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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Capitalism and Its Discontents: What Are We Living For?

The Left has been fragmented for decades. Liberals, socialists, communists, greens, and anarchists have all endlessly debated future models for society. One wonders, how many are just talking, and how many are willing to listen? There already are models for society to live sustainably and to prosper, very, very old ways: by following the paths set by the indigenous.

From William Hawes

“Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about fascism.”
-Max Horkheimer, from the essay “The Jews and Europe”, December 1939

Aren’t we all tired of capitalism? Haven’t most of us gotten sick of the drudgery, the monotony, the exploitation, sucking up to our bosses and management who pretend to care about the average worker? The drive to consume more and more has degraded all art, values, and sense of community in the US.

Capitalists literally are holding the people of the Earth in bondage. As liberal democracy crumbles in the West, the risk of neo-fascism continues to rise in North America and Europe.

It’s worth examining why the US has TV shows like “Hoarders”, where people have problems collecting useless crap, and where viewers publicly shame and judge the afflicted. Yet, where is the outrage at the real hoarders, the billionaires, the banks, and the military industrial complex? This is serious hypocrisy, a cultural blind spot: a double standard that is not being addressed by our society.

Capitalists are Addicts

Why does society not ask arch-capitalists the obvious questions: when is enough, enough? Who needs a billion dollars? Once you can provide a comfortable life for your family, children, and grandchildren, what is the point of hoarding your money in bank accounts and lording over a monopolizing mega-corporation? Where does this endless desire for more come from?

It’s fairly obvious that a failure to confront death is closely linked to the bottomless appetite exhibited by capitalists. The perceived need to construct towers, monuments, mansions, and manufactured narratives of their own greatness is proof. Not to mention how many of the super-rich have chosen to become cryogenically frozen post-mortem: this is in outright denial of their own mortality, and the necessity of death so that future generations may live.

In failing to confront death, any object can be used as a crutch, an addiction. Addiction is linked to social isolation and lack of community, which the capitalist class creates by artificially creating specialized divisions of labor, alienation, and class differences.

Addiction leads to a disconnection from what some would call a “reality principle”, leading to further and deeper indulgences and lack of restraint. There are further similarities between capitalists and drug addicts: the impatience, the disconnection from others, the neediness, as well as a general childlike need to be validated and pampered.

Methodology and Treatment in an Age of Insanity

We see where capitalism leads: to a permanent crisis, a never-ending state of emergency. Since the 1970s, workers have increased productivity mightily with little to zero increases in wages considering inflation and other factors. Americans are also working longer hours; young adults are even having less sex partly because of this. There is a huge problem with prescription drug abuse (not just opioids), teen suicide is rising (sadly, at a 40 year high for teen girls in 2017), and child poverty isn’t being addressed properly, if at all, by our own government.

All of these absolutely tragic issues are connected to capitalism. When we are forced to compete against each other, in grades at school, for that raise or promotion in the workplace, this breeds a mindset of dehumanization.

I would also posit that the separation of young children from their parents when they begin schooling, either day care or pre-school or kindergarten or afterwards, is one of the first steps in life where the feelings of individual atomization starts, and collective social disintegration begins. Being ripped from your parent’s arms because they have to work just to survive, and the state/private/charter school substituting for the role of a parent, is one of the first deep tragedies inflicted on many of us by the “needs” of the modern world. I believe this suffering is lodged deep in our unconscious selves, and this is not being addressed publicly at all, and barely acknowledged in our private lives.

Treatment starts when we want to become free of the Great Beast of capitalism, the “Babylon system” as some like to call it. We must ground ourselves, and return to a deeper relationship with our mother Earth. Self-reliance is true freedom, and families and communities should begin to grow as much of their own food as possible. I understand the limitations for those in urban areas, or those stuck in jobs where time and effort cannot be adequately put towards farming, of course. Collectively, as a city block, a suburban neighborhood, a rural township, we are all going to have to learn to get together, share food and technology, and become independent of this beast. We must begin to develop a gift economy, an indigenous-based economy, based on reciprocity and trust, not exploitation and coercion, as Charles Eisenstein explains.

Other than that, a mass protest movement must be created so the resources that our federal government receives in taxes can be shifted from weapons of destruction to schools, health care, community projects, and renewable energy.

Analyzing a Popular Alternative

I believe it’s important to discuss some of the budding alternatives to capitalism that are developing around the globe. In the US, support for socialism has risen immensely, especially among the younger crowd, thanks to the work of Bernie Sanders (notwithstanding him not really being a socialist) and others. Yet how serious are most American socialists?

One of the most popular groups in the US is called Socialist Alternative (SA), led by the charismatic Seattle councilwoman Kshama Sawant. SA has some great ideas, and yet, some of their proposals make it seem as if they’re just going through the motions. Let me explain.

On their about page, a few things stand out. They write: “We see the global capitalist system as the root cause of the economic crisis, poverty, discrimination, war, and environmental destruction.” Very well put. Yet then, this is followed by the line below:

“As capitalism moves deeper into crisis, a new generation of workers and youth must join together to take the top 500 corporations into public ownership under democratic control to end the ruling elites’ global competition for profits and power.”

This sounds nice, but I wonder how much time was really spent thinking through the implications of this policy. What if democratic control only leads to redistribution of the companies’ wealth, and not fundamental transformation of the products, resource usage, and dangerous working conditions?  Where is the sense of urgency, the fact that deadlines are being approached regarding global warming, regarding the ecological damage being done by these companies?

One wonders, has SA bothered to take a look at the list of the 500 top companies? For some, perhaps they can be repurposed to make sustainable products. For others, maybe the factories and warehouses can be dismantled and recycled for public use. For a few, it might be feasible that they could be broken up into smaller entities and non-profit co-operatives.

Yet, we must realize that these companies have only been able to thrive due to government tax breaks, insider trading, off-shoring hidden wealth, and other financial chicanery. Further, these mega corporations rely on specialized division of labor, fueling worker alienation.

Also, the biggest companies choose not to compete against each other in entire sectors, allowing for large profit margins. What happens when “public ownership” leads to stricter competition and price wars, forcing many employees to be laid off? How will these companies be able to compete against Europe and China? Is SA committed to local and bioregional approaches to agricultural and socially responsible industrial practices?

For many of these companies, though, the only democratic thing I can think of to do is to vote on who gets to throw the first brick or Molotov through the empty building. These corporations have done irreparable harm to the planet. Some of them are simply not going to be able to be reformed.

The only way to transform these entities (the ones that can be saved) properly, with the proper protections, would be to rewrite the constitution to include environmental and social rights, as well as the rights of mother Earth, as Bolivia has done. Without a legal framework based on ecology, there is no way to make sure “democratic control” of a transnational corporation would actually lead to environmentally-safe production.

SA is notable for fighting for a $15 an hour wage. First, I want to say that I support this policy. It is a laudable goal, and may work soon in some of the nation’s wealthy, tech-savvy, coastal metro enclaves.

Yet we need to ask what would happen if this were enacted nationally, and what we should do to prepare if it ever does. The elites would pull their money out of the system, if only to spite the Left and the socialists who enacted the policy, and give them a taste of pain for disobeying capitalism. The neoliberal economy is designed around low-wage service work, and is so tightly interwoven, not to mention extremely monopolized, that a sudden wage rise would lead to high levels of inflation, and possibly to a severe economic recession or depression. Are groups like SA ready to organize outside the political structure, to make space for a civic society, domestically and abroad, which will need massive influxes of resources, food, and housing when shit hits the fan?

SA also wants to “slash the military budget”, which is great. SA does not clarify where that new money should go. SA also proclaims that they support internationalism. Allow me to make a proposal: money from the military budget should be given away freely to developing countries, with transnational groups, either under UN auspices or some new framework, helping distribute and allocate resources so they are not wasted by corrupt dictators and governments. Poorer nations will need massive influxes of revenue to help them develop and avoid using fossil fuels and habitat-destroying industry, in the realm of trillions of dollars over decades. The West has accumulated ill-gotten wealth from centuries of colonialism, chattel slavery, and genocidal policies towards the “Global South”, and now may be the last chance to give back, before it becomes too late.

Are US socialists committed to these sorts of radical proposals? Are SA and others ready to admit to its followers that real socialism will involve hard sacrifices, and almost certainly (in the short term, at least) lead to less material goods and privileges that Westerners have enjoyed for centuries? Are socialists as ready to support a living wage in China as they are in the USA? Finally, are American socialists committed to transforming the nation, or just promoting an ideology that is centered too much on human needs, and not enough on the needs of non-humans and future human generations?

Ecocentrism, not Anthropocentrism

The Left has been fragmented for decades. Liberals, socialists, communists, greens, and anarchists have all endlessly debated future models for society. One wonders, how many are just talking, and how many are willing to listen? There already are models for society to live sustainably and to prosper, very, very old ways: by following the paths set by the indigenous.

For instance: by living in the moment, and observing things as they really are, it becomes quite clear that humanity is facing huge challenges unlike at any other time in history. Just one hundred companies have pumped out 70% of worldwide greenhouse gases since 1988. Is the answer, as SA has posited, really just to democratize these corporations and hope for the best, or to shut them down completely?

Westerners are going to have to realize very quickly that despite our space technology, skyscrapers, and instant media, we are the children in the room when it comes to ecological knowledge, and the indigenous around the world are the adults. Native American tribes and various indigenous peoples worldwide have catalogued thousands if not tens of thousands of local plants in their local ecosystems, often with hundreds of different uses for each individual plant. Indigenous accept their own mortality and have constructed elaborate rituals, ceremonies, and initiations to help each other confront death. Also, and this is critical, indigenous tribes understand their carrying capacity in their local habitat, and so are able to regulate and rationally plan for their population levels. Overpopulation now threatens the world with ecosystem degradation, habitat destruction, global warming, resource wars, ocean acidification, plastics proliferation, pandemics, and mass starvation and drought.

The indigenous are plant people, and we can follow just a few basic ideas to help us escape capitalism: conserve what remains of the South American, African, and Southeast Asian rainforests, as many future cures from disease and chronic conditions will be found there. In the Americas, the milpa, a planting of corn, beans, squash, and various nutrient rich veggies allows for huge crop productivity in a small area. We can use hemp and legalize cannabis to make biofuels, produce paper, make innovate building materials like Hempcrete, and provide the masses with a safe, relaxing herb for recreational, medicinal, and spiritual use. Advanced technology in most scenarios will only make things worse. What is the best thing one can do to stop global warming? Not a solar array, but planting a tree. Slow down soil erosion? Plant a tree. What is resistance? Planting a community garden is a more socialist, a more significant thing to do now than attending another symposium on Marxism.

The indigenous are freer and happier than Westerners not by some innate abilities, but because they have chosen to work for their freedom: by co-producing food, tools, clothes, pottery, by hunting, fishing, and foraging together. Westerners have refused to resist thus far, because deep down, many know they are dependent on the system for survival, and don’t want to pull that plug, to bite the hand that feeds. It’s the only way, though. We are going to have to walk away from all this, and activists, protestors, and concerned citizens are going to have to metaphorically step into our own Lacandon jungle, and organize around ecology, democracy, and social justice.

Yet, we must realize that it is too late in the game to rely simply on voting. Citizens will respond to a mass movement to the degree that it represents the will of the people: to the degree it can articulate a political truth on a deeply visceral level. Most mainstream socialists (important exceptions being Ian Angus, Paul Burkett, and John Bellamy Foster) have so far been too committed to a flailing, abstract ideology; specifically, wrongly committed to a Eurocentric, technocratic, anthropocentric worldview; to capture people’s imaginations. Developing an ecological worldview, one that acknowledges our interdependence and interconnectedness with all species, is crucial.

Thus, as the 21st century progresses, Standing Rock will eventually be seen as having more influence than Occupy Wall Street. We are connected to our planet and the web of life more than we can ever know or attempt to explain. For instance, we won’t end warfare until we abolish factory farming: the two are intimately linked, as exploitation of man over animal allows fascists the ideological justification for exploitation and the killing of man by man. Ecology is the keystone science: it allows us to see the linkages between species, food webs, and provides the science needed to develop scale-appropriate, sustainable technology. Ecologists understand that an injury to one is an injury to all, and under capitalism, we’ve all been wounded, plant, animal, and human alike, even the rich, who’ve suffered spiritual decay and moral disintegration.

The only democracy possible is an ecological democracy, with a long-term planning, and rational, sustainably-oriented national constitutions, a 90-95% reduction in fossil fuel use within a few decades at most, and an international consensus which will guarantee safeguards against habitat destruction, even in the face of democratic majority opposition. If we don’t face up to these facts, and collectively and courageously organize, we may in fact be due for the Kali Yuga, as the Hindus prophesied.

Thus, perhaps we can update and re-phrase Horkheimer’s famous quote for the 21st century:
“Whoever is not prepared to talk about capitalism should also remain silent about the 6th mass extinction.”


William Hawes

William Hawes is a writer specializing in politics and environmental issues. His articles have appeared online at Global Research, Countercurrents, Dissident Voice, The World Financial Review, Gods & Radicals, and Counterpunch. He is author of the ebook Planetary Vision: Essays on Freedom and Empire. You can reach him at wilhawes@gmail.com. Visit his website at williamhawes.wordpress.com


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Upon The Plains of Adoration

“The machine-world, offering nothing but ash and bitter hate, will in time make a sacrifice of us all.”

Ritual prose from Ramon Elani


In dappled groves of ancient, hulking oaks standing god-like among endless oceans of emerald moss, a voice rises up from the black, fragrant earth strewn with forgotten ruins and grim stone shapes hidden beneath mountains of ivy. Thin and airy at first. A mere dream of lurking things at the edge of thought. Suffocating darkness that reaches its tendrils deep into the well beneath the trees. A memory, only half-recalled, that wanders like a hungry ghost among the empty, cobwebbed corridors of the ruined mansions and submerged palaces of consciousness.

It floats and drifts like smoke, becoming fuller and stronger as it climbs above the crowned heads of the trees. Now like a chorus of monstrous chthonic angels, the song rings out over the land, bursting with glory and rage. A name that has been cursed for millennia shrieks out like a thousand dire pipes and shatters the foul torpor of a world lulled to dreamless sleep by the lies of the machine. It spits its proud wrath upon the face of heaven itself: Cromm Cruaich! The Crooked One of the Mound!

The corn-headed one rises up upon his bloody pile. His bony shoulders stooped and the horns upon his brow piercing the sky and the sun blazes above him like a halo of fire. Shrouded in mist, he sits enthroned on the Hill of Kings surrounded by his wizened idols. In his dread claws he holds the gifts of milk and grain, and in the timeless deep did Tigernmas one distant Samhain eve march to that hill with his panoplied men of war to give homage to the Bent One. Tigernmas, that beautiful Lord of Death who did such feats of war upon the line of Finn that he nearly rooted out the blood of those kings forever, who did make much slaughter upon the kings of Assyria, who did first give the drinking horn to his vassals to drink, and robe them in imperial purple.

What dark dream moved him to march his host to that place and do their deeds there? For from that long march to the high hill, the flowering youth of Banba in their vigor and virility would never return. For upon that hill Cromm held court long before the Tuath De descended from dark clouds onto the mountains of that land, long before the Dagda stirred his cauldron and shook his wild club. No, from those older and deeper did Cromm trace his lineage. From those who who did battle with the Bright Ones, after they burned their ships. From those who did war upon the very fabric of reality. They who were there when the first came upon the shores, they who were there when the flood came and after, they who rule even now in Mag Mell. The latent-ones, who lurk within every heart and place of darkness, who swim with smiling teeth beneath the troubled waters of the ancient cosmic sea.

To Tigernmas did this Cromm speak and say: give me your sin, your filth, and I will devour it. I will carry it for you and within me it will grow and bear fruit. And from thence I will sit here with my bloody head upon this mound, abhorred and eternally defiled by the excrement that you bring me and I will gleefully swallow. Whatever your crimes and horrors, I will take them and they shall fertilize the harvest and bring forth such splendor and plenty from the earth. I make now with you this covenant.

So with wild eyes and bloody fists the dread King Tigernmas and his men did beat themselves raw and weep and fall to the ground overcome by lamentation and there surrounded by a circle of stones arranged in ranks of four times three did Cromm find their offering to be pleasing and the mighty host was there slaughtered to a man for the gift of milk and grain.

For thousands of generations after the bloody place was held in reverence by the Gaedil-folk, who brought their own sacrifices for the gift of milk and grain. They crowned Cromm in gold and silver. For life on the plains was hard in those times and the secret powers of the god demanded the pouring of bright blood in a circle around the barrow. Even as they emptied the lives of their first born to the god, the people gave thanks in their grief and so the land about the mound became known as the Plains of Adoration. Then came Patrick of Ravenglass, from the home of the Raven Woman, who defied the Ones who Stood in the Grove and spewed impieties from a table in the front of his house. He cursed Kings and Tribes and Nations and came with iron and fire to tear down what had stood since the dawn of ages. So was Golden Cromm sundered and dragged from his holy seat upon the mound. And the earth opened up and swallowed his henges, menhirs, and standing stones, his idols, and the tombs of the heroes laid to rest upon that hallowed hill. And so did the Man of Ard Macha seek to make the place and its gods to be forgotten forever.

Let us turn away from the gods of the sky, in their pride and vanity. They who seek to shatter the wheel, to establish dominion without end by the might of their catastrophic arms. Theirs is a reign that will never be overturned, they declare. By the force they wield the chthonic ones will never again threaten their imperial peace. And like, Patrick who served them, they will eradicate the memories of where we once stood and offered ourselves to the dirt. They will teach us that our forms are made to be bathed in light, that we must shun the dank and the rot, the hollows, and the mounds. That we should not seek the deep places and that we should make enemies of the powers that dwell there.

But we will remember, even in shadows that emerge from the woods at night. Forces that move invisible. Dreams that walk in shimmering moonlight. Stare deep into the dusky grove and do not look away, even when you feel the eyes of the Watcher pierce your heart and lay bare your most secret desires. Do not turn away! The shapes and thoughts that haunt you will tear your soul to shreds with birch branches if you turn from them. And we have turned indeed, to our doom. We have forsaken the powers and they have in turn withdrawn their blessings.

We shall no longer speak of Earth, the Mother. At least not the Mother that gives and gives and gives until her teats are withered and raw from the cruel teeth of her most wretched and ungrateful spawn. No, if we speak of a Mother it shall be a one that is deep and clouded and dark and full of terror. Not without love but a love that is weird and mysterious and to be feared. A love that is not understood but craved. A maddening love that comes upon us in the light of the moon. A love we would do anything to protect.

The mother does not give without claiming what is hers in return. The Earth demands blood. The machine-world, offering nothing but ash and bitter hate, will in time make a sacrifice of us all. It will blot the very sun itself and the universe will fly apart. The old ways are tied to the earth, tied with bonds of blood, terror, and love. In the brutality found upon Cromm Cruaich’s mound there is a mercy that we cannot understand in our world of silicon and cold metal. It lies in understanding that the gods of the earth will take what they are owed, whether it is offered freely or not.

We must submit, not to an external authority but to a truth that haunts us, to a vision that rises up from from the flooded landscape of our dreams. We must dig through the silt of ages to find those remnants, those long buried shapes and structures that moulder, that hold up generations of ivy and moss. Our souls are choked with ruins, littered with archaic forms that drift among layers of sediment, driven along by titanic geological currents. The memories of the ancestors wander among those forgotten paths. Memories that disturb and unsettle us. Aboriginal, they guide us over silent waves to a lonely shore beneath a metal-grey sky. The silence is thick and unmoving. It lulls into the endless sleep of ages and in that sleep, we find ourselves.

Standing among crystalline palaces at the edge of history, we imagine that we are far from a nightmare world of stones and blood. But the one we have exchanged it for is more horrible by far. Though we walk through utopia, asteel fantasy, our souls remain archaic.

Terror lies in the heart of love.


Ramon Elani

Ramon Elani holds a PhD in literature and philosophy. He is a teacher, a poet, a husband, and a father. He recently retired from being a cage fighter. He wanders in oak groves and speaks to trees. He casts the runes.

More of his writing can be found here.


 

In Praise of the Dancing Body

By Silvia Federici

The history of the body is the history of human beings, for there is no cultural practice that is not first applied to the body. Even if we limit ourselves to speak of the history of the body in capitalism we face an overwhelming task, so extensive have been the techniques used to discipline the body, constantly changing, depending on the shifts in labor regimes to which our body was subjected to. Moreover, we do not have one history but different histories of the body: the body of men, of women, of the waged worker, of the enslaved, of the colonized.

A history of the body then can be reconstructed by describing the different forms of repression that capitalism has activated against it. But I have decided to write instead of the body as a ground of resistance, that is the body and its powers – the power to act, to transform itself and the world and the body as a natural limit to exploitation.

There is something we have lost in our insistence on the body as something socially constructed and performative. The view of the body as a social [discursive] production has hidden the fact our body is a receptacle of powers, capacities and resistances, that have been developed in a long process of co-evolution with our natural environment, as well as inter-generational practices that have made it a natural limit to exploitation.

By the body as a ‘natural limit’ I refer to the structure of needs and desires created in us not only by our conscious decisions or collective practices, but by millions of years of material evolution:the need for the sun, for the blue sky and the green of trees, for the smell of the woods and the oceans, the need for touching, smelling, sleeping, making love.

This accumulated structure of needs and desires, that for thousands of years have been the condition of our social reproduction, has put limits to our exploitation and is something that capitalism has incessantly struggled to overcome.

Capitalism was not the first system based on the exploitation of human labor. But more than any other system in history, it has tried to create an economic world where labor is the most essential principle of accumulation. As such it was the first to make the regimentation and mechanization of the body a key premise of the accumulation of wealth. Indeed, one of capitalism’s main social tasks from its beginning to the present has been the transformation of our energies and corporeal powers into labor-powers.

In Caliban and the Witch, I have looked at the strategies that capitalism has employed to accomplish this task and remold human nature, in the same way as it has tried to remold the earth in order to make the land more productive and to turn animals into living factories. I have spoken of the historic battle it has waged against the body, against our materiality, and the many institutions it has created for this purpose: the law, the whip, the regulation of sexuality, as well as myriad social practices that have redefined our relation to space, to nature, and to each other.

Federici land pullCapitalism 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. Generally, we stress the economic aspect of this process, the economic dependence capitalism has created on monetary relations, and its role in the formation of a wage proletariat. 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.

Nature has been inorganic body and there was a time when we could read the winds, the clouds, and the changes in the currents of rivers and seas. In pre-capitalist societies people thought they had the power to fly, to have out-of body experiences, to communicate, to speak with animals and take on their powers and even shape-shift. They also thought that they could be in more places than one and, for example, they could come back from the grave to take revenge of their enemies.

Not all these powers were imaginary. Daily contact with nature was the source of a great amount of knowledge reflected in the food revolution that took place especially in the Americas prior to colonization or in the revolution in sailing techniques. We know now, for instance, that the Polynesian populations used to travel the high seas at night with only their body as their compass, as they could tell from the vibrations of the waves the different ways to direct their boats to the shore.

Fixation in space and time has been one of the most elementary and persistent techniques capitalism has used to take hold of the body. See the attacks throughout history on vagabonds, migrants, hobo-men. Mobility is a threat when not pursued for work-sake as it circulates knowledges, experiences, struggles. In the past the instruments of restraint were whips, chains, the stocks, mutilation, enslavement. Today, in addition to the whip and the detention centers, we have computer surveillance and the periodic threat of epidemics as a means to control nomadism.

Federici mechanisation pullMechanization—the turning of the body, male and female, into a machine—has been one of capitalism’s most relentless pursuits. Animals too are turned into machines, so that sows can double their littler, chicken can produce uninterrupted flows of eggs, while unproductive ones are grounded like stones, and calves can never stand on their feet before being brought to the slaughter house.

I cannot here evoke all the ways in which the mechanization of body has occurred. Enough to say that the techniques of capture and domination have changed depending on the dominant labor regime and the machines that have been the model for the body.

Thus we find that in the 16 and 17th centuries (the time of manufacture) the body was imagined and disciplined according to the model of simple machines, like the pump and the lever. This was the regime that culminated in Taylorism, time-motion study, where every motion was calculated and all our energies were channeled to the task. Resistance here was imagined in the form of inertia, with the body pictured as a dumb animal, a monster resistant to command.

With the 19th century we have, instead, a conception of the body and disciplinary techniques modeled on the steam engine, its productivity calculated in terms of input and output, and efficiency becoming the key word. Under this regime, the disciplining of the body was accomplished through dietary restrictions and the calculation of the calories that a working body would need. The climax, in this context, was the Nazi table, that specified what calories each type of worker needed. The enemy here was the dispersion of energy, entropy, waste, disorder. In the US, the history of this new political economy began in the 1880s, with the attack on the saloon and the remolding of the family-life with at its center the full-time housewife, conceived as an anti-entropic devise, always on call, ready to restore the meal consumed, the body sullied after the bath, the dress repaired and torn again.

In our time, models for the body are the computer and the genetic code, crafting a dematerialized, dis-aggregated body, imagined as a conglomerate of cells and genes each with her own program, indifferent to the rest and to the good of the body as a whole. Such is the theory of the ‘selfish gene,’ the idea, that is, that the body is made of individualistic cells and genes all pursuing their program a perfect metaphor of the neo-liberal conception of life, where market dominance turns against not only group solidarity but solidarity with own ourselves. Consistently, the body disintegrates into an assemblage of selfish genes, each striving to achieve its selfish goals, indifferent to the interest of the rest.

To the extent that we internalize this view, we internalize the most profound experience of self-alienation, as we confront not only a great beast that does not obey our orders, but a host of micro-enemies that are planted right into our own body, ready to attack us at any moment. Industries have been built on the fears that this conception of the body generates, putting us at the mercy of forces that we do not control. Inevitably, if we internalize this view, we do not taste good to ourselves. In fact, our body scares us, and we do not listen to it.

We do not hear what it wants, but join the assault on it with all the weapons that medicine can offer: radiation, colonoscopy, mammography, all arms in a long battle against the body, with us joining in the assault rather than taking our body out of the line of fire. In this way we are prepared to accept a world that transforms body-parts into commodities for a market and view our body as a repository of diseases: the body as plague, the body as source of epidemics, the body without reason.

Federici reappropriate pullOur struggle then must begin with the re-appropriation of our body, the revaluation and rediscovery of its capacity for resistance, and expansion and celebration of its powers, individual and collective.

Dance is central to this re-appropriation. In essence, the act of dancing is an exploration and invention of what a body can do: of its capacities, its languages, its articulations of the strivings of our being. I have come to believe that there is a philosophy in dancing, for dance mimics the processes by which we relate to the world, connect with other bodies, transform ourselves and the space around us.

From dance we learn that matter is not stupid, it is not blind, it is not mechanical, but has its rhythms, has its language, and it is self-activated and self-organizing, Our bodies have reasons that we need to learn, rediscover, reinvent. We need to listen to their language as the path to our health and healing, as we need to listen to the language and rhythms of the natural world as the path to the health and healing of the earth. Since the power to be affected and to affect, to be moved and move, a capacity which is indestructible, exhausted only with death, is constitutive of the body, there is an immanent politics residing in it: the capacity to transform itself, others, and change the world.


This essay originally appeared in A Beautiful Resistance: Everything We Already Are.


Silvia Federici

is a feminist activist, teacher and writer. Her published works include: Revolution at Point Zero. Housework, Reproduction, and Feminist Struggle (2012); Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation (2004); Enduring Western Civilization: The Construction of Western Civilization and its “Others” (1994 editor).

Garlic Bread of the Revolution

According to a former lover, I make a garlic bread so good that “it could start a revolution.”  It’s pretty damn good, I’ll admit.  And maybe it could.

Cooking is kinda revolutionary in its own right.  It shouldn’t be–it’s something humans have been doing for thousands of years.  But we’ve all become alienated from a lot of the things humans have done lately, and there’s no better place to start recovering this than the kitchen.

Besides, cooking is pretty close to witchcraft. So, I’m gonna tell you how to make my garlic bread, and give you a little revolutionary history and theory behind some of the ingredients.

First, let’s start with what you’re gonna need. Ingredients don’t have to be organic, ’cause I’m assuming you’re probably as poor as I am and most of the people I know. Organic food, at least in the United States, is so much more expensive than other stuff that it’s just not for ‘the poor.’ We should change that sometime, seriously.  But ’till then, get what you can, okay?

It’ll still turn out awesome.  You’ll need

  • One loaf of thick-crusted bread, preferably sourdough.
  • 1/4 pound unmelted, salted butter (not margarine)
  • An entire head of fresh garlic.
  • some Parsley (must be fresh)
  • Oregano (can be dried).

Got all that?

Now, you’ll also need a really sharp knife, so get yourself the best knife sharpener (or serrated), an oven set to 350 degrees F (175 C), a small bowl, and some time. Cooking takes time, which you maybe don’t have a lot of because you have to work to survive. We’ll talk about that in a bit.

The most important thing you need to know about this recipe is DO NOT MELT THE BUTTER.  You’re gonna want to soften it, but don’t let it melt until the whole thing is in the oven. And don’t replace any of the ingredients if you want to make ‘my’ garlic bread.  You can really do whatever you want (please do!), but it’s no longer this garlic bread, it’s something different.


Step One: Soften the butter.

This is best done by putting it in a bowl at room temperature beforehand.  It won’t go bad. The goal is to make sure that it’s soft enough to mix but not melted, otherwise the fat and liquid in the butter separate.

Step Two: Peel & Chop the Garlic

You have fresh garlic, right? Not powdered or granulated and definitely not ‘garlic salt,’ right?  Awesome!

Peel at least half a bulb of garlic, between 5-10 cloves. You can use a fork to crush each clove slightly which makes it peel easier.  Then, take all your peeled garlic and chop it finely.  Use a heavy knife with a decent blade.

Put all that garlic in the bowl with the butter.

Step Three: Rinse and Chop the Parsley

You want about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of chopped parsley. It’s a crucial ingredient for this, not a garnish, not just for color.  Run a handful under cold water, squeeze it out, and then chop it as finely as you feel like doing so.  The smaller the pieces, the more distributed the flavor, but also the more likely the whole thing will turn green.

Add the parsley to the bowl of garlic and butter.

Step Four: Add Oregano, mix, and wait a bit

Add a large pinch or more of oregano and then stir the whole thing until it’s soft and well mixed.  I usually use a fork for this, as it cuts the butter a little bit, so if it’s not quite soft enough you can use brute force to mix it.  Don’t get impatient and try to soften the butter by other means (microwave, magic, blowtorch)–melting ruins the whole thing.

Now, wait a bit.  You can totally do other stuff while waiting, like make a salad or pasta or read the rest of this essay. You want the fat in the butter to have a little time to absorb the flavors from everything else.

While you’re waiting, let’s talk about two of the ingredients, the Bread and the Butter.  If you’re impatient, Steps Five, Six, and Seven are a bit further down.


Peasant Bread’s an Art

If you got a thick crusted bread like I suggested, you probably bought an ‘artisan’ bread. “Artisan” bread became sort of a ‘thing’ in the United States about ten years ago.  They’re thick-crusted breads, usually with only three or four ingredients, and take on characters of taste because of the way they’re baked and the age of the yeast.

‘Artisan’ bread is really just peasant bread, though. It’s a lot more similar to what bread was like several hundred years ago than what it is now, all soft and squishy, pre-sliced and wrapped in petrol-plastic.

The pure white bland stuff we usually have now requires heavy refining of the flour and removal of all the fibrous parts of the grains.  Removing so much of the plant also removes most of the micronutrients available, which is one of the (but not the only) reasons why factory-produced flour is now enriched.

Bread is, at its most basic, flour, water, and yeast.  Flour and water are pretty easy to understand, but the alchemy behind bread is the yeast, particularly with artisan breads. Many ‘artisanal’ breads use what are called ‘starters.’  These are bits of dough set aside and let to age, often with more water or milk added to help the yeast have more food.  The next time bread is made, this ‘starter’ creates the foundation of that loaf, and another small portion is reserved for the next loaf.  This process also cultures the dough, adding certain flavors which are impossible to get without a starter.

To get yeast now, we usually purchase little foil packets of dry yeast granules.  Before, though?

Before the advent of yeast culturing, wild yeast fermentation was used (knowingly or not) to attract yeasts (then thought of as spirits) into the wort. The brewers would often leave their brewing vessel in a special hut, uncovered, and say prayers over the brew. When the brew started to foam, they knew the spirit had entered. This wild yeast fermentation process was hit and miss, as sometimes a bad flavor (or spirit) would get into the ale, and it had to be thrown out.

Around the 15th century, some of the brewing monks started to catch on to the way the angels (yeasts) were working. They found that if they used the same wooden spoon to stir their cooled wort, the same good spirit resulted. This technique was also used by the latter day Vikings, but they used oak staves carved with runes. The reason why these tools worked their miracles was that yeast fermentation cultures would live in the wood. Even when the spoon or rune was dried, the yeast culture could live dormant in the wood until the next use.

The same process worked for both bread and beer.

Yeast will grow naturally in moist, warm enclosed areas where the yeast has something to feed it.  It also survives better in porous organic surfaces than it does on sterile, impermeable surfaces. So our modern obsession with plastic, stainless steel, and other non-porous surfaces mean we need external sources of yeast. Most modern things require a trade-off.

Bread Takes Time

Bread baking requires a lot more  than just buying a packet of yeast, letting the dough set out a few hours, and then baking.  What it requires most of all is time.

We have this idea, inculcated more from Media than from historical sources, that industrialisation has liberated us–particularly women–from the inconvenience, hard work, and time commitment required for household tasks like baking and cooking.

We should, first of all, get rid of the idea that cooking is a woman’s task.  Women were relegated to household work during the birth of Capitalism because they’d lost all other access to their means of production. The so-called “Nuclear Family” is a new idea, and it had more to do with keeping workers in line than it ever did with anything ‘traditional.’

How much time do you have to cook?  If you’re working 40 hours a week, probably not much. The 8-hour workday is never just 8 hours. It requires you to wake up early, feed yourself, commute to work, feed yourself on lunch (which is usually not paid), commute home, and unwind from work.

That leaves 6 hours left, assuming 8 hours of sleep.  But by the end of a shift, most people are pretty exhausted. And if you’ve got kids, you’re not getting much else done.  If you’re single, it’s also hard; you have to do all the work to keep yourself healthy, well-fed, well-rested and sane on your own.

But if you have a partner who can do some of that stuff for you, you might be okay. That’s where ‘housewives’ come in, a person who uses some of their time to help the person working maintain their existence as both human and worker. Cooking dinner, washing clothes, –all of those things you can’t really do for yourself after selling your own labor/energy to an employer (called the means of reproduction) are uncompensated in Capitalism.  From Silvia Federici’s “Wages Against Housework,”

In the same way as god created Eve to give pleasure to Adam, so did capital create the housewife to service the male worker physically, emotionally and sexually – to raise his children, mend his socks, patch up his ego when it is crushed by the work and the social relations (which are relations of loneliness) that capital has reserved for him. It is precisely this peculiar combination of physical, emotional and sexual services that are involved in the role women must perform for capital that creates the specific character of that servant which is the housewife, that makes her work so burdensome and at the same time invisible

For couples of any combination of gender, such tensions remain. In every relationship I’ve been in, the person who is working more (sometimes myself, sometimes the other) relies heavily on the other to keep him alive and sane. For every successful ‘worker,’ there’s someone else propping them up.

Of course, you could always go to a restaurant (you won’t get this garlic bread there, though).  In fact, restaurants sprung up in popularity at the same time as industrialisation as an auxiliary function. Don’t have someone to cook for you? You can pay someone else to do it, trading some of your money in exchange for a little more time.

That’s why you’re buying the bread for this recipe, by the way, and not baking it.  You don’t have the time to bake it yourself, and probably don’t know anyone skilled enough to make it for you.


Step Five: Slice the Bread, then butter the slices

You don’t want to slice the bread all the way through, by the way.  The hard crust, especially at the bottom of the loaf, makes for a natural ‘wrapping’ for this, and will also help keep the whole thing together. Slice into the loaf no more than 3/4’s of the way down, and repeat this throughout the loaf, making 8-12 slots.  Think ‘accordion’ or ‘fan.’   Don’t worry about precision; we’re not doing science, we’re doing magic.

Most people usually just slice a loaf in half and butter both sides. My way is better–you’ll see!

Now, take a spoon or knife and slather the garlic butter mixture into each gouge you’ve cut.  Distribute it evenly like the good communist you are, and any leftover can be added to the top.


War-Butter

You know how butter is made, yeah?  Cream from cow’s milk is churned repeatedly, adding air and breaking up the fat until most of the liquid (‘buttermilk’) can be removed. What remains solidifies as the churning continues, and it’s mostly fat.

Butter in the United States tends to have a lower fat-to-water ratio than butter in Europe, and also tends to have dyes in it to turn it yellow because of the quality of the milk.  Milk takes on specific characteristic of the land where the cow lives through the grass it eats, which is why milk from Ireland tastes different from milk from France, and why the cheeses made in either place have differences in flavor impossible to replicate elsewhere.  In the United States, though…well, keep reading.

Industrialisation changed a lot of the way we create and consume butter and cow’s milk.  Before industrialisation, we waited for the cream to rise to the top of a vat of milk naturally, a long process.  Eventually, machines which would separate the fat faster were developed, as well as machines which would do the churning for us.

Ever thought about 2% and ‘skim’ milk? The fat from cream is what makes butter. Removing most of it produces ‘whole milk,’ and all of it produces ‘skim milk.’  You might like like skimmed milk (I don’t), but either way, it’s worth knowing that 100 years ago, you couldn’t get anyone to drink the stuff. 

Butter-and-CanonsActually, it was considered ‘waste,’ a by-product of cream and cheese production. But War and the science of “Chemurgy” came to the rescue.

“World War II successfully reincarnated skim milk from a locally utilized byproduct into one with national and international appeal. Skim milk entered World War II before American soldiers did. The U.S. secretary of agriculture asked for expanded production from dairy farmers in July 1941, months before the attack on Pearl Harbor. Dairy products quickly became essential to the lend-lease and war relief programs. Whereas evaporated milk was the preferred relief food during and after World War I, dried milk powder’s transportability and long shelf life gave it the favored spot in the lend-lease formulary. By 1941, the federal government asked for 200 million pounds of dry skim milk powder for America’s allies. Dried skim milk manufacturers struggled to keep pace with the unprecedented demand.”

You may be old enough to remember a time that skimmed milk was cheaper than whole, maybe not. But through marketing, particularly on ‘diet’ concerns, skim milk is considered an equal product to whole, even ‘healthier.’

Ruminating on Corn

There’s something else important about industrialised dairy production you should know, though.  Since the logic of the Capitalist is to increase production while decreasing cost, and in this case the ‘producer’ is a cow, certain ‘technological advances’ have arisen to ensure that cows produce as much milk as possible with the least amount of cost.  Unfortunately, like many other Capitalist attempts to increase productivity, they’ve got some huge side-effects.

In the 1980’s, a recombinant bovine growth hormone, rBST, was developed.  It’s a hormone that  keeps mammary cells from dying, and so increases the amount of milk a cow can produce long past when it might normally have stopped lactating.  The United States approved its use in 1993, so it’s been around for 23 years. It’s been banned in Australia, Canada, and the European Union since 2000, though.

In the USA, milk coming from cows treated with hormones carries a label from the FDA stating,

“No significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbST-treated and non-rbST-treated cows.”

Whether or not you trust the government on this one, there’s something worth noting. Increasing the amount of milk a cow produces often leads to ‘mastitis,’ or infections of the mammary glands.  Whether or not the pus from those infections ends up in industrialised milk is impossible to tell, but such infections are part of the reason why antibiotics are used in dairy production.

The other reason, though? Cows are rarely fed grass any longer. Instead, they’re fed grain and corn, despite the fact that they actually can’t digest it:

Cows see very little grass nowadays in their lives. They get them on corn as fast as they can, which speeds up their lifespan, gets them really fat, and allows you to slaughter them within 14 months.

The problem with this system, or one of the problems with this system, is that cows are not evolved to digest corn. It creates all sorts of problems for them. The rumen is designed for grass. And corn is just too rich, too starchy. So as soon as you introduce corn, the animal is liable to get sick…

…You start giving them antibiotics, because as soon as you give them corn, you’ve disturbed their digestion, and they’re apt to get sick, so you then have to give them drugs. That’s how you get in this whole cycle of drugs and meat. By feeding them what they’re not equipped to eat well, we then go down this path of technological fixes, and the first is the antibiotics. Once they start eating the [corn], they’re more vulnerable. They’re stressed, so they’re more vulnerable to all the different diseases cows get. But specifically they get bloat, which is just a horrible thing to happen. They stop ruminating.

So, industrial dairy production affects the cows and requires antibiotics and other technological fixes to sustain it. And regional differences don’t appear when the cows are fed on the same diet (corn, grain) everywhere.

Despite all that, though, you gotta use butter for this Garlic Bread.  It won’t taste good, otherwise, trust me.

Besides, Margarine is just as problematic–you don’t hear of anyone making ‘home-made’ margarine for a reason.  You can’t. While butter existed before industrialisation, you probably don’t know anyone who can hydrogenate, fractionate, or interesterificate in their kitchen.

But don’t melt the butter, okay?  It’s the most important part.


Step Six: Bake The Garlic Bread

Put the loaf (slathered with butter) onto a baking sheet on the top rack of your oven.  The oven should be about 350 degrees.

You’re gonna want this in there for between 15 minutes to about a half hour.  I’m not gonna give you a precise time, because, like I said, magic, not science.  You’ll know it’s ready by looking at it.

Let’s talk about the other three ingredients while we wait for that to bake, yeah?


This Shit Grows in the Dirt

Herbs like parsley and oregano are pretty damn awesome, and usually have other fun affects besides just flavoring. For instance, parsley. Others can talk about the magical affects of it, but as a cook I can assure you that it’s too awesome to be just a garnish.  Parsley tends to balance acidity, and has a signficant flavor of its own that gets utterly lost when it’s dried.  The amount of parsley we’re putting in the garlic bread is about 4 tablespoons finely chopped. It’s pretty crucial to the taste.

Now, the Oregano is actually a little better dried, especially since we’ll be cooking this.  Fresh herbs are typically better used at the end of cooking as the meal is cooling down.  Basil’s a good example–fresh basil loses its flavor after it’s been cooked.  I almost never use dried basil, by the way–it has an oddly sweet, almost tequila-like taste that doesn’t mesh so well with most foods.

So, question though–where you gonna get these two herbs? Probably at the grocery store, right? Let me offer you a sigh of solidarity.  That parsley’s probably gonna cost you $1 to $1.50 for a large bundle that you won’t use all of unless you’re making tabbouleh later.  And the oregano? Like $7 or $8 dollars for a one ounce jar if there’s no bulk herb section in your store.

Here’s a tip, though.  You know that area in the grocery store where all the jarred spices are? IGNORE IT.  Instead, go find the ‘ethnic’ or ‘mexican’ food section (and grumble angrily, like I do, about how ridiculous these labels are).

Wait–are those…spices? Herbs? Why are they so cheap? Like, $2 for something that would cost you $8 one aisle over?  There must be something wrong with them, right?

Nope.  Not at all.  In fact, the ones in the non-clueless-person section are usually a bit better.  The grocery store’s just betting that you’re so alienated from cooking and food production that you’ll accept these ridiculous prices.  Herbs grow in the dirt.  Actually, almost all plants do. But because we in industrialised, urban settings aren’t anywhere near actual farming, we have less context and are more willing to accept what is sold to us.

I’ll actually tell you my own story on this. 16 years ago, I lived in a pretty awesome house with this really cool, beautiful evergreen-looking bush by the front door. Anyway, I was making dinner with a friend. I went shopping, returned home, and started preparing stuff when he showed up.  I pulled out one of the things I’d bought and he starts laughing.

“You fuckhead,” he says. (yeah, he was a really close friend).  “How much did you pay for that?

“Three dollars,” I said, suddenly quite concerned.

“You paid $3 dollars for 4 sprigs of rosemary when you’ve got a massive bush of it right outside your door?”

“Wait,” I said, confused.  “Isn’t that, like, ornamental rosemary or something?”

I actually took the organic sprigs I’d bought to the bush and compared them, hoping against hope I hadn’t spent at least $30 that year on an herb that grew literally out my front door.  But…yup.  I’d been had.

Parsley and oregano are both really easy to grow.  In fact, they do better being mostly left alone, and growing in poor soil conditions rather than rich.  But in urban settings, we have very little access to growing spaces and trade our time (in wages) to purchase something that grows happily, easily, and rather abundantly in dirt. However! With enough connection to a place, and some forethought, you can actually plant quite a bit of the stuff in places no one will touch it.  It’s called Guerrilla gardening,  and it’s a lot of fun.

The garlic is, of course, really important here. You’re using a lot of it for a reason–it’s garlic bread, after all. And by the way, it’s not going to be completely cooked through when it’s done.  It’ll still be a bit sharp, soft but not mushy.

I, uh,  hope you like garlic. I should warn you, you’re gonna smell like it the next day.  It comes out your pores, will be on your breath no matter how much you brush your teeth.

But that’s okay, right?  Except of course that some people will find it offensive, because the smells that the human body emanates have become generally ‘offensive.’  That was another long industrialised process, but I won’t go into that here.  My suggestion? Share this bread with people you really like, so you’ll all smell like garlic.

Now, ready?


Step Seven: Pull it out of the oven and eat that delicious revolt

Garlic BreadIt should be pretty hot when it comes out of the oven, so be careful, yeah?  Also, rather greasy. We did, after all, put 1/4 pound of butter in there.

Set it on a cutting board and once it’s cooled off enough, slice it down the rest of the way and serve it.  It’s damn awesome with pasta or salad.  Everything sorta fuses together, adding a extra flavor that wasn’t there.

Be warned, though.  Both garlic and parsley have this funny affect on the stomach; both speed digestion a bit, so you might find this weird thing happen where three hours later you want to eat whatever was leftover.  It’s kinda magical.

While you’re eating it, consider the history of the ingredients and their relationship to Capitalism, as well as what you don’t have access to because of Capitalist social relations.

Those herbs we used? They should be free, but most of us don’t have access to land to grow them. Same with the garlic–it grows quite well in most soils, and you eat the part that’s underground.

So much now goes into the creation of butter and other dairy products (like antibiotics and hormones) that it’s quite a moral choice to abstain from eating it. But taste that? That’s something people have been eating for thousands of years. In India, a type of clarified butter (ghee) is considered sacred and medicinal.  Capitalist dairy production, though, is awful.

And bread.  Feel free to get a bit grumpy about paying high prices for a bread that peasants made, often communally. In fact, there are lots of activities that are more time-efficient when done with others (like cooking large meals, baking, gardening, child care, etc. etc.) that we rarely do together any longer. Many of these activities are outsourced to Capitalist enterprises (like artisan bakers) who pay their workers less than the amount you pay for the bread.

Get a little grumpy, sure.  But also, you taste that? The deep earthy mix of parsley and garlic infused into the butter, how the whole thing tastes absurdly light and smooth despite being full of fat and carbs?  Smell how you almost get a little drunk on the garlic, how your body seems to warm in sensuous desire with each bite? How you don’t want it ever to end?

That feeling? Pure desire, pure enjoyment, intoxication of senses and a certainty that the world should have much more garlic bread in it, and a lot less useless harm and unnecessary sorrow?

That’s kinda what revolution is like.

Enjoy!


Rhyd Wildermuth

Rhyd is the managing editor and a co-founder of Gods&Radicals. He is a poet, a writer, a theorist, and a pretty decent chef. He can be supported on Patreon, and his other work can be found at Paganarch, and shirtless selfies occasionally seen on his FB. and also his Instagram


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Industrialisation and Radicalism in Preston

Preston: Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution

The city of Preston in Lancashire holds claim to being the birthplace of the industrial revolution. In 1769 Richard Arkwright invented the water frame in his three storey house on Stoneygate. According to a local rumour his neighbours mistook the noise of the machine for the devil’s bagpipes and imagined Arkwright and his accomplice, Kay, dancing a jig. This formed an eerie prelude to the rise of the ‘dark Satanic mills’ that came to dominate Preston and its people and made England ‘the workshop of the world’.

Arkwright House
Arkwright House

Industrialisation led to a massive increase in Preston’s populace. Between 1801 and 1851 it grew from 11,887 to 69,361. The mechanisation of spinning and hand-loom weaving forced people from their rural cottages where they practiced their trades into towns to seek employment in the mills.

Over forty mills were built with terraces to house the workers, which were hopelessly over-crowded. Slums grew up in backyards. Huge pools of waste accumulated due to the inadequacy of foul ditches, the most notorious being known as ‘Brown Friargate’. Cholera and smallpox were rife. Between 1880 and 1900, the town had the highest infant mortality rate in the country.

Class Conflict: Luddites and Chartists

Due to squalid living conditions, unreasonable hours and poor pay Lancashire became renowned for its social divides and class conflicts. In 1779 a mob marched from Blackrod gathering people from Chorley (3-4,000 in total!) to attack one of Arkwright’s earliest mills at Birkacre. After smashing the spinning frames, carding and roving engines and wheels they burnt them and razed the building to the ground.

In 1811 the Luddite movement emerged in opposition to the mechanisation of spinning and weaving. Invoking the legendary General Ludd its proponents burnt factories and smashed machines. Luddite revolts swept across Lancashire in 1813. Whilst I have found references to a Luddite presence and unrest in Preston I haven’t come across any examples of attacks on mills here yet.

Preston’s first major rebellion was the Spinners’ Strike of 1836. Shortly afterward it became a centre of the Chartist movement. This aimed to bring about social reform by winning the vote for working men. One of the main Chartist leaders in Preston was Richard Marsden, a hand-loom weaver from Bamber Bridge.

In 1838 Marsden arranged a massive demonstration of several thousand people including trade unions with four bands and forty banners sporting slogans such as ‘Better to die by the sword than perish with hunger’, ‘Britons strike home. We know our rights and will maintain them’, ‘Who would be free, must himself strike the first blow’.

Marsden affirmed the people’s right to use not only moral but physical force. Fergus O’Connor, who he invited to speak at the demonstration, also stated though he wished moral force would ‘effect every change’ in its failure ‘physical force would come to its aid like an electric shock.’ When the Charter was rejected by the House of Commons in 1839, the following strike (ironically named the ‘Sacred Month’) only lasted three days. The Chartists’ hope and lightning-like enthusiasm fizzled out.

The movement revived in 1842 in the wake of the economic depression. The next rejection of the Charter resulted in the notorious Plug Plot Riots. Mobs stormed across Lancashire pulling the plugs from steam engines and turning workers out of the mills. On Black Saturday (13th August 1842) an angry crowd gathered in Lune Street. As cotton lord Samuel Horrocks read the Riot Act, they pelted him with stones and an order was given to the police to open fire.

'Preston attack on the Military: two rioters shot', Illustrated London News, 13th August, 1842
‘Preston attack on the Military: two rioters shot’, Illustrated London News, 13th August, 1842

Twenty shots were fired. Four rioters were killed and three badly wounded. The mills re-opened on Monday. North Lancashire Chartism perished in 1848. But this did not end the strikes.

The Great Lock-Out

Because Preston’s cotton lords paid the lowest wages in the country, the town became the fulcrum of the struggle for better rates of pay. This led to the Great Lock-Out of 1853-54. Masters decided to close their factories over a cold and bitter winter rather than give in to the workers’ demands.

To staff the factories ‘knobstick’ workers; emaciated inhabitants of the workhouses of Ireland were shipped to Lancashire. Many were intercepted by the strikers, fed and sent back before they reached their destination. Getting them past the picket lines also proved to be an onerous task.

At this point Karl Marx famously proclaimed ‘The eyes of the working classes are now opened: they begin to cry “Our St Petersburg is at Preston”.’ However, Preston failed to become Britain’s revolutionary capital. When union funds ran out, on May Day 1854 the workers agreed to return.

Whilst these radical movements were initially unsuccessful they paved the way to fairer working hours and acceptance of the vote for working men under the Reform Act of 1867. Drawing on their legacy, the Preston-born suffragette, Edith Rigby, played a leading role in the establishment of equal voting rights for women in 1928.

In 1992 ‘The Preston Martyrs’ Memorial’: a brutalist sculpture by George Young was finally built to commemorate the death of the rioters on Lune Street. Its plaque reads: Never without sacrifice have gains been made towards justice and democracy.

Preston Matryrs' Memorial
The Preston Matryrs’ Memorial

The City Deal and Protest

Although the mills are gone, industrialisation has not gone away. The implementation of the Preston, South Ribble and Lancashire City Deal involves the expansion of ‘Enterprise Zones’ belonging to BAE at Warton and Samlesbury, establishing ‘Development Centres’ for more businesses and building more houses and roads to create more jobs to grow the economy.

The growth of the economy is based upon fuel. Caudrilla are pushing to open a number of new fracking sites across Lancashire. The fates of Preston New Road and Roseacre will be decided between the 23rd and 26th of June. This decision will be crucial for whether fracking will be allowed to go ahead in other places in the county and across the UK. Protests have been planned outside the County Hall by Lancashire Frack Off and supporting groups.

Preston will again become a centre of conflict between those who wish to exploit the land and its people for the benefit of a few rich investors and shareholders and those willing to stand against them.

The Frack Stops Here 2 Poster

SOURCES

J. E. King Richard Marsden and the Preston Chartists, 1837-1848 (1981)
Jim Heyes A History of Chorley (1994)
David Hunt A History of Preston (1992)
Yarrow Valley History Trail Leaflet


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