Dousing the Fires, Part Five – only love can overcome

Dousing the fires: On the crisis of hegemony, the forthcoming war of manoeuvre, and how only love can win this war

Part Five: Only love shall overcome

As usual, you can listen to this blogpost here…

In the previous article (part four of five), I predicted that, on the election of a progressive government, the combined factions of the state and capitalist class (financial, corporate, and media) would orchestrate a full-blown attack on the government and the social movements behind it. They would instigate a total war of manoeuvre, in Gramscian parlance. In this face of this onslaught, what is to be done?

I will answer this age-old question in four ways. It is a four-fold interconnected framework for the democratisation of power and the empowerment of democracy from the level of the state down to the smallest community. Each element of the framework is underpinned by the principles of radicalism and love.

By radicalism, I don’t mean extremism; I mean an approach that works on addressing and transforming the root systemic causes of the challenge. I also mean radicalism, therefore, in contrast to a reformism that seeks compromise with opposing social forces and piecemeal ameliorations within the current system. In the face of such a maelstrom, such an onslaught, brought on by systemically opposing forces, reformist compromise is suicide. This is a zero-sum game. This is the great lesson of all failed revolutions. By love, I mean a micro-political commitment, that is, a commitment in our own local communities, workplaces, assemblies, families, and, above all, in our own hearts to love –  suspending judgment of others (and self), non-violence, empathy, listening, dialogue, and, wherever possible, consensus.

The current system must be transformed. The four components of the overall framework for action are:

1) Temporary state socialism

2) Democratisation of political and economic power – municipalism

and co-operativism

3) Social mobilisation and organisation

4) Democratising our culture and our selves – creating a politics of love

1) Temporary state socialism

The capitalist class will wreak its economic havoc primarily through the financial markets. This means that the only way to stop this is to take the financial functions (supposedly) performed through markets under state control. This means the nationalisation (forced purchase of majority shareholdings) of any UK bank speculating against the government (in reality, all banks). In the case of a housing crisis, the government should immediately intervene to stop banks foreclosing on homeowners. There could also be a general erasure of all mortgage and private debts. This would mitigate the worst of the economic fallout and support living standards and economic activity. The launch of a national investment bank will help to invest in both the renovation and (ecological) modernisation of infrastructure and loan to new (co-operative – see below) enterprises.

Temporary state socialism also means the nationalisation of vital economic and security infrastructure – the energy grid and providers; the rail network and providers; the water infrastructure and providers; the National Health Service; and the Internet infrastructure and providers. This will ensure, at least, that basics are provided at hugely reduced costs for all.

All such interventions should be undertaken according with E.F. Schumacher’s famous maxim that ‘small is beautiful’, i.e. that the transfer of private property into collective ownership should proceed where possible by transferring ownership to the lowest and smallest community level possible. However, urgency of action, in the short-term, and economies of scale, in the longer-term, may require a more regional or national ownership.

Schumacher_201977.jpg

2) The democratisation of political and economic power – Municipalism and Co-operativism

The new government should move swiftly to democratise as much power as possible to regions and councils. In particular, the government should support and legislate for the emergence of municipalism, specifically the creation of neighbourhood assemblies across the country empowered to collectively take control of and manage local community resources. This overlaps with new legislation enabling and supporting workers to buyout private businesses and convert them into worker-run co-operatives.

Working Group

3) Social mobilisation and organisation

If a progressive government gets into power there will already have to have been a huge increase in social mobilisation and collective action to achieve this. What is absolutely vital is that this energy does not dissipate post-election under the false assumptions and hopes of liberal representative democracy. What we know far too well is that either our politicians will disappoint us or they will be thwarted in the ways outlined above. We need to be ready. This means community, civic, regional, and national action and demands. It may even mean the creation of self-defence brigades to defend our communities.

4) Democratising our culture and our selves – creating a politics of love

Mass mobilisation and organisation and the legal establishment and empowerment of neighbourhood assemblies is not enough if we continue to act in hierarchical, authoritarian, racist, sexist, and other oppressive and undemocratic ways. We have to democratise our culture and our very selves. We need those mindful of the principles and practices of democratic culture – those trained in anti-racism, gender equality, critical pedagogy, non-violent communication, spiritual practices, participatory art and theatre, and many other democratic and peace-making traditions and practices – to facilitate our meetings and to train us in these practices. We need to quickly (as quickly as possible) learn how to suspend judgment, listen to each other, find reconciliation, and, so doing, work with and make decisions with each other on a basis of consensus wherever possible.

The framework is for a transitional cascading down of power from state to community. It has to be this way. We cannot create a perfect direct democracy that brings down the state from below overnight. We have to begin where we find ourselves and this means that centralised decision-making and ownership will be necessary in the first months and years to ride out the maelstrom, defang those fiercely powerful opponents, and, ultimately, expropriate them. At the same time, we must do all we can to democratise that centralised, bureaucratic, socialist state power at the first realistic opportunity. This will require collective mobilisation and organisation. Finally, the decentralisation and democratisation of power will not democratise our society unless and until we democratise our selves. We cannot have democratic institutions without democratic culture and this requires the micro-level work within communities, within families, within our very hearts and minds. This requires a pedagogy and a politics of love.

Conclusion

Jeremy Corbyn is no radical. The fact that a social democratic figure who would have represented the centre-left ground in 1960s British politics can be characterised as an extremist ‘hard’ leftist reveals the true extremism of what has been the centre ground of British politics for two decades. It also reveals the fear that the ruling class holds for any harbinger of hope who might help us ‘rise like lions from our slumber’. If the Labour leader is to be demonised as a radical for mostly reformist policies, he might as well play the part and go all out for, in a struggle between two systemically opposed forces such as capital and labour,1 particularly in situations of crisis, there can be no compromise. He and his government will only do this, can only do this if they are supported and pushed by huge social pressure. This is our task.

friedman_quote

Naomi Klein has famously documented the ‘shock doctrine’ strategy in which the ruling class takes advantage of the social chaos that follows in the immediate aftermath of natural or engineered crises to push through the agenda of capital that would otherwise never have been politically achievable (see Friedman’s quote above). However, as Klein herself recently noted, evidence is growing that, after five decades, we are becoming ‘shock-proof’. Ironically, the neo-liberal resilience agenda has helped here. We are starting to realise what is happening and why and we are beginning to learn how to stop it happening. We will need to be resolutely shock-proof here in the UK soon. Writing and reading this article and stuff like it is a good start, I guess.

I am aware how UK-centric this article is. In many other countries, the crisis is playing out in very different ways, some seemingly far more bleak. Nonetheless, wherever the rule of autocracy seems ascendent, its seeming power really only reflects a rule by violence that betrays the facts both that hegemony is dead and that our collective democratic powers of resistance, imagination, and hope are rising. Take the US, for instance. In reality, the Trump regime is very weak, huge numbers of people are getting politicised and active, and, had the Democratic Party’s executive not stopped him, Bernie Sanders would be President right now. In countries in the periphery of the global system, though it is clear that your struggles inspire ours, it is also clear that radical change in core countries will be the best hope for radical change in yours. In the Middle East and North Africa, for example, the election of a progressive government would mean the UK’s withdrawal from the regions and the end of weapons sales. A start.

There can be no socialism in one country and, just as we in the UK have been inspired and informed by successful movements elsewhere, we hope that our recent advances will inspire and inform friends abroad.

I began this long article by declaring that:

‘The world is ablaze!! In Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Portugal, Pakistan, London, fires burn, destroying lives and fuelling the fires of righteous rage spreading right across our planet.’

These horrific fires are heralding the last days of the Capitalocene! What I have painted above is a stark and fearful picture. There is no avoiding this. This system – capitalism – has been in place for centuries and was forged and has been maintained ever since through violence. ‘Capital’, as Marx famouly put it, ‘comes dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt’. It will not go down without a hell of a fight. There are times when this will unavoidably mean a physical fight – always, of course, in self-defence. But, the greatest chance – the only real chance – of our overcoming capital, patriarchy, racism will be to fight fire not with fire, but with water. Ultimately, is there is to be a great transformation it will be a transformation in our hearts and souls. The scale of such fires of injustice and hatred can only be put out by a tidal wave of love, but this tidal wave is made up of thousands, millions, of individual drops of water. A macro-political revolution of our society begins and is driven by a micro-political revolution inside each of us. So, the revolution starts with each of us as individuals, but it ends in us as a society, as humanity. Let’s get educated, organised, democratised, and loving.

Thanks so much for reading.

Solidarity and love,

Joel

1What I mean by this is that capital accumulates through the work/energy of human and non-human life. In the workplace, capital and labour confront each other.

  2 comments for “Dousing the Fires, Part Five – only love can overcome

  1. July 6, 2017 at 8:42 am

    Reblogged this on joetaylor41 and commented:
    Thanks Joel

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