A minority of silence: farewell

This blog has been going for well over a year and a half. While it never really started with, or had, a specific intention, it kept going in fits and starts for most of its life cycle. Generally it was inspired or driven by anger, a desire to interject in a longer format on debates with comrades and friends, as well as pass critical comment or provide a resource (as in the case of the enormously popular Black Bloc reading list) for people curious about political thought and action. In practice it really came into its own as a response to the response (if that makes sense) to the actions and events of March 26th 2011. However that era of political action is no longer with us. As the recent march in London on 20th of October showed, political action needs to shift away from the spectacular politics that this blog covered, and towards a long-term power-game around the modes of production and everyday life, and while I kept saying this, I never did it. A number of texts have made the case far more eloquently than I. SolFed’s recent book, “Fighting for Ourselves”, and the project espoused by Plan C are examples, however there are many others (including the Dan Hancox book I reviewed in the most recent post) which renew this point.

In reality DSG called it a while back- blogging can be a self-marginalizing activity contrary to the aims of struggle. That does not mean that it should never be done, but rather that it should only be a means to an end, not an end in itself. The more I considered what SFTMC meant to me, the more it became that end in itself, another thing I had to ‘keep ticking over’, rather than a means to communicate with the ideas other people were having. I have other channels for that now- if you’re sharp eyed, you will spot them. For now, SFTMC, and its respective twitter account, are over. Thanks for reading.

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Review: Utopia and The Valley of Tears

More and Hythloday discuss Utopia

What is this thing we call Utopia? A question rarely asked outside of academic circles. So-called ‘Common sense’ would have us believe that ‘utopia’ is synonymous with absolute perfection. Yet even the slightest probing of the actual practice of writing utopia demolishes this illusion. Thomas More, William Morris, even Edward Bellamy to some extent; all looked askance on the world they were writing. More’s coining- ‘the good place that is no place’- infers only the perfection of its own ambiguity.

More, like Dan Hancox in his recent work Utopia and The Valley of Tears, saw fit to explain his island through the medium of a supposedly ‘real’ report. Hancox is an investigative journalist whose previous work, Kettled Youth was an exploration of the protest movements of 2010 and 2011 and the futureless young who populated them, so his presentation of an investigative report blends seamlessly with his work in mainstream mediums like the Guardian. Hancox himself maintains that Marinaleda is a real place,though, like More’s original Utopians and many of their inheritors, its citizens hardly ever seem to leave. The recently deceased Ernest Callenbach and his Ecotopia share a similar journalistic conceit, though a more accurate but lesser known work by Albert Meister set in a mirror of the Pompidou is a more fitting comparison. Add to this that Hancox has collaborated with arch-pranksters DSG, noted for their tactical use of disinformation, and Valley of Tears starts to emerge as a work in the high tradition of of fictitious utopia.

Unlike other Utopias, however, Hancox looks to no noticeable MacGuffin or science-fictive novum to bring his utopia into being, but rather the end of Francoism, economic hardship, and simple rural isolation. One has to admit that its a rather elegant and believable manoeuvre. If, as Oscar Wilde said, “a map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing”, then Hancox should be praised for placing Utopia squarely back within the map, the space, of the contemporary; in stark contrast to many Utopias written under late 20th century capitalism, which relied on faraway planets, prophetic visions or future economic collapses (j’accuse, Le Guin, Robinson, Piercy).

Annares: the Setting for U. K. Le Guins Anarcho-Syndicalist ‘ambiguous utopia’

The economic collapse, which in so much fiction, heralded the arrival of the coming society, is here. Writers can no longer rely on such a deus ex oeconomia to give justification for their visions; to be an author of utopia today is to position oneself in direct confrontation with the economic system. It is often forgotten that More spent book one of Utopia on a pseudo-socratic dialogue about the economic evils of his age, especially enclosure; “The increase of pasture,’ said I, ‘by which your sheep, which are naturally mild, and easily kept in order, may be said now to devour men…”.

The decision to set this utopia in contemporary Spain is a smart move: As Tudor England did, Spain today faces the spatial failure of capital as development projects shut down, countless houses are built which are never occupied yet thousands go homeless, and neoliberal follies squat on public space. Before the crash neo-liberalism never truly denied utopianism, but instead aggressively asserted that it was the only true utopia.

The ‘Mushroom’, Sevilla: the world’s biggest wooden structure.

In Hancox’s Marinaleda these economies reflect in the red mirror of communism. Yes, the orgy of house-building, but no profits, no reason other than need. Mass employment well above the national average, but in agriculture, decidedly material labour (contrast this with the recent announcement that a ‘digital media centre’ will create 4000 jobs in the London Olympic ‘legacy zone’). It is run, we are told, as a kind of ‘benevolent dictatorship’ by its Mayor, who represents a left version of what Slavoj Zizek terms ‘ubuist power’ we know better from Berlusconi or Johnson; a slightly ridiculous figure, with possible marital problems, a penchant for hyper-cliche imagery, but a ruthless realism and tenacity to bring forward his vision of the world; “Utopias aren’t chimeras, they are the most noble dreams that people have. Dreams that through struggle, can be and must be turned into reality”.

Unlike the island-founder Utopus, Juan Gordillo is not written as a leader with singular vision, but one who represents the plurality and multiplicity of the modern left, willing to reach out. “Above all,” Gordillo concludes, “we have learned from our own experience. All those systems of thought are valid, but we don’t have one system of thought: we take from several of them – and above all, from our practical experience.”. One suspects Hancox is drawing on William Morris’ words in News From Nowhere that “men fight and lose the battle, and the thing that they fought for comes about in spite of their defeat, and when it comes turns out not to be what they meant, and other men have to fight for what they meant under another name”; in other words: fail, fail again, fail better. Given the historical tendency of the left to defend failed projects in their totality, Hancoxs decision to take this position yet still call his utopia communist is a significant ideological turn.

Spanish Anarchists in the Civil War

Written utopias are often depictions of whole nations, whole planets, or at the very least totally-self contained communities that constitute their whole world. Recent attempts to go look past this approach, such as Bruce Sterling’s ‘islands in the net’ and Hakim Bey’s ‘Temporary Autonomous Zone’ have become overcoded with neoliberal and individualistic tendencies. Unlike these, communism restores the common to the centre of a political project. Communism is also an active position; “the real movement that abolishes the present state of things”. A communist utopia in the post-soviet era is not a disengaged place to move towards, is is an active political recombination that is moving against.

15M, Sevilla

Moving against what? Marinaleda is written as an active participant in the 15M movement. This mobilization of millions in 2011 represents an ‘actually happening’ mass movement that took place, born out of frustration with mainstream institutional politics and its ability to deliver alternatives to austerity. It also provides the key to why Hancox has chosen to write his Utopia on such a small scale. Hancox attempts to plot the intersections between real left-wing movements from the traditional left in Spain, 15M, and the fictional Marinaleda; those familiar with his work on the way the grime scene in London fed into the student protests, and the ways the students chose to reject the purely representational politics of the NUS, will know the significance small groups can have in giving form to a movement while resisting the temptation of programmatic politics. Emergent work being done on the boundaries of the academy and social movements is starting to rethink the role these sorts of groups and forces have in ‘leadership’ in ‘leaderless’ movements.

Utopia no longer stands outside the world and calls to us, prescribing solutions- if it ever did. It is an active participant in the world and is in confrontation with the present state of things. Any written utopia has to contend with, and acknowledge, this ‘problem’. The fiction of Marinaleda is in the process of recognizing its reality as a utopia, but hasn’t quite got there…yet.

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Progressive Geographies

The Territorial Support Group’s map for policing the Olympics is doing the rounds on Twitter (thanks to Nina Power for the alert). This is an area I know quite well – when I had a visiting post at Queen Mary a few years ago I cycled a lot around this area. I could see the site under construction from my flat’s window too.

The TSG is a controversial police unit involved in large-scale policing operations in London, and providing “anti-terrorism and domestic extremism capability”  – their official site is here. Disturbingly they trumpet that their officers can deploy the following ‘skills’

  • Firearms
  • Public Order Training
  • Rapid entry
  • Taser
  • Plain clothes/Uniform tactics
  • Providing tactical solutions and advice to borough and business group problems.

I know quite a bit has been written about paramilitary policing, but is there any literature examining the curious choice of name?

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Caesarean Policing

Laura Oldfield Ford- untitled flyposter

A little over 12 months ago I wrote this post outlining some of the logic the pre-emptive arrests before the Royal Wedding operated under. Today, a court ruling found that the arrests were lawful. While, in legal terms, it is debatable whether this represents a significant advance on pre-existing powers, in practical terms it has had a powerful effect on the way police and the public perceive powers of arrest. On this same day the news broke that police had begun arresting former graffiti artists:

Having been arrested, they were questioned about what they considered petty matters – accusations of criminal damage in the ’90s, questions about websites and magazines that they were involved in. After being briefly questioned about these seemingly irrelevant matters, they were told that they were to be bailed until November on the condition that they did not use any form of railway in London (overground, tube or tram), carry spray paint (or other graffiti tools, presumably) at any time, or travel within a mile of any Olympic area. That includes the Olympic Park, the ExCel center and other Earls Court locations, Greenwich park, Hampton Court Palace, Hyde Park, Lord’s Cricket Ground, North Greenwich Arena, The Mall, The Royal Artillery Barracks, Wembley Arena, Wembley Stadium, Wimbledon and a host of out-of-London locations.

It’s a unpleasant trying to think about the clusterfuck going on around the Olympics. Massive militarization of the olympics and beyond, the failure of G4S (and their awful song), workfare scandals, cleaners’ camps in awful conditions, the brand police, missiles on tower blocks, silenced protest, twitchy torch relays, and social cleansing, are still just  small parts of a larger, terrible tapestry. Mark Fisher, in the introduction to the collected Savage Messiah (which, apt to its name, appeared on my doormat this morning) describes this as a “banal science fiction telos, as the Olympic Delivery Authority transformed whole areas of East London into a temporary photo opportunity for global capitalism”. Its this sense of a crushing inevitability; like a bee with its abdomen removed, the political class endlessly sips from the PR cup, so determined to have nothing ruin the Olympics, they make them unbearable. A series of semiotic mishaps reinforce this; The BBC advert that depicts the walls of the Olympic Stadium as the walls of the nation itself, the police figurine merchandise.

The consequential logic of this feeds in to what we might call ‘Caesarean Policing’; a more precise term than ‘pre-crime’. Caesarean in two senses: Firstly, that the criminal subject is brought into being without the labour of the court process. This is of course a gendered and medicalized metaphor, but that is because we are dealing here with gendered and medicalized power- preserving the integrity of a feminized, pacified body politic. Secondly, the exceptional power by which Caesar himself seized office; in the pseduo-mythology of Roman power Caesar is both the pre-emptive body and the pre-emptive sovereign. Here this old form of power meets with new technologies of power and control to facilitate a mode of policing.

The biggest mistake here would be to assume that this is a neutral, automatic, and automated procedure. Indeed this is how the Olympic apparatchik justifies their own binding to, and deployment of, this form of power; the Olympics are timeless, eternal, and they will happen according to plan (or else Zeus presumably takes vengeance). But that obscures the fact that what is being protected is a deployment of affective, immaterial, experiences in the service of capital as the pageantry and excitement of sports forms an excuse for a subsidized platform for sponsorship (quite literally a platform, in the case of one particular abomination).

The most telling and most important aspect of the games and their policing will be in 3 months time; will the troops leave London? Will the Olympic sites be re-used? Will those arrested get a court date? Will we be able to develop a new vocabulary of power to describe the new order? What is left in the wake of the Olympic day of judgement over which no judge presides?

PS: If you find yourself the victim of pre-emptive arrest, arrested on a protest or encounter other Olympics-related legal problems contact Green and Black Cross http://greenandblackcross.org/ or (if you are local to the Olympics) Newham Monitoring Project http://www.nmp.org.uk/ visit http://networkforpolicemonitoring.org.uk/ for info about groups working on these and similar issues.

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A Note on North Korea

How come the reaction to the above scenes in the west has been so poor? Like many of those jumping into the fray on this I have very little knowledge of Korean politics. But it seems to me that we are offered impoverished explanations that fit into a few simple camps. On the one hand, it is argued that the grieving shown here is somehow staged (this is a perfectly valid possibility), perhaps even at gunpoint, on the other, that a population is ‘brainwashed’ into feeling sincere sadness at the passing of someone we know to be amongst the last of the great dictators of the 20th century.

I think these responses say far more about those making them than they do about North Korea. For starters I’ve never had much time for the ‘brainwashing’ concept, as it generally tends to be used as a category to take agency away from groups who practice behaviours that don’t fit within the rational-actor model that labour demands of us- I’m not sure how it stands up in psychological studies or other forms of mental health practise, but its political use is often wide-reaching (I understand Alberto Toscano’s work on Fanaticism has covered some of this ground already). In particular its often used to demonize and alienate intentional communities and organizations that don’t conform to certain norms (to the benefit or detriment of their members). What Scientology gets accused of one week, the environmental movement gets accused of the next. The left is guilty of this as much as the right; a certain kind of naive empiricism abounds whereby the ‘mainstream media’ is to blame for obscuring the fundamental truth of exploitation. More broadly, its not like subjects in a liberal democracy are exactly immune from irrational outpourings of grief- in fact they seem to be far more common. Steve Jobs and Princess Diana are two examples mentioned by friends where the anglophone world has lost its shit over the death of a celebrity – while these two were clearly not as loathsome as Kim Jong Il, neither were they really any more intimately connected to our own lives; indeed there is a case to be made that the lives of both had largely negative consequences for those mourning them. The accusations of ‘brainwashing’ speak of a cold war arrogance and a western exceptionalism, more than the experience of North Koreans.

On the other hand, if we go with the ‘this is staged’ argument, its pretty much the same shit under a different banner. Yes, it may well be staged, but how many of us have gone into work or the classroom, shown enthusiasm for a project, then gone home thinking that everyone we worked with was a vile shit who we wished never to see again? In boardrooms up and down the country tomorrow a group of people will be referred to as “team” (yep, without the “the” in front of it) who might happily shank each other given the opportunity. How is this so different from a few crocodile tears for a distant leader, especially in a country where by all accounts there is so much to cry about? Emotional and affective labour is part and parcel of any economy these days- this conversation between ‘Bifo’ Berardi and Nina Power picks up on these themes. My point here is that it doesn’t take a gulag to cry for the camera. What is alien to us in this is not the fact that there is fake mourning but the degree and the scale to which it is performed.

I know very little about North Korea, and have little desire to involve myself in a debate about the internal workings of such a nation. But I could really do without the assumptions that a) people are powerless or idiotic drones unless they fit within certain parameters b) Liberal democratic citizens are somehow immune to manipulating our own emotions to what is demanded of us by a superior.

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Occupy: Catalepsy/Multitude/Consensus/Crisis

I’d like to offer some brief notes, consisting of four titles, on the recent occupation movement. many are incomplete ideas born of frustration and joy, but It’s best to strike while the iron is hot than mourn mistakes later, or both


cat·a·lep·sy (ktl-ps)

n. A condition that occurs in a variety of physical and psychological disorders and is characterized by lack of response to external stimuli and by muscular rigidity, so that the limbs remain in whatever position they are placed

Katalipsi‘- the term the current Greek movement uses to describe ‘occupation’ is perhaps better thought of through the term ‘catalepsy’ or ‘seizure’. Seizure has two meanings- the first implies capture- of the enemy base, of a hostage, of government, or indeed of Power itself. But it also carries this second meaning- a seizure as a fit, a convulsion of the body politic, a form of violent immobility in which muscles seem to wrench away from each other. It is this second sense that gets lost in the anglophone concept of ‘occupation’- the notion of a ‘catalepsy’ itself. Its already been pointed out that while UK movements try to copy the ‘memetic form’ of a social movement, they certainly lack any of the radical withdrawal of labour or disruptive capacity of the Greek occupations or Egyptian uprisings. A square outside St. Pauls might be occupied, but the Greek Finance Ministry is seized. Note what David Graeber says here; “reclaim it [non-public space], camp out, and use it as a base to start doing other things. The ‘occupation’ as used here; basically just sitting in a space, be it public or private, is to a certain extent an irrelevance- the space is being used as an organizing place to plan other activities which pose the real threat to hegemonic power relationships.  Not simply being in a space, but the active organization of a space as a tactical device- occupation or seizure need to be, and can be, so much more. They can be the catalepsy of the body politic. In this short clip from the 1969 occupation of Tokyo university, this logic is taken to an extreme (indeed, one to which to which it is questionable whether today’s occupations need go), but the effect is powerful- the entire political system and the life support of the city itself is fastened to the fate of a few hundred square meters in one city, a catalepsy of the metropolis as its organs seize up: 

The Multitude?

There has been a lot of playing fast-and-loose with the concept of the multitude since the term was developed, but it has intensified a lot in recent weeks. Hardt and Negri have their own tentative take on the process in relation to the occupation movement, and refer to a ‘multitude form’ (though perhaps not yet a multitude function?) to organizing in these spaces. They’re absolutely right to hold back on making too many assertions. However their ideas about the multitude have been latched on to by mainstream-liberal media sources in order to avoid the fundamental class-content of the contemporary occupy movements. Of course, this sets up a dichotomy of multitude vs. working class which is utterly facetious. Here’s Paolo Virno, author of “Grammar of the Multitude” on the topic:

I would like to dispel an optical illusion. It is said: the multitude signals the end of the working class. It is said: in the universe of the ‘many’ there is no longer a place for blue overalls, that are all the same and constitute a body that is insensitive to the kaleidoscope of ‘differences’. Whoever says this is wrong… Working class is a theoretical concept, not a souvenir photo: it indicates the subject that produces absolute and relative surplus value. The notion of ‘multitude’ is counterpoised to that of ‘people’ rather than to that of the ‘working class’. Being multitude does not impede the production of surplus value. On the other hand, producing surplus value does not at all entail the need to be politically a ‘people’.

Of course the moment the working class ceases to be a people and becomes a multitude many things change: starting from the forms of organisation and of conflict. All becomes complicated and gets paradoxical. How easier it would be to tell ourselves that now we have the multitude rather than the working class…but if simplicity is desired at all costs, we might as well down a bottle of red wine.”

Which brings up a second point: for all of the talk of a “multitude” it is clear that the concept of organizing as a ‘people’ remains deeply entrenched within occupations like Occupy Wall Street. The slogan of “we are the 99%”  is a slogan of a ‘people’- one only need cast a brief eye over this structure to see the amount of people asking “America” as a mass. Speaking broadly, for thinkers like Hobbes, Rousseau and Locke, a ‘people’ opposes itself to a ‘multitude’ by virtue of its coherence, and its ability to avert conflict by management by a sovereign power. Appeals like “what happened, America?” and the emerging left-liberal call for a “new social contract”- like in this frankly odd Elizabeth Warren video (aren’t these the people who always accuse more revolutionary leftists of wanting ‘year zero’?), show that while the basic element of constituent power is understood- that the sovereign is the product of their subjects, the call seems to be for a rebirth of the concept of the ‘people’ itself- the 99% slogan places agency in a very small group of people, a narrative that has strengths, but very clear limitations. In many ways this is, I suspect, part of its attraction for libertarian activists of Ron Paul, Assange and Zeitgeist breeds- the emphasis in social contract theory which opposes the individual and the collective will that can be resolved through the establishment of a ‘people’ (as per Rousseau and Locke) appeals to both libertarians and social democrats in their various guises.

The ‘occupy x’ movement, then, carries the tension between a ‘multitude’ and a ‘people’ as the subject of resistance. I would argue that, given the alignment of those who want a ‘new social contract’; who fairly explicitly desire a return to a Keynsian state-market configuration, in comparison to those who are railing against the old social contract model, the multitude is the truly insurgent subject of the occupy movement, the one that is most likely to raise the critique of capital. Catalepsy is the weapon proper to a radically-oriented multitude; to plunder Alinsky, a catalepsy can “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it” in a way ‘occupation’ cannot. In this case the target may be the body politic itself.

While the multitude has always been a certain element of resistance to capitalism, it has never before encountered such a intense period. This is as-near-as-damn-it as we are ever likely to get to a ‘Negriist’ political moment- much of what he and many of his fellow autonomists have argued for is to some degree coming to pass (or at the very least, no-one has come up with a better set of descriptive tools). Of course, this doesn’t mean that the class critiques implicit and explicit in Empire are present on the ground at every occupation, but rather that its particular take manages to account for what is happening now in a way few other texts have. The upshot of this is that things like the occupation movement should be watched closely not so much for confirmation of the Hardt & Negri hypothesis (there is never such confirmation for any political thought) but for the critique of the very concept of ‘multitude’ that uncovers its limits and its new possibilities.

The furies of Consensus

I’d like to deal with a few of the more pointless critiques of the occupy movement- frankly because they annoy me so. The most infuriating for me is the criticism of ‘leaderless organization’. This post points out the recurrent narrative of the ‘anarcho-liberal’ in certain parts of leftist media.

While consensus decision making is prevalent amongst these groups, to confuse it as the essence of anarchist philosophy is a disingenuous move. Anarchism seeks non-hierarchical movements, but it also looks to a world without hierarchy. Movements which call for social democracy but then use these methods of organization are using anarchist tools but are not de facto anarchist- any more than they are de facto Tory because they talk about government. 

Its also important to remember why consensus decision making is used and emerged as an organizing method on the left. It emerged as a response to forms of organization that excluded a whole set of minor politics from its form. Robert’s Rules of Order and other methods of organizing tended to favour political grandstanding and those with the insider knowledge to manipulate process. Consensus is an attempt to create a structure that means that privileged people have to let people who don’t enjoy the same privileges speak. Few who have taken part in a movement that uses a consensus structure in meetings for a long period of time thinks its a perfect model, or that it has eliminated all the problems it set out to challenge. I, personally, would like to see it developed and altered beyond its present form. But I have to say, many of those making criticisms of consensus seem to be able to offer little if no progression on a Leninist vanguard- indeed, some seem to be making a critique that has the specific intent of propping this model of organizing up.

When consensus fails, the consequences can often be violent, traumatic, and upsetting. Yes, there is such a thing as the ‘tyranny of structurelessness’ (and my god aren’t we told about it an awful lot), but the vanguard party model simply proposes a tyranny of tyrannies to resolve this. Just because there may be unacknowledged leaders, and just because there may be an implicit vanguard, does not mean that, when they are recognised, they should be lauded or replaced with a more intense form. There is a part of me that jumps up and down in my belly, shouting:

“No, I will not turn to the byzantine central committees or the pathetic splits, I don’t want a ‘correct revolutionary path’ given to me by someone else. I don’t want some cuts-but-slower Labour Party ‘alternative’. It upsets me to see good people who I often count as friends and comrades, and have worked with effectively on other campaigns, falling for this crap. I would actually like to be challenged in organizing, to encounter views, and to have a process that includes voices I haven’t yet heard. Consensus is being used by thousands, maybe millions, of people across the globe right now. It isn’t a perfect system, but it has captured imaginations and appealed to people in a way no mass-produced placard handed out at the latest a to b march or party-line chant ever could.”

Its important to play around with decision making, to grab the time to work on issues of process outside of organizing immediate needs and pressures. I’ll write more about this soon, I hope. But its important to keep in mind that while consensus isn’t great, it contains the seeds of a positive step forwards. Perhaps we can move forward with the hope and aim that “one day humanity will play with law just as children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good”(viz.).

Capitalism and Final Crisis

It has come to the point where we must entertain a real and frightening possibility: that the present crisis of capitalism may be the last, even if nothing better comes along to replace it. The great hope of certain economists right now seems to be China. The problem is that China’s internal economy is actually a maze of confusion, and seems to be slowing. France looks like Italy 2 months ago, Italy is increasingly looking like Greece, as Greece begins to look like civil war.

In Octavia Butler’s book The Parable of The Sower Californian society faces crises which are merely those of today, intensified. An economic recession has put paid to the dream of space travel. Resource scarcity has limited access to communications networks. Police protection will cost you, and the middle class is swiftly disappearing to be replaced by a vagrancy crisis like that of the 14th century. Indentured servitude reappears. Environmental catastrophe makes food scarce. While Butler’s work has often been termed post-apocalyptic, many have pointed out that these are already the conditions of living for the bottom billion human beings on the planet. In Butlers book we get a description of capitalism effectively coming to an end as wealth concentrates to the point where power must once again be protected by naked force, not employed consent, and a new feudalism emerges. This vision is just one possibility, but it does provide a believable scenario in which capitalism might come to an end without improvement; The Marxist defining feature of capitalism, the bourgeoisie, divides itself into a lordly class and a serf class. This is not the only way that capitalism might come to an end, but at some point the cost of maintaining an economic system may be more than simply extracting surplus labour through direct force (rather than wage labour), or by some other diabolical means.

This is only one possibility, of course. But the continuing crises of the resources (soil and oil), finance, and environment may have passed beyond a ‘tipping point’ where economic and social growth and expansion is simply no longer possible. At this point capitalism as we know it becomes a liability, not a strength. It is enlightenment-based magical thinking to assume that this means an improvement in the conditions of life (though it may not mean a faster rate of decline in those conditions either), or the end of oppressions, but it might mean an opening of new potentialities, while others close.

Capitalism as we recognise it today has only been around 500 years.  What is commonly called neoliberalism is 60 years old at most. The paintings in the Chauvet Cave are 32,000 years old. There are no guarantees that anything will last. A crucial moment is upon us. Capitalism may yet trick the world into saving it. It may vanish into the very forces it has generated. Or we might win this time, and initiate a new set of possibilities for being.

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“wer gon hev some o wors now”

“I was at yor hoose last neet, and meyd mysel very comfortable. Ye hey nee family, and yor just won man on the colliery, I see ye hev a greet lot of rooms, and big cellars, and plenty wine and beer in them, which I got ma share on. Noo I naw some at wor colliery that has three or fower lads and lasses, and they live in won room not half as gude as yor cellar. I don’t pretend to naw yaw very much, but I naw there shouldn’t be that much difference. The only place we can gan to o the week ends is the yel hoose and hev a pint. I dinna pretend to be a profit, but I naw this, and lots o ma marrows na’s te, that wer not tret as we owt to be, and a great filosopher says, to get noledge is to naw wer ignerent. But weve just begun to find that oot, and ye maisters and owners may luk oot, for yor not gan get se much o yor own way, wer gon hev some o wors now…”

-a note left in the house of a pit-ower, after it was broken into during a strike riot, 1831 Source: R. Fyne, The Miners of Northumberland and Durham (1923 ed.) p21 quoted in EP Thompson ‘The Making of The English Working Class’, Pelican, p785

I’ve had this quote at the back of my mind since last week, but I couldn’t place where I’d read it or remember it in total. Of course, it can be found in E.P Thompson’s classic “The Making of The English Working Class”.  Its a very good example of how the wholly artificial divide between “political” and “apolitical” language is very precarious indeed.

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