Brian Holmes on Sat, 5 Jan 2019 20:01:06 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> Foundations for "Anthropocene Socialist" Movement

On Sat, Jan 5, 2019 at 9:15 AM Vincent Gaulin <> wrote:

Where is the actual site of the surplus that intellectuals, protestors, activists, caretakers and laborers draw upon while renovating the new socialist state? 

 Are you kidding? The problem of surplus is that there is too much of it. The actual site of surplus production is in largely automated mining sites, factories and farms around the world. An immense amount of this surplus goes either to the global oligarchy or to the military (US in particular). And the degree of automation is now rising as AI is rolled out, threatening a new unemployment crisis. As for the number of miners/scavengers, engineers, and electricians needed to create the solar field that will power a future society, they're all needed. Either we convert the energy grid to zero carbon over the next two decades or the future turns quite ugly indeed.

The two key dangers on the horizon are mass unemployment and climate chaos. It's obvious to career bureaucrats and corporate planners that these things have to be faced. What's missing is the politics to do so.

I don't think society can be remade in a utopian way where everyone behaves morally at a small scale of autonomous rural production. So I admire your cult of frugality, Vince, but I don't support it as a universal. Far as I can see, very few people want to give up either cities or the vast benefits of a global division of labor orchestrated by corporations and super-states. However the current configuration of the system is deadly, period. Collective investment on the scale of an energy grid requires a mixed economy (say, 35% controlled by the state, as opposed to the current 23% in the US). Such an increase in the public sector offers scope for tremendous change. First of all by the immediate offer of decent employment for millions, and second, by the relative downscaling of production facilitated by an alternative energy grid (distributed manufacturing). Where the countryside is concerned, zero-carbon demands a thorough-going transformation of the dominant mode of farming, which is now monocrops for export - a continental-scale industrialization of the landscape. The reversal of just some of the ecological damage caused by monocrop farming could employ millions more people.

The tangible offer of employment is the most immediately convincing thing that a transformed state would have to offer. A politics can be built on the demand for such employment. It is the key to deep decarbonization. It requires a major expropriation of wealth from both the oligarchy and the military, and the total dismantling of the most powerful industry of all, the fossil-fuel complex. To that extent it's a revolution, requiring passionate majority support. But it's not the Russian Revolution, because we do not live in an age of desperate starving peasantries. We live in an age of excessive surplus that's toxically produced and unequally distributed. The solution has to be at once systematic and democratic: a new synthesis.

The first thing to build is not another solar energy or wind-turbine field (it's already been done extensively in California and many other places, including the roof over my head). Instead, we must create the national-scale political desire for employment through deep decarbonization, so as to make possible a systematic transformation of the built environment. That kind of idea-production is not done by workers and peasants, it's done by intellectuals, artists and activists - massive numbers of them, because our society of relative surplus supports such massive numbers.

What we need, first of all, is a vision so carefully articulated that it can become a strategy and a calculable plan. Exactly that is now emergent. The point is to make it actual. That means, to make it into the really existing state.

onwards, Brian

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