On a Socialist Camping Trip

G. A. Cohen
Why Not Socialism?
Princeton, 2009
92 Pages
£10.95
ISBN 978-0691143613

As a teenager, Jerry Cohen was a counsellor in the Montreal Jewish socialist summer camp Kinderland, where, in the words of one of his young charges, “the sons and daughters of 1950s leftists spent July and August waging class struggle against mosquitoes and boredom”. These summer expeditions left a lasting impression: decades later, Cohen fondly recalled campfire songs from Kinderland at his inauguration as Chichele Professor in All Souls college chapel; and a camping trip serves as the prime illustration of the virtues of socialism in his latest and last work, a lively discussion of political morality.

While Jerry Cohen made a career out of intellectualising his personal journey from pro-Soviet schoolboy to doyen of Oxford political theory, it is in Why Not Socialism?—more than any other text—that we see as a whole his considered stance on justice. For this life-long socialist, socialism’s infeasibility does not entail its irrelevance, for its most basic merit lies in its encapsulation of an ethic of care for other human life. In a period when we are re-evaluating our economic priorities, this is a timely call for personal integrity—and a reminder that in necessarily compromising with self-interest, we must not lose sight of our ideals. Continue reading

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Disobedience Makes History

The Clown Army is surrounded, Gleneagles G8 protests, Scotland 2005 Photo: © Ian Teh

Led by the Laboratory of Insurrectionary Imagination
Saturday 23 January 2010, 10.30–17.30
Saturday 30 January 2010, 10.30–17.30

In 1989 thousands of citizens defied the law and brought down the authoritarian regimes that were already crumbling under economic burdens across Eastern Europe.  Many of the seeds of these revolutions were planted by artists and subcultures who devised forms of civil disobedience and opened up a space for dissent.

Twenty years later we are in the midst of an unprecedented economic and ecological crisis not unlike that which swept across the east in 1989 and yet voices of dissent are being increasingly repressed. There has never been a more urgent time to develop new forms of creative disobedience and artists have the skills and imagination to do this. This workshop will explore the history and practice of creative disobedience and will culminate in a co-created intervention. No arts or activism experience necessary.

Tate Modern  Level 7 East Room
£50 (£35 concessions), booking recommended
Price includes refreshments
For tickets book online
or call 020 7887 8888.

Book tickets online

Source: http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/eventseducation/coursesworkshops/20641.htm

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on How to Tackle Climate Change: “We Must Go from Capitalism to Socialism”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on How to Tackle Climate Change: “We Must Go From Capitalism to Socialism”

Democracy Now speak with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about climate change, the Copenhagen summit and President Obama. Chavez accuses calls the COP15 summit undemocratic and accuses world leaders of only seeking a face-saving agreement. We must reduce all the emissions that are destroying the planet, Chavez says. That requires a change in the economic model: we must go from capitalism to socialism.

See also:

Fidel Castro: The Truth of What Happened at the Summit

Venezuelan President’s Speech on Climate Change in Copenhagen

Fidelity

This is a ten minute excerpt from the Cuban documentary ‘Fidelity’. The film offers an  insight into Cuban life from the perspective of the people. A fascinating portrait of a complicated society, balanced precariously between past and future, revolution and capitalist penetration.

Whilst the international press speculates on the imminent death of Fidel Castro and the Cuban community of Miami is already celebrating his funeral, on the island the condition of his health is a state secret.

As the umbilical cord that ties every Cuban to the revolution is beginning to be severed, a new energy is emerging in the country. An ex-fighter of the Sierra, a television actress, a gigolo, a young ballet dancer, the custodian of a church and many other Cubans give voice to the moods, aspirations and fears of the islands people – the old warn against the risks of the penetration of imperialism, whilst the young dream of a freer society, economically efficient and open.

The film will be showing next Wednesday 15th July at the Barbican in the City of London as part of the Cine Cuba film festival.

For more information see

http://barbican.org.uk/film/event-detail.asp?ID=9374

Screen Addiction: Does the overuse of screens alter our perceptions of reality?

Deconstructionist philosopher Avital Ronell teaches that a few generations ago European travelers in the Swiss Alps found the sight of the mountain peaks so overwhelming that they equipped their carriages with special screens to block their view. They looked through tinted glasses to mediate the experience of raw nature. Today, standing in the Alps or outside our home, we no longer rely on colored glasses. Instead, we use digital cameras, cell phones and movie players to filter our experience. And we have become so accustomed to the view that we prefer pixels to sublime reality … we are addicted to the screens we use to dampen the rawness of life.

We are a society in the grips of a widespread screen addiction. Many of us spend upwards of eight hours a day staring at a screen. We carry video capable iPods, Internet savvy BlackBerrys and graphically stunning portable game machines. We steal glances at these little screens throughout the day and then tuck them back into our pockets and return our gaze to the big screens sitting on our desks. In order to relax, we plop ourselves in front of a widescreen TV. We spend more time making eye contact with our screens than with our neighbors.

The screen is, by design, the ultimate distraction. Even when we try to avoid looking at screens, our eyes are naturally drawn to their flickering lights. The dazzling special effects of our iPhones and our video games stimulate our brains more powerfully than reality. Given the option of looking at the slow pace of nature unfold or the frenetic speed of a big budget movie playing on a tiny screen, we often choose the screen. But training our brains to expect constant visual stimulation has troubling consequences.

Neuroscientists are beginning to address the long-term consequences of visual addiction. Books such as iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind argue that the increase in screen use has rewired our brains and led to a decrease in our empathy and our ability to read facial language. The authors of iBrain ultimately propose a policy of moderating screen time, I wonder if this goes far enough. As visual technologies advance and a greater proportion of our working lives are spent online, there isn’t one, individual-based, solution.

Society is addicted to screens. What we need, therefore, is not a policy of personal moderation but a cultural revolution. Our visual addiction is masking our fear of feeling existence to its fullest. Our task is to build a movement to unwire our social relationships, to unlink our workplace communications and to accept the slow pace of life in order to directly confront the existential dilemmas that we face.

Micah White is a Contributing Editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He is writing a book on anti-screen activism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org

Source: http://www.adbusters.org/blogs/blackspot_blog/screen_addiction.html

See also http://www.screentime.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

Screen addiction ‘bad for kids’ health’

Is It Time To Turn Our Backs On Capitalism and Give Socialism A Chance?

Capitalism is greed.

Capitalism is theft.

Capitalism is alienation and anti-sociality.

Capitalism is authoritarian.

Capitalism isn’t working.

Capitalism is violent.

Capitalism is unsustainable.

Capitalism is destroying us.

It is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous — and it doesn’t deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed. What do we want instead?

It is time to take the power back? To do this we need a system where the workers are in control and the means of production are owned by the workers not by a rich minority of capitalists…

In a socialist society the means of production [1] are owned by the workers rather than by a rich minority of capitalists or functionaries. Such a system of ownership is both collective and individual in nature.

It is collective because society can control production unlike the economic anarchy of capitalism and because production is for the common good rather than for individual profit.

At the same time it is individual because workers are no longer a ‘collective’ mob of alienated non-owners employed by a minority of owners. Work becomes a free and self-affirming activity for each worker and they receive the full fruits of their labor. The capitalists and their servants no longer control production nor grow rich from other’s toil. Everybody is an owner. Socialism is genuine free enterprise.

The personally empowering and cooperative nature of socialist ownership underpins similar changes in other aspects of life. Socialism means far healthier individuals and human relationships. It means full participation by each individual in the intellectual, cultural and political life of society.

Socialism requires a revolution with three main stages: firstly the emergence of a workers’ movement committed to socialist revolution, secondly the achievement of political power and the expropriation of the capitalists and thirdly a period during which workers learn how to be owners and rulers and cast off the psychological and ideological dross of the past.

Socialism will not be an utopia simply created in people’s minds. It will be the product of economic and social development. In developed countries it is now possible for everyone to live a reasonably affluent life and be free of long hours of routine toil. This creates a better basis for cooperation and mutual regard. Historically, where equality would have meant shared poverty, it was inevitable that a minority would plunder, enslave and exploit the majority. At the same time rank and file workers are progressively acquiring through their experiences, the abilities to do without an elite. Their general level of education and training has advanced significantly over the last couple of generations. The work they do, while still totally oppressive, has an increasingly mental and conceptual content. And they now have extensive access to cultural and intellectual resources and the diverse experiences of living in a modern society. So while socialism was impossible in the past, these emerging conditions make it inevitable in the future.

Footnote [1]. The means of production comprise everything, except labor, that is used in production, namely, factories, plant, equipment, offices, shops, raw materials, fuel and components.

It is time for the public to wake up. Time to open our eyes. The expenses scandal. The killing of Ian Tomlinson. Heavy handed police aggression during recent legitimate protests. The banking crisis. The Credit Crunch. The huge debts that have been put on future generations shoulders.

Enough is enough.

It is time for real change and to put people first. The only system that will truly do this is socialism.

Find out more. Visit the Socialist Worker.

‘Get Off Facebook And Get A Life’

A psychologist is urging people to get off Facebook and other social networking sites, and get a life instead.

Dr Aric Sigman says the amount of time we spend with each other has slumped dramatically and in turn is damaging our health.

He says our devotion to such sites could alter the way genes work, upset immune responses, hormone levels, and the function of arteries, and influence mental performance.

Levels of hormones such as the “cuddle chemical” oxytocin, which promotes bonding, altered according to whether people were in close contact or not.

This could increase the risk of health problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease, and dementia. Continue reading