Monday, June 29, 2009

Trip to a Digital Info-Shop

Finding good anarchist propaganda is not always easy. It helps that fellow travelers tend to have a healthy disregard for copyright law. (Copyright? More like copywrong.) This usually goes both ways: people also release their own work under various copyleft licenses.

I found a corner of the Internet called Zabalaza Books. It is the website of a South African anarchist bookstore. I use store in a loose sense, because their website seems to have more books and pamphlets available for download than one could read.

This week I downloaded nine pamphlets from them. Here's a picture:

Anarchism: What it Really Stands For, by: Emma Goldman

Anarchist Economics, an alternative for a world in crisis, by: Abraham Guillen
I didn't get this one from Zabalaza, and mentioned it in an earlier post.

Collectives in Spain by: Gaston Leval

Community Control of the Poor Community: An Organising Manual for Community Activists, by: Lorenzo Kom'boa Ervin

Digger Tracts, 1649-50, edited by: Andrew Hopton
I also didn't get this from Zabalaza. About The Diggers.

The Freedom to Succeed: The Anarchist Collectives in the Countryside during the Spanish Civil War, by: Deirdre Hogan

How to Fire your Boss: A Workers' Guide to Direct Action, no author indicated
This short pamphlet explains the shortcomings of strikes, and outlines other industrial actions that can be taken. My favorite is the "good work strike," in which workers give customers better treatment, without charge. The pamphlet says "Workers at Mercy Hospital in France, who were afraid that patients would go untreated if they went on strike, instead refused to file the billing slips for drugs, lab tests, treatment, and therapy. As a result, the patients got better care (since time was being spent caring for them instead of doing paperwork), for free. The hospital's income was cut in half, and panic-stricken administrators gave in to all the workers' demands after three days."

Principles of Libertarian Economy, by: Abraham Guillen
This is excerpted from a different section of the same book, Economia Libertaria, as Anarchist Economics.

So, You're Out of a Job!, by: The IWW
This 1933 pamphlet encourages workers to join the IWW to organize a general strike, the goal of which is to have a 4 hour day and a 4 day work week, at the same pay as before. Interesting at least as an historical document, if not as an organizing platform. The argument is, in part, that mechanization of labor makes people obsolete, but it doesn't need to. If a machine makes a worker 12 times more efficient, the employer lays off 11 workers. The IWW thinks all workers should stay on, and work 12 times less, for the same pay, since they are producing just as much as before. I think instituting this regime may involve overthrowing capitalism.

The Spanish Revolution: Anarchism in Action, by: The Direct Action Movement (now Solidarity Federation)

Workers' Councils and the Economics of a Self-Managed Society, by: Cornelius Castoriadis
This pamphlet, originally published in 1957, lays out the groundwork for a self-managed society. Everyone would determine the conditions and means of their own job, plants would be run cooperatively, and industry delegates would coordinate the economy as a whole.
My favorite idea is the Plan Factory. In the Soviet Union's bureaucratic style of communism, planning was entirely not participatory. Stalin, using some form of fortune telling, determined the economy's goals. Under the system of workers' councils, the job of the Plan Factory would be to collect as much data about the economy as possible, and use computers to figure out a number of possible ways to meet people's priorities. Priorities would be voted on, as would the plan that was followed. The difference between the Soviet model and this one is that the Plan Factory has no authority over anyone, they serve the people (although the means and operation of the factory itself would be determined by its workers.) Castoriadis emphasizes throughout the pamphlet that an economy can be participatory only if people make decisions "in full knowledge of the relevant facts." So each plan would have to indicate what its implications are for the consumption levels and production targets of all workers.
A simplified exampled of a plan might say that in order to produce X cars, the steel plants would have to run Y shifts. Another plan might have few cars, and less work for steelworkers. Another plan might have fewer cars, but invest more in building new steel plants, so in the future they could produce more cars without undue burden on steel workers. And, in full knowledge of the relevant facts, the people choose which plan to follow.
There is also a complicated federal system of governance. Each factory elects a Factory Council and a General Assembly, as well as sends delegates to the Delegates Assembly and the Delegates Council. Importantly, delegates can be recalled at any time, and they remain at their jobs while serving. The Assembly makes the big decisions, while the Council makes the everyday decisions. Any decision of the Council can be overridden by the Assembly. Every individual department conducts their own affairs, however. For more details, read the book. It is very good.
Amusingly, it contains three sets of end notes. One written by the author in 1957, one written by Solidarity (London) in the 1970's when they translated it into English, and one written in 2006 by Lust for Life when it was posted to the Internet.
There exist many ideological conflicts. Naturally, between the capitalists and the anti-capitalists, but also between authoritarian anti-capitalists (Stalinists and the like) and libertarian anti-capitalists (anarchists). This author often contrasts his philosophy of "rational," left, anti-capitalism, with "Utopian," left, anti-capitalism. Consider the following passage, "Many absurdities have been said about money and its immediate abolition in a socialist society, and there is a great deal of loose thinking about the subject... People will probably receive a token in return for what they put into society. These 'tokens' might take the form of units, allowing people to organise what they take out of society... As we are seeking here to get to grips with realities and not fighting against words, we see no objection to calling these tokens 'wages' and these units 'money.'" Over three end notes in this passage, it is added "All the preceding talk of 'wages,' 'prices,' and 'the market' will, for instance, undoubtedly have startled a certain group of readers. We would ask them momentarily to curb their emotional responses and to try to think rationally with us on the matter... One could also invent new words, if it would make people happy, but this would not change the underlying reality."

Those are the books I downloaded. I encourage you to download books that seem interesting to you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Timeline of US-involved Armed Conflicts

We've been at war so long, it sometimes feels like it's always been this way. To help put this in perspective, I made this timeline of the years the US has been involved in an armed conflict. You might have to click it to make it large enough to read.

Most of the information comes from this article. I left a few off, somewhat arbitrarily. I didn't include seven minor conflicts with China (years 1918, 1921, 1926-1927, 1930, 1937, 1945-1947, and 1956) because they didn't have a name, and I left off American Expeditionary Force Siberia because it seemed a lot like the Northern Russian Expedition, which occurred in the same years. (Also left out: the Polar Bear Expedition.) I included two that are kind of questionable. The Mexican Revolution, in which 35 US troops were killed and 70 injured, as well as the El Salvador Civil War, in which 20 were killed and 35 wounded. While we were certainly entangled in both these events, the US efforts were primarily behind-the-scenes. The article I used listed conflicts were US soldiers were killed or wounded, and there are certainly interventions in which there were no US casualties, so that is another shortcoming of this timeline.

I have since noticed an error: I have the Quasi-War starting in 1778, when in fact it started in 1798. My sincerest apologies to any time travelers who went to 1778 in an attempt to stop the Quasi-War. Hopefully you enjoyed the June 24th solar eclipse or perhaps the Battle of Monmouth during your stay in 1778.

The timeline above is close to, but does not exactly match, what I pictured. This one is closer. Does anyone know enough about graphs to figure out how to do something kind of like a combination of the two?

I fixed a few things, and included a few more instances, based largely on this article. It really is arbitrary what you choose to include. I tried not to show every anti-pirate action, every foreign deployment, and every clash with a Native American tribe, but whether something is significant or not is just a judgment call.

Friday, June 19, 2009

What's Your Religion? I.W.W.!

I found this great documentary from 1979 about the Industrial Workers of the World called "The Wobblies." Watch it here:

I seem to be posting a lot of videos lately. All good, though.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Three Videos on the Zapatistas

The Ann Arbor Free School recently organized a discussion group about the Zapatistas, the largely indigenous movement in Chiapas, Mexico. I mentioned that I had seen some interesting videos, and I'll post them here to share them.

They are in increasing order of length. The first is a message in English from Zapatista spokesguerilla Subcommandante Marcos, the second (in two parts) is a 60 Minutes piece where Ed Bradley goes to Chiapas shortly after the uprising, and the third is a full-length documentary titled "A Place Called Chiapas." Watching them should give you an overview, to jump start learning more.

Update: I found another video, as well as a site that has Zapatista communiques, translated into English. (Including all six "Declarations from the Lacandon Jungle.) Link!

Dubious Honor

It seems I have been linked to by the blog, "Science and Math Defeated," one of the crazier parts of the Internet.

He claims I sent him the following video:

What's up with that?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Best Day Ever

I just had one of the best Saturdays ever.

It started out going to the butcher to get a deer. Now, I'm a vegetarian, so I wouldn't kill a deer to eat it, but my roommate hit it with her car. Another compatriot with experience in such matters claimed he could field dress the deceased. This involved four of us on the side of I-94 at ten o'clock at night, wearing aprons, holding knives and flashlights. No one stopped to help us. We got the poor fellow back to the house and hung it up in the garage to drain the blood. The reason I was interested is that I want to tan the hide. I don't buy leather, but it is useful, so I thought an accidentally killed animal shouldn't go to waste. We thought we would skin and butcher the deer ourselves, but after watching a few videos on the Internet, we became convinced it was too difficult, and required a few specialized tools. We therefore resolved to take it to a animal processor. Later, a friend of ours from the Soo claimed she's been skinning and butchering deer since she was 10, and that it isn't too hard. But the die had been cast.

And Saturday is when we got the meat and hide back from the processor. I was tempted to eat some, but I had a dream that I ordered some chicken wings at a bar and felt really guilty. Further, a vegetarian friend also had a dream that he and I steamed baby turtles alive. Clearly a sign that I shouldn't eat roadkill deer.
1.71 lbs of venison round steak. Plenty more where that came from.

After we got the deer back, Smith and I worked on our windmill project. We are currently building a scale model of a wind turbine, in order to build a full scale wind turbine. On Saturday, we partially skinned the skeleton of the blade. Our idea was to build the blades like old airplane wings, with a wooden skeleton and canvas skin. See pictures.
A mostly complete skeleton of balsa.

After we glued the muslin on the wings (muslin serving as canvas in the model), we painted the muslin with watered-down glue. This caused the fabric to shrink and make the skin very tight. While we were waiting for the glue to dry, we made a strawberry cobbler with dumpster-dived strawberries. It turned out pretty well, as you can see in the pictures.
Our research shows it is best with chocolate chip ice cream.

After the cobbler, the muslin needed another coat. While this was drying, I was noodling on the piano, and discovered a housemate's set of Lord of the Rings soundtrack scores. We resolved to record the Elvish hymn "Fourth Eorlingas," in eight-part harmony. Using open-source audio program Audacity, and the microphone that comes with the Xbox game "Rock Band," (it turns out Rock Band uses a regular USB microphone.) we recording all eight vocal lines from "Fourth Eorlingas." Listen to it here. (Does anybody know a better .mp3 hosting service?)

To end the evening, those interested began cooking venison kebabs over the fire. Smith and I made cheese toast over the fire.
Poor kebab design: items with different cook times on the same stick.

Cheese bread, pre-fire. Some goat cheddar in there.

Cheese toast, post-fire.

This is what animals are made of. Here we see some bone marrow. Thanks, hematopoietic stem cells.

Overall, I'd say it was a day well spent.