cj#976> Whitaker & Leclerc re: strategy, democracy, media.

1999-08-25

Richard Moore

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Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 05:12:17 -0500
To: •••@••.•••
From: Mark Douglas Whitaker <•••@••.•••>
Subject: re: movement strategy

        I fail to see anyone ever 'getting rid of capitalism,'  because
capitalism is more of a process of commodification where there are markets
to be found, instead of something engineered. Capitalism is a lot like
entropy, and it grows off the atomization, the anonymous purchasing and
investing decisions that no one would ever make if they knew, that say, they
were undercutting THEIR particular families business, or cutting THEIR
family's and friends out of a job, etc. Capitalism is the commodification of
anonymity. And when someone organizes enough anonymity for it to be
profitable, people began to peel away to the 'easier' offering, even if
their purchases and relationships are integrated into a huge faceless
organization--hey, it's cheaper (at least in the short run).

        Sure, the case is well made (and I would make it myself) that the
typical ideas of capitalism are nothing without the back-engineering and
gerrymandering of the nation-state, bastioning it and making it seem far
more profitable than it actually is.  Profit of course is its legitimacy,
that it is 'efficient' etc., something that is, from all the research I have
seen like pornography, "you know efficiency when you see it," efficiency
being an accolade given to politically influential businesses as
legitimation for their political sway. It's like saying 'he or she has
charisma,' to justify why someone was born into a family that ran the
corporation and is the vice president. "Oh, it's their...charisma."

        Instead of 'getting rid of capitalism,' I feel the case can be made
for three points: that capitalism can be removed from its hegemony as the
developmental pattern in the nation-state, with more effective political
feedback mechanisms which would allow for more input on what type of society
people would like to be living in--input they are already giving yet it
falls short of being brought to the table because of limitations on what we
have inherited as democracy. This type of democracy we have inherited only
'gives enough' to let highly undemocratic politics continue. With
globalization, capitalism (as a process here) can break out of the
nation-state the 'grew' it to the world level that we know it to be. To
return to the point about further political feedback mechanisms,  that is
what civil society and democracy are all about, except powerful actors
rarely want to play that way (and I might add, most of the population as
well). This would mean recognizing that ethnic groups, gender groups, and
sexuality groups, and other forms of human community besides urbanized
societies (hunter and gatherers, village agriculturalists who like who and
where they are, etc., green political forces, bioregionalism) are tangibly
important to the political process and all represent democracy, instead of
simply the 'labor/capitalism' battle that has gotten more press, possibly
due to the much of the world living in a condition of state capitalism and
economistic reductionist thought.  Perhaps even 'youth' and 'age' can be
considered political groups and actors, with within the scale of the
societies that the capitalist state has set up.

          Capitalism as we have come to know it has a great deal to do with
the situation of an unrepresentative state structure; i would go so far as
to say that capitalism is as it is because of an unrepresentative state
structure. I have written something on this point. It is posted on the
cyberjournal.org website.

        Secondly, taking my first point about capitalism being a political
ecological wide phenomenon that all societies and states have to some
extent--if capitalism is unable to be intrinsically removed, only challenged
for political sway in the state--then another strategy that can be
'profitable' and can be organized immediately is simply to give people who
are externalized  political power (and thus economic privileged) a means to
set up a 'dual economy' worldwide, giving them more choice than a state
capitalism would ever provide. This means intentionally setting up economies
of interconnections, 'boycotting' to some extent, degradative political
economies of capitalism; this means creating separate circuits of capital,
that avoid the hegemonic structures. (Easy to do, the capitalist structures
are already ignoring them anyway.) Dually, this would have the added effect
of making the choices for every society much more richer with variation and
with choice for everyone--to have these structures in place would be a
safety net for everyone who are suffering from the capitalist triage. I am
talking of activities that are going on already that are only lacking a
vision to match their already hopeful visions that have given them the
strength to organize economically and politically on their own. Furthermore,
this would provide a much required basis for moderating the capitalist
state, in terms of giving more organizational muscle and staying power to
those externalized from power.  I suppose what I am saying is, "hey, no one
will listen to you in the state until you have enough mass society behind
you and organized economically and politically. Areas I am thinking about
that are already occurring anyway:
        decentralized finance, credit unions, ROSTAs
        co-operatives
        co-housing
        electric generation from cleaner raw materials than oil, coal, etc.
        educational facilities removed from the capitalist state structure
        permaculture (challenging the wastelands of monocultural agriculture,
                for a multi use basis), sustainable sea fishing/farming
                pressures
        bioregional mobilizations and green organizations
        ethnic group mobilizations
        gender mobilizations
        sexuality mobilizations
        and many more (from a list I have been keeping)

        Ways should be found to integrate such groups into economic and
social circuits, to bastion a wider sense of choice for us all instead of
only the capitalist state's version of economic and social development. If
all these already strong separate channels could simply become connected
economically and have the aim of 'growing' and enriching the capitalist
state with other institutional forms--then they will be heard. It's a case
of together we stand, or divided we keep falling. An easy route that slowly
makes this possible is through economic integration, from which follows at a
human pace social relationships.


        Thirdly, they both fit together. changes in the structure of the
state (that would intentionally integrate more local processes and agenda
setting) and pressures for a more 'socially integrative' economics would
dovetail quite well.

        The difficulty is that people become accustomed to their anonymity,
to their capitalist world. They climb the ladders that they find--despite
them all lacking rungs higher up for everyone. All I can say is that it is
our job to build more ladders for everyone, out of the hole we have gotten
(and have been placed) into. The way to do this is to find ways of
cross-linking existing social and economic relations that are already
externalized in the capitalist state, and turning that into an advantage:
the incentive for co-operation.

Mark Whitaker
University of Wisconsin-Madison

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Date: Sun, 15 Aug 1999 10:07:02 -0400
From: Yves Leclerc <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Democracy, humanity and information
To: •••@••.•••, •••@••.•••

I've been very silent on these lists for several months. First because
there was fairly little for me to say, then because there was too much.
The recent discussions and revelations about Kosova and the Balkan War
induce me to raise my voice again.

I've been a fascinated student of practical and theoretical politics
ever since, at age 15, I had my eyes opened by the simultaneous and
similar colonialist invasions by France and England at Suez, by the USSR
in Hungary. Here are some of the conclusions of over 40 years of study,
debate and thought on these matters, especially as they relate to the
current crisis:

a) There is no direct relationship between the kind of democracy we
practice and respect for human life and rights. Milosevic is a
democratically elected leader. So is Clinton. Both don't mind wantonly
destroying human lives -- Milosevic's crime the more obvious and
immediate, but Clinton's probably the worse in the long run. Why?
Milosevic's deadly instincts only run within his own country, and are
strongly opposed by much of the citizenry. Clinton's violence affects
the whole world outside his own country, he has popular support and no
fear of retribution. Moreover, he is smugly self-righteous about it and
the means at his disposal are much more lethal. Milosevic will
eventually be brought to heel, Clinton (and his successors) won't.

b) The problem has its cause not in individuals or personalities but in
the system itself. Representative democracy as we implement it only
serves to perpetuate the current situation where power-hungry elites
monopolize political and military levers and use them to bargain
shamelessly with economic power-holders. Since economic power is
inherently anti-equalitarian and thrives on isolating individuals to
better control and exploit them for profit, this is a very poor way of
protecting the lives, rights and
interests of ordinary people.

c) The only form of democracy that could effectively protect most people
is one where the citizens themselves would dictate basic policies, and
their delegated (rather than representative) leaders would only have
enough power to implement these. Such a direct democracy approach is
physically and technically possible today, using both old-fashioned
"town meeting" methods and modern communications technology, but this is
not enough: the long-term survival of the system depends on the quality
of the democratic decisions taken, and this in turn can only be ensured
by the deciders-voters having access to reliable and complete
information.

d) The "diversity" of information provided by private media won't answer
this need. The very enlightening debates about media coverage, both on
these lists and on the "Monde Informatique" forum in France, show this
clearly enough. Corporate-owned media compete against each other only
where their real interests conflict -- not where they're the same. This
means they may give an appearance of diversity, but will omit, or treat
with a strong negative bias any news that contradicts their basic shared
ideology. For instance, anything that challenges the corporate agenda of
globalization, G-7 dominance, NATO's strong-arm approach to a one-sided
"world peace", etc.

e) Individual journalists' efforts to correct this are obviously
insufficient. First, because without the support of their organizations
they lack the means to really do much. But more subtly, because
subconsciously they live within the same ideology and largely share it
-- including its bias against anything uncapitalist or unamerican. They
may try to cover honestly the opposite viewpoint, but to them it remains
"the other side", not an option equal in importance and validity to
their own. Having been a journalist myself for nearly 40 years, and
having discovered this flaw in my own professional thinking in a number
of occasions, I know first-hand what I'm talking about.

f) At least a partial solution to the problem lies in a hybrid press
system, where publicly-owned media compete *on a level footing* with
private ones. Having seen quite a few such systems in action in France,
Britain, Canada and some Third World countries, I know that their
citizens are usually better informed than Americans -- taking into
account the resources each nation can allocate to information. The
laudable efforts of the PBS system in the US to bring a bit more balance
to news coverage only emphasize their paucity of means and the
discrepancy in resources and audience between them and the major private
networks.

Of course this won't solve our immediate problems... but while I have a
lot of respect for all those trying to plug the leaks in the dyke with
their naked fingers, in the long run some people will have to take the
time to bring bulldozers and cranes into action, if we don't want our
whole civilization to crumble under a North Sea of military-industrial
bullshit. I certainly don't want to find myself permanently in a
situation where the fact that the Chinese stole the Pentagon's nuclear
secrets becomes our sole protection against Washington's jingoism and
power-hunger.
--
Yves Leclerc, Montreal
"Les choses sont moins simples qu'elles ne paraissent,
mais plus simples qu'on ne les croit."

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