Friday, July 16, 2021

UNDERSTANDING THE HOSTILES – the minority opposed to the Fairy Creek Action

 The small demonstrations against protecting the old growth forests were marked by placards proclaiming the supposed need to “Defend Logging”. Not one of those involved would have taken a few minutes to go on line and find out exactly what the environmental movement's plans are for the forest industry. I have, and within five munites found the programs of all the major organizations as well as the BC Green Party. Not one of these groups opposed logging, only cutting old growth, and promoted sustainable practices which would create permanent jobs in forestry.

That the hostiles never bothered to find this easily available information, indicates their minds were made up before hand. Misinformation from right-wing anti-environmental sources played a factor, but I think the problem lies deeper than that. Like all reactionary sentiments, its roots are an underlying prejudice, which in turn grows out of fear. If you are prejudiced against some group, your hostility will be projected out in the form of thinking the very worst about them. The “eco-warrior” is a stock hate figure on the right along with the “feminist” and BLM activist.

There is a division within the working population between the older and declining industrial work force and the new working class of educated white collar workers. This creates a cultural/political divide. The land protectors are well educated, well read and culturally sophisticated. The hostiles no doubt feel inferior and this inferiority is hidden behind a mask of inverse snobbery. “Buncha hippies on welfare. What do they know, they don't work in the woods” sort of sentiments. (Of course it is more complex than that – there are industrial workers who are eco-activists and white collars who are hostiles.)

All environmentalists are critical of rampant consumerism and boldly proclaim the need for a simpler life without giant pick -up trucks and suburban McMansions. When status-linked consumer goods are one of the few ways you can proclaim your self-worth, a group which threatens this possibility is something to fear.

Any familiarity with the land protectors will show the prominent role played by Indigenous people and women. Resentment against Indigenous people runs high among certain sectors of the Euro-Canadian population. Of course, every bigot has “his “Indian”' to back them up in any conflict with the “militants” and enviromentalists, and this card is played to the max. Given the racial slurs directed at Indigenous land protectors and the underlying sub-stratum of prejudice present in the populace, racism must be considered as a factor in understanding the hostiles.

Other than sexist language directed at some of the women leaders, misogyny seems more undercover than overt. Given the level of toxic masculinity that exists in a significant number of males, it must be very disturbing to see all those women in leadership roles. Strong women frighten men who are still mired in traditional concepts of what it means to be male. Indeed, the very idea of saving the trees may come off as somehow “unmanly.” Among those suffering from toxic masculinity, empathy is considered “feminine” and therefore weak. Concern for the trees is empathy extended to all living things. Thus the male land protectors also become a source of anxiety. After all they are “letting” the women lead, and are full of empathy for the forests., something no “real man” would do. These are the “sensitive men” they loath/fear, whose very existence is a threat to the character armour they have spent decades constructing.

That said, I do not blame the hostiles. They are victims along with the trees. The Plunderbund and the governments that front for it, has and will sacrifice them at a moment's notice. They will sacrifice these people, until like on Easter Island, the last tree has been hacked down. Nor do I blame the Plunderbund, for like the wolf killing the lamb they are acting out their essential nature. In this case the pillage of humanity and nature for an ever-expanding pile of capital. Crime is their very essence.

You could point a finger at right-wing social democracy and resource-based business unionism. The old autodidact socialists would not let workers wallow in ignorance and prejudice. Their newspapers and educationals constantly tried to lift workers up and to expand their horizons. When right-wing social democracy took over they eliminated both the newspapers and the education, leaving workers even more vulnerable to corporate propaganda. The Communist and socialist-led IWA promoted sustainable logging way back in 1940. The right-wing purged the left in the IWA and these concerns flew out the door.

But go easy on the finger pointing. They are acting according to their nature too. Business unionism and right-social democracy are predicated on the continued existence of the corporate capitalist system. Their role is to mediate between the populace and the corporate elite. They are also dependent on a strong corporate economy. Take away that system and they are without a role. Hence these forces are deeply hostile to any group that is radical or in any way challenges the economic and political power structure. Radicals have to be either tamed or destroyed. In the past, the radical threat included the Wobblies, the Communists, the old time Socialists and later the New Left. Today the threat is the environmental movement, and most especially its direct action wing.

The problem for the corporate system is that even a moderate environmental approach means the gradual termination of the plundering, growth forever model. If corporate capitalism cannot grow, which means continued destruction of the natural world, it goes into crisis. Whether enviros know it or not, they are a dagger at the throat of the system. This explains the deep hostility of much of the corporate world and the hostile attitudes of both the business unions and the right-social democrats. Of course, other than the hard right climate crisis deniers, they cannot come out with a full bore attack on the environmental movement. Instead they offer tepid half measures and green-wash. What you can nail them for is their hypocrisy.

Here in BC the right-wing social democrat dominated NDP is split on the issue of Fairy Creek. Many members ignore the party on this issue and are in support. At the same time, there is a minority of members/supporters who are among the bitterest hostiles.They reiterate the right-wing anti-activist bigotry, but without the racism and misogyny. Some of their accusations are pure Trumpite lunacy. - that the action is due to “rich” environmental NGOs trying to raise money, or that the non-violent activists are eco-terrorists. Where does this craziness come from, other than fear? What is the fear that drives them to such hatred? I suspect they believe in “My party right or wrong” and that any opposition to the NDP – even coming from the left, is the enemy. Such True Believerism will not help the NDP and the party leaders would be wise to put a lid on it. What ever the NDP brass do, right-wing social democracy is a major obstacle in saving the old growth forests, let alone developing a green economy. Our only hope is ever greater non-violent resistance pushing change from below.

On The Cusp of Change – Or Disaster?

 “Will we make it?” - the question arises in this unprecedented 40 degree heat. Sad that the question has arisen, for never in human history have we gotten so close to creating the situation that would overcome our many problems. There were very good reasons why these were not resolved a hundred years ago. One major reason being the fact we were still beset with the overwhelming legacy of a brutal and oppressive system of domination. This legacy kept people from working together to make change, and made many question the need for change in the first place.

We know what those divisive legacies were. In the 1950s most people were racist – in the full sense of the term. Misogyny and homophobia were universal. Only an enlightened minority did not beat or terrorize their children. Authoritarian, repressive religions held sway. The vast majority believed what ever the government, media or other authorities said. As for ecology - “What's that?”

There was the left of course, and it was more advanced than most on these issues. But the left's emphasis was on the economy, which essentially meant the “White” male worker. Thus, the Old Left was an inch deep and a mile wide. It had a lot of support in the working class, but its challenge to the domination system did not go to any great depth. (Women were ideally to be housewives, homosexuality was taboo and the whole mega-project, eternal growth paradigm went unchallenged.)

The New Left arose in large measure as a response to these and other failures of the Old Left. We tackled that list with gusto – taking racism, misogyny, homophobia and environmental destruction head on. Initially, 90% of the population hated us for all of this, so you might say we were a mile deep and an inch wide.

Fast forward forty to fifty years and what you find is that most people, at least intellectually, are in favor of overcoming the issues the New Left raised. You might well say that the average person today has much of the consciousness of a 1960s New Leftist. People have also become more tolerant, caring and aware of issues than ever before. This is in spite of concerted and well-funded efforts to turn the clock back to the 1950s.


While consciousness has changed, it has yet to give rise to the economic and ecological changes that this consciousness implies. We still have the same old top-down highly undemocratic political and economic systems and the economy is still based upon plundering the natural environment. However, it is only a matter of time when, like water droplets wearing away a stone, this consciousness would force those changes upon the system. (No, I am not saying consciousness determines existence – the relationship is dialectical – the real existing world gives rise to consciousness, which in turn reacts upon that world.)

There is now a race between the impending climate disaster and the ability of that advanced consciousness to change the system to one that is sustainable. The one force that truly encapsulates that consciousness and unifies humanity in a most basic way (for our survival) is the global eco-movement. This is not small potatoes – combine the eco-movement with its natural allies and you have the greatest mass movement in history.

Just to begin with, the world's Green Parties and the new leftist parties which reject the neoliberal model have some twenty million supporters. There are the NGOs – the biggest of which is Green Peace with branches in 50 countries. But the movement – and this is a very important point – cannot be reduced to either parties or NGOs.These two groups are only the tip of the eco-ice berg (now melting) There are tens of thousands of small local or regional, grass roots groups. Combine the support for all these groups, and I think they outnumber parties or NGOs.

To this list you must add those groups which the eco-movement is friendly with – such as the world-wide Indigenous movement. There are millions of Indigenous people, Maori, Australian Aboriginals, Polynesians, Sami, as well as the Indigenous of the Americas. Then there are the groups who naturally gravitate toward an ecological consciousness. There are the radical and syndicalist unions which embrace the ecological approach. There is Via Campesina, the peasant movement with one hundred million members. You have spiritual communities like Buddhists, Catholic Workers, Quakers and others. Where else could you place organic gardeners, fair-trade advocates, animal rights people, and those who favour “simple living.” ? Certainly not with the plunderers. We have the “Greta Generation” - people not yet adults who know they will be the ones to suffer from run-away climate change. These youth are aware, like none other in history.

We are now both a mile deep and a mile wide. Will we have enough time to avert disaster? The time for change is NOW. If you refuse to change, at least get the hell out of our way!

On Thought-less-ness and Hate

 The population can be divided between those people who think and those who do not. (*) The thought-less should not be blamed, for our education system and mass media do not teach people how to think. At its most basic, thinking consists of logical argument and empirical evidence. Logical thought kicks in about age 7 to 9, yet we do not teach basic principles of logic to children.

The thought-less person simply EMOTES. Now there is nothing wrong with emotion, in many senses it is our driving force, but the problem comes when emotion is ALL you have, logic and evidence be damned. In the case of the harsh disagreements in the social, economic and political realms, that emotion is usually hatred. This hate is based upon fear. Hatred leads to a situation of non-thought – the hater spews invective, grasps at any straw to denigrate the supposed opponant. A vicious circle of non-thought ensues, hatred leading to ever greater irrationalism. The more irrational, the greater the fear and the greater the hate. The non-thinker uses a broad range of logical fallacies to “defeat” the person or group they hate. These include the straw man, the red herring, the false syllogism, out and out denial, as well as innuendo taken as fact.

Hate closes all doors. It is an all-consuming fire. The person hated is written off, no dialogue is possible. The hater will never take the olive branch offered. The opponant is a threat that must be destroyed. But we must not confuse hate with anger. We have all been angry with someone we love, but we get over it. We can be angry with politicians and corporation bosses, but we know they are merely parts of a system. Hate is something else. It precludes forgiveness and understanding.

Hatreds, and the fears that underly them, are often handed down through families and friends, while others are the products of mass media propaganda. Not being able to think, the person swallows these stories whole. But hate gives meaning to an otherwise purposeless existence. “Them (fill in the blank) are the cause of my unhappiness.” You become trapped in a circle of mutual reaffirmation, if one is in a group which shares common hatreds. Hatred of certain groups gives meaning and interconnection with other people of similar mind. There is a feeling of great superiority over the target group, and so the ego comes into the mix. The insecure individual gets an ego boost from the collective hatred of a group which is usually superior to them in education, culture and ability. There is truly a power in inverse snobbery.

These social aspects of non-thought also make it extremely difficult to grow emotionally and intellectually. If you were to start thinking and reject those hatreds and fears, you would lose the emotional support of your familiy and friends whose views you so fervently shared.

Dialogue with a thought-less person becomes impossible in these circumstances. You must try to reach them, but if rebuffed too often, it is better to draw back. Some day thay might break out of their irrational prison, but for now, all your logic, evidence and patience account for nothing. There are some people you can never reach, and you have to accept that fact. Your only hope is that you have planted some seeds of awareness that may sprout later on.


(*) Of course it is more complex than this. I have created a dichotomy to clarify a point. Scratch many a well read, logical, person in the right place and out pops a demon. Indeed, I would say we all have our shadow, our hidden irrationalites we protect with unreason and project upon others.





GENUINE DECOLONIZATION

 Changing names and removing statues is fine, but only scratches the surface of decolonization To authentically decolonize we must go much deeper, right to the structures that imposed and perpetuated colonization. What are these colonial structures imposed on the land? The two most important are the system of government, politics and political parties and the system of courts, laws and policing.

The System of Governance

The state is a colonial imposition. Prior to the European invasion, no states existed north of MesoAmerica. The Canadian governmental system is rooted in the British state. In the 18th Century, Britain was ruled by a land owning/trading oligarchy (less that 5% had the vote) divided into two parties, the Whigs and the Tories. Governments were formed through the competition of these two groups, the party getting the most seats, given power. This power was manifested through the state's repressive apparatus (courts, police and army) which were used to force compliance from the population. Winning the competition to direct the state was all important, since it opened the country to all forms of pillage by the victors.

The Canadian state formed in the mid-19th Century, was over time, forced through popular pressure to enfranchise all adults. Nevertheless, the essential elements of competition, winner take all and the potential to oppress the populace remained. Due to the emphasis on competition and winning, it is very ineffective as a form of governance. There is little if any long term view, other than the next election and the system divides people rather than brings them together. True leadership, which entails both obedience to the desires of the populace and the ability to tell unpleasant truths, is not possible. “Leadership” takes the form of bossism (Do as I say, or else) and as such is not representative of the common will. Therefore they are not trusted.

The internal party structure is modeled on the state. You have competition for leadership and the winner expects obedience from the losers. Failure to comply means loss of position in the party or purging. The party leader is a boss. Naturally, there is conflict within every party. “Top-down” breeds a situation where the “iron law of oligarchy” runs rampant. This causes the party to become sterile, lack imagination, have no long term goals but power for its own sake. The entire political system becomes incapable of dealing with the problems of the day, leading to stagnation and increasing crises. (The present inability of the government to deal with the climate crisis being a prime example of this.)

Of course, society is class divided between the owners of the means of production and the great mass who work for them. Class conflict is inevitable. Due to the structure of govenment and internal party governance, inter-group conflict is much greater than what one would expect from class struggle alone. Progressive parties compete with each other and internal party organization tends to authoritarianism, just like the bourgeois parties. The progressive forces are thus divided and this makes social change more difficult than it ought to be.

The Courts

The colonial system of courts, law and policing is based upon similar principles as that of government. Like the state, the courts are rooted in a past forms of minority domination. The court served as a tool in keeping the majority of the population in line, and still largely serves that purpose. In a trial, lawyers compete and the one who has the best argument (or most convincing lies) wins the case. Winning is what matters and justice takes second place. (Just as “solving a case” is more important to the police than justice) Court procedures, and the language used, are totally foreign to everyone except lawyers and magistrates. Not all evidence is allowed to be examined and weighed. The reasons behind a defendant's actions are usually deemed irrelevant. The court's essential authoritarianism is revealed by the notion of punishment. Slaves and serfs were dominated through fear – and the punishments were horrific for that reason. While less brutal, the court system continues the practice of using fear. Justice is seen as the guilty party receiving a sufficiently harsh sentence. As in the past, the court system and its laws are essentially based upon suppression and revenge.

The law is bizarre. While there is a Natural Law that all societies share -one does not rob, assault, rape or kill one's fellows, the colonial system is based on statute law. If the dominant group has the power, it can, and has always, made anything it wishes illegal. (Such as millennial-old hunting rights obliterated) Or it can legalize crimes committed by the dominant group. (Invader land theft) Behind this lies the idea that the dominator minority knows better what is good for the people than the people themselves. Such a legal system can only be corrupt, as wealthy minority interests are promoted and protected and any actions deemed even mildly threatening to the dominators are criminalized. (Examples include the “corporation as fictitious person” fraud, giving corporations the same rights as human beings, and the moves to criminalize protest. A good example of the latter being the Quebec Student movement's 2012 success in mobilizing public support caused the Quebec Govt to make it illegal for more than three people to be together in the streets.)

Decolonizing Governance and the Courts

So what might a decolonized system look like? It would need to look at and borrow from alternatives, and these are to be found with Indigenous Peoples and ancient European (the Deep Past) customs. (*)

Governance

First off, we need a system that emphasizes cooperation rather than competition and a more consensual attitude. Competition must be left where it really matters – class struggle – and not be imported into the popular movements, and barring this caveat, into the system of governance. There needs to be a good amount of decentralization, but with attendant financing. Decisions ought to be made and executed at the level to which they are best suited. (The ancient subsidiary concept.) As an example, municipalities and Indigenous nations would have complete control over development, forests and resources. (**) As much as possible, there would be mass participation in decision making and democracy would be an on-going process, not something that you did for five minutes every four years. While political organizations ought to have coherence, party discipline would have to go, along with the authoritarian internal governance. Leaders would become like chiefs (coordinators and spokespeople) not petty dictators.

The Courts.

The goal must be to eliminate “winning”, competition and vengeance as justice. The goal should be the truth, and all evidence examined. No more punishment, but restitution, reconciliation, and where that is not possible, the anti-social person must be removed from society, not as punishment, but as protection for the populace. (***) The core of the law ought to be Natural Law and any statute laws imposed must be done by a social consensus to avoid the use of this power for the purposes of corruption, persecuting a minority, or imposing ones personal morality on the population.


(*)The Deep Past refers to the European peoples prior to their conquest by the Roman Empire and the cultural genocide of the Roman Church.

(**) There would have to be general environmental and human rights regulations that a community could not breach.

(***) Both Indigenous peoples and the pre-Christian Iceland Vikings had such concepts.




Wednesday, November 11, 2020

 

VENEZUELA – THE PROPAGANDA AND THE REALITY

A friend of mine just got back from Venezuela. He was trapped there by Covid 19, spending EIGHT MONTHS there before he could get back to Canada. During that time he traveled all over the country on his bicycle – from Amazonia to the Caribbean and then to the Colombian border. He either camped beside the road or was invited to stay at peoples houses or farms. What he saw in that lengthy grass roots tour is most informative;

1. No one was starving and there was plenty of food

2. He saw no violent outbreaks or even regular criminal violence

3. Gasoline was rationed, yet the buses continued to run. And there were plenty of cars on the road.

4. There were no hoards of people trying to cross into Colombia, in fact, he discovered that many Colombians live in Venezuela, having to escape the repression there.

5. Opposition to the Madero Government seemed to come from white people alone. They often told him "how great the country was 20 years ago." (when half the population lived in abject poverty and the state was in their hands.)

This on-the ground report totally contradicts what has appeared in the mass media. Mind you, he did not visit Caracas, but if they lie about the entire country, might they also not be lying about conditions there too?

Thursday, October 22, 2020


THE NATURE OF PARLIAMENTARY PARTIES

There is unhappiness among many Green Party of Canada supporters that the “establishment” candidate won the leadership. This after the GPC “establishment” weighed in against the eco-socialist candidates. There is also the generations-long failed attempts to drag the NDP to the left, an act of masochism, if there ever was. Usually people blame the party leadership for selling out or being undemocratic. This is only a superficial way of looking at the problem.

Parliamentary parties of the left always start out militant and radical. Over time they move increasingly to the right. It happens so often, it is almost like a law of nature. All contemporary social democratic parties started out as socialist parties whose goal was to replace capitalism with socialism the moment they achieved power. Within two decades these parties became purely reformist and socialism was for “Sunday sermons.” By the 1990s they had abandoned even the goal of significant reforms within capitalism and embraced neoliberal ideology. These parties – including the NDP – are now center parties. Many of the Green Parties have had a somewhat similar trajectory, starting in the 1980s as very anarchistic and New Left and then evolving more toward typical parliamentary parties. (The difference with the social democratic parties is the Greens become moderate without abandoning the core of their platform – ecological sanity)

When something happens constantly like this you have to look for systemic and structural causes. The cause for the slide to centrism by radical parties can be found in two areas. 1. The nature of parliamentary politics and the effect it has on parties who are serious about engaging in the such politics. 2. The internal structure of the political party.

A tiny, irrelevant sect can remain pure, but once you are serious about getting elected you are bound to make compromises. First off, your platform has to be broad and inclusive enough to draw in voters. Once elected, you have to get results otherwise you won't get re-elected. This means compromise and trade-offs with groups to your right. Compromise can quickly become a habit. The longer one is reelected the more one begins to think like a parliamentarian and less like the ordinary Janes and Joes who elect you.

You want to run candidates who are electable – this means people who are photogenic, say the right things and become “personalities.” They may not, however, be the most radical or ideological of party members. As the party gains influence the ideological become increasingly seen as a threat to getting MP's elected. When a party gets politically established, the MPs take on an ever greater leadership role. They, and their handlers, begin to take the party away from the ideologues and grass roots militants. The party ends up a “vote-catching machine” and policies are designed to gain votes rather than pursue a coherent social or economic goal.

The internal structure of political parties leads to a dimming of radicalism. This is Robert Michels' “iron law of oligarchy” which he developed from studying the Social Democratic Party of Germany early in the 20th Century. Parties are based around representation, not delegation. Thus, one elects party officials for a set term and it becomes difficult to dislodge them. The party leadership is a hierarchy and the longer one is a member of that group, the more one has the time to develop a loyal band of supporters. Parties typically use simple majority democracy and it is thus easy to stack meetings with one's supporters. Once established, a party hierarchy can control credentialing (who is acceptable as party reps or MPs) and the party media. The party hierarchy can send in organizers to take undermine and takeover recalcitrant party branches. Since party radicals are also the party ultra-democrats, their isolation or purging means there is even less restraining the authoritarianism of the party hierarchy. Bureaucracy tends to grow and the party develops a whole stratum of paid staffers, who quite naturally know who pays their wages.

The “iron law” does not work in every organization. Anarcho-syndicalist unions have largely avoided it. They have done this through radically decentralizing power to the branches, by a bare minimum of paid officials, recallable delegates rather than representatives, and term limits for elected officials. Any member and any branch can propose modifications to union policies and these are voted on by the membership on an annual basis. Delegates to convention are selected by the branches and the number of delegates per branch is dependent upon the number of branch members.

The Green Parties in their original form adopted some of these anarchist concepts and added the modified consensus democracy which grew out of the direct action environmental movements. Radical democracy was soon found in some ways to be incompatible with being a parliamentary party. (says a lot about parliamentary democracy) The Greens, while still keeping a much higher level of internal democracy than other parties, modified and became more like regular parties. As they gained in votes and MPs, the pressure has been ever greater in that direction.

 

WILL HORGAN'S RE-ELECTION BE A PYRRHIC VICTORY?


According to the polls John Horgan's BC NDP will experience a crushing victory over its opponents. This victory may, in the end, prove a disaster for that party. As the climate crisis becomes ever more evident, ever more people will become angry at the failure to take serious measures against it. An ever-growing number will be frustrated by four more years of ignoring the most important problem of all as the time clock ticks down. Keep in mind that the Covid crisis has pushed the climate crisis to the back burner for many. Once the Covid crisis is behind us, the climate crisis will once more be important to these people. There can only be negative repercussions for the NDP. This situation will be exacerbated as direct action movements against the climate crisis grow in number and intensity and are repressed by the NDP government. (think Clayoquot 1992.) If, by some miracle, the Horganite-right wing is replaced by a pro-environment left, it will be an up-hill battle winning the trust of the population again, since the Horganites initially opposed Site C, LNG and log exports.


Of course, the NDP could reverse course and get serious about the climate crisis – shut down Site C and LNG as untenable. But I will not hold my breath in anticipation..

 

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