Monday, 21 December 2015

3 things about writing and 7 of the best articles on the internet

Things I see

We're all Facebook pundits now, offering our wisdom and commentary on world events as they scroll vertically past our eyes. Some days it's habit that guides our fingers to the keys and taps out a message for the masses, some days it's the weird assumption that people will be waiting to see how we have reacted to the latest outrage that has us racing to reassure them with an update.

On my best days I have a more realistic view on the whole thing; an activity that costs nothing but the time it takes to regurgitate a few sentences, and can be done by anyone with an internet connection and a Facebook account (or if they invested five minutes more, a blog), is not usually going to have the impact on the world that the tone of our posts suggests it was expected to.

So how do we write the unusual article or post that establishes a new idea or a new way of looking at things?

I want to write something huge. Something that forces people who don't agree with me to re-think in fear of looking stubborn and foolish for continuing to repeat what they used to say unreformed. You do too. And we know articles and posts like that are out there, screwed up £50 notes camouflaged against the huge pile of rubbish. Not always very well written (in the boring sense of what that means) but so forceful and so persuasive as to go down as instant classics.

* Links to a few of mine at the end.

Orwell cleans up

In 1946 George Orwell wrote this essay Politics and the English Language in which he sprayed his post-war bleach onto the windows of the English language and tried to wipe away the mold and grime. He invited the clarity of the light of day to beam in; everyday words to wash away the slime of pretentious bullshit, meaningful real-life imagery to replace crusty metaphors and a defiantly active tone, implicating the writer in what is being said shoving aside the weak passive voice of the detached observer.


1. Metaphors are good but if you want them to work people need to understand them and think about them for a moment. That means you can't use old ones where the meaning has become irrelevant for people's everyday life and there is no point in using ones where they've just become a phrase that no one has to think about anymore. If you're writing it and you realise you're just using a popular phrase delete it and come up with your own one.

2. Stop sounding like a pretentious dick. In my opinion you should minimize Latin based words, they entered English through the Norman language. English is actually two languages. Notice how there are two words for almost everything, help/ assist, welcome/reception, buy/purchase etc. etc. other languages don't have that. The one that sounds a little bit colder, more precise but also more detached, that is the Latin based one. The difference between a "hearty welcome" and a "cordial reception" is obvious, the first makes me think of beer and fire, the second makes me think of cold marble and wine. The working class still use mostly Germanic words but we've become bilingual, we can understand the upper class' Anglo-Norman and we can fake it a bit in their company but it's not how we naturally talk. Unfortunately left-wing academics and writers have embraced upper-class ways of talking and writing in an effort to be taken seriously which alienates the rest of us. I try not to do it and I encourage you to do the same. If you get stuck just type etymology + 'the word' into Google and it tells you where it came from. There is a rather eccentric website where they write in 'anglish' (only Germanic root English words), I'm not interested in doing that but when you read their stuff it's surprising how warm and immediate it feels (Google Anglish). There is nothing inherently more scientific or precise or academic about Latin words, the idea that there is, is 100% classist.

3. Stop using jargon for every article/ post. If you only learnt the word/phrase once you learnt about the political movement then it's jargon. You probably need jargon to write in-depth theory which is intended to be read by other insiders but it just signals to everyone else that they should keep scrolling or click the next link because your stuff isn't really for them.

Articles which I consider true classics which changed the way I think and get me coming back for a re-read:

Your Politics are as boring as Fuck - Nadia C

Speaks for itself. Stopped me from sinking too far into a swamp that would have been hard to claw my way back out of.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs - David Graeber

Pretty much speaks for itself. That thing where you know you could fit the actual work you do into half the day, and everyone else knows it, even the boss probably knows it. One of the first articles that really got me thinking critically about capitalism.

The Iron Fist behind the Invisible Hand - Kevin Carson

There is no free market, whether you wish there was one or not is irrelevant, just in case you didn't get the telegraph, there is no free market. The best short(ish) piece that I have ever read on this subject.

Revolution and American Indians - (transcript of a speech) Russell Means

Marxism, and even anarchism, are European. It made me realise that they are the theories and practice of Europeans and whilst everyone is very much welcome to join in we shouldn't impose them on people from other cultures who often have their own ways of resisting domination.

Caring too much. That's the curse of the working classes - David Graeber

So well written it's almost beautiful in places, transformed my view of the working class from something I was technically part of but tried to distance myself from a bit (you know, stuff like refusing to watch sports on TV because it's "bread and circus for the masses") to something I wanted to embrace.

Anarchism's Ungovernability, and What it Means to Be a Mutualist - Shawn P Wilbur

So good. I'm just going to quote my favorite line: "As an Ideal, Anarchism runs on ahead of us as we chase it, constantly revealing greater freedom and unchallenged forms of authority, provided we pay close attention". This post keeps reminding me not to get too complacent, or to dig a trench around an idea and spend years trying to defend it.

The Great Forgetting - Daniel Quinn

Started a line of thought in my head that I still haven't fully worked out. Something to do with meta-narratives, spirituality, eschatology, Christianity and anarchism. When I've finished it will probably be something that really helps me understand the world but will simply confuse and annoy other people.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Maoist-anarchism, you're going to hate this (or love it, or be confused by it)

I recently had an idea which I realised, to my delight, would piss just about everyone off. Why not combine Maoism with Anarchism?

What a disgraceful thing to think!

But let me tell you the origins of this sick and perverse thought and maybe you will choose to spare me yet:

I want Mao
What is Maoism?

Chairman Mao is mainly remembered for his unmatched death count. The 20th century wasn't shy of a brutal dictator but Mao is said to have taken the biscuit with up to 70 million deaths attributed to his actions at the helm of China's Communist Party between 1945 and 1976. Whilst this may be a bit sad the real tragedy was that somewhere, drowned in all the rivers of blood, we lost the fact that Mao was also a great thinker.

So what is Maoism? As with so many things I launch into authoritative rants about I actually know very little. I newly discovered it online, read a few articles, managed to understand them and BOOM I'm ready to dive into arguments, make witty comments and 'yea verily' I'm ready to write blogs about it. Such is our custom.

Anyway, all qualifiers out the way, Maoism has a very interesting explanation for why the first world working class became more conservative and less revolutionary as time went by and why more and more the idea of any kind of a revolution breaking out in the first world is simply unrealistic.

Karl Marx believed that a socialist revolution was almost inevitable because workers were paid less than the full value of their labour, eventually they wouldn't stand for being impoverished and ordered around by the capitalist class and would rise up and overthrow them. Lenin accepted the theory relatively untainted but Mao altered it. His specifically 'third-worldist' communism distinguished between first world workers who were actually paid more than the product of their labour and third world ones who were the real global proletariat. But how could first world workers be paid more than the product of their labour?

Because the surplus extracted from the great army of 'majority world' labourers is enough to enrich the western bosses with enough left over for them to throw some crumbs to their workers at home (read about neo-colonialism for some clues as to how). This stabilises the system and keeps the people of nations like the USA, Western Europe, Australia, Japan etc. invested in global capitalism, stabilising the system with a relatively large big bulky class of people who have an interest in keeping those below them down. This is controversially known as the labour aristocracy.

In my opinion there is truth to this and value in understanding it, we also need to know where any nuances are and what it means for us (if us is a first world anarchist like me!).

Why there is some truth to it:

It actually rests on foundations that aren't all that controversial. Imagine a millionaire CEO of a major business, a wage worker who is earning 500 times what the cleaners are getting per hour (or whatever). It's safe to declare that this person is probably getting paid much more than they have contributed to the value of the product the business is producing. If we imagine global capitalism as this business then somewhere in the upper ranks you'd find the line beyond which where people were not really being exploited in any meaningful way any more. Above this line, whilst they aren't capitalists and the system was never designed primarily to benefit them, they are there to administer the system on the capitalists' behalf and are well rewarded for it. Some of the fruits of the labour of those below them is shared with them, crucially this amounts to enough so that they would be very unlikely to ever unite with the lower ranks against the shareholders or owners (or whoever it is that owns businesses these days).

For those first world nations where their governments are directly getting money in from third world ones (debt repayments with massive interest rates or whatever else they do) and then spending some of it providing services to their own citizens, this only hammers the point home further.

Why there is some value to it:

There is some value to this because it helps us understand where the global middle class comes in and why 'middle class' may mean something much more significant than just a label for a certain lifestyle choice. The global middle class are all the workers who benefit more from capitalism than they loose from it. They are still liable to be ordered around, they could still get fired but they don't actually loose money to the system.

The whole idea of what the middle class is has long confused me. I think this is a strong clue to working it out.

What about these nuances?

These are important because obviously it would be completely arbitrary to declare that the entire so called 'first world working class' is really just part of the global middle class (it's also far too materialistic and doesn't take into account any of the other things people have to give up to make room for capitalism like their health and their communities but put that aside...). Clearly there are people in the west who are genuine proles, no? Correct, according to most Maoists anyway:

The significant minority

There is a significant minority whose material conditions would naturally lead them to swiftly join any global revolution against capitalism. These may include groups like the following: Illegal immigrants (almost always heavily exploited), prison labourers, those on most zero-hours contracts, casual workers (together making up the 'precariat'), the underclass, homeless people, many sex workers, excluded poor urban ethnic minorities, the long term "unemployed" etc. and maybe some people who are just in really crappy minimum wage jobs.

Those who are primarily exploited post-getting paid

I've never heard Maoists talk about it but another group who seem to obviously fit the bill are those who are on low to average wages but are subject to extremely high rents, we are almost certainly being exploited whatever way you look at it. For example; London is the wealthiest city in the UK but the average Londoner actually has the least amount of spare money left after each pay-check because housing costs are so high.

The direction of travel 

Maoist analysis was clearly based on a very specific socio-historical situation. In actual fact I think things are changing (slowly). Many first world nations are actually beginning to see widening inequality within their own borders (as I wrote about here). It seems likely that the next stage of capitalism will see the middle class islands shrink from the western nations down to just specific wealthy areas within western nations, super rich cities like London for example where poor people are totally priced out, having to be ferried in to do the dirty jobs and then ferried back out at night. It may even end up being the case that inequality within nations becomes much more significant than between them but we are certainly not there yet.

What might it mean for us? - (lessons from the risqué flirtation)

Lets get to the anarchism already!

Have you noticed that, although Maoist third-worldism is usually associated with a very authoritative brand of socialism, there is no real reason why this kind of economic analysis couldn't be accepted by anarchists? It's been used to justify support for all kinds of brutal regimes (including North Korea for example) who are thought (wrongly) to be attempting to protect their citizens from western neo-colonialists. But must it?

No. It could just as easily be useful for serious anarchist revolutionaries who want to make the best use of their time and energy:

  • Some may conclude that there is no point in wasting time trying to bring about revolution in the west and that joining with anarchists in the third world is actually the only chance they have of being there when the revolution finally breaks out and helping! Migration may be in order!
  • Some who have decided that they are actually a part of the significant minority of western workers whose interests genuinely do lie with the global working class (or their allies) may want to begin to take steps to see themselves as so. To try to form links primarily with the third-world global struggle, to understand what it means to be an exploited minority rather than the exploited majority that they had always assumed they were, no doubt this should impact on tactics. 
  • It highlights the particular value of the struggles against borders which are, of course, already a target of anarchist rage but in this context are probably one of the most significant means by which global oppression can continue. It's only by robbing people and then preventing them following the wealth that the system can continue to work.
  • It also highlights the importance of all forms of internationalism and reminds us that we are not necessarily at the centre of things. A healthy dose of reality for a people who are still wont to assume that we were born to lead.


Thursday, 15 October 2015

I do renounce them.

Modern liberalism is incoherent nonsense. Not only can it be accurately laughed off as all fluffy slogans and style and no bite it is also built on a foundation of lies.


Did you ever get told about the importance of being balanced? It's a ridiculous obsession that stems from the belief that not only can we balance good and evil inside of us but that society can tolerate a balance of good and evil within it. Perhaps this is why we see edgy hippies go to the beach and stack stones up like this. 

"Good and evil???" I hear you cry, "those are loaded terms!" Yes, yes they are. In this case lets call oppression, exploitation and hierarchy social evils and lets call freedom, co-operation and equality social goods.

We hear them preach about how landlords and tenants should be able to see how they both benefit each other, how workers and bosses should be able to get a long in harmony, nay, in joy.  

Bollocks. It can't be done. 



The reason for this particular stupidity is that liberals see the state of tension that society is in and mistake it for balance. Tension might look like balance to an outsider but it's a completely different animal to the people actually involved. 

Most of those people creating the tension, on both sides, are fully concious of their mutually exclusive interests and they pull to win. The liberals are merely commentating. Poorly. 

Sometimes the ruling class drag us in their direction a bit, some times we drag them in our direction a bit. As yet no one has ever finally won and so we live with oxymoronic concepts like 'the welfare state' or notions of 'responsible capitalism' that represent, not a balance of interests, but simply the current state of the battleground, perennially subject to change if either side gets a rush of strength or the opponent weakens. 

The interests of the oppressed can never be balanced with that of the oppressor. The ruling class pulls one way to maximise the exploitation, to impose their social status and to barrage us with their propaganda and we pull the other way as we try to resist. 

An inch for them is an inch lost to me and an inch to me is an inch lost to them. That's how it is. We aim to defeat the bad guys, not to find peace with evil. 

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Decimation of the English Working Class

From whence we came

In his 1963 classic work of social history 'The Making of the English Working Class' E.P Thompson describes exactly what the title suggests; how the working class in England came to be.  

If the catastrophic upheavals of the pre-existing peasant and artisan communities during the industrial revolution was our father then our mother was our own sense of determination and resistance. Through the various ways in which we pushed back against oppression and exploitation; radical politics, trade unionism and even violent insurrection the English working class carved out a place for itself in the new world. Labour laws, social housing and eventually the welfare state were the compromises we won in order to fend off being driven into the ground.  

In the late 20th Century a run of post-war generations went by where conditions just seemed to keep getting better and better. Labour saving new technologies were being churned out, wages as a share of GDP were on the rise for a time and there was an ever ascending rate of home ownership. 

Some of us began to think of the whole idea of a 'working class' as a relic of a passing era or having more to do with a lifestyle than anything meaningful.

"We're all middle class now" declared John Prescott in 1997. 

But our story didn't end in 1997. In fact at that time wages as a proportion of GDP had already tumbled from it's mid 70s peak of 66% to under 52%, new technologies were still being churned out but they were now enabling us to work more rather than less and home -ownership rates peaked at 69% four years later and have been slowly declining ever since. 

The stark reality of our relationship to political power and our relation to capital and capitalists is coming back into focus. 

The cost of existence

In a capitalist economy people who work for a wage (as opposed to those who invest money in order to harvest profits, interest and rents) are just another cost to the capitalist class just like any other business expense although unlike machines we have to live, not just work.

In a wealthy country such as the UK in the 21st Century it isn't particularly difficult to ensure that workers are housed and fed and even thrown a little extra to keep us content. As a post-industrialised nation and a global financial centre the bosses here are not only revelling in the surplus extracted from our labour but also from wealth extracted from the poor throughout the much of the rest of the world. 

So the actual cost of keeping us productive and content is really fairly trivial to them, especially when there are trillions of pounds floating around. So why are things slipping backwards? 

I want to focus primarily on the housing crisis in London and the South East (because housing is my field of work) but this can be taken as representative of other issues. The real reason that things are slipping is not that we represent an actual cost but we are beginning to represent a very large 'opportunity cost'. As property prices in this corner of England spiral out of control, far faster than wages or benefits are rising all the space that poorer are people are taking up is starting to look very much like a wasted opportunity.

Investors from all around the world, and many home grown ones too, look at our affordable housing, schools, libraries and parks with ££ signs flashing before their eyes. If only they could just clear all those annoying people out of the way. The cost of building a social housing estate and even paying housing benefit for a few hundred tenants to live there may run up into the hundreds of millions but the opportunity that investors are losing by not using that space for something more profitable may run into the billions. We are 'in the way'. 

A brief history of unwanted people getting in the way

We've been in the way of progress before. 

The first massive land grab since 1066 (when William the conquer technically grabbed 100% of the land, although through the feudal system he granted fiefs to his barons to rule on his behalf) was the dissolution of the monasteries in the late 1530s. Putting the theological issues of this aside, the result of this was that Henry VIII confiscated one fifth of all arable land in the country and parcelled it out to his upper class mates. 

Tudor times also saw the beginning of the enclosure movement, some aristocrats found that sheep could bring in more money than peasants and where possible those in this position booted their peasants off the land to make way for the sheep. The trouble was that Feudalism entailed responsibilities, the lords of the land had paternalistic duties to the peasants and serfs that worked their land but this system was slowly changing. The abolition of Tenure act of 1660 effectively transformed the aristocrats' property rights from feudal tenure, which entailed all kinds of responsibilities (both upwards to the monarch and downwards to the peasants) into something more like modern private property. 

In the years to come, especially accelerating from 1750-ish onwards, large scale enclosure of the common lands and open field system occurred. Roughly 7 million acres of land in all was enclosed and privatised during this time. Those people who had made a living subsisting off the common lands and collectively farming open fields together were violently uprooted and transformed into an urban proletariat or; working class to serve in the 'dark satanic mills'. 

Our yearning for the land we lost has never really gone away but as we got used to the industrialised way of life the our focus became more about carving out a space for ourselves in the cities and towns. 

0.3% of the population of the UK still owns 70% of the land in Britain making this the second most unequal country on earth for land distribution.

Now the elite wants this, now we're in the way of progress again and now we're witnessing and experiencing the beginning of another great upheaval. 

The 21st century land grab.

Let's change the tone up a bit because we're zooming right into the present moment and this is serious: 
  • Right now thousands of poor people are being shipped out of London every year (at least 50,000 in the last 3 years). 
  • Right now our even our independent housing associations are at risk of being forcibly nationalised and sold off to private developers. 
  • Right now council housing that we have all paid for by taxation is being sold off and replaced with expensive housing and the former communities occupying them are evicted and scattered, some made homeless. 
  • Right now even some of those who own their own homes are being subject to compulsory purchase orders and cleared out of the way for redevelopment.
I see the effects of this every day when I go to work. Rough sleeping has increased 55% since 2011. 

I can remember the days of explaining to people how complex homelessness was and that it's often a combination of factors that lead people to such a state. Whilst there is still some truth to this there are more and more cases which are not particularly complex at all. Many people are simply thrown out of a private tenancy and can't afford either the rent in advance and deposit, or the actual monthly rent on anywhere else. As prices rise landlords seek to cash in or evict current tenants and re-advertise the property at a higher rent evictions are at their highest level since records began in 2000. This is an intentional strategy by the current government.

Just like the enclosures of the 18th and 19th centuries there is a resistance but it is hampered by the same big issue that those who resisted the last enclosure movement were hampered with; the process is gradual. Enclosure came to one village at a time, one act of parliament at a time and it may have been decades before the next one was affected the same is true of the estates and poorer areas of London. It's hard to mount a massive effective resistance to a process that is happening bit by bit. 

What happens if this trend continues? 

The making of the English destitute-undeserving-underclass-poor 

There is no obvious reason to see why this process is going to change course. And I see no reason not to speculate on the horrific scenario that this trend is taking us towards. 

If this continues we will see the following things in decades to come:
  • Inequality between wealthier areas and poorer ones will increase, the division between economically depressed (or repressed) areas within nations that have gone through this process could become as stark as the division between wealthy countries and poorer ones in our time. Instead of big cities with mixed neighbourhoods whole areas will either be wealthy and cleansed of the poor or they will be dirt poor and of no interest to the wealthy or to investors.
  • As mechanisation continues to threaten to take away the jobs of the poorer workers alongside this process of ghettoisation people in whole areas will go back to being dependent on the state and they will look increasingly like a total waste space to the wealthy and the politicians.
  • Cities like London will be effectively under economic apartheid, poor workers will need to be ferried in and out to do the undesirable jobs. 
  • The rhetoric of people on benefits being lazy scroungers will intensify to levels of seething unvield resentment. 
  • Life expectancy may drop overall or at least in poor areas. 
  • Riots
  • Starvation
  • ... 
Do you think I'm being dramatic?



This man died alone and hungry with a pile of CVs next to him. 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/dec/08/starve-benefit-sanctions-unemployed-hungry-government

This is what happens when the capitalists and the state get together. 


Noteworthy articles and essays on the subject:

- High house prices? Inequality? I blame the Normans - Paul Kingsnorth

- The Iron Fist Behind the invisible hand - Kevin Carson

- The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves - Yasha Levine

- Disillusion and Dispossession: An Expansion - Billy Christmas

- A Short History of Enclosure in Britain -Simon Fairlie

Friday, 2 October 2015

Was I right? 2015, the year so far.

On New Years eve 2014 I was bored and decided to make a list of my predictions for the year ahead. http://whatever-ism.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/predictions-for-2015.html. I can't be bothered to wait until the end of the year to review it so let's see how I did:

What was I right about?

What was I wrong about?

  • That UKIP would get 15+ seats. Never have I been so happy to have been wrong. I despise that scummy little party so much it's obscene. 
  • The push for drug legalisation continues but it's not really much more of a thing than it was last year. 
  • Russell Brand might well be describing the Greens, SNP and Paid Cymru as the answer to all our troubles but we wouldn't know about it because he's gone. He's stopped doing the Trews and we don't really hear from him any more much. He was interesting while he lasted. I didn't expect him to turn to Labour at the last moment though, that was weird.
What didn't I see coming?

  • Jezza. The coming of Jezza has changed the story of this year. At a time when I predicted a practical insurgency he's drawn lefty people back into supporting labour. I should be horrified but I'm not ruling him out as potentially interesting still, I'm not even completely sure why.  
  • I didn't realise how bad the refugee crisis was going to become. I should have said something about it in the original post really.
I'll try to do another of these soon. I'm going to try to get even more specific. I'll probably focus in a bit more on housing and a handful of other issues I've been following and thinking about more closely though. 



Friday, 18 September 2015

Two serious problems with popular anarchist thinking

The anarchist movement in the UK is fairly strong right now (a lot of this will apply to USA too). We must be doing something right. This is not intended as an attack. It's a challenge to keep moving forward.

There are two very serious things wrong with popular anarchist theory right now:

The way we talk about Capitalism

The way we talk about British capitalism is at least 50 years out of date. This shows up the strongest when we try to describe how exploitation works; we go straight to talking about factories and stuff. Who do you know that works in a factory? I know one guy. To be honest I can't really even imagine what the inside of a factory looks like these days. Even talking about the general idea of the "means of production" is pretty strange in an country where the service sector makes up about 75% of the economy.

We need to set ourselves the task of learning how exploitation works in a call centre. How do the hundreds of thousands of low level managers and supervisors fit into the picture? These are some of the most common jobs in the country. What about government employees? There are some parts of the country where nearly half the workforce works for the state, can we describe the difference anarchism would make for them? Very few of us have a clue how the stock market works. Trillions of pounds is floating around above our heads and we haven't got a clue what to say about it.

Talking about means of production and factories all the time is lazy.

The way we talk too much about economics

The important task of incorporating a strong stance against social hierarchy into anarchist thought isn't new. Let's not get in the way of those who are taking up that baton today. A few of us seem to have got a certain distance down that path and then just randomly stopped. Like those who accept that classism and racism matters but are sceptical about patriarchy or homophobia or transphobia (my spell check doesn't even know that last one yet!).

Don't stop in random places damn it!

We've got a long way to go, anarchism is always in front of us smashing into new hierarchies that we haven't even properly conceived yet. It is never behind us in some glory days. Behind us lie examples and they are valuable but anarchism is always ahead.

This is not to say that our economics doesn't matter just to say that hierarchy is not just confined to the economic sphere of life. Most of the pain people carry around with them, certainly for people I know, is inflicted on them in their personal relationships especially family. What does anarchism have to say about that? I know some good work is going into supporting anarchist parenting, I want to encourage that. There is so much more to do on discovering how anarchist ideals could transform all aspects of our lives.

I can say for sure that the fact that I don't get get to keep hold of the full value of my labour is an injustice. I seriously resent my the fact that my landlord is supposedly entitled to walk away with a massive chunk for example, but other things matter to me too. Is there anything worse than being sick? My mental and physical health matter a lot more to me than money. The quality of the area that I live in is also a big deal, have I had to move hundreds of miles away from my community to get work? Do I ever get too see anything green? Is my whole town set up for cars and I can't afford one?

What else have we had to give up in order to make room for capitalism? It isn't just our surplus labour! I know that we can show how these things are connected to the capitalist economic set-up but lets not treat them as an after thought.

That is all.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Visit to occupied Sweets Way July 2015

Visit to occupied Sweets Way July 2015

Was in London visiting some friends. Two of us decided to make an excursion out to visit occupied council estate (due for demotion at the time) Sweets Way.


Took us a while of wandering round an eerie empty council estate to find the occupied bit. There were two sections. One had a hippy type group living in it called Sweetstopia. Full of confusing messages written on the walls and barricades erected at each end of the street (presumably ready to defend against bailiffs). The other was an activist group Sweets Way Resists who were doing up the people's show home ready to get the media in to show that the houses could be done up for cheap and that it wasn't necessary to evict every resident, flatten the houses and replace them with mainly un-affordable ones!


We spent an hour or so doing a bit of gardening with them and chatting but we were worried that we were getting in the way. We decided to go and buy them some tools to contribute towards the efforts instead of standing around asking what to do next distracting the people who knew what they were doing.


Really inspiring to see what was being done. 

Unfortunately afterwards the last few homes were evicted with brutal force from bailiffs with activists and ex-residents being dragged out kicking and screaming. The people's show home was then destroyed too. 

So kind of: Inspirational and then subsequently really anger-inspiring.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Look after the movement and the goals will look after themselves

This isn't going to be a long one, I've got a point to make and I'm just going to make it.

Radical supremacy

As radicals we reckon our ideas would transform the world into something that is better for everyone. Ironically this "everyone" that we're trying to help mostly either doesn't care or sometimes is even actively hostile to our ideas... now what?

Now we tell them that they're wrong. Wrong about what they think they want, wrong about how change comes about, wrong about history, wrong about the future, wrong about themselves and their place in society...

Is this sensible? No.

Our high ideals and small numbers cause us to become a fringe group, open to accusations of being either 'all-talk and no action' or just violent and anti-social. We spend as much time fighting each other over the finer points of theory as we do achieving progress towards our goals. We know we've done big things in the past and we rightly claim them as part of our radical heritage but we also know that we're certainly not on the brink of global revolution today!

The ungovernability factor

So what do we do?

Join popular reformist movements... Yes I said it.

Why would I say this? Because our whole point is that people are not wrong about what they want, people are not wrong about what  is good for them they are just up against a system that denies them the chance to get it. We should join reformist movements and push for them to be internally anarchistic:

Ungovernability starts now, it starts before you get out of bed in the morning

  • Ensuring that those most directly affected by the issue that the reformist movement are dealing with are driving it and that everyone else is there to listen, help and be a good ally. 
  • Demanding self-organisation. Minimum use of figureheads, representatives and spokespeople who can easily become co-opted by the ruling class and who institute their own kind of damaging hierarchy within the movement.
  • Making sure that the demands of the movement are somewhat vague and flexible as well as being ambitious as opposed to them being extremely specific which is inherently self-limiting. 
  • Helping to create safe spaces within movements which are completely free from oppressors/ exploiters where people are free to talk and discuss their ambitions openly. No police, no bosses, no fascists etc. 
If we look after the movements in this way the goals will take care of themselves. 

We must help create the conditions for people to radicalise themselves. If we make our movements ungovernable they will drift towards ungovernable goals! WITHOUT radicals feeling the need to step in as teachers/ leaders/ a revolutionary vanguard! A little propaganda never does any harm and letting people know you're interested and knowledgeable about radical theory is all good, when the time is right they might ask you some questions and hopefully all that reading that you've been doing will be put to good use!

If people do try to take on special leadership roles/ talk on behalf of others/ limit the goals/ bring oppressors-exploiters into safe- spaces then use every tactic in the book. Take the piss out of them, ostracise them, spread rumours about them, deliberately go against their advice/orders... whatever... 

If top down reform has a history of pacifying people a taste of winning gets self-organised movements dreaming even bigger, gaining confidence and wanting more. Grassroots reform always turns revolutionary when done right. No vanguard necessary. 

Monday, 8 June 2015

The social status of Jesus

The social status of Jesus

In other cultures/ sub-cultures and in days gone by it is/ was sometimes confusing to people as to why Jesus arrived on earth as a poor carpenter's son who ended up as a homeless man who was executed by the state. Why not as a glorious king? Why all the poverty and lowliness?

Well in a certain sub-culture of my socio-historical context (people who are quite young and left wing) some of us can’t help wondering why he turned up with so much privilege. Why wasn't Jesus born as a woman? Why not into an even lowlier family? Why wasn't he disabled? Why not into an oppressed ethnic minority group?

I won’t have all the answers but here’s a bit of a reflection on it (I'm reflecting on this within a fairly orthodox Christian world-view and assuming the stories in the Bible about Jesus are true).
Let’s start with the last on the list, the easiest, and work backwards.

Jesus’ ethnicity
Jesus was born into an oppressed ethnic group. The Jewish people’s homeland was being occupied by a foreign superpower, they were oppressed and exploited by the Romans in all the ways that colonies are normally oppressed and exploited under imperialist empires. Even within Israel Jesus was from a place that was considered backward and looked down upon. Yes there were other ethnicities made up of gentiles around Israel to whom the Jews would have shown prejudice and even hatred but the Jews were not in a position to be oppressive in the way we think of white people oppressing black people in America or Arabs oppressing Asians in the Middle East. To be oppressive based on ethnicity you have to hold all or most of the political and economic power and use it to systematically favour your own people whilst keeping others’ down. The Jews weren't in a position to do this. Plus, obviously, if you read the Old Testament it’s fairly clear that Jesus had to be a Jew (I'm not going to go into all that now though!).



Jesus’ able body
Jesus was born able bodied. As far as we know Jesus wasn't physically or mentally disabled. To me it seems obvious that he had to come capable of speech so certain learning disabilities that prevent someone from being able to talk would have prevented him from completing his mission. A tactical consideration by God? I reckon yes, probably.  
What about all those who were ‘lame’ as a lot of Bible translations put it? People who couldn't walk and had to be carried everywhere? Why wasn't Jesus born like them? In theory I can still imagine his mission having been pretty much possible, even if he had some kind of severe physical disability like this. So why didn't he have one? Another tactical move to make his mission easier? Maybe, but maybe it would have been pointless since he was clearly capable of changing disabilities like this, he would surely have changed himself early on. Jesus clearly has the power to make disabled people into able people and often did it so it’s not too difficult to see why he himself was able bodied too.



Jesus’ cisgender-ness
(Cisgender just means comfortable with assigned gender). Jesus was man and we don’t have any particular reason to think he was uncomfortable with his status as being male, lots of people do. Why not Jesus?
Well let’s start from the beginning. Pre-incarnation Jesus had no gender, during the incarnation Jesus became male so we already have a kind of sex change going on. Beyond this I hypothesise that, again, Jesus could transform a body into whatever so if he was physically male and wanted to be female or androgynous then he could have done and probably would have done so there would be no point in him being unhappy with his assigned gender (as to why he was male… more on that next).

Jesus’ family and gender
Why wasn't Jesus born to a family of beggars or slaves? Or to a single mother? Tradesmen may not be upper class but it’s clearly not as crappy as can be imagined. Also why was he born male and not female?
Now we get to more difficult questions. I don’t have an answer to these but I can think of a few possible answers. Some of these would surprise or even offend me if they were true, some seem more understandable.
  • ·         More tactical considerations. Maybe God the father was like; “I want you to be lowly, but not so lowly that no one will listen to you… let’s just go for working class male”. This seems to be at least a plausible answer, especially since the Bible doesn't actually say that there was an intention to maximise the lowliness. This would explain why Jesus also chose all male disciples too (although notably he did treat women with a lot of respect and you do have stories like the one about the women being first to see the risen Jesus, controversial in those days when a women’s testimony was not considered as valid as a man’s).  
  • ·         Another option could be that there is genuinely something inferior about women or destitute people that was just a bit too far for God. This doesn't seem to be an at all plausible answer, surely the massive gap between God and man (of Jesus’ social status) is far more significant than between the gap in social status between man and woman, or man and even lowlier man. Why go from creator of the universe to mortal human but then decide that becoming a woman was a bit too far?
  • ·         Maybe the answer is a bit more like the ones above to the other questions. I.e. that his family was at actually a bit messed up. Mary’s pregnancy involved a certain amount of scandal, they were refugees for a while when he was young and the Joseph seems to disappear from the scene by the time Jesus is older (maybe he died) being the son of a widow in those days was very similar to being from a single parent family now. Both poor and looked down on. Also, regarding gender, maybe Jesus was inter-sex genetically but appeared male. Too ridiculous? What, like God becoming man? That kind of too ridiculous? I have no idea and it’s been too many years since I studied theology to instantly know if that’s a stupid point or not.
  • ·         Maybe the point is that the point of Jesus mission was different for different groups. Back when I did study theology I did my dissertation on ‘to what extent is the gospel good news to the poor and bad news to the rich?’ My conclusion was to a surprisingly large extent! What if Jesus social status was aimed precisely at the kind of ‘low end of average’ sort of mark to signify that he came to challenge all those who roughly ranked above and to bring a message of hope to those who roughly ranked below? Jesus challenge to the rich was ruthless, he considered it humanly impossible but absolutely necessary for them to give up their social status and follow him (only possible with God’s help). Yes he did make clear challenges to those of lower status to stop sinning but he didn't seem to think it would be quite the same level of difficulty for them as it would be for the rich. All of his big shows of forgiveness (that I can think of right now) seemed to be primarily aimed at them, even where they didn't even ask for forgiveness in some cases. This is the whole 'first shall be last, last shall be first' thing going on.
Jesus famously said “the poor you will always have with you” leading lazy people to assume that he was being totally fatalistic about the fact that society will always being hierarchical. “The poor” in Jesus’ day was as much about social oppression and ostracism as it was economic poverty or exploitation. In this case Jesus was actually quoting from Deuteronomy 15. A chapter about economic justice. Within that one chapter we find three seemingly contradictory quotes:
  • ·         “There need be no poor people among you” – verse 4
  • ·         “If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hard-hearted or tight-fisted toward them.” – verse 7
  • ·         “There will always be poor people in the land.” – verse 11




I’ll leave you to figure out why this chapter moves from bright optimism to dull fatalism…

In conclusion, I'm just some guy, I don’t have all the answers but maybe I have a few of them. As usual this has mainly been an exercise in helping me work out some of my own thoughts which always become clearer if I write them down (especially if I know I'm going to let anyone else see them!).


I enjoy responses, criticism is absolutely fine, no assholery though. Some Christians think they get a free pass to be assholes when they disagree with someone. You don’t. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The co-operativist manifesto

Introduction

First, two quotes:
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
R. Buckminster Fuller

"A cooperative ("coop") or co-operative ("co-op") is an autonomous association of people who voluntarily cooperate for their mutual social, economic, and cultural benefit." - Wikipedia

People co-operating - probably

More and more people know that it's time to get serious and get involved when it comes to politics. No one comes to this blog to read more of the drivel they have to suffer when they open a newspaper. We're sick of the same old voices churning out the same crap, repacked for another generation. Hopeless solutions re-applied to the latest crisis and simultaneously sowing the seeds of the next one. I'm tired of it, I'm even tired of complaining about it, even our complaints are growing stale.

There is so much to hate and be angry about; my blood boils when I see coverage of another war and comfortable self-righteous idiots justifying it from thousands of miles away, I'm ready to punch the next person who has an answer for everything and thinks they're being clever, explaining away other people's homelessness, hunger, sickness and oppression as products of bad choices or judgement from God.

This world can be awful and anyone who has got even the slightest inclination to work to make it better is welcome to read on and consider a realistic proposal as to how we fix it. I will lay out a vision of how things could be and the practical steps we will need to take to get there.

You can get thousands out in support of a protest against something horrific, but it's far fewer of us who dare to get involved in the business of proposing an alternative

The Goal

The goal is not one that we should expect to arrive at. We won't wake up one morning, look outside and see the sun shinning and hear the birds tweeting and realise that the fight is over. Readers of this blog may have differing opinions as to where the meta-narrative of human history is taking us, if anywhere, but for as far as our limited minds can see and understand we know that the goal is to be pursued perpetually.

And yet it is a specific goal and a very high goal:

Imagine a world where we we really did live as equals, where the interests of one group were no longer mutually exclusive to another, free from war, free from hierarchy, free from oppression and exploitation. Imagine in world where we were free to focus on love and creativity, free to travel and free to contribute our uniqueness to society. If this kind of world can even be imagined then why not aim for it?

Let's not even start out on this journey with an already limited preconception of how much better things could or should get, to do so would stifle our own energies and would be strategical suicide; like letting slip the minimum you'd settle for from the outset when trying to make a deal. The message we need to internalise, and we need to make sure that the authorities and the elites hear it too, is that we are not looking to settle at all. We are pushing with all our energy and strength for a revolution and standing in our way risks them being knocked down and crushed.

Anarchism

For some people the word anarchism might conjure up images of chaos and destruction, or simply immature teenage rebellion. Anarchism is just the word that many of use to describe our yearnings for the kinds of freedom and justice described above, anarchism is meaningful to me but if it means nothing in your culture or to you personally then ignore it and imagine another word in it's place.

Anarchists are people who believe that the root of many of our problems is found in the way in which our societies are organised and the defining characteristic of the way in which we are organised is hierarchy. hierarchy cannot be reformed, it must be replaced.

Zooming right in on our own socio-historical context we find a globe divided up into hundreds of states where people are farmed according to the norms of an economic system we have come to call capitalism.

Lots of things are 'a' problem, hierarchy is 'the' problem!
Mutualism

There are various strands within the wider anarchist tradition; anarchist communism, collectivist anarchism, mutualism and individualist anarchism being the main ones. Each believe slightly different things about what exactly constitutes a hierarchical society and what is the best way to change it.

Mutualism is the broadest of these encompassing arrangements from communists who hold all things in common to those who wish to participate in a kind of market economy. Mutualism simply says that arrangements must be mutually beneficial for those who choose to participate in them. Again, if the word puts you off, call it something else, labels are only helpful when they're helpful.

The mutualist flag; red for socialism, black for anarchism, arrow thingys for reciprocity
What would be different in a world where all human relationships and collaboration was done for mutual benefit? In practice the most obvious and simple expression of mutualistic human collaboration is the co-operative (no, not the supermarket chain, if you live in the UK).

There is much more to co-ops than just employee owned businesses:

Some types of co-op:

  • Housing co-ops - Under capitalism greedy, and usually privileged people are free to accumulate huge hoards of property, property they neither personally occupy or use. Not only are they free to do this, their actions are protected by the state. In a capitalist society housing co-ops are ways for residents to pool resources to purchase land and housing. This is then cooperatively managed for their mutual benefit, not for any one person to make a profit.  In a mutualist society the principle for establishing a legitimate claim to property would be based on occupying and using it personally (and having come to do so peacefully). Some may want to take sole responsiblity for their housing and live more independently housing co-ops would work for those who preferred the inter-dependence of being able to rely on each other for maintenance, providing basic services, looking after communal grounds/ roads etc. These could be mixed with consumer co-ops.
    • Consumer co-ops - Under capitalism these are largely effective ways to pool resources to benefit from the discounts associated with bulk buying. In a mutualist society we are likely to find whole towns, villages and neighborhoods clubbing together to arrange for electricity, water, waste disposal etc. these utilities would be provided by a co-operative joint run by consumers and workers, most of whom would likely live in the particular local area.
    • Friendly societies - Those of us who can see the state for what it is; a weapon in the hands of the elite, know that the words 'welfare' and 'state' don't sit comfortably together. Centuries ago, as feudalism transitioning to capitalism people began to club together to form friendly societies. These have now been intentionally pushed to the margins. In a mutualist society friendly societies would be the primary vehicle for mutually looking after each other when we fall on hard times. Health care, insurance, pensions etc. would all be provided to each other reciprocally through these. Those of us who are in the most vulnerable situation often feel most tempted to cling to the state, believing that without it they would be destitute or reliant on the charity of others. This need not be the case, our collective welfare is at the heart of what we are pushing for. The state offers a pittance to those who are in difficulties just to keep revolution at bay. In a mutualist society welfare would be provided horizontally, as mutual aid amongst equals.
    • Credit unions - Credit unions under capitalism prevent the big bankers from harvesting up interest and fees and charges from our resources. After profit has been extracted, tax has been extracted, rent has been extracted interest on loans and heavy charges for late payments are what finally breaks many of our backs sending us into debt and causing us to loose our homes and necessities. If people in a particularity area are still using money in a mutualist society the credit union would simply function as their bank. Any interest which might be taken is returned to all account holders as a dividend after any workers have been paid.
    • Volunteer's co-ops - Potentially a separate category from thee above for those who want to organise a project or achieve some goal together. Equally a volunteer co-op could be seen as an alternative form of any of the above specifically organised outside of market relations all together. Communists propose a society where work is done without the expectation of immediate reward and that the products of labour or the services provided are freely available to all in the safe knowledge that one's own needs will be provided for by others in the same way. Credit and debt is not held against each other at all. This will work for some people, possibly for all people in time.
    • And more...
    In fact, when we step back and think about it, any activity that requires people to come together can be run on the basis of a co-operative as opposed to either a state or a capitalist business, the state and capitalism would be redundant. This would produce a number of systematic benefits:
    1. There would be no 'boss/ landlord/ capitalist' involved to extract profits/ rents/ interests from workers. No one is getting rich off anyone else's hard work just because of claims of private ownership. 
    2. By ensuring that workers have their rightful stake in the organisation and a democratic input in decision making their incentives to work are improved. Many of us, especially when we've been in jobs that are dull and demeaning know exactly what it's like to sit watching the clock trying to get away with as little as possible, wasting our lives away waiting for the weekend. Work in a co-op would not necessarily be perfect and 100% enjoyable every day but a huge amount of what makes us hate going to work would be gone: An angry boss/ competitive colleagues sucking up to the boss/ no input on decisions that effect us/ no outlet for our creativity/ no sense of ownership in the organisation or project... all gone.
    3. Co-ops are run by the people, not an absentee boss. The people who show up to work every day are much more likely to live nearby and are invested in the local community. This ensures that they will look after the environment around them in a way that capitalist businesses will not. Capitalist businesses are legal fiction, personified in law, decisions are made as much by the demands of capital itself than the will of any individual or group. If they were human they would all be diagnosed as psychopathic, co-ops would not.
    4. No assholes. Giving people authority over others turns them into assholes. People step on each other to please the boss or get a promotion, managers gleefully exert their authority in pointless ways just to feel good, the work place becomes a high pressure environment and a constant struggle. This makes people physically and mentally ill.
    5. Co-ops have much less incentive to expand, this would be even more true in a mutualist world. If no one is harvesting profits no one has much of an incentive to build an empire. This keeps organisations smaller and more localised, the days of mega corporations would be history.
    Internally co-ops are networks of equals, in a mutualist society co-operatives themselves would also be networked fulfilling all the functions that both big corporations and the state fulfill now.

    But how could we get from where we are now to there?

    Strategy - Mutualise everything!

    1. List every organisation you currently associate with, whether voluntarily or not: Your place of work, the hospital where yo go when you get sick, the places you buy the things you need, the school you go to or went to, the religious institution you are part of etc.
    2. Get together with friends/ housemates/ family/ neighbors, maybe everyone on your street/ workmates and do the same with them. Make sure you involve people who are often truly getting a beating from the way things are now; prostitutes, homeless people, racial minorities, women, gay people, old people and whoever else you know could easily get left out... they must be listened to and treated as equals.
    3. Think about your personal relationships and each others' personal relationships too.
    4. Decide together that an injustice against one of you is an injustice against all of you and that none of you will truly be free until you are all free.
    5. Starting from what seems the most urgent find ways to transform the associations and relationships that you all have into ones which are peaceful, voluntary and beneficial to all involved.


    Number 5

    It's impossible for me to tell you exactly how to do number 5. We all have to be involved in finding the answers here though. It will be a process of collective discovery. You've got landlords to fight, police to avoid, bosses to undermine, empty homes to break into, local councils to battle... and as many more as you can imagine. It will be an adventure if nothing else.

    Here are two decent links to use to begin to think through how it might look, beyond this, you just have to get started.

    42 ways to build a culture and economy beyond capitalism

    http://www.filmsforaction.org/takeaction/42_ways_to_build_a_culture_and_economy_beyond_capitalism/

    What do anarchists do (from the anarchist faq)

     http://anarchism.pageabode.com/afaq/secJcon.html

    It doesn't matter how small you start, we don't make progress without the first tentative moves and the little victories that might come at the beginning.

    Sunday, 10 May 2015

    Dear people of the UK, Mutualism

    So... another election cycle is over. If most of the people on my Facebook news feed are anything to go by a lot of us aren't happy with the results. Considering only about 25% of the country voted conservative that's not very surprising! 

    Things are bad. Rough sleeping is up 55% in the last 5 years, foodbank usage is off the charts, we're told that the economy is recovering but we know it's slowly and we know that it hasn't been an equal recovery for all. We've got a housing crisis, we've got an explosion in zero hours contract jobs and we're afraid in ways that people haven't been for a while. Our jobs feel less secure and when we peek over the precipice we see that there isn't much of a safety net left to catch us if we fall. Destitution is back, and that is a horrible surprise for a nation that was expecting things to get better and better with every passing generation. 

    http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/destitution-uk-interim-report


    London
    We have the Conservatives for another 5 years now (unless anything massive happens) so, contrary to the popular opinion that we should be wallowing in depression or raging with anger this is exactly the time to be thinking and talking and planning for what we want next. The work starts now. 


    !--MUTUALISM--!

    Our heads are spinning with thoughts of what those with power are going to choose for us but put all that to one side for a moment. Take a breath, relax, look out the window, think about your neighbours, your friends, your family, the people you work with... 

    --Give it a moment--

    We are all equal. Whether our equality is respected in the world we see around us or not, we are fundamentally equal, we all matter, whoever we are. This is where the mutualist tradition begins as well. Mutualism is neither capitalism nor communism. It doesn't require a big powerful government to make it work and it doesn't ask you to put faith in a pre-ordered set of policies or a great leader. So what is it?


    Mutualism says that when we come together, as a society/ community/ workplace/ whatever, it should be as equals and it should be for mutual benefit. We should all have a stake in the things we're part of. This translates first and foremost into the idea of the co-operative. A co-operative is an organisation of any size and almost any kind that exists for the benefit of its members and is democratically controlled by them. Co-operatives are free to join and free to leave. Mutualists think that this is not only a nice idea but could form the entire basis for a new way of organising society.

    The state will never do the job we want it to do

    The state is not fit for purpose, not for the purposes that most of us want to use it for anyway! 



    Back in the days of feudalism it was obvious that the state existed to maintain the upper classes in lives of privilege and luxury and keep the peasants down but then democracy happened. Now every five years we have a chance to try to hold the people who run the show accountable. So we do what comes completely naturally; try to use our powers to get the state to make things better. To  get it to look after the poor and sick, to regulate what the richest and most powerful people can get away with

    BUT

    If you were going to design an organisation to do all that, starting from a blank sheet, would you really design anything that look remotely like the state or the government that run it. Would you design the following?
    • A massive ugly hierarchy.
    • A system where un-elected royals and lords (people who live entirely at our expense) are an integral part of how it functions. 
    • An organisation which both openly and behind closed doors answers to it's corporate sponsors.
    • An organisation where we get a small say in picking a representative but are far removed from actual decision making.
    • An organisation where if our representative lies to us or breaks their promises there is nothing we can do but wait and hope to boot them out next election, but for what? Another representative who might do the same? 
    • Ultimately an organisation which has lots and lots of rights that we don't have and if we get upset about it we are treated as a threat.

    Capitalism and what's to be done about it

    Capitalism is a naughty word in the UK, much more naughty than it is on the other side of the Atlantic. We blame it for an awful lot, are we clear on what it really means though?

    Workers built the factory, workers labour in the factory, workers transport the product, workers clean up, workers look after those who get injured in the process, workers work in the shops that sell the final product... All belongs to the boss.
    There are three elements that  I would say are definitive of a capitalist economy:

    • Capitalist property norms (this is absolutely crucial): How does your landlord get to claim rent from you for living in your house? How does your boss get to make a profit off your labour? Answer: Because it's not your house, it's his, and it's not your labour, it's the bosses' because he hired you to work for him. How can it be that people can collect up property that other people occupy and/or use? How can they use their claim of ownership on it to extract rents or profits from the labour of those people? Capitalist property norms backed up by the state, that's how! Mutualists believe in a much simpler and much more natural system of property norms; if you occupy it and use it (and came to do so peacefully) then it's yours,  if you stop occupying it or using it then you've abandoned it. I call this an embodied claim on property as opposed to the capitalists' one which is often a conceptual claim on property. Capitalist 'private property' backed up, not by a physical reality but by property deeds written on a bit of paper somewhere.
    • Markets: A market economy is just a system where people hold credit and debt against each other. The stuff on the shelves in the shops isn't seen as equally belonging to us all due to us being members of the global working class, or as fruit of the earth and therefore part of our natural inheritance.... at least not by most people. If we want stuff we have to be able to offer the seller sufficient compensation to get them to let go of it. Mutualists are neither pro or anti markets, we're accepting of any way of organising the distribution of goods and services, as long as it is mutual for all involved. Taxation and other forms of economic exploitation have historically been used to drag unwilling peasants into the market economy when they were previously quite happy sharing and holding property in common, for this reason many mutualists do tend to predict that markets will decrease in importance in a mutualist society.  
    • The state: This one is debatable in other schools of thought but mutualists believe that the state is an essential part of how capitalist economies work. Whether or not it might be theoretically possible to have capitalism without the state is not an important question, the question is over the role of the state in actually existing capitalism. In a nut shell this can be summed up in two ways: 1) The state is the board of executives for the capitalist class (i.e. the state manages the economy on behalf of the capitalist class, ensuring that the whole system remains stable) - Karl Marx came up with this one. And 2) The state exists to socialise the costs of capitalism on to the people whilst ensuring that it's profits can continue to be privatised by a tiny minority - Noam Cholmsky came up with this one. 

    So capitalists have got a whole lot of wealth that they really shouldn't have and everyone else is often left without enough; the best solution we hear of which is based on using the state as a means to fix this? Tax the rich and spend it on health/welfare/education etc. for the people.

    Why isn't this what mutualists are asking for? Mutualists recognise that all taxes applied to the capitalist class are passed on. Those who are in a position to raise rents/lower wages/increase interest rates in order to deal with the cost of taxation always do it, passing it on to tenants, workers/ borrowers/ consumers. The rest of us who pay tax on income that we have earned as wages cannot pass the cost on to anyone and so have to take a double hit personally.

    It's not just super rich tax dodgers that are the problem (they're just breaking the rules of their own game), it's the entire system that is the problem.

    Probably not the heroic heroes you thought they were.


    What do mutualists suggest we do?

    Start organising ourselves into co-operatives that can resist and don't stop until we over turn the whole thing.

    If your landlord owns the whole building and there's 50 other tenants, get everyone together, form a tenants' union. In South Africa under apartheid huge tenants' unions organised prolonged rent strikes resulting in tens of thousands of units of housing having to be turned over to the occupants. In Glasgow during WW1 tens of thousands of tenants went on rent strikes and also got together to block bailiffs who came to try to evict them. There is a fast growing movement around housing activism happening in London right now, read about it here: http://www.oceanmediagroup.co.uk/features/housingprotests/?utm_source=Housing60&utm_medium=email&utm_content=article_link&utm_campaign=H60 

    The Glasgow rent strikers


    Squat in some unused property.

    Join a radical workers union like the Industrial Workers of the World, take the boss on to make sure that at absolute minimum you get all you are due under current legislation. If everyone did this we could organise a general strike and bring the entire economy to a halt. At this point we wouldn't even have to list our demands, politicians and capitalists would be falling over themselves trying to offer us all kinds of compromises deals to calm us down.

    If you are in a position to do so you might consider starting some kind of co-operative from scratch. Anything from a credit union to a factory is possible. Do it with or without permission.

    Mutual aid. Mutual aid is different from charity because it is supposed to be all about sharing as equals. If I have surplus of something I share it with you knowing that if our positions are flipped around you will do the same for me. Mutual aid can be very loose and informal or it can be a big organised 'friendly society' providing health care, welfare payments and more to it's members when they need it.



    Voting for a political party is controversial within mutualism, should we try to avoid it altogether or could it be seen as one of many legitimate tactics? The bigger that smaller parties like the Greens get the more their message will be heard but I for one believe that if we empower a political party enough for them to actually get real power they will become like all the rest. Political parties always disappoint because they work within the system according to it's internal logic so they are never capable of being revolutionary on their own.

    Other ideas...

    • Refuse to pay your taxes
    • Join a protest march
    • Buy fair trade (so very un-revolutionary but I still claim it's a good idea)
    • Write a blog
    • Go to jail over something you believe in if you are in a good position to do so (I'm not)
    • ... I don't know... think of more stuff yourselves... 

    Conclusion

    We haven't really "lost" this election because there was nothing much to win through elections anyway. We win when we take action directly, we lose when we get depressed and give up. We don't need representatives, we need to get our hands dirty and get involved. The time is now, you aren't even going to be offered another vote in a general election for a long time,  give this a try for the time being!