Sunday, June 3, 2012

Beyond Freedom and Dignity/ BF Skinner

I wrote this review of B. F. Skinner’s book Beyond Freedom and Dignity in 1971, when the book first came out, to vent my anger at Skinner’s monumental stupidity. The review was never published, nor did I try to get it published, but Walter Grinder distributed a few copies of it to his students at Rutgers University. I made some minor editorial changes from the typescript draft as I entered it into my computer 31 years later, but I left most of my original words unchanged because I still agree with my younger self.
Beyond Freedom and Dignity and Reason

by Roy Halliday

B. F. Skinner, a professor of psychology at Harvard, is recognized as the most influential behavioral scientist alive. In his new book he presents the case for the further development of behaviorism, which he depicts as the only valid science of human behavior. He characterizes all other social sciences as methodologically pre-scientific.

The title of this provocative book, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, is a slap in the face to libertarians, and each page of it stuns the reader with more unsettling ideas.

Skinner writes about "the literature of freedom," which includes John Stuart Mill’s essay "On Liberty" and other writings opposed to tyranny and despotism. This literature, says Skinner, was useful in its day but is now obsolete. We know now that regimentation is a bad way to run a society. Diversity is important, and any society without it is poorly designed. The literature of freedom was helpful in getting people to realize this fact, but, says Skinner, this literature fosters other ideas that act as barriers to further advances in the technology of controlling human behavior. These barriers are individual autonomy, free will, volition, and consciousness itself. All of these concepts are supposed to have been fostered and made popular by the literature of freedom, and all of them, according to B. F. Skinner, are myths.

A few quotations from his book should convince the reader that I do not misrepresent Skinner. He rules out independent consciousness:

Without the help of a verbal community all behavior would be unconscious. Consciousness is a social product. It is not only not the special field of autonomous man, it is not within the range of a solitary man. (192)

He doesn’t forget memory:

The environment is often said to be stored in the form of memories: to recall something we search for a copy of it, which can then be seen as the original was seen. As far as we know, however, there are no copies of the environment in the individual at any time, even when a thing is present and being observed. (196-197)

He tosses out autonomy, abstraction, and association:

Rather than suppose that it is therefore autonomous man who discriminates, generalizes, forms concepts, or abstractions, recalls or remembers, and associates, we can put matters in good order simply by noting that these terms do not refer to forms of behavior. (194)

Skinner believes the "literature of freedom" attributes these imaginary qualities to man in order to set him apart from other animals and to stifle the advance of behaviorism. If man is unique because he possesses the attributes of consciousness, autonomy, volition, and free will, then man is the only animal whose behavior cannot be fully controlled by the technology to be developed by behaviorists. For this reason Skinner feels that the "literature of freedom" is the greatest obstruction to the advance of behaviorism.

To man qua man we readily say good riddance. Only by dispossessing him can we turn to the real causes of human behavior. Only then can we turn from the inferred to the observed, from the miraculous to the natural, from the inaccessible to the manipulable. (200-201)

Behaviorist Jargon

Skinner’s writing is difficult to understand. His style suffers from his attempt to eliminate all words that suggest people act because of ideas. He writes of positive and negative reinforcers instead of likes and dislikes. He translates English into the jargon of behaviorism, which is an attempt to eliminate all words that suggest conscious, purposeful, motivation of human behavior. He explains:

We change the relative strengths of responses by differential reinforcement of alternative courses of action; we do not change something called a preference. We change the probability of an act by changing a condition of deprivation or aversive stimulation; we do not change a need. We reinforce behavior in particular ways; we do not give a person a purpose or an intention. We change behavior toward something, not an attitude toward it. We sample and change verbal behavior, not opinions. (94-95)

Despite all his effort, Skinner does not succeed in translating the entire book. It would be completely incomprehensible if he did. Fortunately, he lapses into lucidity every once in a while, and invariably, it is because he sneaks in some introspective knowledge to explain behavior and make it understandable.

The most interesting part of his chapter on dignity is his discussion of the role dignity plays in motivating human action. It is a strange topic for a behaviorist to discuss because, as a behaviorist, Skinner has no means of knowing about the subjective experience of pride or dignity. Pride, dignity, and admiration cannot be measured or observed by behaviorists. We have introspective knowledge of their existence only. Skinner smuggles introspective knowledge into the discussion to explain many kinds of human action. If he didn’t, the book would be unintelligible.

Behaviorists cannot contribute significantly to our understanding of human behavior without deviating from their own epistemology. Behaviorism denies that there is any such thing as human nature as a legitimate scientific concern. It denies that people act because they have ideas, values, and plans. It is no wonder that the jargon of behaviorism is hard to understand. By denying the existence of introspective knowledge and reason, it denies understanding itself.
Control by Behaviorists

The word control often implies purpose, but this is not what Skinner means to imply when he says that behavior is always controlled. He means that behavior is always determined by causes that are either genetic or environmental. Freedom (lack of control) is an impossible notion. But Skinner goes beyond this to assert that the individual plays no part in controlling his own actions.

The fundamental mistake made by all those who choose weak methods of control is to assume that the balance of control is left to the individual, when in fact it is left to other conditions. (99)

Skinner wants to replace existing control of human behavior with "scientific" control; that is, external control by "cultural designers" based on the findings of the behaviorists. Since freedom is imaginary anyway, Skinner says there would be no loss of freedom if the behaviorists gained control, and mankind would benefit by submitting to "scientific" controls administered by trained experts. The alternative is to continue to be controlled by a haphazard environment made up of unplanned controls. [Notice that (1) Skinner gives a reason for submitting to control by behaviorists, even though he claims to believe that people don’t do things for conscious reasons, and notice that (2) control by behaviorists would be for the purpose of making our collective life better, even though people, including behaviorists, do not act for such imaginary things as purposes.]

In order to change existing controls one would have to change either existing hereditary traits or existing environmental controls. We cannot change heredity, but Skinner believes environmental factors are more important anyway, so he proposes controlling us by changing our cultural environment.

Skinner wants to design a culture that will survive. So he proclaims survival of the culture to be the only value needed for testing the scientific control of our cultural environment. This standard makes all the sticky questions that people might raise about the causes of human behavior insignificant.

Just as we do not need to explain the origin of a genetic mutation in order to account for its effect in natural selection, so we do not need to explain the origin of a cultural practice in order to account for its contribution to the survival of a culture. (136)

The cultural designers (ruling class) are a paradox of Skinnerism because they are alleged to have the ability to control the behavior of everyone in society but they do not have the ability to control their own behavior. If you ask how he can attribute the design of a culture to a behavioral scientist and not also attribute the design of the scientist’s own life to him, Skinner answers:

He is indeed controlled by his environment, but we must remember it is an environment largely of his own making. The evolution of a culture is a gigantic exercise in self-control. (215)

So, cultures can control themselves, but people can’t. An individual apparently has no self, but a culture has. This is the thinking of a collectivist. Skinner sees no contradiction here. The only problem he recognizes is the need to control the controllers:

The great problem is to arrange effective counter control and hence to bring some important consequences to bear on the behavior of the controller. (171)

This problem will be solved by the scientific approach itself. The thing being controlled determines the design of the controlling forces. The cultural designers, being true scientists, will be responsive to the reactions of their human guinea pigs and will modify their methods of control accordingly. Furthermore, the controllers will have to live under the controls of their own design. Skinner tries to make it sound like the controlled can more easily control the controllers than the controllers can control the controlled. He assumes that the controllers will be pure behaviorists who will be guided exclusively by the principles he sets forth, but he does not explain how this could be guaranteed, even if we agreed that it would be desirable.

Designing a culture is like designing an experiment, contingencies are arranged and effects noted. (153)

How is it possible to conceive of an experiment without reference to the purpose of the experiment? What is an experiment if not the testing of a hypothesis--an idea? If men do not possess the capability to implement ideas--to act purposefully--as Skinner supposes, then there can be no such thing as an experiment! The concept of an experiment becomes meaningless without the prior concepts of hypotheses, purposes, and proof.

It is unfortunate for libertarians that the issue raised by Skinner that attracts the most attention is the one where his argument is strongest; namely, the issue of free will. This is an emotional issue for many people. It provokes bitter debate. Let us first examine some of the other issues raised by Skinner and then come back to this one, which I contend is not as crucial as is commonly thought. For a change, let us attack Skinner where he is weakest--as a scientist.
Behaviorism as Trivial History

Behaviorism, by denying the significant role played by mental categories, cannot go beyond the study of independent, unrelated, trivial events. It views cultures as sets of unrelated practices and it views practices as purposeless activities. All that Skinner can do without departing from the behaviorist view of human action is to compile meaningless facts about purposeless behavior driven by contingencies of which no one is conscious. Ludwig von Mises, the founder of praxeology (the science of purposeful human action), saw through the behaviorist ideology when he wrote about its founder (Watson):

Only by deceiving itself could behaviorism reach the point where it would be in a position to say anything about action. If, true to its resolve, behaviorism were completely to renounce the attempt to grasp meaning, it could not even succeed in singling out what it declares to be the subject matter of its research from all that the senses observe of human and animal behavior. It would not succeed in marking off its function from that of physiology. Physiology, Watson maintains, is concerned in particular with the behavior of the parts of the animal. Yet surely neither the reaction of the body to an infection not the phenomena of growth and age are to be classified as "behavior of the parts." If, on he other hand, one chooses to regard a movement of a hand as an instance of behavior on the part of the "whole animal," one can, of course, do so only on the view that in this movement something becomes operative that cannot be attributed to any particular part of the body. This something, however, can be nothing else than "meaning" or that which begets "meaning."1

Behaviorism cannot even define itself consistently. This is a poor beginning for an ideology that characterizes itself as a science.
The Fallacy of Scientism

Because ideas cannot be measured, observed, or experimented with by the methods of the physical sciences, Skinner says the assertion that they exist is unscientific. And if ideas are not scientific neither is any explanation of human action that is based on the assumption that people have ideas and act because of ideas.

The physical sciences began by dispelling anthropomorphic explanations of physical phenomena. To attribute purpose, consciousness, volition, and other human characteristics to the inanimate and subhuman came to be regarded by scientists as superstitious nonsense.

Scientists regarded the subjects of their investigations as objects governed exclusively by discoverable laws of nature, completely determined in all their actions by their inherent physical characteristics and by external forces. The purpose of scientific investigations was to discover the physical properties and the natural laws governing objects.

The method devised by scientists for this purpose was controlled observation. By carefully changing only one variable at a time, observing the results, and repeating the process and getting the same results each time, scientists could infer natural laws. This method led to great successes in fields such as physics and chemistry. Since the time of Saint-Simon this scientific method has come to be regarded, more and more, as the only truly scientific method.2

This method, whether it is called empiricism or scientism, when applied to the social sciences is not only objectionable for its violations of human freedom and dignity, it is incorrect, illogical, and unscientific. It does not take into account the fundamental facts about human nature that differentiate the social sciences from the physical sciences.

In their attempt to be scientific and to abolish superstitious anthropomorphism, empiricists have gone too far. They have gone from declaring it unscientific to ascribe human characteristics to inanimate objects to declaring it unscientific to ascribe human characteristics to humans! Excluding anthropomorphism from the social sciences is the fallacy of scientism.

By assuming that knowledge is limited to what is measurable and observable, Skinner unwittingly rules out all the logical sciences. Mathematical proofs, for example, are not based on empirical evidence, but on logical deductions from axioms. In fact, logic itself is based on "unscientific" axioms that are self-evident to us only through introspection. The logical and mathematical relationships underlying the theories of behaviorism and all the empirical science are a priori categories of the human mind. They are only know to us through introspection. In a review of Jacques Monad’s Chance and Necessity Gunther Stent observed:

Certainly the most basic law projected by man into nature is causality, or the belief that the events he observes in the outer world resemble his own conscious acts in their being connected as cause and effect, rather than occurring haphazardly ... Indeed, even the most elementary dimensions in terms of which scientists attempt to describe the very events that causality is supposed to connect, such as time, space, mass, and temperature, are nothing more than projections into nature of man’s own physiology and anatomy.3

By denying the importance of introspective knowledge, Skinner denies any basis for the physical sciences and denies the significance of behaviorism.
Human Practices

Most people would agree that new practices arise because individuals have values, get ideas, make plans to achieve their values, try them, and adopt the plans that seem to work. This is a praxeological explanation of new practices. Skinner, however, does not think it is an explanation at all. To his way of thinking, attributing human action to unmeasurable ideas, values, plans, and purposes is a supernatural explanation like calling God the first cause and claiming thereby to have explained existence. All that it accomplishes, he feels, is the satisfaction of the curiosity of superficial thinkers. Truly inquisitive people will still wonder what caused the ideas or what caused God.

Inquisitive people will demand an explanation of the explanation ad infinitum, regardless of what is being explained and regardless of whether the explanation is a praxeological, behaviorist, or supernatural one. Praxeological explanations, unlike supernatural explanations, do not pretend to deal with final causes. Skinner goes too far when he says,

If our understanding of contingencies of reinforcement is not yet sufficient to explain all kinds of thinking, we must remember that the appeal to the mind explains nothing at all. (195)

On the contrary, it explains the private internal experiences that we all know are most real. The external world is more abstract than the internal one. And praxeology, because it recognizes the significance of the internal world, is more fundamental than behaviorism for understanding human action. What does understanding mean if not a mental state? The fact that we cannot observe or measure other people’s thoughts only means they cannot be scientifically studied by the limited tools of the empirical sciences. It does not follow that logical analysis of values and intentions is not of the utmost importance. Mankind would not have survived this long if the average man did not have a better understanding of human nature than the average behaviorist.

Skinner is wrong to imply that purposes, values, and ideas, which praxeology assumes underlie human action, are supernatural categories. Ideas, values, memory, reasoning, and purposes are directly experienced by all men. They are not supernatural. They are facts that are part of general human experience, unlike the gods who manifest themselves to only a select few. We can be more sure of the existence of ideas that we experience directly than we can be of the existence of the external world, which we merely surmise from the data supplied by our senses. All experience is subjective, including experience of external events. Empirical observation presupposes consciousness. So ideas, values, consciousness, memory, reasoning, and other activities of the mind that we know directly are just as fit subjects for natural science as the more abstract objects studied by the empirical sciences.

It is hardly scientific to rule out the unique knowledge, values, memories, and experiences of the individual acting man from the chain of causes that results in his behavior. Studying human behavior without recognizing the significance of ideas and purposes is like studying the behavior of an automobile without considering the possibility that there might be a driver inside. What praxeology postulates is a driver in the driver’s seat, not a ghost in the machine.

How does Skinner explain the emergence of a new practice? Well, since intent is ruled out for being a prescientific explanation, the only alternative is accident. To put it in the enlightening and "scientific" language of behaviorism, a new practice arises when controlling contingencies, excluding ideas, cause a person to behave in a way that produces a reinforcing result (one which the controlling contingencies, by accident, cause repetition of). Then, because the controlling contingencies, unintentionally, produce a reinforcing result in one case, the controlling contingencies cause other people to duplicate the behavior for no reason. Now isn’t that as clear as can be? Does it sound like an explanation or a restatement of the question? How is this behaviorist explanation any meatier than simply saying that new practices arise somehow?

My negative reaction to Skinner’s analysis of human behavior is not due so much to his disparagement of human freedom and dignity as it is due to his assault on the things I am most certain of, namely, consciousness, values, volitions, and emotions. By denying the importance of these things Skinner is denying the most fundamental human experiences. His behavioral science, whatever else it may be, is not a study of human life or human action.

Skinner is the master of the self-refuting argument. He denies that ideas play a role in human action, then he explains that it is because of unscientific ideas people have about their freedom and dignity that they show disrespect for his behaviorist theories.4
Free Will

Skinner’s best point is his attack on the godlike man whose actions are entirely self-caused or uncaused. But even to argue against free will Skinner has to deviate from his behaviorist epistemology and conger up the mental category of causality, which logically precedes empirical inquiry. Empirical science does not prove the law of causality, it assumes it. Historical evidence may suggest antecedent causes of human action, but historical evidence cannot disprove free will. The disproof of free will comes from the a priori idea of causality. It is impossible for us to understand an event happening without a cause. The concept of free will postulates and event, a man willing something, that is not caused by any preceding contingencies. This contradicts the law of causality and is therefore unnatural and unscientific. Skinner does not present the argument this way. He not only denies the existence of free will, he relegated volition itself to the realm of the supernatural or prescientific.

Some of the confusion about free will may be semantic. Many people equate volition with freedom of the will as though the two terms were synonymous. Volition and will are the same, but neither volition nor will means the same thing as the term free will. No one can convincingly deny the existence of volition as a human trait because we are directly aware of our own volitions. A volition is a conscious decision and resolution to act. It is a part in the chain of causality leading to an action that we take. It is the part that takes place in our conscious mind, so it is the part that seems most significant to us. Free will, however, is the notion that our volitions are spontaneous and uncaused rather than determined by our character, experiences, and circumstances. It is this kind of will that determinists deny. Determinists hold that nothing occurs spontaneously; nothing is uncaused. Human volitions are not exceptions to this law. A man’s will, at any particular time, is an event that needs to be explained like any other--in terms of causes.

Proponents of free will, on the other hand, deny that free will is inconsistent with the law of causality. Instead, they say that free will means man’s will is self-caused rather than externally caused or spontaneous.

But what does "self-caused" mean? If it means merely that the immediate cause for a man willing something is not only external contingencies but also the previously determined personality of the man, then self-causation and the law of causality are not contradictory. However, this is not what the free will proponents mean to suggest. Instead, when they say a man’s will is self-caused, they imply that his self, his personality, is self-caused and is not ultimately determined by external contingencies.

Determinists reply that self-causation is only a proximate explanation of volition, not a final one. A volition is a finite thing that has not existed since the beginning of the universe, so it cannot be its own first cause. One of the causes of a man’s current volition may be a previous one. But then the origin of that previous volition needs to be explained, and so on, until we reach a point in the chain of events where the cause of his volition submerges to the unconscious level. But even unconscious or subconscious events are not exempt from the law of causality. Although we do not sufficiently understand them, we know the origin of subconscious events must in principle be explainable in terms of a mixture of prior mental states and the environment at the time, the origin of which, in turn, needs to be explained. Even if all his mental states were direct results of his first thoughts, we must recognize that his first thoughts must have been determined by his heredity and environment inside his mother’s womb and they could not have been willful acts on his part.

It is unfortunate that the issue of free will is regarded by Skinner and his critics as the crucial issue. Contrary to the prevailing opinion, it does not follow that if we don’t have free will we don’t have volitions at all. The fact that our volitions are determined means that they exist not that they don’t exist! It should be easier to dismiss the claim that we make choices if we conceive of volitions as free and uncaused than if we think of them as arising naturally from our past history and current circumstances. Skinner, like so many others on both sides of the issue, overlooks the possibility of determined volitions causing human action.

Proponents of free will often point to the failure of determinists to predict the future as proof that we have free will. Predicting the future is not impossible in principle, it is only impossible in practice. This does not disprove causality, it only disproves the omniscience of predictors. Causality is not a hypothesis the needs to be tested empirically. It is an a priori category of the mind that we must possess before we can formulate a hypothesis about anything.

Nonetheless there as some fairly obvious correlations that free will proponents prefer to ignore because they imply external causes for many important human choices. If our choices are not determined by our genetics and our history and our environment, then the same proportion of people from all groups should be making the same major life decisions and the fact that there is a disproportionate number of young black men in American prisons or the fact that there is a disproportionate number of Hindus in India is simply an amazing coincidence.

If the only alternative to Skinner’s behaviorism required a belief in free will, behaviorism, as stupid as it is, would have to be regarded as the only scientific approach to human action. Fortunately, Ludwig von Mises, the great libertarian social scientist did not base his analysis of human action on the unscientific and unnatural premise of free will.5

Go to "Beyond Freedom and Dignity and Reason Part 2"
Physical Sciences, Logical Sciences, and Methodological Dualism

The obvious truth is that reason, man’s most characteristic feature, is also a biological phenomenon. It is neither more nor less natural than any other feature of the species homo sapiens, for instance, the upright gait or the hairless skin.6

The mind can be regarded as a subset of the physical world, or the physical world can be regarded as a subset of the mental world. Philosophical problems arise about the interrelationships between mind and body when neither is regarded as a subset of the other (dualism). It is not necessary to solve the age-old problem of how the mind and body interrelate before we proceed with praxeology, economics, psychology, or any other science dealing with purposeful human action or with other non-empirical subjects such as mathematics. We can let philosophers continue to work on the mind-body problem while we proceed to develop sciences that study both of these aspects of reality. All we need to do is recognize that both the outside physical world and the inner life of the mind that we experience directly are both real, that our minds direct our purposeful actions in the physical world, and that different epistemological approaches (methodological dualism) are required for the logical sciences and the physical sciences.7

Skinner makes the mistake of accepting materialism (which is unproved) and rejecting methodological dualism (which has been shown to be very fruitful). He rejects the obvious fact that ideas can cause actions and adopts epiphenominalism instead. Epiphenominalism assumes that mind and body both function in accordance with physical laws and that a byproduct of this functioning in humans is consciousness. Physical laws determine the experience of consciousness like the speed of a car determines the reading on the speedometer, but consciousness no more determines the actions of man than the speedometer determines the speed of a car. Skinner offers no proof of this counterintuitive philosophy, he simply assumes it is true.

Epiphenominalists like Skinner leave themselves open to ridicule when they assert that consistent materialism denies any role for ideas in the chain of events. What materialists should say instead is that ideas are one of the forms of physical reality and as such they are able to interact with other forms of physical reality and with each other. This allows materialists to acknowledge the reality of ideas and the reality of the role ideas play in the world. By conceding that ideas are physically real, materialists can grant that ideas have physical effects, indeed they must have physical effects.

The feeling that we make decisions is not a deception. Materialists should say that when a person makes a decision his choice is the result of the values (ideas that have physical reality) that he has acquired (somewhere in his brain), knowledge (more ideas that have physical reality) he possesses (somewhere in his brain), and the other circumstances in which he finds himself. Then materialists should recognize that people’s decisions reflect the logic of their values and can be scientifically analyzed best by using logic rather than by empirical methods that as yet have not been able to capture, measure, or explain ideas in a meaningful way. There is no need for us to restrict psychology to the fruitless empirical approach of behaviorism.
Tokens versus Punishment

Skinner is opposed to punishment on the grounds that it is not as effective a means of controlling people as are positive reinforcements such as money, power, prestige, and dignity. He regards punishment as an anachronistic practice fostered by the "literature of freedom." I also oppose punishment, but I don’t blame this age-old practice on the relatively recent "literature of freedom," and I think it is contradictory for Skinner to assert that no practices are cause by ideas and then to blame the "literature of freedom" for propagating the idea of punishment.

Skinner’s technique of controlling people by giving them rewards for good behavior rather than punishment for bad behavior is being practiced in mental hospitals in New York in the form of a token system. The patients are paid tokens for work they do and for social behavior deemed desirable by the psychologists in charge. The inmates can redeem their tokens for commodities, services, and privileges.

Dr. Nathan Arzin of Anna State Hospital in southern Illinois, one of the pioneers of this approach, can go into a ward of severely retarded, incontinent individuals and toilet train them in three days. He does not reason with them (they have IQs of 25) nor does he in any way operate on their emotions. He just works on their behavior.8 This approach may well be the most practical way to supervise idiots. If verbal communication is impossible, then perhaps the best way to get people to behave the way you want them to is to train them the way an animal trainer would. To an outsider, this seems a more humane form of control than using straight jackets or electric shock treatments.

The token system for treating the mentally deficient is sometimes compared to the way the free market economy induces people to work. The tokens are like a worker’s paycheck, but there is a crucial difference. Ninety percent of the people in mental institutions are there involuntarily. As Dr. Thomas Szasz has written, "In my opinion ‘treatment,’ in a free society, can only be that intervention to which a person submits voluntarily. If he’s incarcerated in a hospital that’s punishment, no matter what his benefactors may care to call it."9 That is the difference between freedom and slavery; between treatment and punishment. If Skinner proposes to treat people who are not volunteers, he is not really against punishment.
Political Freedom and Behaviorism

The difference between freedom in the political sense and freedom in the metaphysical sense is crucial. To be metaphysically free means to be free from the constraints of the laws of nature and to not have your actions be determined or even limited by anything other than your own will. To be politically free means to not be coerced by force or threats of force from other people. Metaphysical freedom is inconsistent with the laws of nature and can only be experienced by a supernatural being. Political freedom is possible for human beings.

When a man takes purposeful action it is the result of his conscious decision, his will, and it reflects his values and ideas at the time. To change a man’s deliberate actions you must change his conscious will. His conscious will obeys certain laws and can be changed only in accordance with those laws. To get a person to change his mind you must either (1) persuade him to change or rearrange the priority of his values, (2) convince him that his plan for achieving his values is incorrect, (3) bribe him by offering him something more valuable to him than the value he is currently pursuing, or (4) coerce him by force or by threatening to prevent him from attaining something more valuable to him than the value he is currently pursuing. The first method requires the use of moral or esthetic reasoning. The second uses economic or praxeological reasoning. The third uses economic incentives such as money or goods or services. The fourth uses violence or threats or political power.

If behaviorism is to be regarded as a science, it must be value free and devoid of ethical or esthetic presumptions. So it cannot use the first method. And since behaviorism denies that people make plans and act on those plans, behaviorism cannot use the second method. Consequently, unless behaviorists can bribe us, their only hope for getting us to behave as they would like is to gain political power.

In this age of bureaucracy the individual is coercively prohibited from many activities, and the possibilities for behaviorists getting authority to experimentation on us are greater than in the earlier days of our republic.10

Skinner’s emphasis on external contingencies makes sense in cases where coercion is used to train people to behave in a prescribed way. It makes less and less sense the more political freedom an individual subject is allowed.

Although he is nominally opposed to coercion because of its inefficiency, Skinner is not in favor of political freedom or individual rights.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic rights. But they are rights of the individual and were listed as such at a time when the literature of freedom and dignity were concerned with the aggrandizement of the individual. They have only a minor bearing on the survival of a culture. (p. 180)

That depends, of course, on whether the culture is individualistic or collectivistic. Skinner is a collectivist.

Whether or not the literature of freedom has anything to say about scientific methodology as such, it most definitely is opposed to totalitarian control of society by technocrats with collectivist ideas. In this respect the literature of freedom is opposed to Skinner and his brand of science, and Skinner is correct in identifying the literature of freedom as a major obstacle he needs to overcome.

In his excellent critique of Beyond Freedom and Dignity Noam Chomsky concentrates his criticism on the prematurely of Skinner’s claim that there is a behaviorist technology than can effectively control us and on the unliklihood that there ever will be such a technology because of the arbitrary limitations that behaviorism imposes on its own research. Chomsky does not dispute the argument that if we assume that "what a person wills is fully determined by his genetic endowment and history of ‘reinforcement,’ we should therefore make use of the best behavioral technology to shape and control behavior in the common interest."11 Indeed, Chomsky attempts to argue that there is not enough scientific evidence to justify the hypothesis of determinism, as though determinism requires empirical proof.

Skinner contends, and the libertarian Chomsky sees logic in it, that if we cannot be free anyway, we might as well submit to "scientific control" instead of haphazard control by an unplanned environment. This argument confuses metaphysical freedom and political freedom. Metaphysical determinism does not preclude political freedom. Political freedom might be possible. No one has proven that political freedom is impossible and there is historical evidence to support the possibility of liberty. If political freedom were impossible for some reason it still doesn’t follow that we should allow B. F. Skinner to control our lives. Only if political freedom is impossible and if Skinner’s animal-trainer approach could make our lives better, then we might take Skinner’s proposal seriously. And if we had bacon we could have bacon and eggs if we had eggs.

The irrationality of Skinner’s argument can be seen more clearly if we translate it like this: "Since it is impossible for you not to want the things you want, why don’t you do as I say?" The sheer idiocy of this argument is even clearer when put to a libertarian this way: "Since you can’t help wanting political freedom, respect for your rights as an individual, and not being told what to do, why don’t you let me control your life?"
Moral Responsibility and Determinism

Perhaps the reason libertarians like Noam Chomsky believe that metaphysical free will is crucial is that they base their political philosophy on their moral philosophy and they see no way to reconcile moral responsibility with determinism. I see a conflict between spontaneous actions and moral responsibility, but not between determinism and moral responsibility.

The person who has moral responsibility for an act is the person who made the final decision to perform the act. It does not matter what motivates his decision, the actor is inescapably responsible for his deliberate acts. The fact that an individual’s will is determined by the combined factors of his genetics, his unique lifetime of experiences, and his present situation does not make him less responsible, it merely explains why he chose to do what he did. An individual’s decision to act is a true reflection of his character. The individual is the last specific cause that we can identify in the chain of events that results in his actions. An individual cannot relinquish his responsibility or share it with an authority figure. His actions tell us what kind of moral values he possesses. We can use this knowledge to judge his character against our own moral standards.

We can judge a man’s character more confidently by what he does than by what he says. We infer his true beliefs, his true priorities and values, from his actions. We cannot know with certainty what controlling forces in his past history caused him to adopt his values and order them the way he did, but we do know that his actions reflect his priorities, and we can judge him accordingly.

Sometimes people claim that a man is not morally responsible for his actions when there are extenuating circumstances, such as when another man has a gun in his back. The fact is, he is still responsible for his deliberate actions even under duress, because we can still conclude something about his moral character from observing what he chooses to do. If he commits a crime under duress, we cannot conclude that he places no value on right behavior, but we can conclude that he places a higher value on his own life.

Accidental, spontaneous, reflexive, or unconscious actions convey almost no information about the moral values held by the actor. These are the kinds of actions for which the individual as a moral agent is not responsible.

Not only is determinism compatible with fixing credit for demonstrating virtue and fixing blame for demonstrating the lack of virtue, determinism also explains why moral responsibility is associated with purposeful behavior rather than all behavior. According to determinism, purposeful behavior reflects the preestablished personality and moral character of the acting man. Under the alternative view, if man had metaphysical free will his actions would not be the result of his preestablished character. Instead his actions would be spontaneous and unpredictable, and they would tell us nothing about his moral character. Indeed moral character and moral responsibility are incompatible with metaphysical freedom.

Skinner hopes to refute in advance all criticism by calling his libertarian critics neurotic or psychotic and then accusing them of name-calling:

A literature of freedom may inspire a sufficiently fanatical opposition to controlling practices to generate a neurotic if not a psychotic response. There are signs of emotional instability in those who have been deeply affected by the literature. We have no better indication of the plight of the traditional libertarian than the bitterness with which he discusses the possibility of a science and technology of behavior and their use in the intentional design of a culture. Name-calling is common. (p. 165)

Being a libertarian and, therefore, fanatic, neurotic (if not psychotic), unstable, and emotional, I can be excused if I resort to bitter name-calling. We can’t all be as dispassionate and open-minded as Skinner about his plans to control our lives.

Although he takes the correct side on determinism, Skinner is wrong in nearly all of his other conclusions. He is wrong when he says consciousness, memory, volition, and reason are unscientific and can safely be ignored. He is wrong in his belief that behaviorism is more than a trivial science. He is ignorant of the truly important scientific achievements of the Austrian School of economics. He is ignorant of the philosophical assumptions underlying his own narrow field of animal training. He has less than an average child’s understanding of human nature. He is naive in his political prescriptions. He confuses political freedom with metaphysical freedom. He is prone to collectivist fallacies. He is a poor excuse for a scientist or human benefactor. It is a sad commentary on the state of American culture that someone as stupid and confused as Skinner can gain a following.

‘The Impact of Science on Society‘

"This is what we are; worker bees spending our existence sustaining and growing the hive in the interest of the ELITE. We can leave, but it is a much harder existence after being trained to be a dependant slave. Some do leave, most don't , and the ones who do are being forced back into the hive at a very accelerated pace now...
Whether we realize it or not, this is how Society works; how it's always worked."

The importance of education, especially of the very young was well emphasized by Lord Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) in his book ‘The Impact of Science on Society‘
Russell was a renowned British philosopher and mathematician who was an adamant internationalist and worked extensively on the education of young children. He was the founder of the Pugwash movement which used the spectre of Cold War nuclear annihilation to push for world government. Among many other prizes, Russell was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1950 and, like Julian Huxley, UNESCO’s Kalinga prize (1957).Bertrand Russell
From Bertrand Russell’s 1950 book The Impact of Science on Society:

“What is essential in mass psychology is the art of persuasion. If you compare a speech of Hitler’s with a speech of (say) Edmund Burke, you will see what strides have been made in the art since the eighteenth century. What went wrong formerly was that people had read in books that man is a rational animal, and framed their arguments on this hypothesis. We now know that limelight and a brass band do more to persuade than can be done by the most elegant train of syllogisms. It may be hoped that in time anybody will be able to persuade anybody of anything if he can catch the patient young and is provided by the State with money and equipment.” – 40

It is to be expected that advances in physiology and psychology will give governments much more control over individual mentality than they now have even in totalitarian countries. Fichte laid it down that education should aim at destroying free will, so that, after pupils have left school, they shall be incapable, throughout the rest of their lives, of thinking or acting otherwise than as their schoolmasters would have wished. But in his day this was an unattainable ideal: what he regarded as the best system in existence produced Karl Marx. In future such failures are not likely to occur where there is dictatorship. Diet, injections, and injunctions will combine, from a very early age, to produce the sort of character and the sort of beliefs that the authorities consider desirable, and any serious criticism of the powers that be will become psychologically impossible. Even if all are miserable, all will believe themselves happy, because the government will tell them that they are so.” – 61

Russell also made it clear the importance of not allowing the public to know how their convictions were generated.

“Although this science will be diligently studied, it will be rigidly confined to the governing class. The populace will not be allowed to know how its convictions were generated. When the technique has been perfected, every government that has been in charge of education for a generation will be able to control its subjects securely without the need of armies or policemen [...]” – 41

Friday, June 1, 2012

* God hates fags so they’re coming home in body bags

America’s Chickens Are Coming Home to Roost

by William A. Cook on 01/04/2012
Spread it!

(An end of the year lament)

"Violence begets violence. Hatred begets hatred. And terrorism begets terrorism. A white ambassador said that y'all, not a black militant (Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Peck). Not a reverend who preaches about racism. An ambassador whose eyes are wide open and who is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice upon which we are now poised..."
(Jeremiah Wright, September 16, 2001)

Prophets fare poorly in their own country, yet countries would do well to hearken to their prophets. Scorn, ridicule, and innuendo attend their pronouncements as the righteous defend their actions as logical, existential and necessary. Jeremiah Wright suffered such scorn and mockery because he understood the consequences of revenge on the innocent and the defenceless, justified by whatever inane discourse. Wright spoke truth to power that Sunday after 9/11 and the righteous cried to heaven condemning him to perdition for defaming America, for even suggesting that revenge for the sake of revenge is the motivation of the arch fiend against the Almighty, the foulest, most ignorant, most amoral rational for action.

Prophets anticipate truth; they review a nation's past history and can predict its future. Witness America's past as the Reverend Wright did that Sunday morning, and what America is doing now repeats its ugliness. Wright said this about America's past:

He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, he pointed out that what Malcolm X said when he was silenced by Elijah Mohammad was in fact true, he said Americas chickens, are coming home to roost."

"We took this country by terror away from the Sioux, the Apache, Arikara, the Comanche, the Arapaho, the Navajo. Terrorism.

"We took Africans away from their country to build our way of ease and kept them enslaved and living in fear. Terrorism.

"We bombed Grenada and killed innocent civilians, babies, non-military personnel.

"We bombed the black civilian community of Panama with stealth bombers and killed unarmed teenage and toddlers, pregnant mothers and hard working fathers.

"We bombed Qaddafi's home, and killed his child. Blessed are they who bash your children's head against the rock. (See Psalm 137 to understand how the righteous take revenge against the innocent and defenceless.)

"We bombed Iraq. We killed unarmed civilians trying to make a living. We bombed a plant in Sudan to pay back for the attack on our embassy, killed hundreds of hard working people, mothers and fathers who left home to go that day not knowing that they'd never get back home.

"We bombed Hiroshima. We bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye.

"Kids playing in the playground. Mothers picking up children after school. Civilians, not soldiers, people just trying to make it day by day.

"We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff that we have done overseas is now brought right back into our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost.

That was the Sunday after 9/11, 2001 when Wright quoted Ambassador Peck. But even that list of America's atrocities is not complete as Mark Twain would attest in his recounting of the massacre of the Moro's at the turn of the last century 1900 and our disastrous foray into Vietnam when we lost 58,000 American soldiers and killed millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians.

This is the America that exists now: we preach righteousness, but lie with impunity; declare God's mission to bring freedom to the mid-east, then decimate the women and children, the old and infirm as necessary collateral damage; proclaim the existence of Weapons of Mass destruction, then massively destroy a nation's infrastructure, steal its natural resources, take control of its government replacing it with a favoured puppet; and then write the history to extol our righteousness while defaming the defenceless people decimated. Wright knew.

Perhaps our President might hearken back to a time when principles mattered, when truth mattered, when might did not make right, when the souls and hearts of people mattered, when justice and equality mattered not deceit and dominance over all. When did America become a dictatorial empire manipulated by an elite few using the Presidency like some houseboy to do their bidding? When did the founding documents get trashed, mocked and ridiculed as weak, worthless, and obsolete? When did the American people vote to become the dominant empire in the world? What interests of the people demand that this nation establish military bases in about 140 nations around the world then threaten the nations of the world with pre emptive slaughter should they dare to embark on economic or military equality with the United States? How do the actions implicit in these questions reflect a nation based on the rule of law, on justice for all its citizens, on equity of rights and recognition of rights, on the morals inherent in the Bill of Rights and the ideals enunciated in the Declaration of Independence?

Let's say it loud and clear, the America of our founding fathers no longer exists; America is owned in mind and pocket book by those who have purchased our representatives, propagate their news through the corporate controlled media, determine the receivers of our tax dollars salvaging those who wrought havoc with our economy, write the legislation that controls the American people orchestrated through the largest conglomerate of a police state ever assembled, Homeland Security, and in its final nail in the coffin of human rights has legislated the abolishment of habeas corpus and rule of law by installing the draconian National Defence Authorization Act (NDAA 2012). This act in the words of Jonathan Turley, expert in constitutional law (December 21, 2011 on C-Span, gives dictatorial power to the President:

President Obama has just stated a policy that he can have any American citizen killed without any charge, without any review, except his own. If he's satisfied that you are a terrorist, he says that he can kill you anywhere in the world including in the United States.

Two of his aides just ... reaffirmed they believe that American citizens can be killed on the order of the President anywhere including the United States.

You've now got a president who says that he can kill you on his own discretion. He can jail you indefinitely on his own discretion

I don't think the Framers ever anticipated that [the American people would be so apathetic]. They assumed that people would hold their liberties close, and that they wouldn't relax...

This is the President that rejected the Reverend Wright's prophecy, that capitulated to his new masters who demanded that he repudiate him, that now elevates himself to the role of Judge, Jury and executioner, the role that used to be played by the Sheriffs of the old segregated south when they turned a blind eye to those dragging a slave to the hanging tree. Indeed, we have turned back in time to that denunciated by a real leader of men, a man born into slavery, Frederick Douglass, when he described the America he lived in just before the Civil War:

What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelly to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy-a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the old world, travel through South America, search out every abuse, and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me, that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival.

The American people are now in Douglass' shoes; they have been put on notice that any pathological employee of Homeland Security, of the armed forces of the United State, of our local police and National Guard, can suspect a citizen of associating or being engaged somehow with "terrorists," can be arrested, interrogated, imprisoned indefinitely, without charge, without review except his own. The America Douglass so graphically describes existed up through the 100 years of segregation until the Civil Rights movement of 1954 got under way. We've had a modicum of equality for the past 50 years brought on by national movements that made clear to the government that they were elected to serve the people, not arrest them.

But let it also be said that the America Douglass describes, the one grounded in "bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy," still exists outclassing its past a hundred fold. Our savagery knows no bounds: we decimate people wantonly throughout the world as Dresden, the fire-bombing of Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Vietnam, the sanctions against Iraq, the illegal invasion of Iraq, the unqualified military support we provide to the Zionist government in Israel against a defenceless people, the abominable use of drones against the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the continuing development of weapons of mass savagery and our willingness to develop further atomic weapons graphically illustrates.

The numbers slaughtered in this review is in the millions--not all dressed in combat fatigues. The numbers of the defenceless and the innocent outstrips those trained to kill. All of those slaughtered happened outside the United States and every son and daughter, mother and father, sister and brother, aunt and uncle, grandfather and grandmother felt the pain of loss that was to our forces a "body count." "Revenge is mine sayeth the Lord." "Violence begets violence, hatred begets hatred, terrorism begets terrorism," so rings the prophetic knell of the Reverend Wright to his congregation one of whom happened to be our current President Barack Obama. Would that he had listened, for if any man was ever elected to the office of President to change the world, this was the man and he has failed.

* William A. Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of The Rape Of Palestine: Hope Destroyed, Justice Denied, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy and The Chronicles Of Nefaria. He can be reached at:

ConSexually Related posts:
Crying Wolf
Radical circles practice positive discrimination in favor of women. This inverted sexism is, at root, the same as old-fashioned sexism. Some men expect women to talk crap, so they don't contradict them when they do. As a result, in recent years, there has been a rash of false allegations of sexual assault against men, and even against women, by women, among radical activists in the north-west.

* In December 2004, a woman falsely claimed that an Oregon anarchist and his girlfriend had drugged her at a party with the intention of raping her.
* A few years ago, two women independently claimed that a man in the Seattle squatting scene sexually assaulted them. Recently, both women have withdrawn the allegations.
* Feminists in Portland went around accusing a local artist of rape. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity.
* Feminists from Eugene handed out pictures of an activist, falsely accusing him of rape, at an environmental conference.
* A woman had her car smashed up because her husband was considered too 'macho' for the Eugene scene.

Sexual assault happens. But this does not excuse slandering innocent people, any more than September 11th excuses Guantanamo Bay.

The US government claim that alleged 'terrorists' are not entitled to the usual presumption of innocence, whereas among left-wing activists, it is alleged sex offenders who are given that distinction. The logic of both political extremes is identical. Both sides believe that, because some crimes are particularly bad, those accused of those crimes should be treated differently, that they should not be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

We reject bourgeois justice. But the presumption of innocence is not bourgeois - it was already in place among the Anglo-Saxons some 1500 years ago. Unlike the government, anarchists are not about to put suspected offenders in concentration camps. But the suspension of the ancient right of presumed innocence is as dangerous in sexual offence cases as in any others. To mention just one example, in the 'Satanic child abuse' panic of the early eighties, numerous parents were falsely convicted on ridiculous charges of sexually abusing their children during Satanic rituals [1]. The accusers were a holy alliance of self-righteous feminists, Christian fundamentalists and cops. But first, my argument that feminism is taken too seriously among radicals.

The Portland anarchists are holding a series of 'consent workshops'. Why? Because of "...the instances of sexual assault that were tearing up the anarchist community in Portland and Eugene just a year and a half ago. It's great that I haven't been hearing of any further assaults in that time, although that doesn't mean they haven't happened..." [2].

It is true that, because you haven't heard of something, doesn't mean it hasn't happened. But it doesn't even occur to the author of this article that the fact that she did hear of sexual assaults doesn't mean that they did happen. What was 'tearing up the anarchist community' was not sexual assaults, but false allegations of sexual assaults.

The journal "Do or Die" is a British radical environmental magazine with a class content. But this has not innoculated it against crackpot ideas from the other side of the Atlantic - sort of mad cow disease in reverse. "Let Patriarchy Burn!", is a typical piece of loony feminist nonsense [3]. The only reason it was published is because it was written by a woman, and because the editors of "Do or Die" suffer from the inverted sexism of guilty liberal men. The article is typified by vague allegations which cannot be proven in principle, lack of evidence for the concrete allegations which can, and outright lies. The author claims that the radical environmental movement is riddled with oppression of women, rape, machismo, etc.. This is the exact opposite of the truth. The founding meeting of "Earth First!" in Britain, and the subsequent evolution of the environmental movement, were harmed by the uncritical acceptance of American-style feminist manipulation [4]. The instigators of these divisive tactics are not necessarily women, who are sometimes less interested in making sure there is a 'women-only space', or adding up the number of times women have spoken, than the blokes. Affirmative action not only allows feminism to have an undue influence, it also allows other aspects of American identity politics to divide the radical opposition. "Do or Die" would not have published a statement entitled 'Abandon Your Privilege' had it not been slipped in under the cover of 'a feminist rant'.

Why are 'rants' by women taken seriously? [5]. I think it's sexism - the archaic notion that women are incapable of rational thought, so they should be given special license to use emotions in place of arguments. The Satanic ritual abuse panic exposed how easily liberals are led astray by feminists: "If many ritual-abuse cases were so easily discredited, even as early as the late 1980s, where were the doubters in this country whose public protests might have dampened the panic? They existed, but glaringly absent from their ranks were the prominent civil libertarians who usually denounce police overzealousness and witchhunting. So taken were these people with the feminist and pro-child pretensions of ritual-abuse claims makers that they failed to question the hysteria, even as dozens of defendants were marched off to prison desperately insisting on their innocence" [6]. The book "Satan's Silence" clearly shows the feminist movement's complicity in the Satanic abuse scare. Anarchists are as easily cowed by feminists as the rest of the left - when feminists claim there is an outbreak of sexual violence, no-one challenges them, for the same reason that 'civil libertarians' failed to challenge the Satanic abuse hysteria - too much respect.

In fairness, the authors explain why feminists supported the weakening of the presumption of innocence which allowed the police and social services departments from Oildale to the Orkneys to frame up numerous parents of horrific crimes on entirely false evidence. The 'burden of proof' allows the defendant a lot of leeway. If a woman accuses a man of rape, his attorney is allowed to say things like "what were you wearing?", "you wanted it, didn't you?" and other insinuations, which are deeply offensive if the allegations are true. But, with the presumption that the defendant is innocent, you don't know they are true until they are proven. As long as that presumption exists, accusers have an uphill struggle. That's the price of avoiding false convictions. "Satan's Silence" proves this beyond doubt. If it is traumatic for an adult victim of sexual violence to be called a liar in court, it is even worse for a child. Video evidence, recorded (and doctored) tapes, and other unreliable approaches were allowed for this reason. The result was false convictions. There is no easy answer to this problem. But however fair you try to be, however complex the issues, however much you try to see things in context, you cannot tolerate lies.

Anarchists oppose the state, but this does not solve the problem. Lies can be believed, false convictions can take place, 'justice' can be done, without the state being involved. Mob justice is often worse than state justice. To give credit to the author of the Indymedia article cited above [2], she does not advocate violence against alleged offenders. "Confrontational warnings of revenge attacks" [3] is probably just a fantasy, but there was an outbreak of mob attacks on alleged paedophiles - all of whom were innocent - a few years ago in Britain, and anarchists in Germany shot someone accused of rape.

At the root of all this is clearly an emotional issue. This, I believe, is part of a wider problem - emotions overruling reason in political decision-making. Emotional blackmail is obviously a major factor in American politics, and anarchists are as guilty as anyone. You might expect that people agreeing or disagreeing with this article are likely to be divided by gender, because women are more likely to be the victims of a sexual assaults than the victims of false allegations, and men the opposite. Inevitably, we tend to be aware of things which harm us before others. But I wouldn't be surprised if some of the more outraged reactions to this piece come from men, who make the worst feminists. And I can't conclude without mentioning the women who stand up against feminist blackmail and insist on the evidence.

It is important to regain context and a sense of perspective. Feminists do not commit violence - except against language, truth and logic [3]. False allegations rarely result in attacks, but they do cause division, demoralization and defeat (Eugene). So what do I propose? As far as the anarchists are concerned, I am not suggesting that they should change. The 'ultra-left' are a more extreme version of the left, and the feminists in their ranks ditto. I'm not sure that arguing rationally against political correctness will do any good [7]. It might result in a more sophisticated kind of feminism - the kind that started the Satanic abuse panic. If there is one positive feature of radical feminism, it is that it is too mad to have any influence outside the left. It is arguable that the tolerance of lies, the concessions to feminism and other forms of emotional blackmail, among anarchists, environmentalists and other radicals, are symptoms of irreversible decay. Whatever movements emerge in the future to contest the ruling order, they will be innoculated against mad cow disease.

1. 'Satanic Crack Dealers in Child Abuse Scandal', Wildcat 15, wildcat/w15-moral-panics.html
2. 'The Dark Side of Sex',
3. 'Let Patriarchy Burn! - a feminist rant', 'Do or Die' no. 8.
4. 'Earth First! - Which Planet Are They On?', Wildcat 16,nwildcat/w16-earth1st.html
5. "Rachel's Blog",
6. "Satan's Silence", Debbie Nathan and Michael Snedeker, NY 1995
7. 'Wilful Disobedience', Portland, 2004

Jay Knott, January 2005

Footnote: from Philadelphia, 19 July 2005:

I'm glad you wrote. I'm currently in Philly, where I have seen some problematic behavior from Philly's Pissed/Philly Stands Up, which are apparently modeled after the Hysteria Collective. When i lived in Olympia, not so long ago, I heard about one person who was run out of town, for crimes unknown. I googled your piece and was truly intrigued by the stories you told about Portland. I'm wondering if there's more documentation for the stories you alluded to, though based on my own experiences I have no doubt that sketchy accusations are used to ostrasize, threaten or attack men who may or may not deserve that treatment.

China HELL on EARTH even from Marxian View


This is an impressionistic account of a recent trip to the Far East by a member of Wildcat. It was not published

It was interesting to see how deeply rooted my Euro-centric view of the world was. Although I knew that the center of capital accumulation has long been transferred from the Atlantic to the Pacific, it was a shock to see it.

There is no capitalist crisis in the Far East. Here is the biggest boom in capitalism's history. The 15 countries in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation produce more than half the world's GNP and about 40% of world trade.

Even countries with relatively modest growth rates, like Korea, are developing faster than Britain ever did. New freeways are being built everywhere; files of identical workers' apartment blocks stretch to the horizon in all directions.

China recently achieved 25% growth in industrial output in one year. The human meaning of this dry statistic was made clear when I arrived in the city of Guangzhou, in the Guangdong Special Economic Zone. Here development knows no bounds. Armies of disposessed sleep on newspapers on the pavement, waiting for work. All along the 150-mile road from Guangzhou to Hong Kong, new factories are being built, Chinese and foreign investors taking advantage of China's built-in Third World colonies. By making small adjustments to the status quo in the countryside, the government can release just the right number of peasants onto the labor market at minimal wage levels. It has become axiomatic in the West that Stalinism failed. China is a helluvun argument against this.

Here they have perestroika without glasnost. The right-wing students who were crushed in Tiananmen Square in 1989 were wrong - Chinese capital needs the former without the latter. It has just the right mix of development and underdevelopment, a one-party police state, social democracy (nobody actually starves), and naked, brutal market capitalism. If a new bloc of capitalist states emerges in the Far East to challenge the USA, China will be its leader.

The most depressing thing about the Far East is not the development, the pollution, the lemming-race toward ecological disaster, the ugliness of the buildings, it is the lack of resistance to all this. Billions of people work from dawn to dusk for peanuts with scarcely a whinge. The workers at the Hanbee Shoe Company went on strike for three days in late February. Several hundred went on strike again in June. They were among the largest labour protests in a country where strikes are almost unheard of (Guardian, 17.Nov.93). This refers to China, where people work 12 hours a day for about $30 a month.

Sure, there are occasional strikes in Korea, but its a drop in the ocean compared with capital's triumphal death-march. Given the economic boom, you might expect at least a wave of money-militancy - strikes for higher wages and benefits which capital can afford to concede, as in Britain in the sixties. But as yet, virtually nothing. The Far East is the bosses' dream, and our nightmare, and there is no sign yet of the working class waking up.

This is not to say there is no struggle at all. The most encouraging sign in China is the emergence of large bands of expropriated peasants who rob trucks and trains, kill cops, and burn down police stations. They are fighting against proletarianization and progress. Viva!

I could be speaking too soon while the wheel's still in spin. But I wouldn't get too excited about a strike here, or a riot there. The working class of most of East Asia is further from being conscious of itself than at any time in history.

Back Pacific North West Paralysed by Mass Strike * * in 1919 The class struggle in Washington, Oregon and Northern California


Pacific North West Paralysed by Mass Strike *

* in 1919

The class struggle in Washington, Oregon and Northern California provides a microcosm of our view that the US working class is going through a period of defeat, to put it mildly. Given the economic growth in the North West, we might at least expect a wave of money militancy. The 1930's was a period of economic recession which saw a catastrophic defeat for the working class of the whole world and culminated in the Second World War and a period of complete triumph for capitalism which lasted until the mid-sixties. But even this was a militant period compared to the present.

The thirties showed that you can have a wave of militancy on a world scale, and still be defeated. Even internationalism was turned against the workers; people who thought they were off to fight for the interests of the working class in Spain were used by Stalin and his socialist and anarchist fellow-travellers to fight for the interests of Russia in the Spanish Civil War. The working class did not have the political consciousness or organisation to prevent that defeat. But if militancy is an insufficient precondition for political clarity, it is a necessary one. Most of today's workers haven't a clue, as the recent Fred Meyer strike illustrates.

The strike at Fred Meyer supermarkets started in Aug. 94 when workers rejected management contract offers, demanding larger pay increases, and guaranteed hours for workers. This last item is very important, since if you work below twenty hours a week, you lose most of your rights and benefits. Without guaranteed hours, managers can easily punish the less subservient with less work, hence less money and benefits. Grocery workers barely earn enough to get by on a full week's pay, so the threat of uncertain hours was a major motive in the strike.

There was solidarity from customers, whose boycott of the stores cost the owners a lot of money. The real Fred Meyer is long dead. The store is now owned by an investment corporation called KKR, a pioneer in modern management techniques, downsizing, part-time work, and so on. Needless to say, many workers complained about the change of ownership, seeing it as a cause of their problems, rather than a symptom.

The unions limited the strike to the 26 Portland-area stores, allowing Fred Meyer to keep earning money at their other stores throughout the North West. The supermarket bosses were better organized than the workers. Most of the other major supermarkets locked out their unionized staff in solidarity with Freddie's. The union did not even ask customers to boycott these stores, as they did the ones on strike.

Opposition to scabs consisted of shouting at them as they walked across the picket lines. Only one man is charged with assaulting a scab. For a strike that lasted three months and involved 7,000 workers, in a country with a fine tradition of class violence, this is depressing. This is easily said, though. The scab truck drivers were not easy to deal with, many of them brazenly packing pistols.

Perhaps it would have been difficult to win, even with the right attitude. But the attitude was frankly pathetic. At one meeting, a steward said "We just want to work, and we just want the government to recognize that we're human". This was a trade union rep, but this is not unrepresentative of the sort of things said by the workforce on the picket lines.

However, behind the scenes, and against the unions, there was an underground struggle. The workers at unionized stores, locked out by their bosses, were in the vanguard, defying the union's attempts to keep them safely at home. Among other unreported incidents, there was a spate of monkey-wrenching of freezer trucks, resulting in tons of food getting spoiled.

Back in the glorious thirties, the workers knew a thing or two about how to deal with strike-breakers. The famous longshoremen's strike in the Portland docks in 1934, involving about 3,000 workers, also lasted about three months, was about hours and wages, and also included Teamster truck drivers. By consistent and imaginative violence, both in mass confrontations and clandestine hit squads, the longshoremen won. The workers attacked the buses taking scabs to the waterfront, beat up the scabs, and destroyed company cars. One night, the strikers paid a visit to the Admiral Evans, a passenger ship housing scabs. They stormed on board, beat the scabs with broomsticks, then let the ship loose. Unfortunately, it wedged against a bridge long before drifting out to sea.

In response, the picket lines were attacked by police and security guards with shotguns and tear gas. On this occasion, the pickets were beaten. But trains were unable to deliver goods to the docks because strikers had smeared grease on uphill portions of tracks leading into town. After two months, the government considered using the army, but demurred, fearing fraternization. The National Guard, a more patrician body of armed men, was brought in. But the shipping industry was afraid more violence would provoke solidarity action from around the country and internationally (dockers had a fine tradition of international action), so they caved in to the workers' demands in mid-summer 1934.

The Fred Meyer strike lasted until the end of October. There were five separate union negotiating teams. When one of these persuaded its section of workers to go back, the others had little choice but to follow suit. The workers went back more or less on management terms. Workers who stayed on strike till the end now work alongside scabs, with a contract which explicitly makes them cross any future picket lines, in an atmosphere in which any backtalk or feet-dragging can be punished by shorter hours. To be fair, the workers did stage a go-slow for a few days after the return to work, in some cases even refusing to ask customers how they are today. But this is pretty tame compared with the battles waged by their grandparents.

An almost identical strike occurred at Safeways stores in Northern California in April, over the issues of medical benefits, overtime and holiday pay. The supermarket bosses again locked out all unionized workers, but the unions encouraged people to shop at some of the scab stores, picketing only Safeways. The unions signed a deal with the bosses on April 14, in which medical benefits are paid out of the union's fund, in other words the workers' own money, and rushed round the stores ordering the workers back to work. No matter how many times this kind of thing occurs, workers see each case as an individual sell-out, because they have no way of knowing the historical role of unions. Despite their proximity to Oregon, the workers were unable to learn anything from the Fred Meyer strike. How could they, when their only means of communication, the mass media and the unions, are controlled by their enemies? Informal channels of communication, like knowing someone whose aunt used to work at Freddie's, are completely inadequate for generating class consciousness. The need for independent organization was shown again. This organization has to be political, since it cannot be open on such issues as trade unions, or it would be quickly sabotaged by leftists. Yet the only people who are savvy enough to realize this - people with roughly the same ideas as us - are incapable of organizing their way out of a paper bag. This dire state of affairs is a symptom of the profound period of defeat we are now in.

It's not all doom and gloom. The biggest strike in Oregon for over 50 years ended on May 15 when the Oregon Public Employees Union ordered its members back to work. In November, Measure 8, which makes low paid public employees pay for their pensions out of their wages, lowering their salaries by 6% at a stroke, was passed by the voting public. The newly-elected governor also announced a 2-year pay freeze. There was plenty of threatened violence during the strike. The Democratic governor and Republican senators who want to cut the state employment sector were harassed at work and at home. The state and the union quickly got together to nip it in the bud. Negotiations took place in an atmosphere threatened by large mobs of noisy pickets. This was effective at making the state withdraw most of the threatened pay cut, and the union quickly called the strike off. The union's excuses are well summarized by Pat Hamilton, president of Local 089. This is from a flyer distributed by the local icepick-heads, who make no attempt to criticize the union:

Trots: Why did the OPEU call off the pickets?

Hack: There were two reasons. First, we wanted this to be a warning shot at the governor and the legislature. We wanted to demonstrate that we are strong and solidly against this pay cut. Secondly, the strike wasn't designed to penalize the public. It was designed, however, to demonstrate how essential state workers are to the running of the state.

And to demonstrate how essential the unions are to the running of the state, he might have added. The courts responded to the strike by declaring Measure 8 unconstitutional, restoring the workers' 6%, and the state cancelled the strike agreement. Workers were still confident enough to demonstrate against this, demanding both the 6% and the strike deal. There have also been mini-strikes amongst Oregon's isolated Mexican fruit-pickers and hospital workers at OHSU in Portland, which has been privatized, with speed-ups, job cuts and so on.

The basic role of unions is the same now as in 1934: negotiating the price of labor power. They can hardly avoid "selling out" their members if their purpose is to sell their bodies for so many hours a day, to the highest bidder, when you're lucky. But if workers really fought for their interests as ruthlessly as their enemies fight for theirs, the unions would be swept aside.

On 19 November 1995, the union tried to call off a strike at Boeing in Seattle, Gresham, and other locations. The aviation company's 32,000 production workers had struck on October 6 for more pay, job protection against sub-contracting, and against paying their own health insurance premiums. The union recommended accepting a deal which would have involved the company telling the union in advance of plans to "outsource", or sub-contract, work, and if the union put forward a plan to fulfil orders by exploiting its own members instead of outsiders, the company would be required to "seriously consider" the proposal. On the wages front, the union recommended accepting a wage deal below inflation levels in the booming North West. But though the workers rejected the "sell-out", and got a better deal by staying out for another month, they hardly kept the bosses awake at night. During 1995, Boeing regained 70% of the world commercial aircraft market. The relative growth in workers' militancy last year has to be seen in the context of the overall period of defeat. For every act of defiance, there are dozens of submissions. Rather than simply cheering every sectional strike, we need to have an honest analysis of the overall situation. We have to look at the continuing successes of the capitalist offensive as well as resistance to it.

Zapata and the Mexican Revolution


Unmasking the Zapatistas

"Today, we repeat: OUR STRUGGLE IS NATIONAL"

(EZLN, Third Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, January 1995).

Given its identification with the project of reforming the Mexican nation, why did anyone think the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) might be something more? The answer is what it has done. The EZLN liberated prisoners, attacked police stations, burned down town halls, and has thrown out some of the big landholders. Many of its demands for material improvements in living conditions are fair enough. It claims to combine clandestinity with participatory decision making, which we assumed were incompatible. If they really do carry on discussions until they all agree, as they have told journalists, this must be the first time in history an army has organised on the basis of consensus. Their claim to have almost abolished sexism and homophobia within their ranks is also difficult to believe, but according to what Amor y Rabia supporters actually saw in May 94, it is basically true, and we cannot contradict their account.

But if their organisation is remarkably close to the latest anarchist fashion, their aims are far from revolutionary, and their analysis banal. The Mexican electoral system is less than perfectly democratic. The population of Chiapas is poor, relative to most of Mexico. Conversely, it is rich, relative to most of Central America. They were not driven to despair by starvation, as some of the EZLN's proclamations seem to say. There are more complex reasons for revolt than the simplistic poverty explanation favoured by most commentators. If poverty explained anything, most of the world would be in revolutionary ferment. This is our attempt to account for this unexpected uprising, which briefly illuminated with its crimson glow the sombre clouds which enshroud the planet. But let's leave the poetry to Marcos.

Reasons for the Uprising

The most important spur to rebellion is the weakness of the social structure. Chiapas was part of Guatemala until Mexico bought it in 1830. It still has a Central American-style semi-feudal ruling class, of Spanish, German and English extraction, who have little notion of the subtleties of Mexican politics, for example they are openly racist toward the indigenous majority. The reactionary coletos of San Cristóbal, descendants of the original conquistadores, are a joke. Their attacks on the lefty archbishop have only helped his struggle with the Vatican. When Marcos provoked the coletos by claiming to be gay, they took the bait, trying to discredit Marcos by publicising the story. The redneck rancheros in the countryside are more serious, redisappropriating land and murdering opponents in the wake of the army. Consciously or otherwise, the struggle in Chiapas is an attempt to modernise the state, and bring its politics in line with the rest of Mexico. The peasants know that they can get some of their demands granted: under pressure, the state has redistributed land before. They voted to join the EZLN and launch the armed struggle when Mexico supposedly joined the First World via the North American Free Trade Agreement. They calculated that the time had come: if Mexico is to be part of North America, Chiapas should not be left behind.

Another reason is the political awareness which grew out of the 500th Columbus anniversary, which did not coincide with a period of defeat for the indigenas, as was the case in Guatemala and elsewhere. Indigenous movements are flavour of the month, and the EZLN has made much mileage out of the ethnicity of its members. Another is the simple fact that Marcos and co. chose Chiapas to hang out in the eighties; brilliant leaders can make an important contribution. Then there is the radical Catholic Church. Liberationist priests organised among the indigenous peasants more successfully than the rest of the left. The EZLN were unable to make much headway when they first arrived because they were atheists. So they changed their position.

According to Ojarasca, February 94, citing Amnesty International's Mexico: Human Rights in Rural Areas, most land disputes in the seventies (87 out of 115) were caused by wealthy farmers invading communal land. In the eighties the tide began to turn. The Organisation of Indigenous Peoples of South East Mexico, for example, was founded in Chiapas in 1983, declaring "We fight for a better life, for which justice is needed for the urban and rural poor. The government of our country, which is a government of the rich, represses and murders us, and we have found from the study of the history of man and of Mexico that only organised struggle will enable us to obtain a new way of life..." (Ojarasca). 128 fincas were invaded by one group of armed peasants in 1983. In June 1985, the head of one of the peasant organisations announced that his people had occupied 109 large properties in various parts of Chiapas.

In response, the state government allowed landlords to employ paramilitary forces and municipal police to prevent squatting, assisted by "anti-drug" units with helicopters and planes paid for by the USA, and the state police detained, tortured and murdered peasant leaders. Entire communities were evicted by police and private thugs, who swarmed in before dawn, forcing people to abandon their homes and possessions, which they burned. Then they took the peasants by truck to the nearest highway and dumped them. But with all due respect to the bereaved and dispossessed, this is small beer by Central American standards. During the eighties, about 50,000 refugees preferred Chiapas to Guatemala, where at least 110,000 civilians have been murdered by their government. In Chiapas, repression was sufficient to provoke resistance, and insufficient to crush it The government spent more on social programs in Chiapas than in any other state. From 1989 to 1994, federal spending rose more than tenfold to $250m.. Since this was obviously a concession to political unrest, it encouraged it.

The Zapatistas did not arrive in a vacuum. They had to work with, or compete with, liberation theologists, Maoists and indigenous groups in the slow cooking cauldron of Chiapas. None of these factors explain the uprising; rebellions happen, not because of any combination of causes, but because people decide to rebel. The Zapatistas, with their vague ideology, are well suited to recuperate the class struggle in Chiapas, turning it into a campaign for national democratic reform.

In naming themselves after the original Zapatistas, the present lot are being romantic rather than historical. Zapata's contribution to the Mexican Revolution of 1910-17 was avowedly parochial. He and his followers had the aim of resisting enclosures and sugar agribusiness in Morelos. Though this state is adjacent to the Federal District, they rarely ventured outside their own backwater. It is difficult not to laugh when one reads of the fire engine incident in the capital. So unfamiliar were the moustachioed bumpkins with the big city, they assumed it was a military vehicle, and opened fire, killing all on board1. They were defeated by reactionary generals with a less localist perspective. It is tempting to see this as an example of natural selection. But at least Zapata and his followers wanted to defend traditional peasant community against capitalist development, which is more than can be said for the latterday Zapatistas.

The promises of the Revolution (in a word, land to the peasants, both collectively and in small plots) were often unfulfilled. By the mid-eighties, only 2.7 million families had received the promised plots, whilst 3 or 4 million peasants waited, patiently or otherwise.

Owners of big landed estates are rich bastards who live off the backs of the poor, but they are not typical capitalists. In fact their existence can be an impediment to capitalist development. Their labourers are often not wage slaves but tenant farmers who pay rent in labour and in kind, though in Mexico, and particularly in Chiapas, there is an ancient tradition of debt slavery, which in practice is almost indistinguishable from actual slavery. The land owners sell produce for money but don't feel the need to invest it in new methods of production. Unlike the dour burgers of capitalism's rosy dawn, these rakes and degenerates, after allowing for a few incidental expenditures such as arming their goons and lackeys, spend their ill-gotten gains on pleasure and luxury. The development of capitalist agriculture requires the breaking up of these landed estates. This is where peasant movements for progress, such as the Zapatistas, come in. Peasants can be used by politicians to struggle for development against reactionary landlords. Often this is done under the guise of social justice, under the slogan Land to the Peasants. The idea is to turn the serfs, debt slaves and bonded labourers into petty bourgeois proprietors who will then compete against each other to sell their produce on the open market. Many will be ruined, and driven into the urban proletariat, desperate to work and relatively easy to exploit, and a few will become millionaires. This process has been central to capitalist accumulation throughout its history. It is continuing today on an unprecedented scale with the break-up of the collective farms in China.

Some countries, France being the exemplum, have deliberately kept a class of conservative peasants, against purely economic logic, for political reasons. In Mexico, the inefficient small producer and ejido systems have been perpetuated because of the unrest which would greet their abolition.

Even when collective landholdings are created, they have to impose capitalist discipline in order to produce for the market. More frequently, small landholders become owners of individual plots, and have to work overtime to survive. The market price of a commodity is determined by the socially necessary labour time involved in producing it. An American farmer produces a pound of corn in a fraction of the time taken by a Mexican peasant; this determines the price. Land redistribution is also subject to the limitations of wealth redistribution in general. If wealth is more fairly distributed, without the abolition of the market and wage labour, some people will quickly gain an advantage over others through their skills at buying and selling. Soon, wealth will once again concentrate in few hands. 'The rich get richer and the poor get poorer' is in the nature of property. It cannot be ended by redistribution.

This is not to say that all peasant struggles are inherently pro-capitalist. There are very strong pressures towards a peasant becoming a simple petty bourgeois commodity producer (as in rural France) but this is not the only reason for trying to get hold of a smallholding. It can also be a place to live where you're not paying rent to a landlord and you can use it to grow food for yourself. There have always been elements of this in the rural struggle in Mexico, but it has mostly been recuperated in the interests of capitalist development. The current uprising in Chiapas is no exception.

In 1911, Zapatismo was localist when the bourgeoisie was nationalist. Today it is nationalist, but meanwhile, the bosses have regrouped on a global scale. At the beginning, in response to government allegations of foreign influence, the Zapatistas strenuously denied that any Guatemalan Maya Indians were involved. In other words, the Zapatistas' Maya indigenism is subordinate to their Mexican nationalism, which is passionately expressed in many of their writings. In contrast, the bosses have no country. The US and Mexican ruling classes cooperated against the uprising, the Chase Manhattan bank told the Mexican government to crack down, and the Guatemalan army openly sealed the border against Zapatista escapees in February 1995. The Zapatistas' internationalism is restricted to talking to foreign journalists and appealing to liberals to put pressure on Congress. This is logical, since international working class solidarity is not necessary to achieve land redistribution in Chiapas, nor more democracy in Mexico.

Amor y Rabia is not among the organisations "that strive, with honesty and patriotism, for the betterment of Mexico". They asked Marcos a lot of hard questions about nationalism, and he gave some slick answers. They said "The 'Nation' is used with an abstract feeling of a patriotism that ultimately does nothing more than pit us against one another, country against country" (interview in Love & Rage August 94). Marcos replied "When we speak of the nation we are speaking of history, of a history of common struggle with historical references that make us brothers to one group of people without distancing us from other groups". This is called having your cake and eating it. The question of autonomy is complicated. We do not want a dreary, homogenous world ruled by the World Congress of Workers' Councils. We recognise that there must be different communities with their own traditions and cultures. Some indigenous communities refer to themselves as "nations". However, communists oppose the nation state, whereas the EZLN equivocates on the issue. Marcos wants a more federal Mexico, with respect for the autonomy of different groups and areas. But the USA was founded on this basis. This does not challenge the operation of the market economy, which forces a tendency toward centralisation on any nation state.

Not only are small farmers forced to produce for the market, neither are they good ecologists. When poor peasants take over land in Chiapas, the first thing they do is often to chop down the trees. There have been fights between peasants and police trying to defend ecological reserves. Some of the main demands of Zapatista peasants are for better roads to get their produce to market, electricity to drive machinery and television, etc.. These uncomfortable facts are generally ignored by their supporters. People assume that the poor are good, and the rich are bad, and therefore we must support the former. The point is not to assign good or bad, but to face the fact that much environmental damage in the world is being done by desperate poor people, not just by MacDonald's. Obviously, they are driven to do this by the world market economy which has deprived them of a livelihood, but uncritical support is no solution to this. Neither is a moralistic antagonism to corporations without a critique of the capitalist mode of production. This is where we hope this article will fill a gap.

Nature of Mexican Politics

In contrast with other Latin American regimes, the Mexican state is a consummate recuperator. The Mexican army and police are almost fluffy compared with their counterparts elsewhere. Mexico is far more sophisticated in dealing with armed insurrection than Chile, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, or even Britain. That is why the repression in Chiapas has been so tame. In January 94, with support for the Zapatistas apparently widespread within Mexico, fear of the insurrection spreading was a factor in the state's hesitancy. But the continuation of the softly-softly approach is rooted in the nature of Mexican politics. The state instinctively grants some of the demands of any serious opposition, so its apparent climbdown to the Zapatistas on 12 January 94 was not so humiliating as it appears. Since then, it has again granted rebel demands, for example the resignation of the governor of Chiapas. Militarily speaking, the Mexican army could have taken out the EZLN in a few days. The biggest parade the EZLN staged for the press involved only 400 rifles, some of which were fake. In February 95, the troops deliberately allowed Marcos and the rest of the Indigenous Committees to escape before parachuting into Las Cañadas. Recuperation, or cooptation of resistance, does ultimately derive from fear of resistance, but then so does repression, so in itself this says nothing. Generally, the ability to recuperate rather than repress is a sign of strength. An Interior Minister once said of the opposition "What resists also supports". In 1970, left-wing president Echeverría secretly organised peasant land seizures in Sonora and elsewhere, giving him an excuse to disappropriate his wealthy latifundista opponents. In the period leading up to the Chiapas events of New Year 94, president Salinas continued the policy of incorporating rebellious peasant organisations into the state, and implemented the Solidarity program which provides subsidised food and health care to millions, even while amending Article 27 of the Constitution to enable the sale of communal lands (ejidos), though this was less relevant to Chiapas, where the land reforms of 1915 and 1934 had never been implemented.

To summarise, NY Times hack Alan Riding: "A traditional way of advancing politically is to emerge as an independent peasant agitator. Having gathered a group of landless peasants under the banner of 'the fight for justice', the aspiring leader can then negotiate with - and, it seems, invariably sell out to - the authorities. But the system will normally try to coopt him without destroying his appeal, thereby enabling him to continue living off 'his' peasants and, when deemed necessary by officials, to divide other groups of militant peasants". Distant Neighbors2, p269. This is too cynical, since it casts aspersions on the sincerity of simple, honest folk who risk their lives daily. But Riding is cynical because recuperation has worked. It didn't work in Chiapas mainly because of its dinosauric dynasties of backward bourgeois bastards.

Even after the massacre of left-wing students in 1968, the new government under Echeverría was able to coopt most of the survivors, letting them out of jail, announcing a "democratic opening", and an anti-imperialist foreign policy. Echeverría boasted that lefties who were on the streets in the late sixties were in the government in the early seventies. Others were found dead in ditches - but these were, of course, an extremist minority. The Zapatistas are too clever to fall into either of these traps.

However impressive the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party)'s pragmatic populism, the rest of the world's ruling class have turned against the social-democratic corporatist style of management. The OECD admitted Mexico in March 94, during the first stage of the Zapatista uprising, signalling confidence in the PRI's ability to dismantle the social contract. The next stage in the integration of Mexico into the world economy came in January 95. Zedillo didn't exactly stage an economic crisis, but it was no accident. This crisis "forced" him to borrow heavily from the IMF and the USA. Mexico doesn't always dance to the US tune. She has successfully blackmailed the USA into rescheduling debts in the past by pointing out the consequences of a Mexican default on the US financial system. But Zedillo can conveniently cast Uncle Sam as the villain as he introduces austerity, blame repression on conditions imposed by these creditors, and promote the scam of nationalism for the masses whilst being an internationalist himself, acting with the rest of the world's ruling class. He can always rely on the left to whine about "national humiliation" (Proceso, 30 January 95) and so on. Five days after offering "the participation of the indigenous communities in the sustainable development of Chiapas" and the usual verbiage, "una paz justa y digna" (La Jornada, 5 February 95), and immediately following the $20bn. American loan to hold up the peso, he moved thousands of troops into the Zapatista strongholds of the Lacandon rain forest, causing some fatalities and thousands of refugees. But most Zapatista supporters simply hid their weapons and went back to their fields.

Almost everyone sees the crisis as proof that Zedillo's government has failed. The 20 February Proceso talks of industry being "on the point of economic and financial collapse". But it isn't a collapse, just a restructuring. Rather than being a symptom of fundamental bugs in the objective operations of the economic system, crises are intimately connected to the class struggle. Although crisis can be forced on the bosses by workers refusing to work, in times of low class struggle it's the other way round; the crisis is a strategy for implementing austerity. 35% was added to fuel prices, 20% to transportation. VAT went up to 15%. The price of tortillas was raised 26% in April 1995. The minimum wage rose 10% when inflation is estimated to be 42%. Driving large enterprises like Grupo Sidek to the wall is good for the economy, since the goods will be produced by workers in smaller units, less well organised, for lower wages. The demoralisation produced is an opportunity for austerity, and the falling peso boosts exports and reduces imports. Many of the firms that went out of business during the February 1995 currency crisis couldn't pay off their workers.

The crisis has started to attack its main target: the large sector of workers accustomed to jobs-for-life at a living wage, with health and welfare benefits, without having to work too hard. Federal and state employees number around three million, and related sectors like banking offer similar sinecures to millions more. Mexico is rightly famous for its inefficient and corrupt bureaucrats. This is anachronistic, considering that Mexico and the USA virtually overlap. Perestroika, or making workers work, is overdue. For Mexico to play its role within NAFTA, this sector has to be broken. Other targets of the debt squads include the subsidies on transport, cooking oil, tortillas and beans, and the health and social security programs. This will take years of crisis, which will marginalise recent events in Chiapas. Thirty thousand layoffs have been announced in Pemex, the national oil company. Redundancies will drive the unemployed into the maquiladoras on the border, and over it.

Poor immigrants are generally prepared to work harder and longer, in worse conditions, for lower wages. The US economy needs its illegals, so the anti-immigrant campaign is not really about repatriating immigrants, but making them more insecure and easier to exploit. In California, Proposition 187 passed by a 2 to 1 majority. This measure cracks down on alleged illegal immigrants, requiring that all the other state agencies cooperated with the INS. Social workers, teachers and nurses are required to deny services to anyone suspected of being an illegal, and to report anyone without proof of legal residency to the immigration pigs. The Personal Responsibility Act, passed by the House of Representatives on March 24, also targets immigrants. This cuts off a wide range of benefits even to those with legal status. The aim is to restore a reign of terror to the underground labour markets, making illegals cheaper to maintain, by denying them benefits, and more insecure, thus easier to exploit. Though it appeals to US-born workers, the campaign aims to make all American workers worse off. The way to oppose it is by explaining how it harms our interests, rather than by trying to persuade workers it's wrong to be racist.

On April 8, the Mexico City government closed down the capital's state-owned bus company, laying off all of its nearly 13,000 workers, then using the police to run a reduced service. (The police are themselves an over-employed sector, ripe for restructuring). The "alternative" union SUTAUR, its leader Ricardo Barco and the government used classic tactics to undermine the battle against the layoffs. The union leaders urged the workers to cool off, but were beaten up and jailed, making them into martyrs. In fact, SUTAUR, despite its non-affiliation to the Labour Congress, is part of the corporatist state.

Despite the frequent use of the words "volcano" and "earthquake" to describe the Mexican proletariat, there has not been a major outbreak of class struggle. This is not to say there has been none. When the PRIista Trade Union Congress, afraid of riots, cancelled the 1995 May Day parade, 100,000 turned out anyway, and a few windows got broken. In 1994 some anarchists led by Amor y Rabia protested against army repression in Chiapas and elsewhere by hijacking a bus and using it to block the main road outside the army headquarters in Mexico City. Then they poured out of the bus and starting spraying graffiti all over the walls of the barracks. The two sentries on duty ran away when they saw all these people in balaclavas streaming off the bus, thinking that the Zapatistas had reached the capital. After 20 minutes or so and a few arguments with soldiers they headed off home, trashing a few cop cars on the way. Petty harassment of political opposition has been widespread since the uprising began. Amor y Rabia had their Mexico City box number closed by the government.

The opposition, from the Zapatistas to big business interests, criticise the PRI for its continuous 66-year rule. In fact, sections of the PRI may want to go into opposition. There is certainly a fierce internal debate about reforming the system, evidenced by assassinations. But there is no neutral civil service, ready to serve whichever party wins. From the National Palace to the villages, the PRI is the environment, not the competition. In Mexico City, the PRI is that department of the government which organises winning elections. A couple of examples can illustrate the all-encompassing nature of the party at grass-roots level. In the town of Chamula in Chiapas there have been several expulsions of hundreds of people who have converted to Protestantism. The state says it can't intervene in the affairs of the indigenous people. Given the divisive role of Prod God Squads in Central America, this sounds fine. But in fact, the expulsions are the work of PRI thugs, and the expulsados those who refused to vote PRI. Chamula, like most indigenous communities, often returns over 100% PRI. Here is a one reason why, from the town of Paste: "Gomez and his neighbor are Tzoltzil [sic] natives who live in the village's poor section, where residents support an opposition political party. Ruling party supporters, who dole out government work, live in nicer homes and save plum jobs for their own kind". (Oregonian, 27 March 95). This is supposed to be shocking. The arrogant assumption that everyone in the world would appreciate American-style freedom of expression seems amusing to us, but this is the fuel that flies the B-52. The difficulty of PRIzing Mexico out of the one-party system was illustrated by events in Tabasco in early 1995. The government tried to replace the PRI governor with an opposition one who claimed the election result was fraudulent, but the local PRI organised against this, and threatened secession of the oil-rich state.

There is no movement capable of seriously challenging the PRI. Cárdenas's PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) was only founded because the PRI did not choose Cárdenas as its candidate. He may have won the 1988 election, but the PRI unsportingly manipulated the election computers to ensure the succession for Salinas. This is one of the main reasons the EZLN urged people to risk their lives fighting the "dictatorship". One of the first things the EZLN did was to demand the resignation of the government and the formation of a transitional government to convoke free and democratic elections for August 94. (L'Unita, 4 January 94). In case the PRI once again defied the Democratic Will Of The Mexican People, the Zapatistas held a National Democratic Convention in the Lacandon jungle just before the August 94 elections to organise resistance. The futility of opposing the PRI from this perspective was well illustrated by the PRD, which used classic PRIista techniques to control the make-up of the Convention, to ensure it would vote for them. Lots of people could not obtain credentials because they were not members of the PRD. That is the way politics works in Mexico. The idea that people should be free to have whatever opinion they want, so long as they don't do anything about it, is not deeply ingrained. The Convention was a soggy collection of journalists, union delegates, urban and peasant organisations, human and women's rights activists, plus our spy, listening to speeches about Democracy and Justice. To their credit, Amor y Rabia refused to participate, whilst their US counterparts, Love and Rage, do support the Commission for Democracy in Mexico, (L&R March 95 p17) showing the absurdities of a decentralised approach. The EZLN urged the indigenous people to vote for the PRD, since abstentions are counted for the PRI. As it turned out, the PRI won more or less fair and square, with the PRD coming in third at 17%, learning the hard way one of the problems with democracy; people might vote for the wrong candidate.

The piqued PRD formed an "alternative government". In Tabasco, they got well stitched up by the local PRI, and in Chiapas, the alternative government has been rather accident-prone. At the moment, the EZLN is calling for a united front of all the opponents of the one-party system, whom they refer to collectively as "Civil Society": "We call on all social and political forces of the country, to all honest Mexicans, to all of those who struggle for the democratisation of the national reality, to form a NATIONAL LIBERATION MOVEMENT, including the National Democratic Convention and ALL forces, without distinction by religious creed, race or political ideology, who are against the system of the state party". This includes the overtly free-market opposition PAN (National Action Party). Marcos says "If there is a neoliberal proposal for the country, we shouldn't try to eliminate it but confront it. If there is a Trotskyite proposal, a Maoist proposal, an anarchist proposal, or proposals from the Guevaristas, the Castristas, the Existentialists or whatever 'ists' that you may think of, they shouldn't be eliminated...", and goes on to propose a national debate involving everyone except the PRI. Neoliberal economics is not just an idea, it means starvation and cholera. Most of the "ists" listed above should be eliminated, through the authoritarian imposition of the needs of the working class.

The EZLN tells people what they want to hear. Talking to the Mexican media, they go on about Democracy and National Sovereignty. Talking to anarchists, they diss the left as vanguardist, in contrast to the humble, democratic, libertarian approach. According to Marcos, the EZLN learned from the indigenous people about direct democracy and instant revocability (elected officials can be recalled at any time). "You have to convince the people that your opinion is correct. This will radically change the concept of revolution...". Haven't we heard this before? Rosa Luxemburg's intervention in the German Revolution of 1918/19 was based on just such a false dichotomy. The content of her politics was the same as the "dictatorial" Bolsheviks (or maybe even a little worse). Only the form was different. The counter-revolution was no less severe because the workers had voted for it. More recently, the disastrous events in Eastern Europe were also launched by direct democrats who convinced the people that their opinions were correct. Ensuring that leaders are required to convince people does not "radically change the concept of revolution".

Don't Worry, Be Happy

The media love the Zapatistas and Marcos has replaced Ché in the iconography of the left. But being sexy and writing bad poetry is no substitute for a coherent revolutionary program. The reason the EZLN is so vague is because its program is open to anything except the current status quo. When they say

"We believe that an authentic respect for freedom and the democratic will of the people are the indispensable prerequisites for the improvement of the economic and social conditions of the dispossessed of our country" (Communique, 6 January 94), have they not heard what these fine sentiments led to in Russia and Yugoslavia? They need not even look beyond Latin America to see that more democracy has corresponded with worse, not better, conditions. If it succeeds, the campaign for democracy in Mexico will have the same results as the one in Eastern Europe. Loosening the PRI's grip on power will make things worse for the majority of Mexicans. It is an uncomfortable fact for the Zapatistas' supporters that millions of workers and peasants support the PRI. It divides the masses by offering significant sectors a secure existence, while the rest barely scrape by. The only positive result of the current crisis, including the one in Chiapas, will be the possibility of unity based on universal misery. Even that is probably too sanguine, since the privatisation and democratisation of the world has not provoked widespread resistance, but the war of all against all. When the reactionary revolts in Eastern Europe were underway, we tried to see something positive in them. But the crisis cannot trick the working class into taking up a revolutionary perspective.

No doubt some readers will say "it's easy for you to sit there and criticise", and they are quite right. It may seem smug to knock the Zapatistas from the sidelines. But this is a perennial red herring. The fact that the Zapatistas and their supporters live in hardship and risk their lives does not in any way demonstrate that their program is what the Mexican proletariat needs. This article should provide an alternative to the almost universal uncritical laudation which Marcos and co. have received. We would like to have links with class struggle militants in Mexico, but with our limited resources, and hardly knowing anyone else who can be relied on, we have found this impossible. Pessimism can be self-confirming - would it not be better to keep quiet? Why not go further, and tell lies? This is the road to leftism. We prefer to tell the truth, as far as we can see it.

1. Zapata and the Mexican Revolution. John Womack, Random House, NY 1970

2. Distant Neighbors. Alan Riding, Random House, NY 1986