being a post-apocalyptic radical

This is what all the video games are about: R(A)GE, Red Faction: Guerilla, Fallout to an extent, etc.  Maybe The Hunger Games too but I haven’t read it.  So this article is inspired by those, as well as the book Disrupted Cities.

This scenario would have the USA in a post-consumerist situation, where instead of the nation being one giant mass welded together by solid, saturated lines of production, distribution, and communication, the US would return to being more of a network of semi-self-reliant communities.

The strength of marxist revolution is typically in that it does not fight a war against the infrastructure, but attempts to galvanize the working class to fight over the infrastructure, against the infrastructure’s current owners.  In a situation where the infrastructure has been badly damaged, these assumptions might go out the window.

Rather than being a base-line assumption, advanced infrastructure might become the domain of the privileged.  In that scenario, attacks on the infrastructure could seem much more justified.

It is really impossible to know what any of us would do in a scenario of infrastructural collapse, much like the tough guys who say they’d fight to the death in the Holocaust.  However I think I would still counsel pro-infrastructure views.  I think I’d attempt to find ways of achieving political change which avoid damaging the remaining infrastructure, or even utilize the independent construction of infrastructure as a subversive force.

In this scenario we would have to understand both facets – both infrastructural development itself as progressive, and also the role of infrastructure in acting as a neo-feudalist Capitol City that uses its relative technological advancement as a launching pad for a physically-enforced domestic imperialism over the other communities.  What had once been simply the police and military, in a scenario of infrastructural fragmentation, become much more literally/obviously the Capitol’s occupation force.  The character of the managing force in both the Capitol(s) and the other communities would truly be a contemporary return to feudalism, with that managing force being alternately formed out of the old military/police, gangs (old and new), a community-generated military caste, or revolutionist guerrillas (who may not differ in practice very much from the rest, because of the low level of economics – good intentions can’t make food).

A technocratic element may occur as well, with certain practical specialists such as doctors, electricians, agricultural specialists or mechanics becoming all-important.  This is critical for marxists.  I think one of the primary tasks of marxists in a post-collapse scenario is to assist the process of infrastructural development.  That means find a mentor, or look for old-world information sources and become a specialist yourself.  It also means assisting the specialists as much as possible — become their errand-runner, find them materials they need, etc.  But of course there is also a political question: infrastructure for whom?  Obviously marxists must insist that the infrastructure be used to benefit all, though in survival situations, this may either be a non-argument (of course save everyone!) or impossible (we don’t even have enough to do that!).  More politically, I believe that the mere construction of infrastructure off the Capitol’s grid creates a pole of opposition.

Furthermore, any effort to fairly distribute resources – even a dearth of resources – will probably be far superior to what the Capitol is doing.  The Capitol will typically only attempt to maintain “order” in a military/policing sense without providing aid in any serious way, if US disaster response in Katrina and Haiti are any future indication.  So rather than just trying to get electricity back online, radicals should be part of post-collapse efforts to salvage supplies and distribute relief, as well – perhaps even initiating these networks.  The “Followers of the Apocalypse” from Fallout: New Vegas were a network of doctors and medical staff influenced by anarchism whose activities created a civil pole of opposition to the brutes of New Vegas, the Legion, the raiders, and the New California Republic.  However we don’t have to resort to fiction here.  The Black Panther Party got the entire federal government to start feeding children breakfast by doing it themselves first and causing embarrassment.  A food distribution network which Philly Socialists was part of caused such a ruckus that the Philly city government attempted to ban open-air food distribution!  And then of course there is Occupy Sandy, the hurricane response team which de-legitimized the state by providing more immediate relief.

So should we simply fight the Capitol with guerrilla warfare, until it keeps to itself and the rest of the land is left to a sort of anarchy?  Or should we fight for revolution and re-organization within the Capitol, recasting it from an oppressive center to a gem and hub of economic, cultural, and technological progress?

This would really depend on what exactly the Capitol was like.  If the Capitol was little more than a glorified military base, serving only a repressive role, then it really ought to be destroyed entirely, with the hope of future progress falling to the rest of the communities.  If a Capitol merely becomes an economic center and doesn’t oppress anyone, then it’s a completely different story; rather than oppose it, marxists should then join it, operate politically within it, and become part of the next Renaissance.  Another possibility is that the Capitol be a confused hybrid of both military and infrastructural power.  The critical point here would be the forging of personal, organizational, and military links between the Capitol and non-Capitol resistance.  Internal sabotage would be an extension of countryside guerrilla warfare.  The brave resistance of the guerrillas would inspire the truly more critical Capitol resistance.  Because people in low levels of infrastructure and emergency-mode often forego democracy, let alone socialism, the political resistance inside the Capitol will often take the form of a pro-democracy rebellion against martial law (though the authorities may be careful to pretend that the martial law is democracy).  In fact, resistance in the center is so vitally important that post-collapse marxists should strongly consider relocating to the Capitol.  Whether resistance in the Capitol becomes a matter of urban guerrilla insurrectionism, or organizing and civil mass-protest, depends largely on what kind of Capitol you’re up against; the civil route gains importance in proportion to the more developed the Capitol is, and the larger the number of civilians living there.  Of course one strategy may bleed into the other (literally), but it’s important to build legitimacy by attempting civil methods first.  The closer the Capitol is to re-attaining modernity, the more we should use modern (civil) methods.  If we are dealing with not simply a Capitol but an entire developed region (New California Republic), then it makes sense to pursue classic civilian-only organizing, just on a more microcosmic scale, and possibly even opposing the imperialism of your own region with the post-collapse version of a domestic antiwar movement.  The Maoist idea of Protracted People’s War, with guerrillas and protesters being all part of one resistance, makes sense in post-collapse, in a way that it does not make sense in the contemporary USA.

The USA would be plunged into the dilemmas faced by third-world revolutionaries such as Maoists or even to an extent the Russian Revolution.  Can you build socialism without an already-existing strong/industrialized economic foundation?  Can you have a political faction who believes in socialism take over the state, be as humane and democratic as possible for now, while leading that society toward infrastructural development which would make a country more properly socialist, in the classic Marxist sense?  It would certainly be more progressive than leaving the old state in place, but ultimately the revolutionary political faction would face the problem of itself becoming a new ruling class (orthodox Trotskyist dogmatism aside, as if bureaucrats cannot be rulers, what idiocy).  Ultimately that new ruling class would probably have to be overthrown later down the line, like the Chinese Communist Party.  But was the Chinese (or Cuban) revolution progressive, despite the troubling trajectory of attempting socialism in a country that isn’t even capitalist?  Despite my libertarian tendencies, I think it was at least progressive, if not properly socialist.

What all of this really underscores is that we should be thankful we live in times of rampant development, where more and more of the third world is brought online into capitalist commodity production rather than pre-capitalist family agriculture, and many of the first-world countries are not only super-productive but are even “over-productive” to the point that they have more output than they can sell.  We should not entertain stupid ideas of a “revocalypse.”  Of course the revolution will feel apocalyptic; it will feel like an All-Overthrowing Reckoning.  But it’s important to attack the power structure, not the infrastructure.

The Force

As the previous post suggests, I have been through some religious seeking, and finally arrived at some clarity about what I find to be a solution, and what the hell I was even looking for in the first place.

I basically have come to conclude that the cosmic or divine backdrop of a person’s life matters almost not at all.  It really does not matter what gods or devils or divine laws do or do not exist.  If they are with me I will be with them, if they are against me I will defy them, if they seem irrelevant I ignore them.  My life remains largely unaffected by whatever is in the background, and spirituality seems more like a struggle of finding fulfillment or doing something, anything significant at all, while trapped in an extremely limiting human body.

But on the way to this conclusion I passed through some interesting meanders, and while I don’t think the objective backdrop is critical to spirituality, my perspective on what objectively exists did shift.

I have basically come to be a believer in the Force.

Now I know that’s bad, stupid etc., to base my beliefs on a sci-fi fantasy series – even worse, a series which, if we include the prequels, was not necessarily even that good.   (Shit, I might as well link to this while I’m at it.)

But don’t worry.  I came to this view through scientific and philosophical explorations, not because I like Star Wars.  The issue is that the Force is simply the most exact way of labeling or illustrating what I came to know separately.

WHAT IS IT?

Firstly, the Force is not God.  It’s not judging you, or maybe it’s judging you subconsciously, but it’s just not like that.  You could go your whole life as an atheist who thinks only matter is real, and the Force would not be offended (or even awake enough to care).  So don’t worry about it.

Further, unlike God, I am extremely skeptical that the Force has a central consciousness.  Otherwise the world would simply be too different from how it is now.  It think such a central consciousness would be much more assertive in revealing itself as a continual presence to us.  In other words, instead of merely sending Jesus two thousand years ago, the Force would still be talking to us openly and directly now, in a way that was clear and unmistakable and required no subtle interpretation.  Either that, or the Holocaust was part of God’s plan.

Like the fictional Force, the real Force has both a Light and Dark side.  However I am not sure it is so neatly divided as that.  Better to say that the Force reflects and includes the full range of human emotion and probably a lot more besides.

So what the hell is this thing?  Simply, it is the maximal interpretation of Jung’s Collective Unconscious, a mental-emotional energy field reflecting/generated by all life plus some elemental forces and probably a lot of weird twists and connections across time, possibility, and other dimensions.  It is everywhere, an undercurrent of soul in the physical universe (possibly not separate from matter but merely its mental aspect, which would explain how a neural network can develop emotions and experiences).  It is more emotional than rational, like a child, and semi-conscious, like a dream.

How exactly I came to this opinion requires some science.

WHY WOULD I EVER THINK THIS?/FUCKING MAGNETS, HOW DO THEY WORK? (1:51)

I have come to believe that the brain’s computations do not solely occur at the neural level, but that each neuron is closely tied to a quantum network which influences each neuron’s electric charge.   (And yes, I read almost all of Penrose’s book, as painful as that was.  Apparently the dark side really does demand sacrifice.)

Now most of the time quantum effects cannot influence atomic-scale or molecular-scale behavior – there is a sort of wall of interaction between the magnitudes – but cellular microtubules provide on of the rare environments in which this is possible.  It’s not unheard of in nature; plants use quantum physics, too.  It’s silly to think that natural selection, in its great randomness, would not utilize every physical phenomenon, just because it is cutting-edge technology on the edge of contemporary human understanding.  We didn’t understand genetics for a long time either, but it was still real.

So if you know anything about quantum physics, you probably know of the creepy phenomenon of quantum entanglement, or the inexplicable ability of particles at the quantum scale to interact at infinite distance or even across time.

Don’t fight it, just accept it.  Like gravity, we can’t explain it but it just exists.  Before you argue, the military  and high science are already using it as a wireless communication system (and it kind of solves the future interplanetary communication problem because it doesn’t lag!).  So fuck you with your conventional physics where things have to touch and all that.

What does this mean?  What I have concluded is that human mental computation is entirely unlike the linear mechanical deterministic process we thought (but then with the brain’s chaos, I guess we never really thought that).  But more importantly, this computation is taking place outside the brain, in addition to inside it.  Like not just in another dimension, though probably that too, but also across the dust of the known universe.

USE THE FORCE

So there are bits of our thinking-and-experiencing process happening all over, probably in everything we’ve ever touched, their air we’ve breathed, the water we’ve cycled.  So what, are we psychic?  Well, we’re probably not psychic any more than on a murky subconscious level; that stuff probably mostly comes through as background static.  But combined the quantum physics’ ability to defy time, this provides a hypothesis for my family’s experience with non-déjà vu precognitive dreams.  You won’t believe it so I’m not disclosing.

From my experience, my family has been most affected by precognitive dreams when the person having them was living in an emotionally impulsive way.  This means letting yourself get excited about things, letting yourself get hurt, taking offenses personally, letting yourself daydream, going with the moment, etc.  Of course this is a horribly impractical way to live, especially in capitalism which requires a total mechanical deadening of the emotions.  And then thinking emotionally also impairs your objective judgment regarding whether what you experiences is in your head.  This means we are operating in a realm of often unverifiable personal experience.  That’s why I am not annoyed if people don’t believe what I believe, since like Morpheus, my beliefs do not require them to.

Is the Force – The Spiritual Solution?  Again no, I just think it’s something that objectively exists, though its objectivity is closely intertwined with our subjectivity (making it similar to Warhammer 40,000’s “Warp”).  There is some overlap though.  When a human being strips off their persona and pretentions and feels themselves as they really are, I think they are dipping into the same substance of which the Force is made, ie their souls, with the Force again being an undercurrent of soul that is everywhere.  Again, I think the spiritual solution is finding some strong life purpose and sticking to it.  I also think this is the best way to command the Force, but even if it wasn’t I’d still recommend it.

Can people start Force-pushing or shooting lightning out their fingers?  As usual, life is not so theatrical – I think you’d have better luck with Jedi mind tricks.  But the intertwining of quantum physics with the world of possibility is suggestive.  We’ve already exploded the concept of time as merely a measurement; it must be a dimension unto itself.  But then Schroedinger’s Cat is alive-and-dead until you actually lift the box and find out (necromancy?).  A multiversal series of possibility-threads is the only way I can explain a world with possibilities instead of one pre-determined mechanistic outcome.  Given the link between human consciousness and the universe via entanglement, and given the bridge between that entanglement and possibility, it is possible for human consciousness to nudge the direction of events.

Is this – The Secret? FUCK NO.  The Secret implies that you can make things happen that are beyond the realm of possibility.  I think the Force can nudge outcomes, but outcomes which are not grossly outside the realm of possibility.  There has to be some kind of tethering us down to current material circumstances.  If you wish for a million dollars fuck you, the world isn’t going to rearrange its entire setup for your ass.  If you want someone to die, praying they spontaneously combust, well.  But if you pray they die in a car accident, make sure you really mean it.

So what if something you want is outside the realm of possibility?  How would you bring it closer?

It’s called doing work.

It also helps if you have realism in assessing how possible something actually is, not wishful thinking.

This brings up a critical issue: subconscious roadblocks.  You can will something in the Force but if you are emotionally divided about it, or don’t believe you deserve it, or just don’t entirely want it, it’s going to flop.  So how do you convince yourself you want it?  First you may have to deprogram yourself out of any religious-inspired guiltiness or foolish ethical codes, if what you want is selfish.  Or if you can’t do that, at least find a way to justify (sincerely) what you are pushing for as helping-yourself-help-others.

But besides reprogramming/deprogramming, the best way to convince yourself you really want and deserve something is WORK FOR IT.  This will (1) bring it physically closer to the realm of possibility, especially if we’ve thought it through objectively and it actually does this (2) clear up subconscious roadblocks because we all feel we deserve a thing we’ve worked for (3) create a center of gravity, focus, and intention in the lines of possibility.  In this way two hands at work don’t just beat a thousand folded in prayer, but two hands at work actually are two hands in prayer, as all work implies hope and will.

For the dark side especially, a person having the Force doesn’t simply mean they are in touch with the universe’s waves.  It means they have force, that their personal determination creates a momentum in their wake which bends spacetime and the threads of possibility, sweeping events and the world around them toward the direction of their goals.  No, it’s not only traditionally successful people who have this and many successful people actually don’t; their lives are often lived without real purpose or weight.  Many leaders are incompetent bureaucrats, who care only about maintaining their position or maybe don’t even care about anything.  (Sad how much of humanity is morally indefensible.)  And no, it’s not only vocal, arrogant male leader-stereotypes who have it.  Influence can be silent and subtle and edgeless, yet very strong, like water.  Ranking people as having it/not having it is probably not helpful since we all have it at least a little, but when someone’s got a good deal of it you’ll probably notice.

OTHER IMPLICATIONS

So this Force, is this suggesting one of those ridiculous scenarios where every religion has a grain of truth simply because some people believe in it?  Hell, maybe.  I don’t know.  I’ve heard a lot of weird things, but then I’ve also heard a lot of bullshit.  I maintain a policy of equal parts open-mindedness and skepticism.

Again, the Force isn’t one of those things where you have to panic about whether it’s true, or whether you conform to its concept of right and wrong.  Its existence could suggest to you that maybe you should live for something more than going-along-to-get-along, that you shouldn’t be unthinkingly stumbling or passionlessly drifting.  But I could have told you that without resorting to an invisible energy field.

It does bring up the whole Light and Dark issue, though in my opinion any grown-up should realize that these are totally different from good and evil (this may just be my dark side bias).  All people and groups probably have a mixture (yourself, Christianity, the French Revolution).  It’s interesting how closely the Jedi and Sith mirror the Right-Hand Path and Left-Hand Path, especially in the context of the Force.  The Jedi believe in serving others and obeying the Force’s guidance.  The Sith believe in serving themselves and tell the Force what to do.  But in reality both sides use the Force both ways.

Of course as always I learn dark.  Me, I believe in being a leader, whether we’re talking about society or invisible force fields.  I’m sure the Force has plenty of wisdom buried in it if you listen, but the Force is also indecisive.  It’s like the unconscious: all sentiment, no decision-making.  We can, and should, be the deciders.  If the Force is the universe’s collective unconscious, then we are its pointed, individualized consciousness – its ego.  Again, if I was wrong, I think the Force would make it directly clear for us.  No – we are the Force’s greatest embodiment, we are the tip of its pyramid, we are the spearhead of the universe’s ever-persisting struggle for greater clarity and complexity and pattern.  We are the ones who have to bear the responsibility of conscious planning and putting things into material practice.  For the good of the Force itself – and just because we canwe must decide how the Force will be expressed, and express it – forcefully! – even if doing so requires going against Nature, ethics, religion, sentiment, our humanity, physics, or even seemingly the Force itself.

The Force is like a child who doesn’t know how to say what it wants, or doesn’t even know what it wants.  This may be why there is so much historic confusion over “what God wants” (besides people making things up).  The Force isn’t sure!  So we must use our patience, our intuition, and careful listening to figure it out.  But once we do figure out what it wants, which will necessarily in large part reflect what we want – then we must not be afraid to command it in full confidence.

Is Game of Thrones right or left?

Has anyone written about the weird mix of medieval glamour and medieval horror in Game of Thrones? It makes me want to commit regicide and go to a ren faire all at the same time. Weird political implications…I can see grimdarkultramodern leftists focusing on the brutality, I can see reactionaries focusing on the beauty.

Or more extreme, it could be, look at the horror that really lurks in our fantasy worlds (masterfully leftist) versus a war-glorifying, hierarchy-glorifying, elevation of human destruction as a form of brutal fascist beauty (masterfully right-wing) similar to the Italian Futurists.

selfish politics is the most attractive

When most people hear political talk, it has to pass the “what’s in it for me?” test.

If there’s not something in it for them, they typically don’t care.

As a leftist, learn to shape your statements towards appealing to people’s pragmatism, their needs — their selfishness.

TALK ABOUT CLASS, DESCRIBE IT BY NUMBERS.

Don’t hate people for being this way.  It’s just the way the world is (as in, yes, the world is completely evil).

You can hate and fear that truth, or you can use it and win.

The call of justice may gather our little leftist subculture, but it doesn’t work for moving the tremendous majority.

There may be exceptions to this — MLKJr seemed to do a pretty good job using a moral call to action.

But then again, there was a lot of intrinsic motivation, too.  Like blacks themselves suffering under racism, and therefore wanting to fight it.

I too have a dream.  I dream of a world where every single action a person undertakes will arise from their intrinsic motivations.  I want every inch of a person’s life to be freedom.  I don’t want them to get out of bed in the morning because they have to work to survive.  I want them to wake up looking forward to spending their day in precisely the manner they wish to.

Infinite liberation.  All power to the imagination!

So I think we leftists need to keep in mind the attractive power of allowing people to be selfish, to focus on their own wants and desires.

Very often leftists yell about “greed.”  Those greedy bastards!  Corporate greed.

No, I think this is entirely off track.  We should all be greedier.  Everyone should look at their paychecks and feel greed at that moment.  They should thirst, as for blood.  They should want to come down on the necks of their employers for MORE MONEY.

What is the greediest — to want a sizeable chunk of the world, an estate?  Your own little separated-off section?

Or is it perhaps greedier, to want the entire world, and to own it not by partitioning, but to radically share it in a process of co-creation?

Many of us leftists are finger-waggers.  We wag our fingers at people for everything.  We scold.

Where are the people saying we all deserve more?  I want us to be those people.

resurrecting uniforms, marching, coordination in the Left

Image

This very recent scene from Game of Thrones is the sweetest shit ever.  (Edit: link broken due to YouTube copyright issues.  It was a reference to the liberation of the Unsullied.)

It raises a lot of questions in my mind about the aesthetics and politics.  Can leftists have uniforms?  Can they march in formation?  Should they look badass and have a forceful presence like that, or does that scare people away?  Is this compatible with organizational democracy?  With movement democracy?  I happen to think the answer to all these is yes.  After all, we’ll have to do more than march in formation to take down the ruling class…

It’s almost a cliché that the bad guys have the best looks.  The Nazis, riot police, the Galactic Empire.  Can we pull off the look without becoming bad guys?

Let’s check some examples, past and present.

PRETTY PICTURES

Image

Here’s a march type that most leftists could probably get down with.  It has a simple but effective formation.  It’s got coordinated T-shirts or at least coordinated colors, which falls way short of having a more serious uniform – like the Panthers.

Every time I find myself thinking “God damn it the Nazis had the best uniforms,” I remind myself that the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense happened.

Image

Matrix, anyone?

Image

FORCE.

Image

Hot logo.

Image

A further throwback into history would be POUM, the Trotskyists of the Spanish Civil War.  No discomfort with formations here, either!

Image

Image

Fast-forward to the present.  Anonymous, the V for Vendetta crew, the Guy Fawkes masks.

Image

Image

It’s got its whole cool religion behind it, the cool phrases like “We Are Legion” and all that.  Occasionally you get just one dude at a protest with the mask, sometimes they all wear em.  Both Anonymous and the mask tactic seem more chaotic and unplanned than the disciplined formations displayed above – more Internet-y, perhaps more swarm-like?  That has its ups and downs.

And of course, if the contemporary Left has a combat uniform, it would unmistakably be the Black Bloc.  I have criticized the Bloc as a tactic pretty often in the past – though to be honest, my criticism is more of insurrectionist-anarchists who try to turn every demonstration into a riot, which yes I have had to contend with personally and is not a strawman.

So maybe I’m warming up to the Bloc, not really even for the sake of anonymity, but just for being visually badass.

Image

Image

^LOL

Egyptian Bloc

Image

Again, like POUM, nice flag useage.

Image

YOU CALL THAT “MARCHING?”

^That.  I have never actually been to a leftist “march,” despite all the national demonstrations being called “marches.”

Whatever that thing we do is called, that waddling down the street in a blob, it looks shabby and sloppy.  It’s totally demoralizing to be part of; after most “marches” I want to go home tired and sad.  It probably has something to do with how I was basically forced to walk like a zombie (the slow kind not the fast kind) by being packed like sardines into a crowd which, true to unorganized form, inched forward like a long line at a grocery store.

The horrible presentation we give at demonstrations reinforces everyone’s stereotypes of the Left: weak, unprofessional, undisciplined, unserious.

This is not just an issue of how we look, but also potentially tactical.  A crowd appears as a solid unified mass of people but in reality it is just a blob.  If you hit one part of the crowd, especially in American protests, there is no indication that the crowd will react in unison, either fleeing or retaliating.  Often when you hit one part of a crowd, that’s all you’re doing – hitting that one part of a crowd.  If you watch any YouTube videos of crowds that get hit by police, you’ll see what I’m talking about – the reaction to the police assault is absurdly localized to the exact spot in the crowd where it is occurring.  The rest of the crowd has fundamentally the same interests as the attacked spot, but does not respond.

Why?  Lack of preparation, lack of prior coordination.

How, precisely, could leftists have an actual march, instead of a blobbish procession?  How could we have a crowd capable of a coordinated response, instead of being a disconnected mass?

GETTING TACTICAL: SOME COORDINATION BLUEPRINTS

One of the organizations I have worked with has a good chanting system for demonstrations.  There was a central initiator with a megaphone, and a few “officers” (never called that) placed throughout the contingent with megaphones.  Typically they would practice the chants beforehand, quietly repeating them while various speakers were pontificating, before the actual walking part of the “march” began.

Now of course, this group was made of people who were comfortable with a certain degree of being told what to do for the sake of maximum effect and creating a greater resistance.

What if we wanted more than just coordinated chanting, but a response system for various issues?  What if we wanted to have a coordinated response to police assault instead of a spontaneous, localized one?  What if we just wanted our contingent to be able to march around a corner without slowing down like a disorganized blob?

Truth is, earpieces are cheap, and two-way radios aren’t that expensive, especially if you have a whole crew chipping in.  In the same way that you have selected some trusted people to be chant-relayers, you could use the same infrastructure to set up a system of responses.  Your group could shift formation to handle a turn better, it could respond with linked arms up front and pressure from the back against police lines, it could quickly change protest routes in case of a roadblock, it could have a signal to release the confetti for all I care.  If you’re really good, each relayer could have a group of demonstrators roughly assigned to them and they could completely change the shape of the contingent to deal with shifting police formations (or just to get down a narrower street without blobbing).

Most importantly, the communication would not have to be one-way.  This would create a central nervous system by which the relayers could inform the center of a localized event, to which the center could then signal a coordinated response.

PRIOR PLANNING, DEMOCRACY, CROWD SITUATIONS

Any plans to actually march or have any other type of coordination could absolutely NOT be imposed right there on the spot.  An agreement would have to be built in the organizations attending during the organizing process and meetings building up to the event itself.

If some people are just really uncomfortable with true marching, how will that be handled?  Personally I think most groups should just vote on something like this, and if the minority loses, they should just roll with it.  But then maybe in your group you could set up a way to have a marching section and a walking section for whoever is into either.  This would be the time to figure out stuff like uniforms or matching colors too.

Obviously some of the planning meetings before the demonstration will have to be dedicated to practice – how to actually march, deciding what precise formation people should be in.  (If you don’t decide on a formation, it will revert to just being a blob and then people won’t have the leg space to actually march.)

If you’re using a coordination system as described in the previous section, the prior planning meetings would be the time to elect your field directors.  This might make some people uncomfortable and is obviously completely incompatible with purist anarchism.

Here’s the thing: the more coordination you need in a tight, short period of time, the less libertarian it can be.  This is why militaries have traditionally been some of the most authoritarian organizations in human history – they have to contend for physical space in short bursts of time.  Well, so do we.

BUT – we don’t have to accept that as our permanent style of organization in order to be coordinated during demonstrations.  We can use a system of alternation: democracy during the organizing process, unity during execution.  Bolsheviks (their historical value) call this “democratic centralism,” a term which has certainly been abused by authoritarians but is still nonetheless useful.  Pirate ships used to function the same way – equals during sailing, with the captain as merely an elected figure for instances of combat.  Any system that uses delegates to a larger representative body essentially functions the same way.  Anarcho-syndicalists in Spain successfully used a system of immediately-recallable delegates elected directly from workplaces, though again I suppose that would violate the anarcho-purist allergy to representation.

This is also how aesthetics would have to be decided.  Compromise in art can often lead to a gross mix-and-match that is visually awful, so democratic centralism might be the best way to make uniform/fashion decisions as well.  Once again, maybe the group could be partitioned into a section who is down with the Panther getup and a section who is not.

So we elected the field coordinators, we review their in-the-moment decisions later.  If the group concludes that they screwed up too badly, then we don’t trust them with that pivotal tactical role again.  Next time we vote to empower someone else with those responsibilities.  It is before and after the operation that the group should also establish its level of comfort with police confrontation and its preferences regarding keeping all activities legal, crossing that line, or figuring out where it resides in the gray area.  The field coordinators should respect these guidelines.

There’s also the issue of including last-minute arrivals, spontaneous march-joiners who may jump in from the sidewalks along the march route, and people who show up to a march from who-knows-where without being a regular part of any of the groups that set up the demonstration.  Would this dissuade people from jumping in?

I don’t think it would, I think people could be welcomed aboard.  Keep an open mind, invite them into your formation, tell them roughly how it’s supposed to work, and don’t be too hard on them if they do it wrong or look funny.  Especially if you have a system of coordinators, perhaps walking freely and not bound to the formation, they could run over and serve as the welcoming committee/integration for any newcomers.

What if someone, maybe someone part of the pre-organized group, or maybe someone who just spontaneously joined the event, had some zany idea that seemed adventurous or fun?

Anyone trusted with being the temporary commander would have to be a fairly-open minded person, not the bureaucratic/sectarian type whose first instinct upon hearing outside suggestions is to distrust and reject.  If possible, the suggestion should be implemented.  But of course, in order for the coordination structure to hold up, this has to be the sole call of the elected central coordinator.

Of course the coordinator would have to weigh the need to embrace spontaneity with the security of the group.  If the person’s spontaneous idea is to immediately charge the police lines or do something else illegal, the elected coordinator would have to make a call about how this fits in with the group’s established preferences on confrontation and degrees of legality/illegality.

THE POWER OF BEAUTY, THE BEAUTY OF POWER

America worships force – and so do I.  There is an ethical side to life, which comments on how things should be, and there an amoral side to life which simply wishes to have desires granted, and to appreciate the awe of the structures that exist, even if they are totally heinous and destructive.  I think Game of Thrones is a case study of this; I have never seen a world so evil be so beautiful – except, perhaps, real life?

Everyone has this dark attraction.  Maybe you’re uncomfortable with it, but you need to come to terms with it in yourself, and more importantly in other.  The further you are from being a leftist intellectual and the closer you are to being an ordinary American, the more power this dark attraction can have over you.

Because the ruling class has such tremendous resources, it is usually only institutions dominated by them (police, military, intelligence) that are capable of motivating people (with paychecks) to work in the tight coordination that is not just effective but also beautiful.  And beauty is one of our greatest weapons.

Sometimes people need figureheads too (Zizek on the need for a Leftist Thatcher).  They’re a synthesis in people’s minds between political leanings and the simple, concrete reality of a person.  It’s effectively another form of branding, with logos replaced by individuals.

Clearly in that Game of Thrones clip there was a big “hero and crowd” divide going on that makes for great movies and potentially horrible, authoritarian politics.  But not necessarily.  I think pretty much every political movement has its romantic hero.  It often happens to coincide with a person who has a lot of say in how the movement goes.  What’s important here, though, is the structure and culture of the movement.  Can the figurehead be questioned?  Can they be removed if necessary, by election or recall?  Are they formally questionable and removable, but there is such a strong informal culture of discouraging dissent that the formal mechanisms are effectively useless?  You can have a movement with a folk hero which still gives its ordinary members voting power over its direction and actions.  Eugene Debs is a great example.  Hugo Chavez walked a knife edge between allowing initiatives from below in his movement and using bureaucratic methods to steer things into his personal control.  Overall I think he was just using Machiavellian power plays to push the movement as far forward as it could possibly be pushed.  But overall I think he is another great example of a people’s hero who also wielded some power without being totalitarian or harmful to the movement.

People are inspired when a leftist organization really has its shit together – they love us not just for our ethical stance, but for our effectiveness as a machine.  Our presentation should reflect this as well – unless of course we are in fact horribly coordinated, in which case we need to work on that.

we are the swarm (part 2)

Image

Don’t be intimidated, part 1 wasn’t that long and this won’t be either.
So when speaking of “the swarm” I mean a type of “organization-that-is-not-an-organization”, but is more like a fact of human existence.

The swarm include the entirety of humanity that has tends to periodically get rowdy, stand up for itself, create problems for the system, question capitalism, and long for a deep and meaningful freedom.  Imagine a list of everyone who pours out into the streets at critical junctures like 1968 or Occupy Wall Street.  Everyone there is the swarm.

And then there are those who are political ALL the time, even during the worst times.  So not everyone is equally swarmy.  But the swarm doesn’t work if it is reduced to its full-timers; its existence is always dependent on bridging the gap between the few radicals and the broad majority.

(This is critical.  If you’re a member of some specific political group, and in some other cases, there is typically a pull toward viewing yourself as part of that group only.  I think you should view yourself as part of the proletariat, and any other group is a secondary identity which should only be a tool to assist your first identification.  Membership in a specific political group should NOT put up walls or create tension between you and other swarmlings, but unfortunately in reality it often does.  Political “tendencies” should be exactly that — tendencies or factions within the movement, not walled-off units unto themselves.)

THE GREATER SWARM (LOW CONSISTENCY)

Most humans.  They usually don’t go to protests, but when they do, they turn the place upside-down with mass-attendance.  They don’t usually follow politics, but when they do, it’s usually for one main reason: their wallets are hurting and they want class warfare.

HIGH-CONSISTENCY SWARM MEMBERS

Political organizers and activists.  We could be seen as the bug-alien queens, tending to the eggs, trying to bring some coordination to this rag-tag mob of freaks, and it is seriously like herding kittens.

This is why our methods of retention have to be more fluid than solid.  In a movement against society’s compulsive, repressive nature, we’re not going to organize our side by putting down hard walls and enforcing the rules.  We’re going to attract our side with honey, not vinegar.  We have to make people feel excited about the ruckus we can create.  We can also excite people by helping them find a radical mental clarity through the muddled muck of mixed ideas we are all raised with.  (This can raise their consistency, and we need more consistent people to better reach the Greater Swarm.)

Most of all we have to speak to people’s most organic sensation: their pain.  This is the best method for bridging the radical-majority gap and activating the swarm.

SEMI-CONSISTENT SWARM MEMBERS

These are activist types who aren’t particularly dedicated about it – drift in and out of the loop, show up when they feel like it.  In non-revolutionary times, this may be the bulk of a demonstration.  Unlike most people, they show up, but they didn’t organize the thing.

There’s not much that can be done about it, and after all, who can blame them?  They are only following their biological impulses.  You could try having a pointed conversation about the necessity of consistent organizers for our collective liberation, but that might just drive them further away.  It’s a tough call; play it by ear.

SWARM-ORDER HYBRIDS

These are people who have not yet fully overcome their weakling human/reactionary programming and, at times serve both the system and the revolution, or suffer relapses.  Potentially everyone could be perceived as having a degree of this trait.

You need to watch your ass around these people, not because they’re intentionally traitorous, but their confusion makes them effectively so.

These people are like when Anonymous attacks Bank of America one day and then North Korea the next.  (I’m not a fan of the NK regime but it shouldn’t be attacked by superpowers either.)  These people are like the Ron Paul supporters who demonstrate to free Bradley Manning but then attempt to channel all dissent into support for capitalism.  Another example would be paid staffers in an activist group who set up a good movement but run it like a dictatorship and sometimes channel the group’s time and activity into Democratic campaigns.  March side by side with them when it makes sense but don’t be afraid to publicly debate or disgrace them – their propaganda is like pesticide to our spread.  Treat them like friends when they’re friends, treat them like enemies when they’re enemies, and watch carefully because they can shift quickly in either direction.

Also don’t try to wrap your head around it logically.  Some people are just contradictory.  Don’t try to understand them, because they are beyond (or below) comprehension; just treat them as part of the political landscape that you have to deal with.

PILLARS OF ORDER

The thing about the swarm model of organization is that it has very few true enemies.  Everyone has some of our dark side in them.  Everyone is potentially a member.

Then there are people who make it their job to consistently be detrimental to our efforts.  (In StarCraft this would be a bunker full of marines or a wall-off.)

They can play a wide range of roles – a voice for anti-worker Republicanism, a Democrat hack who excuses their party for all cuts, wars, and lack of forward motion by pointing at Republicans, a metro police department which “contains” demonstrations, all manner of bureaucrats and authority figures, and ultimately the super-rich themselves who spend their lives cannibalizing us and whom we must ultimately eat.

ways to judge a group or coalition

Please keep in mind that if you see a single one of these applying to a group, it does not automatically mean the group sucks and you should quit/denounce it; life is often a complicated compromise of working with imperfect groups for the advantages they do have.  (And then barging in and making them work better.)

  1. How many people show up?
  2. Who talks?
  3. What are the group’s demographics?  What mix or balance of race, gender, income, etc?
  4. Do you notice demographic double-standards, such as, when women speak are they interrupted, but never men?
  5. Is there a part of the meeting open for ordinary members or attendees to speak, or is it all just talking by the people up front?
  6. If there is a time for most people to speak, what percentage of the time is theirs, what percentage of the time belongs to the officials?
  7. If there is a time for most people to speak, is it a Q&A format where it has to be directed at the officials, or are people allowed to make their own statements?
  8. Do they use words like “old business” and “new business” and follow an extremely official-sounding set of procedures?
  9. Is there some other organization that set the coalition up?
  10. Would you say that other organization controls this one?  Or did they just help set it up?  Maybe it’s unclear?  Do they have a degree of influence but not absolute control?
  11. Are there paid staffers, or is it all people who just do it because they believe in it?
  12. Is there an official leader?  If not, the group might be disorganized; if so, there are other questions…
  13. Were they elected?
  14. Are they a paid staffer?
  15. If they are a paid staffer, again, were they elected?  Is there any hope that the ordinary members could vote to remove that staffer, or will that just be disallowed in conversation?
  16. Who determines what the organization does?
  17. Is there a system for making and discussing proposals?
  18. Does that system actually work, or get used?
  19. Is there a key set of people whose proposals always win, with everything else disregarded?
  20. Where does the organization get its funding?
  21. Does the organization try to control how its members speak in public?
  22. How much control?  Is it over the general purpose of the group, or is it over extremely specific issues?
  23. Is there a “party line,” or a set of ideas a person must hold to be in the group?  If not, maybe the group doesn’t have a good idea of what its purpose is.  If so, there are other issues…
  24. Is this “party line” spelled out anywhere?
  25. Is there an unwritten “party line?”  Stances members are expected to hold, but which are not written down, and you find them out as you go?
  26. Is the group confident in its statements? Do they seem well-read or well-researched?
  27. If you quit the group, would its members still talk to you?
  28. Does the group seem to have momentum?  Is it going somewhere?
  29. Does the group advertise its meetings somehow?  Does that advertisement seem to work?
  30. Do people in the group assess the things they do, ie what worked and what didn’t?  Or do they just go through the motions?
  31. Is it fun?
  32. Does the group make phone calls to public officials?  (if so, probably lame)
  33. Does it use a phone banking system for calling random people?  (not always, but maybe lame)
  34. Does the group take part in marches or demonstrations?
  35. Does the group try to march or demonstrate by itself, or is it part of a larger umbrella?
  36. Does the group commit civil disobedience?
  37. If/when it commits civil disobedience, how many people partake in the action?  Is it a small “symbolic” number, or a large number?  How many zeroes?
  38. Does the group have a message which would appeal to ordinary people, or something strange and exotic?
  39. Do the people in the group fit a stereotype of activism?  Or do they seem pretty run-of-the-mill?
  40. Are people in the group friends?
  41. If the group is mixed, ie friends/non-friends, do the already-connected groups reach out to the loners?  Invite them places?
  42. Does the social map (who is friends with whom) seem to affect the decision-making of the group, or do the lines of disagreement cross the social map?
  43. Does the group ever actually vote, or just talk a while and go with a certain option?
  44. Are there stated or unstated expectations of how you should dress/eat/talk/fuck/other cultural expectations?  Is it a big deal if you break these, or are they not really serious?  (Some of these can be really hostile and damaging, like everyone in the group has to do drugs/no one in the group is allowed to do drugs.  Some of them are just goofy and not serious, like most of the people in the group like Star Wars or something.)  on counterculture