Direct action or representation

A contribution by C Companyero, inspired by CrimethInc

 

The opposite of direct action is representation. There are many kinds of representation—words are used to represent ideas and experiences, the viewers of a TV show let their own hopes and fears be represented by those of the characters,—but the most well-known example today can be found in the electoral system. In this society, we’re encouraged to think of voting as our primary means of exercising power and participating socially. Yet whether one votes with a ballot for a politician’s representation, with kwachas for a corporate product, or with one’s wardrobe for a certain culture, voting is an act of deferral, in which the voter picks a person or system or concept to represent her interests. This is an unreliable way to exercise power.

Let’s compare voting with direct action, to bring out the differences between mediated and unmediated activity in general. Voting is a lottery: if a candidate doesn’t get elected, then the energy his constituency put into supporting him is wasted, as the power they were hoping he would exercise for them goes to someone else. With direct action, one can be certain that one’s work will offer results. In marked contrast to every kind of petitioning, direct action secures resources that others can never take away: experience, contacts in the community, the grudging respect of adversaries.

Voting consolidates the power of a whole society in the hands of a few individuals; through sheer force of habit, not to speak of other methods of enforcement, everyone else is kept in a position of dependence. In direct action, people utilize their own resources and capabilities, discovering in the process what these are and how much they can accomplish.

Voting forces everyone in a movement to try to agree on one platform: coalitions fight over what compromises to make, each faction insisting that its way is the best and that the others are messing everything up by not going along with its program. A lot of energy gets wasted in these disputes and recriminations. In direct action, no vast consensus is necessary: different groups apply different tactics according to what they believe in and feel comfortable doing, with an eye to complementing one another’s efforts. People involved in different direct actions have no need to squabble, only if they really are seeking conflicting goals, or years of voting have taught them to fight with anyone who doesn’t think exactly as they do.

Conflicts over voting often distract from the real issues at hand, as people get caught up in the drama of one party against another, one candidate against another. With direct action, the issues themselves are raised, addressed specifically, and often resolved.

Voting is only possible when election time comes around. Then you are told to shut up for 5 years. Direct action can be applied whenever one sees fit. Voting is only useful for addressing topics that are currently on the political agendas of candidates, while direct action can be applied in every aspect of your life, in every part of the world you live in. Direct action is a more efficient use of resources than voting, campaigning, or canvassing: an individual can accomplish with one kwacha a goal that would cost a collective a thousand kwacha, a non-governmental organization a million kwacha, a corporation a ten million kwacha, and the government a billion kwacha.

Voting is glorified as a manifestation of our supposed freedom. It’s not freedom— freedom is getting to decide what the choices are in the first place, not picking between Fanta Orange and Fanta Pineapple. Direct action is the real thing. You make the plan, you create the options, the sky’s the limit.

Ultimately, there’s no reason the strategies of voting and direct action can’t both be applied together. One does not cancel the other out. The problem is that so many people think of voting as their primary way of exerting political and social power that a disproportionate amount of time and energy is focused on electoral affairs while other opportunities to make change go to waste. For months and months preceding every election, everyone argues about the voting issue, what candidates to vote for or whether to vote at all, when voting itself takes less than a day. Vote or don’t, but get on with it! Remember all the other ways you can make your voice heard.

 

 

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The ruling class and the hegemony, national, inter-national

A contribution by C Companyero

cultural-imperialism-1-638Hegemony (cultural domination ) includes social class; hence, the philosophic and sociologic theory of cultural hegemony analyses the social norms that establish the social structures (social and economic classes) with which the ruling class establish and exert cultural dominance to impose their world view—justifying the social, political, and economic status quo—as natural, inevitable, and beneficial to every social class, rather than as the artificial social constructs defined by and beneficial solely to the ruling class.

Internationally hegemony is a political relationship of power wherein a sub-ordinate society perform social tasks that are culturally unnatural and not beneficial to them, but that are in exclusive benefit to the imperial interests of the hegemon, the superior, ordinate power; hegemony is a military, political, and economic relationship that occurs as an articulation within political discourse.

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In the praxis of hegemony, imperial dominance is established by means of cultural imperialism, whereby the leader state (hegemon) dictates the internal politics and the societal character of the subordinate states that constitute the hegemonic sphere of influence, either by an internal, sponsored government or by an external, installed government. The imposition of the hegemon’s way of life—an imperial lingua franca and bureaucracies (social, economic, educational, governing)—transforms the concrete imperialism of direct military domination into the abstract power of the status quo, indirect imperial domination.

Suggested examples of cultural imperialism include the latter-stage Spanish and British Empires and by the end of the 20th century, the United States.

Here in Malawi the British hegemony is mostly superseded by the international capitalist logic of neo liberalism. Now instead of British direct rule or indirect rule via HK Banda, the United States are imposing their interests on us. By direct means of money as in the MCC grant to Escom on the condition of unbundling and privatization on capitalist terms. Also by cultural means: we get international advertising on our satellite TV channels, internet websites, radio and by the roadside on ever bigger billboards, that are taking over our public space. In our newspapers we read advertising. Al this bombardment with capitalist consumerist norms and values (Buy! Buy! Buy!) influences our culture, so the neo liberal logic from the US is ingrained in our subconscious. You cannot enter a trading centre without being pushed to buy.60882-original-3534-640x445

We see how our communal values have been eroded by this onslaught of consumerism. Our ruling class does not value the community. Many MPs never enter their constituencies (in spite of 500liters of fuel per month at the tax payers cost) until re election is coming. Instead they busy themselves with raking in more and more money to try to satisfy their consumerism. And it goes all over. Our personal relations are so transactional. Many of our peers cannot view any relation other than: what’s in it for me? Rather than the African, Malawian communal values that make life worth living. It should be better to give than to (corruptly) take away from others. It should be more satisfying to feed our hungry, than to rake in more personal property. More satisfying to house the population than to build an empty white farm of over 80 rooms. But we let the cultural imperialism of the foreign capitalists take over our values. We should re think our society: what is best for us? Is that the rat race to personal riches, or the African communal values of the gift economy?

 

The rulers and the Spectacle

The Spectacle replaces authentic experiences. The media offer fake experiences likesociety-of-the-spectacle “reality shows”, far off sports events, or celebrity news. All this is used to replace authentic experiences we miss because of our alienation from our work and life. In the village life is hard, but there is a clear connection between the activity of the farmer and the product, especially when it is subsistence farming. On the other hand the city dweller is alienated from her food, and spends time in pursuit of money which is used to buy products from which the history is unknown. The rich do not experience life, they hide behind walls with electricity on top or razor wire. They collect imported products that give no real experience and no real satisfaction. In an air-conditioned vehicle the passenger does not experience the surroundings. The MP avoids his constituency, the rich drink imported liquor and use private guards to keep away the population.

This way, the rich are alienated, and caught up in the Society of the Spectacle as much as the poor are caught in poverty and dis-empowerment.

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We need to liberate ourselves, we need to liberate our compatriots, our brothers and sisters human beings. Do away with the rat race and share on a justified basis the resources we have. That way there are no rich who need to hide their property, no poor who need to beg and still starve.

At the moment our spectacle is ruled by a ruling class that is victim of the alienation as much as we are, but they will defend their privileged position, and keep all of society captive until we make them change. And we will. Let’s get moving!

Our ruling class and the Spectacle

 

A contribution by C Companyero

We are in a society in a transition from a feudal society to a Society of the Spectacle. (for more read Guy Debord: the Society of the Spectacle).

The poor are sgreed-for-morecrambling to eat and find shelter from the elements. The rich are scrambling for more and more material possessions. The latest model cell phone, a more expensive car from a more exclusive brand for a more exclusive price. And many liters of fuel free per month. You name it. Does this unbalance make our society better?

Do we live better when we have a second car, a bigger palace, more suitcases with cash under our bed? While at the same time the public infrastructure makes it impossible to shop at the market while keeping your clothes dust free. While we have to avoid beggars left and right. While we know how the average Malawian lives in a mud house with a grass roof. Where there is no protection against floods, drought or other disasters. The poor remain trapped in survival, or worse when the drugs run out. But would not the quality of life for the rich and middle class improve if there were no people so desperately poor? If the average Malawian would get a solid education? If we had health care for all (including drugs)?

What difference does the second latest model expensive cell phone make? Or the next dinner in Latitude Hotel? Or another shopping trip to Dubai? When the public services are below standard, and the population is starving in IDP camps? Where is the limit of greed? And what does the greed serve?

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Why do we need imported luxury? Does it improve the lives of the rich if they wear a more expensive imported suit than the other person? Or than the beggar on the corner?

There is no end to it, because the quest for more money, more luxury goods, more status symbols is so empty it never satisfies. There is always another product advertised on DSTV. There is always a person with more. A bigger car. A jet. A bigger house or palace. What good is a white farm with over 80 rooms to a dead man? What good is the luxury that cannot be shared, but needs to be kept away from the people with a private security company (another money spinner!). That needs to be defended against our own house staff? What good is life when the good things are not shared? When we only feel satisfied when we outdo another rich person? This life is not worth living.

Think of the African way, where the good in the village was shared, in the family, in the village and between villages. Where mutual aid, and cooperation were the standard. Where the poorer could count on the richer, and the richer felt good about sharing. Where we were not upset by Western capitalist advertising, by colonial empire, which gave us greed, and inequality. Which excluded us from our own wealth. And now that standard has been taken over by an indigenous class of rulers who forget about their own roots, their standards, their fellow citizens, and only compare the size of the jet with the size of another country’s jet. While the population dies for lack of food and drugs…..

Oppression

A contribution by C. Companyero

 

In our society we are obviously ruled by an elite who use the State machinery to their advantage. They dominate the political sphere, command the police and judiciary to intimidate us to cooperate with their hegemony (rule). Clearly it would be impractical for them to have to enforce every instance with violence like they did no 20 July 2011. They use smaller scale violence to intimidate us: the judiciary and police pick out people who obstruct the power of the ruling class, and either abuse them or lock them up in a jail. Often both.

Still this is a costly way of subjugating the population, and it is much more effective to colonise our minds. This was done effectively by the colonisers, in our case the British. They set up a system of society that would be easy to dominate. To infiltrate our minds at an early age they commanded the education system. Disparities were dealt with violently if needed.

When Dr Hastings Banda took power over from the British he immediately used the existing system to consolidate his power over the population, and the differences between British colonisation and Banda’s colonisation were mostly that the oppressor now was indigenous African. (He even cooperated with the white apartheid regime in South Africa!)

Banda kept a close reign over the media, the education system, and all economic operators. Especially the first two colonise our minds. He decided to keep the British system of education, which served the hegemony so well. We are still mostly taught according to a British school system annum 1964. Take in the knowledge that the teacher imparts, do not question authority, and regurgitate the texts at an exam.

The (middle class) media keep on dispensing the same kind of cultural system in the name of peace, democracy and public order. This keeps us from revolting to demand our constitutional rights and human rights. The hegemony is only complete when we as population cooperate with our own oppression. This is called cultural hegemony.

Cultural hegemony is the domination of a culturally diverse society by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society—the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores—so that their imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm; the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class.

In our former colony cultural hegemony (dominance) is derived from the coloniser’s cultural imperialism: the cultural domination, by a ruling class (formerly the coloniser himself, now their puppets: the indigenous ruling class), of a socially stratified society.  By manipulating the dominant ideology (cultural values and mores) of the society, the ruling class can intellectually dominate the other social classes with an imposed worldview that ideologically justifies the privileged position of the ruling class as if it were a natural and normal, inevitable and perpetual state of affairs that always has been so.

In our society, cultural hegemony is neither monolithic intellectual practice, nor a unified system of values, but a complex of stratified social structures, wherein each social and economic class has a social purpose and an internal class-logic that allows its members to behave in a way that is particular and different from the behaviours of the members of other social classes, whilst co-existing with them as constituents of the society.

As a result of their different social positions, the classes will be able to coalesce into a society with a greater social mission. When a man, a woman, or a child perceives the social structures of ruling class cultural hegemony, personal common sense performs a dual, structural role (private and public) whereby the individual person applies common sense to cope with daily life, which explains (to him/herself) the small segment of the social order that each experiences as the status quo of life in society; “the way things are”. Publicly, the emergence of the perceptual limitations of personal common sense inhibit the individual person’s perception of the greater nature of the systematic socio-economic exploitation made possible by cultural hegemony. Because of the discrepancy in perceiving the status quo—the socio-economic hierarchy of ruling class culture—most men and women concern themselves with their immediate (private) personal concerns, rather than with distant (public) concerns, and so do not think about and question the fundamental sources of their socio-economic oppression, and its discontents, social, personal, and political.

The effects of cultural hegemony are perceptible at the personal level; although each person in a society lives a meaningful life in his and her social class, to him and to her, the stratified social classes might appear to have little in common with the private life of the individual man and woman. Yet, when perceived as a whole society, the life of each person does contribute to the overall cultural hegemony of the ruling class. Because social diversity, economic variety, and political freedom appear to exist — because most people see different life-circumstances — they are incapable of perceiving the greater hegemonic pattern created when the lives they witness coalesce as a society. The cultural hegemony is manifested in and maintained by an existence of minor, different circumstances that are not always fully perceived by the men and the women living the culture, or are justified according to the mores of the hegemonic culture.

This is where the intellectuals have a role to play. Intellectuals exist in two kinds:

  1. traditional intellectuals who uphold the hegemonic culture and who are by far the most numerous
  2. organic intellectuals who come from the oppressed classes and stay with their brothers and sisters. Organic intellectuals have the capacity to educate the oppressed to the real causes of their misery and subjugated lives.

In perceiving and combating cultural hegemony, the smallholder farmer class, and the (much smaller) wage labourer class depend upon organic intellectuals produced by their society. Since the various categories of traditional intellectuals (administrators, scholars, teachers, theorists, clergy, etc.) experience through an “esprit de corps” their uninterrupted historical continuity, and their special qualifications, they thus put themselves forward as autonomous and independent of the ruling class. Think of political scientists, the PAC, civil society operators. All of these comment on different aspects of ruling class actions, but do not question the set up of society as a whole. The challenge with this position is that the society as it is now (the status-quo) has produced these different strata of society and without far reaching developments in the set-up of society it will remain producing the horrifying levels of inequality that are dogging our society and the world as a whole.

The traditional (vulgarized) type of the intellectual is given by the Man of Letters, the “well educated”. Therefore, journalists, who claim to be Men (Women) of Letters, also regard themselves as “true” intellectuals.

In the modern world, technical education, closely bound to industrial labour, even at the most primitive and unqualified level, must form the basis of the new, organic, type of intellectual. The mode of being of the new intellectual can no longer consist of eloquence, which is an exterior and momentary mover of feelings and passions, but in active participation in practical life, as constructor and organiser, as “permanent persuader”, not just simple orator.

We need a new type of activist/theorist who, independently of strings-attached-foreign-funding will identify with the oppressed classes, here in Malawi mostly the small holder farmer. Who will educate, and learn at the same time. Who will practice the praxis, and teach according to new methods, interactive methods, effective methods that overcome the conditioning of the ruling-class dominated school system that has been holding Malawians back for so long. We do not need the traditional schools, but we need new, interactive situations to develop a revolutionary consciousness in the population.

 

 

The power-to and the power-over

Power is an interesting subject; many writers have paid a lot of attention to it. For instance

Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish, well worth reading. Or John Holloway in “Change the World without taking power” and many others.

african-cake-1Power comes in two flavours:

  • The power to do something, also called potency. Like: I have the power to make a nice cake and I have the power to invite friends over to eat it together. Or I have the power to start a hardware business. Power-to increases my options in life and increases the quality of life.july20
  • The power over, also called potestas. Like the commander has the power to order the soldiers to do something. This may be killing the enemy, or get killed or sweep the barracks floor. Or the judge has the power to send the suspect to jail. Power-over may increase the options of the one in power, but it is always at the cost of someone else. This is the type of power that is referred to in the saying: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

We need more of the power-to for everyone, this is empowerment. And we need less of the corporate-power-word-empowerment-words-presented-comic-balloon-impact-43553415power-over that infringes on our quality of life. The power-over is the type of power that rules strongly in the patriarchy, the arbitrary power that corrupts life and keeps Malawi from being developed.

Power-over is a dangerous situation that needs to be minimized and where we cannot prevent it from being needed it needs strong accountability. Look at the lawlessness under the dictatorship of Banda: women were not just being abused randomly, it was an organized system of dance camps where the women were ordered to go. And their brothers and husbands were powerless (disempowered) to do anything about it. Let alone the women themselves: under the sexist rule of Dr Banda, women were being objectified (made into objects) and had no rights they could insist on.

On the other hand the implementation of the Access-to-Information law (if we ever get it done!) will dramatically increase accountability.

These days we are still being held back by a huge overdose of arbitrary power. The judicial system is only open for those with money: they can hire a lawyer and get a case going, and even then it is far from sure that the arbitrary power from the judge will do justice. When suspected of a crime, the well-to-do have lots of options for bail-and-never-hear-from-the-case-again-because-the-file-is-misplaced, while the poor may rot in jail on remand-and-never-hear-from-the-case-again-because-the-file-is-misplaced.

We need to review our whole view of society, to curb the corrupting influence of arbitrary power by limiting power.

A policeman at a roadblock may have arbitrary power, or a civil servant behind a desk. Or a government minister, or an employer. What we need is a more egalitarian society, so the weak in society are more empowered. We need to systematize this. For instance: in every government office there should be a sign explaining the rights of the client and the rights of the employees. It needs to state what can be done for whom at what cost and in what time frame. And how to complain in case this is violated. If you want to get a passport, driver’s license, car registration, pass a roadblock with merchandise: at every roadblock there should be a big sign that states exactly what can pass under which circumstances, and what cannot. And what to do if your rights are violated. But also in police cells there should be a sign stating the rights of the arresting officer, the rights of the suspect, and what to do when these rights are being violated.

One of the big drivers of corruption is unclear regulations and procedures: this gives arbitrary power-over to the person in the office and takes away the power-to for the citizen. We need to clearly display every rule and regulation, every procedure end the time frame in which the procedure is to be completed and how to complain if this is not being done. Also (of course) how to complain if bribes, kickbacks and such are being solicited. This limits the arbitrary power-over from the corrupt and increases the power-to of you and me.

Hastings Kamuzu Banda and the current times.

A contribution by C Companyero

Hastings Kamuzu Banda was not such an unusual person, in most African countries at the time there were post-colonial dictators supported by either side of the Cold War: the USA/NATO capitalist block, and the Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact communist (or more precisely Stalinist) block. The reason the economy was better then, was that Hastings Kamuzu Banda got a lot of un-earmarked aid, part of which he took for himself (there was not distinction between National coffers and Hastings Kamuzu Banda’s personal property!) and part of which supported his failing economic policies.

When the Cold War was winding down in the 1980s (the Soviet Union could not keep up with the costs of the Cold War) the UK (Thatcher) and USA (Reagan) governments pushed worldwide for neo liberal policies which sharply increased inequality worldwide. Both between countries rich (Core countries) and poor (periphery countries), and between inhabitants of one country. So the poor in the UK and USA are worse off, and the poor in poor countries were even worse off. The rich in rich countries became filthy rich, and the rich in poor countries still got themselves huge fortunes.

In the 1980 also corruption in Malawi worsened (under Hastings Kamuzu Banda). This trend kept growing.

Then in 1989 the Cold War ended, and it took five years to get rid of the Cold War Relic Hastings Kamuzu Banda. (As it took five years to replace the Apartheid Regime in South Africa, another Cold War relic).

The international community was pushing for democracy, and using international aid now wtc2for a new purpose. In the days of the Cold War the International Aid was used to secure a position of power opposite the other party (USA/NATO vs. Soviet Union/Warsaw Pact). Now it was used by western powers to secure their economic position and to prevent failed states. Failed states are a problem: from Afghanistan the terrorists flew into the New York World Trade Center and the Washington Pentagon, for the coast of Somalia pirates are stealing ships, from Syria refugees are feeling into Europe, and more of such issues. So rich countries have an interest to prevent failed states; that is cheaper than dealing with the consequences.

On the other hand capitalists (including the new Chinese capitalists) need access to cheap raw materials, and therefore they want to open the markets worldwide. For this they use neo liberalism, and this they impose as donor conditionality. That is why they are giving aid: it is not pure goodness (though in the aid machinery there are a lot of people trying genuinely to improve the lot of the poor) but it is selfish interest.

We need to be careful with the conditionalities. Bingu during his first reign outmaneuvered 51-1yk2skjl-_sx314_bo1204203200_the IMF on the FISP and this anti-liberal policy was successful. We see how the IMF has the interests of its donors in mind (the biggest donor is the capitalist USA) and not ours. For a long account on this kind of policies read “Confessions of an economic hit man by Perkins, free to download here).

So we see that there is much more into the international situation than into the personality of Hastings Kamuzu Banda as far as the Malawian economy is concerned. There is no way we can return to that type of policy because the international situation is dramatically different. By the same token we should not let the international donors play our economy, which is exactly what the current regime is doing (to our detriment). At the same time they are facilitating corruption through chaotic administration, which is in the interest of the corrupt, not in the interest of the donors (who are consequestly re-routing their aid), or the interest of the population who need a functioning economy and less inequality.51rvkidhrpl

We need to fight the power, and insist on our rights. Here we need to strategically move to use the power of international donors to support our rights. Now capitalist donors tend to support Civil and Political Human Rights, but they are much less inclined to support our Economic Human Rights, which are of much more urgent concern for us (we need the Civil and Political Rights to claim our Economic Rights, though).

 

The violence of the State

A contribution by C Companyero

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When one is asked to be realistic, the reality one is normally being asked to recognize is not one of natural, material facts; neither is it really some ugly truth about human nature. Normally it’s a recognition of the effects of the systematic threat of violence, usually from the State or ruling party. It even threads our language. Why, for example, is a building referred to as “real property”, or “real estate”? The “real” in this usage is not derived from Latin res, or “thing”: it’s from the Spanish real, meaning, “royal”, “belonging to the king.” All land within a Sovereign territory ultimately belongs to the Sovereign; legally this is still the case. This is why the State as the right to impose its regulations. But Sovereignty ultimately comes down to a monopoly of what is euphemistically referred to as force — that is, violence. From the perspective of Sovereign power, something is alive because you can kill it, so property is “real” because the state can seize or destroy it. In the same way, when one takes a “realist” position in international relations, one assumes that States will use whatever capacities they have at their disposal, including force of arms, to pursue their national interests. What reality is one recognizing? Certainly not material reality. The idea that Nations are human-like entities with purposes and interests is an entirely metaphysical notion. The President of Malawi has purposes and interests. “Malawi” does not. What makes it seem realistic to suggest it does is simply that those in control of Nation-States have the power to raise armies, launch invasions, bomb cities, send out police with live ammunition and can otherwise threaten the use of organized violence in the name of what they describe as their National Interests — and that it would be foolish to ignore that possibility. National interests are real because they can kill you.

Even if one treats “imaginarobert-_graphic_003tion” and “violence” not as the single hidden truth of the world but as immanent principles, as equal constituents of any social reality, they can reveal a great deal one would not be able to see otherwise. For one thing, everywhere, imagination and violence seem to interact in predictable, and quite significant, ways. Let’s start with a few words on violence, providing a very schematic overview of arguments:

The critical term here is “force”, as in “the State’s monopoly of the use of coercive force.” Whenever we hear this word invoked, we find ourselves in the presence of a political view in which the power to destroy, to cause others pain or to threaten to break, damage, or mangle their bodies, or just lock them in a tiny room for the rest of their lives, is treated as the social equivalent of the very energy that drives the world. Contemplate, for instance, the metaphors and displacements that make it possible to construct the following two sentences:

Scientists investigate the nature of physical laws so as to understand the forces that govern the universe.

Police are experts in the scientific application of physical force in order to enforce the laws that govern society.

This is the essence of one-party thought: a political view that allows violence to define the very parameters of social existence and common sense.

Open Democratic thought, on the other hand, has always been founded on a different set of assumptions about what is ultimately real, about the very grounds of political being. Obviously Democrats don’t deny the reality of violence. Many Open Democratic theorists have thought about it quite a lot. But they don’t tend to give it the same foundational status. Instead, I would argue that Open Democratic thought is founded on a political view founded in the imagination — though I could as easily have called it a view founded in creativity or making or invention. Architects, unlike bees, first raise their structures in the imagination. It is the unique property of humans that they first envision things, then bring them into being. It is this process we refer to as “production”. At the same time artists need to become the avant-garde or of a new social order, providing the grand visions that industry currently has the power to bring into being. This is the charter for a sporadic, uncertain, but permanent alliance. If artistic avant-gardes and democratic revolutionaries have feel a strong affinity for one another, borrowing each others languages and ideas, it appears it is both have remained committed to the idea that the ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently. In this sense, a phrase like “all power to the imagination” expresses the very quintessence of the Open Democratic view of society.

To this emphasis on forces of creativity and production of course the One-Party-thinking ruling class tends to reply that Open Democrats systematically neglect the social and historical importance of the “means of destruction”: States, police forces, executioners, barbarian invasions, criminals, unruly mobs, and so on. Pretending such things are not there, or can simply be wished away, they argue, has the result of ensuring that Open Democratic regimes will in fact create far more death and destruction than those that have the wisdom to take a more “realistic” approach.

 

Mutharika’s reign and an alternative

A contribution by C. Companyerosenegal_2125636b

There are different political perspectives. They are founded on different assumptions about the realities of power. The old fashioned, one party era political view is rooted in an approach of violence, where being realistic means taking into account the forces of destruction. In reply the modern, multi-party democracy has consistently proposed variations on a political view of the imagination, in which the forces that are seen as the ultimate realities that need to be taken into account are those forces (of production, creativity…) that make things happen, that create situations.

The whole nature of the politics is complicated by the fact that systematic inequalities backed by force — structural violence — always produces skewed and fractured structures of the imagination. It is the experience of living inside these fractured structures that we refer to as “alienation”.

Our customary conception of revolution is insurrectionary: the idea is to brush aside existing realities of violence by overthrowing the State, then, to unleash the powers of popular imagination and creativity to overcome the structures that create alienation. Over the twentieth century it eventually became apparent that the real problem was how to institutionalize such creativity without creating new, often even more violent and alienating structures. Look at the many revolutions that went astray: Soviet Union, Cuba, China, Zimbabwe etc. As a result, the insurrectionary model no longer seems completely viable, but it’s not clear what will replace it.

One response will be the revival of the tradition of direct action. Direct action is a political activity that bypasses institutionalised political channels, because those channels have excluded the participation of the people and only served the political ruling class. Direct action may take on a violent tone, especially when working against violent regimes, as was the case in the fight against apartheid, the struggle against institutionalized American racism, or anti-colonial liberation movements, but in our democratic setting that is not necessary. We may wish to disassociate ourselves from violent actions and refer to our activities as “non-violent direct action.”

Violent direct action may be directed against property, like the Spear of the Nation did in Nelson Mandela’s time.

Mass direct action reverses the traditional insurrectionary sequence: rather than a dramatic confrontation with state power leading first to an outpouring of popular festivity, the creation of new democratic institutions, and eventually the reinvention of everyday life, in organizing mass mobilizations, we draw on different groups  to create new, directly democratic institutions. We may want to organize Festivals of Resistance that ultimately could lead to confrontations with the State. This is just one aspect of a more general movement of reformulation that is inspired by the influence of autonomism. We need a movement that ultimately aims to recreate the effects of those insurrectionary moments on an ongoing basis.

APM delays

 

Today we read in the print version of our flagship newspaper the Nation that lawyers differ with Presdent Arthur Peter Mutharika on his delay in implementing the ATI bill. Presdent Mutharika has made no secret of his fear of the ATI bill. First stalling, then submitting a butchered version, then delaying signing it, and now simply delaying the implementation.

ea_0_news_10_our-evidence_access_to_infoWith Presdent Mutharika’s background as a law Professor we cannot attribute this delay to ignorance: he knows that the law does not prescribe other laws to be amended before implementation. It is simply delay tactics. This is contradicting the manifesto we elected him on, and it should not be done like this. Presdent Mutharika should show that he is a trustworthy politician, and 237326implement the manifesto. How do we know who to vote for if the manifesto is not being followed? That is not democracy, that is deceiving the population.

The law will empower Malawians to know how they are being governed, which is a simple requirement for a democracy to function.