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.

The once and future guide

Not so long ago, the United States made the pursuit and maintenance of moral authority one of the tenants of it's foreign policy. The incident that comes first to this blogger's mind is one that Henry Kissinger has roundly criticized in his 1994 book DIPLOMACY: America's intervention on the side of Egypt during the Suez Crisis of 1956 against its English and French NATO allies.

Mr Kissinger's analysis (which I do not have on hand and, regrettable, cannot therefore quote) is a good starting point. He writes that Egypt sought to make overtures to both NATO and the Soviet Union, playing the two blocs against each other to better place Egypt in the new world order; when Egypt warmed to the Soviets, America and England withdrew their financial commitments to Egypt (the building of the Aswan Dam). To finance the construction of the Dam, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal, an old Anglo-French joint colonial venture. As the old colonial powers and the new state of Israel geared up for war, America forced its NATO and Israeli allies to withdraw. America, then under President Eisenhower, realized that it could not condemn the Soviets' brutal suppression of Hungary while simultaneously supporting colonial imperialist gestures in Egypt. To retain its moral authority to inspire revolutions to destabilize the Soviets, America -- putting it bluntly -- betrayed its allies to side with a country that was warming to the Soviets. But what is counter-intuitive from a strictly geo-political standpoint is a wise and prescient in a more nuanced analysis: for America to inspire revolutions behind the Iron Curtain it had to stand apart as an ideal example. Today, for America to undermine religious fanaticism, it must similarly deploy moral authority as part of its arsenal; to do that it must again stand apart and stand morally upright.

The Future of the Malay States

Tearing down of the Dutch flag Surabaya

Like so many parts of the world the Malay states (defined here as Nusantara; Indonesia, Malaysia, Timor-Leste, Brunei and perhaps Singapore), are victims of European colonialism. The borders that exist are not borders of their own chosing. The largest country, Indonesia, is the outcome of the gradual expansion from the Dutch East Indies Company and the subsequently nationalised colonies. Timor-Leste's borders are the remains of the Portuguese presence. Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei are the result of British interests in the region and in particular the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which divided the archipelago. As a result, there is very uneven political and economic development in the region and difficulties with national identity and conflicts between and within countries.

This should not however, prohibit raising potential developments with a perspective of modernisation, common wealth, human rights and federalism regardless of the difficulties. As Oscar Wilde correctly observed; "A map of the world that does not include Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out the one country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanity lands there, it looks out, and seeing a better country, sets sail. Progress is the realisation of Utopias."

Civil Unions for All

The debate about same-sex marriage has raged on for the past few years. I have personally been trying to find a stance that I feel comfortable with. On one side, I believe in maximising individual liberty and opportunity for all - regardless of adult sexual orientation, but I also acknowledge that marriage is a sacred institution for many, or at least a very important institution that in many cultures is strictly defined as being between a man and a woman. For a long time, I believed that those in same-sex relations should be allowed civil unions that have equal status to federally-recognised marriages, but the notion of "separate but equal" is a hard one to swallow in this day and age.

Ultimately, I have come to a solution that I am comfortable with... civil unions for all, marriages if you can get one.

I do not believe that a secular government has the authority to sponsor a single definition of marriage. Marriages should be left strictly to private religious institutions or social groups. Marriage seems to be a purely ceremonial thing and each culture has its own definitions, requirements, and rules regarding marriage. Supporting a single definition is not fair and breaches the concept of a separation between religion and state.

Civil unions, on the other hand, are purely legal constructions with no affiliation to any culture, religion, or social group. That is the domain of the government. All those in a relationship that seek to be recognised by the government and be given the associated benefits of being in a legal union must be granted a civil union - regardless of adult sexual orientation. That way, the government will not favour any particular group of people or sponsor a single definition of marriage.

Revolutionary Reformism

Introduction to the problem

The debate of revolutionary or reformist approaches to social change have been argued through the ages and has become most pertinent since the bourgeoise revolutions and in particular with the development of democratic reforms during the latter half of the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth century. The debate certainly gained prominence with the the unification of the revolutionary Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany, led by Bebel and Liebknecht, and the reformist General German Workers' Association originally established by Lassalle. One of Marx's greatest works, Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875), in which he firmly established his 'third phase' (libertarian socialist) thinking, is a response to that unification. In the turn of the twentieth century the debate continued on one side of Eduard Bernstein's Evolutionary Socialism (1899) and Rosa Luxembourg's critique, the equally bluntly titled Reform or Revolution (1900).

Goddess of Liberty, Tiananmen Square

To give a very simple summary, the revolutionary perspective argued that socialism can only be won through the forced overthrow of the ruling class, whereas the reformist perspective argues that socialism can develop over time with the gradual institutionalisation of more democratic rights. Related topics include political disposition of varying degrees of conservatism versus radicalism; debates over the psychological effects of State institutions, from insidiously corrupting to subtly influential; of political realism between principles and pragmatism; of class relations, conflict and the capacity of different classes to implement social change; in political organisation, between vanguard elites versus mass parties, and, on the highest level, the debate over the foundations of society itself whether natural, technological, institutional, relations, or ideas.

Of course, there is no suggestion that the following is anything but a brief sketch to the problem, a somewhat frustrated expression of personal experiences in both reformist and revolutionary politics, a discussion of the purpose of a revolutionary approach, and a conclusion that hopes to transcend some of the common problems through 'revolutionary reformism'. The notion of transcending, or overcoming, or even better still to use Hegel's phrase from the dialectical method Aufhebung is quite deliberate, in contrast to the erroneous assertion of a 'synthesis' through partial adaption of the thesis and antithesis. As much as Trotsky argued against "No common platform with the Social Democracy, or with the leaders of the German trade unions, no common publications, banners, placards!" from a revolutionary perspective he was also prepared to argue in favour of co-ordinated action "March separately, but strike together! Agree only how to strike, whom to strike, and when to strike!" ("For a Workers' United Front Against Fascism", 1931).

In decades of political involvement I am yet to see Trotsky's dictum seriously taken up by self-proclaimed revolutionary organisations in advanced capitalist states. Determined not to dirty their hands with actual governance, they are hopelessly split on relatively minimal differences and prone towards infiltrating social movements for the purpose of recruitment, rather than social change itself. The revolutionary assertions bring no comfort either; political programmes which are ill-considered and idealistic. By the same token, equal condemnation but of a different sort, can be levelled at reformist organisations. Highly institutionalised, they typically avoid involvement in extraparliamentary activism to engage in the byzantine labyrinth of State power for minimal and specific changes rather than seeking the systematic basis for the problems to begin with; as Henry David Thoreau remarked in Walden (1854): "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root".

The Global Financial Crisis

Iceland's stock exchange values


Today we are in an global economic crisis. It is an economic crisis not because of the scale, for at worst there has been a recession of a few percent of GDP, but rather because it has been systematically induced. The best strategies that have been proposed so far are essentially neo-Keynesian; because private demand has fallen, government expenditure can alter aggregate demand to provide a stimulus to the economy. At best, this can provide necessary infrastructure for positive externalities through network effects; at worst it will simply serve as a delaying tactic, leading to a greater crisis in the near future.

What Happened?

The start of the current economic problems were evident at the end of 2005 when there was a sudden halt to the rampant increases in real estate prices in the US. In 2006, as estate prices remained flat, the Dow Jones Index actually increased approximately a quarter. In 2007 real-estate prices declined leading to twenty-five subprime mortgage estate lenders went bankrupt, including the largest lenders such as New Century Financial, American Home Mortgage and Ameriquest. The largest U.S. mortgage lender Countrywide Financial narrowly avoided bankruptcy by borrowing $11 billion from other banks and in the UK there was a run on the Northern Rock bank, which was eventually put into public ownership in 2008.

Palestine: A Challenge to Humanity

Before I begin my presentation, I’d just like to say a couple of things about myself and Australians for Palestine.

The first is that I am not myself a Palestinian and have no family, cultural or any other connection with either side of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. I am, rather, employed as the Public Advocate for Australians for Palestine and, for the most part, my role in this position is to explain the facts of the conflict to Australian audiences.

The second thing I’d like to say is that Australians for Palestine believe that, by explaining the facts of the conflict to the Australian public, we are also working towards its peaceful resolution

And it in this sense that we share in the mission of the Unitarian Church to "Seek the Truth and Serve Humanity."

Indeed it our view that these goals of seeking the truth and serving humanity are interchangeable. For clearly, no one can properly serve humanity in a state of ignorance. But it is also the case that the search for truth implies the service of humanity.

For the search for truth leads ultimately to knowledge and all knowledge has consequences. And the knowledge of injustice, in particular, has moral consequences.

And it is in this spirit that I wish to address you this morning on the issue of Palestine: as someone who believes

  • That knowledge implies obligation.
  • That the fulfilment of such obligation often incurs sanctions;
  • But that the true test of one’s humanity is and always has been the willingness to follow one’s conscience, regardless of the consequences.

Next Friday marks an anniversary that commemorates the turning point in the histories of 2 peoples: the Israelis and the Palestinians.

For the Israelis May 15 marks their Independence Day: the day that they celebrate not only the establishment of the state of Israel in the country, which, until that time, had been called “Palestine”.

National Self-Determination and Federal Internationalism

The principles of isocracy demand universal freedoms and a federated free association of such individuals in communities; this much is obvious. But from this, the reality of existing states, nationalities and so forth, must be accounted for and requires a principled, non-politically partisan approach to international relations. For there can be little doubt of the terrible effects of both religious and national wars of history. As contemporary examples one can cite the conflicts in Chechnya, Palestine, Kurdistan, the Western Sahara, Kosovo, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Iraq and many others as wars of national liberation. The purpose of this document is to provide an initial sketch that can peacefully resolve such conflicts and empower individuals and communities.

Definitions on such matters are a cause of some confusion, not helped by the administrative imposition of state-defined terms. A nation means a group of human beings, whose membership is defined at birth, from the Latin natio. From the seventeenth century onwards it was strongly tied to ideas of commonality through "blood and soil", that members of a particular nation had shared descent and a common homeland and the gradual establishment of the nation-state. A more contemporary perspective emphasises use of shared symbolic values; thus national identity becomes very close to cultural and linguistic identity.

Nationality is different to country and to state. Countries are a region of land; a state is the institutional governance of that region. The matter is not helped by the insistence of states calling themselves "nations" or by bodies like the United Nations which is, in reality, a body of states. Or by such terms like "international law", which is invariably framed not between nations, but between states.

Formation of Independent States

Arm The People And Abolish The State

Standing Armies

Standing armies are full-time professional soldiers employed by the state to defend a country and attack other countries. They are largely an modern phenomenon, making their first appearance with the Fekete sereg (Black Army) of Hungary from 1458 to 1490, which started at approximately 8,000 soldiers but swelled to 30,000 as Hungary engaged invasions of Austria and Bohemia. As a prophetic warning, it was eventually abolished when the king, Vladislas II, realised he could no longer afford to pay for such a force. In the Ottoman Empire, the Janissaries, instituted sometime in the mid-fourteenth century, were also a standing army, used to replace tribal ghazi whose loyalty and training was often suspect. Adam Smith correctly remarked that standing armies are a sign of modern society, as such warfare requires increased skill (especially technical skill), and loyalty to country-wide authorities. However he incorrectly asserts "A well-regulated standing army is superior to every militia" and "... it is only by means of a well regulated standing army that a civilised country can be defended, so it is only by means of it that a barbarous country can be suddenly and tolerably civilised." (Wealth of Nations, Book 5, Chapter 1, Part 1).

Why do we need pundits?

Image credit: Daily Telegraph

Why do people watch or listen to political pundits? Why would anyone need to listen to a pundit in order to 'know' what their own position on the issues should be? Isn't it clear that most of these pundits are imposing their own spin on things, their own political correctness, and in the larger part are following someone else's agenda - a particular political party, a corporation etc?

Why the would a reasonable, intelligent, thinking person need to have their thoughts and perceptions argued by someone else? Unless they do not care about using their brain and making their own conclusions and prefer to do it the easier way - someone else doing the brain work for them? Isn't it enough that today's news journalism itself is spinning things (but in a more subtle way - by the manner a certain news program is presenting events and facts), that we need pundits to waste our time with useless verbiage and brain-washing?

To me it should be like watching a football game (yes, I am European, so I obviously mean a soccer game). You watch the game, and all the commentator is doing is to tell what is happening on the field. I do not even need that, I would have switched the commentary off if possible and only listen to the reactions of the spectators - they are more telling than any commentator. But at least he is not trying to make me a fan of either team. After the match, I do not go on watching the sports pundits analysing the game. Because they cannot tell me anything new. All they would try to do is explain to me what I have just seen on the screen, but through their own perspective. No thanks!


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