The Problem With Science

New documentary film by Michael Coldwell on philosopher Jim Schofield’s latest theories. Science has made several crucial assumptions that are fundamentally flawed, and may have skewed our view of the world around us.
Music is supplied by our friends in the Urban Exploration collective 🙂

That bruise-coloured ceiling of floating misery

“Apologies for swearing in an opening sentence, but have you seen the shitbastard sky we’ve been having lately? In case you don’t recognise it at first glance, it’s that bruise-coloured ceiling of floating misery that has been remorselessly flinging cold water over everyone and everything in the nation for weeks now. There’s moss growing on the inside of clouds up there. The British summer has long been a work of bleak fiction but this year it morphed into full-blown dystopian satire…”

Charlie Brooker is back to full form with a miserablist masterpiece on the shitty british summer. Cheered me up anyway!

Have a goose

Why Socialism VII: How are Decisions Made Within Capitalist Democracy

Capitalist Democracy - Old House of Commons

Read the latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s series on the Shape Blog.

The Means to Inform


The crucial opposing factor in informing the general populace of “the truth” has always been the ownership and control of the means of dissemination by a very limited class with very different interests and motives than the bulk of the population in any given country. And this means that it would be universally extremely unlikely to be allowed access via any form of Mass Media (to socialists in a capitalist society for example). And, in the same way the bureaucracies in the so-called ‘socialist countries’ such as the Soviet Union and China, were in a similar position, and thus determined exactly what was allowed to be delivered to their populations at large.

Read more on the SHAPE Blog

Why Socialism IV: Can It Be Established?

The latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s series on socialism is on the SHAPE Blog

Why Socialism III: Why Nationalisation Failed

Re-Nationalise our NHS

The latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s series on socialism is on the Shape blog.

The True Value of Money

This Charlie Brooker article had missed me by…

“Money is broken, and until we admit that, any attempts to fix the economy seem doomed to fail. We’re like passengers on a nosediving plane thinking if we all fart hard enough, we can lift it back into the sky. So should we be storming the cockpit or hunting for parachutes instead? I don’t know: I ran out of metaphor after the fart gag. You’re on your own from hereon in.

Banknotes aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. If they were, they’d all have identical value. Money’s only worth what the City thinks it’s worth. Or, perhaps more accurately, hopes it’s worth. Coins should really be called “wish-discs” instead. That name alone would give a truer sense of their value than the speculative number embossed on them.”

Read the rest


Why Socialism II: Socialism within Capitalism?

Is it possible?

Find out in the latest instalment of Jim Schofield’s new series about Socialism on SHAPE 

Why Socialism I: Primitive Accumulation

This is the first part of a new series on Socialism to be published collaboratively with Shape Journal

Primitive Accumulation:
How Investors First Got Their Capital

slave ship

At such a time as this, when Capitalism is being exposed for what it really is – it becomes increasingly important to recall just how it came to be – how our “entrepreneurs” accrued the wherewithall “to invest” and “support” money-making ventures of all sorts.

In other words, what forms of Primitive Accumulation produced the necessary Capital to fund a growing Capitalism?

Of course, it wasn’t anything like how it is portrayed today.

It was only possible via an accelerating concentration of available social wealth into much fewer hands, and this was first achieved by the regular application of bullying, violence and even war.


What were the motive forces behind these regrettably emergent systems?

One could easily say that it was simply down to the push for profits. Though this is certainly true, it doesn’t tell us much about what was done to achieve it. A profit motive has been around for a long time, yet these phenomena (at least as the prevailing dominant form) are quite recent.

What is it, therefore, that has brought about this significant change in mode?

The two most obvious starting points are globalism and technology.

Historical Constraints – Transport

After the start of the Industrial Revolution, which emerged wholly in the richer western countries like Great Britain, the work in manufacture had to be carried out at, or closely adjacent to, where the raw materials could be easily obtained.

Why? Because transport was the limiting factor – the price of a sack of coal could be doubled in moving it just a few miles! Also, the market had also to be within easy reach of the places of manufacture, and for the same reasons!

Such constraints were so dominant for thousands of years, that the vast majority of commodities that were traded over long distances had to be both small, and extremely valuable to make the process at all profitable.

Even with the post-industrial revolution development of empires, and the consequent procurement of both more distant sources of materials, AND new, expanding markets, the factor of transport still strangled the growth of trade to a major degree.

Historical Constraints – Primitive Accumulation

NOTE: It has always fascinated me that the most important factor in getting such processes off the ground, was the necessity for the centralisation, and concentration of wealth, and in particular the major role of direct theft in this process.

It did not surprise me that the result of the fall of the economies of Eastern Europe led to the emergence of gangster groups such as the Russian Mafia, and the direct stealing of state-owned resources to put into the hands of private individuals to re-establish capitalism.

Such methods of primitive accumulation were indeed the only ones open to the local, and potentially national ruling class. Otherwise such a re-establishment would have had to be funded externally, probably by the USA.

The same thing, of course was universal at the beginning of the modern era. Everybody has heard of the “enclosures”, where rich landowners simply stole the “common” land from the peasants, put a fence around it and used it for producing sheep and wool. Also similar sources were used to initially fund pirates and “privateers” to steal enough from the Spaniards (who themselves stole their gold from the civilisations of South and Central America), to allow new “capitalist” undertakings to be initiated.

Privateer Ship

Does it surprise you what the Zionists do to obtain Palestinian land in the Middle East?

It is essentially the same process – but given a more “legal” look by the fact that the forces of the state of Israel make these processes happen, and even buying up some such properties well below market value, much easier. Earthmovers, Tanks, Tractors and guns can easily change the rules of the game can’t they?

The biggest contradiction in the early years of the industrial revolution was the concentration of wealth at the same time as the reduction in the standards of life of the “required” local working class.

NOTE: Let me make an important point about the myths of rural deprivation that are usually put forward in this context. It is suggested that the concentration of rural peasants into an urban working class “rescued” them from acute deprivation in the countryside. The response must be, “NO!” But, in saying that it does not mean that there wasn’t any rural deprivation, indeed there was.

But it was NOT a feature of rural life. It was a feature also of nascent capitalism, in its first real theatre of operations – agriculture. The process started with the “enclosures” – the stealing of the common land, and the impoverishment of the rural peasants, who were then forced to work for the “thieves” who had stolen their livelihood – the rural aristocracy. The great impoverishment and degradation of the rural work force preceded the main rampant growth of urban industrialisation, but was generated by the same source of primitive accumulation – the wealthy landowners. AND these complementary processes overlapped to some extent.

At one particular period it was to the owners’ advantage to drive the peasants from the countryside, and drive them into the cities as factory fodder. They were an important source of extra wealth at both stages of the primitive accumulation of capital.

It is not for nothing that the “dark, satanic mills” and degradation were contrasted by privileged dreamers, with the idyllic lives of those in the pre-industrial societies such as South Sea Islanders.

Picture of a Cotton Mill in Lancashire


Of course, to talk about globalisation as being entirely new is also incorrect.

The need to find raw materials, at low prices, and new markets for the ever-increasing supply of goods, drove the expansion of the capitalist system from its outset, and dramatically changed the world. But transport developments and technological innovations accelerated the pace and content of these changes, and led ultimately to the export of the manufacturing process itself, AND the import of food and products in an altogether new scale. Quantity changes led to changes in quality, and NEW upheavals became regular, and indeed, almost continuous.

I well remember the “reason” for shutting many viable coal mines in the UK, was given as the impossibility of competing with cheap imports from abroad (e.g. Poland), whereas, only a few years later, the very same Polish mines are being shut with the same kind of excuse.

NOTE: The Polish experience is somewhat different, as the nationalised industries had somehow to be got into private hands for a song (primitive accumulation) in order to re-establish capitalism in Poland.

Transport has radically changed many aspects of the sources of perishables such as food. Coupled with refrigeration and wide-bodied jets, it is possible to import certain food stuffs CHEAPER than getting them locally. In addition climates more conducive to mass production in agriculture, plus powerful and large machinery (impossible to use in many traditional contexts), and sophisticated bulk transport systems, have brought prices down.

Small scale personal-use production in many developing countries, has been largely (and sometimes forcibly) replaced by large scale production of single crops (sugar, cotton, cocoa etc.) at very low prices and exclusively for export. This process has moved so far that such subsistence farming has almost vanished, and the population (when they don’t get jobs on the plantations as workers) find that they cannot feed themselves and have to rely on bought-in produce, when they can afford it, and foreign aid, when they cannot, or most likely of all, move into the fast growing cities to increase their chances on all these fronts.

Finally, the constant march of technology (particularly information technology) has led to automated, computer controlled manufacture, such that, with the appropriate machinery, cheap labour can easily be trained to do what once was only possible by skilled workers (on a much higher wage) in the so-called advanced countries.

Even Help and Advice services are now incessantly exported to “cheap-labour” countries. Almost all the cold-call phone salesmen and help lines for many products are now abroad – first in Ireland, but latterly in India, and other ex-colonial countries where English is widely used.

The sort of advice that you can get from these sources is of a characteristic and very narrow type!

What the workers are “trained” to deal with is wholly determined by the frequency with which the set of questions is generally asked. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are even automated via the Internet so that they require no human interface at all, and even when you do get hold of an “advisor” on the phone, in Bombay or wherever, you will many times only get help on the very commonest problems – those encountered by the largest number of ill-informed callers

Specialist, detailed and unusual queries are often NOT addressed by these systems. Statistics is the base, and the excuse!

“80% of our callers get immediate help!”, we are told. Yes, help like, “Have you turned on?”, or “Have you checked the fuse”, plus a full set of similar and occasionally slightly more ambitious levels. Complex problems are attempted (sometimes), but only on phone lines that are extremely expensive (some would say prohibitively expensive!).

It is, as I said at the beginning of this section, determined by profit, but the situation has substantially changed, and the employers have been extensively empowered in the last few decades.

There was a time when my stepfather could legitimately hold his employer to ransom with his irreplaceable skills, and demand good wages for the work of his “gang” (he worked in a major foundry in Manchester). They would regularly sack him, then re-employ him, on his own terms, when they couldn’t do what he could do. But, those days are gone!

The skills are replaced by technology, both in methods, control and materials, and the availability of, and access to, adequate (and cheap) labour forces across the world, means that bargaining power by workers with something significant to sell has been well nigh extinguished, if only organised locally.

Picture of Large Scale Casting in Foundry

Primitive Accumulation:
The Chicken-and-the-Egg

Capitalism is sometimes hard for people to grasp, because it has an inherent contradiction at its very heart. As distinct from prior economic systems, where individuals, small groups or even states gathered sufficient funds to finance various types of scheme, the new feature of Capitalism was to draw in initial funding from a much wider area of subscribers on the basis of regular, and where possible, lucrative returns.

When economic activity was essentially local, such centralisation of funding was not necessary due to the smallness of the potential market, but the extending reach of markets elicited larger scale production, and such undertakings required substantial capital investment to initiate the process.

Early on (really in a pre-capitalist era) investments were in daring trading voyages to exotic sources of luxury goods, but as the wherewithall for wider scale production and distribution became available, the classic capitalist form of investment in manufacture gradually emerged.

By the time of the industrial revolution the requirements for manufacture grew at an alarming pace. Buildings, tools, machinery, raw materials and labour were all necessary, in a particular place at a particular time. And all these things must be in place prior to a final acquisition of payment for the resultant goods. Without mechanisms to concentrate the required Capital to finance such undertakings, it became the famous impossible case of “pulling you up by your own bootlaces”. A classic chicken-and-egg situation!

It is therefore not surprising that pre–capital seats of accumulated wealth were the first ports of call for acquiring financial backing.

Feudal Focuses

The landowning aristocracy and royalty were initially often the only suppliers of capital, via their established means of wealth accumulation – via rents or taxes!

But this was a very limited source, and could only finance a tiny fraction of the possible set of profitable enterprises. It is not surprising that the supporters of the new, capitalist way of gathering the required funds should in their day have been quite revolutionary.

They considered the old feudal system to be the major brake on the development of enterprise, and were an important part of the forces that coalesced into the English Revolution in the 17th century, which not only overthrew the old system, but also separated the King’s head from his body!

Picture of Oliver Cromwell – Leader of the English Revolution

New Methods of Accumulation?

Another source of funding was certainly required.

It was clear what it should be. It required sufficient investment to initiate the process, and then the return on such investments, to re-invest into the next stage. Successive and widening iterations of this process would multiply up the funds available, and vastly increase the amount of enterprise and production. But, it wasn’t simply an alternative mode of economy that people with money to invest could simply choose to use.

The old economic system directly intervened to prohibit such an independent process. The old powers of royalty and aristocracy had a stranglehold on trade (and, of course, on the accumulation of wealth). And such a small number of privileged sources, or well-connected entrepreneurs were always going to be insufficient. “

If we don’t do it, someone else, perhaps in another country, will!” (.. and presumably “We, will have missed the opportunity!”). To significantly increase the amount of capital available AND the number of people with sufficient disposable resources to “risk” on a much wider range of enterprises – new methods were clearly necessary. In addition to breaking the stranglehold of the old aristocracy on wealth, other independent methods of “primitive accumulation” had to be developed.

The most important such method was what it had always been for millennia – THEFT!

The simplest method as embodied in the Mongol hordes

Killing people and stealing their wealth was a very efficient method of primitive accumulation. From mounted hordes of nomads out of the steppes, to Viking raiders and Elizabethan privateers, the really effective method had always been “robbery with violence”. Most of the early historical regimes in the Middle East were the result of warlike conquering of the productive farmers and civilisations of the so-called Fertile Crescent. Hittites, Assyrians, Persians and the rest were all successful accumulators, but they knew nothing of using their ill-gotten gains as a primer for further acquisitions and enterprises. It was, on the contrary, simply a matter of dividing the spoils.

The result of their accumulation was simply consumption.

Picture of “The Epitome of Civilisation?”

It always amazes me how the uses that these people put their wealth to are universally commended as “civilisation”. The “consumption” of these resources in the building of palaces, country residences, and even “Hanging Gardens” etc., could only move forward if the robbery was ongoing.

So the building of empires was necessary to continue the process. Once this was no longer possible, some form of collapse was inevitable.

In the more modern era we are considering, the primitive accumulation was used in a different way.

Of course, we cannot leave Primitive Accumulation without including what was probably the most important contribution over a considerable period – the crucial and highly lucrative role of Slavery in the process. It too is a form of robbery with violence, but of people who were then sold and put to work (without pay), to ensure a substantial return upon their cost when bought.

slave ship

And these slaves even reproduced to deliver an ever-growing slave population at absolutely zero extra cost. And, to complete the picture, the real giants of the rise of Capitalism were substantially funded by the accumulation provided by the Slave Trade, for these slaves, in the main, produced highly saleable products.

The triangular Route from Britain to West Africa (for slaves), then crossing the Atlantic to the West Indies and America (to sell their living assets) and also to pick up valuable cotton and sugar, to take back and sell in Britain. And this was a major generating engine for colossal wealth, and available for investments in the burgeoning Industrial Revolution back home in Europe.

Theft – for investment

A good and revealing story to consider is the use of identical mechanisms by organised crime in the USA. Once more we have “robbery with violence” as a means of primitive accumulation, but then the crime bosses realised that a great multiplication of wealth would be involved if these resources were not simply consumed, but used to accumulate at an ever increasing rate. So they invested in legitimate enterprises.

Crime gave them the necessary wherewithall to buy into Capitalism.

Now, such a consideration of the effects of Primitive Accumulation on the growth of Capitalism, cannot be sufficient, when addressing the situation as we are experiencing it today. For, there are now no longer any such “easy” means of pump-priming this system, that ever needs such injections, never actually reaching a self-sustaining level, as its incentive is always to increase profit. And, the impossibility of such an objective shows itself at regular intervals, as the system runs out of steam and suffers unavoidable recessions. The modern methods have always involved the extraction of surplus value (profit) from the actual producers of the traded wealth – the workers in the factories and in the fields, but the unavoidable contradiction between necessary repression and the need for ever bigger markets, not to mention the ever deceasing rate-of-profit, has meant that NO permanent solution within Capitalism will ever be possible. It consumes its own resources, and hence must continually lay waste to a greater proportion of the planet, until the final, fatal slump occurs.

Jim Schofield

If capitalism has failed, how the hell do we pay for our Shreddies?

Charlie Brooker

I’ve just noticed this bleakly joyous article written by Red Eye favourite Charlie Brooker, and it’s a couple of months old now, revealing the shameful truth that we haven’t been devouring with relish, our recommended five portions of satire and pessimism a day. This will be remedied, mark our words… If attack is the best form of defence, then humour is our weapon of choice. And Brooker can be our chosen arms dealer!

I might be an economic dunce, but if our failing currencies are replaced by a medieval bartering system, what will we have to do to get our favourite breakfast cereals?

Will we still have checkouts? Or Shreddies themselves? Even if we do, I bet we won’t have the “Frosted” and “Coco” varieties any more. Just plain standard Shreddies, eaten from a bowl fashioned from a dented hubcap, purchased in exchange for a hand job during a massive global war.

Now, that’s a vision of the future we can all enjoy!

Read more

I Am Not A Number

THX 1138

I feel the need to put into words some of the mental ramblings that have been preoccupying me of late. I apologise for any lack of coherence herein, please bear in mind that in some respects I am just thinking aloud.

Big changes are happening to the political landscape. Could this be the beginning of the end for Democracy in Europe? Are we being ushered into the new age of the Technate as a last-ditch attempt at saving free market Capitalism? It is far too early to tell, and I am certainly no expert in the subject, but I feel this is something we must strive to understand, and quickly, before it is too late to stop what may have been already set in motion.

Italy and Greece have now had their democratically elected governments removed, and in their place Technocratic administrations have been imposed, to make the “unpopular” decisions required to rescue their respective economies. Milanese students took to the streets yesterday to protest against this unelected “bankers’ government”. Police responded by charging the students with batons. In Athens too, violence broke out in protest against the new unity government, as thousands of demonstrators and anarchists met with thousands of police officers armed with “stun grenades”. “Down with the government of socialists, conservatives and fascists,” a protester’s banner said. Greece’s third largest party, the Communists, and the smaller leftist Syriza party have pledged to fight to bring down the government to prevent further cuts, in a country mired in a deep recession since 2008.

When I imagine a world run by Technocrats enforcing strict economic restraints, I am reminded of George Lucas’s Kafkaesque debut feature, THX 1138 – a dystopian nightmare vision in which human emotion is controlled through government-administered narcotics, where names are replaced by codes, people become numbers and every aspect of life is run to a stringent budget. The film is extremely cogent and leaves a lasting impression, akin to that of Huxley’s Brave New World or Terry Gilliam’s outstanding feature film, Brazil. It highlights the inhumanity, latent within bureaucratic systems of control, the dangers of totalitarianism and the fragility of freedom. But surely the fledgling Technocracies of Italy and Greece will be very different from this bleak cinematic experience? Surely this sort of dark fantasy could not be actualized in 21st Century Europe? What happens when you forcibly remove Democracy, does freedom vanish overnight? Are we on the brink of something sinister?

While THX 1138 certainly raises important issues and warns us of the potential dangers of such systems, it could just as easily be seen to be an overly simplistic and overtly sensationalist critique of Soviet Communism – and while this agenda may do nothing to undermine the legitimacy of its harrowing message, because of this bias we cannot rely on it, in any way, to tell us about the true nature of Technocracy.

So what the hell is Technocracy? It is a concept few people understand.

According to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia,  Technocracy is a form of government where important decisions are made by scientists and experts, rather than elected politicians.

Technocracy is a form of government where technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields. Engineers, scientists, health professionals, and those who have knowledge, expertise or skills would compose the governing body. In a technocracy, decision makers would be selected based upon how knowledgeable and skillful they are in their field.

Technical and leadership skills would be selected through bureaucratic processes on the basis of specialized knowledge and performance, rather than democratic election by those without such knowledge or skill deemed necessary. Some forms of technocracy are envisioned as a form of meritocracy, a system where the “most qualified” and those who decide the validity of qualifications are the same people. Other forms have been described as not being an oligarchic human group of controllers, but rather administration by discipline-specific science, ostensibly without the influence of special interest groups.[1]

As of 2011, Italy has a technocratic goverment – see Monti Cabinet.

Politics is supposedly about ideals and morals as much as it is about systems’ management, but this aspect seems missing from the Technocratic vision. The primary problem with this sort of government must be to do with accountability. How can you be sure the experts placed in charge are working in the best interests of the people, and not merely serving their own interests or those of a wealthy ruling elite? In a Democratic system, at least the people can supposedly vote-out a government that is not working for them – although you often hit upon the problem that none of the electable parties are working for the people!

What may come as a surprise to some, is that many of the trailblazers of Technocracy, were some of the great thinkers on the historic Left, such as Henri de Saint-Simon and Friedrich Engels, who believed an authoritarian, State-controlled economy, was the only way of creating and preserving an egalitarian society. A scientific socialist theorist, Engels envisaged that the state would eventually die out and cease to be a state, when the government of people and interference in social affairs was replaced by an administration of things and technical processes – a sort of anarchic Technocracy. But surely this sort of system can only exist in a positive state if the people have given their consent to this sort of economic management – otherwise ruthless control of those people is needed to keep that system in place – and you are back to totalitarianism, THX 1138, Huxley et al. I doubt this is what Engels had in mind. Unchecked rule by bureaucrats has become a trademark of totalitarian regimes, such as those that existed in Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. George Orwell described Technocracy as a precursor to Fascism. What was Adolf Eichmann if not a Technocrat? How can this be reconciled with Socialism?

More “wisdom” from Wikipedia:

In the economy of the Soviet Union, state ownership of the means of production was combined with central planning, in relation to which goods and services were to be provided, how they were to be produced, the quantities, and the sale prices. Soviet economic planning was an alternative to allowing the market (supply and demand) to determine prices for producer and consumer goods. The Soviet economy utilized material balance accounting in order to balance the supply of available inputs with output targets, although this never totally replaced financial accounting. Although the Soviet economy was nominally a centrally-planned economy, in practice the plan was formulated on-the-go as information was collected and relayed from enterprises to planning ministries.

Socialist economists and political theorists have criticised the notion that the Soviet-style planned economies were socialist economies. They argue that the Soviet economy was structured upon the accumulation of capital and the extraction of surplus value from the working class by the planning agency in order to reinvest this surplus in new production – or to distribute to managers and senior officials, indicating the Soviet Union (and other Soviet-style economies) were state capitalist economies. Other socialists have focused on the lack of self-management, the existence of financial calculation and a bureaucratic elite based on hierarchical and centralized powers of authority in the Soviet model, leading them to conclude that they were not socialist but either bureaucratic collectivism, state capitalism or deformed workers’states.

Or indeed Technocracies. Certainly my own political awakening and evolution has been marred by these past failings by supposed Marxists, trying to impose a “fair” economic system through extreme authoritarian control, the so-called Thermidorian phase – and while I can see why such a conservative period, post-revolution, may be necessary to establish a new system, my gut reaction to an all-powerful state is simply to fight it. How can a Technocracy ever be considered socialist if the people have no say in how it is being run? It simply becomes another system of control, where a ruling elite of “experts” is in charge and the masses do as they are told.

I very much doubt that these new Technocratic governments in Europe will begin to resemble Stalin’s bureaucrats – they are all working for the bankers and the existing financial elite after all, a system which relies on the free market. But this opens up a bigger debate for anyone left on the Left, for all those involved in the Occupy movement worldwide, and for all those who wish to end predatory capitalism. It reveals a dichotomy in my own thinking that just won’t go away. How do you create a fairer society without destroying people’s freedom?

I sometimes feel I have the head of a Marxist and the body of an Anarchist, and although they are fighting for the same thing, they are also fighting with each other and differ very much in how to go about it. When I take the Political Compass test, I come out as extreme Left Liberal – or Anarchist.

My Political Compass

This is how you’d expect a Lefty with an aversion to all authority to come out! Freedom is the embodiment of Anarchism. The act of fighting for freedom is Revolution. All revolutionaries in the act of revolution are therefore Anarchists!

But that is not the end of the story. I sometimes think that being a Left Libertarian may actually be a contradiction in terms. I have read papers on the subject which have made me think a little differently about what Liberalism actually means. That Left and Right are divergences towards state-control from either side of a Liberal centre-ground, that resembles Laissez-faire capitalism – commerce without government intervention – or “freedom to trade”. I am also very aware that the importance placed in Individual Freedom is often at the expense of the collective good. People re-branded in their own minds as consumers place their own choices and freedoms above all else – and this props up and encourages free market capitalism, begging the “devils-advocate” question: is capitalism the natural outcome of Anarchy? I’m not so sure about this, but there are many who think so.

Many Neo-liberalists, individualists, mutualists, economists and advocates of the free market consider themselves Anarchists to some degree – people such as Friedman, Murray Rothbard and even Ayn Rand believed in freedom of the individual and reduction or elimination of the state. Murray Rothbard maintains that Anarcho-Capitalism is the only true form of Anarchism. I’m not saying that I agree with this at all, or that I cannot conceive of an Anarchist society being fair and egalitarian – but it does flag up an important question. Would people be any safer from exploitation without the state? And now I feel like a Socialist again!

I have no answers to any of these questions, I’ll be the first to admit. But I am, at least, asking them!

One of the problems with the current resistance movements across the world (fighting corporate greed and for the rights of the 99%) is that by and large they aren’t asking these questions. They reject all prior political movements and “-isms” without proffering any alternatives. The lack of any solid theory behind the movement, and knowledge of prior political ideas, may be its undoing. If you reject Communism, Socialism, Corporatism, Free-Market Capitalism and Technocracy as systems that have failed, what do you accept? What, indeed, are you fighting for?

I can understand why the Occupy movement and Anonymous, and others, reject being pigeonholed politically – all these old political philosophies have their pitfalls and problems. But I do oppose the idea that a new system will emerge out of nowhere, with no reference to, or study of, systems and ideas that have come before. Without a deep historical understanding of these things, we may be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

It really does feel like the movement is in its infancy in this respect. There is a naivety at its core which belies its noble intent. My chief concern is that while the movement is working out what it is, trying to answer crucial questions like: Can you have real Freedom and real Fairness? What replaces Capitalism if it falls? How will we fight all those that oppose us? While we are all still finding our feet, Technocracy may well sneak in and take over by the backdoor, supplanting democracy, and all our freedoms and hopes for fairness may be usurped. Social engineers and psychologists may be brought-in by the new management team, to deal with these voices of dissent, which are so detrimental to the national credit rating. People’s beliefs and opinions and rights are of no value when there are severe deficits to reduce. They do not compute. The chants from protesters may disappear as the subsequent crackdowns intensify, then triumph, and all that can then be heard, above the gentle hum of myriad machines, is a muffled whisper: “I am not a number”

The Psychedelic Experience

Recommended reading for all psychonauts, Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of The Dead.

Excerpt from the book’s introduction:-

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine (seven times seven) days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. This however is merely the exoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning, as it has been interpreted in this manual, is that it is death of the ego and rebirth that is described, not of the body. Lama Govinda indicates this clearly in his introduction when he writes: “It is a book for the living as well as the dying.” The book’s esoteric meaning is often concealed beneath many layers of symbolism. It was not intended for general reading. It was designed to be understood only by one who was to be initiated personally by a guru into the Buddhist mystical doctrines, into the pre-mortem-death- rebirth experience. These doctrines have been kept a closely guarded secret for many centuries, for fear that naive or careless application would do harm. In translating such an esoteric text, therefore, there are two steps: one, the rendering of the original text into English; and two, the practical interpretation of the text for its uses. In publishing this practical interpretation for use in the psychedelic drug session, we are in a sense breaking with the tradition of secrecy and thus contravening the teachings of the lama-gurus.

However, this step is justified on the grounds that the manual will not be understood by anyone who has not had a consciousness-expanding experience and that there are signs that the lamas themselves, after their recent diaspora, wish to make their teachings available to a wider public.

New track by Naffdogg

This is my new one, inspired by George R.R. Martin’s “Game of Thrones”.

The Shape Journal

Interesting, strange and alternative views on Science and Philosophy from writer Jim Schofield.

It’s all up there for free. It’ll warp your mind and challenge your assumptions. What’s not to like!

Shape Journal cover