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Non-reformist reforms: The irrelevance of anti-mining over, say.. anti-dentistry

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…Therefore those who win every battle are not really skillful -- those who render others' armies helpless without fighting are the best of all. – Sun Tzu

We act like one corporate process in the market, vs. another, is better or worse. Our pattern of action, which seemingly ignores the fundamental corrupting nature of markets, makes us into naive Pollyanna’s, always wasting our time and worse, our privileged access to life-sustaining resources by bleeding our hearts out down our sleeves into the endless a-moral chasms of our capitalist environment.

Let me put this on the nose for all of you in Vancouver and across Canada: as if Goldcorp or any mining company is worse than my ‘holistic’ West Side dentist.  That is that Goldcorp isn’t more worthy of your time and energies than the overall process of corruption inherent in the foundational structures of this rotten fucking system.  As if focusing in on any one instance wasn’t a total waste of your time (except, arguably, if instances can be used for platformism and solidarity to grow popular, non-reformist reform movements – more on that later). If you want a hope in hell of surviving, focus on an alternative structure or paradigm, instead of feeding the ruling classes’ bull shit with all your attention and ‘resistance’ to each systemically predictable move they make. You can ‘demand’ decency from this system, but fighting from on its ground,  is always just reform which the colonized minds of bourgeois status addiction will eventually subsume right back into their de-facto system. And we’re always on this systems’ ground until we have our own of-scale network of alternative institutions running on their own ‘radical’ power-with methodology. My continued attack on ‘radicals’’ reformist tendencies in this piece will be followed up with an example of non-reformist reforms as are discussed in the (PARticipatory ECONomics) parecon-Complimentary Holism (CoHo) tendency.

I have this dentist who is pretty good as dentists go, he tries to take care of people’s health in a relatively profound way. He doesn’t even keep amalgam (mercury) cavity filling material in his office. Unlike the vast majority of dentists, he’s at least not embodying us with a substance which you are required to call the fire department to come and clean up if you spill a minute amount of in your house, say by breaking your thermometer and the 2 ML of mercury spill out. But none the less he needs his frickin cash flow, so this well revered dentist does things like sell, essentially, snake-oil…. Because he needs cash flow for new equipment (all us health conscious patients want the $200,000 digital imaging instead of x-radiating machine don’t you know) and to cover his and his employees’ ass during the holidays. I have a young friend who has absolutely no problems but who this dentist is trying to bring in to have major oral ‘preventative’ surgery, just before the holidays… Pretty sure he needs the money, so he’s pushing to dig into her jaw on all sides for $3,500 despite the facts - he himself offers – that she at worst, won’t need this procedure at all for another 15 years. Another mutual patient of his I know needs some work redone, gold caps replaced. She’s a stupidly vigilant person when it comes to advising and being advised, she’s a lawyer. It all too often gets tedious with her in details and re-confirmation of contexts and then details again. So I know she grilled our shared dentist on this point like she told me she did– but he still ended up selling her the work that would be much less permanent, and would essentially have her back in his office in 9 years, instead of work that would last the rest of her life and would be, if anything, better in health effects. Something he granted her after the work had been done.

In the middle of a broken tooth during a filling, he said to me, [oh look at that filling besides the broken tooth I now have access to, while we’re in here let’s replace that (4 year old filling)], he asks me - with a damn in my mouth, under anesthetic - if he can proceed with that one too… $360 added to the bill. And this is the widely revered, best, most integral dentist in Western Canada.  The examples can go on because I know a frick load of people and happen to know business has been slow and his expenses high this season (and he likes to treat his employees really well – i.e., Christmas bonuses), but we get the idea of the inefficiencies and corrupting pressure of private-for-profit anything.

The bottom line in markets is that it’s almost always about the bottom line, not what people really need, but what you can sell the poor dupes to part them from their dollars, maintain market share and, eventually use capital to accumulate capital instead of from your own labour (just other peoples’). This guy isn’t even putting one of the worst heavy-metal poisons in people’s bodies like most dentists are, and which activist could well make into a major issue to campaign on, for certainly it affects more people than many issues we focus on (ahem GoldcorpincoughLatinAmericaahem). But still, the nature of market distribution – hyper competition - and thus un-cooperative expenses (his office doesn’t share equipment with the dentist office 5 doors over on the same floor, because they’re competing) requires him to shake us patients down and do unnecessary procedures. Just like how we’re all kept enslaved by our structures of personal ownership through status/value competition by each having our own this and that, like on my block with every happy home-owner (while their house prices appreciate at least) having 26 lawnmowers for 26 lawns instead of just 8 shared and rotated lawnmowers (how embarrassing to not be able to prove we can compete in this labour market, real-estate market, with my individualistic equity accumulation, status (degrees and universities), compete with,,,).

The hyper-competitive (when not monopolized) market doesn’t give a flying frick about health, even in the health care industry – even when the best of people are involved in the market place, such as my dentist. So to call to task and expect mining to give a flying f*&k about health in Latin American communities is absolutely laughable, if it wasn’t so sad that it is perfectly intelligent and privileged activist, with access to power and resources, who might do something meaningful if they weren’t chasing moral gold at the end of what!?.. some ‘capitalist rainbow’.

I grew up with some people who fought in the mines with the miners way back in the early 20th century. By the time I’d hit 16 I’d heard dozens of 1st and 2nd hand stories of organizers who lived in the camps, shopped at the company stores, watched miners’ children die in the camp shacks and tents through winter, etc. You want to talk about solidarity, and what it takes to become a part of a community to help develop the analysis?.. Talk to Big Ben Swankey, talk with Highlander kin and ancestors from Cumberland who faced down the gun boats sent from Victoria to break the strike on the mine. After 80 years of the full mine (platformism) organizing logic having failed, and that you implicitly(?) propose now in your coverage of capitalisms’ ‘stirring’ injustices by mining companies; forgive me if I must say you’re wasting your and our radical communities’ precious time. The anarcho-commies of the 1880s to 1930s saw what you all might be ‘trying’ to do, and they saw it through much better than you, and still failed, when in the 1940s, McCarthyism and union busting thugs were brought in. But that’s giving today’s anti-mine ‘anarchists’ too much credit. You’re not even going as far as what might be semi-respectable old-school, platformist solidarity. It seems instead that you’re trying (if you have any coherent socio-economic analysis and strategy about how to tip towards an ‘end’) to stir the middle class progressives (liberals and social-democrats) to be roused by yet another industrial capitalist indignity, or perhaps just trying to assuage your own privileged Canadian guilt. Well you’ll forgive me if I’m not roused by the non-shock of mining companies causing sickness and harm to respective Latin American ecologies, and if I decide to triage your bleeding heart because I understand that your guilt nor liberal solidarity (regulation of markets) will get our imperial  capital off other peoples’ backs.

What will get our imperial capital off other peoples’ backs is undermining and attacking the structural formation of (imperial) capital markets themselves. What are you hoping for?.. That the state-capitalists are going to use their state to repeal their investments and attack the foundation of their profits?

You know what would actually attack gold production?.. Is to undermine the rationale of gold itself: To start a debtors’ movement, which would allow us to leverage our own system of value and ‘money’. Win a credit union then build a movement which gets 100,000 people on debt payments strike, so that the commercial banksters are sweating turd sized bullets that they could become insolvent. Then have our credit union come in and offer to buy out the strikers’ debt from the banksters (before the state brings in debtors prisons) at a third or half the rate (and the banksters would gladly do it to stop hemorrhaging and the strike from growing). The strikers would have good will for the credit union (movement) and even be given the opportunity to pay back some of their debt in a participatory bond which they can earn via equitable and participatory methods of remuneration from with-in our Federated Participatory Co-ops. Developing a planned-by-peoples’ currency that isn’t corruptible (debasable) by the inherent corruption of plutocratic (market monopolists’) control, would undermine the expectation that gold will replace fiat currency when the global trade war hits fever pitch and global capitalism retracts. Prices would drop through the floor if we had 180,000 people in a major G7 country demonstrating a participatory exchange model to peoples worldwide.

The only blockade campaign I’ve won against a gold mine was when the price was below $300 an ounce. You think at $1,400 an ounce they ain’t going to bring in everything they got to squash a blockade, strike, etc? You think you can dynamite a profitable mine and not have them rebuild it within a year, and quadruple security? Even if you demolish one, you think 5 more won’t spring up as the price continues on to $1,600 an ounce? Think through your implicit ‘strategic logic’ if you’re actually serious about your solidarity and winning (not just assuaging your guilt and being on the side of the angels). If you can see that you don’t have strategy, then wtf?! Go make money, have babies, grow food, live surrounded by nature, what-have-you,,, have fun! Your knee-jerk actions are probably just getting in the way anyways. Really, be someone I care about who’s fulfilled in their own lives - that helps me feel better as a revolutionary than your idiotic ‘resistance’ whining and reformism.

You can regulate and curtail capital once in a while, but mostly only when capital is in its ebb and/or secure. In the few successful resource extraction blockades I’ve been in, a lot of why we won was because the minimal costs that we were able to incur them were relative to small margins and we only threatened the one instance of production. They just gladly let go of the risk and potential profitability from that one instance of their overall operations. One time we had a blockade going, and the workers went on strike, province wide, right in the middle of our campaign. All the fuckers involved just let go of the contract, because ‘whatever’, it was at best a $250,000 return and they had other places to make that without all the head ache and public exposure. When we started to try and make it look like our blockades could go province wide, the Emergency Response Teams (paramilitary squads) came in immediately. And I stress ‘make it look like’, because the movement wasn’t that big: we hoped we could stretch the RCMP out across the province by moving a few us well trained riggers and tacticians around to various nascent campaigns, but they have a fuck load of Emergency Response Teams.  And once they became the least bit concerned that we could spread, they started getting heavy handed, and there was nothing we could or were going to do in response to that. And the movement was arguably better organized and definitely better trained than it is today. It would take about 4,000 hard cores in various locations just to stretch the current RCMP regional capacity. They can always bring in ERT units from elsewhere in the country or the army, and if we grow to 14,000 then they can throw another $2 billion at RCMP capacity to be able to squash that. If we want to play the game some insurrectionists are fronting in Canada, we’d need the middle class wedge to disappear so we could grow into hundreds of thousands of people prepared to plug up streets, the rails, the oil-sands, trucks through the U.S. border, etc. And that wedge is still very visible in every vista I see,  no riding off into the sunset for the Canadian middle class in the foreseeable future, as much as you chump ‘economists’(who I heard talk seriously about barter (really?,,, BARTER!?!) the other night at an anarchist event) might hope it is. 

Non-reformist reforms always look to win us gains in such a way that leave us stronger, and ensures more capacity flowing into our strong-hold institutions. Non-reformist reforms strengthen our alliances while eluding to the larger inspiring visions for alternative methods of society. We can fight against gold but if we're serious about applying our limited resources effectively (towards winning) we fight gold in such a way as to take away all the strength that the assumptions of gold stands on. Fighting out in the open, away from a strong-hold is always the act of a desperate or crazy force. Setting it up so that you win without hardly having to 'fight' at all and instead can offer more and more allies a better way is for those who are serious about winning (for all of us).

Like the Stim said, it’s about building community and our own capacity. Until we can show ourselves (the working, non-coordinator class) an inspiring alternative set of participatory institutions/methods for socio-economy, we won’t have that critical mass to overcome one of the best funded, longest running paramilitary organizations (RCMP) the world has ever known. The only way we’re going to defeat Canadian and U.S. security apparatuses is if we can inspire them and their middle class culture, to stand down and gladly roll into our alternative institutions. 

This is the beginning of making myself the most unwelcome asshole in the activist scene. I’m going to instigate vision, analysis and strategy to ensure we’re focusing our energies as efficiently as possible. This is no dress rehearsal, it’s either r’evolution or eco/socio/etcetera-cide. There is no green room to take a break to, no understudies to stand in for the few of us active actors, if we get sick, break our legs, or needlessly get arrested for stuff like trashing a hotel room. I’m starting by shitting in one of my own beds - the Media Co-op - with its focus on mining, so you know I’m sincere and not playing favourites by pulling punches.  Fuck being cool and fun to be around, fuck polite and nice Canadian conversation, humanity needs to win its own future back, not fuck around in ineffectual, de-facto ‘movement’ tacks because they’re familiar. I want soul wrenching, mind twisting, body dancing conversations that act like water stone sharpeners of analysis, not ironic quips of how fucked this or that is “dry-nihilistic-cynical-chuckle, pass me another beer”. If we have to wallow in analysis and strategic navel-gazing for 2 years, then so be it, better than chasing ambulances because it makes us feel ‘active’ and important. Not only am I going to argue your implicit (reformist) (i)rationales into oblivion, but I’m going to start knocking beers out of your hands and calling you bourgies posers disguised in black punk garb if that continues to be an at all prevalent norm at our gatherings. And I expect to be thanked for my troubles ;).

 I could give a fuck about the IWW songs and the Salvation Army 100 years ago, I want to know why you weren’t at the Wobbly meeting (which has 3 old fogies every two months and that’s it) at Spartacus last Wednesday, and what you think the next  IWW campaign should be, why including why in what internally consistent or strategic framework relative to other campaign proposals. Some of y’all are going to use the anarchist stand-by of, ‘there’s no structure or over-seeing  strategy that can bring the revolution, revolutionary ideals are innate within all of us,  so don’t sweat it you trippin freak’. And I’ll destroy that ‘stand-by’ ‘rationale’ in the next piece I’m working on.

And you’re welcome. When someone gives me hard perspective to more efficiently focus my time, energies and resources, I thank them: so again, you’re welcome.


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I enjoyed reading your peice

I enjoyed reading your peice though I have to admit I was a little lost when you started talking about credit unions and peoples currency. I think that "building community and our capacity" is extremely important as well as continually experimenting with alternative forms of organizing our society (and putting them into practice now) etc. I'm wondering though, at one point you siad that the state and capital is never just going to give in one day when we've held enough heart felt demonstratins or when we organize another blockade or what -have-you. Which I completely agree with. We can not demand the revolution we want. However, at the end of your peice you seem to conclude with saying that the only way we will ever "defeat Canadian and U.S. security apparatuses is if we can inspire them and their middle class culture "to stand down and gladly roll into our alternative institutions." Those two ideas seem to be competeing.

In Canada middle-class society is a huge challenge in building a revolutionary movement but I don't see how we can move forward by trying to find a way for them to just give into our alternative institutions. It seems that if we want a revolution where we will be able to have the freedom we desire we will have to build real communities of resistance that are not "fighting out in the open, away from a strong-hold", but from popular places within society. For this to happen we will need to become "hundreds of thousands of people prepared to plug up streets, the rails, the oil-sands, trucks through the U.S. border" as well as creating the infastructure that will help us prosper and live well together.

Lastly, I really enjoyed paragraph #10. I think we need to be creating strategies that individuals and groups can be working together on. It's frusterating when it feels like people are working on different projects about this and that with very little link between them. If we are "serious about our solidarity and winning"  then we need to stop running around with our heads cut off and start working together towards certain goals...I think.


Ya, I think we agree. My two ideas that are seemingly competing aren't, I just didn't put in the same time-line of development (in this piece) which you rightly insert.

I've been wanting to meet you. You gonna come to VMC meetings Wednesday nigh at 6pm? I'm in Montreal until Thursday night, so missing next week'. And come! (please).

Thanks for the invite. At the

Thanks for the invite. At the moment I can't make them but next month I plan on being there. It would be nice to meet you too.

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