"...it's not the training to be mean but the training to be kind that is used to keep us leashed best." ~ Black Dog Red

"In case you haven't recognized the trend: it proceeds action, dissent, speech." ~ davidly, on how wars get done

"...What sort of meager, unerotic existence must a man live to find himself moved to such ecstatic heights by the mundane sniping of a congressional budget fight. The fate of human existence does not hang in the balance. The gods are not arrayed on either side. Poseiden, earth-shaker, has regrettably set his sights on the poor fishermen of northern Japan and not on Washington, D.C. where his ire might do some good--I can think of no better spot for a little wetland reclamation project, if you know what I mean. The fight is neither revolution nor apocalypse; it is hardly even a fight. A lot of apparatchiks are moving a lot of phony numbers with more zeros than a century of soccer scores around, weaving a brittle chrysalis around a gross worm that, some time hence, will emerge, untransformed, still a worm." ~ IOZ

Feb 10, 2011

Refueling the Entrenchment of Class

Per AOLHuffington:

"Reports that President Barack Obama's upcoming budget will propose steep cuts in the government's energy assistance fund for low-income Americans ricocheted quickly on Capitol Hill Wednesday, spurring some intraparty squabbling.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) wrote a letter to Obama asking him not to drop funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) by about $3 billion."


Forgetting for a moment that this so called "intraparty squabbling" amounts to naught but posturing (I mean, really...New England senators making useless noises about home heating oil subsidies? That's "squabbling"? Fuck you, Huffington Post. Get back to us when Shaheen or Kerry slap Obamulus across his smug pursed lips, and drawing some blood, take a real stand...),  Obama is doing what he is being paid to do. He's a man of his Reaganite word. Even before he took office, he promised budget "discipline," which to almost anyone but the Republican faithful, means budget cuts:

"...President-elect Barack Obama on Tuesday emphasized his commitment to fiscal responsibility, promising that his team would strip the federal budget of all unnecessary spending to help offset large outlays expected for his planned stimulus package.

But Mr. Obama didn't provide many specifics, and he gave little sense of how he would tackle entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security. Few experts believe the budget deficit can be brought under control without trimming spending on these programs."

Say what you want about the State and government, in general,* but fuel assistance, while obviously providing a captured subsidy to oil companies, makes a real difference for people who would otherwise run a considerable risk of freezing in the winter. It sucks to be cold in January, especially if the bulk of your income is already spent on food and the shitty roof over your head, before you ever cash your pitiful permission slip to shop at the company store.

Cutting fuel assistance, by a truly staggering five billion dollars, during one of the harshest winters in recent memory, says everything you need to know about Barack fucking Obama.

But, it's not really about Obama. He's an ass, a well paid ass indeed, but he is still nonetheless merely a piece on the board. He can order the death of innocents. He can start wars with relative impunity. He can send sky robots to murder children and count on the press reporting on his wife's dress size instead. But, he is not the root cause. He's a symptom. An agent of a world order, not the order itself.

And that order, to put it very simply, is capitalism. I don't have a Marxist, anarchist, syndicalist or New Left critique in me, right now. That's too many words, anyway.

Capitalism is an order. It's deliberate. I don't mean to say or imply that it's a conspiracy, a plot or a grand web of interlocking directorates. It's not. But, each and every one of the choices made by those who rule and those who benefit from that order are made with certain ends in mind. These are people who have goals, and they're relatively easy to understand - they want to be wealthy, they want to protect their wealth, and they want to be secure in it. Since wealth is both material and comparative, this means they have to have stuff and they have to stuff that other people don't have.

It's not wealth, in the capitalist sense of that term, unless most people cannot possess it. Capitalist wealth depends, fundamentally, on enforcement of scarcity.

I'm not writing anything particularly new or insightful, at this point. Others have surely said or written it better.

But, it needs to be repeated. Capitalist wealth does not exist without disparity, poverty and inequity. The modes of production, and the forms of power and enforcement, develop in this environment. They are created and recreated, continuously, to maintain capitalist disparity of income, distribution and control because the awareness of material conditions, and human interaction, which capitalism inculcates in those who embrace it, tolerate it, surrender to it and promote it depends on this systemic exclusion of the bulk of humanity. Capitalist wealth is only wealth if the majority of people do not have access to it. Capitalism is fundamentally inconceivable without enforced disparity.

So what Barack Obama is doing is what his service to the capitalist order requires of him. He is enforcing the disparity and redefining those mechanisms of control to suit the new special conditions which now emerge from the flux and chaos of a declining age.

Ours is a revolutionary interlude, perhaps even an interregnum - a rare moment when one order (Westphalia, late industrial capitalism) ends but another has not firmly taken root to replace it.

Returning to some earlier themes, I think there's a vital context which needs to be understood:

"Rich people (this means, people with concentrations of wealth and power) use available resources to keep what they have, and obtain more, or more kinds, of it.

Sure, they make deals outside of public scrutiny. That gets easier and easier, mind, as the perceptional topography know as "the public" dwindles. The more shit gets privatized, the more the
res privata grows, the less material, space and loyalty to find tied up with the res publica.

Powerful people build the organizational pathways which allow them to best meet this end. Call it access, or superstructure, or just country club living.

To those without power, this might look like a conspiracy, a world of backroom deals. But that perspective comes with a primary error (I believe), namely that the existential spaces in which the majority of us live (that dwindling public space, and our own tenuous private and familial existences) provide the main arena where political and powerful shit really happens. If we believe that power derives from our quotidian choices, it doesn't take much leaping clearance to assume, wrongly, that what rich and powerful people do behind our backs amounts to conspiracies, backroom deals, boiler room corruption and all the rest of the distracting movie narrative fare.

That dwindling public space, and our own parochial lives,
do not constitute the arena of power, no matter how many times the boss types try to placate us with tired slogans, such as "consent of the governed," "Main street," "will of the people" or "security of the homeland."

They do what they do, as a class, because they want to protect their wealth.

They pass and enforce laws defining property relations (with concomitant punishments for failure to obey), because doing so keeps them rich and powerful. They pass health care reform legislation, built on threats of force, because it keeps in place the mechanisms which transform our labor into their wealth and power. They send us to die in their wars because it puts nice toys in their yards and their kids into the best schools.

They don't need conspiracies and unwieldy epochal plans to do so.

By and large, they get away with it because we've got no effective choice in the matter. The consequences for insurrection (or even mere disobedience) range from heinous to fatal."


But, because their world order and their wealth is now dependent upon and entrenched within a productive system which exists to exploit a resource which has a significantly shortened shelf life,
they now have to make adjustments to the enforcement mechanisms of their power, or risk losing it all. Having crafted an Emergency model for crisis management as a response to earlier consolidations of power, and their aftershocks, we should understand, I believe, the order of the world - the conceptual map - which the wealthy comptrollers of history now inhabit:

"...An order, we should understand, that requires continuous Emergency - peripheralized insecurity which must of necessity threaten the comforts and complacencies of the well governed interiors. An order resembling everyday corporate structure, and its political analog, the garrison state. As long as threats, seemingly perpetual, emerge at this expanding periphery, the state offers a validation to the program of militarization which must appeal to the ruling, creative and managerial beneficiaries of its powers.

They
[The Invisible Committee ~ Jack] continue, further on, 'Crisis is a means of governing. In a world that seems to hold together only through the infinite management of its own collapse.'
 

This process, outlined in greater detail by Naomi Klein, in "The Shock Doctrine", and hinted at by John Perkins, in "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," depends upon a catalog of manufactured instabilities.

These destabilizations do not arise from unintended glitches within the firm and government based management of capitalist accumulation, but from the specific, necessary and ongoing transfer of national welfare state capacity towards police-military control.

As the primary resource fueling later order capitalism - oil - approaches its revaluation as a luxury commodity, the surviving managing states must look for a new approach to stability; it must look to what populations it will protect, and which ones it will exploit and control. If international currencies can no longer depend on trade in fungible petroleum for their exchange value, then one of the final necessities of the modern nation state, and the international system of loans, debt financing and trade agreement, no longer acts as a pervasive bond between it and subject populations, losing its ability to discipline the citizenry with monetary policy. Without this oil based international order, the ruling factions must re-conceive the disciplinary nation state, configuring it to protect the wealth and welfare of a smaller class of beneficiaries, while retaining the power to police externalized populations.

Oil will not remain a widespread commodity into the next generation. If disciplinary states cannot retain their hegemony over captive populations their usefulness as delimiting organizations ends, setting into motion a period of intense competition for contested resources, as newly unrestrained actors search for advantages
without enduring systems for conflict mediation. No longer assisted in conflict management by nation states, and the application of captured labor receipts to the military gelding of underdeveloped populations who happen to sit on resources, finance and extraction firms lose the capacity to shield their actions under the aegis of national interest and public security, exposing themselves as direct agents of alienation, violence and systematic oppression.

Exposing their operational logic to the immediate pressures of rebellious populations.

The modern nation state, understood in this light, remains vital as a buffer against direct opposition to exploitation, absorbing the violence, outrage and justified anger of laborers and the dwindling classes of petty small holders. For an American example, see the Tea Party. Or liberal political advocacy organizations.

But, for the nation state to serve this function, and with any degree of efficiency, it must shed either its excess populations, its welfare capacity or some of both. In the US, we have a very successful prison industry, as well as the marginalization of foreign and "illegal" workers, to provide a species of population shedding, since institutionally alienated populations (poor blacks, immigrant Asians and Latinos), subject to the control of prisons or deportation, do not immediately threaten the state's field of operation. They instead provide a justification for it, and for the increasing police-militarization of social life. In Israel, see Palestinians. In France, the residents
des banlieuses. In Germany, Turks and other immigrants.

Returning to a theme first announced above, the dismantling of the welfare state must either proceed at an increasing pace, so that the state can return to direct management of populations through isolation and violence, thus safeguarding the accumulated assets of the ruling class, or it risks collapsing before those same ruling classes can properly corral subject and captive populations into new zones of control, buffer and instability...


...The ruling class - represented in this age by corporations, military hierarchies, academia and managerial service institutions - has already cast its lot against the Commons as shared public space. It has begun the revaluation of the state, and therefore of social relations, towards the preservation of economic and social advantage in the face of oil contraction, resource scarcity and rising population. Towards this end, deconstructive crisis hastens the project of redefining the Commons as a policed military space, and away from three centuries of construction and agitation for the Commons as commonweal and social amelioration..."

Continuing:

"...The liberal capitalist state must consolidate its newly defined powers, shedding the excess weight of social amelioration outside of those zones which provide it with donor and subject populations.

It will cover this transformation with the veneer of reformism until such time as surplus populations no longer present a counter-weight of numbers, and as long as it can provide distractions.

The consolidation of the state power in the executive echoes the consolidation of economic mastery within liberated financial-banking-insurance combines. Liberated,
as in from the social restraints of the welfare state, which recognized the potential for revolutionary insurrection by ameliorating against it.

It will use these newly arrogated police powers, or it it will serve no use to the capitalist powers which provide it with its leadership, and who benefit most from the cover it provides.

And use those powers it will.

Because cops and soldiers need people at whom they can point their weapons."


Because this happens, now, at an accelerated pace, the taxpaying and subject populations of Western (and client) governments and states, especially in North America, have been faced with a steady and unrelenting onslaught of images and narratives reconstructing the meaning of borders. Here's why:

"...Let's elucidate the reason any state** or proto-state (see, for example, multinational corporations operating in the "third world") has borders. Borders delineate populations. Borders, when enforced, demonstrate (a) who controls the territory within them, and (b) whom they control.
Borders define captivity.

As such, all borders*** serve the purpose of warfare, since a border marks the boundary between competing powers
who have captive population groups upon which they can draw for labor, arms and fealty.

The division of persons into territorial, ethnic, religious and branded factions, by those who rule, allows the same ruling classes to isolate population groups by manipulable categories, categories which the state and other powers reinforce through compulsory education, religious indoctrination, language barriers, advertising and punishment.

Borders work, in short, because people believe them. The violence employed against border and boundary violators, the blood spilled or the lives imprisoned, serves a very specific purpose: the inculcation of identity through fear. Identity which, when accepted, marks the relevant parties as captives of the ruling power..."


Summing this all up - this redefinition of borders is not really new at all, and it is not merely territorial. These divisive delineations are in fact the same old ones which have riven human society for at least five thousand years - these are the enforced borders of class.

So that when Barack fucking Obama does what he's paid to do, and cuts five billion dollars from the heating assistance program, he is in fact doing it to (a) preserve the power of his class as the economic relations upon which they depend go into flux, to (b) reshape the enforcement mechanisms of the State by continuing the project of eliminating its ameliorative functions, and to (c) continue the capitalist project of defining wealth by defining who is and must be excluded from it.

Or something like that. I could be wrong. I'm probably wrong...




* - and I certainly, as a misbegotten anarchist, have my convictions on the subject in oppositional order...

**- "The 'state,' a fiction, serves as shorthand for "people organizing themselves in hierarchies, with armed staffers, with control over a large enough resource base to allow for the continued application of population controlling violence."

*** - "Borders overlap. Mafia organizations have territorial and ethnic rivalries contained within national borders, as well as operating in spaces controlled by competing corporations and other hierarchies."

7 comments:

Charles F. Oxtrot said...

Excellent, Jack.

One thought, re LIEAP: I applied for that program 3 years ago when I was unemployed and broke. I received no assistance. The explanation: my assets (the house I was trying to heat, which is located in one of my town's poorest neighborhoods) were worth too much for my income level.

If that's the bureaucracy of LIEAP's effectiveness generally, I say scuttle it.

BDR said...

Thanks for this. I'd been fuming the past couple of hours and noodling sentences - this is so clearly a sign to Corporate heading into the election cycle that Obama is a reliable servant - but now that you've done this I can stop noodling sentences (if not stop fuming).

RealityZone said...

The day will come where the living will envy the dead.
They have only begun with [austerity Americana].

fish said...

Rule number one in balancing the budget:

Never, NEVER, mention the Pentagon. And since you don't you are not serious about balancing the budget.

Jack Crow said...

Charles,

Thank you. For my own part, I really don't care much for effectiveness. I know that has little bearing on your personal circumstances, but after years of running companies effectively, the word has the same stink and bad taste, in my head, as "rape" or "slavery."

BDR,

If I have written anything which serves as cause for you not to write, I should be inclined to spray paint my face with a mixture of formaldehyde and turpentine.

RZ,

Always. But also, comes the day when the rich will envy their former instruments and never again know the peace of their power...

fish,

Heh. Any state which balances its budget is close to collapse.

Thanks all,

Jack

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

He's a man of his Reaganite word.

Reaganites don't care about the budget. They produce budget deficits, see the 14 trillion we have.

They do care about transferring wealth and governmental assistance from the 98% to the 2%.

You are correct, this is what Obama is signaling to the plutocrats and their Beltway employee-cheerleaders.
~

Jack Crow said...

Under,

True. I should have been more clear. A good Reaganite/Reaganist cares about giving the correct lip service to budgets...