The right of the multitude (III): the right to construct alternatives

by Ana Bazac

 

I

 

Do people have nowadays the right to oppose, to protest? Not even this right, since not only some categories are forbidden to strike, to unionize, to protest, but – in fact, much more important – any protest has no longer real worth. Real opposition protests do not have power/real reformist function anymore. Namely, either they are destroyed (including through different types of diversion), or they are integrated within the democratic appearance of the “decent peoples”, if I may borrow Rawls’ formula for the Western style political organisation and subordination to the big companies. Indeed, the right to oppose is considered a “necessary evil” that must be controlled and shrunken in order to not jeopardize the “social consensus”, with or without “consociationalism” or rule of the grand coalitions (Lijphart).

When, few years ago, some social movements – like the “occupy” saga – have formed, some social theorists held the hope of a “finally, the peaceful transformation from below”. The protesters thought that as the old strikers have occupied the factories, as they could occupy the streets and central places: with the same victorious result. But (and letting aside that most old occupations was not victorious), the historical contexts were not the same. The first was that of capitalism “in a single country”, if we transpose Trotsky’s phrase about the first socialist attempt (the Soviet Russia having to resist as “socialism in a single country”), or that of a “national phase” of capitalism – when the capital-labour force relations took place inside state borders –, while the second is that of capitalism in its trans-national phase, much more powerful than the previous ones, although in system crisis.

By striking and occupying the work places, the workers of the first industrial revolution have paralysed the production – thus, stopped the profit – of individual companies, or fragments of the capitalist economy “in a country” and the owners ought to accept in those moments some claims (irrespective of their intention to make these claims as provisory as they could, even with the help of the police and military which were to intervene to impose the “normal” regime of “law and order”). But today no economic unit is really indispensable to the big trans-national concerns; letting aside the troubles of the individual owners or the possible and temporary fall of the worth of shares, harming the shareholders of that miserable unit because of the unrest of workers, these “abnormal” attitudes of the labour force only contribute to the historical process of concentration and centralization of capital.

And from this standpoint, neither the occupation of public spaces is really harmful for capitalism: it is only worrying, and it must be countered through symbolic and physical power in order to not spread too much. Young people might be enthusiastic, but finally the “profound country” casts once more its votes toward the dominant parties.

And psychologically, who can stay in the street à la longue? And who can ignore the disruption to the life of ordinary people because of the state of street civil war?

The above phrases seem to take over something from the cynical viewpoint of the powerful: but the form should not cover the message; in fact, all of the protests we know nowadays – however heroic are their protagonists – have no notable results for the “99%”[1].

As we know, these 99% are very stratified and ideologically confused and divided. Some ones hope that the known methods of credit and rolling the debts and postponing their payment will continue forever for the benefit of at least a par of the middle class: for example, Siriza and its relative challenge to these methods got only 36,5%  in the January elections, the radical left formations with those for Siriza till 50% of total votes, but still more than the “1%” have voted for different, more or less radical right.

 

II

 

As an intermezzo, we should ask why would be so necessary the standpoint of the “99%” in the present world politics. Two elements may be useful for us. The first is the concept of the multitude as it was sketched by Spinoza.

The power of the multitude is which gives “the Dominion”: in accordance with the laws of reason and human nature, this dominion and power belongs to a free multitude “guided more by hope than fear”[2], and if “the chief business of the dominion is transacted behind its back, and it can but make conjectures from the little, which cannot be hidden”, “it is supreme folly to wish to transact everything behind the backs of the citizens, and to expect that they will not judge ill of the same, and will not give everything an unfavourable interpretation. For if the populace could moderate itself, and suspend its judgment about things with which it is imperfectly acquainted, or judge rightly of things by the little it knows already, it would surely be more fit to govern, than to be governed”[3]. Briefly, “the multitudo indicates a plurality which persists as such in the public scene, in collective action, in the handling of communal affairs, without converging into a One, without evaporating within a centripetal form of motion. Multitude is the form of social and political existence for the many, seen as being many: a permanent form, not an episodic or interstitial form. For Spinoza, the multitudo is the architrave of civil liberties”[4]. So, this plurality means just the unique and unrepeatable individuals – and their considering as such – at mass scale: not an alignment toward a Procrustean bed that would hackle them according to a pensée unique, but the manifestation of the rational wills criticising each other in democratic debates and considering the both short and long term ends/teloi of their preferences and choices.

The second is that of the evidences of the leading of private interests in the last 150 years, or he last 40 years. These evidences are the irresolvable contradictions we all know, with their irreversible sufferings and losses. Until the level of technology was that of the first industrial revolution – when the workers needed ‘engineers’ to lead them, this technical leadership being from ancient times onwards the basis of political leadership, i.e. domination-submission – these sufferings and loses were inevitable. But the present industrial revolution of IT etc. tends to dismantle the old technical division of labour ‘workers-engineers’ and, since all tend to become their own ‘engineers’, the political domination-submission misses its technical basis, it is realised only through political means; the sufferings and losses become evitable. But, as we see, they expand: according to the system crisis.

 

III

 

Yes, the 99% are stratified, but all of them have the same concern and alarm in front of the global problems. The climate crisis, biodiversity loss and species extinction, the nuclear contamination of oceans from Fukushima[5], stratospheric ozone depletion, deforestation, freshwater shortage[6], the  increased acidification of the oceans[7], the expansion of fossil fuels and nuclear plants, the GMOs and their attack biodiversity and humans[8], all of them – as well as the mass unemployment and underemployment, and the lack of hope and humanistic goals, substituted by the world dominant classes with war, obscurantism, irrationalism and carpe diem entertainment rush and individualism – constituting elements of humans and life extinction[9]. These problems are not only the result of the inherent capitalist condition of the modern development 200 years ago, but also of the neo-liberal/neo-conservative politics from at least 40 years, specific to the trans-national  phase of capitalism, i.e. of the pressure of big companies over the world labour force and the states.

What is to be done? Would the expectations of people within a general state of anomy (Durkheim) be the solution? Would the solution be a “cold civil war”[10] interrupted occasionally by violent forms? We already must know: the logic of the present capitalism is no longer related to reforms which could alleviate the life of ordinary people. The era of this type of reforms is over. There aren’t means anymore to annul the deep contradiction between the private interests and the global problems.

With all the fear and caution of scientists[11], it’s science that showing the necessity of the common goods. With all the illusions in protecting niches some ones could shelter within, the global problems are those requiring the social governance over the common goods. This democratic governance is not a utopia aiming at transposing Kant’s ”idealistic” categorical imperative: according to which one must “act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never merely as a means to an end, but always at the same time as an end”. It is the only pragmatic answer: if we do not want irrational secessions, self-defence rights leading to barbarism, devastating wars and the destruction of our common Earth.

Epistemologically, the isolation and fragmentation of people’s reasoning are the cause and pattern of their private and short-term outlook.

But if we know all of these, we must ask: who wants irrational secessions, self-defence rights leading to barbarism, devastating wars and the destruction of our common Earth?

 

#
[1] Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International, Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016, 19 January 2015, https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-01-19/richest-1-will-own-more-all-rest-2016 ]. Ruby Grace Ricalde Ruby Grace Ricalde

[2] Spinoza, Tractatus politicus (1675/1677), http://www.spinozacsack.net78.net/Political%20Treatise,%20Benedict%20de%20Spinoza.pdf, Chapter 5, 2.

[3] Ibidem, Chapter VII, 31.

[4] Paolo Virno, A Grammar of the Multitude: For an Analysis of Contemporary Forms of Life (2003), Translated by Isabella Bertoletti, James Cascaito, Andrea Casson,  Los Angeles, New York, Semiotext(e) / Foreign Agents, 2004, http://www.generation-online.org/c/fcmultitude3.htm.

[5] Meta-Review of 46 Studies: Even the Lowest-Level Radiation Is Damaging to Human Health, November 19, 2012, http://www.globalresearch.ca/meta-review-of-46-studies-even-the-lowest-level-radiation-is-damaging-to-human-health/5312306; William Boardman, Fukushima Crisis Continues, Worse Than First Reported – Effects More Lingering than Hiroshima or Nagasaki?, September 04, 2014, http://www.globalresearch.ca/fukushima-crisis-continues-worse-than-first-reported-effects-more-lingering-than-hiroshima-or-nagasaki/5399322;

Containing Fukushima Is “Beyond Current Technology”. Worldwide Radiation is the Unspoken Consequence, April 08, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/containing-fukushima-is-beyond-current-technology-worldwide-radiation-is-the-unspoken-consequence/5441434; Fukushima Fallout? Emergency Closure of Fishery Along Entire West Coast: Alarming Die-Offs, Mass Reproductive Failures, Strange Diseases, April 17, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/fukushima-fallout-emergency-closure-of-fishery-along-entire-west-coast-alarming-die-offs-mass-reproductive-failures-strange-diseases/5443410.

[6] Marc Laimé, Eau : crise humanitaire au Proche-Orient, jeudi 9 avril 2015, http://blog.mondediplo.net/2015-04-09-Eau-crise-humanitaire-au-Proche-Orient.

[7] David Ray Griffin, Unprecedented: Can Civilization Survive the CO2 Crisis?, Atlanta, Georgia, Clarity Press, 2015; M. O. Clarkson et al., ”Ocean acidification and the Permo-Triassic mass extinction”, Science 10 April 2015, Vol. 348 no. 6231 pp. 229-232, DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa0193.

[8] From an enormous bibliography related to GMO, see only: Devinder Sharma, ”Agricultural Subsidies and Trade Policies”, in Ethics, Hunger and Globalization: In Search of Appropriate Policies, edited by Per Pinstrup-Andersen, Peter Sandøe, Dordrecht, Springer, 2007; Weed killer kills human cells. Study intensifies debate over ‘inert’ ingredients, June 22, 2009, http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/roundup-weed-killer-is-toxic-to-human-cells.-study-intensifies-debate-over-inert-ingredients; Nora Benachour and Gilles-Eric Séralini, ”Glyphosate Formulations Induce Apoptosis and Necrosis in Human Umbilical, Embryonic, and Placental Cells”, Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2009, 22 (1), pp. 97–105; Institute of Science in Society, Special Report 10/10/12, Why Glyphosate Should Be Banned, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Why_Glyphosate_Should_be_Banned.php; Move Over, Round-up: USDA Approves 2nd Generation GMOs That Can Withstand Even Deadlier Herbicide, September 1, 2013, http://www.theorganicprepper.ca/move-over-round-up-usda-approves-2nd-gen-gmos-that-can-withstand-even-deadlier-herbicide-09012013; Christina Sarich, El Salvador Farmers Beat Monsanto’s Monopoly: Refusing GMO and Outperforming with Record Crop Yields, April 14, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/el-salvador-farmers-beat-monsantos-monopoly-refusing-gmo-and-outperforming-with-record-crop-yields/5442783; Monsanto Knew of Glyphosate / Cancer Link 35 Years Ago, April 19, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-knew-of-glyphosate-cancer-link-35-years-ago/5443741; Arun Shrivastava, Weaponization of the Food System: Genetically Engineered Maize Threatens Nepal and the Himalayan Region, April 17, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/weaponization-of-the-food-system-genetically-engineered-maize-threatens-nepal-and-the-himalayan-region/30512; Christina Sarich, Brazil Admits Monsanto’s Roundup Is Causing Cancer After Approving 3 GMO Crops, April 20, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/brazil-admits-monsantos-roundup-is-causing-cancer-after-approving-3-gmo-crops/5444069; Fiona Young et al., ”Endocrine disruption and cytotoxicity of glyphosate and roundup in human JAr cells in vitro”, Integr Pharm Toxicol Genotoxicol, 2015 Volume 1(1): 12-19
doi: 10.15761/IPTG.1000104; Lawsuit Accuses Monsanto of Lying About Safety of Roundup, April 24, 2015, http://www.globalresearch.ca/lawsuit-accuses-monsanto-of-lying-about-safety-of-roundup/5444984

[9] Will Steffen et al., ”Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet”, Science 13 February 2015, Vol. 347, no. 6223, DOI: 10.1126/science.1259855.

[10] Jacques Sapir, Crise de la démocratie et souveraineté, 27 avril 2015,

http://www.mondialisation.ca/crise-de-la-democratie-et-souverainete/5445663.

[11] Naomi Oreskes and Eric Conway The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View From the Future, New York, Columbia University Press, 2014.

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