why and how I found WSWS.org and the SEP
For most of my adult working life I have been interested in politics and since emigrating to Australia in 1967 I voted Labor for about three decades then since the turn of the century I voted for Green party candidates. My most active political period was between 1975 and 1990 when as a member of the Victorian Public Service Association I was regularly elected to represent my fellow forestry workers. From my political perspective, since the sacking of Gough Whitlam in 1975 Australian Labor was moving further to the political ‘right’ and hence my eventual decision to start voting for the Greens whom I considered to be the best of a very ordinary bunch of political parties.
Apart from their obvious move to the ‘right’ another significant reason for my declining interest in politics was my new partnership and spiritual practice both of which commenced around the turn of the century. My partner Glenys Livingstone PhD is the author of our spiritual practice – ‘PaGaian Cosmology’ and hence the best person to describe such a practice –
“The term “PaGaian” requires some explanation: it expresses a reclaiming of the term “Pagan” as meaning a person who dwells in “country”, yet with “Gaian” spliced in, it expresses a renewed and contemporary understanding of that “country”. “Gaia” is a name for humanity’s Habitat, an ancient yet new name, which I understand to include whole Earth and Cosmos – there is no seam separating Earth from Her context. And Pagan religious tradition offers a spiritual practice of celebrating Earth-Sun Creativity manifest in this Habitat.”
There is nothing ‘illusory’ about our celebration of planet Earth’s solstice and equinox moments, it is not just an observance of the natural ‘laws of motion’ but a celebration of them, it is not just a matter of ‘common ownership’, it is more a natter of common relationship. PaGaian Cosmology as a spiritual practice is as its author Glenys Livingstone has always intended it to be, ‘a catalyst for personal and cultural change’ and as such it became the primary story and life influence going on between my ears. Because of my evolving world-view and personal values, over a corresponding period of time, politics became less relevant to me. From about the year 2005, whenever it came time to vote at a local, state or federal election it bothered me that I struggled to choose a candidate just because voting in Australia is compulsory. Around election time Glenys and I often spoke about our choices of political candidates and it was during one such conversation and me having introduced some sentiment for politically ‘left’ Marxism that Glenys alerted me to one of her many feminist books entitled ‘The Great Cosmic Mother – Rediscovering The Religion of the Earth’ (written and illustrated by Barbara Mor and Monica Sjoo 1987).
The extent to which certain chapters of Mor’s book re-ignited my interest in politics and has since led me to finding what I now regard as the only remaining plausible political party and story left (excuse the pun) on the planet, is important enough for me to want to quote extensively from her work –
“Ancient woman-oriented groupings were the original communism. Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx recognized this. Engels especially refers to the Mother–right concepts of J.J. Bachofen, and both men based their analyses of social development on the primary existence of ancient matriarchies – ie., communal matrifocal systems. In this they were influenced by the writings of Lewis Morgan, an American anthropologist… But, pioneers that they were, neither Morgan, Engels, nor Marx were fully aware of women’s real functions and achievements in past cultures. Nor were they tuned in to the total gestalt of early peoples. With Marx and Engels – and in particular with their dogmatic interpreters and followers – a narrowing of focus to strictly economic and class analysis has totally obscured the original human state of being, which was more profoundly spiritual than economic. This Marxist narrowing of focus, and its consequent denial of human spiritual experience, has had tragic repercussions throughout the world…
How did this happen? Karl Marx (Engels as well) was a deeply compassionate man; his “opium of the people” statement, which is never fairly quoted, is evidence of this:… (p:13)
“No one has said it better, or more clearly recognized the human being’s absolute right to cling to “spirit” in “a spiritless situation,” and to “heart” in “a heartless world.” Because spirit and heart are real; and they alone have helped millions of human beings survive in otherwise unsurvivable situations… Seeing these things, Marxists rightly condemned the collusion of established religions in the historic oppression of human beings. Tragically they also denied the reality of the human spirit and its genuine longings. They rightly wanted to save humanity from religious exploitation; but in their narrowing of focus, their economic and class reductiveness, they split the human into two conflicting parts: material existence versus spiritual existence…” (p:14)
“Finally, it has turned away untold millions of oppressed human beings who need the economic and social analysis of Marxism to clarify and change their situations, but who fear they are being asked to buy this analysis at the price of their living souls… Marxism stands – unfortunately, in the perception of too many people – as a total, fanatical repudiation of spiritual reality… Marx and Engels confused spirit with established religion – as their doctrinaire followers continue to do – because, as Western white males, they could not see the total paradigm of ancient women’s original communism.” (p:15)
“A truly human politics must study the entire history of the world’s religions and spiritual beliefs. It must try to return to or move toward spiritual systems that are harmonious with all our visions of creative communal life… Because this is what is missing under both of the competing “world powers”: a creative communal life. Both systems – Western capitalism and Soviet communism – are based on the denial of communal celebration.” (p:16)
“The Christian churches and the Western Capitalist ruling elites have always worked together as a machine, in Foucault’s sense, that perpetuates and rationalises the advantage of the few, while maintaining the many in a condition of productive repression, via ideological control and channelling of their sexual-spiritual energies.” (p:337)
“How can one find a truly revolutionary solution without radically changing the terms and cosmological assumptions of the problem?” (p:343)
“On a global scale, therefore, it is no longer possible to speak of a labor force separate from women workers; and by the same token, it is no longer possible to analyse the management of labor production separately from the management of female reproduction.” (p:362)
“Historic “revolutions” in the West have effectively done little more than add new economic groups to the collusion, eg; the eighteenth and nineteenth century addition of the European bourgeoisie to the ruling elites of Europe, or the more complex twentieth century addition of the Soviet political military elite to the fascistic power organisation of the West generally.” (p:398)
“A truly radical cooperative communalism that was at the root of human consciousness and culture… To know it existed in the past is to give its future existence not only credibility, but empowerment; we need this confidence of precedence not only as a core of spiritual vision, but as the core of our political vision.” (P:407)
And so, we can make no separation between “spirituality” and “politics.” We are this world, we cannot leave it. We can only work to transform it as we transform ourselves, in acts of evolution and revolution. The genius of Michel Foucault, surely was that he showed us so clearly and so precisely how politics is everything that happens to the body. On earth, mind and spirit are definitively embodied. The notion that “mind” and “spirit” can be abstracted from the body is a patriarchal lie; and a continuance of this lie is the notion that we can indulge in a “spirituality” that is “above politics” – that somehow floats above the agony of this present earth like a little blissed-out cloud… Those who embrace “spirituality” as an escape from politics, as a “transcendence” of political exigencies, simply do not understand what feminist spirituality means at its root:” (p:417)
“In this world, at this point, no political revolution is sustainable if it is not also a spiritual revolution – a complete ontological birth of new beings out of old. Equally, no spiritual activity deserves respect if it is not at the same time a politically responsible, i.e; responsive, activity… The only meaningful political direction left now is synonymous with the only meaningful spiritual direction left now: towards the conscious re-fusion of the spirit and the flesh… This time it will be a global consciousness of our global oneness, and it will realize itself on a very sophisticated technological stage; with perhaps a total merger of psychic and electronic activity.” (p:418)
“Liberal programs failed because of their built-in deadness; like many Marxists and Socialists, American liberals fell into the trap of confusing “spirituality” with “religion”. (p:419)
“Such religions do not speak for God, they merely reiterate patriarchal rationalizations for the status quo; such rationalizations are all self-serving for the people in power, and therefore lies told to the rest of us. Biology makes mistakes; it does not lie.
We need a new, global spirituality – an organic spirituality that belongs innately to all of us, as the children of the earth… We are living in a world that practices the politics of death…
While I found all of the above expression inspiring, it is the part I underline from page 418 of Mor’s book – “This time it will be a global consciousness of our global oneness, and it will realize itself on a very sophisticated technological stage; with perhaps a total merger of psychic and electronic activity.” that was of particular interest to me. These words more than any other inspired me to search the World Wide Web where I eventually found the World Socialist Web Site WSWS.org and the political story of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP). From my PaGaian Cosmology perspective two key words within the SEP story were ‘internationalism’ – which I liken to my understanding of the name Gaia and the word ‘equality’ – which I liken to my understanding of our human relatedness, captured my attention. In summary, finding a political story that was not restricted to the borders of a particular nation state, that did not not express as chauvinism, that did not rely on religious, political nor economic ‘illusion’, was for me a political revelation. I was also much encouraged after reading the words of Leon Trotsky who in 1938 when celebrating the founding of the Fourth International said – “We are not a party like other parties… our aim is the full material and spiritual liberation of the toilers and exploited…”.
After reading day to day updates on the WSWS for about a year I decided it expressed plausible enough political story for me to relate to and be inspired by. Each day I learn a bit more about the history of the SEP, about the ongoing class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, either via WSWS.org, its podcasts and or my growing SEP library. I am looking forward to learning more and I am particularly interested in a further examination of Barbara Mor’s critique of Marxism and my own notion of PaGaian Cosmology as a nature based spiritual practice that is compatible with Marx’s ‘dialectical materialism’.
Earlier this year I was encouraged by a member of the Sydney branch of the SEP to attend a public meeting as part of the 15 year review and celebration of the WSWS. During this meeting I was further inspired by the main speaker David North, so much so that I have decided to join the SEP and to support the party to the best of my ability.
As with our spiritual vision, so too with our ecological and social visions,
they are planetary by nature and PaGaian by name.
Southern Summer 2013.