6/15/2000, CyberBrook of Socialist Review wrote: Hey Richard. I appreciate you forwarding the Call for Responses, but I also hope you answer the Call yourself. We'd really like to have a piece by you. Hope all is well.---Dan Dear Dan, I'm impressed by your list of questions. One might have expected questions like "How can we achieve socialism?", or "How can we learn from past socialist experiences?". That is, you and the rest of the editorial collective could have stayed "inside the box" of Socialist Review. Instead you are inviting the examination of your paradigm, the reconsideration of your fundamental assumptions. This is the kind of openness that is needed these days from all quarters -- this is the way that broader dialog can be built and the seeds of global revolution nurtured. --- 1. Is 'capitalism' an important category in your politics? If so, what exactly do you mean by 'anti-capitalism'? What is the relationship between capitalism as a mode of production and capitalism as a discursive category? Is it just one category among others -- such as race, sexuality, gender, coloniality -- or does it have a special centrality in your thinking and practice? Capitalism is today's Caeser. In between we've had Popes, kings, dictators, commissars, religious tyrants, bureaucrats... and the list goes on. In today's world, if capitalism is not fundamental in your political considerations then either you are confused, you have buried your head in the sand, or you have opted to pursue 'the achievable' out of fear of 'the invincible'. Capitalism does indeed have a centrality apart from race, sexualty, gender, cononiality, etc. What capitalism has done is to systematically exploit these others to its own ends. Colonialism existed before capitalism, but captialism learned how to use colonialism (along with nationalism and the nation state) as tools to accomplish its own economic objectives. Women were welcomed into the workforce during World War 2 -- when they were needed to help defeat imperialist competitors -- but then were largely sent back home when the war was over. Racism has been systematically used to build support for imperialism and to facilitate selective discrimination in the labor force. Today, if you pick any such issue and dig down to its roots, you find that the capitalist system needs things to be the way they are. --- Capitalism is about greed, change, individualism, hierarchy, competitiveness, exploitation, and materialism. The opposite of those includes generosity, stability, community, democracy, cooperation, nurturing, and spirituality. There is a lot to be said for 'anti-capitalism' as a political agenda, but that would be nonetheless a poor focus for our liberation struggle. Whenever you are 'anti' something, then your agenda is set by that 'something'. If it recedes, your energy recedes as well. If it goes stronger, you are energized. You enter into the dynamics of a see-saw, dancing with the one who has become your partner -- the 'something' that you are 'anti'. This is a 'reactive focus'. You define yourself in terms of your enemy, and you diminish if your enemy diminishes. The glory days of the USSR under Stalin are to be noted for _industrial output, _warfare capability, and successes in the _imperialist game of control over other nations. Russia danced with capitalism, and in the end, due to the weight of opposing power, succumbed. Perhaps I'm being unfair to the Soviet experience -- what choices did they have in the face of unrelenting aggression of various kinds from the West? Nonetheless, the bare facts of the era serve to symobolize the dangers of jumping onto an 'anti' bandwagon. There's another way to think about the limitations of 'anti' thinking. In karate, when you slam your hand through a brick, you focus your attention a few inches _below the brick, and you aim for that spot. The brick simply moves out of the way as you move toward your goal. Capitalism is like that. It is a barrier we need to break through -- on our way to something else. Our focus must be on that 'something else'. --- 2. Are the categories of 'Marxism', or 'postmodernism' useful in your political and intellectual work? If so, what kind of Marxism or postmodernism? If not, what other schools of thought are helpful to you? What I find most useful is Marx's application of Hegel's dialectic to the realm of economic and political change. As a system matures, it sows the seeds of its successor... as capitalism becomes more oppressive, the forces of opposition are strengthened. I think the principle is a valid one and that it provides hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Marx must be admired as a bold historical figure, and as an inspiration for many subsequent liberation struggles and revolutionary thinkers. But what about 'Marxism' today? In order to understand this, I suggest it is necessary to compare the dynamics of science with those of religion. In the realm of science ideas move forward and categories are regularly restructured. One does not refer to psychology as 'Freudism', nor electrical engineering as 'Edisonism'. One does not need to explain ones attitude toward Galileo in order to write about astronomy. In science, the original thinkers are respected as bold pioneers, but not considered infallible. Their observations serve as a foundation for further work; they are not a final edifice of truth. The dynamics of religion are quite different. In religion, the particular teachings of the founder remain primary forever. Either you buy into the whole ossified belief system, and acknowledge the unique infallibility of the founder, or you are outside the fold, or else you are a heretic somewhere on the boundary. The founder is seen as being incapable of error, perhaps even incapable of being fully understood by mere mortals. And if there is nonsense in the teachings, great pains are taken to weave an interpretation that enables people to 'believe' anyway. Religion is a museum dedicated to a particular past teacher; science is an evolving, living, body of thought, where original work is often lost under later layers... who knows the name of the person who invented the first wheel? Marxism seems to fall more into the religious category than the scientific. It has a Satan (capitalism), a Saviour (Marx), Apostles (Lenin et al), a promise of Salvation (the withering of the state), and a last-days Revelation (capitalism encountering its own contradictions). As capitalism continues to grow and prosper, Marxists keep moving their predictions of collapse further into the future, but they never lose Faith in the founder's scenario. Many Marxists seem to believe that all we need to do is sit back and wait for dialectical materialism to take its course. Socialist Utopia, like the Second Coming, will arrive of its own accord. All in all, I'd say the best thing today's practical revolutionary could do about Marxism is to leave it behind. 3. How important is having an alternative to capitalism, e.g., socialism, for you? If so, what would you call it? How would you define and describe it? As I said earlier, it is very important to focus on our goals, to keep our eyes on the prize, and not be primarily 'anti' capitalism or anti anything. But you fall into a trap when you talk about _an alternative, and when you look for your answers in alternative _ideologies such as socialism. Why should everyone and all societies adopt a single new system? And why cannot our new systems be organic and evolve? Why do they need to be defined in advance by an ideology? Ideology is a cousin of religion, and both serve primarly as a means of hierarchical control over populations. Earlier I described capitalism as "today's Caeser", by which I meant "today's tyrant". Why overthrow capitalism-in-particular, simply to exchange it for tyranny of another stripe? Why should a revolutionary new world be constrained by some pre-defined ideology? Why cannot it develop its own agenda? Rather than switching our allegiance from one ideology to another, I suggest that the time has come for humanity to demand freedom and self-deterimination. Such is not an ideology; it is a process. And the particular process need not be the same everywhere; it is only necessary that it facilitates popular sovereignty rather than hierarchical control. 4. How is fighting against 'capitalism' connected -- or disconnected -- from struggles against racism, sexism, homophobia, and other systems of oppression? See above. 5. Does it make sense to envision revolution with a capital 'R' as a necessary condition for a just society? Or is radical democracy a better and more useful concept? Are you saying that Revolution must be non-democratic, or are you saying that radical democracy is not Revolutionary? I could not agree with either assumption. For a just society I say we need a Radical, Democratic, Non-Violent Revolution. 6. What connections, if any, do you see between anti-sweatshop and anti-globalism organizing and an anti-capitalist agenda? Does it matter if activists talk about capitalism? If one seeks to alleviate symptoms without addressing the cause, then one is seeking to reform capitalism. One is then in fact a supporter of capitalism, a sustainer of the current system. An important role of the revolutionary is to help those motivated by symptoms to understand that reform of capitalism is impossible -- and that pursuing it is simply a way to place yourself firmly under the control of capitalist masters. They'll give you an inch if you shout loud enough, and then they'll take away a mile when you're looking the other way. 7. How important -- and helpful -- is it to argue for the connections between the prison-industrial complex and capitalism when organizing youth of color against criminalization of young people? Same answer again. all the best, rkm ============================================================================ Richard K Moore Wexford, Ireland 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. ============================================================================ .