Review of ‘Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi’ by Mark Boyle – part 2: the role of violence
This is the second article generated from Mark Boyle’s book Drinking Molotov Cocktails with Gandhi. The first was about the ineffectiveness of reformism when faced with corporate capitalism – ‘The Machine’ as he calls it. The kinds of lifestyle changes that Lowimpact.org promote are also part of the reformist package, so I can hardly dismiss reformism wholesale. I think it has a role in bringing about change, but it’s not enough, in that it doesn’t threaten the corporate system.
Mark summarises his position in in the latest edition of New Internationalist magazine: ‘The Machine, owned and run by the Establishment for its own ends, must be resisted and revolted against, before it kills us all.’ Stirring stuff, and I think he’s absolutely right. Mark sees the Machine’s relationship to the earth’s biosphere as that of a parasite, virus or disease organism. Every time you pay money into a corporate bank, or buy corporate goods with a corporate credit card, read the corporate press, drink corporate coffee or shop in a corporate supermarket, you are supporting the Machine – you are helping the parasite, virus, disease to damage your ecosystem.
Some people do everything they can to avoid helping the Machine. It’s very difficult in the 21st century, when the Machine dominates our food supply, energy supply, housing, employment, banking, media, IT – everything. But you can do it if you’re determined to. He sees this approach as analogous to healthy bacteria in the guts of large organisms that do useful things and keep them healthy.
However, he prefers to do the work of an ‘antibody’ rather than a healthy bacteria. Antibodies attack anything that is damaging the whole, and it’s pretty obvious that the Machine’s mines, cement and plastic factories, palm oil plantations, factory farms, pesticides, distribution networks and banks are damaging the biosphere, as well as damaging the lives of the humans who live in it. He encourages his readers to be antibodies. He argues that if antibodies suddenly became pacifist or ‘non-violent’ the body would die – which is precisely what is happening to the biosphere. It’s a powerful analogy.
I’d suggest a similar analogy. The corporate sector can be seen as a cancerous growth within the biosphere. Cancer will need surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy to remove it, and these treatments can certainly be seen as ‘violent’. If we don’t deal with cancer in a robust way, it will just grow again. And there can’t be a role for the corporate sector in any future sustainable and democratic system (imho), because of its cancerous nature. It can’t be contained, it can’t inhabit ‘part’ of the economy – it’s nature is to grow relentlessly until it dominates again, and, like a cancer, it will eventually kill its host unless we replace it.
He goes on to say that there are many ways to stand up to corporate power, from damaging their property to growing your own veg. You have to play to your strengths and there are many different types of antibody to deal with various kinds of antigen. But ultimately, you have to ask yourself, do you want to help the Machine or oppose it? Are more people coming over to the opposition? I’d like to think so, but I’m not sure. We may have to rely on a tiny minority to ferment and foment revolutionary opposition.
What is violence?
Mark argues that the way most of us in the West live our lives is violent. We buy goods made in sweatshops, a modern form of slavery; we fly and we overconsume, which contributes to violence against ecology – our life-support system. We know it does, but we put our fingers in our ears because we like flying and overconsuming. Many of us eat meat from factory farms that are extremely violent to defenceless animals. To renounce violence when our lives are already violent is hypocritical. We live in a world where setting fire to a bulldozer that’s going to be used to destroy ancient woodland is seen as violent, and flying to India for a meditation retreat is seen as non-violent, when from the perspective of nature, the opposite is true.
The Machine is extremely violent – and yet we are told that we should not be violent in response to it. Mark stayed at my house a few months ago, and he put it this way: imagine you were walking through a park late at night, and you saw a woman being raped. Maybe you’d been to cricket or baseball practice, and you just happened to be carrying a bat. What would you do? He asked me which would be the more violent thing to do – to walk on, or to attack the rapist.
However, there is nothing in the book that advocates violence to people, except in self-defence. Corporate property on the other hand, is seen as fair game.
Why non-violent protest is pointless
Before discussing violence vs. non-violence, let me say that I agree with Mark that non-violent protest is virtually pointless. He’s right that all our activism since the sixties has got us to a point where the corporate sector is stronger than ever, and nature is being destroyed faster than ever. We’re losing heavily. Let’s move the focus away from demonstrating and petitioning. But in moving away from non-violent protest, I’m not suggesting that we move towards violent protest, I’m just pointing out the impotence of demonstrating against and petitioning an empire. They may throw us the occasional titbit, but their destructive march goes on unaffected. Those millions who went on the anti-Iraq war march would have been much more effective I think, if they’d spent the afternoon getting their money out of their bank and putting it in their local credit union, or learning how to use open source software.
Problems with violence
Going back to the rape analogy above – if I attacked the rapist, I’d be inflicting physical harm on another human being. In that situation, I’d be comfortable with that, because of what I would have prevented. I think that in taking the decision to inflict rape on someone, at that moment, we have to renounce our right to not have violence inflicted upon us. But it’s not a perfect analogy. With rape, the rapist and the rapee know full well what’s happening, and the rapee will understand the need for violence, and have nothing but thanks for violent intervention. But in the case of the Machine, most people don’t know what’s happening, and that has big implications for any strategy that involves violence.
I see some problems with the violent approach that have nothing to do with justice and everything to do with strategy. If people damage corporate property without hurting anyone, it’s not something that I would lose sleep over. But I think that violence may be a bad idea, strategically, for the following main reasons:
- Precedence: Marx won the battle of ideas in the Internationals of the late 19th century, and his idea included taking power using violence. That requires violent people, and after violent people take power, they never give it up. This fact alone means that we lost a century in the search for a way to replace corporate power.
- Support: it would be easier for the corporate media to paint us as dangerous and irrational. There’s not enough support for any kind of violence, especially as most people don’t even understand the problems that the corporate Machine is causing, and many don’t even understand that it exists. Many see Ronald McDonald as a benevolent character. It could damage our cause, and make revolution less likely, not more likely.
- Safety: we can’t guarantee that no-one will get hurt. If someone was firing bullets at me, then I could fire back. But could I fire on defenceless, innocent people? No, and in that case I couldn’t support a plan that may involve innocent people being killed.
- Impotence: corporate property will be insured – insurance money will be claimed, premiums will go up for the rest of us, and the government might even use taxpayers’ money to help rebuild infrastructure. I can’t see the corporate sector losing out. The Machine is too strong.
- Personal: I don’t want to go to jail, and actually I don’t want any other anti-corporate rebels, resisters, antibodies to go to jail, or even to waste our time fighting court cases instead of fighting the Machine.
- Timing: if we use violence, we’re forcing people to do something they don’t want to do. If we burn down a Tesco store, say, we’re forcing the people who work there to find another job, or face hardships. If we first start to build an alternative to the corporate economy, they will have somewhere else to go. And if we build a successful alternative, Tesco may well have to close down rather than be burnt down.
Mark mentions Buckminster ‘Bucky’ Fuller in the book, and his famous quote:
You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
This certainly resonates with me, but not with Mark – maybe because of Fuller’s technological utopian vision. But if we want to continue to evolve, rather than become extinct (which ultimately, are the only two options), then we have to build something better. This system stinks to high heaven, and there is a large enough minority who see that now, I think, to build something better.
I think that building and promoting alternatives to Barclays for example – credit unions, cryptocurrencies, mutual societies, downshifting or (as Mark envisages in his book the Moneyless Manifesto) living without money – will hit them harder than any form of violence on their property.
If we focus on destroying before we’ve built alternatives, what’s going to happen to all the shelf-stackers, loggers of ancient woodlands, telesales and PR workers, over-fishers, stockbrokers, advertising executives, soldiers, corporate lawyers and everyone else whose work is either pointless or damaging? They have to have somewhere to go. I don’t have a problem with destroying the Machine, just the chronology – there needs to be something to absorb the people who will be made redundant by destroying the Machine.
What can we do?
Since Lowimpact.org was founded in 2001, we’ve been promoting the ways that individuals can change their lives to help create a more sustainable and democratic system. This approach is essential, I think – but there is a fatal flaw. Not enough people will do it. If I had a pound for the number of times people have said, using various channels, that ‘we need to do this or that’, I’d be a millionaire. It’s all good stuff, but I can’t say this enough times – not enough people will do it.
‘Raising consciousness’ is another approach – and a very good one. But I’d argue that there are already enough of us with consciousnesses sufficiently raised to challenge the corporate Machine. Let’s carry on doing it, yes, but let’s recognise that it’s action that we now need.
But what kind of action? Apart from individual actions and continued consciousness-raising, I suggest that a successful challenge will require two kinds of action:
- support for people who are building an alternative – the exceptionally clever people who are working on community energy schemes, housing co-ops, worker co-ops, open source, credit unions, community-supported agriculture, land co-ops, cryptocurrencies, mutual societies etc. We don’t have to re-invent the wheel – let’s just rally behind these people. We’re working on a project provisionally called ‘community-supported everything’ that will co-ordinate the efforts of these groups.
- choosing better decision-makers. Note that I’m not promoting an idea for how society should be – a blueprint – I’d just like to discuss a way to put better people into decision-making positions, based on intelligence, compassion and integrity, rather than ability to make money. The following of a blueprint tends to generate fervour, and that often means that a lot of people end up dead. Who knows what a better society might look like – but at least we can start to talk about it. A precursor to anything like a new society might be better decision-makers, which would mean a system of choosing them that doesn’t allow any access – at all – to any corporate money, jobs, lobbying or influence of any kind. That, as a starting point, may not be beyond us if we put our minds to it. I’m not saying that Mark is wrong about de-industrialising or getting rid of money, just that I wouldn’t like to be in that decision-making position, because I don’t know enough. I’d just like to know that those conversations were happening and those decisions were being made impartially and with intelligence, compassion and integrity. I don’t think that’s happening now.
For these kinds of things to happen, we need to organise. We could have this discussion online, but I know you prefer face-to-face contact – and I think I agree with you. Roger Hallam has organised an event in London – see here. Dave King of Luddites200 organised ‘Breaking the Frame‘ near Sheffield last year – it was a great event with great people, but light on solutions. That’s usually the main problem isn’t it? But this is the sort of thing we need.
If you can’t make Roger’s event – then let’s organise other face-to-face events. There’s no implementable revolutionary programme that we can get behind (that I know of), and we both agree that reformism isn’t enough, and in some cases may be counterproductive. Let’s organise ‘Internationals’ for the 21st century.
The views expressed in our blog are those of the author and not necessarily lowimpact.org's
1Paul Jennings January 25th, 2016
There’s not a chance that capitalism will be destroyed or a free society created anywhere without violence. Violence is incumbent on the system, central to its survival, so you can adopt all kinds of non-violent strategies, but in the end you will be forced to choose between raising your hand in defence of what you have or utter defeat. Violence is by no means a sufficient strategy, not least because the might of the state makes its violent overthrow virtually impossible. Eventually only hollowing out loyalty to the state to such an extent that its violence is ineffective might win the day, but as everyone should learn from the cases of so-called failed states, when everything else is gone, the state retains always its ability to wage war to the point of its very destruction.
The last employee of the state is not a bureaucrat, it’s a soldier.
This brings me to my main point, which is that we may resist in a variety of ways, violent and non-violent (although note that gradually the latter category is defined out of existence by the state and its servants), but what is crucial in this process is what is created as we endeavour to bring down “the machine”.
It’s quite a common discussion this, on the left or the post-left or the radical fringe, fluffy or spiky they used to say? But that’s beside the point. I’ve no moral problem with breaking stuff, I can even see the strength of the argument that rioting can be liberating, but when people go home, what have they made other than a mess?
Corporate capitalism and the modern nation state that serves it, came into being through a process of destruction, the destruction of all communities which ever resisted the process. The most recent of these of course were those working class communities which characterised Twentieth Century industrial society, but before those were the villages where the working classes originated. Communities of resistance were neighbourhoods, factory floors, village communities, unions, guilds; all the strands which made up pre-capitalist society had either to be co-opted or destroyed until nothing was left but individuals – consumers and voters.
And so, naturally enough, the process of replacing or superseding capitalism must be the process of building new communities of resistance. There’s so many self-righteous people out there proclaiming their pacifism – much to the satisfaction of their masters no doubt – and quite a lot of others saying that we’ve got to be prepared to break stuff, and people, when the time comes, but in many ways this discussion is a red herring; it’s only when we figure a way to rebuild the shattered Ming Vase of society in a post-capitalist form that anything we do will genuinely challenge the World Order as it now exists.
You’ll know a community of resistance when you see one because the state will turn all of its power towards the destruction of that community, and when the obvious, most militant communities are gone, the state rolls on to the quieter lumps and bumps in the social fabric, the places where a little bit of different thinking survives, or some measure of autonomy. Hierarchical society is above all homogenising and atomising, it’s an ongoing process of social desertification until we all stand naked before the Great Till clutching only our debit cards in our hands. Our task isn’t to decide whether we should fight or not, if we ever come close to building the foundations of the New Society we’ll all be forced to make hard decisions, our task is to work out how we begin to build.
2Paul Jennings January 25th, 2016
I hope it goes without saying that I’m not at all interested in groups that have such a weak analysis of the way the world is that they think “we’re all in this together” so let’s talk to business and the state. At some stage people interested in bringing an end to the death and destruction have got to grow the f*ck up.
3Dave Darby January 25th, 2016
Yes, it’s a familiar conversation. There’s a lot to do, and a lot of people up for doing it, but….
‘Eventually only hollowing out loyalty to the state to such an extent that its violence is ineffective might win the day’.
I guess ultimately, it will come down to that, yes. My optimism, such that it is, is based on the fact that soldiers are people too.
‘You’ll know a community of resistance when you see one because the state will turn all of its power towards the destruction of that community’
Absolutely. We’re a long way from persuading the majority, but a minority can do a lot of good – and we’ll know how good by the corporate/state reaction to it. Fancy Roger’s event? You can stay at mine.
4Paul Jennings January 25th, 2016
Yes, very much. The way things have been recently, April seems like a long way away, but I’d like to come very much.
5ImagicI January 25th, 2016
Imo ‘How do We do it’ is a very good starting point for a conversation/circle that could be run at Roger’s event. I suggested this to him.
I think all the different perspectives shared so far are relevant and different perspectives ranging from the violent to the non-violent I would hope will be represented by network build-ups.
Similarly I imagine that we would have to build up networks of mutual support/sufficiency as the basis of our new society. Ive tried instigating this with the low impact living network – the Midlands. It is helping to consolidate the different networks to some degree but the usual of not enough people/will is making it an extremely slow process.
The problem as I see it is that the movement is too diverse and atomized and in a way a balance between unity and diversity is yet to be found.
Ive lost count of the amount of times a group has been set up under the New Society, not necessarily using that title, and I wonder why. Why hasnt everyone fallen behind a single or just a few groups. There is so much duplication. Are we just expressing internalised hierarchical competition between and amongst ourselves without actually entering into conflict with one another. If so what is content of these hierachical ways of thinking. How do yhey range on various continuums whether
reformism – revolution
violent – non-violent
vertical – horizontal
alternative – status quo
I presume we are dealing with an infinite range of variables and thats not even including how the state/establishment/corporate machine are using laws to make alternatives increasingly difficult.
Lots of questions and no ready made solutions so would be great to have this conversation at ‘How do we do it’.
6Michelle Wheatman January 25th, 2016
I have to admit, when I had first finished reading the book, I was stirred up and ready to go out and break tractors – so I gave myself a quick whack on the head and instead got to thinking hard about it all, not just reacting.
I’ve come to wonder if perhaps the book is a reflection of the feeling of impotence we all feel when trying to get a handle on the behemoth that is the chaotic world today. Each new report of another species vanishing, another part of the earth being mashed into oblivion to provide more crap for us to buy and throw away, another proxy war being waged to gain power over some small nation’s assets, a government being voted in on the basis of the consumerist majority ensuring the destruction will continue, another ‘celebrity’ encouraging everyone to be as vacuous as they are – horror piled upon horror as it is, it’s no wonder that the only answer seems to be fight fire with fire. Now before you think I’m a raging pacifist if such a think exists, I guess I would endorse the violent approach if I thought it was the answer. As Dave points out above, the machine has its defences against any amount of actual violence against it, and certainly in the UK, the government is rapidly changing the laws to ensure that anyone who steps out of line can be put away. When you really think about it, they have nukes if push comes to shove for crying out loud, and they’re not above using them if it would suit their agenda.
So when we come to reforming the system/starting afresh, is a violent strategy one that would be effective? There are two reasons why it may not be as useful as you’d think, the first being the economic reason. This whole system thrives on violence of every sort, with its wars, ecocide, genocide, even its entertainment is largely based on violence (all the heroes are gangsters or murderers), violence is its raison d’etre. Well nearly, the other raison is money. Once you understand how the banking system works, one true way to kick this system in the proverbials is to deprive it of its lifeblood. The more people can be persuaded to use actual cash (not electronic money) and to transfer what cash they do have either into real things such as land and housing, or credit unions that aren’t part of the corporate banking obscenity, the less there is for them to grow richer on our stupidity. The banks are currently trying to get us all to stop using actual cash, as once it’s out of existence, they can literally make it up as they go along, all restraints will be removed. Not to mention, they will be able to control anybody who relies on them for their livelihood/cash.
The other reason to be doubtful of the long term benefits of a violent approach, is when you consider that that is exactly how every ruler of the world so far has gotten their dubious power. If you achieve change through violence, what’s to say that that’d be the end of it? The truth is, man has dominated man to all our detriment for as long as there’s been anyone describable as man. It’s always the resort when all other options have failed. Now you and I may know perfectly well that this system just isn’t and never will work, but who are we to insist that absolutely every other human being takes this line too? We are all independent, and should be independent thinking, human beings, with no right to insist anyone does anything just because we say so – that’s what got us into this flipping mess in the first place. That said, I’m no advocate of sitting there and being slaughtered, self defence has its place, but brains should, somehow be able to overcome brawn, given enough time and thought.
Now I’ve dealt with the delightful cancer thingummy a couple of times now, and currently am recuperating, so I’ve had a lot of time for cogitation lol, not sure quite where it’s gotten me, but I have a few ideas rattling around in my grey matter, I have yet to share them with anyone other than me cats, so if it all sounds a little incoherent, or back to front please excuse me.
The first thing that concerns me, is the democracy and voting thing, or lack of it, as it seems to be part of the anti-establishment brigade that voting is a waste of time and that nothing we do will change things in this department. I have been guilty of not bothering in the past as I genuinely thought it made no difference whatsover. I’m beginning to wonder if we haven’t all been a bit conned in this respect – there’s always a lot about ‘tactical voting’ in the run up to an election because voting for marginal parties is a waste of time. Think about it – if no one votes for these outsiders, of course they’re not going to bloody well get in. This has been a sneaky tactic of the corporate behemoth. If people voted with their hearts and actually read the manifestos of the parties they were voting for instead of reading press accounts of each party, actually putting that X in the box instead of leaving it out of despair, the governments that do get in wouldn’t think that they have a mandate to do whatever they want. Turnout hasn’t gone above 66% since 2001. Even if we don’t manage to get people in to change things, we register our dissatisfaction with the way things are being handled and reduce the majority they hold. I also think that there may be a chance that democracy could actually work, but those that hold the wealth realised way back at the beginning of the last century, if not earlier, that it really doesn’t work in their favour – workers that can stop when they want, well that just isn’t cricket old boy, how do we get rid of these trades unions? Their propaganda machine sprang into action early in that century too, and they’ve had plenty of time to hone their skills. There’s no longer any need for them to try hard, they’ve been training their consumers all that time – have you noticed how them in charge no longer refer to us plebs as anything other than consumers? People are manipulated through a surprising array of different sources, for example, there’s an advert doing the rounds that suggests that a lack of internet speed is what would drive someone to ‘go off grid, make a ‘rudimentary toilet’ and spoon whittle’, nice and subtle (not) but ingrains in people’s minds that unless you subscribe to the status quo you’re a little unclean; a programme about the food industry with a glamorous presenter in a white coat, being told that there’s only a trace of toxic hexane left in the rapeseed oil being processed – she grins at the camera ‘oh that’s alright then’ as if it was… Just 2 examples that come to mind, I know there are innumerable others.
This brings me to the second thing that concerns me – the level of brainwashing that is endemic in society. I decided to do quite a bit of studying about brainwashing as I’ve succumbed to it in the past and been a member of a quite large cult. It took me 16 years to finally wipe all traces of it out of my system, so I know it’s a tough job. The first difficulty is even getting people to acknowledge they’re being brainwashed. How do you get people to start thinking for themselves and not just jump from one lunatic solution to another? Society takes charge of our offspring from the moment they’re capable of independent movement and progresses them through a system designed to quash all dissent, not directly but through a system of peer pressure and outright bullying. I’ve only recently realised that books and films such as 1984 and the Matrix weren’t about some mythical future, they were about the society we’re living in, and that the reason that the robots inevitably tried to take over in I Robot was that humanity has a long, long history of utter stupidity and needed saving from itself. Okay I may not be very quick of the mark here, but I’ve had a lot to think about ? How on earth do you go about getting people to think – this will be key to systemic societal change.
The next thing that all this brainwashing has produced, is a level of survival skills that is virtually non-existent. People actually cannot conceive of a world without all these consumer products. I watch a lot of NHK World, the Japanese news channel, and I was watching a programme about the aftermath of the tsunami, they do a lot of survivor stories, and this particular one was about the corner-shop owner that helped people survive when they were cut off from all the civilisation that they knew. It struck me then the level of helplessness we’ve been encouraged to develop, not to mention the loss of all the craft skills that would help us survive should the worst come to the worst. When you think about all the skills that would be needed if society collapsed, and the levels of physical fitness required for a lot of them, it’s really quite alarming.
I tend to be of the opinion that the system as it is will probably eat itself, sooner or later, which would entail rather rapid change, but should it lumber on and on, what are the options? As Dave pointed out, action is needed, and the sooner the better. I understand the reasons for being wary of a blueprint – rigidity is something better avoided, not to mention fanaticism, that said, a loose plan of action and some idea of where to head might be nice, although if society is one day to be free from hierarchical tyranny, each of us needs to be both an independent thinker, and an independent doer. I have many ideas rattling round in my head, those are just a few of them, I’d appreciate feedback.
7Dave Darby January 25th, 2016
Yes, I went to the cinema the other night. Of course the time given for the ‘programme’ to start is the time that the adverts start. They are so slick, clever and ironic that I think you’re right, it’s brainwashing. It’s as much about what they don’t say as what they do. I suppose it was the size of the screen and the rapt, illuminated faces that made it so obvious. Very clever, creative people given huge amounts of money by the corporate Empire to persuade the public that they are worthless if they don’t consume their products. Very creepy.
I want to just stress the difference between a blueprint for how society should be and an implementable plan to get better decision-makers. They’re very different things. I’m advocating getting together to discuss the latter, but not the former – let that emerge when we have better decision-makers. But decisions need to be made – for example, artificial intelligence and robotics. The wrong decision about this could be fatal for us, and yet those decisions are being made right now, and not by our best people.
And the problem with voting and the current political system is that it’s not where the power is. We don’t get to vote for where the power is. And international investors will crucify a government that doesn’t toe the corporate line (cf Syriza). More here – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/if-corbyn-became-pm-what-would-he-really-be-able-to-achieve-in-this-system/ and here – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/why-international-investors-i-e-the-1-couldnt-care-less-about-politics/
8Michelle Wheatman January 25th, 2016
Well yes I do think that there are big issues surrounding technology and its use to us. This is probably why more people don’t subscribe to alternative issues, they’re under the impression it’s a return to the stone age or nothing – fine if that’s what you want but making life better for ourselves is something that makes us human, however we’ve ‘progressed’ to the stage where we can fly men to the moon, yet we can’t distribute all the food on the planet fairly, people are still starving for want of food, not to mention unleashing gm products into the environment before they have any understanding of the consequences, as it’s all about the profit. Mankind’s propensity to run before it can walk is definitely an issue.
I probably didn’t explain myself too well on the voting issue – I don’t think that voting is the answer to our problems, as you say the power lies elsewhere, however, there is a certain amount of power in the governments, and if the only people who vote are those that agree with the system as it is, there’s no one to slow them down. The lower their majority, and the greater the diversity of views represented in the governments, the less easy it is for them to change everything to their own desires. If they have carte blanch, they will take full advantage and we need to put every obstacle in their way that we can. Just look at the hysteria invoked when Corbyn did get into the leadership position – his lack of corporate credentials made the conservatives almost apoplectic. Now of course, this may have been staged, who’s to know these things, but it did get me thinking perhaps there is a point to voting.
9Peter Richardson January 26th, 2016
Why isn’t Mark Boyle wearing a shirt? Do we also have to dispense with shirts as part of the revolution?
10Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
He’s just about to put his onesie on. (wouldn’t a onesie revolution be great?)
11Peter Richardson January 26th, 2016
I agree. I think that voting is important, and so is initiating/supporting more radical social change. It’s not an either/or thing.
12Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
What do you think of ‘And international investors will crucify a government that doesn’t toe the corporate line (cf Syriza).’
Do you not think that what national governments can achieve is very, very limited within global capitalism? or that ultimately, it’s a sop to distract us and divert us away from thinking / talking about real change?
13ImagicI January 26th, 2016
Im still learning about it but sociocracy seems to be an interesting and more inclusive way of making decisions as opposed to the notion of how to create better decision-makers. This for me at least highlights that the context (blueprint of a new society) cannot be seperated from decision making roles/methods. In this respect Im not clear whether your idea of an implementable plan to get better decision makers is within the current system or within an alternative.
That said Im of the opinion that democracy is not a suitable platform from which to distribute resources/power and I would disagree that present forms of government have very little power. At present the Tory/Lab/Lib coalition is choking the life out of the working class and it is their decisions that are ensuring that the corporate machine can landgrab/landbank to manipulate the housing market, manipulate food supplies, manipulate the energy market etc etc, Also it is govt policies that ensure that the UK is the most unequal society in the west, that ensure that QE lines the pockets of financial institutions, changes constituency boundaries to manipulate the so-called democratic process, pay shit wages, for corporations to pay no tax, to use public money to subsidize the fossil fuel/nuclear power industries etc etc.
As an alternative sociocracy ensures consent at each level of governance from the local to the global. Your question still arises of how to have good decision makers but this question is largely answered by starting governance at the level of the neighbourhood from which a rep then participates in the next level of the village and then the town, the city, the region and so on. Without consent from a lower group a decision cannot move upwards and there will always be informed individuals who will either seek the advice of scientific research or researchers who will participate in the decision making process.
In this respect both a blueprint and a better decision making process is necessary since in effect they are one in the same, at least for me ????. Although I think I know what you are saying in terms of how society creates it which of course is the decision of the people within it using a better system of decision making such as sociocracy.
Totally agree with the brainwashing and the hollowing out of people’s subjectivities/mentalities to align with a consumerist identity. This in my opinion is the biggest obstacle to change and will require huge resources – educational propaganda – to enable a new society based on equality and sociocracy for example.
14ImagicI January 26th, 2016
* how society creates itself
15Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
For me, the distinction between a decision-making system and the decisions that emerge from that system is really clear. We might have a sociocratic system – that’s just a system of governance, a decision-making system. They may then decide many things – e.g. to get rid of the stock market, to get rid of national borders, to ban the cutting down of any more rainforest etc. What I’m suggesting is that we talk about the decision-making process, not the decisions (blueprint). Let’s allow the new society to emerge from the new decision-making process, with better decision-makers – whether they are representatives or delegates (and that’s another conversation).
I completely disagree that national governments make anything but tiny decisions free from the influence of the corporate sector.
16ImagicI January 26th, 2016
I would agree that the government makes decisions that are influenced by the corporate sector but to me these are still decisions made by the govt so ‘elected’ govts do make a huge powerful difference. In this sense I believe corporate behaviour is sanctioned/facilitated/enabled by the decisions made by ‘elected’ govts. Without the backing of this level of (sovereign) power, globalised corporate entities do not have the authority to do what they do in individual countries. I appreciate the distinction between the two is becoming harder and harder to discern since they are in each others pockets to a very intimate degree but that does not mean, in theory at least, that a different political party can form, take power and do things very much differently and curb the power of corporations.
Im still not clear how you are making a distinction between a decision making system, a decision making process and the selection of decision makers. I get the impression you want a conversation about how to elect ‘good’ decision makers but doesnt this also depend on what the process is and what the system is. So eg a technocratic system would need an appropriate process of decision making and a way of electing that ensures that those elected are suitably qualified in their specialism. A democratic system would ‘ideally’ have a proportional representation process to elect decision makers. A meritocracy would have an evaluation process based on specific skill sets to determine who gets elected and a sociocracy would be based on consent from the bottom up with individuals at a very localised neighbourhood level putting themselves forward. In this system any amount of people can participate at the local level and so no election process is necessary at this level. Only when reps/delegates are required for the next levels on is an election process required which is done by consent.
17ImagicI January 26th, 2016
I think this is a difficult analogy to use. Greece was and is a country that is heavily indebted to international financial institutions. Their situation was made much worse when Greek businesses inflated their prices for goods when changing to the euro. In effect over night prices doubled simply because they changed the drachma sign for a euro sign without actually converting the price. I was in Greece for 6 months shortly after a people in general were absolutely shocked to find their cost of living double whilst wages stayed the same. All perpetrated by small businesses looking to make a quick profit. In effect Greece destabilised itself overnight and together with the hidden debts and the highest budget deficit in proportion to gdp in the world were financially bankrupt. Hence the intensity of austerity as the perceived solution as a condition for the bailout. When Syriza wanted to default on Greek debt then international financial institutions refused more credit. Without more credit Greek economy would have ground to a halt except for basic needs. How long would have the Greek people supported Syriza under such conditions. Not long I doubt. So in the main the Greek economy is very fragile and as a country has been heavily indebted for decades eith large portions of that debt hidden aided and abetted by corporate financial institutions. Things got worse when Eastern Europe became the new destination of choice for a cheap holiday. They have very little manufacturing and most of their economy is reliant on service industries/tourism. In effect the govts prior to Syriza fucked up the country.
18Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
‘Im still not clear how you are making a distinction between a decision making system, a decision making process and the selection of decision makers.’
I’m not. Those three things are the same. I’m making a distinction between the decision-making system and the decisions that are made via that system. (I said: ‘For me, the distinction between a decision-making system and the decisions that emerge from that system is really clear.’) I think it would be a good idea to discuss the former, and allow the latter to emerge.
‘but that does not mean, in theory at least, that a different political party can form, take power and do things very much differently and curb the power of corporations.’
19ImagicI January 26th, 2016
20Paul Jennings January 26th, 2016
21Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
You believe that ‘corporate behaviour is sanctioned/facilitated/enabled by the decisions made by ‘elected’ govts. Without the backing of this level of (sovereign) power, globalised corporate entities do not have the authority to do what they do in individual countries.’
I believe the exact opposite – that government behaviour is sanctioned by the decisions made in corporate boardrooms, and that the corporate sector can do whatever it likes, wherever it likes. Corporations are global institutions, and governments are national institutions, which in itself renders national governments impotent in all but local decisons, and even then they will be punished by international investors if those decisions are not corporate-friendly. Whoever controls the US military controls the world; the US pres nominally controls the US military, but relies on $5 billion of corporate funding per election, plus the backing of the corporate media. The corporate sector even manufactures the weaponry. Add to this the ‘revolving door’, and the corporate lobby industry, and it’s pretty clear to me where ultimate decision-making powers lie. We live in an empire.
We understand the nature of power very differently, and can therefore only really talk at cross purposes.
22ImagicI January 26th, 2016
The question arises where does the corporate machine get its wealth, how they retain it and where they can spend it. De facto national banks control the creation of money and national banks are controlled either directly or indirectly by govts. Govts sets corporation tax not corporations themselves and govts create subsidies using govt controlled public resources. Govts have power to nationalise everything with an elected manifesto/mandate. Govts decide how national resources are used not global corps. Ultimate power lies with the sovereign state but if that state is corrupted by corporate influence then the state in my mind becomes a failed state as we have now in this country. Govts run the state and through policy decide to sell/privitise national assets to corps not the other way round. Nat govts limit corp power at each national level not the other way round. Govts tell local authorities what they can and cannot do including procurement. Govts create laws and enforce them as they will including international agreements. So yes I agree corp payoff govts the world over, saturate our minds with their goods and services but all with the permission of the govt/state apparatus and consequently now effectively own anything of any value. But it is only the nat govts that allows/sanctions this. I guess you see the corporate empire as the problem where I see the infiltration of the ruling classes into every sphere of our lives as the problem.
However it is your blog so you can choose the conversations that you want to have and how you wish to frame the problem as you perceive it and exclude/include on thatg basis. For me the notion of corporate empire is just scratching the surface of a much deeper problem – that being a set of individuals whose sole purpose is to limit the liberty, equality and fraternity of humanity and its relationship to the wider ecological world in which it is placed. Only another set of well-meaning individuals who actually believe in liberty, equality and fraternity can displace the psychopathic/narcissistic set of individuals who presently hold power. With a different set of individuals, the corporate machine can be run very very differently – for the common good of all and not just for the few. So I guess we want different conversations although the notion of creating good decision makers is of mutual interest.
So yes we have very different perspectives which creates very different outlooks/opinions/solutions. I don’t disagree with yours because your subjectivity is yours alone as is mine. We just see things differently. But as I was saying before in the previous blog, for me the corporate system/structure is not bad in itself since for me that is like saying a tool is intrinsically bad when it is the user of the tool that determines whether the tool produces good or bad outcomes. My perspective is that the way the corporate system is being run is bad and so it is the individuals that are bad not the system itself.
If you still maintain that the corporate system is in itself bad as a tool then you need to qualify that by explaining how the process of producing goods and services in a globally integrated way is in itself bad and how you would create these goods and services differently let alone how to elect good deciksion makers to control the production of these goods and services.
23ImagicI January 26th, 2016
Obviously Syriza failed and with the finance minister now charging 25k for public speaking and depositing his wealth in non-greek banks to avoid paying tax it is no wonder.
I think I get what you saying now. Well I guess then there is the option of meritocracy and evaluation processes to measure the skill sets you are looking for since none of the others whether sociocracy, democracy, theocracy, technocracy facilitates or ensures that individuals are selected based on a fixed criteria.
24Michelle Wheatman January 26th, 2016
The set-up of the reply system seems to run out after a certain number of answers so this reply may come somewhere odd, I actually intend this reply to ImagicI’s last answer, although I guess I’m also responding to both you and Dave’s conversation.
It seems to me looking back over history that the apparently democratic system that we have in place was brought about in the first place by people power – the wealthy autocrats who’d run things entirely up to that point were forced to set up these systems or see their heads roll. It’s taken them a century or so to start turning the machine around to their purposes again and it is a relentless push now. ImagicI, if you check out the Davos agreement referred to on another blog post and read through just the introduction, the corporate machine there states its dislike of the way governments around the world are impeding its ability to make profit and therefore it wishes to start the ball rolling on dispensing with these inconvenient democratic institutes. It’s all worded quite innocuously, but when you read it and realise the implications, it’s quite a blatant statement that the corporations intend to take over the world. They’re most certainly not benign institutions that are looking out for humanity’s best interest, they’re only interested in wealth accumulation – this is why the UK government is desperately dismantling any of our systems that would stand in their way, and trying to turn things like the NHS and transport infrastructure over to the corporations – as far as they’re concerned they are not being subjected to market forces. Undoubtedly there is a huge industry lobbying and using its wealth to push for how the corporations want to see things run. All these secret ttip and tpp agreements and their ilk are designed to circumvent national laws that get in their way, which is why we don’t get to hear a huge amount about them – that said, it’s all gone a little quiet at the moment because some countries’ laws prevent the implementation of these trade agreements – I suspect there are moves in the relevant countries to change that so they can steamroller on regardless.
Bearing in mind all this, no, I don’t think voting does make the hugest of differences to the long term outcome of all this – however I do think it’s a mistake to simply leave them to it, these systems were originally set up to take power away from the elite and it should certainly still be used to slow them down, even if it’s just a little. I also think we should make it our business to understand how their rules and regs work so that we can use them to our advantage, e.g. for setting up self supporting communities that show how things could be done without the corporate empire. If you doubt the use in this, perhaps think a little on how these politicians in power manipulate the plebs – can you remember the last time one of them uttered a sentence without referring to ‘hard working taxpayers’ – combine this with endless tripe on tv showing ‘my benefit boob job’ and ’15 kids on benefits and proud’, and it’s little wonder that large swathes of the population believe that all benefit claimants are scroungers. They’re deliberately manipulating how people think about things, so that people like that hopkins creature actually don’t have a problem with people desperately trying to escape barrel bombs in Syria drowning as they try to escape.
I do think ultimately, that we should be sinking much of our resources into communities that will be able to ride out the inevitable turmoil that’s coming our way, whether it be from the environment or the lunatics that are running the asylum. I think that they need to be relatively close geographically, or at least connected in ways that we can all support each other. The fact that it’s so difficult to get all people to sing from at least a similar songsheet is a big thing – I think it may well be what’s held back humanity since its inception – each other lol ? Perhaps we need to look at new and better ways of communicating with each other – those that rule us would much rather we all fight like rats in a sack, and we’ve been pretty good at giving them their wish so far. Whilst I understand Mark’s exit from facebook due to its propensity for showing humanity at its very worst, I personally think we should stand up an be seen to be doing/saying things differently, otherwise how’s anyone going to know there’s an alternative? I still can’t believe I got to 46 years of age before I’d even heard of permaculture, and it’d been in existence virtually all my life! With all its drawbacks, this era of social media is a rare chance to be able to get any message to people quickly.
25Michelle Wheatman January 26th, 2016
I’m with Paul on this one, onesies take me straight back to the nightmare of jump-suits in the 80s and the need to virtually strip just to use the loo. You can wear your onesie if you like Dave, but don’t expect any sympathy at the logistical challenges :p
26Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
ImagicI – I disagree with every single one of your points in your last post – especially your belief that national banks are controlled by governments, and that people are the problem, rather than the system.
What you’re saying is the exact opposite of the raison d’etre of this site – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/our-message/why-we-do-what-we-do/
I suppose an analogy would be to go to the website of the vegan society and try to engage them about how best to cook steak. There’s no starting point for the conversation.
27Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
yeah, maybe the onesie revolution ideas is dead in the water.
28Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
Michelle – you might find this interesting too, if horrifying – http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/read-this-report-to-understand-how-banks-and-corporations-are-planning-to-assume-global-governance/
29Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
And yes, there seems to be something wrong with the reply system – I’ll get it sorted.
30Michelle Wheatman January 26th, 2016
Dave I did indeed read that article at the time you posted it, I’ve downloaded a copy of the Davos agreement to read but have yet to get beyond the introductions, I struggle with reading big pieces on a screen. I must say my jaw dropped when I realised the implications – and wondered how come so few people actually know about it – but then why would we, we’re just the plebs to be controlled. I do wonder if it wouldn’t just be best if we all got together, bought a remote island somewhere and left them all to it, the thought has its attractions.
31Steve Gwynne January 26th, 2016
Dave. I imagined you might say that. Your analogy is tenious to say the least and shows no reflection of my perspective whatsoever. We just see the role and power of govt/state differently. I see it de facto as the primary authority by wish to govern and determine what happens within a nation and can be aligned with corporate interests depending on the elected govt. Similarly int institutions are made up of national reps of nat govts and if these are aligned with corporate interests then global capitalism is again enabled. So for example the French do not allow the homogenization of their town centres. They only facilitate independent retailers and is a pleasure to see. As such French govts have resisted the McDonaldization/Ameticanization of their high sts unlike us.
However despite evidence to the contrary, you seem to see nat govts as ineffective in relation to what you consider to be the de facto primary authority, the global corporate capitalist empire. Are you suggesting that nat govts are passively under the control of corporate interests with no will of their own to make decisions, or that nat govts are paid off (as oppsed to aligned with their interests) or that nat govts are controlled in some other way.
Michelle. I agree with what you saying since in the main you are saying what Ive already said. You do seem to acknowledge that the existing controllers of the corporate empire are trying to upsurp national sovereign power with of course the help of the elites within our own govt/state and that nat govts are at present the primary authority within a nation-state. You seem to think as I do that a very different govt could produce different outcomes if their ideology differs to the goals of corporations and so if we have a corporate friendly govt as are most govts then corps will be given more power to operate within nation-states but that the opposite is also true. Obviously the likes of the Bhutan govt restricts the operations of corps within their territory so their govt is not so corp-friendly as does the French to a high degree and to some extent most other continental European countries.
In terms of an implementable plan to create a decision making system/process that aligns with a preferred value system then the choices are
1. a coup de tat
2. form a political party, win an election and take control of the state and create policy/laws to ensure that the preferred value system is promoted and value systems that do not conform are restricted.
32Dave Darby January 26th, 2016
http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/lowimpact-topic/the-democracy-problem/ and http://lowimpactorg.wpengine.com/lowimpact-topic/systemic-change/
Your political analysis and your concept of evidence don’t work for me I’m afraid Steve. I happily debate with anarchists, conservatives, libertarians or socialists, but if they don’t recognise that power is corporate (which even my local Tory parliamentary candidate does), we don’t have a foothold to start talking, any more than if they were trying to explain the benefits of eating meat to a vegan (which you didn’t understand either).
33Steve Gwynne January 27th, 2016
Your analysis doesnt seem to go any further than corporate interests are aligned with the interests of elected nat govts except for a few cases where a corporation threatens to move jobs elsewhere. To be honest with you I dont really see the reality of your argument that there is a corporate empire ruling the world, not in my reality anyway. Last night I was thinking hard how this ‘global superpower’ has any control over me and it has none which was quite surprising. Sure there are lots of mnc’s inc walmart, shell, bp, coca-cola, pepsi, adidas but to say that together they form a gigantic power base from which they rule the Earth does not work for me at all. Even if taken together their net power in relation to me is zero simply because ‘their’ power is only within the realm of goods and sevices and I am not dependant on any one of them. Its like they live in a parallel universe to me.
In terms of political power their reach only pertains to economic activity, nothing more and even then in relation to non mncs their power is not that significant. Where I live Im surrounded by independant retailers so maybe I am lucky.
For me there is a much more pressing challenge which is much more political rather than purely economic and that is specism and classism (of which rascism is a part) and the inequalities that forms around specism and classism. Of course neoliberalism as part of the ruling classes narrative needs to change but that is a political battle not an economic one. As is regulating capitalism, taxing the rich, charging businesses for the use of ecological services and resources (aka life-forms), creating equal access to goods and services that are interdependantly created by society as a whole, ensuring human lifestyles adapt to the needs of the planet etc etc.
So yes you are right we are interested in different topics. Sorry but it was never that clear that what you are wishing to talk about is economic power when you share your idea that a corporate empire is ruling the world and how to change that with an implementable plan.
Myself I dont think there is a corporate empire that rules the world. Sure mncs exist and provide jobs, goods and services often at the cost of human dignity and the health of the ecological world in order to maintain profits for the ruling elites but to resolve that in my mind is a political problem not an economic one. Hence the need for a better (eco and human friendly) govt/state than the ones we have had in the present era.
Good luck with your project. I cant say I have any suggestions other than to buy shares in mncs and attend agms.
34Steve Gwynne January 28th, 2016
Simon Jenkin’s perspective and implementable plan.
35Steve Gwynne January 28th, 2016
You might find this project currently being conducted by A World To Win interesting if you dont know about it already.
It contains this project being conducted in Ecuador.
36Dave Darby January 28th, 2016
Yes, that’s more like it.
‘we live in a global corporotocracy’ – precisely.