Archive for May, 2014

Out of the Woods: Bricolage and disaster communism

May 27, 2014

sustainable

This is the conclusion of part III of the Out of the Woods series on “disaster communism,” as hosted on Libcom.  (Parts I and II are also available.)

“What does this mean in plain terms? Simply that while logistics as a whole may well be irredeemably capitalist (as Bernes/Endnotes argue), it is made up of countless components at various scales: ships, trucks and trains; ports, roads, and railways; computers, algorithms and fibre optic cables; atoms, molecules and alloys; and not to forget, human beings. Just because the current organisation of these parts is optimised to the valorisation of capital does not mean there cannot be other configurations with other optimisations. Indeed, the possible configurations are practically infinite. It doesn’t matter too much whether these wholes are considered as ‘totalities’ or ‘assemblages’ so long as this potential for reconfiguration is recognised. There’s no necessary reason a new configuration would need resemble logistics at all.

Most obviously, warehouses trucks and trains can be put to other uses. So can ships — and not just the obvious ones. The current volumes of world trade probably don’t make sense without the exploitation of global wage differentials. But ships can serve other purposes, from moving people, to being scuttled to initiate coral reef formation, to being stripped or melted down and remanufactured into other items altogether.6 Communications infrastructure is self-evidently multipurpose, and even the stock control algorithms may have potential uses if hacked, repurposed, and placed in the public domain.

It is clearly impossible to specify in advance whether trucks will be repurposed to deliver food to the hungry, retrofitted with electric motors, stripped for parts, and/or used as barricades. Disaster communities give us ample reason to believe that local, emergent bricolage can efficiently meet human needs even under the most adverse conditions. But emphasising the nature of things as potentially reconfigurable — and stressing the sufficiency of self-organisation to reconfigure them — also informs the wider problematic of disaster communisation. In this way the question is not ‘to take it over or to abandon it?’ considered as a whole, but how to pull it apart and repurpose its components to new ends: an ecological satisfaction of human needs and not the endless valorisation of capital.”

Sanhati’s “Moment of Clarity” about BJP and Modi

May 27, 2014

protesting

Bengali protestor (@Sanhati)

I am here sharing Saroj Giri’s reflections on the recent electoral victory of the BJP and Modi in India, as written for Sanhati.

“The Modi victory is not a shock since it only reminds and brings to the fore the dominant system in all its social, lived and economic determinations. Why? Since with the Modi victory this dominant social system and these determinations are no longer in the background: they are in power now, hegemonising the political domain. It is as though, to use Ambedkar’s terms, public morality now directly asserts itself in the political domain, hegemonises it. Public morality now colonises constitutional morality […].

Take the BJP election ad ‘Kissey chunenge, Gau Raksha ya Gay Raksha‘ (What will you choose: cow protection or gay protection?). Here gay rights are no longer about gay people and their rights or about a democratic society and its ethos, but about society being internally weakened, about a larger conspiracy against which we must all rise up to defend our core values (defined as ‘gau raksha’)!

This makes the Modi victory a total victory – the prevailing socio-economic domination is now truly reflected in the political hegemony. It is a deep victory. The fractious order is here resolved into the One – everything has come together into one seamless network of power, a kind of a continuum of social-political-economic domination. A continuum of neoliberalism and communalism. We can call it growth-friendly communalism […].

But there is a double reminding at work here. Reminding us of the social determinations that then claim the political domain but also a second reminding: that the political domain, the liberal democratic electoral process itself is inherently skewed towards the dominant interests, towards big capital, towards gau raksha rather than gay raksha. The Modi victory is therefore a moment of clarity […].

You cannot make any real transformation or change through the vote – no matter who wins. It is still relevant to talk about Bhagat Singh’s insight that India needs a social and economic revolution and not just a secular outcome in the next elections!

As we can see, the vote is good enough for the right wing or fascists to come and capture power or to eliminate the social and political gap. The vote works for the right, not for the left. This, if you like, was a key insight of the Naxalbari movement and that is why they called for boycotting elections. Thanks to this, perhaps the Maoist movement is the single large left movement in the country today. Given its extra-parliamentary nature, it is like the reserve army of left revolutionaries, beyond the contingency of electoral defeat or victory, beyond the long arm of a Modi!

Hence we cannot simply fight to get a Congress or the left or seculars back in government. Let us also not harangue with the big media and big corporates and complain about their pro-Modi stance. Let us accept that the present democratic order is inherently skewed against any possibility [of] real social transformation – or else one only indulges in an untruth. Let us reject both Modi and Nehru and revise ‘the idea of India’ from a left-wing perspective instead of defending this status quo.”

Meanwhile, the international ruling-class Economist hails Modi’s accession as helmsman of India.  This raises the important theoretical work done by Herbert Marcuse and many other critical intellectuals to show up the links between liberalism and fascism–as Giri does well for Sanhati in the above.

Economist luvs Modi

In homage to fallen Zapatista “Galeano,” Subcomandante Marcos announces his “death” and the birth of Subcomandante Galeano

May 26, 2014

EZ in LR

BAEZLN assembled at Caracol I (La Realidad), Chiapas, on 24 May (@Espoir Chiapas)

In a characteristically lengthy speech presented in the La Realidad caracol on 24 May before thousands of Zapatista support-bases (BAELZN) and sympathizers in homage to José Luis Solís López (“Galeano”), a BAEZLN who was murdered on 2 May in an attack on La Realidad as prosecuted by members of the Historical Independent Center of Agricultural Workers and Campesinos (CIOAC-H), Zapatista military chief and principal spokesperson Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos announces his “disappearance” and rebirth as Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano.  The comments made by Marcos/Galeano are illuminating as always: he notes the “disappearance” of Marcos as reflecting the current state of the Zapatista movement, which no longer has need for his leadeship.  He argues that rebellion and struggle do not require “leaders, caudillos, messiahs, or saviors”: instead, they only require “a bit of shame, some dignity, and much organization.”  Besides remembering Solís López, Marcos/Galeano mentions several other dissidents and revolutionaries whose lives have been cut short of late by hegemonic power: Juan Vásquez Gómez (San Sebastian Bachajon, Chiapas), Comrade Kuy (Mexico City), Alexis Grigoropoulos (Athens, Greece), Wajih Wajdi al-Ramadi (Ramallah, Occupied Palestine), Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez (Oaxaca), Bety Cariño (Oaxaca), Jyri Jaakkola (Finnish, killed in Oaxaca), and countless undocumented Central American migrants who have been forcibly disappeared in Mexico en route to the U.S., among many others.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Marcos/Galeano also presents a justification of revolutionary violence in his address:

“And I should say this, given that I have requested the authorization of comrade Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés to do so:

Nothing of what we have achieved, whether for good or ill, could have been possible if the armed Zapatista forces for national liberation had not risen up against the bad government by exercising their right to legitimate violence: violence from below against the violence from above.

We are warriors and as such we know what our role is and when our moment has come.”

marcos galeano

Sup Marcos/Galeano

At Left Forum 2014, “Confronting Global Environmental Catastrophe: Anarchist Analyses of Collapse”

May 22, 2014

LF 2014

I will be on a panel with Sky Cohen and John P. Clark at this year’s Left Forum, to be held at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.  It will be taking place on the third day of Left Forum 2014, 1 June, at 3:40pm in room 3.78.  Our discussion is entitled “Confronting Global Environmental Catastrophe: Anarchist Analyses of Collapse.”  An abstract follows:

“Anarchist and anti-authoritarian analyses of the multidimensional crisis being propelled by capital, patriarchy, and the State are greatly relevant to any consideration of the prevailing reality for the Left and planet Earth in 2014 and beyond. At present, the profound crisis of monopoly capitalism is seen reflected in the ecocidal trends it engenders that tend toward its own destruction: nuclear disasters, seemingly ceaseless mineral-extraction operations, the sixth great mass extinction event, and unchecked climate catastrophe. Would it be possible for a revolutionary subject to emerge within this undoubtedly catastrophic hegemonic milieu—and if so, how? In the realm of aesthetics, surrealism promises a shock character to disrupt the operations of the existing life-world—a tradition seen as well in insurrectionary and social anarchist visions. In what way might the force of the traumatic Real of ecological collapse lead to the emergence of a large-scale, self-conscious, highly mobilized movement for liberatory social transformation—or, indeed, tend toward its very antithesis? This conversation among three anarchist thinkers will discuss the depths of the prevailing environmental crisis and examine and critique possible strategies to be considered by anti-authoritarian leftists confronted with this difficult situation.

We will surely be addressing the charge of catastrophism as well as discussing the problems of the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet and the ongoing California drought, among other disconcerting environmental realities, all while framing these issues within a solidly anti-systemic analysis.  Registration (required for participation at LF) can be done here, with online discounts ending on 25 May.  Hope to see you there.

Burn! at the NYC Anarchist Film Festival

May 15, 2014

burn post

I will be screening a shortened version of Gillo Pontecorvo’s epic, radical film Burn! (1969) this Sunday at the New York City Anarchist Film Festival for day two of the Eighth Annual NYC Anarchist Bookfair.  A “sequel” of sorts to Pontecorvo’s 1966 Battle of Algiers, Burn! stars Marlon Brando as a British agent sent to a fictional Caribbean island colonized by the Portuguese (“Queimada”) who foments a slave insurrection against the colonial masters only to have Queimada’s white plantation-owner class declare formal independence on terms favorable to the British Crown.  Brando’s character, Sir William Walker, is then called back to the island ten years later to put down a revolution led by the same ex-slave he originally had used to displace the Portuguese from rule.  The film clearly was an allegory for the Vietnam War, and it bears the strong imprint of Frantz Fanon’s writings on decolonization, in addition to recalling the course of the Haitian Revolution–with the difference that Napoleon’s failed attempt to recolonize the republic and enslave its citizens succeeds in this version.  Moreover, Pontecorvo’s work has much to say about the present environmental crisis, for Queimada (“Burnt”) had originally been entirely burnt down by the Portuguese in an attempt to eradicate the resistance of the island’s indigenous inhabitants.  In this sense, as John Bellamy Foster writes cogentlyBurn! can also be taken as an extended metaphor for global warming, given that this increasingly fatal tendency bears its origins and is undoubtedly perpetuated and exacerbated by the totalitarian need of the capitalist class to hold onto power.  

As Adorno notes, “The bourgeoisie live on like specters threatening doom.”

Sanhati Collective’s Statement “On Upcoming General Elections” in India

May 7, 2014

 police_attack

Last month, the radical Bengali collective Sanhati published a profound reflection on the current election cycle in India, which threatens to bring fundamentalist Gujarati Chief Minister Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to power as the country’s new Prime Minister.  Modi is a proud member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a notorious right-wing paramilitary organization.  Sanhati argues that, were the BJP to come to replace the dominant Congress Party at the national level this year, such a change in the Indian State would signal the beginning of a marked intensification of the brutal liberalization policies initiated by Congress during Rajiv Gandhi’s administration (1985-1991).  As the collective observes,

“RSS-BJP and Modi have been making huge sound and fury about “nationalism”. Their proven brand of “nationalism” means workers would work silently for fifteen hours a day at low wages so that big corporates would make super profit and the “nation’s” wealth would go up; their brand of “nationalism” means that the poor peasants and tribals would be evicted from their homes so that big dams can provide water to the industrial plants of Tata, Suzuki etc.; their brand of “nationalism” means that the frequent massacres of the people of Kashmir by the Indian army should be clapped at and cheered as “patriotic heroism” of the soldiers. These features are recognized as classic indicators of Fascism.”

Sanhati notes that, for the masses of India, no hope can be found in elections: “the parliamentary political parties have become a vehicle of corporate/mafia/landed elites’ interest.”  These elections, in Sanhati’s analysis, serve merely as adornment for the effective hegemony exercised by the national and transnational oligarchy over the peoples of India.  In particular, they distract greatly from the fact that

“a substantial part of India today is under military occupation [and that,] in fact, state machineries are heavily clamping down on all forms of dissent. Apart from the continuing Indian military occupation of Kashmir and many North-Eastern states for decades, armed forces have been let loose in large parts of central India to crush peoples’ struggle against national and multinational corporations. Killing, fake encounters, rape by the police and armed forces have become daily occurrence in these areas. Thousands of people are languishing in jail under false cases. Not only armed resistance, even completely unarmed struggles are being crushed by the state. Anti land-acquisition movements, anti-nuclear movements, resistance against slum eviction, trade union activities, movements for environment protection, movements for women’s rights, anti-caste atrocities movements –all kinds of possible democratic challenge to the current state power have met the same fate.”

Despite this discouraging context faced by the oppressed of India, Sanhati still holds out the possibility that “a real change is still achievable. Only a united struggle of all the working people across caste, religion and gender can pull India out of this terrible situation. It is not sufficient to vent our anger by voting against the incumbent in the next election – it will change nothing – let us get united in a struggle for a real change of the system.”

Recommended Readings for May Day 2014

May 1, 2014

capitalismo

As in 2013, I would on the occasion of International Workers’ Day 2014 like to provide a number of links to particularly illuminating and challenging online articles that have been published of late.  The topics covered by the important investigations done by the writers of these pieces range from climate change to militarism, pollution, migration and migrant labor, non-human animals, astronomy, empire, resistance, and cooptation.  What is more, a few specific pieces dealing with the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine and Venezuela are included.

Best regards for this May 1st.

In solidarity

 

Sarah Boseley, WHO calls for urgent action to preserve power of antibiotics and make new ones.  Guardian, 30 April 2014.

Jessica Aldred, Human litter found in Europe’s deepest ocean depths.  Guardian, 30 April 2014.

Seamus Milne, It’s not Russia that’s pushed Ukraine to the brink of war.  Guardian, 30 April 2014.

John Vidal, Yasuni campaigners claim oil drilling petition results are being manipulated.  Guardian, 30 April 2014.

Tom Peters, Wall Street Journal outlines US military options against China.  World Socialist Web Site, 30 April 2014.

Julian Borger, Risk of nuclear accidents is rising, says report on near-misses.  Guardian, 29 April 2014.

Suzanne Goldenberg, Almost half of Americans live with unhealthy levels of air pollution.  Guardian, 29 April 2014.

Jeremy Brecher, The Working-Class Mini-Revolts of the Twenty-First Century.  Counterpunch, 28 April 2014.

Associated Press, Philippines agrees to 10-year pact allowing US military presence.  Guardian, 27 April 2014.

Patrick Martin, US sends Apache attack helicopters to Egyptian junta.  World Socialist Web Site, 25 April 2014.

Andre Vltchek, Unite Against Imperialism!  Counterpunch, 25 April 2014.

Benjamin Dangl, The Politics of Pachamama.  Counterpunch, 25 April 2014.

Carlos Zorrilla, The Struggle Over Sumak Kawsay in Ecuador.  Upside Down World, 22 April 2014.

Out of the Woods, Après moi le déluge! Fossil fuel abolitionism and the carbon bubble, part II.  Libcom, 21 April 2014.

Pablo Dávalos (trans. Danica Jorden), Latin America-Economic Socialism in the 21st Century: Neoliberalism “Pure and Simple.”  Upside Down World, 15 April 2014.

Elliot Sperberg, Climate Change as Crime Against Humanity.  Counterpunch, 15 April 2014.

Nina Lakhani, Surge in deaths of environmental activists over past decade, report finds.  Guardian, 15 April 2014.

Suzanne Goldenberg, UN: rate of emissions growth nearly doubled in first decade of 21st century.  Guardian, 11 April 2014.

Lizzy Davies, Italian intellectuals up in arms over hotel named after Antonio Gramsci.  Guardian, 10 April 2014.

Dan Roberts, White House defends soaring number of deportations for minor crimes.  Guardian, 7 April 2014.

Eric Holthaus, Why This Year’s El Niño Could Grow Into a Monster.  Mother Jones, 7 April 2014.

Noam Chomsky, The Prospects for Survival.  Truthout, 1 April 2014.

Naufrago, Opinión: Beware of the Anarchist Police.  Periódico El Libertario, 29 March 2014 (en Castellano).

Cory Morningstar, McKibben: Red, White, Blue and Gold(man Sachs).  Counterpunch, 28 March 2014.

Free From Harm Staff Writers, Eating Animals: Addressing Our Most Common Justifications.  Free From Harm, 27 March 2014.

Ian Sample, Dwarf planet discovery hints at hidden Super Earth in solar system.  Guardian, 26 March 2014.

Steve Early, Lettuce Picking and Left-Wing Organizing.  Counterpunch, 25 March 2014.

Jeffrey St. Clair, Camus in the Time of Drones.  Counterpunch, 21 March 2014.

Jon Hochschartner, The Vegetarian Communard.  Counterpunch, 19 March 2014.

Eric Zuesse, One Quarter of US Greenhouse Gases Come From Just 43 Companies.  Truthout (Buzzflash), 15 March 2014.

Suren Moodliar, No Middle Road on Venezuela.  Counterpunch, 14 March 2014.

Cory Morningstar, 350.org’s Friends on Wall Street.  Counterpunch, 14 March 2014.

Mark Karlin, Developed Nations Give Up on Stopping Climate Change, Turn to Mitigating Impact, Largely Abandoning Third World.  Truthout, 12 March 2014.

Douglas Valentine, Glenn Greenwald and the Myth of Income Inequality.  Counterpunch, 3 March 2014.

Alyce Santoro, Liberty, Equality, Geography: An Interview with John P. Clark on the Revolutionary Eco-Anarchism of Elisee Reclus.  Truthout, 4 March 2014.

Northwest Public Radio, How Farmworkers Experience A Warming Climate.  Oregon Public Broadcast, 27 September 2013.