Wednesday 25 August 2010

Bristol Anarchist Bookfair: meet-up?

Hidden Costs of modern life

Reading this article reminded me that the Marxist understanding of cost and value needs to be developed in away that Marx just wasn't aware of but is vital to our peak oil times.

Free Dissent writes:

"Mutualists (or non-vulgar market anarchists) accept that products have natural values. Each product on average commands a certain amount of time and energy to produce. The average amount of labor put into a product directly determines its cost. For example, technology and labor-saving devices have made farming much more efficient to produce. Due to this, food is more abundant and cheap. Producing 500 apples requires a lot less labor today compared to 300 years ago. This is exactly why the natural value of an apple is much lower today than in the past. The Labor Theory of Value helps explain this very clearly. It is the natural values of varying products that drive the economic engine."

Before going into the dynamics of cost and value it is important to flag up the problem of hidden cost. This makes no difference to the thrust of the article quoted above but it matters anyway. We think that by reducing labour and relying instead on machinery we are reducing cost but all that happens is we are hiding several costs that involve less labour and land: the production of fossil fuels.

Finding, processing, and delivering fossil fuels are not part of the hidden costs. The farmer pays money for these things and has to make them balance. But the millions of years forming gas, oil, and coal are real costs that are not included. Likewise the future costs to the farmer of changes in climate due to use of fossil fuels is not calculated - these are costs hidden in the future.

I sat in the pub sith someone the otehr day who said -as though it was a given - that we tend to ever greater efficiency therefore supermarkets must be more efficient that community agricultre. But that's because our inefficient, or costs, are hidden under the ground and in the air.

Thus the profit margin is increased efficiently. Ta da!

Okay, now we can think about surplus labour...

Thursday 19 August 2010

Protest against nuclear weapons plant under construction

Singing choruses of “We shall not be moved” while scattering sunflower seeds, 14 activists were arrested in Kansas City, Missouri, Aug. 16 after blocking an earth moving vehicle on the site of a proposed nuclear weapons manufacturing facility.

The acts of civil disobedience came at the end of a three-day conference which drew peace activists here from around the nation. The efforts were aimed at building awareness of and resistance to the construction of the weapons plant, which will replace an existing plant here.

The new plant, which will make non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, is set to be the US' first new major nuclear weapons production facility in 32 years.

Before their arrest the protesters walked onto a soybean field being plowed by several earth moving vehicles as part of the plant building preparation effort. The group, walking in a single file, held hands; some carried large signs. They approached and surrounded one of the vehicles, forcing the driver to stop her work, and eventually leading 20 other vehicles to halt theirs as well.

After about a 45 minute shut down, police arrived, announcing the protesters had two minutes to leave the privately-owned grounds. The flurry of activity stopped all work at the site for over an hour.

In a statement to the press before they began their action, the activists called the new facility a “crime against peace” and a “crime against humanity.”

This is the second time that people have been arrested for civil disobedience to the plant in two months. On Aug. 6 a local activist, Jane Stoever, was sentenced to eight hours of community service for having blocked the entrance to the current facility, known simply as the Kansas City Plant. Her action took place in June.

Currently a part of the Bannister Federal Complex, located about 13 miles south of the city’s downtown area, the Kansas City Plant is responsible for the production and assembly of approximately 85 percent of the non-nuclear components for the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The plant is due to be relocated in 2012 to the “more modern facility.”

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Energy, has said the new facility will carry an estimated price tag of $673 million for construction and $1.2 billion over the next 20 years.
Activists Joshua Armfield and Gina Cook of Kansas City, Mo. link arms while blocking a construction vehicle working on the new Kansas City Plant facility Aug. 16.Activists Joshua Armfield and Gina Cook of Kansas City, Mo. link arms while blocking a construction vehicle working on the new Kansas City Plant facility Aug. 16.
Coming from 15 states and three countries by bus, train, airplane, and caravan, anti-nuclear activists gathered here to attend the weekend conference leading up to the civil disobedience in a local Methodist church.

Recalling her 30 years working at the current site of the nuclear weapons facility, Barbara Rice told those in attendance that she had lost count of how many of her colleagues had died of cancer after 110 passed away from various kinds of the illnesses.

While she said she couldn’t prove that the deaths were related to chemical exposure at the current facility, Rice remembered one instance when a pipe burst at the plant and her supervisors told her to “go home immediately and destroy her clothes.”

At the same event, Jay Coghlan, executive director of the watchdog group Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said the new plant in Kansas City is only one of several projects underway to increase U.S. nuclear weapons production capability.

Coghlan said that while the international community thinks the U.S. is working towards nuclear disarmament, "the reality is that we’re building 3 new sites: one to process uranium, one to process plutonium, and one to create the non-nuclear parts of the weapons such as triggers and fuses.”

The three sites Coghlan referred to are the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the new Kansas City Plant.

While the new facility in Kansas City is expected to continue production of non-nuclear parts for nuclear weapons, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Project at Los Alamos plans to increase U.S. capability to produce plutonium pits, the core of a nuclear weapon, according to Coghlan. Meanwhile, the facility at Oak Ridge plans to reinvest in its capability to produce uranium components for the weapons.

In the original proposal for the Kansas City project, CenterPoint Zimmer LLC — the company which won the bidding process to design and build the plant for the NNSA — said the new facility would simply modernize operations for nuclear weapons parts production while ensuring the continued employment of “a minimum of 2,100 workers at the campus in good ‘quality jobs.’ ”

The day before the arrests the activists visited the two Kansas City Plant sites for prayer and reflection.

After walking with the rest of the activists on the side of a busy street where the current plant is located, Japanese native-born Mercedarian Sr. Filo Hirota told those gathered that she envisioned a new world order in which the “principle of nonviolence is translated into the way how the world is organized.”

Hirota, who is the international relations officer for the Catholic Council for Justice and Peace of the Episcopal Conference of Japan, asked in a prayer following her brief talk for an economy “that creates communion in equal and just relationships.”

Arriving in a caravan at the field where the new facility for the nuclear weapons plant is under construction, activists came together there near idle bulldozers where they blessed the land and asked forgiveness in view of its future use.

Tom Kascoli, a Native American of Apache and Navajo background, blessed each of the assembled, waving an eagle’s feather over a burning sage stick while chanting a prayer in his native tongue.
[National Catholic Reporter]

Friday 6 August 2010

A thought for the day, August 6th

This is an elaboration of an introduction I wrote earlier on, elsewhere. It is in the spirit of Herbert Marcuse's One dimensional man, a book that deals in its entirety about the unbearable situation of living "as if normal" whilst the human-made death of all of humanity is being prepared. The metaphors of generation etcetera fulfill a certain ideological function: it further "normalizes" living alongside mass murder. Also cf. "sitting duck" and "barrel of fish" as references to the bombing drones.

Until I started writing this piece I did not know about a "mother of the bomb".
Killing machines apparently also have cousins and other family members.

When you ask the internet search engine for the “father of the bomb” you get the incredible result of around six million hits. One of the first results you may get reads: “Trinity and the birth of the bomb”, which indeed goes on about the “father of the bomb”. There is a good chance you will accuse the writer of the text you now see of blasphemy when you are kindly reminded of the combination of the words trinity, birth and father. Words used in connection with a device that killed about a hundred thousand people in one instant, and another hundred thousand in the slow aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima.

When such a combination yields about six million hits this must mean “we” have accomodated to these weapons. Generally they are called weapons of mass destruction these days, which refers to damage done to buildings and other lifeless things. You do not hear the phrase weapons of mass killing. And apparently “we” accept the idea of these weapons “having been born”, they have “a father” and they have to be modernized once in a while. Then we hear about the next “generation of nuclear bombs” (about one hundred thousand hits in the search engine). Born, father, generation – all words referring to life, the ending of which is the specific aim of these weapons. If you think it unfair that the “mother of the bomb” is not mentioned you are right: she “only” gets three million hits in the search engine.

Since it refers to an insect it probably will be even harder to see the full obscenity of a killing device, the unmanned aerial vehicle, named drone. The main task of drones, male bees, is indeed: fathering. We are up to see a new generation of drones, which will be more stealthy than the present day unmanned killing device.

Let us be aware that bombs and unmanned bombing devices are directed against fathers and mothers, against those who are born and against generations. And let us remember that the most obscene about these things is still not the words used about them. It is the fact that they exist at all, that they are used or that using them is even being considered.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Slaughtering anarchists by the myriads

A story that came across to me by chance, as it goes with the net. It is not "news". But it is a story that leaves you devastated in the metaphorical sense. And it is fitting to this season of
remembrance .

The commission estimates at least 100,000 people were executed, in a South Korean population of 20 million. That estimate is based on projections from local surveys and is "very conservative," said Kim. The true toll may be twice that or more, he told The Associated Press."

In 1945, as the Japanese Empire finally went into retreat, the Korean people were left without an occupational authority for the first time in decades. In that brief moment something amazing happened. The Korean Anarchists, long the champions of the resistance struggle, came out of the woodwork and formed a nationwide federation of village and workers councils to oversee a massive project of land reform. Korea graduated from feudalism overnight. Aside from some struggles with the Socialists and Nationalists, the peninsula was at peace.

When WWII concluded, however, the "responsibility" of securing peace and order in Korea was assigned to the Americans and Soviets. By all accounts in this instance the US actually had no imperialist intentions. While the Soviets moved quickly to deploy their forces and occupy the North, the Americans took their time showing up, and were largely content to let the South Koreans manage themselves.

The Koreans, culturally steeped with anti-authoritarian values, were fond of America and openly despised the Soviets. While a few socialists fled North hoping that the Soviets would give them a hand against the Anarchists, they were overwhelmed in numbers by a mass migration south. Everyone assumed the Americans would assist or at least respect their autonomy.

This did not last.

The Americans Military commanders who eventually arrived had trouble understanding or dealing with the anarchy they found. They had no protocol for dealing with regional federations and autonomous communes. So they helped the dispossessed aristocracy form a military government. In order to make the map "simple." In order to "get things under hand."

Most importantly they did not understand that the Korean Anarchists and Anti-Authoritarian activists that saturated the countryside were different than--and in fact vehemently opposed to--the Communists, going so far as to organized and launch insurrectionary attacks on the Soviet Occupation before the Americans arrived.

The Americans couldn't understand "anarchists". But "leftists", they knew, meant Soviets. And they had the gall to ignore or resist their puppet military government. So they started killing them.

By the start of the Korean War, the slaughter was in full swing. Having arrested every anarchist organizer or sympathetic peasant they could get their hands on, they started executing them en masse.

The Korean Anarchist movement was, historically, one of the strongest in the world. It survived half a century of brutal occupation and economic exploitation. It survived a three way assault by the Chinese, Japanese and Soviets. It has survived many, many massacres and exterminations. It is even still around today. So strong that in the last few years they've been known to evict the police from the streets. But the worst injury it ever suffered was initiated and orchestrated by the United States military. In a single campaign so horrific it borders on genocide.

This was truly, objectively, one of the worst things the US has ever done. And there are some big ffing contenders.

Most North Aamerican papers ran front-page stories this Monday about the latest mass graves being uncovered while I was riding the "Empire Builder" from St. Paul to Portland. I found a copy wedged between Amtrak seat cushions. And there was an ancient photo of piled corpses as far as the eye could see. The papers euphemistically used the term "leftists." But I know the history, I did the research.

They were almost all anarchists.

However lovely America may be. Remember, the US government is not our friend. It will never be. It can never be.

(Written May 2008 by William Gillis).