My Journey from New Labour to Parecon: 2003 to 2009


 

I have been thinking about what I would be doing as my life’s work if I lived in an equitable world (because of the Parecon course). I have realized that what I would be doing would be exactly what I intended to do when I arrived at university (and I still thought I would be doing these things well into my second year).
 
Researching and implementing conservation and food production techniques so as to feed the hungry and save the endangered species. Beat back the Sahara! Reforest this and restore and rehabilitate that. Describe new species and investigate how best to conserve them, and others already known to be threatened.  Develop crops and live stock using advances in science and increases in knowledge of genetic diversity.  Maybes even use some of this to aid bio-domes and their development (for the purposes of space exploration).
But I gradually became aware of capitalism’s reality. That is was incompatible with these aims, that it actively destroyed the things I sort to build and was the root cause of the problems I wanted to fix. The ‘painful structural adjustments’ that the third and second worlds were implementing were not going to get them ‘developed’ and was not going to bring them prosperity and democracy. 
They were in a tunnel and there was a light at the end but they weren’t going to get there. I realized that they in their poverty were supporting us, not us them. And therefore, our system is not the efficient superior system I thought it was.
I swung to the left. I tried to reduce my consumption, produce for myself and buy locally. Partly out of guilt, but mostly because I thought that to be the solution. I nearly gave up my third year in the US because of the flying and because I wanted to retreat to some location where I was independent of, and not contributing to a system I had begun to hate.
I went to the US. I flew a lot. I drove a lot and I drank a lot.
I saw and heard of some realities of the world’s hyper power.
I compared the system there to the UK like I compared the UK to Scandinavia: similar but worse.
I studied the military industrial complex, lobbying, corporations and the US political system as Bush seemed to be heading the US towards some kind of fascist regime. The absolute power of the media really started to hit home.
I read a fair bit of Chomsky, and changed from anarchist to socialist. I started to believe that change could be brought about both from within the system (gradually even) and from without, as apposed to rejecting any reform and any institution like before.
At the start of my second semester I discovered peak oil and Alan Bartlett’s lecture on exponential growth, at an event CU at Boulder. I read extensively on these subjects and grappled with trying to ascertain whether collapse was coming, or like those who said it was thirty years ago, these new round of doom sayers were just that.
Jermey Riffkin’s Hydrogen Economy struck a cord in me. He compares the renewable energy + decentralized storage of energy to the internet. He theorized that the two combined (a decentralized web of producers and consumers of information and energy) could create an entirely new society. But he also warns that, just as information corporations seek to control the internet, energy corporations will seek to control the decentralized grid.
I continued following international events (discovered Zmag), and increasingly wanted to visit, understand and be part of developments in South America, specifically Venezuela. I was going to go for the summer before going home, but I spent more time touring the US and the UK instead.
I arrived home to find my friends had discovered The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and watched it with them. I then read several books my mate had on the subject (Venezuela’s democratic revolution). I joined HOV and learned there was a group in Norwich. I arrived at university (UEA) to find that it was actually the Socialist Society.
I spent my final year involved with them, and with the Permaculture Society. I got involved in university politics and lived in a tipi for large parts of it. I did a course on waste management, thinking that may be a useful way to devote my work energies. I realized this industry is working under the boot of capitalism like my other interests. I did three weeks in a high school, and contemplated a teaching degree.
After graduating I moved into the woods with friends and tried to live sustainably and research some fertilizers. I lasted 8 months. It wasn’t working that well when I dropped it and moved to Spain with my girlfriend to live in a decades old sustainable community that I had heard of years before. The place was in a mess, no boss, no decent boss for ages and a load of trustees who tied our hands and prevented us from doing anything really constructive.
It was a great summer, but I didn’t see much could be gained from a winter there and the world seemed to be going up the shitter. I was eager to get out to Korea to get some savings behind me, before the opportunity vanished. The main purpose of these savings was to take them to Venezuela, with a years teaching experience.
We grappled with the logistics of the trip, including trains across Eurasia, and left the UK at the beginning of December. I had attended left wing gatherings in Leeds and London before we left. I had books and contacts from these meetings that would greatly increase my understanding of economics. They were Marxist books and contacts.
When I read about Marx’s theory that capitalism creates the necessary conditions for a post capitalist society (through the development of the productive forces), it occurred to me that the necessary development is the technology to generate and store energy and information in a ‘decentralized web’. Therefore, we may be there or we may be there soon if we can force our governments to invest in renewables more. And by this I mean in actually building the things (wind turbines, solar panels/heaters, micro hydro), not just researching dozens of different ways capture wave energy.
 
I started work at Moon Mak high school the same week I started an online course on participatory economics. Its now ‘week 8′ and I am discussing the three class theory in the participatory economics course. I think it’s a vital improvement on Marxism: a coordinator class between the workers and the capitalists which can rule the workers in the absence of the capitalists, if job complexes and participatory economics are not realized.
The other teachers are busy training the kids for mid terms, which means conversational English is cut back (easy weeks for me). I agree with Chomsky and Peters. High schools are designed to prepare kids for a lifetime of obedience and monotony.

 

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