CryptoParty Melbourne

Hello CryptoParty. My name is Georgie online, Heather Marsh to some people and other things to other people. I would like to talk to you all a bit about privacy and anonymity. We all know privacy is essential in high risk activism, but it is so much more than keeping bloggers from being killed. Privacy is for us all, it is a right we used to have and most people do not realize we have lost it, or that we ever had it.

Most people in democracies feel that freedom of the press is essential in a democracy; this is because we need information about our government in order to participate in a democracy. This freedom has been turned on its head so that people now feel they have the right to see Kate Middleton’s breasts but not foreign policy documents. It’s the other way around. Foreign policy documents are subject to censorship that is not compatible with democracy. Kate Middleton has been subjected to surveillance in violation of her right to privacy. The news obsession with celebrities and their private matters is there to distract you from the real news which they are not showing you. They tell you what US president Obama’s daughters wore to school when we really need to know if he is going to bomb Iran.

In our grandparents day they had a wonderful thing called mind your own business. They did not give their first names to people they had just met. There were layers of trust you went through to get to know someone and you owned the truth about yourself. This expectation of privacy for individuals is gone and we need to bring it back; transparency is for public organizations and actions which affect the public, not for our private lives. Perfect strangers will now demand any detail of your life and feel they have a right to it. We know the surveillance culture has won when snooping is a virtue, equated with being open, honest, and having nothing to hide while a request for privacy is met with shock and hurt and group shunning. We need to start refusing to provide personal data as much as we can, privacy is a basic right and if we do not use it we will lose it. We have lost it.

It has been proven enough times, famously by Julian Assange and Bradley Manning but in many other cases as well, that authorities do not need to see any transactions or have evidence of any criminal activity to destroy your life; it is enough that you pull attention, that they are aware of your existence. The fact that you are doing nothing wrong or illegal is no protection if you have attracted the attention of someone with power or mental instability. Governments are not the only people on the internet; if you start expressing opinions you will find far more interesting opposition as well. Anonymity, once lost, can never be regained; even if you have no intention of ever expressing a controversial opinion, privacy should become a habit, like brushing your teeth.

Besides the safety aspect, online anonymity is cherished by internet dwellers as the only means to pure thought exchange, where ideas can be judged on their own merits, unclouded by preconceived judgements based on unrelated data.

I started out as a programmer, and there was a time where even just my voice would have made anything I said instantly discredited, people only listened to opinions on programming or politics from baritones and tenors. That is still the case in some circles, there is a reason my online names are usually sexually ambiguous or male. Alan Turing, one of the fathers of computer science faced the same obstacle when it became widely known that he was homosexual; there is a very sad quote from him, “Turing believes machines think. Turing lies with men. Therefore machines cannot think.” We have lost far too many brilliant ideas because of bigotry against the place they came from. Many women in history would never have been published if they did not publish as men; many brilliant thinkers have been attacked based on irrelevant personal data such as race, age, or opinions on unrelated topics and their ideas have been lost. Until we live in a world with no bigotry, anonymity is the only way for these voices to be heard.

In order to move to an idea driven system, away from a personality based one, we need to all stand up for privacy for us all. Crypto parties are an amazing initiative; Privacy is fun; Tor and PGP and OTR are very fun to use, and when you are comfortable with them, maybe you will also tell the next person who demands personal data from you to mind their own business which is also fun. I hope you all have a great evening!

Individuals in society

This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” John Stuart Mill, ‘On Liberty’

“Liberty consists in the freedom to do everything which injures no one else; hence the exercise of the natural rights of each man has no limits except those which assure to the other members of the society the enjoyment of the same rights.” ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen’

Throughout these writings on collaboration it is assumed that individual rights are inherent in every system. As unhealthy cells can never create a healthy whole, a weakened people stripped of their basic rights will never create a healthy society.

In any system where groups have power, individual rights are always at risk. Both pure democracy and communism have brought human rights horrors every bit as reprehensible as fascist states; in order to guard against genocide, torture, and other persecution of individuals in the name of the greater good, a society must safeguard individual rights above all other authority.

In order for any society to ensure its survival without the use of tyrannical force, the members must be convinced that it is better than the alternative. If an alternative or no society at all appears more attractive than the current state, people will naturally be motivated to dismantle the current system. In order for a society to appear more attractive than no society at all, we need to consider the basic rights of individuals in no society. There are certain basic rights that we can see enjoyed by most mammals in their natural state; to ensure people do not need to resort to fighting for these basic rights, we can enshrine them in our social contract. If people can see their basic rights more attainable within the system than without, it will be in their best interests to protect the system.

Every undomesticated mammal will seek and sometimes fight for their basic needs: food, shelter, safety, the right to reproduce and to provide for and educate their young, the right to cohabit, at least with offspring, some measure of privacy, the right to associate or refuse to associate, the right to communicate, the right to explore and the right to learn. To some extent, all mammals have also the right to choose the time, place and method of their work within the bounds of nature and survival. Any interference with these basic rights is seen as an attack and will be greeted with whatever defence the mammal is capable of.

If an individual agrees to abide by the laws of a society and not attack it, it is reasonable that the society provides means for all members to attain the same advantages they would fight for in a state of nature. When a society refuses to allow its members to attain basic needs such as food, shelter and safety, and the deprivation is not caused by unavailability, only the most extreme repressive force and mass imprisonment will protect the society from revolution.

Given access to basic needs, the commonly recognized advantage undomesticated mammals have which their domesticated counterparts do not is freedom. Domesticated mammals are widely recognized as being in some sort of slavery, though it is popular lately to equate their status to a permanently infantilized ‘member of the family’ instead, unless they are destined to be eaten. In either case, they do not have the free will they would have in a state of nature. They will never attain an adult, autonomous status or the dignity of self actualization.

When speaking of both domesticated animals and humans, many people question why they would even want free will. They are, after all, completely taken care of, subject of course to the whims of their masters. Given proper laws to ensure benevolent masters, what is so bad about slavery or perpetual childhood? The idea that we are all entitled to our human dignity is perhaps more easily understood. We do not have human dignity when we lose not just our basic rights to survival but also our free will and our right to reach our full potential. We do not have human dignity when we are not treated as responsible, intelligent, participating members of society. We do not have human dignity when we are kept in a state below what we are capable of achieving or in a system which fails to recognize where we naturally excel. And we do not have human dignity in a system where our basic needs are treated not as a right but as a privilege which we must earn and be grateful for and which a higher parental authority can remove from us.

It has become a common and accepted part of society that when people reach an age where they ought to have attained adulthood, they frequently express ‘unreasonable’ dissatisfaction, in the form of riots or other violence against their society. Where a socioeconomic excuse for this behaviour can be found, this will be commonly used by sociologists to justify the incidents but when the perpetrators come from the most advantaged segments of society, puzzlement and frustration are typical. Rebellion is completely expected by childhood development experts when caregivers refuse to allow a child the independence required for them to attain adulthood; it is curious that the same expectation is not attached to a society that refuses to allow people to attain adult status and responsibility.

Current political systems around the world typically discuss individual rights from the role of either a ‘good’ parent or ‘bad’ parent. The harsh parent will argue that individuals must bear full responsibility for all that happens to them, in the form of severe punishment for infractions of rules and no aid in times of need, and the benevolent parent will argue for all encompassing care for each member of society. Neither argues for individual rights that would give not just responsibility but also authority to the people, as this would eliminate the political systems as they exist today.

The rights all individuals in a society are entitled to are typically enshrined in a constitutional or human rights document at a national or international level. Because these documents are frequently produced at times following revolution, newly won independence, or other periods of great awareness, they tend to reflect the ideals of the people in the society. They frequently include life, liberty, security of person, access to the basic essentials of life including knowledge, privacy and personal autonomy in matters not affecting the rest of society, free development of personality and potential, and an unbiased and accessible legal system which does not promote the wishes of the group over the rights of the individual. The rights in these documents form the social contract between individuals and society. Each individual agrees that they will work for the greater good of the society and protect the individual rights of others in exchange for having their own rights protected. This contract is essential in a system of governance that is not simply mob rule, or despotic rule.

If a governing authority were to pass laws in contradiction to the social contract, the government would be in breach of contract. The people in the society can then remove the authority given to the government or consider the contract null and void and declare a state of no governance from which a new social contact may or may not be formed. The governing body loses authority when it acts in contradiction to the social contract. A ruling such as that in the Supreme Court of Canada, which found that the government of Canada had violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the case of Omar Khadr and yet left the government with the authority to decide the remedy, while legally justifiable under current Canadian law, is a logically incorrect action in a society of free people.

If mob rule is allowed to change the social contract to remove rights from individuals in the name of the greater good, the social contract with each member of society is also null and void. If the point of a social contract is that each individual agrees that they will work for the greater good of the society and protect the individual rights of others in exchange for having their own rights protected, every violation of anyone’s rights needs to be of grave concern to the whole of society. The greater good has never and will never be served by laws which violate individual rights for the benefit of overall society.

Almost every law which violates a social contract is brought in as a one time exception that will only violate the rights of a certain minority group and will only apply in one or very few scenarios. It is usually presented as a protection of the rights of a highly sympathetic group with majority approval and accompanied by demonization of the target minority group. Sweeping surveillance of the internet is marketed as protecting children from pedosadists and to allow law enforcement to prevent child pornography, despite all evidence that it does nothing of the kind and is not actually intended to. Internet users are depicted as potential pedosadists and pirates of copyrighted material, particularly if they have privacy concerns or fight against censorship. Internment of all Japanese citizens in Canada during World War II, the USA Patriot Act which criminalized providing expert advice or assistance (including legal) to designated terrorists, the massive worldwide loss of rights and liberty, not to mention life, in the name of ‘counter terrorism’, the ‘state of emergency’ invoked around the world at various times which, once invoked, frequently becomes a permanent state, it is very easy to find countless examples of rights violations in law at this time. In every instance, these societies have broken their social contract; they have become coercive societies which now must rule by force.

These sweeping changes are usually preceded by creeping changes felt only by the marginalized in society and frequently billed as ‘for their own good’, such as various laws and regulations in both Canada and Holland which restrict legal prostitution in ways that would not be tolerated in other legal careers. In practice, the marginalized members of any society seldom enjoy the rights that form society’s contract with them. Until every member of society makes it their business to defend the rights of every member of society, no society will be safe from these encroachments.

If the marginalized group can be given a group name, anything from ‘Palestinians’ to ‘terrorists’ to’Anonymous’, the success of the violation of their rights is far more likely. If the majority of the population does not identify as part of the victimized group they are easily able to accept the loss of rights, especially if it is accompanied by propaganda to villainize the group. In this case, the entire society has broken their social contract and the society has lost legitimacy.

In the United States this concept of ‘other’ was carried to the entire rest of the world, and it was not until the government passed legislation in the form of the 2012 NDAA which attempted to treat US citizens in the same manner that illegal immigrants and the entire rest of the world were treated that the law was challenged. Such an extreme case suggests a strong need for a worldwide social contract which tolerates no ‘others’, particularly as states put defence of their citizens as their first priority. It is easy from there to justify defending citizens not by supporting them but instead by persecuting others. Individual rights must apply to every individual, and every law, including those of borders and nationality, which differentiate between groups will undermine individual rights.

Human Rights Law

Currently, the world has not fought for individual human rights in large numbers since the end of World War II which left us with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those rights have been subject to a guardian coup d’état, largely unnoticed by most of the world. Historically, a lack of awareness of violations to social contracts was both real and excusable, and the ability to organize in protest was severely hampered. That is no longer the case.

Since the UDHR was written in 1948 it has been under relentless attack as has every other documentation of rights before or since. Although the preamble clearly states the intent to “strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction” the text, widely distributed in early years, is now rarely seen. The Covenants adopted in 1966, law since 1976, billed as ‘clarifying the UDHR’ and written in far more convoluted terms, are one of the first significant examples of legal undermining which, if the principles of the UDHR had been followed, would never have passed.

For example:

UDHR Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

was completely negated by the Covenants, which start by adding the word ‘arbitrarily’, and then proceed to remove the right to life from everyone not under 18 or pregnant. (Even this was disregarded by the law in several countries, most notably the United States.):

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 6
1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.

2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgement rendered by a competent court.

3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.

5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.

6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.

UDHR Article 4: No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.

was modified to separate “forced or compulsory labour” as somehow separate from “slavery or servitude” and allow prison labour, which has since become a thriving slave industry. It also includes enough vague generality to be very flexible in allowing any form of state slavery.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 8:
1. No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave-trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.
2. No one shall be held in servitude.
3. (a) No one shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour;
(b) Paragraph 3 (a) shall not be held to preclude, in countries where imprisonment with hard labour may be imposed as a punishment for a crime, the performance of hard labour in pursuance of a sentence to such punishment by a competent court;
(c) For the purpose of this paragraph the term “forced or compulsory labour” shall not include:
(i) Any work or service, not referred to in subparagraph (b), normally required of a person who is under detention in consequence of a lawful order of a court, or of a person during conditional release from such detention;
(ii) Any service of a military character and, in countries where conscientious objection is recognized, any national service required by law of conscientious objectors;
(iii) Any service exacted in cases of emergency or calamity threatening the life or well-being of the community;
(iv) Any work or service which forms part of normal civil obligations.

In case there was anything left of the UDHR that may hinder a state from doing exactly as they please, it is made clear that the state may limit any of these rights “solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society” which instantly renders the entire body of human rights law as, in the words of George W Bush describing the US constitution, “just a g-d piece of paper”.

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Article 4:

The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize that, in the enjoyment of those rights provided by the State in conformity with the present Covenant, the State may subject such rights only to such limitations as are determined by law only in so far as this may be compatible with the nature of these rights and solely for the purpose of promoting the general welfare in a democratic society.

Building a New Society

I highly recommend clicking the link and reading the thirty UDHR articles. Most people today are suspicious, and rightly so, of any document from the UN, but this was the first document and, as a product of its time, it is shockingly complete and beautiful in its simplicity. That is not to argue that it does not need an update, but most of the updates suggested in the past detract by addition. The UDHR, while very improvable, is a model of how principles ought to be written, in simple, pure and universal terms upon which law can be based, with no vague Hallmark sounding generalities that require interpretation.

The idea that only a lawyer can understand the law was created to disguise the undermining of the basic principles of society. In order for a social contract to be binding, the principles must be easily taught to anyone, including children. No law must ever deviate from the principles of the social contract, therefore law ought to be largely intuitive. It is evident from the above that a vigilant society must audit, and indeed write, all new laws to prevent the undermining of principles.

Along with accessibility of the law, the inviolability of principles has also been under attack. A very short time ago (when the UDHR was written), principles were considered the foundations upon which everything must be built, as they are in every science and discipline. If someone said they were against your idea in principle, your task of convincing them became far harder as you must now first convince them that either your argument fit their principle, or their principle was wrong. If you succeeded at the latter, that person would have to rethink their values on everything, because morals and values were to be built upon core principles, as was the law. Today, if a politician says they are against something in principle, it means they have already agreed; principles have been designated as niceties that we all appreciate in theory but are impractical. This is an Orwellian attack on the structure of a society which clears the path for every oxymoronic law which has followed.

In order to stop the incessant flow of laws against the will of the people, core principles of society must be defined. When these principles are defined, it must be recognized that no law can ever be passed which contradicts these principles. In order for society to be stable, and allow a new and better system of collaboration, principles must apply equally to everyone, without exception.

The law must be accessible for all, not only the wealthy. Currently, NGO’s are required to fight for the rights of people and nature, but corporate rights are protected by their access to the expensive legal system. Legal remedies must be as immediate as possible as powerful interests can destroy lives just as surely be protracting a court case as they can by winning one. And the law must be intuitive, not up to the subjective judgement of an archaic legal system. Members of a society need to know before committing an act what the repercussions of that act will be, and the law must be applied equally to all. This requires a far more automated and accessible system than is currently available in any country. The fact that the legal system has remained so archaic strongly suggests that it is meant to remain inaccessible and subjective as that is best serving the interests of those in power.

The discouragement people once faced for obtaining online medical advice, particularly from their peers, is greatly compounded for legal advice. This must change. People must recreate the legal systems to work for them, and that requires direct involvement at every level in the creation and implementation of the laws. The law, more than any other part of society, must be transparent, accessible, equal, and created by and for the people.


This article is part of a series: ‘Stigmergy: Systems of Mass Collaboration’.

The world is long overdue for a completely new system of governance. If there was ever a need for political representation or a paternalistic and opaque authority it has been removed by technology. Governance by nation states is now as arbitrary and illogical as city states were earlier found to be. Corporations have the freedom to live in a world without borders or social responsibility, to own property no individual can claim and to control a one world government and legal system, with insupportable consequences for the world’s resources and individual rights. Every political system we have tried has proved incapable of protecting human rights and dignity. To effect the change we require immediately, to give individuals control and responsibility, to bring regional systems under regional governance, allow global collaboration and protect the heritage of future generations, we need a new political model.

This text is in no way meant to be a definitive answer to any of the questions before us. This is just a documentation of what seems apparent at this moment, what ideas have not worked and why, and what ideas seem to be working in isolated instances and may be able to scale to help us on a much wider basis in the future.

Many ideas in this text are far more easily understood by the free software and hacker community than the world offline. The internet created an environment where it was possible to collaborate in ways that had never been tried before, to experiment with global participation, anonymity, a money free society, idea driven projects and many other ideas that are impossible or difficult in physical life. While the internet has many current structural problems that are hindering collaboration, the internet community is yet a generation ahead in experimenting with many of these concepts.

There has been a deliberate attempt in most of this writing to not refer to ideological concepts or political models by name as there is such widespread disagreement as to what the names mean. For readability, each topic is presented in simplest terms in one section. An in depth discussion of the history of each topic, reference to all that has been written before, rebuttals and supporting quotes, would turn each section into a book, so further research and discussion is left to the comments.

World War III: A picture

     Member and observer countries of Non-Aligned Movement plus Russia are in blue.

Exactly two years ago, I started this blog with a post about A Stateless War which discussed an upcoming conflict of “The military industrial complex against the anonymous cloud, with an ignorant populace as the prize.” That conflict is largely behind us: few in the world are as ignorant as they were two years ago, and we are beyond the point where information alone can correct the social and political disasters we see around us.

Based on our current still entirely alterable trajectory, by the end of 2012 it will be apparent that we are in a new war, this time involving states. World War III will do as a name, or we can call it the Military States against the Resource States. Of course that sounds like something we’ve been in for decades; the difference is it is starting to look a lot more two sided.

Since the Cold War, the world has been socially controlled by methods which may have been lifted from Hollywood high school movies. The US state cables showed us a world in which the United States largely controls all international forums and debates with a mixture of threats and bribes and a circle of allies who do not dare risk expulsion from the inner circle by disagreement. The inner circle has largely echoed the previous imperial world, with IMF loans replacing direct occupation, but potential membership is held out as an incentive to others as well. Countries such as Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) are invited to the bigger parties, and given trade deals, military sales and social protection in exchange for their support of the inner circle. The BRICS countries then wield their own social power in similar fashion in their own regions.

As in all Hollywood movies, stability for the inner circle ends when the bullying gets out of hand. When social ostracization becomes so extreme it threatens actual survival, as it does for Cuba, Palestine, Iran, Somalia, North Korea and others, when no negotiation short of complete obliteration of self is acceptable, the entire social structure is threatened, more so as more members are outcast. The world has watched as Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and many others have been inhumanely tormented with no possibility of reprieve or negotiation and no defence from any stronger nation. If extreme bullying such as that detailed in the Palestine Papers is combined with any sudden unexpected weakness in the bully or strength in the bullied, the result is predictable and instant.

And so it has been.

The weaknesses in the US and other NATO countries have been very well researched and documented in recent years, but except for the obvious economic collapse they have not received widespread discussion. Here are some other points that may become key very soon.

1. The US does not actually control their own military or intelligence and the private corporations that do, do not operate from patriotic loyalty and are available to the highest bidder. They do not work if they are not paid. Many are not even citizens of the US. Not just the people, at the highest ranks, but even the military hard assets are frequently privately owned.

2. US trade relies heavily on intellectual property and increasingly draconian laws to protect and increase the value of that property. Intellectual property is a concept, not a good, and it does not exist if trade partners do not acknowledge it. Even loan interest typically comes with a contract and some trust which will be lost if the contract is broken; there is nothing to be lost by people who refuse to pay for intellectual property. For years the industry has tried to make the case that if intellectual property were not copyrighted and patented, creative activity would halt, but the open source and pirate movements have proven the opposite to be true. Since it is very rarely the creators who control the intellectual property rights to their own work, or have the resources to fight infringement, the moral argument that creativity ought to be compensated by IP laws is also very weak. This leaves the G20 countries, US particularly, with no protection other than force and increasingly controversial extraditions to claim income from intellectual property. In a time of war, this would be a very precarious basis for trade, particularly since the US is the sole beneficiary of the extreme laws today and the rest of the G20 would benefit from a relaxation of IP law.

All of the statistics on this site are very interesting. Here are a few:

74% of exports– or $1 trillion– are driven by American IP-intensive industries. (Global Intellectual Property Center: “IP Creates Jobs for America,” NDP Consulting, May 2012.)

Among the 27 tradable industries, only six industries reported trade surpluses—five of which were IP-intensive industries, generating an average $14.6 billion in trade surplus each year. (“The Impact of Innovation and the Role of Intellectual Property Rights on U.S. Productivity, Competitiveness, Jobs, Wages and Exports,” NDP Consulting, 2010)

G20 economies have lost 2.5 million jobs to counterfeiting and piracy. (Frontier Economics, Estimating the Global Economic and Social Impacts of Counterfeiting and Piracy, February 2011.)

India and Pakistan both made the “Top Ten Source Countries” this year due to seizures of counterfeit pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceutical seizures accounted for 86% of the value of IPR seizures from India and 85% of the value of IPR seizures from Pakistan. (Customs and Border Protection, Intellectual Property Rights – Seizure Statistics: Fiscal Year 2011)

3. As the world’s most capitalist economy, the US has arguably the least societal support in the event of a collapse. Years of competitive and unhealthy consumerism, in which consumers are divorced from production, in the world’s most addicted and most incarcerated population create a societal helplessness not seen in most places. All of the G20 countries have favoured corporations over people to the extent that surviving in a collapsed economy is difficult to impossible without rewriting many property ownership and usage laws.


NATO countries are in green.

The Acronyms and Isolation

As in the prelude to the past world wars, many economic and defence treaties have been negotiated over the years to protect US dominance in each region. A favoured bullying tactic has been to exclude countries from these international clubs to cripple their economies and ability to defend themselves. There has been increasing activity to combat this practise.

The United Nations and all of its arms have served to protect the inner circle on a global level. In 1961 the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was formed to represent countries not aligned with either the US or the USSR. In the Havana Declaration of 1979, Fidel Castro identified the purpose of the organization to ensure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” in their “struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism, and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics”.

The 120 member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement represent nearly two-thirds of the United Nations’s members and contain 55% of the world population before adding the 21 other observer countries. The Summit last week in Tehran included representatives from 130-150 countries, shown in the map at the top of this article. (There are only approximately 192 countries in the world.) Attendance at the highest level included 27 presidents, 2 kings and emirs, 7 prime ministers, 9 vice presidents, 2 parliament spokesmen and 5 special envoys as well as the Secretary-General of the UN. Resolutions included condemnation of the blockade of Cuba and the Paraguay coup, support to Argentina regarding the Malvinas, known in the UK as the Falklands, support to Ecuador over the UK’s threats to its embassy, calls for transformation of the United Nations, calls for the US to stop its illegal drone attacks in Pakistan, calls for disarmament and much more. The reaction in the NATO countries was to ignore the Summit except when deriding its relevance, but it is hardly possible to seriously deny the relevance of a gathering of over 7000 people from the top levels of approximately 150 countries creating a final resolution which included over 700 clauses on world policy. If these countries were all to leave the UN, or begin to vote as a bloc at the UN, there would be a split between NAM countries and NATO countries.

There are many lesser alliances that have worked to enable US and NATO domination in past decades. One of the oldest alliances, created in 1948 out of previous pan-American alliances formed since 1826, is the Organization of American States. This is the organization the US used to create an embargo on Cuba in 1962, an embargo refused only by Canada (who was not a member till 1990) and Mexico. In 2013 there will be 41 member states in the OAS. In 2004 the Cuba-Venezuela Agreement was signed and it proposed an alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). The alternative coming out of the Cuba-Venezuela Agreement is known as ALBA and now includes eight (soon to be eleven) countries. In 2008, the 12 member Unasur agreement, which includes a defence treaty, was signed, and in 2011 CELAC was created. CELAC members include all members of the OAS except the US and Canada.

In 1947 the Rio Treaty (TIAR) was signed for ‘hemispheric defense’ and was later invoked by the US against Cuba. During the Malvinas (Falklands) war, the US sided with the UK, and during the Iraq war only four countries joined the US. Mexico and Canada are not members, all members of ALBA withdrew in June of 2012, and the treaty is now largely ignored in favour of the Unasur defence agreement.

These new organizations come amid objections to the US and Canada preventing any resolutions from going through at the OAS. These two countries have repeatedly blocked resolutions agreed to by all of the rest of the 35, such as inclusion of Cuba, new solutions to the drug war and solidarity with Argentina over the Malvinas/Falklands. The OAS is a consensus based organization, so it can and has been run, in the words of Venezuela’s Chavez, as a ‘dictatorship’ by those who refuse to negotiate, the two NATO countries.

In August of 2012, an emergency meeting of the OAS was called to decide whether to hold a second meeting to discuss a resolution on the embassy dispute between Ecuador and the UK. The US and Canada (and Trinidad & Tobago) argued against a subsequent meeting and were overruled this time by a vote. After a weekend of hurried meetings of ALBA, Unasur, and others, the OAS meeting in Washington DC was held and also put to a vote. The US delivered a sullen agreement and Canada a more petulant refusal, but in a population of 33 the one consensus breaking vote was irrelevant. While media in NATO countries concentrated on the resolution itself, calling it largely ineffective, the resolution was not the point. The two countries which had ruled the 35 country bloc with their vetos were this time made irrelevant. The message in both the vote and the rhetoric was clear; if the OAS is to survive in any form and not be replaced by CELAC, the NATO countries will no longer be permitted to simply block resolutions.

The two countries which excluded Cuba from the OAS have become, as a direct result of an organization started by Fidel Castro, the two that are now themselves excluded. The countries that have lobbied for sanctions against Iran have been ignored by the 120 members and 21 observers of the NAM which have selected Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the current chairperson. In 2015 the chair will be handed over to Venezuela, another arch-enemy of the US as the organization continues to define itself along lines set out by Fidel Castro in 1979. Ecuador, a member of ALBA, Unasur, CELAC and NAM as well as many other alliances, has already threatened sanctions against the UK over the Malvinas/Falklands.

The NATO countries are suddenly in very real peril of having sanctions imposed against themselves. How real is the threat of solidarity among NAM members? Within days of the summit, Canada had closed the Iranian embassy in Canada and Netanyahu was berating Obama over not delivering stronger ultimatums to Iran. Iran does not think that is a coincidence.


NATO Partnerships

Does the 1% need the 99%?

It is very evident that in terms of population and resources the side I will call the NAM countries are in a superior position. It is equally evident that in terms of military, the NATO countries are vastly superior; NATO countries control over 70% of the world’s military spending. So while resource trade embargos could quickly plummet NATO countries into what they would probably consider dystopia, or a state resembling that of the global south, NATO countries could also use their military to wipe out populations in the NAM countries, using unmanned and even autonomous drones, and they could create embargos by blocking trade between NAM countries.

What is the loyalty between the NATO countries? How many will stand together in the face of embargos? In the case of the intelligence, defense science and technology sharing countries, particularly the countries known as the five eyes, their governments’ loyalty to each other has been shown to be similar to that of a gang or a cult. What they know of each other is probably enough to ensure allegiance unless their governments are completely taken over by new people and trials started for crimes against humanity and war crimes. More importantly, their corporate ties are far too strong to break. At the moment they are too invested in protecting each other for a split.

Japan’s spat with China coming at this time may put them firmly on the five eyes’ side. Or not. Japan rejected bilateral or regional agreements for many years and has far less explicit ties than most countries. As the third or fourth largest economy, they may also be able to afford independence. And their biggest trading partner is still China. Trade relationships are handy to help us make predictions, although they are by no means the whole story, potential trade relationships may be an even bigger influencer at this point as many countries try to back away from troubled economies.

The key then becomes whether individual NATO countries feel it is easier to back a new BRICS led empire, or back the existing US empire, since none of the core NATO countries is strong enough to build a new empire on its own and their corporate powers will not back a real democracy. At this moment, none have shown any inclination to prefer a BRICS led NAM alliance, but the EU members may be far too preoccupied with matters at home to involve themselves in global issues, on either side. Many NATO partners will choose individually as they have conflicting agreements, while some like Israel are easy to predict.

The corporations control the money and therefore the military and the NATO countries. The people provide labour for the corporations, including the military. There are far more people than the corporations and the few who control them actually need for labour, but the world in general is facing an imminent shortage of young people to care for their aging populations. Whether care for aging populations will be a priority remains to be seen. Automated warfare has made it much harder for people to regain control of their own military. The general populaton would have to track the few people who control the corporations, the governments and the military and regain control by removing control from those who hold it currently.

What is the power of the people over the corporations? On the NATO side, very little to none. On the NAM side, that is possibly the most interesting place to watch, which countries, if any, will attempt co-operative governance which benefits people ahead of corporations, and whether that will break the NAM alliance in two or even completely disintegrate it into many civil wars. Or even possibly work in some countries, and if some countries do implement governance by the people, will it look again like communism, with a corrupt central core and a corrupt military required to stop the capitalist imperialists from invading, or will there be a new model? If there is a new model, how will it stop the corporate invasion?

The NAM countries are hardly a unified bloc either. While they are largely all against NATO dominance, most of them (particularly BRICS countries) want a ‘multi-polar’ world, or a world with multiple tyrants including themselves. Outside of BRICS, the smaller countries want a place for the elite of every country. There is no real political representation of control by the people which has any power at this moment. How can governance by the people gain control in this conflict?

Who will win? At this point, it hardly matters. If NATO wins it is status quo, if some form of NAM wins it will quickly become the new NATO, using the threat of the old NATO to justify its own imperialism. This is the pattern we have seen in every revolution since the beginning of society, sometimes appearing instantly, sometimes edging forward in a few decades.

How can we create real governance by the people out of this conflict?

The word crisis is derived from a word meaning ‘turning point’. For all the crises we think the world has been through, there is very rarely a turn. Indeed, history can appear more like an inexorably straight path with predictable periodic bumps. The tools to effect a real change are available now, but real change would require a real direction and goals. Without these, this revolution will end as all the others eventually have, with new tyrants.

The latest crisis will disrupt every corner of the world. By the end of 2015 we will have either a new system or new tyrants. For us to create real change from this, there needs to be a working venue, an uncensorable place to communicate both locally in person and globally online. There needs to be a new system of collaboration that will be stronger than the systems of governance we have had so far. We need a system that can react quickly and powerfully enough, with enough knowledge and expertise, to allow collaboration on a massive scale and still provide enough autonomy for local governance.

I will be writing a lot about both the communication and the collaboration soon, starting here.