With things in the world of politics getting all spinny and frankly nasty lately I’m thinking about getting a bit revolutionary and pursuing a new political ideal. I could get clamorous with the collective disgruntled and March in March but what alternative will I be calling for? Labor? Pfft, surely I can get a little more stirring than that. I feel like getting my epiphany on, writing disruptive pamphlets and wearing studded boots. I can see my husband’s eyes rolling already, even though I don’t yet know which ideology will be my awakening.
Let’s be honest, I don’t entirely know my anarchists from my socialists, my fascists from my liberalists. There was possibly a gap in my education or more likely I’ve just been lazy. And really I have never – with my lovely, generalist sheltered life – needed to know about or seek any alternative political ideal. Maybe I’m just too mainstream and boring. Anyway, in my politically disgruntled state, I want to get with the alternative thinking. And no longer am I willing to bluff my way through ‘ism’ related conversations (unless they’re about sadism or jism, in which case I’m most likely to walk away).
Here we go (crikey there’s heaps of them, I’ll stick to the more commonly used and/or interesting ones), and from among them all let’s see if a new enlightened megoracle appears.
It’s alphabetically pleasing to deal with the Anarchists first, but really it’s because I saw some interesting looking anarchists at a recent sustainability festival and felt enticed by their pamphlet. I would have taken one except that an old school teacher was approaching and I nerved out, smiled and patted one of my children in a, ‘see I grew up normal’ kind of way. Why do I feel the need to do that stuff? So what if I’ve got all anarchy in my middle age. And what is an anarchist anyway?
In general it’s a philosophy that calls for a stateless society self governed by individual institutions. It involves opposing authority and hierarchy, sometimes wearing scary black face covers and getting all fierce and radically left wing. It comes in many forms according to what it being railed against.
Here in Tasmania, we have the Heathen (not belonging to a traditional religion) Anarchists of the Apple Isle. Just delving into their website gives me a rebel’s thrill (“Tasmanian Anarchists say FUCK OFF to water privatisation” – well at least they don’t mince words). But their catchphrase only adds to my confusionism:
NATIONAL ANARCHISM: THE POLITICAL ADVENTURE OF THE 21ST CENTURY (cool): Reclaiming anarchism from the universalist left; reclaiming nationalism for the jingoist right (WTF? – deal with those in a minute)
There is a bit of reasonable talk about questioning dogma (a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertible truth), some looking down noses about ‘PC types’ (don’t mind a bit of PC) and some more spiritual reference to Odinism (a type of Germanic neopaganism, focused on honouring Norse deities in the pre-Christian religion of Scandinavia or some such whatthefuckery). I had a read of the Australian Odinist Creed but I didn’t feel any fancies being tickled, just a tingle on my weirdar. Moving on…
Social Anarchism is probably the largest school of thought amongst anarchists. It follows a system of common ownership of means of production, rejecting private property as a source of social inequality, retaining respect for personal property and highlighting co-operation and mutual aid. This sounds to me like it deserves more thought.
It is in contrast to Mutualism which calls for spontaneous self-government based on current needs and necessary business transactions. A natural order according to need through which organisation emerges. It depends on reciprocity, free association, voluntary contract, federation, and credit and currency reform. Sounds kind of fun but a bit scary. Not sure people are that trustworthy. Dishonesty seems to be such a common human fallback.
Collectivist Anarchism or Revolutionary Socialism is the ‘workers revolt!’ form of anarchism, the one that can get violent, forcibly collectivising means of production by actively and rock-throwingly opposing all private ownership of the means of production. It does however, consider the wages (hours worked as opposed to need) system worth keeping, which is what makes it different from Marxism and Anarcho-communism.
Anarcho-Communism or libertarian communism or free communism is a movement that follows the Marxist belief of : “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. i.e the abolition of the state, markets, money, private property and capitalism in favour of common ownership of production means. I’m not sure about this – if the rewards of innovation, skills acquisition and hard work are not dealt back to the source, would the desire to innovate etc wear thin? Is the incentive of giving and the greater good enough? Maybe it is. Maybe I’m a selfish old mole.
Maybe I’m an egoist - Max Stimer’s philosophy that rejects the pursuit of devotion to “a great idea, a good cause, a doctrine, a system, a lofty calling,” saying that the egoist has no political calling but rather “lives themselves out” without regard to “how well or ill humanity may fare thereby.” Nah, I don’t like the idea of a society who doesn’t have each others’ backs either.
There are also green anarchists (my dreadlocked friends at the sustainability festival I suspect), anarcha-feminism (scary and hairy I suspect), and anarcho-pacifism which has a more christian approach. Hmm, what else is there?
Nationalism is the belief that individuals within a nation share common interests that are different from the interests of other nations and different from the interests of the human race as a whole. A true nationalist will believe that the national interest is more important that any competing interests within the nation.
Within nationalism is patriotism, allegiance and social conditioning – when certain behaviours that support a state’s decisions and actions.
Interestingly (well I think – feel free to tune out if I’m getting boring), Nationalism was born in 18th Century England as people began to look further afield, out of their villages and provinces and into the golden fields of an integrated, country-wide economy and chest clutching patriotism, spurred on by newly created national symbols, flags, myths and narratives. The song Rule Britannia! was composed and the caricature John Bull (England’s portly answer to Uncle Sam) created as personification of the national spirit (jeepers Ol’ Blighty, I could think of better spirity emblems).
Civic Nationalism is the gentler form of nationalism which says that nationhood is not based on ethnicity but on shared political rights, geography and allegiances.
Fascism is the radical, authoritarian, arseholier version of Nationalism, with totalitarianism (all controlling) as it’s core. Founded by Mussolini in Italy early in the twntieth century, fascism carries 3 principles – 1) The government is supreme and the country all encompassing and all within it must submit to a leading body, often a dictator; 2) The country must grow with the aim to one day ruling the world and 3) Any type of questioning of the government is not to be tolerated and those who speak out against the regime should not be allowed to live.
Add biological racism and anti-semitism to fascism and you get Nazism or National Socialism.
I don’t think any of that is my cup’o'tea.
Romantic Nationalism caught my eye because it sounds kind of lovely. Turns out it appears to be another version of racial superiority with lengthy forum discussions on white pride websites. I’ll be leaving that alone too, and will move on from Nationalism altogether.
I don’t need to dwell on this dick-headery other than to define it. It is patriotism in the form of aggressive foreign policy; a country’s use of threats or force against other countries to safeguard its perceived national interests. If someone calls you a jingoist in a more colloquial form, then they are telling you you are behaving as though your way of thinking is superior to all others. If that’s the case, then jingoism is everywhere by jingo.
Capitalists advocate the private ownership of trade, industry and the means of production and limited Government involvement in enterprise. They trust that supply and demand will moderate fair and free trade. 80% of the world’s countries are capitalist – it was the thing to do following the demise of Feudalism (Medieval system whereby you were either a working peasant or a fat nobility). Capitalists claim – rightfully I think – that capitalism is historically by far the most successful economic system. They will often refer to it as Free Trade or Fair Trade. Opponents of capitalism claim that it results in class inequality, an unstable cycle of boom and bust, monopolies and inevitable cronyism, which is when business leaders and government officials are in bed together for mutual benefit. Also partially correct.
There are indeed a lot of things about capitalism that I don’t like. As the pope said recently,
“Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.”
I agree with this to a degree – there are a lot of arseholy, ruthless bigwigs out there who care for nothing but their balls and their bottom line. But I also think that many of the ‘powerless’ (not all, but many) are excluded and marginalized because of their own actions (or lack thereof). Many of them use their powerless status – and emphasize it – to lever themselves into positions of entitlement. I see it all the time. Capitalism, for all its faults, at least encourages people to have a go.
So I am a capitalist? That would be boring. And not quite aligned with my beliefs. For instance, I think emphasis on growth by capitalist culture is over-done and and dangerous. So where does that leave me?
I already know I’m not a communist – all that communal stuff, blech, I’m not even good at sharing a bathroom on a camping trip, let alone my hard earned milk with people who never get up to milk the cow (which is probably how my husband feels about me most days). But is that all there is to it?
By (Oxford Dictionary) definition, communism is, “a theory or system of social organization in which all property is owned by the community and each person contributes and receives according to their ability and needs.” Sounds all very lovely, but hand in hand with communism is Marxism which seems to be the bit where the workers revolt in order to set up the classless system. And revolution – at least today because I think I’m coming down with a tired virus of some sort – sounds a bit scary and exhausting really. The Communist Party of Australia has only 1,950 facebook followers, which seems like it would cause more of a ripple than a revolution. No, not today Josephine.
Tomorrow I might feel more like uniting the workers and sharing my assets (not those ones), but really the Eastern European model collapsed in the 90′s because it didn’t come up to scratch and if someone had come up with a better model they are yet to make it work. No, communism is not for me either.
Socialism is apparently more of an economic ideology while communism is both political and economic. They are similar in that the means of production are publicly owned in both systems, but the distribution of wealth is different:
Communism is: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs; Socialism is: From each according to his ability, to each according to his deeds.
So in a socialist system, people are allocated resources according to their input. This sounds a lot fairer to me. I can’t abide laziness and while there are many who genuinely need extra, there would be a lot of bludgers, which is laziness rewarded, which as a cornerstone of your political system is just plain dumb. No wonder communism is collapsible if the cornerstones are dodgy.
Karl Marx and Frederich Engles to be the transition between Capitalism and Communism as capitalism renders itself unsustainable in the face of changing technologies (hmm, is the global financial crisis indicative of some truth in this?). Four states currently identify as being socialist (and on their way to communist): China, Cuba, Laos and Vietnam.
Hmm, maybe socialism is my new black. If it’s just the economy and not the society being controlled publicly then surely that seems fair? Then the workers get the wages they deserve without risk of corruption, exploitation and the unfair rise of the top earning 1%. There is a Socialist Party of Australia (“For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism”) and a group called the Socialist Alliance, who picket 5 main principles:
Solidarity and collaboration - not dog-eat-dog competition and rivalry
Environmental sustainability - living in harmony with the planet
Participatory democracy - not just voting for “representatives” every three years
Social economy - putting people’s need before corporate profit
True equality - between peoples, nations, religions and the sexes
This all sounds wonderfully fabulous. So much so I have liked them on Facebook so I can keep abreast with what they’re up to, but I’m not going to pay to become a member. Why? 1) I’m too busy/lazy, 2) I still don’t know enough about them (I’m sceptical – why aren’t there more socialist countries?), 3) I’m not sure that anti-privatization is the answer. Isn’t the rising minimum wage crippling small business? Isn’t exploitation kept in check already by all the workplace standards? At least in Australia? 4) I’m a farmer’s wife and ultimately I have to protect the rights of farmers and the viability of the agricultural sector. “Green Left” is not – unfortunately – the farmer’s friend. I hope this is set to change. 5) The Socialist Alliance is targetted at young studenty types. I’m a bit wrinkly and would kind of feel like an elephant at a ballet class. I know, bad reason to set aside ethical principles. 6) There are 2 socialist candidates standing at the upcoming Tassie State election. They are not in my electorate so I can’t help them.
But oooh socialism you nearly got me.
CONSERVATISM or TRADITIONALISM
Oxford defines conservatism as “the political belief that society should change as little as possible”. It is a preference for the historically inherited rather than the abstract and ideal and it reject the optimistic view that human beings can be morally improved through political and social change. Conservatives prefer to rely on historical institutions rather than the whims and behaviours of individuals – which all too often are riddled with ill-intent and spontaneous, unreliable action. Governments therefor must act to support these institutions rather than move on from them.
Conservatism can be “okay lets just keep things how they are right now for the sake of stability and continuity” or it can be more reactionary or extreme – “let’s go back to the good old days”.
The Liberal Party of Australia are the most right wing, conservative political party. But even the left-inclined Labor party’s dominant faction is socially conservative. Australia is generally recognised worldwide as a conservative nation.
You know what? I sympathise with these poor old buggers (I picture them as bespectacled old lords but I know this is misguided – there are some bearded shooters among them, some in pointy hoods and a few – not heaps but a few – of my friends). I am oft lamenting the change of things and getting all nostalgic about the way things used to be. Sometimes I go so far as to wish I was born in the pre-industrial era when there were less complications, less expectations and less humans. I am fractionally conservative – look, just a line or 2 ago I resisted the American spelling of ‘sympathise’. And always I am fearful of the continual political emphasis on economic growth.
But okay, when it comes to political ideals, conservatism is not. Ideal that is. It’s just too late to go back or stop time. Perhaps if, way back when, we had listened to the conservatives, kept our housecows and slowed down progress a little, we wouldn’t be in the environmental, economic mess we’re in. But it’s too late for conservatism now, we just gotta keep our eyes open and push through. And anyway, should we not place a bit more trust in human nature? Are we all really that evil or irresponsible? And are the institutions really that stable and consistent? You only need to look as far as the Catholic church to shit all over that idea.
Can we maybe just keep the good bits, revert back to the things we’ve stuffed up on? Probably not that easy, but I do think there should be a bit more, “Sorry we buggered up, let’s go back to the old formula” type of attitude among our pollies. But conservatism as a whole, I reject thee.
I don’t think we can confuse classic liberalism with the liberal party of Australia. It looks to me like liberalism starts with equality and liberty and then can branch off into, well anything really. The Liberal party kind of ditched equality in my book when they got all cock headed about asylum seekers. I’m off ‘em don’t get me started.
Traditionally, Liberalism is concerned with protecting the liberty and well being of the public, ensuring that government aids this protectionism without abusing their power. In later years, it became an anti-traditionalist movement focused on righting the wrongs of misused political power.
In the extreme, liberalism turns into libertarianism, which seems to be a sort of anarchist liberalism, one who is downright sceptical of government. There is merit here. Governments must have a degree of scepticism, especially right about NOW.
And there is merit in straight Liberalism too – every human being (minus a few dickheads and fuck knuckles) – deserve equality and freedom. But that’s not all there is to The Ideal. What about environment? All humanitarian freedom stems from environment doesn’t it? We wouldn’t get very far – no matter what restraints are removed – without fresh air and clean water would we? Nope, I’m not a liberal nor a libertarian.
Is a political movement which advocates going completely butt naked all the time. I love their at one with nature ideal but hang on, back up the truck; naked? Nude? Starkers? For one thing I live in Tassie, state of the endless winter are you mad?
For another thing, I have a tattoo on my bottom that I got when I was 18. Enough said.
Having just drifted off for a bit to gaze upon an adorable handbag online and to marvel at some century old Russian pictures that someone has doctored to look strangely current, I am forced to conclude that I am not committed enough to be anything-ism. I am frankly a bit fadist, bee-in-bonnetist if you know what I mean. If something is worthy of attention and noise then I’ll get noisy about it.
But mostly and in all honesty I think I’m selfist. I think we all are really, but especially if we have children. I think if I didn’t have my precious family life i.e. – my children and my husband to put in first place, I might put more welly into the activist stakes. For the moment, what seems important is that I not absent too much, or too abstracted or too at risk. All that activism on top of housework and home reading and school runs seems a bit, well exhausting. And just to understand it all is hard, let alone take a stance on it. Can I be sporadically active about things and still be an activist?
I think as long as we all laugh and smile a lot, and love and are loved and have inspiration and passions and stand up for what is right and what we believe in, then we’ll be ok. That’s not very big picturist though is it? It’s kind of sappy and cliched too.
So maybe I’m a little bit socialist, a bit liberal, a bit conservative, quite lazy-ist and very selfist. When I’m cross I’m a bit slammist and in need of hugisms. And occasionally in mid-summer on our deserted beach I’m a bit naturist.
What’re you? Maybe I’ll give it a go.