Mar 5, 2010

Michael Novick responds to Thinking and Acting in Real Time and a Real World

Comments to Thinking and Acting in Real Time and A Real World

Thanks, Don and TWF for this, and for the link to Kali Akuno's piece. I do know Kali and value his work and am surprised that I wasn't aware of this; we have printed others of his pieces in "Turning the Tide: Journal of Anti-Racist Action, Research & Education," (available in pdf format on-line at, click on 'publication'). Kali has done some important work around Katrina, the election campaign of Chokwe Lumumba in Mississippi, and many other causes. Although I have had a lot of unity with him in the past, and had many disagreements with Don in the past, I find myself agreeing with Don's assessment that his general strategic line formulation towards a popular front with liberal and progressive forces "against fascism" is really inadequate (even though his general political orientation is strong enough that much of predictive material he penned in November 2008 has come to fruition, such as the inability of Obama and the Democrats to deal with the crisis, and the resurgence of the Republican right).

However, both Kali's piece, and Don's (which has some great strengths, including its insistence on the explosive potential in human consciousness of the current and enduring crisis of the empire) have a couple of critical weaknesses regarding both war and fascism. The insurmountable internal contradictions of capitalism and colonialism, as well as the irreconcilable contradiction between capitalism/colonialism and the people it exploits and oppresses mean that war -- international, intra-capitalist war -- is inevitable. The culmination of the current imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the military activity and threats against Iran, Venezuela and in Africa, are part of a strategic campaign of encirclement being carried out against China by US-led imperialism. The war on terror, which the other comment, citing Mike Davis, correctly relates to long term counter-insurgency warfare in global and internal slums, is also a prelude to a military conflict with China (notwithstanding, or perhaps more properly, exactly because of) US dependence on China. The US and China are already engaged in vigorous cyber-war.

The citation of the Trilateral Commission, particularly the 'excess of democracy' elements, in the other note is also welcome. The US is still extremely actively engaged in the process of "spatial deconcentration" (removal of the Black, indigenous/Mexicano and other poor people from the urban core) that is necessary for such urban slum warfare to be tactically possible in the US (where, unlike the Third World or global south, the poor to a certain degree still occupy the city center rather than the outskirts). The gentrification of New York, where Harlem has become a predominantly European-descent area, the depopulation of New orleans, and the eradication of Detroit are part of this ongoing process since the Empire was forced to battle in the cities of the US.

Regarding fascism, as I have struggled with Don and others on TWF in the past, the colonial and settler colonial nature of the US state and society means that elements of "fascism" have always been part of the social and political fabric. This doesn't mean it's a "tactic" of the bourgeoisie, it means that (settler) colonialism has always been a cross-class project, with independent (armed) action by various classes and strata, and that the very concept of a "working class" as envisioned by Marx and Marxists (or anarchists) needs to be modified by an understanding of the importance of land, particularly private property in land, to the nature of Capital and its social relations. One of the things that the current crisis of capitalism should have made manifest, but apparently still hasn't, is that the capital 'market' in 'real estate (land, housing, etc) far exceeds industrial, or even financial capital. The bursting of the housing bubble should have helped identify to all one of the irreconcilable and unresolvable contradictions of capitalism -- that whether or not a particular house is "under water," the totality of mortgage debt, principal and interest, far exceeds the value of the property which "secures" it. The ballooning of such debt into "securities" only served to magnify the overhang. At the same time, the value of energy, water, and agricultural productivity (and the costs of waste disposal and/or decontamination) absorbed into capital by the private expropriation of land, nature and the commons of water and air, have helped to precipitate an enormous and catastrophically expensive (in life and dollars) environmental crisis which, like the economic crisis, manifests the not merely moribund or parasitic but necrotic nature of the Empire. The intersecting economic and environmental crises will not be solved by cap and trade, 'green jobs,' or health care reform, let alone the stimulus; but they may serve to provoke the kind of insurrectionary transformation of consciousness that Don is musing about. In that regard, both Don and the commentator miss the point about the struggles developing in "Latin" America -- the indigenous movements are not the resurrection of "national liberation" but its supercession by people standing on its shoulders and capable of overcoming its Euro-centric limits and definitions.

--Michael Novick