Is Global Warming a new dawn for Anarchism?

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Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 08:34

I have not advocated the things that you have accused me of arguing for Magnifico. I certainly did not write in favour of what existed beofre the NHS; I argued that there were alternative visions, ones which could have been drawn on but were not.

It is extraordinary to me that challenging the mighty myths of the NHS in anarchist circles should draw such fire - mostly ill-directed and not focused on what I have written; it's like I've walked into a Labour Party Conference.

Look, healthcare could be very different & much better. Making the argument that anarchist ideas could radically improve healthcare should not be the trigger for knee-jerk attacks on the bringer of the news. I do happen to believe that waiting for reform to improve the NHS is a waste of time & I do believe that in time communities may well endeavour to put in place their own alternative schemes (yes, with doctors & clinics) and I would not condemn anyone for taking steps to look after themselves and their neighbours in such a fashion.

The NHS is a monolithic, authoritarian, dinosaur. In some places the medicine is fantastic, in many others it does not come up to the standards of medicine delivered in other countries. To suggest that the kind of unhappiness experienced by both workers and patients in the NHS has always been inevitable is only to make an anarchist argument against vast unresponsive, undemocratic bureaucracies. We can do better than this, which is not the same as saying right let's wheel the beds out into the streets and take the folks of the dialysis machines right now!

No Joseph, Magnifico's attack is not the word! Nothing Magnifico wrote was new to the argument & his charges:

a) That I said that we should let the NHS be destroyed without a fight
&
b) ThatI said we should abandon the idea of a decent wage

neither undermine my argument - because they are false charges - nor address the question in hand.

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madashell
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Mar 6 2007 08:41
Blacknred Ned wrote:
Look, healthcare could be very different & much better. Making the argument that anarchist ideas could radically improve healthcare should not be the trigger for knee-jerk attacks on the bringer of the news. I do happen to believe that waiting for reform to improve the NHS is a waste of time & I do believe that in time communities may well endeavour to put in place their own alternative schemes (yes, with doctors & clinics) and I would not condemn anyone for taking steps to look after themselves and their neighbours in such a fashion.

The NHS is a monolithic, authoritarian, dinosaur. In some places the medicine is fantastic, in many others it does not come up to the standards of medicine delivered in other countries. To suggest that the kind of unhappiness experienced by both workers and patients in the NHS has always been inevitable is only to make an anarchist argument against vast unresponsive, undemocratic bureaucracies. We can do better than this, which is not the same as saying right let's wheel the beds out into the streets and take the folks of the dialysis machines right now!

No offence, but you don't seem to be saying anything of substance whatsoever. Nobody is saying that the NHS is their ideal healthcare system, just that it's better than what went before and it's something that working class people did have to struggle for. The state and capital never attacked friendly societies or the lifeboats, but they've been attacking the welfare state and recuperating as much of it as they can since it's inception, why do you think that is?

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 6 2007 08:57

Blacknred Ned: why, when we've already built one world, should we in our own time and at our own expense construct another one alongside it, rather than just taking over what's ours?

How is constructing a parallel socialised health service superior to the NHS even possible in capitalism? previous efforts, as magnifico pointed out, had to treat the paying rich at high standards in one wing in order to subsidise sub-standard care for workers in another. without a communised economy, who pays the staff - ok they might volunteer on top of their long NHS hours. so how do we fund the day-to-day inputs - medicines, bandages, surgical gloves etc? and the expensive stuff like various scans and x-ray machines?

Please elaborate on what you're suggesting, because i can't see how this proposed parallel anarchist/mutual aid health system could function to a decent standard without either being a (non-profit) market-competing health insurance scheme, subject to the pressures of market competition, or a two-tier system charging the rich to subsidise treating the poor - two possibilities which pretty much cover what the government is doing to the NHS now.

For the avoidance of any doubt - THIS DOES NOT MEAN I AM PRO-BUREAUCRACY AND PRO-STATE. i do not doubt that a healthcare system run on libertarian communist lines would be far superior to a capitalist one. what i doubt is that all that's stopping us is thw will to set one up within capitalist society - how could we offer a superior service to the NHS without falling into the above (new labour-esque) pitfalls? with these doubts, i therefore see defending the NHS as vital to defending working class living standards/our social wage in a time when we are weak and under attack on all fronts.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 09:01

The NHS was created by the Attlee Government and - unless it turns out that you're a great fan of Bevan - a more elitist bunch you'd be hard pressed to find. To suggest that the NHS came out of working class struggle is, I am afraid, just plain wrong.

The electoral travails of the Labour Party between the wars and the reinvention of Labour under Lansbury and then Attlee (with the backing of the TUC leadership) had a great deal to do with the eventual shape of the 1945-51 settlement. Also the work of Beveridge (Liberal) and Butler (Conservative) fed into the cross-party consensus that gave rise to the broad shape of the new welfare state.

To the extent that any of this was about working class struggle it was only ever an attempt to dampen it; that after all is the Fabian tactic all over. I would add that although the big unions did struggle for socialisation of, for example the mines and the railways, the eventual shape of nationalisation was a betrayal of the formula in the Labour Party constitution and had very little to do with socialism of any sort.

I believe that the recuperation you mention has much more to do with the simple venality and incompetence of the state than anything else. Only Thatcher was ideologically committed to seeing the back of the NHS. It has had vast amounts of money thrown at it and has been horribly mismanaged but you can hardly make the case that it has been squeezed for resources overall.

In any event, I am afraid that the idea that working class people struggled for the NHS is just hokum; it subscribes to the myth of British Labourism. Next you'll be telling me that working class people struggled for the vote and that we should all trot down the polls next election because it would be wrong to give up what working class people fought for.

I don't see why you should think you offend me. I take this kind of debate to be the very value of a site like Libcom. I have dedicated quite a lot of my life to consideration of social change and alternatives to capitalism and the state & debated with people even less in sympathy with my positions than you and the others here. What I want is for us to find some common ground, if we can't do it now then what prospect in time of real need?

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Mar 6 2007 09:29
Blacknred Ned wrote:
The NHS was created by the Attlee Government and - unless it turns out that you're a great fan of Bevan - a more elitist bunch you'd be hard pressed to find. To suggest that the NHS came out of working class struggle is, I am afraid, just plain wrong.

All state concessions are from direct or indirect working class struggle. To think otherwise is absurd. Capital and the state do not provide reforms without a fear of what will happen if they don't.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 6 2007 09:48
Blacknred Ned wrote:
The NHS was created by the Attlee Government and - unless it turns out that you're a great fan of Bevan - a more elitist bunch you'd be hard pressed to find. To suggest that the NHS came out of working class struggle is, I am afraid, just plain wrong.

WWI and its aftermath were characterised by growing social unrest, with various mutinies in the forces eg this one, and at home most famously with the glasgow rent strike. not to mention the russian revolution, the (failed) german revolution ... in britain the wave of unrest culminated in the '26 general strike. during WW2, capitalist planners were well aware of the threat of social unrest in a country that was, under a corporatist command economy, economically speaking not that distinct to 'the enemy', with rations etc. consequently, in 1942, the beveridge report promised "revolutionary" change and the NHS was promptly founded post-war. a concession to stave off communism, certainly. but one which has led to real improvements in working class living standards which the bourgeoisie have been trying to claw back since, though in a much more pronounced way since thatcher.

This doesn't mean we think that a vast bureaucracy with all sorts of funds being squandered on over-priced drugs, superfluous accountants etc is a good thing per se, we want libertarian communism ffs. but it just sounds like mental anarchist rhetoric to denounce the NHS as "authoritarian" - i mean of course it's a hierarchical wing of the state - but saying that makes you sound like an anarcho-jehova's witness who refuses a blood transfusion on the grounds it was hierarchically organised.

Mike Harman
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Mar 6 2007 10:02

Pretty much agree with Joseph K. and magnifico on this. One thing to add is that a lot of people get pissed off by the NHS - they know how much waste there is, all the (management) consultants, maybe their GP is a bit shit, long waiting lists and stuff. So I think there's an element of people getting turned off when they see "Defend the NHS" - in the same way that "Defend Council Housing" doesn't necessarily appeal to people who haven't had repairs done for years or whatever.

In that sense I reckon it's worth trying to couch things purely in terms of defending living and working standards, rather than defending "the NHS" as an institution - which is the way the main unions and the Trots go down. I don't think anyone's guilty of that on this thread but it's easy to get pushed in that direction.

Mike Harman
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Mar 6 2007 10:02

Pretty much agree with Joseph K. and magnifico on this. One thing to add is that a lot of people get pissed off by the NHS - they know how much waste there is, all the (management) consultants, maybe their GP is a bit shit, long waiting lists and stuff. So I think there's an element of people getting turned off when they see "Defend the NHS" - in the same way that "Defend Council Housing" doesn't necessarily appeal to people who haven't had repairs done for years or whatever.

In that sense I reckon it's worth trying to couch things purely in terms of defending living and working standards, rather than defending "the NHS" as an institution - which is the way the main unions and the Trots go down. I don't think anyone's guilty of that on this thread but it's easy to get pushed in that direction.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 10:11

Revol, I am neither naive nor moronic I can assure you. If you can't be bothered to have a debate then why not fuck off and flame somewhere else?

So, in the space of two replies I am naive or moronic and I am being absurd. It hardly seems worth continuing this discussion. Nevertheless, here's a word or two in response:

Revol, you'll have to put a better argument together than that I am afraid. I do not see the whole universe through the rather distorted lense of class analysis (neither, before you say it, do I deny the importance of class entirely), oddly enough there are other factors at play. To assume otherwise is absurd.... oh now that is a fantastic argument, thanks Thugarchist!

Thugarchist, are you too naive/moronic -gosh thanks for that one Revol I'll add it to my lexicon of rhetorical gems - to realise that I said as much as this when I mentioned Fabian strategy? Nevertheless, the reforms of various governments are hardly worth defending to the nth degree are they? Are you suggesting that if people continually wring reforms out of governments we will come ever closer to a better world? If you are then you're the one being naive. As I have said welfare is the gnawed bone from the master's table, moreover much of what you might celebrate in the British welfare state was built by shifting suffering on to other people both at home and around the world, that is still the case; the system that you are so keen to defend to the death is no more than the administration of suffering and scarcity.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 6 2007 10:26
Mike Harman wrote:
In that sense I reckon it's worth trying to couch things purely in terms of defending living and working standards, rather than defending "the NHS" as an institution - which is the way the main unions and the Trots go down. I don't think anyone's guilty of that on this thread but it's easy to get pushed in that direction.

true that - 'defend the nhs' can be lazy shorthand for 'defend out living standards and our social wage' - i think any libertarian communist 'defence' of the NHS has to stress the status quo is inadequate, but so is the direction the government is pushing it in.

Blacknred Ned wrote:
the system that you are so keen to defend to the death

ffs Ned i'm a notoriously 'nice' poster but it's getting pretty hard to debate this with you when you keep accusing anyone defending a basic position of class living standards - which you're welcome to disagree with - of being a fabian, into 'labour mythology', pro-imperialism, pro-state, pro-bureaucrat etc. i'm open to hearing your responses to the pitfalls of a parallel mutual aid health system/economy in general i outline above, but instead you've offered a bluster of anarcho rhetoric which leaves me just as confused as to what you're advocating as several posts ago when i first asked.

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Mar 6 2007 10:37
Blacknred Ned wrote:
To assume otherwise is absurd.... oh now that is a fantastic argument, thanks Thugarchist!

Thugarchist, are you too naive/moronic -gosh thanks for that one Revol I'll add it to my lexicon of rhetorical gems - to realise that I said as much as this when I mentioned Fabian strategy? Nevertheless, the reforms of various governments are hardly worth defending to the nth degree are they? Are you suggesting that if people continually wring reforms out of governments we will come ever closer to a better world? If you are then you're the one being naive. As I have said welfare is the gnawed bone from the master's table, moreover much of what you might celebrate in the British welfare state was built by shifting suffering on to other people both at home and around the world, that is still the case; the system that you are so keen to defend to the death is no more than the administration of suffering and scarcity.

1. I didn't insult you. Merely commented on why authorities capitulate to reforms.
2. I wouldn't defend NHS to the death as I don't live in your country. However I would suggest that there are some tens of million of americans that might wish they could defend such a broken health system to the death as its more than we got.
3. I probably am too moronic to gather your intent in respect to 'fabian' strategy as I have no idea what the fuck that is since they didn't teach it in my G.E.D. class after I dropped out of high school, but nice intellectual elitism.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 10:49

Joseph, please read the two responses to me above my previous post. I don't think that I have been that unreasonable. I have not resorted to a bluster of "anarcho rhetoric".

Also you should know that your last post came on whilst I was writing mine; that sometimes confuses things. Now in the first place, although thank you for the consideration, I do not need a 200 word refresher on Twentieth Century history. I appreciate that you might think I am a niave prick with an understanding of history from the back of a Kellogs cornfklake packet, I am not.

The point is clear: I agree that state reforms are in part motivated by the struggles of the people; I have said as much. However that is a world away from saying that these reforms are desireable or should be defended as if they are the ark of the covenant.

I suggest that if you are confused it is because instead of arguing with my points you are, as seems common in this thread, not arguing with me, but rather with a prefabricated category that you have put my arguments in. If I sound like something I am not that may be due to your misreading, in the same way that I recognise that the fact that I seem to be having an argument with a bunch of Trots on the steps outside a student union is no doubt in part due to my misreading of a finely nuanced anarchist position on welfarism and the state.

I will say again: I am not attacking people for defending "class living standards". I demand more and organised the way we would see it organised: democratically, through mutual aid at a community level with humanity, allowing people working in healthcare to flourish and develop their skills to the very best of their potential. But I will not take a step backwards in my criticism of the NHS and welfarism; defend it all you like but not if it is detrimental to the urgent task of encouraging people to see and, where possible act beyond it.

Now, you may be a notoriously nice poster but I have been alone in this thread making what I believe to be reasonably argued points. I have been pretty much hounded and had my arguments caricatured. I have already apologised for any part I have played in raising the heat of the debate at the expense of light - that was just before I was called moronic and absurd btw. The question is: is there anything worth dragging from this shambles or not?

1) Does the prospect of dramatic climate change offer opportunites to anarchists to spread their ideas?

2) Are there ways of organising beyond syndicalism or so-called class struggle anarchism that have some potential for creating a culture od resistance and empowerment in working class communities? Not instead of these methodologies but perhaps alongside them.

3) Can we reach unity not in theory but solidarity in practice despite our diversity?

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 6 2007 11:21
Blacknred Ned wrote:
The point is clear: I agree that state reforms are in part motivated by the struggles of the people; I have said as much. However that is a world away from saying that these reforms are desireable or should be defended as if they are the ark of the covenant.

i differ here by saying that while at the time of such reforms being granted we are necessarily capable of more, in times when we are under full-scale assault from labour market casualisation to social wage cuts they form a crucial part of our standard of living and are worth 'defending' on this basis, in the same way as wage struggles do not replace the desire for communism. i don't think anyone here disagrees that "anarchist ideas could radically improve healthcare," depending of course on if those 'anarchist ideas' involve scrotal inflation or homoeopathy wink

so anyway, to get back on topic:

Blacknred Ned wrote:
1) Does the prospect of dramatic climate change offer opportunites to anarchists to spread their ideas?

insofar as the manifest failure of a dominant paradigm demands a search for others, yes. but we have a lot of ground to make up on the 'riot for austerity' (monbiot's comment that no-one yet has) liberals if we're going to compete in the ideological marketplace. we should definitely be putting out propaganda/analysis that debunks the 'consumer responsibility' bullshit, which unsurprisingly though saddeningly is even a cause for campus activism it seems.

Blacknred Ned wrote:
2) Are there ways of organising beyond syndicalism or so-called class struggle anarchism that have some potential for creating a culture od resistance and empowerment in working class communities? Not instead of these methodologies but perhaps alongside them.

i'm open to the idea, but its a case of concrete proposals. if by 'beyond syndicalism or so-called class struggle anarchism' you mean déclassé mutualist adventures in parallel economics i've outlined my concerns about the limitations of this approach above.

Blacknred Ned wrote:
3) Can we reach unity not in theory but solidarity in practice despite our diversity?

who is we? i'm not interested in building an abstract anarchist unity (even in practice), not least because many of the people who call themselves anarchists are variously misanthropic, anti-working class, liberal and pro-capitalist, and interested in completely different praxis to me e.g. crimethinc mugging tourists. i am interested in practical struggles which build the confidence and power of the class - for example on saturday i was on an NHS demo, chatting to some NHS staff who were saying how it's hard to get across to the wider public how the cuts are increasing workload and decreasing morale, thus impacting patient care, compared to say in Haywards Heath where the A&E is being closed completely and thousands have been on the streets. obviously one conversation does little to reverse that, but the NHS is a practical area where we can extend solidarity to other workers and defend our own material conditions as NHS users, so i think it's an important struggle to be involved in, tame and leftist though it may be at present.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 12:08

Hmmm, shame that, my only concrete proposal is scrotal inflation! wink

1) The "responsibility" issue needs to be nuanced because although I accept the point that the ruling class is to be blamed for the parlous state of the eco-sphere I do believe that for all sorts of reasons we would all do well to have a good long look at what we consume, how we consume it and how issues of power/autonomy relate to behaviour which is not only ecologically but socially unsustainable. So, for example: a lot gets spent on satellite t.v. and very little on food. I consider this fucked up and dangerous; not only would it make sense to argue for a change in priorites from a health point of view but also because a fresh food culture and hopefully food growing might well encourage a resurgence of communities and even direct democratic practice.

2) Mutualist adventures in parallel economics is a very weighted phrase. I would prefer to think of people empowering themselves, improving their communities, building confidence and feeding their kids, mending their roofs, solving problems of damp, helping to prevent folks sitting in the dark without power or not having water in their taps; giving kids something to do and rebuilding community solidarity. Now this to me could be anarchy in action, no more or less than what the EZLN does in its heartlands in Chiapas.

3) Well you have a point with questioning the 'we'. I suppose I meant that I hope for a recognition that there are diverse valid strategies for furthering the cause of a libertarian society & that 'sectarianism is the surest road to authoritarianism'. Now I don't see why my hope to see folks in many places practicing a demonstrative social ecology, IOW hopefully helping people to improve their lives and practice anarchist ways of living is incompatible with having anarchists organise in workplaces or struggle to defend whatever crumbs fall from the table of the masters.

Tame leftism may be all some of us have from day-to-day, in the same way that I still get my power off the grid and worry about money. The point is how do we get from here to there and how imaginative will we be along the way? Social ecology and the anarchist-inspired discipline of Permaculture offer paths towards revolutionary change & I believe there's a lot of mileage in both of them.

Here're my questions, and I believe that they're relevant to this whole thread: how will society change? In response to crisis? In the crucible of industrial struggle? Through the growth of a new culture in the rotting corpse of the old? History suggests to me that social changes are always gradual; anarchist theory tells me that prefiguration is essential. I would suggest that the path to a better society - if it is to be found at all - may well be complex and convoluted. I see the attempt to make use of anarchist ideas to improve people's lives here-and-now as a valid approach to building the new society; this does not mean that I rule out the value of other strategies.

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Joseph Kay
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Mar 6 2007 12:51
Blacknred Ned wrote:
Here're my questions, and I believe that they're relevant to this whole thread: how will society change? In response to crisis? In the crucible of industrial struggle?

i think social change in 'post-industrial' countries will be far more immediately social than workplace-centric (though this is not to say workplaces are unimportant, but class organisation does not equal workplace organisation), with resistance to the poll tax and the popular (unfortunately, as opposed to class) response to the Argentinian financial collapse in 2001 as our nearest analogs, without getting into futurology i can't be much more specific i don't think, but i don't preclude rapid changes in principle i.e. revolution, even though i have no illusions about some millenial event that cleanses us of our sins ...

Blacknred Ned wrote:
History suggests to me that social changes are always gradual

really? doesn't the fact that 200 years of industrial revolution out of 100,000 years of Homo sapien existence bringing us to the brink of ecocide suggest otherwise? i would suggest gradual change is permanent, but this doesn't and hasn't precluded rapid periods of change throughout human history when certain combinations of technology converge with certain environmental conditions etc. i think that's called 'punctuated equilibrium' in biology, not sure.

Blacknred Ned wrote:
1) The "responsibility" issue needs to be nuanced ...

the point is, as revol says this just slides into empty moralising. i mean if people want to watch satellite TV instead of eating expensive organic produce or something, so what? it's not satellite TV is even a pollutant, you're just holding up an ideal anarcho lifestyle according to Ned and bashing that which doesn't conform. i eat pretty healthily, but i also go down the pub - should i be spending all that pint money on solar panels or something, in order to be a good anarchist? i mean i get my electricity from a 'green' provider, i use energy efficient bulbs, i recycle all the unnecessary packaging attached to the stuff i consume etc. but addressing this from the consumption end is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

Blacknred Ned wrote:
2) Mutualist adventures in parallel economics is a very weighted phrase. I would prefer to think of people empowering themselves

indeed it is weighted, but it's drawn some elaboration so mission accomplished wink Again, with the EZLN i'm not sure how much applies to a heavily urbanised advanced capitalist region. i mean, they had no clinics, so they built some. fucking nice one, but it's not the situation we find ourselves in. i mean are you on about stuff like communities clubbing together to buy their own wind turbine? like i say i wouldn't oppose such a venture per se though i wouldn't initiate it either. i'd be critically realistic about it's impact, but aware that involvement in such a common project has a transformative effect on the subjectivity of those involved, and i'd be pushing to extract as much funding as possible from the bosses in the form of local businesses (threaten direct action if they don't cough up a % of profits to the community turbine?) and the council etc. but ultimately i think any such projects are peripheral, when the major sources of emissions are structurally linked to capitalism.

Blacknred Ned wrote:
I don't see why my hope to see folks in many places practicing a demonstrative social ecology, IOW hopefully helping people to improve their lives and practice anarchist ways of living is incompatible with having anarchists organise in workplaces or struggle to defend whatever crumbs fall from the table of the masters.

they're not necessarily mutually exclusive, though i've argued the former is limited in potential wrt the latter (workplace struggle), and you've been apparently critical of those who think the NHS is a qualified good thing, so the discussion has tended to present them that way. and i'd say 'crumbs from the bosses table' is a poor metaphor for the NHS, if it only cost them crumbs they wouldn't be putting so much effort into dismantling it.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 13:11

No empty moralising here I'm afraid. I'm not holding up the anarcho gospel according to Ned. It is a fact that Brits spend only 8% of their income on food: fresh, local and even organic food is not expensive except in comparison to real shit & even then that only seems cheap because no-one pays the real costs of production. I will argue everyday for fresh local food production because I know what a difference it makes to people's health and the development of kids. That ain't lifestylism or moralising that's just common sense and decency.

No, all social change is gradual. Your 200 years figure is entirely arbitary: you might just as easily date early industrialism to the 11th Century renaissance; recognise the bourgeoisie in the medieval merchant class of Italy and I am sure that you are aware that something like a working class army took to the field of battle in Ghent in the 14th Century against the Duke of Burgundy.

Nothing arises spontaneously, not ideas or movements, not technology or new social forms. Everything is prefigured. I am afraid that punctuated equilibrium does not suggest the contrary to this but rather that periods of relative stabilty are broken by periods of more rapid change; the change still builds from what already exists not on complete novelties.

The idea that I am only addressing consumption is a reappearance of your friend and mine the straw man. I hope to address both production and consumption but beyond both society and culture.

The fact is that many people in the so-called developed world do not have access to good clinics - dentistry would be a good example or to surgeries appropriate to their needs. if you think that this situation is going to get better then you are more hopeful than I am.

I had to work to get people to qualify their support for the NHS at all. I am glad that I have a hospital to go to if I'm ill; is that qualified support for the NHS or just qualified support for hospitals. It would be a hell of a lot handier most of the time to have a local doctor in a cottage hospital who knew me and my family; a dentist on hand and free spectacles from a good optician who knew me as a person instead of a customer.

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Mar 6 2007 13:46

This discussion has posed a lot of questions and I won't even try to go into all of them. I am in broad agreement with Joseph's criticisms of the 'consumer-centric' view of fighting pollution and of the basic reformism of the idea of building alternative green economies inside this one, or even building an alternative health service. BlacknRed is consistent in rejecting the idea of the revolution, because if it was really possible to build such an alternative society in the shell of the old revolution would be completely superfluous.

However, BlacknRed is not quite so out to lunch as some people imply in his criticisms of the NHS and his comments on some of the 'anarchist' responses to this. I would agree, for example, that the NHS was not a 'reform' in the sense of something that the working class actively fought for and which strengthened its class consciousness and sense of identity. On the contrary, the way it was introduced - leaving aside the huge 'price' paid for it in millions of dead workers during the imperialist war - was designed to make the working class identify with the state and dissolve its separate class identity.

On this point I agree with Catch: we need to make a clear distinction between struggles on a class terrain - whether opposing the current wage freeze in the health sector, or threats to jobs, hospital closures etc - and the leftist call to 'defend the NHS' which, after all, is the state boss to millions of workers. I agree with Joseph that defending the social wage is indeed a class issue but this is not the same as defending ths state institutions which administer it. This is not an easy point to get across faced with all the demagogic arguments of the leftists, but we have to be clear about it if we are to counter them. Not least because it looks as though there are some significant struggles brewing in the health sector.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 13:57

Thanks Alf, I thought that was a fairly balanced intervention in a debate that has got heated on all sides at times. smile

I do believe in revolutionary change. I do not believe in The Revolution. If anything I would say I believe in permanent revolution and the likely existence of certain undying dialectics, for example between liberty and authority or the local and the central. I do believe that we can move things in our direction until we have what we would recognise as a predominantly libertarian and communist society; I do not believe that we would ever be able to eradicate counter tendencies or exclude the possibility of change from our relatively settled state to something else. Nor do I believe that any attempt to do so would bring anything but tragedy.

The possibility that climate change may precipitate a period of rapid social change makes it all the more vital IMO that we spread anarchist ideas and practice wherever and however we can because we don't know what the future may hold.

fort-da game
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Mar 6 2007 14:22

I think I agree with nice ned on this. It seems to be a discussion about use-value.

Now, unless it is argued that use-value is objectively conserved in the commodity, and thereby represents the becoming of proletarian interest in objective historical process, then we must conclude that it is an aspect of commodity production, of value, and is therefore open to critique from a communist perspective. This goes for NHS prescribed DBII pills as much as for a pack of smarties. It seems to me that the argument that the NHS or any product/industry/institution is a partial victory in the class struggle, and a step on the ascending ladder, for anyone other than the ruling class, completely forgets the reality of alienation.

The question is whether you can take over institutions of the state without the state overtaking you.

The other question is whether the workers’ interest is expressed in bricks and mortar as a ‘concession’ to their struggle against conditions or as a mystification of that interest. In other words, does the proletariat ever win anything or does it merely inflict partial losses on the ruling class? In the case of the NHS, certainly it was created after a long period of working class potentiality but that is not to say this is what workers’ were fighting ‘for’ (as their struggle was largely negative, ie against conditions) – I do not think the working class is capable of formulating a ‘demand’ as a class, it is not a political formation.

Of course the social democratic institutions are adept at converting militancy into partial ‘victories’ which must then be defended. But from its beginning as a means for controlling the anarchy of the market, the welfare state has been used to centralise the forces of production. As has probably been mentioned earlier in the discussion, Bismarck deployed it first as a concession for the banning of the german socialist parties. The NHS serves as one aspect of the social partnership and if functions to create a cohesive workforce which could easily be broken down into individual health histories and policed as such. The health service favours an economics of centralisation, massification, reduced labour costs and capitalised/technologised process. The benefits to alienated ‘health’ are many but the benefits to a concept of health-for-itself are dubious ... as usual with state-capitalist institutions the object, in this case mass illness, is more or less effectively managed as alienated health, but with the odd mrsa panic thrown in.

It seems to me that Neddy is critically comparing the mere transitional moment of workers’ self-management with the potential of a communist human community, and therfore he is appropriately performing the role of pro-revolutionaries in their critique of social democrat re-conceptions of capitalist production. You would probably disagree with him if you did not feel alienated from conditions in this world and if you thought that all we need as a solution to capitalist production is a workers’ government.

cheers

pil

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 14:35

Was it? I think I said that struggles within the NHS should be supported but that there are also other possibilities. As it happens I think we're a long way from building hospitals, but then the miners who started libraries and even universities probably felt a little overwhelmed as well. Properly I think diet and lifestyle and indeed happiness and autonomy should be seen as part of the health debate & therefore anarchic community action in these areas might be seen as a step along the way to revolutionising healthcare in a libertarian fashion.

fort-da game
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Mar 6 2007 14:48
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the debate was whether or not we should struggle to change change the NHS or seek to build our own hospitals in the here and now

Or none of the above?

What are the bodies/processes which would institute such a change under general conditions of commodity production? I would dearly love to see a faction of the BMA for example declare that the underlying cause of 'lifestyle' illnesses (currently practically represented as moral laxity) are an outcome of the capitalist social relation ... and I have been thinking the caring professions ought not adopt a for-themselves mode of struggle (for example their counter-productive) exclusion of 'violent patients' but rather, in accord with their managerial role in production, adopt a for-others' typestruggle and try and autonomously implement human measures against the interest of the productive relation. Perhaps this is the kind of thing you mean?

Friends who are teachers say they well understand the problem of the education system and their role in it but they argue (under my interrogation) that as gate-keepers to other people's lives they do have some opportunity to 'help a few escape'... I think that is an ok attitude. I'd like to see it more often in the NHS and amongst social workers/health visitors.

p.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 15:05

Revol wrote

Quote:
Well fuck off and set up a group with everyother two bit prick pimping healthy local food on the BBC, it's hardly cutting edge stuff, more like the latest middle class craze that allows themselves to try and culturally distinguish themselves from the proles.

You're not reading the posts Revol! What I am talking about is cutting edge & is not the same as the BBC supporting a middle class craze. Either change your glasses or go and have a little lie down until you've recovered your composure.

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welshboy
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Mar 6 2007 15:07
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more like the latest middle class craze that allows themselves to try and culturally distinguish themselves from the proles.

True, though the Autonomous Center of Edinburgh opens as a food co-op on a saturday. Offering cheap healthy food to the local ommunity. In this setting it is definately political. Bringing people into the centre and hopefully exposing them to radical projects in the area.

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welshboy
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Mar 6 2007 15:36

I've not been to ACE yet when the food co-op is on. As it's only one day a week fresh produce isn't available at the moment so meat would be out anyway. Does Zapatista coffee count as political? smile
What I tried to say was that community projects such as these can, alongside work place struggle, help to radicalize people. Helping people realize that they can exert control over their own communities if they work together. This can lead to them realizing that we can organize everything in our lives if we work co-operatively.
Hopefully.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 17:44

[b]Welshboy wrote:

Quote:
This can lead to them realizing that we can organize everything in our lives if we work co-operatively.

Now there's clever! smile

Revol, it seems we're all hung up on something. It appears that there's more than one show in town and in the absence of any glorious bandwagon one way or the other, diversity seems pretty sensible to me. Joke'll be on you when the revolution starts at a cake sale! (As if you have the map to the revolutionary Eldorado!)

magnifico
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Mar 6 2007 18:14

Sorry I've not been around on this thread today.

Ned wrote:
No Joseph, Magnifico's attack is not the word! Nothing Magnifico wrote was new to the argument & his charges:

a) That I said that we should let the NHS be destroyed without a fight
&
b) ThatI said we should abandon the idea of a decent wage

neither undermine my argument - because they are false charges - nor address the question in hand.

No, I wasn't accusing you of abandoning the idea of a decent wage - I know this isn't your position from previous threads. I was using this as an example of the same kind of thinking which you demonstrate here:-

Ned wrote:
Jef, healthcare free at the point of need is not what I am attacking and neither is the idea of a well trained doctor on hand when you need treatment. The NHS doesn't really do either of these terribly well and was always a Fabian fuck-up from the start. I do not understand why attacking the sacred cow of the social democrats should bring any opprobrium from anarchists, we have access to much better ideas than that mess of a sickness service.

and here:-

Ned wrote:
I have a personal position on the NHS which is this: it is a crock of shit! It was always a crock of shit and will always be a crock of shit! Workers in the NHS have my sympathy and my support in their struggles to make a living wage and work reasonable hours, but that won't prevent me from talking about the alternatives to the industrial ill-health system that this half-cocked social democratic basket case was always going to be.

where you appear to be arguing that (to paraphrase) 'conditions for NHS workers are worth defending, but the existence of the NHS as an improvement in the lives of working class people as a whole is not, because as anarchists we can think of much better ways of running a health system'. Now I agree with you that in a libertarian communist society the health system would be run very differently, but that doesn't change the fact that it is a huge improvement on what came before and what will come after if the government/ruling class have their way.

The dismantling of the NHS is worth opposing, just as a wage cut is worth opposing, because they are both attacks on our standard of living - you may be in the fortunate position that you don't need to use it at the moment, but being confronted with a huge bill for vital healthcare would I believe change your mind. One of the people in our local 'Keep our NHS Public' group is from New York - as a student he couldn't afford health insurance, and at one point needed life-saving surgery - the first thing he saw when he woke up from his anaesthetic was a bill stapled to the front of his surgical gown, it took him a long time to pay off the full costs. This is the kind of thing I am trying to prevent in this country by opposing the current dismantling of the NHS.

My impression is that you are arguing that this is a waste of time, which is where I am disagreeing with you - I'm not defending the NHS as a 'sacred cow' but as a huge improvement in the lives of the majority of people in this country.

magnifico
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Mar 6 2007 18:25
Dr Cous Cous wrote:
The benefits to alienated ‘health’ are many but the benefits to a concept of health-for-itself are dubious ... as usual with state-capitalist institutions the object, in this case mass illness, is more or less effectively managed as alienated health

Ok so when we can no longer afford healthcare and are suffering death and disability from easily cureable diseases and injuries which used to be provided for by the NHS at least we can all take great solace in the fact that the health we no longer have was 'alienated' anyway.

Instead of funding nurses and MRI scanners the government could provide everyone with some sociology books, just to make sure we understood.

magnifico
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Mar 6 2007 18:46
Ned wrote:
Only Thatcher was ideologically committed to seeing the back of the NHS. It has had vast amounts of money thrown at it and has been horribly mismanaged but you can hardly make the case that it has been squeezed for resources overall.

This could be a quote straight from the mouth of that halfwit Patricia Hewitt - I won't apply that label to you cos at least you're not supposed to be running the bloody thing. The current government is doing things to the NHS that Thatcher wouldn't have dared contemplate. The 'vast amounts of money thrown at it' are mostly going to the private sector rather than to patients or workers, through a number of mechanisms:

1. The 'purchaser-provider split' (formerly known as the 'internal market'). This means that rather than each area health authority planning healthcare needs in some kind of rational fashion as used to happen before Thatcher (and still happens in Scotland following the abolition of the market by the Scottish assembly) money is given to some parts of the NHS and they have to buy services from other parts of the NHS, or from private providers. This means that the NHS is constantly having to invoice itself and pay money to itself in all kinds of confusing ways, resulting in a vast amount of money going to accountancy firms rather than to NHS patients or workers. As NHS trusts are increasingly being forced to compete with each other and with the private sector for 'customers' we can confidently predict that they will also soon be forced to start spending significant amounts of money on advertising.

2. NHS buying services from the private sector. As I said above, the PCTs and GPs who are given the NHS money to spend on behalf of patients often spend it in the private sector - this is supposedly NHS money but is in fact going into corporate coffers. The ward I work part-time on is in a private hospital but all the patients there are being funded by the NHS. This is very common - it goes without saying that the private sector will pick the most profitable patients to treat, leaving more complicated cases to the NHS trusts that they are in competition with. New NHS 'foundation trust' hospitals can start joint ventures with private companies which don't even have to be anything to do with healthcare, these will be funded with NHS money and provide profits to shareholders.

3. PFI schemes - a scam whereby buildings, equipment and/or services are outsourced to the private sector and rented back by NHS trusts at a huge profit for the company in question, often without even being very good.

And the reforms currently planned for the NHS constitute complete privatisation - the openly stated objective is for 'foundation' (ie privatised) PCTs and private-sector run GP surgeries to buy services from 'foundation' hospitals and private hospitals, all under an independent monitor like the one that oversees other privatised industries.

Blacknred Ned
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Mar 6 2007 21:54

Magnifico, I think I have made it clear elsewhere in this thread that I am not opposed to people defending positions in the NHS. I would be very sorry to see what we have to depend upon here deteriorate anymore. I suspect however that that is exactly what will happen & I would argue that both for the sake of being prepared and in order to work for the recreation of exactly the kind of communities that might prefigure a better future we should think in terms of positive direct action to improve and safeguard health.

Now, it seems to me that a lot of what has offended people about the arguments I have made is based on impressions. This is, I have no doubt due to both the failures of my own debating style & the fact that this is extremely contentious ideological ground. As a matter of fact elsewhere I have been accused of dishonesty. I have not been dishonest but have been trying to make an argument for positive community-based activism to ease what I perceive as a social and ecological crisis.

What New Labour have done disgusts me. I happen to come from a family full of people who have worked in the public sector in particular the NHS. None of this prevents me from arguing that it has always been flawed and - even if it was administered by a good ol' fashioned social democratic government - that it would still need replacing with a proper socialised, human-scaled, democratic and holistic healthcare apparatus, by which I mean one that serves healthiness at least as much as it tackles the crisis management side of treating illness.

I sincerely hope that that makes my position clear and that no-one involved in this thread thinks that I have been dishonest. Disagreement and debate is fine, but to imagine that I am considered a liar is a bit too much for me.

magnifico
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Mar 6 2007 22:27

No I didn't think you had been dishonest - I think there may have been some misunderstanding on both sides in that you seemed to be coming across as saying that the NHS 'reforms' weren't worth opposing as long as they didn't impact on NHS workers' pay and conditions, which you've since made clear isn't your position. Similarly, I think you misunderstood those of us arguing 'for' the NHS in that you thought we were saying it was some model system which had nothing wrong with it, when really our argument was that it's pretty good in the context of Thatcher and Blair's Britain, and better than the market alternatives that are quickly replacing it.

Sadly I think your point that we need to start looking after our own health more as the NHS safety net is removed is a valid one, though I think there are a lot of things that the NHS does that no working class organisation could possibly afford (eg the rehab ward I work on costs about £500 a day for each patient, and that's not even particularly high-tech) and so unless we want to see a dramatic reduction in the healthcare that is available to us we are going to have to fight to keep what we've got as well as develop alternatives. I'd love to be in a situation where we could argue for the kind of health services anarchists would ideally want but in a period of unremitting defeat like the one we're in now damage limitation and defensive struggles seem the only realistic options.

*magnifico tops himself* wink