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In October of 1991 a convergence of powerful weather systems created a monster storm in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. It killed the entire crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail among other storm casualties. Journalist Sebastian Junger used the phrase “The Perfect Storm” as the title of his book about this unusual weather event. The book became the basis for a Hollywood film of the same name.

The Perfect Storm

Since then the term “perfect storm” has entered the language to mean any catastrophic collision of natural, political, or social forces that combine into a disaster greater than the sum of its parts.

Lasting only a few days, the 1991 storm was centered along the US eastern seaboard region. Neo-liberalism, climate change and militarism is “The Perfect Storm” engulfing the entire biosphere and is projected to last for years to come. It is a perfect storm of planetary proportions. 

Domination of the global economy by powerful corporations and financial institutions created neo-liberal capitalism or neo-liberalism for short. It is the latest evolutionary restructuring of global capitalism, which has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to changing conditions.

The destructive effects of neo-liberalism

We can see the direct effects of neo-liberalism in the collapsing factories and deadly fires in the Bangladeshi garment industry.  We can see them in the privatization of public education in the USA and the proliferation of corporate dominated charter schools.We can see them in the melting polar ice caps as well as the number and intensity of extreme weather events. We saw them in the Iraq war; a war for control of oil resources.

Neo-liberalism seeks to reduce everything to a market commodity. Its direct attacks on working class organizations like unions; its privatization of the public sphere; and its dismantling of public welfare have dramatically increased the global gap between rich and poor.

Lately institutions like the IMF and the World Bank have indicated that perhaps neo-liberalism has gone too far, been too destructive. But it is doubtful that even these powerful organizations have either the will or the means to restrain it.

Perhaps most frightening, neo-liberalism has also contributed to global environmental degradation, most notably climate change. Its profits are heavily fueled by coal and petroleum.

The least worst case scenario for this planetary vandalism is grim enough. The worst case scenario is a mass extinction more severe than the Permian extinction 250 million years ago, when the majority of the earth’s living organisms perished because of sudden climate change.

The social effects of neo-liberalism have fueled civil resistance including strikes, occupations, mass marches and riots. From Occupy Wall Street, to Tahrir Square; from the mass strikes in South Asian garment factories to the thousands of striking teachers who jammed the streets of Chicago; from the indignados of Spain to the student strikers of Chile; from the anti-nuclear marchers of Japan to the shack dwellers movement of South Africa, the resistance to neo-liberalism is truly global.

But neo-liberalism’s global plunder have also been at the root of ethnic and religious strife, as well as wars among nations. The competition for scarce resources has led to desperate acts and appalling violence, often encouraged by authorities who find it a useful form of social control. 

As a result, an outrageous amount of the planet’s resources have been diverted into militarization. This includes the militarization of police, who now appear in armored vehicles and have easy access to automatic weapons if tear gas, plastic bullets, sound cannons and riot clubs prove inadequate for suppressing mass protests.

Even the corporate media has shown some recognition of the dismal state of capitalism today.
 
Time Magazine had an article entitled Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World. Forbes published one called The U.K. Riots And The Coming Global Class War. Bloomberg BusinessWeek released this one: What Would Karl Marx Think?. Fortune faced up to climate change with this apocalyptic piece,”Cloudy With a Chance of Chaos”,

Oh, and lets not forget the Pentagon, always preparing for the next war(s) as shown in this report,”An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United 
States National Security
”.

Excerpts from some this writing would not look too out of place in your typical socialist publications. Liberals, progressives and socialists alike might be wondering if socialism is perhaps around the corner. 


So what about socialism?

Not so fast. The socialist movement is not in great shape. The twentieth century socialist movement broke up into roughly three groups: Soviet-style repressive  “communism”, social democracy and a small number of dissident socialists who embraced neither model.

Soviet-style authoritarian regimes mostly collapsed into typical capitalist countries. Those that did not, like China or Vietnam, became authoritarian market economies under repressive state domination. Vietnam is now a major destination for global corporations seeking cheap labor.

Social democracy still exists in some countries, with Scandinavia being its jewel in the crown. Social democracy did tame the worst excesses of capitalism where it took root, but its social welfare systems are now under attack from neo-liberal pressures. Social democratic parties  now generally collaborate with the austerity pushed by global neo-liberalism, often as a kind of austerity-lite.

An extreme example would be the USA whose Democratic Party emerged from the Franklin Roosevelt years with a social democratic platform, but which today gives little sign that such a thing ever existed.

Both major trends of the 20th century socialist movement represent no threat to the dominant neo-liberalism of the 21st century.

As for the dissident socialists who yearn for an economy owned by the working class and a society governed in a democratic fashion, they remain a minority with relatively little organizational influence. At least not yet. But many of their best ideas have permeated the global justice movement.

Ironically, classical Marxism teaches that socialism will emerge from highly developed industrial bourgeois societies. But what if industrial civilization is creating the very economic and environmental crises that will result in its self-destruction? An old labor song says,..”we will build a new world from the ashes of the old.”

But what if the ashes are dangerously radioactive or chemically poisoned?


From global resistance to global revolution?

So what does the future hold for the diverse civil resistance confronting today’s global Perfect Storm? The World Social Forums reveal a global justice movement with competing visions of how to build economically cooperative egalitarian societies that are environmentally sustainable, appropriately technological, and practice participatory democracy. 

With the global neo-liberal elite waging a brutal well armed class war against the rest of humanity, can global resistance transform itself into global revolution? No one can say with any certainty. That is a feature of revolution, not a bug. They can erupt unexpectedly, surprising both those who welcome them and those who fear them.

The clock is ticking for finding solutions. Normally cautious scientists are ringing a clanging alarm bell about climate change while normally cautious economists are doing the same about the accelerating wealth gap between rich and poor. Even ex-generals are raising their voices against the colossal waste of human life and resources resulting from runaway militarism.

In truth, The Perfect Storm is already raging in some parts of the world.


One model of resistance and transformation

Recently climate activist Tim Decristopher visited Chicago and gave a well received talk. He stated bluntly that it is too late to stop dangerous climate change. We may be able to limit its most extreme effects, but at this point that’s the best we can hope for. So what do we do?

He pointed to Occupy Sandy as an example. When Hurricane Sandy devastated communities in the NYC area, members of Occupy Wall Street organized themselves into the Occupy Sandy relief effort, already having a network of experienced individuals with access to resources. Working directly with residents, some of whom were socially and politically conservative, they showed what was possible.

Occupy Wall Street and its new allies were able to organize Occupy Sandy as both a survival and a resistance group, one prepared to clear wreckage, search for survivors and rebuild; but also to make demands on the State as people learned how to wage an egalitarian cooperative resistance.

Dechristopher was directing his remarks toward environmental groups, but they apply to any socio-political organization. His point? That groups with experience, imagination and cooperative socio-political relationships are best prepared to deal with crises. 

70,000 years ago humanity faced the possibility of total extinction when a huge volcano in Sumatra exploded and disrupted the earth’s climate for a time. A fraction of the human population survived. We can only speculate on how they did it, but I suspect it was because they had deep experience in cooperation within their small tribal groups.

We must apply that human ability to cooperate in the face of danger to an entire planet. The Perfect Storm of neo-liberalism, climate change and militarism will not go away on its own.

Dr. King once spoke of the “fierce urgency of now.” BTW, now means NOW.


Bob "BobboSphere" Simpson has been a socialist since childhood.

Originally posted to In Support of Labor and Unions on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:18 PM PST.

Also republished by Hellraisers Journal, Anti-Capitalist Chat, and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Good diary (5+ / 0-)

    But I think you write off social democracy too quickly.  We should concentrate on models that have actually worked somewhere in the past.

    When the United States becomes a low wage country, only bobbleheads shall go forth from American soil.

    by amyzex on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 12:51:30 PM PST

    •  Social democracy (9+ / 0-)

      Social democracy was the most successful form of capitalism for the working class. But even the best social democracies had holes in their safety nets, especially for immigrants and minorities.

      In addition social democracy is still caught in the growth model of global capitalism and is under severe strain from the pernicious effects of global neo-liberalism.

      I do suspect however that the best functioning social democracies have a distinct advantage for coping with the "The Perfect Storm" of the article, as their working class social solidarity is stronger than a country such as  the USA.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 01:02:16 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Under pressure yes, but severe strain not really. (6+ / 0-)

        I just spent two weeks in Denmark.

        There are some signs of cutbacks in staffing on public transportation but the system still functions magnificently. The cutbacks are on ticket sellers, not routes or options (in fact there is a massive expansion of Copenhagen's already excellent subway system underway. People now buy tickets via smart phone and flash a Universal Product Code as they enter the train platform. No staff, a little tough on foreign tourists with questions but seemingly no problem for the locals.

        Renewable energy is expanding with government help especially to small owners and public utilities. And the welfare state is still pretty much in tact. Unemployment is very low.

        The rest of your article I pretty much agree with. But if North America could get even close to where Scandinavia is we would be light years ahead of where we are.

        We have only just begun and none too soon.

        by global citizen on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 01:23:26 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  More on social democracy (11+ / 0-)

          Even the best functioning social democracies are entangled in the system of global neo-liberalism. A major global crash will force them into some very unpleasant choices. I applaud countries like Denmark who do take alternate energy seriously, but their efforts are simply not enough as they are a small nation and it's a very large planet.

          We should look closely at the successes of social democracy, especially in the areas of social solidarity, worker control/ownership as well as  their environmental advances. They have also come closer to gender equity than anyone else that I can recall at the moment.

          But social democracy is simply not applicable to much of the world because of the extreme poverty that exists elsewhere. Social democracy developed out of very specific Euro-centric conditions and its success is  mostly confined to the more wealthy Northern Europe.

          One can look at Spain, Italy, or Greece to see the shortcomings of social democracy in those countries.

          Although many social democrats tend to forget this, it was also a product of the wealth generated from European colonialism and imperialism. Even little Denmark was once an imperialist nation.

          We face a planetary crisis and the clock is ticking. I sincerely believe that as a species we need to make a firm break with capitalism before it breaks the planet. I feel close to the left socialists and greens in Scandinavia and I am convinced they and their ideas will be part of any global transformation.

          "Don't believe everything you think."

          by BobboSphere on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 01:56:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The reason some models have not (6+ / 0-)

      worked in the past (long enough to become well-established systems) is because of violent attack from capitalist and in some cases authoritarian communist counterrevolutionary forces.

      Thus, it would be unfair to dismiss solutions that have not led to lasting States.

      Let's face it: If we are ever able to move the US to a different form of social organization it will likely come at a time of economic and social upheaval. When these occur, the possibility for introducing new approaches become more realizable.

      "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

      by ZhenRen on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:24:04 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Marx was right (5+ / 0-)

    We're only now seeing the proof.

    Good work.

  •  I like the diary... (5+ / 0-)

    More of this needs to be written. We need to build working groups which form networks across the country. Occupy was an example of the potential.

    My preference is anarchism, which was the primary influence that formed the approach used in Occupy.

    "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

    by ZhenRen on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 02:01:59 PM PST

    •  Anarchism (6+ / 0-)

      My heart tells me to be an anarchist while my head tells me to be a socialist. They argue a lot. I agree that anarchism does offer a lot when facing The Perfect Storm. Its traditions of cooperative work and struggle have much to teach us.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 08:35:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BobboSphere

        Although I wouldn't agree that anarchism (aka libertarian socialism) is emotional derived (for the "heart") while state socialism is intellectually derived (for the "head").

        I realize that there is a meme to this affect among some Marxists.

        "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

        by ZhenRen on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 01:49:57 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  It is a gross generalization on my part. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ZhenRen, lotlizard

          Anarchism has a long intellectual tradition which I am only superficially acquainted with. My all-time favorite political novel is Ursula K. LeGuin's The Dispossessed, which poses some pretty tough questions about both the anarchist and socialist tradition. To me that book is a companion piece to Orwell's Homage to Catalonia which does something similar.

          I can't recall who said it or even the exact words but it runs something like this, "The only problem with Emma Goldman is that she is about 8000 years ahead of her time." If we survive the challenges facing us in the 21st century, humanity might actually catch up to her anarchist vision someday.

          "Don't believe everything you think."

          by BobboSphere on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 02:15:39 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Great novel (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            BobboSphere, lotlizard

            LeGuin is an anarchist well as a Taoist (non-theistic early Taoist philosophical writings are said to be the earliest written form of anarchism).

            There have been some examples of functioning, successful anarchist societies (anarchist Spain during the Spanish Revolution, 1936-1939, being a good example - suppressed by fascists, capitalists, and the Stalinist-backed Communist Party). I don't think anarchism is so futuristic that we will have to wait 8,000 years for it! Some early tribes were anarchic thousands of years ago, and there have been anarchic peasant villages in medieval times.  

            The Paris commune, and the Makhnovists in the Ukraine (suppressed by the Bolsheviks), are other examples.

            Anyway, thanks for your reply and explanation.

            "In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

            by ZhenRen on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 02:30:14 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

  •  A very finely done diary. (10+ / 0-)

    I agree with you: we're facing global disaster and we don't have the systems in place to even really care about that.

    Oddly enough we've "evolved" to a state of affairs where making an extremely small group of people extremely wealthy is what controls all decisions... about almost everything.

    The wealthy must be protected at all costs. And to that end, they've developed very effective measures focused on keeping the rest of us fighting among ourselves.

    It's not even the 1%, although they're smug and nasty enough.  It's the 0.5% or even the 0.1% who are the real problem.  Until they wake up -- or are convinced by something (mass rebellion?) -- we have no chance.

    "The law is meant to be my servant and not my master, still less my torturer and my murderer." -- James Baldwin. July 11, 1966.

    by YucatanMan on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 07:10:30 PM PST

  •  Excellent diary (6+ / 0-)

    This is an excellent synthesis of what we face.  Boy, do I really want to say this?  Yes!  It looks complicated, but it is really very simple.  It is reductio ad absurdum.

    I boil it down to greed, and not just greed for wealth and possessions, but also for the ego feeding of self aggrandizement.  Boiled down to it's lowest denominator, this is the basis of neoliberalism.  This is what creates the Perfect storm of climate change, nuclear destruction of the DNA gene pool, poisoning of food, land, water, air.  

    Out of the need to protect its ill gotten gains, greed and self aggrandizement find it necessary to militarize to maintain control.

    Just look at the fear Occupy struck into the hearts of the corporatists, and look at how rapidly that extreme fear led them to open all stops to shut it down.

    So, the question for me is:  What next?  Do we confront and fight it, or do we go into non-compliance and undermine the system by refusing to participate, thereby undermining the structure like termites within?

    Who knows?  Time is short!

    "...the wish to believe over-rides ... reality" James Howard Kunstler

    by dharmasyd on Mon Nov 04, 2013 at 10:46:22 PM PST

  •  The economic dislocation inherent in the change (7+ / 0-)

    that is necessary, as the writer summarized so well in this article, will only come about if people who agree with the essayist are willing to work towards a point of social struggle in answer to this crisis that we, Americans, seem unwilling to strive for or face.

    Americans have lived under the mythology of capitalist "success" for over two centuries, regardless of the legacies of capitalism: authoritarian business and government structures, slavery, poverty, environmental degradation, predatory legalism, etc... a list too enormous to contain in a single paragraph. Inured to the status quo, a generally docile and compliant population more self involved than socially conscious, has allowed the subsidence of economic, social and political conditions in the US to the current sorry state.

    The mechanisms for change in the current American social, political, legal and economic milieu are few, given the grip the oligarchy has on all the levers of power here. Organizing a massive social movement that would overthrow the status quo, using existing means of political, social, legal and economic pressure, would be fought fanatically by the opponents of such change, who have almost unlimited, financial, legal and political backing and resources. OWS found this out, betrayed, crushed and their message co-opted by a cynical political
    system and its intelligence/police apparatus, they struggle to be remembered, much less to be effective.

    The problem with revolution, make no mistake this article is calling for revolution, is that the forces of revolution throughout history have rarely yielded the result wished for by the revolutionaries. Is there a place in the American soul that wishes for the destruction of the status quo enough to launch a social movement that would supplant it? I am sure that there is great dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs, I see it and hear it every day; however, can this disquiet be brought to a boil and channeled into constructive effort with a common goal simultaneously? Is peaceful change achievable through movement politics with such a fragmented, self involved, distracted and demoralized population? Can capitalism be deconstructed and a new economic model be implemented when so much power and money is invested in its continuance?

    I agree that the writer is correct in his analysis of the causes, effects and results of the current economic/political systems; however, a prescription for change and a new direction is what we need. How to arrive at a consensus for change and how to create the movement needed to facilitate that consensus are the questions that must be answered first. Forming coalitions  with existing movements and public policy organizations is what we have been attempting, it is not working, so how then do we proceed?

    The "Left" is almost nonexistent in the US, especially after the sixty-plus year assault that has been wreaked upon it here, how do we rebuild it into a movement that is powerful enough to shake the status quo? That seems to me to be the most necessary question to be answered and I don't see many asking it, or trying to answer it.

    There is a desire for change, there is a need for a movement to effect change, and the US would be a better place without the myth of republican democracy and capitalists efficiency working hand in hand to bring "progress," while actually delivering decay. Are Americans willing to work, bleed and struggle for that needed change? We once were, will we rise to the challenge, put aside our self interest and agree on what is needed to save ourselves? The clock is ticking...            

    "Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are..." George Santayana

    by KJG52 on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 01:05:02 AM PST

    •  Thank you so much... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jasan, KJG52, shaharazade, Sunspots, dharmasyd

      ...for this well reasoned comment. You might want to consider working this into a diary of your own. Yes, revolutions rarely bring forth the desired results, or at least the desired results take many decades to achieve after a revolution.

      Unlike some of my socialist friends, I do not look forward to revolution with undisguised glee. The USA has had two revolutions, both of which were accompanied by widespread destruction and human suffering.

      Is a relatively non-violent US revolution possible? Perhaps, but I wouldn't bet the ranch on it. We are a heavily armed nation with a history of violence. And for humanity to put capitalism behind us will require a global transformation.

      Personally, I am  pessimistic that humanity will get through this crisis without massive dislocation, the scale of which we cannot safely predict. If and when humanity does, it may emerge sadder, but perhaps wiser. Maybe then our descendants will have learned to create socio-ecological relations that do not depend upon runaway exploitation and violence.

      We can plant the seeds of that by practicing those kinds of socio-ecological relations today, which is what the global justice movement is trying to do.

      In the Harry Potter series Hagrid says this,“It’s changing out there … just like last time. There’s a storm coming, Harry. We all best be ready when she does.”

      Wise words.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 05:58:18 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sorry I'm late to rec this!! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobboSphere, shaharazade, dharmasyd

    Fantastic work, as per usual, Bobbo!

    tip, rec, repub

    God spare me the Heart to fight them... I'll fight the Pirates forever. -Mother Jones

    by JayRaye on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 10:34:40 AM PST

  •  I had a similar thought a few weeks ago, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobboSphere, shaharazade, lotlizard

    though you've elaborated on it a hundred fold more than I had in my head. There's definitely a coming perfect storm in the confluence of climate change and concentration of global wealth.

    I'm not sure what will happen though.  Great write up BobboSphere.

    "Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities" Voltaire.

    by JWK on Tue Nov 05, 2013 at 01:48:56 PM PST

  •  Neo-Marxism to counter Neoliberalism (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BobboSphere

    Richard Wolff describes a different form of Marxism in Democracy in the Workplace and I think he may have a workable model for a new anti-capitalism. His idea is to revolutionize production through the co-op movement. His is still a market-based solution and doesn't (as far as I can tell) imply a lack of private property or ownership. Just cooperative decision-making and benefit from the production of goods and services.

    At its core I think Wolff's book makes a really good point. The least democratic part of our lives is the workplace. We've had a political revolution that brought democracy to the political sphere. That revolution has always had an uneasy relationship with the economic sphere which remains a feudal system. It's time for a new revolution in which we bring democracy to the workplace and determine our own destiny in all aspects of our lives.

    There's a difference between a responsible gun owner and one that's been lucky so far.

    by BeerNotWar on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 12:23:54 PM PST

    •  Richard Wolff (0+ / 0-)

      I read Wolff's book with great interest. I also saw him speak at the ISO Socialism 2012 conference. He is very impressive. I think that he is on to something.

      Co-ops can help build the solidarity relationships that may get us through whatever the problematic  future holds. At some point I would like to write an article comparing his view of socialism with Ursula LeGuin's fictional association of anarchist communes in The Dispossessed.

      "Don't believe everything you think."

      by BobboSphere on Wed Nov 06, 2013 at 12:41:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  What I like about it is that it is voluntary (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        BobboSphere

        There can be no complaint in a free society if people choose to form economic relationships in the form of a co-op where decision-making and profits are shared by those who do the work. The completely discredited model of an anti-capitalism predicated upon the violent overthrow of governments and aristocracies cannot succeed. Modern capitalist states are constructed almost perfectly to prevent and counter any such movement. And besides, the results have always been terrible dictatorships.

        But a model designed to work within a capitalist state by attracting people to a better place in which to earn a living can only be stopped by draconian and anti-democratic measures that are untenable in a modern liberal democracy. As people learn to distrust the large capitalist entities that more and more thoroughly seem to run all aspects of our lives, this model of production is going to look better and better all the time.

        There's a difference between a responsible gun owner and one that's been lucky so far.

        by BeerNotWar on Thu Nov 07, 2013 at 02:49:31 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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