CV-19 Impacts: Regime Change? The human revolution?

I wrote in my last piece (see below) that ecological thinking based itself on a view of humanity as a species, a species inter-relating with other species.  I pointed out that this thinking would play a part in the break-up of the UK regime.  My question now is: can our understanding of human origins shed light on the specific underlying shifts, movements and crises we are aware of in our contemporary world?  Especially here in the UK and in the USA the signs of fragmentation are provoking a kind of rage of reaction and it might appear that the forces of radical patriarchy are strengthened through this chaos.  They are manifesting themselves in an extreme form but this may be impelled by despair deriving from a deep sense of loss.  In the midst of a tense exchange about the story of women in human evolution and the revolution, the brilliant anthropologist, Camilla Power, exclaimed in an email to me: “How can we use our past to help us reach that: we have the bodies, hearts and minds today that made that revolution before.  Care of children taught us how to do it!” Exploited and oppressed but constantly moving like a very deep dance the human truths that our bodies feel exact more vivid forms of listening and touching and community.  The deeper the crisis, the deeper into the past we have to go.

Much of what I am describing here has been described far better by others who know more and have thought more deeply.  I want to find a connection between what I have learnt from radical anthropologists like Camilla, other thinkers and writers and my own observation of what is happening around me.

Darwin’s work of discovering the developmental determinants of species underlies ecological thinking.  The formation of the new species of hominids, homo sapiens, was due to particular adaptations relating to selected characteristics.  These manifested themselves in distinctive genetic changes.  The erect posture of the immediately preceding species of hominids enabled their occupation of increasingly diverse terrains which gave a wider scope of food sources.  Collective organisation and communication abilities were related to larger brain in successive hominid species.  The trade-off between larger brain-size, thus the heavier, larger head, and the erect posture was complex. The birth canal of the human female was compromised by the erect posture so the size of the head needed to be accommodated by ‘early’ birth.  The human (homo sapiens) baby was born into a state of physical, emotional and social dependence. This engaged with the social and collective skills associated with larger brain size.  Our species needed to be social. The reproductory and child care processes were extended.  It involved protection against the most significant competitors, big cats. In order to build group solidarity it was necessary to isolate and disempower ‘alpha male’ selfish individualism. We needed to counter the behaviour that led to the largest male being able to make immediate sex for meat exchanges and to be destructively disposed towards offspring from other fathers.  These were the basic material narratives that selected for a high degree of social collaboration.  The development of the larynx giving the ability to make complex sounds, the shape of the human (homo sapiens) eye with the unique mobility of the iris against a white background gave an enhanced ability to communicate. Human females’ collaborative ability to control the rhythm of the availability of sex was connected to human males developing co-operative strategies in hunting, thus enabling social sharing of food.  The work carried out by coalitions of human females ensured that caring processes were at the centre of early human activity and this was enabled by the link between human biology and the cyclical movement of the moon, establishing a social rhythm of sex and hunting.  The development of intersubjectivity and of language both propelled and were outcomes of this new species development. This specific aspect of early human development is outlined in the work of the renowned primatologist, Sarah Hrdy in Mothers and Others: the Evolutionary Development of Mutual Understanding.  The other part of this story is to be found in the work of the Radical Anthropology Group but particularly in Blood Relations: Menstrual Synchrony and the Origins of Culture by Chris Knight, a colleague of Camilla Power who I quoted above. This social form of organisation was successful and enabled the spread of the new species from the Rift Valley of Africa 200,000 years ago to populate the entire earth.  The last significant land mass that was colonised by our species was Aotearoa (New Zealand) settled by Polynesian people from 1280-1350.

At the centre of developments in the sciences of primatology, social biology and anthropology in the past 70 years is the work of a growing number of women social and life scientists.  The influence of this new perspective is described in Chris Knight’s book.  A good recent example of this work is Human Origins, Contributions from Social Anthropology edited by Camilla Power, Morna Finnegan and Hillary Callan.  The idea that human females were responsible for the origin of culture and society is not surprising when looked at from an evolutionary point of view.  But what difference does it make to how we look at our current situation and the social forms which we inhabit?  Arguments are made that it was human males and their collective organisation of hunting that played the leading role in these developments and even that war played this role. This affirms a view that male dominance is natural. What is surprising is what happened 12,000 years ago when our female-oriented species was transformed into a male-dominated hierarchically-organised creature disposed exploitatively towards the natural resources with which it was surrounded. This transformation is complex, developing unevenly and gradually and some human groups exist where this transformation is incomplete.

Let us, for a moment, counterpose the vision of human origins articulated by contemporary radical anthropology with the vision given in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. This extraordinarily influential book was published two years after the execution of Charles I in London in 1649.  This event during the English Revolution was of crucial symbolic and political importance and Hobbes’ thinking was fundamental to the subsequent restoration of the monarchy and the eventual settlement of 1688-89 which I believe is the foundation moment of the regime that is beginning to break up. Hobbes describes the state of nature as a war of all against all where the intercession of the sovereign, the embodiment of reason presents essential unity.  The book encompasses descriptions of the make-up of the individual, how in each of us we wrestle to attain our better nature through processes that he connects with money accounts or rationality, and about how the commonwealth resembles an artificial man that is above nature and forms itself through a kind of contract. He bases his argument on deep consideration about the the senses and the external objects of the world, where contrary to Aristotle, he asserts an empiricism that diminishes knowledge as an interaction between material agents and emphasises the immediate responses of the senses to external stimulus and the separation of the subject from the object.  Nature is the objective and increasingly measurable reality that lies outside us and can be conquered epistemologically by reason.  The justification for the authority of the sovereign state derives from an assumption that the animal in us, the natural beast, is bad and must be struggled against through the construction of a sovereign power and submission to it.  I shall describe in a future piece why Christianity offered such a profoundly stabilising ideology to empire.  At the start of this Christian narrative we find man and woman in a natural state into which evil is introduced by the woman.  This state of sin is only redeemed for humanity with the advent of Christ who combines, like the kings for whom he was a progenitor, man and god. 

Murray Bookchin in Ecology of Freedom and elsewhere describes this initial period of human existence as the organic society and its break up as being signalled by the development of humans distinguishing themselves from the circumambient natural world and dominating it and the synchronous development of exploitation of humans by humans. These ideas have been influential on the work of Abdallah Ocalan, a leading member of the PKK, whose voluminous Manifesto for a Democratic Civilisation, written while in a Turkish prison, explores the specific impacts of the beginning of hierarchical society in the fertile crescent where the Kurdish people have their home.  He urgently asserts that the first intra-group oppression practiced by humans was the exploitation of women.  This oppression sets the precedence for other forms of slavery. Alongside his reexamination of the origins of society and of human oppression, Ocalan and his movement have criticised the central role of the nation-state in the liberation of the Kurdish people. This is an extraordinary and inspirational example of how re-thinking human origins has played a part in structuring a strategy of resilience for sectors of the Kurdish people, especially those in Turkey and Northern Syria.  The strategy is based on the liberation of/by women, ecological sustainable development and participatory democracy.  This last principle is based on calling into question the role of representation, of representative forms, in the functioning of democracy.   The full global implications of the political inventiveness of the Kurdish people have yet to be realised.  The Kurdish revolution as it is conceived by Ocalan is an attempt to confront the historical consequences of the development of patriarchy.

So what do we imagine happened during this transformation of human society, the male ‘take over’, and what are the consequences for subsequent human history? By the way I’ve written a play, THE STORY OF GO, about this event. It was given a reading in an event co-hosted by the Radical Anthropology Group. There’s brief description here. There were important ecological factors, such as the end of the Last Glacial Period and the changes in herding patterns that determined the movements of the big game that the human populations had come to rely on.  Correspondingly there was the success of human population growth which meant that certain stocks of hunted animals had been reduced by over-hunting, transgressing the critical point in a population when predation prevents replenishment of stocks.  Population growth also meant that the major competitive pressure was other human groups, thus creating conflicts between them.  There may have been other factors such as knowledge of terrain and its biomass potential that derived from inter-generational observation, also knowledge of herding patterns could have led to herd control and intervention in breeding that was the basis of animal husbandry, the movement towards settling land and cultivation may have derived from observation of river systems and exploitation of tidal movements in adjoining land. A number of books give accounts of the break up of the egalitarian society, for example, The Creation of Inequality: How our prehistoric ancestors Set the Stage for Monarchy, Slavery and Empire by Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus.

The move towards the prioritising of production over reproduction, the turn from hunting group to war organisation, the re-emergence of alpha male dominant behaviour, the territorialisation of power and space that arose from crop cultivation and animal husbandry, the creation of surplus and the social dynamics of storage and distribution all shifted the basic structures of human life towards men’s dominance of women.  An important factor in this was the ability of men to take women’s power and institutionalise their possession of it.  To do this they mimicked the forms of power that women exerted over them.  The powerful mysteries of reproduction, the isolation and protection afforded by women to young females moving into adulthood, the first appearance of the menstrual blood, were ritualised and men were excluded.  Often in the current life of hunter gatherers this secrecy, exclusion, withholding and protection is the basis for social play.  Men copied their exclusion from the menstrual hut in the construction of men’s hut where they also performed rites of passage that involved blood and scarification. There, in these sacred spaces, the warrior leader and the shaman emerged as powerful actors. In recent discoveries at Gobeklitepe, one of the earliest discovered neo-lithic sites dating from 11,700 years ago and situated near the border town of Urfa in Southern Turkey it appears that the dynamic of the process of cultural development reverses a simple mechanical materialist explanation.  The creation of ceremonial sites connected to the burial of human remains and to the dramatisation of the border of the world of the dead were laid out in accord with the emerging knowledge of astronomy.  The evidence is that these sites which were in continual development that would have required the organisation of, and provision for, large groups of workers and thus it was these sites which preceded the developments in animal husbandry and crop cultivation made necessary by the organisation of their construction.  The need to exercise symbolic power drove the organisation of production.

The need for men to exert their control over the symbolic order, to create exclusive sacred spaces connected to power over life and death, was based on territorialisation and secrecy. Knowledge was to be the privilege of the hierarch and be controlled through control of space.  The driving energy was men’s exclusion from reproduction.  The continual impossibility of dominating women’s bodies drove the cultural project forward.  The energies derived from the oppression of women were effectively the energies of human reproduction recathected through men’s domination and control.  Men’s power was and is effectively women’s power.  The continual social enactment of domination is the very structure of the political institutions that we live in.  Men’s power is their power over women.  This domination is not an event but rather a continuous process of theft and coercion.  It is symbolic and actual and it depends not on women’s weakness but their strength – which at any given moment is their power over men – and this is the basis of their submission and incorporation into the social project dominated by men.

In fact one of the crucial processes that lies at the core of patriarchal cultural appropriation is a process of inversion. The stories and images of the truth of human origins in the work of human female coalitions are re-played so that the basic energies can be incorporated in a re-writing of the story that inverts the basic images and movements. This cultural appropriation through inversion and incorporation retains the source energies of the narratives.  Symbolic power was taken from women but my further point is that this is a continuous process.  It is in this way that men’s power is only their power over women and this power is women’s power re-cathected through the institutional forms of patriarchy. 

The energies that were engaged with as the process of male ‘take over’ started are effectively those which fuel our current social and political institutions. It is in this respect that the story of origins becomes important in terms of our understanding of the basis of our society and how it can change.  The presence of the power of the feminine and the story of the preceding organic society whose primary organisational principle was the reproductive activity of human females are seen in cultural manifestations everywhere. Anthropologist are skilled at ‘decoding’ the myths and stories in which the core values of women’s culture are revealed inside the, sometimes scarcely visible, patriarchal carapace.  But also in corporeal terms this other world, the world of the body and the collective, is constantly resisting the mental dominance of the male abstract, virtual, oppression. For a wonderful description of how hunter gatherer cultures can help us to contact our collective sensuality particularly in this pandemic see Morna Finnegan’s talk to the Radical Anthropology Group, Touched: Hunter Gatherers and the Anthropology of Power. This is why social change seems so dynamically linked to a return to our real nature.

It is the continuous nature of this cultural project that impelled patriarchy to construct a relationship with eternity and infinity in order to enact the basic assumption of male power.  It is almost as if this culture is energised by ever more superior forms of power, as if perhaps this is like the helplessness men encounter when faced by women’s power or beauty, or their mother.  Marx describes the cell form of capitalism as a commodity and describes how this object is endowed with a kind of power that he associated with fetishism. Look at Chapter One of Part One of Volume One of Capital He describes a system in which things have power over people. Capitalism is a development of patriarchy and it manifests itself in a typically mystified or disguised form.  It presents like an economic system rooted in humanity’s god-given nature.   Posing as an economic system it separates itself from the political forms that give it a rational carapace.  It ‘dis-embeds’ itself from real social human processes. The developmental movement is continually towards higher and higher degrees of abstraction.  The circulation of commodities appears as the circulation of money;  money appears as the circulation of quantities, money quantities appear as credit, credit money then appears as digitalised entities, money appears as information.

The early organisation of patriarchal culture is enacted in the figures of warrior leader and the shaman/priest/spiritual leader.  These figures are the core components of kingship.  This political structure is the basis of modern state organisation.  Power over life and death – I believe this is what Foucault refers to as the concern of bio-politics – which is the prerogative of the state must be sanctified by an appeal to a higher authority which acts as a ‘basic assumption’ (see the work of Wilfred Bion)  in the human group.  To achieve this, power must disclose itself as right.  Just as physical force and spiritual power must be virtually separated so that they can be brought together as the power of government.  This is reconciled in the production of knowledge as secrecy.  It admits of a fundamental splitting of human capability. 

In Thomas Piketty’s extraordinary study of modern politics Capital and Ideology he examines ideology initially from the point of view of the trifunctional state, the state form that existed in its clearest manifestation in the pre-revolutionary French state. There the basic operation of kingship, of sovereignty, was acted out through the three estates: the nobles, the clergy and the populace.  He traces the development of these forms through the revolutionary period as they make their appearance in the modern ‘democratic’ state.  He describes the action between the key political parties as being tributes from this earlier state form, the Merchant Right versus the Brahmin Left. The dance ritual of the modern state is a play between the vestiges of the warrior class (the Lords, nobles however constituted, reflected in the Tory Party in the UK, those who assume a god-given right to rule) and the clergy (the intellectual classes, the media, legal systems, the Labour Party in the UK). Piketty, constructing an international model, alludes to the Indian caste system in calling these secularised clergy, the Brahmin. We can see clearly in this organised and ritualised political form the original embodied forces that lay at the origins of patriarchy.  This dance between the different aspects of state power keeps the status quo balanced like a gyroscope and the basic energy is the suppression that derives from the constant reduction of women to objects, either as symbolic commodities or as functional providers and generators of labour power.

I believe the corona virus pandemic has sheered the outer casework from this weird machine so we can see the key operations of kingship, patriarchy, racism and look into the core processes of our social lives. These are, unsurprisingly, held together by women, consigned to the roles that are generative and essential, that of caring for human beings.  Beside them, behind the veil of justice and democracy, are revealed the heaving pitiful fearful creatures crouching in despair and hope that their outrage and anger will restore their king-like function. I am thinking particularly of the recent mob attack on the Capitol in Washington and the crisis of the regime there as the republican cover is blown off the monarchic core.  An immediate cause is a deep discontent at the impoverishment escalated by the financial crash of 2008 and the subsequent bail-out of the bankers and in the foreground is the rage of these ‘real men’ so desperately afraid of weakness.  It is the symbolic reenactment of the Civil War of the 1860s that keeps emerging but even deeper in the formation of the US state is the agony of their modification of the structures of kingship that animated the rebellion of 1776. This story moves like a field of force in the undergrowth.  There is a deep ambiguity in the very formulations of a constitution made in the name of humanity by slave-owners declaring freedom.  Essentially patriarchy is hierarchical and is based on the assumption of superiority.  Initially exercised against women.  As the ever more complex social forms appeared this exercise manifested itself systematically as the extraction of labour power from the processes of reproduction, ever pressed into yielding product at lower and lower cost.  Racism inextricably linked with slavery is driven by labour power extraction and cost reduction employing similar cultural mechanisms of oppression.  Can the US regime admit this history without breaking up?  This crisis is joined to the one that afflicts the centre of the imperial system from which it appeared to gain its independence. 

I believe that the reason why our political structures are ‘double’, as described by Piketty are because they derive from the problematic of patriarchy in its suppression of women: how to exert violent power and justify this right so to do through symbolic power.   Vast quantities of intellectual work and social organisational effort were expended to reconcile whether the King or Monarch was above the law or the source of the law.  I will describe in further contributions to the CV-19 Impacts series and refer there to the remarkable book by Ernst H. Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies.

It is the continuous character of this drive to exploit reproduction through production that I am attributing to the endless project that patriarchy presents.  To call it a take over could be misleading since power is constantly taken.  Labour power and human need is constantly exploited.  This operates at every scale and level in our society.  It is the source of male violence.  Its theoretical extension lie in the bases of economics as it is taught and commonly understood.  In this discipline we are told that demand is infinite.

During the corona virus we have witnessed the break down of what is called the economy and we are told that public (and individual) health has to be balanced with the health of the economy.  The economy is assumed to be a mechanism that is dis-embedded, that has its own divine laws of motion.  Really the absurdity of this weird mystical system can only be summoned by saying it is based not on infinite demand but the underlying myth of infinite supply.

CV-19 Impacts: Regime change? Ecological thinking? Socialist ideas?

What I believe is the case and what I wish for can be confused.  The UK regime is collapsing.  The depth of corruption and incompetence exhibited by the current government is a superficial sign of this.  The break up of the United Kingdom is not.  It is an indication of a deep unravelling of the basic integuments of the regime, that which was founded by the settlement of 1688-89.  The exposure attendant on the withdrawal from the European Union means the chips are down. The EU was joined because it was a last ditch attempt by the UK elites to hold together the Union which lies at the core of the constitution.  The hope was that membership of the European Club despite its republican aura or perhaps because of it, would offer a modern fig leaf to cover the UK’s semi-feudal constitutional arrangement, parliamentary monarchy. This is of course specifically true in relation to Ireland.  The prospect of a united Ireland, with Sinn Fein playing a significant role in its polity will send shivers down the spine of those with any historical sensibility.  Ireland was England’s colony, brutally exploited for raw material, until the danger heralded by the French Revolution made the oppressor nation hastily include it in the union in 1805.  Thus it followed Scotland who had been coerced and cajoled into participation in 1707.  It’s all a recent story.  It was at the very end of the 13th Century, 1284, that Edward 1 King of England, Lord of Ireland, having accomplished the first (possibly except for Gascony) settler colonial operation, ‘settling’ English farmers on stolen land in Wales and building castles to oversee the colonisation. Edward crowned the process by having his son Edward born in Caernafon and later invested him Prince of Wales in 1302.  This was before he went on to terrorise the Scots. He had Robert Bruce’s sister suspended live in a public cage, the English practicing the arts later refined in the slave plantations of the Caribbean.

Simultaneous with this imminent break up is the moral disintegration of the Labour Party.  The elites may need a compliant second string to their bow and the Labour Party historically has been happy to submit to the honour.  The Corona pandemic has not just ripped through the UK population like no other but like a corrosive illuminant it has exposed the inoperancy of the UK state, the whole rigmarole, the two-party absurdity, the obsessive centralisation, the bluster, the muddling through, the completely irresistible tendency to think of governance as ruling over the population and the utter incapacity to think socially.  There is a deep fear of socialism.  There will be some who believe that this is unwarranted, especially those that tend that way, but the smell of rank panic floats over the land.

The crisis is deeper than they fear.  It is not just socialism they have to be scared of – partly because they are having to operate policies that have the odour of this perversion – but it is ecology, ecological thinking, that should make them quake  The failure to recognise the Corona pandemic as an ecological event and to understand that it’s impacts need to be dealt with socially, by society as a whole, is deeply connected to their failure to understand human society as an outcome of our development as a species. This is why their response is deeply racist and stupidly nationalistic.  They think of it as war!  They think of it as a one-off crisis. They keep saying, about testing and about vaccines, that we should be comforted that we are doing better than Europe or America or..and the numbers prove it!  Canute tried beating back the waves with his sword.

If there is no informed alternative, the break up of the old order faces us with catastrophe. The alternative can only come from a popular movement that engages with the deep and vital connection between ecological and socialist thinking.  This is the simple truth as I see it.  This deep connection is already being made and, as it becomes stronger, the energies that it engages with will generalise themselves.  But we need to get moving.  We are unprepared and part of what absorbs our energies is the idea that old institutions can do new things.  The years immediately before this crisis gave us signs of what is involved now.  There was a significant mass popular movement against austerity which was sparked by the student rebellion of 2010 and that grew as it pushed Jeremy Corbyn into the leadership of the Labour Party.  There was the extraordinary inventiveness and innovatory energy of Extinction Rebellion.  And more recently there has been the popular uprising around Black Lives Matter.  There has been, throughout the land, the mutual aid movement mobilising solidarity, responding to the community impacts of the Corona virus crisis.

We have to be prepared for a deep struggle for social and environmental justice.  The formation of the UK regime derived from the English Revolution of 1642.  The energies that structured the regime flow from the extraordinary upsurge of popular revolutionary consciousness that marked this event.  This movement was captured and incorporated through the formation of a constitutional settlement, a brilliant historic compromise, establishing power and sovereignty as emanating from the ‘monarch in Parliament’. This was sealed by a hybrid protestantism and operationalised by an imperial war machine financed by the innovatory central bank, the Bank of England (founded in 1694, specifically created to produce the credit to enable a war against Catholic France), thus the dominance of the City of London was affirmed. All this, the ideology, the values, the tone, the key personality of the ‘English Gentleman’, the good chap, he who can ‘smile as he kills’, sword or umbrella at the ready though carefully and seductively concealed, all this is passing into history; it is threadbare, a parody of itself, sinking slowly into a mire of incompetence. 

Regimes and all political structures are made by counterposed energies of resistance.  As resistance is overcome the energies are channelled into the new structures and institutions.  The energies of the current regime derive from the English Revolution but its deep roots are in the patriarchal structures that arose from the male ‘take over’ of the original human culture developed at the birth of our species by coalitions of human females.  This historic process is associated with the Neolithic Revolution and the spread of agriculture approximately 12,000 years ago. This is why the break up of the UK regime is not an isolated event.  It is connected to a crisis of the nation state.  This is a form of organisation that derived specifically from the process of territorialising power and sovereignty in the western part of the Eurasian land mass after the break up of the Roman Empire.  The state formation in England (only that part of the British isles that was colonised by the Romans) was such that it was a model for the wider dispersion of this form.  Nation states developed as a system in a mimetic process articulated through wars.  The hierarchical forms of patriarchy driven by the need to produce, taming and exploiting our species’ reproductive processes, were binary. Men could not simply rule over women through physical force but had to take over symbolic power and justify their dominance.  This continual need to dominate women’s reproductive power drove the impulse to produce and exploit natural resources. The continuous process of male take over is like a colonisation of the original female-oriented human culture.  Capitalism in all its successive forms is a political system that derives directly from patriarchal hierarchy. Its appearance as an economic system is a part of the way it constantly obscures its operation. This is apparent in the continual process of abstraction and quantification that accompanies its development. The ultimate movement of this process is the transformation of money into digital information.

This means that the crisis underlying the break up of the UK regime goes to the very roots of our species’ existence.  We are engaged in a struggle for our humanity. Unsurprisingly it is deeply connected to the prospect of human extinction.   I believe that the key to succeeding forms of human organisation is knowledge.  I mean this in every sense of the word.  The idea of knowledge that underpins our current system is subject to hierarchy and limitation.  Knowledge is interaction.  This is as true for quantum physics as it is for our coming into being as humans.  Intersubjectivity, the capacity to be deeply moved and changed by our encounter with the other, was and is at the centre of the inventions made by coalitions of human females in the Rift Valley of Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago.  It was essential to the development of big-brained, early-birthed creatures whose need for physical protection and cultural identification was the primary work.  Of course in later human development all these capacities remained but they were systematically exploited.  Human development becomes reduced to the supply of quantities of labour power to a productive machine on which, we are led to believe, human survival depends – or, at least, the continuation of our ‘way of life’.

I have suggested in previous blogs that a social network is needed of activist reporters in every constituency feeding into a central source of knowledge and information, primarily about the impacts of the Corona virus.  This local knowledge network should be capable of spreading out to different sectors locally to engage with the care community, the NHS community, the teaching community, the retail community, the delivery community, the mutual aid and self-help community.  It should engage with local expertise on the environment, on productive activities and on judicial and legal processes.  This could quickly form an easy to access cross-referenced source of real knowledge that would be actual intelligence.  It might be similar to Mass Observation.  This network of living breathing human beings concerned to create a people’s picture of our society and its needs would be a basis for a movement for environmental and social justice.


About ecology as I understand it:

The core value of ecology is the interconnectedness of life-forms in systemic co-developmental interdependence.  The unit of ecology is the ecosystem, complex mutual aid relationships between species.  Human social organisation is deeply embedded in these relationships and the sum total of all the different forms of human organisation are our species total interaction with the biosphere.  These different forms of organisation, adaptations made by human groups to the different biomes and bio-regions of our planet, form the basis of the different societies, cultures and political regimes.  All of this biomass, the flora and the fauna, and the geology of the earth has a history, in other words it changes interactively.  The history of the human species is a part of the natural history of the Earth.

About socialism as I understand it:

Socialism is a communal recognition of the collective nature of social life. It is not a state form.  Rather than human life being shaped around the imperatives of the economy and production, socialism enables people to develop their lives equally and according to their needs through political practice, through social organisation and through using economic activity as a tool to serve this end.  Essentially it views the products of people’s work as being the common, public property of society.  Necessarily this involves distributing wealth, in goods and investment, according to people’s needs.  A part of socialist practice has happened in societies where collective ownership has been used as a means of industrialisation, of expanding production. Socialism in a post-industrial setting requires a rethinking of the model offered.

About bringing ecological thinking and socialist ideas together:

Bringing the ideas of ecology and socialism together is a way to understand how the UK regime and the capitalism and patriarchy which it embodies can be surpassed.  It is not a matter of if but when.  It will disintegrate when coherent ideas of social and natural development seize the hearts and minds of a critical mass of the population.  The insights derived from an ecological understanding of how our human system’s interdependence on the multiplicity of the Earth’s ecosystems can clarify the basis of the UK regime’s historical development and its demise.  Socialism is a body of human political experience that contains both principles and sometimes difficult lessons that can help guide the development of social forms through which people can take over the running of society.  We are going through a change in our species being.  A new paradigm of what it means to be human is emerging, free of racial prejudice, nationalism and imperialism.  The specific circumstances of the UK regime make it a prime candidate to make a break with the system of which it has been a progenitor but its break up will not be isolated from other irruptions of a similar sort.  Humanity faces extinction and as it does so it will engage with its origins in the brilliant invention of the coalitions of human females in the Rift Valley of Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago as our species emerged.  This enormous capability, though suppressed and exploited, is current in our lives and lives in us as the vital revolutionary energy that we can call on to reconstruct our lives.

About me:

I am writing this at a crucial moment, a moment of change. The UK has now left the European Union and we are in the midst of the Corona virus pandemic.  I am an old white English man.  My mother’s family were working class from the Midlands and my father’s middle class from Lancashire.  I had the benefit of the 1948 Education Act, went to a Grammar School (becoming a comprehensive half way through my time there), got into Cambridge University and subsequently worked as a theatre director and writer. As a young adult, maybe as a direct consequence of being at the Bloody Sunday March in Derry in January 1972, I joined the Communist Party and was a Borough Organiser in Brent which then included a significant industrial district. I was on the editorial staff of Marxism Today.  My work as a theatre practitioner initially involved touring theatre that, in two notable instances, was financed and supported by the National Union of Mineworkers.  Latterly I have worked internationally and this led, amongst other things, to a collaboration with a theatre company in Gaza, which is ongoing.  My work as a theatre practitioner was sidelined more than ten years ago by my need to engage with climate change and this led to my doing a Masters in Ecological Economics at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds.  I say all this so you know more or less where I’m coming from.  I may not be alive to see the changes that I am able to describe and I feel strongly that it is voices other than mine that need to be heard.  We who are old and white should listen.  And writing can be a way of actively listening.

About knowing

Getting attuned to listening is a way of joining a dialogue and it is only this that will activate the knowledge we need.  I am aware of a need to engage in philosophy. The new paradigm that I mentioned above requires new knowledge.  This is important in our circumstances where such a lot of information is available.  Knowing must be practical and active.  I think of this as materialism.  The ‘knowing’ that I believe is required is connected to the human capability for intersubjectivity, how we know and recognise the other and how we become who we are through this process. This human capability is central to the inventions made by coalitions of human females at the origins of our species when the priority for the human group was enabling the reproduction of large-brained early-birthed creatures that required protection as they grew physically autonomous and socially aware. It is in the nature of this paradigm shift that we have to go back to our roots in order to go forward to our future. Whatever social and popular movement arises will base itself on communication and exchange that can situate itself successfully, and take up a creative relationship, with electronic social networking, information technology and technological intelligence.  The kind of material knowing that I am describing is completely compatible with analytical and systemic wisdom and awareness. 

CV-19 impacts: the merchants of grim privilege

In the face of the continuation of the CV-19 crisis the Tories attempt to deal with it by big talk, bluster, testing schemes designed by public relations firms rather public health professionals and the endless blame game.  The strategy is to set one part of the community against another either generationally or geographically.  They’ve worked out that the rich are not going to suffer. In fact under the cover of the augmentation of central state power they can hand out contracts and offices to their cronies and just blag it. This government is a disaster.  They should be forced to resign through popular pressure.  What lies at the root of the problem? You can read the pieces I’ve written about the Covid-19 crisis. The first was published on May 20th.

The latest actions taken by the government legislating, in contravention of the Withdrawal Agreement from the European Union, to secure the ‘unfettered’ passage of goods between Northern Ireland and Great Britain will have a number of impacts.  The UK are unilaterally breaking an international treaty.  Although there are claims in respect of the Finance Act of 2013 that a similar rupture was made, this aspect of the government’s action is unprecedented. The meaning in terms of the international good standing of the UK government is unforeseen.  The primary impact will be on our EU member neighbour, the Republic of Ireland, because of the arrangements made in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 .  

The customs border between Northern and Ireland and Great Britain agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement involved certain goods and services being subject to mutually agreed control in order to decrease friction on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.  This would have left certain aspects of life in Northern Ireland remaining subject to EU regulation.  The open nature of the Republic of Ireland/Northern Ireland border is a key feature of the 1998 agreement.  

A major factor in the movement of the UK state towards membership of what was then the EEC was the framework it offered to ‘solve’ the Irish question. In fact a major element in the violent uprising by the Protestant/Unionist population in the North in the mid-1960s was the indication given of this move by the UK state when Harold Wilson, UK Labour Prime Minister elected to power in 1964, and Séan Lemass, Irish Taoiseach from 1959 to 1966, met to discuss membership.  This integration into the EEC, founded by the Treaty of Rome in 1957, threatened the political and economic privileges of the Protestant community there. These had been the key ‘give aways’ that had been confirmed during the division of Ireland, consequent on the national liberation struggle of the Irish people.  The struggle for Irish unity had been forestalled by the connivance of the UK state in setting up a client state in the North and reigniting the colonial settler ‘ascendancy’ of the Unionist population, a minority in Ireland as a whole but a majority in the six counties of the Ulster region.  It was the Republican movement’s response, initially defensive of the Catholic/Nationalist community of the North against the violence of the unionist attacks that developed into the complexities of the so-called troubles or what should be described as the continuing struggle of the Irish people for the liberation of their island from English imperialism.  The main settler colonial movement occurred under the Commonwealth government of Oliver Cromwell, granting land rights to protestants imported from the British mainland in the 1650s.  The traces of this history are seen in the reinforcement of the rights of this colonial operation by the campaign of William of Orange imported from Holland in 1688 to solve the contradictions of the English regime in its need for a monarch that was tied to Protestantism and that would respect the merchants and capitalist property rights.  The Tory party represents this historic imperialist interest and it is significant that it was the Labour Party under Wilson that started to make this EEC-oriented reform and it was the first major act of the New Labour government of 1997 under Blair that brought about the Good Friday Agreement.  The Conservative and Unionist Party has written into their historical DNA an assumption of power over England’s first colony and an inability to countenance incursions on a sovereignty that symbolically underlies the unity of the Kingdom.  The spectre that haunts the Tories is that of a united Ireland and this has been made to resonate even more strongly with the historic advance of the Sinn Fein Party in the recent Irish elections.  Sinn Fein means ‘ourselves alone’ and is the party whose military wing is the Irish Republican Army.  Johnson’ pre-emptive swipe against Starmer accusing him of consorting with IRA supporters should surprise no-one.  

As the post-imperialist crisis of the UK drives the weird Brexit Tory clique deeper into their bunker, they assert sovereignty over the first territories grabbed by the English. This will increase the racism that is in its very being and make it reach out, in a kind of death agony, to kith and kin worldwide. Unfortunately, in a strange irony, the great white supremacist dreamland of the United States may provide a major injury to its erstwhile monarchic oppressor, and latter-day client state, when it refuses through its Congress the lifeline of a beneficial trade deal because the Good Friday Agreement has been subverted, aggravating the Irish-rooted population there.  And perhaps this will help to make sense of the strange sequence uttered by Johnson, apparently rattled by Labour criticism of its class-biased examination algorithm, imputing anti-NATO sentiments in the same sentence as the IRA slur to the feckless Labour leader.  

If Johnson is losing it, what exactly is he losing?  His wits? Or the carefully crafted English imperialist project initially practiced so programmatically, criminally and cruelly against the inhabitants of the islands of Great Britain and Ireland. A project started possibly even before Edward I (1272-1307) solved the Welsh question by military occupation and settling English farming families in Wales (the imperial technique copied by Cromwell in Ireland later) and building a succession of castles to protect this colonisation.  He insisted that his wife give birth to what turned out to be their son, the future king Edward II, in Caernarfon, establishing a symbolic connection that still has to be reasserted by the dreadful monarchs lodged in, and predating on, our society. 

By the way, it was this first Edward that made the first expulsion of Jews from a sovereign territory in 1290, using racist sentiment to his clique’s material advantage – simultaneously he abolished all debts to them. This act followed almost a century of state-authorised restrictions that enforced badge-wearing, stigmatisations and the humiliation of compulsory attendance at sermons by Dominican clergy.  This racism was a rehearsal for the programmatic version that justified slavery as the imperialist project spread its wings. The connection of Christianity to territorial belonging and the use of racist exclusion to create coherence in the emerging nation-states of Europe was also connected to the crusades.  Edward’s first child, Joan, was born in Acre in what is now Israeli-ruled Palestine.  But it shouldn’t be forgotten that an initial target of the first crusades were communities of Jews encountered in the path of the Christian armies. If anti-semitism has any home here it is historically in the sullen, mean bosom of the Conservative Party.

So as the union, based on primitive racism, religious exclusion, territorial appropriation and commercial expansion, begins to fall apart the fissures in Ireland hasten the independence movement in Scotland. The cause of freedom for the people of Britain –  I mean by this the human rights of all the people who live and breathe here, naturally including those recently arrived on no matter what means of transport – echoes the observation made by Karl Marx (in reference to England and Ireland) that a nation that oppresses another nation cannot itself be free.  This idea of freedom, that the recognition of the rights and being of the other can be a liberation for both and all, is a component in a cultural movement that accords with human dignity.  This can be so hard for a population, a part of which has been won over to believe that they share an advantage and a benefit with the peddlers of supremacism, those that would have us believe that there are chosen people and our future is secure with the merchants of grim privilege.

The CV-19 impact: #StrikeForBlackLives

Watch this:

Rebekah A fronts the People’sAssembly’s online Solidarity Rally for #StrikeForBlackLives see it

Thousands of low paid workers will strike for 8 minutes 46 seconds across the USA today. There will be solidarity strikes in the UK. The basic demand is for 15 (£/$) an hour and union rights. This is the day: Monday 20th July 2020! The speakers at the rally last night were: an Activist from Strike For Black Lives in Missouri USA, Selma James (Global Women’s Strike), Wilf Sullivan (TUC) Asad Rehman (War On Want), a fast food worker activist from South London.

This is a shout out in solidarity.

This movement is reborn and restrengthened during the Covid-19/SARS 2 Pandemic and this is significant. The cry for racial justice linked to economic justice is linked to the demand ‘No return to Normal’. It is the surge of rebellion that arose as George Floyd was choked to death and continued with the toppling and dumping of the Colston statue in Bristol. It is gathering. Last night Selma James reminded us that it is a women’s struggle and Rebekah A said she couldn’t believe that she had omitted to say this. Of course. The vital link.

I remember reading Selma James pamphlet demanding wages for housework in 1972 when it was first published and the storm of controversy within the women’s movement that it caused. It implied that women were mainly responsible for domestic work! Or perhaps it didn’t. Shouldn’t we be breaking down this useless division of labour? Anyway, there she was last night radiant as the moon and clear as a bell.

Of course the strike is happening at dark moon. The new moon rises in cancer today at 13.32 EST (New York time)/18.32 BST (London time). You don’t see the new moon you feel it in the depth of your being. The swaying to and fro of death and life, the mood shift, the dread, the unaccountable hope. This time is resonantly connected to the coalition of human women who created the basis of our species’ life. At dark moon in our origins hundreds of thousands of years ago when the predatory night-sighted big cats had the advantage in the hunt and the humans collected themselves in polyphonic singing to big up the numbers and embolden their souls, when the rhythm of human being was pulsed through the menstrual synchrony with the moon, the dark time of blood loss and the second chance, the birth of language, laughter and deceit. All this beautiful work of reproduction – this time when the miracle of human birth and nurturing was the priority, when growth was not enumerated on a hedge fund bankers device but was the delight in the human wit of the young – is still our goal and our blessing. If you want to know more about this story find out of the work of the Radical Anthropology Group.

Nobody can mistake that the origin of racism and the use of racist ideas/insitutions/structures lies in the desperate competitive urge to reduce the cost of (re)-producing labour. It is women who produce labour. So it is the devaluing of care and nurturing. This function of caring, of real work, is racialised in our poor rich world. But nobody can be deluded by the impact of racism on poor white people. Or can they?

(Of course I was lucky in my teens I learnt most of what I knew from songs so when Bob Dylan sang his song about the Civil Rights movement ‘Only a Pawn in Their Game’ and I listened to it in 1964 when I was 15 I just thought: Yes that’s obvious:

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin, ” they explain
And the Negro’s name
Is used, it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

But think about it. An English chap called Thistlewood who kept a diary of his time in Guyana on a plantation where he boastfully wrote about the inventive tortures he devised to terrify the enslaved workers also recorded 4000 rapes he committed against enslaved women. (if you want more details and reference to this story look at David Olusoga’s brilliant programmes ‘Profit and Loss’ and ‘The Price of Freedom’). The issue of crushing down the cost of producing labour through racism is deeply connected to the direct physical oppression of women. Men’s power is only their power over women. This is ‘power’ in our system. This is symbolic and actual. Of course this means that men’s power (production dominating reproduction) is really the power they took from women. They took it institutionally. This is the system we live in. This is the system we have to change. We need another system. It might not look like a system. The women in the People’s Assembly online rally for solidarity with the Strike For Black Lives kept talking about the feeling they had that they were making history. All true historic change is really unthinkable. It’s like the new moon, unseen but felt.

Watch and listen to the Solidarity Rally for Strike For Black Lives and get wise.

The CV-19 impact: local action plan

Since May 15th 2020 I have produced a series of pieces called The CV-19 impact published here online. I’ve been trying to think through what has happened to us during the pandemic. This post is separate but if you want some background to my thinking then be my guest.

What might a local action plan involve in our situation? Do we need to plan? A group of people in our local Mutual Aid group have spent three one-hour sessions discussing a local action plan to build back better after the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim is to make our neighbourhood more ‘liveable’, more resilient and more inclusive. The UK government’s strategy will lead to a further increase in infections during the autumn and winter and it may be hopeful to think of a just recovery, particularly as the impacts of the pandemic will be leading to greater inequality and hardship for those on low incomes. Food prices and unemployment will rise. The virus will remain current in the UK population for the foreseeable future. There may be other complex ecological and economic shocks. This makes what emerged as our main concern, resilience, even more crucial.

We quickly realised that a ‘neighbourhood plan’ , a statutory mechanism allowing a neighbourhood forum to intervene in planning under the Localism Act (2011), was not what we needed but the neighbourhood plan ‘road map’ had some useful procedural guidelines to share. We could see that the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development had produced a Build Back Better strategy in June 2020 that resonated our basic values but we had to look at how the policies outlined could be applied to an inner city area. Eventually we realised that we needed to get broad participation in the idea of building back better by making a public event or series of public events otherwise the activity would be based on meetings and quite exclusively oriented towards data-gathering and priority-setting and target-definition. It would be no good for us to have a worked out local plan with no popular support. The Mutual Aid movement which is inspirationally effective here was based on doing things and people that did things tended not to want to come to a lot of meetings. We really needed to drive any cooperative action forward though ensuring inclusiveness, this particularly related to all the different communities that live around here. We needed to put the people who were usually excluded at the centre of our activities.

The next lesson was that planning couldn’t be separated from action and that planning was a process. Because people considered the environment to be a priority – the impact of the decrease of traffic on air quality during the lockdown, for example, had been remarkable – we could call on the experience of other ecological movements like the Transition Network . They had used ‘auditing’ or ‘evidence gathering’ as a primary activity in the movement of a local area towards sustainability. We would need to start this activity of reaching out/auditing/gathering evidence, renewing, extending and deepening our knowledge of the area at the same time as undertaking activities that brought people together. People were also very concerned that the next stage of local activism should continue and build on the work of the Mutual Aid movement.

We needed to aim at a participatory event or series of events where people were making something together at the same time as extending inclusion and building participation.

So what might the development of a local action plan look like? We would need to ensure that we made contact with all the communities in our area. This would give us an active big picture of the diversity of our local population. We would need to ask them to give an account of their experience of the lockdown and begin to ask how we could work together to create a more resilient community. We need more than a questionnaire. One idea was to base the communal activity on children’s drawing. We would need a theme. An additional idea was to have a parade or procession that would make its way around the whole area and collect the young people’s drawings adding them to a big book. At the end of the day we could present the book and celebrate its publication. Later we could make it available online and in a hardcopy edition. The procession could be accompanied by drums and music. One thought was that a processional dragon could be constructed over the summer and this could be paraded around with the music and the collection of drawings. If the dragon was a rainbow dragon it would resonate with a symbol often used over the lockdown to show community togetherness. The rainbow serpent or dragon is a profound and joyful symbol of coalition and solidarity. It transcends difference and summons a myth of collective creativity.

We devoted some time to talking about what might form the subsequent stage of our action plan. This was a conversation about food as a central issue for community resilience. A lot of the work of the Mutual Aid movement has been about food distribution especially to people who hadn’t enough money to buy it. Already the community cooking local WhatsApp group was the the most alive during the lockdown. Because of the diversity of cultures the sharing of food could be really joyful. Food involves issues of equality. It engages directly with poverty and wealth distribution. We talked about the fact that some people in our area don’t have a cooker. It could lead to talking about growing food locally and about health and well-being issues. Could we find out where food was coming from into the local community and find better ways of sharing and improving the quality and supply of food? Could we audit the average current nutritional levels and see if we can increase these levels by community action? Is it possible to make our area more equal?

As we talked we were mindful of the importance of connectivity, of engaging with local government, of thinking about increasing capabilities and skills, of the quality of work, of economic equality. Also we were aware that there was already a strong active group bringing local parents together to take action for better air quality. The area is subject to pollution from an extremely busy circulatory road system.

The shortcomings of the government are obvious. Where is resistance to come from if not from local areas, taking control? We now know that local outbreaks of the infection caused by the virus will be the focus of government lockdown strategies. Health and well-being concerns will become more and more grounded in neighbourhood action.

The CV-19 impact: Post Script

There are 5 other pieces in this CV-19 imapct series, The CV-19 Impact (1), Production and Reproduction (2), Popular Resistance (3), Scientific and International Differences (4), Last Post (5).

I want to address the issue of having seemed to be too intent on recommending unity as a prerequisite for popular resistance to the UK Government.  A bit ‘top down’ you might be thinking! It might seem to be contradicting my suggestion that a movement of true resistance must come from the ‘bottom up’. 

I had doubts about the idea, central to the “Covid 19 HQ” recommendation, made by Pete Jones and Chik Connors, that the ‘Labour Movement’ was sufficient to the task of offering a space of unity.  I have suggested that all existing political elements must go beyond themselves in the unique circumstances of the CV-19 ‘situation’.  My attention has been taken by the thinking that is happening in France where there has been a thorough description of different variations on the recovery process in, for example, Les quatre scenarios pour hégémonie politique du “monde d’apres” by Fabien Escalona and Romaric GodinAt the centre of this work is the proposal for an alliance between the green/environmental movement and the movement for socialism, the eco-socialism scenario.  This is repeated with a different inflection in De la CGT à Greenpeace, la société bouscule la gauche by Pauline Graulle.  I have emphasised in a previous piece in this series the complexity and systemic character of the CV-19 crisis which I have asserted is fundamentally ecological.  However, the first rebellion during the ‘situation’ has been triggered by immediate/violent and systemic racism, the police murder of George Floyd.  

A key significant event in this rebellion has been the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol.  The ruling elites’ spokespersons were very quickly attempting to divide the people who took down the statue from the ‘peaceful’ protestors.  The response of the leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition was symptomatic of the dreadful disease of ‘splitting’ so characteristic of the ‘Labour Movement’.  He told the public through a radio interview that the statue should have been “taken down years ago” but this toppling was ‘totally wrong’.  Splitting is a painful condition that derives from the institutional history of the Labour Party and its double role in the representational democratic system, the role that wants to see itself as the good, kind master, that holds up the face of socialism to the working masses while making every assurance possible to the ‘higher ups’ that they will suppress and contain this movement.  The condition is that of having a forked tongue. It’s painful to look in two directions at the same time. The other signs of this pathology were discovered when The Work of the Labour Party’s  and Legal Unit into Antisemitism, 2014-2019 was made available. It turned out that party’s official machine was actively opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership but also that they were terrified and repelled by it and, apparently, by him. I think that this failure of the Labour Party to respond to the ‘history lesson’ given by the statue-topplers of Bristol is a historic turning point.  Of course the leader’s muddled self-contradiction are not shared throughout the Party. The Party in its very inner nature is divided and can only come together through an energetic force that is beyond it. Obsequious wriggling cannot solve this. The man whose statue dominated a central public space in Bristol had the initials of his ‘company’ RAC branded into the flesh of the people it was selling as slaves. Totally wrong? The people seeking systemic change within the Labour Party will be held in a dreadful and painfully compromised position.

I believe that one of the mysteries with which we have been faced is where and when the extraordinary ‘horizontalist’ energy of the Momentum movement would erupt again.  Similar social movement, in other political contexts, created separate organisations (Les Gilets Jaunes in France or Podemos in Spain) but here in the UK it animated itself in the Labour Party.  So where did it go after the Corbyn defeat?  I felt that this energy was on the streets of Bristol and that the emergence of a multiple rebellion earthed in anti-racism, environmental revolt and social justice was possible.

I thought it was remarkable how many times I heard amongst the protesters interviewed the view that, as young parents, they had had to go through the hell of institutionalised and violent racism and they didn’t want their children to face it.  I relate this to, what I understand to be, a shift in values, accompanying the CV-19 ‘situation’, away from production to reproduction.

The demand for the abolition of the police has given a systemic dimension to this movement.  As the ‘staged’ toppling of the Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad in 2003 was echoed by that of Edward Colston in Bristol in 2020, so the demand for ‘regime change’, cynically promoted by the invading coalition, later resounded in many Tahrir Squares (and still does in Baghdad’s!).  The people want the end of the regime!  Not just a new set of stooges, not just a new government.  As Ta Nehisi Coates said in his conversation with Ezra Klein‘I can’t believe I’m gonna say this but I see hope.  I see progress right now!’  Her majesty’s loyal opposition are hopeless.  I especially say this as her majesty’s offspring squirms around behind high class lawyers to avoid exposure of his misdoings.  Abolish the police?  Abolish the monarchy!  Defund them, tax their wealth, defend their rights as an immigrant family (albeit from Germany in 1714), give them local authority council accommodation.

I am optimistically inclined.  Is this really a turning point?  When it comes to looking at systemic change it’s worth reading what Donella Meadows says, from a systems analytical point of view, about leverage points.  She was, along with others, responsible for the epoch-defining Limits to Growth, the 1972 report on the relationship between economic systems and earth resources, the first use of the kind of computer modelling used in climate change science.  In her thoughts about systemic change in 1997 she describes the link between these leverage points and a change of paradigm. This involves a simultaneous change at multiple levels of a system’s operation. The UK, US and Brazil have adopted an ‘exceptionalist’ approach to the CV-19 crisis.  This is unsurprising. There was a sense in the attitude of these leaders that the CV-19 couldn’t possibly happen here, an implication that it was for less developed and somehow ethically inferior, weaker parts of the world, that it could be beaten by ‘character’ rather in the way the Johnson describes his encounter with the virus as being like with a mugger – presumably the figure of the mugger and that of what he described as thuggery in the recent Black Lives Matter protests are related. The same kind of tone and mindset was in evidence when Trump called for the governors to dominate (Dominate, dominate, he repeated) in their use of police force against the protestors.  This exceptionalism is the underlying infrastructure of the racism that is instituted in the UK and US regimes.  This is a kind of thinking that sees production or economic activity as free of any bounds or limits.  It is the sheer exertion of will, the will to dominate, to dominate nature and not to be a part of it.  This is so stupid and destructive and we have yet to witness how the most recent application of this idiocy will play out, unless we can prevent it! We don’t know what the impacts of CV-19 are. We are all in our separate worlds, divided up.  Massive poverty deprivation and misery are being suffered. Look at Millions are suffering now as the economy tanks. Can you help? by John Harris in The Guardian.  The classical economic thinking is the current common sense and it treats natural resources as an ‘externality’, as if there is a limitless supply, as if biology is something to be conquered.  The simple truth is that if you don’t solve the biology the economy won’t recover.  This is why the first of the Principles of Just Recovery from Covid-19 is ‘Put People’s health first, no exceptions!’

Knowledge creation and information management is the core of any effective, even defensive, opposition. One of the CV-19 impacts is the severe financial crisis in higher education.  This will lead to a transformation of the sector deeper in many ways than in any other sector.  It will change the constitution and ethos of a wider social layer, the ‘knowledge classes’.  There will be major redundancies and increasing casualisation. What the student experience constitutes will change.  It is a time when the social energies engaged in these knowledge-creating institutions will be in turmoil.  This is a prime opportunity to connect these skills and abilities to resistance.

So this Post Script is aimed at redressing an imbalance and reiterating the sense that effective resistance, movements of social transformation, are principally ‘bottom up’.  The state must be displaced by a dispersal (localisation) of its functions.  Somehow magically this is happening in some measure in my neighbourhood where the local mutual aid organisation first presented itself at an ‘electoral ward’ level but was so popular that it had to break itself down into ‘polling station’ areas.  It is responding to shopping, food distribution and other needs and has, over the weeks in this polling station area, responded to requests for help from 120 households. It is actively creating solidarity and community. How will this extraordinary activism extend itself as the dimensions of the chaos being wreaked by the UK government become clear? 

The CV-19 Impact: Last Post

This is the fifth and last piece in this series.  The first set out some general ideas, the second expresses some ideas about how the ‘situation’ caused by the virus relates to production and reproduction, the third makes an argument for popular resistance based on participatory knowledge and information, the fourth explores interconnections between science and international relations.

The main point of this series is to make an argument for a united popular movement of resistance against the UK government’s ‘recovery’ strategies and to describe what I believe is the basis for it. Their apparent incompetence only faintly hides that the fact that they are interested only in sustaining their regime and to do so they must make the outcomes of their strategies profitable for the elites. They are playing the game of consensual governance but their underlying vision is of creating sufficient immunity for the continued operation of the economy. This requires them to spin information, appearing to act effectively against the impacts of the virus. Through public relations they are managing public resources, allowing the weak and dispensable to be culled, while centralising all operations in order to hand out benefits to the corporate sector. These benefits will take the form of privatised public utilities and well-packaged data. They rely on managing information, provoking and directing fear and rendering the mass of the population supine, isolated, divided and unable to effectively resist.

I have contested that this united resistance could be across all sections of the population. This movement of unity, not abstract though perhaps transitory and tactical, would present a united response to the government’s strategies deployed during and after the pandemic. It can be cultivated around the public service workers, bring together those in the Labour movement with those in the environmental movement, link the enormous creativity and inventiveness of young urban ‘horizontally’ inclined activists with the intellectual, manual and communication skills of more traditional trades and professions. This unity can be found in the need of the vast majority of the people for the truth, not handed down from on high but produced, like all useful knowledge must be, through participation. The government relies on the superiority of its management of information. This is its strength and therefore is its greatest weakness. I am recommending the setting up, not of an alternative power centre nor political movement that simply makes more radical claims than the already existing opposition, but a national network that activates the participation of local activists and ‘sectoral’ activists to collect and constantly update an information hub, at the centre of which will be an online space. This online space will enable, through the cross-referencing that is made possible by information technology, the building of a big picture of Covid-19 impacts. Specifically it will enable both a local view, for example, of ‘transport’ or ‘primary schools’ or ‘deaths’ or ‘care homes’ with a national view. It will be invested with the participation of hundreds of people. It will be infinitely more authoritative than the government’s media management.

We must replace the government from the bottom up. Obviously what I am recommending requires central organisation but only in order to facilitate a radical localisation of information sources. The template and format for the information has to be worked out by experts but the processes involved in observation and reporting would be participatory. It would engage with science disciplines in all known fields of human knowledge. It would bring together popular observation with expert analysis.

The principle of knowledge on which this is based is not individualistic or quantitative. Displacing the secretive and corrupt hoarding of knowledge as data can only be achieved by shifting the paradigm and recognising that knowledge is collective. We know deeply when we know together and we know together when we find out together what is happening by taking action. It is difficult to resist going into this in more detail. It was an ecological activist from an indigenous people in Brazil’s Amazon region who brought this home to me when she proposed ‘epistemological rebellion’. It is theatre as an art which, from its roots as an instrument of human knowing, lays bare the ability that we have to know ourselves and know the world in the same instant.

There is absolutely no comfort for me in knowing that what I am saying will be judged to be irrelevant to those who might best be able to put it into practice. Such is the awful situation that we are in. We have been rendered powerless and this means that the ruling elites only have power by having power over us. Why do we let them get away with it? Because we think they know more than us? There has been absolutely no response that would lead me to believe that this question of unity and the ‘knowing’ that I am proposing as the basis of it is considered important. My colleagues who have proposed a ‘Covid-19 HQ’ as a centre for a united response have remarked after one encounter with an influential labour movement organisation that ‘we are talking a different language’. There’s just no conversation. Nobody has said: “It’s already happening” “It’s unnecessary” “That’s no way to do it!” “What the hell are you talking about?”

The movement that has erupted in response to the murder of George Floyd has exposed the racist foundations of the US regime and the UK’s historic institutionalised link with it. This is linked in a complex way with the vulnerability of the BAME communities to the impacts of virus. In this crucible the deep issue of unity is already presenting itself. I am impressed by the slogan: ‘White silence is violence’. I’m white. How can this solidarity express itself beyond the necessary gestures and expressions? This may be the beginning of the resistance movement, far more dynamic than my arcane call for rebellion in the form of an information network but perhaps not exclusive of it.

Members of the scientific community have already shown the lead by creating an alternative voice to the Government’s co-option of ‘science’ in the setting up of the Independent Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. The open letter from the opposition parties is interesting in this respect. As well as this there have been major disagreements from the remaining members of SAGE over the government’s relaxation of lockdown timing. The kind of connection I alluded to in my last piece between science, politics and commerce is exemplified by the latest issues and actions surrounding the anti-malarial drug, Hydroxychloroquine. Once again I would persist in saying that the underlying issue is that of transparency and of information management.

People have responded to the government’s track and trace app by refusing to participate because of the privacy issues involved. Months ago responsible technologists voiced their concerns in an open letter. The app was developed by Pivotal, a subsidiary of the US software company, VMware who are owned by Dell Technologies. The tracing contract has been awarded to US call centre company Sitel and the staff training is being undertaken by Serco. What public oversight of these companies is there? The government had the opportunity of mobilising our communities’ skills and talents and at the same time localising the delivery of a testing, tracking and tracing system through local NHS trusts who already have strategies in place through the organisation of responses to food poisoning and infectious disease management. There is an example of an initiative by retired Health professionals in Sheffield mentioned in an article in the British Medical Journal. Read there what Professor Alyson Pollock has to say about the importance of working through local networks centred around Doctor’s surgeries.

The government is unworried by the effectiveness of their strategies against the virus and are looking for the benefits that they can gain in the ‘recovery’ process. Why is there no coherent resistance to this? It is to do with a complete naivety about what a national emergency involves and a wholesale swallowing of the ‘story’ that these creeps have constantly re-spun that we are engaged in a ‘war’ against a dreadful virus. Their political management strategies are the only thing that is transparent yet the political culture we live in is so saturated with masculinist and idiotic ideas about strength and power that we are reduced to one dumb response to all situations and blinded to how the simple inculcation of fear is being used to herd us into grovelling allegiance.

At the moment the opposition is suspended, resistance is deferred. There is a belief that eventually there will be a settling of accounts and the government’s incompetence will be exposed and those responsible reprimanded. This is because there is a belief that the governmental chaos is to do with the extraordinarily difficult situation with which they have been presented. This is complete nonsense. Everybody gets very excited about the Chief Adviser breaking the lockdown rules. Strident calls for his resignation are bleated abroad. Given the Number 10 rose garden for his public apologia, he tells the public that this major breach was made in order to test his eye-sight. They’re having a laugh. It’s a display of power covering the use of it. What these boys have planned will make the great bankers’ bail out after 2008 look like petty theft. The great public inquiry will be just another episode in the charade and by that time it will be too late. The basic terms of the settlement, an orgy of deregulation and privatisation, that will be enhanced by the absence of a deal with the EU, will already have happened. We will be left being outraged once again.

Most of what I have said here is a repetition of what I’ve said before. It is difficult not to repeat political commonplaces in calls for unity and resistance. I’ve had a go at beating my little drum and this is the last post.

The CV-19 impact: Scientific and International Differences

I curse the day I made a commitment to myself to write these pieces about the ‘situation’ we are in during this pandemic. I was happy writing plays that I knew no theatre on earth would opt to produce. Now I look around and see a world in which theatre may be considered the most contagious art and that if like in other sectors we are going to be left only the well upholstered ‘centres of excellence’ all that’s worst will persist in an anaesthetised form. Effectively there may be no theatre on earth so it will be doubly impossible to get my plays on. I will talk about that in the next piece in this damned series.

Before I entered this recent period of playwriting after I returned from a working trip to China, I emerged as a Masters of Science in Ecological Economics (Sustainability) from the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. I’d worked as a theatre director/writer/company artistic director/course director for decades. In 2009 a dreadful curiosity beset me. Most of my course was concerned with climate change models. Trying to engage with the complexity of the microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, politics and economics of the ‘situation’ reminds me strongly of the pain I encountered when attempting to come to terms with ‘uncertainty’ in earth systems modelling. It brought me to tears. The margins of error in measuring, for example, ocean temperatures (the mechanics of the instruments), the complexity of the feedback loops involved in the albedo effect as the ice sheets decreased, the interaction between the increased salinity of sea water due to acidification and oceanic carbon take-up, the countervailing process produced by fresh water entering the earth’s oceans from melting ice coupled with continuing alterations in human production systems, mitigations, adaptations all combined in a single model where the scientists were feeding in data from their own area of expertise in a situation where it was impossible to know about the field of a scientist who was entering data from theirs so somebody working in cryospheric changes knew next to nothing about the impact of changes in consumption of plastics and that uncertainties had to be measured, in terms of complex combinations of probabilities, that were due to the interaction between the data coming from different scientific areas.

What I did learn was that when it came to dealing with the impacts of climate change and building human resilience, the social systems that adopted ‘bottom up’ approaches where community needs and information was gathered, listened to, collated, organised in a participatory way were 100% more effective than ‘top down’ organisational structures. No doubt. Informed engaged communities create effective resilience. An open and shut case.

If you are unfortunate enough to have found yourself reading these disagreeable attempts at sense please bear the foregoing in mind. Also, I have put no references in this piece but if you want to find out more about any of the assertions do contact me.

There are differences within the scientific community about aspects of the spread, identification and treatment of CV-19. This is unsurprising. How these are being aired and how they relate to differences in national approaches may tell us a lot about ‘recovery’ strategies. Looking at these issues means understanding the political and commercial interests involved.

There are a number of differences in the scientific community. One is to do with the modelling of the spread of the virus. One school contests that the virus has followed patterns formerly seen in other similar pathogens and may well be now past the peak of its impact. There are disagreements about the lethality (the ratio between the number of cases and the number of deaths) of the virus. People who believe that the virus has moved beyond its peak impact tend to be associated with those who believe that the lethality has been over-estimated.  There are differences around the accuracy of the testing processes, particularly with the most common method which is based on Polymerase Chain Reaction identification. The difficulties in testing are to do with problems encountered in the isolation of the virus. As I understand it, the virus is a Ribo-Nucleic Acid but the testing processes are able only to sequence and ‘amplify’ DNA. This and associated problems of accurate definition and isolation make understanding the relationship of the virus to the etiology of disease indecisive. This also means there are questions about anti-bodies and whether immunity is created in people who have recovered from the impact of the virus.  There has been some circumstantial evidence that the malarial drug, Hydroxichloroquine or Chloroquine can help resistance to the disease. This issue has two aspects; one is the use of this antimalarial drug to reduce recovery time for sufferers and the other is its use as a prophylactic or preventive treatment. There is evidence that the drug can be harmful if applied to people who are suffering advanced respiratory collapse. On the other hand a drug called ‘remdesivir’ has just been adopted as a treatment here in the UK. This is produced by US pharmaceutical company Gilead Inc. In January 2020 this drug was sold on license to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and during trials in March it was discovered not to have effect in reducing recovery time from Covid -19 and had adverse effects. Nevertheless this drug has the backing of governments and the World Health Organisation. Gilead is a large and politically powerful company on whose board Donald Rumsfeld once sat. Gilead developed ‘remdesivir’ for use against Ebola, then against SARS, then against MERS. In January laboratory testing started for its effectiveness against CV-19. There’s nothing against the supposition that cures exist and are waiting for the appropriate diseases to emerge. I’m suspicious and I have to admit to being prejudiced against Donald Rumsfeld but what worries me most is the lack of clear lines between government and business. In a recent Horizon programme which claimed to be about the science addressing the virus these other dissenting perspectives were totally excluded. Science only appears to be speaking with one voice. The UK government’s mantra has been that they are following the science. But which science? Already their Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies team has been riven by dissension, mainly over the question of transparency. Surely there should be clearer public information. It is for this reason that I reiterate the need for there to be a popular movement of resistance based on publicly-sourced knowledge and information.

One way of seeing how these differences of scientific opinion are enacted is to ask what it was that led to the UK government to change tack from the strategy of allowing the development of the population’s natural immunity to conforming to what was becoming the more internationally accepted strategy.  This appeared to be in response to the key paper produced by Imperial College. In this paper two basic strategies were outlined one of which was ‘mitigation’.  This involved ‘lockdown’ and flattening the graphic curve which measured the rate of transmission of the virus.  The other was suppression which involved lock-down/social distancing plus testing, tracking and tracing the incidents of the virus.  We could say that the national strategies fell broadly into these two options with Sweden and Brazil offering eccentric approaches and the UK and the US pursuing mitigation but ineffectively and without resolution because of the severely deteriorated public health systems in both countries.  The commonplace argument as to why this turn in policy took place is that the government had its attention called to the disastrous and politically unacceptable consequences of the impact on the public health services and the care sector of following the ‘natural’ ‘herd’ immunity route.  The government had to conform to what other countries were doing or face destabilising comparisons which may damage their political credibility. 

How did this scientific consensus emerge in relation to political considerations?  How were these political considerations influenced by commercial pressures? What commercial pressures are active in the scientific community? Were other arguments put about how the lockdown strategy could be used to political advantage and how it might advance the interests of production sectors that the Tories wanted to keep onside?  In looking at the views, on the one hand, of the ‘dissenting’ scientists and the ‘orthodox’ science community, on the other, one issue stands out: the search for a vaccine.  The question of the effectiveness of a vaccine has been radically called into question by the ‘dissenting’ community on a similar basis to their criticism of the accuracy of the prevailing testing processes.  From the point of view of microbiology this turns around the ability to isolate the virus and be able to clearly understand its impact on other organisms.  There have been calls from extremely powerful individuals like Bill Gates, for universal vaccination. What is the relationship between the interests of the big pharmaceutical corporation and the information technology ‘giants’. The relationship between testing and tracking and tracing is operationally close. Are the main players in this system commercially close? The pharmaceutical operation that can produce an approved vaccine will make a lot of money, especially if we accept that the only way of managing the impacts of the virus is through a mass vaccination programme.  Of course there may be competing ‘vaccines’.  All those seeking to receive public money for research, the development and the production of vaccine on a mass scale will have an interest in emphasising the virulence of the disease, its exceptional part in the ethology of disease, its complex symptoms, its multiple physiological impacts and its widespread intergenerational impacts.  The relationship between public and private institutions in these activities is obscure.  Public health services present enormously rich pickings for a capitalist system constrained, because of the falling rate of profit, to predate on public goods.  Health is big business as is the development of the technologies that are at the interface between microbiology, nanotechnology and bioengineering. A recent indication is the expansion of the genomics sector which relates therapeutic procedures to genetic profiling.  The data processing involved in tracking and tracing adjoins with the collection and management of genetic information.

The strategy of lockdown and the population controls involved, the centralisation of data collection that it enables, is a business opportunity for already powerful corporations and the association of these powerful communications controllers with pharmaceutical corporations is already taking place. 

The UK government are engaging with logistics and public service organisations complementary to these organisations. This may have been why the lockdown strategy, as well as helping to save lives through relaxing pressure on health services, appeared attractive enough to turn government policy.  It would be reassuring if our public institutions were under democratic control or even subject to the requirement for transparency so that conflicts of interest, if not prevented, were at least visible.  However, the people who stand to gain most from the development of an approved vaccine and all the other special services and activities demanded by the situation created by the pandemic are at the heart of the governing circles.  It is as if there are two divergent scenarios. One is a virus that will be suppressed through widespread immunity created through contact and the other is virus that will continue to plague the human population until a vaccine is found. Neither is likely to be completely true. But the pertinent issue is that no scientific work is free from political pressure and no political strategy is free of financial pressure. Along with centralisation secrecy is enabled and without transparency and popular participation the situation is open to corrupt manipulation and this is inevitably accompanied by incompetence. This is the political and social culture we need to resist.

I cannot make a judgement about whether a universal vaccine and the inoculation of the entire human population – or at least all those who want immunity passports – is a good idea. Look at the actions of institutions with which Dr Anthony Fauci has links. He is head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is a chief adviser to the US government. He rose to prominence during the HIV epidemic of the 1980s. His organisation has been a conduit for funds to the Wuhan Institute of Virology. They were carrying out a joint study with Fort Detrick, a US military biological weapons research establishment which was hastily closed down in August 2019. International co-operation in science is important. People working working in epidemiology and immunology know each other and collaborate across frontiers. However as soon as aspersions were made about the Wuhan Institute being a possible source of CV-19, the US funding scheme made by Dr. Fauci’s NIAID through an intermediary organisation was withdrawn? Why? What was being hidden? Was it because knowledge of this link might give credence to a suspicion that the source of the infection may also be the source of the cure? Why was there no public debate. It would be upsetting if Dr Anthony Fauci stood to gain financially from the development, patenting and sale of a global vaccine.

In Naomi Klein’s recent article she warns about the domination of the post-Covid world by tech giants and she calls the recovery settlement dominated by these corporations a ‘screen new deal’. She describes the appearance of ex-Google boss Eric Schmidt next to New York Governor Cuomo in one of his public addresses. Schmidt was promoting the prospect that many public functions like education and health could be brought online and an implicit vision of a world where the privileged may no longer have to leave their houses while the poor – who presumably will be deprived of immunity passports – will be productively organised in massive distribution warehouses and food supply centres.  Surely we should be ensuring access to public information about what this world dominated by tech giants and Big Pharma may look like so we can decide whether we want it.

While the opposition to the government in the UK is being distracted by the idiotic behaviour of the government’s chief adviser and cooing with admiration at the forensics abilities of the leader of her majesty’s loyal opposition, investment accounts and contracts are being prepared and even operationalised – with the accompanying socially-distanced flesh being pressed- to give enhanced powers of control to a new and unsavoury gang consisting of charismatic overgrown puerile schemers and the arch knowing fixers of nano circuitry.  

The science is highly politicised and commercialised. The supposedly most powerful man/person in the world (not for long maybe!) advertises that he is taking a particular cure. Sales escalate. Institutions tremble. Authoritative scientific reports are produced. Institutions lose their funding. Even as the action in response to the impacts of CV-19 are articulated through ‘science’ so too will be the ‘recovery’ strategies. I emphasise again that it is these that may be far more deadly to human life than the virus.

What will be the consequences of all this for international relations? Will the responses to the virus reorganise the relationship between nation states. And how far will the recovery from the CV-19 pandemic be determined internationally?

The virus is international but the political strategies it has evoked have appeared to be uniquely national. So some kind of shake up is involved and the scale is massive and the depth is fundamental. Comparable upheavals to this pandemic, measured in terms of stress on public resources and the scale of exceptional financial arrangements, are the Napoleonic Wars of the early nineteenth century, the First World War, the Second World War, the Great Depression of 1929 and the 2008 financial crisis. These all led to major changes in the political shape of the world. This is the first pandemic/economic crisis that has been global in its impacts. Each nation-state has conducted a different campaign to suppress or manage the impact of the virus. This is to do with the relationship between the social state (national) and the economic state (international). Health and the reproduction of labour power (reducing the cost of doing so) is the business of the capitalist state. Even in a hybrid state organisation such as the European Union it has been noticeable that each nation-state has separately been required to manage according to the level of its preparedness and of its public health infrastructure. The southern states have been exposed because after the 2008 crisis it was only they that had to apply cuts to social spending. These states (Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece and France) have been faced by the refusal of their northern partners to develop a eurobond that would enable them to spread the load of the borrowing they are constrained to make. Germany, Netherlands, Finland have in some instances deprived their partners of vital material as well as financial assistance. This structural inequality has led to fissures in an already volatile union and exposed the myth of ‘social’ Europe exposing the EU as a bare economic structure.

If nation-states’ struggle against CV-19 is a war, it is a war of a peculiarly internal sort and on the face of it the peace settlement that will follow seems like a domestic issue. So even as the national strategies for management of the impact of the virus have been variations on certain key science-affirmed ‘narratives’ conforming broadly to international imperatives, the recovery strategies will be shaped by a similar combination of internal and external factors.

We know that the spinal cord of politics unites ‘home’ policy and ‘foreign’ policy and the extended trick played by the ruling group is to conceal this vital connection by enacting policy through apparently separate government departments. What is the relationship between recovery at a local level and the global reorganisation of international order?

For example, what is the relationship between the demand for local authorities to maintain the higher quality of air gained during the lockdown through horticulturally attractive ‘parklets’ placed in roads to decrease pollution from motor vehicles and the five Iranian oil tankers, guarded by the Venezuelan armed forces, docking in the port of La Guaira near the Venezuelan capital of Caracas?

Venezuela has, rather like the southern states of Europe, been refused credit needed to mitigate the economic impacts of the virus. The IMF members were said to have disagreed as to whether Maduro or Guaidó might be the recognised President of the country. Iran has similarly been refused borrowing rights. At a recent online meeting of G7 foreign affairs minsters an argument broke out as to whether the virus should be called ‘corona’ or ‘Wuhan’, exposing the lineaments of the international contest that underlies the world of the pandemic. IMaybe the CV-19 pandemic is not changing our world but simply driving forward changes that were already taking place. The key determining movement has, for some time, seemed to be the escalating confrontation between the US, in decline, and China, in the ascendent. As the US Congressional Research Service’s Global Economic Effects of Covid-19 tell us, ‘policy approaches are displaying differences between countries that promote nationalism versus those that argue for a co-ordinated international response. They are also intensifying policy differences between developed and developing economies and in Europe between northern and southern members of the Eurozone’

As for the struggles on the ground like the action to secure environmental improvements at a local level, it is already clear that the UK government is moving in the opposite direction from a recovery that will be localised, democratic, participatory. There is a vital link between localised movements of resistance and for sustainability and resilience and international political alliances and movements.

In the supply chains to the Health Service the UK government has centralised the purchasing functions easing the way towards privatisation. They have centralised the track and trace systems, engaging the US privately owned contact centre company Sitel in the operation of these systems. They engaged Deloitte’s to organise the logistics for the testing programme. This transatlantic company is involved in what appears to be collusive relationships with other so called ‘public service providers’. It was found guilty of improper auditing of Serco subsidiary, Serco Geographix in 2009. It was the internal auditor for Carillion before it went into liquidation.

Rather than engaging in regenerative democratically controlled and participatory strategies that galvanise peoples’ ingenuity by using the enormous public resources that can and are being released, the UK government are planning to ‘bail out’ large corporations and secure the corporate and financial sector that has close and strong ties with US business. All this indicates that it is these alliances that will be strengthened during the recovery process. This will forestall and extinguish localised public benefits? Even if this was not the case is this policy direction wise from the point of view of realpolitik? This might be the moment for a relatively independent and developed country to seek a unique unilateral path of development towards increased self-sufficiency, ecological sustainability and local empowerment.

All nation-states will become more reliant on the international alliances they make or they strengthen during this period. This is the importance of the Iran-Venezuela entente. The reason for this interdependence is to do with the role of currencies in the financial markets. All states have engaged in monetary and fiscal policies that put their currencies in unstable relationship to each other. The basic recourse has been to increase financial liquidity by ‘central banks’ buying government bonds thus ‘lending’ money to the state. Also there has been a relaxation of the terms by which banks are able to make loans. The attendant danger of increasing liquidity is of inflation, of money losing its value. This will leave more vulnerable economies liable to have their assets and property bought up by holders of more robust currencies and will lead to a disastrous increase in the centralisation of wealth, i.e. inequality. In the past couple of days two governments, Lebanon and Argentina have defaulted on their interest payments.

At the beginning of this period of instability two tendencies were in evidence. One was to head for safety by buying dollars or assets held in dollars, the other was to buy Chinese government bonds. According to one trader this was the “single largest change in capital markets in anybody’s lifetime”. The Chinese People’s Bank is the largest holder of US government bonds. Many Chinese corporations hold debts in dollars yet this bank has no immediate access to dollars. China must be looking forward to the time when transactions are no longer related to the dollar. If they started to sell their US government bonds this would erode the value of the dollar and create a major shift in financial power undermining the US and exposing its enormous indebtedness. It is only secured by the strength of its military or its military spending.

The UK is effectively a US client state and the interpenetration of their banking, economic and political structures shores up the value of sterling. So it is vulnerable. The UK under the Tories has gained no independence nor sovereignty by becoming independent of the EU. In asking whether it is wise for us to integrate more strongly with the US I am not necessarily suggesting China as an alternative special partner.

China produces 90% of the antibiotics used in the US, it produces 70% of the ingredients for drugs production. An added dimension to the weakening of US power is decarbonisation. As the world moves away from oil the dollar’s position as its key benchmark value indicator becomes more precarious. A few weeks ago crude oil attained negative value. This is to do with the downturn in consumption and the limits on world storage capacity.

While the US were stealing shipments of medical equipment and while the ‘northern’ EU states were refusing to allow Italy to borrow money, the Chinese medical delegation arrived in Northern Italy with medical equipment supplies and a banner proclaiming ‘We are waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden’. I’m not saying the Chinese are nicer or better than the Americans I’m simply pointing out their relative strength and confidence. It isn’t a matter of morality, it is a matter of integrity and survival for the UK to move away from this dependence on US power.

In these circumstances the policies of the Labour Party in the last election for a nationalised and publicly controlled pharmaceutical industry and for a nationalised information technology network may look enlightened and attractive.

Contrary to the policy of her majesty’s loyal opposition in its basic support for the government in what is falsely called its ‘war’ against the virus, the opposition should be animated by deep and imaginative demands. This is a turning point moment. The scale of the resources being released through public borrowing and the potential for participatory investments led by local needs and the development of the foundational economy can increase community resilience locally and human resilience globally. Since these resources are public resources the people should be actively engaged in their disposition. This will produce the skills and tools that will put us in the situation of being able to show material solidarity to communities all over the world. The UK government strategies are leading us towards dangerous partnerships.

But as I said in my blog before last resistance to the government’s ‘disaster capitalism’ has to be based on superior intelligence, derived from participatory information and knowledge management.


The CV-19 impact: popular resistance

This is the third piece in this series.  The next will be about international impacts Monday 25th May

 I recall working at a conference in Italy in 2005 with theatre practitioners from Sri Lanka who were running projects with victims of the 2004 Tsunami.  At a certain point one of them turned to me and said:  ‘You don’t seem to understand. It wasn’t the Tsunami that caused the suffering it was the ‘recovery’ operation’  The coastal communities had been moved into camps and the shoreline was sold up to hotel chains.  This of course makes perfect economic sense! Look at what happened in New Orleans with Katrina.  Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine describes the phenomenon of ‘disaster capitalism’ where predatory grabs are made on public goods in the wake of catastrophe. While we are clapping on our doorsteps the Tories are privatising the health service .

Where is popular resistance? People throughout the land took effective action against the spread of the virus. We are in an uncertain period now waiting to see what the relaxation to the lockdown may bring. At the same time the number of cases internationally is rising. Will people be able to build the resilience of our communities against the activities of the ruling elites never mind about the next virus epidemic? Already our teaching community is under attack. What kind of unity can there be? People have had very diverse experiences of this period of ‘lockdown’. There are potential divisions between administrative ‘white collar’ workers and manual ‘blue collar’ workers, between those in good housing with outdoor space and those without, between those on ‘furlough’ and those who have accumulated debt. Is unity necessary? The Labour Party’s attempt to construct a consensus through its seven points shed no light. Will the attempt by the TUC to influence a recovery plan work or will they, like so many times in the past, be incorporated into the deceptive strategies of the elites? Searching around for initiatives I came across only one that described building an active alternative network: ‘A People’s HQ for Covid 19’ In my opinion this limits itself too strictly to an appeal to the Labour Movement. I was also impressed by 350’s Principles for Just Recovery from Covid 19 and the campaign that resembles it, Build Back Better. This phrase is common in global disaster recovery philosophy and may have originated in publications by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

I became preoccupied by the question of information management. I believe that popular resistance can be more effective if an alternative source of knowledge can be created. At the moment we have no shared idea of what the impacts of the CV-19 might be. Is there a way of engaging hundreds of people in building a big picture of what has been happening in our society? This would give people an active relationship to this big story and therefore create active knowledge. A network of researcher/correspondents in every locality (or constituency), in every industry and sector and in every special community (the disabled, the visually impaired, the mental health service users, communities coping with death and grief, ethnic groups, LGTBQ refugee and migrant organisations). The work could be co-ordinated in a brilliant website where the quantitative and qualitative information could be cross-referenced. It would be like Mass Observation and the Doomsday Book all rolled into one and online! It would give an alternative source of knowledge built up through popular participation.

The most powerfully moving aspect of the work of the International Panel on Climate Change is the high level of collaboration and management of information between scientists all over the world. Its work is divided into working groups. The first and original working group was the one concerned with physical science. It was later that a the second working group began its work. This is the one that takes accounts of impacts. I believe that this offers a model of practice and provides definitions of what impact means that could be carried across to the much more hasty and urgent work of researching the impacts of CV-19. This brilliance and organisational ingenuity of the scientific community could be brought to bear and linked up with popular researcher/correspondents.

The initiators of the ‘People’s HQ for Covid 19’ may have found a warm reception from The People’s Assembly Against Austerity which is already carrying out key work in its Making Sense of the Crisis campaign. The project that I’m describing that has the working title of ‘together’ would need the support of broad-based organisations but I believe it should include all aspects of the resistance. It will cost thousands to administer and manage. It must start by bringing together into a ‘temporary think-tank’ experienced activists from the environmentalist/green new deal movement like Andrew Simms who alongside colleagues from the New Weather Institute is producing innovative and quickened creative thinking in the narratives assembled in the Rapid Transition Alliance, also social scientists such as Mariana Mazzucato, who has developed penetrating analyses of the relationship between state research and private industrial exploitation. These people should be working alongside experts in media management like Greg Philo from the Glasgow University Media Unit who have produced the ‘Bad News’ series. I, of course, am hopelessly disconnected from direct links to the kind of talents that should be brought together to devise the informational template and the sectoral and local definitions that can make information data collection coherent. But working alongside online space designers this is what the temporary think-tank should be able to do.

The political elites, and their frontmen in the Tory government, rely more than anything else on information manipulation and spin. This is why the Covid Act, which is in force for two years, suppresses freedom of information, puts Coroners’ reports under tight government control and gives it draconian powers over personal data. Any effective resistance will have to create an alternative authoritative source of knowledge. This is already experientially alive within the population. It has to be centralised in order to be coherent but it can be activated from the bottom up.

The devising and launching of this information network, ‘together’, supported by broad-based organisations and fed by the inventive culture of the social science community, could be receiving data and reports within weeks. We must provide ourselves with a big picture of the impacts of the CV-19.

The CV-19 impact: Production and Reproduction

This number two of a series of pieces about the impact of CV-19.  Next post on Thursday 21st May The CV-19 Impact: Popular resistance

Correct me if I am wrong. The CV-19 like all viruses is not a life-form. It does not have a cell structure. There is no mitochondria in its genetic material. It cannot reproduce itself. This is why viruses are categorised by the species with which they coexist. Something like 10% of the human genome is composed of DNA viruses. The CV-19 is a particle of genetic material, a strand of nucleic acid, or in this case ribonucleic, seeking to reproduce through contact with a host body that has the capacity to reproduce it lacks. The virus is pure reproduction. It might be that this action of particles of protein DNA and RNA mixing and self assembling eventually created cells and thus life on earth began to evolve. We really are dealing with very powerful and original processes. What has happened in this instance is that the virus has migrated from one species to another which does not have the preventive power to cope with the reproductive demand. This is happening more and more because of the human disordering of ecosystems through invasive and extractive production systems. We know the other diseases that belong to this group (HIV, SARS, Ebola etc.). The processes of viral migration is collateral with the mass species extinctions and the biospheric transformation associated with capitalist production.

Our rulers and their media diffuse utter stupidity. They talk about a dreadful enemy; they ask for heroism; they clad their so-called policies with science. Chief amongst the idiots described his encounter with the virus as being like one with a mugger that wrestled him to the ground but he, strong of body and mind…….I can’t continue. ‘Unhappy is the land that needs heroes’. Indeed we may be among the most unfortunate of all lands to have such witlessness current within our ruling circles. They presumably imagine that once this great battle is won and we are proven to have got the better of CV-19 we will be able to get on with the real purpose of our lives which is to enrich the wealthy. As they try to save their own arses and cling on to power they cannot see the reality of the situation we are in. If they admitted what was happening with CV-19 they would have to admit what is happening with climate change and the catastrophic relationship human capitalist society has to other species, other forms of life. What kind of resilience does our society have? This will not be the last species-migrating virus though this one may be relatively more gentle than the ones to come.

The UK government are engaging in catch up, reacting to events and putting ‘a spin’ on them in an attempt to control the population. The initial turn in their policy away from that of ‘laisser faire’ or ‘herd immunity’ was because considerable sections of the population were withdrawing their children from school. It was only then that they decided to imposed a ‘lockdown’, creating a completely misleading and provocative image of social processes. Their natural inclination is to ‘bang up’ people. Now they are facing a rebellion from a similar section of the population as they try to coerce the teachers into reopening the schools. Their view of schools has nothing to do with education. They need to get the schools open in order to get people back to work.

It is in the reproductive processes of our society that resistance to this obsession with ‘the economy’ will grow. It will be amongst women and carers, curers and teachers that the current governing elite will find itself coming unstuck. It will be against the insane centralisation of governing and distributional processes that opposition will manifest itself. They are currently engaged in a struggle with Google and Apple because they want to over-centralise the data gathering processes. Hierarchically control-obsessed they cannot engage with horizontal structures. The UK government have even ignored the enormous local productive potential of providing for the new needs that have arisen during the pandemic. They have outsourced and militarised. Home-based producers have been sidelined. Blinded by quantification and finance they haven’t been able to see the foundational economy. They really do think that creating wealth is to do with making money!

According to their ingrained basic assumption reproduction should cost nothing. The production of labour power must be cost effective and internationally competitive. The great nineteenth century social philosopher who analysed capitalist society by scrutinising its cellular composition came to the conclusion that the commodity form contained two contradictory elements, use value and exchange value. He pointed out that in our social system the latter obscured the former. So he pointed out that the relationship between people will appear to us as the relationship between things. He described how it was the commodity that demanded that it be taken to the market and that finds the willing hands to so do. Our lives are being determined by forces that since they are inexplicable are irresistible. The UK government would rather persuade us that the virus is a mystical force, an enemy being, against whom we must pitch all our goodness. Lynne Margulis clarified the definitions of life forms bringing to our attention the collaborative processes involved in cell reproduction which helped species definition and thus advances in virology. Primatologist Sarah Hrdy brought to our attention to the key role played by female-centred organisation of allo-parenting (or babysitting) in the development of intersubjectivity. Also see Dr Jane Goodall’s view. Of course the scientists I’m pointing to are women. Will our society make a profound turn towards basing our society in reproduction and be able to place these processes in a more fruitful relationship to production? Or will we continue to permit these gangs of predators to prey on our love?