May 29, 2022•1,258 words
Stores are bottlenecks, being distribution centers and not that numerous. You kick them in the balls when you attack their distribution centers. Their stock price drops at news of such attacks, and they have no way to counter that. And their valuations are already at historic lows. Of course, police might arrest and prosecute, but that doesn't bring the share price back up. A hundred thousand dollars of physical damage can leverage a hundred million dollars in lost asset value. Big pension funds notice there's a problem and move their monster assets elsewhere, then endowments and trusts and universities and non-profits and hedge funds all notice the big dogs moving, and they try to get out of the house before it falls on their head. And suddenly a big famous corporation, which is also of course a legal person, has suffered something like a stroke, and is lying there paralyzed in a hospital bed, on life support, his heirs arguing over who gets the last of his stuff.
So stores were torched, sure. In the past, that would have been the end of it. People like direct actions because it's quick, and afterwards you don't have to face any real change. But around this time the Householders' Union backed the Student Debt Resistance in support of its payment strike. That was non-compliance in action, meaning stay-at-home for almost every job. It's a form of general strike.
Then on July 16th big parts of the internet, the online store of stores, stopped working. That felt freaky. And we had done it. Was it smart? Wasn't the internet like our nervous system now? It was like that guy who cut his arm off getting out of a canyon in Utah. A very desperate measure. We had cast ourselves out into an interregnum, the chaos between dynasties. The Crisis, Year Zero: oh my fucking god.
In a situation like this, there has to be a plan.You can't make it upon the fly in the middle of the breakdown. Not in the modern era of hyper-complexity. Say the internet stops working, your savings suddenly vanish and money doesn't work anymore: Jesus H. Christ in a bucket! Can you make up a new society from scratch at that point? No you can't. Things just fall apart and the next thing you know you're eating your cat. So take this in: there has to be a pre-existing Plan B. And it can't be a secret plan, popped on the world in the time of chaos. No conspiracy theories, please, so fucking tedious those people - as if things secretly made sense! No. Obvious bullshit. We're winging it here. Not that there aren't conspiracies, it's just they're all well known. So it's in that spirit that Plan B has to be a known plan, an open conspiracy known to all in advance, like the shadow government of an opposition party, putting out all its plans for citizens to consider and hopefully vote for. All of the proposals on the table and argued for. Step-by-step assembly instructions. Yes, this sounds like politics - because it is. Very depressing.
A canonical example of how much the lack of a Plan B can hamstring a revolution is - well, pick any revolution you've ever heard of! They're almost always spasms and so you get the usual spastic result, history as fuck-up, as pinball machine, as nightmare. But consider this one example, which is actually an example of how the lack of a Plan B can stop a revolution from even starting in the first place, despite the crying need for one, so it's especially relevant for us now: meaning Greece and the failure of Grexit, back in the early years of the century. Greece had fallen into arrears in paying its debts to the European Union central bank, also the World Bank, and a raft of private bank creditors. These global financial powers the put the screws on. They told Greece to quit giving its citizens pensions and health care and so on, so the Greek government would be able to afford to pay back the international lenders who had so foolishly extended credit to such a bad risk. Syriza, the party in power in Greece at the time, refused to do this. The so-called Troika, representing international finance, insisted they do it. They couldn't give in on this one, or all the little PIIGS would run off, meaning Portugal Italy Ireland Greece and Spain.
So who was going to lose here, the Greek population or international finance? Syriza put the question to its people in the form of a poll. The Greek people voted by a large majority to defy the Troika and refuse austerity. Syriza the promptly accepted austerity and the EU's leash, going belly-up and begging for a bail-out.
Why did Syriza do that, why did he betray the wishes of the people who elected them? Because they had no Plan B. What they needed at that time was a plan that would get them out of the EU and back to the drachma. They would have needed IOUs of some sort to stand in and do the job of money while they printed new drachmas and made all the necessary changes as they transitioned back to a country in control of its own currency and sovreignty. And in fact there were people in Syriza working furiously to design that Plan B, which they called Plan X, but this turned out to be a case of too little too late, as they couldn't convince their colleagues in government to risk trying it.
So, in the absence of such a plan ready to be enacted, Syriza had to cave the the EUand global finance. It was that or chaos, which could have meant starvation. People in Greece were already hungry as it was; unemployment was at 25 percent, 50 percent for the young, and the austerity regime was already imposed earlier by the Troika meant that there was no money for basic social services, for relief. The government of an advanced nation, a European nation, the cradle of civilization blah blah blah, was reduced to choosing hunger and unemployment rather than starvation and chaos - those were their only choices, because they hadn't made a Plan B.
This time, our time, when the whole thing broke all over the world, there had to be a Plan B.
What was it? Big parts of it have been there all along; it's called socialism. Or, for those who freak out at that word, like Americans or international capitalist success stories reacting allergically to that word, call it public utility districts. They are almost the same thing. Public ownership if the necessities, so that these are provided as human rights and as public goods, in a not-for-profit way. The necessities are food, water, shelter, clothing, electricity, health care and education. All thes are human rights, all are public goods, all are never to be subjected to appropriation, exploitation and profit. It's as simple as that.
Democracy is also good, but again, for those who think this word is just a cover story for oligarchy and Western imperialism, let's call it real political representation. Do you feel you have real political representation? Probably not, but even if you feel you have some, it's probably pretty compromised at best. So, public ownership of the necessities, and real political representation.
extract from Chapter 82, "Ministry for the Future" by Kim Stanley Robinson