Saturday, July 14, 2012

In memory of Stan Parker

The following was the text of a leaflet written by the Stan to be distributed at the  at one or more of the "anti-capitalist" May Day events that followed on for a few years from the big J18 (1999) imaginative "celebration" billed as the "Carnival Against Capital" and organised by the folks in and around Reclaim the Streets.

Are you happy with your life? Is your work fulfilling? No problems getting up in the morning? No stress? No complaints?

Good. We're perfectly happy too. But there are a group of dangerous fanatics descending on London today who say that they're "anti-capitalist". These groups are threatening everything we hold dear. Because we are basically satisfied with our lot, we want to defend the status quo, and we need your help. Here's what YOU can do:


Ignore the structural causes of your problems. Pretend that psychological disturbance has nothing to do with social conditions. OK, so stress and depression are the second biggest killers in the western world. But let's not imagine that that has ANYTHING to do with how we live our everyday lives. And if you must enquire after causes, only intervene at the individual level. It's fine to help depressed --- or, say, homeless --- people on a case-by-case basis. But don't look into the social and economic arrangements that brought about their predicament. That would only serve to invite drastic changes. Treat each example of corporate wrongdoing (illegal dumping of toxic wastes, sweatshop labour, etc) as isolated incidents caused by a few corrupt individuals --- believe that those in charge are just "bad", sabotaging what would otherwise be a perfectly all right system.

The best way to support the status quo is to make sure that you adjust yourself to serve its needs. This was once enforced by crude authoritarian means. Today this is hardly necessary. After all, you've been trained since you were four to get up every morning on time, go to an institution where you surrender all control of your activity, and get asked to perform mostly meaningless and boring toil. So by the time you're asked to do the same for your employer, who hopes to profit from your work, it should come naturally. Should you find such an existence dreary or pointless, don't worry. A wealth of advice is available on how to become successful, or at least cope. All such advice proceeds from the premise that you should adjust yourself to conditions as you find them. This means you must solve your problems within the institutions according to the rules that already exist. If your principles or needs or desires come up against reality, just abandon them.
On no account try to change the reality.

The more you limit your concerns to what you've already been given or offered, the more you help to sustain the larger system. Sure, exercise your limited power as a consumer. But as a producer, as a worker, fit in and do as you're told. Even therapeutic and spiritual enterprises are useful for preserving the status quo. They encourage you to attend to what you have been told are your own needs --- they effectively direct attention away from social structures. Look after yourself, and let the rest of the world go on its way. Politics is for politicians.

You don't have to defend "capitalism", or the regimes in what were called the "socialist" or "communist" countries. Nor do you need to explicitly support what flows from supporting this system --- such as its wars, starvation, or the poverty of your own everyday life. But accompany this nodding as a shrug. Phrases such as "that's life" and "that's the way the world works" or vague references to "human nature" should be used liberally to emphasise that nothing can be done. (Such protestations of powerlessness are actually very powerful, of course, since they help to make sure that things are left exactly as they are.)

When you come across people who refuse to resign themselves to the way things are or to believe that we are helpless and incapable of making fundamental changes, immediately label them "idealistic" or "utopian". An "idealist" is someone who doesn't understand "the real world" ("real world" = "capitalist society" = "as it is" = "As it always will be"). This label calls attention to their faulty understanding of "human nature" and "economics", and helps to ensure that they are not taken very seriously.

For those who remain concerned about social problems, however, there is a last resort for saving the status quo. You can become a leftie. As a leftie, you can remain "realistic" and condemn "idealistic" schemes while at the same time claiming to be in favour of radical change. You could even call yourself a socialist, or communist, and join one of the political parties of the left wing (of capitalism --- the same bird). Go on demonstrations. March people to the top of the hill, then march them back down again. Chant boring, unimaginative, meaningless slogans. Flog a leftie newspaper. Then march all the way to Trafalgar Square just in time for a good beating from the police.

So it's up to you. We need you to keep supporting this system so we can all keep our jobs, our wars and our democracy (which may end at 9am every morning, but at least we can choose our rulers!) and everything else we love so much about our present social arrangements.

Whatever you do, don't listen to dangerous fanatics who say that instead of producing things for sale and for profit, we should produce things to satisfy our own needs. Don't listen to the extremists who say that we could and should take control of our own lives and collectively make our own decisions about work and play. Especially don't listen to the World Socialist Movement who have been saying this since 1904. They're used to being ignored anyway. Whatever you do, don't think, don't debate, don't look at the world around you, don't question, don't ask 'Why?' That definitely won't change things.

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