The Virginian People's Assembly: Call and Report

From the VPA's "Read the Call"

On Saturday, Jan. 9, 2010, hundreds of activists from the labor, civil rights, immigrant, prisoner advocacy, student, health, anti-war movements & more
will meet & march & rally to tell the new governor & the Virginia General Assembly:

(1) Don't balance the budget on the backs of Virginia's workers!
(2) Raise Virginia's income tax on large corporations – the 2nd lowest in the country!
(3) Enact an immediate moratorium on layoffs, cutbacks, evictions & foreclosures!
(4) No scapegoating of immigrants! Equality for people of color, women & the LGBT community!
(5) Money for jobs & education, not for prisons, wars & occupations!

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, the Virginia General Assembly will open its 2010 session. We'll have a new governor, but the same old problem: the state budget has been hit hard by the recession, resulting in rising unemployment and steep losses in income tax and sales tax revenue. Already, $7 billion has been cut from the present two-year budget. Sometime in December, outgoing Gov. Tim Kaine will unveil his proposal for the state's next two-year budget. That document will be the basis for discussion at the General Assembly - and it will be chock-full of layoffs and cutbacks that will hurt all working people, coming down hardest on people of color and women.

Of course, there will be arguments about how to carry out the cuts, but one thing that all politicians of both major parties agree on is that the only way to balance the state budget is to lay off state workers, cut needed social services and aid to the cities and counties and find a million-and-one other ways to squeeze the hides of Virginia's working people.

Meanwhile, all the politicians will try their very best to ignore this one simple fact: VIRGINIA

Tearing Down the Australian Internet Firewall

The justified basis of censorship is the claim that the exposure of certain content can alter mental structures and, in particular, judgement. This is particularly the case concerning individual and group defamation and, in neurological development, those with pre-adolescent brain development. Another basis is simply the assertion of censorship simply through the political ability to do so. Independent organisations, from church newsletters to newspapers to academic journals, of course do this all the time; they decide what content is or isn't appropriate. As systematically independent organisations, this too has justification.

The proposed Australian censorship regime however falls into a different category. This is not a question of an independent organisation (despite the desire of some to treat governance in a corporate manner, a sort of Australia Inc), it is of a general application. It is a universal moral claim, founded in nothing but emotivism and the blunt use of political power. In the case of the proposed Australian censorship the argument is simply that certain content is unsuitable for adult citizens to view. Of course, this is couched in terms of "protecting families", but given the failure (from the State's perspective) of voluntary mass adoption of Net Alert, a mandatory regime has been proposed. When Net Alert was initially proposed there were suggestions to introduce it on an ISP-level, but it was subject to technical problems and in December 2008 it was shut-down.

Something Rotten in Denmark

A Difficult Problem

The issue of climate change and the social policies to deal with it is an area where science and politics and the global distribution of wealth have come into enormous conflict. Already it seems that the 15th Annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Cophenhagen is struggling to generate a legal binding to extend the Kyoto Protocol.

Even basic discussion on the matter requires some knowledge of atmospheric physics, comparisons with paleoclimatological data, population and resource analysis and, in making practical decisions, economics and international relations. This review of core facts is pessimistic that the appropriate action will be taken, especially due to the politicisation of the science.

Fear or hope. Or the Geopolitics of Emotion.

Political science offers various explanations about the complex relationships and the conflicts around the world. According to some analysis the tensions between countries, or regions, or entire continents are mostly caused by economic inequality. According to others, the main reason are the religious and cultural differences. In this context, the analysis by Dominique Moisi in a book called "The Geopolitics of Emotion" is a challenging, interesting and unusual work. He sees the current conflicts and trends through the prism of three emotions - fear, humiliation, and hope. The founder of the French Institute of International Relations believes that the political dynamics of the modern world can be properly explained only if we understand human emotions. And they, just like cholesterol, can be both good or bad...what really matters is the balance between them.

Of State Borders, Wars and Refugees

The fact that communities have always had policies concerning the movement of people into the lands held by that community should surprise nobody with even a modicum of understanding of anthropology and history. True, there are some rugged individuals who dream of a past or of a future, where one can simply wander with absolute freedom wherever they should like and perhaps many of these are well intention with a desire to interact with nature in solitude. But terra nullius was, and is, a fiction; the principle of freedom of movement is one that must be negotiated and balanced with present occupiers and their claims of jurisdiction. It must be acknowledged that capital will always be more likely to have greater freedom of movement than labour, for capital itself is not a moral actor. With technological and systematic development, such borders have developed from vague marchlands often defined by natural boundaries (forest, river, mountains) to very specific and precise designations, controlling both the movement of people and also the movement of animals, plants, and goods, not to mention the opportunity for rulers to acquire lucre through visa charges, excises and duties.

De-centralize the State!

No one can be expected to see it all. No one can be expected to see how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time, but one can be expected to see the direction we are going in. Wealthy white male privilege is being challenged. We’ve been challenging it for years, decades, centuries… and one should expect we will continue to challenge it. Now, what does this mean?

Grab your remote control and switch on your television. Most likely the news shows you see will be about wealthy white male rule. If not, then about wealthy white rule. If not, then about wealthy rule. Or maybe they’ll avoid the topic altogether, which just tells you something about the nature of the channel you’re watching. We’re challenging each and every property of that description — wealth, race, and sex — and replacing it with the idea that neither of those deserve the kind of privilege afforded it by our society today. This is a thoroughly dangerous idea, for the group of individuals which fit that description have been in the driver’s seat of our civilization for as long as any of us can remember. They’ve responded violently in order to suppress any dissent. High-power water hoses and white hoods come to mind. But those actions have only backfired. It has only served to whittle away at their legitimacy in the public mind. So they have to pretend that they’re not in control. That’s how they maintain it now.

But we’re smarter than that. They try to drug us with soma; plant seeds of escapism in our minds. It’s tantamount to a burglar waving a chew toy to distract a guard dog whose hair is standing up on his back and whose teeth and gums are showing. We’re not going to let their entertainment distract us. We’re not going to let them convince us they’re not still in charge. It’s not hard to see that they are.

So, the challenge now is to detect their chew toys, and to re-focus our eyes on the burglar in the house. What is he doing now? Waging wars for oil, natural gas pipelines and poppies? You bet. Cheering the fastest drop in “labor costs” since 1948? You bet. The veins of the poor are still open and the rich are still sucking every ounce of blood they can from them. They pit the poor against the poor for the benefit of the rich through concepts like terrorism. What did they call the Cuban or Brazilian peasants who revolted against enslavement and sugar monoculture? Terrorists or communists, I suppose. Then they commenced to hunt them down and decapitate them, or cut pregnant women’s bellies open, or skewer their children on their bayonets only to return to the wealthy white male/s who had ordered it with bags of severed ears as proof that they did what they were told. They followed the orders. No doubt that soldier had a hard time making ends meet himself.

Enough. We need to take our eyes off the things that are keeping us distracted and finally recognize the truly radical nature of the doctrine that all humans are created equal and that political legitimacy is truly dependent upon the consent of the governed. And manufactured consent is no consent at all.

To see the arch of history is to see a continual progression toward the de-centralization of illegitimate power. Whatever takes us even further in this direction should be seen as a positive development. As a writer for the upcoming political documentary Dear America: From Patriotism to Participation, I see the arch of history like never before. Illegitimate authority has taken some hard hits to the face thus far. What we have is a woozy opponent. We shouldn’t let his erratic dancing in the ring fool us into thinking he’s still the all-powerful opponent he was when we began this fight. And we must snap out of the hypnosis he has put us in and realize that we are — this generation is — still locked in a fight with this entity. Our tag team partners (the generations before us) threw punches that were hard and true. A few more blows, and he could be on the mat, down for the count, forever.

Mutualism: An interview with Kevin Carson

Kevin Carson Interview

Kevin Carson, an American political theorist and a contemporary leader in discussions concerning mutualism and author of three extremely important books on co-operation, mutualism and capitalism (Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand). Describing his politics as being "the outer fringes of both free market libertarianism and socialism", he certainly will find a welcoming audience among our group - which is why he's been asked several difficult questions.

The Iron Fist Behind the Invisible Hand is available in html format and Studies in Mutualist Political Economy and Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective are both available as PDF files.

Firstly, thank you Kevin for agreeing to this interview with The Isocracy Network.

Thanks for inviting me.

Could you begin by giving a description of mutualism from the initial definition offered by the anarchist Proudhon to contemporary examples and your own involvement in this sort of analysis of political economy?

Atheist Support for Religious Freedom?

Presentation by Lev Lafayette to the Melbourne Atheist Society, October 13, 2009

The History of Religion and Religious Freedom

The history of religion - in addition to being a history of charity, of good deeds, of community, of attempting to provide an explanation to timeless questions of existence, of making significant contributions to the development of the human spirit - is also a history of discrimination and persecution both by those who are greatly devout and towards those who are greatly devout. We may keep this in mind as the question of atheist support for religious freedom is explored. Some of these religious persecutions, and persecutions of religion, lasted for centuries and in many less liberal and democratic regimes than our own they are ongoing. At times this persecution has been subtle such as in the form of cultural discrimination. In others it is systematically enforced in the restriction of property titles, or the requirement of payment of additional taxes. More seriously it involves widespread censorship, forced conversions, segregation and pogroms, terrorism and war.

Can We Ever Be A Self-Governing People?

One thing that is clear with the debate on health care and the evolving legislation in the U.S. Congress is discourse in that country is filtered through an issue agenda that is top-down and highly manipulated. What I mean by that is while we are free to have our own opinions and exercise our constitutional right to express them, we rarely choose the topics for discussion. Much less do we participate in formulating the solutions. What happens instead is that the average person is presented with a menu of the issues of the day - already determined by someone else - and then we are left to comprehend them (not always accurately) and take sides.

The direction of public discussion turns out something like this; we are presented with a set of issues that are already defined, with back-door compromises that have already been made and then they sit back and see if it "plays in Peoria." That is, the public debate is the last phase of a process to see what the public will swallow. We, the people, have been reduced to beta testing democracy. Hardly that, even. More like being part of a giant market research project. I'll use an analogy to illustrate. Rather than all of us collectively creating a list of our favorite flavors of ice cream ourselves and sending it to the dairy producers, we are presented with vanilla and ketchup-flavored ice cream. There is sustainable support for vanilla and the reaction to ketchup is so negative that it is rejected. Oh, what powerful consumers we were. We made our choices and determined the market. But what happened to chocolate, fudge swirl, pistachio, black cherry and a hundred other flavors? Well, those weren't on the agenda. Sorry.

This is what happens in the political marketplace every day. And unlike the retail marketplace, there is really no competition to keep the system somewhat honest. Ben and Jerry's government is not out there to offer alternatives. We may periodically elect candidates to office, but we get the same existing institutions - and they go on and on. We don't have a choice of types of government or economic systems. Real change is thus only incremental at best.

Isocracy: For Liberty and Common Wealth

An Opportunity Gap for the Left

Isocracy is a political philosophy whose time has come. As the last dregs of totalitarian and authoritarian statist socialism have become anachronisms, mainstream politics has become almost entirely colonised by corporate interests as democracy increases loses its honoured attachment to the polis and the formation of genuine public opinion [1]. 'Capitalist democracy' has become the orthodox political position, an acceptable system for conservatives and social-democrats alike; private ownership of the economy, public determination of socially acceptable behaviour. The only recognised alternative to this neo-liberalism is reminiscent of the classic description [2] of the 'dangerous class', the social scum, who have been thrown into existence by the new order. In this case, religious-inspired anti-modernists who through terrorism, the systematic use of violence against non-combatants for a political goal, seek to impose a new totalitarianism which incorporates modern weaponry to enforce the absolute rule of theocratic rulers and and pre-modern prejudices against the ruled.

Where the supposed major conflict is between capitalism and Islamism [3], there exists a enormous opportunity exists for the new left whereby its historical objectives - secularism, republicanism, personal liberty, common wealth, and national self-determination - can reinvigorate the notion of historical progress within the collective human spirit with recognition of the need to re-establish moral reasoning in each and every generation as technology advances. The experience of totalitarianism in the twentieth century shattered forever the Enlightenment illusion of an inevitable connection between technical progress and socio-cultural development, even to the extent that some (e.g., various forms of primitivism) have rejected technological development altogether. Whilst in some cases well-intentioned this is ultimately an idyllic and reactionary approach which abdicates from dealing with the existing social system and technologies, and thus will inevitably fail. More realistically, the most serious challenge is that posed by the claim that history is effectively at an evolutionary end; liberal democracy will become the only - and last - form of government for all States [4].

The weakness with the argument is that it is explicitly tied to the notion of governance through the State and cannot conceive, like many contemporary anarchists, of governance without a State. But the State, as the holder of monopoly on legitimated violence and as an instrument of class rule [5], is a limited institution and one which will inevitably come into conflict with the technological potential, the productive forces, and the social networks that these technologies allow. At that stage of development any State, no matter how progressive it may have once been, will become a deadweight on further social development as its core characteristics require both governance and oppression. Only through overcoming those components of a monopoly on violence and class rule can a society truly become free and the 'withering away of the state' can be achieved [6]. The historic mission of isocracy, "equal rule", with the universal principles of personal liberty through self-ownership and social democracy in the commonwealth is to create such a society in the context of contemporary technology.

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