Saturday, March 20, 2021

Oligarchs vs. "Workers as Citizens"


In my last post I made some noise about how we leftists have to propose a revolution, because one does not simply "reform" a system dominated by amoral, vicious psychopaths. We cannot petition or shame amoral, murderous psychopaths into better behaviour. The goal has to be to remove power from their hands.

But then, for my "revolutionary" strategy, I advocate for a constitutional amendment extending citizenship rights to workers within their workplaces. (Very quickly: Just as a Canadian citizen cannot be exiled from Canada, neither can a worker/citizen be involutarily expelled from their workplace. Just as our various levels of government have to provide open, public access to their budgets/spending, so too will workers have the right to inspect their workplaces' finances. Just as a Canadian citizen has the right for free speech and to advocate for their preferred policies, so too should worker/citizens have free speech rights within their workplaces and to propose policies [including changes to what the workplace makes and how it makes them]. You get the idea.)

Now, some of you might be asking just how the hell I imagine that murderous, amoral psychopaths will ever permit a political party to come to power and amend the constitution so as to nullify the control enjoyed by those same psychopaths. How can I, on the one hand, talk about brutal realities/harsh truths and then contradict myself by thinking we can peacefully take away their power through the electoral/legislative/constitutional process?

First of all; What are our options? Again, we aren't going to change things by remaining powerless supplicants peacefully demonstrating and petitioning our masters for better treatment. Telling them that they can remain in charge but they have to act more nicely towards us. Look at the level of callousness and indifference with which the US ruling class is subjecting their own people during this pandemic. Perhaps at some level, the mental insects like Joseph Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, etc., might honestly believe in what they're doing (Pelosi's wounded blathering to Wolf Blitzer about how her party is feeding the poor when they're doing anything but, for example.) Or a moronic psychopath like Donald Trump who is able to simultaneously believe the pandemic is a hoax, a Chinese attack on him personally, and a very real danger (as he confessed to Bob Woodward).  But I can't imagine that anyone who can tie their shoes and remember how to get to the bathroom isn't also aware of the death-toll of for-profit healthcare; the hypocrisy of murderous starvation sanction on Venezuela's socialist government while murderous dictatorships in nearby Colombia and Honduras get showered with financial and military aid. Barack Obama knew what he was doing when he ran cover for Wall Street in 2008, up to and including their brazen criminality of falsely claiming ownership of mortgages of properties that they then foreclosed on. 

However deluded and stupid these people might be, they're not so divorced from reality so as to be unaware of the sufferings they are causing. They might deny it (which is easy to do since they live in social bubbles of similarly afflicted assholes) but denial is a 24-7 thing. It's impossible to maintain such a front full-time. They know what they're doing. 

Crystia Freeland knows what the governments of Colombia and Honduras and Brazil are doing when she aligns herself with them to attack Venezuela. Our politicians know what they're doing when they protect our mining industry from criticisms and any sort of legal consequences for their atrocities overseas. Justin Trudeau knows the danger of global warming and he knows what he's doing when he stops talking with David Suzuki about it upon gaining power. 

These people, and the capitalist oligarchs they serve, are monsters. And they are aware of how monstrous they are.  No sane civilization can be built while leaving them in charge. We need to take their power away.

But how do we do that? Surely not by dressing up in black and throwing rocks through windows! Forget about the tiny, anarchist and communist super-radical population, ... not even "progressives" in all their diverse glory have the numbers to win pitched battles against the police and the other enforcement arms of the oligarchic state. I do believe that physical violence against a regime of murderous, brutal greedheads is justified. But I also believe that violence dehumanizes people and that it can either spiral out of control or produce crackdowns that neuter the limited avenues of organizing and protest that we now have.  Plus, if you simply look at the array of tools of violence enjoyed by the state against anything that "the people" currently have, you will see the balance tips very much in the favour of the oligarchy.  I am not a pacifist and I believe that the best situation should be a society wherein the citizenry doesn't immediately recoil in disgust at the idea of physical retribution at some particularly heinous, egregious, blatant, brazen, example of elite malfeasance. You know, cops who brutalize people should fear retribution, and society should acknowledge the validity of such retribution when the legal system fails, time and time again, to hold them accountable. Politicians who deliberately impose policies that get people killed should fear walking around in public without security and society should be in support of that situation. The current state of affairs where some mass-murdering piece of shit gets red paint thrown on them and even progressive critics of that piece-of-shit's policies run to the fainting couch is ludicrous.

But the idea of a violent revolution seems to me to be a non-starter. 

I rather think that it has to go this way: In his book Radical Transformation, Kevin MacKay takes issue with the "Deep Green Resistance" who believe that radical sabotuers, destroying the industrialized world's infrastructure will develop a fan-base among the general population who will support them. MacKay argues that it's the other way around:

Violent radicals don't appear and generate a mass of non-violent supporters. MacKay says that what tends to happen is that a critical mass of people find a situation intolerable, coalesce to for a peaceful resistance/protest/reform movement, and then, when the powers-that-be reveal themselves as unwilling to concede to the barest of concessions, this radicalizes many among the membership. When the forces of the state resort to violent suppression of the movement, even more people become radicalized and some eventually decide that only force can have any impact.

So, if I had had more persuasive abilities in the 1990's, the Left might have been advocating for the constitutional advancement of workers' rights within their workplaces in a big way in the year 2000.  (As opposed to whatever the hell grand project they've been working on instead that I've simply been too blind to notice.) If enough people and groups on the Left had been advocating for something positive, something that so totally shifts power away from capitalists and towards ordinary people, something that utilizes the Western, liberal values of democracy and human rights that so many North Americans and Europeans have internalized (I can't really speak for other cultures, though I'm sure they appreciate democracy and human rights. And my hesitation to extend liberal cultural hegemony to other cultures is simply because I'm not sure if there really is a more collective ethos in them.) 

Over five or ten years (bringing us to 2010) there are grassroots movements for workplace democracy and political parties advocating for it. (In all honesty, the most that I can tell that the left has been doing in the thirty-years under discussion has been to yearn for a return to the postwar Keynesian compromise, plead for recognition of various ecological crises, and make advances in the areas of identity politics [sometimes on only a very superficial level].) At some point, ordinary people (perhaps Royal Bank of Canada employees being forced to train their foreign replacements, or WalMart workers being told to punch-out and then come back on the floor for extra unpaid work, or Long-Term Care workers condemned to permanent part-time/no-benefits status seemingly forever) might start to think about how maybe having a legal right to a say in the way their workplaces operate, without fear of being fired, is a good idea.

Call me crazy, but I can see this idea becoming popular with significant numbers of people. Let's say (for the sake of argument) that Canada's NDP was convinced of the viability of this strategy. The Conservatives would oppose it and in the most ham-fisted way possible. I wouldn't put it past those morons to blurt out that democracy just doesn't work. The Liberals would (as they tend to do with progressive causes) say they support it in principle, but that we have to move slowly, and try to neuter enthusiasm and smother the project in years of delays and betrayals. But make no mistake about it: The oligarchy would know this was a stake to their vampire heart and they would take off the gloves against the movement behind it.  And, of course, while they were doing this, they would have been continuing to destroy the environment and engaging in their financial market criminal speculation that has required trillion-dollar taxpayer bail-outs every 5-10 years or so. 

How much more radicalized would the electorate be from the oligarchy's rejection of "Workers as Citizens" than the electorate appears to have been radicalized by the failure to restore Keynesian social policies? And, compare the appeal of a coherent, easily-understood, but sweeping, transformative policy like "Workers as Citizens" with the super-radical proposal of telling people to destroy the present system and then take a leap into the darkness in the hopes that Utopia is on the other side?

I think we would have had far more people on our side if someone, ANYONE on the left had been proposing ANYTHING as comprehensive as my plan in all the years since I first tried to interest others in it. 

Remember where we are folks! We've been screeching about the civilization-busting danger of global warming in a big way since the year 2000. And in 2021, we haven't made more than half a step away from our greenhouse gas emissions society and we're five years away from having lost all hope of preventing this calamity from becoming an inevitability. (If it isn't already.)

Somebody has to take responsibility for this absolute and utter failure.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

What Is To Be Done? 2021 Version

So, I've been busy, ... plus I've been plagued with a knotted muscle in my back on the left-hand side, halfway up (the place most impossible to reach) which makes sitting and typing excrutiating. And nobody listens to me anyway. All the paid, full-time moderates, and the paid super-radicals, and the unpaid activists and volunteers both "pragmatic" and "radical" are all too busy doing nothing, or doing the same things over and over that haven't produced anything in the past, to bother with a crackpot such as myself.

Before I forget (and it's relevant so ...) here's Vincent Emanuele from CounterPunch:

The inability to articulate a vision that has a serious connection to material reality or the forces that currently dominate and comprise our political, economic, cultural, and social institutions is a problem the anarcho and religious left has faced for at least as long as I’ve been engaged in political activism and organizing (fifteen years), if not for decades. Appeals to 'erode structures of oppression,' which sound pretty on paper, mean utterly nothing to organizers and working-class people who are strategizing on the ground. Further, calls to 'erode structures of power' fall into the same failed category of 'anti-politics' that the anarcho-left has peddled for years: constantly calling for 'dismantling' this, or 'abolishing' that, or 'resisting,' but never articulating a viable vision for the 7.8 billion people who live on this planet, never building, never winning — always on the defensive; hence, always focused on destruction.

God bless him! Oh. Before I forget, Ian Welsh provides some hard truths that self-described "revolutionaries" have to incorporate into their analysis if they ever want to be taken seriously:

So, get control of force and use it to control money/means of production; or get control of money/means of production and use it to create force. Obviously it’s really about some of both, but you use whichever one you have more of to get control over the other one. Wall Street bought DC so that it could have control over the police and courts, which is why Obama immunized them from their crimes and bailed them out; including really raw and obvious crimes like illegally signing a document saying the bank owned someone else’s house. Absolute fraud and straight robbery: that’s what Obama made go away for the financial industry.

Some of those people who had their houses stolen, in a society with less police and military and nasty prisons might have taken retribution and recompense into their own hands, but in America, well, no, that’s really not possible. Might get retribution, but then the cops will imprison or kill you, which they didn’t do to the men who stole your house and probably your job, car and future.


And that, my friends, is where we are now. There will be no significant downward redistribution until elites either lose control of the violent apparatus or genuinely think they are about to, or can’t win their side of an oncoming revolution.

So, what do we want? Reform or Revolution? If you say "reform" then you're wasting everybody's time. Do you want to reform a system that is ruled by capitalist/imperialist oligarchs? Is the future of humanity supposed to be the vast majority asking for more crumbs from the table until systemic contradictions destroy the ecological base upon which we all rely? 

No. It has to be Revolution. It has to be a genuine, radical transformation of the balance of power in human society. For us leftists, this radical transformation must have as its end-point a system wherein power is dispersed amongst as many people as is practically possible. There are individuals AND societies. For instance, it would not do if each of us held the power of life or death over every other individual. As individuals we would want our personal right to life to be respected and defended by our societies. We would not like to live in a world where every individual has the right to burn tires in their backyard or to operate a backyard shambles.

To control anti-social, selfish, narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic individuals, we need a society. A society that upholds the rights of all the individuals within it. I realize that this sounds a little like Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, but it's not the same thing. I do not believe that without a higher authority over us, that individual humans would all engage in "a war of all, against all." Relatedly, I don't believe that we need anything like the all-powerful leviathan that Hobbes envisioned. Because in the society that I'm picturing, no individuals or institutions will have the resources/abilities/power/authority to do things like create and spew toxins without regulations, oversight or consequences. Nobody will have the ability to absolutely crush anyone. No institution with large numbers of people will be able to do nefarious deeds confident in the inability of their employees to be kept in the dark or coerced into silence. There won't be police forces with the arrogance, authoritarian mindset, sense of entitlement, legal immunity, allegiance with oligarchs, to suppress ordinary people. There will be international bodies overseeing universal human rights and environmental standards. To the extent that things such as nation-states continue to exist, these will be mainly for things like guaranteeing national standards as used to be the case with the Canadian public health care system. Much more authority will be devolved to local levels where power can be more easily monitered and controlled.

I can hear my imaginary readers responding: "Fine thwap! But how is any of this supposed to come about?" Well, my devoted apparitions, I believe it needs to happen this way: We will need a mass movement to demand and then achieve the democratization of workplaces. And, while this is being done in individual instances, the mass movement must also push for workers' rights to democratic workplaces on a legal/constitutional basis. Yep. It's my "Workers as Citizens" hobbyhorse again. The idea I have advocated for since the 1990s, with exponentially less fervour every year since then up to the present day.

What else are we going to do? 

Could you leftists PLEASE acknowledge just what it is that we're up against? We are up against an oligarchy of murderous psychopaths. Okay? Companies like NestlĂ©'s which pushed infant forumla in poor countries with no thought to the myriad dangers of this campaign, and for decades, ... including over a decade after having signed an international code of conduct forbidding such practices, and the death toll of malnourished infants can be [very conservatively] estimated at thirty-million. And yet, these murderous vermin continue to operate in the open, selling their products, showing us their ads, taking their profits, year after year after year.

This isn't an aberrant lack of oversight. This is systemic. This level of murderousness is A FEATURE of captialism. Not a "flaw." (Obviously it is flawed behaviour in the eyes of sane human beings. But it is evidently approved behaviour in the moral calculus of capitalism.)

And that's just one food conglomerate. There's the weapons industries. The parastitic financial sector. There's racist, authoritarian, toxic cops. There's a whole system of brutal, power-mad, amoral, grasping, shameless psychopaths. 

Public healthcare systems are one of the greatest life-savers in modern societies. They've proven their cost-effectiveness AND moral superiority to for-profit, individualized, private healthcare delivery systems for decades. So of course, the powerful US oligarchy resists it. And of course, bloated psychopaths like Doug Ford, stephen harper, Jason Kenney, ad nauseum, are seeking to destroy it here in Canada. Why would they want to do that? Who knows from out of the variety of influences upon these shrivelled souls and contemptible morons? Perhaps they're deluded ignoramuses who vaguely buy-into the lies of the private insurance providers and for profit medical community. Perhaps they appreciate the donations to their political parties from these for-profit parasites. Perhaps they think public healthcare services are wasted on poor people who should just die. Who knows? Who cares? It's enough that they want to bankrupt and kill so many of us that we should fight to remove them from power.

At the end of the day, we need to have a revolution to take power out of the hands of such people. We have to come up with systems of governance that bring power down to the community level while still maintaining national or international authorities to guarantee equality and human rights across countries and the planet. The details of this have probably been written about before, and are being discussed and studied today. But it's all academic if we never try to implement the revolution that's necessary to make them a reality.

And make no mistake about it. The oligarchs and their bullying enforcers will resist. Our societies barf-up the most selfish, scheming, amoral, calculating, and shameless among us to rise to the top. They will use all their claws and fangs and lies (propaganda) to defend their positions. The idea that we can petition them to change, or shame them to renounce their ways is the most deluded stupidity. 

Are we then to have a violent revolution? "To the barricades comrades!!!" What barricades? What weapons do we have? What weapons do they have?  Is there to be a General Strike? Perhaps. Waves of rotating strikes. Consumer boycotts. Closing down of bank accounts and the formation of more democratic credit unions? 

The main thing is that we need to have a coherent goal, convince people of its virtues and articulate a coherent, valid strategy for getting there. "Workers as Citizens" obviously utlizes extra-parliamentary activism, but sees as crucial the use of existing political systems to create its legality. (At the very least, denying a democratically arrived-at, legitimate policy will serve to discredit the oligarchy and thereby radicalize the bulk of the population that supports it.)

After its implementation, ordinary, non-radical, workaday people won't have to notice some sweeping transformation of their lives. They can naturally, organically transform their workplaces as local circumstances permit or demand. And this includes the transformation of the economy necessary to ATTEMPT to mitigate global heating. This will also require states that have the resources to assist with the dramatic reductions in meat consumption, automobile use, plastics, useless consumer goods, airlines, etc., etc., ... Some people will be paid to stay home until beneficial work is found for them. Some workplaces will need to do massive re-tooling from wasteful consumerism to providing actual necessities. 

I've been tinkering with this blog post for a couple of weeks, in my spare time and I think I'll post it now, azzizz.