Author: Flash

Turn Down for What?


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Origin of “Snowflake” as a Pejorative

Interesting fact: in the 1860s the pejorative “snowflake” was used by abolitionists in Missouri to refer to those who opposed the abolition of slavery. The term related to the colour of snow, referring to valuing white people over black people.

Anarchists (with their acute appreciation of the history of class struggle) resurrected the phrase in the early 90s, around the time that Internet flame wars first became a ‘thing’, and employed it in reference to the authoritarian right. A “snowflake” was someone who believed their genetic makeup to be ‘pure white’, and who would enter total meltdown in reaction to anything that conflicted with their ideological perspective (be it gays, blacks, or breastfeeding in public).  This subtlety went entirely over the heads of the auth-right, who perhaps due to their lack of self-awareness perceived “snowflake” as just “name calling”, and ironically started using it in retaliation!

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‘White Power’ snowflake flag.

This is likely how “snowflake” came to feature in Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club, which famously included the quote: “you are not special, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake”. This line was later included in the film adaptation, and thus entered into popular culture. Nowadays “snowflake” is sadly associated as a pejorative used by the alt-right against the liberal left… unless of course you were a Generation X anarchist in the 90s.

Conservative Snowflakes
Snowflakes enter meltdown if their worldview is challenged.

Thus ‘anger’ was originally the prerogative of conservatives and other reactionaries on the right. These ‘snowflakes’ would take offence at anything ‘different’ (typically anything not white or ‘straight’) and become morally outraged about it. Their authoritarian tendency was to ban, prohibit, censor, or segregate stuff they were’t comfortable with.

Political Correctness

The notion of “political correctness” was first applied in reference to that which strictly adhered to a range of ideological orthodoxies. For example, in 1934, The New York Times reported that Nazi Germany was granting reporting permits “only to pure ‘Aryans’ whose opinions are politically correct.” Ffwd post-WWII, and the term was being used sarcastically in reference to Marxist-Leninist doctrine. By the 1970s the left had also begun using the term in a sarcastic manner, albeit in reference to the sort of lip service routinely employed to placate them (the sentiment being in reference to the political perversion of fundamental correctness).

Political correctness can be a form of oppression.

Up until the 1980s mainstream egalitarian thought had predominantly been social, in that it dealt the politics of class, and advocated equality of treatment. Gradually this was supplanted by a populist liberal take on egalitarianism that dealt with the politics of identity, and advocated equality of outcome. These liberal egalitarians unironically adopted political correctness as a strategic method of delivering social justice. They began to express outrage, at the outrage being expressed by those on the right. This heralded the Age of the Pathologically Offended.

Egalitarianism: Social vs Liberal

Black Cat Worker Collective is founded on social, not liberal, egalitarian principles. Correspondingly, as a dive bar, Krakatoa is steeped in a culture of respect and tolerance, as opposed to one of judgement and intolerance. Our view is that outrage cannot be counteracted with outrage, and that the notion of being offended at someone else taking offence is nonsensical. One cannot preach tolerance from a position that is in itself inherently intolerant. Respect cuts both ways. Yelling in an angry person’s face is unlikely to change their mindset. Make love not war.

Social egalitarians advocate equal treatment. 

The problem with liberal egalitarianism is that it’s reactionary and therefore inherently authoritarian in nature. Advocates believe that others will slowly conform to its ideals, through the application of political force. All this does is thought police fundamentally wrong opinions underground, where they bubble away, giving rise to perceptions of oppression. Liberals have in effect birthed the alt-right: a reactionary movement, to the reactionary movement, to the original conservative reactionaries.

Or as George Carlin more succinctly put it:

Intolerance may not be the best response to intolerance.

The social egalitarian response is three-pronged. It not only seeks to address the underlying structural issues, but also strives to reeducate, and is outspoken in its rejection of the authoritarian solution… that latter aspect being crucial to flushing this nonsense out. If people are harbouring views that are racist, sexist, or homophobic, then forcing them to conceal those, makes it much harder to address the problem on an interpersonal level.

Any worthwhile progress in equality, has arisen from structural changes facilitating equal treatment rather than via the banning of free speech.

For example “the right” actively seek to criminalise homosexuality, whereas liberals actively seek to criminalise homophobia. They are in effect pursuing the exact same means in an effort to secure polar opposite objectives.

Social egalitarians reject criminalisation as a solution to anything. Instead they focus their efforts on education and securing equal treatment. In this case legalising marriage for same-sex couples. Other welcome structural levellings have included universal suffrage, common age of consent, allowing everyone to the use public transport regardless of race, and numerous changes to the school curriculum to encourage equal treatment early in life.

It’s often assumed that those seeking to ban stuff are the same people as those working to dismantle coercive structures. Although these strategies tend to parallel one another, there’s seldom any real overlap. While liberals express similar aims, their approach actually impedes structural reform, as it mainly serves to entrench opposition to it.

Class Struggle Anarchism

Although oppression assumes multiple forms, there is but one mechanism. It is impossible to oppress someone unless you have scope to dominate them. Class struggle anarchism is predominantly about dismantling those passive structures that facilitate domination. We eliminate class distinctions by levelling the playing field. Rather than criminalising the use of slurs, you seek to render them meaningless and obsolete.

Highlighting the differences between people, actually creates scope for oppression. People can only be targeted if they are perceived as a distinct group. This is why the social egalitarian component of class struggle anarchism advocates for equal treatment.

There are both social and economic components to class.

Class struggle anarchism, does not propose lumping everyone into a single economic class, rather it’s the recognition that we are all equally worthy parts of the same human race.

Cooperative Economy


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A component of our mission is to promote the development of a cooperative economy within Aberdeen, in order to sustain the city post-oil.

The template for accomplishing this was pioneered in Cleveland Ohio:

“In 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession, a small laundry opened in one of the most depressed neighborhoods in the poverty-stricken city of Cleveland. This seemingly obscure event proved to be a large salvo in what is slowly becoming a national dialogue on the future of wealth democratization in America.”

The following links (in bright white) provide a vast repository of information on the Cleveland Model, with much of it focused on Preston’s efforts to implement it here in the UK. Click on each one in order to learn more:

What next for the Preston Model? Investing in worker owned co-operatives in the city.

UCLan and partners keen to establish Preston Co-operative Development Network.

Preston Model setting standard for Labour councils across country, says Shadow Chancellor McDonnell.

What is the Preston Model?

The EU didn’t cause any of this: but Brexit owes a lot to the working-class alienation that grew from the demise of our factories.

In an era of brutal cuts, one ordinary place has the imagination to fight back.

How Hartlepool is chasing Preston’s new economic model. With no money forthcoming from central government, the north east town wants its own alternative to austerity.

As another vote looms amid the pantomime of Westminster, the core issues behind leave’s win have been ignored.

In 2011 Preston hit rock bottom. Then it took back control.

Preston named as most improved city in UK.

How Preston Council claim they are starting a financial revolution.

Could Preston provide a new economic model for Britain’s cities?

Traditional city growth models, based on attracting inward investment for big infrastructure projects, could no longer be relied upon. Nor, under conditions of recession and austerity, could conventional tax-and-spend redistribution.

THE PRESTON MODEL: MUNICIPAL SOCIALISM OR PROTECTIONIST CONJURING TRICK?

Cllr Matthew Brown on the Preston Model and the economics of the imagination.

The Labour Party, including Cooperative Party members, took control of Preston City Council in 2011. We quickly recognised that there was a need for a systemic transformation of the local economy to bring about social improvements to the local community.

How one city became an unlikely laboratory for Corbynomics.

Following the failure of an economic development plan based on attracting inward investment, Preston City Council saw the need for a new approach to address the growing needs of the city and its people. In 2013, they enlisted CLES to help make it happen.

The Preston model: UK takes lessons in recovery from rust-belt Cleveland.

How Preston – the UK’s “most improved city” – became a success story for Corbynomics.

The Preston Model of Community Wealth Building in the UK.

Local democracy with attitude: the Preston model and how it can reduce inequality.

The Cleveland Model—How the Evergreen Cooperatives are Building Community Wealth.

Cleveland’s cooperatives show us how to solve the problems of deindustrialisation.

Thoroughly green and worker-owned, co-ops are a vibrant response to economic distress.

The Evergreen Cooperatives of Cleveland have become a global innovation model for creating more sustainable regional economies.

Learning From the Cleveland Model: Notes on the Next American Revolution.

In Cleveland, co-op model finds hope in employers rooted in the city.

Disaster Capitalism


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Tyranny

The median annual global income is currently £2,237, whereas the median annual UK income is £28,677. That may seem like a significant level of inequality, but really it’s not… because according to Oxfam, just 26 people now possess a total wealth equal to the poorest 50% of the Earth’s population.

Let’s put this into perspective. Jeff Bezos amasses wealth at the rate of £60,137,280,000 per annum. The average UK citizen would have to labour for over 2 million years to earn what Jeff makes in just one year. The average person in the world, would have to labour for almost 27 million years to amass that. That’s 134x longer than the 200,000 years or so that humans have walked the earth. This amounts to nothing short of economic tyranny.

Sustainability

But actually, it’s far worse than that. Setting aside the well publicised issue of global warming, there’s only 60 years of soil left, due to degradation caused by industrial farming. Even if we solve that, insect life is presently on a trajectory towards extinction, so will it even be possible to fertilise any crops? Then there’s the shortage of natural resources. Not oil – no there’s plenty of that. Stuff like copper. Most of the copper we now use is reclaimed. Soon demand will outstrip supply. Neoclassical economics assures us that price will regulate demand, but recent experience with fishing indicates that prices do not begin to rise significantly until scarcity becomes acute. So much for the theory that pricing saves the planet by efficiently allocating natural resources!

We have until 2040 before copper becomes scarce, but we’re scheduled to have exhausted our reserves of gold, silver, platinum, iridium, lead, zinc, and numerous other resources long before then. In fact tungsten is already scarce, and antimony is due to become scarce next year. Ultimately, many of the materials critical to the manufacture of the iPhone used to blog this, will no longer be affordable to anyone other than Jeff. And lets not get started on the environmental impact of fitting lithium-ion batteries to every car. Or that building wind farms is creating lakes of toxic waste in China. There’s “renewables”, and then there’s actual green energy.

To top it all, there’s the meat industry, which in hindsight is going to make every other holocaust, short of a nuclear one, seem like a school picnic. Oh… and there’s that too – the constant threat of atomic annihilation

The thing is, and here’s the dirty secret: it really doesn’t have to be this way. We’re strip mining the planet to line the pockets of people like Jeff, with exponentially more money than any human could ever possibly spend. Jeff could feast on nothing but truffles for the rest of his life, whilst heating his skyscraper by literally burning dollar bills… and he’d still die richer than he is now. Because bank interest. Not only is it wrong to be that greedy, it’s fucking futile attempting to spend it. Yet still they hoard.

”Teach people to fish… and most will choose to eat the bait instead”


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Recruiting for a worker collective involves ploughing through hundreds of applications from those who failed to read the advert. The few accompanying cover letters are generic, typically extolling the candidates self-proclaimed predisposition for teamwork, or their aptitude for “thinking on their feet”. Those that demonstrate any degree of awareness, often come from people who seem ominously “keen to make a mark”. Interviews are dominated by candidates making all the right noises, but who fail to comprehend that we’re ultimately seeking to recruit a co-owner rather than a wage slave.

Hence one of the challenges faced by a worker collective is separating those who genuinely desire freedom, equality, and solidarity, from those who “just want a job”. This scenario is analogous to offering free fishing trips, only for people who are starving to sign up because they perceive this as an opportunity to chow down on the bait. You can explain the benefits and principles of fishing until you’re blue in the face, but these misguided souls will slowly nod their heads, and be like “it’s just so much hassle learning all that shit. What’s it to you if we just sit here eating the maggots? Drive the Goddamn damn boat wherever you want. Nom nom nom.”

Capitalist conditioning is so insidious, that many people actually perceive autonomy as “a hassle” rather than empowering. It’s akin to someone opting for a jail sentence over a holiday, because the chalet is self-catering.

Part of the issue appears to be, that cooperating ostensibly consists of doing much the same stuff as employment. This is like saying “well in prison we eat, sleep, and wander around, so I don’t really see any difference between that and being on vacation. Sure on vacation I’d have freedom to wander around more, but what if I can’t be assed?” The logic is clearly lacking, but try communicating that to someone who has been incarcerated from birth. Their take on it will be, “but surely there must be guards? I know you say there aren’t any, but without guards how will people know when it’s time to get out of bed, to eat, shower, or visit the bathroom? Surely everyone will just spend all day lying in their bunks? What you’re describing is a nice thought, but it’s impossible, because people aren’t like that! Without the guards, what’s to stop us all just beating the shit out of one another? Such behaviour is not a symptom of incarceration, it’s just human nature.” And so on…

The underlying problem is that someone institutionalised from birth, would struggle to imagine how any other social structure would operate, and at best they’d see freedom as an alternative way of doing things, rather than a vastly superior experience. Hence a cooperator cannot directly convey the advantages of worker self-management to those institutionalised by wage slavery, any more than it’s possible to convey the reality of a 3D existence to Pacman. The best we can do is to provide some indication of contrast based on analogy, but anyone sold on the concept has to engage with the experience, because yes… it’s entirely possible to treat a holiday chalet as though it were a prison cell. First free your mind.