cj#755> Reader dialog | Model of revolution


Richard Moore

Dear cj,

This post was intended to be a "catch up" on miscellaneous reader comments,
a general clearing of the queue.  But as I responded to the various posts,
the result turned out be an orderly development of my "model of
revolution": the serendipity in the sequence of reader topics felt eerie.

This is just as well, as "model of revolution" was the next topic I wanted
to work on.  Dialog is a great way to overcome writer procrastination: long
live Internet!


Date: Sun, 21 Dec 1997
Sender: "John H.St.John" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#747> TiM readers re: "Who is the enemy?"

As an old organizer for Harry Bridges I swallowed Marxism and "the class

Today I see a struggle of humanity against the inhuman corporations. It
don't matter how rich one is; Global warming with its weather changes is
going to spread tropical diseases to formerly temperate climates, just as El
Nino has brought tropical fish to Northeast ocean waters. We can't begin to
secure a decent world for our children and grandchildren if we continue to
allow the corporation to exist.

The corporation is buying our scientists as well as our political leaders.
It is hoping to get the entire planet under its domination. As the Tijuana
union leader said; "they are only giants because we have been on our knees."

John H.St.John The Abolitionist http:users.abac.com/homer


Dear John,

My point about elites is not that we need a "class struggle" or that the
elite are evil people; it is rather that we need to understand the system
and the forces that suppress us so that we can plan a counter strategy.

Corporations are powerful and they are out of control (ie, deregulated);
this is clearly something that needs to be changed.  "Abolition" of
corporations is one idea, but I'm not convinced it's the best one.  We saw
in the Russia what happens if you throw away your system all at once:
unnecessary chaos.  It is essential to have a vision and goal, but
implementation should be incremental.  The economy is an ecosystem, and
ecosystems should be interfered with only using due discretion.

Regardless of what one's corporate reform agenda is - moderate or radical -
you are left with the question of how to implement it.  Do you write to
your congressman?... start a third party?... form a special interest group
around "abolition of corporations"?   Without a workable implementation
strategy, policy discussion is idle philosphizing - hot-air in the ether.

My observation is that all avenues of political influence under the current
two-party regime have been co-opted by corporate/elite interests.
Special-interest groups only get results when (a) the issues are secondary
(the results are then a "sop to the masses"), or (b) the group is pushing
an agenda the elite want for their own reasons (the group is being "used").
Within the current political environment, it is simply not possible to
make changes which undermine in any serious way corporate/elite power.

It is in designing a political counter-offensive that considerations of the
elite become important.  Identifying corporations as a problem doesn't
sufficently inform our strategy: we need to understand the game-plan of the
elite, to find where points of vulnerabilty are, to look at how they manage
public opinion, how they are fragmenting people into competing factions,

There is an overall elite "consciousness" and a level of planning which is
strategically coherent: it is much more than the random collaboration of
coporate executives.  One cannot ignore this fact in planning a response:
one must "know one's enemy"; this is the first requirement of generalship.


Date: Mon, 22 Dec 1997
Sender: •••@••.••• (John Lowry)
Subject: Re: cj#747> TiM readers re: "Who is the enemy?"

>Let's BRAINSTORM -- philosophical discussions aren't going to make it!

Is that not a contradiction?  My best analysis is that the problem is the
situation is philosophically flawed.  That is, we have allowed the good
theory of private property to be subverted, so that it is now used as an
instrument of our oppression, when it was intended as the architecture of
our liberty.

We can return to the idea that private property is the fountainhead of
freedom, because it bestows economic independence and, consequently, the
willingness to speak freely and "be" democratic.  We can do this very
simply: by taxing, at a punitive rate, more property than a person can
reasonably manage.  The effect of this tax would be to remove the economic
motive from owning too much, which would consequently help draw accurate
boundaries between "private" and "public" properties.

Private property is a "philosophy" of administration.  It says that the
on-site intelligence of the property user is the best place to start to
assure responsibility in property use, which we all have a stake in

We allowed that good theory to be subverted when "ownership" came to mean
that an absentee lord of the land could tell the inhabitants of the land
what to do and how to do it.  This is nonsense.  We need sense.

We need to replace the irresponsibilites of modern ownership with the taking
of full responsibility by accepting a philosophy of usership.


Dear John,

I've noticed that many people like to debate whether "elites" or
"corporations" are the "real enemy"; I unsubscribed from "the alliance"
list because of endless traffic on that topic.  You are, it seems, in the
"anti _elite_" camp, while John St. John (our previous speaker) is very
definitely in the "anti _corporate_" camp.  To me, the debate is pointless;
we need to focus on elites _and_ corporations.  It's like waves and
particles in physics: both are true at the same time.

Given my preference for incremental changes (allowing ongoing system
stability), I like your attempt to find a "simple fix" for our woes, but
ultimately I believe an over-simplified agenda makes no sense.  If there is
_no_ political revolution, then your measure will never be adopted; if
there _is_ a political revolution, then many other policies would be on the
agenda besides tax reform.

For such reasons, I'm convinced that an effective revolutionary (counter
systemic) strategy must be based on massive grass-roots political
organizing around a _comprehensive_ reform agenda.

Only a massive movement can possibly hope to generate enough public
consciousness and voting power to make the kind of fundamental reforms that
can actually reverse elite/corporate hegemony.  And a massive movement
can't be mobilized by some pre-set agenda, and that wouldn't be democratic:
the agenda needs to develop on a consensus basis as constituencies are
recruited to the movement coalition.

There does need to be a fundamental vision, a core from which the agenda
can build, but it needs to be at a very general level so as not to
unnecessarily exclude potential supporters: the core should be limited to
what is absolutely essential.  Here's my proposal:


               A Draft Platform for Democratic Revitalization
                       Richard K. Moore - 10 Jan 98

        (1) recognition of the nation-state as the most practical venue
            for (initial) democratic rejuvination: the infrastructures are
            already in place; democracy is more feasible/manageable at a
            national rather than global scale; still smaller units, though
            they may be ultimately desirable, would be too weak during the
            inevitable confrontation phase with international capitalism

        (2) re-assertion of national and constitutional sovereignty:
            repudiation of "free-trade" treaties, re-regulation of foreign
            exchange and corporations, balanced budget through taxation of
            corporations/elites - all to be implemented prudently and

        (3) reform of the democratic process (many subtopics here)

        (4) realignment of domestic priorities around sustainable
            economics, general prosperity, environmental prudence, human
            welfare, responsive government, and citizen participation

        (5) realignment of foreign-policy priorities around defusing of
            tensions, radical reductions in armaments, human rights and
            democracy, international cooperation, forgiveness of debts
            created under duress, respect for sovereignty, and encouragement
            of local economic autonomy and self-sufficiency.

        (6) establishment of an effective media infrastructure (in addition
            to existing media) designed to inform rather than propagandize,
            modelled perhaps on the best features of the BBC


It would take a whole article to explain why I see these particular items
as being "essential": considerable analysis is inovolved, both of
and "practicality".  As part of organizing the movement, a more detailed
agenda would be developed and implementation priorities would be
established.  If such a progressive regime comes to power, then of course
that's a new reality paradigm, and the evolution of policy would continue
in a more official way.


Date: Fri, 2 Jan 1998
Sender: "Rebecca Peoples" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#751> New Years Greetings

rkm wrote:
  >I adopted the hypothesis some years ago, while focusing mostly on the US,
  >that what the media and government and pundits say is essentially _all_
  >public relations fare, a sequence of cover stories.  There really isn't any
  >payoff in our system for those in power to tell the truth; it makes much
  >more sense for them to say, in each situation, whatever puts them in the
  >best light, or limits their culpability for perceived failures, or
  >encourages "desired" public attitudes.

I this media model of yours simalar in many ways to that of Chomsky's.


Dear Rebecca,

People often point out that my views are similar to Chomsky's.  I've
learned a lot from him, but not major principles: he generally "proves"
what I already "knew".  Please don't think I'm comparing myself to Dr.
Chomsky, I don't know 1/10 of what he knows, but we are both looking at the
same reality and it's only natural that we see the same thing, if we're
both looking clearly.

He and I are focusing on different problems: he's endeavoring to rigorously
establish the truth of certain facts about the system, and that forces him
to limit his scope to what can be established with academic rigor.

I _start_ by assuming his theses as given, and then move on to "What else
can you say about the system?", and "What can be done about it?".  These
pursuits have led me to observations which I haven't yet seen in Chomsky's
work, such as the significance to capitalism of the postwar pax-americana
regime, and the historic shift in elite allegiance which nullifies the
implicit social contract that came out of the enlightenment.  These two
observations are critical to a proper understanding of today's power
relationships, and to the development of an appropriate response.


Date: Wed, 7 Jan 1998
Sender: "Adam K. Webb" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#753> Revolutionary Leadership Conference?

        I could agree with this, although as might be expected I have
serious doubts about the notion that the "platform" is unimportant and
should take shape ad hoc.  Ad hoc visions do not resonate with anyone.  If
the current order is ever going to be displaced, we must have something
ideologically coherent to offer--not merely reforms, but the germ of a new
civilisation.  That said, however, I wholly endorse at least a conference
for broad-based dialogue even if a minimally functional consensus is
unlikely to emerge.  The attempt to cross the left/militia chasm should
find even broader reflexion in such a conference.  For example, if the
eventual movement is to be truly global rather than a meeting of
social-democratic minds from the US and EU, what about inviting radical
(i.e. not Tiananmen-type) Chinese exiles and Islamic fundamentalists?  It
would be edifying to bring together people who often ignore the
transnational scope of the issues they confront in their own regions.


                                              Adam K. Webb
                                              Department of Politics
                                              Princeton University


Dear Adam,

I hope my "core agenda" meets your criterion of "something ideologically
coherent"; I invite your inputs.  I do want to re-emphasize my claim,
however, that focusing too early and too intensely on platform details
would be a dangerous trap.  It would be organizationally devisive and
strategically premature.  As people (and organizations) gain experience
working with one another, it will be easier for them to gradually evolve
their collective agenda toward something that could serve as a campaign
platform and could adequately guide elected office-holders.

Perhaps the goals of an initial conference might be:
        (1) the adoption of a core-agenda, at the level of detail I've
        (2) planning of follow-up sessions to pursue organizational strategy

There are many factors involved in deciding who to invite and how to
organize the conference itself, so that these goals can be achieved and so
that the follow-up work can be politically effective.  The number of people
can't be too large to confer effectively, and yet they need to represent a
broad cross section of interests; there needs to be sufficent initial
agreement for progress to be possible, yet we don't want an
unrepresentative clique; the people need to be leaders: people who
represent constituencies (in some sense) and know how to get things done;
the people must also be good at peer collaboration.

There would need to be a preliminary process: the recruitment of a core
team which can organize the conference, and a few "star" speakers - people
who have public respect and whose endorsement would lend credibility to the
conference announcement.

I welcome further dialog about the "national" vs "global" focus.  I believe
international cooperation and mutual encouragment is of critical
importance, but that pursuit of a centralized global government - no matter
how rosy our plans for it - is a non-starter.  There are a whole host of
reasons for this, not the least of which is the observation that diverse
ecosystems are more robust than mono-cultures.

I agree that international representation at the conference might be
desirable, but I'm not sure.  It might be better to expand in that way in
the next round.  And the goal, I suggest, would not be to form an
interntional organization, but to encourage communication and mutual
inspiration among national movements.


Date: Wed, 7 Jan 1998
Sender: Frank Scott <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: cj#753> Revolutionary Leadership Conference?

The idea of a conference on just about anything is worthwhile, given the key
word "confer", hopefully leading to greater sharing and learning in order to
affect positive change.

Just as important is understanding what is new about the current phase of
globalization, and what is old. Corporate multinational capital is acting
exactly as capital should and always has: working to "accumulate, accumulate,
accumulate", in the words of that system's first critical, and still most
substantial, analyst. It does this without regard for social impact, being
focused - exclusively - on the creation and accumulation of private profit.

The destruction of the supporting natural environment and the further
division of humans into ethnic, national, racial and sexual groups fighting
for survival over what seem to be dwindling resources-while a global minority
lives in lavish and wasteful material comfort - was analysed long ago. We
need to learn for the first time, or catch up with and modify where
necessary, a critique of capitalism. It would help us greatly in bringing
about serious change to benefit the race, and not just one or another
segment of that race.

Since this is the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto, a work which
contained the earliest and most readable critique of a system just emerging
at that time, it would be a good time for people unfamiliar with it to pick
it up and read it. And it should be reread by those who have read it in the
past. Really, it's the easiest and shortest intro to what was happening to
the world then, and is happening now at a faster pace than ever.


Dear Frank,

The Manifesto would indeed be an "appropriate read" for all of us this
year; my own copy dates from high school, and I just now moved it to my
reading table for a re-read.

I have some fundamental problems with Marx's theories, and those problems
came up so early in my exposure to his ideas that I haven't been motivated
to read him in any depth.  This has made dialog with marxists difficult:
they always say I need to read a stack of books before I can talk to them.
Perhaps you can help with this problem. I'll tell you my critique of Marx,
and you can tell me if I'm misunderstanding him.  Fair enough?

First of all, I find the "labor theory of value" to be totally unsound,
entirely too simplistic.  Creativity, initiative, vision, risk-taking, and
good judgement - in setting up and managing an operation - all create
value, as does labor, but in a multiplicative way.  All the labor will be
for nought if the enterprise is mis-conceived.  Under capitalism, labor is
treated as a commodity and equity rests with investors; this is wrong, but
swinging the pendulum 180 degrees the other way is no better.  A _balance_
between worker voice/equity and entrepreneur voice/equity (weather private
or public) would seem to provide both justice and economic vitality.  I
believe the experience of China and the USSR tends to support this need for

Equally unsound, I believe, is Marx's belief that socialist revolution is
the only likely consequence of the contradictions of capitalism.  The
evidence I like to cite for this is the global oil industry, which is in
many ways the most structurally mature capitalist industry.  This industry
has long-since reached its "point of contradiction": the industry has long
been concentrated in a handful of major global operators, potential
productive capacity has long exceeded demand, and demand-growth has
stabilized to the point where inter-major cannibalism should have been
expected, on pure capitalist grounds.

But while in the auto industry similar conditions are currently leading to
shakeouts and bankrupticies, this is not happening in the oil industry.
The auto industry is just reaching its "point of contradiction"; the oil
industry has already adapted to it.  The way they adapted was by jointly
regulating production and distribution: they've given up real competition
and decided to share the market amicably.

In the capitalist microcosm of petroleum, Marx's "contradictions" have been
met and overcome, without dethroning either the elite owners or their
corporations.  The contradictions have been overcome, I suggest, by a
replacement of capitalist competition with aristocratic comradarie.  This
neo-aristocratic system is made up of corporations instead of
family-scions, but its dynamics are the same: the collaborative domination
of the many by the few.  And behind the corporation-aristocracy is a human
aristocracy of the super rich, which collectively owns most corporte stock.

I believe then, differing from Marx, that there are _two_ evolutionary
outcomes that might follow the end of capitalism: neo-aristocracy or a
resurgance of democracy, and either, I claim, is likely to come about
peacably; chaos and violent change are not inevitable in either outcome.
Globalization, the elite's answer to the contradictions, is leading rather
peacably (if disastrously) to the aristocratic outcome; and a democratic
resurgance is much more likely to succeed if approached peacably.

I emphasize "democratic revolution" rather than "workers revolution"
because I find the "labor" vs "bourgeois" class dichotomy too simplistic
for today's world; and I don't say "socialist revolution" because I believe
a mixed economy is advisable, as mentioned earlier.

It seems to me that Marx believed too rigidly in the omnipotence of
dialectic forces: he was correct that economic currents flow in certain
cycles, but that doesn't guarantee the societal ship is destined to follow.
The elite have found an eddy current that favors them, and I believe we
can too.  We can make a pre-emptive strike on history, not waiting for
collapse, and we can stop the dialectic pendulum at an intermediate point:
we aren't compelled to adopt doctrinaire socialism.

Your comments are invited.



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