cj#387> Open Letter to Dugger


Richard Moore

> To:   Ronnie Dugger <•••@••.•••>
> Cc:   •••@••.•••
> Subject:      Your CALL TO CITIZENS

Dear Mr. Dugger,

Your CALL TO CITIZENS is one of the most cogent and provocative political
statements I've seen.  I applaud your efforts and would very much like to
participate in any way I can.  Let me briefly introduce myself.


I'm an American whose career was in silicon valley, doing software
research/development/architecture for the likes of Xerox PARC, Apple
Computer, Oracle, and earlier companies you may not have heard of.  My
avocation has always been political analysis, and have devoted time over
the years to reading histories, biographies, political philosophies,
analyses -- and developing my own theories and observations.

A couple years ago I took my pension fund in hand and dropped out of
corporate life.  Moved first to the UK, and then became a resident of
Ireland, living in Wexford since November 95.  My vocation is now "writer",
to which I devote as much energy as I ever did to any fulltime job.  Having
no desire to make money, I've got the freedom to write "what needs to be
written" (IMHO) and then take my chances with publishing venues.

New Dawn magazine has published two of my articles ("Common Sense and The
New World Order" and "Human Rights and The New World Order"), but most of
my work has been on the internet.  Organized two internet "lists" --
cyber-rights and cyberjournal, both of which I'm currently "moderating".
Your "CALL TO CITIZENS" is being published over cyberjournal.  I'm also
sharing this letter with the list so as to invite the (currently 370)
members into our dialog.

Cyberjournal is a discussion forum for the very issues you address in your
manifesto.  We focus on democracy, corporate power, international politics,
and the global trend toward fascism.  We yearn for ways to make a diffence,
for a way to engage in meaningful action -- but this is alas far more
difficult than analyzing our current predicament.  I sincerely hope your
initiative can become an effective rallying point for us and the millions
of others who should be in harmony with your perspectives.

Cyber-rights is a CPSR Working Group which has been participating actively
in the legislative debate over net censorship and the Telecom Reform Act.
The quality of discussion has been high, and there've been useful spinoffs
of our work into mass journalism and direct lobbying.  We're up against
some of the biggest corporations however (not to mention the New Republican
radicals), and the end result of our efforts has been close to nil, judging
by the language being prepared for Clinton's signature.  Many of us fear
that Internet may soon be lost to us as a cost-effective
organizing/communications tool, due to steep price increases and the
secondary effects of the censorship provisions.  (We'd better develop other
ways to communicate before we lose touch!)


For the kind of movement you're proposing to succeed, it is absolutely
critical that it be set up as a robust, distributed organization and that
it have a well thought-out platform and political strategy.  Obviously
these need to evolve in a participatory fashion -- after all, it's
democracy we're about -- but the initial leadership & manifesto had better
be pretty close to the mark, or things will never get off the ground, or
may develop in wrong directions.

My own view is that what you've put together is the closest thing I've seen
to a sound, comprehensive analysis, combined with a workable call to
action.  But in all humility, I think some serious work is necessary in
fine-tuning/debugging your manifesto, and am glad to see you proceeding by
opening up to dialog.

America has a rich history of popular movements and third parties (not that
we heard about them in school), and there are some clear lessons to learn
and pitfalls to avoid.  In addition, there are some strategic issues that
need deeper thinking, both in the platform and in the organizational


First and foremost you have to decide whether you're creating an _alliance_
or a _political party_.  Both are possible, both could be useful, but the
two are not the same and the choice needs to be a clear one.  In this
regard, I would suggest that an alliance would be a more effective way to
promote long-term democratic participation and the development of a
progressive society.  This is a point I could develop at some length, but
for now I'll just make two brief observations.  First, focusing too much on
electoral politics leads to a boom-and-bust cycle of
motivation/participation, and dilutes the principles of the organization
with too many short-term pragmatic tradeoffs.  Second, history shows that
the greatest influence of popular movements has been as "outside
influencers", and that their energy and mission have evaporated when they
allowed themselves to be absorbed into the game of politics.  This is my
reading of what killed off the Populist Movement, for example.  Note also
how organizations like the NRA and the Christian Coalition have a
continuity and potency that doesn't fluctuate with election cycles.

Second -- and this will be a make-or-break issue -- the attitude toward
corporations must be more sophisticated -- our tactics must have some
depth, and our relatonship to corporations can't be limited to blind
opposition.  I agree fully with you that corporate power and greed are
absolutely who "the enemy" is -- but we need to recognize certain realities
of the environment we live in.  An economy is an ecosystem, fully as
complex and inter-related as any rainforest or wildlife reserve.  If you
just try to change it full-stop by decree, you get the kind of chaos and
societal breakdown we see now in the former Soviet block.  That reflects
the same kind of ecological error made by those who bulldoze down forests
-- destroying the goose that lays the golden egg.

        Like it or not, our economy happens to be organized along corporate
lines.  This is the functioning system that brings heat to the sitting
room, food to the shop, petrol to the tank, and hauls away the garbage.
You aren't proposing we shift to a fully socialized economy -- wisely --
and so we need to be clear that we're proposing to _reform_ the
corporations, not lynch them.  We aren't saying they're criminals that need
to be locked up, but rather errant citizens who need to be rehabilitated
and taught the meaning of social responsibilitiy.  We don't want to
confiscate their earnings and destroy their livelihood -- but we want them
to pay their fair share of taxes and to stop expecting their cost of doing
business to be subsidized by other taxpayers.

        Besides the economic wisdom of working-from-where-we-are, there is
also the overwhelming reality that corporations wield immense political
clout.  We cannot afford to back such an enemy into the corner and give it
no option but to go for our throats with all guns blazing.  In fact, I
shouldn't be using combat metaphors at all -- we don't want a fight to the
death, we want an enlightened, human-centered, accomodation with capital --
one that restores the proper power relationship between a democratic
sovereign state and it's subservient economic structures.  We probably want
a much stronger public sector -- with increased use of public agencies and
services where they are efficient and cost-effective -- but we also want
our corporations to be successful and appropriately competitive.

Third -- and this one will take real work -- we need to develop an adequate
economic and political agenda to back up our final "planks".  We need to
have a plan, if you will, that reforms the tax system without destroying
the economy.  We need to show how a sustaninable economy and envirnomental
policy can be made to work.  We need to formulate a foreign policy that
befits our role as the primary world leader, and exerts our influence
toward human progress instead of global corporate hegemony.  The point is
that these principles need to be developed into _coherent substance_ --
identification of laudable goals is not enough, and proclamation of
isolated reforms does not make a defensible political agenda.

Fourth -- and this one may require the most creativity -- we need to
develop an appropriate organizational form in the face of very special
challenges and opportunities.  On the one hand, the corporations have
screwed so many of us in so many high-handed ways, that our potential
consituency is immense -- it's nearly everyone everywhere on earth.  On the
other hand, the reigns of power and the means of communication/propaganda
are so tightly controlled -- and so competently managed -- by the corporate
elite, that successful organization will be a herculean task, requiring
wit, wisdom, vision, and a deep understanding of organizational activism.

        In this regard I suggest that we must organize with the expectation
that strong opposition will be encountered.  An organization which is too
centralized is too vulnerable to attack of all kinds, including arrest of
the leadership.  On the other hand, leadership is absolutely essential to
effectiveness -- we don't just a want a mass of people willing to carry
signs with nice slogans on them, but without a unifying focus and agenda.
I'd like to suggest some principles of organization, and the reasons for
them, as a way of opening dialog on this subject.  I hope this will be a
useful contribution to the cause.

        (1) De-centralization is I believe critical -- organization focused
locally, and with locally chosen delegates representing their colleagues in
regional or national conferences/conventions.  With the work and
responsibility devolved downwards, and the results folded back into the
movement as a whole.  If done well, this provides robustness and redundancy
under attack, embodies the democratic participation we espouse, and
maximizes the energy flow of the movement.  As a refinement on this, we
also need to accomodate effective collaboration with all sorts of existing
grass-roots and/or progressive organizations.

        (2) Proper application of the principle of consensus is critical to
avoid framentation, to develop sound policies, and to maintain common
purpose.  The point is not that every vote must be unanimous (athough that
is not as unrealistic as it sounds), but that we adopt the concept of
listening to all sides and evolving creative "third alternatives" that make
everyone a winner.

        (3) Capability to maintain internal communications must be built
into the fabric of the organization.  The organization must have a sense of
being in touch with itself, of feeling "bought in" to the common agenda,
and have a shared awareness of its overall activity, impact, and sense of
direction.  This calls for mechanisms of communication, and the dedication
of the necessary resources to operate them (email lists, fax-trees,
mailings, meetings, conferences, newsletters -- whatever hybrid system
works, but one that gets implemented competently).

        (4) A focus on external communications will be central to impact
and success, and an outreach/education/recruitment capability needs to be
developed already in the formative stages.  Of course you and Nation
magazine are to be commended for starting off on that foot, with your
nationally published manifesto presenting such an articulate case for
progressive action.  This good start needs to be systematized into some
kind of mechanism for issuing press releases, seeking interview
opportunities, getting print space, speaking at appropriate gatherings,
etc.  To a large extent, what we're about is public education (a primary
focus of the Populist movement, by the way), and we've got to communicate
with professional skill.  Fortunately, there are still lots of journalists
with humanistic sensibilities who might rally to the cause.

        (5) An awareness of the likely attacks we will face is critical to
our survival, and we need to start developing that awareness already.  The
tricks of the media are fairly standardized at this point: demonization,
marginalization, trivialization, character-assasination of leadership,
fearmongering over exaggerated mis-quotations, etc.  We'll get all of
those, and need to excercise some preemptive damage control by using
PR-sense in whatever we say.  Plus be ready to fire back as good as we get
without sounding defensive or apologetic.  There will also be attacks of
other kinds, especially if any kind of civil disobedience or other direct
action is undertaken.  That's what all the emphasis on conspiracy
prosecutions has been about (World Trade Center in particular) -- preparing
the precedents so that organized opposition can be thwarted by inciting (or
fabricating) violence and then jailing all the leaders.

        (6) You mention civil disobedience as if it were a foregone
conclusion it will be a primary tactic.  I'm not so sure.  We are a
majority movement, and we can afford to assume a high posture, to wear
suits and ties, if you will.  If push comes to shove and they loose the
blue meanies on us then we may have to defend ourseleves in the streets,
but that should be a last recourse when they've closed off all other
avenues.  We aren't anywhere near that point.

Very Respectfully Yours,
Richard K. Moore

 Posted by Richard K. Moore (•••@••.•••) Wexford, Ireland
 •••@••.•••  | Cyberlib=http://www.internet-eireann.ie/cyberlib
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