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Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Dark Green by Northsylvania

2:39 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

The purpose of the Dark Mountain project is to collect the work of like minded artists, poets, and essayists to generate new myths.

During a rant about the latest Tory scheme of putting a price on the world and everything in it, another Kossack, James Wells, pointed me toward works by Paul Kingsnorth and, by extension, other Dark Mountain Project participants. He and his followers believe, given runaway consumerist capitalism, burgeoning population growth, and negligence by governmental authorities, that it may futile to participate in the environmental movement as it stands. On the whole, I disagree, but can understand their frustration and, having read their manifesto and the first of their published books, will continue to read subsequent volumes. The conversations between those who believe they have an existential obligation to continue the fight despite the possibility of failure, and those who feel that it is time to prepare for the worst, are conversations worth having.

“You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years, and every single thing had gotten worse. And I thought: I can’t do this anymore. I can’t sit here saying: ‘Yes, comrades, we must act! We only need one more push, and we’ll save the world!’ I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it! So what do I do?”

Paul Kingsnorth

The quote above is from a recent New York Times article referred to by Wells in reply to a comment I made about the recent governmental push toward generating an environmental marketplace in the UK, something I had read about both in George Monbiot’s articles in the Guardian, and more explicitly through a revolted Facebook friend who is involved in the department overseeing it. This scheme proposes to offset environmental damage done by development in one place by modifying habitat in others. Using a hypothetical example: Lord Browne’s company wants to cut down ten acres of old growth woodland in Somerset for the purpose of oil exploration, and pay the Duke of Norfolk a to offset the damage by planting ten acres of trees on his estate. Monbiot points out that commodifying nature in an “ecosystem market” has its dangers:

All those messy, subjective matters, the motivating forces of democracy, will be resolved in a column of figures. Governments won’t need to regulate; the market will make the decisions that politicians have ducked. But trade is a fickle master, and unresponsive to anyone except those with the money. The costing and sale of nature represents another transfer of power to corporations and the very rich.

Monbiot often writes about the finer points of neoliberal capitalism and its environment. As someone who regards the natural world as something that has value in and of itself, aside from the uses to which we put it, I agree that “natural capital” is an oxymoron, and appreciate that Monbiot is advising his readers of how this will affect the countryside. However, current politics in the UK sometimes makes those of us who fight against the privatization of everything, from the postal service to disability evaluations and child protection, more than a little frustrated. Direct action against fracking has had some success here, but much of our environmental movement has devolved into arguments over what does and does not constitute sustainable development, while badgers are gassed in their dens in a mistaken attempt to halt bovine tuberculosis. Some environmental activists, such as Paul Kingsnorth have decided to take another tack. His position is that climate change is inevitable and environmental movements, such as Bill McKibben’s 350.org, give their supporters a false sense of control and blind them to the inevitable.

They’re saying, ‘If we take these actions, we will be able to achieve this goal.’ And if you can’t, and you know that, then you’re lying to people. And those people . . . they’re going to feel despair.

Recent news about the imminent collapse of the West Antarctic ice shelf, which will still come about, even if carbon emissions stopped tomorrow, seems to bear out his position. He violently disagrees with ecopragmatists such as Whole Earth Catalogue founder Stewart Brand, who advocates the use of nuclear power, GM foods, and intense urbanization to ensure the continuance of civilization. Kingsnorth even criticises large windfarms and solar arrays as being part of a “Faustian bargain” to subdue what is left of the natural world to our purposes.

So what kind of action would Kingsnorth advise? Ultimately, he believes that we should consider the root cause of our dilemma: the stories we tell ourselves about the society in which we live. We should begin to “uncivilise” ourselves by refusing to participate in the processes of Western civilization, something he sees as inherently unstable, as it was built on a myth of eternal progress. The purpose of the Dark Mountain project is to collect the work of like minded artists, poets, and essayists to generate new myths. In the Dark Mountain manifesto, he states:

Hubris has been introduced to Nemesis. Now a familiar human story is being played out. It is the story of an empire corroding from within. It is the story of a people who believed, for a long time, that their actions did not have consequences. It is the story of how that people will cope with the crumbling of their own myth. It is our story.

“Uncivilisation” begins with the admission that we have set ourselves apart from nature when we should think of ourselves as a part of nature. As a species we have been responsible for extinctions that possibly go as far back as the large Pleistocene mammals, and are in the process of obliterating everything from elephants to bees. By attempting to bend nature to our will through increasing applications of technology, we deny our nature as one animal among many. Kingsnorth believes that where politics and activism has failed, artists and writers must step in to provide better narratives than the one of unlimited progress,

To ‘unhumanise’ our views a little, and become confident / As the rock and ocean that we were made from.’ This is not a rejection of our humanity — it is an affirmation of the wonder of what it means to be truly human. It is to accept the world for what it is and to make our home here, rather than dreaming of relocating to the stars, or existing in a Man-forged bubble and pretending to ourselves that there is nothing outside it to which we have any connection at all.

Other activists, like Naomi Klein see a troubling abdication of moral responsibility in the Dark Mountain project. Klein says, “We have to be honest about what we can do. We have to keep the possibility of failure in our minds. But we don’t have to accept failure. There are degrees of how bad this thing can get. Literally, there are degrees.”

George Monbiot, one of Kingsnorth’s oldest friends is even more forceful. In their open correspondence, printed in the Guardian, Monbiot paints an even bleaker scenario, if possible, making the points that humans are much more resilient and, if history is the judge, civilisation’s collapse inevitably lead to mass starvation, authoritarian political systems, and violence. Whatever remains of the natural world that survives would be severely diminished and unlivable for a large proportion of humanity.

This is why, despite everything, I fight on. I am not fighting to sustain economic growth. I am fighting to prevent both initial collapse and the repeated catastrophe that follows. However faint the hopes of engineering a soft landing – an ordered and structured downsizing of the global economy – might be, we must keep this possibility alive. Perhaps we are both in denial: I, because I think the fight is still worth having; you, because you think it isn’t.

The background of Monbiot and Kingsnorth are surprisingly similar. Both led privileged early lives, were educated at private schools and attended Oxford. However, both have taken their responsibility as part of the Western elite seriously. They were active in anti-globalist and environmental movements, and occasionally have put themselves in personal danger on account of it.

Most of us have never been in this position, and while many of us are concerned about subjects such as carbon levels, fracking, and extinction of ever-greater proportion of our biosphere. Many of us correctly point out that unhindered Capitalism and consumerist culture is the toxic system that encourages profits over what remains of the wondrous planet we have inherited. However, we have not examined in any detail what the global ramifications of taking sides in this argument might be, or what ethical duty we might have to those for whom this is more than an intellectual exercise.

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Capitalism causes cancer by bigjacbigjacbigjac

2:27 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

Capitalism causes cancer,
both the kind you’re thinking of,
and another kind:
cities.

Cities are tumors on the Earth,
our precious home planet.

What Is Cancer?
Cancer is the general name for a group of more than 100 diseases. Although there are many kinds of cancer, all cancers start because abnormal cells grow out of control. Untreated cancers can cause serious illness and death.

Normal cells in the body
The body is made up of trillions of living cells. Normal body cells grow, divide, and die in an orderly fashion. During the early years of a person’s life, normal cells divide faster to allow the person to grow. After the person becomes an adult, most cells divide only to replace worn-out or dying cells or to repair injuries.

How cancer starts
Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells cannot do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.

Source:

American Cancer Society

Normal subsistence farmers,
in an ideal,
stable,
sustainable world,
would farm,
reproduce,
and die,
in an orderly fashion.

Farmers would only reproduce
to replace
worn out or dying farmers.

The cancer we call cities,
is a concentration of humans,
who are not farmers,
and who are fed by farmers far away,
and all the food must be shipped in,
to the cities.

Growing out of control
is what makes cities
tumors of cancer
on our Earth.

The cities demand
everything we have.

If we have lots of fossil fuels,
the cities demand
that we use it all,
to produce the food,
ship it in,
and give us a way to travel to jobs,
and to the food stores.

The cities demand
constant growth,
until the fossil fuels are depleted,
and the city dwellers die,
from famine.

Please read
this recent diary
of mine,
for more details,
graphs to convince you,
that the famine is coming to America.

Last week’s Anti-Capitalist diary
already laid out
the capitalists’ sad progression
from letting farmers farm for food,
to forcing them to work for money,
and the cities are a tool of the capitalists,
a tool to force folks to work for money,
which generates more wealth and power
for the capitalists.

At the expense of millions dying of famine.

Thanks for reading.

Hosting schedule:

July 28: Justina

August

4th: Geminijen
11th:
18th:
25th:

September

1st:
8th:
15th:
22nd:
29th: Annieli

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: Sustainability, capitalism, and the tendency to oligopoly by Don Mikulecky

1:58 pm in Uncategorized by Anti-Capitalist Meetup

It has been said many times that “sustainable capitalism” is an oxymoron. There are reasons why people believe this. The nature of capitalism has the need for growth built in. If there were any really strong contradictions in Tuesdays SOTU speech they rest right here. The call for economic growth and some sort of action toward addressing the climate change problem are really at odds with each other in their present context. Here is one example of the claim that capitalism is not in harmony with sustainability: Is Sustainable Capitalism an Oxymoron?

The root problem with capitalism is not that individual firms are incentivized to grow, but that the economy as a whole must grow…

When oligopolies are the form of economic structure the need for regulation and the effect of regulation on growth is even more important.On the Need for Regulation of Oligopoly and Oligopsony

This is the important point. Unregulated oligopy, with its extra normal profits, when it becomes extensive, arrests the growth of the entire economy. Indeed, the situation is actually worse, because by continuing to purge the rest of the economy of its normal income, it can cause the rest of the economy’s revenue to be less than its expenses. Thus, the remainder of the economy, the oligopist’s market, may actually be forced into contraction. But this is bad for the oligopist as well.

This is a familiar theme and would be resented by those who detest regulation. Maybe if their wishes are not followed the result is more favorable for growth, but what will that growth do to sustainability?
The nature of oligopolies

Firms often collude in an attempt to stabilize unstable markets, so as to reduce the risks inherent in these markets for investment and product development. There are legal restrictions on such collusion in most countries. There does not have to be a formal agreement for collusion to take place (although for the act to be illegal there must be actual communication between companies)–for example, in some industries there may be an acknowledged market leader which informally sets prices to which other producers respond, known as price leadership.
In other situations, competition between sellers in an oligopoly can be fierce, with relatively low prices and high production. This could lead to an efficient outcome approaching perfect competition. The competition in an oligopoly can be greater when there are more firms in an industry than if, for example, the firms were only regionally based and did not compete directly with each other.

The way these things are discussed in economic theory would lead you to believe that these are just another form of business groupings. Yet is seems clear that they are a natural way for a capitalist system to develop. Read on below and I will try to make this clear.

Here are some of the attributes of oligopolies:

Profit maximization conditions: An oligopoly maximizes profits by producing where marginal revenue equals marginal costs.

Ability to set price: Oligopolies are price setters rather than price takers.

Entry and exit: Barriers to entry are high. The most important barriers are economies of scale, patents, access to expensive and complex technology, and strategic actions by incumbent firms designed to discourage or destroy nascent firms. Additional sources of barriers to entry often result from government regulation favoring existing firms making it difficult for new firms to enter the market.

Number of firms: “Few” – a “handful” of sellers. There are so few firms that the actions of one firm can influence the actions of the other firms.
Long run profits: Oligopolies can retain long run abnormal profits. High barriers of entry prevent sideline firms from entering market to capture excess profits.
Product differentiation: Product may be homogeneous (steel) or differentiated (automobiles).

Perfect knowledge: Assumptions about perfect knowledge vary but the knowledge of various economic factors can be generally described as selective. Oligopolies have perfect knowledge of their own cost and demand functions but their inter-firm information may be incomplete. Buyers have only imperfect knowledge as to price, cost and product quality.

Interdependence: The distinctive feature of an oligopoly is interdependence. Oligopolies are typically composed of a few large firms. Each firm is so large that its actions affect market conditions. Therefore the competing firms will be aware of a firm’s market actions and will respond appropriately. This means that in contemplating a market action, a firm must take into consideration the possible reactions of all competing firms and the firm’s counter-moves. It is very much like a game of chess or pool in which a player must anticipate a whole sequence of moves and counter-moves in determining how to achieve his or her objectives. For example, an oligopoly considering a price reduction may wish to estimate the likelihood that competing firms would also lower their prices and possibly trigger a ruinous price war. Or if the firm is considering a price increase, it may want to know whether other firms will also increase prices or hold existing prices constant. This high degree of interdependence and need to be aware of what other firms are doing or might do is to be contrasted with lack of interdependence in other market structures. In a perfectly competitive (PC) market there is zero interdependence because no firm is large enough to affect market price. All firms in a PC market are price takers, as current market selling price can be followed predictably to maximize short-term profits. In a monopoly, there are no competitors to be concerned about. In a monopolistically-competitive market, each firm’s effects on market conditions is so negligible as to be safely ignored by competitors.

Non-Price Competition: Oligopolies tend to compete on terms other than price. Loyalty schemes, advertisement, and product differentiation are all examples of non-price competition.

Here are some examples in our economy:

Many media industries today are essentially oligopolies.
Six movie studios receive 90% of American film revenues.[citation needed]
The television and high speed internet industry is mostly an oligopoly of seven companies: The Walt Disney Company, CBS Corporation, Viacom, Comcast, Hearst Corporation, Time Warner, and News Corporation. See Concentration of media ownership.
Four wireless providers (AT&T Mobility, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, Sprint Nextel) control 89% of the cellular telephone service market. This is not to be confused with cellular telephone manufacturing, an integral portion of the cellular telephone market as a whole.
Healthcare insurance in the United States consists of very few insurance companies controlling major market share in most states. For example, California’s insured population of 20 million is the most competitive in the nation and 44% of that market is dominated by two insurance companies, Anthem and Kaiser Permanente.
Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors control about 80% of the beer industry.

In March 2012, the United States Department of Justice announced that it would sue six major publishers for price fixing in the sale of electronic books. The accused publishers are Apple, Simon & Schuster Inc, Hachette Book Group, Penguin Group, Macmillan, and HarperCollins Publishers.

In today’s global economy there are far more:The world’s seed oligopoly

PLAYERS: A fistful of transnational firms, the Gene Giants, dominates global seed sales. Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta – all among the world’s top-ranking pesticide firms – lead the pack.

The fossil fuel oligopoly has its special qualities:Capitalism = Corporatism = Oligopoly = Rentier Stagnation

I contend that corporations have always been the main instrument of this drive toward oligopoly, and they have been the only significant modern form of it. It would have been difficult if not impossible for Oil Age economic actors to achieve oligopoly if not for the way the corporate form tilted the playing field and rigged the markets. Cheap, plentiful oil in itself would have been a radically democratizing force. (Who knows? Perhaps textbook “free markets” could even have thrived.) Only a severe artificial restriction on economic freedom could ever have enabled oligopolies to cohere. This artifice was the corporation.

Similarly, modern technology, whatever its other issues, would have been a tremendously liberating egalitarian force if not artificially enclosed and controlled. The corporate form was the main mode of this enclosure.

In all ways legally and politically possible, corporations have monopolized the vast bounty and freedom which fossil fuels and the modern human mind held in potential. Privatization of public commons like the resources of the earth, including fossil fuels, is at one, physical extreme. The radical extension of the IP regime to the point that it constitutes a new enclosure of a potentially infinite public commons is at the other extreme of intellect and spirit. In both cases, and all in between, there’s been little of private individual involvement. In every case I can think of, the corporate form is preferred. Certainly if the genius of capitalism could conceive of a non-corporatized way to compete, someone would be doing it.

Not only is the corporation the most efficient wealth-extracting machine. By design it’s forbidden to do anything but all it can to maximize its extractions. According to the responsibility of management to shareholders, a corporation is required to subvert the rules of capitalist competition. If the more effective expenditure for short-term gain in lobbying for anti-competitive legislation or regulatory treatment, that must be chosen over longer-term research investment. Same for the mergers and acquisitions and offshoring which we know are so destructive and serve no purpose even from the “capitalist” point of view, but which can accomplish a short-term goosing of the stock price.

It’s clear that in reality capitalism always seeks oligopoly; that corporatism is the only viable form of oligopoly under the conditions of the Oil Age and now energy descent; and therefore that capitalism is synonymous with corporatism.

Economic theory is one thing. Actual practice is another. We are witnessing what is being said above in many ways right now. The corporations with successful oligopolies are quite content with what we have. They will only welcome changes (growth) that increases their profit. They will distribute propaganda that projects various myths about the role of government to protect themselves. These groupings of corporations are one reason for limits on growth that are systemic. Changing this is a goal that can only lead to a better situation if the changes are done in an intelligent manner with planning and ongoing monitoring to change course when the outcome conflicts with desired goals. As we make fun of republican obstruction it may pay to ask ourselves if they are really as dumb as we paint them. Clearly profits are high and their world is grinding along very securely. Meanwhile speeches from the Whitehouse seem to speak to a fictitious world.

The economy we have is locked into well established patterns of resource depletion, needless consumption, and deadly waste production. Clearly we do not want that economy to grow. We do not need growth we need change. We need to build a sustainable system and to create jobs for both the unemployed and those who now work in places that are doing us harm. If people are to live a decent life they need to earn wages to make that possible. Excess profits and needless consumption can be eliminated to make this happen. Manufacturing those things we need to last and in a form that is repairable is imperative. Growing food in sane ways locally whenever possible is also a part of such a transformation. Such measures would include green energy sources and life styles that cut back on energy and other resource consumption.

No, it is not possible to ask a sitting president to start such a revolution. Yet if you understand what is really needed the kind of theater we are given in our political world is not even close to satisfying. We need better weathermen to tell the people which way the wind is blowing. And we need them soon.