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On Leaving the Twentieth Century 

-Ken Wong, Sandpaper Contributor

Leaving the 20th Century has never been more difficult.

Revolution is the only reasonable and healthy option for solving the problems created and amplified through capitalism and its state as well as the only way to realize our needs and desires without social separation and their realization as the guiding force of new social organization we consciously create.

Anything less than global revolution requires submission to the existing order. The material conditions capable of producing abundance without the need for capitalism and hierarchy have been available for years yet a complex interconnection of psychological, social, political, sexual, economic, and cultural factors block or limit the majority of people from acting upon these material conditions and liberating themselves in the process.

The rebellions and direct actions of recent years in Indonesia, France, England, Mexico, Iraq (the anti-statist, anti-capitalist Shuras movement against Saddam Hussein and Western capitalist forces during the Gulf War), and Los Angeles as well as past revolutionary efforts such as Spain 1936 and France 1968 were attempts by people to demand new ways of living despite their limits and flaws. Riots, wildcat strikes, looting, and sabotage are some of the political methods or tactics we have left that avoid the system’s political cooperation into electoral parties and other pathes that only reinforce our alienation.

However, these tactics alone aren’t enough to dismantle all aspects of capitalism and the State including our psychological repression (which has us outwardly lying and inwardly crying and allows the smooth functioning of the commodity economy). Theory and practice or critical thinking and experimental activity must be linked to prevent theory from becoming petrified into ideology (dead thought). What remains for us is to generalize our struggles locally, globally, in the workplace, in school, in the existing order as a whole.If we are to increase the number of global participants in revolutionary festivities then it is vital to understand current historical events and conditions to see how they help and/or frustrate our liberatory efforts.

Stalinism collapsed in the former U.S.S.R. and other Stalinist strongholds such as East Germany in the late 80’s and early 90’s due to the mass resistance of people fed up with the decades of oppression and repression. Stalinism (including its variants, Maoism and Castroism), Bolshevism, and reformist socialist parties were and still are state capitalist.

Communism has never existed in the 20th century since it is a global movement that destroys all borders, the State, wage labor, money, market exchange, racial/sexual bigotry, and other social separation. It cannot exist in isolated bioregions or among a narrow range of people if a new world is to be realized. The Western ruling class, publicly confident but privately afraid, are clueless on what to do with all the problems Stalinism’s demise opened up since they did not foresee its sudden death.

Without an “evil empire” to rely upon, a recent strategy by the ruling class is to portray a pragmatic global centerists’ consensus with any opposition to it lumped together as “extremisms” such as fascism and religious fanaticism on the right and terrorism and “anarchy” on the left. Such diversions that deflect attention from the roots of our problems and monopolize what we talk about, think about, and do on a daily basis are products or productions of the Spectacle.

As formulated by the Situationist International, specifically by Guy DeBord, Situationism is a primarily French post-surrealist international revolutionary movement that paved the way for total revolutionary (i.e., questioning the existing order as a whole or totality) perspectives that are creative, fluid, and self-critical. The Spectacle is a series of social relationships mediated by images; the Spectacle is modern capitalism’s information hierarchy with alienated social relations revolving around its “information,” vicarious adventures, images of beloved leaders, bureaucrats, committees, celebrities, and so on. The Spectacle continues to exist as long as a people remain passive spectators in their own lives and world.

One area that is unavoidable for both revolutionaries and the rest of the population is the area of wage labor. Peoples’ lives are wasted through years of alienated labor for the ruling class to leech off the mentally and physically draining efforts of their wage slaves. Human beings are reduced to commodities, something to be bought and sold, through our labor power, and our alienated consumer power. We have a choice between which employers to subject ourselves to and which brands to buy, but freedom lies elsewhere off the market.

Recent trends flow towards downsizing (which also drives up the insecurity of the remaining workers at a firm), hiring temporary workers and independent contractors and cutting back on employees benefits, the speeding up of the production process into continuous production with more immediate global input from managers and customers to the manufacturing plant via upgraded computer networks, the longer hours many workers put in, the continuation of transnational corporations using cheap labor (at way below minimum wage levels) in countries with poorer economies than the parent corporations’ homelands (i.e., Mexico, Malaysia, Thailand, etc.) while reducing or closing down homeland manufacturing plants, and the increasing of permanently unemployed and underemployed sectors.

These trends, plus the rise of disgruntled employee workplace violence and general contempt for work by youth and those in their 20’s and early 30’s, can strengthen peoples’ refusal of alienation and boredom, which are systematically administered. We need to abolish work and replace it with productive play (as well as eliminating most of the absurd work that would be useless outside of capitalism such as office work), and with a gift economy.

What may seem unimaginable or “utopian” about abolishing work and the radicalization of play and the gift will seem less like a pipedream once people take back control of the means of production, consumption, distribution, and communication, and get creative. 

 


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