nor a collapsed salt mine. The scorched earth we see about us, this rapidly degrading economy, is the destruction wrought by a Norman raid; a blitz of rape and pillage with brutal indifference.

It wouldn’t matter what you call it except that the raiders are still among us. If your valuables are still intact, it’s because they haven’t yet been sacked. If you still have your house, it’s not because the tethers aren’t attached, it’s that they haven’t started towing it off.

When you can see this robbery for what it is, you’ll know that history can tell us that the barbarians do not leave even gold fillings unmolested.

Do you doubt a viking analogy? Look at the economic news today. Over half a million jobs lost in January, over three million jobs lost already. On the same day, the stock market rallies upward.

While you are losing your livelihood, those who invested in the long ships are heartened by the projected success of this raid.

A fine mess you got us into, said the fat man to the little man

Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy- a fine messI’m convinced the economic “mess” we find ourselves in, is of the Laurel and Hardy variety. The iridescent definition of “mess” leads us to infer that our predicament-mess, results from a clutter-mess of options. To hear the parade of experts, our financial mess is a chaotic tangle to dumbfound even a string theorist. I think it’s more like a job for CSI. This “mess” is painted to obscure an entirely un-messy crime scene. The common American is in a mess alright, we’re staring at a bare bank vault floor.

Sleuths can trace a fugitive’s ATM visits, and every bank transaction above $2,500, do you think they can’t follow the money when it’s in the twelve figures, if they wanted to?

empty bank vaultThe mess may be a clutter of fingerprints and a tangle of wire transfers to Switzerland. Maybe we face a daunting defensive line of corporate lawyers. The press is no helping any, choosing to interview the usual odd-footed pundits, instead of the over hundred economists trying to beat down the door to oppose the various economic stimulus bank heists.

The entire public discourse is being dumbed down. The MSNBC text title beneath Obama as he gave his Daschle mea culpa, read “IS CHANGE TOO DIFFICULT?” By the way, couldn’t the President of the United States have enough clout to answer each question about Tom Daschle with a quick admission and segue to a pitch for his proposed stimulus package?

Next the spotlight moved to Joe the Plumber, the Senate Republicans inviting him to a closed door session where he could brief them on his Middle East junket, the stimulus, and party strategy. Joe the Not Even Licensed Plumber?

I was beginning to suspect Sarah Palin had been selected as a ruse to give the American people no choice but to elect a black man to the presidency. Now it appears the GOP was purposefully courting idiocy, and realizes now perhaps that it hadn’t aimed low enough. Maybe it hopes to recreate its success in the shoes of Dumb George.

To Joe the Plumber, every problem is not going to look like three quarter inch pipe in need of a wrench. Problems like the economy, or how to use your watch to calculate how to get to a political rally on time, are going to look like powerful quandaries. And the media hopes to use Joes like Joe as a Greek Chorus, or in modern parlance, a focus group of one, to demonstrate to the public beast that Joe the Everyman Us is stumped.

Does Obama have the votes to pass this or that? Even with a Democratic majority, polls will show that if Joe Public can’t count it on the fingers of both hands, he’ll believe the pundits when they say Obama doesn’t.

Who is the economy calling stupid?

Okay, I’ve had enough of our readiness to believe, about the economy, that nobody knows what’s going on. Nobody will tell you what’s going on, is what’s going on.

Even my deepest thinking friend tells me, “Eric, they really don’t know” (The game theorists, the would-be global axis shifters, don’t know.) He may be right, but that’s not who we’re talking about. Between those guys, and you and I, who have no clue about where the economy is going, is a hand-basket courier. That composite abstraction at the handlebars knows the destination, he’s being paid cost-plus for the delivery, and he knows enough to collect his fee in advance.

We thought “it’s the economy, stupid” was directed at George Bush the Senior. Who is/was stupid? I’m finding the syncronicity of Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill song “Isn’t it ironic?” superlatively ironic. The era when a mass audience un-learned the meaning of irony, was when the joke was really on us.

Today the accepted theme to describe the economy is: nobody knows. I recently heard the governor of Colorado speak to the need for budget cuts in these hard times. He introduced the subject of the economic downturn by explaining, almost as a throwaway foregone conclusion, “Nobody saw this coming.”

I thought, really? This is what Americans are satisfied to expect for leadership? Elected authority figures return our system to us, broken, with not a mea culpa, but mea confuso. And we buy it.

For me, this no-comprendo motif doesn’t play well in Adagio. Today DC’s new lawmakers want to know what’s become of the first half of the TARP bailout money, and the good-enough-for-primetime answer is “nobody knows.” Don’t you just want to stand up and beg your fellow audience members for a collective show of incredulity? “NOBODY KNOWS?!”

Whoever pocketed the 350 Billion, KNOWS.

From explanations of the graft in Iraq, we the television public KNOW that just one million dollars in t-bills weighs more than you can get past surveillance cameras.

From nighttime video of the economic collapse in Argentina, documentary footage viewers know it takes a continuous train of armored trucks to do a run on the banks before the public gets there.

By the way, I’m certain Billion is always capitalized, out of respect for its size.

“Nobody knows” where went the 350 Billion? No. Nobody who knows, intends to tell us.

Either way, we don’t get to know, but the distinction makes a difference, don’t you think? The excuse we’re given for not dwelling on this incongruity, nudge nudge wink wink, is that all misdirection is for the sake of consumer confidence.

To look behind the green curtain is to become dis-illusioned. If you explain the slight of hand, instead of building confidence, you throw fuel on consumer doubt.

The better economists opposed the bailout. Hundreds of them signed a petition to tell us what’s going on is a heist. Under George Bush, bankers have been making off with the US treasury. What they couldn’t spend pay themselves to foist a war, or give themselves in tax cuts, they are having to abscond with under cover of an eleventh hour “bailout.”

The best of the honest economists, Paul Krugman, was given a Nobel Prize. At the same time, our president-to-the-rescue is saying he’d consider the advice of “even Paul Krugman,” like Krugman is a fringe opinion.

Do we empower the American public beast with a truer education about what’s happening to their finances, or do we narrow their peripheral foresight like the gangway to the abbatoire?

P.T. Barnum said no one ever went broke underestimating the American public. Barnum saw opportunity and he took it. I’ll bet he wasn’t satisfied to invest his winnings on the advice of the public’s broker.

The economy is tanking because the Bush investment banker free-for-all is over.

The cash heart of the consumer confidence fattened-calf is already in the bloody hands of the high priests. The American consumer is what’s being thrown off the wall. And the communal wealth of America’s middle class can’t be put together again because the pieces which formed Humpty Dumpty’s actual pre-confidence-ballooned size are going to come up missing.

Not missing, exactly. Look at the corporate jets, private skyboxes, enormous estates, private island kingdoms and advance ticket sales of quarter-million-dollar fares into space.

With much recent ballyhoo, George Bush set aside for protection some nature preserves in the Pacific. Unlike Yellowstone, or Yosemite, these parks of azure coral reefs are inaccessible. To you.

Barack Obama’s spread-the-wealth-around campaign lingo had nothing to do with the mad scramble to divvy the pot. Obama represents our non-insider’s reflexive grab for the fewer spoons. If Obama represents a wisening up at all.

Beyond buy low, sell high, here’s an example of how the scam worked: If a $100K house can be made seem worth $500K, a broker gets five times the commission, say $60K instead of $12K, and collects that money in cash. When the cows come home, you’ve got just a house, and let’s admit that value is arbitrary. But the broker is free and clear, his gleaning of a cash value done.

And actually, your house is not even worth the cost to build it. As the democratic capitalist apparatus downgrades, and the wealthy lose empathy for the lower classes, your house is worth just the value of the shelter it provides. Look at the concern they show for your health care. Your well-being, food and shelter wise, is worth only as much as the value you add to your landlord’s pleasure.

The American dyslexia for economics

The interest rate for banks is down to zero. B of A and Citibank are still charging 39%. What again does economic news have to do with me?
 
The biggest news on the economy was BREAKING NEWS a week ago: the US economy is in a recession, and has been for over a year. Can news a year old still be news? What news exactly are we getting from the experts, economists and other mesmerists paraded on the television every evening?

We consult them on a minute by minute basis, actually, on 24/7 cable news stations, for every hint of a whiff of where the weather vane might indicate the US economy is blowing. If the stock market doesn’t hang on their every diagnosis, it reacts to what unelected, self-made officials say. Now we’re led to understand all that spinning can flip-flop for a year-old contradictory study.

And who’s going to let America know when we’ve hit a full-on depression? Will we be told it before the decade is enshrined post-facto in a Time-Life retrospective? Are those in charge so cynical that they count on the public knowing the truth in spite of their lies, because it’s we who endure the effects in real time anyway? The media can lie about unemployment figures too –what could it possibly matter to the unemployed?

It’s not only ADD. Americans understand why too-sobering statistics are kept from us, lest a post-mortem induce pre. We are the great engine of consumerism, running on pure flattery. I think it’s the same self-defeating fatalism which fuels the life insurance scam. We bet against ourselves. We buy self-help books. We are eternally sick.

But does the economy really work so? Would an autopsy be self-fulfilling? Can an economy go sour due to one bad-apple-attitude, or would it be because of the lost jobs?

I’m guessing this is where the University of Chicago meets Euripides, or if it prefers, palmistry. There’s a global comeuppance in your future, you small fraction of Earth’s population who have expended the lion’s share of its resources. That’s what will introduce the American quality of life to harsh earthbound reality.

Keeping American consumers in debt is less a magician’s act of driving the economy, than it is a swindler’s function of distracting the poor dupe until he’s lost his shirt.

But this swindler is not planning to catch the next bus out of town.

This banking scam isn’t over until the shirtless victim is thrown out the saloon door and into the street, where’s he’s got no redress but to face line after line of well armed riot police.

Uncle Tom’s Hotel Rwanda

Is the Don Cheedle?Let’s clear something up for the sake of poetic justice. Uncle Tom was a maltreated slave who bore his burden with dignity. He was no collaborator, no stool pigeon, no upper class of black slave that kept the lower savages in order. That “Uncle Tom” is what the term has come to mean: a white man’s black man, owing perhaps to the original character’s civilized humanity which a white reader might not have expected to be a capacity of an African slave. The neo-Uncle Tom is a Tutsi.

I heard the film Hotel Rwanda was just incredible, I’m sure it was. I watched the Frontline documentary to commemorate the anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda and so thought I knew the sad story already. Well I was right and I was wrong, but not about the film.

The mounting trouble in the Democratic Republic of Congo is causing leaders to forewarn of genocide such as Rwanda experienced in 1994. We’re told the same Hutus are marauding today. In addressing the issues of the Congo, do we have an understanding of what happened in 1994, beside the film dramatization?

The question to ask is whether what happened in Rwanda was genocide. That’s not to minimize the killings, but to scrutinize the motives. Was the fighting between Hutus and Tutsis racially motivated tribal warfare, or was it class warfare? Were the events of 1994 components of a peasant rebellion, distinguished by the opposing forces being from different ethnicities?

The distinction is critical. Behind the Hotel Rwanda imagery is the theme that African tribes need to be protected from each other. This happens in the form of UN intervention usually. The storytellers also know that if the narrative is bloody enough, a Western audience is just as ready to throw up its hands. Thus our impulse to join the Peace Corps or Medecins Sans Frontieres is quietly scrubbed in favor of calling in the cavalry. And then, only in the event of genocide.

Someone keeps wanting Westerners to believe that African tribes will continue to kill each other regardless what we do. Is it true? No, the Africans fight because of what we do.

The Tutsi victims of Hotel Rwanda were not just hotel keepers and clerks. The Tutsis were the administrative enforcers of post-colonial central Africa. The Hutus were the oppressed, and rose up against the Tutsis after generations of oppression and killings.

If Africa were let to develop autonomous states from its indigenous populations, its people could put their natural resources to use improving their lives. Instead, our post-colonial tentacles continue to stir up instability. Our business interests make sure that the native Africans never get their footing. We fund strong men to enforce violent rule over the inhabitants. It’s a controlled instability that facilitates the minimal societal infrastructure our traders require. But instability is difficult a balancing act. When the mayhem gets out of hand, peace-keepers are brought in at the people’s expense, to restore the disordered order.

Save the Copper Cobalt Coltan of Congo?

Child soldiersCOpper, CObalt and COltan are among the precious resources we are sucking from the COngo. Could their names too derive from a common origin? We’re hearing suddenly of horrendous atrocities from there, although the Congolese have been suffering for over a decade. Has excess violence begun to threaten our mineral supply?

Have you heard of Coltan? It’s the rare material used in cell phones and laptops. The Congo is the world’s chief source of Coltan and supplies other invaluable resources to industry, particlarly weapons and electronics. I would have thrown in Diamonds, Uranium and Oil if they’d started with CO. Western industry takes a wealth of mineral resource from impoverished Africa.

Post-colonial Africa is a myth. Or, it’s not what as it sounds. Colonial Africa, self-liberated in the post war era, remains occupied by white man, in the guise of corporations. It’s just the administrators on the ground who’ve changed color. And the multinational corporations dictate a wholly other civilized set of governing principles. No longer need the natives be clothed or educated, for business it’s enough that they be herded, to staff mines and factories, in gulags or slums. The multinational businesses fund ruthless local regimes to maintain instability, the better for extraction industries to rob the land.

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Alan is shocked!!!!!

alan-greenspan
Alan Greenspan represents more than any individual anywhere, the bipartisan fact that there is no real difference between the 2 chosen parties of our corporate dictatorship here in America. Let’s fact, it… Greenspan has been the darling of both the Democratic and Republican Parties for a very long time now. He’s The Man!

He has been running the economic show that has now put the world capitalist economies in tail spin, you and I on board. Poor Alan is shocked!!!!!! Poor Old Alan… He’s shocked!!!!!! He says he just doesn’t know any more. He’s shocked!!!!!!

This guy really takes the cake, now doesn’t he. He was held up to the level of Jesus Christ in the eyes of the American monied class who held him high above our heads as some great genius know-it-all, and now his temple is shaking in its foundations. Remember these slime balls celebrating when their Cold War spending crashed the ex Soviet Union? Remember them not giving a damn about what they did to the Russian people? Remember smug old Alan?

In spite of all these croc tears and croc shock by the like ilk of Alan Greenspan, they will give about as much a damn about you as they did about the Russians. They don’t give a damn about you and the rest of Working Class America anymore than they cared about the Gooks and Ragheads (their words for them, not mine) they screwed over to make their super profits. I take that back, they are actually worried more about you and how you might soon grow to hate them passionately. Got it? Alan is shocked!!!!!

But he’s 82, damn him, and now there’s not much justice we can do for him… He wants forgiveness does he? Who knows? He simply has no god beyond money…. just our money that is now just so much trashed out planet. Alan is shocked!!!!!!! And so is the planet.

How a ‘credit crunch’ can help kick an economic depression into place

jenny_and_marx.jpg In a system…where the entire continuity of the…process rests upon credit, a crisis must obviously occur — a tremendous rush for means of payment — when credit suddenly ceases and only cash payments have validity. At first glance, therefore, the whole crisis seems to be merely a credit and money crisis. And in fact it is only a question of the convertibility of bills of exchange into money.

But the majority of these bills represent actual sales and purchases, whose extension far beyond the needs of society is, after all, the basis of the whole crisis. At the same time, an enormous quantity of these bills of exchange represents plain swindle, which now reaches the light of day and collapses; furthermore, unsuccessful speculation with the capital of other people; finally, commodity-capital which has depreciated or is completely unsaleable, or returns that can never more be realized again.

The entire artificial system of forced expansion of the [ecomony] cannot, of course, be remedied by having some bank, like the [Federal Reserve], give to all the swindlers the deficient capital by means of its paper and having it buy up all the depreciated commodities at their old nominal values.

Incidentally, everything here appears distorted, since in this paper world, the real price and its real basis appear nowhere, but only bullion, metal coin, notes, bills of exchange, securities. Particularly in centers where the entire money business of the country is concentrated, like London [or New York]…the entire process becomes incomprehensible.

Economic meltdown and the deafening silence of Barack Obama

lipstick pigBarack Obama has had ample opportunity to articulate a different program than George Bush and McCain’s foreign policy of continual war, militarism, and imperialism yet failed to do so. But still possibly some redeeming of his character and political program was possible in regards to domestic issues? However he has completely failed that test, too, and has shown no signs of opposing any of the Bush-McCain agenda to transfer the colossal private debt of America’s private financial institutions onto the Federal Budget itself. In short, he too favors bankrupting the American people as a whole by saddling the American tax payer with private debt run up by the super rich economic elites of our country.

What we have seen is a turn from ‘trickle down’ theorizing by the bought and paid for talking heads of media and business to an open assault on the American people that we should all call and label the Flood Up Economic Doctrine. Instead of just ‘socialism’ for the military industrial complex, we now will see ‘socialism’ being advocated and put into place for the Military industrial financial complex. None of this is socialism, of course, but rather is nothing more than corporate welfare provided by from the money of workers the capitalist class exploits.

Barack Obama is a pig in liberal lipstick here. In fact, women do like him and give more than twice the amount to his campaign as they do to the other campaign with bright red lipstick, the McCain-Palin louts. But there is nothing different about these two groupings, except the label branding. Barack Obama, too, will give away public money to bail out the super rich, though in fact, they will merely sink the American public and provide no real ‘bailout’ at all.

Vote for Obama hoping for some different policies, but it appears that you will become quickly disappointed. It is most probably that Obama and the Democrats will move into the White House, if only because the branding of the McCain ticket is having to cover up the ugliest pig with lipstick on of them all. They are having to paint lipstick on George W. Bush, and that is a sorry sight to the American public by now. Look for further signs of electrical economic collapse in the Whither Forecast for tomorrow.

George Will’s vocabulary outshines him

George Will Hitler bowtieCOLORADO SPRINGS- Some people look smaller in person than they do on TV. Many of us only know George Will from newsprint, but in person he’s an organ grinder’s monkey, amusingly agile, if a little threatening, but basically smallish and tethered to somebody asking for money.

Maybe it was my perspective from the steep audience seating in the South Theater of CC’s new Cornerstone Arts Center. Maybe it was looking down at George as he walked in circles between folksy baseball anecdotes, over-simplified economics and patronizing criticism of the American culture of entitlement.

I wanted to ask how a gentleman of his obvious acuity got any pleasure from addressing audiences like they were idiots. People who applauded him, by the way, and laughed at the slightest old joke. “Half of all students are of below average intelligence.” Hahahahaha. “I’m glad you got that one.” Hahahahaha.

I remember a professor I had in an advanced math class who used to berate us undergrads for the time he had to waste with us. Tonight’s audience was filled to overflow with Colorado Springs’ better-heeled hayseeds, but George Will seemed perfectly at home.

Will’s “reflections on the 2008 election” consisted of the usual horse race stats about which states have to be won by whom in order to satisfy the probabilities of precedent. “History is consistent after all,” he was attributing this adage to someone I think, “right up until the moment it isn’t.” Hahahaha. Numbers and groups of states, etc. The next president may again win the necessary electoral votes and loose the popular vote.

As a gesture to the college age portion of tonight’s audience, Will offered that all the statistical stars were lining up for a Democratic win in November, but to his contemporaries in the theater Will later confided that he didn’t consider Obama ready to lead. He also opined that Sarah Palin would provide a refreshing change to Washington DC.

Thankfully the Pulitzer Prize rewardee soon wrapped up his election year remarks and got back on the horse he undoubtedly had been commissioned to ride. Scold Americans for their entitlement mentality and convince them to privatize Social Security. There followed a Libertarian mocking of all social responsibility, and an incredible stretching of credulity seeing the absence of ready rebuttal.

Take for example, Big Pharma. George Will applauds Big Pharma and the obscene profits they reap. Those profits are only appropriate, he says, considering the tremendous costs the pharmaceuticals bear with R&D and the circumnavigation of regulations. Really George? Profit is the product of income minus expense. You want to count the expenses twice? One might compare profit against expense in the light of risk, but wouldn’t that be to beg the definition of “obscene” profits, considering none have reported obscene losses?

Will chastised the growth of the Agricultural Department citing the narrowing ratio of Ag employees to American Farmers, without referencing the precipitous rise of Big Agra and the eclipse of family farms.

Of course, entitlement programs were the chief evil, while no mention was made to corporate entitlements or bailouts or subsidized banking or the federal deficit, EXCEPT where Americans will obviously have to borrow from the next generations to finance Medicare and Social Security.

While George Will admonished Americans for wanting more from their government, he expressed not a single curiosity for how every other developed nation is able to care for their sick, their poor, and their elderly. In fact, Will compared West Germany to East Germany as an example of Capitalism’s proven superiority to Socialism, without observing that modern Germany’s social system is not the heartless one he advocates for here.

Will got lots of applause, and fielded no challenging questions. A last answer, defined for me, the nature of his limited mindset. Will was asked if a sales tax mightn’t be a more equitable substitute for the income tax. Never mind it being regressive, the suggestion certainly pleased the crowd. George Will explained that a sales tax would have to be in excess of 20% to provide the same monies. This would be unfeasible, Will pronounced. But he didn’t say it was because neither the poor, nor the working class, nor the middle class could afford a 20% rise in the cost of living. No, Will described how buying a $500,000 home would mean an additional $100,000 in tax. Unthinkable he said. And he accuses Obama of being elitist. Hahahahaha.

Global economic rapists are at it again

G8 protest
Why protest the G8 Summit July 7-9? Those hoodlums always look so determined. Here’s the rationale by the Emergency Exit Collective:

The 2008 G8 on Hokkaido, a Strategic Assessment
Emergency Exit Collective
Bristol, Mayday, 2008

The authors of this document are a collection of activists, scholars, and writers currently based in the United States and Western Europe who have gotten to know and work with each other in the movement against capitalist globalization. We’re writing this at the request of some members of No! G8 Action Japan, who asked us for a broad strategic analysis of the state of struggle as we see it, and particularly, of the role of the G8, what it represents, the dangers and opportunities that may lie hidden in the moment. It is in no sense programmatic. Mainly, it is an attempt to develop tools that we hope will be helpful for organizers, or for anyone engaged in the struggle against global capital.

I
It is our condition as human beings that we produce our lives in common.

II
Let us then try to see the world from the perspective of the planet’s commoners, taking the word in that sense: those whose most essential tradition is cooperation in the making and maintenance of human social life, yet who have had to do so under conditions of suffering and separation; deprived, ignored, devalued, divided into hierarchies, pitted against each other for our very physical survival. In one sense we are all commoners. But it’s equally true that just about everyone, at least in some ways, at some points, plays the role of the rulers—of those who expropriate, devalue and divide—or at the very least benefits from such divisions.

Obviously some do more than others. It is at the peak of this pyramid that we encounter groups like the G8.

III
The G8’s perspective is that of the aristocrats, the rulers: those who command and maintain that global machinery of violence that defends existing borders and lines of separation: whether national borders with their detention camps for migrants, or property regimes, with their prisons for the poor. They live by constantly claiming title to the products of others collective creativity and labour, and in thus doing they create the poor; they create scarcity in the midst of plenty, and divide us on a daily basis; they create financial districts that loot resources from across the world, and in thus doing they turn the spirit of human creativity into a spiritual desert; close or privatize parks, public water taps and libraries, hospitals, youth centers, universities, schools, public swimming pools, and instead endlessly build shopping malls that channels convivial life into a means of commodity circulation; work toward turning global ecological catastrophe into business opportunities.

These are the people who presume to speak in the name of the “international community” even as they hide in their gated communities or meet protected by phalanxes of riot cops. It is critical to bear in mind that the ultimate aim of their policies is never to create community but to introduce and maintain divisions that set common people at each other’s throats. The neoliberal project, which has been their main instrument for doing so for the last three decades, is premised on a constant effort either to uproot or destroy any communal or democratic system whereby ordinary people govern their own affairs or maintain common resources for the common good, or, to reorganize each tiny remaining commons as an isolated node in a market system in which livelihood is never guaranteed, where the gain of one community must necessarily be at the expense of others. Insofar as they are willing to appeal to high-minded principles of common humanity, and encourage global cooperation, only and exactly to the extent that is required to maintain this system of universal competition.

IV
At the present time, the G8—the annual summit of the leaders of “industrial democracies”—is the key coordinative institution charged with the task of maintaining this neoliberal project, or of reforming it, revising it, adapting it to the changing condition of planetary class relations. The role of the G8 has always been to define the broad strategic horizons through which the next wave of planetary capital accumulation can occur. This means that its main task is to answer the question of how 3?4 in the present conditions of multiple crises and struggles 3?4 to subordinate social relations among the producing commoners of the planet to capital’s supreme value: profit.

V
Originally founded as the G7 in 1975 as a means of coordinating financial strategies for dealing with the ‘70s energy crisis, then expanded after the end of the Cold War to include Russia, its currently face a moment of profound impasse in the governance of planetary class relations: the greatest since the ‘70s energy crisis itself.

VI
The ‘70s energy crisis represented the final death-pangs of what might be termed the Cold War settlement, shattered by a quarter century of popular struggle. It’s worth returning briefly to this history.

The geopolitical arrangements put in place after World War II were above all designed to forestall the threat of revolution. In the immediate wake of the war, not only did much of the world lie in ruins, most of world’s population had abandoned any assumption about the inevitability of existing social arrangements. The advent of the Cold War had the effect of boxing movements for social change into a bipolar straightjacket. On the one hand, the former Allied and Axis powers that were later to unite in the G7 (the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Japan)—the “industrialized democracies”, as they like to call themselves—engaged in a massive project of co-optation. Their governments continued the process, begun in the ‘30s, of taking over social welfare institutions that had originally been created by popular movements (from insurance schemes to public libraries), even to expand them, on condition that they now be managed by state-appointed bureaucracies rather than by those who used them, buying off unions and the working classes more generally with policies meant to guarantee high wages, job security and the promise of educational advance—all in exchange for political loyalty, productivity increases and wage divisions within national and planetary working class itself. The Sino-Soviet bloc—which effectively became a kind of junior partner within the overall power structure, and its allies remained to trap revolutionary energies into the task of reproducing similar bureaucracies elsewhere. Both the US and USSR secured their dominance after the war by refusing to demobilize, instead locking the planet in a permanent threat of nuclear annihilation, a terrible vision of absolute cosmic power.

VII
Almost immediately, though, this arrangement was challenged by a series of revolts from those whose work was required to maintain the system, but who were, effectively, left outside the deal: first, peasants and the urban poor in the colonies and former colonies of the Global South, next, disenfranchised minorities in the home countries (in the US, the Civil Rights movement, then Black Power), and finally and most significantly, by the explosion of the women’s movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s—the revolt of that majority of humanity whose largely unremunerated labor made the very existence “the economy” possible. This appears to have been the tipping point.

VIII
The problem was that the Cold War settlement was never meant to include everyone. It by definition couldn’t. Once matters reached tipping point, then, the rulers scotched the settlement. All deals were off. The oil shock was first edge of the counter-offensive, breaking the back of existing working class organizations, driving home the message that there was nothing guaranteed about prosperity. Under the aegis of the newly hatched G7, this counter-offensive involved a series of interwoven strategies that were later to give rise to what is known as neoliberalism.

IX
These strategies resulted in what came to be known as “Structural Adjustment” both in the North and in the South, accompanied by trade and financial liberalization. This, in turn, made possible crucial structural changes in our planetary production in common extending the role of the market to discipline our lives and divide us into more and more polarized wage hierarchy. This involved:

· In the immediate wake of ‘70s oil shock, petrodollars were recycled from OPEC into Northern banks that then lent them, at extortionate rates of interest, to developing countries of the Global South. This was the origin of the famous “Third World Debt Crisis.” The existence of this debt allowed institutions like the IMF to impose its monetarist orthodoxy on most of the planet for roughly twenty years, in the process, stripping away most of even those modest social protections that had been won by the world’s poor—large numbers of whom were plunged into a situation of absolute desperation.

· It also opened a period of new enclosures through the capitalist imposition of structural adjustment policies, manipulation of environmental and social catastrophes like war, or for that matter through the authoritarian dictates of “socialist” regimes. Through such means, large sections of the world’s population have over the past thirty years been dispossessed from resources previously held in common, either by dint of long traditions, or as the fruits of past struggles and past settlements.

· Through financial deregulation and trade liberalization, neoliberal capital, which emerged from the G7 strategies to deal with the 1970s crisis aimed thus at turning the “class war” in communities, factories, offices, streets and fields against the engine of competition, into a planetary “civil war”, pitting each community of commoners against every other community of commoners.

· Neoliberal capital has done this by imposing an ethos of “efficiency” and rhetoric of “lowering the costs of production” applied so broadly that mechanisms of competition have come to pervade every sphere of life. In fact these terms are euphemisms, for a more fundamental demand: that capital be exempt from taking any reduction in profit to finance the costs of reproduction of human bodies and their social and natural environments (which it does not count as costs) and which are, effectively, “exernalized” onto communities and nature.

· The enclosure of resources and entitlements won in previous generations of struggles both in the North and the South, in turn, created the conditions for increasing the wage hierarchies (both global and local), by which commoners work for capital—wage hierarchies reproduced economically through pervasive competition, but culturally, through male dominance, xenophobia and racism. These wage gaps, in turn, made it possible to reduce the value of Northern workers’ labour power, by introducing commodities that enter in their wage basket at a fraction of what their cost might otherwise have been. The planetary expansion of sweatshops means that American workers (for example) can buy cargo pants or lawn-mowers made in Cambodia at Walmart, or buy tomatoes grown by undocumented Mexican workers in California, or even, in many cases, hire Jamaican or Filipina nurses to take care of children and aged grandparents at such low prices, that their employers have been able to lower real wages without pushing most of them into penury. In the South, meanwhile, this situation has made it possible to discipline new masses of workers into factories and assembly lines, fields and offices, thus extending enormously capital’s reach in defining the terms—the what, the how, the how much—of social production.

· These different forms of enclosures, both North and South, mean that commoners have become increasingly dependent on the market to reproduce their livelihoods, with less power to resist the violence and arrogance of those whose priorities is only to seek profit, less power to set a limit to the market discipline running their lives, more prone to turn against one another in wars with other commoners who share the same pressures of having to run the same competitive race, but not the same rights and the same access to the wage. All this has meant a generalized state of precarity, where nothing can be taken for granted.

X
In turn, this manipulation of currency and commodity flows constituting neoliberal globalization became the basis for the creation of the planet’s first genuine global bureaucracy.

· This was multi-tiered, with finance capital at the peak, then the ever-expanding trade bureaucracies (IMF, WTO, EU, World Bank, etc), then transnational corporations, and finally, the endless varieties of NGOs that proliferated throughout the period—almost all of which shared the same neoliberal orthodoxy, even as they substituted themselves for social welfare functions once reserved for states.

· The existence of this overarching apparatus, in turn, allowed poorer countries previously under the control of authoritarian regimes beholden to one or another side in the Cold War to adopt “democratic” forms of government. This did allow a restoration of formal civil liberties, but very little that could really merit the name of democracy (the rule of the “demos”, i.e., of the commoners). They were in fact constitutional republics, and the overwhelming trend during the period was to strip legislatures, that branch of government most open to popular pressure, of most of their powers, which were increasingly shifted to the executive and judicial branches, even as these latter, in turn, largely ended up enacting policies developed overseas, by global bureaucrats.

· This entire bureaucratic arrangement was justified, paradoxically enough, by an ideology of extreme individualism. On the level of ideas, neoliberalism relied on a systematic cooptation of the themes of popular struggle of the ‘60s: autonomy, pleasure, personal liberation, the rejection of all forms of bureaucratic control and authority. All these were repackaged as the very essence of capitalism, and the market reframed as a revolutionary force of liberation.

· The entire arrangement, in turn, was made possible by a preemptive attitude towards popular struggle. The breaking of unions and retreat of mass social movements from the late ‘70s onwards was only made possible by a massive shift of state resources into the machinery of violence: armies, prisons and police (secret and otherwise) and an endless variety of private “security services”, all with their attendant propaganda machines, which tended to increase even as other forms of social spending were cut back, among other things absorbing increasing portions of the former proletariat, making the security apparatus an increasingly large proportion of total social spending. This approach has been very successful in holding back mass opposition to capital in much of the world (especially West Europe and North America), and above all, in making it possible to argue there are no viable alternatives. But in doing so, has created strains on the system so profound it threatens to undermine it entirely.

XI
The latter point deserves elaboration. The element of force is, on any number of levels, the weak point of the system. This is not only on the constitutional level, where the question of how to integrate the emerging global bureaucratic apparatus, and existing military arrangements, has never been resolved. It is above all an economic problem. It is quite clear that the maintenance of elaborate security machinery is an absolute imperative of neoliberalism. One need only observe what happened with the collapse of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe: where one might have expected the Cold War victors to demand the dismantling of the army, secret police and secret prisons, and to maintain and develop the existing industrial base, in fact, what they did was absolutely the opposite: in fact, the only part of the industrial base that has managed fully to maintain itself has been the parts required to maintained the security apparatus itself! Critical too is the element of preemption: the governing classes in North America, for example, are willing to go to almost unimaginable lengths to ensure social movements never feel they are accomplishing anything. The current Gulf War is an excellent example: US military operations appear to be organized first and foremost to be protest-proof, to ensure that what happened in Vietnam (mass mobilization at home, widespread revolt within the army overseas) could never be repeated. This means above all that US casualties must always be kept to a minimum. The result are rules of engagement, and practices like the use of air power within cities ostensibly already controlled by occupation forces, so obviously guaranteed to maximize the killing of innocents and galvanizing hatred against the occupiers that they ensure the war itself cannot be won. Yet this approach can be taken as the very paradigm for neoliberal security regimes. Consider security arrangements around trade summits, where police are so determined prevent protestors from achieving tactical victories that they are often willing to effectively shut down the summits themselves. So too in overall strategy. In North America, such enormous resources are poured into the apparatus of repression, militarization, and propaganda that class struggle, labor action, mass movements seem to disappear entirely. It is thus possible to claim we have entered a new age where old conflicts are irrelevant. This is tremendously demoralizing of course for opponents of the system; but those running the system seem to find that demoralization so essential they don’t seem to care that the resultant apparatus (police, prisons, military, etc) is, effectively, sinking the entire US economy under its dead weight.

XII
The current crisis is not primarily geopolitical in nature. It is a crisis of neoliberalism itself. But it takes place against the backdrop of profound geopolitical realignments. The decline of North American power, both economic and geopolitical has been accompanied by the rise of Northeast Asia (and to a increasing extent, South Asia as well). While the Northeast Asian region is still divided by painful Cold War cleavages—the fortified lines across the Taiwan straits and at the 38th parallel in Korea…—the sheer realities of economic entanglement can be expected to lead to a gradual easing of tensions and a rise to global hegemony, as the region becomes the new center of gravity of the global economy, of the creation of new science and technology, ultimately, of political and military power. This may, quite likely, be a gradual and lengthy process. But in the meantime, very old patterns are rapidly reemerging: China reestablishing relations with ancient tributary states from Korea to Vietnam, radical Islamists attempting to reestablish their ancient role as the guardians of finance and piety at the in the Central Asian caravan routes and across Indian Ocean, every sort of Medieval trade diaspora reemerging… In the process, old political models remerge as well: the Chinese principle of the state transcending law, the Islamic principle of a legal order transcending any state. Everywhere, we see the revival too of ancient forms of exploitation—feudalism, slavery, debt peonage—often entangled in the newest forms of technology, but still echoing all the worst abuses of the Middle Ages. A scramble for resources has begun, with US occupation of Iraq and saber-rattling throughout the surrounding region clearly meant (at least in part) to place a potential stranglehold the energy supply of China; Chinese attempts to outflank with its own scramble for Africa, with increasing forays into South America and even Eastern Europe. The Chinese invasion into Africa (not as of yet at least a military invasion, but already involving the movement of hundreds of thousands of people), is changing the world in ways that will probably be felt for centuries. Meanwhile, the nations of South America, the first victims of the “Washington consensus” have managed to largely wriggle free from the US colonial orbit, while the US, its forces tied down in the Middle East, has for the moment at least abandoned it, is desperately struggling to keep its grip Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean—its own “near abroad”.

XIII
In another age all this might have led to war—that is, not just colonial occupations, police actions, or proxy wars (which are obviously already taking place), but direct military confrontations between the armies of major powers. It still could; accidents happen; but there is reason to believe that, when it comes to moments of critical decision, the loyalties of the global elites are increasingly to each other, and not to the national entities for whom they claim to speak. There is some compelling evidence for this.

Take for example when the US elites panicked at the prospect of the massive budget surpluses of the late 1990s. As Alan Greenspan, head of the Federal Reserve at the time warned, if these were allowed to stand they would have flooded government coffers with so many trillions of dollars that it could only have lead to some form of creeping socialism, even, he predicted, to the government acquiring “equity stakes” in key US corporations. The more excitable of capitalism’s managers actually began contemplating scenarios where the capitalist system itself would be imperiled. The only possible solution was massive tax cuts; these were duly enacted, and did indeed manage to turn surpluses into enormous deficits, financed by the sale of treasury bonds to Japan and China. Conditions have thus now reached a point where it is beginning to look as if the most likely long term outcome for the US (its technological and industrial base decaying, sinking under the burden of its enormous security spending) will be to end up serve as junior partner and military enforcer for East Asia capital. Its rulers, or at least a significant proportion of them, would prefer to hand global hegemony to the rulers of China (provided the latter abandon Communism) than to return to any sort of New Deal compromise with their “own” working classes.

A second example lies in the origins of what has been called the current “Bretton Woods II” system of currency arrangements, which underline a close working together of some “surplus” and “deficit” countries within global circuits. The macroeconomic manifestation of the planetary restructuring outlined in XIX underlines both the huge US trade deficit that so much seem to worry many commentators, and the possibility to continually generate new debt instruments like the one that has recently resulted in the sub-prime crisis. The ongoing recycling of accumulated surplus of countries exporting to the USA such as China and oil producing countries is what has allowed financiers to create new credit instruments in the USA. Hence, the “deal” offered by the masters in the United States to its commoners has been this: ‘you, give us a relative social peace and accept capitalist markets as the main means through which you reproduce your own livelihoods, and we will give you access to cheaper consumption goods, access to credit for buying cars and homes, and access to education, health, pensions and social security through the speculative means of stock markets and housing prices.’ Similar compromises were reached in all the G8 countries.

Meanwhile, there is the problem of maintaining any sort of social peace with the hundreds of millions of unemployed, underemployed, dispossessed commoners currently swelling the shanty-towns of Asia, Africa, and Latin America as a result of ongoing enclosures (which have speeded up within China and India in particular, even as “structural adjustment policies” in Africa and Latin America have been derailed). Any prospect of maintaining peace in these circumstances would ordinarily require either extremely high rates of economic growth—which globally have not been forthcoming, since outside of China, growth rates in the developing world have been much lower than they were in the ‘50s, ‘60s, or even ‘70s—or extremely high levels of repression, lest matters descend into rebellion or generalized civil war. The latter has of course occurred in many parts of the world currently neglected by capital, but in favored regions, such as the coastal provinces of China, or “free trade” zones of India, Egypt, or Mexico, commoners are being offered a different sort of deal: industrial employment at wages that, while very low by international standards, are still substantially higher than anything currently obtainable in the impoverished countryside; and above all the promise, through the intervention of Western markets and (privatized) knowledge, of gradually improving conditions of living. While over the least few years wages in many such areas seem to be growing, thanks to the intensification of popular struggles, such gains are inherently vulnerable: the effect of recent food inflation has been to cut real wages back dramatically—and threaten millions with starvation.

What we really want to stress here, though, is that the long-term promise being offered to the South is just as untenable as the idea that US or European consumers can indefinitely expand their conditions of life through the use of mortgages and credit cards.

What’s being offered the new dispossessed is a transposition of the American dream. The idea is that the lifestyle and consumption patterns of existing Chinese, Indian, or Brazilian or Zambian urban middle classes (already modeled on Northern ones) will eventually become available to the children of today’s miners, maquila or plantation laborers, until, ultimately, everyone on earth is brought up to roughly the same level of consumption. Put in these terms, the argument is absurd. The idea that all six billion of us can become “middle class” is obviously impossible. First of all there is a simple problem of resources. It doesn’t matter how many bottles we recycle or how energy efficient are the light bulbs we use, there’s just no way the earth’s ecosystem can accommodate six billion people driving in private cars to work in air-conditioned cubicles before periodically flying off to vacation in Acapulco or Tahiti. To maintain the style of living and producing in common we now identify with “middle classness” on a planetary scale would require several additional planets.

This much has been pointed out repeatedly. But the second point is no less important. What this vision of betterment ultimately proposes is that it would be possible to build universal prosperity and human dignity on a system of wage labor. This is fantasy. Historically, wages are always the contractual face for system of command and degradation, and a means of disguising exploitation: expressing value for work only on condition of stealing value without work— and there is no reason to believe they could ever be anything else. This is why, as history has also shown, human beings will always avoid working for wages if they have any other viable option. For a system based on wage labor to come into being, such options must therefore be made unavailable. This in turn means that such systems are always premised on structures of exclusion: on the prior existence of borders and property regimes maintained by violence. Finally, historically, it has always proved impossible to maintain any sizeable class of wage-earners in relative prosperity without basing that prosperity, directly or indirectly, on the unwaged labor of others—on slave-labor, women’s domestic labor, the forced labor of colonial subjects, the work of women and men in peasant communities halfway around the world—by people who are even more systematically exploited, degraded, and immiserated. For that reason, such systems have always depended not only on setting wage-earners against each other by inciting bigotry, prejudice, hostility, resentment, violence, but also by inciting the same between men and women, between the people of different continents (“race”), between the generations.

From the perspective of the whole, then, the dream of universal middle class “betterment” must necessarily be an illusion constructed in between the Scylla of ecological disaster, and the Charybdis of poverty, detritus, and hatred: precisely, the two pillars of today’s strategic impasse faced by the G8.

XIV
How then do we describe the current impasse of capitalist governance?

To a large degree, it is the effect of a sudden and extremely effective upswing of popular resistance—one all the more extraordinary considering the huge resources that had been invested in preventing such movements from breaking out.

On the one hand, the turn of the millennium saw a vast and sudden flowering of new anti-capitalist movements, a veritable planetary uprising against neoliberalism by commoners in Latin America, India, Africa, Asia, across the North Atlantic world’s former colonies and ultimately, within the cities of the former colonial powers themselves. As a result, the neoliberal project lies shattered. What came to be called the “anti-globalization” movement took aim at the trade bureaucracies—the obvious weak link in the emerging institutions of global administration—but it was merely the most visible aspect of this uprising. It was however an extraordinarily successful one. Not only was the WTO halted in its tracks, but all major trade initiatives (MAI, FTAA…) scuttled. The World Bank was hobbled and the power of the IMF over most of the world’s population, effectively, destroyed. The latter, once the terror of the Global South, is now a shattered remnant of its former self, reduced to selling off its gold reserves and desperately searching for a new global mission.

In many ways though spectacular street actions were merely the most visible aspects of much broader changes: the resurgence of labor unions, in certain parts of the world, the flowering of economic and social alternatives on the grassroots levels in every part of the world, from new forms of direct democracy of indigenous communities like El Alto in Bolivia or self-managed factories in Paraguay, to township movements in South Africa, farming cooperatives in India, squatters’ movements in Korea, experiments in permaculture in Europe or “Islamic economics” among the urban poor in the Middle East. We have seen the development of thousands of forms of mutual aid association, most of which have not even made it onto the radar of the global media, often have almost no ideological unity and which may not even be aware of each other’s existence, but nonetheless share a common desire to mark a practical break with capitalism, and which, most importantly, hold out the prospect of creating new forms of planetary commons that can—and in some cases are—beginning to knit together to provide the outlines of genuine alternative vision of what a non-capitalist future might look like.

The reaction of the world’s rulers was predictable. The planetary uprising had occurred during a time when the global security apparatus was beginning to look like it lacked a purpose, when the world threatened to return to a state of peace. The response—aided of course, by the intervention of some of the US’ former Cold War allies, reorganized now under the name of Al Qaeda—was a return to global warfare. But this too failed. The “war on terror”—as an attempt to impose US military power as the ultimate enforcer of the neoliberal model—has collapsed as well in the face of almost universal popular resistance. This is the nature of their “impasse”.

At the same time, the top-heavy, inefficient US model of military capitalism—a model created in large part to prevent the dangers of social movements, but which the US has also sought to export to some degree simply because of its profligacy and inefficiency, to prevent the rest of the world from too rapidly overtaking them—has proved so wasteful of resources that it threatens to plunge the entire planet into ecological and social crisis. Drought, disaster, famines, combine with endless campaigns of enclosure, foreclosure, to cast the very means of survival—food, water, shelter—into question for the bulk of the world’s population.

XV
In the rulers’ language the crisis understood, first and foremost, as a problem of regulating cash flows, of reestablishing, as they like to put it, a new “financial architecture”. Obviously they are aware of the broader problems. Their promotional literature has always been full of it. From the earliest days of the G7, through to the days after the Cold War, when Russia was added as a reward for embracing capitalism, they have always claimed that their chief concerns include

· the reduction of global poverty

· sustainable environmental policies

· sustainable global energy policies

· stable financial institutions governing global trade and currency transactions

If one were to take such claims seriously, it’s hard to see their overall performance as anything but a catastrophic failure. At the present moment, all of these are in crisis mode: there are food riots, global warming, peak oil, and the threat of financial meltdown, bursting of credit bubbles, currency crises, a global credit crunch. [**Failure on this scale however, opens opportunities for the G8 themselves, as summit of the global bureaucracy, to reconfigure the strategic horizon. Therefore, it’s always with the last of these that they are especially concerned. ]The real problem, from the perspective of the G8, is one of reinvestment: particularly, of the profits of the energy sector, but also, now, of emerging industrial powers outside the circle of the G8 itself. The neoliberal solution in the ‘70s had been to recycle OPEC’s petrodollars into banks that would use it much of the world into debt bondage, imposing regimes of fiscal austerity that, for the most part, stopped development (and hence, the emergence potential rivals) in its tracks. By the ‘90s, however, much East Asia in particular had broken free of this regime. Attempts to reimpose IMF-style discipline during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 largely backfired. So a new compromise was found, the so-called Bretton Woods II: to recycle the profits from the rapidly expanding industrial economies of East Asia into US treasury debt, artificially supporting the value of the dollar and allowing a continual stream of cheap exports that, aided by the US housing bubble, kept North Atlantic economies afloat and buy off workers there with cheap oil and even cheaper consumer goods even as real wages shrank. This solution however soon proved a temporary expedient. Bush regime’s attempt to lock it in by the invasion of Iraq, which was meant to lead to the forced privatization of Iraqi oil fields, and, ultimately, of the global oil industry as a whole, collapsed in the face of massive popular resistance (just as Saddam Hussein’s attempt to introduce neoliberal reforms in Iraq had failed when he was still acting as American deputy in the ‘90s). Instead, the simultaneous demand for petroleum for both Chinese manufacturers and American consumers caused a dramatic spike in the price of oil. What’s more, rents from oil and gas production are now being used to pay off the old debts from the ‘80s (especially in Asia and Latin America, which have by now paid back their IMF debts entirely), and—increasingly—to create state-managed Sovereign Wealth Funds that have largely replaced institutions like the IMF as the institutions capable of making long-term strategic investments. The IMF, purposeless, tottering on the brink of insolvency, has been reduced to trying to come up with “best practices” guidelines for fund managers working for governments in Singapore, Seoul, and Abu Dhabi.

There can be no question this time around of freezing out countries like China, India, or even Brazil. The question for capital’s planners, rather, is how to channel these new concentrations of capital in such a way that they reinforce the logic of the system instead of undermining it.

XVI
How can this be done? This is where appeals to universal human values, to common membership in an “international community” come in to play. “We all must pull together for the good of the planet,” we will be told. The money must be reinvested “to save the earth.”

To some degree this was always the G8 line: this is a group has been making an issue of climate change since 1983. Doing so was in one sense a response to the environmental movements of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The resultant emphasis on biofuels and “green energy” was from their point of view, the perfect strategy, seizing on an issue that seemed to transcend class, appropriating ideas and issues that emerged from social movements (and hence coopting and undermining especially their radical wings), and finally, ensuring such initiatives are pursued not through any form of democratic self-organization but “market mechanisms”—to effective make the sense of public interest productive for capitalism.

What we can expect now is a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, they will use the crisis to attempt to reverse the gains of past social movements: to put nuclear energy back on the table to deal with the energy crisis and global warming, or genetically modified foods to deal with the food crisis. Prime Minister Fukuda, the host of the current summit, for example, is already proposing the nuclear power is the “solution” to the global warming crisis, even as the German delegation resists. On the other, and even more insidiously, they will try once again to co-opt the ideas and solutions that have emerged from our struggles as a way of ultimately undermining them. Appropriating such ideas is simply what rulers do: the bosses brain is always under the workers’ hat. But the ultimate aim is to answer the intensification of class struggle, of the danger of new forms of democracy, with another wave of enclosures, to restore a situation where commoners’ attempts to create broader regimes of cooperation are stymied, and people are plunged back into mutual competition.

We can already see the outlines of how this might be done. There are already suggestions that Sovereign Wealth Funds put aside a certain (miniscule) proportion of their money for food aid, but only as tied to a larger project of global financial restructuring. The World Bank, largely bereft of its earlier role organizing dams and pipe-lines across the world, has been funding development in China’s poorer provinces, freeing the Chinese government to carry out similar projects in Southeast Asia, Africa, and even Latin America (where, of course, they cannot effectively be held to any sort of labor or environmental standards). There is the possibility of a new class deal in China itself, whose workers can be allowed higher standards of living if new low wage zones are created elsewhere—for instance, Africa (the continent where struggles over maintaining the commons have been most intense in current decades)—with the help of Chinese infrastructural projects. Above of all, money will be channeled into addressing climate change, into the development of alternative energy, which will require enormous investments, in such a way as to ensure that whatever energy resources do become important in this millennium, they can never be democratized—that the emerging notion of a petroleum commons, that energy resources are to some degree a common patrimony meant primarily to serve the community as a whole, that is beginning to develop in parts of the Middle East and South America—not be reproduced in whatever comes next.

Since this will ultimately have to be backed up by the threat of violence, the G8 will inevitably have to struggle with how to (yet again) rethink enforcement mechanisms. The latest move , now that the US “war on terror” paradigm has obviously failed, would appear to be a return to NATO, part of a reinvention of the “European security architecture” being proposed at the upcoming G8 meetings in Italy in 2009 on the 60th anniversary of NATO’s foundation—but part of a much broader movement of the militarization of social conflict, projecting potential resource wars, demographic upheavals resulting from climate change, and radical social movements as potential military problems to be resolved by military means. Opposition to this new project is already shaping up as the major new European mobilization for the year following the current G-8.

XVII
While the G-8 sit at the pinnacle of a system of violence, their preferred idiom is monetary. Their impulse whenever possible is to translate all problems into money, financial structures, currency flows—a substance whose movements they carefully monitor and control.

Money, on might say, is their poetry—a poetry whose letters are written in our blood. It is their highest and most abstract form of expression, their way of making statements about the ultimate truth of the world, even if it operates in large part by making things disappear. How else could it be possible to argue—no, to assume as a matter of common sense—that the love, care, and concern of a person who tends to the needs of children, teaching, minding, helping them to become decent , thoughtful, human beings, or who grows and prepares food, is worth ten thousand times less than someone who spends the same time designing a brand logo, moving abstract blips across a globe, or denying others health care.

The role of money however has changed profoundly since 1971 when the dollar was delinked from gold. This has created a profound realignment of temporal horizons. Once money could be said to be primarily congealed results of past profit and exploitation. As capital, it was dead labor. Millions of indigenous Americans and Africans had their lives pillaged and destroyed in the gold mines in order to be rendered into value. The logic of finance capital, of credit structures, certainly always existed as well (it is at least as old as industrial capital; possibly older), but in recent decades these logic of financial capital has come to echo and re-echo on every level of our lives. In the UK 97% of money in circulation is debt, in the US, 98%. Governments run on deficit financing, wealthy economies on consumer debt, the poor are enticed with microcredit schemes, debts are packaged and repackaged in complex financial derivatives and traded back and forth. Debt however is simply a promise, the expectation of future profit; capital thus increasingly brings the future into the present—a future that, it insists, must always be the same in nature, even if must also be greater in magnitude, since of course the entire system is premised on continual growth. Where once financiers calculated and traded in the precise measure of our degradation, having taken everything from us and turned it into money, now money has flipped, to become the measure of our future degradation—at the same time as it binds us to endlessly working in the present.

The result is a strange moral paradox. Love, loyalty, honor, commitment—to our families, for example, which means to our shared homes, which means to the payment of monthly mortgage debts—becomes a matter of maintaining loyalty to a system which ultimately tells us that such commitments are not a value in themselves. This organization of imaginative horizons, which ultimately come down to a colonization of the very principle of hope, has come to supplement the traditional evocation of fear (of penury, homelessness, joblessness, disease and death). This colonization paralyzes any thought of opposition to a system that almost everyone ultimately knows is not only an insult to everything they really cherish, but a travesty of genuine hope, since, because no system can really expand forever on a finite planet, everyone is aware on some level that in the final analysis they are dealing with a kind of global pyramid scheme, what we are ultimately buying and selling is the real promise of global social and environmental apocalypse.

XVIII
Finally then we come to the really difficult, strategic questions. Where are the vulnerabilities? Where is hope? Obviously we have no certain answers here. No one could. But perhaps the proceeding analysis opens up some possibilities that anti-capitalist organizers might find useful to explore.

One thing that might be helpful is to rethink our initial terms. Consider communism. We are used to thinking of it as a total system that perhaps existed long ago, and to the desire to bring about an analogous system at some point in the future—usually, at whatever cost. It seems to us that dreams of communist futures were never purely fantasies; they were simply projections of existing forms of cooperation, of commoning, by which we already make the world in the present. Communism in this sense is already the basis of almost everything, what brings people and societies into being, what maintains them, the elemental ground of all human thought and action. There is absolutely nothing utopian here. What is utopian, really, is the notion that any form of social organization, especially capitalism, could ever exist that was not entirely premised on the prior existence of communism. If this is true, the most pressing question is simply how to make that power visible, to burst forth, to become the basis for strategic visions, in the face of a tremendous and antagonistic power committed to destroying it—but at the same time, ensuring that despite the challenge they face, they never again become entangled with forms of violence of their own that make them the basis for yet another tawdry elite. After all, the solidarity we extend to one another, is it not itself a form of communism? And is it not so above because it is not coerced?

Another thing that might be helpful is to rethink our notion of crisis. There was a time when simply describing the fact that capitalism was in a state of crisis, driven by irreconcilable contradictions, was taken to suggest that it was heading for a cliff. By now, it seems abundantly clear that this is not the case. Capitalism is always in a crisis. The crisis never goes away. Financial markets are always producing bubbles of one sort or another; those bubbles always burst, sometimes catastrophically; often entire national economies collapse, sometimes the global markets system itself begins to come apart. But every time the structure is reassembled. Slowly, painfully, dutifully, the pieces always end up being put back together once again.

Perhaps we should be asking: why?

In searching for an answer, it seems to us, we might also do well to put aside another familiar habit of radical thought: the tendency to sort the world into separate levels—material realities, the domain of ideas or “consciousness”, the level of technologies and organizations of violence—treating these as if these were separate domains that each work according to separate logics, and then arguing which “determines” which. In fact they cannot be disentangled. A factory may be a physical thing, but the ownership of a factory is a social relation, a legal fantasy that is based partly on the belief that law exists, and partly on the existence of armies and police. Armies and police on the other hand exist partly because of factories providing them with guns, vehicles, and equipment, but also, because those carrying the guns and riding in the vehicles believe they are working for an abstract entity they call “the government”, which they love, fear, and ultimately, whose existence they take for granted by a kind of faith, since historically, those armed organizations tend to melt away immediately the moment they lose faith that the government actually exists. Obviously exactly the same can be said of money. It’s value is constantly being produced by eminently material practices involving time clocks, bank machines, mints, and transatlantic computer cables, not to mention love, greed, and fear, but at the same time, all this too rests on a kind of faith that all these things will continue to interact in more or less the same way. It is all very material, but it also reflects a certain assumption of eternity: the reason that the machine can always be placed back together is, simply, because everyone assumes it must. This is because they cannot realistically imagine plausible alternatives; they cannot imagine plausible alternatives because of the extraordinarily sophisticated machinery of preemptive violence that ensure any such alternatives are uprooted or contained (even if that violence is itself organized around a fear that itself rests on a similar form of faith.) One cannot even say it’s circular. It’s more a kind of endless, unstable spiral. To subvert the system is then, to intervene in such a way that the whole apparatus begins to spin apart.

XIX
It appears to us that one key element here—one often neglected in revolutionary strategy—is the role of the global middle classes. This is a class that, much though it varies from country (in places like the US and Japan, overwhelming majorities consider themselves middle class; in, say, Cambodia or Zambia, only very small percentages), almost everywhere provides the key constituency of the G8 outside of the ruling elite themselves. It has become a truism, an article of faith in itself in global policy circles, that national middle class is everywhere the necessary basis for democracy. In fact, middle classes are rarely much interested in democracy in any meaningful sense of that word (that is, of the self-organization or self-governance of communities). They tend to be quite suspicious of it. Historically, middle classes have tended to encourage the establishment of constitutional republics with only limited democratic elements (sometimes, none at all). This is because their real passion is for a “betterment”, for the prosperity and advance of conditions of life for their children—and this betterment, since it is as noted above entirely premised on structures of exclusion, requires “security”. Actually the middle classes depend on security on every level: personal security, social security (various forms of government support, which even when it is withdrawn from the poor tends to be maintained for the middle classes), security against any sudden or dramatic changes in the nature of existing institutions. Thus, politically, the middle classes are attached not to democracy (which, especially in its radical forms, might disrupt all this), but to the rule of law. In the political sense, then, being “middle class” means existing outside the notorious “state of exception” to which the majority of the world’s people are relegated. It means being able to see a policeman and feel safer, not even more insecure. This would help explain why within the richest countries, the overwhelming majority of the population will claim to be “middle class” when speaking in the abstract, even if most will also instantly switch back to calling themselves “working class” when talking about their relation to their boss.

That rule of law, in turn, allows them to live in that temporal horizon where the market and other existing institutions (schools, governments, law firms, real estate brokerages…) can be imagined as lasting forever in more or less the same form. The middle classes can thus be defined as those who live in the eternity of capitalism. (The elites don’t; they live in history, they don’t assume things will always be the same. The disenfranchized don’t; they don’t have the luxury; they live in a state of precarity where little or nothing can safely be assumed.) Their entire lives are based on assuming that the institutional forms they are accustomed to will always be the same, for themselves and their grandchildren, and their “betterment” will be proportional to the increase in the level of monetary wealth and consumption. This is why every time global capital enters one of its periodic crises, every time banks collapse, factories close, and markets prove unworkable, or even, when the world collapses in war, the managers and dentists will tend to support any program that guarantees the fragments will be dutifully pieced back together in roughly the same form—even if all are, at the same time, burdened by at least a vague sense that the whole system is unfair and probably heading for catastrophe.

XIX
The strategic question then is, how to shatter this sense of inevitability? History provides one obvious suggestion. The last time the system really neared self-destruction was in the 1930s, when what might have otherwise been an ordinary turn of the boom-bust cycle turned into a depression so profound that it took a world war to pull out of it. What was different? The existence of an alternative: a Soviet economy that, whatever its obvious brutalities, was expanding at breakneck pace at the very moment market systems were undergoing collapse. Alternatives shatter the sense of inevitability, that the system must, necessarily, be patched together in the same form; this is why it becomes an absolute imperative of global governance that even small viable experiments in other ways of organizing communities be wiped out, or, if that is not possible, that no one knows about them.

If nothing else, this explains the extraordinary importance attached to the security services and preemption of popular struggle. Commoning, where it already exists, must be made invisible. Alternatives— Zapatistas in Chiapas, APPO in Oaxaca, worker-managed factories in Argentina or Paraguay, community-run water systems in South Africa or Bolivia, living alternatives of farming or fishing communities in India or Indonesia, or a thousand other examples—must be made to disappear, if not squelched or destroyed, then marginalized to the point they seem irrelevant, ridiculous. If the managers of the global system are so determined to do this they are willing to invest such enormous resources into security apparatus that it threatens to sink the system entirely, it is because they are aware that they are working with a house of cards. That the principle of hope and expectation on which capitalism rests would evaporate instantly if almost any other principle of hope or expectation seemed viable.

The knowledge of alternatives, then, is itself a material force.

Without them, of course, the shattering of any sense of certainty has exactly the opposite effect. It becomes pure precarity, an insecurity so profound that it becomes impossible to project oneself in history in any form, so that the one-time certainties of middle class life itself becomes a kind of utopian horizon, a desperate dream, the only possible principle of hope beyond which one cannot really imagine anything. At the moment, this seems the favorite weapon of neoliberalism: whether promulgated through economic violence, or the more direct, traditional kind.

One form of resistance that might prove quite useful here – and is already being discussed in some quarters – are campaigns against debt itself. Not demands for debt forgiveness, but campaigns of debt resistance.

XX
In this sense the great slogan of the global justice movement, “another world is possible”, represents the ultimate threat to existing power structures. But in another sense we can even say we have already begun to move beyond that. Another world is not merely possible. It is inevitable. On the one hand, as we have pointed out, such a world is already in existence in the innumerable circuits of social cooperation and production in common based on different values than those of profit and accumulation through which we already create our lives, and without which capitalism itself would be impossible. On the other, a different world is inevitable because capitalism—a system based on infinite material expansion—simply cannot continue forever on a finite world. At some point, if humanity is to survive at all, we will be living in a system that is not based on infinite material expansion. That is, something other than capitalism.

The problem is there is no absolute guarantee that ‘something’ will be any better. It’s pretty easy to imagine “other worlds” that would be even worse. We really don’t have any idea what might happen. To what extent will the new world still organized around commoditization of life, profit, and pervasive competition? Or a reemergence of even older forms of hierarchy and degradation? How, if we do overcome capitalism directly, by the building and interweaving of new forms of global commons, do we protect ourselves against the reemergence of new forms of hierarchy and division that we might not now even be able to imagine?

It seems to us that the decisive battles that will decide the contours of this new world will necessarily be battles around values. First and foremost are values of solidarity among commoners. Since after all, every rape of a woman by a man or the racist murder of an African immigrant by a European worker is worth a division in capital’s army.

Similarly, imagining our struggles as value struggles might allow us to see current struggles over global energy policies and over the role of money and finance today as just an opening salvo of an even larger social conflict to come. For instance, there’s no need to demonize petroleum, for example, as a thing in itself. Energy products have always tended to play the role of a “basic good”, in the sense that their production and distribution becomes the physical basis for all other forms of human cooperation, at the same time as its control tends to organize social and even international relations. Forests and wood played such a role from the time of the Magna Carta to the American Revolution, sugar did so during the rise of European colonial empires in the 17th and 18th centuries, fossil fuels do so today. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about fossil fuel. Oil is simply solar radiation, once processed by living beings, now stored in fossil form. The question is of control and distribution. This is the real flaw in the rhetoric over “peak oil”: the entire argument is premised on the assumption that, for the next century at least, global markets will be the only means of distribution. Otherwise the use of oil would depend on needs, which would be impossible to predict precisely because they depend on the form of production in common we adopt. The question thus should be: how does the anti-capitalist movement peak the oil? How does it become the crisis for a system of unlimited expansion?

It is the view of the authors of this text that the most radical planetary movements that have emerged to challenge the G8 are those that direct us towards exactly these kind of questions. Those which go beyond merely asking how to explode the role money plays in framing our horizons, or even challenging the assumption of the endless expansion of “the economy”, to ask why we assume something called “the economy” even exists, and what other ways we can begin imagining our material relations with one another. The planetary women’s movement, in its many manifestations, has and continues to play perhaps the most important role of all here, in calling for us to reimagine our most basic assumptions about work, to remember that the basic business of human life is not actually the production of communities but the production, the mutual shaping of human beings. The most inspiring of these movements are those that call for us to move beyond a mere challenge to the role of money to reimagine value: to ask ourselves how can we best create a situation where everyone is secure enough in their basic needs to be able to pursue those forms of value they decide are ultimately important to them. To move beyond a mere challenge to the tyranny of debt to ask ourselves what we ultimately owe to one another and to our environment. That recognize that none this needs to invented from whole cloth. It’s all already there, immanent in the way everyone, as commoners, create the world together on a daily basis. And that asking these questions is never, and can never be, an abstract exercise, but is necessarily part of a process by which we are already beginning to knit these forms of commons together into new forms of global commons that will allow entirely new conceptions of our place in history.

It is to those already engaged in such a project that we offer these initial thoughts on our current strategic situation.

Eco-conscious, yes. Sustainable? Hardly.

COLORADO SPRINGS- Johann of First Affirmative Financial Network, asked me to relate my experience at the now notorious PPJPC meet-up to discuss Economic Sustainability. Though Tony wasn’t able to attend, he’s initiated a debate here: is there such a thing as “economic sustainability?” Since I was there, perhaps I could elucidate, because I believe I heard the answer.

I was quite impressed by the questions brought to the event by the audience, who proved to be no shrinking violets. The interests ranged from some who wanted to indict the Fed, to those who questioned economic growth as being sustainable. The housing market for example is predicated on real estate increasing in value. Must it? Should it? Can it? Successful investing is inherently about your investment growing, otherwise you are losing money. Can investment be done without growth? When posed this question, our intrepid investment-biz guest braved an answer: “I don’t know.”

I supposed as much, hence my initial skepticism about the subject of the talk. But I expected to hear about options, not to hear my foregone conclusion foreclosed. What then does FAFN, our fellow sustainability boosters, have to offer? It turns out it is the usual green investing. Working Assets was so 90s, “sustainability” is the eco catch-phrase of the new millennium. It’s still about the 3Es, as Johann told us they say in the greening biz, or the 3Ps: people, planet and profit.

Johann’s employer’s concrete claim to “sustainability” was a novel certification of a green office remodel. No small task, although the pitch from Johann is that it requires a surprisingly small expenditure. So, small task. And FAFN is all about giving recognition for setting a good example. Here’s how this works in their business model: Chiefly their portfolio is comprised of only green stocks, plus stocks you might want to encourage to be green. General Motors is decidedly not green, but you could recommend them as an incentive for GM to show some eco-thinking. That’s an actual example from our discussion. I’m hoping if Monsanto issued a press release that they would be recycling their break-room Dixie cups, our sustainability cheerleaders wouldn’t jump tp award the bold step with a buy recommendation.

I came to the PPJC meeting with an even more hardcore question. How can someone who makes a living from the interest earned on money, consider themselves sustainable? Our guest’s response was “there certainly are plenty of us around.” But is that an answer? Economically sustainable, yes. Environmentally? Hardly. I believe that is the crux of what Tony raises as a paradox.

Charging interest for the loan of money has presented an age-old moral dilemma. The function of money was to facilitate barter, as one good or service was exchanged for another. Religious thinkers have most often concluded that a person should not profiteer from the exchange of money itself, adding as they have, no value to the equation. Jesus was certainly against it. Although Johann interpreted “go forth and multiply” to mean you should multiply your money.

Whether it’s moral or not, how can money lending be environmentally sustainable? If you are producing no good or rendering no labor, what should you be taking out of the system for your consumption? Can a negative-contribution be sustainable?

When I first moved to UCLA, and saw the mass of wealth built around the west side of Los Angeles, the opulence seemed to me built on an intangible cloud of finance. I wondered what kind of bank vacuum lay behind the scene, sucking from the natural and human resources of the world to sustain the decadence beyond imagination of LA’s suburbs, foothills and ridge-tops. I concluded something then. The arbitrary financial arrangements, probably no more legitimate than royal lineage, or less usurious than a loan shark, were the only grip the owners had on the victims of their exploitation. Short of militarized enforcement, it would become tenuous at best, and certainly will not be sustainable, economic or otherwise.

An American Socialism?

In the current housing bankruptcy “crisis” which was in fact created by the privately owned Fed through interest rates that reached 1% in 2003 combined with lax oversight of the banks, the bail out now being talked about in Congress will help… no surprise… the banks by and large. It is meant to deceive the public again by using words such as “helping” the homeowners, or “saving” peoples homes. NOTE: When you save a mortgage you save the bank’s payments by insuring they keep coming in. Besides the fact that people don’t own their homes, the banks do!

Regardless, in a socialist system this kind of gross manipulation would never have happened in the first place. And the half honest sensible solution by these charlatans in Congress should be to refi these homes to these homebuyers at the new lesser value. Because the value is lost anyway. And these homes were wildly overvalued by an out of control speculatory financial cabal. Besides, the bundled debt obligations and structured investment vehicles are worthless. Adding misery, the value of these homes will keep crashing. The rub? The banks and Investors made millions off these paper schemes and walked away… and probably paid little or no taxes. And now, the home buyers who were preyed upon by these lenders, owe money on a devalued home that was used only as a commodity by the “gentlemen” on Wall St. to manipulate, through the creation of CDO’s and SIVs? Sure! That’s capitalism. Systemic political and corporate corruption. And it’s going to get worse.

Congress desperately needs this property tax, interest payment, revenue stream to keep flowing to the banks and the states. But the reason this is a problem for Congress of “what is the best poison” to cure this, is that to bail out the home buyer who got screwed, is using tax money to keep receiving tax money. It’s double taxation!! And a zero sum game… besides rewarding the crooks. More deficit spending. But the Fed doesn’t care about homeowners and thusly told Congress as much by introducing Paulson’s new scheme to have the Fed take over the duties of the SEC and oversight of the big investment banks and their financial debauchery and chicanery. To keep the graft and secret deals going. The “dark trades” as they’re called. And spineless Congress cannot protest. They are owned by the Fed. In fact they are linked in responsibility by their repealing of the Glass-Steagall act with Greenspan’s urging (which Clinton didn’t veto) and attaching the Commodities Reauthorization Act attached to an appropriations bill in 2000. Ahhh the rewards for the capitalist elite are sweet indeed. No accountability, no worries, no chance of getting the blame. The yellow press at their beckon call.

Socialism would put all properties under the ownership of the people with all rents going to the citizens public fund and distributed to each social association for necessary services, loans, needs. There is no reason for housing or land to have any kind of increased value over the years. NONE. Ask yourself why your car then, doesn’t appreciate in value? Or your furniture? Real estate has been another way to oppress and exploit people by putting them into massive debt and making them pay banks twice the value of the home over the term of the loan. Besides the fleecing by the middlemen realtors and speculators using homes as commodities,(thus the current death spiral in housing). Have you ever looked at your amortization schedule? On a fixed rate 30 year loan? You pay twice or more of purchase price, if you paid off your loan! And you’re paying the bank first. We are insane for agreeing to this but that’s why the banks are the most powerful sector of capitalism. Which include the privately owned Federal Reserve. Oh you say, I made thousands when the market was good! No, you made the banks richer and more powerful by putting the next person into new debt for 30 years at 1 1/2 to 2 times the mortgage payment. Now your house increasing in value, puts upward pricing pressure on all homes and finally drives them out of reach of buyers. Thus the 1% housing bubble. For every person who “wins” in the capitalist system, 8 people lose (and those who depend on them). Otherwise you wouldn’t have a system where 10% of the population own 85% of the household wealth and property. The trick is to keep you thinking you’re winning when you’re really just up to your neck in debt in this American Casino Land.

Capitalism is a constant barrage of fairy tales and propaganda aimed at deluding the masses into believing there is no other way a social/economic system can be run. And that to be rich (or at least have the opportunity-possibility to be) is the ultimate goal because that is the genuine expression of self freedom and self worth! Or the lie that mercantilism and worker owned production could not work alone… without the corporate structure or Wall St. But the facts on the ground show us the truth, that capitalism is a fascist system designed to concentrate wealth at the top, steal our productive gains, and by doing so, makes those at the top the most powerful, privileged members of a society. It’s Monarchical. A plutocracy. Oligarchs rule. Fascism! Congress, the court system and state/city regulatory systems are subservient in every way to maintaining the fascist construct. Question: Ever taken part in an organization by volunteering to help change one of the many injustices in this country? You know what I’m talking about then. Wall after wall after obstacle after pot hole after bought off politician …all lined up to trip you, slip you and flip you upside down. New rules to increase petition signatures required for public ballots. Electronic vote stealing and manipulation. Redistricting. Third parties crushed. City council and board meetings held during weekdays. Hundreds of fees and licenses required to run business. Lobbyists at every turn. Zoning codes that dis-allow creative housing solutions and energy use. State insurance commissions. Mineral rights sold for pennies on the dollar… On and on and on… Unless of course your organization/church is involved in taking up the slack for capitalisms failures… then you’re a Mother Theresa! What’s that saying? “I work to feed the poor, they call me a saint. I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”

Many people I talk to, on all fronts, are frustrated. And many realize that it is the corporate structure, their power to manipulate policy, to move jobs overseas, encourage wars, and the massive deregulated profit taking and currency manipulation that is at the center core of this American milieu. Besides the fact that no one I talk to has make a thin dime or dollar on Wall St. But the thing I keep running into are differences on how to solve the problem without changing the system drastically. A hypothesis that can be presented is that there is much delusion and neurosis in this land. The idea that we can somehow keep the system we have and make it work for the masses of productive working people, is the delusion as repeatedly, the corrupt one party system consistently proves otherwise. The neurosis is contained within this same idea that is the crux of the delusion. Knowing that something needs to change drastically and on the other hand knowing (by experience or observation) that it is irrational and impossible within the corrupt fascist matrix that will not allow drastic change that is needed. This creates neurosis. The constant tension of this negative psychic entrapment, is energy that has to be released and is finally. Usually negatively in some way. But it could be positive and productive IF there were a real alternative to work toward. Democratic socialism.

Socialists are realists. They are objective creative intelligent humanitarians who know that this delusion and neurosis is not healthy and requires a clean break from the causation. Often I am scoffed at by others for this view. Where? Where would – could this happen? I think that if it’s possible anywhere it would be in a state that seceded from the nation. Vermont’s trying and testing the water. Though even then, there would be no consensus for a socialist form of citizen led, decentralized government. No, until the public is re-educated as to the true intent and purpose of democratic socialism and its platform, and can be persuaded that exploitation of man by man is unacceptable, they will forever bicker and fight among themselves, as children who fight for a place in the lunch line or over possessions. Seemingly without the skills to reassess, re-strategise, and break away from the malignancy present all around us. Socialism takes a deep commitment and concentration to assess the situation on the ground (objectivism) and rationalize, then actualize the alternatives that will then benefit the real producers of capital (us) and replace the owners of the means of production and pushers of propaganda. It’s time to consider socialism as the correct answer to our dilemma.

Death spiral economy

The fascist business model in full view, unapologetic. Unaccountable. The Democrats have no intention of changing it. They have to protect their major donors. Obama is fully backed by Wall Street capitalists. He talks the talk of reform but he cannot and won’t walk the walk. He won’t tell you the real problem is the FED who created this mess. He’s just another black face in a high place. Powerless. Selling the illusion of hope. No substance.

USB bank today declaring more massive losses/write-offs. Muni-bonds and huge retirement funds will soon be reporting major losses. Member of PERA? Watch out! And of course when states start hurting bad, the taxes on these criminals who created this won’t be raised, nor fees increased on the oil companies who’ve raked in massive profits over the last 5 years… rather services and state education funding will be cut dramatically. Adding to the death spiral. Don’t you just love American capitalism? It’s a war/service cheap imports, low wages race to the bottom economy. And the vultures are coming out picking the bones of the unemployed and devalued real estate. Predators and scavengers. That’s the real U.S. economy.

We’ve lost all the gains from our productivity, we could have enjoyed, to these corporations and bankers/financial firms and war arms mfgrs. in their increased profits and paper schemes. Then by job loss, then poverty, our few possessions are lost-sold to the bottom feeders and other desperate folk.

A new American Socialism is needed that will stop war, take back the control of the currency from the Fed, abolish the IRS, abolish the corporate structure, abolish Wall Street and its speculators and commodities traders, and make the banks use social credit with low or no interest loans. Only low admin fees allowed. Then fully fund education through college, provide a national dividend to all citizens, fund a natl. health insurance program and return the means and ownership of production to the workers so that no non-productive parasitical outsider (stockholder) can make a profit from that company. Then turn our economy inward to the benefit of our people first with few exceptions in limited import and exports. And a radical energy transformation to zero point sources and hydrogen. Of course non of this will ever happen. As a famous autistic said: “I’m not a stupid person… Jenny.”

“Not surprisingly, neither in Paulson’s remarks nor in the 214 pages of the plan he released is there any suggestion that Wall Street firms or their top executives be called to account and held legally culpable for the economic and social disaster that has resulted from their reckless and often deceptive, if not outright illegal, policies and actions. US Treasury plan shields Wall Street speculators” -wsws.org

April Fools: The Fox To Guard The Banking Henhouse
– by Dr. Ellen Brown – 2008-03-31

U.S. Treasury Regulatory Reform Proposals: Hapless, Helpless, Hopeless
– by Richard C. Cook – 2008-03-31

New World Order. A Planned World Economy
Mankind at the Turning Point Part 3
– by Brent Jessop – 2008-03-31

Republicans and “Free Market” Zealots Bring Death to America
– by Paul Craig Roberts – 2008-03-30

Economic Cycles and Political Trends in the United States
Part I – by Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay – 2008-03-28

Is an International Financial Conspiracy Driving World Events?
Bankers now control national monetary systems in their entirety.
– by Richard C. Cook – 2008-03-27

The Fed’s Bailout: Whose Money Is It?
– by Richard C. Cook – 2008-03-23

Speculative Onslaught. Crisis of the World Financial System: The Financial Predators had a Ball
Danger of a domino collapse of banks akin to that in Europe in 1931?
– by F. William Engdahl – 2008-02-23

Derivatives – A Potential Financial Tsunami?
– by Daniel Apple, Rick Baugnon -2008-03-21

A New President Should Seize Control of the U.S. Monetary System
– by Richard C. Cook – 2008-03-20

Knowing we are in over our heads

One reason we have governments, for you inquiring civil libertarians, is for guidance. I can certainly think of two matters which might always evade common man’s grasp: nutrition and economics.

In spite of all best efforts to educate a public, we may have to agree that nutrition and economics are too big for the layman to grapple. We elect representatives to Washington to advise our lives about complexities like these.

Take for example the fudgsicle, it’s “low fat” but probably not on the whole going to make you skinnier. By the taste, the fudgsicle is made of sugar. So where does that put it, as obesity causal factors go?

Regulating calorie intake vis-a-vis carbs, electrolytes, supplements, additives, toxins and who knows what, is not a static math problem. It’s about maintaining a buoyant equilibrium as we move our bodies forward in our mortal trajectory. It’s like keeping the steam pressure up on an old locomotive, there was a reason the train drivers were called engineers. A steam engine didn’t start and go like its Lionel Train facsimile, it had to be tended, coaxed and fed lest it a) falter or b) explode.

Not everyone can be an engineer. We can read how-tos, and feel good about taking the levers, but ultimately the pop-guides are written to take us in circles to the next self-help over-simplification.

Likewise, not everyone can understand economic theory. We like to apply our bookkeeping common sense, our coupon-clipping savvy, and Nike GTD ethic to the federal budget: just balance it, but spreading greater prosperity is much more complicated than that. Try conducting even domestic trading with “neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

That’s why we elect administrators, that’s why we make them give big speeches to demonstrate their competence. We know we want smart people to be in charge. You’d think that concern would be intuitive, but we have learned it to be otherwise.

Evidently we need at the very least to be taught in our schools that our leaders must have more than the common sense of our drinking buddies. Our educational system must keep citizens up to speed to appreciate that governance is a demanding task. We don’t need to know the complexities, but we need to know enough to tell buffoons like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity that their homespun drivel is for uneducated morons.

Nobel Prize impostor to speak at CC

Thomas Schelling to speak at Colorado CollegeColorado College, our evolving Neo-Liberal Arts school, has been inviting a slew of globalization advocates to intone on patriarchal economics. The latest, game theory “Cold Warrior” Thomas Schelling, will speak on Thursday, Feb. 21st. Schelling is being lauded as a “Nobel Laureate of Economics.” Except there is no such thing as a Nobel prize for economics.

The “Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in memory of Alfred Nobel” is to the Nobel prize, what air hockey is to hockey. If air hockey was played by chiseling cardsharps.

The would-be Nobel ruse is exposed with regularity, but without traction in the mainstream press. Every year the impostor recipients steadfastly don the stripes and hit the lecture circuit as “laureates.”

The current issue of Adbusters revisits the scheme, and this time even recommends rescinding a number of the fraudulent awards. The most egregious it suggests, which have harmed mankind by encouraging wrong-headed laissez-fair policy, went to Milton Friedman in 1976, Robert Solow in 1987, and Gary Becker in 1992. “Further recalls may be necessary.”

We can only hope Thomas Schelling and his “junk economics,” lobbying as he has against the Kyoto Treaty and for the Copenhagen Consensus, will be next.

Presumably to make amends for inventing dynamite, Alfred Nobel endowed a peace prize in 1907 to be awarded each year in the areas of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace, where such work contributed to the well being of mankind. Nobel made zero provisions for offering an award to economists.

In the late sixties, a cabal of economists contrived to make their own prize, through the Bank of Sweden, “in honor of Alfred Nobel,” presuming to correct Nobel’s shortsightedness, in defiance of his apparent farsightedness. And indeed the only economists which they have honored have been the malevolent World Bank booster variety.

Will economic stimulus avoid recession?

The capitalists system is in meltdown. The apologist candidates won’t tell us what the real problems are because they were asleep at the wheel and have voted in support of and taken part in the corrupt capitalist system. They’re all millionaires!!!! It’s time to start a new economy and new currency, end war, cut the military budget to 1/4 of what it is and dismantle the Fed. …and the parasitical Stock Market gambling casino that robs those who produce goods and services of their bounty.

Will Economic Stimulus Measures Stave Off Recession?
by Richard C. Cook

The 2008 Presidential Election: Concepts Progressives Must Know About Monetary Policy and History

Greenspan’s Dark Legacy Unmasked
by Stephen Lendman

C.H. Douglas: Pioneer of Monetary Reform – A National Dividend and Social Credit. by Richard C. Cook

Sovereign Wealth Funds
www.goldenjackass.com

When America wheezes…

Playbill for THE SNEEZE
“When America sneezes,
Asia catches a cold.”

 
Or so the adage goes. NPR referred to it as a cliche, and canvassed the foreign press for regional varients. The news being, apparently, that the American economy hiccuped or other such trifle.
I cannot help thinking of Chekhov’s
The Death of a Government Official,
adapted for the stage as The Sneeze.

NPR went on: “When the US sneezes, Shanghai catches a cold.” A subset. “When America sneezes, Britain catches a cold.” Mimicry. “When America sneezes, things get feverish in South Africa.” Credited for imagination. The trivialization continued, from: “When America sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold” to “When America sneezes, does the world still catch a cold?” Then NPR asked a financial skeptic to assess the veracity of this cliche. She explained that a sneeze had a generally small radius of effect, and that a handshake was more likely to spread a cold. She was on the right track, wasn’t she? A sneeze is but a trifle.

The net effect of course, was to reiterate, reinforced through repetition, that America has sneezed, and it’s up to others to mind their health. It was a sneeze, that’s all. The light headed, somewhat hazy feeling you are experiencing? Just a sneeze. You’re not faint, you’re not about to collapse into an indefinite convalescence with pneumonia.

When America is bed bound with consumption, there’s no one unaffected to bring her chicken soup. That’s where the medicinal analogy ends. When our economy is out for the count, competitors have their arms raised in the air, ready for the next comer, looking for the next Golden Goose. Business is war. Sun Tsu’s Art of War is after all shelved under Business. If this were a child’s game, it would be King of the Hill, not Doctor.