On The Use And Abuse Of Rage For Life

“Will we stand idly by, cynical and apathetic, while what’s left of society is dismantled, piece by piece, as a sacrificial offering to the great god Mammon? Or will we, fueled by sheer rage, stand up as one to the orgiastic misanthropy of our “leaders” and smash their petty little self-aggrandizing ambitions into dust?”

From Chris Wright

download

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” How much truer is that statement now than in 1776! We’re poised on the precipice, peering over into the crocodile pit below, where fascists swarm and writhe in sanguinary anticipation. Humanity is on the verge of losing its footing and plunging headfirst into the open maw of reptilian sadism. Where you stand, in this climactic moment of history, determines whether you are reptile or hominid.

We know where the majority of the ruling class stands, in their contempt for the poor, for the future, for democracy, the working class, the natural environment, the impartial rule of law, social cooperation, community, and a rational public discourse: they’re on the side of the reptiles. Whether it’s the boorish, amoral mediocrity of a Brett Kavanaugh, the rank hypocrisy of a Lindsey Graham or a Susan Collins, the naked cupidity of a Jeff Bezos, the proud Israel-fascism of a Chuck Schumer, the unfettered evil of a Mitch McConnell, or the undisguised corporatism of a Nancy Pelosi, a Barack Obama, and virtually every other politician on the national stage, the ruling class despises morality and law as an insolent threat to its unchecked power. Almost as offensive as these people’s lack of all principles besides unwavering loyalty to the rich is their aggressive mediocrity, their transparent conformism and cowardice. One is stunned at the gall of such insipid nonentities to believe themselves superior to the rest of us.

Even from the perspective of their intelligence, these elitists don’t exactly distinguish themselves. Consider one of the more honored and allegedly intellectual specimens: Anthony Kennedy. In what I suppose constituted an attempt at self-criticism, he recently offered the following rueful analysis of the state of the nation: “Perhaps we didn’t do too good a job teaching the importance of preserving democracy by an enlightened civic discourse. In the first part of this century we’re seeing the death and decline of democracy.” The lack of self-awareness takes your breath away. The man responsible for the supremely anti-democratic decisions in Bush v. Gore, Citizens United v. FEC, Shelby County v. Holder (which gutted voting protections for minorities), and Janus v. AFSCME (which by harming unions harms democracy), and who vacated his seat during the term of a president who prides himself on his authoritarianism and disrespect for the rule of law, is chagrined and apparently puzzled that democracy is declining.

Evidently the man is an imbecile, devoid of the capacity for self-critical reflection and empathic understanding of opposing arguments. And yet he’s an esteemed member of the ruling elite. (Precisely because, one might maliciously suggest, of his incapacity for critical thought.)

How maddening it is that such indoctrinated fools have power! It’s the blind leading the sighted!

Anyway, it’s for the rest of us to decide where we stand. Will we stand idly by, cynical and apathetic, while what’s left of society is dismantled, piece by piece, as a sacrificial offering to the great god Mammon? Or will we, fueled by sheer rage, stand up as one to the orgiastic misanthropy of our “leaders” and smash their petty little self-aggrandizing ambitions into dust? Will we march in the streets, occupy offices, organize mass strikes, take over workplaces, and confront our political “representatives” wherever they turn and wherever they are at every moment of the day? Or will we remain the domesticated dogs we’ve become under the long-term impact of corporatization, bureaucratization, and privatization?

In a time of universal atomization and a zombified-consumerist public life, the redemptive power of collective rage shouldn’t be scoffed at. It is in fact key to the recovery of our humanity, our de-robotization, and to the very survival of humanity itself. We should embrace our rage, cultivate it as though it were the tree of life, cherish it, for its power of both motivation and social transformation is prodigious.

The plaintive cries of establishmentarians to restore “civility” in the public sphere are laughably self-serving and shouldn’t be taken seriously. “You don’t call for incivility,” Megyn Kelly says in response to Representative Maxine Waters’ call for exactly that. Angry left-wing responses to Trumpism are “unacceptable,” according to Nancy Pelosi. “We’ve got to get to a point in our country,” says Cory Booker, “where we can talk to each other, where we are all seeking a more beloved community. And some of those tactics that people are advocating for, to me, don’t reflect that spirit.” And poor, long-suffering Sarah Sanders sent out a tweet of Solomonic wisdom after the owner of a restaurant had asked her to leave because of her noxious politics: “[The owner’s] actions say far more about her than about me. I always do my best to treat people, including those I disagree with, respectfully and will continue to do so.”

In short: let institutions operate as they’re supposed to, and don’t enforce accountability on public officials outside the electoral process. By all means vote us out of office if you don’t like our policies, but don’t make life uncomfortable for us.

The truth is that, from more than one perspective, the decline of civility or politeness in the “political dialogue” is a sign of progress, not retrogression. Politeness upholds the politics of “respectability,” which is the politics of conservatism, hierarchy, and the status quo. It coddles the powerful, even as they’re enacting substantively uncivil, which is to say destructive, policies aimed at everyone who lacks the money to buy influence. The essence of politics, which is but war by other means, has always been “incivility”—struggle over resources, competing agendas, bribery, corruption, the defense of privilege against the unprivileged and the latter’s struggle to wrest power from the former. There is a “beloved community” only in the milquetoast liberal imagination of a Cory Booker. The task for actual democrats is to bring the war to the doorstep of the privileged, to make them viscerally aware of the stakes involved, even if it means directly acquainting them with the wrath of the dispossessed. They’ve been sheltered far too long.

Even from the other side, the side of the reptiles, there is something to be said for Trumpian insult-flinging and demagoguery. At least it serves to take the fig leaf of high principles and public-spiritedness off the reactionary policies of almost fifty years. When Obama deported millions of immigrants and separated tens of thousands of families, it seemed as if no one cared. Now that Trump is doing it (arguably in even more sadistic ways), even the establishment media expresses outrage. The vulgarity and blatant evil, in short, tend to radicalize everyone who still has a vestige of moral consciousness in him. That’s useful.

Ultimately, though, it hardly needs arguing that Trumpian “incivility” is disastrous, e.g., in its promotion of white rage and white supremacy. But this is exactly why the time has come for the politics of extreme disruption, as expounded and defended in that classic of sociology Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail, by Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward.

THE USEFULNESS OF VIOLENCE

As Piven and Cloward show, mass social disruption and civil disobedience were essential to the victories of several major popular movements in the twentieth century: the 1930s’ unemployed workers movement (which indirectly brought forth the modern welfare state), the industrial workers movement that unionized the core of the economy, the civil rights movement, and the welfare rights movement of the 1960s that forced huge expansions of welfare programs. Even the scores of urban riots between 1964 and 1968 had a partially constructive impact. In the violent summer of 1967, for example, the Pentagon established a Civil Disturbance Task Force and the president established a Riot Commission. Seven months later, the commission called for “a massive and sustained commitment to action” to end poverty and racial discrimination. “Only days before,” the authors note, “in the State of the Union message, the president had announced legislative proposals for programs to train and hire the hardcore unemployed and to rebuild the cities.”

Without going into further detail, the lesson is already clear: not only “disruption” but even rioting can, potentially, be constructive, given the right political environment. This doesn’t mean riots ought to be encouraged or fomented, of course; they should be avoided at almost all costs. But when conditions become so desperate that waves of riots begin to break out, we shouldn’t too quickly condemn them (or the rioters) as hopelessly irresponsible, self-defeating, primitive, immoral, etc. The state’s immediate response might be repression, but its longer-term response might well be reform.

Other scholars go further than Piven and Cloward. Lance Hill, for instance, argues in The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and the Civil Rights Movement that the tactic of nonviolence wasn’t particularly successful in the civil rights movement. SNCC’s peaceful local organizing in the early 1960s didn’t bring about many real, tangible gains: months-long campaigns succeeded in registering minuscule numbers of voters. White power-structures, racism, and Klan violence were just too formidable. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “moral suasion,” his hope to shame Southern whites out of racism, failed utterly. So the strategy shifted to provoking white violence in the full view of television cameras—and, as with the Deacons for Defense in Louisiana, inflicting violence as well (mostly in self-defense). By 1964 things were threatening to get out of control, with riots and some white deaths, so the government was able to pass the Civil Rights Act—which it proceeded to enforce only sporadically, usually when compelled to by violence or its threat.

Nonviolence was a useful tactic for getting white liberal support, but without the threat of black violence always lurking in the background it would have accomplished little. “One of the great ironies of the civil rights movement,” Hill says, “was that black collective force did not simply enhance the bargaining power of the moderates; it was the very source of their power.”

In general, the point is that people have to act in such a way that authorities will feel compelled to give them concessions lest social hierarchies be threatened. In the long run, needless to say, the goal is to replace the authorities, to empower people who actually care about people. But in the meantime it’s necessary to extract concessions—by putting the fear of God, or, far more frighteningly, of revolution, into the heads of the thugs at the top. The credible threat of violence can, then, bring results, as history shows.

One last example, perhaps most apposite of all, is the near-chaos that engulfed the nation in the early 1930s, as unemployed workers took to the streets and violated the “rights of property” on an epic continental scale. As I’ve related elsewhere, the epidemic of protest, “eviction riots,” and thefts in, e.g., Chicago between 1930 and 1932 impelled Mayor Anton Cermak to repeatedly appeal in desperation to the federal government. “It would be cheaper,” he told Congress in early 1932, “to provide a loan of $152,000,000 to the City of Chicago, than to pay for the services of federal troops at a future date.” Because of the panic that widespread theft and violence induced in businessmen and government officials like Cermak, Herbert Hoover’s Reconstruction Finance Corporation began that summer to give loans to states for providing relief to the unemployed. A year later, Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Relief Administration started distributing $500 million worth of grants to the states, followed by massive jobs programs, and the New Deal proceeded to alleviate the misery of tens of millions of Americans. All because of the power of collective rage and defiance.

In 2018, after the consolidation of a reactionary regime on the Supreme Court, it is long past the time for organized collective violations of “law and order” and “property rights.” It’s time to badger elected officials at every moment of every day, and to foster political polarization so that the ground caves in beneath the feet of the “centrists.” Conditions aren’t yet desperate enough for collective looting and rioting—since, after all, the economy is booming! (right?)—but it’s necessary at least, in the coming years, to stoke such fears in the minds of the rich. Monolithic, sustained, savage repression cannot work for long in a nominally democratic country like the U.S. Radical reforms are inevitable—if, that is, we rise up en masse.

A “CRISIS OF LEGITIMACY”

The one good thing about Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court is that it completes the delegitimization of the most undemocratic and typically reactionary institution at the federal level. Having an obvious perjurer, sexual harasser, overgrown frat boy, and overtly partisan hack on the Court strips away whatever patina of honor and impartial dignity that farcical institution still had. It has now lost all pretense of representing not only the will of the people but even the rule of law. This fact, too, will facilitate radicalization.

The entire political economy, and the august institutions that protect it, are being thrown into question.

The whiff of revolution is in the air, just starting to float, here and there, on the breezes blown back from the future into the present. The scent is positively revivifying.

It’s a good time to be angry. And to translate your anger into action.


Chris Wright

Chris Wright has a Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and is the author of Notes of an Underground HumanistWorker Cooperatives and Revolution: History and Possibilities in the United States, and Finding Our Compass: Reflections on a World in Crisis. His website is www.wrightswriting.com.”

‘A Luta Continua’: The Struggle Continues

Good Morning, Brazil! And to all of you watching us from afar in this special day. Yes, today (October 28th, 2018) is election day down here… and the front runner is the kind of person that would make you think: “Ah, good thing it’s 2018 and we don’t need to deal with this kind of shit anymore”. Then you realize the shit is here, now, your heart drops to the floor, and you start stressing about your own safety and that of your loved ones.

Here is my prediction…

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

Tradução Português (BR) aqui.

6E9BA9C1-5B42-40BF-9BBF-E971B8E5FC3A.jpg
The Official John Heartfield Exhibition (5 Finger hat die Hand/5 Fingers Has The Hand) Shared with the permission of the artist’s grandson, we much appreciate the generosity.

“Many, indeed, most political parties, especially in the metropolis, have become open servants of capital, and thus compete, not even pretending to represent the people, but in service to Wealth.

Political parties, in addition to being mechanisms to amass personal wealth, are machines to give people the illusion of democracy.”

(Múmia Abul Jamal)

Good Morning, Brazil! And to all of you watching us from afar in this special day. Yes, today (October 28th, 2018) is election day down here… and the front runner is the kind of person that would make you think: “Ah, good thing it’s 2018 and we don’t need to deal with this kind of shit anymore”. Then you realize the shit is here, now, your heart drops to the floor, and you start stressing about your own safety and that of your loved ones.

People are so stressed that even anarchists are talking about voting and doing the “lesser-evil” thing. But what will voting actually do? I have some scenarios in mind:

-J.B. wins and he actually does all the absurd things he claimed to want to do. This is less likely because, let’s be honest, when does a candidate actually follow through on a promise? Kill poor people, don’t allow an inch of land to indigenous and quilombist peoples, completely neglect public education and affirmative action, condone hate crimes!, militarize whatever necessary, and so on… In this scenario, he would simply be the irrigation of the already existing and thriving crop.

-J.B. wins and he doesn’t do anything (as usual). We just continue to live in a country where we need to hear his voice, and we pity ourselves for having the ability to discern meaning out of those inhuman screeches.

-Haddad wins, J.B. rallies his troops and his repulsive minions to take power by force. Democracy is certifiably over, we can finally stop pretending!

-Haddad wins, nothing changes, and we are left in bliss. The bliss of what could have been not… being; finally free from all of our most apocalyptic predictions. We’ll continue to kill poor people, not grant land to indigenous and quilombist peoples, completely neglect public education and affirmative action, condone hate crimes, militarize whatever necessary, and so on…- but Diet.

giphy

In any case, comes summer and we’ll still know who did what this spring. Families will never be the same, no more guilt driven polite interactions at major holidays. Hopefully. And not too shabby is the memory of when virtually no one on the left shied away from using the word Fascist, shouting together knowing we don’t mean it figuratively.

For any case, I prepare, and wait for the day to pass, for us to stop occupying our minds with the absurd words of a bigot, and to get back to work. The truth is we are pretty much fucked either way, and the ballot is not what’s gonna get us out of it.


Update: The result is out

Brazil elected Jair Messias Bolsonaro as president. Since the “Messias” emerged, we began to see the masks falling.

Now, all the atrocities that have already been taking place, have been legitimized and will become even more visible. Kill the poor, as a solution to the crisis of Capitalism. Kill LGBTQI+ as a solution to the “crisis” of the traditional family. Kill black, kill Indigenous peoples, kill women .. and destroy the minimal achievements of many years of struggle.

We give up certain principles because of fear. Because crumbs are better than nothing. This strengthens the hegemony, while it accumulates and wastes sadistically. Fascism, which had hitherto been veiled, is now uncomfortably exposed. Now we’ll drown on Genocidal Patriotism.

Yesterday, October 28, 2018, shortly after confirmation of the election results, a woman was beaten by a Military Police officer in the state capital that voted least for Bolsonaro; Salvador.

She wore a red t-shirt with Lula’s face on it, and her unconscious face bled. The fear that we, marginalized, already felt on the streets, was only exacerbated.

Being marginal is not a crime, it’s being excluded.

Mirna Wabi-Sabi and Jam Costa


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

44590204_10156834106472372_3689192296684716032_o

is co-editor of Gods&Radicals, and writes about decoloniality, feminism, and anti-capitalism.


Tradução

6E9BA9C1-5B42-40BF-9BBF-E971B8E5FC3A

“Muitos, na verdade, a maioria dos partidos políticos, especialmente na metrópole, tornaram-se servos abertos do capital e, portanto, competem, nem mesmo fingindo representar o povo, mas a serviço da riqueza.

Os partidos políticos, além de serem mecanismos para acumular riqueza pessoal, são máquinas para dar às pessoas a ilusão da democracia “.

(Múmia Abul Jamal)

Bom dia Brasil! E para todos vocês nos assistindo de longe neste dia especial. Sim, hoje (28 de outubro de 2018) é dia de eleição aqui… e o candidato favorito é o tipo de pessoa que faria você pensar: “Ah, que bom que é 2018 e não precisamos mais lidar com esse tipo de merda”. Aí você percebe que a merda está aqui, agora, seu coração cai no chão, e você começa a se preocupar com a sua própria segurança e a de seus entes queridos.

As pessoas estão tão estressadas que até os anarquistas estão falando sobre votar e fazer a coisa do “menos-mal”. Mas o que a votação realmente fará? Eu tenho alguns cenários em mente:

-O coiso ganha e realmente faz todas as coisas absurdas que ele pretende fazer. Isso é menos provável porque, sejamos honestos, quando um candidato realmente faz o que promete? Matar pessoas pobres, não permitir um centímetro de terra para povos indígenas e quilombolas, negligenciar completamente a educação pública e cotas, defender crimes de ódio, militarizar o que for necessário, e assim por diante… Neste cenário, ele seria simplesmente a irrigação de uma plantação já existente e próspera.

-O coiso vence e não faz nada (como de costume). Nós apenas continuamos a viver em um país onde precisamos ouvir a voz dele, e temos pena de nós mesmos e mesmas por ter a capacidade de discernir o significado desses berros desumanos.

-Haddad vence, o coiso reúne suas tropas e seus asseclas repulsivos para tomar o poder à força. A democracia está comprovadamente acabada, podemos finalmente parar de fingir.

-Haddad vence, nada muda e ficamos felizes. A felicidade do que poderia ter sido… não ser; finalmente livre de todas as nossas previsões apocalípticas. Continuaremos a matar pessoas pobres, não concederemos terras a povos indígenas e quilombolas, negligenciaremos completamente a educação pública e as cotas, não condenaremos crimes de ódio, militarizaremos o que for necessário, e assim por diante…- mas versão Diet.

giphy
“Agora posso comer qualquer coisa!”

De qualquer forma, chega o verão e ainda vamos saber quem fez o que esta primavera. As famílias nunca serão as mesmas, não haverá interações educadas baseadas em culpa nos principais feriados. Espero. E gostosa é a lembrança de quando praticamente ninguém da esquerda se esquivou de usar a palavra Fascista, gritando juntos, sabendo que não a usamos figurativamente.

Para qualquer dos casos, eu me preparo, e estou louca para que esse dia passe, para que paremos de ocupar nossas mentes com as palavras absurdas de um intolerante, e voltemos ao trabalho. A verdade é que estamos basicamente fodidos de qualquer forma, e a maquininha não é o que vai nos protejer disso.


Update: O resultado saiu

Brasil elegeu Jair Messias Bolsonaro como presidente. Desde que o “Messias” emergiu, começamos a ver as mascaras caindo.

Agora, todas as atrocidades que já aconteciam, foram legitimadas e se tornarão ainda mais visíveis. Matar o pobre, como solução para a crise do Capitalismo. Matar LGBTQI+, como solução para a “crise” da familia tradicional. Matar preto, matar Indígena, matar mulheres… e a destruição das mínimas conquistas de muitos anos de luta.

Abrimos mão de princípios por medo. Porque migalhas são melhores do que nada. O que fortalece a hegemonia, enquanto ela acumula e desperdiça sadicamente. O Fascismo que até então era velado, se escancarou. Agora seremos afogados e afogadas nesse Patriotismo Genocida.

Ontem, dia 28 de Outubro de 2018, logo após a confirmação dos resultados eleitorais, uma mulher foi agredida por um PM na capital do estado que menos votou pro Bolsonaro; Salvador.

Ela usava uma camisa vermelha com o rosto do Lula, e seu rosto inconsciente sangrou. O medo que nós marginalizados e marginalizadas já sentíamos nas ruas, só foi exacerbado.

Ser marginal não é crime, é ser excluido e excluída.

Mirna Wabi-Sabi e Jam Costa


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

44590204_10156834106472372_3689192296684716032_o

é editora de Gods and Radicals, escreve sobre decolonialidade, feminismo, e anti-capitalismo.

Reclaiming Ourselves – Back to Basics: Food & Medicine (Part 2)

Last time I wrote about food and medicine, but in doing so, I barely scratched the surface and so here’s part 2! I often say within witchcraft to take what works for you and discard the rest and the same applies here too. The aim with these articles is to share some of the knowledge, tips and advice I’ve picked up along my way in the hope that they will come in useful to you in your own struggles against Capitalism.

Food

agriculture-basket-beets-533360.jpg

Feeding yourself and your family can be expensive, especially when you try to eat well, and especially if you rely on supermarkets to do so. The tips offered here will save you some money, but more importantly, will help you regain a measure of independence.

So here’s where it might get a little controversial, but I’m going to talk about going meat free.

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was about seven years old, but it’s only really been the last year or so where I’ve ditched dairy and eggs (I can’t claim veganism though as I do still use honey and eat avocado). The driving issue for me to ditch dairy was the factory farming industry. There is no denying that those animals are amongst some of the most abused creatures on the face of the planet, and that the industry is a huge contributing factor in climate change, and all for our demand for cheap meat and animal products.

So why ditch meat? If you want to eat cheaper, then ditching meat is the obvious choice but it is also a massive lifestyle change, which is why so many struggle and fail. If going vegetarian or vegan is something you’ve been toying with for a while, then easing yourself into it is an option. The easiest way is to try going meat free for one or two days a week.

Another issue many face is that they don’t know what to eat instead. Honestly, it is usually the first question people ask me when I tell them I don’t eat meat. There are a wide range of vegan and vegetarian products out there, like lookalike meat, or ready meals, and that is great, but doesn’t help in the learning to cook for ourselves. These products can also be pricey, which is another reason people are put off. For example, when I went to my local Pagan Pride, vegan burgers cost £6! Six bloody quid! Talk about rip off. But, when you cook for yourself, eating vegan is a whole lot cheaper. Think about things like beans and pulses. Chickpeas, butter beans, kidney beans etc are ultra cheap, costing as little as 30p a tin and nutritious too. And do not fear bland and tasteless food! Seasoning is your friend! Ultimately though, whether you decide to go vegan or vegetarian is up to you, but by cutting down on your meat consumption, you’ll help the planet and save yourself some cash in the process.

And so the controversy continues….hunting! So if cutting out meat is not an option for you, then learning to hunt for your own meat is another way in which you can rely less on the State. I know it may come across as weird, for a vegetarian, would be vegan to talk about hunting, but I grew up and still live in a rural town. My father was a poacher in his younger days, and so my sisters and I grew up with hunting  and fishing as a viable way to get food.

But even for those of us who live in the countryside, hunting (always for food, never for ‘sport’) and fishing can still seem weird to people. A friend of mine marvels that my son and his friends enjoy spending their time fishing. He couldn’t believe it, whereas I was in shock because he’d never been! Whether you just learn the basics, giving yourself knowledge and skills for the future, if you should ever need them, will only be of benefit. When it comes down to it, I always figure it’s best to know something and never need it than to need it and not know it!

And with that, let’s touch upon ethics momentarily.

The other year, I bought my partner an air rifle as a gift. When I was talking about it with a friend, they couldn’t believe that I would or could condone hunting. After all, as someone who doesn’t eat meat and who cares for animals, how could I justify buying my partner a gun that he would use to shoot rabbit? For me, it’s easy. That rabbit will have had a better life and a better death than anything bought from a butchers or supermarket. Now, I was telling a pagan friend of mine this, and he happened to disagree with me. He said that for him, that just means that another animal has had to die without alleviating the suffering of the countless farm animals. And I take his point, I really do, but it is precisely that attitude that hinders any movement away from factory farming. I also think that if folks could only eat the meat that they killed themselves, then you would see a rapid reduction in meat-eating.

Anyway, it’s up to the individual to decide their dietary needs and wants, but it’s all about building up that skill set, whether that includes eating meat or not. Learning to cook, but also learning where to source food from will become vital in the future.

Medicine

cure-herbal-medications-50994

Many of the items I use in my folk remedies are items that I’ve foraged for locally. It’s so important to learn what grows where and how to use it properly as well, so the first step in healing yourself is getting to know what grows where you live. Get yourself some good identification guides and get yourself out!

But once you’ve foraged and harvested your items, then you’ll want to know how to prepare them for medicine. Some ingredients will always be best used fresh, for example any plant items used in poultices (I’ll discuss these soon) or in anything that is to be used or consumed straight away. If you’re making medicines to keep in a cupboard or first aid box, then preserving any plant matter is a must, else it’ll spoil whatever you make. To dry your foraged goods, you do not need any fancy equipment. Simply bunch your plant matter together by the stems, tie up and hang somewhere warm and dry until they are dry and crispy to the touch. Alternatively chop them up into  small pieces and leave on on a warm windowsill or radiator to dry (either in a muslin cloth or a loose weave basket). And to dry things that don’t bunch together easily, chilli peppers for example, simply thread a needle and push through the thin stem until you have a string of chillies. Hang to dry.

Some of the easiest medicines to make are tinctures. Tinctures are quite simply plant matter steeped in alcohol. You can make washes and waters the same way, but I prefer making mine with alcohol; vodka, rum, brandy, or whatever spirit you have to hand, though it does need to be at least forty percent proof, in order to keep the ingredients from spoiling. And I like using alcohol because some active ingredients within the plants will not be water-soluble, and quite often it is these compounds that are the active ingredient. That’s not to say waters and decoctions are not useful – they certainly can be, especially for when compounds are water soluble, but if in doubt, making a tincture is the best way of hedging your bets and making sure that the final product actually contains the active compounds.

Poultices are another simple medical hack for minor complaints and ailments. A poultice is simply a bandage or wadding used to cover the area that is in need of attention. They can be dry or wet, warm or cold depending on the condition being treated. For a burn, for example, you might want to make a poultice using mugwort or any other herb associated with healing burns. Make a paste with the plant matter and water, place on the wound and wrap  with the bandage or cover with the wadding and tape. You can use poultices for a wide variety of complaints, for example a simple soap poultice will bring a boil to a head. They are a great way to begin to explore folk / herbal remedies. Generally heat is useful for easing pain because it will draw blood to the area, whereas cold is good for inflammation because it causes the body to direct blood away from the area – good to know when using warm or cold poultices.

As I mentioned in Part 1 folk medicine and becoming more self reliant when it comes to food is such huge topics, it would take books to cover them completely, and I genuinely hope that what you’ve read here inspires you to look more deeply into this area. Whilst the information is nothing new nor radical, these skills, this knowledge is so important. Whether the collapse of Capitalism happens or not, by relearning these skills, we give ourselves a sense of freedom, if only because it is one more chain broken.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


Hey! We pay Emma and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂

Here’s how you can help us do that!

Economic Egregores: How Belief Drives the Power of Money and What We Can Do About It

“[S]ince it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?”

From Sable Aradia

dollar-bills-dawn-hudson
Dollar Bills by Dawn Hudson. Courtesy Publicdomainimages.net.

A thoughtform is a semi-autonomous manifestation created when someone — or several someones — will it, or believe it, into being. As of that point, it is no longer entirely subject to the will of its creator(s), but in essence, acts and reacts in its own way. It has no physical reality as we understand it, but it has a virtual reality; it might as well be real because we engage with it as if it is. Which, in a sense, makes it real.

An egregore is a thoughtform that has been created by a group, and it influences the thoughts and actions of the group that engages with it. But it is also influenced by the thoughts and actions of these same people.

This is not a unique concept to the occult: William Gibson wrote about what he called “semiotic ghosts” in popular culture. To me, it was evident he was talking about egregores. I wrote an article about this recently at Between the Shadows.

The examples of a corporation and a meme are probably excellent ones for a modern reader. A corporation exists independently of its creators. The Board of Directors, the shareholders, and the employees who work for it, can change completely — leave, die, or be replaced — and yet the corporation continues.

In our modern age, money is also an egregore, and this is why it has no physical value (after all, money is no longer backed by a gold standard.) Its perceived value governs its real value on the world market. The two are effectively one and the same.

It’s extremely difficult for one person to significantly alter the nature of an egregore. A person who wants to will such a change would have to convince a majority of the other people who engage with the egregore that its nature has already changed. For example, these major brands either started their lives as Nazi corroborators, or developed significantly as corporations while doing so, but of course we no longer make these associations with them.

There was an excellent object lesson in the transformation of an egregore in the 1990s in Brazil. Plagued by runaway inflation, Brazil embraced a daring plan; they created a new currency to restore people’s faith in money. They called it the Unit of Real Value (Unidade real de valor)(1). And it was entirely fake. No bills or coins were ever printed. It was intended to absorb the effects of hyperinflation and was set at a fixed value of parity to the U.S. dollar.

Instead, people developed more confidence in the URV than in the cruzeiro real, which was the legal-tender Brazilian currency, and it replaced Brazil’s legal currency. Officially it was “extinguished” and replaced with a legal-tender currency called the real on July 1, 1994.

A semi-virtual currency exists in Canada in the form of Canadian Tire money. This is effectively Monopoly money that is given out by Canadian Tire as a reward for shopping at their stores. It’s a fraction of the value of what you bought; a very early loyalty program.

But many places in Canada began accepting Canadian Tire money as well as real money, because why not? Canadian Tire doesn’t really care where it came from, because at one point or another it came from their store, and you can still exchange it there for real goods.

Unfortunately Canadian Tire is now trying to force their clientele to go to a card system instead, citing a risk of criminal enterprises making use of their alternate currency as an excuse. I’m sure that’s a real threat: criminal enterprises profit enormously from the existence of shadow economies that don’t depend upon the whim of the World Bank. But then again, so would we.

One might also consider the bitcoin bubble. Bitcoin is an entirely virtual currency that has a certain perceived value; and it has that value because of that perception.

That’s not a new concept either. Stock values are also entirely influenced by perceived values. One of the flaws in our current economic system that is coming to a point of reckoning is that stock values can plummet, not because a company has lost money, but because it has not gained as much as people thought it would. Twitter and Facebook both recently bore a significant loss of stock value because their growth, falsely projected on false identities and bot accounts which political pressure has forced them to limit, was not as great as those false projections had assumed it would be.

insecurity-dollar-symbol-john-hain
Insecurity Dollar Symbol by John Hain. Courtesy Publicdomainimages.net.

What this tells us is that any free market theory is fatally flawed. It is assumed in the study of free market economics that stock value changes based on information. Traders become aware of trends, new technology, expansions, etc. which will increase the income-making potential of a corporation.

But since it has become increasingly clear that stocks, and even money itself, is entirely based on a perception of value, which is by nature subjective and mutable, the only question becomes how that perception of value is influenced? And who is doing the influencing?

The question then becomes for the magician: how can we best utilize egregores? Can we make significant changes to the harmful effects of existing egregores, such as the value of currency and how it is determined?

Marx said that in order to address income inequality, workers must control the means of production. But he failed to visualize the development of technology and the value of virtual goods. How do you control the means of production when all the production is virtual?

I think the answer is that the common people must direct the egregores instead. Right now, we have been absorbed by the semiotic ghosts of futility, apathy, and the inequalities of capitalism. And Money has become a god in and of itself. To combat this, we must embrace new egregores, and helpful, older egregores, like the Enlightened Rebel and the Will of the People.

To change the perceived value of money, and who has it, we need to re-think what we’re basing that value on. Right now, the world thinks of money in terms of national currencies, so the perceived economic well-being of nations is what drives the world economy. This creates haves and have-nots by nature. It’s dependent on the idea that some nations have more economic value than others.

It’s also, in part, determined by corporations. The more big corporations a country is perceived to have, and the bigger their stock values, the more valuable their currency is perceived to be.

Canadian Tire money erodes that economy just a little bit, because it takes a small fraction of the value of currency out of the hands of governments and stock traders, and puts it into the hands of consumers. Still not great; still capitalism, but a more decentralized capitalism.

Bitcoin is an early attempt to rethink the way we value currency. It has established a currency value on information. Bits of data are what form the essential unit of a bitcoin. But the flaw of this approach is that those who control information can control the value of a bitcoin, which is why it has already achieved a speculation bubble that makes it completely unattainable for regular people.

Perhaps we should come back to Marx. Perhaps we should be basing the value of currency on labour-units. One hour of labour might equal one credit, which could buy one full meal. Think of how wealthy artists would be! Of course I can’t think of a way to track that which wouldn’t risk intense violations of privacy. No change of this nature would be quick or easy, and each would have its own drawbacks and unintended consequences that we would have to consider, and deal with.

The question for us is: what do we consider to be of real value? And what would we like the economy of the future to look like? Which egregores should we give power to?


  1. I think it’s worth noting just how difficult this reference was to find. I remembered hearing something on a YouTube video about this and I went searching for a reference to write this article. I typed “South American country that created an alternate currency” into Google. This yielded an article called “How Fake Money Saved Brazil,” which originally came from the NPR website. It’s referenced by a plethora of other blogs and articles, but you can’t get access to that article anymore; just a couple of forums where people sneer at the idea, despite the fact that it demonstrably worked. I finally found the name of the currency — “Unit of Real Value” — in a snippet from a site that might be an archive of the Wayback Machine from a site called Neatorama.com. I searched this on Google and finally found the Wikipedia entry, listed only under its Portuguese name. Now why was this so hard to find? The most benign answer I can come up with is racism. I suspect it’s a lot more complex.

Sable Aradia

I’m a Pagan and speculative fiction author, a professional blogger, and a musician. I’m proudly Canadian and proudly LGBTQ. My politics are decidedly left and if you ask for my opinion, expect an honest answer. I owned a dog, whom I still miss very much, and am still owned by a cat. I used to work part time at a bookstore and I love to read, especially about faith, philosophy, science, and sci-fi and fantasy.


Hey! We pay Sable and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂

Here’s how you can help us do that!

Reclaiming Ourselves – Back To Basics: Food and Medicine.

… first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in  may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small.

From Emma Kathryn

basket-cooking-food-74510

The world’s going to pot.

Just look around you. Literally, stop. For just a moment and take a look at everything that’s kicking off, all around the world.

Some problems are more dire than others, some more urgent, but it doesn’t really matter because everywhere  your glance may fall, there is some shit going down, some suffering or other, and then, to top it all off, is the destruction of the planet, of nature. Nobody can escape that!

And nobody really knows what to do. Governments don’t care. They may claim to, but every action they do shows the lie of their words. And what about the everyday person? What can one person do? Sometimes it feels like there is nothing we can do, not individually, and I fear that any efforts made now may be too little too late, though that’s not to say we shouldn’t make those efforts. We should definitely make those efforts, but small gestures are no longer enough. Drastic action is needed.

So what can we do as individuals in the face of all of the problems before us? What can I do in the face of these colossal problems? What can you do? How can our little efforts make any kind of difference?

No wonder humanity has fallen into a kind of hopeless apathy. And yet all hope is not lost, for are we not hopeful things? Even when the odds are stacked against us and failure is all but promised some small glimmer of hope remains. Is there any power, no matter how small, that we may claim for ourselves?

Perhaps there is, but first we must reclaim ourselves and the knowledge that we have forgotten or lost. We must learn to rely less on the State. The suggestions contained here on in  may well seem basic to those already well versed in such things, but for so many these skills have been lost and it is for those that I write this, after all, we must all start somewhere. There’s no shame in starting small. And for those that would comment saying things like ‘Well, too little too late’, or ‘it’s not enough’, you may very well be correct. But whatever happens, the skills I speak about here will become increasingly important.

The Land

I know, I know, here I go again, banging on about connecting to the land, but I only mention it here because everything comes from that connection. You all know how I feel about that! But seriously though, get to know the lay of the land where you live. Make yourself familiar with the local plants and fauna. This is something that takes time, months, years, indeed there is always more to learn.

Food & Cooking

pumpkin-3682430_1920

Learning to cook from scratch is a vital skill for anybody to learn at any time. I include cooking here because so many do not know how to cook from scratch, hence why kitchen witchery has become a thing (I mean no disrespect either, but I see so many kitchen witchery articles that are just recipes). Indeed cooking is a kind of alchemy all by itself.

So why is cooking so important? I think it is one of the major ways in which we have lost some control over our lives. We’ve become reliant on cheap prepackaged food and in doing so we’ve forgotten the basics. So learn to cook from scratch. Learn how to make stocks, learn which ingredients can be substituted for others. Find out what’s in season, because food that’s in season will be cheaper to buy.

A word on sourcing food. There is a common misconception, here in the UK at least, that if you’re on a low-income, you can’t afford to eat well. Whilst I always say buy the best you can afford, organic fruit and veg is great, but it is often too pricey for those on tight budgets, so buying regular fruit and veg is more than fine. Check out local markets and if you go later in the day then there’s a good chance that their goods will be reduced, but still in perfect condition. Also check out discount stores. If you’re in the UK then retailers such as Aldi and Lidl are great for fresh and affordable food.

Foraging is another way to increase your food supplies. I know the idea seems pretty out there (who’d of thought it eh, foraging radical?), but there is so much that is edible. Nuts are good round about now. Sweet chestnuts, cob nuts and walnuts are just some that I forage for. Mushrooms are also good now, though I do urge anyone interested in finding wild mushrooms to learn to identify them properly! But there are so many foods that can be foraged, more than I have space to write here! This is where your knowledge of the local landscape becomes important.

Medicine

antibiotic-antioxidant-aroma-242178

Medicine is another area in which we have become dependent on capitalism. Now, when I talk about medicine in this instant, please do not think that I’m advocating self diagnoses, or that the remedies I might include here are for serious conditions. But, when it comes to those minor illnesses, coughs and colds and what not, well, pharmaceutical companies make a killing on selling us useless medicines. This part leads naturally on from food, because so much of what we might call natural medicine is also food.

I live in England, and for us, autumn and winter mean an increase in all of those annoying illnesses that whilst not fatal, are annoying and uncomfortable and generally make life that little bit harder. Learning to make your own natural remedies is a way in which you can ease the symptoms of whatever ails you and at the same time save some cash.

Coughs are annoying as hell and can be painful. When you buy cough medicine from the pharmacy, all you’re really doing is buying something that doesn’t cure the cough nor the cause of it (the cough does that itself) but only soothes the symptoms. Cough medicine is basically sugar syrup. That’s it. So making your own is cheaper and better for you. Simply layer lemon and garlic (you can leave out the garlic if the taste isn’t for you, but garlic is such a potent ingredient it is well worth adding) in a jar and pour honey over until it covers, and that’s it! Keep it in the fridge. I always like to make two batches so that way I can add a shot or two of brandy or rum to one of the jars. This I’ll take in the evening or if I know I haven’t got to drive.

Colds are a pain too, especially the ones where you feel like you can’t breathe. Like coughs, the medicine you buy for colds only eases the symptoms. For colds, eucalyptus and peppermint are your friends. Make a chest rub by blending equal amounts of beeswax and coconut oil and adding drops of essential oil. Now, I do like mine quite strong, but add the oils drop by drop until you are happy with the scent. I make candles using eucalyptus oil and let them burn. Ginger is good for colds too and you can make a syrup just like the honey and lemon one, only including ginger. Make ginger tea, and if you like the taste, then candied ginger makes the perfect lozenge to eat when suffering from a cold.

But it’s not just illnesses where home medicines can be useful. There are no end of minor accidents that occur in everyday life, and for a lot of those, our response is to put on a cream, or pop some pain killers. Mugwort ointment is great for skin complaints from eczema to burns. Mugwort grows as a weed and is real easy to use. I use it in ointment form (you can watch my video here) and I drink it as a tea to ease menstrual pain. It is an abortive herb so it does cause the uterus to contract, bringing on menstrual bleeding, so take care if you’re pregnant or trying.

There is so much information available nowadays in this area, too much to write about here, but my point in writing is this. Let’s try to become less reliant on the system that we find ourselves trapped within. There’s nothing radical about the information here, nothing new. But it is these mundane efforts, combined and multiplied that will help wean us off the system that is Capitalism. It is by starting small and working upwards that we progress, in all things. In martial arts, you don’t get into the ring for a fight on your first day. No. You start with learning where to put your feet. Basic, so small a detail that you’d think it would be so insignificant, but footwork is the bread and butter of fighting and is the difference between hitting and getting hit. And so learning, or rather re-learning the basics, those forgotten skills like feeding and healing ourselves is a small step on the path to reclaiming ourselves.


Emma Kathryn

My name is Emma Kathryn, an eclectic witch, my path is a mixture of traditional European witchcraft, voodoo and obeah, a mixture representing my heritage. I live in the middle of England in a little town in Nottinghamshire, with my partner, two teenage sons and two crazy dogs, Boo and Dexter. When not working in a bookshop full time, I like to spend time with my family outdoors, with the dogs. And weaving magic, of course!You can follow Emma on Facebook.


Hey! We pay Emma and others for their articles. We’re one of the few pagan or anti-capitalist sites to do this. 🙂

Here’s how you can help us do that!

Cancer, Technology and an Ineffable Visceral Space

Everyone was a cancer patient and everyone was–like all those people who go to cancer hospitals, have the best care in the entire fucking world and don’t make it–going to die. This was an all-consuming thought. And really, what was the point of it all? Why had I bothered to go through all that, if it was just going to be a less intense version of that for the rest of my time alive?

From Julian Langer

yanal-tayyem-551824-unsplash

I.

I regularly commit what might be considered a severe social faux pas, though it is not really a blunder and I do not feel shame about it. This faux pas is that I mention, often too lightly, in conversation a subject matter often deemed too taboo for everyday conversation.

The subject matter is that which goths, nihilists and existentialists love to talk about – I talk about death.

From my mother’s death and my father’s near death from drug addiction in my early childhood, as well the loss of other family members and loved ones; death and life have been constant themes within my thoughts. But undoubtedly the biggest influence on my relationship and perspective towards life and death has been the experiences I went through as a young cancer patient.

As I go to write about the process of being-a-cancer-patient, I’m immediately struck by how the words I turn to feel entirely inadequate. If I were to try to really communicate to you (as in you individually reading this, if we were relating one to one) something of what it feels like to be the other side of cancer treatment, I’d probably lower my stance, draw in air and release a guttural and primal scream; then grab hold of you in the tightest, fullest hug I could muster; and then play you something on the guitar. So little of that felt phenomenon can be expressed this way – as-in via text. But I’ll go on.

II.

They found my tumour initially because they were trying to find out why I was developing double vision. I first noticed the double vision in its early stages when I watched seagulls fly by the river in the town I live near to. Given the state of British ecology, these birds are forced to live within the built-space this culture has constructed on top of the land. They are an extremely regular sight, and often labelled vermin by those who do not have eyes to see their beauty.

My eyes were seeing in double. It was weird. It was confusing. Corrective glasses made normal day-to-day activity easier, but why was this happening?

I had my first MRI scan, to see what was going on in my head. What an experience that was! They had to restart the scan because I’d moved too much looking around the scanner as it did its thing.

If you’ve never been in an MRI machine, let me paint you a picture in words of my times in MRI machines. First thing you do is you lie on this platform, positioning yourself so your head rests in the slot designed for it. Then they place this grey-thing under your knees, so your legs are slightly raised throughout. You then feel the platform rise towards the ceiling, stopping when you are level with the opening of the machine. Your head then gets put in this open-box thing, with wadding to make you more comfortable, and you are handed something to squeeze should you need the process to stop or attention for any other reason. Then you feel yourself moving backwards into the machine, into silence. This is a hideously uncomfortable silence, where you are fully aware of how uncomfortable your body feels within this colossal piece of technological construction. And it feels as if it would go on forever, but then it starts.

The first time I heard that noise I felt my heart pounding immediately. Everything about this was wrong! If you can imagine all the worst elements of drum and bass, mixed with the worst elements of industrial metal that would be the best comparison I could give. That sound pulsates through your entire body, and it feels like it is the noise shaking the machine with your body inside it. My muscles tightened. My mouth went dry. The first time I couldn’t stop looking around to see if something was going wrong – as I said, they had to restart it and begin again because my moving had meant the scans were unusable.

Not in my first time, but in the vast majority of scans after that, they’d stop halfway through, to inject this dye through a cannula I’d already had put in place, so they could track everything better; then to return to the shaking booming machine. Sometimes you’re given headphones and they put music on, but I’ve never heard it over the mechanical thumps in the belly of those things. An energetic, visceral surge desiring escape flowed through me, which remained the case throughout every other time I found myself inside one of those machines – though I eventually learnt to get myself very Zen in them and to ignore what was going on around me.

The day after this first scan, my 19th birthday, I went in to get the results and a doctor informed me that the scan had found a pineal legion, a brain tumour, which at this stage couldn’t be confirmed as cancerous, benign, or what. What followed for the next year and a half was months of regular MRI scans, the occasional lumbar puncture and waiting for the tumour to grow large enough to get a biopsy of; because it was too small and they didn’t want to risk damage when all it was doing at that stage was moving my eye.

III.

I had been practicing Buddhism since I was 17 and I turned to this heavily during this time, as well as throwing myself into creative projects. The waiting period was strange. I’d been a study-geek since I was a kid and I continued to find myself drawn to studying all I could find on philosophy, radical politics and “spiritual” stuff. Life continued as normal in many ways. It was just always there, as this ever-present thing.

A friend performed reiki on me, which was weird. Christians and Muslims who knew of me having a brain tumour prayed for me. The tumour was growing still, but at an incredibly slow rate – which meant it was still too small for the neurosurgeons to do a biopsy of it. Was this “spiritual” stuff contributing to this? I didn’t know, but fuck it, I wasn’t gonna knock it!

As I mentioned, I was embracing a Buddhist practice at that time in my life – though possibly a more westernised form than many of you reading this will view as true-Buddhism. I would meditate semi-regularly and occasionally chant. My recovering addict father had pushed the idea on me throughout my childhood than everyone “needs” some form of “spirituality,” and for a time I had largely internalised this notion. This conflicted though with the writers and philosophers I was finding myself drawn to; individuals like Wilde, Nietzsche, Camus and Armand; as what I was getting from their writings were words that fuelled my fire to rebel against this push from my father.

So in place of his Christianised Buddhism, I adopted a much more (indifferent-)agnostic Buddhist practice. Before my embracing a Buddhist practice I had explored Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism and Neo-Paganism (with a consistent solid interest in Hinduism, but didn’t consider practicing until after treatment- and only for a short period), but none of these really stuck as long as Buddhism did and that was what I was embracing during my time as a cancer patient.

My father and I have always had a strained relationship, with him consistently pushing the idea that I should forgive him for his part of our relationship, because if I don’t I will suffer, as I go to hell/have a hellish life for not forgiving him – gosh darn it, don’t you just love Christian morality! With this, he asserted on multiple occasions when my treatment actually started that he believed that, because the tumour was a pineal legion, and some “spiritual” people have called the pineal gland the gateway to the third eye, that I had the tumour because I wasn’t a more spiritually-forgiving person (though I strongly suspect he was simply pushing for me to be less pissed off at him, so if I did die he would feel like at the very least we had made peace and he could feel like a decent dad).

Let me take a second to say though that, in many ways my father was a great dad during treatment, pushing to get me the best care and driving long distances to appointments and lots more. But if I’m going to write about how cancer affected my perception of the world, life and death, I have got to write about how he pushed that the tumour was basically my fault and I had to get more “spiritual”, as he saw it, in order to not die (but this piece is not about him or my relationship with him). Moving on.

IV.

Before treatment actually started I’d had this headache for 3 days. It wasn’t too bad and I wasn’t worrying, but worried family pushed for me get an emergency appointment to see my GP, so I did. At that stage they weren’t worried about the headache. But a few days later I’m in A & E with a migraine, being given the steroid dexamethasone to reduce the pressure the tumour was putting on my brain – now the little fucker was getting interesting and starting to kill me.

Suddenly shit got different! Suddenly I was back and forth between appointments. Everyone wanted to keep Julian alive.

Julian however was mostly focused on sleeping and eating. Dexamethasone had two side effects, both of which I found near unbearable; I couldn’t sleep and I was always starving hungry. Stress and having lots to think about still has an impact on my sleep patterns, but with the meds at this time I was getting three hours maximum most nights – there was lots of watching TV throughout the night, trying to fall asleep to it. And the hunger, words are entirely inadequate for describing the depth of the hunger I was feeling. This wasn’t “I’ve missed a meal and now am more hungry than I would normally be at this time” hungry! This was “I am screaming at you to put food in me or else you will fucking die arsehole” hunger; it was a hunger that felt like there was an emptiness within my being that was going to collapse in on itself if I didn’t eat something. So you better fucking well believe I ate! Salad sandwiches multiple times a day, fajitas, crisps, pasta and SO MUCH CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM YOU WOULD NOT BELIEVE ME IF I TOLD YOU! (I owe a great deal of my mental well being throughout the months of dexamethasone and afterwards to Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked ice cream).

While so much around me was about keeping me from dying, I was consumed by the suffering this medication I had been put on to keep me alive was bringing me. It was only in the months after treatment that I started to value that experience of suffering – but I’m jumping ahead of myself.

My first night sleeping in a hospital for observations was a new experience for me, one that I did not want, but went along with because the doctor I was under the care of at that point had insisted on it, despite my obviously finding the idea extremely upsetting. I’d seen my mother die in a hospital bed when I was 7; and I’d stood there screaming at her body for her to wake up and to be my mum again. Years later I learnt she died because the hospital made an administrative error and she could have survived what happened to her. To my mind, hospitals meant death. Those cold, sterilised walls and floors felt like lifeless expanses that something entirely visceral inside of me was rejecting, in a very primal way. But as I said, I did it. I slept there, or at least tried to, and made it through until the morning.

The next day I asked the doctor if I could start coming off the tablets, because the headaches had gone and I wanted the suffering to end. Without properly understanding what they were doing and in an utterly careless fashion, he stated yes and gave me an incredibly short weaning off period to come off them – which I accepted because, here was the professional saying what I wanted to hear. Days later I was rushed to hospital (a different one to the one I’d slept at) with an excruciatingly painful migraine and in a zombie like state of lifelessness and put straight back on the dose I’d been on, along with another steroid to help my endocrine system recover from the “crash” in hormones I had just undergone. I’d very, very nearly died and felt like death – the doctor fucked up and I never saw him again.

V.

It was a strange feeling, nearly dying, and coupled with the lack of energy, because my body was void of nearly all the testosterone, adrenaline and cortisol I usually had flowing through me, I felt like a nothingness, empty and soulless, with all my personality sucked out of me. It wasn’t that I felt depressed, or sad, or anything like that. No! That would have been something – even when I felt sad and depressed I felt alive. This feeling was death.

Being back on the steroids perked me up, a bit. I was still exhausted and not-all-there, but I was more me, which was something at least. That same visceral feeling I would have with the MRI machines I had with the meds. They were entirely undesirable, but they were working and doing what I needed them to do. Taking them was a choice made for my personal welfare and I am selfish about my personal needs.

Shortly after this though came the second close brush with death. I was taking the medication, but had a mind-blowingly bad migraine. This one was more intense than the others had been. This was pain I couldn’t have imagined feeling. I didn’t want to move, so tried to sleep it off. This didn’t work and pretty soon the paramedics were at the house and I was being carted off to the hospital.

The painkillers I had at the hospital went down an absolute treat! I was the happiest I’d been in a long time! Everyone around me was panicked and trying to work out what to do with me. Calls were being made between hospitals, my father and girl friend were terrified and loved ones were being called with updates on how I was doing. And while all that movement was going on around me, I was high and happy.

Hours later and a journey from North Devon to Bristol in an ambulance, I found myself on the neurology ward of Frenchay hospital, having my surgery plans explained to me by a lovely old hipster brain surgeon (with a brief chat about mutual music loves). I asked what general anaesthetic would be like and was told “like a good gin and tonic.” I was on the bed, about to go into the theatre room, and told they were about to put me to sleep. There was a moment when I was aware of them administering the painkiller and then I was awaking in the recovery ward.

When I woke up there were two definite differences to my body from when I’d gone to sleep. The first I was prepared for and had expected. The surgery I had was called an endoscopic third ventriculostomy and involved them placing what is called a ventricular reservoir in my head – basically a tube in my brain and a silicone bump on my head to protect me from potential future hydrocephalus. This is something that I have in my head still 6 years on and will most likely have until the day I die. I have often joked about being a bionic human, with my body forever changed by technology. I’m not going to lie; it is very weird to think about – but I’ll write more on this later. All that mattered at that point was – I am alive and this is gonna help keep me alive! The second difference, though less permanent, was far more traumatising at the time.

VI.

Soon after waking I came to discover a tube attached to my bed that had not been there before. After a brief investigation of the bed and my body, I came to realise the tube was inserted somewhere I had never EVER expected to find a tube! (If you haven’t guessed already, they’d inserted a urinary catheter). THE HORROR! I don’t mind telling you that my penis is something I value and treasure, for a multitude of reasons, and have degree of aesthetic preferences around its appearance and treatment, which includes not having a tube up it. There was an element to which it was apparent, the doctors had seen my naked body, in a way I had not considered before, which, given the amount of body-shame I felt at the time was a bit embarrassing. But more so, again in a very visceral, animal and primal embodied sense, I DON’T WANT A TUBE UP MY DICK!

Hours after waking up, when I felt like I had enough energy to walk a little bit and had shown I could move my legs, I asked the nurse to remove the catheter, so I could walk up and down the ward. She held my member and then moments later I felt a sensation in my dick that makes me squirm and recoil in disgust still, as I write this. After a minute to recover from what just happened, I started to get myself off the bed. A nurse from Somalia, whose kindness throughout my stay on that ward I will value for the rest of my life, held my arm as I walked the corridor from one end to the other. No one thought I’d be walking that quickly, but I was defiant and knew I was going to do it – I knew that this body that I am wasn’t going to just lay in bed with a tube where no tube should be; I was going to walk, and fuck anyone who said otherwise.

After the surgery I spent several days and nights on ward and then came home for a few weeks rest, before I went up to hospital for the second and hopefully final lot of brain surgery. This was a weird time. I felt in many ways ruined, especially the day the last of the general anaesthetic wore off and I couldn’t stop crying. I had my head shaved, because where they’d shaved a rectangular block out of my long fringe looked ridiculous, and that was a particularly sad moment, as I’ve always love my hair. I was low energy, because of my hormones and what it was taking out of my body to recover from the surgeries, and still starving hungry all of the time. I had started seeing regularly a craniosacral therapist and the holistic treatment was definitely helping me sleep, which was a plus, as well as supporting my recovery in other ways. Chocolate ice cream was continuing to be a great pick me up. But what helped me the most through those weeks was something entirely beyond words.

Between her university classes and exams, my girl friend Katie, then of 5 years (now wife), was doing all she could to be there for me and be loving and supportive. The experience of love I got from her was more than just words and deeds. There was an energy I could feel in her touch, as she held me with my head on her lap, not judging as I wept uncontrollably. Whether we were watching TV or talking to family, her arms around me communicated an intention that rendered all words as lesser. One night she washed me as I sat in the bath and the love and care I felt her hands communicate made all language slip away into an abyss that left me in bliss. Amidst all the horror that was going on around me, all the suffering and shit I was going through, here was something completely wonderful, that brought the beauty of life and experience back to me in a direct and immediate way. As much as her actions were beyond words, my descriptions are entirely inadequate. You will never be able to know the energy that was felt between us in those moments (and honestly that is something I am glad of).

The second lot of brain surgery was quicker than the first and in many ways a lot easier. I spent most of my stay on ward consuming that beautiful hyper-real spectacle that we postmodern 21st century westerners remain addicted to: TV. No catheter! And was again able to walk afterwards faster than expected. The thing that was the best part of my second brain surgery was that the biopsy had found out the type of tumour that was in my brain.

If you know anything about pineal germinomas (also know as germ cell tumours), you will know that, as far as brain tumours go, being told you have one is extremely good news! These tumours are very easy to treat; they don’t often come back; and really this was confirmation that I was going to kick cancer’s fucking arse and live beyond this hellish ordeal I was going through! This was the best news yet and everyone around me was glad to learn this.

I had a month between my last brain surgery and starting radiation therapy. That month involved mostly listening to music, watching TV, playing guitar, eating (LOTS), siting in the garden and the occasional outing to shops or town, if I felt well enough to do it. I was exhausted though. It took me 3 attempts to stand up from the toilet one morning. The thing I kept saying to people was that I just wanted to go and walk outside. That primal urge to move my body across the land was something I felt deep within me, but at that time I simply couldn’t. That was something deeply upsetting and frustrating. My body, the being that I am, felt like something other than myself, but equally I was consumed by this-is-me-now – and I had to deal with that.

I knew I was alive and that was valuable. I felt like death, but knew that this process was transient and I would soon be a different space and in a different space.

Radiation therapy was weird. The first thing I remember them doing was making me this mask to hold my head in place on the table – a mask I kept after treatment ended and have a solid love/hate relationship with. For a month I would go to the hospital 5 days a week every morning; lie down on this table, in front of this colossal machine that looked straight out of science fiction; have my head locked in place by the mask; have radiation beams fired at my head, which you cannot see, hear, or smell, but after the first week or so start to feel the effects of; and then go home, and spend all day resting, playing guitar, video games or watching TV. The day my hair fell out sucked! I was in the bath and it all just started to come out in clumps – it felt much more like losing a part of myself compared with when it had been shaved off 2 months earlier (that was (kind of) my choice at least). But the real impact of radiation therapy didn’t start until after cancer treatment had ended, in the months immediately after – a period of time I have barely spoken about with anyone.

VII.

As I go to write about this now, I’m aware of my body tensing and I’m thinking more about my breath and what my eyes are doing in their sockets. This is very much a space where I have always found the idea of trying to put words to it something I couldn’t do. This was a space of finding myself in the dark-mysticism of what philosophers like Bataille, Foucault and Lacan have called limit-experience. This space is probably the closest I’ve been to the impossible and probably the closest I’ll get to the impossible.

If this comes across as non-sense to you, what I’m about to write, that is ok with me – if you haven’t experienced this you most likely simply won’t get it. This period, the months immediately after treatment, around my 21st birthday and immediately after; this was a point of falling into a schism, whose abyss seemed like it was going to consume me. I kept this very, very private at the time, as I didn’t want to upset those who had supported me throughout the proceeding months and who had done all they could to keep me alive. It felt like utter madness, where I was split between contradictions and caught between monoliths. This wasn’t feeling depressed or sad but something like being both caged and liberated, will also climbing and falling.

I’d thought about suicide a fair bit during my mid-teens, but mostly in a distant sense. The time I considered it most was in the months immediately following treatment. Why? Well to answer that I have to start a little before this period.

As I was going to and from between radiation therapy appointments, watching people in their cars from my seat as we drove past them, I would often think about them going to work to get money to buy food and pay for everything they needed to stay alive. I would also think about them feeling exhausted from work when home, watching TV and sitting on their smart phones playing games and tweeting crap they didn’t really care about. I would think about this over and over and over again. I would think about society being made up of people distracting themselves from death and doing all they could to avoid it all day every day. The more I did the more it all appeared to be one noisy MRI machine; one giant radiation therapy machine; one catheter up everyone’s dick.

Everyone was a cancer patient and everyone was–like all those people who go to cancer hospitals, have the best care in the entire fucking world and don’t make it–going to die. This was an all-consuming thought. And really, what was the point of it all? Why had I bothered to go through all that, if it was just going to be a less intense version of that for the rest of my time alive? Why not just kill myself? I would never be anything of who I was before – I’d always have the tube in my brain and knew I’d never see the world the same again. The Buddhism I had embraced for years was feeling more and more like a lived suicide; a denial of my life through trying to lose my attachment to this body that I am and that I had just gone through so much to keep alive. I contemplated suicide, a lot. I thought of what it would be to just not exist.

All “spirituality” grew less and less beautiful, and seemed more like a technology of flesh renunciation, as I found myself increasingly within-my-body. For a short period I explored Hinduism, but the more I did I found myself trying to find meaning in this space that just didn’t resonate with me (though perhaps was the religion that best mirrored my experience). I’ve always hated arsehole “humanist” atheists, who are often more dogmatic than most religious people, and didn’t want to reject what might be beautiful in religious stuff. But I knew that that stuff was no longer for me. It all felt like part of the same life-of-death this culture was looking increasingly like to me, and I wanted to embrace as little death as possible. (Perhaps if my father had been different I’d have a different relationship with this stuff – but that would be a different me and a different world, so I can never know.)

Something un-worded, visceral, embodied and entirely animal kept me from doing anything like attempting suicide. During this time I was still playing a lot of guitar and writing songs, and I had lots of love and support from people around me, in particular from Katie. This gave life more beauty during this horrific time. I then started re-reading existentialist philosophers, in particular Camus and Nietzsche, and took creativity in the face of all the meaninglessness around me to be my pathway. And I began to find value in what had happened, knowing that I was in many ways stronger for what had happened, though forever changed.

I started at the same time my undergraduate degree in social psychology and philosophy, and putting myself out into the world as a singer-songwriter. As I explored these spaces I found myself within, delving both into my studies and my creativity as a musician, I found myself drawn towards the weird, the fleshy and the wild, in ways that I couldn’t put to words, but that fitted this sensation I had been undergoing.

After the first year post-treatment I was doing well. I’d started exercising more and the body I am was feeling more and more like me. My degree was going very well and music was bringing me lots of joy. I was beginning to find a vocabulary to articulate something of what I was aware of but could not say, not out of taboo, but because it felt beyond the words.

I read Heidegger’s The Question Concerning Technology and was exploring existentialist ideas on authenticity and inauthenticity, which was the closest thing yet to the feelings I had undergone and the awareness I had of myself within the world. I explored this alongside poststructuralist ideas on hyper-realism and the self as an object constructed through the technology of language. I began to explore philosophy of technology and found resonance with philosophers like Zerzan and found rekindled a visceral childlike love of what is Wild and living. And as my body grew stronger, I would walk more and more through the woods that surround me in the British countryside, listening to the birds as often as I could hear them. Aesthetically, I’ve always been drawn to music that conjured images of Wild “natural” spaces, with poetry of living-beings, and works of art that are of non-domesticated scenes and full of madness. I’d found a space that I shared energy with, and, though it was in so many ways horrifying, as I studied with increasing intensity the ecological situation and what that entails, I found myself increasingly energised and more passionate about living as furiously as possible.

One night, as I was starting on the first draft on Feral Consciousness: Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods–a work that was largely me trying to put words to this sensation I had undergone–the words I had received through the studies I was engaged with at that time – I spent several hours reading articles and watching talks on “diseases of civilisation”, which includes, as you might have guessed, cancer. Weirdly enough though, this didn’t make me feel angrier about civilisation or about what I had gone through as a cancer patient, in any way that might immediately seem logical. That unworded, visceral, animal and entirely defiant energy within me was burning in a way that felt beautiful to me.

What became apparent to me was that civilisation is a cancer and that cancer’s manifest form, as a phenomenon, is technology: the technology that is keeping people alive is also killing them. Two things can happen with cancer – either it kills you, or you kill it. If I kill it, like I had done before, then I survive and keep living. If it kills me, then my body will become something else, something the cancer has no way of affecting. This was a strange but wonderful realisation to have. It was neither hopeful, or hopeless. Whatever happens, regardless of whether you have cancer or not, you and I are definitely going to die, which is ok, because we grow into new beings, still very much part of life.

It all felt absurd, but beautifully absurd. Horrific and ugly, but also something I wanted to grab at and bite into. That ineffable visceral energy, whose Wild burnings I’d felt throughout all that time going through treatment, like some skilled fish who lingers just below the surface ready to strike at insects or birds who come to close, that nameless energy, born out of the paradoxical dark-mysticism of the impossible limit-experience I had found myself within, I was starting to be able to articulate it, through the book project, through other writing projects and, though it was finding itself less in song and more in instrumentals, through music.

I was aware that I couldn’t find another living being doing what this culture does. The badgers, birds, trees and foxes weren’t living that cancer, those their lives were obviously impacted by it. And it seems to me, the more I study civilisation, that this is not a “human” phenomenon, but one specifically of this culture.

VIII.

I am still trying to find words to describe this impossible, embodied process to people who might find resonance with this experience of Being-in-the-world. I study loads and write loads, because, to a large degree, the project of my life is trying to scream at the world “YOU ARE FUCKING ALIVE” and as much of what that means, in as beautiful deconstructive, destructive and creative ways as I am able. I don’t know how successfully I am doing this, or will ever do it, but it is where my passions are drawn to.

But here is the thing – we don’t really have a cure for cancer (and I write that as a cancer survivor, who knows we can kill it). And all our bodies, like the earth we are manifest Extensions of, are infected with civilisation. Technologies might dull the pains and reduce the affect it has, for as long as we have the means to provide those technologies – like the painkillers and steroids I loved and hated in so many ways. Greater more powerful technologies might kill this cancer; but like how radiation therapy could have given me another tumour and still might well make me infertile as an on-going affect on my body, they could well lead to other, potentially worse, horrors. I don’t know to what degree the prayers and the crystals, the juices and holistic therapies, the reiki or the meditation, did anything, but I’m not arrogant enough to claim that I know they did nothing and am glad for any part in my healing they could have provided. Getting through cancer is messy – it is shit, piss, blood, tears and involves being looked at in an entirely naked sense. To survive cancer you have got to put the image you want to have of yourself aside and simply be who the fuck you are in that moment.

We all have civilisation within our being. Many(/most) of us will die from it. It is not a nice comfortable thing to acknowledge, but it is the truth I feel within my body and am as sure of that as I am sure of my own existence within Life, as this mammal who dances mad dances in the woods of Briton. If any of us are going to survive it, it will be those of us who remove our catheters as soon as possible and summon up all the strength they have within them to walk. It is difficult, it is heart breaking, but it is also wonderful, in a weird paradoxical way.

I am not writing this expecting many of you reading this to like it. I am sure lots of you will disregard me as some hypocritical “primitivist” bashing the technology his life has depended upon, through the medium of the internet that wouldn’t exist if he had his way. To those of you who feel that way, I’m not bothered by you not getting it, because I doubt I would if I had not felt the sensations I had done and if your body has nothing similar to draw from you just won’t get it. And if civilisation is what kills you too, I hope your passing is as painless as possible.

Politics has come to seem more and more to be a machine of death, that cultishly worships itself; with its varying factions being different deities within this pantheon. Though less the case than in mainstream-politics, this largely seems the case with radical-politics too, with its endless arbitrary factionalism, call-outs policing of each other and politics-as-fashion. Because I feel a visceral, animal pull of will towards life/power, rather than embracing death, for the most part, while sometimes anti-political, I have tried to keep the bulk of my projects away from politics. This is also the case for the 2 political ideologies I have been occasionally lumped in with (despite having voiced critiqued of both) – anarcho-primitivism and eco-extremism.

With this, I have tried to focus my writings, not on quietist renunciation, but on what it means to Live, while we are surrounded by this Leviathan of death, this cancer, this vile and disgusting machinery. I’d also like to put it here that I haven’t embraced anti-civilisation philosophy because I read anti-civ writers like Zerzan, Kaczynski, Quinn or Jenson – though many of their ideas and arguments resonate with my experience – but because what I as-my-body has gone through, both as feeling-what-it-is-to-be-dead and as being-an-Extension-of-the-world-that-is-dying. This is something beyond words and argument; it is the space that you find yourself in after the full stop at the end of the last sentence.

Here I am, committing that faux pas again – the great cosmological-taboo. I love the work by Camus The Myth of Sisyphus, though my writing project has been and ones currently in process, have all been reversal of his assertion – whether or not we commit suicide is a rather boring and unimportant question; whether or not we commit Life is the philosophical question that my being feels drawn to. Sure, Life might be weird and absurd and impossible and confusing, but there is an awe inspiring mystical beauty to all of that, which I find to be a desirable place to dance in. Anti-civilisation politics and philosophy is never going to be popular within “society” and is always going to offend those who don’t like and don’t find resonance with it.

I’m not trying to write something people are going to like – I’m trying to communicate something honest. We are drowning in information, thanks to the internet and TV. There is very little honesty, very little authenticity. If this is a faux pas, so be it.


Julian Langer

Writer of Feral Consciousness: Deconstruction of the Modern Myth and Return to the Woods, blogger at Eco-Revolt, and has been published on a number of other sites. Eco-anarchist and guerilla ontologist philosopher. Lover of woods, deer, badgers and other wild Beings. Musician and activist.


Here’s the link to our donation page. And thanks!

How to Buy a Religion

i-1-sephora-is-selling-witch-starter-kits
Source

What’s wrong with Sephora’s witch kit?

Is it crass to reduce a religious practice to $40 of mass-manufactured perfumes and Tarot cards? Probably, but haven’t Pagans been debating “pay-to-pray” back and forth for years? Sure, an independent Etsy artisan needs to make a living. But doesn’t Sephora also have to tap new markets to survive? The scale’s different, but what about the essence?

Is the mall any worse than the metaphysical shop?


Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.

Karl Marx

Capitalism alienates.

It takes parts of you and makes commodities out of them. Your time, your physical activity, and your mental energy all get sold on the labor market like Tarot decks and perfume. Your body contains more than itself – it carries your community, the work and care of your loved ones, everything they do to keep you physically and psychologically functional. Without all that, how would you make it out of your door every morning with enough resiliency to work? After all, capital is hungry. A business needs to grow, or else other companies out-compete it in the market and force it into bankruptcy. The ones that can grow, survive. The ones that find more ways and things to eat, grow. They need your ability to work, to produce goods and services they can sell. All of the ingredients that go into your work, they consume.

Capital imposes its needs onto the dispossessed, the ones who don’t own businesses or rental properties and so have nothing to live on but their ability to work. The whole community depends on the money its wage-workers earn, so it has to organize its collective life in whatever way maximizes their employability. Wage-workers are exploited, and they incarnate entire communities of labor, exploited alongside and through them.

Religion is one way the dispossessed survive. Capitalism cuts you off from your basic nature: your capacity to flourish, to form relationships as a free being. It demoralizes in both the current and the older sense: the mindlessness and futility of wage-work, housewifery, and unemployment teach despair and induce depression, but when capital reduces you to an instrument, it de-moralizes you in a larger sense. The more of you that goes to satisfy capital’s hunger, the less of you is left for self-cultivation, creativity, and relationship-building. You are alienated from yourself.


vice-witchcraft
Pop-culture resurgence: Internet tabloid Vice offers dozens of witchcraft-themed articles. Source

Sephora sells to women.

The social base of religion (Pagan and otherwise) is not only the dispossessed in general, but specifically the specially-oppressed along racial, national, and gender lines. Even when the ministers and bishops are men, it’s women who cook meals for sick parishioners, clean up after services, teach Sunday school, and fill most of the pews. Capitalism, by definition, only pays for waged work. But, the health and functionality of wage-workers is costly; it takes a vast expenditure of unpaid work in the home and the community to feed and support wage-workers, take care of their kids and elders, and ease the emotional strain of their alienation. So, there’s a division of labor between paid and unpaid work, and it falls along the lines of gender. Culture, ideology, and discrimination harmonize with the pervasive reality of anti-woman and anti-LGBT violence, forming an elegantly self-reinforcing feedback loop; gender roles both flow from and reinforce the overall social system. Those who don’t fall in line get hurt.

Religion sits at a key point in the cycle. It allows the racially and nationally oppressed to rely on each other for support, fellowship, and existential meaning without their oppressors in the room for a few hours each week (is it a coincidence that in the US, Black people report being “absolutely certain” of God’s existence at a higher rate than self-identified Christians do?). Religion takes the edge off of alienation, offering a relationship with something bigger than you, your job, and your daily life – a bedrock of connections and values deeper and older than capitalism. At the same time, it transmits gender roles and racial social segregation from generation to generation, helps the dispossessed stay psychologically healthy enough to work, and gives bourgeois clergy a medium to preach patience and forbearance towards oppression rather than revolution and collective action. From time to time, though, it takes on an opposite role, providing mass movements with a moral language and the institutional infrastructure they need. Religion is politically contradictory. It keeps the dispossessed in line – except when it’s helping them liberate themselves.

Paganism has an even sharper gender skew than most religions. After all, it actively encourages women to take on sacerdotal and leadership roles (not to mention its historical ties to lesbian feminism and LGBT culture). Sephora sells to women, so selling women’s religion is an intuitive next step, especially given that pop culture is currently more infatuated with witchcraft than it has been since the 90s. When Sephora sells Paganism, it’s offering more than a deck of cards and some quartz.  Sephora is no less responsible for capitalism’s crushing alienation than any other business. It helped create the ailment. Now, it’s promising a $40 cure.


SAMSUNG DIGIMAX A503
Metaphysical shopfront. Source

Unlike most religions, modern Paganism’s basic institutional anchor isn’t the congregation. Rather, it’s the metaphysical shop. Jonathan Wooley explains:

The authors, makers and the shops that stock their wares could operate without moots and open rituals; but moots and open rituals – in their current form – could not exist without the “Pagan Business”.

The point here is not that those who make their living through Paganism are being greedy or venial. On the contrary, writing words, speaking spells, crafting holy things, and making ceremonies that heal, enlighten, and empower is important work, and those working in these ways cannot survive on mere air and good wishes. The problem arises from how we are currently supporting the work that they do, and the centrality of this (commercial) arrangement in our community. Before all else, you have to pay. By relying upon the Market to directly transmit our lore, to fund our gatherings, to supply our goods, we become complicit in it. It means the fortunes of our traditions turn not with the wheel of the year, but with the shifting fashions and stock prices of the global publishing and wellness industries. Our community is directed less by the will of the gods, and more by Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand. The heartbeat at the core of our living traditions becomes the ring of a cash register.

This dominance of the logic of the Market within Paganism is not surprising, even if it is disquieting. Paganism is one of the few religions to have arisen within the Modern Age, when Capitalism was in its ascendency. This has very real consequences for us all. Let us not forget the prototypical “gateway experience” for a seeker – traditionally – was buying a book from an occult book shop. The fact that the internet and Amazon have replaced the knowledgeable local bookseller is to be lamented; but it is not so meteoric shift as we might suppose. Whether your spirituality is expressed through buying knowledge from a kooky shop on Glastonbury High Street, or from Amazon, your spirituality is still being expressed through shopping. Equally, this shift demonstrates the extent to which our infrastructure is dependent upon the vagaries of the market to survive: the rise of the internet has caused many Pagan bookshops to close; depriving local communities of an invaluable opportunity to meet, learn, and socialise. Indeed, it is precisely because we have relied on the Market that this transition – from a friendly, in-community, low-profit enterprise, to a distant, global, high profit one – has taken place. The very means by which our lore is spread has been transformed for the worse by the dictat of the Market.

In other words, Sephora and a PantheaCon vendor don’t differ in essence – only in scale.


800px-nitrogen_cycle-svg
The nitrogen cycle. Source

When Paganism is commercial, it’s filling religion’s conservative role, reconciling the dispossessed to their oppression. After all, if shopping is the way out of alienation, then capitalism, if not benevolent, is at least neutral. Collective action isn’t even on the radar.

But that’s not the only Paganism.

We’re all of us embedded in a living relational web – humans, the biosphere, the land and sea and sky, the gods and the dead. The nitrogen cycle and the water cycle have a sacredness. It’s holy when through death, an organism becomes food, transmuting into new life. The Sun is slowly spending itself. It feeds plants and algae with its energy, and that energy sustains the same animals who then nourish plants when they die and decompose. Gods are at once embodied in and emergent from each nexus of the process, standing at the fulcrums where nature moves humans and is itself moved. Paganism is what the mutually-conditioning cycles of ecology and evolution teach you when you pay attention to them, learn their rhythms, find where you are inside them. Prayer, devotion, myth, and ritual all orient you towards that ground of your being and make a sacrament of your participation in it. Reciprocity is cosmic, both an imperative and a fact. Do ut des, I give so that you may give, is at the heart of both polytheist sacrificial theology and the Mystery that governs the process of life.

You were born with a capacity for eudaimonia: balanced, all-sided human flourishing, the Greatest Good of ethics and philosophy. You can develop eudaimonia if you cultivate virtues: self-knowledge, self-control, justice, and right relationship. Capitalism is a social process that alienates you from that capacity, but it doesn’t destroy it. It does, however, determine the form that it needs to take.

Self-development, ritual and political practice, and reverence for the Gods, the dead, and the natural world are the foundation stones of revolutionary virtue. Paganism holds a radical seed: given the reality of capitalism and empire, the communist organizer, the Stoic sage, and the nature-mystic devotionalist must all become the same person. Each component of revolutionary virtue is incomplete by itself. They need each other, just like plants, decomposers, and nitrifying bacteria.

And it’s all unbuyable. The people trying to sell you Paganism are promising to cure your alienation with more alienation, only in disguise. They can sell you a Scott Cunningham book, a handmade pewter pendant, or a $40 “starter” box, but do those contain the Mystery? At best, they’re dispensable props. At worst, they’ll actively mislead you; like any religion, Paganism can teach you to accept your oppression or it can teach you to fight it.

If you really want to buy something, get Marcus Aurelius or an ecology textbook. Read myths. Go out and see how mosses and lichens grow on trees and how trees that die feed mushrooms and bacteria, fertilizing the soil. The relational web spreads out from there. It reaches to the sun, the atmosphere, the microorganisms, and the gods who take their embodiment in that dynamic interplay. Find your nature, your inborn potential for virtue, eudaimonia, and right relationship. You are in the web. Root yourself. Capitalism uproots you and disrupts your nature. It’s throwing the whole world’s processes so off-kilter that if it isn’t stopped, the ecosphere will endure – but it will be so changed that humans won’t be able to live in it.

Paganism lives in that knowledge. It’s a method – you learn the context of human life and you choose to act accordingly. Sephora can’t sell it to you, but neither can the vendors at Pagan Pride.

You can’t simply opt out of the alienation capitalism imposes. But, you can choose what to do about it; you are existentially free. Paganism can be a path to knowledge and revolutionary virtue, or it can be an “opiate of the masses.”

Sephora wants to sell you one of those. But you’re free to choose the other.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism


Gods&Radicals would like to know how we’re doing. Mind taking a four-minute survey?

Revolution Is Not a Metaphor: A Response to Critics

barricade18march1871
A barricade in the Paris Commune. March 18, 1871. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Leftists love youth organizing.

Why shouldn’t they? Contemporary activism descends directly from the youth and student movements of the 60s, so anything that recalls the glory days inspires activists. It gives them a sense that the US’s long rightward drift might be reversed.

No wonder so many of them cheered for March’s pro-gun-control “March for Our Lives” rallies. In the wake of a school shooting, what could be more uplifting than high schoolers coming together, launching a protest movement, and responding to their experience of violence with political organization? How could any leftist not support that?

But the “movement” was stage-managed by the Democratic Party. The protests were choreographed media spectacles focused on boosting Democratic voter turnout in the midterms. Further, the students’ demands were outright reactionary, calling for more police in high schools, the expansion of mass incarceration, and the loss of medical privacy rights for people with mental health diagnoses.

Political substance matters. The form taken by the March for Our Lives (“youth organizing”) drew leftist support, but the actual content was antithetical to everything the Left claims to value.

 


800px-friant_la_discussion_politique
Émile Friant, “Political Discussion.” Source: Wikimedia Commons

This week, two people have published critiques of my work, using it as a stand-in for the political tendency I’m part of: revolutionary base-building, exemplified by the Marxist Center network, Cooperation Jackson, and parts of DSA Refoundation. Revolutionary base-building means rejecting “activist networking” in favor of organizing the unorganized outside of elections. It involves independent workplace organizations, tenant unions, community self-defense, and mutual aid.

Antonio Balmer argues that base-building is just empty populism. He compares it to the Narodnik movement of 19th-century Russia, which saw middle-class anti-monarchists “go to the people” by moving to peasant villages and occasionally assassinating aristocrats. Balmer contrasts them with the Bolsheviks, who built an organized political party capable of leading a revolution, and suggests that base-builders pay too little attention to Marxist theory and revolutionary leadership.

Shamus Cooke takes a different angle. He quotes Lenin’s pamphlet Left-Wing” Communism: An Infantile Disorder to claim that I reject class struggle in favor of a depoliticized mutualism. (Mutualism is a flavor of anarchism that calls for worker-owned co-ops to peacefully replace capitalism by out-competing traditional firms in the marketplace.) According to Cooke:

Burns’ gradualist approach ignores the fact that revolutionary situations are often brief, requiring a battle for power at all levels of society. Nearly all revolutions begin as massive, mostly-spontaneous mobilizations, so it would behoove a revolutionary to understand the abc’s of organizing mobilizations. Mass mobilization, however, barely registers as an activity that Burns believes a revolutionary should engage in.

The term class war implies there is an open struggle between the classes. Burns wants us to only engage in guerrilla tactics that don’t attract the attention of the establishment. But if ever such tactics actually succeed in challenging power, the ruling class would aggressively respond, since their economic and political power would actually be threatened, at which point Burns’ approach would be rendered useless, requiring a completely different strategy.

The “completely different strategy” he advocates involves combining base-building methods, electoral work, and conventional activism to shift “the balance of forces” against “the establishment.” What does that look like concretely? Cooke repeatedly cites the city-level electoral and lobbying efforts of his own organization, Portland Tenants United.

Balmer and Cooke agree: revolutionary base-builders are anti-theory, anti-political, don’t believe in party-building, don’t believe in class confrontation, and don’t have a vision for socialism or revolution. Base-building means mutual aid, and mutual aid is another word for depoliticized charity work. Base-builders say they want socialism, but don’t have the stomach to fight for it.

Now, if you reduce revolutionary base-building to mutual aid, you’re misrepresenting it. Workplace and tenant organizing (along with community self-defense) account for much more of what base-builders actually do than mutual aid. But, it’s true that “base-building” is itself not a political strategy; it’s a set of techniques.

So, what defines revolutionary base-building? Is it just methods? Are Balmer and Cooke right – do base-builders really expect to win socialism without a strategy, without the bother of class struggle?

 


800px-5s_tools_drawer
Tools. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Means and Ends

Anyone can base-build.

How does any organization develop a base of support? It organizes previously-unorganized people. It campaigns against their enemies while offering mutual-aid, cultural, and social activities. It puts its own work above networking with the already-converted. Churches, businesses, political parties, and fan clubs all use some variant of the formula. Base-building methods, in that sense, are just how you build an effective organization.

Since revolutionary base-builders use those techniques and most of the activist Left doesn’t, they provide the tendency’s form. They don’t provide its content. Base-building is a tool, nothing more. A hammer can help you make a table; it can also smash a flowerpot. “Youth organizing” can mean the March for Our Lives. It can also mean the Black Panther Party. Without the methodology of base-building, you can’t organize a constituency capable of exercising social power. But who are you organizing? What is that social power for?

We are revolutionaries. That’s literal.

We seek “the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions.” That includes the private ownership of economically productive property; the division of labor and benefits according to white supremacy, patriarchy, and empire; and the existence of the capitalist government.

That won’t happen by winning elections or voting for socialism. It won’t happen through one-cooperative-at-a-time mutualism, either. Rather, it means building up revolutionary capacity by cultivating a mass base within the working class. When the conditions are right, it will mean launching a revolutionary uprising to establish a monopoly on the legitimate use of force by participatory-democratic organs of the working class. It will mean restructuring the economy according to a democratic, ecological, and scientific plan based on production for human use, not private profit.

Our ideas don’t make us revolutionary. Ideology runs deeper than the things you think. What’s the long-term trajectory implied by what you’re actually doing? That’s your ideology. We build institutions of class confrontation and mutual aid outside of the state, against the state, and in order displace the state. That trajectory makes us revolutionary – what we are, not what we say. Electioneering, lobbying, and waving signs may well involve revolutionary slogans, taking the form of radical politics. But, they lack the content. What happens when activist leftists have a mass movement? They tie it institutionally to the state, cutting off its ability to exercise social power directly, on its own terms. That road doesn’t lead to collective power – just brokerage within the existing order.

We don’t base-build for the sake of base-building. Our practice flows from and, in turn, shapes our revolutionary agenda. We are not cultivating an electorate for “movement” politicians. Revolutionary base-building is a process of preparation for collective self-government, for the seizure of power by the working class. Sure, delivering here-and-now gains does matter, but it’s never the point. Socialism means more than “a chicken in every pot.”

 


 

line_in_the_sand_-_geograph-org-uk_-_312656
A line in the sand. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Drawing Lines

Government socialism can’t end capitalism. Structurally speaking, the capitalist state can’t be separated from its function; it serves the ruling class, bottom to top. Expanding it doesn’t advance socialism. At best, it just rearranges exploitation (while institutionally tying the Left to the survival and success of the state). The impulse to deliver real gains, even if they’re small, make sense, but government socialists squeeze the revolutionary essence, the political content, out of socialism.

Protest militancy isn’t up to the task either. Small-group heroics don’t make history. Organized power does. Confrontational protests feel “more revolutionary” to their participants because they’re more disruptive. But do they lead to oppressed people becoming organized in a durable way? Do they increase their long-term capacity to exercise collective power?

Government socialists want tangible benefits and ignore or defer revolutionary ideas. Protest militants treat their ideas as a substitute for mass organization. Revolutionary base-builders, though, synthesize organizing for tangible gains with the long-game commitment to literal revolution. That synthesis doesn’t mean talking like protest militants and behaving like government socialists, though. Rather, it’s built into the process of organizing the unorganized to change their own conditions and confront their enemies themselves, rather than mediating it through the nonprofits or the state. (Indeed, the Marxist Center network takes its name from the course between those two possible distortions.)

Base-building methods aren’t conventional activism. That matters, if only because “base-building” is another word for “organizational techniques that actually work” – but revolutionary base-builders are after more than just a social base. No matter what Bernie Sanders says, political revolution means replacing the government, not reforming it.

The point is to create organizational structures through which power can be transferred from the few to the many, from the ownership class to the dispossessed. That transfer doesn’t happen piecemeal. It isn’t a gradual process where reforms (or mutualist co-ops!) stack on top of each other until one morning, you wake up to find that capitalism is gone. The capitalist state can’t not uphold the rule of the capitalist class. Base-building just to create another electoral or activist constituency, without that revolutionary goal and opposition to the state, has nothing to do with socialism. It doesn’t weaken capitalism. It just creates another avenue for capitalist politics, even if you call it “socialism,” even if it takes the form of base-building.

And for revolutionary base-builders, that will never be enough.

 


Sophia Burns is a polytheist and communist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism

The Socialist Case Against Medicare for All

peninsula_nursing_and_rehabilitation_center_ny
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Nursing assistants often resent their clients.

I worked in assisted living. My co-workers would complain about residents who blew up if they got breakfast at 8:10 instead of 8 – never mind that each of us had 8 or 9 other residents also demanding breakfast at 8. Sometimes, they did worse than chew us out. For most people, getting hit by clients from time to time isn’t “just part of the job.” For CNAs, it is.

However, the residents who lashed out had cause to feel isolated and powerless. Social programming for long-term care residents is inadequate in many facilities (if it’s offered at all). Facility life is profoundly lonely; worse, facilities rarely treat their clients as adults with a right to dignity and bodily autonomy. And, of course, plenty of them don’t even meet their residents’ bare physical needs.

Was that the CNAs’ fault? We did the best we could under conditions not of our making. But, frustrated residents still took out their grievances on us, the only representatives of the facility with whom they had any regular contact. It made sense for them to blame us for their situation, just as it made sense for us to blame them for mistreating us.

But management decided how the place was run. They created a situation in which mutual scapegoating was a logical decision for both CNAs and residents. Meanwhile, the company could cut costs and accumulate profit, at the expense of clients and workers both.

Residents and their families were rarely the ones who paid. Assisted living costs thousands of dollars per month; few can afford it out-of-pocket. So, most residents at most facilities are there only because their health insurance covers it. If insurance doesn’t pay, the resident doesn’t stay.

That gives management an incentive to keep residents healthy enough to live for a long time, but never so healthy that they need a less intensive level of care (since that would mean less billable treatment). From a patient’s point of view, the best-case outcome is to recover enough to require less intensive care. But for the facility, the best case is that the resident never stops having more health problems to treat, so insurance never runs out.


dceslqtuwaiste4
Source: DSA for Medicare for All

At its 2017 convention, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) declared Medicare for All (M4A) its highest priority.

Single-payer healthcare has long been a leftist and liberal priority. While Democrats tend to view M4A as an end in itself, socialists approach it as a springboard to a fully-nationalized, UK-style system. As Timothy Faust wrote in Jacobin:

In other words, a single-payer program is not the goal. Single-payer on its own cannot be the goal. Single-payer does not solve the biggest sin of commodified health care: that taking care of sick people isn’t profitable, and any profit-driven insurance system thus disregards the most vulnerable.

Single-payer alone does not solve these problems. But it gives us a fighting chance to square up against them.

Further, given that Bernie Sanders made it a key campaign promise, many leftists view M4A as the ideal “winning issue.” What could be better than a “universal public good” that enjoys majority support in the polls and already gets significant media coverage?

So, is there a leftist critique of M4A to be made? What socialist would oppose universal healthcare?

M4A, though, isn’t universal healthcare access in the abstract. Medicare is a specific program. M4A calls for it to be expanded in specific ways. M4A is not the general principle of a right to healthcare. It’s a concrete policy proposal and should be evaluated as such, just as criticizing a particular play doesn’t mean condemning the theatre in general. In critiquing M4A, I am not attacking the principle of universal healthcare. Rather, I am arguing that this particular reform campaign is flawed to the point that socialists shouldn’t take part in it.


dwgres3umaeczmt
Source: DSA for Medicare for All

Neither lack of access nor commodification is US healthcare’s deepest problem.

It’s more than how it’s paid for or to whom it belongs. The issue is in its bones: how people get diagnosed, how treatments get prescribed, and how care gets delivered. US healthcare serves two primary purposes: it keeps workers healthy enough to go to work, and it warehouses disabled people as cheaply and expeditiously as possible. Those imperatives aren’t simply imposed by individual corporations. After all, the process of diagnosis, prescription, and treatment works no differently in a state-owned or nonprofit clinic than in a private one. When the process itself artificially pits patients and workers against each other, neither more comprehensive insurance nor nationalization deals with the root cause. It’s not about who gets healthcare. It’s not even about who owns healthcare. It’s about what healthcare is for.

Why else is long-term eldercare is so often institutionalized neglect (or worse), even if it’s state-run – especially if it’s state-run? Why else is inpatient psychiatric care rife with organized physical, emotional, and chemical violence? M4A demands greater access to something that, in certain situations, is actively harmful. For instance, a former EMT in Washington recently told me:

Many of the psychiatric facilities our ambulance visited were understaffed, filthy, and frequently spared little regard for patients’ wellbeing. Staff members often referred to patients with contempt and disgust (sometimes within their hearing). I observed that patients’ medical needs were often neglected for days at a time, which was frequently the reason for our visits. On multiple occasions I had reason to suspect that facilities were manipulating their documentation in order to maintain patients’ involuntary commitment status. (I only had limited interactions in my capacity as an EMT because we were only there when they called us.)

In those cases, the only way out of institutional abuse is for someone’s insurance to run out. What happens when M4A guarantees it never will?

Now, DSA’s fifth M4A demand – “job training/placement assistance for people currently employed by the private health insurance industry” – already looks beyond simply expanding insurance access. However, nothing in the campaign even implicitly critiques the process of healthcare provision itself.

If M4A requires a jobs program, shouldn’t it also require that people in long-term care and people with mental health diagnoses get the right to refuse unwanted treatment? After all, other categories of patients have the legal right to decline care, even if that means the patient’s death. A psychiatric diagnosis, however, means that police can detain a person and physically force them to receive treatment against their will – and at least a quarter of police shooting victims have a mental health condition, while involuntary psychiatric commitment rates exhibit a racial bias.

Shouldn’t M4A demand an end to abusive and eugenicist practices? For instance, guaranteed coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis isn’t a good thing for autistic minors – ABA applies physically and emotionally punitive techniques developed for anti-gay conversion therapy to suppress common autistic mannerisms, such as hand-flapping and avoiding eye contact.

Shouldn’t M4A call for healthcare workers and patients to exercise control over their facilities, rather than bureaucratic managers (either private or state-sector)?

Instead, M4A demands universal healthcare without those reforms. Sure, some individual supporters of M4A support them as well. But, M4A the campaign does not make reference to them. Neither DSA nor any other M4A organization is pushing for them, even in a non-M4A context. They aren’t part of the M4A package. Even if M4A is the first step on the road to a national healthcare system, that doesn’t address the issue – every one of these problems is embedded in government-run and nonprofit healthcare facilities, not just for-profit ones.

Is a “winning issue” so worth pursuing that there’s no need to address the key contradictions it contains (except with a jobs guarantee)? Socialism depends on leadership across differences, not lowest-common-denominator single-issue coalitions.

badmemedemsoc

The state isn’t neutral.

Every state belongs to a class. In medieval Europe, the state belonged to aristocratic landowners. In ancient Rome, it belonged to slave-owning patricians.

The US government belongs to the capitalists – that is, the owners of the physical and organizational machinery that workers use to create goods and services.

It doesn’t belong to them because politicians are corrupt. This isn’t a matter of “money in politics” – it’s the way the state itself is set up. No matter who holds office, the structure of the state means that it can’t help but enforce capitalist class rule. From the day-to-day activities of municipal civil servants to the highest levels of the Executive Branch, everything the government does in some way contributes to that task. It makes sure that contracts are enforced, infrastructure carries goods and services, markets operate smoothly, threats to private property are neutralized, and – above all – that workers keep going to work every day. The state uses force to defend the “public order” of capitalism; in practice, that also means white supremacy, empire, and patriarchy. It regulates businesses to protect the business class’s long-term stability. It runs social services to keep the working class healthy enough to be exploited. It allows radicals to participate in elections to pre-empt their inclination to build revolutionary institutions of their own. It grants concessions to movement demands to de-fang their revolutionary potential and coax them into patronage politics.

This is an inherently capitalist state. Changing that would mean completely redesigning and restructuring it, bottom to top, from the Constitution to common law to the bureaucracy. In other words, it would have to be smashed. A new system would have to be built in its place.

Revolutionary socialism, both Marxist and anarchist, begins by recognizing that. Government socialism begins by denying it. Government socialists, like conservatives and liberals, treat the government as a “public sphere.” Supposedly, it does (or at least could) belong to “the people” in general, not just the ruling class. It can act in the “general interest.” Socialism, therefore, just means more government! State universities are socialist. Roads and sewers are socialist. Parks are socialist. According to a few government socialists, the NSA, the NYPD, and the United States Marines are, too. And “universal public good” redistributive programs – like an expanded Medicare – are the most socialist things of all.

The problem, of course, is that the institutional machinery of the US government can’t be divorced from its role in defending white supremacy, imperialism, and the ruling class. To expand that machinery, even if it does some good in some people’s lives, necessarily strengthens those things.


It is one thing to set up a day care centre the way we want it, and demand that the State pay for it. It is quite another thing to deliver our children to the State and ask the State to control them, discipline them, teach them to honour the American flag not for five hours, but for fifteen or twenty-four hours. It is one thing to organise communally the way we want to eat (by ourselves, in groups, etc.) and then ask the State to pay for it, and it is the opposite thing to ask the State to organise our meals. In one case we regain some control over our lives, in the other we extend the State’s control over us.

Silvia Federici

Until the government disbanded it in 1954, the Communist Party ran a group called the International Workers Order. The IWO provided its nearly 200,000 members with health, dental, and life insurance, and its 19,000 branches ran clinics and summer camps of their own (all in addition to a wealth of cultural and educational activities). The Communists built it all during the Great Depression, when working-class people had far fewer resources than they do now. A generation later, the Black Panther Party and its allies followed the IWO’s lead, establishing clinics and social services of their own.

The state didn’t establish the IWO. It didn’t run the Panthers’ clinics. Revolutionaries created those services themselves. They operated them on their own terms, under their own control.

The point of socialism is mass power, in every sphere of life. It’s not a bigger federal government.


Therefore, we repeat, state ownership and control is not necessarily Socialism – if it were, then the Army, the Navy, the Police, the Judges, the Gaolers, the Informers, and the Hangmen, all would all be Socialist functionaries, as they are State officials – but the ownership by the State of all the land and materials for labour, combined with the co-operative control by the workers of such land and materials, would be Socialism.

Schemes of state and municipal ownership, if unaccompanied by this co-operative principle, are but schemes for the perfectioning of the mechanism of capitalist government-schemes to make the capitalist regime respectable and efficient for the purposes of the capitalist

James Connolly

Don’t campaign for M4A.

Address healthcare like any other issue: organize the workers in that industry. Use mutual-aid programs to grow revolutionary capacity. Government socialists claim that for something on the scale of healthcare, mutual aid just isn’t a workable approach. But even setting aside the IWO and other counter-examples, mutual aid is still more workable than M4A.

M4A can’t happen without a Democrat in the White House, a filibuster-proof Democratic majority in Congress, and (most of all) those Democrats’ willingness to actually make it policy. Now, all of the Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls recently co-sponsored an M4A bill. That’s only symbolic. It’s red meat for primary voters, but they don’t intend it to ever actually lead to policy. It’s no different than the millionaires’ tax that the New Jersey Democrats supported in opposition, but oppose now that they’re in power.

DSA has the numbers (if not the will) to launch an IWO-style mutual-aid health program. But do they think they’ll be able to win over the federal leadership of the Democratic Party – the same people who made sure that the most popular politician in the country lost his primary fight to one of the least popular, who couldn’t even stomach Keith Ellison as DNC chair, and who just spent eight years in office administering war and neoliberalism? What do they think the Democratic Party is?

 

The US working class doesn’t yet exist as what Marx called a “class-for-itself” – it isn’t an autonomous political force in its own right, organized through its own base of institutions and capable of contesting for social power against other classes. The most important job for revolutionaries right now is to help it become a class-for-itself. Government-socialist and left-populist reforms can’t do that. Organizing the unorganized, building up the institutions through which an independent base can exist, can.

That won’t come from Medicare for All.


Sophia Burns

is a communist and polytheist in the US Pacific Northwest. Support her work on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/marxism_lesbianism