cj#492> Dialog with Ronnie Dugger


Richard Moore

Cc:     Ronnie Dugger <•••@••.•••>,
        Randy Schutt <•••@••.•••>,
        The Alliance <•••@••.•••>,
        Wade Hudson / the-alliance moderator <•••@••.•••>,
        writers-circle -- <private list>

Date: Sun, 10 Mar 1996
Sender: •••@••.•••
Subject: Dugger response to Open Letter

Dear Richard,

     Concerning your open letter to me Jan. 10th, thank you for it and for
the clear thought behind it.

     You will be pleased to know that many of us have been musing and talking
together along much the same lines as your letter on many of the subjects
you raise.

     For my part personally, as I've been saying quite widely, the Alliance
is not a political party, but a movement, as you also contemplate.

     The question of working out a sophisticated and careful policy
concerning subordinating large corporations to democratic self-government is
absolutely central, is a thinking-work in progress among many of us, and I am
opposed to a rush to doctrine, let us think and act and self-correct as we go
along together--again as you contemplate.

     I do not myself go along with aspects in the tone and some deducible
implications of your formulation of our task regarding the large
corporations.  But yours is one of the positions that must be before us as we
democratically determine our course and our actions.

     Third, of course the alliance will be developing an economic and
political agenda (=positions on issues of our selection), but not I trust so
as to constitute any diversion from the posited real-politik insight that we
cannot now achieve fundamental changes in power and distribution of wealth
through the thoroughly polluted system we end up having, so that the issues
are not the issue, the issue is the system--the issues in this situation are
principally educational foci as we gather strength to change the system.

     Many of us realize we must expect profound and forceful opposition as we
attain the effectivenesses we seek.  Jonathan Fine, for example, speaks of
our planning one- or two-year campaigns, and anticipating
corporate/oligarchical responses and challenges, and storing in the
refrigerator a number of strategic options and responses, to have them ready
when they are needed.  I say often in the talks I give that this is not for
the fainthearted, that it is going to be gaspingly difficult, and that there
is danger.

     Decentralization of structure is critical; we are positing that in
autonomy and authority inhering in the local Alliances.  Your words do not in
my thinking dissolve the paradox of democratic process and need for
leadership.  First, we need more leaders; we need many speakers (lecturers)
for us.  Second, as Fran Peavey has been teaching some of us, the structure
should be part of the vision; and should include specific means for
accountability and answerability of leaders, and for impeachment and
replacement of leaders.  You are right we need publications/media mechanisms
and perhaps these are about to evolve; probably the ISC/Alliance reps'
meeting should address the question of policy (though not detailed editorial)
review, on behalf of the membership, of publications in advance of their
dissemination.  (I think to add that now as #26 to my proposed list of
possible topics for the Chicago agenda, initially numbering 22.)

    Of course, listening to each other is absolutely fundamental to real
democracy.  I disagree with any proposition, explicit or implied, that
agreement is to be elevated  normatively over disagreement, or that any
individual is to be subjected to group pressure or subtle coercion on behalf
of "consensus" to agree (induced, that is, to fall silent, or stand aside)
rather than to disagree; I disagree with you squarely if you advocate
consensus to the exclusion of voting as the means of deciding that we have
decided, a process which, while workable and successful among small groups of
people who know each other very well and have a great deal of time to spend
on questions, I also regard as susceptible, in many situations, to
manipulation by use of group pressure; as an avoidable source of possible
error because it encourages, indeed, constitutes, the suppression of honest
disagreement; and as impracticable in many situations and on many questions,
except for the use of consensus to the extent it works but then of voting
when time and proceeding on the basis of unpressured opinions require a vote.

 I am humbly open to listening more and learning more on this (as we should
be on every) question, but am also ready to take the positions indicated
until my intuition is corrected by more such listening and learning.  I
believe some of us now have well-earned concern that if we devote too much
time to process (depending of course on what exactly we mean by too much
time), valuable participants who wish to engage in democratically-decided
actions to advance our common purposes will simply leave, giving up on this

     Concerning your askanceness toward civil disobedience, obviously it's a
serious tactic, and is never to be undertaken lightly, and should be
undertaken, in my opinion, only by Alliances and persons who fully understand
the subject and the possible/probable personal consequences.  But I think you
would not want to limit the Alliances' actions to suits and ties (and dresses
and bonnets).  I advocate that because of the gravity of our civic situation,
that civil disobedience be frankly among the means that are available to us
for our use--that it not be in effect proscribed as normally outside the
options available to the free citizen.

     I look forward to your and others' participation in this horizontal
discussion and others that happily are getting going lustily and gustily
among us.

     In hope and action,   Ronnie Dugger


Dear Ronnie,

        Thanks so much for your forthright response, and for sharing it
with Cyberjournal.  Please understand that when my "Open Letter" to you was
written, I'd seen nothing by you besides "The Call" article from the
Nation.  That article is addressed to the general public, and is really an
OpEd piece exposing the corporate-emperor's deficient new clothes, and
raising the possibility of populist revolt.  It reveals nothing about
organizing tactics nor political strategy.

        Since then I've seen minutes of Alliance Steering Committee
meetings, your recent letter to the Alliance Chapters, and of course your
message above.  I want you to know you have my humble support and
endorsement, for whatever it's worth.  IMHO, you've signed up for the right
mission, have identified your constituency, understand how to get a
movement on its feet, and are providing an invaluable -- an historic --
public service.  Don't let me waste your time with quibbles from the back

        I see now, for example, that your anticipation of civil
disobedience arises from savvy political experience -- when a movement
gains momentum, an achievement of broad popular support often gets ahead of
electoral successus, and direct action (Viva La France!) becomes
appropriate political expression.

        I do want us to note however, that a legal foundation has been
painstakingly established that changes the ground-rules re/ massive
protests -- particularly re/ loose-conspiracy prosecutions, as in the case
of the World Trade Center bombings.

        And with autonomous local chapters -- a policy I fully support --
there is inherent the very-present danger of a chapter being commandeered
by an organized influx of new "recruits", who then engage in blatant
felonious activity in the name of The Alliance.  The Alliance could find
itself suddenly under the threat of property confiscation, conspiracy
prosecutions of leaders, a ban on public statements, and a frozen bank
account.  Meanwhile, the actual perps would be under immunity as "state
witnesses"  -- The "War on Drugs" does, after all, have a coherent purpose,
and it isn't related to to slowing the drug trade, but with dismantling the
Fourth Amendment.

        Just a note of caution, based on observing enemy deployment of
specific weapons systems.


        About consensus...  You apparently exercise leadership with
considerable skill and sensitivity, and don't need anyone to sell you a
formal system (consensus or otherwise), that would only interfere with a
successful style.  Indeed you know the value of consensus, and your every
writing seems aimed at creating consensus across whatever audience you're
addressing.  You're the master and I'm the apprentice on this one.

        Nonetheless, please consider that there is a concious attitude
toward group decision making, and a process of harmonization, that could be
very helpful to The Alliance.  This will become especially important as you
must increasingly distribute leadership responsibilities within a growing
movement, and as The Alliance begins to exercise a collaborative leadership
role among other organizations -- with diverse mind-sets and priorities.

        I fear that Randy Schutt's perspective on consensus, though
well-expressed in his posting to the-alliance, has nonetheless been widely
misunderstood, as indicated perhaps by your remarks above.  Let me just
share this one-paragraph characterization from Randy:

                "Note that consensus process is VERY DIFFERENT from
        majority voting or rank voting which, again, focus on people's
        PREFERENCES and adding them up in some fashion.  In a pure consensus
        process, people do not express their preferences at all -- instead
        they discuss how various options would work for the group.  Consensus
        is not a numerical process of tallying preferences (like voting), but
        a discussion process to explore truth.  In a pure consensus process,
        everyone chooses together."
                -- Randy Shutt <•••@••.•••>,
                   to: the-alliance, 14 Feb 1996

        You weigh rather heavily above against a "demon consensus" that
would hypothetically suppress dissent and pressure the meek into
group-think.  The counter argument, which I honestly believe has more
validity in practice, is that _voting_ -- especially if disagreement is
pronounced and the vote is close -- is where dissension is suppressed and
support diluted.

        The essence of "Randy's" process (if I may be so bold) is far from
being intimidating to minorities.  Rather it nurtures the expression of all
perspectives, and encourages a few viable policy options to emerge from the
discussion.  If everyone understands the thinking behind the various
alternatives, it becomes possible to discuss collaboratively which
option(s) best serve the overall goals of The Alliance.  Frequently a
proponent of one option finds herself arguing the benefits of another,
after coming to appreciate its advantages.

        Perhaps Randy is only describing (albeit over-formally?) what a
Texan might simply call "helping folks pull together".  Perhaps Randy will
write to you to clarify and to open dialog on practical consensus and how
it might apply most effectively to The Alliance.


        About outreach...  There is an _immense_ pool of cogent writing
extant or accessible via Internet, some of which would be usable (or
revisable) into good OpEd pieces for use by The Alliance.  I've even got a
few articles myself I'd love to submit... the question is... to whom?  Is
there an Alliance-designated email address to some kind of "Editorial
Committee" that is prepared to accept and evaluate proposed pieces?  If
there is, please let me know and I can do a little research, including
134MB of on-disk e-mail logs, and contacting some journalist colleagues.

        If, alas, there is no such address, then possibly our little
six-person writers circle (begat of the-alliance list) could attempt to
provide some interim service in that direction.

Most assuredly and supportively yours
In Solidarity,

Richard Moore


 Posted by Richard K. Moore  -  •••@••.•••  -  Wexford, Ireland
       Cyberlib - WWW | FTP --> ftp://ftp.iol.ie/users/rkmoore