Category Archives: Social movements

The Yellow Vest Insurgency: What’s Next?

Paris, France, April 2017: Macron Unveils Assault on Workers’ Rights.

Paris, France, December 2018: A potential worldwide insurgency of the working class starts in France as Yellow Vests occupy the streets.

Some 75% of the French back the gilets jaunes. And this support has held up despite the violence.1

The French Yellow Vests Insurgency may or may not grow into a major threat to the established order; nobody knows for sure how it will play out.

Nevertheless, the undertone has been obvious for some years. Once the world publicly recognized a division between the 1% and everybody else, the stage was set for flare-ups, like the Yellow Vest Insurgency movement, as tens of thousands of people dressed in bright yellow vests hit the streets.

Why would tens of thousands of people wearing bright yellow vests, similar to roadside workers, hit the streets? Answer: They’re pissed off!

And, where do tens of thousands of the yellow vests come from? In 2008 France passed a law requiring all motorists to have high-visibility vests in vehicles as a safety measure should the driver need to exit a vehicle on a roadside. Therefore, everybody with a vehicle in France has a yellow vest.

It goes without saying that, over the past three decades, neoliberal globalization set the table for dissolution of the middle class as wages around the world collapsed into a SE Asian vortex of slave labor. This is the heart of the matter behind the Yellow Vest movement, albeit sparked by the Macron government’s new fuel taxes. This is also the biggest reason why a worldwide revolution of the working classes may actually happen, inclusive of pretty much everybody below the top 1% plus the upper-upper-middle-class.

So far, repercussions have been potent on a worldwide basis. For example, retail stores in Cairo have been ordered by the police not to sell yellow vests. Egypt’s abusive dictator General Abdel Fattah al Sisi is looking over his shoulder at France where Yellow Vests have established a foothold that’s spreading like a house afire.

Without doubt, governments are panicked over the prospect of radicalization of the international working class. In France, working class demands include social equality, wage increases, a halt of militarism, reinstituting the wealth tax, and the overthrow of unpopular governments, making Macron look an awful lot like a modern-day clone of Louis XVI (beheaded in 1793).

Recently, Macron made some concessions to demands of the Yellow Vests. They’re not impressed!

This time, however, is different. The gilets jaunes emerged from nowhere via social media. They are not the product of organized unions or political parties. Their structureless and leaderless nature makes them potent, volatile, and difficult for the police and government to handle. They do not follow the codified rules of protest. Their diverse demands range from an end to the eco-tax to the resignation of Mr. Macron – and even his replacement with a military general. And the government cannot find leaders willing to attend meetings.2

All of which describes the future of revolutionary activity throughout the world. It is seamlessly simple and frighteningly powerful.

In Algeria, protestors donned yellow vests in response to a failing system, as family after family cannot afford the basics of life.

In Tunisia, a new group called “Red Vests” issued a call for protests of a Tunisian political system that promotes “systematic impoverishment.”

In Belgium, police violently cracked down on angry groups of Yellow Vests with similar demands.

In Basra, Iraq Yellow Vests criticize widespread contamination of drinking water and poor city services and corruption under a NATO-backed neocolonial regime. Meanwhile, 243 miles away in Baghdad Yellow Vests hit the streets in sympathy.

“Yellow Vest” has become a catchall for all of the grievances of working people. Indeed, this is how revolts commence in earnest. And, it is indicative of a world order that is edgy, angry, and ready for conflict with the first spark of ignition.

The precursor for the present insurrection was identification of an elite class, or the 1%. Throughout history, revolutions aspire to confrontation once lines of division have been clearly drawn; e.g., the Boston Tea Party, or the fall of the Bastille, or today’s “One Percent,” which clearly divides the world into “haves” and “have-nots.” Certainly, the One Percent is one of the clearest, easiest targets of all time.

Not only a clear division, but years of pent up anger magnifies when people know they’ve been screwed. Under Macron, for example, French subsidies for part-time jobs were slashed, housing aid for low-income people cut, and pension checks axed, as he repealed France’s wealth tax, meaning more goodies for the rich at the expense of everybody else. It doesn’t take an accountant to figure out that the working class ends up subsidizing the wealth tax cut.

Furthermore, once people voice dissent in the streets, like the fuel tax revolt in France, magnification of many other issues come into sharp focus. For example, in France students have walked out of 200 schools to protest reforms to high-stakes baccalaureate exams and new higher-education admission procedures. And, university students are now protesting recent hikes in tuition.

Four words, “Yellow Vests and One-Percent,” have converged in a firestorm of resentfulness of every inequity propagated by the utter failure of elite capitalistic globalism punctuated by its neoliberal tendencies. It’s as if the world has lost its way, directionless meandering that honors wealth creation but nothing else.

Similar to the Arab Spring of 2010, minor events reverberate into major events, which may or may not explode into a massive revolution in protest of a capitalistic system that shamefully rewards the rich by preying on workers of the world. But, social media fights back.

The discontent is all about austerity efforts; for example, Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights described the austerity policies in the UK as “punitive, mean spirited and callous… heading towards an alienated society made of dramatically disconnected groups, those living the high life and the very poor, relying on food banks even if in work.”3

Philip Alston’s study of austerity policies and consequences equally applies to major developed countries throughout the world, as “austerity” has been the order of the day in Turkey, Italy, Greece, France, Portugal, Spain, Ireland in large measure to satisfy the EU and IMF that their loans will be repaid. Oh, please!

Still, revolutions take a long time to play out: The American Revolution, 1775-1783; the French Revolution, 1789-1799; the Chinese Communist Revolution, 1945-1950; the Cuban Revolution, 1953-1959; the Spring of Nations Revolutions of 1848-1852 against monarchies in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria.

Revolutions start with a loss of decency. Today, the world is full of indecencies for the “working poor.” The Yellow Vest insurgency is only possible because of a failure of global capitalism to uplift the working class.

Instead, it puts a boot on their necks.

  1. “La République en Flammes”, The Economist, December 8-14, 2018.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “UN Special Rapporteur Makes damning Criticism of Austerity”, National Survivor User Network, November 2018.

Veneration Of Power Leading To Climate Catastrophe

In a recent media alert, we presented a few rules that journalists must follow if they are to be regarded as a safe pair of hands by editors and corporate media owners. One of these rules is that ‘we’ in the West are assumed to be ‘the good guys’. This seriously damaging narrative, flying in the face of historical evidence and endlessly crushing state policies, ensures that the public is kept ignorant and pacified. The consequences have been deadly for millions of the West’s victims around the world, and now mean climate catastrophe that could end human civilisation.

First, take the recent devout coverage following the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, US President from 1989-1993, and Vice-President under Ronald Reagan from 1981-1989. When a (former) Western leader dies, the raw propaganda is often at its most fawning and servile. On Bush’s death, ‘mainstream’ media outlets broadcast and published eulogies and fanciful words of praise, divorced from reality. For example, BBC News channelled former President Barack Obama:

George HW Bush’s life is a testament to the notion that public service is a noble, joyous calling. And he did tremendous good along the journey.

The Clintons – like the Bush dynasty, part of the US ruling class – added their own gushing propaganda tribute:

Few Americans have been – or will ever be – able to match President Bush’s record of service to the United States and the joy he took every day from it.

Referring to the massive US attack following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1990-1991 Gulf War, ‘impartial’ BBC News launched into full-blown Orwellian newspeak:

The subsequent battle proved to be a triumph for American military expertise and a major boost for the nation’s morale.

Likewise, the Guardian‘s obituary described Bush Senior’s devastation of Iraq as ‘triumphant’; ‘the president did not put a foot wrong’; ‘his most impressive achievement’; ‘Bush’s masterly management of the first Iraq war’; and so on, in an elite-friendly script that was essentially a press release from the very centre of US power.

The cruel reality of Bush’s ‘most impressive achievement’, as we noted in a 2002 media alert, was that Iraq’s entire civilian infrastructure was targeted and largely destroyed under the rain of bombs. All of Iraq’s eleven major electrical power plants, as well as 119 substations, were destroyed. 90 per cent of electricity generation was out of service within hours; within days, all power generation in the country had ceased. Eight multi-purpose dams were repeatedly hit and destroyed, wrecking flood control, municipal and industrial water storage, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Four of Iraq’s seven major water pumping stations were destroyed. According to Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, the allied bombardment:

effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care.1

Under the 88,500 tons of bombs – the equivalent of seven Hiroshimas – that followed the launch of the air campaign on January 17, 1991, and the ground attack that followed, 150,000 Iraqi troops and 50,000 civilians were killed. The Guardian‘s glowing obituary omitted all of these brutal facts. The Observer, the Guardian‘s Sunday sister paper, sang from the same hymn sheet, describing the former head of the CIA and US president as:

an American patriot with a deep sense of duty.

The guff piece was written by serial propagandist Simon Tisdall who has variously been a foreign leader writer, foreign editor and US editor for the Guardian. Tisdall waxed that:

Bush set great store by civility in public life. As Republican candidate in 1988 he called for a “kinder, gentler nation”. He was, quintessentially, a decent man, with a taste for the lifestyle of an English country gentleman.

Bush’s ‘most admirable quality’, opined the Guardian man, was ‘his deep sense of public duty and service.’ That word ‘service’ again, repeated over and over like a mantra. But who was really being served by Bush’s violence?

The Guardian devoted a section of its website to Bush Sr, featuring headlines such as:

A different command”. How Bush’s war shaped his work for peace’

a man of the highest character’

The “dear dad” dedicated to faith, family and country’

Steady hand during collapse of communism’

“Dear Bill.” Clinton heralds letter from Bush as source of lasting friendship

When Official Enemies portray their Glorious Leaders in this way, western commentators routinely sneer with derision. Al Abunimah, editor of Electronic Intifada, highlighted the above litany of nonsense in a single tweet, and rightly scorned the Guardian as ‘a bastion of regime propaganda and sycophancy to powerful elites.’

Meanwhile, BBC News, like the rest of the corporate media, virtually canonised Bush as a saintly agent of Western benevolence. Even his ‘service dog’ Sully paid a ‘touching last tribute‘, sleeping beside the late President’s casket. We were to understand that Sully was heart-broken after long years spent devotedly serving his ‘master’. In fact, he had been assigned to assist Bush in the summer of 2018, just a few months ago.

By glaring contrast, a Morning Star editorial gave an honest assessment of Bush Sr’s contribution to the world, summed up as:

A lifetime in the service of imperialism.

Nathan Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, listed numerous appalling crimes and abuses of human rights carried out by Bush, almost entirely buried by sycophantic journalists on his death, and concluded:

Coverage of George H.W. Bush’s death proves that Noam Chomsky’s media theory is completely true.

‘Mainstream’ media professionals do not know, or do not care, what Bush actually did in his life. Perhaps they also assume that the public do not know or care either. Obedient journalists have simply buried the destruction and mass death wreaked on Iraq in the Gulf War. In his Bush obituary, Nick Bryant, the New York-based BBC News correspondent, brushed all this away and stuck to the standard deception of ‘mistakes were made’ in Iraq. By ‘mistakes’, Bryant meant that the US encouraged the Kurds and Shia-dominated south to revolt against Saddam Hussein, but then failed to offer sufficient backing. Under BBC ‘journalism’, Bush’s ‘mistakes’ do not include mass killing and destruction. That is simply unthinkable.

The truth is that the corporate media, the BBC very much included, do not care about the deadly effect of mass sanctions and infrastructure destruction on Iraq through the 1990s, up to the 2003 Iraq War. Unicef, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that 4,000 more children under five were dying every month in Iraq than would have died before Western sanctions were imposed. A total of half a million children under five died, amongst a total death toll of over one million Iraqis. There is clearly no need or desire for western corporate media to dwell on Bush Sr’s role in such horrors.

Nor do corporate journalists care about his service to death, torture, secret assassinations, and propping up of dictators in his role as head of the CIA. They do not care that, as Vice-President, Bush refused to apologise for the shooting down of Iran Air flight 655 over the Persian Gulf by the US warship Vincennes on July 3, 1988. All 290 people on board the plane were killed, including 66 children. Instead, he said callously:

I will never apologize for the United States — I don’t care what the facts are. … I’m not an apologize-for America kind of guy.

Clearly, most corporate journalists do not care that Bush shares responsibility for the multiple bloodbaths that soaked Latin America in the 1980s. They do not care that Bush was, as historian Greg Grandin notes, an ‘icon’ of ‘brutal US oppression in the Third World’. They do not care that Bush invaded Panama in 1989, in the biggest deployment of US force since the Vietnam War, ostensibly to capture former US ally Manuel Noriega on charges of drug trafficking. US planes heavily bombed populated areas, resulting in the estimated deaths of 3,000 Panamanians. Grandin says that the ‘lasting impact of the Panama invasion’ is the US wars that followed in subsequent decades. On Bush’s death, the corporate media did their job of whitewashing his blood-soaked legacy; just as they covered for his crimes when he was in power.

‘Climate Catastrophe Now Inevitable’

All this matters because the media’s veneration of Bush, and western leaders generally, is a glaring symptom of a deep truth about the corporate media: their primary function is to project a severely distorted view of world events, one that embodies state and corporate priorities rooted in power and short-term profit at any cost.

The public is perennially starved of rational facts about the real state of the planet, and the greed-driven policies that hold sway over electorates and even over global ecosystems. The appalling consequence is that we are now certainly headed for climate catastrophe. Even a few within the corporate media have started to admit as much. Science writer Robin McKie noted in the Guardian that:

Climate catastrophe is now looking inevitable.

McKie added that the US has produced around one third of the carbon dioxide responsible for global warming:

Yet it has essentially done nothing to check its annual rises in output. Lobbying by the fossil fuel industry has proved highly effective at blocking political change – a point most recently demonstrated by groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Heartland Institute, which helped persuade President Trump to pull out of the Paris agreement, thus dashing the planet’s last hope of ecological salvation.

He cited environmentalist Bill McKibben:

The coalition [fossil fuel lobby] used its power to slow us down precisely at the moment when we needed to speed up. As a result, the particular politics of one country for one half-century will have changed the geological history of the Earth.

Global carbon emissions reached a new high in 2018. In other words, nothing of real significance has been achieved in thirty years of supposedly trying to cut emissions – other than making the problem very much worse – and we now only have a decade to completely turn things around. The blocking effects by powerful industry lobbies and corporate-captured political ‘leaders’, hugely underreported by the corporate media, are a disaster for the human race. Stefan Rahmstorf, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, highlighted a new analysis of carbon emissions by the Carbon Research Project and said:

See how easily we could have solved the climate crisis if we had started in 2000! Only 4% reduction per year. Now we need 18% per year. You can thank climate deniers, lobby groups and cowardly politicians for this delay.

Kevin Anderson of the UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Research concurred:

Spot on by [Rahmstorf]. The academic community also take some responsibility for all too often remaining quiet about completely irresponsible decisions. Just listen to the roar of complicit silence over the UK’s shale gas plans, the new oil platform, airport & road expansion.

Renowned climate scientist Michael Mann declared:

We’ve got a LOT of work to do folks. After flat-lining for 3 years, CO2 emissions have now ticked up two years straight. This is no time for climate change denying/delaying politicians. We must vote them out & elect in their place politicians who will LEAD on climate.

He added:

It is no longer enough for politicians to just say the right things about climate change. They must demonstrate a commitment to meaningful actions & specific policies aimed at rapid reductions in carbon emissions. We are now officially starting to run out of time…

Julia Steinberger, Associate Professor of Ecological Economics at the University of Leeds, put the scale of the challenge succinctly:

If people had ANY idea of the harm and loss that is coming our way with #ClimateBreakdown, they would stop driving, flying, eating meat, overheating and overconsuming pretty much instantly, and work tirelessly to build new low carbon societies.

Instead, powerful industry lobbies are working tirelessly to block the radical action that is required.

A new Met Office study shows that the UK summer heatwave this year was made thirty times more likely by the human impact on climate. Met Office scientist Peter Stott issued a deadly warning:

Humanity just won’t be able to cope with the world we are heading for.

Last year, Arctic News editor Sam Carana pointed out the dangers of methane, a highly potent global warming gas:

As the temperature of the Arctic Ocean keeps rising, it seems inevitable that more and more methane will rise from its seafloor and enter the atmosphere, at first strongly warming up the atmosphere over the Arctic Ocean itself – thus causing further methane eruptions – and eventually warming up the atmosphere across the globe.

A giant ‘burp’ of methane gas could happen suddenly and increase global temperatures rapidly. If this sounds like a scare story, Harold Wanless, Professor of Geology and a specialist in sea level rise at the University of Miami, puts it in perspective:

Scientists tend to be pretty conservative. We don’t like to scare people, and we don’t like to step out of our little predictable boxes. But I suspect the situation is going to spin out of hand pretty quickly. If you look at the history of warming periods, things can move pretty fast, and when that happens that’s when you get extinction events.

I would not discount the possibility that it could happen in the next ten years.

In summary, scientists are calling for immediate large cuts in carbon emissions. Given the normally conservative pronouncements by overly cautious experts, such warnings should stop us all in our tracks. Climate scientists are virtually screaming at those running our political and economic systems to make drastic changes now.

However, at the start of a new UN climate conference in Poland, the follow-up to the 2015 Paris summit, a BBC News article observed starkly:

The gap between what countries say they are doing and what needs to be done has never been wider.

In other words, the dangers of rapid and cataclysmic global warming are now so glaring that some degree of urgency is being communicated occasionally, very occasionally, from within the corporate media. It would hurt establishment media credibility too much in the eyes of the public were that otherwise.

Safe ‘national treasure’ David Attenborough has become more outspoken of late. He addressed the UN conference:

We’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years. Climate change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.

He told the BBC:

All over the world there are people who are suffering as a consequence [of climate change] whose voices have not been heard.

Last week, the Daily Mirror went as far as putting Attenborough’s warning on its front page:

Time Is Running Out To Save Planet

But the daily diet of ‘news’ pumped out by the major news media is still a massive distraction from the huge widespread changes in society, politics and the economy that are needed immediately. Why is the climate crisis not a vital component, perhaps even the primary component, of news reporting on the economy, business, commerce, politics, and Parliament? Why is it usually restricted to science and environment ‘stories’? For instance, how often does the BBC’s business editor, Simon Jack, address the climate crisis in his reports? Never, if our occasional sampling is indicative. Nor does he ever respond to our polite challenges to do so. The same applied to the recently departed BBC economics editor, Kamal Ahmed. This is a gross dereliction of duty by the BBC to the public who pays for it.

Are we supposed to obsess over slight changes in interest rates, currency exchange rates, the FTSE 100 index, and the size of the UK economy, even while the planet’s natural resources are plundered, ecosystems collapse, and the mass loss of species accelerates? Why are these much latter, more crucial numbers and facts about the state of the planet not routinely cited in corporate media reporting on the state of business and the economy? Perhaps we are supposed to regard the number of rivets on the Titanic a reliable measure of the ship’s robustness, even as it plummets beneath the waves.

Just consider the US news media reporting on the appalling forest wildfires in California last month. Although scientists have stated clearly that climate change is a significant factor in these catastrophic wildfires, national US television networks made the link with climate in less than four per cent of their reports on the calamity. We are not aware of any similar study of UK television coverage. But it was certainly apparent that BBC News at Ten made very little mention of the links between global warming and the Californian wildfires, just as climate was glaringly absent from its coverage of this summer’s drought in the UK.

It is true that the burgeoning grassroots movement Extinction Rebellion, and the remarkable 15-year-old Swedish climate campaigner Greta Thunberg, are not entirely absent from news coverage. But, given the stakes, their activism and their urgent messages to society as a whole would be making headlines every day in a sane media system. Extinction Rebellion are calling for peaceful mass civil disobedience to demand:

an immediate reversal of climate-toxic policies, net-zero emissions by 2025 and the establishment of a citizen’s assembly to oversee the radical changes necessary to halt global warming.

During one recent climate protest that blocked five major bridges in central London, one protester said:

We have tried marching, and lobbying, and signing petitions. Nothing has brought about the change that is needed.

Extinction Rebellion issued a stark warning:

Our aims may be ambitious. But we are striving for nothing less than the fate of our planet.

The inspiring clip that goes along with these words depicts suffragettes, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others pushing for positive changes in the world. Thunberg has explained in very simple and powerful terms how and why she became so motivated to do something about climate change. It happened in school at the age of nine:

They [teachers] were always talking about how we should turn off lights, save water, not throw out food. I asked why and they explained about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.

Now, at 15, her commitment to go on school strike to devote herself to climate activism is an inspiration to many around the world, including the Extinction Rebellion movement. She has a succinct riposte to those who accuse her of neglecting her education:

Some say I should be in school. But why should any young person be made to study for a future when no one is doing enough to save that future? What is the point of learning facts when the most important facts given by the finest scientists are ignored by our politicians?

The time has passed for the public to rely on political leaders taking the right steps to tackle the climate crisis. As Thunberg said in her speech to the UN climate conference:

So we have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not.

As ever, it is up to each one of us to ensure that this change happens.

  1. Quoted Mark Curtis, The Ambiguities of Power, Zed Books, 1995.

The Macron Implosion: Will it Spread to Other EU Members?

The Yellow Vest Movement – weekend 8 and 9 December – Round 4. Some say they are the worst riots in France since the student-driven mini-Revolution of May 1968. Over the four weekends, hundreds of thousands were in the streets, middle class people, from students to workers to outright employees and housewives. The police force increases by every new Round – and so do the demonstrators. Today more than 8,000 police, a considerable increase from last weekend’s 5,000-plus. Tens of thousands Yellow Vests demonstrated; police reported more than 1,600 arrests.

There are tanks in the streets – not seen for at least ten years – burning cars and shop fronts, vandalized buildings. The police are fighting them with teargas, water cannons and rubber bullets. Police brutality seems to be unavoidable, However, apparently more moderate than on other occasions. Nevertheless, a Youtube is circulating, where a group of riot gear protected police beat up a helpless Yellow Vest, already on the ground and defenseless. These are the pictures you see on TV.

And the globalized ‘everybodies’ throughout Europe and the (western) world sit comfortably in their fauteuils, shaking their heads – “the French again; they are never content, always want more” – having apparently no idea that what they, the French workers, had rightfully accumulated in terms of social funds and public infrastructure – hospitals, schools – since WWII (instead of paying for a heavy army) is being ‘legally’ stolen by a small elite who put a Rothschild banker — Macron — in power to pass the necessary legislation to make the fraud legal.

Voilà. So simple. Most of the fauteuil warriors have no idea that the hangmen are stealthily coming to them too. By the time they wake up and see the light irradiated by the French Yellow Vests it might be too late. It’s not for nothing that Europe, under the command of the unelected European Commission (EC), has become increasingly militarized and a conglomerate police state, to be ready when general discontent spreads and political and social upheavals start. We may be at that point.

For now, the Hot Spot is Paris, in particular the lush Champs Élysées, symbol for the rich and powerful, the French elite. But the movement is spreading rapidly to other cities in France, and would you believe, to other EU countries, like Belgium and the Netherlands. They have seen the yellow light and realized that what the French claim back has been stolen from them too.

The malaise is not just French, Belgian, Dutch or German, but, of course, also persists in Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, the latter countries and people about whom you hardly hear and read anymore.  They are done with. The banking cartel has them under control. No public attention needs to focus on their plight anymore. Except for Italy, their brazen resistance to Brussels, is still a problem for the kings of finance. Chapeau Italy!

The discontent is everywhere; the result of a shameless neoliberal assault not only on people’s democratic and constitutional rights, it also prompts an increasing awakening to a reality of economic and financial fraud committed in front of your eyes by the globalized financial mafia – banks, insurance companies, investment corporations of all hues – milking workers’ rightfully accumulated social capital, like pension funds, unemployment benefits, free education, national health care, public hospitals, access to subsidized essential drugs and so on. All that is being shredded by the financial fraudsters. But you need political leaders to facilitate the process. Macron is the perfect choice to do so and he has done so royally, starting with the highly unpopular and contested labor reform.

So, clearly, the Yellow Vest movement has little or nothing to do with the Macron-introduced new French fuel tax. The tax was a mere pretext. The so-called eco-tax was a political-propaganda tool, a brazen lie. The tax would not have served any environmental initiative in France, but simply been a forced people’s ‘contribution’ to the budget, ever more depleted by Macron’s austerity programs. He wants to impress his ‘employers’ – austerity is the name of the neoliberal game. Besides, under people’s pressure, Macron has finally withdrawn the tax, a concession made to ease the street demos. But it didn’t work. Because it’s simply not enough. The discontent reaches way beyond a fuel tax. It has to do with the overall decreasing standard of living, coupled with declining wages, a new Macron-imposed usurping labor law, and social benefits in France and actually way beyond the frontiers of France.

In fact, French Police support the Yellow Vests they have to fight. They have recognized that they are part of the people who demonstrate; they have the same concerns. Interestingly, RT reports that the police are exercising a certain restraint with the use of teargas, water cannons and other acts of aggression you normally observe in cases of relentless protests, like the ones currently ravaging France.

While the restraint may not necessarily be visible from the images, TV and otherwise, circulating in the media, in an interview with RT, Alexandre Langlois, secretary general of the VIGI Police Union, said, “Most of us back the Gilets Jaunes [Yellow Vests], because we will be directly affected by any rise in fuel prices.” He added, “[we] can’t live where we work, because it is either too expensive, or we would be arresting our next-door neighbors, so we drive significant distances.”

For sure, there seems to prevail great sympathy for the protesters among the police, but staged provocations by the government could bring about more unrest, where the police would have no choice other than to intervene with force – or else, under a State of Emergency which Macron’s Interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, was compelled to declare, the army could be called to intervene. And in this case the French Government would not be far off in calling NATO for help – of course, in the “Interest of the larger good for Europe”.

Come to think of it – NATO. Wasn’t it Emmanuel Macron, who called a few weeks ago for an independent European army? That would make NATO obsolete.  Well, or would it? If taken by the letter, NATO has been obsolete for the last almost 30 years, but, of course, nobody takes NATO by the letter. NATO is a killing force for the empire, and a huge trillion-dollar profit-making proposition for the US military industrial complex.

So, when Macron called for a European army, he may have upset some very violent interest groups, those who literally make a killing from killing. He may have gone a step too far in his imaginary role as King Macron. There are bigger kings than he is. A European army would most likely be armed by European weapon manufacturers, mostly from France and Germany – and – god forbid – perhaps even Russia? This would be logical, since Russia is really no enemy of Europe, as every politician in Europe knows, even if they don’t dare to admit it. Also, Russia’s arms, especially long-range ballistic systems and Russia’s S-400 Air Defense System, are far superior to the US variety. Hence, partnering with Russia would not be rocket science, though certainly less than appreciated by Washington.

Could it be that the divided ‘deep state’ is at odds over Macron? The financial oligarchs put him in power to milk the French social system to the bones, then impressing other European nations with France’s over-board austerity programs to do likewise. If successful, Macron would indeed become the financial mafia clans new King of Europe.

On the other hand, the self-centered youngster Macron, may have taken his role to heights not foreseen – suggesting an independent European army, something no European leader dared even to whisper, since General de Gaulle proposed exactly that, in the 1960s.  It didn’t happen, but he then exited NATO anyway.

Could it be that military industrial oligarchs want Macron gone? Could it be that the Yellow Vests protests, though starting on genuine premises of ‘enough is enough’, were gradually converted in an orchestrated effort to push public hatred for Macron to a point where he is no long a tenable leader even for the French Parliament in which his party, or rather his movement, “En March”, has the absolute majority?

This remains to be seen. It would not be the first time that demonstrators are paid to demonstrate and especially if it’s for a noble cause to get rid of an uncomfortable politician. In the end, it’s all for the good of the people, right? Isn’t that democracy in its fullest, being played out in the streets of France – and soon to come, hopefully in the streets of Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin, Rome – maybe even inspiring the so far rather timidly quiet Spaniards, Portuguese and Greek? Could that perhaps be a movement that goes way beyond what the ‘instant-profit’ thinkers – the NATO sponsors, the producer of US killing machines – have thought of and wished for, namely, the breaking up of the already defunct European (non-) Union with her unsustainable common currency, the Euro?

This, of course, is all hypothetical, but not impossible. Dynamics play odd games. Just think of France becoming the front-runner again for a Revolution, 230 years after the Storming of the Bastille, bringing a new order into nation states, away from globalization and maybe back to sovereign governments, building up new trading relations and partner alliances on a basis of equality, rather than imposed by a one-polar world order.

• First published by the New Eastern Outlook – NEO

The Indiscreet Charm of the Gilets Jaunes

So it appears the privatization of France isn’t going quite as smoothly as planned. As I assume you are aware, for over a month now, the gilets jaunes (or “yellow vests”), a multiplicitous, leaderless, extremely pissed off, confederation of working class persons, have been conducting a series of lively protests in cities and towns throughout the country to express their displeasure with Emmanuel Macron and his efforts to transform their society into an American-style neo-feudal dystopia. Highways have been blocked, toll booths commandeered, luxury automobiles set on fire, and shopping on the Champs-Élysées disrupted. What began as a suburban tax revolt has morphed into a bona fide working class uprising.

It took a while for “the Golden Boy of Europe” to fully appreciate what was happening. In the tradition of his predecessor, Louis XVI, Macron initially responded to the gilets jaunes by inviting a delegation of Le Monde reporters to laud his renovation of the Elysée Palace, making the occasional condescending comment, and otherwise completely ignoring them. That was back in late November. Last Saturday, he locked down central Paris, mobilized a literal army of riot cops, “preventatively arrested” hundreds of citizens, including suspected “extremist students,” and sent in the armored military vehicles.

The English-language corporate media, after doing their best not to cover these protests (and, instead, to keep the American and British publics focused on imaginary Russians), have been forced to now begin the delicate process of delegitimizing the gilets jaunes without infuriating the the entire population of France and inciting the British and American proletariats to go out and start setting cars on fire. They got off to a bit of an awkward start.

For example, this piece by Angelique Chrisafis, The Guardian‘s Paris Bureau Chief, and her Twitter feed from the protests last Saturday. Somehow (probably a cock-up at headquarters), The Guardian honchos allowed Chrisafis to do some actual propaganda-free reporting (and some interviews with actual protesters) before they caught themselves and replaced her with Kim Willsher, who resumed The Guardian‘s usual neoliberal establishment-friendly narrative, which, in this case, entailed dividing the protesters into “real” gilets jaunes and “fake” gilet jaunes, and referring to the latter fictional group as “thuggish, extremist political agitators.”

By Sunday, the corporate media were insinuating that diabolical Russian Facebook bots had brainwashed the French into running amok, because who else could possibly be responsible? Certainly not the French people themselves! The French, as every American knows, are by nature a cowardly, cheese-eating people, who have never overthrown their rightful rulers, or publicly beheaded the aristocracy. No, the French were just sitting there, smoking like chimneys, and otherwise enjoying their debt-enslavement and the privatization of their social democracy, until they unsuspectingly logged onto Facebook and … BLAMMO, the Russian hackers got them!

Bloomberg is reporting that French authorities have opened a probe into Russian interference (in the middle of which report, for no apparent reason, a gigantic photo of Le Pen is featured, presumably just to give it that “Nazi” flavor). According to “analysis seen by The Times,” Russia-linked social media accounts have been “amplifying” the “chaos” and “violence” by tweeting photos of gilets jaunes who the French police have savagely beaten or gratuitiously shot with “less-than-lethal projectiles.”Are nationalists infiltrating the yellow vests?” the BBC Newsnight producers are wondering. According to Buzzfeed’s Ryan Broderick, “a beast born almost entirely from Facebook” is slouching toward … well, I’m not quite sure, the UK or even, God help us, America! And then there’s Max Boot, who is convinced he is being personally persecuted by Russian agents like Katie Hopkins, James Woods, Glenn Greenwald, and other high-ranking members of a worldwide conspiracy Boot refers to as the “Illiberal International” (but which regular readers of my column will recognize as the “Putin-Nazis“).

And, see, this is the problem the corporate media (and other staunch defenders of global neoliberalism) are facing with these gilets jaunes protests. They can’t get away with simply claiming that what is happening is not a working class uprising, so they have been forced to resort to these blatant absurdities. They know they need to delegitimize the gilets jaunes as soon as possible — the movement is already starting to spread — but the “Putin-Nazi” narrative they’ve been using on Trump, Corbyn, and other “populists” is just not working.

No one believes the Russians are behind this, not even the hacks who are paid to pretend they do. And the “fascism” hysteria is also bombing. Attempts to portray the gilets jaunes as Le Pen-sponsored fascists blew up in their faces. Obviously, the far-Right are part of these protests, as they would be in any broad working class uprising, but there are far too many socialists and anarchists (and just regular pissed-off working class people) involved for the media to paint them all as “Nazis.”

Which is not to say that the corporate media and prominent public intellectuals like Bernard-Henri Lévy will not continue to hammer away at the “fascism” hysteria, and demand that the “good” and “real” gilets jaunes suspend their protests against Macron until they have completely purged their movement of “fascists,” and “extremists,” and other dangerous elements, and have splintered it into a number of smaller, antagonistic ideological factions that can be more easily neutralized by the French authorities … because that’s what establishment intellectuals do.

We can expect to hear this line of reasoning, not just from establishment intellectuals like Lévy, but also from members of the Identity Politics Left, who are determined to prevent the working classes from rising up against global neoliberalism until they have cleansed their ranks of every last vestige of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, and so on. These leftist gatekeepers have been struggling a bit to come up with a response to the gilets jaunes … a response that doesn’t make them sound like hypocrites. See, as leftists, they kind of need to express their support for a bona fide working class uprising. At the same time, they need to delegitimize it, because their primary adversaries are fascism, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and assorted other isms and phobias, not the neoliberal ruling classes.

Nothing scares the Identity Politics Left quite like an actual working class uprising. Witnessing the furious unwashed masses operating out there on their own, with no decent human restraint whatsoever, Identity Politics Leftists feel a sudden overwhelming urge to analyze, categorize, organize, sanitize, and otherwise correct and control them. They can’t accept the fact that the actual, living, breathing working classes are messy, multiplicitous, inconsistent, and irreducible to any one ideology. Some of them are racists. Some are fascists. Others are communists, socialists, and anarchists. Many have no idea what they are, and don’t particularly care for any of these labels. This is what the actual working classes are … a big, contradictory collection of people who, in spite of all their differences, share one thing in common, that they are being screwed over by the ruling classes. I don’t know about you, but I consider myself one of them.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. According to The Guardian, as I am sitting here writing this, the whole of Europe is holding its breath in anticipation of the gilets jaunes’ response to Macron’s most recent attempt to appease them, this time with an extra hundred Euros a month, some minor tax concessions, and a Christmas bonus. Something tells me it’s not going to work, but even if it does, and the gilets jaunes uprising ends, this messy, Western “populist” insurgency against global neoliberalism has clearly entered a new phase. Count on the global capitalist ruling classes to intensify their ongoing War on Dissent and their demonization of anyone opposing them (or contradicting their official narrative) as an “extremist,” a “fascist,” a “Russian agent,” and so on. I’m certainly looking forward to that, personally.

Oh … yeah, and I almost forgot, if you were wondering what you could get me for Christmas, I did some checking, and there appears to be a wide selection of yellow safety vests online for just a couple Euros.

Argentina and France: Opponents of IMF versus Yellow Vests

What do Argentinian protesters have in common with French protesters?  They both strongly dislike their governments, and their leaders (sic).

The protests in Argentina against the upcoming G20 meeting and around the IMF are just a pretext for an overall malaise – which is an understatement – vis-à-vis President Mauricio Macri and his debt-driven austerity program, that has left hundreds of thousands jobless. People who had decent jobs under the Kirchner governments have now joined the ranks of the unemployed and are begging for survival. Macri has driven the poverty rate from about 14%, where it was in November 2015, a months before the Presidential elections, to more than 35% in September 2018, and all the while increasing tariffs for transportation and basic services such as electricity, gas, water, health care, education; in fact, privatizing such vital public services to the point where only higher middle class and elite can afford them.

That, of course, will leave a vast majority of the people uneducated and without basic health care, precisely what neoliberalism wants. Decimating the number of poor people to a minimum needed for useful slavehood and leaving those who vegetate along, struggling for one meal at the time without education, without a job, so they don’t have the time, energy and political savvy to protest against the ruling class.

Greece is an outstanding example. Within less than ten years the once cheerful, happy and economically relatively well-off country was destroyed into misery by foreign imposed debt and austerity programs.  By now, almost all public assets were sold or privatized to pay for the horrendous debt service. Public health services are on a drip, there is a lack of special medication, like for cancer, schools are closed or privatized, pensions cut to unlivable levels, unemployment rampant – all leading to extreme poverty and skyrocketing suicide rates, about which nobody dares speaking.

That’s the making of the west. In the case of Greece even worse. Their European brother and sister countries went along with the loot. In fact, they pushed Greece into her demise, especially Germany, France, the European Central Bank (ECB), and, of course, the entire European Brussels apparatus, led by the unelected European Commission (EC) and, and eventually with the ‘official’ outside hammer, the IMF. Greece had to go.

Is Argentina going to become under Macri the Latin American Greece? Could well be. By now the country is encircled by neoliberal and fascist neighbors, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay. Bolivia is a laudable exception. All the others will do what Washington mandates; whatever it takes to support Macri and his IMF-imposed economic killer policies, that – in the end – will sell out the resource-rich country to foreign oligarchs and corporations, to the US and NATO. Yes, NATO, unbelievable, but true. NATO is officially in south America, as Colombia by her own choice has become a NATO country.

From Colombia to Argentina and actually to all of Latin America is like a walk in the park, with all the borders of the partly newly installed neoliberal / neofascist governments wide open – for NATO forces, that is. Macri has already invited the US to establish several US military bases. In July 2018 Sputnik reported that President Macri has given green light to establish at least three US bases in the provinces of Neuquén, Misiones and Tierra del Fuego. Their creation would be financed by the US Southern Command.”

And now, in the midst of this man-made – Macri-made – socioeconomic calamity, he invites the G20 (30 November to 1 December 2018) to feast on Argentina’s goodies, to see for themselves what can be made of an otherwise prosperous country so that prosperity is ‘shared’ and outsourced to foreign oligarchs, banks and corporations. Wonderful. For that G20 event, Macri mobilized some 22,000 military forces to guarantee the security of the chiefs of state.

Surely, after the G20 summit, new austerities will be imposed, because everybody sees there is more to be milked from Argentina. They see what they were able to do to Greece.  When common sense would dictate – stop, that’s it, that’s all we can take – there is an opening for even more to be squeezed out of the country. In Argentina there is still a lot of milking to be done. It has just started. If nothing else, the newly Washington shoed-in president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, will teach Macri how to do even better for the western money sharks.

In France, the Yellow Vests protests against higher fuel prices and labor reform laws is just a pretext for something much bigger – a growing awakening of the French people, a steadily increasing recognition of how the slippery soft-speaker Emmanuel Macron is stripping France’s populace of most of their civil and social rights, of their labor rights, and ultimately, still to come, of their jobs.

A number of ‘false flags’ from Charlie Hebdo to Bataclan to the Nice’s 14th July terror attacks, have helped Macron to put a permanent State of Emergency – basically Martial Law – into the French Constitution. By doing so, he has created a kind of French “Patriot Act”, slice by slice reducing long acquired social rights, transforming them into increased profits for foreign and French corporations and banking giants. Big wonder, Macron is a Rothschild child. He has been put into his position to uphold and expand the Rothschild clan’s banking empire, expanding it way beyond the French borders.

Who are the Yellow Vests or ‘gilets jaunes’ in French? The name refers to the yellow phosphorescent vests that each and every French driver needs to carry in his vehicle for visibility and protection in case of an incident on the highway. The movement started on 10 October, propagated through Facebook against the Macron imposed increase of fuel taxes. It then expanded rapidly into a movement of discontent with the continuous loss of purchasing power of the common people through budget cuts and soft but steadily increasing austerity imposed on the French citizenry. That, plus the decay of public services, especially in urban peripheries, has transformed the Yellow Vests movement into a vivid protest against Macron, an outright call for Macron’s resignation.

Hundreds of thousands – cumulatively several millions – of Yellow Vests have demonstrated and blocked at times most of Paris during the past two weeks, to reverse the fuel tax increase and to basically regain their social rights and financial purchasing power, increase salaries to at least keep pace with inflation. Diesel prices have already increased in 2018 alone by 23% and gasoline prices by 15%. These prices should increase further by 2019 according to a Macron imposed law.

Can protests in the street remove a President?  A President who came to power with less than 27% of the French eligible voters, a President who built his power on a movement, called “En Marche” (something like ‘moving on’) which hardly even existed a year before Macron’s ‘election’ in May 2017, an election based on false propaganda, selling heaven to desperate people, who after socialist President François Hollande deceived his country bitterly, leaving his presidency with a popularity rate of less than 10% – these people were ready to accept any ‘populist’ lie in the hope that life would become better.

Well, as usual, the ruling class – almost always the financial elite – took advantage of the desperate situation and bingo! Macron is legally in office for 5 years, until 2022. Removing him the ‘democratic way’, through a Parliamentary vote of confidence, is a slim chance, as he has an absolute majority in Parliament, also called the French National Assembly.

So far Macron has been able to impose his ‘austerity’ without the open help of the IMF. But, be sure, with Christine Lagarde at the helm of the IMF, a former French Finance Minister, with close ties to Macron, he’ll most certainly get IMF ‘advice’ on how to continue softly squeezing the juices out of the French people, of their, since the end of WWII, accumulated and hard fought-for social benefits. Maybe also Greek style?

Curiously, the European Commission and the ECB are much more generous with France than with Italy, when it comes to adhering to the arbitrary 3% deficit limit. Italy was scolded, called to order and to submit a revised budget, when deputy PM, Matteo Salvini, presented Italy’s 2019 budget with a 2.9% deficit. France, on the other hand, has been running a deficit above 3% for years, but is gently reminded to please look into their finances a bit more carefully. In other words, the EU is treating brothers and sisters with different yard sticks, thus, helping Macron to do whatever he sees fit to push austerity down the French citizens’ throats. And if they protest, well, we see what’s happening now. There is the State of Emergency that allows the most brutal police crack-down, if needed. And Macron may well need it, if he wants his presidency to survive.

The French people, are, however, special. They prompted the French Revolution in 1789, the legacy of which still reverberates in legal systems around the world. French students started 40 years ago, the 1968 student and workers revolt. It began on the premises of “equal rights and liberty” between men and women. It led to strengthening workers unions and eventually to many workers rights and benefits, precisely those that already former President Sarkozy attempted to dismantle and for which Macron was installed to finish the job.

There is a direct relation between what happened in 1968 and what is occurring now. Will the people prevail?  Will France set an example for the rest of Europe?  Mind you, Europe is in the plans to be derailed and robbed similarly and through different means, one of which is a massively increasing influx of so-called refugees or migrants from poor countries bordering Europe. Absorbing millions of homeless souls from western destroyed countries, is a challenge Europe may not survive. Macron may just be a convenient intermediary.

So, what do the people of Argentina and the people of France have in common? They both want to get rid of a despotic president, implanted by the western financial elite to steal the socioeconomic coffers of their heritage, and which, if not stopped, may continue a movement throughout the Americas and Europe.

Governments’ Failures On Climate Spur New Actions

We are currently traveling in the United Kingdom, following our participation in the No US NATO Bases conference in Dublin, Ireland and delivery of a letter to the International Criminal Court in The Hague calling for a full investigation of Israel’s war crimes. We spent the past few days meeting with activists and visiting some friends and family.

A major concern in the UK is Brexit. Everyone is talking about it. There is great fear that if Brexit goes through, it will harm the UK. Repeatedly, people told us they feared violence by Brexiters if there was another vote and the Remainers won. News reports indicate there are plans for the UK military to be on the streets if chaos breaks out over Brexit. Today, the EU’s Council agreed with Prime Minister May’s proposed Brexit agreement, but now it appears that the agreement is unlikely to pass the UK Parliament.

We also heard quite a bit about the National Health System which has been under attack by privatizers for years. Due to cuts and changes, they are already starting to experience some of the problems that are rampant in the US such as denials of care. People are seeing some of the worst aspects of the US healthcare crisis exported to the UK and do not want to see further starvation and privatization of their system.

On a positive note, the public transportation system in the UK is excellent and used heavily and there are cooperatives of all sorts. The cooperative movement has a long and strong history in the UK, starting prior to 1800 and really taking off when the Rochdale Principles were created in 1844.

Kevin J. Frost // ShutterStock

Action on climate change

There is a lot of enthusiasm for the new climate change effort in the UK, the Extinction Rebellion. Launched on October 31, the Extinction Rebellion calls for mass nonviolent, disruptive actions targeting the government for its failure to take appropriate action to address the climate crisis. On November 17, there were actions across the UK. Thousands of protesters shut down five major bridges in London.

There were also solidarity actions in other countries. 50,000 people marched in Montreal, Quebec to tell their government it needs to take stronger action. March organizers said that the lack of discussion of climate change in the elections is one element that is galvanizing people to take action.

Organizers in the UK hope the campaign goes worldwide. We interviewed Marijn Van de Geer who works with the Extinction Rebellion in London on Clearing the FOG. Van de Geer explained that while there is resistance to many fossil fuel projects in the UK, the Extinction Rebellion provides a way for the many campaigns to unite against a common target, the government, and still engage in their individual activities.

People opposed to the Potomac Pipeline and the Rockwool factory it would supply with gas gather to deliver petitions to the National Park Service./Photo courtesy of CCAN

Impossible to avoid the reality of climate change

There are strong campaigns in the US trying to stop fossil fuel projects. Activists with Rainforest Action Network are bird dogging JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon because of his bank’s investment in fossil fuel projects. This week, they disrupted his speech at Axios and delivered a copy of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  (IPCC) report to him.

Pipeline protests continue. Activists working to stop the Atlantic Coast Pipeline had another success this week. The US Army Corps of Engineers has suspended permits that would allow the pipeline to cross bodies of water. Activists in West Virginia and Maryland are pressuring the National Park Service to deny permits for TransCanada to build a pipeline under the Potomac River in a fragile area. And Enbridge Line 3 opponents have vowed to continue their resistance.

On Friday, Volume II of the Fourth National Climate Assessment was released by the Trump administration. Mandated by Congress and authored by officials from thirteen federal agencies, the report, though conservative, admits that climate change is happening rapidly, that human activity contributes to it, that the impacts are significant and that more needs to be done.

Of course, these are the same findings of the Third National Climate Assessment released in 2014, yet the United States government has not taken appropriate action to address the crisis and climate change was absent as a major topic in the most recent election. Perhaps it is time to organize an Extinction Rebellion in the United States.

The Democrats are already positioning themselves to give the appearance of doing something about the climate crisis. The newly-elected Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes has stated her intention to introduce a “Green New Deal,” an idea championed by the Green Party for over a decade. Will Morrow raises valid concerns that the Democratic Party Green New Deal will be more fluff than substance.

Mark Dixon/flickr/cc

Solving the climate crisis goes deeper than shifting to renewable energy

We don’t have time for the usual partial solutions offered by Democrats. The climate crisis is intimately related to racism, colonialism, capitalism, militarism and imperialism. It can’t be solved in isolation. It will take an organized movement of movements to mitigate and adapt to climate change in a way that causes the least harm.

In “Confronting Carbon Capitalists,” the Seattle IWW explain that privileged liberals are coming to understand what colonized people have known for a long time, that capitalism is at the root of climate change. They write, “labor and ecological exploitation has remained vast and systemic… and the story is always the same: colonize a population, use violence to break them from their land and means of subsistence, extract fossil capital, then move on and leave the decimated landscape to the locals.” They call for solidarity with the Indigenous and colonized people.

Manuel Garcia, Jr., writes that US imperialism will prevent the US from adequately tackling climate change. He explains, “American political power is based on fossil fuels, and the US military is the engine that consumes those fuels to produce that power.” In order to address climate change, there will have to be a massive shift in political ideology and power.

There are opportunities to move toward making the necessary changes. In California, the energy corporation PG&E has been found responsible for three major fires, including the most recent one in which 85 people died and hundreds are still missing. As a result, PG&E is on the verge of bankruptcy. This provides an opportunity for the state to make PG&E a public entity. Johanna Bozuwa describes what that would look like and how it would enable the state to act more quickly to move to renewable energy.

New economic models are also being developed. Through the Learning/Action Lab for Community Wealth Building, Native communities are creating new institutions that are centered in decolonization. Read more about a Lakota community’s efforts.

As with all of our efforts at transformational change, we need to connect our struggles, share a common set of principles and work together strategically to effect change. It is a process of both resistance to harmful policies and practices and creation of positive alternatives based on our values that will lead to success. There is something for everyone to do.

International Conference Against US/NATO Bases Addresses Militarism

For the first time in the history of humanity, the technical means are at hand to eliminate poverty if resources were not diverted to making war. World hunger could be abolished with only a small diversion from military budgets. The only luxuries that so-called middle-class Americans would have to forego would be the Blue Angels air show and drone-bombing wedding parties in the Middle East. Yet, military spending is expanding, and with it global poverty.

On November 16-18, some 300 peace activists representing over 35 countries gathered in Dublin, Ireland for the first International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases to address this tragic paradox of the technical ability to serve humanity and the political proclivity by the ruling circles in the West to do the opposite. Roger Cole of the Irish peace organization PANA identified the twin threats to humankind of global warming and global war, both driven by accelerating militarization.

Ajamu Baraka of the US-based Black Alliance for Peace highlighted the reactionary role of the US and its allies, which have by far the largest military expenditures in the world. The material basis for the absence of peace and the accelerating proliferation of military bases, in his words, is US imperialism.

Guantánamo was the first of the world network of US foreign military bases, according to keynote speaker Dr. Aleida Guevara from Cuba, daughter of Che. Cuba opposes this violation of national sovereignty. Today the US possesses some 1000 foreign military bases with troops stationed in over 170 countries.

Australian Annette Brownlie of IPAN warned of a new Cold War. The recent US National Security Strategy document, focusing on “great power confrontation,” signals open preparations for direct military confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia and China.

David Webb of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the UK explained that the US is the only nation with nuclear weapons based outside its soil. US policy is to develop “usable” nuclear weapons in an enhanced first-strike capacity. Missile defense, he reproved, is the shield for the sword of nuclear weapons. The purpose of missile defense is to protect the aggressor against the inevitable retaliation after a first nuclear strike.

Margaret Flowers of Popular Resistance reported that the recent US midterm elections brought in more Congressional representatives with military or security state backgrounds. The duopoly of the two US “war parties” is united in supporting an accelerated arms race. Well over half of the US government’s discretionary budget now goes to the military.

Unlike so much liberal and progressive political discourse in the US, which is obsessed with the personality of President Trump, the international perspective of this conference penetrated that distracting fog and concentrated on the continuity of US militarism regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.

The session on the environmental and health impacts featured testimony on the toxic effects of military bases in Okinawa, Czech Republic, and Turkey. The US Department of Defense is the world’s largest polluter.

National Coordinator of the Irish Trade Union Federation and Secretary of the People’s Movement, Frank Keoghan, described the transformation of the European Union (EU) into a war project with the recent rush to create a single EU army. Ilda Figueiredo from the Portuguese Council for Peace and Cooperation and another activist from France warned that the drive for an EU army would transform all national military bases into NATO bases and would in effect allow “nuclear bomb sharing.”

Margaret Kimberley of the Black Agenda Report chaired the Africa session. South African Chris Matlhako and Kenyan Ann Atambo discussed the dependency of African states on foreign aid, which is used as a tool to facilitate the occupation of Africa by foreign militaries.

Paul Pumphrey of Friends of the Congo described the development of US strategy in Africa, which has used African proxies to allow domination and extraction of valuable resources such as coltan from the Congo. Now the strategy also includes direct occupation by the US military. George W. Bush established AFRICOM in 2008 with just a single acknowledged US military base on the continent, followed by an explosion to some 50 bases and a military presence in practically every African nation under Obama.

The session on Latin America and the Caribbean outlined the immediate threat of military intervention in Venezuela, caught in the crosshairs of US imperialism. Veteran Cuban peace activist Silvio Platero of MOVPAZ condemned the continuing US blockade of Cuba and the colonial status of Puerto Rico. Speakers from Colombia (now a NATO partner), Argentina, and Brazil reported that their right-wing governments are cooperating militarily with the US.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire from Ireland made an impassioned plea for all-out support of WikiLeaks whistleblower Julian Assange, “our hero of truth,” lest he die in a US prison.

The conference concluded on a high note of unity among the international peace forces. Conference coordinator Bahman Azad of the World Peace Council closed with a call to first educate and then mobilize.

Actions are being planned in Washington, D.C., around the 70th anniversary of NATO on April 4th. Coincidentally that is the date of the assassination of Martin Luther King and of his famous speech a year before when he presciently admonished, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today is my own government.”

Global Campaign Calls For Closure Of US/NATO Foreign Bases To End Western Imperialism

Rally at No US-NATO Bases Conference in Dublin, Ireland on November 16, 2018. Photo from Margaret Kimberly Facebook page.

*****

Press Communique of the First International Conference Against US/NATO Foreign Military Bases

The first International Conference against US/NATO Military Bases was held on November 16-18, at the Liberty Hall in Dublin, Ireland. The conference was attended by close to 300 participants from over thirty-five countries from around the world. Speakers representing countries from all continents, including Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, United States, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Poland, United Kingdom, Ireland, Czech Republic, Israel, Palestine, Kenya, D. R. Congo, Japan and Australia, made presentations at the conference.

This conference was the first organized effort by the newly formed Global campaign against US/NATO Military Bases, created by over 35 peace, justice and environmental organizations and endorsed by over 700 other organizations and activists from around the world. What brought all of us together in this International Conference was our agreement with the principles outlined in the Global Campaign’s Unity Statement, which was endorsed by the Conference participants.

The participants in the Conference heard from and shared with representatives of organizations and movements struggling for the abolition of foreign military bases from around the world about the aggressions, interventions, death, destruction, and the health and environmental damages that the military bases have been causing for the whole humanity along with the threats and violation to the sovereignty of the “host” countries.

The participants and organizers of the conference agreed as a matter of principle that while they oppose all foreign military bases, they consider the close to 1,000 US/NATO military bases established throughout the world, which constitute the main pillars of global imperialist domination by US, NATO and EU states, as the main threat to peace and humanity, and must all be closed. The NATO states’ military bases are the military expression of imperialist intervention in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant, financial, political, and military interests, for the control of energy resources, transport roads, markets and spheres of influence, in clear violation of international law and the United Nations Charter.

The participants in the Conference call upon the organizations and movements who agree on the above to work closely with each other in a coordinated manner as a part of the Global Campaign to organize and mobilize the public around the world against US/NATO military bases.

While we call for the closure of all US/NATO military bases, we consider the closure of bases and military installations in certain countries and areas as needing special attention by the international movement. These, for example, include the Guantanamo US base in Cuba, the US bases in Okinawa and South Korea, the US Base in Rammstein/Germany, Serbia, the old and new US/NATO bases in Greece and Cyprus, the establishment of the new US African Command (AFRICOM) with its affiliated military bases in Africa, the numerous NATO bases in Italy and Scandinavia, the Shannon airport in Ireland, which is being used as a military base by US and NATO, and the newly established bases by the United States, France and their allies on and around the Syrian soil.

In order to continue our joint Global Campaign in solidarity with the just causes of the peoples in their struggle against foreign military aggression, occupation and interference in their internal affairs, and the devastating environmental and health impacts of these bases the participants agreed to recommend and to support coordinated actions and initiatives in the coming year (2019) which shall strengthen the global movement to expand the actions and cooperation while moving forward.

As a step toward this goal, the conference supports the global mass mobilizations against NATO’s 70th anniversary Summit in Washington DC, on April 4, 2919 and respective protests in the NATO member states and worldwide.

We declare our solidarity with the Cuban people’s decades-long efforts to take back their Guantanamo territory, illegally occupied by the United States, and declare our support for the Sixth International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, organized by MOVPAZ for May 4-6, 2019, in Guantanamo, Cuba.

The participants express their most sincere thanks and gratitude to the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (PANA) Ireland, for their generous hospitality and support in hosting this historic Conference.

Adopted by the participants at the 
First International Conference Against US/NA TO Military Bases 
November 18, 2018 
Dublin, Ireland

Be Afraid … Be Very Afraid!

Alarm, fear, panic, hysteria, dread are loose in Washington DC. Here are sample headlines which sum up why our lawmakers have emptied the shelves of smelling salts in the local apothecaries:

Commission:  U.S. could lose wars with Russia, China

U.S. could potentially lose a war against China or Russia as military edge has eroded, study says

U.S. ‘could lose’ its next war: Report shows military would struggle to win’ against Russia and China 

U.S. military might “struggle to win, or perhaps lose” war with China or Russia, report says

Our “official” defense budget for 2019 is $716 billion — $686 billion earmarked for the Department of Defense. That’s four times the defense budget of China, ten times the defense budget of Russia.

AND WE CAN’T WIN A WAR WITH THESE TWO BACKWARD, UPSTART NATIONS?

What’s the explanation? We’ve got the best-equipped, most powerful military money can buy. We’ve got the largest navy, the most submarines, the largest air force, the most tanks and artillery. We have over 800 bases around the world. And we can’t win a war against Russia or China?

What’s going on?

Glad you asked.

It seems that the peddlers of this paranoiac prattle, aka pitchmen for the MIC and all who profit from promoting war, left out two words.

What two words?

The two words are … (drum roll!!!) … ‘of aggression’.

That’s right!  We can’t win a war OF AGGRESSION against China or Russia.

What’s left out of the sales pitch for more astronomical increases in our defense spending is some simple straightforward talk, which would undercut the whole argument for more military might.

You see, neither China or Russia can win a war of aggression against the U.S. or Europe either. Somehow that didn’t get mentioned. So the truth is, right now we are at parity with these countries. We can’t win attacking them. They can’t win attacking us.

I would think this would be a cause for celebration. But that’s just me … and maybe 300 million other sane people in this country.

The difference is that neither China or Russia are trying to build some colossal offensive war machine. The major thrust of the defense spending for both of those countries is to DEFEND AGAINST a war of aggression. That’s where they put their money. And it takes a lot less money to defend a homeland, than to prepare to attack another country. Or to police an empire that stretches across the entire planet. A lot less!

That’s not to say that Russia and China don’t have offensive weapons. They do. But they deploy those weapons in a defensive posture. There are two ways to defend a country. Either you go head-to-head with an invading force, which would not just include soldiers, tanks, artillery, but also anti-ballistic missile systems, electronic warfare (incapacitating the high-tech weaponry of the attacking force), whatever mechanisms, some very destructive and lethal, are needed to keep the invaders at bay.

The other major defensive category is the ability to inflict so much damage on the aggressor nation, its aggression results in “unacceptable losses”. That can be personnel, military assets, but it can also be non-military assets. For example, taking down the aggressor nation’s power grid, internet, communications, even their satellites, all of which compromise the aggressor nation’s capacity to continue waging a war fall into this category.

Creating weaponry for those two purposes, that is, to defeat an invading military force or to discourage an aggressive attack, is predominantly what Russia’s and China’s military R&D and asset deployment has excelled at. This type of weaponry is much less expensive. Which explains in very simple terms why they can have such effective militaries at a fraction of the cost.

The handwringing, cold sweats, hyperventilation, allegedly caused by our WAR WINNING GAP — remember the missile gap of the 70s and 80s — are symptoms of the insanity which has infected both major political parties, destroyed any perspective and common sense, made completely impossible any rational conversation about the role our military should play in the world, and especially voided any discussion of how much of our nation’s resources should be diverted away from constructive social programs — including but not limited to quality universal education, investment in sustainable productive infrastructure, quality universal health care, and getting serious about addressing the climate crisis — to support the grand imperial project of world domination with even more military expansion.

Right now, no one can win a war of aggression. In all probability, considering the dismal record of our military since WWII, no matter how much the U.S. spends, it will NEVER BE ABLE TO WIN A WAR OF AGGRESSION. If we keep pushing for war, as they say, be careful what you wish for. Because neither Russia or China will back down. The risks of a major confrontation with either going nuclear are very high.

Don’t forget those two words: ‘of aggression’. Because when the lunatics now in power talk about our diminishing military capacity, they are referring to our decreasing ability to mount an armada and take on Russia and China OVER THERE, not HERE — that is, winning a war in “their immediate sphere of influence”.

If you have any doubts about what I’m saying, just check any map of foreign deployed military bases and track where the war games are taking place.

The Chinese Navy is not doing “freedom of navigation” exercises in the Caribbean or off the coast of New England or California. Russia and/or China are not conducting huge war games in Canada or Mexico. There are NO Chinese or Russian bases anywhere in our hemisphere. Moreover, while both Russia and China have conducted large-scale war games — important to note these are exercises in defending against large scale attacks from an aggressor — they are held in Russia and in China, not in bordering countries, and certainly not thousands of miles away in “our immediate sphere of influence”.

Andrei Belousov, deputy head of the Department of Nonproliferation and Arms Control at the Russian Foreign Ministry, recently made this statement:

Linguistically, this difference is in just one word, both in Russian and in English; Russia is preparing for war, and the US is preparing a war….Yes, Russia is preparing for war, I have confirmed it. We are preparing to defend our homeland, our territorial integrity, our principles, our values, our people — we are preparing for such a war.

Let’s hope they never have to fight such a war. We must relentlessly work toward removing the lunatics now in power in the Washington DC bubble — more resembling an insane asylum with each passing day — who apparently are preparing to launch such a war OF AGGRESSION against Russia, and another against China.

In summary, the military analysts are correct in saying, we can’t win such a war now. But they can double, triple, quadruple the defense budget, and it will accomplish nothing. No amount of destructive weapons will ever produce a winner in such a conflict. An attack on either Russia or China could very well go nuclear, in which case there will be no winners. There will be no one around period to plant flags or declare victory.

Baselines for Activism: Brecht’s Stance, the New Science, and Planting Seeds

I’ve often wondered about the limits of activist’s reach and the lack of coherent, organized progressive social movements in the US. Does it come down to the precarious nature of our jobs, the stress, strain, and exhaustion caused by the realization of being a paycheck away from penury? Or is it all the fault of our monopolistic media, with the puppet strings controlled by their advertisers, the corporate giants and multinationals? Is it geographic distance from Europe where socialism advanced far broader and deeper into society? Could it be the anti-communist Red Scare that dominated the binary and delusional cold war mindset? Was it the very real threat and use of violence via COINTELPRO, and overseas with Operations Gladio, Condor, etc? Is it deeper psychological issues stemming from the trauma of having to grow up in a cold capitalist world which leads to false consciousness?

It would seem to be a mixture of all of the above. Yet millions of citizens still are able to see through the mendacities inherent in our empire, in our collective cultural death-wish, and many millions more would be able to if provided the education, tools, and resources to see through the lies of our global system of capital.

Activists and educators must reconsider their approaches in light of the repeated failures of international progressive organizations. In short, part of the failure lies with the leadership of non-profits, NGOs, community leaders, and the type of worldview they adhere to. For one, unstable vertical hierarchies are reproduced, with not enough feedback from concerned citizens and community-based, small-scale pressure groups. Also, technocrats and lawyers are relied far too heavily upon to perform band-aid, stopgap procedures in the social and environmental justice fields. Endless petitions and protests are planned which do not lead to fundamental change.

Organization in the majority of so-called progressive movements mimics the neoliberal order. Pedestals and soapboxes are lined up for the official learned classes, who are offered cushy positions to run vote campaigns, to lobby (beg) a corrupt Congress or Parliament to do the right thing. This is turn creates a new split between the middle-class non-profit lawyers, campaigners, and managers; and the working class constituencies, which only fuels social division and alienation.

These maladies contribute to the false consciousness of the mostly liberal, white, middle-class, urbane, college-educated non-profit and social justice managerial class, as well as progressive activists. All of the racist, sexist, and classist baggage is carried alongside these organizations, as we can see so clearly in the faux “progressive” areas like Silicon Valley.

Let us take this line of thought further. I believe the lack of rigor and effectiveness also shows up with so-called radical activists and intellectuals who believe they are sincerely committed to revolution. It works in a few ways: radicals take on the feelings of others in unhealthy ways, bottling up anger and sadness that legitimately occurs and is expressed in subaltern groups. Another point involves the expectation of success, the attachment to pet projects and the personal rage that spills out when failure occurs.

US progressive and radicals are, for the most part, not versed in modern scientific advancements, ecology, or Eastern traditions. There is no tolerance for balance, paradox, and contradiction. Most are stuck on treadmills and attached to their egos and personas. Then there is the problem of speed: trying to catch up with every travesty the establishment and corporations impose on us (playing defense), as if one could bail out a sinking Titanic with a bucket. There is the notion of taking on social justice burdens as a very Christian-like type of “work”, instead of blending work and play into a post-modern, post-coercive labor environment that could put humankind on a type of threshold, a liminal state, towards a saner society of free association and mutual aid which could end much unnecessary suffering.

Running in Circles

There is most likely an inverse relationship between how seriously one takes oneself and one’s wisdom. The most serious among us are almost undoubtedly the least wise. The vast majority of the endless running around from protests or events or conferences or speaking engagements are just a series of distractions.

There are appropriate times for all those things, to be sure. Yet it must be noted that the predominant mode of liberals, leftists, and progressives is predicated on constantly reacting to and diagnosing mainstream culture, rather than arriving at any original prescriptions for changing society.

Many people in the US of all political persuasions are quite aware of the near terminal nature of politics: and many are looking for a model that works. The diagnosis has been made countless times. People are ready for an alternative to our broken system.  Obviously, with no capital this is nearly impossible for poor and marginalized communities.  An international network of direct action, worker co-ops, and communal agriculture must begin as soon as possible to fight neoliberal economics and the looming challenges of climate change.

Brecht’s Stance

A few years ago, I stumbled across Bertolt Brecht’s Stories of Mr. Keuner. The first passage is entitled “What’s wise about the wise man is his stance.” Here is the full passage:

A philosophy professor came to see Mr. K and told him about his wisdom. After a while Mr. K said to him: ‘You sit uncomfortably, you talk uncomfortably, you think uncomfortably.’ The philosophy professor became angry and said: ‘I didn’t want to hear anything about myself but about the substance of what I was talking about.’ ‘It has no substance,’ said Mr. K. ‘I see you walking clumsily and, as far as I can see, you’re not getting anywhere. You talk obscurely, and you create no light with your talking. Seeing your stance, I’m not interested in what you’re getting at.’

Now we’re getting somewhere! As Sean Carney explains in Brecht and Critical Theory: Dialectics and Contemporary Aesthetics:

The most important thing to draw from Brecht’s play, then, is the attitude it displays, which Brecht also calls a kind of wisdom that is performed or staged for us. It seems important here to distinguish between the form of wisdom, and the content of wisdom. Brecht, for his part, is concerned only with the former, the posture of wisdom, wisdom as an action. The form of this wisdom is dialectical and historical.

There is no space to flesh out all the implications here. A few thoughts will have to suffice.

When Western activists scream, “Rise up!” they should be reminded: “Sit down.” Always consider the antithesis. Slowing down, sitting: calling for nationwide wildcat general strikes would do much greater good than marching around with placards along predetermined protest routes.

When others shout “Speak out,” we can remind them: be silent (just imagine kids in school refusing to speak the pledge of allegiance or taking a knee in high school sports in solidarity with Kaepernick). When protestors implore: “Wake up,” they can also be chided and reminded: “Keep dreaming!” (of a genuine revolution, not stopping the imagination at some milquetoast progressive reforms led by the DSA or other pseudo-leftists, which, while helpful, do not go nearly far enough). I am not advocating not speaking truth to power here, or any escapism, only that in certain cases we should ignore the constant dramas and tragedies engendered by the corporate ruling-class and focus on building parallel structures and intentional communities to bust an escape hatch from global tyranny.

Non-striving

It should be recognized that many so-called “radicals” mimic the striving, combative, and authoritarian nature of the neoliberal order. Raised in an ultra-competitive society, some proponents of revolution refuse the inner work necessary while clinging to whatever social capital or insignificant platform one can muster up.

We live in a culture of constant striving, clinging, petty jealousness and egomaniacal childishness. It is no wonder that it shows up on many outlets of progressive outlets as well as on social media, and in activist circles.

Instead, we should begin the work of instilling a radical patience. Not because we have a lot to time left to act (we assuredly don’t), but because attaching oneself to unobtainable goals in the very short term only has the effect of tiring out and disillusioning many sincere people. Western activists could learn something by practicing non-attachment.

Only by giving up hope can we become present in the moment. This has continually been best expressed among Buddhists. As Pema Chodron writes:

As long as we’re addicted to hope, we feel that we can tone our experience down or liven it up or change it somehow, and we continue to suffer a lot. In a non-theistic state of mind, abandoning hope is an affirmation, the beginning of the beginning. You could even put ‘Abandon Hope’ on your refrigerator door instead of more conventional aspirations like ‘Everyday in everyway, I’m getting better and better.’ We hold onto hope and it robs us of the present moment. If hope and fear are two different sides of the same coin, so are hopelessness and confidence. If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.

Thus, this brutally honest reflection (on our individual lives, but also on the fate of our civilization as we hurtle into the Anthropocene) leads to self-love, joy, and to vulnerability. This is a baseline for giving our collective culture what Rollo May called The Courage to Create. May contrasts happiness (in this sense a cessation of wants, a sense of security) with basic joy (quoted here):

Happiness is related to security, to being reassured, to doing things as one is used to and as our fathers did them. Joy is a revelation of what was unknown before. Happiness often ends up in a placidity on the edge of boredom. Happiness is success. But joy is stimulating, it is the discovery of new continents emerging within oneself…Happiness is the absence of discord; joy is the welcoming of discord as the basis of higher harmonies. Happiness is finding a system of rules which solves our problems; joy is taking the risk that is necessary to break new frontiers.

One cannot understand joy without noting the sense of timelessness: the past, present, and future all converging into the present moment. Athletes, artists, scientists, and others call this “flow” or “being in the zone.” Time moves more slowly, certainly everyone has experienced this phenomenon at one point or another. Relativity has proven that this is possible, as well as studies in consciousness, meditation, and psychedelics.

Is any of this useful as a guide towards activism today? I will leave it to you to decide. Is it possible to “create light” when you speak, or be in tune with “higher harmonies?”

Time

Regarding time, we can turn to Brecht’s friend, Walter Benjamin, and his notion of the Jetztzeit. In order to break free from “homogenous, empty time,” which, notably, Francis Fukuyama unintentionally expressed so well as the ever-looming backdrop to the neoliberal era in The End of History, Benjamin writes that society must struggle towards “the messianic zero-hour of events, or put differently, a revolutionary chance in the struggle for a suppressed past.”

That is to say, only by looking backwards in time can we assess the damages of the present age, even as the storm of progress pushes us further away from mending the wreckage, as Benjamin explains Klee’s Angelus Novus. Only in the zero-hour, the ever-present moment, can we blast open a historic event. This explains Benjamin’s concept of the monad, a “constellation overflowing with tensions.”

On the Horizon

Does any modern science conform to these ideas of reality as a constellation of energy and matter, something like Benjamin’s monad, influenced by Leibniz, overflowing with possibilities, tensions, and constant flux? Put another way, are there are empirical/scientific fields which show a healthy stance or posture of wisdom?

Here we turn to some of the modern science that corroborates what people like Benjamin, the German Idealists, process philosophy, Leibniz, and before him, Spinoza, Heraclitus, Lao Tzu, and various Eastern traditions have contributed to: a systems view of life and the universe that explains phenomena holistically. In a nurturing system such as this, cross-discipline studies would expand, converge, and enrich social life and ecosystem health.

In many ways, modern science shows a return to the old ways of knowing: concepts in relativity and quantum mechanics were foreseen millennia ago, such as in Buddhism’s principle of dependent co-arising, for example.

Chaos Theory

Some of the greatest 20th century scientists were: Einstein, Watson and Crick, Margulis and Lovelock. Yet the most influential of all may turn out to be the little known meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, pioneer of chaos theory, the butterfly effect, and the strange attractor.

For a thorough introduction, James Gleick’s Chaos is a great start. For those mathematically inclined, I recommend Manfred Schroeder’s Fractals, Chaos, Power Laws.

It is this system-view approach that can explain, even, the formation of life on this planet: self-organizing proto-nucleotides and amino acids along with fatty membranes and mitochondria/chloroplasts which gave rise to the first unicellular organisms. It is these non-linear dynamics which do, in fact, create higher harmonies- Poincare’s three body problem being the first modern example.

In non-linear systems based on power laws, when the variable in the function passes a certain limit (dependent upon the initial conditions), the function starts to behave chaotically. The next figure cannot be predicted from previous answers. Eventually, a bifurcation will occur: this simply means that further on in the progression, the function bounces back between two figures, back and forth. If the parameter is pushed higher, period-doubling occurs: this simply means that instead of bouncing between two numbers, the function doubles to bounce between four, then eight, 16, etc. This applies to many dynamic systems and can start with any integer, so depending upon the function, you could have period doubling of 3, 6, twelve; four, eight, 16, etc. Period halving is possible, too.

The scientist Robert May was the first to prove this in population biology, and many fields have found it a useful tool for studying dynamic systems since. The point I want to make clear is in regard to climate and weather: all climate scientists and meteorologists accept weather cannot be predicted after 3 weeks, weather is inherently chaotic, yet climate, for now, is stable.

Without significant changes, the positive feedback loops currently warming the planet will eventually push the relatively stable, homeostatic climate model into the “Hot house Earth” model. Wild changes in weather are more likely to occur. Not only that, but much higher-level droughts and flooding will occur more frequently; i.e., climatic normality may switch into an non-linear, chaotic state.

In the US, the Southwest in particular will be hit hard. Consider central Arizona, where the ancient Hokoham population could have reached 80,000 around 1300 CE. The area around Phoenix could have provided for 10,000 people. You make think, well, that was before modern irrigation and food transportation. You would be wrong. The Hokoham were masterful farmers with over 500 miles of canals and estimates of over 100,000 acres of cultivated, irrigated land. Today, metro Phoenix has approximately 4.7 million people. This won’t end well. By 2050, much of Arizona and the wider region could be ghost towns.

The second point: self-similarity is inherent in nature at many scales, as observed in fractals. How does this apply to culture? Direct democracy can be implemented at all scales (local, from worker councils to communal town meetings; to international, with a trans-national body such as a re-imagined UN.)

Chaos theory applies to the brain as well: there is evidence that psychedelics reform and rearrange new connections of neurons, changing the “criticality” of its structural firings. This is what is able to cure patients of depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc., by changing the flow of thoughts and giving a wider expression, to get your mind out of a rut or a bad habit of harmful/fearful thinking.

There is plenty of sociological and anthropological evidence that mimetic theory (pioneered by Rene Girard) has some merit. Mostly, this is studied cross-culturally (horizontally), but we should consider the vertical dimension of hierarchies: at levels of coercion and exploitation are imitated at all scales of the socio-economic pyramid. The ruthless hierarchy was not that different between the mind-numbing conformity and bureaucratic chicanery of state-capitalist countries, contrasted with the crushing alienation and faux-competitive crony capitalism of neoliberal nations. If the structure is rotten at the top, most state and local governments mimic and take their cue from the power relations above them.

This played out very clearly on the international level after 9/11 and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Once the Patriot Act, NDAA, and AUMF were passed, once NATO and ISAF forces invaded Afghanistan, with troops and spooks using “rendition”, “enhanced interrogation techniques”, with nighttime raids on civilians, and outright drone murder was rolled out by the US, other nations followed suit, with a rash of authoritarian copycat legislation, as well as police and military brutality playing out around the globe. For instance, the uptick in violence by Israel in 2002-2003 during the second Intifada is telling. Without the September 11 attacks and the relentless anti-Muslim propaganda coming from the US, there is little doubt that the IDF would have been so emboldened.

On a positive note, it’s quite telling, and appropriate, that the self-similar snail shell (caracol) became the emblem of the Zapatistas, and the model for their communities. Rebecca Solnit explains this well, and quotes a wonderful passage from Marcos, who draws from his folk hero, “Old Antonio”:

The wise ones of olden times say that the hearts of men and women are in the shape of a caracol, and that those who have good in their hearts and thoughts walk from one place to the other, awakening gods and men for them to check that the world remains right. They say that they say that they said that the caracol represents entering into the heart, that this is what the very first ones called knowledge. They say that they say that they said that the caracol also represents exiting from the heart to walk the world…. The caracoles will be like doors to enter into the communities and for the communities to come out; like windows to see us inside and also for us to see outside; like loudspeakers in order to send far and wide our word and also to hear the words from the one who is far away.

Contradiction, Paradox, Nuance

There is a great passage in an old Marcos communiqué, “The retreat is making us almost scratch at the sky.” As the echo chambers, petty infighting, and silos build up on the Left, I thought it’d be appropriate to share his thoughts on how to respond to those fearful of heterodox-postmodern-non-ideological-anarchic stances:

After these confessions, he of the voice was exhorted to spontaneously declare himself innocent or guilty of the following series of accusations. To each accusation, he of the voice responded:

The whites accuse him of being dark. Guilty

The dark ones accuse him of being white. Guilty

The authentics accuse him of being indigenous. Guilty

The treasonous indigenous accuse him of being mestizo. Guilty

The machos accuse him of being feminine. Guilty

The feminists accuse him of being macho. Guilty

The communists accuse him of being anarchist. Guilty

The anarchists accuse him of being orthodox. Guilty

The Anglos accuse him of being Chicano. Guilty

The antisemitics accuse him of being in favor of the Jews. Guilty

The Jews accuse him of being pro-Arab. Guilty

The Europeans accuse him of being Asiatic. Guilty

The government officials accuse him of being oppositionist. Guilty

The reformists accuse him of being ultra. Guilty

The ultras accuse him of being reformist. Guilty

The “historical vanguard” accuses him of calling to the civic society and not to the proletariat. Guilty

The civic society accuses him of disturbing their tranquility. Guilty

The Stock Exchange accuses him of ruining their breakfast. Guilty

The government accuses him of increasing the consumption of antiacids in the government’s Departments. Guilty

The serious ones accuse of being a jokester. Guilty

The adults accuse him of being a child. Guilty

The children accuse him of being an adult. Guilty

The orthodox leftists accuse him of not condemning the homosexuals and lesbians. Guilty

The theoreticians accuse of being a practitioner. Guilty

The practicioners accuse of being a theorist. Guilty

Everyone accuses him of everything bad that has happened. Guilty”

I take inspiration from this; I see a sort of playfulness, a glimpse of his “inner child”. Today, we could also say: to those who, without nuance, accuse others of being heretics or dogmatic; to those who would accuse us of rather having a messy, non-violent, and imperfect revolution on the streets rather than continue to perpetuate a self-congratulatory, alienating, bloviating, insular, suffocating, and self-defeating movement in substance and style, we must reply: we are Guilty.

Quantum Theory

Our understanding of reality and consciousness has grown by leaps and bounds with advances in quantum physics. The parallels between Eastern thought and quantum mechanics are uncanny, and no one has explained this better than Fritjof Capra in his bestseller The Tao of Physics. Exploring connections between the sub-atomic world and Hindu, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophy, Capra takes the reader on a tour-de-force. Of course, it was the early physicists who worked on the uncertainty principle, double-slit experiment (wave-particle duality), complementarity, and quantum superpositioning who originally noted the connections between Eastern philosophies. Thus, consciousness and the observer effect somehow influences these experimental designs in ways science currently has no answer for.

Capra synthesizes this and builds upon these models: he insists on the interrelationship operating at certain scales of reality, and calls it a holistic/ecological worldview in his afterword to the 3rd edition.

There has been lots of push-back from other physicists since 1975 when the first edition appeared. The science is not in debate at the sub-atomic scale, rather, how it applies to the macroscopic world is what is at stake. There are plenty of scientists that dismiss Capra completely without acknowledging the very qualified, modest theory he put forward.

The new revelations about quantum entanglement push this line of thought further. The basic idea is: two electrons become “entangled” where the spin of one is connected with the other regardless of distance. When one electron’s spin is measured, the second spin correlates instantaneously, faster than the speed of light. This is what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Non-locality is another name. This flies in the face of the fundamentals laws of physics.

So what does this mean? The best analogy I can come up with (paraphrasing from someone, somewhere) is that when measuring (observing) the first particle, you are pushing through the fabric of space-time with your finger to “touch” the second particle at the same time, bypassing the physical distance between the two.

What are the implications here? Physicists insist this phenomenon doesn’t “scale up” to the macroscopic level. If we look at today’s level of scientific knowledge in physics, they’re right. There is little evidence to suggest this.

Yet, the simple fact that this can occur on sub-atomic levels is staggering. No one knows where these new teachings will take us.  Certainly, though, there are parallels with shamanic/animistic ways of thinking, or, to put it in the words of Stephen Hawking: “every particle and every force in the universe contains information, an implicit answer to a yes-no question.”

However, this interpenetration of levels/worlds in the social and mental realms, is quite pronounced, say, in medical facts. The higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, in poor and working class communities as well as for minorities is tied to the mental strain and stress of living in substandard housing without proper nutrition, lack of access to education, etc. African American women are 3-4 times more likely to lose children in childbirth compared to white women, due to lack of pre-natal care, and sometimes because their doctors won’t listen to them. Women who’ve suffered a heart attack are more likely to survive if their doctor is a woman, rather than a man. Again, because women doctors are generally: more competent, listen to patients’ symptoms better, and show higher emotional intelligence and compassion.

Gaia Theory

Turning to Earth systems, it was the pioneering work of Lynn Margulis and James Lovelock who together formulated Gaia theory. Thinking of the Earth as a self-regulating super-organism is helpful in many fields, from geology to climate science to evolutionary biology. From the simple-programming of Lovelock’s Daisyworld, today we can model ecosystem resiliency, albedo effects in the Arctic Sea, and deforestation in tropical rain forests, the lungs of the Earth, all in terms of feedback loops which can tie into trends such as global warming, species extinction, desertification, and declining biodiversity.

Scientists are now willing to combine the shocking implications of chaos theory within Gaia: in the journal Nature Barnosky et al. write of “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere.” The authors write that “the plausibility of a future planetary state shift seems high” and they acknowledge the uncertainty about when it may happen. They also point out: “it is extremely unlikely or impossible for the system to return to its previous state.” Thus, if a hothouse Earth scenario becomes a reality, there will be no going back. Real estate speculation on Antarctica could be a thing in 100 years.

There are reasons to be hopeful. One line of thought was taken up recently by Bruno Latour, who along with a co-author, postulate what they call Gaia 2.0. Simply put, they are referring to a global system where:

…deliberate self-regulation—from personal action to global geoengineering schemes—is either happening or imminently possible. Making such conscious choices to operate within Gaia constitutes a fundamental new state of Gaia, which we call Gaia 2.0. By emphasizing the agency of life-forms and their ability to set goals, Gaia 2.0 may be an effective framework for fostering global sustainability.

While they posit this self-conscious biomimetic planning of bioregions as new, because they see it as the first chance to endeavor to perform this on a global scale, the novelty only really applies to a certain brand of Eurocentric/anthropocentric materialists, anti-intellectual monotheists, and other deniers of common sense and basic ecology. Indigenous groups have used bioregional eco-friendly practices for millennia, with First Nations sustainably caretaking land from Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic Circle.

Consider terra preta in Amazonia, the miraculous change from teosinte to maize which many estimate domestication circa 9000 years ago, mountain terracing in the Andes, super-high productivity with Central American milpas, multiyear field rotation for fallow lands to rejuvenate nutrients, seasonal burns throughout North America which increased deer and upland game bird populations, with agroforestry “forest farming” of chestnut (Chestnut Trees could produce over a ton per acre in vast portions of America before the die-off occurred), hickory, butternut, oak (acorns are used as a food source removing tannins with water) and more. Not to mention the thousands of uses of native plants and fungi for herbal/traditional medicine, preventive/holistic care, and shamanic/spiritual uses.

I would say one of the most interesting debates about what Gaia 2.0 could look like is mostly ignored, because it is occurring on the far side of the globe: Aotearoa, aka New Zealand. Their government has already launched a “Predator Free” program for 2050, where all mammalian predators are hoping to be eliminated with a variety of programs forming in the near future. Intense debate surrounds the gene drive approach, some techniques using CRISPR and some using other gene editing technology, to in effect, using genetic manipulation, create all male future generations of predators and thus, lead to localized extinction of these mammals in Aotearoa and its small outlying islands.

The bioethics are being debated by UN and national groups and many conservation groups are totally against the idea. Some Maori are open to the possibilities of gene-drive technology, yet they understandably critique the bad faith of the scientists involved, citing:

[An] increasing lack of cultural accountability in academic journals who seem happy to publish anything without thought, consideration, or commentary from the communities those papers have extracted from, taken swipe at, or made promises to… The second issue is what I deem bad research-dating behaviour, or rather how to build respectful relationships with indigenous peoples/communities… Relatively few, however, are actually committed to investing their time into building long-term relationships, despite being continually told that that is what is required… However, some researchers by-and-large continue to push an extractive model whereby they attempt to take intellectual property from communities in return for ‘the greater research good’. This model is naïve to the political situations that indigenous communities are operating in, and often places those communities in culturally unsafe positions.

Fritjof Capra notably calls the first step in transitioning to such a state of ecological awareness and cultural sensitivity “eco-literacy” and the next step eco-design. He’s on point. The funny, sad, and tragic thing (to me at least) is that exposes the orthodox technophile Western Left (seemingly the majority) as supporters of what many like to call Industrialism, the over-arching system, including capitalism and state socialism, of fossil fuel exploitation which is killing the planet.

According to the technophile proponents of unrestrained instrumental reason, many of us, well, sane and sensible people, who, in advocating for appropriate-scale technology, have the basic common sense to understand that Small is Beautiful, are a bunch of Luddites, crazy hippies, anti-civ, lifestylists, primitivists, nihilists, and/or misanthropes.

This type of thinking exposes the narrowness and superficiality of many “Leftists” who espouse all the right mantras, yet never bothered to take Marx’s example and actually study and stay abreast with key scientific and ecological advances.

I try my best to remain calm, patient, and equanimous, yet it is difficult with unabashed technophiles- again, possibly the majority of what qualifies as what’s left of the Left. There is a discomfort from listening to the droning on of progressives, and also many banal Leftist economists and historians who pay lip service to sustainability, while not even giving token acknowledgment of the nature of spiritual transformation required.

Many of these people, even on “progressive” alternative media, are unaware of their own immiseration via lack of engagement with the natural world, which I take no pleasure in pointing out, so my queasiness doesn’t qualify as schadenfraude, but apparently, there is another German word for what I’ve been feeling: Fremdschämen: “‘exterior shame’, for those of you who cringe in phantom pain when others make a fool of themselves, this is your word. It describes the feeling of shame when seeing someone else in an uncomfortable or embarrassing situation.” Perhaps Mr. Keuner was feeling this, as well.

Planting Seeds

Well, there is no high note to end this on. Most of activism goes towards wasting time attempting to change the minds of adults whose conditioning and social infantilization have already reached epic proportions. There is no systemic, global plan for engaging the youth in ecological-cultural restorative practices. This is absolutely ridiculous and a severe oversight of academia, including lackadaisical teachers and administrators, as well as conservatives and liberal-progressives who insist on vote-campaigns and the wonders of traditional higher education which indoctrinates and obfuscates class issues: yet the idea of revolutionizing public education never crosses their minds.

Revolutionary artists have always understood this, as well as indigenous tribal societies and many poor and working class communities. Yet today, the hungry ghosts of global capitalism are here to consume the sustenance and life force of future generations in an era where information is at our fingertips as never before.

The current education model effectively imprisons children in unsafe and unhealthy schools, with psychotropic drugs, authoritarian teachers, mind-numbing boredom and ennui functioning as social conditioning for a future hellscape with billions in poverty worldwide, no decent jobs, benefits, or forms of belonging; alongside a crushing tyranny of corporate rule, oligarchy, global war, climate chaos, and a culture ruled by a principle of “repressive tolerance.”

Thus, it is inevitable that the most important thing to do is raise our children in a healthy way. This will require social engagement on a spiritual, intellectual, communal, emotional and material basis (i.e., sharing extra housing for homeless and low-income families, paying child-rearing adults a living wage for their time and labor, equal pay for women, ending oppression against the LGBTQ community, serious environmental education, etc.). Patriarchy and racism will not be solved, until youth are gifted the freedom and opportunity to pursue their passions unencumbered by structurally racist and sexist policies which enforce hierarchy, capitalism, and war, until pathetic guidelines advocating rote memorization in school are abandoned, and crippling conformity fueled by vapid pop culture and the psychically numbing effect of social media is no longer glorified. Poverty, war, and disease cannot be significantly lowered or eliminated without a fundamentally redistributive model.

Furthermore, some sort of restorative healing measures, including some sort of reparations for minorities, including but not limited to redistributing money, property, land, and the means of production, via a process truth and reconciliation in the public sphere, is absolutely crucial. This would necessarily coincide with the dissolving of corporate and state power.

Public and private land must be given back to citizens: we are only free when given the ability to use the means of production to transform corporate agriculture into communal, appropriately-scaled endeavors where communities can directly and deliberatively interact, and transform as need be, to the world-historical changes (climatically, ecologically, and socially) on the immediate horizon.

This would seem to entail relaxing the grip of the Apollonian style of “emotionless” pure logic (techne/episteme), and instrumental reason; and coming to terms with the obverse: the Dionysian, where the shamanic/animistic, nomadic, and anarchic ways of being are accepted. This shift, with the science to back it up, is seen in a many counter-culture belief systems: the push for radical intersubjectivity, expanding studies of the realms of consciousness, a hylozoic belief system, and formulating a new model of recognition (see Taylor, Fraser, Honneth, Butler, among others) which does not re-invigorate the power of capital.

There is no hope of this happening in today’s 24/7 mainstream media, driven by fear and sensationalism. Only a world-historical process, a paradigm shift, can overturn this momentum, which would require inner work to be done on a mass scale in the Western world alongside collective general strikes, debt jubilees, a bit of carnivalesque (Bakhtin)/festival/regional cultural appreciation/in the spirit of a Communitas, and a counter-cultural force which does not overly privilege the economic at the expense of other social struggles.

This critical way of teaching is a sort of “stance”: a tendency towards what Aristotle called eudaimonia, “the good life,” informed by virtue, areté. Another way of phrasing it would be “human flourishing,” and here this referred to a moral sensibility, but also an aesthetic, a form of posture or “stance” if you will, an art of living, a way of (Hölderlin-esque) dwelling poetically upon the Earth.

From another angle, we could consider this a search for The Ethics of Authenticity. As Charles Taylor describes, what is structurally called for is:

…a many leveled struggle, intellectual, spiritual, and political, in which the debates in the public arena interlink with those in a host of institutional settings, like hospitals and schools, where the issues of enframing technology are being lived through in concrete form; and where these disputes in turn both feed and are fed by the various attempts to define in theoretical terms the place of technology and the demands of authenticity, and beyond that, the shape of human life and its relation to the cosmos.

Yet, again, this type of work should get started by educating children, because under the current conditions of liberal democracy, there is no acknowledgment of “interlinking”. There is only the autonomous individual: at least understood by most adults, whose notion of civic duty is voting, or volunteer work, or donating to charity. Rather, youth could be asked to inquire, as Rudy Rucker wondered:

One might also ask whether a person is best thought of as a distinct individual or as a nexus in the web of social interaction. No person exists wholly distinct from human society, so it might seem best to say that the space of society is fundamental. On the other hand, each person can feel like an isolated individual, so maybe the number-like individuals are fundamental. Complementarity says that a person is both individual and social component, and that there is no need to try to separate the two. Reality is one, and language introduces impossible distinctions that need not be made.

We can imagine a single cell in our body asking itself the same question: am I an individual or just part of a wider integrated whole? We can shift the scale but the self-similarity always follows: it’s turtles all the way down. This famous saying, of course, echoes what we know about fractals, and the possibility that we’re in a multiverse. There are also the First Nation stories about Spider Woman, or Grandmother Spider, who created the world. Again, we find the notion of the web- the basis of our bio/psycho/social being, and also a connection to string theory: spider-woman’s creation song; i.e. vibrations held by interconnected threads.

My preferred analogy to the individual/social false binary is mycological (or rhizomatic, though I’ll save D+G for another day): our conception of ourselves (ego) is the mushroom, the fruiting body which rises above the soil, while the unconscious mycelium sustains us below the surface. Although we stand above the detritus (wreckage, as Benjamin says) we are deeply enmeshed in it, history “is not even past” and it feeds, and thus can warp, our consciousness and sensibilities.

Thus we must tend to the soil, nurture the sprouts and green shoots of this new culture. The meager results of our efforts can be depressing (April really can be the cruelest month) yet we must move on, without clinging to hope.

As for the problem of language which Rucker mentioned, it’s worth reminding our sisters and brothers that propaganda is all around us today. As Malcolm X said: “If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.” Now is the time for the “revaluation of all values.” The struggle continues.