As is the case with social change work more generally, it is easy to get burned out with Media Mouse–it seems like we are occasionally caught in a cycle of writing about the next protest, the most recent study of inequality, another act of organized racism, sexism, or homophobia–while victories are few and far between. At the SDS conference in Detroit, Michael Albert–the founder ofZ Magazine and a longtime activist and organizer on the left, read a piece that does a wonderful job explaining what we–with “we” meaning those who want a better world based on cooperation, equality, and solidarity–are seeking and rooting our actions in the history of popular struggle in the United States and abroad:
We are trying to win a new economy, a new realm of daily life and love, a new culture, a new polity, a new ecology, a new internationalism, all without hierarchies that condemn some people to subordination. We reject roles unsuited for humanity – the role of the owner, boss, manager; the role of the patriarch, misogynist, homophobe; the role of the racist, religious bigot, fundamentalist; the role of the denier, decrier, decider, dictator; the role of polluter of air, sea, and land; the role of bombardier, cultural commissar, empire expander. Gone with all of that.
We are pursuing this better world that will leave behind these horribly oppressive aspects by seeking improvements in people’s lives right now, from the washed out streets in New Orleans to the porn strewn back alleys in Chicago, from the black lunged mines in West Virginia to the dignity destroying commercialism of billboards and TV, from rural poverty to urban blight, from self-imposed diets seeking false beauty to society-imposed diets imposing criminal starvation, from the flesh houses of Los Angeles and its glam and glitter to the cardboard homes under bridges in Philadelphia, from the miles of AA meetings to the miles of local bars, from the capacity crushing horrors imposed on eighty percent of our school’s students to the elite Ivy farms spewing out scholars who lack sense and humanity, from the modern slave houses called prisons to the court houses that function like auction houses, from elections that are bought and sold by rich corporate executives investing in their preferred paths of domination to acres and acres of misguided commodity production remorselessly destroying our weather and water, from the endless skyways of half empty hotels to the endless alley ways of homeless children, mothers, and fathers.
We seek more income for the poor, more power for the weak, more status for the forlorn, more social ties for the lonely, more responsibility for all our crying souls. We seek equitable material well being, self managing influence, and mutual fulfillment of all kinds. We seek, as well, to ensure that our demands today not only partly redress the suffering caused by the world we now inhabit but also move us toward a better future in which worldly and spiritual benefits of society reach a high level and then persist due to the intrinsic logic of our new institutions rather than only when we win against harsh opposition.
And why we are doing all this? We are doing it tirelessly, steadfastly, and vigorously, for the memory of revolutionaries and visionaries and humanists from history past, for people all around us now, and for history’s and humanity’s future.
We are trying to win a new economy in which there are no classes. No one in the better world we seek will own workplaces, resources, or other people’s ability to do work. There will be no owners of Walmarts or Microsofts. There will be no private profits. There will be no wage slaves, working under the dictates of others. Further, no one will monopolize empowering conditions at work, as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and managers so typically do now, and on that account rule over those left only menial and obedient tasks. No one will earn inequitably whether from property, power, or output. No one will have more say over decisions than the fair share that we all are entitled to in accord with how much we are affected. There will be no top and no bottom of who decides what for whom. There will be no order giver and no order taker about production, allocation, or consumption. There will be no class responsible for decisions while another class is suppressed and responsible only to obey. We will all be elevated to use our fullest capacities and express our fullest desires, rather than most of us learning only to endure boredom and to obey orders showered down on us by the anointed masters of all that occurs. Our new economy will be classless, at last. Out with the old boss – and out with any new boss, too. We will enjoy a participatory economy, operating as one part of a participatory society.
But our project is not just about economics – we are not economistic. We realize that life is not working and consuming alone. For example, we are trying to win a new polity too, that will incorporate the will of all citizens in legislation, that will adjudicate disputes to produce justice, that will respond to violations to attain rehabilitation and liberation rather than vengeance and retribution. Our new polity will have citizens of diverse age, belief, experience, and knowledge, but will not have rulers and ruled. We are not merely seeking new Presidents and Senators because we understand that our political problem is government by a few – not simply the oddities of any particular few who happen to be prowling around the White House and Senate at any particular moment. We won’t have political choices mediated by dollar bills but by the will of informed citizens, each with equal rights and comparable means. We will have in our new society’s new polity, participatory democracy and self management. We won’t have information conveyed by agents of corporate power. We will have education, communication, and popular participation that together prepare all citizens to be full participants in social life and decision making. We will build and responsibly contribute to assemblies that express our informed desires for legislation allowing us to self manage our political and social life. We will build media that conveys expert information so we can function wisely. We will adopt decision methods that apportion influence over outcomes to those affected in proportion as they are affected so that we collectively self manage our conditions and projects. We might well call all this participatory politics, one more part of our new participatory society.
Beyond economy and polity, however, we are trying as well to win a new realm of sexuality, nurturance, socialization, and daily life. Do the roots of sexism reside in nuclear marriage as we know it? Do they stem from a gender division of labor that is women mothering and men fathering rather than both parenting? Is sexism born in a disparity in who does caretaking work and who doesn’t? Are there other roots of sexism, other structures that continually toss misogyny up into our lives, reproducing its contours year in and year out, and thereby subverting our potentials for sharing and caring? Whatever the roots of patriarchy are, whatever produces and reproduces sexism, it will all be transcended in a new world. Sexism will be only a memory in the new world we will win and celebrate. Will we need communal living arrangements, new modes of parenting, new ways of apportioning the labors of life, all even beyond the obvious need for fair and free access for women to all positions in society? If we do, then that’s the feminism we must and will achieve in our new participatory society. If something more or other is needed, then that too will be done. We will have participatory kinship, participatory living, in our new participatory society, nothing less is acceptable.
We are trying to win a new culture, as well, that celebrates cultural diversity while defending each community’s every participant. Our preferred new society will include social structures and relations that welcome spirituality and religious sentiment even as our new approaches escape the strictures of fundamentalism of all kinds and respect atheism as well. In our new society, we will all still celebrate, communicate, identify, and forge ways of seeing and understanding ourselves and our communities – but we will do it with mutual respect, taking pleasure not only in our own solutions but in admiring, learning from, and enjoying the rich variety of other people’s solutions too. We will choose our cultural communities freely, move among them as we choose, and refine and enrich our ties to them over the course of our lives. Racism, religious bigotry, ethnocentrism, and all kinds of self identification based on or presupposing the inferiority and subordination of others will have become a thing of the past, and our ways of constructing our communities and the institutions we adopt in our new cultural relations will have to respect, abide, and propel that outcome. New cultural institutions, that is, will guard the rights and norms of all communities, but particularly of the smaller in disputes with the larger. The name for all this might be multiculturalism or perhaps intercommunalism, another leg for our new participatory society to stand on.
We seek a greener world too, but not just sustainability. We are not content with the idea that the best we can do is to avoid suicide, which is what sustainability literally mandates. Rather, in our participatory society not only will our culture and daily life respect our natural environment, but our legislation will freely and effectively protect it and our economy will properly discern its interconnections and their value. Likewise, even beyond our own shores, we seek a community of countries that goes beyond being at peace to attain a condition of mutual benefit. We will have war no more – of course – but we will not dispense with global ties. On the contrary, we will enrich and extend global ties so that countries freely share their lessons and virtues, protect one another from harm, and exchange not according to competitive norms that ensure that trade benefits accrue mostly to whoever is richer and more powerful, but instead exchange in a way that always reduces disparities in wealth and power. In the time-honored tradition of our predecessors, we can call this internationalism, but it is ultimately just participatory societies participating in cooperative solidarity with one another.
But how do we win all this, that’s the question, isn’t it? We know we must. We know we will. But how? Of course, we only know some things about this massive question – the rest will be revealed only in the clash and jangle of struggles and constructions as we pursue the road forward. But, even now, there are some insights we can commit to, as we develop and share more.
In our future there will be participatory self management via worker and consumer councils in the economy, via people’s assemblies in the polity, and via new personal and collective arrangements in culture and in kinship as well. We can’t grow that kind of future participation using movements that are harshly hierarchical. No more of that. We can’t attain equitable remuneration, self management, classlessness, women and men in partnership, sexual liberation, political participation, wide dispersal of information, cultural intercommunalism, a wise relation to nature, and internationalism, if we use movement vehicles that incorporate the ills of the present. No more of that. We can’t have racism, sexism, or classism in our movements. No more, no more.
We will win a better world by winning sequences of improvements in people’s lives within existing society which also win our movements ever more consciousness, ever more commitment, and ever more infrastructure of struggle, until they are powerful and wise enough to win not solely modest elixirs for pain, but also the infrastructure of full freedom and liberation.
We can’t create a society of sharing souls by having fragmented, alienated movements. We can’t generate responsibility and initiative with movements that denigrate and debilitate. We can’t sustain participation with movements that are as oppressive as society at large – indeed we can’t win with these flaw in our movements since winning entails a movement of perhaps a hundred million involved participant leaders. Without movements that give their participants better lives than they would have outside, more friends, more love, more dignity, more empowerment, more knowledge, more confidence, we can’t win. So we must create such movements.
We can’t use anti democratic means to produce democratic results. We can’t use anti egalitarian norms to produce equitable distribution. We can’t use authoritarian culture and conceptions to produce participation. We can’t maintain soul wrecking values much less elitist and egocentric behaviors to produce intercommunalism.
We need to have our eyes on the real prize which is to enlarge membership, enlarge consciousness, enlarge commitment, and enlarge infrastructure, all consistent with our long term aims and not solely our short run priorities and tactics.
We do it for workers on the line, bored, tired, impoverished, and robbed of their creative days. No more Maggie’s Farm for us, instead classlessness.
We do it for women door-opened, pinched, decultured, feminized, impoverished, beaten, raped, advertised, psychologized, ball and chained. No more hustle and no more Hustler for us, instead Feminism.
We do it for Blacks, Latinos, Native Americans, Asians…nameless, robbed of dignity and means, legally lynched, harassed, low paid, running, jailed. No more plantations in the midst of plenty for us, instead Intercommunalism.
We do it for the drunks and addicts, the worn out and the never lively, for the old and ill who should be long lived and wise, for the forgotten, the dispossessed, the lonely.
For the young, schooled and unschooled, enduring boredom, sniffing glue, stealing sex and losing love, trying to escape or trying to find a way in, whether they exist under a massive thumb or are trying to grow a massive thumb with which to hold down others.
We do it for those on welfare or off it, looking into the mall or looking out from it, employed or unemployed, alone or crowded beyond sanity, hiding their sex or flaunting it, angry, sad, or mad.
We do it for all those who feel less than they could feel, for all those who have been made less than they could be in this rich land, the United States – and –
We do it for the Colombian, Paraguayan, Guatemalan, Haitian, South African, Congolese, Liberian, Sudanese, Iraqi, Iranian, Palestinian, Pakistani, Indian, Thai, Malaysian, and Chinese exploited, robbed, starved, cheated, tortured, ambushed, kidnapped, and death-squadded.
We do it for all the world’s citizens suffering the brutality and indignity of electric shocks and murdered relatives, suffering secret or public bombs, suffering Guantanamos and Abu Ghriabs, suffering poverty and even starvation, suffering the military boot and the cultural stamp.
We do it for the empire’s citizens, proud but beleaguered, and also for the empire’s enemies, our forebears:
We do it for the strikers, the saboteurs, the feminists and anarchists, the Marxists and nationalists, for those with no ideology but liberty, and for those who had too much ideology as well.
We do it for the memory of Che and the Cuban freedom fighters – we will be “guided by great feelings of love.”
We do it for the memory of Amilcar Cabral and the liberation of Africa – we will “tell no lies and claim no easy victories.”
We do it for the memory of Rosa Luxembourg and the revolutionaries of Europe – we will move, and therein we will notice and break our chains.
We do it for the memory of Alexandra Kollantai and Russians in revolt – we will not only create direct means of popular rule, we will preserve, revere, and utilize them.
We do it for Emma Goldman and the anarchists in struggle – we will dance on our way to, on our arrival at, and in celebration of our new world.
We do it for Simone de Beauvoir and feminists everywhere – we will accept no biological, psychological, or economic fate deterring women in our future.
We do it for Ho and the Vietnamese, the Vietnamese who yesterday taught us all, and who will have their day too, around the corner, over the hill, when we win the world we all desire.
We do it for r Martin Luther King Jr. – his mountain is our mountain, his vision looking into uncharted mists will become our daily pleasure, surrounding us during each breath of our lives. We will win for Martin too.
We do it for Fannie Lou Hamer and the Civil Righters, for Dave Dellinger and the new leftists, for Fred Hampton and the Panthers, for Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers, for Lolita Lebron and the Puerto Rican nationalists, for Leonard Peltier and the fighters in AIM, and for all the fine souls who resisted and died in the past and who nonetheless live on.
We do it for the young who dodged the draft. For the young who went to war and disrupted. For the young who went and died – or lived. For the Vietnam Veterans against war, and especially for the Iraq Veterans against war.
We do it for the French in the streets of May and the Italians in Autumn, for the Mexicans in the summer, and the Czechs and Chinese, for the Nicaraugans, the El Salvadorans, the Haitians, the Bolivians, and the Venezuelans. For the ANC and landless peasants movement. For the anti globalization veterans of Seattle and Prague. For the camepasinos in Brazil and the piqueteros in Argentina, for the Zapatistas in Mexico and for movements all over Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas – for the millions who opposed the Iraq War before it began and the many millions more who oppose it now.
We do it for everyone who has fought, fights, or will fight for a better wage, a better home, more dignity, more respect, a better life, a better world than they were, are, or are going to be bequeathed.
And at the same time, necessarily:
We do it against the Rockefellers, the Waltons and Buffets, the Somozas and Pinochets, the CIAs and FBIs, and the Bushs, Clintons, and Kissengers all.
We do it against the doctors coerced by their positions to deal in dollars but not in dignity, against the landlords, the corporate lawyers, and the politicians with their eyes closed to injustice or wallowing in its waste.
We do it against the owners, administrators, bosses, rapists and racists, those on top and those who aspire only to be on top, against all the dealers of bad hands, against the stacked decks.
We do it against the social ties and unties that breed the pain and all who grow ugly by benefiting from its continuance, one step above those suffering below.
We do it against the intellectuals who keep information as it if were their little toy, who enshrine their ignorance under false halos and who hide it behind big words, who justify barbarism or technically dissect it as their interests require, never shedding a tear, never raising a fist.
We do it against the media liars, the news pimps, the career thinkers with brains the size of cornflakes, the academics – left and right – who propagate propaganda to preserve this system or some other, and yes, we do it against the academics who call themselves socialists and always do nothing, the ones who succeed but don’t stay angry, the ones who don’t really care.
And finally, we will make this new world for our parents, our friends, our children, our children’s children, and for ourselves too.
To succeed, we must all soon agree on at least the essential core aspects of what a better world can and will embody.
To succeed, we must flexibly agree on what it will require to make it so, what skills must be learned, what tasks accomplished, what obstacles overcome, and to succeed, we must act, and act, and act, and refine our awareness as we learn from our actions.
Let us not mince words. Let us not call ourselves less than we are. The name for all this is revolution.
The name for those who believe in it, who aspire to it, who devote themselves to it, is revolutionary.
Till when there will be fewer acquaintances and many more friends and lovers, we must be revolutionary, we must be revolutionary, we must be revolutionary – to win our new world.