Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Primacy of Politics in the Libertarian Revolution

The primacy of the economic struggle was a result of a rather mechanical economic determinism. While it is crucial in a revolutionary situation that workers occupy the means of production, that alone is not enough. We saw this in Spain in 1936, the workers took over the factories and the peasants the land, but failed to smash the state. Thus the revolution went only so far, quit and then was defeated by its enemies.
Hence, the old Socialists were right about the primacy of the political. They just had the wrong form of politics, reducing the concept to that of parliament alone. (Since the 1960s we have known that “everything is political”) In turn, the old time syndicalists reduced politics to the parliamentary and claimed to be anti-political, even though such actions as free speech fights and attempts to liberate class war prisoners were clearly political in nature.
The revolution is thus a political act (more likely a series of political acts) backed by economic power. The political minus the economic means a futile revolt. The economic minus the political means at best a few reforms, but more likely a vicious counter-revolution. Both the political and the economic have to work together. Workers councils unite both, as do neighborhood assemblies working together with syndicalist union locals. The goal is popular power through assemblies and delegation. (My translation of the term and concept, poder popular, crucial to the South American anarchist program.)
As well as syndicalist unions, a revolutionary political organization must exist. The revolutionary organization seeks not to control the population or the revolutionary process, but merely to: 1. prevent hostile, reactionary and authoritarian elements from seizing power, 2. push the movement to smashing the state and replacing it with popular power.
The assemblies, both neighborhood and workplace, delegate power with instantly recallable delegates to municipal, regional, provincial and national levels – as needed. Most effort will be expended at the neighborhood, municipal and regional levels, unlike the reverse situation today with the state and its top-down bureaucratic procedures. The assemblies thus destroy the state and replace it with direct democratic popular power.
The experiences of the German and Russian Revolutions, as well as the Occupy Movement have shown us the potential problems and the means to offset these problems. The assemblies – at all levels – must be run by modified consensus procedure, or at the minimum, a “super democracy” requiring two thirds, or three quarters majority. A system of simple majority at the assembly level would create a great danger for the revolution. Reactionary elements who seek to disrupt the movement and vanguardists who seek to propel themselves into power and reconstitute the state, are masters at manipulating simple majority democracy.
Every group has the right to exclude those hostile to it. Assemblies should have constitutions or points of agreement specifying that the assemblies are open to only those people who agree that the assembly shall be the means of governance. Those opposed to the assembly concept must be excluded. 

Political parties may become involved in the assembly so long as they publicly express the primacy of the assembly in writing. Thus, counter-revolutionary and authoritarian vanguardist elements will be effectively excluded from the assemblies and popular power will not fall victim to their machinations. (And as well, the revolutionary organization(s) will be working to expose and quarantine such elements.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not Dear Old Uncle Heinie! Compartmental Thinking and The Politics of Domination

Sociopaths are attracted to power hierarchies, but this is not our only problem. Dominator class sociopathology does not fully explain the crimes committed against humanity and the biosphere. Not all individuals, or even a majority of those involved in power hierarchies are sociopaths. The majority are skilled mental compartmentalizers. Compartmentalization involves splitting the emotions and morality in two. With friends, family and “acceptable people”, one acts humanely, with the victims, one is only limited by the orders of a superior officer or manager.
Not dear old uncle Heinie!” was how Heinrich Himmler's extended family greeted the news that he was the architect of the Holocaust. With his family, Himmler was a nice guy. Yet at work he could murder millions. So too, the Argentine military officer who would pat his baby's head with the same hand that an hour ago tortured an 18 year old student to death. So too, the stock manipulator who deliberately wrecks a business, throwing thousands out of work, then has an amiable game of golf with his friends.
Almost everyone in a position of authority will compartmentalize when ordered to do something cruel. A tiny minority will refuse and some will go insane when forced to commit crimes against humanity, but the vast majority will do what they are told. Compartmentalization is normal with people of an authoritarian upbringing. It is, like the associated condition of denial, a typical survival strategy of abused children. This is also one of the reasons many abused, in turn, become criminals and abusers or are attracted to positions of authority. It is much easier to bully or commit crimes when one has compartmentalized from infancy.
The key element in getting people to easily compartmentalize is the dehumanization of the victims. The “average” person finds great difficulty in assaulting, torturing or murdering their fellow human beings. One of the goals of military training is to overcome this aversion. Propaganda is used to make the alleged enemy out as subhuman, not worthy of any sympathy, to be killed like a vicious wild animal. Hence the soldiers on the other side are not considered soldiers, but Huns, Boshe, Slopes, Gooks, Sand Monkeys etc.,
Demonization is an important tactic, Communists and anarchists are not people who want a better world for the workers, but monsters destroying civilization. Environmentalists are crazies who wish take your car away etc., Unworthy of any consideration, and at the same time deemed highly threatening, these imaginary devils in human form kick the reptile portion of the brain into high gear. Away flies any empathy and down come the clubs, the electrodes are clamped to the genitals, and the machine guns roar.
How can we help overcome this problem, and at the same time weaken the hold that irrational authority has over a significant portion of the population? We must make people aware of compartmentalization, which means encouraging greater self-awareness. We must continue to encourage libertarian parenting and pedagogy and fight child abuse in all its many forms and rationalizations. We must continue to encourage the questioning of authority and the undermining of the mass media hate propaganda that demonizes the system's latest targets.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Why People Reject Politics

Most people are disconnected from the political process. They are this way not from ignorance or malevolence, rather the political process is completely at odds with their daily lives. This even goes for, and perhaps especially for, people who are otherwise highly political – the activists in the environmental, anti-war and anti-corporate movements.
Think of your friends and family. How long would they tolerate you acting like a politician or a government? So much of politics is the opposite of how we are. The manipulation to get us to vote for them, the dishonest attacks on each other, the lobbying, the hostility to dissent – we don't treat each other this way. They would turn their backs on you if you consistently lied, bullied, and scammed them, the way politicians or governments do as a matter of course. If six friends decide to go out for dinner together, they do not appoint one of them to decide which resto and force the others to eat there if they hate that kind of food. Instead, they would find an eating place acceptable to everyone.
The organizations we do belong to – reading circles, singing groups, neighborhood associations, folk clubs, activist groups - work in a more consensus-based and egalitarian way. With government the prime minister or president picks a cabinet who then bully the MPs into line. To hell with the people if it is something the leaders want to do. If we object they send in the police or the army to crush us. This is not how we run our organizations, and if anyone even attempted such behaviour they would be shown the door.
Aside from government and the work place, we live our lives horizontally. Government (and work) are organized in a top-down, hierarchical manner – the minority at the top telling the mass what to do and punishing them if they don't obey.
As for us, we tend to live ever more horizontally as time progresses. A hundred years ago, almost everyone lived in a hierarchy based upon race, gender, class, religion and age. Anglo-Saxons bullied all the other races and ethnic groups, men dominated women, age dominated youth and Christians persecuted non-Christians. Anyone who worked with their hands was deemed inferior. Child-rearing and pedagogy were exercises in emotional, verbal and physical abuse. Today with the democratic family, a leveling of race and religious hatreds, a less misogynous attitude toward women, we treat each other in a much more egalitarian and respectful manner.
We are more or less stuck with our work relations, its either work for a boss and all the authoritarian, hierarchical goop that goes with it, or live a life of poverty. While we can not avoid work, we can avoid politics. There is nothing forcing us to vote or support a political party. So people are free to shun politics, i.e., that which is foreign and disgusting to them. (1)
1.The turning away from politics is part of a greater process of withdrawal. Though still a minority, many people have turned their backs on war, GMO's, the mass media, crass consumerism, etc.

Friday, June 06, 2014

What Is Not Being Said About Bullying

Bullying is extremely destructive and leads to a host of social problems. The ruin of a child's self esteem in this manner can lead to everything from under achievement to substance abuse and suicide. It is an important step forward that schools have finally recognized this problem and began combating bullying.
Problem is, these steps do not go far enough, to the root cause. Nor can they, for to do so would bring into question the very nature of the system we live under. Politically and economically, this system is based  and run  on bullying. As long as you give in to the bully, you will get off lightly. Try to stand up for yourself and the beating commences. So too in the adult world of work and politics. A tiny minority own and control the wealth of society and this wealth in turn allows them to control the system of government. The workplace is not a democracy, but an autocracy where you are ordered around. If you should disagree, you are threatened and often subject to verbal abuse. If you challenge the system, the state will be used to suppress you, which can entail verbal bullying, assault and kidnapping. (arrest and possible prison) Any minority that questions the system's methods or priorities will be subject to insults and abuse in the media. This may lead to gullible members of the public verbally or physically assaulting the minority or engaging in some other sort of bullying.
Consider as well our political system. Less than 40% of the electorate can force their views upon the remaining 60%. And force they will cheerfully use, the police and the army if need be. If this isn't bullying, what is? The only way to end this political bullying would be to institute a more consensus-based system.
Furthermore, hierarchies engaged in domination, such as management, police, military, prison or any other bureaucracies that deal with the public, tend to attract bullies. This is not to say that everyone, or even a majority of those involved in such hierarchies, are bullies. A large enough minority will be found in these institutions to make life hell for those who get in their clutches. The highly authoritarian and “tribal” nature of these institution's culture will also mean they will be all but impossible to root out. (Think only of residential school victims, borstal inmates, police women and women soldiers and what they have had to put up with in trying to get their voices heard.)
The only way to truly eliminate bullying is to eliminate the authoritarian social relations that create this abuse.

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