Marxist scholar David Harvey has a new book out, The Enigma of Capital, and this means he’s been on the road giving talks to promote it. One such lecture was at Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in London this past April. You can watch/listen to the talk here.
However, if you want the short version, I suggest watching RSA’s beautiful animation of it below. It does a good job of adding some visual content to Harvey’s explanation of the crisis of capitalism.
h/t Gopal Balakrishnan
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By Sean — 4 years ago
Oleksiy Arestovych is a family psychologist and contributor to the Internet newspaper in Kyiv, Ukrains’ka Pravda. His op-ed piece, published as “Стратегія теплого океану” on Ukrains’ka Pravda‘s website on December 6, suggests that Ukraine’s Euromaidan protest movement is about ordinary people opposing a corrupt post-Soviet state through nonviolent resistance, without inspiration from a national opposition or foreign help.
“Warm Ocean Strategy”
By Oleksiy Arestovych, Friday, 6 December 2013, 10:55, for Ukrains’ka Pravda
Translated by William Risch
There have been many conversations going on in society today about the right strategy to take.
I’ll give it to you now.
A strategy should meet the following criteria:
- it should be simple,
- it should be clear,
- it should be doable,
- and it should be easy enough, not requiring super efforts.
To wage a struggle successfully, you need to know the following:
- who and what are you dealing with?,
- what strengths do we have?,
- how to apply the second question to the first one?
1. Who and what are we dealing with?
We’re dealing with the System. The bureaucratic machine is the System’s skeleton. Exploiting one’s own position like one’s own property is what drives this machine. The main thing is to remove dirty, uncontrolled cash from society. The system is built just like a giant vacuum cleaner that has to pull dough right up to the top.
The system’s character is its main strength and main weakness. In particular, when it’s about money, the system’s cogs lose effectiveness.
Friends of mine in 2009 asked me to take on the duties of assistant head of the district administration in a well-known regional center of our country, so that bad people didn’t run it. I agreed to do it: it would be a an interesting cultural study, a chance to see from the inside how the state works. The district was the city’s central one, and the most curious processes took place there.
For instance, some kiosk stopped making a payoff. Administration officials complained to it:
Where’s the money, Zin?..
The kiosk’s owner gave a reasonable answer:
You go figure it out among yourselves. There are so many people complaining that I don’t know who to deliver it to, and who wants what from whom.
The officials, furious, pass a resolution to remove the kiosk:
- so that this wouldn’t happen again,
- so that he paid what he owed,
- so that he paid for the kiosk’s return.
A crane comes, and the ones carrying out the punishment look on. The crane starts lifting up the kiosk. Before it can put it onto a flatbed, other officials, from the police, run up. The kiosk owner had paid them off just beforehand, and they came to defend him – with future payoffs in mind.
District bureaucrats start yelling at policemen. Arms are swinging; spit flies. Gawkers show up. Then the prosecutor runs up –one who also has made some agreement with the owner. He enters the conflict. A little later, the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) joins in a three-sided chess game. Then the tax inspectors join in. Later – the SES (Sanitation and Disease Control Station) and the firemen. The district police inspector comes in. The GAI (State Auto Inspection) intervenes. All of their faces turn red, all of them are foaming at the mouth, they all shout and yell, they’re all full of hate – state servants are fighting for their 50 hyrvnias. The kiosk’s owner, who at first was taking a tranquilizer to calm his nerves, begins bursting with laughter.
The moral of the story is that there is no unity in the System. Part of the System is in a fierce struggle for dirty cash, and they hate, I repeat, hate each other. It’s not just about those on the same level of power, but above all, those from the chain of command on down. Every paperpusher has to put a certain sum into the vacuum cleaner. Harvest or no harvest – take it out and put it in. But he or she wants to do it in a way so that more of it sticks to his or her own hands.
The main battle with corruption is with bureaucrats tricking each other horizontally and vertically in the System as they struggle for uncontrolled cash.
There is no common sense of mutual interests here. It’s total rot, not even rot – a cancer eating away at people’s souls and their affairs. The only thing I could not understand was why didn’t this system fall apart, like a wet piece of paper in your hands? It was worth nothing…
Further observations of mine showed that the System holds up only because of people not knowing about its real condition and because individual dealers share an instinctive desire to make things more convenient for themselves.
The System is Golem, a doll made of salt collected from our investments in it. It still holds up because of our hopes and expectations put into it, because we do not believe in ourselves, and because of its role as a third party in regulating public affairs, a role we have given it.
And its salt comes from our tears, from our deceived hopes, from our dead childhood dreams.
But today, this isn’t how it is. The System, in its greed and stupidity, has devoured itself. It has presented society with a price incommensurate with the role it has performed as a social regulator. For a long time it has taken so much and given so little that it has poisoned the life of even its cogs, the bureaucrats, with its inadequacy.
And this means that it will die.
The good news is that you don’t have to break up the doll. You just have to dissolve it.
2. What is our strength?
The American army fights better than others because it has very strict rules of engagement. They aren’t Russians who bombed out thousands of their own Russian-speaking citizens, the elderly and children, in Grozny.
In a state of danger, when you are expecting a blow from any side, you need to have a set of durable qualities to avoid falling for a hysterical desire to shoot everything that moves. And this set of durable personal qualities builds character – strict rules about opening fire that the Americans follow.
We Ukrainians have as a strength the fact that we have not descended into setting off pogroms. A nation should be in control of a very healthy spirit if it can, amid such a long list of grievances with the state, not hang it on lampposts or drown the country in blood and fire.
As for us, we have a protest that is exclusively restrained and tolerant. Without drunkards, without fights, without hysteria. A protest based on “please” and “may I.” A protest that has developed through “An Ode to Joy” and an anthem performed by thousands of voices on the country’s main square.
And our protest is joyful. With bonfires.
And the world, in awe, is slowly beginning to doff its hat to us. The world has been shaken up (it’s even started to affect the Russians).
Our strength lies in the fact that we can reach our goals without violence, and with happiness.
3. How should we apply our power to the System the right way?…
We have a System that has grown tired of itself. Very many functionaries would like to work honestly. Very many policemen dream of becoming civilized policemen and truly serving and protecting. Already everyone is fed up with the doll of salt.
We have a happy and tolerant force.
This means that we need to become an ocean that dissolves this doll.
What’s an “ocean”?…
1. This means that the System needs to become oversaturated and devoured. We need to surround it.
At the beginning of the millennium, your dear servant served in military intelligence, and in particular, he was responsible for getting intelligence needed for our forces’ deployment in Iraq. So in Iraq, I noticed one fundamental truth: the average number of attacks on coalition forces amounted to 100-120 a day. The security system that the Coalition forces had set up sustained this burden. But right after the situation heated up, the number of attacks jumped to 200-250, and it was then that the System slowly began to fall apart. Contacts were broken, supplies ran out, logistics didn’t work. Neither reserves nor reinforcements helped us.
And this wasn’t the broken down horse of the Ukrainian bureaucracy. These were the Americans. The difference is incomparable.
And the main thing is that to this very day, not a single one in the world knows what to do with this strategy. They have found no means to act against this. And they can’t be found. They don’t exist.
The rule that follows from this: we must constantly develop and sustain actions against the System. This doll won’t last long. It will become overburdened and fall apart.
2. What does “warm” mean?…
It means that our actions should be peaceful and even good.
The System’s problem is that it’s inhuman. It’s even inhuman to those who make it run, those on whom it’s dependent for its own survival. It also treats them like cattle.
Today there appeared in public photos showing a “Berkut” unit who had been worn out from constant patrols and from being moved from place to place (talk about overburdening!). Still dressed in their uniforms, they slept in a row in the hallways of the Cabinet of Ministers building – hungry, angry, dirty, and, believe me, already VERY PASSIONATELY hating their bosses.
These people had been ordered to commit a crime. The had been sent to pound children to pieces, and they were given 500 dollars each for this. Some slick paper-pusher who came in a Mercedes awarded them those dollars. “Berkut” stood there, looked, and thought, “So how much did he pocket from this?”
Senior Lieutenant Kamyshnikov, a genius for all times and all people, taught me this a long time ago, in our commanders’ school that had been awarded three red banners:
“For the system to work, you have to fuck and feed the workers. But you have to do it exactly in that order.”
This pile of rot is forgetting how to feed its own. It’s squeezing the pips out of them.
The System will collapse when its own regular functionaries begin sabotaging it.
Yesterday there was news that a bunch of people held up thirty busses with special MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs) units near Vasyl’kiv. If those units wanted to drive through, people wouldn’t have been able to stop them.
This means only one thing: the commanders of these units refused to follow an order, gladly making use of a bunch of people holding hands as an excuse. The police already understood their bosses.
Just a little more pressure, and one grandma with a poster will stop echelons of tanks. And the valiant colonels will report the following: “Blocked by the people, journalists are here, I can’t kill people.” And then he’ll turn off the phone. The battery ran out, don’t you know?
Let’s not forget that it’s about a warm ocean, but an ocean. An ocean is power.
The people’s actions need to be gentle, but powerful. That means first blocking forces, yet also feeding them next.
The System’s actors understand this very sequence: at first, they must feel the pressure of firm hands at their necks, and then experience spoons brought to their mouths.
And then they’ll understand that the people are their bosses (the ones they had sworn an oath to, by the way).
So don’t strike “Berkut” with chains, but send them ladies with flowers and grandmothers with hot soup. Stroke their hair. But do it in front of men who have blocked off the military unit’s place of deployment or the building being guarded.
3. One of the System’s greatest places of strength is in its sense of anonymity. We must by all means necessary overcome this sense of anonymity.
A bureaucrat or a policeman who carries out criminal orders should instantly become a national star, and everyone should know what he or she looks like.
Personalizing the actors is one of the most powerful ways of fighting the System. Actions need to have recipients. Do not threaten. Have some sympathy for them or welcome them – that will leave a better impact.
4. An ocean needs to be salty. The strongest way to dissolve the System is to dissolve it in laughter. Irony and sarcasm are what break up the doll. Besides that, laughter gives the best support to protestors.
And finally, what does a “shot” or “action” mean?…
An “action” is any method that will have a peaceful impact on an actor of the System – a functionary or a policeman, an institution, a department, a group.
Remember that the strategy should be one that is easily doable?…
Don’t get stressed out, stress takes away energy. Let them get stressed.
Choose actions for yourself that you can carry out, ones that make you happy, ones done out of giddiness, and ones that you can easily carry out as you go about your daily business.
Even honking your horn when you drive past a Ministry building is an act that breaks Golem up.
5. Defending our own is a key moment. For anyone who winds up in torture chambers, we must immediately get them out. For all those who have disappeared, we must immediately find them. There shouldn’t be, and there must not be, protestors who are hostages of the System. This is the cornerstone of the struggle.
We can carry out all these points mentioned, but if we give this last one up, we fall. Everything will come together like clockwork only if any protestor knows that the sky would sooner fall than someone abandoning them in a cell, in a court, in an ROVD (District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, i.e. a local police station).
That we will pay any price to get him or her out.
- mass character,
- targeting individual people,
We should make a giant, warm whirlpool around the System, one that will wash it away.
And most important: since yesterday, it’s become clear that everything I’d written about has worked. Initiatives have started to multiply, and they have multiplied both geographically and in terms of means. Lawyers are flooding the System with court cases, drivers are blocking bases of special units, and bloggers are publishing lists of firms belonging to Party of Regions members. It’s taken off, it’s started.
Actually, a real miracle has happened. At the beginning of events, I’d given the possibility of these developments happening only one-and-a-half percentage points.
It’s a miracle that society, no matter what, organized itself from below.
I wrote this long tract not to give someone a task to fulfill. I just wanted to help people act more consciously, to lay out certain principles and main lines of action.
We, the people, don’t need any “leaders.” You yourselves are already capable of doing this.
And this is a victory.Post Views: 50
By Sean — 4 years ago
This week’s Russia Magazine column, “The Kremlin’s War against the Russian Left,”
Two weeks ago, Aleksandr Ivakhnik argued that over the last year Russia’s security organs have waged a campaign to neutralize the radical left and in particular the Left Front. “The impression is that having made convenient use of the “Bolotnaya case,” security organs are attempting to weaken left-wing radicals,” he writes. “This is all the more of interest for the authorities because the ideology of the Left Front strongly conveys the social side of protest which will clearly become more attractive and all the more believable in conditions of economic crisis.” Indeed, the place of the Russian radical left as a target of Russian state repression is rarely reported. Not only has current trial of twelve Bolotnaya suspects, who face up to eight years for “mass disorder, physically assaulting police officers and disobeying police instructions” garnered little continuous coverage outside of Russia, so has the ongoing pre-trial detention of Leonid Razvozzhaev and house arrest of Sergei Udaltsov, both of whom stand accused of conspiring to overthrow the Russian government, nor the wider campaign that has sent left-wing activists into political asylum and apartment searches, seizure, and interrogations of activists in the provinces. As Andrey Tselikov recently wrote, the travails of the Russian left are “out of sight, out of mind.”
Image: Slon.ruPost Views: 64
By Sean — 8 years ago
Moscow. Being in Russia’s capital provides a perspective impossible to acquire through the news. Contrary to popular belief, the Internet doesn’t bring us closer together. Instead, via the Internet Russia exists as mystified, mediated through the ghastly stories that both the Russian and Western media are obsessed with. It is only after being here a few days do the images of the culture industry, pounded so forcefully into an observer’s consciousness begin to disperse like a fog. Granted, Russia still doesn’t appear in total focus–that is impossible for any one individual to achieve. The mediations conjured in the Internet’s ether are nevertheless replaced with those recorded by one’s senses. Having the soil under your feet, those familiar, yet uncanny smells–the dry, hot bursts of metallic air from the entrance to the Metro or the moldy scent of apartment vestibules, along with rubbing shoulders with others on the screeching metro cars, gives a vantage no journalist, no matter how talented, can portray. The two dimensional flicker of the computer screen littered with the foreboding text of tragedy after tragedy can never replace the human senses even with all their limitations.
The power of place also gives simple reminders, if not lessons, that a dead lawyer, a murdered priest (though 2000 people did show up to his funeral), and certainly a slain antifa activist, are far from most Moscovites’ daily concerns. Talking with Russians about their lives makes events in the news sound like reports from an alien planet.
I realized how much most issues the Russian and Western press miss daily life when I happened to walk past the infamous Anti-Sovetskii cafe last week with A., the woman from the university that registered Maya and I. As we walked past chatting, I happened to notice the Hotel Sovetskii across the street. “Isn’t that cafe Anti-Sovetskii somewhere around here?” I asked. She didn’t know what I was talking about. “I read about it in the news about a month ago. The restaurant was named Anti-Sovetskii but the district head made them take their sign down.” Then I noticed the red awning draping above the entrance to a restaurant a few meters in front of us. “I think that is it,” I said, pointing ahead. It was difficult to be sure at first glance because the eatery’s name was conspicuously missing save a few nails which made no discernible outline. It was only after examining the display in front on entrance was I able to confirm that it was indeed Anti-Sovetskii. After I explained the scandal to A., she repeated that she had never heard of it.
And why the hell would she have? After all, when she enters work everyday, she doesn’t see Stalin, but large photos of Petr Stolypin and Sergei Witte on one end, and Gorbachev, George Bush I, and Yeltsin on the other. All the stories the media pounds about the rehabilitation of Stalin has nothing to do with daily life. His image is mostly where it belongs–in museums.
Several minutes later we’re talking about her position at the university. She just started working there a few months before. The last company she worked for went belly up. She says the work in the university is fine but the pay is low. She tells us that the average salary in Moscow is about $1000 a month and she is making well below that. “Is it hard to find work?” Maya asks. It is, she reports, especially work that pays enough to afford life in Moscow.
There has been one word I have heard repeatedly since I’ve been here: Krizis. (The only word I’ve heard more is probka, or traffic jam, and indeed Moscow’s streets are a traffic nightmare.) Usually “crisis” is proceeded with “after” or “since.” Its impact on people and their families seems to vary. “None of my friends or myself have felt any crisis,” says I., our driver from Domodedovo airport. I.’s part-time gig is transporting foreign academics to and from the airport. The job is through a friend of a friend who helps get foreign scholars visas and apartments in Moscow. “Look,” I. says pointing at one of the many construction sites outside Moscow. “Where is the crisis?” He tells me that his work hasn’t suffered in the last several months. Apparently shuttling academics is steady work. “Most of my friends aren’t officially employed,” he explains. I. discards all official unemployment statistics as worthless. “They (i.e. the powers that be) don’t know how we live.” This ignorance on the part of the state does have some advantages. “Neither I or any of my friends pay taxes,” he tells me.
The conversation then turns to race relations in Russia and the US. “Aren’t almost all African-Americans Muslim?” I. asks. Very, very few, I tell him. “What about Michael Jackson?” “I think he converted,” I say. “But you could never really know about Jackson. I’m not sure he was even human” “Mike Tyson?” he interjects. “I think he converted in prison, but I’m not sure,” I tell him. I. seemed to think that naming two potentially black Muslims proved his point. The reason why I. was so curious about American blacks and Islam was he was convinced by TV reports that Muslims were encircling Russia–from America and Europe in the West, the Caucasus, the Stans, and the Middle East to the south. He probably thinks that the Uyghurs were on the verge of taking over China, but I didn’t think to ask.
I. then entertained us with his views on Russian domestic politics. “Russians need a dictatorship,” he explained. “It’s part of our mentality.” He then went on to equate democracy with chaos and praise Putin as a wise mafia don. When I mention Medvedev and how the media likes to make like there is a conflict between he and Putin, he assures me that they are part of one “team.”
“It used to be a team, but now it’s just Putin,” says our rental agent, M. Clearly more liberal than I., which wasn’t too difficult, M. lamented Putin’s grip on power. Yet despite his more amicable political views, M., like I. asked us strange questions about the United States. “Is it true that Americans are using different currencies instead of the dollar?” No way, I tell him. Most Americans don’t even know that there are other currencies. The fact that we were paying him in dollars for his services didn’t seem to strike him as ironic. Apparently, Russian TV is reporting some wild things. If not, then someone is.
Work has been sporadic for M. since the crisis. Apartment rentals aren’t what they used to be, though it appears that rents haven’t fallen. No matter how bad things are in Moscow, he says, they aren’t even close to what they are in the provinces. He has the impression (as does our landlords) that there are whole regions where almost everyone is unemployed.
Of all the things that I’ve heard so far, it is I.’s statement that “They don’t know how we live.” that haunts me. I don’t know how most Russians live in this city either. Prices are high. Rents are high. Pay for the vast majority is low. Granted, most Moscovites don’t pay rent–they are lucky enough to own their apartments. Still, daily life here is not cheap. The metro is up to 19 rubles. I’ve see more and more people jumping fare as a result. Newspapers have gone up. Four years ago, Kommersant was 5 rubles, now it is 15, even 20 if you buy it from a kiosk instead of the newspaper machines in the Metro. A loaf a black bread I bought two days ago was 19 rubles. Restaurants are mostly out of reach for many Russians like I., who claims he never goes to them.
The difference from four years ago is quite palatable. A Saturday night stroll through the center of the city was like walking through a ghost town. Four years ago the clubs, bars, and restaurants were buzzing. Now the city’s nightlife seems asleep. Most restaurants and clubs appear empty. There are more shops closed early or simply closed down. Many boutiques have more workers than shoppers The places I have seen people, and especially young people are the street, McDonald’s, and Starbucks (I’ve counted at least 5 so far). Places that are cheap enough and they won’t throw you out.
Yet, some are doing well. Really well. Just who they are exactly, I don’t know. I imagine they are people like Telman Ismailov, whose son sliced a Volkswagen in half severely injuring its 70-year old driver with his Lamborghini Murcielago last week in Geneva. You might also see some of them shopping at the new shopping center at the Letto hotel near Smolenskaya. There you can buy shoes for $500. Or visit TsUM, near Kuznetsky Most where shoes are $1000 and children’s pants are $200. Even the local children’s clothing store around the corner from my apartment has outrageous prices. Moscow is shrouded in a veneer of excess only comparable to Beverly Hills. The Rolls-Royce dealer down the street from the Lenin Library mocks passersby as do the Bentley, Ferrari, and Lamborghini dealers down the street from Lubyanka. The glistening windows of Catier, Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Bosco Family serve as Lenin’s nightlight.
Perhaps this is why when I read editorials in Novaya gazeta like “Russian Business: Either in a suitcase or in prison,” I can’t help but shake my head in disgust. It makes me want to stop reading the newspaper completely. It is no wonder that most Russians don’t care about the death of Magnitsky or believe that a jailed or exiled oligarch is simply just desserts. After all, in the public consciousness few have made an honest living in the first place. So I can’t really imagine many average Russians on the daily hustle and bustle, having to navigate through the packed roads or metro cars to get to and from work getting too emotional about a dead lawyer tied up in an alleged $3.25 million in tax evasion scheme which ran afoul with MVD officers who allegedly skimmed $230 million from the state budget. They probably think that you reap what you sow when mixing that kind of money with those kinds of people. Is it right? No. Is it tragic? Yes. But that is the reality the perspective of being in Russia gives you.
Mutilated Volkswagen photo is from Novaya gazeta.Post Views: 254