Logistics and Opposition
by Alberto Toscano
Alberto Toscano examines the anti-urbanist presuppositions of insurrectionary anarchism. Instead of breaking the lines of circulation, he writes, shouldn’t radicals imagine repurposing them to entirely new ends?
“The ambivalence of logistics, and particularly of the environmental consequences of the unprecedented logistical and energetic complexes that make contemporary megalopolises both the drivers and the possible sites for a response to catastrophic climate change (among other processes) have led Mike Davis, in his appropriately titled ‘Who Will Build the Ark?’, to demand that, recalling the great experiments in urbanism of the USSR in the 1920s, we begin to look for the potentialities for a non-capitalist and non-catastrophic future in cities themselves. In particular, Davis has advanced, to borrow from Mitchell, some of the parameters of a low-carbon democratic socialism. Arguing, contrary to the Malthusianism of much of the green movement that it is ‘the priority given to public affluence over private wealth’ that can set the standard for a conversion of engines of doom into resources of hope.”
short of a viable political plan this sort of gand speculation reminds me of https://secondlife.com
What about the argument by E.Berger and many others that “politics” is dead? The only form of resistance now is infrastructural sabotage and/or re purposing. Pretending there is a political solution might just be complicity with the status quo.
well politics is dead for the vast majority of us with little to no resources, alive and well for those with more monopoly-style powers who buy and sell governments, sabotage is one way to annoy but not stop the powers that be as is hacking but isn’t that what this article rejects?
That politics is dead for the vast majority has to be demonstrated not just asserted. If voters informed themselves better and encouraged radically progressive candidates locally and regionally there might be potential for a democratically driven shift of policy approaches and ideology and governing focus that would open up so many possibilities for non-political social action. Apathy and ignorance is on us not the admittedly limited mechanisms that we have at our disposal. It’s far too easy for some of us to outsource or explain away our responsibility to force demands and issues, and speak little-t truth to power than it is organize and put forth maximum effort to enact new modes.
To say that nothing short of a “viable political plan” in required then turn around and argue that politics is dead seems to me to commit yourself to a circular logic defeatism where passivity and apathy become default dispositions in exactly the way the powerful controllers seek.
A post-nihilist approach would be to wield the weapons at hand (political mechanisms, as well as the stuff James Scott argues for) while ALSO forging new weapons and lines of flight – minus entanglement by dominating semantics and discursive habits that detract from the more urgent practical concerns.
how is it self-defeating to say that there are no viable political solutions for those of us not in positions of vast power/wealth and that applies in general and in the case you mention? The fantasy of an informed /consciousness raised political party is an old one without any examples of real success (can you offer any?), whereas corporate/banking capture is well documented in history and the daily news, so what’s the new means of educating and organizing mass resistance?
ask Yanis how it goes for lefty populist political resistance versus banks:
It’s not about ‘consciousness raising’ exactly. And it’s certainly not about spontaneous mass action (although 1968 shows there is potential there). It’s more about grass-roots political networking and community consultation – door-to-door dialogue and consensus building – and making politics meaningful again. Politics alone can’t take on powers that be, but it’s a major piece of the puzzle.
But I sure can give you two definitive examples of progressive leftist parties gaining sway: Iceland 2017 + Alberta 2015
Iceland: a coalition led by Left-Green leader Katrín Jakobsdóttir, and the subsequent restricting of banks in that country. This coalition is changing the very landscape of Iceland’s political imagination.
Alberta: the waaaay left-wing social-democratic New Democrat Party (which formed from the socialist wing of the Alberta section of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and the Canadian Labour Party) gained majority power in the 2015 provincial election, winning 54 of the 87 seats in the legislature, to form the government of Alberta for the first time.
The Alberta NDP are the most progressive party with power anywhere in the Americas, and I was on the front lines of this election as an organizer and election campaign consultant. The changes we are making in this region (in law and policy, etc) are unprecedented and were deemed “impossible” and “hopeless” by almost every outsider prior to 2015. We achieved the impossible and now Alberta has made a dramatic shift towards environmentalism and social reform.
That’s why the arguments for apathy and defeatism won’t fly with me Dirk. Just because people haven’t yet taken control of their government doesn’t mean it is impossible.
Alberta ( a few million people no?) and Iceland (what a few hundred thousand maybe) are flashes in the pan with no means of self-sufficiency and no powers to disrupt the powers that be (still capitalist, still tied into traditional economics and energy) that are crushing our ecosystem and displacing and killing people at ever greater rates, how’s The Leap Manifesto doing up there with yer PM in bed with Big Oil (hello Kinder Morgan) ? c’mon MIchael if your going to call for real changes in the trends of the anthropocene you have to have means for organizing counter-forces that can actually counter, xenogoth has some lovely ideas/intentions but no plan of action and no resources, Yanis at least grasps the scale of things with his pipedream of https://diem25.org
I’m all for doing what we can to soften the blows but to pretend that we are really in the fight is to deny the news of the day and everyday, where’s the systems thinking? no man an island…
I don’t see how “no man is an island” is relevant here?? The mesh of processes, compositions and flows has layers and nodes – with no thing being completely autonomous. So I never said an individual can change the larger scale systems. Human agency is limited; this, by now, is an utterly banal pronouncement. This isn’t about some shitty vestige of humanism, but about hominids becoming different via coupled engagements with the institutional ecology. I’m talking about systems and networks and cross-sectional alliances between humans and nonhumans (forces, tools, ecologies, etc). Systems thinking does NOT entail a view of total subsumption of all components that constitute these systems. A lack of sociological imagination simply doesn’t convince.
What I’m talking about is organizing and creating networks and swarms that work at different scales, and on various parts of the assemblages. These open cracks and spaces that can be worked on and within to evolve new modes and practices – with altered subjectivities and political dispositions. You seem to judge resistance and change in terms of anthrocentric intensities and timelines. But shifting the culture (as materiality and cognitive operation) takes time and can be almost imperceptible to the human – which can never understand the complexity of the processes and trajectories involved.
The news? You mean corporate controlled media DESIGNED to produce the exact affective-cognitive complex you display here? You are swallowing the poison and calling it medicine.
If you are looking for an instant solution then you will never be satisfied with the changes that are actually happening. And if they don’t satisfy your criteria for “real change” then are you content to remain apathetic and defeated?
Dirk I’m not calling for “real changes” in the trends of the anthropocene, I’m pursuing them and helping organize them. Calls are mere signals of intent and desire at this point. I don’t need to philosophize all this.
We ARE in the fight. We’re actually impacting lives and systems here on the ground in Alberta. Is it enough to stop all capitalists and their systems from destroying shit? Not on its own. But trends have to start somewhere. We’re holding space here. We’re doing things differently than has ever been done in this province and regardless of anyone’s evaluations of the scale of impact shit is changed – and real people, practices and processes are being effected in powerful ways.
Are other regions going follow our lead? That’s not up to me. All we can do is hold space and keep innovating. My home city is another example. Probably one of the most progressive municipalities in N.A. But I hope what we are starting to do here sets an example of what happens when a population shifts its political orientations and allows a whole new generation of policy-makers to try something different. From “flashes in the pan” to ‘viral’ expansion and tipping points, 12th monkey, etc, etc.?? Care to join in that fight/push?
But people certainly won”t get on the progressive politics train if they are constantly being told that change is impossible, and , even worse, that their desire to be involved in the only means of engagement available are counter productive. It’s like a whole generation of politically exhausted and privileged Gen-Xers have loss their social courage. What ever happened to “rage, rage against the dying of the light”? We don’t need to be our own disablers…
This world is in RUINS, and this civilization has run its course, but there are so many opportunities to build a new world if we have the willingness and courage to BOTH engage and transform the context in which massive decisions are being made. Don’t mistake this as trying to prop up dying systems and practices but as concerted efforts to salvage and mutate and create crucible spaces/regions/cities where something new emerges in swarms and networks.
Our PM being in bed with Big Oil is disgusting, I totally agree. But resistance to this way of doing business is rising everywhere, and many of us still in the fight are going to put our lives on the line to stop that pipeline. I’ll be there. SO we’ll see how that plays out. Our PM’s betrayal to future generations is driving Canadians to become more and more lefty. A left-wing NDP federal government is maybe only a decade away.
Apathy, withdrawal from politics, unconscious complicity, and such gave y’all TRUMP (when you could of had Bernie Sanders!!!), whereas engagement, intensive community building, and organization gave Alberta its first socialist government, after 40+ years of right-wing politics. So you tell me which strategy has more credibility?
I’m not calling for apathy or a withdrawal from politics (I worked on the Bernie campaign and that went as expected, ran a PTSD support group for Standing Rock, and so on, better to go down fighting but we are still going down) just noting the lack of reach/impact and making plans accordingly yer the one posting links about how to take over global supply chains and turn them over to the people, or how to create patchwork micronations as if we were playing some e-worldmaking-game. The point of no man an island is just to point out if the money, energy, supply-chains, etc are in the hands of yer enemies (and they are), and the means of pollution and extraction don’t respect borders than local politicians who play in the capitalist arena are hamstrung at every turn (see the valiant struggles of the govt in Barcelona, one of my heros these days is @francesca_bria, who like Yanis are forced by their relative weakness/vulnerability to try and seek a new more democratic EU at a time when the EU is ever more fractured), that’s why I pointed to Yanis and co. they were at the head of a state and got crushed by their bankers (for a plan even the IMF found reasonable) and Yanis realized that only a lefty EU would be able to stand up to such forces as no single state could.
I’m well tied in (for decades now) to various people and news sources from around the globe that have nothing to do with corporate media and if anything the news from them is more dire not less. The people are rallying to yer PM as Trump does what he does and so it goes, as for this “What I’m talking about is organizing and creating networks and swarms that work at different scales, and on various parts of the assemblages. These open cracks and spaces that can be worked on and within to evolve new modes and practices – with altered subjectivities and political dispositions” that doesn’t point to anything particular/concrete so I don’t know what to do with it, what’s new that hasn’t already been tried in what yer doing, any examples would be welcome as we need all the tools we can muster.
meanwhile these folks could use a hand “@NaomiAKleinJun 14
Former governor of the Bank of Canada says people “are doing to die” defending their land against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion but Trudeau needs to be strong and build it anyway. If the worst happens, we now know they went into this with their eyes wide open. A disgrace.”
I just lost a long reply due to CPU glitch. F-sauce to say the least. The gist was that you don’t need to explicitly call for apathy, complicity, or withdrawal if your organizing ideology is such that it implicitly results in those things (cf. Capitalist Realism). Or that the effect in others of being constantly told there is no getting off the Capital-train is docile acceptance. I’m not buying any story that has impossibility or inevitability at its core. The ruination of this civilization is ongoing, and certainly won’t stop until billions die, but there are lines of flight now, and there will be all along the process. I’m not interesting in reform nor maintaining the current regimes, but in MUTATION as deviation and alt-space cultivation: where pockets of community living that are not dominated by larger scale production systems can be built. The beginnings of different kinds of patchworks that may replace nation-state capitalism after it fails.
I have provided examples for you Dirk (from transition towns to social co-op living complexes), many times, but you continue to reject them despite my insistence that given enough support they could open up spaces of alt-living. But, again, you seek Big Solutions that can alter the whole damn shit-show rather that allowing for how little solutions can add up to big effects. I support larger scale systems approaches like the Inventing The Future crew suggest, as well as the local stuff (what some have called “folk politics”) where creating viable eco-habitats and food production replaces current dependencies. It’s going to have to be a whole mangle of approaches and strategies to generate alternative ways of living. From community gardens to personal hygiene practices, and massive hi-tech apartment complexes to traditional style politics and institutional reform.
That said, I think anything short of a massive network of interrelated city-states will be a huge step backward for the human race. Cities and towns need to revolutionize their relationship to technology (machine learning in particular, and the monitoring of material flows) and start radically shifting their infrastructure and law-making to force business to adapt to non-economic values. I’m thinking here about how some municipalities are banning cars, replacing roads with bike lanes, banning plastics, being more selective about granting permits, taxation, public financing, zoning, etc. We could, for example, dramatically shift carbon misuse simply by restricting the kind of tech and production allowed within districts/counties. There are also ways public policy can require ‘corporate performance measures’, ‘proximity measures’ where zoning and building must be in accordance with sustainability principles, landscape carrying capacity unit measures, policy alignment between regions via the Agenda 21 action plan, etc.
We are not beholden to corporations at the municipal level. If their products aren’t allowed into a region people can’t consume them. We just need people to be actively engaged in local politics to get the right people making better decisions. Again, my home city mayor is one of those people. We can – at least in Canada because of the way our system is set up – undermine national level political dependencies.
From David Bollier, the director of the Reinventing the Commons Program at the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, and author of Think Like a Commoner.
“The ‘commons sector,’ as I call this bricolage of projects and movements, is a world of DIY experimentation and open-source ethics that holds itself together not through coercion or profiteering but through social collaboration, resourceful creativity, and sweat equity, often with the help of digital platforms. Its fruits can be seen in cooperatives, locally rooted food systems, alternative currencies, community land trusts, and much else. While these insurgent projects are fragmentary and do not constitute a movement in the traditional sense, they tend to share basic values and goals: production for household needs, not market profit; decision-making that is bottom-up, consensual, and decentralized; and stewardship of shared wealth for the long term. They reject the standard ideals of economic development and a return on shareholder investment, emphasizing instead community self-determination and the mutualization of benefits…. By enabling self-organized groups to bypass large institutions and formal systems of authority, and to set their own terms for establishing social trust and legitimacy, we enter the headwaters of a new kind of politics, one that is more accountable, decentralized, and human-scale. The substantive, local, and practical move to the fore, challenging the highly consolidated power structures and ideological posturing that have turned our national politics into a charade.”
sorry about yer technical woes, I don’t know what else to tell you along these lines except to say pick an issue from housing to public transportation and follow the attempts at reforming them in the face of corporate-captured governments, short of some kind of actual revolution the people with the resources win out, should we do what we can to slow them down and maintain moments of more humane treatment sure and I do but as for the big picture (which enframes all of us)…