CATALONIAN INDEPENDENCE.

The limits of bourgeois democracy revealed.
A decision by the citizens in the Catalonia region of Spain to have a referendum on whether to declare independence, has clearly revealed the limits of bourgeois democracy. In response to this aspiration for independence, the political and bureaucratic elite in the central government of Spain declared that the citizens of Catalonia have no right to decide on such a possibility. In line with this bureaucratic dictat, they threw the armed police power of the bourgeois state into the the region in an attempt to  prevent them doing so by voting. Peaceful voters in many parts of Catalan were violently man-handled and injured by Spains armed guardia-civil, (real-world robo-cops) simply for being in a voting centre to register their vote. It mattered not whether their intention was to vote for or against the independence proposal; the intention to vote and their presence at a polling station was enough for Catalonians to be percieved as a malicious enemy and be treated as such.

Lets be crystal clear on the logistics of this development. A small number of politicians, holding central government posts and their bureocratic advisors felt able to declare illegal, something the local elected government and many thousands of Catalonia tax-payers thought they were, or ought to be, entitled to. Not only that but this cabal were attempting to physically enforce their minority opinions upon the whole of Catalonia and the rest of Spain. This aggressive response indicates that the modern political elite in Spain, (as elsewhere) when faced with widespread active dissatisfaction are little different in attitude to the Kings and Queens of the fuedal era or the more recent European dictators such as Franco, Mussolini and Hitler.

Their actions amount to a modern version of powerful elites demanding the rest of its citizens, just do as they are told and wait until they are informed when, where and what they should do, including what they can vote for and when they can vote. True to form, the still existing parasitic royalist hangers on in Spain, along with the politicians in the European Community condemned the peaceful voters of Catalonia but failed to condemn the gratuitous violence of the Spanish central state. And of course, this is a case of dejavue for Catalonia. For it is not the first time the people of Catalonia have been the victims of aggressive state centralists.

Homage to Catalonia.
In the not too distant past, the people of Catalonia also actively defended their rights to self-determination against a royalist – leaning and controlling elite. This occurred during what became known as the Spanish Civil War (1936 – 1939). As a volunteer, fighting on the side of the Republican – minded citizens, in that conflict, the author, George Orwell, wrote a book entitled ‘Homage to Catalonia’. In it he describes the ups and downs of that particular struggle against both authoritarian oppression and its soft-cop twin – bourgeois democracy. In the book, he describes, the left-sectarian in-fighting which split the republican forces and sabataged any chance of success against Franco’s fascist forces. A further important conclusion he came to is as follows.

“It is nonsense to talk of opposing Fascism by bourgeois ‘democracy‘. Bourgeois ‘democracy’ is only another name for capitalism, and so is Fascism; to fight against Fascism on behalf of ‘democracy’ is to fight against one form of capitalism on behalf of a second which is liable to turn into the first at any moment. (Orwell. Homage to Catalonia.  Appendix 1.)

George Orwell’s book, ‘Homage to Catalonia’ contains an extremely important reminder of bitter lessons learned in the past, but which are now largely forgotten. Unlike his later critical but fictionalised books on Bolshevism and Stalinism (ie ‘1984’ and ‘Animal Farm’), this one was based directly on his personal experiences and detailed observations. They are observations and conclusions which still have relevance today, not just within Spain, but globally. Right-wing authoritarian tendencies are again on the increase and the same trap is being laid for modern-day unsuspecting citizens, by the democratic bourgeoisie. Its ‘us or the right-wing extremists’, is the intellectual subterfuge the social democrats use to confuse the trusting or naive.  For although it is unlikely that full-blown Fascism or Stalinism, will raise their ugly heads once more, similar divisions between a democratic bourgeoisie and an authoritarian one are again opening up. In the USA, for example, a choice between Trump and Clinton is being created as if they were opposites, when in fact they are just two versions of neo-liberal capitalist aggression and exploitation.

In the case of Catalonia, this modern day bourgeois response to an expressed desire for independence clearly demonstrates that the top-down relationship between elites and the population has not changed significantly under the capitalist mode of production. And, as noted, this phenomena is not isolated to Spain. The modern invention of voting for political governance, reluctantly granted to us lower orders, is still only allowed when it suits the elite – otherwise they claim it is illegal. In other words belonging to a democratic community and voting is not a right but a temporary privilege to be granted or revoked at the discretion of the dominant elite.

If further evidence is needed of the international character of this bourgeois phenomenon of denying the right of citizens, to self-determination we need only to consider the response of the Turkish elite to the Kurdish struggle for independence, the reaction of the Arab Spring elites in Egypt, Syria and Yemen to their citizen aspirations for change, or that which greeted the Greek effort to control its own economy in the debt crisis of 2014. Ordinary people are supposed to ‘know their place’ and not to ‘assume’ to rise above it. But these reactionary and authoritarian responses by the various elites – including the Spanish central government elite – has also indicated far more than this arrogant, authoritarian reflex.

The above are all examples of the growing schism between 21st century elites and their civil society populations. As is the case with Catalonia, they all reveal that under severe crisis situations, even modern elites arrogantly overestimate their power with regard to the functioning of societies. By failing to grant much needed radical and manageable reforms to their citizens, they provoke further resistance which threatens the very basis of their rule. With reference to the underlying cause of the growing splits between ordinary people and the political class, the depth and breadth of the crises facing humanity cannot be overstated. Even taken at its face value, the bourgeois mode of production, is in urgent need of radical reform in at least six areas, one or more of which bear untollerably upon one section of the population or another. They are as follows: The economic system, the financial system, the political system, the legal system, the moral system and the ecological system.

The six areas of crisis.

1. The economic system, on the one hand, is excessively producing (ie overproducing) and stockpiling commodities and capital whilst on the other it is excessively producing precarious forms of employment, unemployment, global poverty along with vast inequalities of wealth. 2. The financial system has come to control and aggressively dominate every aspect of modern life. The banks and financial institutions dictate policy and practices to governments, politicians and citizens, whilst creating asset bubbles and financial instability whilst being extravagantly rewarded for these activities. 3. The political systems have abandoned all real attempts at achieving social equality, fairness and justice for the majority – although to a man (and woman) – they still hypocritically mouth egalitarian rhetoric. In reality they are all dedicated upholders of the system of exploitation even as it deteriorates.

4. The legal system has long been an agent of bourgeois rule, but it has now bandoned any post Second World War semblance of humanity or humility. It has become nothing more than a system of parasitically extracting revenue from all and sundry, whilst penalising or abandoning those who have insufficient funds to meet their exhorbitant legal charges. 5. The moral systems of modern bourgeois society, are infused with a poisonous mixture of patriarchal, racist, sexist ideas blended within a culture of insatiable greed. In pursuit of wealth and power, anything goes. Predatory wars and ethnic cleansing; predatory acquisitions of companies and public resources; predatory sexual manouvres and conquests (internal company harassments and rapes) along with racist forms of imperial style predation are all part and parcel of bourgeois religious and secular morality. 

6. The ecological system balance, upon which –  in the final analysis – all the above sub-systems ultimately depend, is being eroded, degraded and frequently totally destroyed by the needs of the capitalist mode of production. The productive activity of humanity, governed and controlled as it mostly is, by the needs of capital and capitalist profit-based economic activity, is polluting land, air and sea, by its unsaleable finished products, it’s waste material products and the escape of numerous other liquid and gaseous by-products, into rivers, land, sea and air. Even from such a brief outline of the six areas mentioned it is obvious that separately  each one of them is in need of either radical alteration or complete termination. Together, they represent a daunting existential challenge facing humanity.

Increasing citizen discontent.

It is a progressive recognition of one or other of the systems many failures that has motivated the open demonstrations of citizen discontent which have characterised the 21st century.  Uprisings in the middle east, independence or cessesionist movements in various places, along with anti-war demonstrations and altered voting patterns in the west are evidence of the global extent of this grass-roots dissatisfaction.  As yet (and as already noted) this citizen disconnect from politics and the bourgeois state is expressed in reformist directions such as demonstrations, petitions, exiting from the European economic community, right-leaning nationalist tendencies and independence movements such as in Catelonia.

Paradoxically, all these varying responses to the structural crisis of the capitalist mode of production are aimed at clearing up one or other of the many symptoms whilst falling far short of diagnosing or identifying the cause. Such reformist responses are inevitable because the vast majority of those who see the need for change have not been given the intellectual tools to understand the underlying cause of the symptoms. The forensic economic analysis of the capitalist mode of production by Smith, Ricardo and Marx have not been popularised or even been given their proper credit within academic institutions. Understanding capitalism without the instrumentality of their analysis is akin to trying to understand cellular biology without a microscope; the solar system without a telescope; advanced physics without the tool of mathematics, or medicine without a knowledge of the internal structure of the human body. Without such socially developed aids, nothing better than, guess work, speculation, wishful thinking or the equivalent of attaching leeches are to be expected.

Yet, despite this drawback, in any serious struggle to deal with symptoms and reform the system in one way or another, the underlying reality of the problems and the available solutions to them will be revealed. As the multifaceted crisis continues to develop, elites who tread such stubbornly arrogant, anti-reform paths as those noted above, may be confronted by increasingly desperate populations determined to struggle for what they construe as their basic rights and taking hold of the analytical tools they will need. During such struggles, it will become obvious, if it is not already, that societies function as a result of the large-scale cooperation of ordinary citizens. When that voluntary co-operation is removed, the crises begin to take on a broad social dimension rather than a narrow political one. Politics will be seen as the problem and not the solution it promises. Uprisings and mass demonstrations, for example, reveal the extent of dissatisfaction but a general strike by paralysing economic activity can reveal just who is necessary to society and who is ultimately superfluous.  

All Pyramids are built upon bases.

Modern civil societies are certainly governed in a top-down fashion, as were many previous feudal and pre-feudal ones, but this political reality is an inversion of economic and social reality.  Societies are actually created and sustained by a bottom-up system of integrated, cooperative physical and intellectual labour. Without working people creating and maintaining the supply of food, water, clothing, building, electricity, transport and all the other services such as health and education, there would not be societies for politicians and other elites to exploit, distort or despoil.  Once this fundamental socio-economic reality is recognised, political and economic elites become seen to be part of the problem, not part of a solution.   And with the further analytical recognition that stripped of its mysticism,  Capital is revealed as nothing more than the accumulated results of past labour and surplus-labour syphoned off by the elite into bank accounts and possessions, certain things follow. At that point then the reality of how societies really work will become chrystal clear.

Without a solid and sufficient sized base, the further construction of any type of pyramid cannot be achieved.  And this universal fact applies to the social sphere as well as the architectural.  The foundations of all societies, past, present and future have been and will continue to be, the skills and energies of those who provide the necessities for long-term human survival – sustainable sources of – food, water, clothing, housing, energy, education and health-care. How these necessities are predominantly produced defines and details the mode of production which in turn determines what kind of hierarchy and elite emerges from within it. However, once a mode of production – as guided by its elite – ceases to satisfy the essential needs of a majority of its people, then change becomes necessary. The current mode of production is dominated by the owners and beneficiaries of capital, spread across industry, commerce and finance and it is this mode of production which is increasingly failing to satisfy the short and long-term needs of humanity and failing to adequately protect the other life-forms.

Capital is the root problem.

In all the above-noted areas of crisis, the profit-driven motive of capital investment has not only massively over-produced commodities and services, but created huge commercial outlets, extensive polluting transport systems and astronomical concentrations of financial assets, all of which have spawned the numerous negative symptoms now threatening human communities and non-human life-forms across the entire planet. Furthermore, in order to compete with other (foreign-based) concentrations of capital for sales, each (indigenously-based) national concentration has progressively increased the complexity and productivity of the fixed means of production.

Automation, computerisation and integrated input and output production flows have massively reduced the need for human labour, whilst simultaneously increasing the mass of produced articles needing purchasers. Capital therefore needs more people globally with wages and salaries to buy the increased mass of finished articles it produces, precisely at the same time as it is globally reducing the number of people employed by it and lowering the general levels of pay. So the Capitalist mode of production is continually undermining 1, it’s own economic foundation – sufficient purchases of its own production – and 2, it’s social legitimacy – the creation of peace, meaningful employment and adequate welfare provision. Unemployment, poverty and therefore disatisfaction are consequently rising in every country fuelling the existing and future uprisings, protests, nationalist feelings, rebellions and independence movements.

Furthermore, at the global level, the owners and/or controllers of capital, particularly finance capital, are now able to exert influence and even manipulate the activities of whole nations. By effectively controlling the size and location of the means of production, the form and means of distribution and the monetary means of exchange they have become a financial power above the considerable power of the various nation-states. Personified in the form of the executives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB) (OECD, WTO etc.) and other global institutions, (financial and academic), they draft and impose treaties (Maastrichts, North Atlantic, etc) and partnerships (Public and Private etc.), and are beyond any form of democratic control. Behind the liberal-democratic political facades, and the permitted acts of voting, it is they who are able to ultimately control bourgeous democracies.

A further measure of influence and control over nation-states, by the owners and controller’s of capital, particularly finance-capital is obtained through the medium of loans to governments. Such are the costs of propping up nation states, to maintain politicians, armies, navies and air forces, that taxation has long been insufficient to finance them. Added to this, funding the post-Second World War welfare-state systems in advanced capitalist countries has increased state expenditure, whilst the above noted technical advances (automation etc.) and industrial relocation have reduced taxation further. Governments – all governments – are  technically bankrupt and totally dependent upon loans from the owners and controller’s of international finance-capital. This gives the latter a considerable degree of influence, not only upon the loan-interest charged, but, as recently witnessed in Greece, upon what a country does and how it manages it’s affairs.

To sum up. Globally we are witnessing an emerging, but as yet, only partial recognition of the negative effects of this neo-liberal phase of global domination by capital. As noted above, one or other of these effects  have caused uprisings on the one hand, (in the middle-east and North Africa), changes in voting habits on the other (in Europe and North and South America), together with a tendency to retreat from this control by movements for separation (Britain) or independence (notably Scotland and Catalonia). But given the global tentacles of capital, is voting differently, physical separation or independence the complete answer?

Independence and cessation: But from what?

Whilst it should be supported, it needs to be recognised that leaving larger neo-liberal amalgamations, such as the European Union, (as Britain is attempting) does not free people from entanglement with the capitalist mode of production. Nor does it permit an escape from the machinations of its international neo-liberal representatives.  Movements for independence such as those in Scotland, Kurdistan and more recently Catalonia, should also be supported for they too are attempts at anti-neoliberal self-determination. However, we should be under no illusions that such traumatic ‘separations’ will solve the wider or deeper problems facing humanity. Independence from certain political aspects (EU or central government control) of the latest neo-liberal phase of capitalism, will not remove the financial and economic tentacles of neo-liberal capital which now stretch around the world and across national and political boundaries.

At best such movements of self-determination – within the capitalist mode of production – will create a large degree of solidarity and more importantly, the struggle to achieve this status may remove any remaining scales from the eyes of those who as yet cannot see the real source of their problems. Attempting to escape the unwanted clutches of the global economic, financial and political elites will undoubtedly provoke further draconian levels of reaction from them. Their salaries, pensions and careers depend upon the greatest possible number of tax-payer contributions to fund their lavish life-styles. Viewing us largely as millions of milch-cows, they will do all they can to hang onto as many of us as possible.

The process of seriously trying to wrest reforms from an entrenched, reluctant and arrogant elite, will create a further dynamic which will potentially go beyond reform.  In situations of crisis, when there is a growing recognition that radical changes are not just desired but urgently needed, yet are being stubbornly resisted by those in power, then the stakes can become proportionally higher. For example in Catalonia: How quickly will the left posturing bourgeous politicians back down and betray the reformist struggle they currently seem to favour? Will the right-wing bourgeois  central powers (left or right) arrest those they consider ring-leaders or figureheads? Will they declare martial law or impose direct rule? How will the ordinary working population react to having their aspirations savagely quashed? 

The unfolding answers to such questions will reveal how well both sides have prepared themselves and how determined they are to succeed. At the moment the battle in Catalonia is around ideas and constitutional issues. However, in future it can become a practical battle between the people and the elite over what another world will look like and how society will need to be organised so that humanity as a whole can benefit from the advances already made in the skills, technology and understanding of our species.  Elsewhere, the Kurdish struggle for independence for example, already has an armed wing, honed in the battle against ISIS. Other struggles have become bogged down in sectarian political and/or religious turmoil. As yet there is no universal understanding of what humanity is struggling against, nor is there a general vision of what should replace the present moribund capitalist system.  

Yet in many ways, the future has already made an embryonic appearance, in the form of non-profit – making public services and production for need rather than profit-led greed. For a period after the Second World War, in most European and western societies, energy, transport, communications, water, education, health-care, social services, plus the civil service, government, army, navy, airforce, parts of the legal system and some forms of commodity production were all run on a non-profit basis. And some still are. True, many of them were badly run and only reluctantly supported by ambivalent governments, but that could be easily remedied. Ceasing to build social and institutional pyramids within them and replacing them with communal control would be one way.

Just how dependent upon public services are private profit-making enterprises is revealed by the fact that they still don’t build their own roads, railways, bridges, tunnels, power stations, communications systems or fund their own armies, navies, civil services or police forces. For these essential aids to their activities, they have depended upon, and been parasitic upon, public (ie social) provision. This reliance is further revealed by the banking crisis of 2008. It wasn’t the banks who saved the banks from the consequences of their reckless and greedy speculation. It was the government as representatives of the general population – as a whole. Isn’t it time whole communities really controlled the mode of production rather than – as at the moment – the mode of production via a parasitic elite controlling whole communities? However, for that to happen, a revolutionary transition needs to take place. Another re-shuffling or refurbishing of the political class or yet another re-drawing of the boundary lines upon a new set of maps, will not usher in anything substantial different.

R. Ratcliffe  (October 2017)

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Posted in Anti-Capitalism, Critique, neo-liberalism, Politics, The State | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

TECHNO-BABBLE

 

Perhaps this article should have been entitled Robo-Bo – – ocks as it has been inspired by a recent spate of articles and TV programs promising a bright fantasy future for mankind from the application of intelligent, robot technology. According to these so-called experts, technology is going to rescue us from the compound mess capitalism has got humanity and the planet in. Even more bizarrely, during the summer of 2017, viewers to BBC television in the UK were told in news bulletins and several televised documentaries, that in the near future robots could not only do the routine repetitive work for us, but could also be our ‘companions’ when we are lonely and ‘carers’, when we are old and infirm.

Checking the calendar confirmed it wasn’t April and it became clear these programmes weren’t scifi spoofs, missing episodes of Star Trek, or belated back stories explaining the early development of the ‘replicants’ in the film Blade Runner! No!; these programmes were for real – at least real in the sense that they were actually broadcast; the participants were not actors – at least not in the generally accepted sense of the word. They were a mix of academics and technology professionals. Yet given the economic system we live under it was hard to take these programmes as representing anything but imaginative fantasy. The presenters of this unfolding techno-babble fantasy had visited university departments and high-tech businesses in the USA, Japan, Germany and the UK.

The procession of professors and design technicians, when interviewed in these various international locations, confirmed and embellished this brave new world perspective. Perhaps this enthusiastic promotion and endorsement of a fantasy future by the starry-eyed, participants was inevitable, for a couple of reasons. First, no sceptics were invited to comment at any point. Second, because most, if not all, of these professoral technophiles are getting paid considerable salaries, expenses and pensions, some at tax-payers expense, to indulge themselves in what amounts to no more than their chosen ‘special’ interests. They are getting paid to indulge themselves. ‘Give us even more funding’, you could almost see them thinking as they paraded their latest experimental findings to the equally techno-obsessed and space infatuated interviewers.

Not one of them – at any point – seemed concerned with the plight or opinions of those ordinary working people who keep the world’s economic infrastructure going and who pay their salaries and future pensions, through taxation or the surplus-value they create. Nor did these technocrats appear concerned about the negative effects that advances in technology have already had (and will continue to have) on their less fortunate – only just managing – fellow citizens. It was obviously not in the job specification of any of these eager futurists to think about the circumstances of the thousands who are now unemployed, homeless and/or visiting food – banks. They appeared equally unconcerned about the impact the exotic (and toxic) materials and resources they are using will have on the environment.

Science and technology in class-based societies.

It is my view that science and technological developments cannot be sensibly discussed unless the concrete manifestations, applications and implications of it within the capitalist mode of production are considered. So when we are informed that robots will free mankind from drudgery, from making the all too frequent mistakes humans do and accomplish routine things more efficiently and quicker, such self-serving techno-fantasies need to be passed through the filter of capitalist economic reality. Clearly the BBC and the producers of these programmes did not share this view and so the participants imaginations were allowed to range far and wide without any apparent effort to rein them in.

It is clear that as producers of industrial volumes of commodities, future robots, guided by ‘artificial intelligence’, would always do as they are told, never get tired, never strike or down tools and would have no need for ‘comfort breaks’, wages, holidays or retirement pensions. Indeed, from a one-sided, economically illiterate perspective, robot workers as producers, appear to be even better than the human slaves and peasants of the distant past, let alone more modern workers when organised in any active non-company union. Taken at this eagerly promoted face-value, robotic and automated production methods in many ways seem to be a capitalist dream come true. Except of course, as we shall demonstrate, this techno-babble persective in many ways is exactly that – a dream; or more accurately – a one-dimensional, ill thought out, lalla-land day-dream! Or, from an opposite perspective – a dystopian nightmare.

That is to say nightmares such as those visualised in the sci-fi films ‘Blade Runner’, ‘Robo-Cop’, ‘I Robot’ and Alien – to mention just a few. A more realistic shudder of apprehension, might arise if we consider the further use of automation and so-called artificial intelligence when it gets into the hands of the political and military elites. And under the present system we can be sure it will. Already so-called intelligent bombs and drone warfare tactics have introduced extreme distance in the de-humanised and traumatic practice of killing other human beings. People designated as enemies will remain ‘beyond-the-horizon’ targets, but who in future could be ‘programmed’ into the processing units of the death-delivering hardware and zapped. And if any more innocents get in the way – and they will – too bad! First conclusion: Science and technology can never be neutral in class divided societies.

Driverless vehicles.

A considerable part of this recent broadcasted incarnation of 20th century techno-babble nonsense concerned the development of so-called accident free driver-less cars and haulage vehicles. Of course, in theory and in the realm of technology, the driverless element of transport is entirely possible. Commercial aircraft have already achieved a couple of the basic levels of automatic control such as inflight navigation and landing, whilst some automobiles are now able to stop, start, steer and even park. But are cars and fuel guzzling aircraft really the future for humanity and planet earth? Does the world really need more airports, parking spaces, congestion and pollution? And do human beings really need all the constant and frenetic travel back and forth between one destination and another isolated from each other in tin, aluminium or plastic boxes with wings or wheels?

And actually, despite technophile reassurances, the accident free element of travel is still far from being solved. Mechanical and electrical components routinely fail, and unforseen circumstances are always – and always will be – lurking about somewhere. This is because the fallible human element is still operative in the urban and rural environment. In particular it has been retained in the design and manufacturing side of transport even if once eliminated from behind flight controls or a steering wheel. Furthermore, it is well established that accidents increase relative to increases in traffic volume and speed, whoever or whatever is controlling the guidance system. But there are other more compelling reasons (social, economic and environmental) for seriously doubting whether, under the current capitalist mode of production, any such a partially or wholly fantasy vision will get beyond the current expensive prototype stages.

Fatal flaws in techno-driven fantasy land.

To my mind, the only positive aspect of contemporary techno-babble speculation concerning the future use of artificial-intelligence, robotic automation and space colonisation is to use it to illustrate a fatal contradiction at the heart of the capitalist mode of production. For a start, we apparently need to remind the techno-futurists among us that for the first time in the history of humanity, advances in production techniques have created a global system which threatens our species and the earths ecology in two important ways. First: The 19th and 20th century advances in technology have already led to a dual degradation of human communities – through manufactured poverty for some and the anihilation of others through competitive wars over resources and markets.

Second, the existing level and intensity of technological production along with excessive consumption is already leading to the whole-sale destruction of the very eco-systems upon which all life – including our own – depends. In the final analysis, economic activity dominates all other areas of life and it is the economics of capitalism, not science which determines what can and cannot be done whilst this system continues. The more capital is accumulated, the more it’s owners and controller’s invest this in increased production and speculation and this progressively undermines the systems economic, financial, ecological and social foundations. Under the control and direction of capital the more the methods of production are increased in volume and intensity, the less viable the whole system becomes. Or as Marx long ago described it;

“..the more productiveness develops, the more it finds itself at variance with the narrow basis on which the conditions of consumption rest. (Marx. Capital Volume 3 page 240)

We shall consider this low and non-waged ‘narrow basis’ of consumption again later. But before that, the following facts should be born in mind. It is obvious that the general accumulation of capital – derived fundamentally from manufacturing and commodity production – also leads to financial speculation, creates fictitious capital and stimulates multifarious asset bubbles. All three of which lead to the kind of economic and social consequences which occured before, during and after the 2008 financial crash. Since very little has been done to curb such speculation and dubious asset-bubbles, sooner or later another financial crash will occur.

At the same time, investment in production, leads to greater concentrations of productive capacity and increased output, ruining small businesses, causing unemployment, creating low-waged economies and amassing surpluses of products requiring sales disposal. Marx’s suggestion that, other things remaining equal, the capitalist mode of production would eventually reach a stage where it would have the potential to undermine it’s own basic structures and eventually create impassable barriers, is proving correct. It is worth reiterating the reasons how and why.

Capitalist barriers to further automated production.

It should be obvious – to those who sufficiently think about it – that under the capitalist mode of production, the very non-human attributes of robotic production are what make this techno-bubble futuristic day-dream impossible. True, artificially-intelligent production robots would not tire, wouldn’t need holidays, toilet breaks or pensions etc., but as elements of ‘fixed’ capital neither do they purchase or consume the products they make. Under the present capital dominated economic system, this problem would be unsolvable.

In all human socio-economic affairs, production pre-supposes (1) initial productive-consumption (raw materials being made into buildings, tools and skills etc) and (2) final consumption (manufactured products being sold and used up). A continuous cycle of production followed by consumption and consumption requiring further production, has always been the case as has the development of mechanical aids. However, the birth of capitalism inserted a contradiction into this age-old socio-economic cycle of collective humanity. The much maligned Marx again;

“…a rift must continually ensue between the limited dimensions of consumption under capitalism and a production which forever tends to exceed this iminant barrier.” (Marx. Cap. Vol 3. P 251)

Here we encounter the limited (or narrow) dimensions of consumption again. The contradiction arises because under the domination of capital, total consumption is dependent not on general desire or need for products and services, but primarily upon purchases of them. Such purchases in turn depend upon the available level of income (from wages, salaries, profits and interest). The wages and salaries capitalists pay to human workers are, of course, necessary in order that they can feed, house and cloth themselves, but these payments do more than that. Workers, as we know, feed, house and clothe themselves by purchasing these necessities from capitalist suppliers; ie their own capitalists and/or other capitalists. And incidentally, these wages, when spent, are also the monetary source of the financial return on capital, the source of next weeks or months wages and the monetary surplus-value (profits) appropriated by the capitalist class.

Even if robotic production could be somehow arranged so as to theoretically produce sufficient surplus-value (value above and beyond the value contained within its costs and replacement costs) this value and surplus-value would have to be realised by actual sales. That is simply how the capitalist economic system works. Without waged and salaried workers buying stuff and consuming it, the whole system cannot function on a capitalist basis! And this insight is nothing new! Adam Smith, David Ricardo and many other economists explained this fact centuries ago. But I prefer the improvement made to that analysis and insight by Karl Marx.

“…if capital does not return from circulation, then this circulation between worker and capital could not begin anew; hence it is itself conditional upon capital passing through the various moments of its metamorphosis outside the production process.” (Marx. Grundrisse.)

In other words, the capitalist mode of production requires the circulation of value-laden commodities by a means of exchange based upon money (actual or virtual) to mediate the circulation and consumption of these products. Take away the wages element by progressively employing robots and you take away (or progressively reduce) purchases; take away or reduce purchases and you take away or reduce returns on capital, profits and, of course, final consumption; take away or reduce consumption and either products pile up unsold and/or production has to be reduced or terminated. Under the capitalist mode of production, the problem created by still further advanced fixed-capital techno-solutions would be a higher degree of what is already termed ‘relative over-production’.

That is to say more production is (and would be) routinely created relative to the available purchasers having an adequate means to purchase it. Even without any technological interventions, the propensity for relative over-production is already built into the capitalist mode of production. The requirement for gaining profit by the owners of capital means that working people are required to produce more value than the value encapsulated in their wages and salaries; the difference being the above-noted surplus-value which is the source of monetised profit. This in turn means the working classes cannot ever buy all they produce – hence the historic and contemporary imperative for capitalist producers to export by fair means or foul – ie subsidies, armed colonial conquest and imperialist style control of markets and sources of raw materials!

And already 20th century levels of technology and automation have ensured that more and more areas of production are operating with fewer and fewer paid employees. Hence we already have an increased historical rate of productivity and an increasingly narrow or limited basis for sales. But the problem doesn’t end there. Fewer paid employees also mean lower tax revenue for capitalist based social systems. Since the late 20th century and now in the 21st century, this reduced tax base has already caused a problem of funding public services, and the other organs of the capitalist state. This shortfall has required a pattern of ‘austerity’ and unsustainable loans. This is another important indicator that the capitalist system is again bumping up against its own insurmountable economic barriers and needs changing. Second conclusion: Utilising even more forms of artificial intelligence and robots, under capitalism would obviously only make matters worse.

The fact that some workers would need to be transferred to the manufacture of robots and their systems would not balance the loss of workers elsewhere for it would not and could not be (despite it perhaps being piously hoped for) a one for one replacement. True, the workers creating robots and robotic systems would need to be highly skilled and therefore highly paid but their extra salaries would still be insufficient to mop up the increased production the robots and automated systems they design would be ultimately capable of creating. The few high status robot-designing and producing skilled workers and the fewer lower status semi-skilled workers maintaining and cleaning the automated production lines elsewhere in industry would consequently mean an acceleration of the already unfolding two-fold economic system failure. Relative over-production and shrinking tax incomes.

At one level commodity and service production would then have to be reduced (the robots switched off or mothballed) to match the restricted ability to pay for them. At another level the staff employed in the state institutions would have to be vastly reduced to match the reducing tax base. As a result of the existing problem of relative-overproduction, (this is often classed one-sidedly as under-consumption) the idea of the state giving every human being, whether they work or not, enough money to buy essentials has been suggested by some so-called economic and political experts. But obviously this would only exacerbate the existing inequalities among people. The gap between the privileged and underprivileged would grow even wider. A small elite skilled techno-‘middle’ class would be created with even larger numbers of ordinary citizens surviving on state sponsored handouts.

Here is an example of how mad the techno-fetishism is getting. In anticipation of further income level disparities, and building upon the existing inequalities of wealth and income, at least three billionaire led companies (Virgin, Amazon and Tesla) are currently testing rocket-powered flight systems for future business ventures in space tourism. Whilst country after country is falling apart, through skewed economic policies and military interventions, these three wise kings of commerce and industry are hoping and intending to make profits out of selling high-priced seats on a re-useable rocket plane to wealthy punters. It is intended that the super-rich will be taken on a short sub-orbital trips to see the blackness of space, the blue roundness of the earths profile and perhaps catch a glimse of the greed in the eyes of their profit-grasping benefactors. At an estimated one quarter of a million dollars per person per trip, it is a proposed elite indulgence worthy of a modern set of Nero’s.

It gets worse. Already political elites in Luxembourg, New Mexico and elsewhere have contributed tax-payers money to the 600 million dollars spent so far on this ‘other world’ self-indulgent vanity project. This includes 200 million dollars on a currently empty Spaceport in the desert. Yet these same elites constantly tell their citizens that there is not enough money for decent schools, hospitals, pay and pensions. The height of ambition for our futurists, and their sycophantic followers, is not to use their position, wealth and education to help solve the problems of poverty, homelessness, ecological destruction and aggressive wars. Definately not! It is to send rich people on a whistle-stop experience of weightlessness, whilst a glimpsing the curvature of the planet; and make themselves even richer in the process. And all this while the rest of us are expected to wallow around in various stages of state-funded relative or absolute poverty.

On serious consideration, it becomes clear that such imaginative suggestions and self-indulgent fantasies, consistently fail to connect all the economic dots – so to speak. In particularly those pundits imagining a universal non-working wage for all are economically naive or intellectually challenged. Are they really not aware that with up to 60% unemployment in some advanced capitalist countries we are already part way there to paying large numbers of people for not working and this quack remedy isn’t solving the social problem nor the economic one of relative (and absolute) over-production. Surely it is obvious why? Extending that kind of hopefully naive proposal would of necessity increase state expenditure by the addition of these new mass, universal, non-work ‘benefits’, thus adding to the existing problem of funding public services.

And where would the money or monetary value for such extended benefits come from? A printing press or electronic leger allocation? That would be the equivalent of giving production away to the bulk of the population by means of giving them a paper entitlement or an electronic cash-card allocation. And who would decide how much to allocate to the permanently unemployed plebs? The elite? And wouldn’t that be just another exagerated version of what we have now – but on technological robot-driven steroids? Or, alternatively, would it not have to become a more modernised version of a top-down form of state-capitalism/state-socialism, as happened under the direction of the previous Fascist, Stalinist and Maoist political regimes?

Nor, if such a futurist scenario were remotely possible, would such a policy of artificially-inteligent robotic production of commodities and services do anything to curb the excessive utilisation of the planets finite resources. Not a bit of it. In fact further automated production under the restless profit-driven direction of capital and its representatives would accelerate even faster the existing exhaustion of the planets limited resources. In addition, pollution levels would increase, with the knock-on effects creating even more frequent negative weather patterns and climate change. All of which anticipates the another insurmountable barrier the capitalist mode of production now faces in the 21st century.

The ecological barriers – a finite Earth.

The notion of projecting a future path for humanity based upon an incremental progression of production for productions (and profits) sake which has occurred over the past 100 or so years is a recipe for further ecological and social disaster. Already humanity under the stewardship of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite, is producing and consuming (albeit disproportionally) more than it needs and far more than the waste materials it creates can be safely contained or neutralised. As noted a new technical revolution involving how commodities and services are produced may be hypothetically possible but in practice this could not occur on the basis of the capitalist mode of production. Nor, if it were possible to go even a little further, should we be encouraging people to do so. The planetary resources are already close to exhaustion. Air, Sea and Land pollution are already at record levels and ecological damage is rapidly increasing the rate of species extinctions, many of which are essential to the ultimate survival of humanity.

But wait! Another set of technophiles, based at universities and space-focussed public and private institutions think they have the robotic answer to capitalism’s almost terminal depletion of the earth’s essential minerals and rare metals – at least in their turbo-charged imagination. They are already discussing the possibility of sending mining robots to Mars and other solar system orbiting bodies to obtain new supplies when those on earth run out! Yes they really are! Working prototypes are already being tested in desert locations, and the British Broadcasting Corporation now has a ‘New Earth’ colonist project on its Web site. This all smacks of sheer self-indulgent ‘Star Trek’ type fantasy lacking only Captain Kirk, a character with pointy ears and Scotty, to tweak a modified transporter room to unscramble their techno-fantasy, pro-capitalist brains.

The absurdity of such thinking is perhaps hard to better outside of science fiction or clinically encountered deranged fantasy but it does reflect the mentality of those who still think capitalism is a rational mode of production and is able and ought to continue to expand. Having polluted and exhausted one place whilst making huge profits, then capitalist logic suggests – even at times dictates – moving on to despoil another. And in imagination, of course, there is always another – this time among the orbiting bodies and beyond! Capitalism has done this with the resources of successive regions of this planet, so the simple pro-capitalist logic is to start the process again – this time on another planet. Once more ‘to boldly go’; having previously ‘gone’ to Africa and the New World; now the galaxy also awaits ‘discovery’ and another round of profit-led exploitation. But of course this time, as we have seen, there are real economic, social and practical barriers to planetary colonisation and any future galactic forms of imperialist mining and marketing.

The Social barriers – dissatisfied people.

Only intellects which are devoid of a social conscience and which lack a grasp of economics could imagine that it would make sense (or be socially acceptable) to spend billions on space missions to send privileged people or robots to collect ore’s currently worth very little per ton and divert these billions away from much needed infrastructure and services within their own communities. Obviously, the value of such ‘other world’ raw materials, once the ‘astronomical’ transportation costs have been factored in, would make production prices so high that such fantasies are economically laughable from the outset.

Yet, as noted above, some techno-fantasists do more than just imagine such ‘off-world’ mining and colonising activities, there are actually so-called ‘deep space industries’ currently being set up to work on the detail of them! This is despite the fact that the human body and its immune system, deteriorates rapidly in zero gravity and outside of its interaction with the physical and ecological environment of planet Earth upon which over millions of years it evolved. Just spending six months on the current earth-orbit space station can shorten lives and incrementally increase susceptibility to illness. But hey; why spoil a techno-babblers dream.

Third conclusion: These proposals, as much as anything, illustrate that having a PHD or a professorship in astro-physics, planetary studies, artificial intelligence electronics or applied robotics etc., does not make someone fit to make decisions effecting the future of humanity. Nor does ruthlessly extracting billions of dollars or pounds out of the current system of exploitation. Tucked away in their little departmental bubbles, or executive suites, like others among their colleagues who imagine ‘big – bangs’, ‘black holes’, ‘space – time warps’ and ‘parallel universes’ as established facts, rather than hypothetical intellectual constructs, they are an expense we tax-payers could well manage without. That is until every human being has a decent home, enough quality food, a safe place to live and the prospect of a worry free retirement.

But of course, these techno-phile individuals and fantasy professionals are not the primary cause of the problems associated with the current capitalist application of science to industry, commerce and finance. They are merely highly-schooled, techno-savvy, loose-cannon symptoms of the present alienated and alienating socio-economic system. The underlying cause is the compulsive search for ever more technical efficiency and ever more productive capacity for industry and commerce. This constant efficiency drive is conducted in order to maximise returns on capital and compete with other capitalist players in the global casino of capitalist enterprise. Although there have been a number of counteracting tendencies within the history of the capitalist mode of production, nevertheless it is hard to fault the following observation;

“A development of productive forces which would diminish the absolute number of labourers would cause a revolution because it would put the bulk of the population, out of the running.” (Marx. Capital Vol 3, page 258)

Although the collapse and transformation of the capitalist mode of production has been incorrectly predicted many times, this does not mean that this collapse will never happen. Uprisings which previously failed to develop into humanist revolutions against the capitalist mode of production, does not mean they will always do so. Already at the economic, social, political and now ecological levels there has been a decade or more of serious global decline for the vast majority of humanity.

The decline and fall of capitalism?

In one sense it doesn’t matter that in the early 21st century, the majority of working and oppressed people do not forsee or even wish to see a revolutionary transition of the present mode of production. Very few citizens of antiquity – at the time – forsaw the decline and fall of previous empires such as the Egyptian, Persian, Grecian or Roman. For thousands of years most people thought the earth was flat. Four or five hundred years ago, very few people anticipated that the Feudal system would be superceded. Yet all these socio-economic systems and some of their associated ideas eventually collapsed from the accumulated effects of internal contradictions.

Fourth conclusion: What really determines such a decline and fall of a mode of production is not what people think now, but what they will be compelled to do by the technological advances promoted by capitalism and the circumstances of its extreme crises during its protracted descent into chaos. It should be clear that sooner or later, even people who have not read Marx, will sufficiently wake up to the fact that the present mode of production based upon the domination of capital, is not only exploitative and unfair, but also irrational and is increasingly destructive of their lives and the very conditions which sustain all planetary life forms.

Well before the imagined artificially intelligent robots become marketed to us as ‘friends’ or ‘end-of-life carers’, or the fantasy space waggons set off from planet Earth to fill their holds with mineral rich extra-terrestial dust and return, ordinary people will be compelled to rise up again and again until they are able to change the mode of production to one which is compatible with sustainable and equitable production – with or without robotic assistance. They will do so not because they want to rise up and risk their lives in such a historic transformation, but because they will have to if they want to adequately survive and pass on a habitable planet to their children and grandchildren.

A study of history confirms that ruling elites have never voluntarily given up controlling a socio-economic system, even when it is obvious it has become self-destructive and a dead end for the majority of the people who suffer from it. The elites use all their accumulated powers, economic, political and military, to cling on to their advantages. The present pro-capitalist establishment elite and their sycophantic supporters are no different in this regard. Uprisings and revolutions are therefore the social mechanisms forced upon those classes who represent the oppressed present and a potentially liberating future when they are faced with a determined and obdurate elite, who represent the past – and are hell-bent on maintaining the system.

The present and future oppressed and exploited majority may suffer uneven set-backs – such as occurred in the past 20th century, vanguard-led, so-called anti-capitalist revolutions (as in Russia, China etc.) – and the more recent Arab Spring and other such failed reformist uprisings – as those experienced in South America. However, the contradictions within the capitalist mode of production noted above will keep on forcing them to confront the system in order to assert or defend their essential economic and social needs. The intensity of this confrontation will vary according to how violently the capitalist political representatives (utilising their state institutions) choose to confront the oppressed as they individually and collectively begin to resist and to transform themselves along with the mode of production.

Resistance has begun, and the future has been partially revealed. Large-scale, non-profit making industries and services (education, health, gas, electricity, water, transport and some areas of commodity production) in many countries, have been proved possible and viable, until greed and hierarchy first distorted and then later privatised them. Even local and national governments, the military, the police and state bureacracies are examples of non-profit forms of organisation, albeit ones also distorted by and tailored to, the requirements of the class which lives from exploitation.

What needs to be done is to remove the distorting effects of economic and social domination by capital, profit and hierarchy and the class structures spawned by these elite ‘needs’ and extend that model universally. Easier said than done – true! However, sooner or later, (hopefully sooner), the inevitable process of protracted class struggle will eventually bring along with it a transformative recognition among wider sections of humanity of the need for a revolutionary-humanist, post-capitalist, ecologically-based mode of production. And nothing galvanises thought to catch up with reality better than existential necessity.

The future socio-economic system we surely need to envision is one which will have human beings cooperating and caring for each other and this planet rather than imagining one in which each advanced (sic) nation continues to ruin the worlds eco-systems, sends space colonists to their early and fruitless deaths, deploys ‘intelligent’ military robots to kill people in other countries, whilst attempting to sell (or provide) those on their own side with a cuddly, cross-dressing robot to nurse them in sickness or in order to prevent them being lonely.

Roy Ratcliffe (October 2017)

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LEFT VIOLENCE.

Recent events at Charlottesvile and UC Berkley in the USA have been accompanied by scenes of communal violence. This was violence orchestrated by right-wing and left-wing political currents primarily against each other. More specifically, members and supporters of alternative right (Alt-Right) groups and members and supporters of anti – fascist (Antifa) groups have not just opposed each other but have fought pitched battles in which at least one person was killed and others injured. Some political elites were quick to condemn the violence of the Antifa, (left) whilst other commentators have condemned the violence perpetrated by both sides. Very few on the left have condemned the violence carried out by the Antifa left and there is good reason for this relative silence and the reason is a high degree of confusion.

This criticism from a few individuals on the left and from religious spokespersons has provoked a public defence by those on the left who are committed to oppose violence with violence. This defence has orbited around an assertion that there is no moral equivalence between fascism and anti – fascism and therefore the violence perpetrated by anti – fascists is purely a defensive form, whilst alt-right (proto-fascist) violence is primarily an offensive form. However, this self-justifying defence may have served to blurr an essential similarity between the aims of both sides and the tactics of violence chosen by them. Whilst I agree that from a revolutionary-humanist perspective, there should be no equivalence between the aims of Fascists and the aims of anti – fascists, in many respects, it has to be said, this has not always been the case.

In the past, for example, the 20th century Fascist aim was to form a one-party, state-directed, disciplined national economy enforced by organised and institutionalised armed bodies of men prepared to use violence to achieve and maintain its ascendency. In the 20th century, the aim of the Stalinist (who openly declared themselves anti-fascists) was exactly the same. This is why the systems set up by both these political tendencies were almost identical. Both where militarised, both had secret police, both had concentration camps for dissidents (Stalags and Gulags) and both used torture and assasinations to deal with internal opposition. This similarity of form occured because both political tendencies, despite many ideological differences, were unapologetically sectarian and led by forceful, determined men who managed to get control of state power and wild it.

In other words, despite having different political ideas, there was (and often still is) a clear equivalence between right-wing sectarian violence and left-wing sectarian violence. From popularised film and literature on the Second World War, the violence of Right-wing fascists has been widely understood by most people in Europe and North America, if less so in other parts of the world. So too is the violence of the various nation – state elites against their own citizens and the citizens of other ‘rival’ states. Similarly, the citizens of the 21st century are having demonstrated to them the violence of religious forms of sectarianism. However, it seems that in the 21st century, there is a need to remind those now on the left of the history of violence orchestrated by those on the left who also claimed to be simply defending themseves against fascism.

It is also instructive to remember that to be described as Fascist or a Fascist sympathiser in earlier times it wasn’t necessary to actually be one. Just being opposed to sectarian anti-fascist strategy and tactics was sufficient to (unfairly) be given this disreputable title. Such acts of derogatory labelling is the first step in the process of de-humanisation of the ‘other’; a process which can (and often does) lead to acts of violence against them. In order to dull the strong tendency for inter-human empathy and sympathy and proceed to violence it is necessary to de-humanise the target group. This requires sustained propaganda to make the case for a section of humanity (the target group) to be treated as less than human or abnormally human. This then paves the way for a suspension of humanity among the perpetrating group and violence against the demonised group can follow.

History is replete with examples of this process of de-humanising the ‘other’ prior to organising violence against them and goes some way to explain the many genocides of the past. The more recent examples of the violence against the native Indians of North America, the Armenian people of Turkey, the Kulaks in Soviet Russia, the Jews in Europe, the Bosnian Muslims and others in the former Yugoslavia and the Palestinians indicate that once de-humanisation propaganda has been successful, dreadful, shameful consequences follow. Neighbour can torture and kill neighbour, friend can brutally kill former friends, adults can mercilessly kill children and babies. The de-humanisation of percieved opponents has been a common feature of alienated humanity and the left are clearly not immune to its influence or its utility in excusing any violence carried out by them.

There is a saying, having some validity, that those who do not study history and learn from it, are bound (or prone) to repeat the mistakes made by previous generations. The left, including the so-called revolutionary left, have a long history of becoming sectarian, dogmatic, intolerant and violent, whilst claiming their violence was defensive, necessary and justified. It is a long history of disgraceful attacks against people who were already victims of the capitalist system who then became victims of the left because they disagreed or simply got in the way. We need to ask ourselves; to what extent is history repeating itself? I hope the following examples (along with other articles on this blog) helps us decide if this is the case or not.

Bolshevism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism and Anarchism.

All these four historic left tendencies and their contemporary offshoots claimed to be anti – fascist and also anti-capitalist, yet their advocates were no better than the Fascists when it came to dealing with those who opposed their views. Members and former members and colleagues of these movements and parties, who dared to express differences, could be tortured, beaten and murdered, not in ones and two’s but in thousands. When Stalin inherited Lenins position of power and influence, Trotsky a former colleague and many others were declared bourgeois apologists and fascists. Many were tortured and killed. Trotsky, previously a leading Bolshevik communist was assasinated on the orders of Stalin, another leading Bolshevik communist and one appointed by Lenin as his reliable right hand man. This dispicable bolshevised regime was an example of left on left violence par excellence.

Left on left violence, Left violence on Liberals, Left violence against trade unionists, left violence against peasants and Left violence against Anarchists went hand in hand with Left violence against real hardened fascists. And typically all these acts were described as being defensive violence. Long after, the death of millions of workers and peasants in the then ‘anti-fascist’ Soviet Union, their counterparts in the rest of the world were busy meting out violence to all and sundry who disagreed – but of course more often than not on a much smaller and lighter scale.

As a young working class activist, I was personally knocked about by three leading members of a Trotskyist group (Healey, Banda and Slaughter) for jokingly disparaging the food served at a secret summer camp for new recruits. I was subsequently told I would have my legs broken (a typical gang-land form of internal discipline) if I dared to leave the event. I also witnessed violence against non-members of this group. Left sectarian verbal and physical violence as with right-wing verbal and physical violence, is not simply used as a defensive strategy, but as a way of asserting its political agenda against other agendas and against those who are critical from within.

Many Anarchists in the past, have declared themselves anti-fascist and anti-capitalist, but some have also resorted to violence, not only against the State but against innocent citizens. One brand of Anarchism was convinced that throwing bombs into cafe’s full of ordinary people and assasinating elites was both justified and tactically shrewd as it was predicted that this might trigger an uprising leading to a revolutionary ferment. So the history of Anarchism, as with, Religion, Bolshevism, Maoism and Capitalism is littered with examples of intolerance, de-humanisation, offensive posturing and outbreaks of targeted violence.

The tap root of sectarian political violence.

Not understanding the difference between aims, strategies and tactics was not a failure exclusive to the Stalinists, but was part and parcel of a long established sectarian mind-set, rooted in centuries-old religious ideology and inserted into modern political forms of dogma. It is a mind-set which still surfaces from time to time. For the dogmatic sectarian, the everyday experience that aims can be easily frustrated or negated by the adoption of counterproductive strategies and tactics is set aside in favour of arrogant certainty. The sectarian mind-set is one that thinks it alone has the ‘correct’ ideas about what should be done now – and at any time in the future. Anyone who disagrees with this opinion is therefore percieved as an obstacle to be dealt with by shouting them down, intimidating them with threats, or when considered necessary, removing the human obstacles by violence.

Sectarian political violence is simply a mirror image of religious sectarian violence and is similarly guided and motivated by a fixed dogma, which its adherents view as a universal and beneficial ‘truth’. Every other trend of thought is considered by the sectarian as a partial and even a malicious falsehood. Sectarians (religious and political) do not just defend their own points of view they are compelled by their ideological certainty, dogmatic attitude and psychological outlook to forcibly oppose other points of view. The scientific approach of needing to understand the dialectical contradictions in human affairs is rejected by sectarians in favour of a form of simplistic ideological and emotional dualism.

Within the sectarian dualistic paradigm, everything is posed in the form of; ‘us and them’; and articulated as, ‘you are either for us, or against us’, and the solution is seen ultimately as a physical battle to be rid of the ‘other’. And as noted, the ‘other’ becomes treated as if they were undeserving humans and eventually de-humanised altogether. The real enemy of humanity, the capitalist mode of production, remains in the background, and the immediate enemy has become those among the oppressed who don’t think and act as the left sectarians think they should. If at the moment some of the oppressed think the solution to their economic and social problems (ie unemployment and austerity) lies in nationalism, controlled borders and express this, then it is dangerously short-sighted and divisive to class them as the fascist ‘other’ and declare they have deserved to be disrespected with expletive words and violent actions.

The battle of ideas.

In other words this left-sectarian attitude also exactly mirrors that of the pro-capitalist elite, who incidentally are also shrewd enough to encourage and applaud this division among the oppressed. In addition, it needs to be remembered that the battle of ideas between pro-capitalist and anti-capitalists has not yet been won by the anti-capitalist left. Indeed, the sectarian antics of this mileu has hindered this long overdue intellectual struggle. Until it is won there can be little other than internicine skirmishes among the oppressed as they struggle to make sense of what is happening to them using the only ideas and words currently available to them.

The monstrosities of 20th century Bolshevism, Stalinism and Maoism have served to almost totally discredit the aspiration of a post-capitalist future so all that is left for working people to choose from are the remaining dominant ideas of capitalism – namely Nationalism, Racism, Conservatism, Liberalism, Reformism, Religion and Cynicism. Can it be surprising therefore that in the present circumstances of economic and social distress, groups of the oppressed are orientating toward one or other of these sub-sections of bourgeois ideology in the hope for solutions to their situation? In this regard, long ago the revolutionary-humanist Karl Marx drew attention to the following;

“The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, consequently also controls the means of mental production, so the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are on the whole subjected to it. ( Marx/Engels, Collected Works. Volume 5 page 59.)

And despite the internet this still largely the case. So if the working classes are subjected to it and do regurgitate it, is it really a sensible strategy for anti-capitalists and anti-fascists to label them racists or fascists and knock them about the heads in order to rid their brains of these dominant ideas and prejudices? Apparently, some left sectarians think so. But of course, it is not primarily the consciousness of working people which determines how they live and experience life, it is how they live and experience life which primarily determines their conciousness. Beating them about the head and body for thinking the way they do will not change their circumstances, nor their ideas. Indeed, such left violence will provide an additional negative experience delivered by the 21st century sectarian left to confirm a view that as far as sectarian violence goes, they are not disimilar to the last centuries Bolshevik, Stalinist, Trotskyist and Maoist so-called anti-capitalists and anti-fascists.

Distractions and scapegoats.

Lets be clear on something else of crucial importance. The capitalist system is undergoing the most profound economic, financial, sociological, political and ecological crisis in its entire history. This compound crisis in the economic, social and much needed ecological foundations of the capitalist system is reflected in the current political crisis, and is prompting immense social upheavals, globally. As well as causing confusion and contradiction among working people and the oppressed in general, this crises is also creating cracks in the solidity of bourgeois reality and in its ideology.

The reality of the capitalist mode of production – on a global scale – no longer matches the ideological justifications made by the elite for its continuance. There is a great desire and pressing need from within the pro-capitalist elite, therefore, to create distractions from this mismatch between a rhetoric of we are all equal and the reality that we are not. There is also a search for scapegoats to blame for the systems numerous failings. In satisfying this need they are being greatly assisted by the reformist lefts focus on secondary variations in the level of oppression of sub-groups within capitalisms overall class structure.

There are black, white, male, female, religious, secular, young, old, gay, physically and mentally challenged and immigrant workers, all with varying abilities, all suffering various levels of oppression and exploitation along with absorbing varying inherited prejudices. It helps the capitalist systems defenders and beneficiaries, if these sub-categories of workers can have their prejudices massaged and at the same time be persuaded to blame each other for the level of oppression they are all variously suffering from. That way the mode of production which has created the problems in the first place, escapes scrutiny and it’s advocates and representatives are spared the problem of facing a cohesive working class, armed with an understanding of how the capitalist system really works, why it must be changed and the necessity of their strategic role in promoting that historic transition.

Finally.

Defence of communities from state or right-wing violence is a legitimate strategy for the oppressed. However, from a revolutionary-humanist viewpoint, there should be an easily understood difference between such defence and violent attack to promote and impose an alternative sectarian perspective. Seduced by the age-old militarist line of strategic thinking, that ‘the best form of defence is attack’, some sections of the alt – left have mirrored the fascistic-minded alt-right which is but an extension of pro-capitalist bourgeois thinking. This left sectarian violence is nothing new and where it occurs still needs to be highlighted and consistantly rejected and shamed.

Roy Ratcliffe (September 2017)

[There is also an alternative but complementary and interesting article on the same subject at; http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/47717.htm%5D Here is a short quote from it;

“Street clashes do not distress the ruling elites. These clashes divide the underclass. They divert activists from threatening the actual structures of power. They give the corporate state the ammunition to impose harsher forms of control and expand the powers of internal security. When antifa assumes the right to curtail free speech it becomes a weapon in the hands of its enemies to take that freedom away from everyone, especially the anti-capitalists.”

 

 

 

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BEING IN TIME

An extended book review of. ‘Being in Time’ (a post-political manifesto) by Gilad Atzmon.

Despite the two abstractions in the title of this recent book by Gilad Atzmon, (ie. ‘being’ and ‘time’) it’s main subject matter is far from ‘being’ abstract. Indeed, it commences with the results of the 2016 American presidential election of Donald Trump and it’s complex connection to the phenomena of identity politics and political correctness. Nevertheless, the author acknowledges having been influenced by the extremely abstract ideas of Martin Heidegger whose book ‘Being and Time’ deals philosophically with what it is to ‘be’ and it’s connection with the concept and practice of the measurement of movement or – ‘time’. [For a critique of the misuse and confusion over the concept of ‘time’ see the article ‘The Fetishisation of Time’ on this blog.]

I shall comment (briefly) later on the abstract conceptual framework, as developed by Heidegger, meanwhile I will focus on the lucid and important criticism which Gilad Atzmon applies to the current political symptoms of ‘identity politics’ and ‘political correctness’. These are two aspects of left/liberal (or what I personally designate as petite-bourgeois) ideology, which he suggests many people have uncritically ‘borrowed’. This act has impeded their ability to ‘think’ for themselves and ‘follow the rules of reason’. In explaining his motive for writing the book he writes;

“For some time now, we the people who dwell on this planet, have been reduced to a mere audience to a devastating drama that tells the story of our own destruction. Despite all the liberal democratic promises, we are not players, but forgotten, voiceless subjects. The time to speak out is long overdue.” (page 10.)

The author continues by pointing out that in his opinion the ‘left’ political vision is based upon ideas of what ‘ought to be’ whilst the rival ‘right’ political vision is based upon ‘what is’. Elsewhere, this is also often referred to as idealism versus pragmatism. But these two partially rival tendencies he insists are not just simple opposites but represent a functional socio-political relationship which supports and sustains the liberal, and neo-liberal democratic agenda. In other words, they are like two sides of one official bourgeois coin of the realm. They ‘belong’ to each other. I largely agree with this perspective and would merely add to it the following. The left/liberal (social democratic) wing of the political class mainly wish to make capitalism much fairer, whilst the right/conservative political wing mainly wish to make capitalism more effective. But both sections are champions and defenders of the existing capitalist system. The author goes on to suggest that the ‘political’ is now totally detached from the ‘human’ and that the role of politics is now to ‘facilitate consumption’ by being subordinate to a range of capitalist interests. Interests which, he notes include ‘oligarchs, major market forces’ big monopolies and banks’. He writes;

“Democracy operates to convey a false image of freedom of choice. It suggests that this dystopia in which we live is actually the crude materialisation of our own (democratic) choices. Democratic freedom only conceals the fact the choice is illusory and generally meaningless or non-existent.” (page 22.)

This assessment will come as no surprise to many of us on the revolutionary-humanist left, since experience from past and present working class struggles has amply confirmed it. Nevertheless, the source of this shared perspective is interesting. This is because the author does not come from an established anti-capitalist tradition. This is only one reason (of many) why this is an important book and should be read by everyone on the revolutionary-humanist and anti-capitalist left. A further reason lies in the fact that it delivers a much needed merciless criticism of much of the lefts infatuation with political correctness and identity politics.

Political Correctness.

Of course, the political strategy of Political Correctness (PC), is not something new. Nor is criticism of it. [See, for example, the article ‘Political Correctness’ (July 2016) on this blog.]. But importantly, Gilad Atzmon reminds the reader that it was a defining ideological component of the Leninist and Stalinist branches of Bolshevism which insisted on the adherance to an ever-changing supposedly ‘correct’ (sic) party line whether this corresponded to reality or not. It was in the 1920s and 1930s, of the Soviet era, that the concept of political correctness was first used to suppress criticism of, and enforce patterns of behaviour, acceptable to the then ruling Bolshevik elite. He notes that George Orwell, author of ‘Animal Farm ‘ and ‘1984’ had experienced this trend during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 – 1939. The revival of a ‘political correctness’ strategy by the liberal Left in the 1970s served essentially the same purpose. He writes;

“Even at its most innocuous, political correctness crudely interferes with freedom of speech, freedom of expression….Initially we don’t say what we think; eventually we learn to say what we don’t think.” (pages 38/39)

In my opinion, the advocates of ‘political correctness’ arrogantly assume that there is a social and political ‘truth’ about life which only certain privileged intellectuals and elites are capable of understanding, promoting and enforcing. They elevate their one-sided, considered (or more often ill-considered) opinions into relative or absolute social truths. Not content with such acts of cerebral arrogance, these elite diviners and Guru’s of life’s ‘truths’ (sic) insist that the rest of us must follow their dictates or suffer whatever consequences they are capable of inflicting. This is a process eloquently described by the author in this book. Incidentally his observations confirm the point made by Marx that the literary representatives of those who dominate the economic and social world also dominate the language and customs available to those who they consider socially and intellectually below them. Not content with simple disaproval, however, many of the PC proselytising elite are quite prepared to indulge in distortion and character assasination with the intention of depriving people of their livelihood if they fail to conform.

The other side of the social and intellectual ‘political correctness’ currency which is promoted by this section of the petite-bourgeois elite, (liberal and left) is the demand that we should pander to the current obsession with the politics of ‘identity’. Critics of the capitalist mode of production, along with the rest of humanity, are invited to turn their backs upon issues of class and prostrate themselves in front of the recently erected altar of ‘identity politics’. But Gilad Atzmon clearly and consistently refuses to do this. Instead he subjects this tendency to a critical examination.

Identity politics.

Using Old Testament imagery, the author of ‘Being in Time’ describes the political Lefts current ‘identity-led’ catagorisations of struggling humanity, in the following manner.

“..newly emerging ‘tribes’ (gays, lesbians, blacks, vegans, etc) are marched into the desert, led toward an appealing ‘promised land’, where the primacy of the symptom (gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, skin colour etc.) is supposed to evolve into a world in itself. But the liberal utopia is in practice a sectarian and segregated amalgam of ghettos that are blind to each other. It has nothing in common with the promised universal inclusive cosmos.” (page 50)

He is correct in my view that identity politics strives for various forms of sectional symbolic unity in opposition to a general class or national unity. There have, of course, been attempts to bridge this psychological/ideological divide as was the case with the Lesbian and Gay support groups for the miners in their strike in the 1980s, but this particular form of unity seems to be an exception which only serves to prove the general rule. The author gives some examples of how this segregation functions in the chapter ‘United against Unity’. The author then draws the readers attention to the fact that identity politics is primarily based upon biological criteria and not economic class. In this way modern petite-bourgois ‘left’ ideology, by concentrating on unity of skin-colour, biological gender, sexual orientation, disability etc., ignores or bypasses the underlying socio-economic system of capital which fundamentally divides humanity by economic class.

He therefore argues, correctly in my view, that the lefts eager acceptance of identity politics produces a form of sectarianism and that this commitment has rendered it’s adherents incapable of being an effective oppositional force to ‘capital accumulation’ or the ‘dominance’ of Mammon. By this strategy, the Left, he suggests, have separated themselves from the bulk of the ordinary people. Furthermore, the current domination of biological characterisations of humanity has also led to the simplistic identification of many oppressed working people as ‘privileged whites’! In this way identity politics has functioned to divert public discourse away from the fact that most white-workers are also precarious wage-slaves, have long been so and are therefore far from being privileged in any real sense. In general I agree with this assessment but arrive at it from a different and almost opposite line of reasoning.

In my view it is the liberal ‘lefts’ firm ideological support for capital accumulation and Mammon that in the modern era leaves it with no other form of political expression than identity politics. This is also nothing new. The historic mission of petite-bourgeois liberalism and social democracy has been to attempt to prevent (or rescue) the capitalist mode of production from wallowing in its own worst symptoms and to protect it from those who wish to supercede it by a revolutionary transformation.

During the 19th century, significant numbers of Left liberals and social-democrats in Europe, for example, chose nationalism and later, sections of the same political mileu, supported national socialism during the 20th century. Both times this was accompanied by militarily armed geographical expansion in order to save capital from its internal and international contradictions. From a working class perspective, their backing of that strategy twice spectacularly backfired in two world wars of genocidal destruction. Unemployment was replaced by military employment, further hardship and of course millions dead. However, this whole-sale human and material destruction did allow the system of capital accumulation to be rebooted during the various post-war reconstructions and expansions. This post-war period also served to create an illusion that capitalism had changed for the better.

So in my opinion too, identity politics has added to and perpetuated the range of biologically-orientated distinctions devised by the ruling elites, to split humanity into manageable sub-groups pitted against each other. So from this perspective, it is now ok for black workers to see white workers as the main problem, for female workers to see male workers as the main problem, for gay workers to view straight workers as the main problem and so on. Again in my opinion, exclusive focus and stress on these important but secondary characteristics of suffering humanity takes attention away from our common humanity and our common economic exploitation and oppression under the domination of capital. But that is not all. Gilad Atzmon usefully points out that some of these identity – politics criticisms of patriarchal prejudice have been cleverly used (co-opted) by the neoconservatives and Zionists to provide a moral fig leaf for the invasion of Afghanistan and the confrontation with Palestinians and Russia.

In a later section, the author draws attention to the repression of inconvenient events and the related evidence in the historical records of most countries. It is ‘no wonder’, the author suggests, that ‘a sincere investigative historian is often perceived as a public enemy’. As the author also asserts “The past is dangerous territory; it contains some inconvenient stories.” It certainly does. And it is not only the past which is hazardous to explore. The radical criticism of the present is also dangerous territory and exposure of inconvenient stories linked to the capitalist mode of production and it’s supportive institutions also brings ‘public enemy’ status. Witness the recent treatment of Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange and remember these are the tip of a huge iceberg of punitive measures against critics and whistle-blowers who put the exposure of unfairness and injustice above self-interest.

Jewish Identity Politics.

For those who do not know that the author is also an extremely talented musician of Jewish origin, it may come as a surprise that he is so knowledgeable and critical about Jewish ideology and politics. However, once it is understood that he is humanist supporter of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination against the Zionist State of Israel, then his viewpoint cannot be surprising. He is tireless in his criticism of the tribal mentality of those who subscribe to Jewishness and their ties to the dispossesion of Palestinian land and resources. His first book ‘The Wandering Who’ (also reviewed on this blog) provides much detail on the question of Zionism, Israel and Jewishness and in many of the pages of this latest book he fearlessly returns to the same topic and what has been described as the ‘The Jewish Century’ by Yuri Slezkine. He points out that many Jewish intellectuals are openly proud of Jewish positions of power, wealth and influence, but adds the following caviat;

“The real power of the Jews is to silence criticism of Jewish power.” (page 144)

He goes on to outline how Left Jewish intellectuals are in the vanguard of those who wish to silence criticism of the connective tissues between Jewishness, Zionism, and the Apartheid state of Israel. In a later section of the book he examines the concept of the Bell Curve in relation to the concentration of individuals of Jewish birth in intellectual and financial affairs. [The bell curve was a diagramatic representation of a suggested division of social groups into three categories based upon alleged cognitive ability; ie. low ability, average ability and high ability. RR]

His conclusion is that the particular features of Jewish educational and social traditions meant that the high ability elites within Judaism were concentrated in finance and scholarship. From this he reasons that Jewish people are particularly suited to a mode of production (as is the case under capitalism) in which these two realms of endeavour provide access to wealth and elite status. This explains their disproportional representation in these two areas of modern life. He writes;

“Jewish elites were uniquely suited to succeed in mammon and scholarship – not only were they often more sophisticated in certain fields, they were also far more clannishly organised than their European counterparts.”(page 164.)

Although using different language and lines of thinking, this view does come close to Marx’s position regarding the adopted role of many Jews in the development of merchant capital and the rise and domination of finance capital. Marx in a short article pointed out that with or without Jewish cooperation money had become not just a means of exchange, but a world power. It was merely logical that those Jews who where able, welcomed and absorbed this power into their own lives. Marx summed it up in the following way;

“Judaism could create no new world; it could only draw the new world creations and relations, within the orbit of its activity…..” (Marx. ‘On the Jewish Question. Section 2.)

Critical Comments.

For a good deal of this book I was with the author in spirit as well as in most opinions. My initial assessment was that as far as it went the book was soundly based but that in some aspects it did not go far enough and in others it went too far. However, on reflection, a few points were just too important for me to ignore. To my mind, the concept of ‘big capital’ used by the author to account for negative contemporary economic problems represented something of an uneccessary regression. So too, the idea in the chapter on ‘Mammonism vs Production’, that capitalist production can be separated from Mammonism (!) and be often viewed as ‘healthy’. In my view this is wrong, and such abstractions will not help the reader to adequately understand the domination of finance-capital and its incestuous relationship with globalised industrial and commercial capital. It is the absolute and relative control of the mode of production by these inter-related branches of capital which in my view has created, the five-fold nature of the current crisis facing humanity. [See the ‘Five-fold Crisis of Capitalism’ on this blog.]

In this same chapter the author claims not only that ‘capitalist production is often healthy’ but also that ‘capitalism facilitated prosperity’ and that ‘capitalism was a positive force’. It must be said that such claims are frequently made by apologists for, and defenders of, the capitalist mode of production and for this reason it surprises me to find them in this book. Taken as a whole since its inception, capitalism has never facilitated prosperity, except for a privileged few. The industrial revolution, ushered in by the owners of capital, was accompanied with an extended period of poverty and devastation for generations of ordinary working people in the European heartlands of capital.

Even the short – lived and narrowly spread boom times for European and North American workers in the 1950s and 60s (as noted above) only came about as a result of two capitalist inspired devastating wars (nothing positive there) and was achieved at the expense of the degradation and impoverishment of the rest of the workers of the world (very little positive there either). In addition, capitalist production is the most unhealthy system ever created by humanity. Its negative environmental and ecological pollution impact is second to none and it’s food production methods are arguably the most toxic and dangerous to human health ever invented.

However, it is also where it goes too far which unfortunately requires a further critical rebuttal. For me, the problem arises, when Gilad appears to disrespect Marx, rather than just the ‘Marxist’ distorters of Marx’s revolutionary-humanism. For example, in regard to the acceptance of certain ideas in the West, the author asks why this has occurred and then includes the following phrase;

“….Marx and his crude misinterpretation of Hegelian dialectics..” (page 103)

The mentioning of these two great thinkers (Marx and Hegel) in the same sentence and using such a dismissive expression with regard to Marx, cannot be allowed to go without further comment on this blog or its assumption remain uncontested. There is so much ‘borrowed thinking’ within modern economic and political discourse, that readers of this book may be tempted to accept such a common and prejudiced assessment of Marx. That would be an unfortunate mistake. In my opinion, no one who has extensively read Marx would wish to string together such a sequence of words.

A reading of the three volumes of Capital, the three volumes of notes on surplus-value, along with the 1844 manuscripts, the Grundrisse and his criticism of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, let alone his extensive political writings cannot be undertaken without arriving at the conclusion that whenever Marx ventured on research and offered an opinion it was far from crude. Indeed, the consiencious reader of Marx, I suggest, cannot fail to be struck by the detailed complexity of his researches and the equal profundity of his conclusions. The same applies to his interpretation of Hegel. However, don’t take my word for it. Just read Marx’s own words with regard to Hegel.

“The mystifying side of Hegelian dialectic I criticised nearly thirty years ago…But just as I was working at the first volume of ‘Das Capital’, it was the good pleasure of the peevish, arrogant, mediocre (commentators) ..to treat Hegel in the same way as the brave Moses Mendelssohn in Lessing’s time treated Spinoza ie as a ‘dead dog’. I therefore openly avowed myself the pupil of that mighty thinker, and even here and there , in the chapter on the theory of value, coquette with modes of expression peculiar to him. The mystification which the dialectic suffers in Hegel’s hands, by no means prevents him from being the first to present it’s general form of working in a comprehensive manner. (Marx. Preface to the Second Edition of Das Capital.)

I have included such a long extract so the reader can judge for themselves whether Marx’s view of Hegel was crude and whether he was disrespectful of the contribution Hegel (the “mighty thinker”) had made to dialectical analysis and criticism. Karl Popper, who the author later favourably mentions, for example was much more scathing of Hegel, claiming that he was a kind of missing link between the authoritarian Plato and modern forms of totalitarianism. It has long been my own advice to readers, never to take the prejudicial words of any author or speaker, without first checking any possible primary evidence for themselves. I have provided some, here and on this blog (see Marxists versus Marx), but there are others for those so inclined. Unfortunately, that was not the only reference to Marx which I consider needs challenging. In my opinion a further implied criticism of Marx by the author of ‘Being and Time’ is contained within the following words.

“The less Marx’s thought is able to predict events, the more ardent the Marxist disciples are;” (page 105)

The first part of this assertion seems to assume that Marx was in the business of prediction. In essence this implication is repeated on page 107 so it seems the authors opinion on this proposition is seriously held. However, in my opinion this too is mistaken. For a start; Marx’s thoughts were never aimed at creating predictions, but aimed at detailed description and analysis and (as we shall see later) a criticism of everything that exists. If those who claim to follow in Marx’s footsteps try to use his analyses as a means of predicting events, then this was not of Marx’s doing and it merely proves that they, along with far too many others, have not understood either Marx’s methods or his purposes.

Even Marx’s general conclusions suggesting repeated economic and financial crises for capitalism were presented as tendencies, given the developing circumstances – not as predictions. He knew (and frequently remarked upon the fact) that unforseen or unknown circumstances could alter future outcomes in both economics and politics. His examination of social and economic contradictions and tendencies was merely one aspect of the materialist dialectic he did much to develop. Nevertheless, despite multifarious attempts to discredit Marx, the economic and financial tendencies including potential economic and financial crises he outlined are still working themselves out as the 1890s, 1930s and the 2008 crises demonstrate. After 2008, even neo-liberal economists were forced to admit that in general Marx had been proved right.

Karl Marx and the criticism of everything.

So in this new book, Gilad Atzmon is correctly (in my opinion) severely critical of the Marxists who inhabit the restricted world of sectarian and dogmatic politics, however he perhaps unintentionally joins the liberal establishment (who he elsewhere severely criticises) and unfairly extends that criticism to Marx himself. Of course it should be well known by now that Marx before he died frequently criticised those who claimed to be Marxists and declared in writing he was ‘not a Marxist’. Furthermore, it should be born in mind that although Marx could only take in the evidence and resources available at the time he was always alert for (and open to) reassessing his opinions in the light of new evidence or changed circumstances. Having said that, Marx’s economic, social and political research on and analysis of the capitalist mode of production was outstanding at the time and has still not been bettered in my opinion.

Here is another relevant point with regard to Marx and criticism. Very early in his career as a revolutionary-humanist, Karl Marx in a letter to a collaborator wrote the following;

– I am speaking of a ruthless criticism of everything existing, ruthless in two senses: The criticism must not be afraid of it own conclusions, nor conflict with the powers that be.” (Marx. Letter to Ruge 1843.)

I suggest in this regard, that Gilad Atzmon is also closer to some of Marx’s revolutionary-humanist motivations than he perhaps realises. And incidentally this suggestion by Marx is in keeping with the observation by Karl Popper (mentioned by the author) on refutation. To paraphrase Popper; if it is science it must be refutable, if it is not refutable it is not science. For Marx, criticism of everything that exists, implies that what exists is refutable and moreover – ought to be refuted – by rigorous criticism. To my mind, despite the authors preference shown to Heidegger over Marx, the author of ‘Being In Time’ is not really at one with Heideggers abstract philosophical jargon and purpose in ‘Being and Time’.

I suggest he is closer to the above-noted, life-long attitude proposed by Marx for he too is not afraid of challenging the most basic assumptions and prejudices of those on the left and the right. This includes his challenge and refutation of the pretentions of the most powerful interests such as the Israeli intellectual and political class along with their supporters in the Jewish community. In his first book, and in this one, he engages in a ruthless criticism of the established sectarian ‘left’ and the various supporters of the Israeli state, caring little for the opinions of the powers that be.

Heideggers’ concepts including ‘Being’ and ‘Time’.

Since the author seems to admire the philosophical positions of Martin Heidegger rather than Marx, and given that not all readers of his book (and this review) will be familiar with Heidegger, it is worth presenting a couple of short extracts, from numerous examples, of what I personally consider are Hedegger’s ‘newspeak’ word inventions and fog-encrusted abstractions. First;

“World is present insofar as it worlds. That is, the worlding of the world is neither explainable in terms of others nor can it be ground in others.” (Heidegger. ‘The Thing’.)

And second;

“Being, by which all beings are marked as such, Being means being present. Considered with regard to what is present, being present shows itself as letting-be-present. But now we must try to consider this letting-be-present explicitly insofar as being present is allowed. Letting-be-present shows its own – most character in bringing into unconcealement.” (Heidegger. ‘Time and Being’.)

‘Worlding of the world’; ‘letting-be-present’; ‘unconcealement’, ‘lostness’, ‘thrownness’ and many other such obscure, made-up words and phrases are the main substance and content of Hedegger’s writings. It cannot be surprising, therefore, that many people, including other philosophers, considered Heideggers work fancy-full, dominated by Jargon, and self-indulgent. Whether such reactions and responses were entirely justified or not is a matter of opinion, but it needs to be recognised that Heidegger offered the following typically convoluted observation of his own kind of abstract reasoning.

“It might be that this kind of thinking is today placed in the position which demands of it reflections that are far removed from any useful, practical wisdom.” (Heidegger. ‘On Time and Being’)

Having read (and now re-read) quite a lot by Heidegger I cannot but agree with his own provisional assessment. However, despite the critical comments I have made, this book by Gilad Atzmon, is far from replicating Heideggers abstract way of thinking. In contrast it is useful and practical. I would go even further and claim that it is not only a useful contribution to a clearer understanding of the political world we encounter today but an extremely important one. It deserves to be on the bookshelves or electronic devices of all those who are not afraid to challenge their own perceptions or the dominant ideology perpetuated in the mainstream media.

Finally, I should say that I also offer this review, in the collaborative spirit advocated by the above noted Karl Popper. Eg.

“Reason like science grows by mutual criticism.” (K. Popper. ‘The Open Society and it’s Enemies.’ Volume 2 page 226.)

I would merely include ‘respectful’ within the concept and practice of ‘mutual criticism’.

Roy Ratcliffe (August 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Left Unity, neo-liberalism, Patriarchy, Politics, Religion, Revolutionary-Humanism, Sectarianism | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

ENEMIES WITHIN (Part 2)

The subject for this second part of ‘Enemies Within’ our communities (The political and bureaucratic elite) was originally meant to be the third in the series. However, in view of the tragic events in London of the high-rise, towering inferno at Grenfell House in Kensington, I have decided to bring it forward, for this ‘enemy within’ is deeply implicated. It has become clear that the residents of this block of working-class homes had made many complaints (at least eight) to the local politicians and bureaucrats who held housing oversight positions which would have allowed them to take preventative measures, if they had taken the complaints and their responsibilities seriously. They did not. Like their national elite equivalents, they drew their salaries and expenses and not only ignored evidence provided by the residents but it appears they threatened legal action against the representatives of the tenants.

They are not the only ones who in terms of struggling humanity now represent another tier of ‘enemies within’. This dismissive response to the concerns of working people is typical of of the Anglo-Saxon political and bureaucratic elite over the last 40 plus years. At all levels, local, national and international, indifference and even antipathy to working class struggles has become a global disgrace. Yet, the financial, economic, bureaucratic, media and political classes here in the UK and the US show no evidence of shame or a desire to come clean about their own absolute and relative levels of culpability. The so- called ‘duty of care’ may seem to some a bit of a joke but it is far more than that. It is the opposite. Under any system dominated by capital, there is no heart-felt duty of care, there is merely rhetoric disguising systematic exploitation, neglect and abuse.

Housing.

Housing is one of the areas of life in which the working classes have been dumped in the cheapest, shoddy, unhealthy, unsafe and inconvenient locations since the domination of the capitalist mode of production. The Victorian slums and terraces of the 18th and 19th century may have been cosmetically upgraded in many places, but housing for all but the most privileged white-collar workers is still the shoddyist than can be indifferently supplied. Make no mistake about it, like accidents at work, the conditions at this tower block is the result of elite class decisions which have a long history. Grenfell Tower was an accident waiting to happen, and it flowed logically from the increasingly anti-working-class cost-cutting measures which commenced during the era of Thatcher, was supported by Blair and New Labour, and continued under Cameron, Clegg and now May.

Privatisation and de-regulation have been the two disgusting faces of the neo-liberal elites insatiable lust for accumulating wealth and profit at the expense of those who actually create it. How could it be otherwise?  Privatisation of house – building, as with all other aspects of privatisation, means that profit comes before safety, for those private companies who undertake such activities. With regard to the development of high-rise tower housing itself, this was clearly based upon cutting costs as hundreds of people can be housed on a plot of land that normally would only house a few. Building vertically, is cheaper in land costs per family than building horizontally. In addition, there is no need to provide green spaces for each tenant – so even more savings. Build it up tall, pack them in and collect the rents and council taxes to fund an increasingly bloated local government elite. The salaries of the chief executives of even small local authorities have reached obscene levels and of course national elites have seen their salaries, expenses and conditions keep pace with their local counterparts.

From the building of the first 1970’s tower – blocks, cost cutting continued with the laying of concrete foundations. Some building workers on various sites at the time complained these were not all up to acceptable standards – but of course they we’re ignored. This parsimonious profit-seeking attitude continued throughout the construction period with the introduction of low grade steel and other essential materials along with the absolute minimum of safety features. Again; how could it be otherwise? The economic system is set up to perpetuate production for profit. In the eyes of the local and national elites, these on-site complaints were only coming from workers with no university degrees and little power.

This arrogant and patronising attitude was continued with regard to the future tenants of these concrete industrial monstrosities who they knew would also lack power to effectively complain or otherwise influence any future administrative decisions. Lets face it, very few people would really choose to live in relative or absolute environmental, and social poverty 20 or more stories high. However, the poor and moderately paid working class in London or elsewhere, were priced out of any other choice. Like it or lump it was the choice they faced and this was precisely the attitude stemming from the elites of all political persuasions who think working people should be grateful for anything they condescend to offer them. You are nothing and we are everything is the attitude of the bourgeois and petite-bourgeois elite to working people – until they need their votes or their spare cash to turn into profit.

There have been more recent harbingers of such fires in other sub-standard housing developments and the safety implications deliberately ignored. Camberwell 2009, Dubai 2015 were just a few of the many ‘lessons’ available for those who really wanted to learn. However, this time the loss of life was just too high to ignore. In scale, the Grenfell Tower disaster has been likened to the hurricane Katrina events in the USA, although many more lost their lives in Gulf region. Yet in many ways it is more like an inverted version of the so-called unsinkable engineering masterpiece – the Titanic. There too the low paid were housed out of sight while a fire raged, and found themselves unable to escape when the final disaster struck. At Grenfell the poor and low-paid were also housed vertically out of sight in a supposedly non-flamable, recently refurbished, so-called architectural masterpiece. Yet like the steerage class of so long ago (and the inhabitants of New Orleans etc) they too had little or no chance of escape in the event of a serious incident, such as an explosion, structural collapse or in this case fire. Was this tragedy an accident? Not really. An accident is something that cannot be avoided. This could have been. So why wasn’t it? The answer lies in the chain of events encapsulated in the term neo-liberalism.

Neo-liberalism.

The roots of the present socio-economic crisis in housing, employment, education, health-care and environmental deterioration, date back to the Thatcher and Reagan political era of the 1970’s. That period marked the definitive end of the post-Second World War marriage of convenience between labour and capital; between the working classes and the capitalist classes. The 1939 -1945 war had saved the Anglo-Saxon (UK, USA) branches of joint capital (industrial, commercial and financial) from control and domination by the Germanic and Japanese branches. For that the western elites were grateful to the millions of working people who in that war had sacrificed themselves on behalf of their so-called ‘betters’. Welfare capitalism, in various national forms was the marriage gift by a grateful elite to the remaining working classes of Europe and North America, but like typical patriarchal and oppressive partners the owners of capital soon grew tired of their promises to cherish and be faithful to the workers. Once again the capitalists abandoned the workers to the dictates of ‘market’ forces, (ie their market forces) motivated as they were, by a lust for ever more profit.

For a period, the results of this neglect and abandonment was resisted by the organised workers in trade unions in the form of strikes, sit-ins and demonstrations, but this was to no avail. With a powerful state machine and an eagerly supportive media, the ruling classes were able to win the propaganda battles and defeat the practical struggles. Working people were eventually left with no organised defence to capital’s manipulations and the neo-liberal programme could proceed unhindered. Since the early neo-liberal decades, the cuts to local government spending by national governments, have gained additional support and annual traction. This has resulted in further cost – cutting measures for all the services provided by local (and in the US state) governments. In the UK, the increased privatisation of basic services, such as housing, water, electricity, gas, postal services, tele-communications, transport, prisons, education, health and care of the elderly, has detrimentally and disproportionally effected the working classes, both white-collar and blue-collar.

This will ensure that many more serious accidents (sic) are likely to happen in the future lives of working people, such as fires, floods, collapses, explosions, chemical spills etc., as the national elites continue to cut costs, privatise and deregulate as many areas of working class life as possible. The condition of care homes for the bulk of the working class elderly, for example, is similarly disasterous to life even though the individual victims are spread across, thousands of now privatised residences throughout the advanced capitalist countries. Young and middle-age working-class people, in particular, should demonstrate solidarity with the elderly and campaign for better conditions of care, for that is exactly where they will finish up if the system doesn’t get them earlier.

By their actions and often by lack of action, the national political and bureaucratic elites represent the top tier of the ‘enemies within’ their respective communities, but they are not alone. This top-tier of course could not impose their policies without the active support and involvement of local elites who administer and bureaucraticaly manage them. Instead of refusing to implement unsafe practices, and cost-cutting exercises these career-orientated renogrades maskerading as representatives and champions of local democracy, enthusiastically embrace them or like the defendents at Nurembourg declare they are merely following orders given from above. The disasters and the self-serving rationalisations which follow are bad enough, but what usually follows such events compounds the insult.

The diehard commitment to neo-liberal capitalism means that when modern disasters such as Grenfell, New Orleans and other Gulf Coast communities occurs, the task of post-disaster restoration is handed to quango agencies and the private sector – the very group who benefitted from creating most of the problems in the first place. Having made profits from shoddy building and sub-standard facilities, the private sector are granted the privilege of making profits out of doing it all again – including further opportunities for financial corruption. To add insult to injury, the governmental elites graciously provide any relief funding needed to the private sector – out of tax-payers forced contributions. That is to say partly out of the pockets of those who have worked hard and suffered the most. Leaving aside any possible or rather probable back-handers, Neo-liberal capitalism is a ‘heads we win; tails you lose’ scenario for the economic, social and political elite.

The political and bureaucratic elite.

There are many who are culpable within this neo-liberal system, but most of them are doubly culpable. Through conscious neglect, deliberate actions and calculated inactions, as at Grenfell, the Thames floodings, New Orleans and elsewhere, the political and bureaucratic elites at local and national level have gambled that – as usual – they will be able get away with indifference and looking after number one. They will still hope to do so. Prolongued Inquiries, vast quantities of documents, together with cover-ups, convenient memories, restricted parameters of information gatbering and elite bias will undoubtedly see blame numerically thinned out and dissipated across time and successfully buried among volumes of evidence.

This was the case with the Hillsborough, the Iraq (Chilcot), the Leveson and many other Inquiries in the UK. At best a few scapegoats may be sacrificed to salve the consciences of the middle-classes (particularly those in the media) and to appease the discontent of the under-privileged, before business as usual returns. The reputation of the political class as a whole and the current socio-economic system which spawns all the problems facing humanity, will both undoubtedly emerge unstained and hardly mentioned and this will render them guilty not only of willful neglect but also of an obvious system cover up.

Working people, white-collar and blue-collar, need to recognise (as many already do) that the political elite at the local, regional and national level also represent enemies within the ranks of struggling humanity. They represent an intermediate (and often parasitic) layer between the owners and/or controller’s of capital and the working classes who by hand and brain staff our essential services and manufacture and service the products we need. These local and national elites are also responsible for sowing reformist illusions among ordinary people as to how they can improve their situation. They peddle the same message to each new generation relying upon short memories and naivity. These politicians and bureaucrats are certain to make only paltry recommendations which ‘conserve’ them and their system intact.

An important role they play in defending and preserving the capitalist mode of production, is to perpetuate the illusion that there are political solutions (local or otherwise) to the compound crises facing humanity – of which the Grenfell House disaster was merely the latest example. Politicians of all persuasions collaborate in defending capitalist – based forms of production and consumption along with their own administrative (or managerial) role within it. As such we can expect numerous expressions of sorrow and regret along with myriads of excuses and rationalisations, but no radical critique of the system. They will seek to direct every new outburst of anger and disatisfaction into the ‘safe’ parliamentary channels which they control. In contrast revolutionary-humanists ‘reject illusions even before they are burst by experience and their emptiness proved’.

Decades ago there was a movement by humanist inspired employees of local government, public services and state institutions which bore the title ‘In and against the State‘. Their mission was to oppose and whistle blow on any actual or proposed measures aimed directly or indirectly at worsening the social and economic position of the working classes and the poor. There is an urgent need for recreating such an organisation for those who currently do not wish to be part of the problem or be classed as an ‘enemy within’ the ranks of struggling humanity. So far Snowden, Manning and Assange along with their few supporters have individually trod such a path, but there is much more to do. There are not only the inhuman machinations of a greedy war-mongering elite to expose and oppose but the callous indifference of local and national elites to be thwarted, not to mention a planetary eco-system to save as well.

Roy Ratcliffe (July 2017)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, Critique, Ecological damage., neo-liberalism, Patriarchy, Revolutionary-Humanism, The State | Tagged , | Leave a comment

ENEMIES WITHIN? (Part 1)

The recent spate of murderous attacks by ‘home-grown’ Islamic inspired fundamentalists, in Europe and the UK, has led to the promotion of the concept of an ‘enemy within’. This term has now been used by quite a few individuals and repeated by some news agencies. This concept is certainly accurate – as far as it goes – for increasingly the perpetrators are individuals who live in the countries whose citizens they decide to assassinate by bomb, gun, knife, cleaver or motor vehicle. However, this term does not go far enough for the inspiration and motivation for these atrocities is international, if not global. The inspiration stems from the international trend of Islamic fundamentalism (in the form of ‘Islam against the West’) which is traceable back to some Muslim intellectuals in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The more recent motivation for Islamic fundamentalist assassinations in Melbourne, Manchester, London, Paris and elsewhere in Europe, has been prompted by the new generation of Islamic fundamentalists who attempted to create an Islamic state in the middle-east.

It is important to realise that the ideology which underpins this rise of 20th and 21st century Islamic fundamentalism and it’s terror inspiring atrocities arises from within mainstream Islamic ideology. Islamic terrorism has not sprung from nowhere nor matured in an ideological vacuum. It is impossible to understand why young men are prepared to die whilst ending as many (predominantly) working class lives as possible, if the power of socially reinforced religious ideology is not seriously considered. Whatever other motives may be involved in the process of what is termed their ‘radicalisation’, religion is certainly a crucially important one. If it were not for the social, cultural and psychological reinforcement by significant others that the Qur’an contains religious truth and Allah’s will, then it is almost certain that fewer would undertake the murderous and self-destructive martyrdom that this form of fundamentalist Jihad requires. If you doubt the veracity of this assertion, then consider the following;

“It is He who has sent His apostle with guidance and true faith to make it triumphant over all religions, however much the idolaters may dislike it.” (Qur’an. Surah 9. 33.)

So the declared objective of the so-called true faith of mainstream Islam is, and always has been, to make it triumphant over all other religions, whether non-Muslims like it or not. If that is the true goal of the religion of Islam, then it must also be the belief of all true believers in Islam, whether they – or we – like it or not. Every Muslim must openly or silently accept this Qur’anic pronouncement or deny it and cease to be a true Muslim. The religious logic is compelling once the initial premise is accepted. So fundamentalist Muslims, including, as we shall see, those who terrorise, are merely adhering to the fundamentals of Islam, and there is little that is more fundamental to Islam than the Qur’an. This stricture of course only sets the goal of Islam, but does not indicate the means rendered acceptable to achieve it. We must look elsewhere in the Qur’an for the suggested means to assure it’s victory over all religious or secular opposition.

When the sacred months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them.” (Qur’an. Surah 9.5)

There are 9 other references in the Qur’an of when it is appropriate to kill, almost 30 references to physically fighting for Islam and there are 195 suggestions of suitable punishment for non-belief. So those Muslims and non-Muslims who say there is nothing in Islam which justifies killing, fighting with (or punishing) non-believers, they are either ignorant of their own scriptures, or are being deceitful. Or perhaps alternatively, they are in complete denial. All of these three possibilities are problematic because it is only by a recognition of the tap roots of violence within this particular Abrahamic scripture that can lead to its open rejection and begin to erode its inhuman and despicable influence. But again these previous extracts only establish that the fundamentals of Islam – as portrayed in the Qur’an – allow killing and punishing of ‘other’ people. It still does not explain why those so dedicated, willingly take their own lives in the process. For an explanation of this we need to delve further into the Qur’an. For example;

Let those who would exchange the life of this world for the hereafter, fight for the cause of Allah; whether they die or conquer, We shall richly reward them.” (Surah 4.74.)

In the Qur’an there is the repeated promise of reward for living, fighting and dying in the unswerving cause of Islam. Indeed, rewards for doing as instructed by the Qur’an are mentioned over 90 times. Reclining on couches with fruits on hand, dwelling with bashful dark eyed virgins, amid gushing fountains (Surah 55); robes of silk, silver dishes, goblets and boyish attendants with eyes like sprinkled pearls (Surah 76) are mentioned numerous times as being among the so-called bountiful rewards of what amounts to a paper promise of Paradise for fighting the ‘good fight’ (sic). But as a further illustration of the Qur’anic promise of reward for fighting and dying in the name of Islam consider the following;

As for those who are slain in the cause of Allah, He will not allow their works to perish. He will vouchsafe them guidance and ennobled their state. He will admit them to the Paradise He has made known to them. ( Surah 47. 9)

Many of the (mainly) young people who take gun, knife or truck in hand or strap on an explosive vest as well as perhaps being angry over the situation in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere are also convinced by something else. They are utterly convinced – they are doing Allah’s work – and as a consequence will be rewarded by eternity in a paradise of willing virgins and luxurious living. We need to ask ourselves by what means are they so thoroughly convinced by this grotesque sectarian logic and patriarchal fantasy if not by the fact that the whole of the Islamic community believe in the so-called absolute ‘truth’ of what is written in the Qur’an as Allah’s (their God) will. Only unanimous peer pressure from the Islamic community and religious indoctrination from early childhood could have convinced them that the de-humanised reasoning and self-indulgent fantasies written in the Qur’an are valid ideas to adopt in the 21st century.

In one sense all believers in Islam are direct or indirect accessories in the radicalisation of Islamic youth. Without the continuous religious and cultural collective imput by Islamic leaders and communities, these ideas of religious superiority and heavenly rewards would not have entered their young minds let alone lodged there as convictions to ultimately act upon. Furthermore all those who fully subscribe to the other two Abrahamic religions, Judaism and Christianity and their Old and New Testament scriptures have also provided low-level but general ideological support to the idea of an imaginary eternal life in an imaginery heaven governed by an imaginary – invisible (!) – male super-being. In addition, they have invariably failed to condemn or even acknowledge that their scriptures too justify killing in the name of their particular version of the patriarchal monotheistic belief system.

Clearly, converts to radical Islamic, weapon-wielding activism, do represent an ‘enemy within’ their respective communities and nations, but that’s not the only problem! At the ideological level – their religious ideas, as with Judaism and Christianity also represent an alien ideological cancer within the ranks of humanity. These Abrahamic religions, of which Islam is one, were created when humanity was organised in patriarchal tribal formations which subordinated women and divided humanity into competitive groups – each one convinced of the superiority of their antique belief system. Such ideas are no longer relevant to the inter-dependent globalised world we are now all living in. And, problematically, unlike other forms of terrorist activity, Islamic Fundamentalist terrorists do not wish to negotiate with those they claim disrespect or oppress them.

They have no political or social demands to make; they do not want better wages or social conditions nor the right to practice their religion. They already have these by courtesy of long working class struggles for establishing basic human rights and welfare provisions – for all. These rights have been established by the very class of people they indiscriminately murder whilst these ordinary working people are out shopping, eating or listening to music. The sum total ambition of these converts to aggressive nihilism is to kill and be killed so they can escape to an imaginary paradise (eg the gardens of delight – in Surah 31.4) and send their victims to an imaginary hell of eternal torture. Eg;

“As for the unbelievers, the fire of hell awaits them. Death shall not deliver them, nor shall it’s torments be ever lightened for them. ( Surah 35.34,

In the face of all we now know about the galactic universe and the evolution of life – including humanity – isn’t it time that all the mystical, imaginative and dangerous nonsense of an invisible, male, super-being creator, is abandoned as we did with our childish belief in fairies and Father Xmas?

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2017.)

 

Posted in Critique, Fundamentalism, Patriarchy, Religion, Sectarianism | Tagged , | 3 Comments

REVOLUTIONARY-HUMANISM ( Part 3)

In revolutionary-humanism parts 1 and 2, evidence and the logic flowing from it was introduced to make the case that class-based economic systems distort and suppress the original (and still preferred essence) of what it is to be human. It was suggested that for millions of years, the permanent beneficial association of humans in bands, tribes and hunter-gatherer groups, had resulted in social relationships which we now usually describe as mutually beneficial or symbiotic. That is to say the type of socio-economic associations which underpinned and further enabled the long evolution of humanity were such that all parties to the group benefited substantially.

Evidence from various anthropological and ethnological studies, strongly suggests that among hunter-gatherers, pastoralists and early agriculturalists, the communal tribe or band collectively controlled the means of production (tools and skills etc.) along with the materials from which production was drawn (the surrounding natural environment). By everyone being involved in mental and physical production, these societies engendered a relative equality and the rounded development of all its members.

For the vast majority of the evolution of the human species, this predominantly egalitarian pattern of socio-economic existence was the ultimate determining factor molding and forming the physical and psychological essence of what it was to be human. Within each of these modes of production, their members were able to develop an extended range of abilities; physically, mentally and culturally. The emotional content of this group-promoted, socio-economic symbiosis was experienced as a communally developed, but individualised human ‘need’ and desire.

It was (and is) the need and desire not just to belong, (since the advent of ‘civilisations’ slaves and now a wage-slaves ‘belong’ either to a society or a class) but to beneficially and fairly belong. There was also an accompanying need and desire by most people to exercise and develop all the faculties and potentials available to them and in the process develop new skills and discover new means of enjoyment. Over millions of years, these aspects of human living became the ‘holistic’ needs and basic desires which are still powerfully felt, but which are now continually frustrated.

This frustration arises because, successive class-based socio-economic forms have largely replaced permanent beneficial association (based upon symbiosis) with a form of negative association (based upon class parasitism) in which the main beneficiaries of the productive and cultural activites of the community were an elite. The modern capitalist system is merely the most recent form of a class divided, one-dimensional and parasitic mode of economic and social production. It is also the most destructive of social cohesion. The capitalist mode of production has spread its parasitism and competition into every corner of the globe, destroying practically all other forms of production. In addition, the agents of the capitalist system, (primarily the industrialists, politicians, scientists and intellectuals) have now normalised acquisitive forms of warfare, they have institutionalised racism/genocide, they have globalised pollution and internationalised ecological destruction.

All these large-scale, self-destructive, inhumane abberations are a negation of everything most humans need and aspire to. As a result, beneficial association and symbiosis among humans has been pushed back into the immediate family (and close friends) and is even detrimentally effected there by capital’s competitive contradictions. For all but a relative few, life really has become ‘a vale of tears’, needing drugs, religion or retail therapy to tolerate it’s many contradictions. But all is not yet lost. The striving and potential to be truly human is still with us. What follows in the next section are four compelling reasons why a revolutionary-humanist perspective is not utopian, but is in harmony with the natural essence of humanity and should be essential in informing the present and future anti-capitalist struggles.

Biology and the ‘essence’ of humanity.

Until the mid 20th century the level of understanding of the human body and the ecological balance of the natural world was at such a stage that certain ideas such as competition and parasitism seemed confirmed by experience and so-called scientific research. These ideas and the ideologies ‘spun’ from them were generally supported by the pro-capitalist elite and those who borrowed their thinking from them, because the capitalist mode of production itself was based upon such practices. However, these bourgeois male-centred ideas and practices, particularly the the ones in the field of economics, were contested by a notable few. Yet it was with the development of the feminist movement in the 1960s, that this generally male-centred view of the world became subjected to penetrating criticism. The disciplines of history, anthropology, biology, philosophy, sociology and even politics were critically examined by feminists and found wanting.

Furthermore, the 19th, 20th and 21st century advance in the scientific understanding of biology and astronomy also added to the need for a reassessment of previously taken for granted 19th and 20th century ideas and ideologies. Telescopes, satelites, and now inter-planetary probes have not located the once imagined ‘heaven’ in the region’s of space beyond earth, but simply more planets and even more galaxies. Not god or gods in the beyond the sky, but matter in motion. At the opposite, microscopic level, we now know that the human body along with it’s internal organs, for example, is a complex, multi-cellular entity which is made up of millions of living cells and bacteria (endo-symbiants) which communicate, co-operate, co-ordinate and support each other to the essential benefit of the whole. We human beings are the most complex living evidence of the extent of symbiosis in the realm of nature. Unsurprisingly, this ‘modern’ understanding increasingly extends to multi-cellular life-forms in general.

It has become obvious over the last few decades, that multi-cellular life-forms could not have originated without the long-term mutual integration of single-cell organisms. The human species (along with other species) could not have evolved at all, let alone become conscious, thinking and reflective if it were not for the fact that life itself, in the form of bacteria in the primal conditions, developed and continued over billions of years on the basis of beneficial associations and endo-symbiosis. In evolutionary and practical life terms, beneficial association and symbiosis are life-affirming, parasitism is not. Parasitism has long been recognised as a form of disease within the individual human body and other life-forms, but it is not yet fully or clearly recognised as such within the socio-economic body of human communities.

For those who want to see, it is becoming increasingly obvious, in the 21st century that beneficial associations and symbiosis actually abound in nature. Microbial, plant, insect, fish and animal species all have endo-symbionts within them and enter into beneficial or symbiotic relationships with other species. Survival of the fittest, a Victorian concept for example, is no longer adequately interpreted as survival of the strongest. Ants, bacteria, and other such small life-forms, survived extinctions whilst dinosaurs did not. An invisable (to the naked eye) living organism such as a virus can end the life of even the largest and strongest life-forms. In contrast, beneficial associations and symbiosis increase survival rates. The terms, humanism, humanity, and humility are merely the conscious linguistic expressions of what constitutes that underlying complex endo-symbiotic package which makes up the human body and makes up the structure of all living things.

The social basis for the ‘essence’ of humanity.

There is also a social basis to the essence of humanity and points to the need to adopt a revolutionary-humanist perspective. Over millions of years of human reproductive and social development, the essence of what it is to be really human has also been humane and humanist. That is to say, humans have lived in collective, co-operative and reciprocally beneficial associations known as families, groups, bands or tribes. Indeed, the dependence upon social networks for each individual starts in the womb and continues throughout childhood. Physical well-being, language, skills and culture all require nurture and social support. Learning sociability is all part of a ‘healthy’ development leading to maturity – before the whole process commences again. Because of this necessary social basis to productive and re-productive activity of the human species, the social essence of our humanity, can never be completely eliminated or destroyed. It can only be distorted or suppressed.

And it is only in oppressive and exploititive societies such as the present capitalist one, that this humanist essence is severely distorted and supressed. Yet even in the worst of times as well as the best, there continue to be those whose humanity is not entirely eliminated by the class divided and competitive circumstances they find themselves in. Charity for some is undoubtedly a matter of easing a troubled conscience, but for others it is a genuine way of easing the worst circumstances for those negatively effected by the symptoms of capitalism. There is an essential difference in motive between the wealthy elite who give a little of the surplus-value they extract from the system and those among the ‘only just managing’ who dig into their shallow pockets to mitigate extreme poverty at home or abroad.

The essential class difference between the charity provided by the rich and poor is that the wealthy upper classes invariably do all they can to maintain the existing mode of production even while some of them are giving a little back. In contrast, the lower classes invariably wish their lives to get better or the system to change, whilst lending a helping hand to those even worse off than themselves. They often question why charity is needed in a system producing so much wealth. In view of this fragmented but not completely destroyed humanist essence it cannot be surprising, that in exceptional circumstances, the frustrations, competition and indifference engended by the capitalist mode of production is surmounted and people respond exceptionally.

Yet it invariably takes existential disasters such as famines, earthquakes, sunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions etc., to bring out the unrestricted humanity of people who then rush to help by physical, emotional, material and financial means. However, this ‘essence’ of humanity – as a common characteristic – can only be brought out because it is there in the first place. But the problem is that it’s flourishing can only last for a limited time before the socio-economic necessities and contradictions of capitalism kick in and things go back to what is normal. And what is normal for capitalism – competition, private ownership of the means of production and class divisions – on the scale of human evolution, is actually abnormal for the species.

Ecology and the ‘essence’ of humanity.

It is now undeniable that the capitalist mode of production has taken economic production to unprecedented heights – or depths – depending upon ones point of view. Myriads of complex commodities role off the 24/7 automated conveyor belts of global factories and workshops at breathtaking speeds. They are then stockpiled in factory sized supermarkets and shopping malls to feed the growing commodity purchasing fetishism that capitalism requires to keep its profit-making cycle of production ‘spinning’ along. On the one hand the owners and managers of this profit-motive-led capitalist system of production show no realisation of any moral, physical or ecological barriers standing in the way of its continuance. Whilst on the other hand, consumers become little more than the partly hypnotised victims of over-consumption – experienced as a ersatz form of emotional therapy.

For millions of years humans only took from nature what they needed to survive. Indeed, they could do no more. The essence of humanity was thus to preserve and conserve the environment which provided them with what they needed. Now, lacking any serious understanding of the balance of nature or even of evolutionary transitions of modes of production, its supporters take the domination of capitalism for granted and assume it ought to be able to continue for ever. Such a lack of historic understanding is compounded by a failure to comprehend the economic contradictions within capitalism. The most profound capitalist contradiction with regard to its effects upon the ecological balance of the planet, is the fact that the profit motive for production is a never ending class-driven force. Moreover, it is a predominantly elite motivation which can never be fully or finally satisfied. This produces four unsolvable ecological problems.

First, the raw material resources required to feed this voracious system need to be limitless, but they are not. The second is the fact that the energy sources required to drive this production, also need to be limitless, but again they are not. The third unsolvable ecological problem is the fact that the air, sea and water pollution caused during the capitalist production processes is a never ending by-product and these resources are not only limited but necessary for humanities survival. The fourth unsolvable problem, is the limited ability to safely dispose of all the dangerous waste materials produced by capitalist production methods. Already heavy metal, chemical and nuclear waste material elements in the air, soil and sea, are a life-threatening serious problem for humanity and the rest of the earth’s life-forms.

Not one of these natural resources used in production and distribution, are fully payed for as part of the costs of production, capitalists simpy take them – for the secondary costs of extraction – without replacing them. Cheap commodities, from which capitalists derive their vast profits, would not be so cheap if the costs of replenishing, forests, raw materials such as coal, oil and gas, and cleaning the polluted air, water and sea were added to their prices. If the real costs of replacing the destruction of the planets resources were added to the costs of production, commodities would be so expensive, that the system would collapse. Instead, the true cost is being forwarded to future generations with little regard as to how difficult this will be for them.

The ecological situation is so bad that for many decades reformist attempts have been suggested and some implemented to solve these symptoms, with little or no regard for eliminating the cause. Logical sounding petite-bourgeois schemes around recycling waste materials, creating alternative energy sources, filtering and diluting pollutants, proposing sustainable planting and repopulating species where possible, have been suggested and tried. However, they have scarcely made a difference. How could they? In most cases costs would rise and profits would fall catastrophically if all these measures were consistently and fully implemented – hence they are not.

Believe it or not, slightly socially deranged, highly paid scientists and technicians, are now actually working out how to colonise and pillage the raw material resources of Mars in order to feed the capitalist system they obviously take for granted. Destroying one planets environment is not enough, the mad logic of the capitalist system influences its professional classes to start eyeing up foreign planets for conquest as it’s earlier representatives once eyed up foreign countries. The class-based synergy driving capital accumulation, endless production for profit, fuelled by the greed of the capitalist and pro-capitalist elite, exerts far more influence and power, than those not so driven.

The moral basis for the ‘essence’ of humanity.

The moral basis for adopting a revolutionary-humanist perspective arises from a detailed understanding of the economic basis of capitalist production. The profits made by investing capital do not appear by magic, nor do the often bloated salaries of the public servants, artists and intellectuals. It may not be immediately obvious, but on closer inspection it becomes clear, that these profits and incomes all come from the unpaid labour of working people. The value of the wages and salaries paid to working people are less than the value of the goods and services produced by them. The difference between these two values, is known in economic terms as surplus-value. When converted into money, surplus-value is the source of profits, interest and taxes which in turn pay salaries.

Repeatedly paying less than the value of something – just because you can – is a form of institutionalised cheating or theft. Yet this is exactly what the capitalist system of production is set up to do. Working people are not the only ones to get ripped off, but they are the only ones who get ripped off on a daily, yearly and life-time basis. Having, by various nefarious historical means, gained control of the main means of production – land, buildings, machinery, raw materials and technology – those who live off the proceeds of productive-capital, are to a greater or lesser extent, able to dictate, when, where and how paid production is to take place. The working classes, by their lack of the means of production, are compelled by these socio-economic circumstances to go cap (or diploma) in hand and compete amongst themselves by interview, test or examination results for the right to be exploited – a dubious right indeed.

Since profits (or converted surplus-value) are the motivation of those who live off the proceeds of capital, they are able by numerous means, to set the wages, salaries and productivity at such levels that astronomical profits accrue. This situation would be bad enough (it would still be a huge ‘rip-off’) if working people all had a job and a reasonable standard of living for their entire working lives, but the dynamics of capital and the greed of capitalists for profit, also lead, via mechanisation and automation, to large-scale unemployment and periodic absolute as well as relative poverty. So capitalism – even at its most benign – is an immoral system of production, and when huge profits can be made there are no depths to which the agents and servants of capital cannot stoop.

Wars or aggressive skirmishes (and the threat of them) for example, are essential for the profits of arms manufacturers; cigarettes were known to harm and kill for decades whilst profits from them were allowed to roll in. Unsafe working practices are in the interests of the profits of industrialists, so they continue; producing chemicalised foods are more profitable than producing natural foods; debt slavery and cheap immigrant labour, enable building, office cleaning and food preparation to be done more profitably. The list could go on.

A failure to comprehend the inner workings of the capitalist mode of production leads to the view that such extreme symptoms are unfortunate anomalies to be wished away, rather than direct manifestations of the capitalist system. A fuller understanding of the capitalist mode of production, however, leads to an inevitable conclusion. Sooner or later if the ecology of the planet is to be saved and humanity is to return to its essential being, this mode of production will have to undergo a revolutionary-humanist transformation.

Revolutionary-Humanism.

Perhaps the first thing to state is that in suggesting anti-capitalists adopt a revolutionary-humanist perspective it is not meant to imply a commitment to a new form of ideology. Revolutionary-Humanism is not a system of finished or set-in-stone ideas. Indeed, this particular perspective is based upon a criticism of everything, including a consistent self-critical attitude. Even the most refined ideas are only approximate and need to be tested, evaluated, improved or rejected if they prove not fit for purpose. This form of humanism is certainly not based upon ideas of absolute truths or claims to infallibility. And of course, since it is based upon the needs of humanity as a whole it is, non-sexist, non-racist and non-sectarian. Nor does its adoption imply the formation of a political party. This is because politics, even so-called revolutionary politics, from a revolutionary-humanist viewpoint, is a one-sided, oligarchal tendency. As such it is part of the problem for humanity, not part of the solution.

Nevertheless, the concept of revolutionary-humanism is not aimless. It presupposes an anti-capitalist perspective but recognises that simply being against capitalism (the negative motivation) does not express what kind of post-capitalist society (the positive motivation) is envisaged. However, that is not inconsistent with revolutionary-humanism because the creative process of a post-capitalist reconstruction is held (as a principle) to be the decision and task of the egalitarian collectives of working people who engage in such a transition. From this revolutionary perspective, the creative process of reconstruction is not the task of any self-appointed vanguard who think ordinary people should be led like sheep. However, prior to that collective transition, revolutionary-humanism does have at least one important facilitative task.

That is to energetically promote a critical understanding of the workings of the capitalist mode of production, including the concepts of surplus-value, past and present labour, productive and unproductive labour and relative overproduction. My own various contributions to these topics appear on this blog. Without a clear understanding of these four economic categories and the above noted negative, biological, social, ecological and moral symptoms created by capitalism, people will be misled into attempting further reformist dead-end solutions during its recurring crises. Yet its principles can be implemented and the concepts promoted by individuals as well as groups. Vast numbers are not required to keep hard won ideas alive until they are needed. Those who adopt revolutionary-humanism should not be dismayed at being among such small numbers.

The present period is clearly one in which the ideas championed by previous revolutionary-humanists need to be kept alive and in the public domain. This is so they will be available when any future serious and further critical dislocation of the capitalist mode of production, creates the material conditions and compelling realisation why the mode must be changed. Revolutionary-humanist ideas are analogous to tools, fashioned and tested by past experience of success and failures (sadly many failures) that await being taken up by a revolutionary class when they are needed. Meanwhile they ought to be kept sharp, improved and updated by those who recognise their importance and who will regard themselves as temporary custodians of this approach rather than high priests of a new orthodoxy. Shouldn’t there be more of us?

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2017)

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