============================================================================ Date: Sun, 02 Apr 2000 12:45:50 -0400 From: "Jim W. Jaszewski" <•••@••.•••> Organization: Labour Left Opposition To: •••@••.••• Subject: Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance site Citizens: It's very nice to find another site on the Internet, trying to bring all of us together, but I have to ask about your project: how do we go about creating this 'democratic renaissance'? The capitalists have NO intention of relenquishing power peacefully. Unless, of course, you see some 'Third Way' to a kinder, gentler capitalism... Which is bunkum, as Marx so kindly pointed out. And so continues the fantasy of liberal utopianism. So tell me how we get to this 'democratic renaissance' without socialism -- which means revolution (because the capitalists have no intention of relenquishing power peacefully...)?? Jim W. Jaszewski Labour Left Opposition (I.D. Only) Canada ================== Dear Jim, Your heart seems to be in the right place, but I'm not sure I go along with your logic or your assumptions... I agree that the capitalist oligarchy has no intention of giving up power - peacefully or otherwise. I also agree that a 'kinder, gentler capitalism' is bunkum. I also agree with your conclusion that some kind of revolution is called for. But I see no reason to assume that the goals of a revolution must be precisely 'socialism', nor do I believe that a revolution must be violent, nor do I believe a violent revolution would have any hope of success. I see the situation this way... We are being backed into a corner by corporate globalization - we are being faced with a choice between (a) putting up with an unacceptable future, or (b) doing something about it. If we choose to do something about changing the system, then we face two questions: "What do we want instead?", and "How can we get it?". "What do we want instead?", I suggest, is not a multiple-choice question among off-the-shelf ideologies, and it is certainly not a 'one choice only' question, with 'socialism' being the only option. It is an _open question, a question which we need to answer collectively, and it may have different answers in different places. And, I suggest, it is really more a _design question than a _choice question. Perhaps what _you 'want instead' is 'socialism', and presumably you have a clear definition of what that means. If you want to send that definition in, we can see how many of us agree with your vision. In the meantime, permit me to offer my own thoughts regarding "a different system"... I think we need to change both the polticial and the economic system. Instead of exploitive economics based on endless money-exchange growth, we need an economic framework that uses resources responsibly, serves the needs of people, and does not concentrate wealth into the hands of a few. This is obviously incompatible with capitalism, but it is not an ideology - it is rather a commen-sense statement of what is required for a livable world. Any such framework would have a somewhat 'socialist' flavor - compared to what we have now - but there is room for considerable variation, and there is no reason why one formula needs to be applied everywhere. The way most people use the word 'socialism', there is a strong component of centralized state planning - and that is something I think can and should be minimized. Some even say 'socialism' means an end to private property and private enterprise, and I don't see those as being either desirable or necessary. Instead of ideological labels, we need practical, sensible, agendas for society. Politically, I think we need an end to rule by all elites of any description - even benevolent ones. It is time for humanity to grow up and take responsibility for itself. We must find a way to make democracy work, a way to work together to build the kind of society we want for ourselves and for our children. We need to give up the assumption that there must be winners and losers - we are all in this together; we all have a contribution to make; and everyone's interests need to be taken into account and harmonized with everyone else's. Democracy is an ongoing process. It is not about formulas and ideology - it is about making responsible collective choices, from the local level to the national to the global. Economics is an important part of how society operates, and the economic framework must be decided democratically, along with everything else, within the boundaries of our constitutions. It is not for us fomentors of revolution to pre-specify that economic framework. We can make suggestions, as voices in the democratic process, but that may not be our most useful role. In order to understand how our revolutionary energy might be best directed, let us consider the second question facing us: "How can we get it?" That is to say: "How can radical change come about?" It seems clear to me that the kind of change we're talking about can only happen as the result of a massive grass-roots movement. In order to overcome entrenched capitalism, the movement needs to be _very massive. If any sizable constituency is left out, the current regime will exploit that to defeat the movement. Besides, who would we want to leave out? Who does not deserve to participate in building a better world? In the end, even our dreaded capitalist leaders have talents and experience that can benefit society and themselves - but as equals not as a ruling elite. There is no off-the-shelf ideology that can provide a focus for such an all-inclusive movement. Rather, I suggest, the appropriate crystallizing focus is the simple notion that we the people can and should stand up and take the helm of our societies, by all of us working together toward that goal. In order to work together, we need to listen to one another, and find common ground. Espousing ideologies is counterproductive to such a process. Seattle, it seems to me, provides a useful microcosm of how the movement might develop. Seattle, in fact, may go down in history as being the defining crystallizing moment of the very movement we've been envisioning here. For one thing, the Seattle protestors 'got it right' about what needs to be changed. The target of their protests - the WTO - symbolizes both economic exploitation and the usurpation of political power - by the capitalist elite. For another thing, the demonstrators were extremely successful in using the mass media to spread the energy of the movement. The notion of a grass-roots movement 'against globalization and undemocratic rule' is now in the air - it has become part of the working vocabulary of political action. That really wasn't true before, at least not in the USA. And for such an uprising to occur in America - the very heart of the beast - gave great encouragement to those already working along these lines in Europe, India, and elsewhere. Furthermore, we saw in Seattle the coming together of activists and organizers from across American and from around the world who normally don't talk to one another - or who see themselves on different sides of some political fence. In Seattle they began to see that they had common interests, they began to build bridges and communication links, and they began to talk about follow-on projects. The focus was not on ideology, and certainly not Marxism - rather it was on inclusiveness, mutual learning, and collaboration. When they said "This is what democracy looks like" I don't think they were referring to "loud people in the streets wearing costumes", I think they meant "people working together for a common purpose". In addition, a great deal of their time in Seattle was not spent protesting at all - it was spent in workshops and discussions where different viewpoints were expressed and information was shared. There was listening and learning going on, rather than competition among factions for dominance of 'the movement'. The right seeds have been sown, and I humbly suggest that nurturing and spreading these seeds is the highest calling of those who seek to bring about the revoltion we all need. I believe democracy can work and I don't want to settle for anything less. And part of believing it can work is trusting that the process will lead to the formulation of sensible policies - if you can't trust the people to look after their own interests sensibly, then who are you going to trust? Certainly there will be learning process - democracy has never been tried before in a modern society. I say, let's go for it, especially since we're backed into a corner with no other feasible exits. In such an endeavor, there are some things we need to be wary of - things which lead to the destabilization of the democratic process. One thing to avoid is _factional conflict_ - and especically its institutionlization into political parties. As in Seattle, the emphasis must be always on listening and harmonization, not on forming alliances and seeking dominance. Another thing to be wary of is the rise of ambitious leaders, especially in the guise of career politicians. Leadership ability is a valuable skill, needed at the local level and at every level. But we need leaders who serve to empower their societies, not leaders who seek to aggrandize power to themselves or to make a career of playing poltical games. I offer these suggestions as an expanded version of "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty". Such a movement will indeed be revolutionary, and the changes it brings about will be revolutionary. But it can also be a non-violent revolution, and fortunately that is how it seems to be starting out. That doesn't mean violence won't be used against the movement, and non-violence training sensibly preceded Seattle, and is similarly preceding the follow-on actions planned for this month in Washington DC. Police violence is a two-edged sword. If it succeeds in squelching the movement early, then it can be effective - and it did not succeed that way in Seattle. As the movement gets bigger, police violence starts to become counterproductive - it begins to generate more recruits than it deters. When things go past a certain point, the establishment must then choose between dialog and outright marshall law. If marshall law is the choice, then we can begin to include armed resistance in the discussion of tactics, but even then non-violence may still be the more powerful tool. The one thing 'they' have at their command is unlimited firepower, and taking up arms gives them an excuse to escalate. Non-violence has been used effectively against martial-law situations historically, and we've seen quite a bit of that in the break-up of the Soviet Union. What we have to guard against in this scenario are agent provateurs and police provocation. If marshall law is not the choice, then non-violence is obviously the best strategy to continue with. The danger then becomes co-option. When they start promising to give us what we're asking for, that's the time to say, "Thank you just the same, I'd rather do it myself." This is how I, until I learn better, would answer your question. Thanks for asking, rkm ============================================================================ 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.html A community will evolve only when the people control their means of communication. -- Frantz Fanon Permission for non-commercial republishing hereby granted - BUT include and observe all restrictions, copyrights, credits, and notices - including this one. ============================================================================ .