cj#1072> (ZNet Form) Michael Albert: VISION MATTERS

2000-03-20

Richard Moore

Dear Lee,

Thanks for forwarding Michael's article, which inspired me to become
a ZNet Sustainer and to sign up for the forums.  After the article,
below, I'm including a response I sent to Michel.

By the way, the New Dawn article, "New World Order and What To Do 
About It", is now on the cj website.

rkm


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Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 11:47:42 -0800
To: •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.••• (Lee van der Heiden)
Subject: ZNet Commentary / March 19 / Michael Albert / Vision Matters

Dear Richard,

I've followed cyberlist for almost a year now. I believe the following
commentary is relevant for a Democratic Renaissance. BTW - The New Dawn
article was superb. My compliments to you.

Lee

---<fwd from ZNet Commentaries>---

If you pass this comment along to others, please include an
explanation that Commentaries are a premium sent to
Sustainer Donors of Z/ZNet and that to learn more about the
project folks can consult ZNet (http://www.zmag.org) and
specifically the Sustainer Pages: 
    http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm.

Here then is today's ZNet Commentary...

---------------

Vision Matters
By Michael Albert

So far I have sent out an economic vision and strategy
commentary each of the past eight Sundays. I assumed we
would quickly agree that we don't have but that we do very
much need a shared economic vision, and that to get one we
need to collectively debate visionary ideas, junk what we
don't like, come up with any new features we need, and
finally settle on something we can collectively espouse. But
since it seems that we don't in fact agree about the
importance of this agenda, here I want to re-visit the claim
that having shared vision and program is a prerequisite for
an effective mass movement.

Imagine you are organizing folks for the upcoming Washington
IMF/World Bank demonstrations. Or that you are giving a
public talk about poverty, or that you are making a
presentation in an economics class, or that you are hanging
out in a bar chatting with workmates. Someone says, okay, I
know you hate what people are paid in our society. You hate
our society's jobs. You hate the way its decisions are made.
And you hate its competition and profit seeking. So what do
you like? What should people earn? How should we arrange
jobs? How much power should people have? What kind of
workplace or budgetary decision-making should we have? How
should goods and services be allocated? What economy do you
want instead of capitalism?

My experience is that folks skeptical about activism raise
just these questions, yet few leftists can compellingly
answer them. If there aren't any alternatives to present
institutions, these skeptics rightly reason, then seeking
systemic change is foolish. If we must have wages paid the
way they are now, jobs organized the way they are now,
decisions made the way they are now, and profits sought the
way they are now, then even if we somehow change some other
aspect of our economy, these basics are going to overwhelm
any momentary gains, and everything will eventually wind up
back where it was or worse. So why seek hopeless change?

We can logically rebut such cynicism by noting the important
gains movements have won in our history: the end of slavery,
women's suffrage, child labor laws, the end of Jim Crow
racism, the forty hour workweek. But no matter how high we
pile such historical evidence, our reports of past victories
won't assuage everyone's doubts about contemporary
prospects. To become motivated, most people need to see how
economic life could be more fulfilling and how their actions
could contribute to such ends. To become motivated, doubtful
people need to encounter credible, positive, inspiring aims,
over and over, coming from many activists in many venues,
all more or less synchronizing what they say for mutual
reinforcement. In other words, to become active typical
citizens need to repeatedly encounter inspiring organizers
with shared vision and strategy.

And it isn't only that activists lacking shared vision won't
inspire and sustain motivation. Sensibly choosing tactics
and usefully stringing together campaigns to reach sought
goals also requires shared vision. Vision provides hope and
motivates effort, yes, but it also organizes our criticisms
and orients our struggles. Vision motivates participation
and it informs strategy. Strategy in turn prevents reactive
and dysfunctional politics. Yet amazingly, even though there
is lack of motivation, reactive organizing, and
dysfunctional politics all around us, there is not only
little agreement in our movements about either vision or
strategy, there is also little effort to rectify the
confusion.

For example, ZMI is a school that Z holds each summer. Some
folks arrive very new to left thought and activity, of
course, but many others arrive with an amazing wealth of
practical experience. Nonetheless, even in its congenial
atmosphere and with its highly motivated constituency, very
few who come to ZMI can confidently present an economic (or
kinship or cultural or political) vision and strategy. And
the same holds true of organizers I meet when I go out to
speak with local community groups or on campuses. Many have
well formulated understandings of the oppressive dynamics of
current institutions, to be sure, but few are clear about
what they want in place of current institutions and about
how to attain it.

Is all this a problem? Is it part of why our movements are
weak? Is attaining shared vision and strategy at least as
important as enumerating for the fourteen thousandth time
that corporations are authoritarian, that poverty hurts, and
that profit shouldn't go before people? Or are clear and
compelling vision and strategy irrelevant, so that we only
need to describe more perfectly how current injustices
operate and what our immediate targets should be, and then
watch the barricades go up?

Parecon itself may or may not be a compelling economic
vision, and likewise for the strategic insights I have
offered over these past few weeks. But what seems absolutely
certain is that if parecon isn't worthy then we need to
figure out something else that is. And whether we start with
parecon or with something different and better, we need to
collectively refine, enhance, and learn how to argue for a
vision, as well as how to extrapolate strategy from it.

In short, to succeed our movement needs economic vision and
related long and short-term program. For that matter, it
also needs kinship, cultural, and political vision and
program. Of course, not everyone has to be working on
developing all this vision and program every minute of every
day. But don't quite a few of us have to put some serious
energy into that creative task? And at the very least, once
visions are enunciated and refined, don't we all have to
understand them and make them our own and become good at
explaining what we want and how we are going to collectively
go about getting it?

============================================================================
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000
To: Michael Albert <•••@••.•••>
From: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: re: Vision Matters
Cc: 

Dear Michael,

Someone forwarded me your article "Vision Matters", which
led me to the ZNet site (http://www.zmag.org)... I looked over 
your recent commentaries and also joined the Sustainer program.

I've published several articles myself, in various
magazines, and I can see that our perspectives have much in
common.  On the one hand, there's the existing NWO elite
regime, and on the other hand, what do we do about it?  It
is necessary to continually try to awaken people to the
reality and implicatons of the NWO, and it is equally
necessary to help create a collective vision of a new world.

If I understand correctly, your approach to 'creating a
vision' is to focus on economic arrangements and to propose
a framework for economic relationships that is more
equitable and more conducive to a livable world.

My own emphasis re/vision is different, but complementary. I
focus on political considerations and the need to replace
elite rule by genuine democracy. This leads into
considerable discussion about what democracy is, really, and
how it can be allowed to operate. I've just published an
article along these lines which you might find of interest,
"The New World Order and What To Do About It":
    http://cyberjournal.org/cdr/NWO_What_to_do.html 

My belief is that if we cannot achieve democracy then other
reforms are ephemeral, and if we do achieve democracy then
our economic and other policies will be worked out through
the democratic process.  As to how democracy can be
achieved, I envision the following scenario...

    1) A movement crystallizes around a core agenda of replacing
    elite rule by democracy, and achieving a livable,
    sustainable world. (Seattle may have been the spark for
    this).
    
    2) The movement, as it evolves, develops a functioning
    democratic process.  In particular, it learns how to bring
    new constituencies into the movement and to harmonize the
    agendas of its constituencies on a consensus basis into an
    agenda of action and a program for a new society.
    
    3) By this process, the movement grows to super-majority
    dimensions and is able to field a winning slate of
    candidates at all levels.
    
    4) Thus elected, the new officials carry out their mandate:
    implement the democratically-derived program of the
    movement.
    
    5) The movement has then become the participative,
    collaborative framework for civil society. Its process
    continues, and that is the society's democratic process.
    Formal elections become a formality only, and formal
    government serves as an administrative/implementation
    agency, not a policy-making body.  (This is in fact how
    government operates today, with real policy making being done
    offline by our friendly wealthy elite.)


I'll be posting "Vision Matters" to the cyberjournal lists,
along with this letter to you.  I'm eager to publish your
reply as well, if you have the time to send one.

Looking forward to the forums,
rkm
http://cyberjournal.org

============================================================================
Richard K Moore
Wexford, Irleand
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
email: •••@••.••• 
CDR website: http://cyberjournal.org
cyberjournal archive: http://members.xoom.com/centrexnews/
book in progress: http://cyberjournal.org/cdr/gri/gri.html

                A community will evolve only when
                the people control their means of communication.
                        -- Frantz Fanon

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