Sunday, March 22, 2015

Wobbly times number 185

Workers produce the wealth of nations for wages.

The upper 10% own 80% of the wealth workers
produce.  The social wage gets some of that
wealth back to the workers.  The social wage
is funded by taxes on the wealth workers
produce.  Trickle down economic theory states
that the taxes on the upper 10% should be cut.
This leads to the declaration of 'budget emergencies' 
by conservative politicians and to calls for
either more regressive taxes e.g. widening and
raising the GST or cuts to public health, education
and welfare, including the age pension.

How much wealth would be produced in Australia
during the month of May, if everyone who depends
on wages to make a living went on general strike
from May 1st to May 31st?

Friday, November 28, 2014

Wobbly times number 183

                 The Pleasurable Revolution

                     from the Wobbly Review of Books
                               Mike Ballard

 THE BOOK OF PLEASURES, by Raoul Vaneigem
 ISBN 0 904665 03 8
 Published by Pending Press, London, 1983

Warning: this book will squeeze your adrenal glands. It is the very personal statement of a French revolutionary, who's organizational history and political profile can be found in the Situationist movement of the 1960's, a movement which carved its niche in history with the paving stones dug from Parisian streets during the heady days of May, 1968. It is a psychological snapshot of one, Raoul Vaneigem, circa 1979. 

 LE LIVRE DES PLAISIRS was translated into English, as the BOOK OF PLEASURES, by John Fullerton in 1983. Its latest incarnation can by purchased from Left Bank Books, at 4142 Brooklyn Ave. N.E., Seattle, Washington 98105. It's a fairly expensive 105 pages--$12 in paperback-- but considering its lack of availability in most libraries, being able to read it is usually going to be limited to being able to buy or steal it; an irony, I'm sure, M. Vaneigem would appreciate. 

 "All pleasure is creative", he writes, "if it avoids exchange. Loving what pleases me, I have to build a space in life as little exposed as possible to pollution by business, or I will not find the strength to bring the old world down, and the fungus among us will rot my dreams. While the state is in disarray, strike hard at business and its friends." 

 Raoul Vaneigem sees the social relations and the consciousness which springs from them under the rule of capital, as turning the real world upside down. Human desires, traits, labor, creativity, indeed human beings themselves, come increasingly to be viewed as attainable in exchange for money: sexiness through soap commodities, joy through the purchase of brand named alcoholic commodities, self-esteem by buying a certain car or truck. This upside down (reified, if you will) world permeates human communication and therefore, consciousness in modern industrial societies. It stifles human self-awareness and blocks the road to social revolution, the road toward what M. Vaneigem describes as "universal self-management". It is culminating today in the almost total commodification of human relations. 

 "There will be no proletarian emancipation unless we strike the shackles off pleasure.", Vaneigem writes. In order to crack one's way out of this multifaceted shell, he proposes that the individual worker focus first on her/ his need for pleasure and then to use it as the engine of psychological emancipation. Duty, guilt, and sacrifice-- the traditional left, liberal, and religious motivators-- tend to produce less than liberating results and in fact, according to Vaneigem, are counterproductive or worse, reactionary in nature. "Doing exactly what you feel like is pleasure's greatest weapon, connecting individual acts with collective practice; we all do it. If rejecting survival made the 1968 movement taking hold of life will open the era of universal self- management." 

 Agree? Disagree? Curious? 

 Pick up the BOOK OF PLEASURES. Follow M. Vaneigem's id though the psychological thicket of our collective super-egos. You may see yourself and your co-workers inside, suspended within this sphere of self induced repressions, reinforced by the admonitions of all the official authorities of modern ideology: religion, the State, the Economy, media pundits... Choose your poison. Raoul Vaneigem would have you choose pleasure. 

 Admittedly, this can be a dangerous path and Vaneigem deals with many of your objections as he argues, appeals, and taunts. Sometimes a Freudian/Reichian map would seem helpful; but in all commonsense and a tuned-in critical faculty is all you really need. 

 It is true that M. Vaneigem can sound pompous at times. His aphoristic phrasing can put one off too. His pronouncements pooh-poohing organization in favor of spontaneous autonomy left me cold after awhile. While this notion may be appealing, it will never satisfy the desire of those who wish for more than a psychic liberation from the rule of capital. Generalized self-management can only be realized on a societal level as a set of social relations based on democratic practice. Individuals can only go so far by themselves. A cooperative commonwealth requires democratic mediation of individual differences and individual desires. This is sometimes hard work which is not always immediately pleasurable. C'est la vie, non M. Vaneigem? 

 I don't mean to throw cold water on the BOOK OF PLEASURES though. The insights which pack this book are extremely useful. They continually stimulate and challenge the reader. I think Vaneigem's observations can help us as, "we are forming the structures of the new society within the shell of the old." 

 This review is reprinted from the April, 1993 edition of the "Industrial Worker", the newspaper of the Wobblies.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wobbly times number 182


Somethings come and 
somethings go
and some last a long 
change is constant 
We are 
We will not be
It is 
It will not be

Being banged
from nothing
to nothing
we return

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Wobbly times number 180

Recommended for those who want to break free from the 'norm'.

Australia is huge and still relatively unpopulated.  There's a reason for this.  The reason is rooted in the fact that Australia has a very old surface.  The Bungle Bungles formed some 360 million years ago is not a geographical spot where many people are going to be able to provide food, water and shelter for themselves.  That's just one example.  Here's another:

My road trip with John Tattersall from Perth to Lake Ballard with stops in Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, The Broad Arrow Tavern, Ora Banda and Menzies. Antony Gormley placed 51 pieces of sculptures which represent casts taken from residents of Menzies, making Lake Ballard one hell of an art exhibit. Sorry about the wind drowning out my excellent commentary on Lake Ballard itself.  

Suffice to say, Western Australia is an awesome exhibit of its own. Its flora and fauna have an amazing resilience to them. I include the citizens of Australia in this description.  You see them depicted, out on the lake, under the moonlight. The starlit skies are to die for. The weather can be harsh and unpredictable. The flies, as you may be able to detect in the film, are ubiquitous during the daylight hours, but seem to disappear as the Sun sets.  There's a lovely tinge of wild and dangerous when you're out there in your swag listening to the wind, looking up through your insect screen.   

Think of a vast, empty, hot, sparsely populated sunny landscape and there you have it: Western Australia and its people depicted as a work of art on dry salt lake.  Makes you want some cool, clear water...

Kindly edited by Jennifer Armstrong.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wobbly times number 179


Large print is easier for those who are seeing impaired.  

Today's a nice 70 degrees fahrenheit.  Tomorrow, 70 degrees centigrade?  Who knows? Depends on how far forward you're projecting your tomorrows. I suspect the temperatures during mid-September will be in the 90s F by 2050. That's like the mid-30s for the celsius oriented. 

Still, the lizards are out, snapping up some insects on their quick, lurching hunt. Beautiful, the day is. With Sacred Ibis flying cross the pale blue sky, a gentle breeze issues slowly across the fern leaves. Yes, ferns have leaves.  And our Sun, radiating the brighter light of the coming spring, which this year falls on the 23rd.  I mean the vernal equinox. 

It's September, 2014 in Perth, Australia.  

Liberty is being attacked but, it has always been unpopular with rulers big and small. Liberty was never granted.  Slavery has been imposed by others on us, to various degrees and with our acquiescence within political boundaries of our own making.  Still, we demand liberty. But we have not always had the power to enforce our will. That power has come by degree over the centuries. Our power has grown since enough of us united against chattel slavery.  

Chattel slavery didn't die as complete a death as many of us would like to think during the era of feudalism. French and Spanish ship crews knew that they could be captured and held as slaves by the Moors/Saracens until they were ransomed as they sailed the Mediterranean Sea.  This was a norm during the centuries when the feudalist mode of production prevailed.  Owning and power were accepted as being beyond the notion of liberty.  It was the Dark Ages and they are still with us in many ways today.