Guest post: a reply to Alexis Fitzgerald

27 May

Two weeks ago an essay appeared on the Lockdown Sceptics site by one Alexis Fitzgerald. Headed, The Left-Wing Case Against Lockdown, it began thus:

I consider myself to be left-wing on virtually every political topic: I am a socially-liberal social democrat who believes in a strong social safety net, high-quality public healthcare for all, robust environmental protections (including shifting to renewable energy sources immediately and protecting half of the globe for nature), restorative justice, legal abortion and reducing inequality and corporate influence over politics. I despise Donald Trump and believe Brexit was a huge mistake. I am firstly presenting my political biases in order to dispel the caricature that has emerged of lockdown sceptics as being all right-wing, Trumpian Brexiteers. I think this labelling has been very unfortunate and misguided, as I too believe that the lockdown policy in response to Covid-19 has been an utter and complete disaster, and that most of the left have gotten this issue completely wrong. I will argue that the position of the lockdown sceptic really should be a more naturally left-wing cause to adopt, and those on the left should not be distracted by the reflexive partisan politics and virtue signalling that has taken over so much of the debate around lockdowns.

The left should be interested in protecting working class and marginalised people and shielding them from economic hardship and exploitation, first and foremost. However, by many reasonable projections, these lockdown policies are delivering us into the worst economic depression in world history, and this will certainly negatively affect working class and marginalised people more than anyone else. Small businesses are being swallowed up by the thousands by large multinational corporations like Amazon …

Though agnostic on CV-19 severity and on lockdown as a principle (not to be confused with its delayed and clownish implementation in UK and USA) I see Fitzgerald’s essay as riddled with flawed reasoning. His definition of ‘Left’ would comfortably accommodate Tony Blair and the Clintons while the remark about Amazon’s windfall confuses cause with catalyst. Other flaws include a reference to an “invented” two metre rule on social distancing – whatever we think of lockdown, two metres was not plucked from thin air – but that’s by the by.

I showed the essay to bevin, a BTL commenter whose knowledge, articulacy and breadth of perspective have long impressed me. Here in full, edited only to break up long paragraphs, on the ground that online readers don’t like ’em, is bevin’s response to Mr Fitzgerald.

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Thank you for sending Mr Fitzgerald’s essay.

I’m unsure what left wing means in this context. The entire capitalist system is in crisis – social, economic and political, ideological – and this left winger is concerned that capitalism may not be restored quick enough.

He appears to believe that the priority in these times ought to be to preserve the economy, whereas I see that economy as being the problem. Unless it is replaced there are going to be successive pandemics with increasingly horrific consequences. What we are seeing develop around us, and it has barely begun, are the consequences of an economy in which the production and sale of commodities is all important and the satisfaction of the material needs of the masses at best incidental.

I recently read the Frank Snowden book on Epidemics in history. The chapter on ebola is particularly instructive. The ground for the disease, which came very close to developing into a pandemic itself, was the dispossession of the subsistence peasantry from their common lands. This is, as you know, a process taking place around the world, and involves massive clear cut forestry campaigns, leading to short term lumber booms as the ancient trees are sold off, and, on the lands in which the people lived, the foundation of plantations. A few centuries ago these were sugar plantations, then there were cotton plantations, rubber plantations and currently it is Palm Oil that takes the (no pun intended) first prize.

But the basic result remains what it was when the villages of England were being depopulated and the pauperised victims of enclosure and commodity production were being driven into the cities in which they died, for the most part very quickly, after having been stripped of every quality (from labour power to sexual potency) and residue of wealth by the bourgeoisie.

We tend to look back on that age through the pages of the Hammonds or EP Thompson’s eloquent evocations of the past. But in most of the world that past is today and tomorrow: villagers in Honduras being pushed aside for mines (and palm oil plantations) Filipinos or Peruvians evicted from the lands on which they have lived for generations suddenly ‘reclaimed’ by land’owners’ who replace subsistence farming with asparagus or cut flower production for American or European luxury trades.

(When this sort of economy closes down, far from the local poor suffering they actually stand to make gains – the flowers (there being no air freight expresses) no longer being wanted in Belgium, the gardens can be used again to produce vegetables, fruits and grain crops for local consumption. Without the constant demand, now stalled by the ‘lockdown’, for Palm Oil the forest begins to reclaim its land, the aquifers begin to recover, the pools of standing water, infested by mosquitoes, dry up. The slums empty somewhat as villagers return to the land.)

It will be argued that I am missing the importance of the employment that these plantations provide – the seasonal labour to harvest, the young men needed to guard the boundaries of the plantations against the depredations of its former owners, the girls growing fat in the Senor’s harem, the odd tractor driver, mechanics and Bayer/Monsanto chemical dispensers. All of which are unlikely to amount to a tenth of the number of those who used to live off the lands now devoted to monocultures, certain, within a few decades, to collapse of their own effects upon fertility, drainage patters, climate etc.

Desertification is as much an inevitable consequence of the economy as pandemics are a function of globalised trade, rapidly growing slums (cf Mike Davis Planet of the Slums) and a population becoming poorer and poorer, worse nourished, worse housed, worse fed in conditions of rapidly deteriorating hygiene and public health.

It will be argued that such observations are all very well but that in the here and now it is a matter of urgency to get ‘our economy’ working again or people will starve – it is good of Mr Fitzgerald to care – but I would argue that what the virus shows us is that ‘the economy’ does not work, except for the few. And that the many have no more interest in rescuing it than the cargo on a slave ship has in re-rigging the masts after a hurricane.

Far from wanting to get back to work I am in favour of stopping work entirely until the economy is returned to those from whom it was taken in the first place. In the meantime there is no excuse, and never was, for famine and society must be ready to take all measures necessary to preserve lives, to feed, clothe and house everyone and to expand the medical facilities needed to cope with the ballooning demand for them.

It is idle to argue, as does Mr Fitzgerald, that concentrating resources on treating virus sufferers and saving lives comes at the cost of allowing others – chemo patients, stroke and heart attack victims – to be neglected. There is no reason why the measures taken in the recent past forty years to cut available medical services should not be immediately reversed, firstly for this pandemic and then for future purposes. I can think of no more marvellous scene than that of a staff room in a hospital full of highly trained and motivated people with nothing to do – to every health minister we have had in memory this fabulous concept would appear to be obscene. Wards full of unused beds, cafeterias full of jolly nurses reading books and waiting to be called to work. Doctors playing chess or reading journals because there are no patients …

Must we face the near probability of a devastating second wave of infections to restore a semblance of ‘normality’ to an economy in which most of the work actually being performed is arbitrage of one sort or another between consumers, being consumed by debt and a cheap labour pool actually melting away as chemicals, machines and computers replace human labour?

The reality of the current global situation is that, having been dispossessed of their inheritance long before birth, most of the seven billion people on this planet are – in terms of the ruling class and its economy – redundant. The great cause of the sudden increase in population lies not on positive steps taken by society – public health, sewerage, water purification etc – but in the disenfranchisement of which dispossession is an important part.

With the breaking up of communities and the displacement of their members, humanity loses control over its destiny and itself. Humanity is reduced to its individual constituents, in their turn reduced to basic appetites and instincts, one of strongest of which is the instinct to reproduce. Away from our environment and separated from our communities we become, like the virus itself, intent on reproduction before our disappearance back into the earth.

Malthus was not witnessing a natural process, had he been doing so the population of Britain would have been considerably greater (by several orders of magnitude) than it was when he wrote. He was observing a side effect of the Agricultural Revolution and industrialisation in Britain – a paradoxical process whereby life expectancy fell and the population increased enormously.

But I digress. In the final analysis what we are facing is a crisis in the system. A crisis that it cannot resolve without – as the herd immunity episodes show – being ruthless with the weak. And to do this the system has to mobilise the slightly less weak to do the weak in. Mr Fitzgerald is one of the slightly less weak arguing the case to sacrifice the even weaker. Its the old Jay Gould calculation – ‘hiring one half of the working class to shoot at the other half’ – renewed.

The breaking point here is not between ‘left’ and ‘right’ but between those who want to keep capitalism alive and those ready to seize the chance to get rid of it. For those like Mr Fitzgerald and most of his commenters, who believe it is a matter of urgent necessity to get the capitalist system back to work, the jobs revved up again, the consumer demand bubbling, the Academy doing its thing, the motorways crammed with traffic, the sea lanes bursting with imported widget parts, the stock exchanges humming, I have bad news: those days are over.

The ‘economy’ might have Covid 19 on its death certificate but the autopsy will show that at the time of death it was suffering from several fatal diseases, financial and social. It would not have lasted many more months. It was already being given massive transfusions of debt by generations of workers yet to be born – the game was pretty well up.

The good news is that for most of the world the demise of this system will be no loss, in fact it will put them in a position to make their lives and the lives of their fellows much longer and better than they were doomed to be under the rule of Wall St, the City and its police forces.

But there is bad news for Fitzgerald and his generation: the finger of fate has selected them to make a revolution. Or not. And that is likely to be, at least in the short term, an uncomfortable change. Nobody likes to be homeless. Nobody likes to be conscripted, by anything including historical necessity. And nobody likes to lose the comforts of the few certainties with which we are born, the chance to duplicate, as it were in spades, for ourselves, the life trajectories that those who preceded us followed: to live the comfortable dream of modest prosperity, family love and affection, friendly neighbours and occasional essaying tastes of different worlds.

On the other hand, if they are enrolled in the cause of replacing capitalism with a community based on solidarity (love), equality and justice (at last), their names will live forever.  And if they don’t, the present is not an alternative. Capitalism if it does not die will kill us all. And not just us either, but the bees and the rabbits and the trees and the oceans, the very elements of life.

On the other hand, I could be wrong and this system, cobbled back together, might limp into the future past the mid century mark, a gated city under siege by nature and surrounded by the angry billions that it has condemned to death. If the ‘left’ means anything it means that it chooses the side of those most in need of assistance, the weak, vulnerable, disfranchised-the outsiders beyond the gates.

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27 Replies to “Guest post: a reply to Alexis Fitzgerald

  1. Thanks for this link, Philip. I had no idea that such a site existed. I shall have to investigate.

    I think that your comment about confusing “cause with catalyst” really sums up the entire issue i.e. that the virus is not the cause of an economic meltdown but will speed up the one that is going to happen inevitably.

    Bevin’s talk of epidemics in history does indeed highlight a crucial matter. I imagine that any of the Off-Guardian contingent wandering in here would feel irritable about this part of his reply. They would think, “Oh what has all this boring stuff got to do with us?” – a response that sums up a whole world of arrogant Western solipsism. Although, to be fair, many (perhaps the vast majority) of UK citizens have a narcissistic attitude partly because it is only natural for the inhabitants of any society to think of their society as normal and capable of indefinite prolongation, and partly because such an inward looking attitude is relentlessly encouraged throughout the media.

    The fundamental point is that the system we have lived under and benefitted from for the duration of our lives is no longer sustainable. The severity, or otherwise, of the virus may not even be ultimately relevant. The crash is coming anyway. One theory I have – and this makes me sympathetic towards the sceptics – is that the ruling class are well aware of impending meltdown and are using the virus to pre-empt the calamity on their terms. If you take bevin’s point about empty hospitals and re-directed resources, where he says this:

    “There is no reason why the measures taken in the recent past forty years to cut available medical services should not be immediately reversed…”

    I would say that there is every reason to believe that these measures will not be reversed under a government that didn’t want to provide these services in the first place. Which of course is where the battles begin.

    • … the system we have lived under and benefitted from for the duration of our lives is no longer sustainable …

      Many in the West who place themselves on the Left, especially babyboomers like me who have grown up in an unusual bubble, don’t get how totalitarian capitalism is. We know little and care less about the global south. Or we buy the lie, implicit in the term ‘developing world’, that it’s lagging behind but will catch up. Either way we fail to see that our good fortune – itself fast disappearing, the business case for caring capitalism having gone with the USSR – is premised on their misery.

      • Your baby boomer comment made me think of Ellen Meiksins Wood’s description of the “postmodern” mentality with its comfortable mixture of the overly pessimistic (“Well what can you do?”) and the overly optimistic (“Hell it ain’t so bad anyway!”):

        “There is one other especially curious thing about the new idea of postmodernity, one particularly notable paradox. On the one hand, the denial of history on which it is based is associated with a kind of political pessimism. Since there are no systems and no history susceptible to causal analysis, we cannot get to the root of the many powers that oppress us; and we certainly cannot aspire to some kind of united opposition, some kind of general human emancipation, or even a general contestation of capitalism, of the kind that socialists used to believe in. The most we can hope for is a lot of particular and separate resistances.

        On the other hand, this political pessimism appears to have its origins in a rather optimistic view of capitalist prosperity and possibility. Today’s postmodernists (typically survivors of the ‘sixties generation’ and their students) seem to have a view of the world still rooted in the ‘Golden Age’ of capitalism, the dominant feature of which is ‘consumerism’, the multiplicity of consumption patterns, and the proliferation of ‘life-styles’. Here too they reveal their fundamental ahistoricism, as the structural crises of capitalism since that ‘golden’ moment seem to have passed them right by, or at least to have made no significant theoretical impression. For some, this means that the opportunities for opposition to capitalism are severely limited. Others seem to be saying that, if we can’t really change or even understand the system (or even think about it as a system at all), and if we don’t, and can’t, have a vantage-point from which to criticise the system, let alone oppose it, we may as well lie back and enjoy it.

        Exponents of these intellectual trends certainly know that all is not well; but there is very little in these fashions that helps, for example, to make sense of today’s increasing poverty and homelessness, the growing class of working poor, new forms of insecure and part-time labour, and so on.

        Both sides of the twentieth-century’s ambiguous history – both its horrors and its wonders – have, no doubt, played a part in forming the post-modernist consciousness; but the horrors that have undermined the old idea of progress are less important in defining the distinctive nature of today’s postmodernism than are the wonders of modern technology and the riches of consumer capitalism. Postmodernism sometimes looks like the ambiguities of capitalism as seen from the vantage-point of those who enjoy its benefits more than they suffer its costs.”

        • As succinct a summary one is ever likely to encounter of the stark limitations inherent in the pretensions within the post modernist mindset and what passes for its world view.

          A summation which could only be improved with the addition of an example to illustrate the observations. Something along the lines, perhaps, of a simplistic binary choice or dichotomy limited by individual subjective self definitions which are self evident at that level and therefore must be so.

          The thought had occurred to fill this gap. However, on further observation of this thread it appears such effort is now superfluous to requirements as that particular requirement has now been more than ably provided for.

  2. Another writer who would seem to be favourable to Marx but on the “skeptical” side of COVID is one Norman Pilon. He includes an article by a medical expert John Hardie:

    https://normanpilon.com/2020/05/26/thoughts-and-concerns-regarding-the-new-corona-virus-john-hardie-bds-msc-phd-frcdc/

    The opening of this article lays out obvious presuppositions:

    “The late winter and early spring of 2020 will be earmarked in history as the era of, “The Great Corona Virus Pandemic.” It remains undecided if this designation will be one praising the collective efforts of all to defeat an invisible foe, or if it will be remembered as a public health over reaction which precipitated an economic disaster.”

    The first possible outcome that he mentions (“the collective efforts of all to defeat an invisible foe”) seems a tale of unambiguous triumph in which presumably, once the foe is defeated, we carry on as before. The second (“over reaction which precipitated an economic disaster”) clearly implies that an ensuing economic disaster would be CAUSED by the pandemic (and therefore, without the pandemic, there would be NO economic disaster).

    It seems to me that this position (which is the common skeptical one) reflects that comfortable attitude I previously referred to via Ellen Wood’s comment.

    • How might one be more or less certain that the Sars-cov-2 pandemic might not at all be what it appears to be?

      I always like to track things down to original sources whenever possible.

      Here is an example of what I have in mind, something I’m recycling from an email I wrote to a friend (and though I’ll exclude all appropriate links in this post to ensure my comment doesn’t automagically end up in the spam bin, you can follow up those links HERE, where this bit of recycling appears as a preamble to something I posted by Dr. wolfgang wodarg):

      Merely to clarify what was my original note and as a point of emphasis:

      Dr. Wodarg posts two additional links on his website (HERE and below) to studies by Drosten et al. that ‘prove’ that their test targets viruses known to have been established in the human virome before the so-called emergence of sars-cov-2.

      One link references a study from as early as November 2010, titled:

      Genomic Characterization of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome-Related Coronavirus in European Bats and Classification of Coronaviruses Based on Partial RNA-dependent RNA Polymerase Gene Sequences

      But especially interesting is a study referenced from January 2014, titled:

      Ecology, Evolution and Classification of Bat Coronaviruses in the Aftermath of SARS

      From the abstract of that study, you can quote the following:

      “We then present evidence for a zoonotic origin of four of the six known human CoVs (HCoV), three of which likely involved bats, namely SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and HCoV-229E; compare the available data on CoV pathogenesis in bats to that in other mammalian hosts; and discuss hypotheses on the putative insect origins of CoV ancestors.”

      (The emphasis is mine.)

      Now put that together with this quote from the detection study of the 2019 novel coronavirus:

      “These virus-positive samples stemmed from European rhinolophid bats. Detection of these phylogenetic outliers within the SARS-related CoV clade suggests that all Asian viruses are likely to be detected. “

      Clearly, then, the Drosten test is sensitive to viruses known since at least 2014 to have been established in the human virome. Thus, indeed, as Dr. Wodarg asserts: “Drosten’s test detects SARS-like viruses, that preexisted worldwide before Wuhan.”

      If you are testing for a pathogen already widespread in a population, it’s not the pathogen that’s novel and propagating, but your testing and its misleading results. In effect, the so-called ‘pandemic’ is an artifact of the testing.

      As for the piece by John Hardie, the crucial bit for me comes in the very first section titled, “The New Virus.”

      So what do we have, there?

      Reference to the original study that claimed to have found a new RNA sequence presumed to be ‘material’ from a virus (which it may or may not be ) and a complete lack of any demonstration in that study that the presumed virus even causes any disease, the latter assertion being beyond all doubt, what with the study clearly stipulating that for the presumed ‘novel’ virus, Koch’s postulates remain unfulfilled. And yet, and yet, all subsequent research following in the train of that study literally jumps to the conclusion that the original study both discovered and demonstrated the existence of a new disease-causing virus. As Hardie puts it:

      It is a concern that in a short space of time a new virus considered a few days before to be a likely cause became universally accepted as the confirmed cause of the pneumonia although it had not [been] verified as the cause of a viral pneumonia.

      So, do we have a ‘novel’ virus?

      Or do we have for the first time the sequencing of a virus that has been there all along, as the Drosten et al. studies would seem to suggest?

      And where exactly is the ‘proof’ that if we do indeed have a ‘novel’ virus, that it causes any desease?

  3. Eye opening for me to read this.
    Capitalism is over. The designations of ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ were in effect references to one’s position ,i>vis a vis capitalism.
    A new dichotomy : the ‘New Normal’ and the ‘Old Normal’ – these are the effective choices of one’s political position in spring 2020.
    The New Normal should be fairly clear to anyone who has their eyes open. It comprises of a control society; medical marshall law; extreme ubiquitous surveillance; no freedom of movement; UBI rations from a central bank organised economic authority; digital money ;extreme enclosure of natural space and a financial system based on ‘ecosystem services’ and natural capital; de-population through famine and other means; China as dominant economic production zone; a fully globalised system featuring a Eurasian union, all administered through an AI internet with Israel as a major control hub; automated security and policing; genetic alteration of the human genome; transhumanism and scientism as driving ideologies.
    The New Normal is looking very likely, as it is being funded, pushed and promoted by the biggest concentrations of wealth and power on the planet. This is not theory. There is effectively no organised push back. Some nativist nationalists, some libertarians, some conspiriologists on the Left, no-one much of consequence with a workable alternative system.
    The Old Normal can only ever be an aspiration. There is no return to the old normal. The capitalist system is finished and cannot be brought back except maybe as a staggering, even-more-dysfunctional-than-before wreck.
    So what are we actually choosing by supporting one or other of these scenarios ? The New Normal probably is a route to human survival and planetary recovery of a sort, yet it is one that, fully considered, most people would rather not take. Is life worth living in such a world ? It will be for some. In truth the slaves are being offered a ride on another boat with hydrofoils and wireless, but they have to take a chip in the hand.
    There is no third option that I see. Supporting the lockdown and watching the famine and deprivation unfold as the world system unravels this summer is, in truth, tacitly plumping for the New Normal. There will be no revolution option in an automated AI surveillance society.
    Calling for the Old Normal back is really a call for a set of values that are being taken away from us -not those of profit maximisation or worker exploitation (these are the language of an era that has ended) but of more enduring values : freedom to assemble and share thoughts and ideas, freedom to be intimate with whom we love and whom we want to, freedom to relate to our own bodies and to nature. Choosing the old normal en masse would incur mass death too, probably more death, more chaos, extreme danger and instability.
    So what is Bevin implicitly choosing out of those two (I am sure he would say neither) ? Having considered myself of the ‘Left’ for the best part of my life, I now understand why Orwell described his dystopia as a ‘socialistic’ one. The ruthlessness of Marxists in their determination to see a system of equality reign on Earth will be matched by the fervour of those at the vanguard of this emerging New Normal abomination who want the human and natural world to continue. And who wouldn’t ? Thing is that people with good intent get manipulated. It’s an old story, maybe the oldest.

  4. “The ruthlessness of Marxists in their determination to see a system of equality reign on Earth”

    This has long been one of the bogeyman notions of the Right. But what does “equality” even mean? Marx wanted to remove the exploitative relation of capitalism, to free all from the compulsion to make a profit for a minority, to have communities actively engage in ordering their own resources. And in all this, everyone will always be different from everyone else. That’s how humans are.

    • George you write:
      This has long been one of the bogeyman notions of the Right.
      It has been a criticism of the non Marxists Left too.
      The revolutionary enters the world of the state, of the classes and of so-called culture, and he lives in this world only because he has faith in its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he feels any sympathy for this world. He must not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world -all must be equally detested by him. All the worse for him of he has parents, friends and loved ones; he is no longer a revolutionary if they can stay his hand.
      -Sergey Nechayev

      This paragraph below sums up these sentiments clearly too:

      The extremism of Marx, represented as well by the line of Marxist tradition that passes through Lenin, has always been extraordinarily callous to the sufferings of real human beings; and there is no doubt that Marx himself, occasionally revelled in the dream of wholesale massacres, with blood flowing in the streets. One is tempted to believe, uncharitably, that this consistent opposition to improving the lot of the workers by progressive reforms, rather than by violent revolution, had at least some of its roots in this dream. Lenin, Stalin, and Mao Tse-tung, although not representing Marx’s thinking in other respects, have been representative of him in the lack of concern for real people, in their disposition to cure the evils of society by subjecting actual flesh-and-blood to suffering and death on a scale that no one else except Hitler has ever approached.’
      -Louis J Halle, ‘Marx: His Death and Resurrection’

      My reading of, musings on, and encounters with those on the Marxist Left have left a similar impression : that the solution to human greed and avarice is not to put a gun in someone’s face a yell “stop being greedy”. Now I don’t read you or Bevin or Philip as calling for violent revolution, but we must all be careful to keep our humanity in clear sight as the system around us collapses. I have spent a large part of my life trying to bring a different system to the fore in our society, but I am aware that ideology can overtake humanity for some. Does not history teach us this ?

      • Yes, I’m sure you can give examples from any number of anti-Marxist authors as testaments to how thoroughly nasty he was. And also of course underlining the horrendous violence that Marxists supposedly always unleash etc. But anyone who could write this:

        “The extremism of Marx, represented as well by the line of Marxist tradition that passes through Lenin, has always been extraordinarily callous to the sufferings of real human beings”

        Is either a contemptible liar or an ignoramus. You only have to read through many passages in “Capital” to see the appalling suffering inflicted on the vast majority by the capitalist system. But you will note that this suffering is a different KIND of violence than the one envisioned by our concerned liberals and conservatives. The suffering that Marx so viscerally described is the slow insidious misery that percolates all the way down through a social order, that reduces the vast majority of the human race to the role of slaves, animals, cogs in a machine. Whole generations mutilated – effectively tortured throughout their entire lives. But Marx describes this in a dry-eyed and NON-sanctimonious way that may offend our concerned charity groupies.

        And what this leads to is, as always, “the gentleman who doesn’t like to hear his name mentioned” i.e. capitalism. This is a man who constantly drains you of all you have but gets morally outraged when you turn and slap him in the face.

        Your other quote (from Sergey Nechayev) is familiar in its manoeuvres. The logic is that the revolutionary is totally destructive simply because, by a tautological observation, he wants to change things i.e. he is a revolutionary. The obvious presupposition is that the existing system must be totally accepted as “natural” or “God given”. It is also presumed that everything in this system must be necessarily attached to everything else. And by this peculiar move, the revolutionary is apparently attacking his very own family!

        Furthermore, neither myself nor Philip nor bevin are talking about those conveniently universalised forces “greed and avarice”. We are talking about that ever-bashful chap “capitalism”. And as for us not calling on violent revolution, well that is out of our hands. How polite and proper can you remain as “the system around us collapses”? How polite and proper can you remain when the government and their capitalist bosses continue to rob the majority until they no longer have even the essentials to survive?

        • Once again a timely summation which highlights the a la carte (or perhaps, to be more accurate, the a la Karl Rove) nature of much of the make up your own subjective based reality and ignore the inconvenient which represents the self identified “school” of post-modernism.

          In terms of the selected (and selective) criteria being applied exclusively to Marx (amongst others) the best which can be observed is that it represents a gratifying recognition from long aknowledged experts (and their tacit acolytes) with a far longer, far bloodier, and far more insidious track record on the basis of that criteria.

          As a mere Groucho Marxist (who would never join a faction which would accept me as a member) it is certainly of little surprise that the the shyly identified and useful pro Capitalist “left” would not want to engage in detail on that criteria.

          To paraphrase (and caricature) a well known observation:

          “Apart from the Enclosures of the Commons (a pre-requisuite for capitalism on a par with a Central Bank etc) and the resulting forced movement and pauperisation/deaths of populations; the deliberate attempts of genocide and wiping out of cultures of native peoples from the Americas through to Asia, Australia, India, China, etc along with the enslavement of millions over several centuries (all on the basis of a hierarchical class and race exceptionalism involving the often cruel death of hundreds of millions of human beings); the philistine reductionism and atomisation of all relationships to a single monetary unit which undermines all social and human values; and the pathetic projection of this onto others to divert attention from it; what has Capitalism ever done for us?”

          The constant wars of conquest for resources; the forced undermining of other market forms (Taylor’s Scientific Management was ‘sold’ to Lenin as the means to ‘modernise’ the underdeveloped Russian industrial economy by a Capitalist West whose working population had rebelled against) and deliberately induced famines and diseases; the consistent manipulation of populations through “public relations” inspired propaganda (Goebbels himself was inspired by Berneys).

          All other the globe over not decades but centuries.

          On that chosen criteria Marx and Marxism has a long way to go to catch up.

          As you observe, George, Mr Capitalism and his willing helpers do not like being named. Nor, in the words of a well known Corporal, do they like it up ’em.

  5. “There will be no revolution option in an automated AI surveillance society.”
    Why is that?
    There is much that is frightening about the possibilities in a total surveillance society but there are also exciting prospects. The question is whether it is necessary to assume that power, in a surveillance society, will always be in the hands of an exploitative ruling class. I am not sure that it is. Surveillance could be used merely to discover what public opinion is- what people want.
    One of the distinguishing features of the politics of authoritarian societies is the presumption that it is impossible to understand what the masses want, or even whether they care. For example the Chartists were in a long line of popular reformers who argued that, for representative institutions to work, much more frequent elections were necessary. Others went further and insisted that the recall and initiative were refinements to democracy.
    None of these earlier generations had any conception of the sort of information technology that we have access to. Are representatives of any kind even necessary? Could not their votes in Parliament, for example, be ‘cast’ by constituents following proceedings remotely?
    Whatever else we might think of the pandemic it is unique in history in the breadth of the discussions that it has provoked and the accessibility of the discussions to all. Without straying very far from the main roads of information it is possible for anyone to get access to far more than the ‘official’ view of the situation. And then, in places like this, to form one’s own views or challenge the orthodox and the popular opposition.
    Surely this cannot be a bad thing? Not unless we believe, along with the ruling ideology, that only a select few, properly indoctrinated, respectably inclined and always mindful of the need to be moderate and restrained, are capable of making useful contributions to public debate.
    One of our problems, of course, is that we have all read too many bad books, such as 1984 or Lord of the Flies, written by men disillusioned with life and resigned to the acceptance of those pessimistic ideas of ‘human nature’ which have always been promulgated by ruling classes. (Has crank read The Possessed?)

    • Surveillance could be used merely to discover what public opinion is- what people want.
      Maybe you’ve drawn us to the crux of it Bevin ?
      Surveillance has generally been considered in Western culture to be an anti-social activity. I don’t think you are implying that Orwell was motivated to write his works purely and simply because he was ‘disillusioned with life’ – indeed someone truly disillusioned with life would not embark upon the arduous task of writng a novel. I think he and other writers were highly motivated by a moral objection toward the state spying upon their own citizens without consent (or possibly knowledge)- and that such surveillance is required by authoritarian states (all states ?) to maintain their power structure, thereby running counter to the notions of human community and the trust which lies at the heart of human relations.
      Now one could argue that a benevolent and truly representative state could engender genuine consent to be surveilled. Some argue nowadays that people who are/ have been downloading apps and software which tracks and traces (even before the Corona -app) are indeed- by agreeing to the ‘terms and conditions’ before use, consenting to being surveilled. Does this not lead us just to the questions of ‘what is consent ?’, ‘what is manufactured or coerced consent’ ?
      I think at the root of this are two visions of what it means to be a human being. If one believes that humans are essentially complex machines, able to be objectified and arranged into a larger machine called ‘society’, then there opens up the road to a kind of scientism-ic approach to social organisation. This is how I understand Marx’s efforts. From what I read, he wasn’t a people person – he read and wrote incessantly, but had relatively little interaction with the workers he wrote about, or even the intellectual circles of 19th century London. He was a somewhat unworldly man who was focussed on his theories to the near total exclusion of cultural participation or any deep appreciation of the natural world. If that is a fair description, it doesn’t make him a ‘thoroughly nasty’ person in my eyes (quoted from George above), but I personally am sceptical about the value of a set of theories coming from such a person.
      Now consider the New Normal, driven by Bill Gates and his organisation here in the West. He is a quite different person, absurdly rich, a mere slither of the intellectual genius of someone like Marx, and morally a degenerate it seems, but arguably similar to Marx in that he is a nerd, a social misfit, someone driven by his own vision and somewhat closed to the influences of nature and culture upon that vision. He is scientism personified.
      So I see a degree of continuity between the Marxist hope of a scientific politics and the dream of algorithmic centralisation in the New Normal. I would argue that they ultimately spring from the same desire to formulate society around a vision of humans as machines – the former in an egalitarian shape, the latter in an oligarchic one. I think this is why some on the Left see the Covid crisis as an opportunity, and why some on the Left are unwilling to seriously consider some of the facts around the virus itself.
      China of course plays a role in the emergent system, and this is a place which it is argued does surveil and nudge its citizens according to a genuine quest to find out what they think, and to shape the society in response. I wouldn’t want to live in China. I know two people closely who live there and I think the values there would clash badly with mine, so I wouldn’t want to see a Chinese style system to establish here either.
      I can see a value in information technology replacing parliamentary representation as you describe. In fact I am working with someone at the moment who is trying to develop a system for just that. It is something that has been talked about for many decades as you know. The question is how it is done. I am someone who sees humans in the other (mentioned) way, not as machines, but embodied spirits with the potential for truly free will and a kind of universal ‘mission’ to develop and excersize that free will. So such a digital commons would have to reflect this to gain my consent. (And that would be informed consent not restricted by the kind of censorship that we have seen shutting down dissenting views about nCov2 over the past weeks – censorship sadly cheered on or ignored by too many on the Left. )
      What alarms me is the acquiesence to a narrative that is patently absurd. The virus is, according to official stats from around the globe, a relatively minor medical problem. Whilst it continues to be regarded as a massive threat demanding radical responses, it will remain an absurdity that will lead the people to atrocities. Once we are all track and tracing and distancing and groups gatherings become memories, and censorship and surveillance become accepted as necessary to ‘control the virus’, ditto digital money, then there will be no room to organise any kind of alternative. This is the sole reason I shout for the ‘old normal’ – not any attachment to neoliberal capitalism which I have sought to dismantle my whole adult life.
      Thanks for the Dostoyevsy recommendation. No have not read, but will seek out.

      • If the virus should turn out to be, or have been, a rather minor medical problem that will be a very good thing. It will mean that the number of those suffering and the number of those dying will have turned out to be smaller than it might have been. And that will be great, much better than discovering, as we might, for these are early days yet, that it was a massive medical problem scything down millions around the world.
        One of the benefits of the crisis that it has caused has been the questioning that it has prompted of the very nature of the current economic system. However severe the pandemic turns out to be it was certainly severe enough to test the public health systems of many countries to the limits and to demonstrate that society needs to invest much more heavily in every aspect of the health system, it needs to re-evaluate its attitudes to workers above all, for most of the failings of the system can be traced back to campaigns to break the unions in healthcare and to deskill trades and professions such as nursing and cleaning, in order to cut labour costs and accumulate more capital.
        The crisis, leading to closures of work places, has also necessitated a revaluation of the current unemployment systems and serious thinking about the implications of a precarious, freelancing labour force.
        It has highlighted some of the weaknesses of the capitalist system and focused public attention on the need to reform it.
        It has also, by stripping the mask of familiarity off the face of the medical professions, revealed the extent to which eugenicist and malthusian ideas have become conventional wisdom among intellectuals: we have seen how routinely, on economic grounds, old people are deprived of oxygen or water or food and shot up with morphine so that they die. We were used to thinking that such incidents were isolated horrors, we are beginning to discover that they are routine practices in hospitals and other medical facilities.
        And this, too is leading to popular questioning of the nature of the society in which we live: we knew that it was a society which wrote off the lives of six or seven in every ten people on the planet. But it was believed that the tendency was for society to become more humane, and for ‘civilisation’ to spread wider in the world, drawing more and more people into the charmed circle of prosperity and literacy. Now we have seen that the tendency is actually the reverse: that every year the plight of the poor in the metropole descends towards that of the “Third World.” This is not surprising-the jobs that the working class used to have went elsewhere, to cheaper labour, it makes perfect sense that the employment replacing them is more like that of the poor in Calcutta or Cairo, a daily struggle to ‘make a buck’ without benefit of social safety nets, trade unions or paternalistic states.
        And all this newly acquired knowledge is a good thing. If it can be shown to have come at minimal cost in terms of lost lives and human suffering all the better. But it has come and that is what is important: more people now know what sort of a world we live in, and this means that one of the obstacles-ignorance- to changing it is diminished.
        Let me add that the problem with those, like the Off Guardian duo, who regard the extent of the crisis as being exaggerated (which is what we all hope is true) as evidence of its having been planned and part of a campaign to change society in the interest of an elite of some kind is that there is not only no evidence whatever that this is the case but every indication that it is precisely ‘elites’ whose smooth path to greater power and more prosperity has been interrupted by the crisis and its awakening affects.
        Of course these OffGuardian types have form: they had similar theories about 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination. And what those theories had in common and have in common with the ‘Plandemic’ ideas, is that they harked back to a golden age in which, for example, before 9/11, the US Constitution was uniformly honoured, in which the US military never tortured prisoners and the CIA was not an agency carrying out regime change operations. And that all that was changed after 9/11 which was largely carried out in order to shock the American people into sacrificing their freedoms and endorsing violent military expeditions.
        And all that is, not to put too fine a point on it, nonsense: after 9/11 nothing changed in the way that the US state operated, nothing because of 9/11 or the Patriot Act, that is to say. The media did not begin to parrot the state line and sacrifice criticism of politicians because it had taken both steps generations earlier.
        The same could be said of the sad and sudden demise of Camelot in 1963, too: the idea that JFK was about to wind down the Cold War and withdraw US forces from SE Asia may be a lovely dream but there is no evidence that it was ever planned. The sad truth is that JFK was a Cold Warrior elected on a Cold War programme and committed to the Cold War. It might very well be the case that fanatics in the CIA and its fringes killed him because they felt that he was insufficiently committed to their ideas but that merely shows-what we all know-that Intelligence Services are full of paranoid , fascistic megalomaniacs with weird ideas and no self restraint.
        (I thought that you might have read Dostoevsky because you quote Nechaev.)

        • If the virus should turn out to be, or have been, a rather minor medical problem that will be a very good thing. It will mean that the number of those suffering and the number of those dying will have turned out to be smaller than it might have been.

          No. The argument about disproportionate response has passed you by. The tens of thousands of missed medical appointments (particularly cancer screenings), the emerging famine, the suicides are but three examples of ‘lockdown deaths’ which we can now all be confident will outnumber the total deaths due to the virus. These are deaths resulting from policies – policies opposed by some and supported by others. As one statistician put it, ‘Regardless of political stripes or one’s desired formulation of the economic relations in society, we should all agree that suspension of the economy will have huge repercussions for peoples health and life expectancy.’ Not many really considered that clearly in the panic. Note too that the virus itself has taken out predominantly older people, whilst those who will most suffer the ongoing effects of the lockdowns are young.

          Let me add that the problem with those, like the Off Guardian duo, who regard the extent of the crisis as being exaggerated (which is what we all hope is true) as evidence of its having been planned and part of a campaign to change society in the interest of an elite of some kind is that there is not only no evidence whatever that this is the case but every indication that it is precisely ‘elites’ whose smooth path to greater power and more prosperity has been interrupted by the crisis and its awakening affects.

          Amazed that you write such a thing Bevin. There is a significant body of evidence which is (at the very least) highly suggestive of foreknowledge and/or planning of the Covid events. They (OffG) and others have not, as far as I have seen drawn such conclusions solely from an assessment of the media/ government exaggeration of the lethality of the virus, but rather from consideration of (a) public documents and statements which clearly anticipated these events (in some cases down to remarkably fine details); and (b) the science of virus’s provenance itself (as explored in the interview linked in my last comment); and, (c) consideration of the links between known criminal cartels and the policy drive of the covid response (read Whitney Webb if you haven’t). So in fairness I think you make a poor argument there, perhaps because you have not followed up on the research.
          The arguments about elite disadvantage are precisely inverted to my understanding. You must have read how the FANGMAN companies at the leading edge of capitalist restructuring in recent years (Facebook, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Nvidia) are all seeing huge growth and expansion in these recent weeks ? The billionaire class are making a killing (note predicted increase of their wealth ~$200-400 billion in two months). Bailout II has taken place whilst we have all been locked into our houses – the biggest transfer of wealth in human history. Blackrock are now ‘working with’ the US treasury : they are running the economy.
          Why don’t more on the Left make noise of this ? Honest question.

          And all that is, not to put too fine a point on it, nonsense: after 9/11 nothing changed in the way that the US state operated, nothing because of 9/11 or the Patriot Act, that is to say. The media did not begin to parrot the state line and sacrifice criticism of politicians because it had taken both steps generations earlier.

          Again, this is so far from my understanding, I feel we are discussing different worlds entirely. I have to say that this is an extreme fringe opinion of yours, and that views coming from those expressing the full range of interpretations of the 9/11 events themselves, would almost all agree that 9/11 marked a step change in changed relations between states, and between the state, the media and citizens. Having lived through those events, that was my experience too.
          I was reflecting upon the past three years this morning. The only general election (UK) that I became seriously involved with was the 2017 Corbyn push – where I saw an opening for a different kind of political formulation and the potential for a big upset to the establishment’s grip due mainly to happenstance and to fortuitous timing. In my view, the bomb in Manchester and the street attacks in Westminster were the primary undoing of that chance breakthrough. Although it was arguably somewhat after the fact, I tried to engage fellow party members to explore these events as a route to understanding the mechanisms of power in our society – with the intention of bettering our chances of actually winning. There was no interest though. In fact, a dismissive and pejorative response was all I got. This marked the beginning of the end of my relationship with the Left, fueled mainly by taking a more critical stance towards some of its deepest held assumptions. Its been a difficult and unsettling time for me politically, and these events this year have (with some sadness) confirmed all that I came to think over those three years.
          Anyway, thank you for these replies Bevin, (and to Philip and George’s contributions) it has helped deepen my understanding of why so many who identify with the traditions on the Left have responded in the ways they have to these events this year.

          • This is where I agree with you crank. I was reading up on Marx just after 9/11 when all those alternate theories were circulating, and I didn’t see any contradiction between taking a Marxist view and also assuming the presence of conspiracies. So it puzzled me when I got into a spat with a Marxist called Richard Seymour and I saw him arguing with many who were beginning to question 9/11. That entire affair was a steep learning curve and it wasn’t till later that many realised the central prop: reversal of the burden of proof. But I don’t want to have to dig all this up again. Suffice to say that Seymour seemed to be stuck in a groove which had to be maintained for the image of the Socialist Worker Party which he was then part of.

            I think that if Marx were to come back today and he was told to avoid “conspiracy theory” he would just bellow with laughter. He’d say, “Well your overlords have certainly got you well trained!”

            Your comment about how bevin is playing down the significance of 9/11, reminds me of Noam Chomsky’s jaw-dropping evasions with respect to both JFK and 9/11. To the former, Chomsky said (I’m possibly paraphrasing): “Well lots of people die. Who cares if one was a president?” With the latter, Chomsky even went so far as to say that even if 9/11 WAS and inside job, it wouldn’t matter!

            • I wish more people on the Left had taken heed of the Parenti line of argument : that there is no mutual incompatability between structural systems analyses and those which propose a degree of conspiracy amongst elite actors.
              I think either approach taken singularly can be used to hide discomforting truths from ourselves. [NB With resepct to Chomsky’s comments – as a self professed opponent of the Marxist Left, he shows us that this dogmatic aversion to dealing with these topics is not limited to one political strand or another]

        • “Of course these OffGuardian types have form: they had similar theories about 9/11 and the Kennedy assassination.”

          I love the way you marginalise these “crazy theories”. Stephen King tried a similar maneuver after his JFK story which supported the Warren Commission. His wife disagreed and he referred to her as “a contrarian”. Since the majority of Americans suspect conspiracy, it is King who is the contrarian.

          The stuff about hearkening back to a golden age is typical straw man manoeuvring. You hardly have to assume there was some time of pristine innocence to feel that these convenient events are staged to fit an agenda e.g. in the case of 9/11, to provide a pretext to attack Afghanistan. Very much like the way the fraudulent Nayirah testimony of babies being ripped from incubators drummed up popular support for the first Gulf war. Your objection to this idea seems to run along the lines of “Oh well they were doing it anyway beforehand” (implication: let’s not bother with how they’re doing it now).

    • I am assuming you are referring to Dostoevsky’s Possessed as another example of those “bad books …..written by men disillusioned with life”. Indeed – in all literature – it is this particular book more than any other that is taken to be the instance of a “prophecy” of the Russian revolution. The Wordsworth edition has a preface which specifically links the work to Lenin.

  6. The very first thing we learned (very quickly) and had drilled into us as fresh faced Union Branch Conference delegates on the floor of Annual Conference (sink or swim) thirty odd years back during the height of the Thatcher years was the simple mantra “the words are the words.”

    The purpose of this was to instil in us that when constructing a Prop (short for Proposition) or putting an argument for or against a particular policy or proposal in such a forum to be clear and precise in what we were seeking to achieve. Leaving no wriggle room for alternative interpretations which can be used to circumvent the intent of whatever it was you wanted the elected full time Union Executive and the unelected full time officers who carried out the day to day work between Annual Conference to do.

    A simple example is the use of the word ‘should’ in a Proposition. Should is a sloppy, dangerous ambiguous word in such circumstances. It leaves lots of lovely wriggle room for interpretation. It suggests an aspiration to be aimed for with all the attendant opportunity for finding “good” reasons why the objective is not achieved or can be kicked into the long grass.

    “Shall” on the other hand is a lot more definite and unambiguous and was invariably preferred by those for whom the penny of the mantra had dropped.

    It was a very useful way of approaching life in general. You don’t always necessarily achieve the level of tightness in terms of interpretive wriggle room for others but the approach instills a certain level of discipline in the communication process. A process which involves two parties – those attempting to communicate and those attempting to interpret the communication.

    And the purpose of setting out the above is, to be frank, down to struggling to find interpretive wriggle room for a line of argument on the treaad which appears, reads, seems, and smells like an argument of technological determinism involving a :

    “control society; medical marshall law; extreme ubiquitous surveillance; no freedom of movement; UBI rations from a central bank organised economic authority; digital money ;extreme enclosure of natural space and a financial system based on ‘ecosystem services’ and natural capital; de-population through famine and other means; China as dominant economic production zone; a fully globalised system featuring a Eurasian union, all administered through an AI internet with Israel as a major control hub; automated security and policing; genetic alteration of the human genome; transhumanism and scientism as driving ideologies.”

    This is couched in the form of a simple binary deterministic dichtomy in which all the elements described will (as in definitely) become The ‘new normal’ which is set to replace the current or “old normal.”. Certainly no ambiguity or wriggle room there it seems. The words certainly seem to be the words.

    The concerns expressed in this deterministic certainty have a clear purpose. Indeed, the sub text of the response to this deterministic certainty is one of rejection of such a “society.’ Although other parts of the presented narrative elsewhere on the thread from this line of argument strongly suggest this may only represent a part of what is argued to be the position and that the real problem is perhaps to be found at the hub of libertarian (of whatever hue) ideology, that of the very concept of a society per se.

    Particularly when considering this observation: “objectified and arranged into a larger machine called ‘society’” as though the real and proper state of human beings has never and should never (remember ‘the words are the words’) involve social interaction, which is clearly (in this line of argument as set out) a forced one just as much in Capitalist structures and processes as both any Socialist system or feudal system which (assumes) preceeded Capitalism.

    Indeed, in terms of desired alternative I’m getting a very strong sense here of E M Forster’s dystopian vision of a world peopled by isolated individuals engaging in no social interaction other than via The Machine in his short story “The Machine Stops” – written over a century ago. No nasty society (forced or otherwise) restricting in any way whatsoever the subjective ego driven individual there – who is “free” to make and live their own favourite unencumbered internally generated reality.

    No such thing as society. Where have we heard that before?

    Regardless, the justifiable distaste in the sub text for the deterministically predicted certainty set out appears to satisfy the description given here as the kind of response to such an outcome of:

    “The revolutionary enters the world of the state, of the classes and of so-called culture, and he lives in this world only because he has faith in its speedy and total destruction. He is not a revolutionary if he feels any sympathy for this world. He must not hesitate to destroy any position, any place, or any man in this world -all must be equally detested by him. All the worse for him of he has parents, friends and loved ones; he is no longer a revolutionary if they can stay his hand.
    -Sergey Nechayev”

    And this is before consideration of the inherent flaws in deterministic modelling – particularly technological ones – which many writers and observers have set out over a considerable period of time.

    As bevin implies,with merely one of a plethora of possible available examples, the usage of a particular technology or system is not limited to any specific trajectory but constantly contested by socially based interests. This is because any interaction between any system elements (even without any of those elements being human) results in an outcome which is greater than the sum of its parts.

    As Ackoff noted, the world and the systems which have produced it (which is not and cannot exist if everything, including humans, act and operate as completely insulated individual atomised units) can be described as a complex “mess.” If a particular technology or system of technology and systemic relationships are allowed to develop in a particular direction with no attempt at other alternative trajectories the deterministic scenario which is being offered as a form of TINA becomes a self fulfilling outcome by default.

    And, whether anyone (including myself) likes it or not at least two observations follow:

    Firstly, the process is a social one in which even the deterministic outcome in this narrative is produced by social forces acting not as atomised individuals outside of any “forced” and (sub textually) undesirable “society” but as a system of individuals acting together. As a result any alternative outcome, usage, or model, can only be contested on the same basis – ie as a social process involving groups of human beings acting together and collectively.

    ie through social action as part of a society.

    As a result we got things like unemployment pay (a precursor wedge for further progress towards increased resource distribution systems rather than hoarding and accumulation for a few. UBI for example?); health systems (including inoculation against deadly diseases such as polio and many others).

    Along the way we also experienced famines (Ireland,India); restrictions on freedom of movement (pick any period over the past several centuries not just the the more recent miners strike of 84/85); enclosures of spaces and the commons with forced migration and wage slave labour; surveillance and deportation and so on.

    Indeed, the multiple usage of the word “extreme” to describe the various negative elemants in this deterministic narrative suggest tacit, if not willing, recognition of a long ongoing process rather than the supposed break with an “Old normal.”

    Any notion that it would be possible to oppose the kind of deterministic model being argued here as inevitable as an isolated individual is on a par with the legal fiction in UK employment law that an employment contract is one between two equal individuals (a PLC being classified in Employment law as an individual person with no more resources and power than the individual employee).

    Fortunately, as a result of people like Marx and the systemic analysis provided by such people those adversely impacted by Capitalism (and it’s precursor feudalism) operated on the basis of objective reality by proceeding as social actors rather than atomised individuals.
    Choosing social and group co-operation and coordination rather than the divide and conquer notion of competitive war of each against each. Otherwise we would have entered the kind of deterministic and fatalistic outcomes of this particular narrative decades ago.

    Secondly, the world as it exists and the systems which arise from its structure and processes is an objective reality outside of the perception of the individual. It is no more possible to construct a workable alternative subjective individual reality outside of social interaction and society than it is to sit on a beach and command the tide to go out when it is coming in.

    It seems reasonable to suggest that the fatalistic tone of such a deterministic narrative is as a result of a profound issue with the notion of society per se and any objective systemic limitations on a subjective individual based and constructed world view.

    Or it could be that the words are not actually the words? That it is not meant for the communicated to, being an outside and objective part of a “forced society” (ie anything more than the singular), to interpret the meaning and definition of a given narrative? That the interpretation of one not ‘sat on the wall’ – who does the determining of the meaning to suit – is not required in the subjective, self created, self difined post modernist zeitgeist?

  7. I’m reluctant to extend this discussion-in Philip’s living room, as it were but I will make a few quick points to crank and george mc.
    crank:the argument about the ‘disproportionate response’ seems very weak to me. The ruling class always responds clumsily and violently. In this case its response has been further complicated because it doesn’t believe in it. It’s heart is in ‘herd immunity’ and it is very half hearted in its response to popular demands to ‘do something’. The bleating from the alt right that itself is motivated by a shared belief in eugenics and letting the weak die, has only encouraged the Johnsons and Trumps.
    I have seen no evidence that any ‘elites’ had forewarning of the crisis. Everyone knew that a pandemic was due but the ruling elites tend to dismiss anything that isn’t about the short term. As I said they were doing very well and would have been very happy for things to just carry on. Now they are in a world of trouble, their system is crumbling and the people are waking up. Do you think they wanted this?
    I stand by my view of 9/11’s significance.
    “Your objection to this idea seems to run along the lines of “Oh well they were doing it anyway beforehand” (implication: let’s not bother with how they’re doing it now).”
    No that is not my objection. I know that 9/11 was used as an excuse to attack Afghanistan (and much good that did them!) as well, later to attack Iraq
    . What I’m doubting is that the US government set up 9/11 in order to provide itself with a casus belli. It comes up with those all the time. It took advantage of 9/11 but that doesn’t mean that it was behind it or even that it had foreknowledge of it.
    As to OffGuardian I am reluctant to criticise them here they are Philip’s friends but I will just point out that their latest discovery is that the current riots in the US (and elsewhere) are part of a “Colour Revolution’ aimed at Trump. This was predictable.
    Let us leave the matter there, agreeing to differ.
    Reply

  8. Phil has some curious info re the situation at Offg. It seems there has been some very odd internal dispute there.

    • George refers to a FB post yesterday afternoon by former OffGuardian editor, Vaska Tumir. Vaska has gone public with her differences over the outlet’s Covid-19 coverage – in essence between a libertarian and collectivist perspective – and with her allegation that she has been ousted as editor.

  9. Phil, I owe you an apology. I see you quite rightly edited my last comment since I presumptuously gave your opinion of a third party. You always use your full name accompanied by a picture and are therefore fully exposed. I am not. And therein may lie the reason why there is so much acrimonious froth on the net. Cyber communication would be a very different affair if everyone could be seen by everyone else.

    • No apology needed, George. You’d done nothing wrong.

      You may have a point though in linking online acrimony to anonymity, but I respect the right of all to a pseudonym. For a whole raft of reasons – concerns over greater and more overt repression to come, workplace fears, protecting family or old fashioned romanticism (I’d be tempted to use William Tell) – it seems to me a matter of individual choice from which I’d draw no conclusion, positive or negative.

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