cj#1080,rn> “How do we get to this ‘democratic renaissance’?”

2000-04-03

Richard Moore

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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

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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






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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

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