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Re: <nettime> Foundations for "Anthropocene Socialist" Movement
Florian Cramer on Sun, 6 Jan 2019 01:17:37 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> Foundations for "Anthropocene Socialist" Movement


On Sat, Jan 5, 2019 at 7:57 PM Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com> wrote:

> What we need, first of all, is a vision so carefully articulated that it can become a strategy and a calculable plan.
> Exactly that is now emergent. The point is to make it actual. That means, to make it into the really existing state.

Your wording is interesting, because it connects "emergence" with the "state". Since the classical concept of emergence evolved around self-organization, it was decentralist. The state is a (more or less) centralist concept. The way you put it, it sounds as if you didn't have one particular state in mind, but a global concept of statehood that can enact global policies.

Here seems to lie the dilemma, if I'm not mistaken: No decentralist politics can solve the climate change problem, since decentralization will always produce incentives to a race to the bottom (of lowering environmental standards/energy costs to attract capital and/or maintain current living standards). What is realistically needed is world governance, in order for it to be effective (more effective than the U.N., for example), a world government with direct authority over anything that concerns the planet's ecology. Neither the anarchist principle of free association, nor the liberal principle of self-interests balancing out each other in equilibrium will work, since in the case of the planet, ecological equilibrium cannot be gained through having opposite interests neutralize each other, but only through common cause and action.

Such a global teleology is a scary thing. It's prone to result in eco-fascism or eco-stalinism, with an authoritarian dictate over daily lives. Even if one ignores the moral issues, it would be prone to power abuse, misinformed (and therefore even ecologically counterproductive) top-down decisions, and all the pitfalls and horrors of "wise men's states" since Plato's Republic.

The concept of socialism creates additional complications, on top of the above, since socialism is about social and economic justice involving redistribution of resources. According to everything that I've read as an amateur on the subject, including alternative economists like Niko Paech, a global, climate-neutral lifestyle would have to (a) radically localize production of goods, (b) radically reduce transport/distribution, (c) give up 24/7 electricity - which, btw., would lead to the end of Internet as we know it. (A glimpse into such a future is "Low-Tech Magazine", a website whose editorial content covers all the issues we're discussing here on a practical level, likely having more to say about them than Nettime: https://www.lowtechmagazine.com . Its server runs on solar power with regular outages, and its pages have been designed by Roel Roscam Abbing to use only a minimum amount of kilobytes.) - Combined, factors the (a), (b) and (c) would make socialist redistribution tricky. A world that seriously minimizes climate change could easily produce blatant inequality (in regard to access to resources).

Alternatively, one can draw the conclusion that Hans-Ulrich Gumbrecht just drew in an interview with the German "tageszeitung" (https://www.taz.de/Archiv-Suche/!5559348/): "As far as evolutionary history and cosmology are concerned, the end of our species is guaranteed anyway, despite all the rhetorical fuss regarding the long-term survival of mankind".

-F

On Sat, Jan 5, 2019 at 7:57 PM Brian Holmes <bhcontinentaldrift {AT} gmail.com> wrote:
On Sat, Jan 5, 2019 at 9:15 AM Vincent Gaulin <gvincentgaulinjr {AT} gmail.com> wrote:

Where is the actual site of the surplus that intellectuals, protestors, activists, caretakers and laborers draw upon while renovating the new socialist state? 

 Are you kidding? The problem of surplus is that there is too much of it. The actual site of surplus production is in largely automated mining sites, factories and farms around the world. An immense amount of this surplus goes either to the global oligarchy or to the military (US in particular). And the degree of automation is now rising as AI is rolled out, threatening a new unemployment crisis. As for the number of miners/scavengers, engineers, and electricians needed to create the solar field that will power a future society, they're all needed. Either we convert the energy grid to zero carbon over the next two decades or the future turns quite ugly indeed.

The two key dangers on the horizon are mass unemployment and climate chaos. It's obvious to career bureaucrats and corporate planners that these things have to be faced. What's missing is the politics to do so.

I don't think society can be remade in a utopian way where everyone behaves morally at a small scale of autonomous rural production. So I admire your cult of frugality, Vince, but I don't support it as a universal. Far as I can see, very few people want to give up either cities or the vast benefits of a global division of labor orchestrated by corporations and super-states. However the current configuration of the system is deadly, period. Collective investment on the scale of an energy grid requires a mixed economy (say, 35% controlled by the state, as opposed to the current 23% in the US). Such an increase in the public sector offers scope for tremendous change. First of all by the immediate offer of decent employment for millions, and second, by the relative downscaling of production facilitated by an alternative energy grid (distributed manufacturing). Where the countryside is concerned, zero-carbon demands a thorough-going transformation of the dominant mode of farming, which is now monocrops for export - a continental-scale industrialization of the landscape. The reversal of just some of the ecological damage caused by monocrop farming could employ millions more people.

The tangible offer of employment is the most immediately convincing thing that a transformed state would have to offer. A politics can be built on the demand for such employment. It is the key to deep decarbonization. It requires a major expropriation of wealth from both the oligarchy and the military, and the total dismantling of the most powerful industry of all, the fossil-fuel complex. To that extent it's a revolution, requiring passionate majority support. But it's not the Russian Revolution, because we do not live in an age of desperate starving peasantries. We live in an age of excessive surplus that's toxically produced and unequally distributed. The solution has to be at once systematic and democratic: a new synthesis.

The first thing to build is not another solar energy or wind-turbine field (it's already been done extensively in California and many other places, including the roof over my head). Instead, we must create the national-scale political desire for employment through deep decarbonization, so as to make possible a systematic transformation of the built environment. That kind of idea-production is not done by workers and peasants, it's done by intellectuals, artists and activists - massive numbers of them, because our society of relative surplus supports such massive numbers.

What we need, first of all, is a vision so carefully articulated that it can become a strategy and a calculable plan. Exactly that is now emergent. The point is to make it actual. That means, to make it into the really existing state.

onwards, Brian




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