THE DANGERS OF SECTARIANISM.

Sectarianism.

There has long been a phenomenon within struggles for unity against ruling elites which is the intellectual equivalent of cancer in the human body. It attacks individual units of struggle and breaks down internal group solidarity. The phenomenon is called sectarianism. It is derived from the examples of small religious (and political) groupings known as ‘sects’. Nevertheless, it is not a group which determines the existence of sectarian characteristics, but the existence of sectarian characteristics which determine the nature of a group. The characteristics (outlined in the following section) can also exist in single individuals as well as multiples

First some general points. Members of a sect are primarily preoccupied with external and internal issues. External issues concern problematic economic or political relationships within a given society, which members seek to solve or escape. Internal concerns generally orbit around group leadership and group cohesion. Cohesion is maintained by adherence to a particular set of ideas and practices.

Leadership in such sects is gained by those who convince group members (either democratically or forcibly) that he or she is the best representative of the sects ideas and practices. However, it is the numerous characteristics of sectarianism that are important to understand not who they emanate from. If the following characteristics are identified then whoever personifies them will be the carrier of this fatal disease.

The characteristics of sectarianism.

1. Sectarians claim only they have the correct solution or answer to any problems the movement faces. This claim can be in the form of a doctrine, a set of principles or through special insights and abilities.

2. The reason the sect exists as a separate entity, is because it’s leaders and members consider themselves superior (in some self-identified way) to the general movement they seek to influence and lead.

3. Sectarians have an unshakeable belief in their abilities despite any obvious particular failures and shortcomings they demonstrate in practice.

4. Sectarians can (and do) carry out serious internal or external struggles against rival sects or rival leaders within their own sect.

5. Sectarians often elevate trivialities to the level of principles in order to create disputes between rivals and then create splits within movements.

6. Sectarians frequently call for unity but only unity around their own ideas, practices or leadership.

7. Sectarians frequently distort the positions and efforts of others with whom they disagree. In this way they ‘poison’ any efforts at constructive discussions.

8. Sectarians are often boastful about their own abilities, whilst disrespectful and bitter in relationship to those who differ.

9. Sectarians generally use intellectual abstractions and logical deductions to ‘win’ arguments which bear little or no relationship to immediate reality.

10. Sectarians often explicitly demand that everyone subordinate their thinking and activity to those ideas promoted by them or their sect.

It is obvious that the above characteristics are manifestations of individual and collective forms of supposed superiority over the rest of humanity (point 2 above) The ten characteristics can be used to assess the sectarian nature of any individual religious or political leader of whatever denomination or political persuasion.

Within left-wing politics, sectarians are in many ways, mirror images of the alleged superiority of right-wing elites. They represent micro-sect elites who are ambitious to become national or international leaders. Hence, the phenomena of small group sectarians, after being promoted to power in various ways, becoming new ruling elites. (eg. Bolsheviks, Nazi’s, Maoists, Islamists, Zionists, ANC etc.) Conversely, if sectarians fail to dominate movements, they invariably atrophy slowly or destroy themselves quickly. (eg. WRP, IMG, CP, WF, BP, etc.).

It is rare for all ten characteristics to be displayed at any one time, but any single one of the above characteristics may be enough to start the destructive invasion.

Because, the capitalist mode of production exploits and oppresses the mass of people for the benefit of the few, the oppressed majority are extremely diverse. On the global scale, the mass of humanity dominated by capitalism, comprise of different cultures, genders, ages, skin colours and sexual orientations. To imagine that such diversity does not create a variety of needs and ways of thinking is to ignore both logic and reality. Yet that is exactly what sectarians do when telling everyone what they must (their favourite word) do.

They imagine that such human diversity can be consolidated behind a set of ideas produced by such self-promoted sectarian elites. However, that is a fantasy equal to that of imagining a male super-being occupying a beneficial heaven and patiently awaiting our final ascent. Neither scenario is going to happen. Any movement wishing to seriously challenge the power of a united and powerful elite to negatively determine what happens to the rest of us will need to unite around not just one form of oppression – no matter how abusive that is – but around multiple issues of oppression and abuse.

Like elites of all historical periods, sectarians also imagine that working people need leadership (their leadership) to be able to challenge existing elites and to create productive communities. In sectarian ideology, real-world socio-economic reality is inverted. In fact it is leaders which need workers to support them economically and socially. Without workers producing goods and services, elites could not survive.

Workers may need co-ordination for many economic activities, but they can do that for themselves. However, given their lengthy economic, social and intellectual subordination to the dominant class, working people, need to challenge the false ideas of human superiority and inferiority. In particular, those ideas which are embodied within the ideologies of religion, racism, sexism and nationalism.

Those who have already done so for themselves can help facilitate the challenging of these pro – capitalist ideologies by working people, but only if they have done so thoroughly. Criticism and self-criticism of methods and evidence is important in this regard. It is easy to criticise obvious surface symptoms, but without a thoroughgoing criticism of underlying systemic causes, that criticism leaves the capitalist system as a whole unchallenged and intact.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 24.

Victims and perpetrators.

Recent media references to catching the virus have been more often than not couched in terms of, ‘it hasn’t gone yet’; ‘it’s not over’; ‘it is still there’! Its as if they imagine Covid-19 was actively seeking to infect people like some invisible ninja assassin lurking around  to get us. In fact the only active agents we can blame in the actual transmission of a virus – is ourselves.

A viruses success in invading human bodies is in direct proportion to human failure to avoid spreading it. Viruses do not spread themselves and kill or damage the health of those it infects. It is we who spread it to our families, friends, neighbours, contacts and strangers. We – and our current way of living – are the main problem in ending this or any other pandemic.

So the real tragedy of the high numbers of deaths, now in the tens and hundreds of thousands in each country, is that this biological weapon of mass-destruction hasn’t been delivered by an enemy – but by our own side! Although not intentionally, many of us have spread viruses around communal environments as well as to family, friends and strangers.

Prior to the current Pandemic scientific panels of those specialising in contagious diseases and viruses had produced documented strategies for avoiding or minimising the risks of us spreading the virus. These were duly noted, shelved and largely ignored by the political elite who had their own pecuniary interests to concentrate upon.

A too-late lock-down was all they could think of, which in effect meant the ordinary citizens not the elite, had to stop the virus from spreading – by hiding away from each other. Thus overall responsibility was evaded and handed over to the community. Our tax-funded elites then sent out mixed messages, ignored their own advice and joined in the ‘we are all in this together’ nonsense by clapping once a week.

Meanwhile, the doctors, nurses and other ‘essential’ workers staffing the hospitals and care homes were left to improvise and do their best not to pass the virus on.

But despite, the general confusion and mixed messages, by hiding away from each other most ordinary people succeeded in not passing it on to their fellow citizens. Consequently the contagion slowed and the rate of Covid infections and deaths continued to reduce. That is until the political and capitalist elites realised their mode of production was collapsing. Hardly any wage-slaves were at work supplementing their profits and investments.

So – to save their economy – elites globally have urged everyone to get out and start infecting each other again. They know ordinary people have not got the right equipment and resources, nor sufficient information to make fully informed decisions on how to keep each other safe. The elite know that many are caught in the decades long economic poverty trap deliberately created for them by successive pro – capitalist elites.

They also know that sending working-class kids to school and their parents out to work is a risk the elite will not have to take.

A mixture of confusion, boredom and financial need along with allowing businesses to open up again is creating another round of the virus being handed on like an invisible but deadly relay baton. A second wave of contagion is well on its way in practically all the countries that encouraged their populations to end lock-down and help capitalist economic activity to start up again.

Despite hopes to the contrary, the finishing line for many more people in this race to create a new capitalist normal has been (and will be) an intensive-care bed or a coffin.

Hope versus probability.

Hope 1. Those who catch it will only get it in a mild form and soon recover. That is the Trumpian and Johnsonian hypothesis, but it also the hope of many who gather on beaches, in bars, cinemas, shops and restaurants. However, since this virus is new, clutching at such straws is based upon evidence which may prove unreliable. We know Covid-19 can be fatal for some in vulnerable categories but evidence is emerging that when the lungs have ceased to be dangerously infected, Covid-19 can still be damaging other internal organs.

It may turn out that recovery from Covid-19 could be followed by long-term, debilitating, damage for some of the population. It may be the case that the amount and frequency of the viral load internalised has a bearing upon the lethality of infection. Furthermore, it cannot be assumed that the virus will not mutate and infect yet again.

Hope 2. That at least a partial return to normality can soon be achieved and some of the activities (eating out, holidays abroad, night clubs, etc.) we have come to think a right to can be resumed. For many people this is never going to happen. The coming economic collapse will be so great that much of what some have come to consider as entitlement will be unaffordable under the current mode of production. In all probability there will be mass unemployment in advanced, poor countries and middle – income countries. What many of us did before Covid-19 – will never return.

Hope 3. That a successful vaccine will be soon be developed which will allow a nearly full return to the pre-Covid-19 capitalist normality. This is not going to happen soon enough to ease the economic and the many health problems which are now unfolding. And of course, like the hope for many other vaccines, it may never happen.

Moreover, does anyone think the neo-liberal regimes of the globe, are capable of ensuring the development of a safe, effective vaccine, along with a fair and equitable mass inoculation procedure? They have not even ensured plastic aprons, masks, gloves and swabs were available in sufficient quantities and qualities. Their promise of effective universal testing and tracing procedures – still unfulfilled!

Hope is no substitute for initiating direct community action aimed at ending; poverty, homelessness and virus transmission.

[For a more detailed projection of the coming economic crisis, see Rob Urie article at https://www.counterpunch.org/2020/07/17/economic-crisis-and%5D

R. Ratcliffe (July 2020)

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CAPITALISM’S WAR AGAINST NATURE.

The reason why capitalism is the first mode of production to threaten the future survival of many forms of life is difficult to understand if the detailed complexities of nature and capitalism are approached separately. However, if one accepts that the abstract concept of ‘nature’ can be considered as covering all life-forms, then the matter is somewhat simplified. That way, after an initial stage of analysis, it is possible to introduce both sets of complexities to reach a more developed understanding.

Thus, we know that all forms of life utilise the materials of the planet and the energy contained within it or from outside it (ie via the sun) to reproduce and sustain themselves. Living things are the planets organic assemblies of inorganic materials, continuously inter-connecting. When life-forms die, those materials return initially to the surroundings where death takes place.

Even before organisms die they ingest material from nature to support their growth and energy and they secrete any unused or unneeded material back to nature. In short everything – including all the mineral and bio-chemical ingredients involved in this ‘cycle of life’ – is connected and re-cycled to be used again.

In other words, recycling is not just a modern ‘feel-good’ obsession but an essential process of the ‘connected’ cycle of all life on our planet, and has been for millions or billions of its annual orbits around the sun.

However, this natural process, was significantly interrupted when the capitalist mode of production became more than just a fringe activity within and between some Mediterranean maritime communities. As large-scale capitalist forms of agricultural production encroached upon inland farming, the essential recycling process of organic and inorganic nature was progressively dis-connected and distorted at all such locations.

When local human populations were separated from direct production of the land to make way for large-scale agri-farming, the land had taken from it the above-noted natural form of recycling local waste products. Much residual material of those things assembled by nature (plants, animals, birds, insects) and from the fecal waste of all living things, went elsewhere and all the essential elements donated by nature to life went with them. Capitalist agriculture thus disconnected nature from its local, natural and human metabolic processes.

Consequently, intensive capitalist agriculture also quickly exhausted the microbiology of the soil. Since profits required continuous production, soil fertility then needed replenishing from external sources. This necessity created another form of profitable activity in the form of foreign-sourced elements such as guano (bird poo) and other material (bones of people and animals) which were used on intensive farms.

As dispossessed peasants and others were cleared off the land they gravitated to towns and cities taking their poo and pee with them. Night soil – as excreta was designated during the Victorian era – was sometimes taken from cities and large towns and used on fields and farms, but much was dumped in rivers and seas. Overall, this meant the soil was being denied much of it’s natural cycle and eventually when guano and bones ran out, chemical substitutes had to be found to keep capitalist farming productive.

This capitalist type of agricultural production amounted to a five-fold robbery of nature – just for the profit of a few! The soil of increasingly mechanised farms, was robbed (1) of their basic nutrients in order to overproduce crops for sale and (2) the soil was therefore separated from its natural local waste-product fertilisers. The peasants and cottagers were separated from their small-holding livelihoods (3) and foreign lands were separated from natural resources such as guano (4). But this capitalist robbery by separation of nature – for profit-led extraction – did not end there. Crops grown by chemical fertiliser methods were not as nutritious as those organically grown. So food was robbed (5) of its natural nutrition and taste.

Even before considering capitalism’s ‘Robber Land Barons’ and the consequent land-clearances, unemployment and low pay, the bodies of working people were being robbed of nourishing food to sustain and replenish their own bodily cells. When capitalist industry and agricultural also instituted long hours, poor conditions, unemployment and low pay these symptoms were added to food poverty and to a diet of less nutritious and chemical contaminated food. It was then that ill health and disease (including epidemics) became disproportionately the lot of working people, both blue-collar and white.

For when people have a diet deficient in certain natural elements, then the micro – organisms and cells that make up the human immune system and body structure are also starved of the elements they need to function properly. It got so bad that vitamin and mineral supplements were produced in tablet, powder and liquid form (for those who could afford them), in order to attempt to make up for what had been lost in naturally grown food.

Fast forward to the modern capitalist (and neo-liberal) era and the problem has intensified and gone global. Ask yourself where the excrement and urine from global cities numbering millions of citizens is going – each day – and what a loss much of this is to soil. Then think about what an imposition it is on nature when tons of it go into the differently based eco-systems of rivers, lakes and seas. Also ask yourself where the chemical fertilisers and pesticides used in huge agri-business farming are extracted from and what effect this has on the quality of food produced, the pollution of nature’s soil, and the consequence of its run-off into rivers and seas.

If we add to this distortion of the intimate food connection between nature in its human and non – human forms, the effects of non-food mass-production of industry and it’s effects upon the air and water quality that all land-based life-forms breath and drink, then certain conclusions follow. Capitalists are not only at war with rivals, for markets and raw materials, but effectively at war with humanity and nature as a whole.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2020)

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HAS SLAVERY REALLY ENDED?

Domestic Slavery.

Domestic forms of slavery are mostly founded on the example of the ancient patriarchal family. A male owns or controls the household and exercises power over the skills and labour of all the family members. Any economic activity, including its type, pace and duration will be directed by the patriarch. The family members will be persuaded or compelled to also do domestic labour as instructed by the ‘head of the house‘ – on threat of punishment or promise of future benefits.

The patriarch (kind or cruel) determines the amount and type of food, clothing, shelter and entertainment appropriate, for each family member. In the domestic economy he will decide the allocation of any surplus-production the family generates. Although, the biological members of the patriarchal family are not ‘bought‘, their socio-economic circumstances are analogous to those of indentured or purchased slaves. They cannot escape; for there may be nowhere to escape to; they can be whipped or beaten, locked away, deprived of food and have little or no control over their private lives.

Within the Abrahamic influenced communities of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, many features of the ancient patriarchal family were still prevalent in the 19th and 20th centuries. Wives and children could be brutally beaten, forced to hand over personal wealth, do household chores, locked in their rooms, denied food and even killed. Wives could be forced to have sex and domestic servants could be sexually exploited by the male head of the family.

Moreover, domestic violence, mainly by men against women and children has still not been entirely eradicated from 21st century domestic life around the planet.

Absolute slavery.

What I call absolute slavery is the form extensively developed in ancient times but resurrected in the 17th, to 20th centuries. In warfare and conquest in the ancient world, some enemies were captured rather than killed. They were then ransomed or sold as household slaves or as forced-labour in agricultural or mining activities. But the economic aim was (and is) essentially the same for all forms of slavery; the slave-owner obtains all the value the slave produces that is greater than the value the slave consumes in living. Obtaining this ‘surplus-production‘ (or its equivalent in ‘value’ once these products are sold) is the purpose of all forms of slavery.

In the ‘middle ages’ serfdom became a modified form of slavery in the agricultural districts of Europe and surrounding areas. The serfs worked some days to feed and clothe themselves and were compelled to work for the owner of the land for the remaining days of the week. The latter days supplied surplus-production. However, It was with the development of huge, labour-intensive plantations in the new world of the Americas that human beings became commodities – on a vast scale. Slaves laboured to produce cotton, sugar, tobacco, coffee and other agricultural products.

In plantation forms of slavery, the aim was also to extract more value from the labour of the slaves, than the value they cost to purchase (their intrinsic or potential value) and keep alive. The value difference of plantation slave-labour over its costs was often large and their numbers considerable so the surplus-production in monetary terms was frequently huge. Centuries of accumulated profits by plantation based capitalists were used to fund the industrial revolution in Britain, Europe, North America and the world.

The industrial stage of capitalist development quickly became more productive and more dominant than slave-based agriculture. Consequently, absolute slave-labour became less productive than wage-slave labour and returned less capital to the capitalist elite. Absolute slaves had to be fed, housed, clothed, monitored and disciplined 24/7, whether engaged productively or not. If worked too hard they had short lives and replacing them was costly. In effect, wage-slavery increased the surplus-production value going to capitalists and eliminated many of the costs associated with absolute slavery.

Wage Slavery.

In contrast to the absolute form of slavery, wage-slavery (described by the elite as ‘freedom’) meant the capitalist only had to pay for the work actually done and only when that work was needed. Thus the employer saved capital by not purchasing the worker outright and by not housing or feeding them when unemployed. Wage-slaves therefore, had no intrinsic value to capitalists and so were ‘free‘ to starve and even become homeless between jobs. Moreover, the compulsion to work hard for wage-slaves was not via a paid overseers whip, but via their own existential ‘need‘ for the wage or salary.

Better still (from the capitalist perspective), the subsistence level wage was only paid to the worker – after the work was done! Then the wage money was used to purchase food, clothing, housing and entertainment – from other capitalists! So capitalists got the surplus-production created by the wage-slaves during their employment period and got the wage-money back when these were used to purchase essentials for living. Isn’t such ‘freedom‘ wonderful?

The abolition of plantation slavery is often presented as resulting from elite moral conviction. In actual fact there was a strong economic dimension to abolition. Slavery had been considered immoral down through the ages and during the 200 year history of plantations. However, it was only ended, when the advantages of wage-slavery became obvious. When industrial capitalists became more powerful than plantation capitalists they began to impose their methods of exploitation on all other modes of production.

So in fact, the civil war between the North and South in the USA, was fundamentally a conflict between the wage-labour based industrial capitalism of the North and the slave-labour based agricultural capitalism of the South. Politics and morality at the time, was already largely determined by the process of global commodity production, and it was rapidly being shunted in the direction of wage-labour by the steam-driven power of industrial capitalism.

Moreover, on a world scale, all three forms of slavery still exist and still await abolition. In the meantime the bulk of humanity go – job application in hand – to those who only employ us when it suits them. 

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2020)

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SLAVERY AND RACIST IDEOLOGY.

The entire structure of modern capitalism has been built upon the backs of wage-slavery and slavery as organised by capitalist elites and their agents. Beyond the natural world, practically everything that now exists has been sweated out of the efforts of those compelled by circumstances to labour long and hard to create the wealth and well-being of the elite.

In addition to the material world (which is demonstrably ruining the ecological balance of the planet) the capitalist class and their supporters have also constructed an ideological world. It is one moulded to fit their imagined superiority and serves to mask their inhumanity. Neither, the material or ideological results of capitalism ensure a harmonious or sustainable future.

Nowhere is the deficiency of the pro-capitalist elite (of all complexions) more clearly demonstrated than in the abstractions – ‘freedom’ and ‘race’. Freedom, for capitalists, has never meant more than their own freedom to exploit, oppress and consume. The ideology of race was created to justify the exploitation of foreign peoples.

Slavery and the ideology of race.

The first trading contacts between European merchant capitalists and African tribal leaders were largely focused on commodity exchanges. African Gold, Ivory and spices were traded for European cottons, silks and guns. This and subsequent sea-born trading took place between European elites and African tribal elites.

Furthermore, at first contact, discrimination and slavery already existed within African tribal communities. Although some African slaves were accepted in initial exchanges by British and European Atlantic coast traders, slaves were not the initial motive. That came later when the plantation crops of cotton, sugar and tobacco were developed in the Caribbean islands, North America and Brazil. It was then that African slaves became the all-important profit-making commodity and a 200 year, triangle of trade, commenced

1. Goods from Europe were taken to Africa and exchanged for slaves. 2. Slaves were transported to the New World and exchanged for cotton, tobacco or sugar. 3. Sugar, cotton, tobacco were carried to Europe and exchanged for cash.

An estimated 11 million African slaves were ‘transported’ by Europeans to the Americas. Surplus-value was usually extracted on each of the three journeys, thus creating massive profits for the merchant capitalists. Although fictions about human difference existed in many places, it was this transition from regular trade to Atlantic plantation-based slave-trade that motivated a more biologically based form of prejudice.

The ideology of race required two fictions to be dogmatically asserted as fact. African skin was asserted as Black and European skin asserted as White. Neither assertion depicted reality, but they served as metaphors for ideas justifying extreme prejudice. The labels also reflected prejudiced notions of clean and unclean along with pagan backwardness and Christian perfection. The other fiction – also asserted as fact – was that humanity consisted of biologically different races.

Consequently, some human beings were considered superior and should rule, whilst others were inferior and should serve. This type of discrimination (extreme intolerance of human variation) wedded to the 19th century economic incentive to profit from trade, led European capitalists to feel entitled to exploit much of the known world.

Political fictions concerning ethnic identity and human difference became so embedded in European language and thinking that these racist ideas infected practically everyone educated in Western elitist values. Hume, Kant, Gobineau etc., provided extra intellectual backing to forms of racist ideology which reached its abhorrent peak (or depths) in the Aryan ideology of 20th century Fascism.

Once the fiction of race was accepted as fact, a further erroneous assumption followed. The brutality and discrimination epitomised by racial ideology and the slave trade, was viewed – as a product of biology and skin colour. This one-sided version of reality perpetuated the racist assumption that biology, not economic structures, ultimately determine social attitudes.

The continued assumption of a biological motivation for prejudice and discrimination, ignores the actual socio-economic foundations of the capitalist mode of production – wage-slavery – and full slavery! Biological determinism, begat a crude and counter-productive dualism.

Yet the entire history of ‘civilisation‘ prior to and during the Atlantic slave trade, indicates that brutal discrimination of the ‘other’ and enslavement is not a product of skin pigmentation. In fact, during the period that the obnoxious ‘Atlantic Slave Trade’ developed, millions of Africans were captured, held in chains (often for months) by other Africans until European slave-ships arrived. The ‘captives’ were then transported to the Slave Coast (or Gold Coast) with the assistance of Africans having various skin hues.

In other words, indigenous Africans entered into capitalist commercial commodity-exchanges with European elites – by choice. Much Western/European stereotype prejudice has viewed African tribal people as incapable and uncultured savages. Not so. Such prejudice ignored the fact that before the 16th century trading expeditions, many African societies, like European ones, were segmented into nobles, artisans, field workers, herders and – yes – domestic slaves.

Indeed, indigenous Africans had previously developed and ruled sizeable empires – including Kush and ancient Egypt. Central African kingdoms we’re also highly developed as evidenced by 17th century travellers to markets in Ceuta and Timbuktu. Africa – the cradle of early humanity – has nurtured actively intelligent participants during many modes of production – millennia before Europeans ‘scrambled’ to colonise it.

A fuller understanding of economic history such as above moves the struggle against modern economic and biologically-determined discriminations from those primarily defined by skin colour, gender, disability, sexuality etc., to one based upon capitalist economic activity and its resulting class structure which gives rise to multiple forms of prejudice.

Of course, prejudice and discrimination against those with dark skin is still extreme and needs to be energetically combated, however, it is not the only form. The way to fight it is not by denial (or affirmative action for a few) but by solidarity with all oppressed and exploited people. The revolutionary-humanist solution to discrimination and oppression is not through a more multi-ethnic, gender-inclusive, capitalism, but via an egalitarian, sustainable, post- capitalist mode of production.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)
[For further evidence that; “…races do not exist in humans” See ‘R W Sussman. ‘The Myth of Race’][For a lengthy discussion of race and class see http://www.counterpunch.org/2020/07/03/class-race-%5D

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 23.

It may not yet be absolutely clear to most people that the present mode of production based upon capitalism is structurally falling apart. Even as it re–opens, its socio-economic foundations are continuing to crack and disintegrate. The current situation facing most working people – isolation and reduced income – is being blamed entirely upon a virus. However, Covid-19, is a symptom of capitalist crisis, not a cause. The causes are economic not biological and lie deeper within the system, so symptoms of disintegration will continue.

Capitalism can no longer provide meaningful and secure livelihoods and environments for the vast majority of the people who live within the countries dominated by it. By a combination of computerised automation and outsourced production the number or workers needed by capitalist industry, commerce and finance has been drastically reduced along with their incomes. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated that trend and the super-rich one percent (and the fairly rich ten percent), continue to render human beings economically redundant.

They protect their investments by shedding workers and dis-investing from businesses which have ceased to be profitable. They seek alternative ‘opportunities’ which will provide better returns during the rest of 2020 and on into 2021. Dis-investments will result in increased levels of unemployment, poverty, hardship and homelessness for working-class populations. Even middle-classes businesses are experiencing a precarious existence as fewer working class customers purchase goods or services from their shops, cafes, hotels and entertainment venues.

More and more people, white-collar and blue, will be faced with the problem of how to guarantee access to food, clothing, heating and housing. Already food banks and charities are stretched to breaking point, and rough street sleeping has reached unprecedented numbers. As things worsen, charities will not be able cope with the demand placed upon them. Furthermore, from within this growing pool of human poverty, discontent and desperation will emerge the various forms of individual coping activity classed by the elite as deviance and petty ‘crime’, which the system likes to punish.

Crime and Punishment.

Even though only a relatively small proportion of any population actually turn to ‘crime’ all the poor and impoverished come under suspicion by the elite and their law enforcement agencies. Rather than blame the system of capitalism, for this situation of desperate poverty for millions alongside untold wealth for hundreds, the systems elites invariably blame the victims. The latter are therefore treated as individually deficient and deviant. Indeed, the most impoverished sections of capitalist societies are frequently classed as the most problematic and therefore, get the most brutal policing.

Historically, in capitalist Europe and the West, ‘sturdy beggars’, ‘Irish’, ‘Scot’s’, ‘Indians’, ‘Gypsies’, ‘Africans’ and ‘Chinese’, at various times have been the most impoverished and desperate and therefore in receipt of the most prejudiced and brutal treatments by law enforcement. In other places, where capitalism has conquered in colonial form, those classed as ‘aboriginal’, ‘half – caste’, ‘untouchable’ or ‘enslaved’, have been similarly treated. The human victims of extreme elite prejudice have differed from place to place and over periods of time.

This recurrent phenomena of extreme prejudice is a product of the system and is not specific to an individual, gender or ethnicity. A survey of post-colonial reality demonstrates that when those previously at the bottom of the capitalist pyramid, rise to the top, they will exhibit the same ruthless disregard for those relegated to the bottom of the system. Class-based socio-economic systems in general, and capitalist ones in particular, always create ‘haves and have nots’, and the latter are always viewed as individual or collective threats to the existing elites – because they actually are.

For however they try to rationalise it, existing or new elites know they are getting far more wealth than they deserve, and the impoverished of all ethnicities know they are getting less than they need. In this regard, elites are often far more aware of the potential for individual discontent to take on a collective dimension. Rebellions, uprisings and even revolutions are never far from their minds. Hence, they reason the ‘have not’s’ need to be controlled, bribed or ruthlessly stamped upon. Their police agents – secret or not – are trained to absorb this ‘culture’ of blaming the victims and defending the system – at any cost.

Reform and Revolution.

The category of deviant will be extended to those working people (of whatever gender, sexuality or ethnicity) who recognise that it is the ‘system’ which is the problem and unite to collectively improve the situation for themselves and others. Those oppressed will invariably pursue change by campaigning to reform bits of the existing socio-economic system. Few will suggest radically transforming the whole system by revolution. Existential struggles created by modes of production that no longer fulfill the needs of millions, have – in practice – never started from a choice of revolution.

All such struggles for radical change begin as limited requests for reforms directed at the ruling elites by the victims of the system. So in 2020 and 2021, demonstrations, rallies, petitions, etc., for jobs, benefits, housing, schools, health provision, clean environments, dignified end of life-care and less prejudiced policing, are likely to develop. It will be a refusal by elites to institute serious and lasting reforms, that will begin to transform the coming struggles, from a form of collective pleading to be ‘saved’ from the effects of economic crisis to a movement wanting to replace the system.

It is only when circumstances become desperate enough, that victims move from requests or demands to actually seizing control of the mode of production to transform it. The theoretical proposition of a large quantity being transformed into a new quality, will eventually, assert itself in practice. Pushed too far, populations can turn from passive, submissive and sheep-like responses, to bold and assertive re-births of their essential humanity. However, to achieve individual rights of meaningful existence, working people globally will need to unite to free all humanity from the virus-like economic activity of capital.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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SELF-PROTECTING COMMUNITIES!

HPC-09-edit

HPC- Community safety in Rojava.

Hawzhin Azeez, writes:

“In Rojava, Asayish (Internal Security Forces) and HPC (Civil Defense Forces) forces work together in a symbiotic relationship to provide safety and security to the community.”

“The Asayish work as traffic controllers, arrest criminals, protect victims of domestic violence, serve as security guards at main governing buildings and control the movement of people and goods from one canton to another. The HPC in contrast, are people trained in basic security who only patrol their own neighborhood. The purpose of both forces is explicitly to protect the people from outside threats such as terrorist forces. It is always the HPC that protects a neighborhood, never the Asayish. The Asayish protects the city while the HPC protects the community. Both organizations have a gender quota of at least 40 percent women, if not more.”

“Through this alternative method, the possibility of instituting hierarchies of power and authority are considerably reduced. The people are protecting themselves. Security forces protect those who they live with and interact with daily in the neighbourhood. This proximity ensures that violations occur only rarely. When they do occur, the neighbourhood communes immediately activate community mechanisms of justice, honor and restoration.”

“The social ecology of this system is protected by promoting women’s participation, a deep respect for multiculturalism and recognizing the sacredness of nature. It is not enough to create alternative institutions without significant educational efforts to undo patriarchal, socio-political, economic and cultural hierarchies. This system is established through concerted efforts toward democratization, education and unlearning within society. This is the only way that meaningful, long-term and organic change can occur.”

“In order to re-educate society, people in Rojava enter academies for one, two or even three months at a time. This is done on a volunteer basis but also involves government institutions. For example, the Ministry of Education rosters groups of up to thirty teachers at a time to enter academies. During this process, workers continue to be paid. Women with children can take their children along and have free childcare as they spend weeks learning about civic duties, democratic rights, gender liberation, ecological sustainability, the history of capitalism and more.”

“While at the academies, everyone participates in the daily cleaning, cooking and management of the education center. Such communal co-existence is promoted as a conscious effort to re-organize and reformulate society. These people then return to their communities and join the Asayish, the HPC, as well as the communes, cooperatives and local councils.”

“One of the foundational values of democratic confederalism is an anti-hierarchical approach to communal structures and co-existence. Essentially, for this anti-hierarchical system to work, it must be based on the active promotion of equality across ethnic, religious and decision-making processes. This approach starts with the difficult task of promoting women’s liberation and participation throughout the public arena. A quota of 40 to 60 percent women’s participation exists across all administrative and decision-making structures.”

“Rojava’s co-chair system requires that all leadership positions are held by one male and one female. This system is based on the fundamental recognition that political institutions with high degrees of women’s participation tend to be more inclusive and democratic in nature.”

“In a democratic confederalist system, people are encouraged to participate in civil society so that people’s interests and needs are expressed through mechanisms other than through ethno-religious positions and preferences. This civic re-orientation only works when people do not feel threatened because of their cultural identities. In this way, colonial alienation, fragmentation and anxieties are avoided while new, interlinked avenues of belonging and political expression are created. Likewise, political and civic participation is encouraged and expected. De-politicization, apathy and non-involvement are seen as the anti-thesis of a democratic society.”

[The above extracts and photo on community alternatives to state forms of policing are reproduced from an article by the Kurdish academic, poet and activist, Hawzhin Azeez and is published with her permission. The full article (recommended) appears in ROAR at;

http://roarmag.org/essay/police-abolition-and-other-lessons-from-rojava

or on her own blog –  http://hawzhin.press

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 22.

Youth and Covid-19.

The incredible unity and diversity of young people in the May and June 2020 George Floyd demonstrations around the world protesting police violence are to be welcomed in spite of the risks to life posed by Covid-19. (Would anything change without mass demonstrations?) There is an explicit and implicitly correct recognition by these multi-ethnic protestors that the present socio-economic system poses a greater existential threat to their present and future lives than a virus. The primary demand is for an end to targeted police violence motivated by ethnic prejudice, but there is also an understanding that police violence is not the only form that ethnic discrimination and wealth disparity takes.

In all countries, large sections of humanity find themselves at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid erected upon the capitalist mode of production. They are the current slaves and wage slaves of the system. Their lives are only deemed important by the elite when they are needed to do ‘essential work‘ for the good of the wealthy upper and middle-classes. Consequently the bottom layers of capitalism, have always had the lowest incomes, the poorest housing, the worst education, the shortest life expectancy, the most precarious existences, highest unemployment and the most brutal forms of control imposed upon them.

Modern wage-slaves are predominantly the sons and daughters of former slaves, conquered peoples or home-grown workers – all used and abused in earlier wealth creating periods of capitalism. However, young people, highly educated or not, find themselves living during a stage of capitalist development where the forms of production need less numbers of them due to automation, artificial intelligence and outsourcing. When not needed for work, (by unemployment or lock-down) wage-slaves and potential wage-slaves, are expected to remain unemployed, patient, docile and obedient until needed again.

Therefore, demonstrations against the death of George Floyd in 2020 are also implicit protests against the entire system of elite control of citizens by economic, financial, social and law enforcement mechanisms. Will young Afro-Americans multi-ethnic women and gay men demonstrating in such great numbers – at such great risk to themselves and each other – be satisfied with a few jail sentences and the introduction of anti – racist training for new and existing police officers? Will a fantasy scenario of polite, sensitive, humane interactions between poverty stricken, desperate citizens and a re-educated state law-enforcement agency, be realisable or end discrimination in general?

Of course not! Young people, sooner or later will be forced by the circumstances of their lives during the ongoing crisis of the capitalist system to press on for a wider range of reforms than one narrowly aimed at preventing ethnic beatings and deaths in police custody. The problems facing young people are many and include issues of class, gender, sexuality, disability and age. The challenge for young people will be to maintain and develop the present and future unity of struggle to include and campaign for a wider range of transitional demands which address fundamental issues of how wealth is created, who controls it’s production, how it is shared out and how its detritus is re-cycled.

In any transition between partial and more radical reforms other serious problems will be encountered. In this regard, we should not allow ourselves to be confused by those who simplistically lump together those who are opposed to violence against property because they wish to preserve capitalism and class discrimination and those who are opposed to such violence for different reasons. Some of us advocate a disciplined and humanitarian approach to struggle in order to ensure a path toward ending the domination of capital.

Statues of historically toxic men may be fair targets for democratic pulling down, but buildings and equipment from a revolutionary-humanist perspective are the products of scarce natural resources and working peoples labour. They should be considered community resources to be protected and re-purposed if necessary.

To introduce a new mode of production which fully respects and celebrates all humanity and the other life forms on the planet, an entirely different mode of community engagement, than burning and looting, will be required. The contradictions within the ruling class and it’s armed supporters, (and there are many) need to be studied and worked upon. Blanket condemnation and aggression by anti-capitalist opposition will only cause elite unification. Understanding and communication will expose contradictions, which will only become serious divisions when a genuine alternative becomes visible and available.

Of course there will be a minority whose anger, frustration and lack of understanding will result in acts of violence and desperation. They should be understood as inevitable, but not defended as acceptable or as natural. They are neither. The humanist perspective on real transformative change requires a longer and more measured determination – alloyed with humanitarian concern and generosity.

Good examples are a far greater threat to ruling elites future stability than bad ones. So much so that an astute ruling elite will attempt to place its agents of provocation into oppositions and trigger counterproductive actions. Such ‘agent’ infiltration’s are a classic elite reaction. Causing fires, explosions, outrageous acts and confusion within movements for change is intentional. Such toxic acts will be easier to counteract, within a movement not driven by anger, impatience and dualistic reasoning.

Meanwhile it should also be remembered that some anti-capitalists have inherited the virus of past sectarianism, and carried it into the present. These ‘lefts’ arrogantly presume there is only one valid version of strategy and tactics on how to secure change – their version. Equally they assume there is only one view of how to defend against viruses (biological and intellectual) – their view.

Prior to (and during) this capitalist crisis, such intellectual virus carriers can become strangers to genuine solidarity against capitalism and all it stands for – and so weaken that struggle. They fail to understand that genuine solidarity means accepting that people in struggle will have different methods and views (as well as different skin colours, genders and sexual preferences etc.) on how to proceed in collective forms of solidarity.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 21.

Toxic masculinity during lock-down.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has starkly exposed three of the most fundamental contradictions within the capitalist mode of production. They are contradictions which are ripping apart the already tattered fabric of capitalist socio-economic relations. First, the suspension of many economic activities by order of governing elites; second the almost complete fragmentation of social relations by their policy of lock-down; and third, anti-social violence by toxic forms of masculinity. All three problems are products of capitalism combined with the lack of preparations by its elites.

The pandemic has also revealed elite willingness to become more and more authoritarian in restricting choices. The pro-capitalist elites by granting themselves emergency powers, dictated who was allowed to work, who was allowed to associate together and included how far people could travel. Powers were sought to enforce restrictions, if they were resisted, but in fact most people understood the need to self isolate in order to save lives and did so. But of course it didn’t.

Millions were infected and hundreds of thousands died prematurely. The heterosexual male-dominated elites in most governments were exposed as self-serving incompetents who had ensured that weapons of mass destruction costing billions, were stockpiled, but couldn’t ensure the availability of sufficient aprons, masks and swabs for nurses. Elites clapping front line staff who were actually dying from lack of PPE was both patronising and cynical.

Men at the top of most 2020 governments – even those at their best – have been at least mildly toxic toward humanity by also failing to provide adequate PPE, to care homes, by flouting lock-down recommendations and ignoring social distancing. These omissions and commissions helped the virus to spread – and thus increased the numbers of dead. That is bad enough, but we know that forms of masculinity can (and may) get even more toxic than this. Historically, Biafra, Bosnia and Armenia proved that toxic forms of masculinity were indifferent to suffering and vicious to the point of genocide,

Toxic masculinity in history.

From Genghis Khan, to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and hundreds more, forms of toxic masculinity have been to humanity what poisons are to the human body – fatal! And the toxic brand of masculinity pops up everywhere – even on the left! Recall how the leader of the Bolshevik political sect, Lenin addressed those members of his own party who opposed his views at the 10th Party Congress.

“Comrades:…Either you are on this side, or the other, but then your weapon must be a gun and not an opposition.” (Lenin collected works. Volume 32)

The most powerful, so-called revolutionary left politician of the 20th century, was addressing the political situation within a dualistic and weaponised framework. An oblique parallel with Donald Trump’s recent verbal treatment of critics, cannot be avoided. Lenin effectively threatened ‘critics’ with the prospect of settling differences with guns instead of discussion. Toxic Trump verbally threatened looting with shooting.

And Lenin’s toxic masculinity was no conference rhetoric, for it is on record that this type of solution to disagreements became routine within the Soviet communist party and reached a pinnacle of depravity under Lenin’s successor, Stalin. Moreover, simple-minded, male thinking – at the time – countered criticism of aggressive left violence by asserting that killing people during revolutions is similar to breaking eggs when making an omelette. (!!)

There is also evidence that left sectarian Bolsheviks killed and tortured rival Mensheviks and Anarchists and visa-versa without a morsel of remorse anywhere. Unfortunately, the viruses of extreme prejudice and a toxic urge to disrespect and punish those who differ, exists within many members of the human species. In particular, a combination of pent up anger, prejudice, ambition and simplistic thinking in the brains of some men, can produce toxic forms of masculinity on the left as well as on the right in politics.

Toxic masculinity under capitalism.

Toxic masculinity really is the elephant in the drawing rooms of bourgeois society. From there it infects all the other environments that it is allowed to seep into. Sadly it is everywhere, from board room, to locker room, to bar room. Not only Harvey Weinstein, but many men rape, sexually assault and kill women. Even young men kill other young men and women in their school classrooms. The capitalist system undeniably produces environmental and social forms of toxicity.

Some (heterosexual) men beat up gay men and some seriously hurt women who resist their demands. Toxic masculinity in charge of high-tech weapons callously direct bombs or shells on wedding parties and school bus trips. Other carriers of toxic masculinity order the mass bombing of innocents knowing exactly what they are doing and exactly who will be shredded into fragments.

Other men ensure that crimes against humanity cannot be brought against their toxic masculine troops rampaging on foreign lands. Those atrocities perpetrated at My Lai, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, provide examples of the depths to which toxic masculinity can descend when they are part of institutions built entirely on that form of masculinity.

And yes in 2020 men with toxic masculinity syndrome can even kneel on other men’s necks until they are almost dead. Others, within days of such deliberate inhumanity, baton and pepper spray those who protest against it. Unfortunately, this is no marginal issue. Like the intellectual viruses they manufacture and spread, toxic masculinity in charge of economies, governance, finance, politics, law enforcement and armed forces is a fundamental problem facing humanity.

Toxic masculinity is currently at the head of every activity which pollutes, destroys ecological balance, starts wars and perpetrates civil violence against anyone who protests too much. Some are even in the support networks necessary for these destructive activities to occur. And, as noted above, there is even a version of toxic masculinity on the left, which thinks there is only one suitable version of maleness to enable and secure radical change. It is the one that is prepared to kick ass – physically or polemically. More on that version in the next article.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 20

The killing of yet another Afro-American citizen of the USA, George Floyd, on May 25th, has once again revealed that alongside the Covid-19 biological virus pandemic, there run much older intellectual viruses of prejudice. Intellectual as well as biological viruses are disproportionately killing human beings. Intellectual virus forms are particularly virulent in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America. The one responsible for Afro-American deaths is located in the brain and creates prejudice against people of colour. It has been active since it emerged during the 17th to 19th centuries.

Elites at the time, needed a justification for the dispossession of native people’s land and the exploitation of their labour. Consequently dualistic categories of superior and inferior races were invented in colleges and university departments. Since that time the virus of colour prejudice – based upon manufactured differences – has been embodied in the language and culture of capitalist nations.

Like biological viruses, socio-intellectual viruses – such as prejudice against people of colour – can be asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic or extremely symptomatic before visibly manifesting themselves. Essentially the same also goes for the ‘intellectual viruses’ of prejudice against females, homosexuals, disability etc. Obviously, an intellectual virus, such as colour prejudice (extreme or mild) occupying the brain does not present the same outward symptoms as a biological virus, but it can nevertheless be easily seen.

For example, consider the face of the police officer who, whatever the prior circumstances, knelt for eight minutes on the neck of George Floyd. This officers facial muscles or eyes did not register any degree of concern for the pain and suffering he was deliberately causing to the handcuffed human being lying helpless on the ground. George’s plea to be allowed to breath left this perpetrator completely unmoved. [Google: ‘George Floyd video’]

The expressions on the faces of the other attending officers also did not express any concern for the pain and suffering caused to the helpless human being whose life was being drained out of him. Those missing expressions of concern along with subtle facial expressions between the police unit members were the visible manifestations of the virus of extreme prejudice. That virus determined and controlled how these men acted. Their collective indifference to the calls of the bystanders also demonstrated the institutional and cultural indifference of law enforcement to the plight of their victim.

The obvious conclusion is that the victim of this particular intellectual virus was not considered as an equal human being by those arresting, abusing and hastening his death in custody. Incidentally, this de-humanisation of victims and the indifference to their suffering is also manifest in the incidences of rape and violence against women and children. It is also there in gang violence and warfare. The intellectual virus of colour prejudice is therefore one of a family of intellectual viruses firmly embedded within the entire culture of the capitalist mode of production.

As an activist, I have personally seen essentially the same callous disregard for the suffering of Palestinians on the faces of Jewish soldiers beating them in occupied West Bank. I saw the same indifference on the faces of British police beating up pickets during the miners strikes of the 1970’s. I have also witnessed it in the actions of Trotskyist and Stalinist group members as they confronted each other during the 1970’s in the UK. We also know it existed (and still exists) in the actions of religious zealots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

It therefore can come as no surprise that the protest demonstrations against what happened to George Floyd and many other Afro-American victims of police violence all across the USA, were met with with extreme prejudice and violence by baton wielding police.

By including all these examples of prejudice and violence, the common defense of the entire system can be successfully refuted. Apologists for the system assert that the above examples (and others) are simply the result of a few bad apples or rogue elements in society. This allows supporters of the system to ignore the fact that intellectual viruses of prejudice are widespread, integral and functioning parts of the system. This is why bad apples keep popping up over generations and why those around them do not expose them, look the other way or when they are embarrassingly caught out, re-assign them to other duties or provide them with golden handshakes.

Much hypocrisy is displayed by the middle and upper classes, with regard the minority of working-class people who use the distraction of demonstrations to loot shops and destroy businesses. I class this as hypocrisy, because the entire system of capitalism is built on looting and destruction. European capitalists violently looted, resources and destroyed property from their own peasant classes, then from their working classes, before going to Africa, Oceana, North and South America, enslaving foreign peoples, stealing their labour and looting their wealth.

Moreover, the productive, commercial and financial sectors of capitalism are still based upon daily stealing and destroying, by means of profit-making, shorting, insider trading and looting pensions. Those middle-classes who now condemn looting, rarely, if ever, expose or refer to the looting and stealing from people in the past or the present – and from which many still benefit through shares or interest.

Nevertheless, if one form of looting and stealing is wrong – and I agree it is – then all forms of looting are wrong. Also if one form of prejudice, exploitation and brutality is wrong – and again I agree it is – then all forms of prejudice, exploitation and brutality are wrong.

Whilst working class anger and frustration has built up over decades and is now exploding in many forms, particularly in the USA, it needs to be stated that some acts of anger will not lead to comprehenve or lasting changes in prejudice. Furthermore, some acts motivated by anger will be tragically counter-productive. Additionally, if we want to end one form of prejudice, exploitation and violence, we must want to end all forms of prejudice, exploitation and violence. So campaigning just to punish four Minneapolis ‘virus carriers’ – and stopping there – will not eliminate systemic contamination.

The revolutionary-humanist, Karl Marx, noted that the humanist purpose of the working class during a severe crisis would be to ‘found society anew’. Smashing things up, burning buildings and dehumanising the ‘other’ belongs to what he classed as the – ‘muck of ages’.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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