Caesar in Briton

We call upon enemies of the Leviathan living on the islands of Briton to join in a campaign to challenge Trump and History.

From Julian Langer and Emma Kathryn

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This July Caesar is returning to the islands of Briton … well Donald Trump is, and aren’t we all so excited?

The “special arrangement” Britain has had with America appears strained at this point, in the way that all politics appears strained in this situation we find ourselves in. War, economic failures, cultural-identity crises and other factors have led us to this place.

Both the nations of Britain and America have gone down the pathway of significantly isolationist political policy, noticeably at times where the populations are feeling less trusting of the electionist-democratic model. Politics is desperate to retain the image of sanity, while the energetic spasm of its psychosis undermines this attempt – Trump’s visit is part of this keeping-up-appearances, like so many visits are. We welcome the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, President Xi Jinping and many other war mongers, killers of innocents, and enslavers.

Events like this hold potential for fun, for those of us who are enemies of the Leviathan.
The British Left is currently talking protests, in the traditional mass-block form that we are all familiar with, both those of us within radical cultures and those outside of them. We’ve attended protests, held banners and chanted. We’ve walked in marches, side by side with friends. We’ve rioted, throwing barriers across streets and at police, setting fireworks off in the streets of London. There is a beauty in these types of actions.
But we do not believe in this as a means of fighting back and challenging what we hate. History has squashed the energy of these actions under its Death, and we’d rather do something full of Life.

As Julian has written previously, on this site and others, the enemy we are faced with is one of a socially-constructed ontology, so challenging it involves being creative and at the same time destructive, in ways that don’t fit the everyday normal of politics. Guerrilla ontology was first used as a concept by the religious practice of Discordianism, for games like Operation Mindfuck, for their worship of Eris Goddess of Chaos. It is a means of challenging Realities, and we’d like to light the fires of a similar campaign.

Witches and other magical practitioners across America (and most likely outside it too) have been engaged in #magicresistance, a campaign of spells and prayers within a pagan framework to challenge Trump. This has taken as many (and more) forms as there have been pagans involving themselves within this campaign. This includes, at the very least, hexes and darker forms of attack.

When Julius Caesar came to Briton he was terrified of the savage warriors that came to meet his army. Caesar was terrified of druids, or at least that is how it is recorded – all history is propaganda, so whether or not the accounts he recorded were true means very little to us. He wrote of the druids – “They believe, in effect, that, unless for a man’s life a man’s life be paid, the majesty of the immortal gods may not be appeased; and in public, as in private life they observe an ordinance of sacrifices of the same kind. Others use figures of immense size whose limbs, woven out of twigs, they fill with living men and set on fire, and the men perish in a sheet of flame. They believe that the execution of those who have been caught in the act of theft or robbery or some crime is more pleasing to the immortal gods; but when the supply of such fails they resort to the execution even of the innocent”. According to one mythic-tale of druids Figol would threaten to cast fire upon his enemies and stop them and their horses from being able to go to the toilet.

We call upon enemies of the Leviathan living on the islands of Briton to join in a campaign to challenge Trump and History. Not a #magicresistance here, as we are not looking to save the political body of Britain for it is beyond saving, as all governments are, but one of chaos magick, of wild mayhem, of mindfuckery, and of savage warriors, channelling the energy of the wild animals, the wild botany, the rivers that course through these islands, the seas that beat upon our shores, the rains that the civilised never fucking stop complaining about, the fury of the winds, the fires in our campsites and fireplaces. This is no patriotic-nationalistic desire to save this machine of empire and History. This is a proclamation, that we dance savage dances, to call upon the energies of living world in opposition to this Emperor of Death and all empires of Death the Leviathan takes form within. That we use this energy to cast some fear into the heart of Trump and his supporters, through hexes, curses and the promise that when he falls we shall sacrifice him in a spell to bring down this global Leviathan.

Like all that is mystical, this shall be paradoxical. It shall be recorded, with no record of it. Like the druids, we will not record what we have done, what our spells are. But we will record that they have happened as they have happened, over these coming months.

In all cases of oppression, in all acts of resisting that oppression, let your witchcrafts become your resistance. It will be far more effective than spending your money on an old song, putting money into the pockets of the already rich. That isn’t really any kind of resistance or protest at all, is it?


Julian Langer and Emma Kathryn

Labeling Government Influence: A Critique of YouTube’s New Policy

“Any reasonable definition of propaganda would include the fact that disinformation is very often produced for and by private interests.”

From Clay Hurand

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The importance of news media to democracy in the 21st century is difficult to overstate. Democracy emerges from public discourse, and the terms that constitute that public discourse are in large part brought forth and defined by mass media. It is therefore that media literacy, which is a discerning, and critical relationship to news, is essential to a functioning democracy. Media literacy does not simply involve fact-checking, it involves an understanding of ways in which information and political narratives are shaped by special interests, ideology, and power.

Social media is an increasingly popular means of receiving news. Learning and education alone account for over a billion views a day on YouTube. This means that social media platforms are becoming more responsible for the state of our political discourse, and therefore our democracy. So, when tech companies that run news-bearing platforms decide to start media literacy campaigns, it is of the utmost importance that they get it right.

At the beginning of 2018, YouTube rolled out a labeling system targeting content funded by governments in what appears to be a knee-jerk response to public outrage over the Russia-Gate scandal. News outlets such as RT, Al Jazeera, and PBS now sport warning labels beneath their content. YouTube’s new labeling system should be viewed as a harbinger of the blunders that are likely to come as big-tech corporations begin taking responsibility for promoting media literacy.

YouTube reveals its media literacy-myopia through two assumptions that undergird its labeling system. The first assumption is that the potential for propaganda or disinformation comes only from government or publicly sponsored content. That YouTube is making this assumption is evidenced by the fact that their labeling system exempts all private and or corporate-sponsored content. The second assumption, which is required to make the first, is that there is a rigidly-dualistic relationship between private and public spheres in the United States; a worldview that upon even the most superficial interrogation degrades into mere fantasy.

Regarding its new labeling system, YouTube has stated that its goal “is to equip users with additional information to help them better understand the sources of news content that they choose to watch on YouTube,” and that it will do so by labeling “videos uploaded by news broadcasters that receive some level of government or public funding.” YouTube also states that doing so is not a comment “on the publisher’s or video’s editorial direction or a government’s editorial influence.”

YouTube does not go into much more detail about the reasoning behind this policy. For example, they do not state what is significant about “government or public funding” and why videos that are publicly-funded even deserve a label. YouTube claims that it is not making a comment “on the publisher’s or video’s editorial direction or a government’s editorial influence,” despite that being the inherent function of the label. YouTube is contradicting itself, basically stating: “we are not commenting on a government’s editorial influence, but we are warning you that such influence could be present.” A spokesperson for PBS publicly criticized YouTube’s policy insisting that US government influence on PBS programming is prohibited by an internal statute. PBS spoke out against the policy most likely because the only reasonable inference to make from the labeling system is that “government or public funding,” to YouTube, signifies the potential for state-influence.

The problem with this is that by only warning viewers about state-funded content, YouTube is making the false assumption that propaganda or disinformation originates only from governments or from the public sector. YouTube does not outright state that, but by only warning viewers about state-funded outlets and not private ones, they are implicitly taking that position. Any reasonable definition of propaganda would include the fact that disinformation is very often produced for and by private interests. Boeing’s anti-union propaganda campaign on YouTube is just one of many examples of propaganda that emerges from the private sphere. Apparently, to YouTube, Boeing’s propaganda campaign does not warrant a label of any kind.

The chief problem of YouTube’s labeling system is that it depends on the implicit and utterly myopic assumption that “propaganda happens here (in the public sphere), but not here (in the private sphere).” Beyond this flaw, YouTube’s labels are wholly inconsistent even on the limited grounds that they have established. If potential government influence is what is at stake here, then there is a variety of content that has yet to be labeled.

In 2005 when The News Corporation acquired Fox Entertainment, Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, a powerful member of the Saudi Royal family, became the company’s second largest shareholder. Upon this acquisition, Prince Alwaleed’s shareholder status transitioned from the ownership of non-voting stocks to voting stocks, meaning that Alwaleed was given direct power over the News Corporation’s governance and therefore the direction of the company. Alwaleed’s status in the News Corporation could certainly lead the public, and YouTube, to reasonably infer that he could have used his position to serve the interests of the Saudi Government. It can therefore be argued that if PBS deserves a label despite their prohibition of government-editorial influence by statute, then all of the content produced by Fox News while Alwaleed owned a significant portion of the News Corporation ought to be labeled as well.

Another blatant inconsistency in Youtube’s labeling system is that they have yet to label any videos on the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ YouTube channel. The BBG is a US Government agency that operates several pro-US media outlets abroad. Thus far, Youtube has begun labeling content coming from BBG operated news platforms such as Radio Free Asia, yet they have not labeled one video on BBG’s actual channel, including a video advertising for a BBG operated news organization in the Middle East called the Middle East Broadcasting Network, and a video about protests in Iran.

The BBG itself exemplifies the increasingly blurred lines between public and private spheres in the United States, especially in the realm of news media. For example, Rex Tillerson, while he was the CEO of Exxon, became the ex officio board member of BBG in 2004 shortly after the US invasion of Iraq. Currently, the BBG board of directors touts several pro-corporate board members. For example, the current chairman of the board of the BBG is Kenneth Weinstein, former head of the Heritage Foundation’s “Government Reform Program” (“Government reform” in Heritage Foundation-speak means the elimination of the parts of government serving the public interest). Beyond an analysis of the BBG, the mere fact of the pervasiveness of regulatory capture or the domination of the organs of US government by corporate power renders Youtube’s myopic sense of the public/private dichotomy, which constitutes the logical basis of their labeling system, completely untenable.

If YouTube actually wants to start a media literacy campaign they ought to take the following steps:

• State a clear and transparent basis to the reasoning behind their labeling system.
• Hire qualified people such as journalism scholars and propaganda historians to create a labeling system that accurately reflects the influence of power on media, rather than simply linking viewers to a Wikipedia page.
• Stage public events and conversations about how big tech and social media platforms can help facilitate media literacy and uphold democratic values.

YouTube does deserve some praise. They are currently seeking to better their labeling system by asking for public feedback. If YouTube wants to take responsibility for upholding democratic values such as media literacy and a free press, it is important that they continue to engage and to respond to the public. My feedback, as I demonstrated, is that Youtube’s effort at a media literacy campaign fails terribly in terms of consistency. If it ought to exist at all, Youtube’s labeling system needs a lot of rethinking and revision.


Clay Hurand

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Organizer, writer, spray artist, and Voices from the Grassroots podcast host.


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This is America’s Enslaver Culture

It’s no surprise that, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, enslaver culture is still very much alive.

From Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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There are about 30 million pets abandoned in the streets of Brazil. Cats in particular are treated as a plague, killed and tortured indiscriminately.

Helping take care of street cats has been my way of dealing with the occasional helplessness many of us activists feel. I can’t always stop an armed policeman from telling a Candomblé worshiper dressed in white to lay on the floor with hands on the head for no reason. I can’t always stop a pack of drunk men desperate to prove their masculinity to each other from violating a trans woman on the street. But one thing I can do is clean the eyes of motherless kitties so they can see for the first time.

This coping mechanism recently lost its effectiveness when the dynamic at the cat shelter revealed a serious political issue: Enslaver culture.

It’s no surprise, even though chattel slavery was formally abolished throughout the Americas over 100 years ago, that enslaver culture is still very much alive. One example of this is the donor/volunteer relationship.

When I go to the shelter, once a week, I clean, feed and give medicine to cats. I’m a light skinned Latina, with a job and a house, so I’m considered a volunteer. People with means in the group donate a little money to buy whatever is needed, and there is also lunch for whoever is working.

For years, one young homeless black man goes there everyday, twice a day, to clean, feed, medicate, and build little houses for the cats. He even monitors who is coming to abandon and who is coming to adopt. In my eyes, he is the boss of the operation. To the donors, however, he’s a lazy employee.

When I receive lunch, it’s a donation. When he receives lunch, it’s a salary.

One of the donors had an abandoned house, and decided to allow the homeless young man to stay there. This gesture turns out not to be as generous as it sounds. He has the responsibility to renovate and maintain the home (which is in poor condition), and he takes dozens of the most vulnerable cats home with him to care for overnight. Now that donors offer him food and shelter, they feel even more entitled to demand more labor, and the laborer is dependent while earning no wages.

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Land demarcation efforts by Quilombo Quingoma

It’s hard not to see the connection between this situation and our colonial history. Salvador, as the world’s capital of the African diaspora, is the land on which to witness, not the demise but, the development of colonialism and its deeply rooted white supremacy. Here, much of what is now urban residence used to be Quilombos.

Quilombos were communities formed by enslaved Africans who ran away. They were highly organized, militant, autonomous, and posed great threat to the Portuguese and Dutch authorities of the time. Today, there are much more than a million Quilombolas still fighting for their right to territory throughout the country.

Records show that there were compliant enslaved people who had stable relationships with their owners and did not want to join Quilombos. Some claim that abolishing slavery left the “freed” in worse conditions: “jobless”, homeless, and helpless (as some may say about my friend at the cat shelter). How reliable are these accounts? Not very, since those who kept records were the ones interested in using them for their advantage.

Arguments on the subject in literature in general have little empirical basis and tend to focus on the interplay of interests that would be associated with the diffusion of that interpretation. Several authors have considered the thesis of benignity a mere expression of the ideology of the ruling classes in the nineteenth century; its dissemination, especially abroad, would be part of the imperial government’s efforts to disseminate an amicable image of slavery and thereby oppose the abolitionist movement.

Flávio Rabelo Versiani (Economist, Brasilia) comparing enslavement in the U.S. and in Brazil.

On the other hand, in economic terms, not using “coercive force” (meaning, here we didn’t have as many lynchings) was a matter of efficiency, as was eventually abolishing slavery altogether. So, using words like “amicable” and “benign” to describe displacement, dehumanization, forced labor, murder and torture of black people is only considered empirical when described in economic terms. This, to me, is one good example of the rotten core of Academia.

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Today, some academics use this shaky empiricism to argue that the resistance against slavery was hypocritical. José de Souza Martins, one of Brazil’s most famous sociologists, claims there was slavery in the Quilombos. Dissociating the term “slavery” from “race” became his professional mission; white supremacy wasn’t the problem, according to him, rigidly stratified societies were.

His broad use of the term “slavery” can be compared to the broad use of the term “Nazi” when describing a feminist. José Martins says that because of the spread of “Islamism” in Africa, Africans enslaved themselves at a much higher rate than the Slave trade to the Americas, and that Islamic polygamy is also a form of slavery. The fact that he uses the term “Islamist” as synonymous with “Islamic” speaks volumes to the racial insensitivity of his rhetoric. But his use of biased (white) “empirical” evidence to delegitimize an organized resistance movement of the African Diaspora speaks even louder.

There is little denying that hierarchy existed in Quilombos, and that they used violence against enslaved people who chose to stay with their white masters. We have to understand that they were at war, and the decision to be compliant turned them into an enemy. So much so, that those compliant Africans were sent to the Quilombos as an army to defeat Quilombists. This practice hasn’t stopped, and is perpetuated by the military police force to this day.

Zumbi‘s opposition to Ganga Zumba, and the consequent shift of leadership at Quilombo dos Palmares, is symbolic of all anti-colonial resistance because it was a refusal to submit to Colonial authorities, and a declaration that no enslaved African would be free until all would be free. This fight is not over yet. There is still enslavement, displacement, incarceration, genocide, and struggle for land demarcation. We must acknowledge that, because not picking a side, being compliant, is in fact siding with white supremacist forces.


Mirna Wabi-Sabi

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


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Revolution Is Not a Metaphor: A Response to Critics

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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.

 


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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?

 


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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.”

 


 

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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

COURSE: ALL THAT IS SACRED IS PROFANED (July)

(To go directly to the enrollment link, click here)

All That Is Sacred is Profaned: A Pagan Introduction to Marxism

What exactly is capitalism? How did it arise from the severance of people and land? What was Marx on about, and is Marxism still relevant? In this five-week distance course, we’ll study the Marxist framework through a Pagan lens.

Designed and instructed by Rhyd Wildermuth, participants of All That Is Sacred Is Profaned will learn through videos, texts, and online conversations:

  • What Capitalism is, how it works, and how it came about through historical processes.
  • How Capitalism relates to slavery, colonization, and other forms of exploitation.
  • What is meant by class and class struggle, and why your boss needs you but you don’t need your boss.
  • How wages work, and why we are never paid what we’re “worth.”
  • Who Marx was, why his work still matters, and how Marxist materialism enhances Pagan thought.
  • How Race, Gender, Sexuality, and other oppression categories are understood through Marxism.
  • What the differences are between Autonomous Marxist thought and Totalitarian Communism.

This course is specifically designed for those with little background in Marxism or academic environments.

General Information

Course Length and Schedule: The course will last for five weeks, from 1 July, 2018 until 3 August, 2018

Time Commitment: Participants will be expected to devote a minimum of four hours each week (20 hours total) to the course. This expectation includes time devoted to reading course texts, viewing video lectures, and engaging in conversation with other participants.

Cost: $40 US per person. Subsidies are available for low-income participants.

Maximum participants: 25

Course Requirements: Participants need have no prior knowledge of Marxist theory nor experience in academic settings. Physical requirements include internet access, a computer or smartphone capable of accessing course materials and viewing videos, and each participant will need to create a login (free of cost) for Discord.

Course Materials: Each participant will be given a printable pdf that comprises the primary textbook for the course (written by Rhyd Wildermuth), as well as access to five ten-minute video lectures. In addition, a guide to using the private Discord server for participant discussions will also be provided.

Venue: Weekly course conversations will occur on a dedicated Discord server, where participants will engage in discussion with each other and the instructor, as well as be able to communicate directly with the instructor.

Cancellation/Refund policy: Full refunds of payment are possible up until the end of the first day of the course. After that, the course is 50% refundable until 7 July. No refunds can be given after this date.

Other policies: In the very unlikely event that a participant creates a hostile environment for other participants or the instructor, and if attempts to address the behavior do not correct the problem, the instructor reserves the right to end a participant’s participation. The above cancellation/refund policy will apply in such cases.

Enrollment process: To enroll, remit payment by purchasing the course access at this link by 29 June. On 30 June you will receive links to course material and the private Discord server. Links to video lectures will be provided weekly during the course.

Subsidized enrollment: If you would like to request one of the 5 reserved slots for subsidized enrollment, please send us an email at Distro@ABeautifulResistance.Com. You do not need to explain your income situation to us, only let us know how much you will be able to pay instead. (Please note: these slots are on a first-come, first-served basis).

About Académie Hérétique

Académie Hérétique (Heretic Academy) is a series of online course offerings from Gods&Radicals Press. Académie Hérétique‘s focus is on political theory, philosophy, esoteric and occult studies, history, and tactical skills for people with little to no academic background or previous knowledge of the subjects taught. Instructors are committed to accommodating varied learning backgrounds, styles, and abilities as much as possible.

Académie Hérétique courses are priced at the lowest rate possible that still enables us to fairly compensate our instructors for their labor, and subsidies are available for those who cannot afford them.

To stay updated on upcoming course options, please subscribe to the Gods&Radicals Press mailing list.

Songs of a Forgotten Generation

“They don’t believe in their true powers, or the power of this world; they cannot see a world in a grain of sand, nor heaven in a wild flower. Such things are becoming more and more alien to us.”

From Emma Kathryn

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In every cry of every Man,

In every Infant’s cry of fear,

In every voice, in every ban,

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear:

Excerpt from London by William Blake

The streets of the inner cities are awash with blood, or so we are told. Only a few weeks ago, the news that London had a higher murder rate than New York City was everywhere here. Although the numbers have been debated, the truth is that this news made headlines in the UK.

What’s the big deal, you may well be thinking. After all, aren’t the two major cities, huge stars on the world stage. Both have similar populations, both upward of eight million (that number is mind-blowing to this northern country bumpkin), though NYC does have a higher population density. But in a country where guns are illegal, you’d like to think that would reduce the number of killings.

Knife crime is devastating inner city areas, and like all other things here in the UK, the problem is magnified in London.

As is so woefully predictable, the government responses have been and are wholly inadequate and dividing, doing next to nothing to help resolve this issue.

Throughout modern history, whenever there has been some kind of civil unrest or some upsurge in crime, governments have always been quick to point the finger of blame away from themselves, and towards ‘soft’ targets. In the fifties it was rock and roll music; the sixties and seventies had the Mods and Rockers;  in the eighties and nineties it was gangsta rap and metal; The noughties saw Eminem and computer games as the devil. Today we have grime, or more specifically drill music.

This, so our politicians would tell us, is the root cause for the current surge in violent crimes and knife crime in our cities.

Grime And Drill Music

Grime music has really exploded on the UK music scene the past few years, moving from a genre that was seen as very much underground to today where many of its artists feature in the top 40, sometimes with top ten hits. Whilst it still remains the voice of the forgotten and of the streets, you’ll now see middle class youths snapping up tickets for shows or driving around in parent bought cars blaring out the likes of Stormzy or Skepta (grime artists who have made it into the mainstream) from  their speakers.

Drill music is a sub-genre of grime, and still very much underground. The lyrics are hard, dealing with themes including violence, drug taking and the harsh realities of hard lives lived amongst the cracks and other forgotten crooks and crannies of the city.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why the government has zoned in on drill music as being the sole cause of these problems. With increasing pressure, the videos that are of the drill genre are being taken down from YouTube, no doubt the first step in censorship of these records.

This in itself may be seen as an attack. What makes grime music unique is that many of its stars have risen to fame, not through the usual means like record companies and talent shows, but through YouTube. Artists such as JME rap about coming from nothing, living on council estates and not being given a chance to progress through the usual channels.

Music, and the opportunities sites such as YouTube present to those young people give them an escape from poverty and the life choices the government say they are trying to prevent.

It is yet another example of how far removed these politicians are from the lives of everyday folks, never mind those that find themselves on the margins of society.

Poverty and Policies

Pity would be no more

If we did not make somebody Poor,

And Mercy no more could be

If all were as happy as we:

– Excerpt from The Human Abstract by William Blake

The problem with the governments plan to reduce knife and violent gang related crime are many, but can all be shepherded under the banner of poverty, or rather the inability of the Home Office and the government to recognise poverty as a major factor.

Inner city areas, especially council and social housing estates are rife with poverty – let’s face it, people don’t live here out of choice, not in cramped houses that are often neglected by landlords. I’ve written before about the Grenfel Tower, a council owned block of flats and the state of those homes and the faults that led to such devastation.

The people who live in places such as these are often at the bottom of society, especially in a society that places wealth and the ownership of objects above all else. It doesn’t matter that many of the residents of council estates, including those in the cities, are often decent people trying to make the best of bad situations, that they are decent human beings. Because they cannot afford to own or privately rent their homes, they are somehow seen as less.

The children who grow up in such places are often the ridicule of their peers at school. Their parents cannot afford the latest this or that, meaningless shit in the grand scheme of things. They learn early on that, in the words of KRS 1, to stay on course they have to roll with force. As a working class, council estate girl, I can certainly confirm this. It means that to progress, to get on, you need to be willing to be hard if and when the time comes. You have to stick up for yourself.

Of course, most of us don’t end up in gang related violence, so it is not poverty alone.

It is here that the policies of successive governments come into play. These policies, along with the hardship and challenges that poverty brings combine, mingle and interweave until we are left with the hot mess that we have now.

Services are ever being cut every where you look. The town where we live has been identified as a growth spot by the government, and construction is already underway to increase the number of homes by the hundreds, though the plans are that the population of the town will increase by thousands over ten years. Despite this, the local hospital is forever being downgraded – against the wishes of the residents – so much so that it no longer has an accident and emergency department, and seemingly every week there are reports of this or that service are no longer available.

It’s not only hospitals, it’s all services that might otherwise provide a lifeline for those vulnerable youths,  services like children centres and youth clubs; affordable sports facilities and equipment. I could go on but you get the picture. Despite the government telling us that services don’t suffer when the money gets taken away, we all know that’s not true.

Even the subject of cuts is not an easy one to tackle. For example, the cuts also affect issues surrounding money, whether that be benefits or free childcare. When the Tory party came into power in the UK, a main tacit of their campaign was ‘to make work pay’. Sounds alright, don’t you think? Many people did, even those working class folks who slaved away all week and still struggled to survive, all the while yet the next man, who chooses not to work can live a life of relative comfort. Of course ‘make work pay’ really meant to make not working, life on benefits, become unbearable.

And the real problem here of course, is that the government weren’t fair. For example, bedroom tax was applied to those deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council house, despite the lack of smaller council properties. Even where I live, the largest council estate in my town, there are only a handful of two bedroom properties within a sea of three bedroom houses.

Those with genuine disabilities, those whom you would like to see looked after and given help were deemed suitable to work, people with cancer, ex-servicemen with severe battle related injuries, and many others were let down by the system. People died or committed suicide, and Atos, the company responsible for enforcing these government checks to determine a person’s ability to work, called the Work Capability Assessment have come under fire in recent years.

Unaffordable childcare and lack of resources, combined with poverty often means that today, both parents (if both are still at home), or the single parent must work full-time to make ends meet. Those at the bottom cannot afford to be picky, especially those with little or no experience, education or training, must take jobs that take them away from the home for eight or more hours a day. Shift work is a particular struggle. Ultimately, what we are left with is a generation of latchkey kids. Children and teenagers who are left to their own devices. There’s no youth clubs, or sports facilities, and if there are, they can’t afford to use them.

As the mother of two teenage sons, I can tell you how difficult it is to parent them. It’s at this time they are beginning to find their independence, and it is at this time that they can fall into friendship groups or experiences that you know are not in their best interests.

So imagine how easy it is for those youths who come from troubled homes and backgrounds to fall into gang life. They find a family with those others, somewhere where they feel they belong. It doesn’t matter, or they can’t see that they are being used, often by older, more organised career type criminals, because for the first time they are no longer powerless, they are no longer poor and can afford to buy the things that society sees as markers of success.

To say that all of these problems are caused by music is ignorant. By doing so, the government can deny any responsibility for the violence that stalks the city streets. Instead they talk about police powers of Stop and Search which then fans the flames of racism and call outs between differing ethnic groups.

Divide. Separate. Conquer.

The Erosion of Us

To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.’

Excerpt from Auguries of Innocence by William Blake

We have forgotten ourselves.

Centuries of conditioning under this Capitalist system has led to the erosion of ourselves. We’ve forgotten that we are the stuff of stars. We’ve been led to believe that we are separate from everything else, that we are apart from nature itself.

We’ve been lied to.

The problems faced in this world, not only my countries knife crime problem, stem from the separation of us from the land and from ourselves.

I know I bang on and on (and on, some might say, wink, wink), about the land and it’s importance to us  not only  as a species but also spiritually, but it’s because it’s true. I feel it in the very fibre of my being, and if you feel it too, you’ll know what I mean. It would take an essay in itself to describe it.

People kill one another, thinking that the next person is their enemy when in fact they are killing  themselves. These youths and young men that wage war on the streets see themselves as soldiers, but the war they are waging is against themselves. Their enemy is them, another young, angry man who only wants to make his way in the world but the world has conspired against him,  and so  they fight, but not their real enemies, not, poverty,  nor abuse, or even the very systems that oppress them, but one another.

They don’t believe in their true powers, or the power of this world; they cannot see a world in a grain of sand, nor heaven in a wild flower. Such things are becoming more and more alien to us.

Until we start to recognise the reality of our forced separation from the land, then these issues will not be resolved, but instead will intensify.


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


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The Factory Floor & The Witch’s Stake

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

From Rhyd Wildermuth

The following essay is adapted from Rhyd Wildermuth’s speech, “Witches In A Crumbling Empire,” to be republished as part of his next collection, Our Time of Springs, Our Time of Flames (August, 2018)


The Empire under which we all suffer, under whom we are all ruled, was born upon the factory floor and upon the witch’s stake.

Industrialised capitalism started in England around 1760. Before then, almost everything humans used was made by humans with human effort, without the input of petroleum. So, in the early 1700’s, any clothing you wore and any food you ate was made or grown completely without fossil fuels.

The first coal-fired factories were built in cities swollen with refugees from the surrounding areas. Those people had just lost all access to land and the means to support themselves because of laws called the Enclosure Acts. No longer could they raise animals and plants from the earth with their own two feet firmly planted on the ground; now, their only option was to stand on wood and stone factory floors for 14 hours a day making things for other people.

Humans are hard to control. Humans don’t like working all day for someone else. They have to eat, and piss, and shit, and rest. Many women bleed every moon, sometimes they get pregnant and have to care for their children.

But Coal doesn’t tire. Coal doesn’t show up to work late after a night of drinking or fucking. Coal doesn’t need a rest, doesn’t get menstrual cramps, doesn’t daydream about how life can be better. Coal also doesn’t demand wages.

So the great ‘revolution’ of industrialisation was the slow replacement of human labor with black carbon labor from the earth. In the Americas, the people called Black were also used to replace waged labor. In both cases, the rich tried to find a low-cost, easily-managed, fully-predictable means to gain wealth.

Slaves revolt, though, and kill their masters. Coal and oil blacken the cities and skies with soot, but burned through filters, the carbon becomes invisible, escapes quietly into the atmosphere, warming the earth at such imperceptible rates that it could be ignored until recently.

What could not be ignored was the tendency of humans to revolt against their masters, be they slaves or peasants, workers or servants. Humans don’t make very good machines, we are unpredictable, tire easily, and anyway would rather be creating art or eating, then doing monotonous work for little pay.

The same era which saw the birth of industrialised capitalism also saw the birth of all modern forms of government and control. The modern city, the nation-state, so-called Democracy, representative government, prisons resembling factories resembling schools which resemble prisons. It also saw the birth of the modern police and the political order under which we now live.

But what is Empire?

By Empire I mean America, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean Capitalism, but I also do not.

By Empire I mean colonization. I mean industrialisation. I mean the slaughter of indigenous peoples and the enslavement of Africans. I mean the carbon in the air and the worker in the factory. I mean all the newly extinct species and all the dying forests. I mean the corporations which own the internet and the corporations who profit from the computers and smartphones you read this on.

By Empire, I mean the foreign wars. I mean an Arab woman cradling the corpse of her decapitated daughter and shaking her fist at the gay Black dude from Los Angeles who only joined the Army to get money to support his mother.

By Empire, I mean the Mexican child screaming as her father is taken away by an ICE agent whose grandparents fled the Nazi advance in Europe.

By Empire, I mean the Black father mourning his son killed by a cop whose ancestors sold themselves into indentured servitude rather than starve to death during the famine in Ireland.

By Empire, I mean the intersectional feminist writing essays about the exploitation of women and children on a computer made through the exploitation of Asian women and African children.

And by Empire I mean the Arab man who massacres gays in a nightclub to retaliate for atrocities none of those people committed.

By Empire, I mean the single white mother driving her disabled kid to a doctor’s appointment over roads lain by migrant workers who are about to get deported.

By Empire I mean the civitas and the polis. I mean civilization and the police, the laws and logic, the political order, the thou shalt nots and the prisons where you go when you refuse to listen.

But more than anything, I mean the Empire in each of you and the Empire in me.

I mean all that was once wild and raw and sacred in us that is now ground into machine-parts and mechanical obedience.

By Empire I mean you, and by Empire I mean me.

And finally, by Empire I mean this thing that is crumbling around us, gasping for air, begging us to keep it alive.

The Empire that is crumbling around us was born on the factory floors and the witch’s stake, and both were assaults on the human body.

Silvia Federici said it, in her essay “In Praise of the Dancing Body:

Capitalism was born from the separation of people from the land and its first task was to make work independent of the seasons and to lengthen the workday beyond the limits of our endurance…. What we have not always seen is what the separation from the land and nature has meant for our body, which has been pauperized and stripped of the powers that pre-capitalist populations attributed to it.

If the first task of Capitalism was to separate us from land and nature, they have more than succeeded. One need only look at the vastly artificial surroundings we all live in, the devices we use to speak with each other, the manufactured foods and synthetic medicines. Can you walk outside your home and find something edible growing by the pavement? Do you know which birds share your neighborhood with you? Can you point to where precisely the sun will rise tomorrow morning without a compass? Without looking outside tonight or at the internet, which phase is the moon in?

But it’s useless to rail against this disconnection. What separates us from the land and nature is not a current assault in an ongoing struggle: the war was won by them long ago. We are an occupied people, often occupying occupied land cleared long before any of us were born.

If that war was lost, though, the other war is still on going. Says Federici again:

Mechanization—the turning of the body, male and female, into a machine—has been one of capitalism’s most relentless pursuits.

Capitalism has needed us to act like machines so we can fit into the system as mere, fully-interchangeable cogs. Many of use don’t fit, though: be it our bodies themselves or our failure to conform, the process of turning us into machines is never fully complete.

Those of us who gum up the gears aren’t welcome in the factory, but Empire has a place for us too.

Empire was born on the factory floor, and it was also born on the witch’s stake. Failure to file down your rough bits, refusal to conform to the will of the political order, and worst of all encouraging others to do the same will land you at best in jail, or riddled with mental-illnesses that were non-existent in pre-capitalist lands, suffocated with a crushed trachea for daring to sell loose cigarettes or bleeding to death in the street for looking non-white when the polis tried to enforce its will.

There are countless technological distractions and institutions which have helped us forget our bodies: the masturbatory fantasies of video games and pornography, the medicalisation of any bodily refusal to be a good worker. Gyms look like factories for a reason, for it’s in the mills and on the mechanical looms where we first lost the meaning of muscle and blood. And then there is clock time, our smartphones and alarm clocks, schools which teach kids to move from class to class to prepare them to move from task to task.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our body because it is the land and the body which tells you this is all wrong. The land screams as species go extinct, forests die, icecaps melt. Your body screams when you treat it as a machine.

Your body tells you this is all wrong. Starting from the body, you know you tire faster when you are doing meaningless work. You know the food on offer to you at the supermarkets is empty, you know that the air you breathe is often toxic. You know sitting for eight hours staring at a screen hurts more than just your eyes, that standing behind a counter slinging coffee to exhausted people makes you a poorly-paid drug dealer.

All that knowledge is what capitalism needs you not to know.

All those feelings are what Empire fears you’ll feel.

Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies for another reason.

Your body is always in contact with something else, something outside yourself. Your feet, the lowest part of you, the easiest part to ignore until they hurt, they connect to the entire world-soul. Taking your shoes off, standing on the grass or the sand or stone, you become no longer a machine but a body again, part of something always bigger than yourself, with a different logic, a more intuitive time, a deeper truth.

Your feet on the earth, you cannot be disconnected from the earth and the seasons, because you are also the earth and its seasons. Work in summer is not work in winter, the time of your waking and the cycles of your sleeping follow a different rhythm fully separate from the time of money-making, the time of machines.

Capitalism needs you to forget this.

Witchcraft tells you to remember.

If Empire was born on the factory floor and on the witch’s stake, it spread into every last bit of our existence, making subjects out of each one of us. While Capitalism needed to separate us from the land and our bodies, Empire needed us to become passive subjects of the political order.

Passivity is not receptivity. As a gay man I can assure you, more action goes into receptive sex than merely closing your eyes and thinking about the Empire. I suspect most women would concur.

Receptivity opens us to the world of senses, of feelings, of meaning. You are being receptive now, taking my words into you, playing with them, weaving their meaning into the tapestry of you. But passivity makes you a victim, a mere tool in the hands of the powerful. Passivity is consumption, selection between lifestyle options, an identity defined not by what you do but by what you choose. Did you vote Democrat or Republican? Drink Coke or Pepsi? Use an iPhone or Android?

Passivity reduces will to mere consumer preference. No longer will to power but a mere checkbox on a ballot or a selection on a screen. No longer desire and suffering but mere distractions to dull the fatigue of work and the anxiety of alienation.

You cannot force someone to become passive except by long applications of torture. But there is another route, a slower one, by which you can conquer the will of others by telling them not ‘thou shalt not’ but ‘thou cannot.’ Like the God of Eden’s lies to the woman in the garden, we are told we cannot survive without capitalism, cannot be safe without police, cannot find meaning outside of waged work, cannot find love without cosmetics.

And so what we did not lose on the factory floor we lost with the death of witches. Not only the women with herbs and poison roots, not only the crones bearing stories from times before private property, not only the maidens urging worship in temples of wild lust, not only the mothers feeding us from their bodies. Not only them, but also them: the women who reminded us an entire world can be made not from city and machine but forest and dirt.

Not only them, but also the heretics, the mad, the dreamers, the rebels. The men dressed like women tearing down fences along with women drest like men, refusing the enclosure of the sacred commons and the seizure of land for the profit of the few. The indigenous elders gunned down by settlers, the traditional healers dead in the hulls of slave ships. All of them taught what Empire needed us to forget: the earth knows what the computer never will, that the body bleeds a liquid more powerful than petroleum.

With them gone, we started to believe we can-not. We cannot heal ourselves without pharmaceuticals, we cannot feed ourselves without factory farms. We cannot make our own clothes, cannot craft our own homes. We must now suckle at the toxic teat of the Market while it slaps us with an invisible hand.

We started to believe we cannot resist.

But in the screaming defiance of the immolated witches was a reminder: we can refuse to submit, even in death.

It took centuries to shape us into what we are now, passive sniveling subjects of Empire and Capital. Though this may seem long, we lived outside Empire much longer. Capitalism is new and short-lived, compared even to Feudalism. It differs only in its full permeation of all our existence, and it is for this reason I call it Empire.

It is also collapsing.

The climate change caused by Capitalism cannot be stopped any longer, and its effects already cause famines and resource wars throughout the world. Between 30,000 and 140,000 species go extinct every year now; at the beginning of the 1800’s, this number was no more than 1000 yearly. Cities are beginning to flood, water tables depleting, while the oil-wells which makes the entire Empire run are going dry. Climate change will increase the refugee crises currently fueling the nationalist parties in Europe and the US, and whether they are fleeing from resource wars or unmanned drone bombers, they are undoubtedly the first quakes of Empire’s impending collapse.

Empires always pompously declare themselves eternal. The British swore the sun would never set on them, the third reich was supposed to last 1000 years. Western Democratic Capitalist Empire declared itself ‘the end of history’ in the 1990’s, but of course Fukuyama’s prediction sealed its fate.

Empires have always tried to cheat death and this one is no different. But the crone that stands on the other side of death’s door revealed her trump card, and now few can deny what this means.

Some still cling to the vain hope that Donald Trump is merely an unfortunate set-back to the progress of civilization. But reversing civil protections, installing fascist theorists in positions of power, rattling the chains of other world leaders, building a wall to keep the Mexicans out—these are not mere reversals of Empire’s progress, they are Empire trying to save itself.

Consider this wall between the US and Mexico. See past the obvious racism of such a thing and its absurd cost to what’s lurking beneath the political veneer. Consider the impending flood of climate refugees: remember your geography, look at a map displaying where the major destruction will occur first, and suddenly Trump’s idea isn’t mere xenophobic delusion.

The increase in surveillance powers, the militarization of police forces, the dismantling of the courts and the rights they are sworn to protect, the stoking of fascist flames: these are not just the actions of a psychopath, but of an engineer shoring up the ruins of Empire.

The same is happening everywhere else in the world. The capitalists know we are remembering to resist again, and so they are raising again the stakes, piling faggots beneath them, waiting for our next sign of revolt.

To accept what is around us now, to call such things “good” and “necessary,” is to laugh in the faces of the screaming witches who died so this Empire could arise. To chase after like mongrel dogs the trinkets and crumbs the capitalists throw down to us on the floor–the “rights” and “freedoms” and all the glossy junk cluttering store shelves–is to jeer at the sorrow and sufferings of our ancestors hauled to work in chains or prodded into mills by the terror of starvation.

To accept Empire is to deny the dead, the tortured witches of our past and the tortured rebels dying in Empire’s prisons. To not fight Empire is to defy our own bodies, defile the land and destroy the bodies of others. To accept Empire is to become Empire.

To fight Empire is to stare in the face of our own deaths and laugh, knowing the worst that might happen is Empire might burn us, too.

But to the witches who risked the stake to avoid forever the factory floor, the insurrectionists who risked bullets to forever avoid submission, and any who risked the rage of Empire for the possibility that Empire might fall, the choice was an easy one.

So is ours.


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is a co-founder and the managing editor of Gods&Radicals Press and a co-editor of godsandradicals.org.


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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.


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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.


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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

A Journey Into Spiritual Resistance

“Mother earth will go on without us, one way or another. So get your shit together fellow earthlings because unless we collectively come together, there may not be another option to avoid becoming fossils like our Dino-brethren.”

From J.D. Lee

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Whether you are a Pagan, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Jain, Zoroastrian, Buddhist, or any other practitioner under the sun, you may acknowledge the fact that a portion (if not all) of what you have been taught was corroborated, co-opted, or used for malicious purposes. We’ll I’m here to tell you that it’s both okay, and not okay. Whatever you may believe, someone, somewhere started it all. Whether it was an oral tradition that was later written and collected into a book, or possibly chronicled as it was happening, chances are it was used as a manipulation tool at some point. But it doesn’t have to be that way more.

I grew up being preached at, with the southern Baptist gospel. Hellfire and Brimstone for those who disobeyed God, and a reunion with family and loved ones as a reward. As I aged I took an interest in learning about other religions and their effects on people. My grandparents thought I’d be a new age preacher, or a politician. Well, today I’m neither. And for damn good reasons. Although I quit going to church (going on 6 years now), I can’t help remembering the beautiful glass panes in the Lutheran church I attended for 2 years, or the Catholic Church I would visit later with it’s magnificent artwork and seemingly kind people. I still feel for those old bluesy hymns from that vitriolic Baptist church from so long ago. But as I learned about my heritage, (Cherokee, Inuit, Aleutian, Siouan, and Norse) I came to a realization. What if everything I’ve been taught in Sunday school and Mass was bullshit? Of course, not all of it was but if you look hard enough, there are overlapping features of all religions, good and bad. I could just no longer believe in something that I never really felt was true and full of so many contradictions. I don’t believe in A god. I believe in forces of nature which I cannot, and should not have to fully explain. To me, they are the ghosts, the energies, the surge of the wind after an incantation in the graveyard with a coven. They are what bind our reality together. The energy that leaves the body after death has to go some where. But where? That’s for you to decide!

Promises of an afterlife full of freedoms in exchange for your earthly life’s happiness sounds all fine and dandy. But why not be happy now, and when you’re dead? No matter your creed, each individual should be free to choose their own path. If the key to life and the afterlife is happiness, then why should we suffer now or later? I’m not going to claim that any religion or spiritual path is not worth pursuing, because I understand that each individual will find their own contentment in some form or another. I will say however that forcing a belief upon anyone will land you in the fire, so to speak. As with current conservative modes of thought, forcing people to give birth to a child which they either cannot take care of, do not want, or could possibly cause life threatening complication is very much wrong. Keeping people from accessing birth control, and other contraceptives aimed at decreasing STI’s is also WRONG. Telling your neighbors that they are an “abomination in the eyes of the lord” is not helping your standing in the community, no matter what your local corner preacher is telling you about butt sex.

My biggest qualm with organized belief systems is that of it’s automatic need to sustain itself and it’s order. Tithes and offerings are part of it, but so is obedience to authority. What human needs an authority figure to pass judgment? Are we not all our own masters? If I so pleased I would go against all teachings of the Christian religion, and nothing would stop me. Would an almighty god not smite me for even thinking of such things and threatening to disobey? The answer is no. One might argue this is the concept of free will, that the consequences of my actions would be on me and me alone. But how would this argument play out against God’s will? If he is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, he would know of my life and how it plays out regardless of my actions. I would end up in the same place no matter what choices I made. We all should know that this is false, we make our fates with our individual choices.

Suppose for a minute we are alive because the universe itself was alive and experiencing itself through all living beings. Would the actions you committed be an experiment? Or something necessary to the butterfly effect? The great spirit as some of my ancestors might say, is all around, or that God is all around professed by my family. GOD is in you, me and everyone and everything. It is everything and nothing. Even the vastness of space is filled with unique surprises, celestial beings, and massive unknown energies. The unknowable cannot be claimed to be known by anyone. So while the annoying atheist in the back of my head screams that there is no creator, no puppet master, no god; the preachy agnostic in me says to keep looking, observing, and learning. We are social creatures, looking to related and confirm ourselves. But more than that, we are dynamic, and more than capable of changing our circumstances to make things easier on ALL of us.

The supposed masters of our fates are in public office, employed as CEO’s, or behind the pulpit in front of a congregation. They give us the false sense of choice, they decide what we get to choose from. With all disrespect, I say FUCK THEM! We are free to choose however we want, whether that be what food we eat, our source of income, or our individual spiritual journeys. New England was formed by Puritans and Calvinists who we know burned suspected witches at the stake but had achieved more democracy than any prior European style government at the time. Pennsylvania was founded by Quakers, overran by Scots-Irish Catholics and Protestants alike, and ultimately ended up as a tolerant place for Christians of all stripes. Maryland was originally occupied and ran by Catholics. Even Salt Lake City was founded as a Utopia for the much hated Mormons who could not help but be chased out of every city and county they occupied for fear of ending up like their founder. People have been trying to practice their spiritual learnings freely without reprisal for thousands of years.

This Nation was founded on ideals that were not equally agreed upon at the time of it’s inception. For example, the dutch colony of New Netherlands had a policy to allow freedom of religion, so long as it’s inhabitants did not cause a commotion in public. That colony was since overtaken by the British, but the people in charge kept this policy as to keep the peace. The Puritans on the other hand mutilated Quakers as to distinguish them from “their own”, and were deeply opposed to this kind of tolerance. Whether or not our course of action should be to dismantle prior belief systems, or move into the woods and find our own beliefs with fellow spirituality seekers, I do not know. Do we form our own sects within pre-existing religions? Should we accept Scientology’s ghastly forms of social control? I say do what you will without forcing it onto other people.

While the practices, traditions, and perspectives of these religions has changed (or remained the same in the case of fundamentalists), we should not forget that many times religion has been pushed onto conquered peoples or mandated by a central authority figure. This was most definitely the case for Native Americans whose varied belief systems were thought brutish by European colonizers, and for the subjects of the Roman Empire during the transition period under Constantine. We have been systematically educated to believe what we are told and that if we don’t there will be consequences doled out by either the government or by God. Enough is enough of these laws of morality. Who is to say that premarital sex, homosexuality, idolatry, lying for a good reason, or killing in self defense is immoral? Our oppressors surely do not have the right to claim what is divine and good in the world, we as individuals must decide for ourselves.

I respect the various pagan religions more than any monotheistic religion simply because the gods spirits are supernatural representations of the physical world. Vikings may have raided, plundered, and murdered but they are no more evil than the Anglican church. Norse tradition is filled with tales of splendor, the people were gracious, and the drink was plenty. Native Americans may have warred, stolen from and conquered other tribes, but it makes them no more immoral than the Christians who enslaved, massacred, and raped the first nation peoples. Native tribes were much less savage than Europeans thought previously, having an Anarcho-Communist economic system with communication, trade, and a rich history of peace making. 

 No religion may claim superiority over another simply because all religions are based in concepts which seek to explain things that which we have no other explanation for. The Cherokee myth of creation bears resemblance to the Christian myth of creation in that the earth was created in 7 days, but that is where the similarity ends. In my limited understanding of Islam, Jesus was a prophet like Muhammad. He may not have been considered the son of god but the religion still has ties to Abraham, whom Judaism reveres just as highly. So how is it that these 3 mainstream religions still hold resentment for one another? While those practicing Judaism are still awaiting the messiah, the other two hold onto their beliefs that the savior has already came. The big 3 are certainly plagued with their own mishaps, and draconian laws. While I do not claim that less organized religion will make the world a more peaceful place, I still cannot help imagining that it would the case. If we were to abandon all traces of control from these preordained religions and cast aside all the new cults in favor of personal spiritual exploration, we would be better off. All attempts of recuperating for power under these existing structures should be thwarted by any means. Then again, that is just my BELIEF.

So what is the point of all this? I simply want to show that no matter what your beliefs, no one truly knows what happens after death. Whatever path you take, I hope that you come away with a sense of skepticism towards all organized religion (read as cult) and follow your inner being instead of blindly following a higher power. We all have conscience which tells us what to do, we all have that intuition. If yours, like mine, tells you we are all connected to each other and the universe around us through a shared consciousness, then that’s fine. If you think we are all separate entities fumbling around trying to find meaning in a possibly meaningless world, then you are not alone either. We must each blaze our own trails and hopefully we’ll all find intersections that correspond to our own at some point instead of just running parallel to each other all the damn time.

 These seemingly irreconcilable differences we all experience are just an illusion and we must recognize that before we wipe ourselves out. Then again, mother earth will go on without us, one way or another. So get your shit together fellow earthlings because unless we collectively come together, there may not be another option to avoid becoming fossils like our Dino-brethren. Go smoke a joint, take some LSD, pop some molly, go drinking with some friends, or read a fucking book for Christ’s sake. Just do something which fills you with happiness and brings you closer to an understanding with your fellow (wo)man. There is a thin line between life and death, but let’s cross that bridge when we come to it, eh? I’ll see you on the other side, wherever that may be.


J.D. Lee

Pilot MountainA Carolina Native who seeks to inform the community and world at large of the mass manipulation we face. This an-com hillbilly is not your run of the mill, bootlickin’, shitstain. Sure, sometimes he’s an asshole, but you’ve got to be when you’re literally surrounded by Klansmen. When he’s not trading his time for money, you can find him burning a sage stick and/or blunt while praying to mother anarchy to show all her children the way.


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