mercredi 12 novembre 2008

Nationalization under workers' control in a world of nothing

There should be another word for 'nationalisation' in the socialist lexicon. The ongoing crisis has created the conditions for examining every economic nostrum that was taken for granted, the last three decades. Neo-liberalism, privatisation, competition, market values and all the other goblins of laissez faire economics that have died. The fat controllers are plotting further doomed attacks, (the Gordon Brown Paulson IMF rejeuvenated IMF package is one plan) but their schemes are being out run by the pace of the accelerating economic collapse we are witnessing. Despite the media forced grins and the show must go on sentiment, nothing can hide the unprescedented nature of what is going on at the moment. The crisis, which last week suffered something of a relapse, is back on form.

From a Marxist perspective, there is nothing too surprsing as to what is going on. Our problem is to put forward convincing alternatives and encourage resistance and disruption of the capitalist order, an order that is fast breaking down. What means can help create a world where economic chaos and war do not structure relations between peoples? What kind of society would lead to the maximum fulfilment of well being?

As to the first question, mass action huge demonstrations and confrontations with the state will have to take place all over the world in, at first, a disorderly way. Non-violence is always preferable, but it is not the people who have been spending billions of dollars on riot gear, tear gas, tazers and crowd control training - or preparing army divisions for the supression of social discontent. We're going to have to face it. Some of us are going to get hurt. Some of us are going to die, even. Things really are going to get that drastic. We need to be psychologically prepared. We liked to think that somehow, we had 'gone beyond' all that. That despite the inequalities, the sometimes war and people dying of starvation off stage in far away countries, that we would be spared. Wealth was being generated in huge quantities after all. We would be left alone. There was work if you wanted it, food on the supermarket shelves and pensions for the future. Be grateful. The social services could have been better but you got what you paid for and besides, if you took care of yourself and worked hard, you wouldn't need to be so dependent. No one was starving in the streets, for God's sake, and poverty, absolute poverty, was a thing of the past. There had been wars, but they had been based on honest mistakes and would eventually come to an end once the natives had been given enough training and help. The struggles of the past, the trouble, the revolutions and the wars, lived now only in books and the minds of wrinkled professors. History had essentially come to an end. This was it. This was as good as it got and the point to which all endeavour, from Plato to Nato had been headed all along. Two thousand years' dialectical struggle between all sorts of ideas and material conditions, hopes, experience and work had culminated in a technological utopia of steady growth, explosive wealth creation and, for a fair proportion of a third of humanity, western humanity that is, of course, an epoch of peace and prosperity.

But all along, as many critics perceived, the system was founded on unsustainable yet unquestioned principles. These principles were manifest in the very way of life people lived. From the food they consumed, to the jobs they had, from the houses they 'bought' to the shares the dealt in and the media they watched, the games they played and the aspirations they shared. The principles of free trade, value for money, globalisation, privatisation created the wealth, the illusory wealth, that sustained people and kept them in a loose kind of order kept them working, kept them busy. Work is discipline after all. Their way of life was incompatible with any form of questioning of these assumptions. It was not that questioning them was ostesibly prohibited, but more that the modern day priests of the system, its Deacons and arch Deacons, papal representatives and medicine men were incapable of seeing the intractable problems inherent in the order they inested thier lives in. The unsaid was too profound even to be thought of as taboo let alone brought into the open as politcal questions. And, anyway, for a long while any critics were in the galactical equivalent of deep space. Their alternative universes had been destroyed by the USS Enterprise. There was no alternative.

These critics, and their rag tag representatives, though - the activists, the militants, the misfits and malcontents, the morally outraged, outcasts, excluded, the ranters and rioters - occaisonally organised and appeared on the streets outside the gatherings of the other wordly leaders and swapped addresses and tactics, globalised their ideas marched, sometimes fought and rioted against the state's mercenary uniformed workers. The leaders would arrive in shining black limos, helicopters and personal jet liners, and for all it was worth, yes, they may well have well have been six foot lizards from another dimension. The showdowns, Genoa 2001, the Seattles, the Frankfurts and a host of other lesser battles were reminders of just what the system really meant and what it was really doing. They had to be supressed to maintain the illusion that the GDP figures, the wages, the goods, the pensions, the inequality, the wars and the whole way of life were real and really did have a purpose - that of lifting everyone's boats, of being the only show in town of being the least bad alternative. The marchers were battoned, shot at and teargassed because their actions could only disrupt the system's smooth operation. The time it actually took to organise the damned marches, the wasted commuters' time, the disruption to consumption, these demos always took place in city centres for God's sake, the cleaning up, the overtime, the bad publicity. And the reminders to the little people out there. The sheer insolence, stupidity and, yes, evilness, of those long haired lesbo-islmao-fascist dog on string cider drinking McJob fodder slackers that thought they had anything to do with the way the world is and shall be run was an affront. A dangerous affront. Because these events did effect the little people. The gnomes and micropeople who live on the edges of the great prosperity, on the edges of getting that ok job and on the edges of better places to live, but also on the edges of precarity, unemployment and street corners, these millions saw the marches and, without knowing it at first, perhaps, were effected by the movement, the defiance and the anger that these events generated. The leaders' representatives were always aware of the bad PR these displays created. They made sure, over the intervening years, that the Economic gathering would be held in far off places impossible to reach for the ordinary joes and in countries whose police had experience in the proper crushing of dissent. In the end, the final one would be held on the moon.

So, the era of the huge public confrontations came to an end. Nobody noticed at first, there were a few further minor outbreaks, but it seemed that all opposition had been silenced, surrounded dispirited and extinguished. The system was safe from open confrontation. For the time being. Its opponents had been pushed back further into the cold corners of obscurity, where few would hear their forthed mouthed predictions of turbulence, collapse and chaos. The media could now safely ignore the dissident voices as the ranting of lone losers. The money machine, huge and sprawling in its extent, all encompassing and penetrative into the lives of its subjects kept breathing and dividing, mutating and growing. Graphs pointed skyward, figures grew exponentionally, the minions' minion created moutains of merchandise, debts were run up and sold and sold on again at geometric profit rates. But it wasn't enough. The wider conflicts and instabilities that were being created througout the global machine festered and threatened. Deep down in its recesses and secretive control nodes, there were those who knew and foresaw. They, paradoxically, they listened to the show's doomsayers. They paid attention to their diagnoses and predictions whilst, all the same, poring scorn on them publically, closing down their domains, departments and sources of government cash. But the voices of scepticism cannot be entirely silenced. The public confrontation, the strikes and the outrage all might be gone, but its all teporary and they might all just as easily be camoflaged, hidden in the mists and submerged and waiting patiently for their time to come.

The uprising, potential, fermenting ever threatening, it must be silenced, shocked and numbed into consent. It, the event, started and yet did not start with that urge that it felt and yet did not feel and left unarticulated. Anonimously in the cold heart of the system the plan came into being, spectral at first but namelessly expanding in scope and ambition. If the full spectrum media was not sufficient to do silence the voices from below, if the technology that the system had created, was counterproductively, providing outlets for the viral spreading of counterpropaganda, support and even truth, then the system would have to create monstrous short-circuits of socially, politically and psychologically emmense proportions to dissolve and disperse them and render them harmless. A chain of events would have to be triggered that would leave no time or opportunity for scepticism, disobedience or opposition and that would keep moving in more and more violent directions until the contradictions hitherto were blotted out, forgotten and buried.

There was no plan in the orthodox way that plans were made. There was no secret convention of sleek suited sponsors, representatives and/or deal makers. There couldn't even have been any hooded evil doers, sitting down round tables smoking or meetings in bedsits, caves, or dungeons. The plan was postmodern in it designlessness. There was no leader no control no conspiracy where all knew and were sworn to secrey on pain of death. The fragments assembled without a guiding all seeing mind, for God had been dead a long time. There was no pilot in the plane.

For a long time after, it seemed that the horrorism had worked. War, social cohesion and economic growth coalesced. There were marches against the coming conflicts, but huge as they were they were just funeral processions in advance and had scant effect. There was never any hint of trouble or of serious opposition. They were mere reminders of what was to come.

The system was in the process of falling and was lashing out. The critics were right to scoff at the reasons given for the war but assumed, wrongly, that there was some ulterior motive, another more sinister reason but a rational reason nonetheless. In the either/or democracy/oil debate the fundamental irrationality of the unspeakably gigantic economic mayhem that had been created was left unexamined. The billions upon billions of economic transactions, political decisions, movements, transfers and cancellations that flowed through the system's craw each day produced their own vertiginous, diabolical illogic within an unsustainable and gargantuan financial and exploitative leviathan that all and any may disavow but in whose tumultuous operations all had been inescapably bound. This world of nothing, creator of creationless self-generated final self-contradiction hurtles to its non-destination, its wings tilting, in a crescendo of incoherence. It is unthinkingly ushering in its final negation and will welcome its assassins with open arms.