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Capital Blight - The Ghosts of Ayn Rand

By x344534, May 25, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

My path to green syndicalism was anything but a straight line. I was initially ignorant of anarchism and libertarian socialism, because what gets labeled "libertarian" in the United States of America is actually anything but anarchist or libertarian, but instead is the most extreme and dogmatic brand of capitalism.

Let's be absolutely clear here. Capitalism cannot survive without the state. It takes a massive, centralized, armed-to-the-teeth, authoritarian government to enforce business contracts, "private property" rights, virtual "intellectual property" rights (the idea that ideas can be owned and controlled), rent, usury, and the notion that corporations are individual people. Nobody in their right mind would voluntarily consent to a system of institutionalized inequality which results in starvation, homelessness, disease, squalor, wage slavery, sexism, racism, and ecological degradation if they had the freedom (yes, you heard me correctly, I said "FREEDOM!" that ever ubiquitous buzzword that capitalist ideologues cast so effortlessly about in defense of their way of life which is anything but free to those forced into subservience under its dictates) to choose.

What initially blocked my path to real libertarianism, meaning libertarian socialism was the twisted demented pretzel logic of the so called "libertarian" capitalists in their polysyllabic but ultimately empty peonage to their Laissez-faire capitalist religion.

One individual in particular, Bryan Caplan--who lived in the dorm room next to mine at the (state-funded) University of California at Berkeley--even tried to "convert" me to his faith by handing me a reading list if his holy prophets: Ludwig Von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Henry Hazlitt, F. A. Hayak, Robert Nozick, and--of course--Ayn Rand.

Naturally, I didn't bite. I had a good deal of exposure to the demented nonsense of Rand already, and any philosophy or economic theory that supported this crazy dingbat's contention that there's any "virtue" in selfishness or that big corporate business is "a persecuted minority" couldn't have anything useful to say to me.

Thanks to a combination of my intelligence, inquisitiveness, stubbornness, and some plain good luck, I found thinkers and philosophers who offered clues to real libertarian ideas. These included Noam Chomsky, Murray Bookchin, Vandana Shiva, Rudolf Rocker, Christipher Alexander, bell hooks, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Neil Peart (yes, that's correct, the drummer and lyricist of Rush), Chuck D (of Public Enemy), Graham Purchase, John Bellamy Foster, Carl Sagan, William Least Heat Moon, Bakunin, Marx, Engels, and Kropotkin (among others). Then, I met Judi Bari.

Judi Bari clarified matters for me greatly and showed me how one could be a radical environmentalist and an advocate for class struggle at the same time. Plus, she kept mentioning this group called, "the IWW."

I had no idea who the IWW was or what it stood for. For all I knew they were the International Socialist Organization (whom I was well acquainted with, but not at all interested in joining). Then, one day when seeking out a workers' collective to try and join as an alternative to the horribly depressing and soul killing capitalist retail job I had managed to get after graduating from that fabled weapons laboratory we call a "public university", a spokesperson from a network of such shops clued me in to what the IWW was and is.

I had heard Noam Chomsky (who would later join the IWW himself) describe himself as an "anarcho syndicalist" and a "libertarian socialist", but never fully understood what those terms meant or what an economy and political system organized around those ideas would look like. The IWW revealed to me how that would work in practice.

And, thanks to the influence of Judi Bari and Earth First!, the IWW was (and is) in many ways the first organization to promote green syndicalist ideas in practice (though the IWW is not limited to those concepts).

Over the following years, I came to realize how easy it was to prove just how flawed the thinking of so-called "libertarian" capitalists actually are, and really all I need to have done was read the following passage from the Preamble to the IWW Constitution:

The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.

As time passed and I gained life-experience I saw that capitalism and freedom are actually incompatible. Just to be sure, I read anarchist and socialist literature voraciously and the knowledge that I gained from doing so validated my experiences. My deepening understanding of the interconnectedness of the environment further showed me the flawed pseudoscience that the Ludwig Von Mises "Austrian" school of economics actually is, and I came to realize that ever more fully as I wrote my own book about the green syndicalist organizing efforts of Judi Bari.

As for Caplan, I assumed he'd passed into obscurity (after all, disciples of Ayn Rand are a dime a dozen. The capitalist class spares few expenses in funding ministries of propaganda to promote itself, and said ideologues serve that function all too effectively, but there's nothing particularly noteworthy about most of them). In this particular case, I was mistaken.

Energy Crisis and Social Crisis

By Miquel Amorós - libcom.org, March 13, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Every sector of the economy depends on it: energy of one kind or another. Energy makes the world go round and the power that rules the world is linked to the way energy is produced and consumed. The capitalist regime did not really gain momentum until the steam engine and the energy produced by the combustion of coal could be harnessed to industry. The initial dependence on coal was the cause of the vast size and appalling filth of the first industrial factories and cities; as the basis of the productive process, this dependence was responsible for the centralization of the entire system and the intensive exploitation of labor power. The internal combustion engine and the turbine put an end to the rule of coal, but not to the basic characteristics of society that had been created by it. Although the generalized use of electricity and gasoline made production more flexible and extended the range of consumption, facilitating the decentralization of factory production and the unlimited geographical expansion of the cities, social development continued to proceed within the framework that had been established by “carboniferous” capitalism: not only was the model of concentrated and hierarchical power maintained, but it was further reinforced by the new technologies. The refinement of machine production only reduced the role of the workers in the productive process, intensified exploitation and stabilized the class order. The new technologies consolidated class society and reinforced the foundations of domination.

Petroleum and electricity allowed productive activities to be relocated far from primary energy sources, that is, they capitalized the world. The extreme separation between the production and consumption of energy made transport the main strategic factor and at the same time the weak link of the system. Any serious disruption in the energy supply would cause all of society to collapse very quickly. Capitalism cannot exist without an extremely robust privatized distribution network to connect energy sources, which are under the control of financial enterprises or state-based mafias, with their consumer hostages. The expropriation of energy resources is a most instructive characteristic of social inequality: the proletarian from this perspective is the person who does not have unrestricted access to free energy. This explains why the ruling class strives to maintain the private ownership of energy resources and thus to keep the population in the most complete dependence. By fighting against the socialization of energy resources, locally controlled power generation and distribution networks and consumption, the ruling class is simply defending its social status.

Without cheap, inexhaustible and easily accessible energy, industrial society cannot continue to grow. The ruling class became aware of this “energy reality” when oil prices spiked after the creation of OPEC in 1973. The response was two-pronged: on the one hand, massive investments in nuclear power; on the other, the arms race of the great powers that was required by geopolitics, that is, the art of controlling of the world’s main oil and gas fields. The militarization of the world became indispensable for the system’s survival. This was a deliberate choice: it was the only way that power and servitude could be maintained.

Who's Afraid of Ruins?

Out of the Woods - libcom.org, February 18, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Capitalism is locking-in climate change for centuries, but in the process, making radical social change more realistic than tinkering around the edges.

I : Ruins

There is an oft-quoted passage from the Spanish anarchist militant Buenaventura Durruti. Many readers will know it by heart. It reads:

It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and in America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones! We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. [...] That world is growing in this minute.

Durruti's quote brims with the optimism of a social revolution in full-flow. The insurgent proletariat and peasantry had met an attempted military coup in the streets, and in response launched a profound social revolution. Land and workplaces were seized and reorganised along collectivised lines, moving as fast as possible towards libertarian communism.

Three months later, Durruti was dead. The revolution was not far behind. Starved of arms and isolated, the movement stalled. Uneasy collaboration with the republican forces put the revolution on hold. Stalinism and the remnants of the republican state put it into reverse. And with the revolution dead and nothing left to fight for, Franco's forces swept the remnants into prisons and mass graves. Durruti's optimism gave way to fascism, and the unparalleled destruction of the Second World War.

Eight years, seven months, and twenty-six days after Durruti's death, the ruins got a lot scarier. The Trinity test, the world's first atomic bomb, exploded with a yield of 20 kilotons in the desert of New Mexico. Soon after, the Japanese cities of Hiroshima, then Nagasaki, were reduced to ruins in an instant. The mass destruction of World War II could now be visited on cities in a single warhead. The spectre of mutually assured destruction would dominate the remainder of the twentieth century, as warhead yields grew and delivery mechanisms proliferated, with long-range jet bombers, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched nuclear weapons.

The Crisis Factory: the Roots of the Global Ecological Crisis

From Reykjavik to Rio, from Woolies to Whittards, the fall out from the economic downturn reverberates like a Mexican wave around virtually every inhabited corner of the globe. But this crisis, just as surely as it began, will eventually peter out – but not before wreaking misery and destitution upon millions. Alongside this latest recession is the environmental crisis, with far more irretrievable consequences, and a severity we are now only just waking up to.

Capital Blight: a Green-Syndicalist Responds to David Walters "Socialist" Defense of Nuclear Energy

By x344543 - November 22, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

I read with interest David Walters's recent article, "A Socialist Defends Nuclear Energy, wondering what I would find. I soon discovered there was very little credible "defense" and for that matter, not much "socialism" (other than the citation of various Marxist quotations that Marx and Engels would have bristled at given their context here) in it. In fact, it read to me as a typical capitalist defense of its standard operations wrapped in a rather threadbare and tattered red flag.

Michael Friedman has thoroughly debunked Walters's claims about the "safety" of (conventional) nuclear (fission) energy and the "ease" at dealing with the nuclear waste in his own piece so there is no utility in elaborating further on that matter. It is my intention to address the issues that Friedman didn't cover.

To begin with, if David Walters is so willing to overlook peer reviewed science and factual evidence that clearly shows that conventional nuclear fission energy is unsafe and the problem of nuclear waste not easily handled, he may as well also argue in favor of thorium based breeder reactors, nuclear fusion power, fracking, tar sands, "clean" coal, or even hydrogen fuel cells which are equally questionable technologies (and please note that I am not arguing in favor of any of these things here, though I think hydrogen fuel cells are worth a look at least).

Additionally, Walters lumps in all greens into a single, monolithic group, dominated by primitivism and Malthusianism. This is as inaccurate as arguing that all communists take their marching orders from Stalin. This is the rhetoric one expects to hear from the most reactionary elements of the capitalist class's punditocracy rather than an informed anti-capitalist. To me this is a clear indication that his entire argument is mere propaganda and has very little substance.

Conspiracy Behind Conspiracy Theories

By Burkely Herrmann - Interesting Blogger, November 5, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

A ‘conspiracy’ is a bad thing. It can be, depending on who is actually involved, seditious, evil, treasonous, fraudulent and, perhaps least of all, illegal. It implies a well-coordinated plot to manipulate circumstances for the betterment of an elite few while victimizing the innocent. Some conspiracies are small scale. Like the owner of a cockroach infested restaurant bribing a health inspector to look the other way. Some actual conspiracies are much grander.

In the 1970′s, President Richard Nixon conspired to keep the truth about Watergate a secret. Back in 1932 in Tuskegee, Alabama, the federal government and medical personnel conspired to keep black men with syphilis away from cures, so that they could be studied as they slowly died. The ‘study’ continued for about 40 years. For generations, tobacco companies conspired to keep the serious health risks of cigarettes away from the public.

The history of the United States is full of corporations conspiring to fix prices, eliminate competition and control government and politicians for their own benefit. Real-estate agents have conspired to keep blacks out of ‘white’ neighborhoods. Polluters have conspired to hide from their acts, allowing communities to suffer the ill effects of their negligence. Automobile manufacturers have conspired to keep dangerous equipment on our roads.

These were real and horrible conspiracies. Surely, some Conspiracy Theories are eventually proven to be actual conspiracies. No one leading a conspiracy wants to be found out. Likewise, no one (me!) wants to claim a conspiracy is false and eventually be proven foolishly incorrect. So I’ll avoid confronting specific Conspiracy Theories and focus more on the overall.

Some unproven conspiracies are much easier to believe than others. Was President John F Kennedy killed by a sniper armed with a magic rifle loaded with free-thinking bullets? And some are so bizarre that they are beyond belief. Could the government actually be secretly working with alien lizard beasts?

While some Conspiracy Theories would make excellent science fiction plots (or, actually, really bad science fiction plots), many are far from benign. Conspiracy Theories were used by Hitler and the Nazis to enslave and exterminate the Jews. In the 1950′s, Senator Joseph McCarthy invented a Conspiracy Theory that disloyal communists had infiltrated the highest levels of government and society and used the ensuing panic to trash many a person’s career.

Conspiracy Theories are often used to gain political or financial power. People take advantage of existing prejudices and suspicions to compose intricate plots that appeal to some other people who lack the knowledge and reason to confront them effectively. The result of this is that many people are misled into shifting the blame for real problems from the actual source to imaginary enemies. This leads to a lot of time, energy and intellect being wasted that would be better spent on actually improving our communities and places of work.

These days, bred by the events of 9-11, there is a rash of Conspiracy Theories. In the beginning, the Conspiracy Theories about 9-11 being a plot by the Bush administration to make war against their enemies and make money for the friends were promoted by, mainly, people on the left. And the behavior of the radical Bush/Cheney administration lent a lot of evidence to prop the thinking up to the point that it has become an industry. Many people who began their belief in Conspiracy Theories with 9-11, now adhere to many more Conspiracy Theories. The original idea that 9-11 was planned by Bush/Cheney has often been morphed into a theory that a world-wide cabal of evil-doers (led by communists, or Jews, or pod people, whoever) is plotting global dictatorship. Everything from financial crisis to new roads to comments made by otherwise obscure sources are fit into the theory until believers become so cultishly caught up in the whole thing that they can no longer relate to non-believers. What generally began as a left-wing suspicion, has been turned into right-wing propaganda.

So, how the fuck did this happen?

Capital Blight - What is it?

By x344543 - November 19, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

I suppose I should explain why I chose the name "Capital Blight" for my column-blog-thingy.

To begin with it's a play on words, a sort of send up if the term "capital flight" which is the process by which capitalists withdraw their capital (equipment, physical plants, investments, etc.) in a particular community or region. Their reasons for doing so include the quest for cheaper labor, lower taxes and tariffs, and more lax regulations. Sometimes capital flight occurs after the extraction of locally available resources peak or become depleted. Other times advances in technology make hitherto impractical relocations in production more feasible.

Regardless of the cause, the results of capital flight tend to negatively impact the communities which have been abandoned by the capitalists, particularly in the loss of jobs (both direct and residual) and tax revenue. It also shakes up political and social relations in such places, as much of these are influenced by the suddenly missing elephant in the room.

The less diverse and resilient the economy of said community, the more devastating the short term damage can be. While capital flight can literally spell doom for small rural hamlets, even big cities can be broken by it. This partially explains the desperation experienced throughout what is known as America's "rust belt ".

The Obama Dirty Energy Doctrine - Part 1: A Petroleum-Based National Security Policy

By Burkely Herrman - Interesting Blogger, November 3, 2013

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Already, I am mad as hell, and can’t take it anymore. Then, the President of my home country goes before the UN, and tells them that we are an imperialist country. In this speech, part of what outlined the new Obama Doctrine, noted the following American policy for the rest of his 3 years in office:

“…let me take this opportunity to outline what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presiden[cy]…The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region…We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy. We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people….when it’s necessary, defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action. And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction…we’ll continue to promote democracy and human rights and open markets because we believe these practices achieve peace and prosperity…these objectives are best achieved when we partner with the international community and with the countries and peoples of the region…Now, the notion of American empire may be useful propaganda, but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.”(1)

Dealing in Doubt: The Climate Denial Machine Vs Climate Science

By Greenpeace - September 2013

This report describes organized attacks on climate science, scientists and scientific institutions like the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC), that have gone on for more than 20 years. It sets out some of the key moments in this campaign of climate denial started by the fossil fuel industry, and traces them to their sources.

U.S. and Chinese Imperialism in the Sudans

By Burkely Herrman - September 27, 2013, (used by permission)

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The black gooey substance, oil, that comes out of the ground always seems to have broad geopolitical implications. The U.S. attack on Syria was partly about oil and natural gas, but also about Syria’s relationship to Iran and its oil and gas.[1][2] How does this play into South Sudan?

An article published in Chron on August 28th begins to tell this story: “President Barack Obama says he’s selected his outgoing ambassador to Ethiopia to be the U.S. special envoy to Sudan and South Sudan. Obama says Donald Booth will lead U.S. efforts to implement security agreements the two countries agreed to last year, including disputes over borders and oil. South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011, but tensions between the countries remain high, especially over their intertwined oil industries.”[3] This openness surprised me, so I continued to do a bit more digging, finding that both America and China had imperial aims in South Sudan.

Starting on the White House website I found a number of results. One said that Ambassador Booth will “advance U.S. interests…including ensuring the uninterrupted flow of oil.”[4] As I continued to search, the results just kept coming. A statement issued by the White House Press Secretary on an agreement between South Sudan and Sudan said the following: “I welcome the announcement by the African Union High-Level Implementation Panel of an agreement between Sudan and South Sudan on oil revenue. This agreement opens the door to a future of greater prosperity for the people of both countries.”[5] Around the same time, this development was noted in a readout of a call to the austerity-friendly President of Spain.[6] It seemed like the posts connecting oil to South Sudan kept coming: a post in September 2012 described then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to South Sudan to discuss “security, oil and economic opportunity,”[7] another was a readout of a call with the President of South Sudan in which Obama “emphasized the importance of South Sudan and Sudan reaching an agreement on oil,”[8] how the spokesperson of the National Security Council urges that both Sudans make an agreement on oil[9] and a statement from the White House Press Secretary saying that the peace agreement between the two countries has provisions to share “significant portions of Sudan’s oil wealth between north and south.”[10] Then there’s a fact sheet supporting South Sudan highlighting that “agencies across the United States government have examined the tools they can bring to bear to propel development and investment in South Sudan…to ongoing support to assist the government of South Sudan to manage its oil sector transparently and take steps towards joining the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.”[11] One of the most revealing is a joint statement by the US and South Sudanese governments in December 2011, noting that:

“The conference focused on several important themes central to this goal: responsible management of oil revenue and natural resources…In addition, participants discussed specific investment opportunities in sectors such as oil and renewable energy, information technology, agriculture, transportation infrastructure, clean water and sanitation, capacity building services, and financial services. South Sudan proposed and participants agreed that investments, international support and development assistance will be linked to national priorities.”[12]

One must ask, what all of this talk about oil is really about anyway and its what I looked into next. The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) writes on a page about Sudan and South Sudan noting the background of the problems over oil, noting that most of the oil producing areas are “near or extend across the de facto border between Sudan and South Sudan” but that after South Sudan became independent over two years ago in July 2013, South Sudan “gained control over most of the oil production but…remain[ed] dependent on Sudan because it must use Sudan’s export pipelines and processing facilities.”[13] The EIA continues, noting that after 15 months of on and off negotiations, “South Sudan restarted oil production in April 2013” but that “several unresolved issues remain and production may be curtailed again in the future,” problems which were confirmed by the New York Times, All Africa, AP and BBC.[14] Oil is so important to the governments of South Sudan and Sudan: “oil represented around 57 percent of Sudan’s total government revenue and around 78 percent of export earnings in 2011, while it represented around 98 percent of total government revenues for South Sudan in 2011.” That’s pretty important, considering both countries have over 5 billion in proven crude oil reserves with 70% of them residing in South Sudan. That’s not all, but there are also “natural gas…proven reserves of 3 trillion cubic feet” in the two countries as well. The EIA also lists the major oil companies that have a stake in the two countries: “International oil companies…primarily from Asia, dominate the oil sectors in both countries. They are led by CNPC, India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and Malaysia’s Petronas.” As a result, its no surprise that “China is the leading export destination for crude oil from Sudan and South Sudan.” There also supposedly a pipeline that “would reduce South Sudan’s reliance on Sudan, but the pipeline’s construction could take at least two years.”

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