ANARCHIST PAPER spcr | spcr ISSUE TWO spcr | spcr NOVEMBER 2017
CRY OF REBELLION
Capitalism, Imperialism, and Race: An Overview Drawing from Walter Rodney to Discuss Neo-Liberalism
The age of neo-liberalism represents the latest stage of imperialist capitalism, and as it lurches into a new round of crises it is essential that revolutionary socialists correctly understand and engage with its contradictions. Unfortunately, the nature of the class, racial, and gender struggles and their contradictions are often clouded by overly-abstracted ideas of "globalization" which do not contextualize neo-liberal globalization as developing from the previous stages of imperialism. This can lead to errors of economism as well as ultra-leftism as a result of the uneven phenomena of intensifying exploitation around the world from neo-liberal globalization. This causes some to either try to downplay the contradictions of race, gender and national liberation in favor of saying "workers are the same everywhere now" because of globalization (economism), or it can cause groups to fetishize the forms of struggle against neo-liberalism that have taken shape in places such as Chiapas with the Zapatistas etc and posing them as a universal model because of their armed struggle, even when those tactics and formations are not appropriate for engaging with the masses where they are (ultra-leftism). This is not just an academic problem but one which can lead to setbacks and losses because in order to immerse ourselves in and engage with the struggles of the masses and to raise these struggles to a revolutionary level, we must correctly analyze the subjective and objective conditions for the struggle, the balance of class forces in a given context and how they fit in with the overall picture, and how to engage with the contradictions both within and between class forces so as to unite the masses who can be won over and divide the capitalist factions and their allies.
Glossing over essential contradictions within the working classes, as the economists do, leads to milquetoast reformism. By saying that states everywhere are simply vessels for the global capitalist class (though this is true abstractly) ignores the concrete and historical context and contradictions. This leads to incorrect analysis of the array of class forces and their subjective potential for struggle in imperialist core states like the USA, and the relation to periphery states and populations, such as Mexico, South Africa, or racially subordinate populations within core nations like African-Americans, Indigenous peoples, etc. If the US state is simply another neo-liberal state in a global order then it is implied that the working classes of the USA can just continue to fight for reforms and social democracy, and that working class groups of the world can simply unite to try to fight for their states to set up global government institutions to parallel and regulate the global economic institutions like the WTO, the IMF, World Bank, etc. This all amounts to essentially trying to make social democracy writ large by appealing to the bourgeois states to create a supra-state regulatory framework to keep the global neo-liberal bourgeoisie in check. While revolutionaries should engage with the fight for reforms we must use them to show the masses that we can win when we unite but also to reveal the limitations and contradictions of the system, and show how we can use our experiences fighting for reforms and seeing their inadequacy to organize and fight for even more. In order to do that we must understand the historical context and balance of forces which characterize the neo-liberal age so that we can contextualize our own specific terrain when we try to analyze the local conditions, array of class forces and their contradictions.
To this end I endeavor to give an overview of how the current neo-liberal age is a transformation and continuation of the previous stages of capitalism-imperialism into a new stage, and the significance of this in terms of the contradictions between and within classes, especially race and its effect in the working class. Therefore it is necessary to examine the historical roots of these contradictions, how they work together, what their meaning is, and how they've changed in expression during the neo-liberal age. The neo-liberal era of capitalism represents an uneven intensification of exploitation globally, and therefore is a transformation and deepening of the class, racial, and colonial contradictions of the previous eras of capitalism-imperialism into a new form. This is characterized by a global penetration of capitalist production processes into the periphery which super-exploit racially oppressed populations in a way different from old colonialism. This is codependent on the global construction of race and racial hierarchy which reinforces the global division of labor, of exploitation. Therefore the phenomenon of increasing national and global wealth/income inequality, racism, and cheap labor especially overseas, are not only related to each other but intimately rooted in a global system of exploitation, that of imperialist capitalism in the modern era.
The contradictions and circumstances of race and exploitation today are not simply accidental nor did they only appear after the 1970s when neo-liberalism emerged, as should be obvious. The historical context from which neo-liberal capitalism transitioned is vital to understanding the current contradictions and balance of forces. To this end we must understand how race and racism formed as the ideological complement to colonial imperialism and the integration of entire peoples into the system of exploitation, initially primarily through slavery and then through colonial tribute and exploitation to neo-colonial wage super-exploitation. As Rodney so clearly states, "Occasionally it is mistakenly held that Europeans enslaved Africans for racist reasons. European planters and miners enslaved Africans for economic reasons, so that their labor power could be exploited." (Rodney, 1982: 88) Cedric Robinson and others go even deeper into the history and show how similar processes of race formation took place around other heavily exploited populations even earlier in the very embryonic stages of capitalism in the Mediterranean, with the Slavs and Irish respectively subject to forms of racialization as a result of their use as super-exploited labor or as slaves. By understanding this link between the material conditions and the ideology arising out of those conditions, we can begin to make sense of the relationship between exploitation and cheap labor on the one hand, and race and racism on the other. Just as capitalism creates a division of labor within each production chain it also acts to homogenize all the components of that process, including human labor. Different populations become predominantly subjected to different types of labor, and different levels of exploitation, and then out of these divisions arises ideological factors which then serve to reproduce those very conditions. Therefore the ideology also comes to act as a material force inasmuch as it reproduces the conditions which foster itself. So while the primary contradiction at the root of capitalism as a whole is exploitation, in other words relationship to the means of production, class, (because the exploitation of labor and reproduction and expansion of capital is what drives capitalism and is absolutely essential to its survival) the processes immanent from that contradiction create and drive other secondary contradictions which can take precedence in the concrete context. In other words while class is the determination in the last instance, class contradictions manifest and deepen other contradictions rather than sideline them, and therefore the struggles for racial, national, and gender liberation are just as much part of the class struggle as supposedly separate "economic" struggles. Rodney quotes CLR James on this question:
"The race question is subsidiary to the class question in politics, and to think of imperialism in terms of race is disastrous. But to neglect the racial factor as merely incidental is an error only less grave than to make it fundamental." (Rodney: 89)
With this framework in mind we can put modern divisions of labor and the super-exploitation of cheap labor in the global south as well as of periphery populations in the core, in its historical context. The reasons why African labor and resources are super-exploited by modern imperialist capital in the neo-liberal age to drive a globalized production process and division of labor are a direct continuation and transformation of the previous sets of relations and exploitation from the stages of capitalism-imperialism preceding it. At the infancy of capitalism, for many reasons including geographical, logistical, previous trade relationships, etc, enslaved African labor and trade for slaves became the predominant relationship between nascent European capitalists and the continent of Africa. Africa being siphoned of a grave amount of its human population and Africans being subjected to the most extreme forms of slavery and exploitation resulted in the formation and elaboration of new ideological categories reflecting the shift in conditions and division of labor. To be black meant to be a slave, to be subject the most extreme forms of labor. Of course as Rodney commented on, European traders didn't simply stumble upon west Africans and decide to dehumanize them, it's not as if they did not know Africans existed before 1492 or vice versa! Instead race essentially is the reification of existing conditions, it reifies the given disproportionate exploitation of certain populations and such a division is made to seem natural. The second stage and transformation of these relations between Africa and Europe in capitalism is that of the colonial imperialism of the late 19th and 20th centuries where instead of siphoning African labor to colonies elsewhere, the primary exploitation of Africa by European capital took place right in Africa by annexing nearly the entire continent to the competing European empires, and using them to primarily supply cheap primary resource extraction and agricultural inputs for industry in the core. As Rodney states, "Imperialism meant capitalist expansion. It meant that European... capitalists were forced by the internal logic of their competitive system to seek abroad in less developed countries opportunities to control raw material supplies . . ." (Rodney, 136). This shows how, just like the earlier set of relations around the slave trade, it was the contradictions and drives of capitalist expansion which was the main factor behind the exploitation and colonization of Africa. This stage represented a massive intensification of exploitation within Africa (Rodney, 172) as the continent was directly integrated into the capitalist system rather than being traded with from the outside.
The current neo-liberal era began after the political independence of the African colonies and the emergence of the USA as the ultimate capitalist hegemon (having subordinated all the old imperialist powers as its junior partners against the socialist bloc), however this did not mean that the super-exploitation and imperialist domination of Africa, with all the associated racial ideology ended! In fact it has actually been a transformation and in many respects, a deepening of those contradictions. "Imperialism is essentially an economic phenomenon, and it does not necessarily lead to direct political control or colonization." (Rodney, 137) This observation is essential for understanding the neo-colonialism which characterizes the current configuration of global capitalism in the context of Africa and the periphery in general. Rather than directly collecting tribute and forcing wages down by law as was common practice in the European's direct colonial control of Africa, the neo-liberal era of capitalism-imperialism sees the use of economic means (backed by force) to coercively weaken and open up the nominally independent states of Africa to foreign exploitation of labor and ownership of resources. And instead of simply producing for the "mother country" with each empire drawing from its own colonies to compete with the other imperial powers, now it is integrated into a global network of production dominated by the USA and its junior partners whose only slight competition is the rump capitalist power of Russia and the gradually rising revisionist China* (which is interdependent with the USA imperialists despite competition and rivalry). This has resulted in a great intensification of exploitation in Africa to produce for global commodity chains, one notable example being the production of cobalt in the Democratic Congo which is funneled into the production of electronics across the globe. (Kelly, 2016) There, child labor and extreme conditions (including 12-hour days, no protective equipment etc) are heavily used to extract this vital element for lithium batteries and other products. The racialization of Africans as not being worth as much and being blamed for their own terrible exploitation shows a continuation with the racial ideology of the past stages of imperialism and its relationship with Africa and the global south. It isn't surprising to see that these relationships have produced skyrocketing global inequality and (uneven) intensification of exploitation everywhere. With the ability for capitalists to scour the globe and exploit resources and labor where it's cheapest and where it can do so most intensively has resulted in a profound accumulation of the world's wealth towards the dominant capitalist class while putting the working classes of the world in much more competition with each other, resulting in eroding work conditions across the world. While racially dominant segments of the working class in the core countries benefit from the cheap goods and relative access to welfare, housing, healthcare, etc provided by the imperialist states, as Rodney says of the European working class, though it is also true of the North American workers,
"European workers have paid a great price for the few material benefits which accrued to them as crumbs from the colonial table. The class in power controls the dissemination of information... In accepting to be led like sheep, European workers were perpetuating their own enslavement to the capitalists. They ceased to seek political power and contented themselves with bargaining for small wage increases, which were usually counter-balanced by increased costs of living." (Rodney. 199-200)
This reflects how the material relations and secondary contradictions affect consciousness and ideology, and therefore the subjective and objective conditions for struggle. The contradictions within the working classes were reflected in the ideological and material conditions of the racially dominant sections of the core working classes who exhibited a contradictory half-petty bourgeois consciousness which divided them from the other sections of the working class and allowed the capitalist state to integrate them in the Keynesian era. The neo-liberal age capitalized on the tamed, integrated state of the labor movement in the imperialist core, so that as soon as conditions for profitability were in danger, the gains of the first-world working classes could be disposed of and conditions gradually intensified. So the intensification of super-exploitation in the periphery becomes linked to the polarization of wealth and exploitation globally but also internally to the core countries. This is evident in how poverty and stratification of wealth within the US hegemon has increased, with the most wealthy fifth of the population receiving half of all household income and the poorest only 3.5%, as of 2002 (and we know it has only gotten much worse in the following decade).(Vulliamy, 2002) The ability for the revolutionary elements of the working classes in the first-world to forge unity, organization, and revolutionary potential will depend on being able to grasp and engage with these contradictions and develop strategies which take into account the multi-national character of states such as the USA and the differing ideological, working, and living conditions faced by different sections of the working classes. And not only how they differ but how these conditions are connected and move in relation to one another.
Without understanding the relationship between the conditions of core and periphery, of racial and gender liberation, we cannot navigate the terrain we find ourselves in, which only paves the way for defeat, as the working classes of the first world and the world over experienced as the neo-liberal age has come into being and now approaches terrible crisis. Let's use our historical and practical experience to guide our strategies and tactics as we engage with these contradictions to draw the masses into struggle, to fight for a new world! **
* This is only a vague characterization and I do not intend at all to assert a specific analysis of China's character. That is a question far outside the scope of this article. I hold some hope that The Peoples Republic still has a socialist character and potential to rein in the capitalists but we also must engage with current conditions as they connect with the global context. The only thing that is certain in this area is that we cannot support the imperialists' attempts to undermine China solely so they can get their fingers on more of China's resources and labor as well as more military dominance of the East Asian region.
** Let me apologize for some of the repetition in this article!
Kelly, Annie. Children as young as seven mining cobalt used in smartphones, says Amnesty. (2016) The Guardian: online. <https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2016/jan/19/children-as-young-as-seven-mining-cobalt-for-use-in-smartphones-says-amnesty>
Rodney, Walter. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. (1982) Washington DC: Howard University Press.
Vulliamy, Ed. US In Denial as Poverty Rises. 2002: the Guardian. <https://www.theguardian.com/world/2002/nov/03/usa.georgebush>
We Can Do a Better Job Than You. It's Obvious.
We don the black from head to toe
Because we are your ugly shadow
Brought to life by force of will
A golum raised of dirt and blood
We do not fear your guns,
Prisons, or your tanks
It is your temples, schools and banks
Which shake us to our bones
You can hang us, starve us, rape us, shoot us,
Beat us, drown us, gas us, stone us,
And we will scratch and bite and trash and fight
We will laugh and dance and scream and shout.
We will win, no matter what you try
Because when the debts are settled we will have survived
Because We are the growers, the makers, the builders, the mothers,
The fixers, the porters, the cleaners, The Mob.
You may be the owners
Of the Machine
But we know how it works,
And how it won't.
We are here and we are your children
And we demand recompense for what has been stolen
You build up your profits and build up your privilege
Use them as walls with which to divide us.
Keep out the commoner, keep out the riff-raff,
the native, the dalit, the serf,
Keep the under-dog where they belong
Send them back to where they come from
Engineer obedience with threats and treats
Because good dogs don't bite back.
But we aren't dogs, we're germs.
We are your sickness, your maladies, your disease.
A gangrene of your ethics
The AIDS of your moral right
We are your plague, your pestilence, your plight
We come bearing gifts of destruction and renewal
In neat little packages addressed to you
We can no longer move in the darkness
With fascists out there stealing our likeness
We're watching you daesh,
We're watching you klan,
EDL, AD and FN
We are coming and you can't fight us
You might have the guns,
But we've got the plans
And we only need our hands.
"What plans are those?", some might ask,
That would be telling but I'll give you some clues
To walk alone on our own path,
To call no thing sacred,
And no person master.
To offer our hand to those who need
With what-ever help we can provide.
To see others as equals with their own desires
And to do the least harm whilst satisfying ours.
To defend ourselves and any who cannot
Against those who would choose our thoughts.
To spread the wealth of this world
To every corner of every household.
To live as part of this planet
Not apart from it.
These are our big ideas
And they smell so sweet,
Right under your feet.
Now stand and fight
Before the bastards take the lot
Nobody owns this world
And definitely not your future.
I know that's not what they tell you,
But their culture is an illusion.
It has no body that you can touch
Only consequences you will feel.
It's laws make strangers kill each other,
It's practice salts the earth,
It's mechanics values men as machines
And women for birth.
It's wealth is used for posturing pride,
Big dog, alpha male, king of the tribe,
A starving child needs no laptop
The war orphan needs no coke
The rape victim needs no lipstick
And we plebs need more than hope.
It ain't easy being green
But smashing is what we do.
The state, the banks, the cops, the cults.
Names on the list and first against the wall.
The patriarchs, the oligarchs, the hoarders of power
Every second that passes brings closer
Your final hour.
Don't fear your end, don't worry or stress
Throw your arms up, sit back, rejoice.
No longer will you have to work to conform,
Or take medicines because you've poisoned the air.
No longer will you have to hold
A vigilant guard over our morals and behaviour.
Nor will you have to live to retire,
You can live for sunshine and smiles,
Or ponies, or whatever.
When every day can be the weekend
Who's to say when it began.
Come and join us on our merry adventure,
We have some great things to show you.
A place where no war need be fought,
Where no prisons need be built,
A place where no famine need continue,
Where art and science and knowledge
Hold their own value.
Where life is easy if you want it to be
Where people seem relaxed, maybe even happy
Like a weight off their shoulders
Gone, like the fear from their eyes
And doubt from their hearts.
A good place to get to,
If you know how to start.
A Quick View on the Capitalist State
There have been many talks about the nature of the modern state and its potential use as-is among the Left. The opinion that has prevailed in the political stage in terms of popularity is the one that has also been attacked (and justly) the most; I am of course talking about reformism. But that contradiction should not be considered strange by any means. It is expected from the capitalist system to support the tendencies that are willing to act exclusively within its boundaries and suppress the voices that threaten not only the practices on economic and social issues that the capitalist system usually endorses through its puppet-politicians, but the existence of capitalism itself. Letís face it, the only acceptable Leftist position on the state always remains the same from the times of Marx until now: The state does what is necessary for the preservation of the capitalist system.
How so? I know cases in which the state protected the worker, not the capitalist. There are laws that can be used as evidence for that, the average person would say without looking behind the illusion of the particular, without looking at the decisions of the various administrations of the state as connected, as a sum in which nothing supportive for the worker remains. It is true and let it be said that the state may go against the interest of this or that capitalist at times, but even when it does so, it is for the sake of the capitalist class as a whole. This is the usefulness of the state; it tries to eliminate the difference between the interests of the individual capitalist and the capitalist class, when these are contradicting. But this can never be fully achieved. The capitalist cannot become self-conscious of the interests of his class. The nature of capitalism obligates him to be antagonistic to other capitalists. It could be stated that the state stands in in the middle of the capitalist and his class, and when needed, obligates him to follow the interests of his class (which are also his own long-term interests, although from his point of view this cannot be understood), while leaving him ďeconomically freeĒ when not.
But that is not the only thing the state does for the capitalist. From the military and the police to schools and prisons the state protects the system, every institution of it embodies the system in its particular case. The representative, the reconciliator, the physical forceÖ the state is for capitalism more than it is usually thought to be. The state is the capitalist state; the capitalist class in its unity. Its aim? The perpetuation of capitalism and itself.
On Reform in Modern Society and; On Revolutionary Society
The ideals of reformation and revolution are simple in words and difficult in concept. The world is a very troubled place and many have looked to the past for answers. They want to revert the world instead of progressing. The world is constantly evolving and if governments and societies canít evolve with it they suffer and stagnate. The answer is forward not back. Do not turn back on your path, but instead push through the median and onto a different and better path. To retread the ground once walked is an empty effort. You know what each step did and no matter how many times you take them again you will never recreate the first one. A step back is fear, of change and of the unknown. The status quo fears these two things because it fears the lack of control it might have when society takes the next step or takes a new path. The status quo survives no matter which direction one walks. The first step does not kill it, it simply weakens it. A few more steps and it is broken and thrown away. This is where it starts to hurt. Society has become acclimated to the status quo and no matter how slowly it is shed the society experiences a frightening shock. It will not kill but it always hurts. It takes time, effort, and some optimism to heal but when it has healed the world is better off. The status quo is an addiction, or a disease if you will.
Change is not easy and anyone who says otherwise is lying or wrong. Change is a word that many throw around, but few can commit to. Change is a word that inspires hope to your supporters and hostility from your enemies. Oftentimes it seems that change is just a word, an empty one. In todayís world change is a small process, an amendment, an election, a court decision, etc. To most these are the largest changes they will see in their life. Reforms are often a tool to quell discontent in a population rather than a means for achieving a greater good for the people. Reforms are often small in scope and made in fear. Without reforms, there would be regular riots in the streets. Large scale reforms are often the work of the people rather than the government giving in to pressure. One such example was the Civil Rights Movement in America. Not only did it mostly destroy the Jim Crow institution and make several federal laws, it was a triumph against racism and sexism across the nation. Obviously, it did not destroy bigotry but it gave minorities and women the means to fight bigotry and have the law on their side instead of the status quo on the bigotsí side. What made the reforms that came about from the Civil Rights Movement successful was that they changed the status quo greatly. They came about from mass social action and discontent, through violence and civil disobedience it was the people who forced the change.
One use of reform is as an immediate reaction. A liberal government can announce and pass a reform to gather support for their party in a short time. The more popular a party in government is the less likely theyíll make reforms, as a reform poorly implemented could cost the party their current power. A party that is desperate for upcoming electoral support will often target these reforms at groups that typically oppose them in an effort to convince swing voters, and distract their opponents campaign base. The flaw with this type of thinking is that it treats people as statistics, but even worse, it does not consider those that do not vote to be statistics. One category is treated as less than human and the other is treated as if they donít exist.
Without substantial social action to back it, most reforms will fail to make any significant change to how the government acts and functions. In the modern world where liberalism is the political norm the status quo has become a tool of the establishment both inside the government and in the societies themselves. The less things change the easier it is for them to go about their daily routine of profiting and campaigning against other liberal factions and parties. Perhaps the greatest weapon of the liberal establishment is that they make politics a matter of money, notoriety, popularity, and niche knowledge. They make it so that unless you have money or heavy party support, the average person stands no chance of even getting into politics. Then popularity amongst their peers and party allows them to keep their job if they remain favorable. The knowledge required to be a politician is not something typically taught in schools. More often than not extensive legal knowledge is required to even stand a chance as a member of a legislative body. This elitism and complexity has turned away many voters from the political system and as a result voter turnout has reached disgusting lows. With much of the population alienated the government can maintain the status quo and their routine with considerably less effort than it should.
The modern status quo denounces all forms of violent resistance. They will use any outbreak of violence, from a broken window to dead bodies, to delegitimize a cause. Oftentimes the media and the upholders of the status quo care more about said broken window than the unjust murder that started the protests. The status quo, in regards to this, is hypocritical as they will use extensive bureaucratic and violent action through the police and national guard. The scale of violence with which the status quo retaliates is both excessive and brutal, and to the status quo it will be more than justified. This escalation of violence will no doubt either be reciprocated or break the spine of the resistance, and seeing as how violent revolutions in neo-liberal society are nearly non-existent it is often the latter.
Modern mass communications and social media have built a global connection among the people of the world, and as such, news from every corner of the globe can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection. Even a blatantly biased source is of use, as their reports on events documents existence. This documentation of existence means that despite bias there are now records of an event occurring. As such, scandals, conflicts, elections, and movements are all visible to the world. While this isnít truly transparency it has become much more difficult to hide just about anything from the rest of the world. This access to information however allows misinformation to spread much faster and further. This misinformation combined with the pressures of group mentality results in an entrenched mindset which only strengthens misinformation and biases.
Revolution is a much rarer occurrence and as seen in the Russian and French revolutions are capable of completely changing the balance of power in the world. Revolutions are hardly predictable and in several decades time they may not even resemble the ideals that the people fought for. Many in modern times say that revolutions are impractical, and by that they mean difficult. In truth, they fear change and the inevitable hardships that come from such a large and likely violent change. In order for a revolution to be successful the people must adhere to the principles of the revolution and not lose sight of the goals, especially after the revolution is successful. They must stay faithful and persevere through turmoil, because if they lose faith then not only does the revolution ultimately fail, but it makes many across the world pessimistic to the idea of revolution. The revolution does not end when the old regime is ousted, or when the new system is implemented. It can be argued that the revolution never ends because the revolutionary principles must be maintained. As such it is important to fight conservatism as it constricts the revolution. Conservatives within the revolution are resistant to change which is vital to keep the society functional and stable for decades, even changes that are in line with the revolutionary principles and ideals are resisted by conservatives in the revolution. Do not forget that conservative factions are still revolutionary, so it is a priority to convince them of the issues of their conservatism and not attack them. Attacking fellow revolutionaries not only leads to unnecessary conflict and poor stability in the nation but it also divides the people. Revolutions themselves divide the populace, and conflict between factions of the revolution inevitably force people to take sides whether out of fear, belief, or necessity. When these lines are drawn the revolution will never be united.
Corruption is an inevitability in the revolution, however its prevalence is not. Corruption needs to be fought or else the revolution ceases to exist and the society begins to resemble something hardly better than what it revolted from. Fighting corruption isnít straight forward, and often fighting it can lead to more corruption. When the status quo is destroyed many will try to exploit the revolution to benefit only themselves or their own faction and in almost every case these are counter-revolutionaries.
Opposition more than anything else will define a revolution to the outside world. The overused phrase Ďhistory is written by the victorsí is constantly applicable, because if the revolution fails their opponents will not only dictate the facts, but will manipulate contexts and obscure truths. When foreign opposition writes on the revolution they will often find the most discontented and anti-revolutionary individuals in the revolutionary society to base their criticisms and incite hostility. Within the revolution the opposition and supporters do not magically disappear, and it will linger for decades. Many supporters of the old regime will flee to a foreign nation, as will some of the opposition that supports neither the revolution nor the old regime. Those that remain either begrudgingly continue to live in the revolutionary society or fight against it.
Organization and mobilization of the populace in the new revolutionary society is the key to maintaining it. Firstly, the status of supplies must be assessed. Everything from food to wood, to concrete, to metals must be collected so that the usage of existing supplies is efficient, the provisions are distributed accordingly, and the production priorities are set. Physical maintenance will be among the first actions as the chaos of the revolution will have likely damaged many structures and machinery. The sooner they are repaired the less concern they will present, and the sooner they can resume providing utility. In the early years of the revolutionary society a crisis-like status will be the norm, the damage from the revolution and the overall decay of physical structures leads to the need for the constant mobilization of the populace. Everyone who can contribute will have to contribute in any way they can. This mobilization will not allow long periods of rest so it is important to have work and rest scheduled in shifts to minimize the dangers of exhaustion and accidents. The shifts should be deployed in groups and the groups will prioritize the schedule. The first shift in the group needs to prioritize fire, and spill hazards such as factories, power plants, and storage facilities. These volatile structures must be secured before they cause a disaster. Then for example: the next shift in the group would clear debris from areas of access, however the recycling of the debris will have to wait unless the debris poses a health risk then it must be disposed of. The following shifts in the group will repair the existing infrastructure so that at least the bare minimum of the community will be functioning. The same applies for damaged and destroyed homes. A shortage of homes means a shortage of shelter and the shortage of shelter breeds many problems. Homes need to be repaired and rebuilt, though the displaced populace could also be moved to existing vacant residences. The issues of doing so would only be minor.
This idea of mass maintenance serves as a pillar for the revolutionary society. The mobilization to create a functioning community where the revolutionary society can inhabit, the transformation of outdated and useless buildings, the construction of new lives. When something breaks or shows its wear then it must be treated before a problem emerges, because when a problem emerges the chances are that it will lead to further problems. Mass maintenance is dedication to the revolutionary society to give it hope in a time that borders on crisis. Once the society begins to stabilize, mass maintenance will become more integrated into its functions, but in times of disaster it will reemerge as a prominent characteristic.
Poverty and starvation (or famine) claim countless lives early in the revolution. It is a priority to organize and mobilize farms, fisheries and other agricultural facilities so that food production and distribution is handled efficiently. The organization of agricultural facilities will not only feed the population in the short term but will make sure that the production and supply are well calculated and monitored. Canned food and other non-perishables cannot be taken for granted, the availability of canned goods gives them a distinct advantage early in the revolution over bread as canned foods do not have to be grown. They have received a reputation of being necessities in disasters, and in the revolutionary upheaval they can lessen the impact of starvation. However, canned foods still need to be produced and in the revolutionary society they will either fill stockpiles in a surplus of agricultural products or serve as substitute in shortages. Thus, they serve as a temporary solution. In the years following the establishment of a revolutionary society the production of canned foods will have increased which in turn will lessen the need for fresh food to prevent starvation. The production of a variety of foods means that not a single crop or food source will be burdened with more than it can produce.
In survival clean water for drinking is the most vital resource, unfortunately pollution and pathogens make much of the natural fresh water on the planet dangerous to drink. As with other utilities thereís a chance that the water system breaks down or for some other reason stops working. Luckily purification techniques such as boiling can make most natural water drinkable. If the water systems canít be repaired, then it becomes a matter of life and death to build a new water system for the community. Failing that the community would either die out or move to more favorable locations. The issue however with moving is that the new location might not have any infrastructure or already be inhabited. If it is already inhabited there is a chance that the community already occupying the area might be stretched thin on resources and have nothing to share. In revolutionary spirit this community in question would spare what they could but it is doubtful that it will be sufficient to keep the outside group alive for long. In the absence of infrastructure, the community on the move would have to choose carefully where to settle to keep fed, hydrated and safe. It is quite possible that this community would live in rather primitive conditions in order to survive.
A revolutionary society can arise in numerous locations. In one instance is the isolated society, an area removed from the urban environment and from conventional borders. All that connects this society to the world it came from are roads and maybe a dock at the shore. A town and its agricultural community having formed their own society. Another society could sprout in a city where concrete dominates and agriculture is nonexistent. Perhaps a mighty nation succumbs to the revolution and all the people of that nation are now united in scattered communities across the vast land of the former nation.
The level of isolation of these societies impacts their relations to the outside world. The isolated town and agricultural community might rarely encounter more than a passing vehicle, while a society closer to an urban center will interact with that community daily. Those who live outside of the revolutionary society are not enemies just because they live in the old society. There are numerous reasons as to why they arenít a part of the revolutionary society and often itís because they donít understand the revolution. Attacking them will hardly benefit the revolutionary society. Despite this there will always remain the possibility that those outside of the society could be hostile, so tread lightly.
The most unknown factor of the revolutionary society is the digital world of mass communication. The internet in particular is the most fascinating thing in the world today. With communication more powerful than ever, and near-infinite information available to so many it creates unthinkable possibilities. The most obvious applications for the internet in terms of revolution is to learn ideology, coordinate the people, and gather support. However, the usage of the internet in the revolutionary society is a different matter. The simplest use would be an online library. Guides on maintenance, agricultural advice, engineering lessons, scientific concepts, etc. All of these can be used to better the society. Reliance on experts becomes less crucial in the day to day functions of society (However tutorials and guides are never truly a substitute for experts). The communication between the revolutionary society and the outside world will be constant with both social media and cellphones. The means of communication provide the ability to document the revolutionary society to a degree never before seen. Should the revolutionary society fail the documentation will exist to help the next one succeed.
A History of The Modern State
How is it that we find ourselves surrounded by the staggering edifices we have named The Modern State? What led us into our current predicament? There are many possible answers to these questions depending on the logic and the arguments used. In this instance this set of theories combine from an examination of the historical evidence, mainly archeological, of the foundations of a set of concepts and situations which have developed into The Modern State.
Firstly I will outline the axioms of my rationale,
The Modern State must be recognised as such by the wider international community - Whatever particular polity is being considered it must be legitimate in the opinion of other communicable States.
The Modern State must have a defined geographic territory - There are important differences between the ideas of the "nation", the "nation-state" and the "modern state". A nation is bound primarily by culture and a nation-state uses this claim to justify its existence, whereas a modern state is an economic bloc with internal political control.
The Modern State must have an internationally recognised governmental authority - There must be some form of or the potential for governance, whether internally legitimate or not, recognised by the surrounding nation-states.
The Mo...., must have an internally recognised currency and fiscal system - Factors of economic cohesion which owe their existence to the State.
.....must have a system to obtain and distribute resources - Whether the central planning of a maoist state or that of free enterprise and taxation, a modern state needs a way to marshal its material wealth and to further develop its goals as part of its justification for being.
There are more axioms to add but these will do fine for what we need. I have outlined what I consider to be essential facets of a modern state to be clear about the conditions which now exist and how each one arose historically. Nothing happens in a vacuum and nothing (in societies) comes from nothing, I make these assumptions and include them in my basic rationale, but marxian dialectics is a tool to be used and not a rule to live by. The history that I see is far too complex to be reliant on the struggle of two opposing forces, it is more like the surface of boiling water. Each bubble rises and bursts, some bigger than others, some more powerful, all affecting each other to some degree, and all powered by a separate heat source (though that is for another essay).
It is this morass of human actions and reactions to stimuli and imagination that i will try to shed some light on and at the same time hopefully show that dialectics is only a part of the picture.
I do not have a single argument to prove the evolution of The Modern State, it is too convoluted a story to be that straight forward. I will instead strive to show examples of the origins of certain concepts we have grown to take for granted in today's societies. There are examples of nation states stretching back into the millennia, but none of these places include enough of my axioms to be thought of as a continual, evolving state. The two closest examples of a state dating from early history are China and Egypt, though their borders and state structures have changed by far too many degrees to be considered anyway similar to their ancient forebears. Also the formation of the modern states of Egypt and China post-date the formation of the Modern State in other areas of the globe, even though both regions have played vital roles in the construction of the Modern State.
The Land Before Civilisation
Most western and indian historians point to writing as the beginnings of civilisation. This opinion is problematic as the definition of a written script can be difficult, not to mention other "artificial memory systems" such as tally-sticks, quipus, dragon bones, etc. It is my opinion that people took many generations of ebb and flow to change from a feral lifestyle to a domestic one. With different regions having different resources and climates, humans moved towards modernity at different rates and in different directions, relative to their cultural needs.
The most basic elements of human society: language, extended family, moral cohesion, social ritualisation, stretch back to before we were really human in the modern sense. The extended family tribe is not a social behaviour reserved for humanity, we see it in the majority of primates, even the "solitary" orangutans share rudimentary social bonds. The origins of human interactions, as interesting as they are, do not hold enough relevance for us to go into at the moment, but it is this extended family which is the origin of the tribe and village; and it is obviously within the tribe and village we can find the progenitor of the State.
So how did humans live before these cultural concepts of state and government? The "caveman" cliche is pretty far from the truth. This stereotype has been enforced by narrow minded cognoscenti and their condescending attitude towards children's mental capacity. From the archaeological evidence it seems humans have always shown complex social behaviour; the finds in the earliest of "cave" dwellings show evidence of extended family groups, the proto-tribe. Finds such as the bones of multiple individuals in a common burial pit, along with ritualisation associated with these burials (bone stained with ochre, removal of the head, grave goods, etc), the size of middens (waste disposal sites, mainly from food production) and the type of prey items found there, all point to groups larger than a nuclear family. There is also the issue of the extraordinarily long childhood of humans. Many of the bones found belonging to neolithic cultures are of people who died at what we would consider an early age, at forty years you were a great-grandparent and very rare and at fifty years you were mythically old. From the physical evidence we can ascertain that many children would have been orphaned at an early age, yet the amount of child bones found doesn't indicate that these orphans were left to their own devices, meaning that there must have been some form of adoption concept in most of these cultures. It also doesn't work mathematically, as we would have gone extinct if the death of both parents meant the likely death of their children.
Quintessential to truly understanding the world of the caveman is an understanding of their technologies and applications. This of course is close to impossible due to the corrosion of organics. Although we are left with a plethora of stone artifacts, those of bone and tooth are much less commonplace, and other materials such as hide, plant fibers and wood are almost non-existent. However, for our needs here we have a sufficient level of understanding of the technological reality of the neolithic age. We see the change in the type of tools being made as humans move towards a domestic lifestyle, from basic and light-weight hunting and crafting tools such as blades, arrowheads, and needles (that are in abundance during times of neolithic cultures who haven't yet mastered food production and must move with the seasons as nomads), to the quorn stones and cooking pits in the campsites of the settled hunters, to the cemeteries and breweries of the recognisable villages.
There are examples of humans living in these diverse extended family societies found all around the globe, but there is no concurrence in time, place or lifestyle. The time at which humans gave up their feral lives and settled into permanent villages is a non-sequitur as it happened at different times in different places in different directions, with examples of villages even returning to a nomadic or semi-nomadic life and back again seemingly due to climate and wildlife changes.
So what was it that first pushed these proto-tribes to settle into villages? It was mutual aid, concentration of resources and in many cases the aforementioned climate changes. The nomadic cultures which these villages came from had long used seasonal campsites. Stopping there long enough to gather food, resources and make repairs, much like the semi-nomadic people of central Turkey today. A tripartite of technology, climate and population pressure caused these campsites to become permanent and from there we see the beginnings of urban cultures among humans. It is within these fledgling urban centres that we see the true beginnings of the state, as these villages become permanent we observe a drastic change in the psychology of the inhabitants.
The burial customs of the nomadic cultures along with various other evidences point to a communal way of life indicative of a closely bonded group. When urbanised we can observe in these small settlements a shift in focus from the communal to the household. Burial sites change from a communal site to underneath individual buildings, segregating the remains of family ancestors from other families in the tribe. We also begin to find storage areas inside individual houses, separating and preserving resources for the residents of that building. This shows these early villagers were making clear distinctions between house and village, seeing their direct family as a community within a community.
As these villages grew and developed, population pressure began to put a strain on the various resources and existing social systems, forcing technology and infrastructure to advance or the settlement would fail (as many would have done). Access to enough drinking water and an annual food stock were the two main pressure points. There were plenty of cases of a spring running dry or a river changing course causing a settlement to be abandoned, evidence of over-exploitation of food resources by their nature are less common but still exist in large enough numbers to be notable. During these periods of population pressure it was food technology which advanced the most. The key development was agriculture. While hunter-gatherers, humans learned how some areas produced more of one food resource than another, or at set times of the year. They discovered how plants grow in clusters, how to find them and when best to harvest. This evolved into prized foraging spots handed down through generations. Once permanently settled these spots became "wild gardens" tended to by the villagers. Over time these wild gardens grew in size and yield while their human gardeners observed and learned more about nature and botany. This led to planned plant domestication as this wild garden technology became more sophisticated and enclosure systems were developed for convenience and protection. It is generally after the development of field and seeding technologies that we begin to see animal domestication.
This is the general pattern of social evolution among all geographies. Some cultures will develop the technologies of villages, water sourcing, and domestic food production in differing ways at differing speeds, most will have produced these advances before metalworking but none will cross the threshold into primitive statehood without these three developments. It is in the further evolution and synthesis of these technologies that we can find the germinated seed of the modern state and the psychological enthrallment of its citizens.
The Long March to Oppression
There are various regions of the world which have developed statehood at different times: China, Indus Valley, Andes Mountains, etc. For this essay we will focus on the most influential areas of the Near East and Egypt. From the very earliest cities of Catalhoyuk in Turkey, Jericho in Palestine and Eridu and Uruk in Iraq this region had been at the forefront of human affairs for a long time. It was the people of ancient southern Iraq that gave us the wheel, lexicographic writing, mathematics, the seven day week and divisions of the clock, the ancient Afghans domesticated sheep and horses and developed organised warfare, in western Syria wheat, barley and olives were first domesticated and Egypt made strides in medicine, anatomy, engineering and codified religion. These are all ancient developments but the creative influence of this region has been omnipresent and only now shows signs of waning. The rise of Europe and the far east over the past four centuries has staunched the growth of the near east through various means but that is another discussion entirely.
We will first examine Catalhoyuk in central Turkey. This is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, urban centres we know of. It is much larger than any other settlement of its age discovered so far, but is still relatively small, only thirty two acres. It is hard to describe Catalhoyuk as a city. Although a large urban area with a peak population of seven-thousand, it had no streets, sanitation or obvious public buildings. There are buildings which are clearly houses and others that the archaeologists have named "shrines". It is not clear what exactly these shrines where used for. They may have been storerooms or mortuaries, crypts, chapels, etc; all that really marks them apart from houses is a lack of clear domestic use. Catalhoyuk is more like a series of villages built onto the sides of each other than what could be recognised as a city. Inside each house there are separated storage and food preparation areas. This, along with the population size, is evidence that communal feasting was insufficient to sustain the residents and was not practiced on any significant scale. Small pits beside the hearth filled with a household stash of obsidian (volcanic glass) shards used for blades from as far away as the Zargos mountains in Iran have been found in nearly every house in Catalhoyuk.
We see here the concept of personal property and with it some way for society to regulate it in order to maintain a stable population over time. These conclusions are extrapolated from the estimated social consequence of the material culture of the city. There is no clear evidence of law but there must have been social ethics in place regarding the separation of foodstuffs and essentials like obsidian into individual houses, just as there must have been regarding communal feasting when it could still support the population. There is no evidence of codified writing systems to be able to generalise law so it remains a rule of judges (whoever they may be) rather than a rule of law.
There is also no clear evidence of agriculture. There has not yet been any finds or associated sites which are evidence of field, enclosure or wild garden technology. The main ingredient for our recipe from Catalhoyuk is the scale of social organisation, a population of seven thousand needs reasons and methods to make living so close to one another advantageous over the lifestyle of the past hundred generations.
The next site we will glance over is Jericho in Palestine, dating from around the same time as Catalhoyuk, nine thousand BCE, but with very different circumstances. It is in this city we find some of the earliest examples of public infrastructure. There are streets between buildings, cult centres, agoras, and the walls so famous among the abrahamic religions.
It is these walls and their ninety foot high tower which is most significant for us. To be able to build and maintain such structures implies a range of developments acting concurrently. They are built with crude mud brick which could have been produced either by specialists or collectively. The building and maintenance of the walls could also have been either, but the design and management would have had to have been done by forms of specialists. The level of coordination required is just too big to expect horizontal organisation in a world or warlords, kings and bandits. Either way it shows that society in Jericho had the ability to mobilise labour in the name of the polity, and to maintain that labour force over generations, as there is evidence of the walls being rebuilt and repaired countless times over the four thousands years they existed. Water access in Jericho also seems to have been public, with wells defined by masonry and brickwork, positioned in public areas and not enclosed in what could be thought of as private property.
Though Jericho is not the earliest example of collective labour, cult centres, streets, engineered defences or water access, the city is a nexus of these developments and a clear step towards the Modern State.
The next chapter in this history are the city states and cultural empire of the Sumerians of southern Iraq. The cities of Sumer and Akkad are larger and far more numerous than any other cultures of the time, rivaled only by the Indus Valley civilisation in southern Pakistan. Thanks to the Sumerian taste for record-keeping we have some of the most accurate, though biased, accounts and history of any ancient society.
The Sumerian empire was a cultural federation of city states, with various cities holding hegemony over various areas and periods. It never had a clearly defined territory and every king or emperor had to keep rulers of other city states enthralled, usually through military means. With these extensive records we can piece together an elaborate, though flawed, history of most Sumerian city states from their earliest days around six-thousand BCE into the Greek period, and in some cases the modern world.
There are some interesting points to be made about the foundation of the major Sumerian cities. These cities are claimed by the native histories to be considerably older than any other cities in their known world. It is said that these five cities were the original dwelling sites of the "first gods" and were built before "the flood", a cataclysmic event in Sumerian myth. The earliest settlements didn't grow around economic or military sites, as they did in Palestine, they grew around religious sites, showing that the area was relatively peaceful.
This, along with other evidence, allows us to theorise that the Sumerians believed themselves, or rather their gods, to be the originators of the city. This is clearly not the case, but the Sumerians did, as those before them in Catalhoyuk and Jericho had, independently develop urban technologies and gathered these developments together, refining them towards the Modern State.
The Sumerians must have had reasons for holding these historical beliefs and through archaeological and recorded evidence the most convincing train of logic is that for whatever reasons the Sumerians saw a religious significance to these sites and, like other pre-urban ritual sites like Stonehenge in England or Gobekli Tepe in Turkey, they were built on sites of significance rather than convenience. In the Sumerian case there were five prominent sites located in the Tigris-Euphrates river basin; the developing Sumerians, native to the region, found the area empty of any other aggressive ethnic groups, and populations began to coalesce around these temple sites and the amenities that supported activities there.
The development of these religious colonies into city states was concurrent with the Sumerian developments in agriculture. As there was no threat from other ethnic groups and nobody to conduct large scale trade with, the cultural and civic centres grew from the religious ones. Eventually these sites grew to a size where civic authority surpassed religious authority and the institute of kingship was developed.
If there is any one point in this history that could be called the foundations of the Modern State it was this period. In these city states we see almost all the axioms mentioned at the beginning of this essay. We see recognition by the international community of the time, governmental authority, sovereign legal and fiscal systems and an ability to undertake public works, levy taxes and marshal militaries, the only one missing is a defined territory. The Sumerian city states only defined their own borders by their city walls, though the cities' authority would have stretched into the local areas and settlements, but the exact extent and range of this authority is unknowable and most likely fluid at the time. In the case of the Sumerian empire, it existed as a group of isolated cities bound by a shared culture and later language, not as an absolute, defined territory. Which brings us to the most exuberant society Africa has ever known. Pharonic Egypt.
It is strange to be including the monolithic, extraverted culture of ancient Egypt almost as a footnote. In the case of this essay there is little for pharonic society to contribute. Only our last axiom of a modern state, and that is it's defined territorial boundaries.
Similar to the Sumerian empire which contained two main ethnic groups, the Sumerians and the Akkadians, the state of Egypt consisted of two main ethnic groups, the Egyptians of the north and the Nubians of the south, each with separate cultures and histories. There is a large amount of synchronicity between the societies of the Nile valley and those of Mesopotamia, especially so during their earliest periods. In pre-dynastic Egypt, that is before the rise of Pharonic hegemony, social authority was also held in the hands of the priesthood rather than local chiefdoms. Though we have scant sources on the political organisation of the Nile valley until a written system was codified during the second dynasty around 2800 BCE, and records began to be kept. It is inconceivable that such a complex political system as the Egyptian monarchy could have evolved from affiliated hunter-gather settlements to what was recorded as and by the Egyptian political establishment over the few decades of the first dynasty. The political institutions throughout most of dynastic Egpyts' history were of indigenous origin and not imported from Sumer and Akkad, as were so many cultural and technological concepts used by the Egyptians. Though they still travelled along similar lines of development to their eastern cousins, at some point the political and civic power of the warrior class overcame that of the priesthood and was expressed in the founding of the first Pharonic dynasty by Narmer, or so it is thought.
The kingdom of Egypt was divided into smaller regions called "nomes", which each had their own administration. As Egyptian territory expanded and Nubia was subsumed, the political system expanded along with it. This not only gives us a defined territory but a system of governance along with it, completing the axioms I outlined and used to define the Modern State.
Through this essay we have been able to skim over the prehistoric origin of the Modern State as it exists as a collection of human constructed and maintained institutions. There are many aspects of modern life which I have not covered in this history as space is a factor and to discuss every part of the machine would begin to change this from a short essay into a short book. Also the origins of class structure, modern banking, patriarchal social bases, etc, are each deserving of a piece longer than this, as in truth does our subject really.
***Due to the conflict of scope and length the information in this essay is not as deep as it could be but if anyone has any questions they'd like answered in fuller terms please don't hesitate to get in contact with me and I will reply as best I can.***