Notes on Disaster Communism Part 3 by Out of the Woods

Notes from Disaster Communism Part 3 – Logistics, Repurposing, Bricolage by the Out of the Woods blog

Debate on Logistics:

A) Alberto Toscano – we cannot take a purely negative approach to logistics. Yes it is currently employed for value production but we must imagine a transitional moment/society in which logistics can be repurposed for communist uses.

B) Jasper Bernes & Endnotes – logistics must be thought of as a totality, a interrelated whole whose purpose cannot be separated from value production. Further, logistics networks designed explicitly I. Order to avoid disruptions (ie if you seize a just-in-time warehouse the. You are seizing an empty warehouse). Therefore there can be no repurposing, only the overthrow of logistics in a revolutionary struggle.

C) Out of the Woods – logistics as a whole is capitalist, but it can be broken up into its component parts which individually may be able to be repurposed. A truck can be put to other uses besides transporting commodities.

Notes on “Logistics, Counter-Logistics, and the Communist Prospect” by Jasper Barnes

Logistics, Counter-Logistics, and the Communist Prospect by Jasper Barnes

I. What is theory for?

A) Didactic [d] View

- Lenin, Trotsky, Orthodox Marxists
– theory is developed by specialists/intellectuals who then giving direction to proletarian struggles. Struggle fails by not having theory, or not having right theory

B) Anti-Didactic View

– theory as corruption of organic intelligence of the class. Adopts reflective orientation to struggle, diagnosis but never strategic analysis for fear of making an intervention into struggle. Continue reading

Passages from Luxemburg’s Mass Strike

The Mass Strike by Rosa Luxemburg

“For the anarchist mode of thought is direct speculation on the “great Kladderadatsch,“ on the social revolution merely as an external and inessential characteristic. According to it, what is essential is the whole abstract, unhistorical view of the mass strike and of all the conditions of the proletariat struggle generally.”

“For the anarchist there exist only two things as material suppositions of his “revolutionary” speculations – first, imagination, and second goodwill and courage to rescue humanity from the existing capitalist vale of tears.”

Abstract, ahistorical methods

“What the trade-union opponent of the mass strike understands by the “historical basis” and “material conditions” is two things – on the one hand the weakness of the proletariat, and on the other hand, the strength of Prussian-German militarism…Now when it is quite true that the trade-union cash box and the Prussian bayonet are material and very historical phenomena, but the conception based upon them is not historical materialism in Marx’s sense but a policemanlike materialism in the sense of Puttkammer.”

“If, therefore, the Russian Revolution teaches us anything, it teaches above all that the mass strike is not artificially “made,” not “decided” at random, not “propagated,” but that it is a historical phenomenon which, at a given moment, results from social conditions with historical inevitability. It is not, therefore, by abstract speculations on the possibility or impossibility, the utility or the injuriousness of the mass strike, but only by an examination of those factors and social conditions out of which the mass strike grows in the present phase of the class struggle – in other words, it is not by subjective criticism of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is desirable, but only by objective investigation of the sources of the mass strike from the standpoint of what is historically inevitable, that the problem can be grasped or even discussed.”

“It is just as impossible to “propagate” the mass strike as an abstract means of struggle as it is to propagate the “revolution.” “Revolution” like “mass strike” signifies nothing but an external form of the class struggle, which can have sense and meaning only in connection with definite political situations.”

Part 3:

“Who, therefore, speaks of the mass strike in Russia must, above all things, keep its history before his eyes.”

Aspects of development of mass strike movement in Russia:

- sometimes struggle appears as purely economic
– the attitude of govt and agitation of social democracy make an economic into a political struggle
– workers suffer “defeats”
– mvmt appears not to arise on preconceived plan but flows together from individual points from different causes and in a different form
– economic struggles of earlier period mislead social democrats to exaggerate the importance of so-called economics, paving way doe demagogues
– at times the strike emerges under the immediate influence of news of strikes elsewhere (despite opposition to the strike from social democrats)
– when political struggles “dissolve” into economic front, appears to some as mistake. But this ignores important changes in consciousness of proletariat which inevitably impact next stages of struggle (“a general raising of the standard of life of the proletariat – economic, social, intellectual.” P 131)

“By many small channels of partial economic struggles and little “accidental” occurrences it flowed rapidly to a raging sea, and changed the entire south of the czarist empire for some weeks into a bizarre revolutionary workers’ republic.”

“But even here there was no predetermined plan, no organised action, because the appeals of the parties could scarcely keep pace with the spontaneous risings of the masses; the leaders had scarcely time to formulate the watchwords of the onrushing crowd of the proletariat. Further, the earlier mass and general strikes had originated from individual coalescing wage struggles which, in the general temper of the revolutionary situation and under the influence of the social democratic agitation, rapidly became political demonstrations; the economic factor and the scattered condition of trade unionism were the starting point; all-embracing class action and political direction the result. The movement was now reversed.” (128)

“Here, the economic struggle was not really a decay, a dissipation of action, but merely change of front, a sudden and natural alteration of the first general engagement with absolutism, in a general reckoning with capital, which in keeping with its character assumed the form of individual, scattered wage struggles. Political class action was not broken in January by the decay of the general strike into economic strikes, but the reverse, after the possible content of political action in the given situation and at the given stage of the revolution was exhausted, it broke, or rather changed, into economic action.” (129-130)

“Only complete thoughtlessness could expect that absolutism could be destroyed at one blow by a single “long-drawn” general strike after the anarchist plan. Absolutism in Russia must be overthrown by the proletariat. But in order to be able to overthrow it, the proletariat requires a high degree of political education, of class-consciousness and organisation. All these conditions cannot be fulfilled by pamphlets and leaflets, but only by the living political school, by the fight and in the fight, in the continuous course of the revolution. Further, absolutism cannot be overthrown at any desired moment in which only adequate “exertion” and “endurance” is necessary. The fall of absolutism is merely the outer expression of the inner social and class development of Russian society.” (130)

“In actual fact it is not merely a general raising of the standard of life, or the cultural level of the working-class that has taken place. The material standard of life as a permanent stage of well-being has no place in the revolution. Full of contradictions and contrasts it brings simultaneously on the part of the capitalists; today the eight-hour day and tomorrow wholesale lockouts and actual starvation for the millions.” ( see previous note- p 134)

“The most precious, lasting, thing in the rapid ebb and flow of the wave is its mental sediment: the intellectual, cultural growth of the proletariat, which proceeds by fits and starts, and which offers an inviolable guarantee of their further irresistible progress in the economic as in the political struggle.” (134)

“And finally another thing, the apparently “chaotic” strikes and the “disorganised” revolutionary action after the January general strike are becoming the starting point of a feverish work of organisation.” (134)

“The Moscow events show a typical picture of the logical development and at the same time of the future of the revolutionary movement on the whole: their inevitable close in a general open insurrection, which again on its part cannot come in any other way than through the school of a series of preparatory partial insurrections, which end in partial outward “defeats” and, considered individually, may appear to be “premature.”” (139)

Part 4:

“The mass strike, as the Russian Revolution shows it to us, is such a changeable phenomenon that it reflects all the phases of the political and economic struggle, all stages and factors of the revolution. Its adaptability, its efficiency, the factors of its origin are constantly changing. It suddenly opens new and wide perspectives of the revolution when it appears to have already arrived in a narrow pass and where it is impossible for anyone to reckon upon it with any degree of certainty. It flows now like a broad billow over the whole kingdom, and now divides into a gigantic network of narrow streams; now it bubbles forth from under the ground like a fresh spring and now is completely lost under the earth. Political and economic strikes, mass strikes and partial strikes, demonstrative strikes and fighting strikes, general strikes of individual branches of industry and general strikes in individual towns, peaceful wage struggles and street massacres, barricade fighting – all these run through one another, run side by side, cross one another, flow in and over one another – it is a ceaselessly moving, changing sea of phenomena. And the law of motion of these phenomena is clear: it does not lie in the mass strike itself nor in its technical details, but in the political and social proportions of the forces of the revolution.” (140-141)

“The mass strike is merely the form of the revolutionary struggle and every disarrangement of the relations of the contending powers, in party development and in class division, in the position of counter-revolution – all this immediately influences the action of the strike in a thousand invisible and scarcely controllable ways. But strike action itself does not cease for a single moment. It merely alters its forms, its dimensions, its effect. It is the living pulse-beat of the revolution and at the same time its most powerful driving wheel. In a word, the mass strike, as shown to us in the Russian Revolution, is not a crafty method discovered by subtle reasoning for the purpose of making the proletarian struggle more effective, but the method of motion of the proletarian mass, the phenomenal form of the proletarian struggle in the revolution.” (141)

“Thereby, temporarily considered, the following characteristic discloses itself: the demonstration strikes which, in contradistinction to the fighting strikes, exhibit the greatest mass of party discipline, conscious direction and political thought, and therefore must appear as the highest and most mature form of the mass strike, play in reality the greatest part in the beginnings of the movement.” (142)

“But the movement on the whole does not proceed from the economic to the political struggle, nor even the reverse. Every great political mass action, after it has attained its political highest point, breaks up into a mass of economic strikes. And that applies not only to each of the great mass strikes, but also to the revolution as a whole. With the spreading, clarifying and involution of the political struggle, the economic struggle not only does not recede, but extends, organises and becomes involved in equal measure. Between the two there is the most complete reciprocal action.” (144)

Notes on Alabama: Searching for the Ghost of Big Jim Folsom

“Notes on Alabama: Searching for the Ghost of Big Jim Folsom” by C Price

“But winds of change are now blowing through the South. Globalization—and make no mistake, the South is thoroughly caught up in the social and economic changes going along with it—has brought new fault lines—and new possibilities. In Alabama, formerly lily-white mountain towns outside Huntsvile such as Arab and Athens now draw growing Latino populations, and tiny Gunterville, population 3,000, hosts an influx of Haitian refugees who have set up shops on the main street. Whole industries such as poultry are now largely Latino worked. It is no accident, faced with this rising, visible tide of immigration—a 280 percent increase from 1990 to 2000—that Alabama passed some of the most repressive anti-immigration laws in the United States.

After decades of out-migration, the South is undergoing reverse in-migration, especially among blacks forsaking the violence and disarray of Northern inner cities for what many see as a slower-paced, family-friendly South. Foreign auto transplants such as Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Nissan are relocating below the Mason-Dixon Line. Like the mechanization of agriculture and World War II, these developments signify, as Newsweek reporter William Emerson put it in describing earlier effects of school desegregation, “slow, mighty shifts in the sub-soils of custom, tradition and way of life.”[8]

Huntsville itself, for example, once a sleepy textile town where part of the Scottsboro Boys trial took place in the 1930s, is now a major center of aerospace and high-tech research and development. As the South steadily transforms, so hand in hand will its potential importance grow in US social and economic developments. This process of course is wildly uneven, with at least in the short term counter-trends likely flaring as well, but the South’s long legacy in US history as a socially backward, economically underdeveloped “other” semi-colony not quite part of the country, finally seems destined to end.”

“Riding The Zone” Notes

“Riding The Zone” by Rozalinda Borcila

“An FTZ is established in conjunction with international points of entry. Each port of entry can become a zone project; each zone project can produce numerous zones, and each zone can have numerous subzones. The boundaries of an FTZ as they are marked on the maps of the Federal Zoning Board can be a radius of sixty miles or ninety minutes transit from the edges of an inter- national port of entry, and are established by the Department of Commerce. The area inside this boundary is the service area of a grantor agency. It is the area within which a zone can be activated, like a perimeter of off-shorability. In the case of FTZ #22, the grantor is the Illinois International Port District (con- taining the Port of Chicago). Within this service area, business interests work through the grantor to activate or make use of zone for specific footprints. Once activated, a zone is considered outside of the United States for the purposes of trade, tariffs, processing of goods (which includes assembly, disassembly, de- struction, testing, mixing and manufacturing), and other regulations.

When a zone becomes activated it must be completely secured―enclosed by a border, with access points under the jurisdiction of Customs and Border Protection, often managed via proxy (private) agencies. FTZ #22 currently has at least eleven activated zones, including several logistics and warehousing centers, such as the 2,500-acre CenterPoint Intermodal Center in Elwood and the 3,600-acre CenterPoint Intermodal and Logistics Center near Joliet, which together form the largest inland port in the country. FTZ #22 also in- tegrates dozens of sub-zones: smaller, discontiguous, single-user, restricted- access areas that are frequently used as manufacturing sites. Subzones may even be located outside of the boundaries of the grantor territory, but are connected to ports of entry and other “special economic zones” via an ex- panding network of publicly-funded rail lines, roads and inland waterways.

The US currently has over 270 FTZ projects, each with a service area ra- dius of between sixty and120 miles from center, and around 1,000 sub-zones. Manufacturing and waste generating processes, assembling, repackaging, storage, exhibition, shipping, and other processes within the zone legally oc- cur outside of the United States. Commodities that move within the “zone universe”―between zones/subzones, ports of entry and military bases― never enter U.S. juridical territory. This means they can be assembled or stored, repackaged or tested, without incurring tariffs. It means manufactur- ing and assemblage can take place without value-added taxes on domestic materials, parts, labor, overhead, or profit. It also means that materials and commodities appear as continuously moving, never in place.”

“Nested within FTZ #22 are dozens of other special economic zones. The most pervasive of these are the “enterprise zones,” (EZs) which are desig- nated by local (usually state or county) jurisdictions. The location of EZs is not related to ports of entry, but instead identified in terms of “underdevelop- ment” indicators and rhetorically justified in terms of job creation and local development. In these areas, which are not physically enclosed, commercial interests activate zoning to off-shore from the standpoint of labor, land use, and abatement regulations, in relation to local and state taxes, among many other factors. While “job creation” is one of the justifications for EZs, they put into motion incentivizing mechanisms as well as risk management sys- tems that make flexible what exactly counts as a job―the conditions under which people can be hired, retained, trained, discarded, and worked. EZs emerged around the rhetoric of “development,” while creating corporate tax havens that deprive local communities of revenue and subsidize buildings, roadways, water treatment plants and other major infrastructure to encour- age territorial centralization of specific economies.

FTZs and EZs offer “competitive advantages,” an effect of nimble, over- lapping, and contradictory jurisdictional frameworks. FTZ implies that goods enter US territories but remain outside of US trade markets, while EZ implies that bodies that are physically in the US in terms of policing and labor are moved outside of the US in terms of labor regulations and human rights. FTZ has to do with the connection to ports of entry, to the mass move- ment of goods, and the assembly, storage, or destruction of commodities and materials; EZ is tied to managing and speculating upon shifting labor mar- kets, warehousing, and supply chain management of labor as commodity. FTZ has to do with tariff differentials and cost differentials for parts, as well as flexible inventory and storage of commodities (the time value of money, which pertains to price differentials between spot and futures markets, for instance, and “just-in-time” production). EZ has to do with tax differentials and labor cost differentials at smaller scales (competition between states or even counties) and to the flexibilization of work.”

“Gradually, and increasingly after containeriza- tion becomes standard in the 1960s, human associations become separated from commodity movement, even as manufacturing processes become nor- malized as an FTZ activity: FTZ becomes in a sense a regime that separates labor from trade, workers from commodities, producing a de-laboring of the global goods movement.”

“If extra-territoriality and deportability are instruments of statecraft, they are also global regimes. The zone offers a perspective on the articulation of neoliberal logic and the state form: a dynamic process whereby territories and populations are increasingly zoned for optimal insertion into capital circuits, enforcing regimes of stratified spatiality. Our little group had long understood that a politics based on “rights” and “papers” would not allow us to develop a shared analysis of neoliberalism, nor to call the state into question as the necessary and inevitable frame of reference. Riding the zone became a way to explore and also to disrupt specific space-making practices and capitalist relations. We began to refer to an “undocumented perspec- tive” as not merely the perspective, knowledge, or experience of people who are themselves rendered illegal by the state. “Undocumented” came to re- fer not to an identity, but to a set of practices, to the production of social relations that could be resistant to the capitalist relations that characterize the zone.

After the ride we continued to organize, and our actions became increas- ingly public. We also re-crafted our analysis of poli-migra. It seemed to us the violence was of a different nature―and its effects were different―than we had though. Our work still focused on deportation enforcement, but we began to discuss the ways in which criminalizing migration worked to forc- ibly integrate so many aspects of life into the logic of the dominant economic order. In writing about the scale and scope of migrant incarceration, and its connection to increasingly widespread disenfranchisement in the name of the current financial crisis, we reconsidered what we felt was at stake in migrant resistance.

. . . (poli-migra) is also an all-out attack on the communal relations and econo- mies that immigrants are crucial in sustaining: neighborhood arrangements that collectivize domestic and reproductive work, economies of barter and exchange, social and institutional practices of self-governance. In other words, all the social relations that correspond to a definition of communities as living systems. These arrangements are a nuisance from the perspective of capital; they are an impedi- ment to efficiency and profit maximization, [. . .] an obstacle to the total mar- ketization of life . . . (Moratorium on Deportations, from Why an Immigrants Freedom Ride)”