Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wobbly times number 96

GROWTH SITS ON OUR HEADS LIKE AN ALP


I can remember a time when the sky was clear and you could see the stars at night. I was a child and you were IT. Tag! It was a time before pollution, before the 'growth' which led to smog filled skies, except in Los Angeles. Back then, jokes were made about LA's smog. Smog was something, THEY had. We'd never see it, unless, of course, we went to LA in 1955.

Capitalism cannot survive without 'growth'. In bourgeois terms,'La Growth' means more commodities being produced for sale with a view to increasing profits. Commodities produced by wage-slaves whose time is commodified. Before capitalism, there was no such idea taken as 'commonsense'. To be sure, we were not enlightened. Most of us thought that aristocrats were above the law and that we were subjects to their absolute control--mediated, of course, by religious authority. The ideology of 'growth' fills in a lot of the blanks in our understanding of what's happening to us now--as much or more than Christian, Muslim, etc. religious ideology, IMHO.

'Growth', includes the expansion: of the workforce/population, commodified wealth and living outside the parameters of ecological health. 'Growth' is also connected to increasing debt and speculation in finance markets for commodities like derivatives, real estate and credit default swaps. Just look at our rulers and opinion making public intellectuals go on and on their 'bully pulpits' about the need for 'growth'. Granted, there is also dispute amongst groups and individuals within the issues of 'growth' coming from various perspectives, some to stop it altogether and go back to some pastoral golden age or even as far back as a prehistoric standard of living. Still, the dominant idea our era is 'growth'.


'Growth has been linked time and again with the notion of 'progress'. This is old fashioned and is profoundly wrong headed in this day and age. Progress should always be linked to the notion of gaining more freedom. More freedom and the creation of more junk in a world sick with pollution are incompatible movements of labour. Labour needs freedom and freedom at this stage of labour's ability to create wealth means disposable time, not its incessant employment by a tiny class who want nothing more than even more money under their control after they've found a market for the junk we produce. On the other hand, it should always be kept in the mind that the call for more free-time is not meant as a conservative plea to breed slavish subservience to some new form of Puritan Idealism. We don't need no steenking ascetic priests!

There's no point in being uncomfortable because you're lazy. Inventories build up while workers remain unemployed because they produce too much. Insufficient demand hits the fan. Capitalism breeds the misery of unemployment, while those who are employed are under contract to give away their lives' time.

We all have different needs in terms of time for lounging around. I reckon in a co:operative commonwealth, with distribution of wealth, measured by one's labour time put into what had been determined democratically to be necessary, we'd only collectively need four hours, maybe only 2 hours working time per day, per four day week. We're being employed to produce a lot of crap now, which we shouldn't-oughta. That crap (most of it, just polluting our planet even more) takes a lot our collective time to produce--just in case you were wondering about how we'd live with the 2-hour day. Further, on the two hour day, I think we all should be able to take care of our private desires ourselves, in private if we wish. For instance, we could spend time in a wind surfing collective, which would save anyone not interested from the bothersome effort, for example in spending one's necessary labour time in wind sail production or spending more free-time determining how to vote on yet another issue concerning our society's social plan. Of course, most planning would just amount to an easy "repetez s'il vous plait": notation of what had been taken from the social store of goods and services. The private collective's own labour, eliminates the need for social consideration, except for environmental impact. The need is even now supporting an exploitation of wage-labour, why not labour-time freely given to facilitate its use?

Of course, what we have nowadays is a 'growth' in unemployment or underemployment. Unemployment leads to poverty in a capitalist society. Workers need employers to buy what they're selling--their skills. Wages adequate to support a worker are usually paid for a forty hour work week....at least forty hours. A lot of workers are not 'bought' because the employing class can't profitably employ them for forty hours or even at all which is another way of saying that even though workers are quite capable of producing wealth, it can't be sold therefore, these workers become part of the surplus population in the logic of the social relation of Capital. If wealth can't be sold, there is no point in producing it, even though there may be mass poverty surrounding the means of production. This is the logic of wage-slavery. This is the reality which is presented as being rational. Check this video out. Check out the informed attitudes. Is shorter work time with no cut in pay presented as an solution to unemployment? No. Why not?

1 out of every 7 Americans now rely on food stamps.

While we don't see soup kitchens, it may only be because so many Americans are receiving food stamps.

Indeed, despite the dramatic photographs we've all seen of the 1930s, the 43 million Americans relying on food stamps to get by may actually be much greater than the number who relied on soup kitchens during the Great Depression.

'Living in harmony with the Earth' involves a conscious effort, even now--especially now. The ancients knew this, as conscious slaves to nature. We should know this because thinking of the Earth other than as, the only known habitable planet in the Universe, in the here and now, in the year 2011, is shot through with genocidal implulse. It always has been.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wobbly times number 95




Ravings

Nothing fancy. Just me, sitting in the backyard under a blue sky, warm breezes flowing gently around my bare feet. Fresh laundry flaps nearby. Of course, the clothesline is out here, in the clear, in the open, reflecting sunshine. An occasional semi-aggressive fly zips by. Potentially murderous motor cars present my ears with low, annoying growls, long burps and distant gasps of air. A tinker-toy-like “Greensleeves” tune wafts in the distance, adding to the pollution. If only the ice-cream was genuine, hand made organic vanilla, chocolate and strawberry....if only, then...I might be more forgiving. The local train’s low whine, announcing its slowdown, makes its way up Wharf Street, sometimes cut out by a whirring, householder-sized power saw. Ah, weekends. Doves do their hootish cockle coos. Somewhere, there are child-bursts, small excited shouts. Somewhere. Somewhere an organ plays a few, medium-sized chords and then, silence... then, an annoying outboard motorboat sounding engine burbles, first fast, then winds down. It’s probably a chain saw or a small motorbike. Citizens are ‘at it’ in their neighbourhood.

Why is this fun? Why is being so tiny so much fun? Probably has to do with power illusions. We think we have power when we step on the accelerator. It’s true we bought the petrol for a certain amount of coin per litre. Powered by money, is that what we are? Power accelerating fun, also daring to get near that line, that line between exuberant life and the nothingness of death. That scary line. That line in the sand. That line that shoots adrenal rush; boosts our heart rate like an orgasm does. Oh to die, deeply buried in a cunt. That’s the way my male death wish turns.

To go or not to go?

Of course, not to go is the answer. Not to go so that one can go on. One can groan on. Oh morbidity. What a silly thing. All because one needs rest. Arrest it all! Stop it. Stop goes the weasel. Reflect. No serious revolutionaries have ever said, “If only I’d done more” on their death beds.

Have another toke.

Jets gulp clean fresh air
Chemically polluted rain falls

Somewhere, with sharpened beak, a magpie spears a field mouse. Taking the mouse up from the ground, the magpie scans for fellow thieves. Noticing none, the bird flies off-- dangling limbs and tail bouncing with the beat of her wings.

It’s blue skies and new birds, as spring flows into summer’s full glory. Sunflowers look like gangly teens, awkward in the wind. There’s unrest in the world too. Gangly teens are in the streets smashing Tory HQ. As yet, there is no mass, class consciously organised movement. Heck, it’s only 2011. How could we expect such a thing? It’s unrealistic. Of course, we’ll have to keep fighting to defend the gains of the past....indifference kills enthusiasm. From my observations, this seems true in most all human creative movement, lust included. Indifference and passion are incompatible, for indifference implies a lack of rational connection. Psychologically sensed alienation follows closely on the heels of indifference. When enthusiasm is continually rebuffed, hope becomes thin : The skies turn grey.

On the other hand, when enthusiasm is met with possibility, motion can gain speed for, “passion is catching”. So said The Great Shake’s Marc Antony to the crowd who gathered after Caesar's assassination. Marcus Antonius lived from January 14, 83 BC – August 1, 30 BC. Say his name. out loud. It's not said that often anymore. Yes, Marcus Antonius was 53 when he carked it. At the end of his life Marcus got together with the Roman political State's approved Queen of Egypt, Cleopatra. Antony, who governed the eastern part of Rome’s territorial possessions, ordered Cleopatra to Tarsus in October 41 BC. –they soon united in passionate alliance. How much lust was involved can be left to the playwrights and, of course, our own imaginations.

Time will tell all as it rushes by us. It goes and we flow in our own directions which, when viewed in their partials and wholes, demonstrate pattern(s), a simultaneously learned and changed behaviour, spurred by our changed minds: Chattel slavery was once considered a norm of human society. With hindsight, this human movement will be known as, ‘history’. With foresight, the movement will be known by the varying experiences of its participants (however weakly or complicitly they play their parts), along with their ideologically driven adjectives, all preceding concepts expressing what the people of certain times and places are calling, “the struggle for freedom.” With hindsight, ‘World War II’ and ‘Palestinian liberation’ can both be very rationally construed as struggles for freedom. Of course this discourse is not meant to leave out the fact that there are other views history, some diametrically opposed. This is present and accounted for mostly within many conservative circles and from the left, amongst many anarchists and indeed, in even more specialised autonomous nooks and libertarian crannies.

Lived social relations are the stuff of history. And within the lives on which those social relations are based, a lot of time will have been spent on, "the frim-fram sauce with the aussen fay and chafafa on the side”. Rightfully so methinks. “Passion is catching” and life can be shorter than you think. Using your time to memorise dogma is undoubtedly a mistake. However, if your mind is bound up that way, you’ll probably never know it.

The only constant is change. This is a principle, not a dogma. Principles are more related to laws than ever developing, commonly held concepts like morality. It’s change-time. Even non-organic parts of nature exhibit change. From the BIG BANG, 13.7 billion years ago, when time started, movement also began and with movement came change. In this day and age, astronomers agree that most galaxies in the universe are moving away from each other at very great speeds—some of these galaxies are moving away from The Milky Way faster than the speed of light. Inflation has another meaning, the expansion of our Universe at a speed greater than light. There are galaxies beyond our 13 billion light-year vision which we’ll never see because of inflation. And there will be more of them. In future, in the far, far distant future, if change keeps going like it is now, we’ll only be able to see the billions of stars in the Milky Way. In the meantime, some galaxies will become closer and collide. Andromeda is scheduled to hit the Milky Way in three billion years. Which will come first: Relative darkness or some rare, chaotic colliding with plenty of near misses?

Think of it: You’re being pierced by neutrinos right now. Everything on Earth has been pierced by neutrinos for the four billion years of Earth’s existence. Change is built into the whole dynamic, from the Big Bang on. So is movement; and it all comes with time’s flow. Radiation is bigger than you think. Of course, organic nature has evolved more and more complex organisms, undergone mass extinctions and adapted to ever new environments in their wake. At the time I write, nobody has yet been able to pinpoint the moment when life began and in what specific organism; but it is accepted by most in the know (i.e. those who have done the measurements or are capable of deciphering them in scientific papers) that life on Earth began to establish itself around 3.85 billion years ago, probably as heterotrophs. Algae is a step up in complexity from this form of life. Algae comes in time; so do humans.

The laundry bathes in warm, sunshine wind from the East. Pollen count is driving the market for antihistamines in Perth. A jet rumbles in the blue. (I would prefer to consciously organise society in such a way that plane travel was much less necessary.) Jazz on the radio 24 hours a day, commercial and pledge-break free. Oh bliss...sometimes it comes down to this—the sensual moment, as it is, as you live it.

A lot of Hegel’s appeal comes from ‘moment’, used to describe: movement, time and the development of humanity, all in one. The moment is where we find ourselves in the temporal river and according to Hegel, we both assist the historical current and are moved by the totality of humanity’s effect on history’s direction: The current flows toward Freedom, The Absolute Idea or God, your choice. Hegel opposed chattel slavery at a time when it was legalised in the U.S.A. Hegel also chose to associate himself with the Lutheran Church. This was at a time when Beethoven was first presenting his Egmont to the public ear. The Egmont Overture is based on the revolt of nationalist Netherlanders against feudal Catholic domination by the Spanish monarchy. The Dutch were Protestants. The rise of capitalism and bourgeois democracy was on. Beethoven was a revolutionary in his time, a time when most of the world was still dominated by monarchist absolutism. I agree to disagree with him on the question of the importance of religious faith, especially in this day and age. His bourgeois political conclusions about: women, culture in Africa and other 19th century mythologies are all too revealing about his preferences for power arrangements amongst humans. Everyone is bound by the limitations of their time....everyone. Of course, I live over 200 years after Hegel. The greatest philosopher of the age of capitalist social relations died on November 14th, 1831 at the age of 61

"Nothing significant in human history has ever been accomplished without passion." G.W.F. Hegel

Agressivity is related to perceived material scarcity. I say, “perceived” because the material scarcity may not exist, other than as a numerical blip in the way we go about our business. And, to tell the truth, my perception is that we go about our business in exceeding strange ways these days. Capitalism is out of kilter with so much of a life well lived. For instance, it is growing dangerously, destroying the Earth by employing wage-slaves to produce toxicity. This sad state comes about mostly because the perception amongst the movers and shakers, the ones with the political power, is that ‘worth’ and/or ‘value’ have more to do with quantitative abstractions than living beings and what these beings find useful. To be sure, Earth holds a special place in this solar system. It is very useful to humanity; but humanity as a whole is not making the decisions about how to produce wealth without causing environmental degradation and natural resource depletion. As far as we can now determine, Earth is the only planet with life on it and is likely the only planet in the solar system which can sustain life as we know it without ‘terraforming’. Right now, we’re allowing a few people decide what will be produced and under what terms (with minor negotiations in the bourgeois democracies) and these people are not in the habit of allowing ‘use’ to trump ‘sale’. The question is: Why do we allow such a state of affairs to prevail on this very special place in the Universe, our Earth?

The answer is rooted in our survival instincts. However, some will say that it is because humanity is stupid. But that’s not it, because the answer to, “Is there an alternative?” is, “Yes. Common ownership of the collective product of labour with distribution of wealth measured by labour time”—see, it’s not that complicated. Agreed though. There are some people who are more intelligent than other people. It doesn’t follow that they are more politically powerful nor that they should be. So, the state of affairs is not so much due to stupidity as to its close relative, ‘ignorance’. Nobody talks about, “common ownership of the collective product of labour with distribution of wealth measured by labour time”. As a result, there is no dialogue concerning its implementation. Political power always has a voice and most times, is quite pleased, living within a politically ignorant milieu.

There are also subconscious forces at work which retard or block rational praxis and they are linked to survival instincts. Most humans are not fearless. They are aware of the power over them (which is at the core of political power); but they do not question it most of the time. To the degree that they do question existing, embodied authority, fear tends to kick in.

Why do we allow such a state of affairs to prevail on this very special place in the Universe, our Earth?

It’s not a moral problem as much as it is a systemic problem. True; there is a moral dimension. We’re not as perfect as what we might imagine possible. I think this is an inherent fault of Idealism: They hold perfection up to the mirror and discover fault in themselves—the portrait of Dorian Grey alongside their own reflection. Self-esteem is difficult to maintain with this mindset.
Back to the systemic. So, 2010 was the third hottest year on record. Climate change is also showing up in severe drought and flood statistics. Yes, I know statistics have particular realities behind them. It was a half a degree warmer this year than the average between 1960 and the 1990s. And then, there was the general attitude of resignation to the inevitable slaughter and possible extinction. Climate change as a result of all kinds of natural disasters have been the norm of the eons. Now, we’re helping another climate along by allowing our rulers to go on with their business.

After all, people are stupid and lazy, always have been. ‘Nuff said. Some call those responsible sinners others, sinful—a question of degree within a belief system, of which, there are many, all too many. Of course, lots of ideas are floating around, a belief system: political conservatism, religious teachings and so on. All can cascade, more or less unison, and produce waves of authoritarian psychological behaviours, resulting in non-consensual violence. But, even more deeply...in the substance of your daily life, there is the ever present reality of buying and selling. To buy or not to buy, that is the constant question to which most are lending our ears, at any one moment, inside the capitalist system. It is a call to value, price/wages/salary, profit, use, need, want, manufactured want, death wish and possible salvation?

On the other hand, there’s wealth, which equals stuff we can use and our own autonomy, our ability to spend our time the way we want to. The stuff is all those goods and services we produce in a day’s work. Stuff and time go together. We produce stuff over time, sometimes doing overtime and sometimes not getting paid for it. But the key thing to remember is TIME. No time dedicated to producing goods and services = no wealth. And whose time are we talking about? Those employed to produce goods and services, the working class. The working class is the producing class. Using their skills within certain time-frames, the working class produces all the wealth in the world not already found in nature.

Ah but nature. What a wonder! And we should be damn glad that we’ve still got a bit. Yes siree. We’s jus about the luckiest people in the solar system. Seppin’ they (some of the ones who own the collective product of our labour) not so long ago kilt an 80 square mile patch of sea life in the Gulf of Mexico. Lordy, what we gonna do?

Ok, as soon as you start bringing up questions like this, the inevitable response is going to be about how we need to protect our right to own guns. Why do we need the right to bear arms? The serious answer is that some of us need to be able to keep our hunting skills. And there’s the fact that we need to be able to protect ourselves from the political authorities, other potential psychopaths and criminals on the make. Lots of people are after a piece of the action i.e. us and our stuff, what little wealth we have. For you know, we (most of us i.e. the working class, 90%) create a whole lot of wealth--relatively little ever trickles back. Remember, wealth includes disposable time. Why is it that 88% of the wealth which 90% of the people are engaged in producing, ends up in the control of 10% of the people?

Of course, 10% of the people also have political power over 90% of the people. This state of affairs puts a crimp in the meaning of democracy. These distorted power relations reflect in behaviours of people caught up in the system. Among other onerous jobs, maintenance of the status quo becomes a job for wage-slaves hired in the police, military and prison industries. Not that all wage-slaves don’t contribute to that special social relation of our times, Capital. Like Frank Zappa quipped, “Do you like it? Do you hate it? There it is, the way you made it.” Even if the oft dreamed of ‘justice’ finally arrives in the shape of an equality of classes, with an equality of wages, the political system of dominance and submission remains the order of the day. Roots produce shoots. A constant hacking is demanded from the Idealists. But, it’s a systemic problem, brothers and sisters; the wage system needs uprooting. Not being done, fellow workers. Nope.
Nowhere.

"With the seizing of the means of production by society production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer."

Engels wrote that in the very late 19th century. Socialists who have read, understood and agreed with Engels and Marx, cannot possibly agree that socialism has yet come into existence. Yet, many self-described anarchists, communists, socialists, liberals, conservatives, theocrats and fascists agree that socialism has existed and indeed, exists today. To be sure, the workers remain wage-slaves in these socialist States; they do not control or socially own the collective product of their labour. In fact, the product of their labour is bought and sold on the market for a price, just as their labour power is. The commodity has mastery over the producer; wealth remains alienated from the control of its producers. While they may have been told that they have; society actually hasn’t seized the means of production. The means of production and the collective product of labour are in the hands of a class apart from the majority.

After ten years in Australia, I can say, “I like it.” I have no illusions about the fact that limits to democratic power in Australia exist. In some ways, Australia is ahead and some behind in humanity’s trek toward more freedom. Australia’s police are less vicious and its legal system less focussed on prison time for relatively high percentages of its population. The opposite is true for the USA. To be sure, racist power structures persist and result in a much higher percentage of mostly male Aboriginals ending up in prison, way more per-capita than their fellow citizens in the non-Aboriginal population. Still, prison terms tend to be much less lengthy for all than in more punitive societies like the USA.

How long do I stay out in the backyard on any one day?

About one Toshiba Satellite laptop battery’s worth. Then, it’s ‘save the work’ and back inside.

“Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.” Kind of strange when you think of someone saying and singing this like they did back in 1942. Not as much fervour these days. Terrorism really is the phoney war we were sold by some in the press from about ’39-’40. Doesn’t stir the fervour. Back then, we were under real threat of being overrun by a bunch of neo-feudalist lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur. And they had tanks, guns, aircraft, armies and navies as good, if not better than ours. What to do in such a situation other than to fight back, for fight you must when confronted by such arrogant bullying. I’m perfectly aware that the capitalists made a lot of money from WWII and that the situation improved immensely for the rulers of the political States who won the war. But, I maintain, we won too. Workers won, in the sense that they didn’t have to live under total fascist domination in most capitalist political States, although a clear majority would say that the workers were way less than free than they could have been in the Marxist-Leninist Party dictatorships. Of course, illusions of how free one was accumulated like Capital in the non-Communist political States. The struggle for democracy and against absolutism continues.

video

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wobbly times number 94




Die Stille nach dem Schuß (Silence follows the shot)
This movie has the title "The Legend of Rita" in English.


The Red Army Faction (RAF) was a self-described, communist, anti- imperialist urban guerrilla organisation based in the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany). The RAF had a theoretically superficial Marxist-Leninist set of politics similar to those of Weatherman in the USA and the Red Army Faction in Japan. These were young people, many of them college students, who felt both a guilt about and sympathy for Third World nationalist revolutions; revolutions they believed, were the vanguard of a world revolution which would eventually sweep the 'fascist imperialist' States away.

Che Guevara captured what Schlöndorff is attempting to portray in his film concerning the mental spirit of these German student, revolutionary romantics when he reflected on his own audacity and political commitment:

"At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love. It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality... We must strive every day so that this love of living humanity will be transformed into actual deeds, into acts that serve as examples, as a moving force."

Action and audacity were the Red Army Faction's (RAF) strong suit. "The Legend of Rita" (original German title "Die Stille nach dem Schuß" ) is set in the divided Germany of the 70s. Rita is a young fearless romantic in love with a left-wing revolutionary, one Andreas 'Andi' Klein, a guy who is more or less the leader of an RAF group which she is a part of. Their RAF group is armed, ruthless and robs banks to fund 'the revolution'. These revolutionaries naively explain their robberies in terms of 'anti- imperialist' politics : Yes, out loud, to customers as they clean out the capitalist bank vault and cash drawers, with weapons drawn.

Adrenal rush and surprise hit one in this film from start to finish. From jail breaks to motorcycle chases, to life behind the Iron Curtain, the film comes at you again and again with images you've been brainwashed to feel uncomfortable with. (Caution viewers: you may feel a violation of your Hollywoodised sensibilities.) You'll also feel the kind of careless courage these young people of the RAF had, as they consciously faced death, even as they reached out for a better life-- actually,a better life for others, mostly. As many, many of the New Left, Rita and her fellow RAF members are motivated to take violent political action in order to assuage a deeply felt guilt about being born in First World privilege. They are more moralists than materialists--romantic poets ready to use murder as a political weapon. In the midst of all this direct, violent action, some of them change, become more hard hearted, mechanically calculating. Rita's boyfriend is one of them and when this happens, love dies. Rita is a lover first and a revolutionary second. In her heart of hearts, she wants to settle down, have kids, a husband, the whole modern suburban dream, albeit in a more egalitarian, 'anti- imperialist' society. Rita wants mutual love more than anything else and as she learns more about the duplicitous mendacity of the coldly calculating political apparatus in both the East and West, she comes to the realisation that political States are always ready to opportunistically sacrifice their oft repeated, propagandised moral goals and callously toss human lives on the scrapheap for political gain. As a result, she grows closer to the only person who ever measured up to her romantic expectations, an East German woman named, Tatjana.

Volker Schlöndorff has directed a master portrait of a political situation, a time and a place which is quickly disappearing down the 'memory hole'. Not only are the West German RAF, with their Ton Stein Scherben albums and sneering hatred for bourgeois complacency critically and sympathetically examined; but the 'actually existing socialism' of the DDR of that era is laid bare as well. East Germany is portrayed realistically, down to the last idiosyncrasy, from the near empty roads, to the Radeberger Pilsner, to the workers' apartments in those large, multi- storied college dorm-like buildings in urban East Berlin. This portrait will disturb long held mainstream 'Time' magazine inspired conceptions of East Germany, some would say, 'with extreme prejudice'. Rest assured, the film's honesty extends across both sides of the East/West border. Far from revolutionary or socialist, most of the citizens of the DDR are portrayed as being quite conservative, endorsing whichever police are in charge of the political State. The point is hammered home at the end of the movie, when the fall of the Wall in 1989 is portrayed; a time when Rita and her audience are supposed to come to the realisation of just what die Stille nach dem Schuß entails.



Friday, November 19, 2010

Wobbly times number 93

Cherry cokes with
Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley on the juke
waiting for the bus
at the after-school soda shop.
We crowded in the back and rolled
'round corners
looping our way toward
near enough home stops
We were 'bad'
we sometimes sang Coasters' songs
"Why is everybody always pickin' on me..."
mouthing the words to the transistor radio squawk
Tough enough

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wobbly times number 92

What is 'class'? Who is in the working class? Who is in the capitalist employing class?

Class is defined by how one makes a living. The working class are those people who must sell their skills on the labour market to an employer for a wage or salary in order to make a living. The workers have nothing else to sell in order to make a living. Once in awhile, workers will market things they already own in garage sales; but, for the most part, workers are totally dependent on capitalists to hire them in order to make ends meet. They must go out in the market, hat in hand and say, "Please Mr. Boss. Please buy my services."

The capitalist class make their living from buying workers' skills, as they buy other commodities e.g. petrol, trucks, buildings. The difference with labour power is that it can be employed to create more wealth. Capitalists only buy workers who can be useful to them. This is the law of the marketplace for commodities. Commodities can't be sold unless they are useful. Workers thus purchased are employed by capitalists for periods of time, at places of employment which the capitalist owns. This is, in fact, how capitalists become wealthy. Once the sale by worker and purchase by employer are completed, goods and/or services are created by the workers. This newly created wealth (the goods and/or services) is what the capitalist claims ownership over. Just to be crystal clear: workers are not paid based on the quality or quantity of product of their labour; they are purchased on the labour market according the going rate for their skills. The capitalist then hires other workers to sell these goods and/or services, which have been made by their hirelings, in the marketplace for commodities. This selling requires a market of consumers who find the goods and/or services the workers were hired to produce, useful. From the sale of the wealth in goods and/or services the workers produce, comes the capitalists' profit. Some of this profit is called 'capital' and reinvested in buying more workers and means of production. Some of the profit goes to taxes to support the capitalist State and some to help keep the polytricksters beholden to the ruling capitalist class. Some of the profit is saved for a rainy day and finally more is spent by the capitalists on themselves. Fancy cars, fast models and big mansions can be expensive.



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The working class and the employing class have nothing in common. There can be no peace so long as hunger and want are found among millions of the working people and the few, who make up the employing class, have all the good things of life.
Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth.

FROM THE PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE INDUSTRIAL WORKERS OF THE WORLD

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Capital is dead labour, that, vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks. The time during which the labourer works, is the time during which the capitalist consumes the labour-power he has purchased of him. [4]
If the labourer consumes his disposable time for himself, he robs the capitalist. [5]
The capitalist then takes his stand on the law of the exchange of commodities. He, like all other buyers, seeks to get the greatest possible benefit out of the use-value of his commodity. Suddenly the voice of the labourer, which had been stifled in the storm and stress of the process of production, rises:
The commodity that I have sold to you differs from the crowd of other commodities, in that its use creates value, and a value greater than its own. That is why you bought it. That which on your side appears a spontaneous expansion of capital, is on mine extra expenditure of labour-power. You and I know on the market only one law, that of the exchange of commodities. And the consumption of the commodity belongs not to the seller who parts with it, but to the buyer, who acquires it. To you, therefore, belongs the use of my daily labour-power. But by means of the price that you pay for it each day, I must be able to reproduce it daily, and to sell it again. Apart from natural exhaustion through age, &c., I must be able on the morrow to work with the same normal amount of force, health and freshness as to-day. You preach to me constantly the gospel of “saving” and “abstinence.” Good! I will, like a sensible saving owner, husband my sole wealth, labour-power, and abstain from all foolish waste of it. I will each day spend, set in motion, put into action only as much of it as is compatible with its normal duration, and healthy development. By an unlimited extension of the working-day, you may in one day use up a quantity of labour-power greater than I can restore in three. What you gain in labour I lose in substance. The use of my labour-power and the spoliation of it are quite different things. If the average time that (doing a reasonable amount of work) an average labourer can live, is 30 years, the value of my labour-power, which you pay me from day to day is 1/(365×30) or 1/10950 of its total value. But if you consume it in 10 years, you pay me daily 1/10950 instead of 1/3650 of its total value, i.e., only 1/3 of its daily value, and you rob me, therefore, every day of 2/3 of the value of my commodity. You pay me for one day’s labour-power, whilst you use that of 3 days. That is against our contract and the law of exchanges. I demand, therefore, a working-day of normal length, and I demand it without any appeal to your heart, for in money matters sentiment is out of place. You may be a model citizen, perhaps a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and in the odour of sanctity to boot; but the thing that you represent face to face with me has no heart in its breast. That which seems to throb there is my own heart-beating. I demand the normal working-day because I, like every other seller, demand the value of my commodity. [6]
We see then, that, apart from extremely elastic bounds, the nature of the exchange of commodities itself imposes no limit to the working-day, no limit to surplus-labour. The capitalist maintains his rights as a purchaser when he tries to make the working-day as long as possible, and to make, whenever possible, two working-days out of one. On the other hand, the peculiar nature of the commodity sold implies a limit to its consumption by the purchaser, and the labourer maintains his right as seller when he wishes to reduce the working-day to one of definite normal duration. There is here, therefore, an antinomy, right against right, both equally bearing the seal of the law of exchanges. Between equal rights force decides. Hence is it that in the history of capitalist production, the determination of what is a working-day, presents itself as the result of a struggle, a struggle between collective capital, i.e., the class of capitalists, and collective labour, i.e., the working-class.

From CAPITAL, Volume I, section on the 'working day'.





Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wobbly times number 89



What the word, 'revolution' means to me and what I'm for.


Revolution is a change in the mode of production based on a change in social relations. Revolution has nothing to do with the violence or peacefulness of societal change. Revolution is not a tactic. A cooperative commonwealth (aka socialism and communism) is the strategic goal of revolutionaries in the modern age. Because we human beings make history, if we're not class conscious enough to demand and organise: the abolition of the wage system; common ownership of the social product of labour, with production based on use (as opposed to commodity exchange), there will be no revolution. At best, those workers actively participating in the class struggle will achieve a continual leftist reform of the capitalist mode of production or perhaps another form of State capitalist production of commodities. [As Marx observes in CAPITAL Volume I, chapter one: "Whence, then, arises the enigmatical character of the product of labour, so soon as it assumes the form of commodities? Clearly from this form itself."] At worst, humanity will step backwards into harsher forms of dictatorship under dogmatic, sadistic rulers, out of fear of realising their own freedom and the false notion that they can best survive by embracing the authority of those they find already in established positions of political power over the majority.

In this day and age, achieving more freedom on a societal level lies in the direction of embracing: common ownership of the social product of labour; production for use and need; distribution of collectively produced wealth based on labour time (not the mystifications associated with commodified sale); abolition of wage labour (wage-labour is commodified sale); a classless association of free producers (not a class dominated political State). These are the positions I take in relation to the question of revolution for what I'm talking about is a social revolution, not merely a political revolution where one class replaces another as ruling class of a political State.

Again, my position on revolution has nothing in common with notions about violence, random or otherwise. Nor does it have anything to do with small minorities bravely seizing the State and exercising political power over the majority. I won't become another Blanquist who thinks a tiny core of activists and revolutionaries are all that is needed to effect the most profound change in history: social revolution from class divided society to a classless, free association of producers. Learn this from historical experience: Without the corresponding need for majority support, any political project based on Blanquist tactics and strategy has always ended in the maintenance of class domination, not its sublation. Class rule is the existential condition individuals find themselves under even within a capitalist democracy and its political State. The aim of a revolution is to extend democracy beyond these limitations and can only be achieved by a conscious classwide organisation of democracy within the womb of capitalist class rule. Under the conditions where producers are organised as a class of wage-slaves by employers to produce wealth for the capitalist class, there is little in the way of democratic practice in society.


A free association of producers which is capable of organising as a class, as the overwhelming majority of the population, to take, hold and operate the means of production for themselves would also be quite capable of defending itself, as an organised, classless, Stateless society, from attack from reactionary forces attempting to preserve the condition of wage-slavery over the majority. A classless, grassroots-democratic governing structure is not a political State. Face it, most capitalists and landlords would never take up arms against the majority of a population, class consciously organised and in control of both the means of production and their own collective product of labour. Outside of a few psychopaths, most of our old rulers would just put in their four hours or less labour time like the rest of us and resign themselves to lives without servile politicians and other lackeys to enforce their political power over us as they do nowadays.

Communism means individualism. Not narrow individualism, the 'hooray for me, devil take the hindmost' individualism. Capitalist or narrow individualism is based on a negative dynamic for freedom: My freedom is your un-freedom. We need communist individualism, an individualism firmly based on the principle of equal political power amongst all men and women. Nobody should have more political power than anyone else in a classless association of free producers. This principle, consciously enforced by the association of free producers themselves in a spirit of solidarity will ensure that people attempting to impose political power over others are shunned by consensus, up to and including exclusion from the society for periods of time.


"Thus things have now come to such a pass that the individuals must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces, not only to achieve self-activity, but, also, merely to safeguard their very existence. This appropriation is first determined by the object to be appropriated, the productive forces, which have been developed to a totality and which only exist within a universal intercourse. From this aspect alone, therefore, this appropriation must have a universal character corresponding to the productive forces and the intercourse.


"The appropriation of these forces is itself nothing more than the development of the *individual capacities* corresponding to the material instruments of production. The appropriation of a totality of instruments of production is, for this very reason, the development of a totality of capacities in the *individuals* themselves."

from THE GERMAN IDEOLOGY


Again, I was inspired by Marx's notion of communism. I was not attracted to Lenin's nor his followers notions of socialism. Unlike Marx, Lenin, his followers and other ordinary non-leninist social democrats (for example: those in the Social Democratic Party of Germany) all these self-described socialists and communists continually make the case that socialism and communism are different systems. Marx and Engels made the case that socialism and communism were interchangeable terms identifying the same system: a classless society where production would be based on creating use-values with distribution taking place on the basis of the socially necessary labour time put into the creation of total wealth in society. In other words, commodity production would cease in a communist organisation of society. I'm really not that interested in living in a State capitalist society, a society where wage-labour and commodity production continues nor, am I interested in promoting any of the existing State capitalist societies.

My position is that you'll never, 'implement a new society' or 'find ecologically-sustainable solutions' without changing the way social relations are arranged and you can't do that without abolishing wage labour and instituting a mode of production based on what humans find to be useful (for example, it is useful not to destroy the Earth with climate changing technology), as opposed to marketing commodities for sale as is the case within the capitalist matrix of market wage-slavery. Anything less than changing the mode of production, is merely another proposal for the reform of the capitalist mode of production, the mode of production based directly on wage-labour. To be sure, liberal reform is preferable to conservative reform; but reforms do not overturn the set of social relations which result in the vast majority of the population having little or no political power over their own conditions of existence including the enormous quantity of wealth they produce: Wealth which politically empowers ruling classes to control government and the laws we are all supposedly equal under.

I also think that socialism can only come from a conscious act/praxis (the unity of theory and practice) of the workers themselves organised as a class for themselves. Thus, socialist praxis precludes the need for 'goons' or other monsters, like secret police or for that matter for ruling elites. In a classless, democratic society, politically equal human beings can discuss the issues which surround the distribution the product of their collective labour. As for myself, I prefer socially necessary labour time as a transparent solution for handling distribution and contribution in a newly created communist society and that's where my vote goes for the moment.
Commodity production and wage-labour fetishise the individual's social relations within the community of producers. We see ourselves as workers or 'middle class' 'worth' so and so much money. Worth is tied up and mystified with sale: I fetch this and so price on the labour market whereas Joe Blow only gets this much in wages at his job. Alienation of each from each becomes the rule of everyday life. The reality is that we all participate in a giant division of labour to produce the wealth of society and that if one part in the division of labour stops, say through a strike, the other parts suffer which can even lead to a breakdown of society. This reality is forgotten in the narrow indvidualists' fetishised rush to keep their own jobs in the rat race and impress their masters, their employers, and perhaps get a rise in pay in recognition of subaltern obedience. Meanwhile, in spite of all our supplications, mutual throat cutting (in our negative pursuit of freedom) and efforts at liberal reform, the social relation of Capital reproduces the exploitation inherent in the wage system with 10% of the population owning and controlling 88% of the wealth which 90% of the population produces. Along with the unequal distribution of wealth, goes a similar UNEQUAL share of political power in capitalist democracies.

Of course, in a communist democracy 100% of the wealth is owned and controlled by 100% of the people. In such a classless society, where labour time is obvious and open, everyone can see that they put in so an so much time into the creation of the social store of goods and services and that they are entitled to withdraw what they've put in from their own communal store of wealth. The specifics of how this is accomplished is left to the free association of producers deliberating at that time, in other words the society of that time. Unfortunately, there are no such societies today. This is what Marx meant when he quipped that he wasn't about making up recipes for the cook shops of the future as a Utopian Socialist might. The details are left up to the democratic organisation of the people who make the revolutionary change in the mode of production. For instance, a society-wide free association of producers decides how much labour time to deduct from the individual producer's time share in the social store in order to maintain and develop the means of production and social infrastructure. These formulas are not made up in advance of the functioning communist society by self-appointed vanguards.

The concrete knowledge that one contributes, one is actually the producer of society, is a very important aspect of daily life to maintain as it would solidify the philosophical basis of the socialist mode of production and distribution. The subject-object relation would finally be put right-side up in a classless society because this can only be done in a society based on the principle that the product belongs to the producer. Despite the propaganda of the various rulers in the history of class societies, neither kings nor slave masters nor captains of industry have created the wealth of society. Wealth is produced at the grassroots of class society, no matter what sort of class society is under examination. There is nothing against human nature in this principle. Before class societies began to appear some ten thousand years ago, our ancestors associated freely on the basis of kinship, without class division between haves and have not. They enjoyed a direct social relation with each other and held the collective product of their labour in common. This went on for tens of thousands of years. To be sure, class societies were historically necessary to achieve the level of wealth production required to create the potential for modern socialism's level of free-time from necessary labour. But, class societies have reached an historical point where they have become fetters on the greater freedom possible in the here and now and have even become dangerous to the survival of the human race.

Again, I'm for* common ownership* of the collective product of labour. Private ownership of personal goods is fine and in keeping with the individualism of communism e.g. one's home, one's garden, one's shovel, one's vehicle. Private ownership of nature is out of the question. The Earth is not a commodity. One does not own land or the means of production or cities in a classless society. One uses the land one's home is on. One uses the means of production in combination with other producers to create wealth and use that wealth for needs. These collective products of labour are owned socially: They are not sold. Labour time vouchers demystify our relation with what we produce. They are not traded on markets. They are not money. They are not accumulated and passed down in wills; neither is the land we used while we live.

How much labour time is in a dollar or a pound or a euro? Of course, money is a commodified, mystified abstraction. How much labour time is in a voucher which says one hour of labour time? This relation is transparent. How much labour time is in a can of tuna, a house, a car, a bottle of beer? Not many know. They do know how what the prices of various commodities are, including their skills. Skills are commodities in the market for wage-slaves thus, our labour time is estranged in our minds from each other in the division of labour and further, from the total product of labour. And where does this put us but into a mode of selfish, narrowly individualist thinking where each is potentially at the competitive throat of the other in the labour market.

As for slackers in a classless society, they can go off and live on their own as far as I am concerned. I doubt whether many people would be averse to shunning them. I certainly wouldn't be averse to it. Of course, some may feel guilt ridden enough to continue to support them through their own charity. Go ahead. However, my view is that if we don't do our bit, the revolution will never be made. Solidarity is about doing your bit to get a free society going. Scabs and slackers act the role of thieves within the working class movement for freedom from wage-slavery and for social ownership of the common product of labour. A four hour day max is all we need put in, probably a whole lot less. Four hours or less, shouldn't be a problem for anyone, unless they're sick or too young or too old and of course, solidarity with those members of society is a given. A classless society cares for its own. As with everything else, it takes nothing but our labour time in solidarity and love: There are no prices. Production is carried on for use and need and with a view toward, 'living in harmony with the Earth.'

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wobbly times number 88

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You'll hear a lot of people say that Marx never had a vision for a communist society. It's true that Marx didn't presume to write down exactly how a communist society would function in its particulars--he didn't write the all the receipts for the cook shops of the future. You will also hear that he concentrated on presenting a ruthless critique of capitalist political-economy. This is true. It is also true that he and Engels ruthlessly critiqued the utopian socialists of the earlier 19th century. But this is not to say that he had no vision of what a post-capitalist, socialist society would look like nor that anything positive was to be said of utopian socialist visions. The only visions we have of what socialist societies would look like today are the ones we get, mostly filtered through hostile lenses beaming from Marxist-Leninist party directed forms of wage-slavery and of bourgeois socialist parties which have succeeded in representing the capitalist class every once in awhile after being elected as, 'The Party of Moderate Progress Within the Bounds of the Law' e.g. the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the Australian Labor Party. Granted, some of these societies are more appealing than others e.g. Cuba versus the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea or Norway versus Singapore.

Ask yourself this question as you read these three expositions by Marx on how communism/socialism would operate, according to Marx's own vision: "Do Marx's descriptions resemble what I've been told about how actually existing socialism operates? If not then, why not?"

The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the first volume of CAPITAL by Karl Marx.




"Let us now picture to ourselves, by way of change, a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour power of the community. All the characteristics of Robinson’s labour are here repeated, but with this difference, that they are social, instead of individual. Everything produced by him was exclusively the result of his own personal labour, and therefore simply an object of use for himself. The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion amongst them is consequently necessary. The mode of this distribution will vary with the productive organisation of the community, and the degree of historical development attained by the producers. We will assume, but merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities, that the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour time. Labour time would, in that case, play a double part. Its apportionment in accordance with a definite social plan maintains the proper proportion between the different kinds of work to be done and the various wants of the community. On the other hand, it also serves as a measure of the portion of the common labour borne by each individual, and of his share in the part of the total product destined for individual consumption. The social relations of the individual producers, with regard both to their labour and to its products, are in this case perfectly simple and intelligible, and that with regard not only to production but also to distribution."


"Within the co-operative society based on common ownership of the means of production, the producers do not exchange their products; just as little does the labor employed on the products appear here as the value of these products, as a material quality possessed by them, since now, in contrast to capitalist society, individual labor no longer exists in an indirect fashion but directly as a component part of total labor. The phrase "proceeds of labor", objectionable also today on account of its ambiguity, thus loses all meaning.

"What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labor. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labor time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labor (after deducting his labor for the common funds); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of means of consumption as
much as the same amount of labor cost. The same amount of labor which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another.

"Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. Content and form are changed, because under the altered circumstances no one can give anything except his labor, and because, on the other hand, nothing can pass to the ownership of individuals, except individual means of consumption. But as far as the distribution of the latter among the individual producers is concerned, the same principle prevails as in the exchange of commodity equivalents: a given amount of labor in one form is exchanged for an equal amount of labor in another form.

"Hence, equal right here is still in principle -- bourgeois right, although principle and practice are no longer at loggerheads, while the exchange of equivalents in commodity exchange exists only on the average and not in the individual case.

"In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labor they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labor.



"But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

"In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!"

from the Critique of the Gotha Programme


"On the basis of socialised production the scale must be ascertained on which those operations — which withdraw labour-power and means of production for a long time without supplying any product as a useful effect in the interim — can be carried on without injuring branches of production which not only withdraw labour-power and means of production continually, or several times a year, but also supply means of subsistence and of production. Under socialised as well as capitalist production, the labourers in branches of business with shorter working periods will as before withdraw products only for a short time without giving any products in return; while branches of business with long working periods continually withdraw products for a longer time before they return anything. This circumstance, then, arises from the material character of the particular labour-process, not from its social form. In the case of socialised production the money-capital is eliminated. Society distributes labour-power and means of production to the different branches of production. The producers may, for all it matters, receive paper vouchers entitling them to withdraw from the social supplies of consumer goods a quantity corresponding to their labour-time. These vouchers are not money. They do not circulate."

CAPITAL Volume II, chapter 18, page 358

Finally, there is no doubt that the credit system will serve as a powerful lever during the transition from the capitalist mode of production to the mode of production of associated labour; but only as one element in connection with other great organic revolutions of the mode of production itself. On the other hand, the illusions concerning the miraculous power of the credit and banking system, in the socialist sense, arise from a complete lack of familiarity with the capitalist mode of production and the credit system as one of its forms. As soon as the means of production cease being transformed into capital (which also includes the abolition of private property in land), credit as such no longer has any meaning. This, incidentally, was even understood by the followers of Saint-Simon. On the other hand, as long as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist, interest-bearing capital, as one of its forms, also continues to exist and constitutes in fact the basis of its credit system. Only that sensational writer, Proudhon, who wanted to perpetuate commodity-production and abolish money, was capable of dreaming up the monstrous crèdit gratuit, the ostensible realization of the pious wish of the petty-bourgeois estate.

CAPITAL Volume III, chapter 36, page 607

And here's Engels on what socialism would first look like:

With the seizing of the means of production by society production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears. Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones. The whole sphere of the conditions of life which environ man, and which have hitherto ruled man, now comes under the dominion and control of man who for the first time becomes the real, conscious lord of nature because he has now become master of his own social organisation. The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of nature foreign to, and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history — only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the humanity's leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.

             Anti-Dühring, 1877


The way I see it, the whole concept of projecting a positive view of the future has been shit-canned. Artistic effort has once again been channeled into an ideological foundation which upholds bondage instead of freedom. With the exception of ancient visions of a possibly grand afterlife, we non-believers are left with nothing overwhelmingly endorsing greater freedom. Our vision is blinded by an either/or ideology which presents only dystopian possibilities for the future of living, human beings. The possibility of creating a classless commonwealth of democratically organised producers is fenced off under the general heading of the dreaded 'grand narrative'. We all know what the 'grand narrative' ends up as: 1984 and a BRAVE NEW WORLD.

My novel is the dialectical opposite of this dogma. Human beings can, do and will make history and depending on how class conscious they can become, they have the possibility to rid themselves of social relations based on unequal political power between all men and women.