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What the hell is happening? This is no longer an academic question. If we want to get a complete summary than “everything’s going to hell”, we have to dig deep. We want to avoid the “conspiracy theory” approach pointing to secret cables as the source of everything. But in a world where the secret cables are there, in a world where conspiracy cannot be argued, this means going even deeper rather than the simplistic reasoning which shuts-out embarrassing events and coincidences.
Karl Marx wrote capital with the intention of it becoming the “bible of the working class”. Especially in the present chaos, it’s easy to imagine how having a reasonably simple text to help people sort out the real conditions of this world would be good. The critiques of Debord and Vaneigem, Marx’s ignoring of the subjective dimensions of crisis, can give us clues for Marx’s failure to put Capital in each lunch box.
Creating this issue, we don’t honestly expect to windup in millions of American lunch boxes. But really, we cannot aim for anything less than a knife that is capable of cutting through the media muck which claims to offer explanations of the present mess – we cannot aim for anything less than being worthy of people’s curiosity (not to imply we have millions of fans). This is somewhat contrary to the spirit of both leftists and anarchists. Both generally agree that knowing the system is bad is enough and so figuring out what’s going on is secondary.
This issue of ASAN will include an implicit critique of the economics of the last fifty years. I am certainly not the first to puncture the idiots with noble prizes. The aim is rather to provide a clear summary of the emptiness of these efforts.
More importantly and perhaps more uniquely, I also aim to show how the present crisis is a return to the crisis predicted by Marx. Indeed, Albania and Argentina were the first and second nation state ever to experience the “classical” collapse of capitalism as outlined by Marx one hundred and fifty years ago. But here we notice there have not been any classical Marxists together enough to have influence in these unfolding events.
We can see a fair amount of poetic justice in the comeuppance which our rulers have received. But we have no intentions of only substituting poetry for equations. “This is a revolution which demands more of men of no qualities than the bourgeois revolution demanded of men of quality”. Under appropriate circumstances, the most difficult ideas can be grasped quickly if they correspond to reality.
Certainly, the different directions such a project has to go in might make even the most detailed explanations seem terse, obscure and “theoretical”. It might be worth putting in the effort to still understand this. Moreover, the project of getting a handle on this process is a big one. I believe that this effort to extend the political economy of the terrorism (or of everything) is critically important. I invite you to join me in sailing these troubled seas.
For this issue of ASAN, we can certainly say things are changing. We might argue that the changes all happening seem to be strongly connected to the problems which we mentioned in the previous issues.
The first paragraph of ASAN #6, published July 2001, was “Today’s publicity machine is gorged on its own falsehoods. Like a drunken gambler, each successful distortion and spectacular event only spurs it to greater absurdity. Beginning in the last summers of the 90’s, the media showed us some large explosions with only the barest rational explanation and with numerous people dying in them. The 747 that exploded over the Atlantic in the summer of 96 was only the start of this drama. The bombing of the American embassies in Africa was a murderous preamble. You could almost draw a line of increasing provocation from the Waco massacre to the bombing of Kosova. And undeclared war on Iraq still continues. ”
That was also the first issue after about four years. We drew that hypothetical line without being especially sure something bigger would really be at the end of it. But there you go; it’s now pretty easy to see where it lead. We are hardly alone in those who gave a premonition concerning September 11th (and remember a premonition is weaker than a prediction).
Taken as conflicts, both War and Stock Speculation hinge on dealing effectively with limited information. In the prelude, the competence of an actor depends not on simply using existing information but also sorting new information quickly and seeing which pieces will actually result in changed conditions. In the battle, actors must directly deal the new, unexpected conditions as they unfold. Of course we fight on a different side than the powers that be. We aim for different ends and will face a different field of confrontation.
We have been asked at time what the difference between critiquing the spectacle and critiquing capital as whole would be. The most obvious difference you can see today is that the critique of capital gives us some insight into how this despotism seems to be falling to pieces of its own accord.
This is a riddle given that these
ASAN investigates the political economy of daily life. At the end, we are not aren’t talking about many separate phenomenon but with one thing – an integrated fabric, the state of things. Today, the various connections on the world scale make this more and more one world, a world that can only be understood as a whole. As the illustrious experts of today fail to prevent various obvious disasters, we can see in these disasters both their lack of understanding as their paralysis from serving too many masters.
ASAN has had an on-again-off-again relationship with the crisis of capital. The most immediate impoverishment of this world can be see as the result everything being for say, the result of immediate relations of buying and selling. For us, the transformation of this world can be seen as the result of the movement of capital and its crisis.
Before, whether this is simply a subjective change on the conditions of life or a more catastrophic destruction of capital’s ability to rule daily life remained to be seen. Equivalently, how much must revolution be the product of the working class’ self-activity and how much can it be provoked by circumstances.
Now, we can see the literal and metaphorical foundations of this society shaking. In this case, this is the answer. The collapse of Argentina showed capital ready to attack till it gets resistance. This event is the closest thing to a “classical” Marxian crisis that you could want – unfortunately, there are virtually no classical Marxists in Argentina to claim laurels for this. But a spontaneously insurrection partly seizing the means of production is still a fine thing – though it certainly still go all the way and will suffer seriously if it stops now.
I have spent quite a bit of time in discussions “on the net” lately and I think these are a useful aspect of revolutionary activity.
Hopefully, I have learned to express my positions with a bit more humility while still maintaining the useful clarity and criticalness that ASAN has had. I believe that some of the articles from ASAN 2-6 are have been a good step forward for understanding the condition that the present society has evolved to. There are certain framework I’ve put forward that
But this isn’t really good – it would be better if the total structure of this society was clearer to the would-be revolutionary.
This issue of ASAN will be essentially a single article describing how the various aspects of the modern of world have come together to create the more vividly insane event that we see around today; September 11th, the Enron Collapse and the Argentina Collapse.
Guy Debord’s “Comments On The Society Of The Spectacle” puts forward one framework.
ASAN 6 had an article and a leaflet concerning the medical system. Now we can see this as another smaller blob of crisis which is merging into the bigger blob which is the current total crisis.
You can see immediate problems of the American economy today most easily by looking at “dislocation”. American economic dislocation has been described as a serious misallocation of resources, an imbalance of the basic economic activity of the country. And this is no longer subtle or small but can hit you in the face like a brick. America’s GDP was reputed to have grown by a 5.6% annual rate in the first quarter of 2002. Taken by itself, this total figure doesn’t signify an economy “slowly recovering” but rather an economy “on fire”, 5+% growth is closest to the highest growth for any ordinary capitalist economy.
At the same time, the consensus of experience has been that few workers OR corporations saw improvement in their basic situation. Dislocation is the explanation – certain areas; military spending, housing and health care, accounted for essentially all the improvement while most other sectors basically stayed the same. Moreover, this dislocation creates a situation where the money pumped in through these sectors does not help other sectors. Consumer spending is siphoned off by exports rather than helping domestic producers, corporations which no longer can make profits don’t make capital improvements regardless of the demand they experience. Essentially what seems to happen is that there is no recovery whatsoever but rather a hidden inflation of various kinds of items.
But what can we say about dislocation? An economic dislocation can be seen as a distorted map of basic needs. More medical X-rays cannot make up for less ford, bigger houses cannot make up for a smaller industrial capacity. But the trick of capital has been to naturalize its dislocations. By modifying the ground which people live on, capital
Aside from reflexes of anger, the explosion of Internet texts and public discussions here have shown the great need people have to get a handle on the events.
This text is one more contribution towards creating such an understanding. And I naturally aim to make some connections that have not yet been made. I aim to show the connection between the organization of daily life and various disasters which seem to come from nowhere, I aim to demystify the secrecy which swirl around this entire world, aim to go beyond any particular conspiracy theories and show these events as natural products of the system as a whole.