International Workers’ Day May 1, 2017


(Workers from Korean Confederation of Trade Unions in Seoul)

I’d like to begin with Peter Linebaugh’s ‘Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017’, Counterpunch, 4/28, a pithy class analysis exposé of the ‘framers’ of the Constitution, with relevant, but largely unknown, thus unexamined history.

“When Tom Paine helped deliver the key of the Bastille to the new president of the new U.S.A., George Washington, he accompanied the gift with a letter written on May Day 1790.

The man who named the U.S.A. – the United States of America – told the man who led the armies of independence, “that the principles of America opened the Bastille is not to be doubted; and therefore the key comes to the right place.”  As one revolutionary to another what did he mean by “the principles of America”?

The Bastille was the giant dungeon in the center of Paris which was attacked on 14 July 1789 by thousands of poor Parisians who feared starvation for their lives and families.  The prison contained arms which the people needed to defend themselves against a royal police state which was believed to be organizing famine.  The liberation of its prisoners and the fall of the Bastille marks the beginning of the French Revolution and July Fourteenth is still celebrated for liberté, égalité, and fraternité.  It was not long into the revolution before the people of Paris organized themselves in common as a municipal commune.  Tom Paine became a citizen of revolutionary France.

It might, therefore, be thought that freedom from prison was a “principle of the America” but in fact this was not the case. Tom Paine summarized the ramifications, “Every place has its Bastille, and every Bastille its despot.”  The first penitentiary in the world based on the principles of solitary confinement and incessant work began to be constructed in Philadelphia, the capital of the USA in 1790, the Walnut Street Jail.  George Washington was president.  A year or two later the Buttonwood Agreement was signed in New York setting up the stock exchange in Wall Street.  Meanwhile George Washington attended the yard of the Walnut Street jail to witness the first hot-air balloon ascent in continental America.  Taking a long view of American history from then to now we discern from these three facts – prison, stock exchange, and air travel – three principles:  the principle of incarceration, the principle of avarice, and the principle of air war.

With Washington presiding over the penitentiary and Paine locked up in a Paris prison, what had happened?  The revolution of 1776 was not the same as that of 1789.  As far as America was concerned that of 1776 was against British empire and that of 1789 was for an American empire.  1789 in France meant revolution but in the USA it meant counter-revolution.

How might we reverse the disaster?  The short answer was enunciated clearly at the time, it is omnia sunt communia, or “all things in common.”  This is a Biblical expression describing the practices of the down trodden of the Roman Empire, it is the slogan of the massive peasant revolt of central Europe beginning in 1526, and it is the title of an extraordinary new book by Massimo De Angelis.   The book, the slogan, and the practice call for new ways of constituting human societies where enclosure, imprisonment, slavery, and war are no longer the means of production and reproduction.

The constitution of the U.S.A. began when an assembly of rich white bankers, lawyers, and slave owners gathered behind closed doors in Philadelphia in 1787.  They organized a government which in the first instance monopolized money-making and war-making and in the second instance did so with a series of legal mechanisms to minimize democracy – the Electoral College, the 3/5s clause, the Senate, the Supreme Court – so familiar to us.  They were led by “the father of the constitution,” a man owning more than a hundred slaves, James Madison.  He makes clear the fear that underlay this constitution; it was omnia sunt communia.

The states ratified this constitution over the next two years in no small part because of the tireless efforts of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison collected in The Federalist Papers.  The tenth of these papers tells it all.  There Madison expresses his fear of “theoretic politicians,” that is, those who advocated an “agrarian law” or equalization of land, those who favored “perfect equality,” those who were “equalized in their possessions.”  In brief, the U.S.A. was to become a massive state against the commons.

This was an appeal to the men of property, the men of private property, the men who commanded property as capital.  The problem as Madison saw it was that this ruling class failed to unite itself against the commons.  It was divided in four parts, or “factions” as he called them – the landlords, the merchants, the manufacturers, and the bankers.  These personify four moments of capitalism – agrarian, commercial, industrial, and financial.

In turn they exploit and organize to produce surplus value among enslaved workers on the plantation; sailors, dockers, teamsters, and porters of transportation; artisans, women, and children in the shops and factories; and servants to serve the tea, make the meals, and do the cleaning for the coupon-clippers, i.e. financiers.

The U.S.A. and the U.K. have done historical damage.  They are political entities whose time is done.  We must devise a replacement for suffering humanity and the earth’s sake.  The constitutional republic of the U.S.A. was constituted by taking other people’s land, killing them, and turning the land into a commodity, or by taking other people from one land and enslaving them on another.  The constitutional monarchy of the U.K. constituted itself by enclosing land belonging to common people, and by enclosing them in factories, or when they refused confining them in penitentiaries, organizing life by buying and selling, and expanding warfare upon ever more distant nations, Wales, Scotland, and then Ireland with India, Australia, Canada, not far behind.

In the summer of 1787 they passed the 3/5s clause, the dehumanization, mutilation, and fractionation of the African-American slave while at the same time they passed the North West Ordinance which opposed the indigenous forms of commons in the north west while opening up the south west to slavery. This is why William Lloyd Garrison called he constitution “a covenant with death and an agreement with hell.”

Madison, leader and architect behind the closed doors and drawn shades of the constitutional convention that met in Philadelphia of 1787, was recorded as saying during the secret deliberations, that “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place.”[1]  He was correct in this assessment.  The ‘agrarian law’ was the short-hand name in the 18th century for any project of equalization, or a commons of land, that derived from ancient Rome and the laws of the Gracchi brothers.  This was the background fear.  The 1787 Massachusetts rebellion led by the debtor, Daniel Shays, gave the fear its reality.

The anti-commonist drive of the Constitution became clearer with the ratification debates in the states as the debates went out doors.   In 1788 James Madison with Alexander Hamilton wrote a prodigious number of essays favoring ratification.  These were the Federalist Papers.  The tenth one laid out Madison’s case against the commons.

They were afraid of communism (in the strict sense of economic equalization). It was likewise with Madison’s colleague at the convention, James Wilson, who introduced the 3/5’s clause and became one of George Washington’s first supreme court justices.  In April 1791, just a month after Thomas Paine published Rights of Man, James Wilson lectured at the law school of the University of Pennsylvania “On the History of Property.”  In this lecture he argued for the superiority of private property.  He agreed that its superiority “over common property has not always been admitted.”  Like Garret Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons,” Wilson argued “what belongs to no one is wasted by everyone.”  This lecture was delivered at a revolutionary time in history with settler predators waging war upon the indigenous commons of the old Northwest and losing, and with eager planters establishing slave labor camps producing cotton in the Southeast.  The U.S.A. was thus the name of that government with a double design, first, to destroy the commons in the north, and second, to make way for the cotton plantations, or death-camps as Professor Baptist calls them.

War, ideas, and politics put the commons on the history’s agenda.  As for war, the U.S.A. was losing the battle for the American commons.  “The Battle of a Thousand Slain,” or St. Clair’s Defeat, was won by Little Turtle (Miami) and Blue Jacket (Shawnee) on the Wabash River, a few months earlier, the first battle of the U.S.A.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Atlantic, a similar process was transpiring of conquest, the enclosure of common lands, and the criminalization of customary income.   Adam Smith provided (t)he theory writing in The Wealth of Nations, volume 2, book 5, chapter 1, part 2.  “Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor.”  The practise came from central banking, agri-business, and planned manufactures were new state policies proposed and implemented by William Pitt during the 1790s and by the first administrations of the U.S.A.  The cotton factory and the cotton plantation, though on opposite sides of the Atlantic, required each other, developed with one another, and became the means of the global division of labor.  The United Kingdom (1801), or U.K., following the destruction of independent Ireland became the name of the political entity that paralleled the U.S.A.  One might even say that the anthropocene was actually the “anglocene”; in 1900 the U.K. and the U.S.A. made up 60% of cumulative CO2 emissions.  Coal became the material substratum of the production of surplus value.

I am arguing that both political entities originated in the violent expropriation of commons in order to prepare the ground for the plantation and the factory.   The class relations pertaining to this “special relationship” are coerced labor (slavery and the proletariat) and privatized means of production and means of subsistence in the control of the One Per Cent.  The entire historical, geological, political and economical concatenation has resulted in the anthropocene, or the world turned upside down.

Actually, a “special relationship” began to emerge between two political forms, republic and monarchy, whose names begin with unions, the United States of America (1789) and the United Kingdom of Great Britain (1801).  What this points to is an integration of different labor regimes, an expansion of the labor market, in the one case of states and in the other of kingdoms.  The unity both within the political entities and without them, for an extraordinarily dynamic system of exploitation lay at the basis of this “special relationship.”  Each was “united” in its confrontation with commoners amid all the “Atlantic mountains” (Blake).

Sven Beckert describes a familiar division: “The empire of cotton from its 1780s beginnings to 1861 in effect rested on two very different forms of labor, and two very different forms of the organization of production.  On the western shores of the Atlantic were the … enormously profitable slave plantations….  In Europe itself … [the] spectacularly productive spinning and weaving mills based on wage labor.  Connected by the mediation of a group of merchants, these two systems grew side by side, the one feeding the power of the other.  Capital, personified by merchants, facilitated the rapid expansion of both slave cotton plantations and wage labor cotton factories, connecting the seemingly opposing legacies of the one to the other….”[2]

Capital is not a thing, it is a human relation.  It consists of persons, namely the owners of means of life and the living persons who worked. The persons providing the labor power of “connection” were sailors – them and the dockers, carters, warehousemen of the ports of the world.  Their struggles are omitted in both accounts except in his style of writing.  He writes that merchants “dispatched” ships, merchants specialized in “moving,” merchants “transported bulk commodities over vast distances,” when they did nothing of the sort because the actual dispatching, moving, and transporting was the work of sailors aloft among the sails, below with the bilges, weighing the anchor.  It was cooperative labor.

A global perspective of an “integrated manufacturing process” based on bourgeois theory will see “capital” without labor only in its money or commodity form.  These however rely the industrial form, that is, on the exploitation of actual workers and their labor process.  This is the virtue of Edward Baptist’s work, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. It begins with the voices of labor and the facts of the labor process in producing labor camps or death camps known as plantations.  They constituted the “subcontinental empire.”  Human labor is gathered in coffles, black feet in chains in forced marches walked from the eastern seaboard to the Mississippi, like a “human millipede.”

The productivity increased fourfold between 1801 when 28 lbs of cotton were picked on average a day and 1861 when more than 300 lbs.  By 1800 the pushing system was introduced.  Innovation in violence was the foundation of (t)he pushing system.  Baptist shows that the whip was as important in growing cotton as sunshine and rain.  To the sweet and soft botanical attributes the plaited, twelve foot leather whip must be added as the ‘technology’ of this huge change.

The perspective is national.  “slavery’s expansion linked the nation together.”  During the 1790s the slave population grew fast, from thirty thousand to a hundred and seven thousand from 1790 to 1810 in Georgia alone.  The loss of one slave regime, Haiti in 1804, was replaced by the creation of an even greater slave regime in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  This was the geo-political accomplishment of Jefferson, “a massive extension of human bondage.”  New Orleans was transferred to the USA the same year.

Both authors stress the role of banks.  The national system of the USA was anticipated, if not planned, by Alexander Hamilton in his role as Secretary of the Treasury in December 1791 when reacting to “the destruction and devastation attendant on the insurrection in Hispaniola” he advised the “vigorous pursuit” of cotton by federal bounties, encouragement of mechanization, and territorial expansion. He praised “the cotton mill invented in England within the last twenty years.” He noted its “the great use of women and children,” as well as “the agency of fire and water” in reducing skilled labor, and making night work possible.  What propelled him?  It was a struggle launched from the commons of the Bois de Caïman in north-west San Domingue. The historic fury of hundreds of thousands of suffering slaves exploded in an all-out war culminating twelve years later in the independence of Haiti.  Hamilton planned that the USA could sidestep the sugar plantation and its perturbations by encouraging the cotton plantation.

The national perspective limits the global.  Yet each was necessary to the other, the aggressive energy of the national produced the sea-faring force upon which empire was based, while imperial wars caused the re-organization of economies of nations, the destruction of cotton production in India and the Ottoman empire, and the growth (financial, urban, demographic, social) of the U.S.A. and the U.K.  This is why the era of war was functional to the capitalist accumulation.  War does not hinder capitalism; it is necessary to it. When we say that capitalism knows no national boundaries what we mean is that its powers of exploitation include national belligerence organized by central banks with refined connections to institutions of political sovereignty – money and war.  The rich man’s war and poor man’s fight, just as true in UK as USA.

De Angelis has been active in social movements and the commons.  The subtitle to Omnia Sunt Communia is “On the Commons and the Transformation to Postcapitalism.”  He has rich experience in the Andes of south America, in particular in the struggle for water in Cocabamba, with forms of the minga (a Quechua word for community labor), with dozens of self-organized health-care clinics in Greece, with attempts to privatize electricity and water in South Africa, with the Occupy movements beginning in Zuccotti Park, with issues of food sovereignty and community farming in his village of Monchio near the Appenines.  He is founder of an influential web magazine called The Commoner.  He is one of those “theoretic politicians” who so annoyed James Madison.

De Angelis has written a deep and stunning book which established him as a major voice in the world-wide discussion of the commons.  He is a “politician” only in the sense that this book begins with the exodus from capitalism, that is to say, it is based firmly in our times of the hegemony of neoliberalism and the movements against it.  It is “theoretic” in two senses.  First, it eschews various apocalyptic notions of revolution.  This is not an ideological book though it is a book of ideas.  Second, it challenges economic, cybernetic, and systems theories with fluent abstractions, concepts, and linkages of its own.  Philosophy is especially required when old ideas – in this case the wretched and self-serving ideology of neoliberalism – no longer express either accurate description of social life or the horizon of aspiration.

De Angelis does not anticipate another constitutional convention of rich white men behind closed doors devising capitalist rule – enough already! – instead with the aid of powerful concepts, particularly the concepts of commons, commonwealth, and commoning, he gives us the lineaments of discourse and connections and their potentials.  This is a work of science or knowledge production rather than a utopian prayer.  Like Marx or Spinoza there is a terminology which at first is novel and soon opens up to view clear and practical horizons to the transformation to postcapitalism.

Think of the imagination required after 1776 to square the circle of democracy and imperialism with a multitude of thirteen states into a powerful sovereign entity of class rule.  Think of the imagination required to turn the rivers, woodland, and prairies of north American into the squares and rectangles of property for sale.  Think of the imagination require(d) to turn that terror of childhood arithmetic, fractions, into fractionations of human life (division of labor) and human lives (slaves).  This was the imagination of the bourgeoisie, of James Wilson by name.  He was a justice on George Washington’s first Supreme Court, and a professor at Penn, the first law school.  His lecture just a month after Tom Paine published Rights of Man might just as well have been called Rights of Privatizers because in it he denounced the commons in every way flying against the sum total of human experience hitherthereto.  There was the road not taken, there is the sign to our road ahead:  Omnia Sunt Communia.

Our mobilizations on May Day bring together working people, poor people, undocumented people, refugees, shut-ins, and people of color to help us find what we have in common. It has been so in north America at least since 1627 when the first May Pole went up in Quincy, Massachusetts, when gay and straight, native and refugee, and run-away danced in common.  It has been so since 1886 when at Haymarket in Chicago the spirit of resistance from the emancipation of slavery struggle was revived among the wage-slaves fought for the eight hour day. Four were hanged the year following.

Now today how shall we re-constitute ourselves in common?  Earth aches for our answer.”

Further Reading is featured below his trenchant historical essay.

RT has May Day photos from around the world here.

Massimo De Angelis and friends at Commoner online magazine.

(in the UK IWWD is Friday, April 28)

kewl from black youth project.  ;-)

(Garment workers take part in a May Day demonstration in Phnom Penh, Cambodia)

27 responses to “International Workers’ Day May 1, 2017

  1. late additions:

    for THD

    i’m bushed; made a big pot of sopa seca as well. got da crunchy k-nees, and t wait to read davidly’will try to be back yet tonight. can’t wait to read davidly’s ‘may fist’.

  2. Excellent choice of inclusion, wd. Very informative (and bias confirming).

    • it really is a keeper, isn’t it? i’ve read it thrice now, hopin’ against hope that some of it will stick in my noggin’ i’ve read critiques of the amerikan revolution as well, showing that it wasn’t as our history books taught us. wish i could find a good un again, esp. to show those at other websites praising it, and the constitution too mightily.. and double yes on the ‘bias confirming’. among other things, i liked him taking on the passive voice of the companion supply chains between the UK and the US; wish i thought i’d read that book. ;-)

      i’d emailed peter linebaugh to ask permission to post this in its entirety, but wrote again when time was growing short to say that if he wished, i’d shorten it to whatever metrics he’d like. still haven’t heard; likely my missives went into his junk mail box. (i get that a lot, lol.)

  3. patrick martin at wsws reporting on may day 2017:

    “In country after country, workers raised the same issues—low wages, the growth of “contingent” labor, the slashing of benefits and pensions—underscoring the common struggles confronting the working class internationally. Governments around the world are imposing ever more vicious austerity measures in response to the global crisis of the capitalist system, while diverting greater and greater resources into military spending and war preparations.

    The day’s events demonstrated that the objective conditions produced by the development of global production have created the basis for the unification of the working class as an international class. But workers are held in enforced disunity by the nationally-based trade unions and “labor” parties that serve as the direct instruments of big business in every country.”

    i’d mentioned big unions, even some smaller trade unions in amerika being held to the Ds in some sort of weird version of stockholm syndrome earlier. “watch what they do, not what they say they’re gonna do” is a good rule to live by.

    a comment under b’s poster announcement of May Day 2017:
    If there is ever any justice in America, May 1st will become a holiday where Communists and leftists are rounded up and thrown out of helicopters. May 1st should be a day where if you know an antifa, you're allowed to do anything you want to them with no consequences to yourself. Communists, leftists and antifa are enemies of humanity and they have no right to exist.
    Posted by: Pareto | May 2, 2017 8:47:02 AM | 32….

    reminded me of a headline i’d seen on the #may day 2017 twitter account; having thought to include the tweet in a sense of fair play, it was gone by the time i’d scrolled upstream to get it. but i went to the WaPo, and found:

    “Today is May Day. Since 2007, I have defended the idea of using this date as an international Victims of Communism Day. I outlined the rationale for this proposal (which was not my original idea) in my very first post on the subject:
    May Day began as a holiday for socialists and labor union activists, not just communists. But over time, the date was taken over by the Soviet Union and other communist regimes and used as a propaganda tool to prop up their [authority]. I suggest that we instead use it as a day to commemorate those regimes’ millions of victims. The authoritative Black Book of Communism estimates the total at 80 to 100 million dead, greater than that caused by all other twentieth century tyrannies combined. We appropriately have a Holocaust Memorial Day. It is equally appropriate to commemorate the victims of the twentieth century’s other great totalitarian tyranny. And May Day is the most fitting day to do so….

    Our comparative neglect of communist crimes has serious costs.”, etc., by ilya somin

    The Volokh Conspiracy on da wiki.

  4. g’ nite. since this thread isn’t busy, i’ll sign off to take care of RL projects and personal correspondence. everything i’ve read on breaks today sounded like the adult-speak on peanuts cartoons: “wohn wohn…wohn wohn wah….” good time to pack it in, no?

    can we create a better world in time? sometimes i have my doubts.

  5. A nice stemwinder for May Day. Some other sources.

    About the Bastille key
    http://www.mountvernon.org/digital-encyclopedia/article/bastille-key/

    Thomas Paine’s letter transmitting the Bastille key
    https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-05-02-0275

    Lafayette’s letter that Paine transmitted with the Bastille key
    https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/05-05-02-0159

    Washington, Lafayette, Paine collaborated in the American Revolution (or War of Independence). Lafayette’s and Paine’s contributions to the French Revolution are as complicated as that event itself was.

    The reference to the “principles of America” in Paine’s correspondence likely is a courtesy reference to the Declaration of Independence’s appeal to a new theory of government and a call for Washington to now take seriously the principles that Paine had been writing about. In my limited understanding of the biographies of Washington, Lafayette, and Paine, Washington would see the key as a trophy and personal gift of the man who ensured the French navy blockaded the British at the entrance to Hampton Roads in 1781. Lafayette would be gifting a surrogate father. Paine would be trying to make an ideological point. Interesting that the key is at Mount Vernon and not the Smithsonian.

    On the class origins of the Continental Congresses. Given who could vote for assemblies and houses of burgesses, it should be no surprise. Also lawyers and clergy.

    Interesting reading of the factions paper of the Federalist. Madison was afraid of democracy in the Roman sense of a popularly elected tyrant who opposed the aristocracy. Including the “rude mechanicks” in government was not even within the conceptual frame of the Continental Congresses; recruiting them into the army was. Shays Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion were consequences of overheated “republican sentiments”, just as the response to “sovereign citizens”. Both Washington as president and current presidents find these overheated republican sentiments problematical but not unuseful.

    It was Jefferson who treated Haiti with “benign neglect”, to use a Nixonian term. The glorification of Hamilton in the musical is a bit historically jarring.

    Jefferson, and Madison, all slaveholders from Virginia, saw to the election of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe. After Jackson, Southern planters occupied the foreign policy and military posts before the Civil War.

    Sven Beckert’s The Empire of Cotton is a fascinating global history of the the cotton trade in which Britain tries to break the US planters monopoly by establishing plantations in India and Egypt.

    “commons, commonwealth, and commoning” — It is fundamentally about what we call today infrastructure, the commonly provided goods and services that allow for and advantage community life. Enclosing the commons today looks like toll roads, subsidizing private automobile and truck travel to the exclusion of public transportation, closing county hospitals or turning them into NGO healthcare systems, charter schools, business direction of government services — and that’s just the local small-bore stuff. Infrastructure expands when capitalism has a temporary collapse (Great Depression, Conrail/Amtrak, and so on) and gets clawed back when capitalism is powerful again.

    Another infrastructure commons – public spaces.

    Thanks for the pic of the Durham International Workers Day event at the City Council meeting.

    • holy crow! the bastille key features a fleur-de-lis in its empty spaces! and ‘george washington lafayette’! can’t get more of an honor than a comrade naming their son/s after you! thanks for the letters, too.

      yes, i’d figured you’d read sven beckert’s book; it does sound like a fascinating piece of the puzzle. wish linebaugh would have said more about cotton allowing space for no sugar, though. did the cane become more prominent in the islands later?

      ‘benign neglect of haiti’. and more recently haiti’s had the dubious benefit of US attention for how long? yep: another clinton family project. more as i can, gotta scoot for now. thanks.

      • Haiti’s revolution reverted land to small holders until a maroon aristocracy tried to impose its own system of slavery. Spain colonized the Dominican Republic which took the best sugar-cane growing lands leaving Haiti with the more mountainous region. Cuba became the main sugar-cane island.

        And Wilberforce’s (and his followers) preaching abolition had its effect as Britain first eliminated the slave trade and started enforcing abolition on the high seas. Then Britain eliminated chattel slavery in its colonies; the sugar-cane plantations could not succeed with priced labor, even at starvation wages. The system was too subject to disruption.

        The Southern plantation owners who ran US foreign policy were most concerned about UK intercepting US slave ships before the Constitutional end of the US external slave trade. And afterwards, about the interception of US ships violating slave trade prohibitions, even US ones.

        They were also scared of Britain taking over Cuba and liberating the slave and Britain taking over Texas. The Monroe Doctrines continued application was to save the Americas for US imperialism and expansion of slavery.

        Sven Beckert, The Empire of Cotton
        Matthew Karp, This Vast Southern Empire
        are the two-book short course to all of this.

        One has to look at all of this in terms of the growing concern about slavery, beginning in the 1780s among British Quakers. Before that conversion and awakenment, slavery was seen as a normal social process. To the extent that US rhetoric in Quaker Pennsylvania about equality raised the logic that led Quakers to abolition, the US revolution was part of the path to abolition in spite of itself. Unintended consequences of Mr. Jefferson’s rhetoric.

        Anti-war feeling did not start until the opposition in Massachusetts (Thoreau authored On Civil Disobedience to support this) to the Mexican War in 1846.

        Anti-Imperialism in the United State became visible in opposition to the Spanish-American War (my grandfather’s “lovely little war”) in 1898. Andrew Carnegie, William James, Henry James, and Mark Twain were the celebrity figures of the Anti-Imperialist League.

        The expansion of the notion of imperialism from colonialism and gunboat diplomacy to economic exploitation through a variety of economic and political means was Lenin’s analysis of 1917–in the midst of the Great War of Empires called World War I.

        In looking at history, it is important to realize how much consciousness and general consensus about the undesirability of slavery and imperialism is a general attitude. It is why politicians are so slippery in the terms they use to support continued war.

        • nice. thank you for the comment.

        • ta for the extra bits on sugar, the islands, and haiti. i got to thinking about indigo (i’d read a book about the crop’s dark sides to slaves), as well, and how it was run by way of ‘success by the whip’. i found this at the wiki:

          “Many indigo plantations were established by European powers in tropical climates; it was a major crop in Haiti and Jamaica , with much or all of the labor performed by enslaved Africans and African Americans. Indigo plantations also thrived in the Virgin Islands.”

          (irony alert): “In North America indigo was introduced into colonial South Carolina by Eliza Lucas Pinckney, where it became the colony’s second-most important cash crop (after rice).[7] As a major export crop, indigo supported plantation slavery there.[8] When Benjamin Franklin sailed to France in November 1776 to enlist France’s support for the American Revolutionary War, 35 barrels of indigo were on board the Reprisal, the sale of which would help fund the war effort.”

          i’d watched an online debate about whether or not the civil war was a horrid waste of lives, given that the US would likely have followed the UK in outlawing slavery sooner than later. as a side issue, when many of us discovered the large slave trade on the northeast coast (connecticut, iirc?) it was another revision to northern thinking, my own included.

          re: your final paragraph, i’m struggling to enunciate why i want to push back against it. i guess the two things i’d mention are i) that too many amerikans don’t mind neo-colonization of blacks around the world, albeit they may have been sold propaganda for the Imperium’s doing so, and ii) it’s neo-slavery in amerika is still going on (and likely the UK, etc.), although often by way of chain of debt and worse, much as contained in the ‘Shays’ Rebellion and the American Revolution’, marxist.com link i linked to below described.

          more irony: in this country (i suppose it may have been in the UK, but i don’t think so), it was the quakers who either built, or advocated for, the first solitary confinement units, reasoning that ‘criminals’ would have the time and space to communicate with the god within.

          good grief on my memory. when i found this, i’d have sworn either you or peter linebaugh had referenced the quaker philadelphia ‘walnut st. prison;, but i can’t spot it. anyway:

          “In 1790, Walnut Street Jail in Philadelphia (built in 1773, but expanded later under a state act) was built by the Quakers and was the first institution in the United States designed to punish and rehabilitate criminals. It is considered the birthplace of the modern prison system.” [snip]
          “At Walnut Street, each cell block had 16 one-man cells. In the wing known as the “Penitentiary House,” inmates spent all day every day in their cells. Felons would serve their entire sentences in isolation, not just as punishment, but as an opportunity to seek forgiveness from God.” (mother jones)

          loads more, including conflicting theories, but eye-opening as all giddy-up. i do remember some of this from writing about solitary confinement at my.FDL once (then) brad manning was tortured in such a cell.

          on edit: shoot me and put me out of y’all’s misery please. it was linebaugh who wrote of it in his 4th paragraph. i’d just booted up his original essay to take a few bits to another website (a librul one, lol.)

    • it’s indeed almost shocking that the key has survived at mount vernon for so many generations of residents, isn’t it? how amazing to hear so baldy that the framers didn’t want the rabble anywhere near power. yes to the modern translations of the lack of ‘commons’, and the rate of acceleration of privatization in the western world (dunno about elsewhere), but not many nations in the global south really unchained them selves totally from capitalist neo-liberalism. oh, and The People who occupy public spaces w/o permits are terrorists now, in so many cases.

      gotta go; today’s 4-loaves-of-bread day,, w/ other chores pressing. be back as i can.

  6. A minor nit to pick: “Labor is Entitled to all it Creates.”
    I agree, except; labor generally doesn’t “create”; it produces.
    And labor deserves fair compensation for that production; generally, labour is cheated out of fair compensation for its production contributions; and this is capitalist’s/capitalism’s failing.
    Having been a blue collar wage slave most of my working life; I have been bitterly resentful. Fortunately it all worked out in the end…

    • I should add; Labour Day is a holiday here in Thailand.
      A very important day for Thai’s…

    • i understand your distinction, v. it might be more correct to say that labor produces in order to create wealth for the ownership class. i’m glad it worked out well in the end for you. given that i never cared for being a wage slave, for most of my life i was self-employed. i’ve always resented that those in that category are punished tax-wise, though.

      crikey; do i remember now seeing some late additions on twitter from thailand? i can’t really recall… but cool i just checked at neo, but no mention there. i’d seen an opinion yesterday that amerikans don’t observe the day…

  7. “and they held all things in common.” from the book of acts, somewhere toward the front.

    Miss Prism.  [Sententiously.]  That is obviously the reason why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the present day.

    I went to see “the zookeeper’s wife” recently. part of the thing w/the animals in the movie is to show that in war, Omnia sunt communia.

    in the pollution that capitalism generates, Omnia sunt communia.

    in the desire to monetize all aspects of life, Omnia sunt communia.

    in the desire to surveil all aspects of life, Omnia sunt communia.

    in the disasters like Chernobyl et al that capitalism generates, Omnia sunt communia.

    in the gmo’s spreading everywhere, Omnia sunt communia.

    in the lip-service paid to human rights, in theory, in the legal & rhetorical realm at least, Omnia sunt communia.

    no one reading sites like this needs reminding that when it comes to water, air, soil, public health, Omnia sunt communia.

    “property rights,” possession as conferring legal/moral right to use, occupy, etc., requires a force great enough to defend the fictive “right” of possession. the exercise of a property right is itself a form of violence.
    ———————————————-
    “fast fish & loose fish,” ch. 89, moby dick
    Is it not a saying in every one’s mouth, Possession is half of the law: that is, regardless of how the thing came into possession? But often possession is the whole of the law. What are the sinews and souls of Russian serfs and Republican slaves but Fast-Fish, whereof possession is the whole of the law? What to the rapacious landlord is the widow’s last mite but a Fast-Fish? What is yonder undetected villain’s marble mansion with a door-plate for a waif; what is that but a Fast-Fish? What is the ruinous discount which Mordecai, the broker, gets from poor Woebegone, the bankrupt, on a loan to keep Woebegone’s family from starvation; what is that ruinous discount but a Fast-Fish? What is the Archbishop of Savesoul’s income of L100,000 seized from the scant bread and cheese of hundreds of thousands of broken-backed laborers (all sure of heaven without any of Savesoul’s help) what is that globular L100,000 but a Fast-Fish? What are the Duke of Dunder’s hereditary towns and hamlets but Fast-Fish? What to that redoubted harpooneer, John Bull, is poor Ireland, but a Fast-Fish? What to that apostolic lancer, Brother Jonathan, is Texas but a Fast-Fish? And concerning all these, is not Possession the whole of the law?
    —————-
    to riff off of a man who had an astonishing idea, General Buck Turgidson, won’t having “all things in common” necessitate the end of the monogamous lifestyle as we know it? (this may seem silly, but men think w/their johnsons and the first thought many a man would have when talking about radical, egalitarian, sharing is, “what about my wife? family? mistress?”)

    capitalism & patriarchy meet: who owns the women & their fertility? after all, a man’s home is his castle and all that. in the book, to kill a mockingbird, scout listens to the missionary ladies’ society praising some honky evangelist for converting the African heathen away from their barbaric tradition that every adult in the village is mother or father to all the children of the village. nukular family to the rescue! and Melville in the chapter above jokes about marriage as “harpooning a woman”.

    scarcity must be manufactured from the fertility of the earth in order for some men to have power. control of fertility, woman, earth, is power.

    • nice way to flip ‘Omnia sunt communia’ as the people on the receiving end of capitalist neo-feudalism and profiteering, j. ooof; a sucker punch to the mid-section. brilliant, j, just brilliant.

      but ah, of all the literary quotes you bring to us (including willum’s and the greek playwrights), melville’s are my favorites. he captures so much zeitgeist metaphoriccal truth in his prose that i want to genuflect before his wisdom and ability to scan for darkness, and extrapolate from what he sees, reviles, and knows could have been different, if only…

      now i hadn’t remembered about scout and the missionaries, thank you, and for melville’s notion of ‘harpooning women’. and my, buck turgidson’s fears of holding all in common; ay yi yi. women must be property of the male of the species!

      small wonder that the ‘one god above all’ was created to steal power from the goddesses, no? or at least that’s how lilith (iirc) would have it. but no, we don’t own our bodies in this f’ed up nation, do we? nor in a new law in india the citizens are railing against. (biometric IDs needed to pay taxes: “if you owned your own bodies, suicide wouldn’t be illegal in india!”).

      when my mother failed to commit suicide one of the times, she taken to denver general hospital and was hand-cuffed to her horrific gurney (as in: not bed)…in the basement jail of the hospital. ‘sorry, you broke The Law of the land.’

      on edit: a small woman in a suit, locked in an actual 6×8 barred cell called for my help: “please call _ for me!” how to explain that i couldn’t even recall my own name at the time, much less help her. was she a victim of statist rubbish charges? i’ll never know, but still feel guilty about my failure to help her.

      on edit: i know you’ll appreciate the hell outta this, j. (video from 2013)

      • “me so soldier! me shoot you long time.” do you not think the US should have advisors to help the locals exercise their 2nd amendment rights? you are not for the people’s right to bear arms??? commie.

        i’m sorry about your mom. the neighbor’s dad splattered his brains across the wall in front of the missus & chirruns when he was a kid. holy fuck. and on flag day, too. I mean, i’m sorry. difficult subject.

        Melville really makes the bible & Shakespeare come alive on that floating factory of his, don’t he?

        the state’s exercise of eminent (imminent?) domain is one obvious example of how property rights generally are very limited & contingent. mention this to a property “owner” & they get the point real quick. but the main contingency is the bribe one pays to the state for the right of occupancy and/or limited right of use, for land, domicile, car, etc., the bribe known as taxation. fail to bribe the state, get some of that monopoly of violence we all love so much.

        b/c of the psychology wrapped up in possession, the psychic investment people have in their notions of & their limited exercises of property rights, middler owners get uncomfortable w/these ideas. omg! you mean the state is an extortion racket??? yes, don’t pay, don’t play. nobody actually owns anything. we barter for a right of limited use of land, goods, etc. from the monopolists of violence. pay that tax & they don’t come take your shit. we barter w/our labor, whose value is determined by forces generally far outside our control.

        but the more shit we “own”, the more freedom, the more success.

        • nice parody, j. i liked the allure-con of all the high tech toys meet tokyo rose purdy well, too. be a patriotic amerikan for crucial amerian interests in target areas!

          good thikin’ on eminent domain. the sort that are killers, so to speak, are bribing folks in lower class neighborhoods to sell (at a fair price, we swear!) to make way for gentrification. come to think of it, when the ka-boomed lower downtown denver for a new stadium and shops and all that yuppie stuff, i dunno if the PTB bought them out. but still: how many ghetto diasporas have there been in the name of financial progress?

          the rules switch when it’s the oligarchic ownership class though, don’t they? tax relief, bankruptcy relief, and tra la la. but you caused me to think of dubya’s “ownership society” diktats.

          more on your first bits in a bit; i seem to have spread myself thin again this mornin’.

          • call me back, ishmael

            eh, one of many who’ve fled the carking cares of this earth seeking sentiment in tar & blubber. never put such a chowder-headed Platonist in charge of your whale watch.

            anyway, I watched max “cocaine” keiser’s Tuesday, I think, program, talking about how John Deere & GM want to turn ownership of tractors & autos into a lease, cuz of all the software in them now. there are going to be more & more efforts in this “ownership” society to turn ownership into leasing for all us schlubs not in the rentier class. gmo’s & food of course. they are also putting RFID sensors on everything. Omnia sunt communia to the marketers gathering data about personal habits from your clothing, door knobs, and cereal boxes. xbox is spying on you, so is the cable company and your phone. etc., etc., etc.

            • ha. now see why you quoted from moby dick, but dang ya, don’t call me back, ishmael, i read the next several chapters, including the one w/ ahab nailing the gold piece to the mast; prize for spottin’ the white whale.

              gads, i’d had to look up rfdi sensors; yeah, try to leave wallyworld cuz some employee forgot to deactivate one after ya even paid for it. now if yer a black teen, all hell can break loose. security! security! n*gger shoplifter tryin’ to escape!

              mind you, it’ a bit different form of info-gathering, but a few weeks ago RT had a story up about lawsuits over a personal massager that tracked its…er…use.

              not seeing what the software has to do w/ leasing tractors and cars, though. but iirc, leasing nets a hella lot more profit that outright purchasing, as well, no? not that most folks i’ve known have ever believed it.

        • i will say that given everything, it was a blessed relief once her final suicide was successful, even though that may sound ever so callous. i won’t bther you with the whys of that, but if you ever want to read the story, i’ll point you to it.

          how fucked of that father for punishing his family that way! by now, there are at least some techniques to help reduce the hideous power of images like that. but i’ll bet the family had suffered from similar stuff from forever, so it may have just been his pattern, but that’s not to sayit would make it any easier on them.

          yes, melville’s a treasure, as are you a similar treasure and treat for knowing where to go to pick out relevant (and so often heart-rending) literary depictions of what we’re discussing here.

          the zookeeper’s wife film? yes; picasso, too.

  8. i’d mentioned earlier to david that there were…er…competing stories about the american revolution, and i did dig out a couple. yeah, reading academic analyses is hard for me, esp. right now: words, words, word…so many of them!

    but: ‘Shays’ Rebellion and the American Revolution’, marxist.com (and it does scan as illuminating (form me, anyway) as my eyes picked out different exceptional passages)

    a synopsis/overview of ‘A Rich Man’s Revolution, A Poor Man’s Fight for Independence’, Michael A. Mcdonnell (It’s mercifully brief)

  9. nite, all. i’m out for now.

  10. almost Omnia sunt communia VZ is under attack again, and yes, maduro made some newbie mistakes, tra la la, but remember how much oil is in them thar’ hills which industry hasn’t been privatized again, but leveraged a bit. hits at the guardian again yesterday, then this news:

    ‘US Senators Draw Up Proposed Sanctions Against Venezuela, telesur may 3

    U.S. Senators are gearing up to intervene in Venezuela, according to Reuters report published Wednesday. The group of bipartisan senators is looking to push through legislation which would see US$10 million sent to the country as humanitarian aid, as well as impose new sanctions, intelligence reports and instructing the U.S. State Department to lead a regional effort to help ease the ongoing unrest in the South American country.

    The new bill, which has the support of Republican senators Marco Rubio, John McCain and Dick Durbin and Democrat Ben Cardin, contains 11 sections to deal with Venezuela’s ongoing crisis, which has seen a severe economic downturn and continued opposition protests for nearly a month.
    The bill is expected to sanction Venezuelan officials who are accused of being involved in corruption and the drug trade, and it carries through with former President Barack Obama’s executive order to target those deemed to “undermine democratic governance.”

    “The new legislation — which will still need to pass through Congress — appears to be as much about economic interests as it is for human rights and democracy.
    Russia’s state oil company Rosneft has been growing in influence within Venezuela and has loaned Venezuela’s state equivalent, PDVSA, between US$4 and 5 billion amid the economic crisis. The bill calls on U.S. President Donald Trump to prevent Rosneft from gaining control of energy infrastructure owned by the U.S.”, etc.
    http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/US-Senators-Draw-Up-Proposed-Sanctions-Against-Venezuela–20170503-0008.html
    (VZ has formally requested to be removed from the OAS sellouts.)

    but from nationofchange.or whose mission statement reads: “At NationofChange, our mission is to help people create a more compassionate, responsible, and value-driven world, powered by communities that focus on positive solutions to social and economic problems. We strive to accomplish this mission through unbiased, independent journalism combined with practical, real-world activism in order to create real-world actionable strategies for change.”

    ‘Media silence as Venezuela sits on verge of revolution’, april 25

    “Venezuela, a country with only $10 billion left in reserves to run on, is in trouble. The people are starving. The government has gone full-on authoritarian, and now desperate human beings are dying in the streets. On April 6, The Economist reported that over the past year, 74 percent of Venezuelans lost an average of 20 pounds. Venezuela, incidentally, has topped Bloomberg’s Economic Misery Index for the past three years.
    The country began its slide downward into chaos with the election of President Nicolas Maduro, who immediately began implementing socialist programs and has since taken extreme measures to secure his position.”, yada, yada, same old Imperial charges. soft coup, hard coup, comin’?

    http://www.nationofchange.org/2017/04/25/media-silence-venezuala-sits-verge-revolution/

    and tiny socialist eritrea that andre vltchek had dubbed ‘the cuba of africa’ (or of the horn of africa) is big in the (ahem) ‘protect’ meme again.

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