Transformation: re/ How deep must the scalpel go?


Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors


You folks have been sending in very useful articles and
comments re/Transformation -- as you will see below. 
This posting is a bit long, but I hope you'll have the
time to look at most of it.  If you lose interest in
some parts, please scroll ahead. Some of the best bits
are toward the end.

best regards,

Date: Thu, 1 May 2003 16:59:33 -0400 (EDT)
From: Sumner M Rosen <•••@••.•••>
Sender: •••@••.•••
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: Transformation: How deep must the scalpel go?

The New Deal in the US and Sweden's Social Democratic
era of full employment with comprehensive social
welfare protection created significant changes that
endured for generations.


Dear Sumner,

Thanks for bringing these examples into the discussion.
Let's look first at the USA's New Deal.

Consider the historical context.  As World War I ended,
Europe experienced a widespread revolt against
capitalism and its imperialist wars. Under the banners
of Socialism, Anarchism, and Communism, working people
were striving to transform exploitive capitalist
societies, for much the same reasons that have led us
to this Transformation discussion.  In Russia, the
result was a full-scale revolution.  In Italy, Germany,
and Spain the movements were also very strong --
threatening not armed revolution, but nonetheless a
radical transformation of power relationships in favor
of the working classes.  Meanwhile in the USA,
following the 1929 collapse, there was a very strong
labor movement pushing in a similar direction.

Capitalist elites were scared to death.  They feared
that Soviet-style revolutions would spread.  These
elites responded with a broad-based counter attack. 
Britain and America sent an expeditionary force to
Russia right after the revolution in the hope that a
counter-revolution could be sparked.  That effort
failed utterly.  In Spain, Italy, and Germany, money
was funneled to Mussolini, Hitler, and Franco.  Elites
were quite pleased with their success in those cases,
resulting in fascist takeovers.  In the USA the
counter-attack took the form of the New Deal.  FDR's
rhetoric and reforms took the wind out of the revolt's
sails.  Many thought that he was a genuine people's
hero, but near the end of his career he boasted that
his most prized achievement was, "I saved capitalism".

Yes indeed, the American people did benefit from New
Deal reforms. But while they were enjoying those
benefits, American elites were funding fascism
elsewhere and were preparing the ground for World War
II.  The US lost the opportunity for real
transformation, and the New Deal reforms were only
temporary. From the perspective of capitalist elites,
the movements from below had been contained and
managed. The bottom line was that these elites held
onto the reins of power.  Reforms were theirs to give
and theirs to take away -- when the time became ripe.

I do not take encouragement from any of these
scenarios. I would not hold them up as models to
emulate.  I see them as traps to be learned from and


The Scandinavian countries, perhaps, offer more
encouraging scenarios. They have traditionally
positioned themselves as producers of high value-added
products and they have pursued a policy of considerable
economic equality. There is probably much that can be
learned from them.  But we must admit those countries
have many inherent advantages, so that their
experiences may not be that easily emulated elsewhere. 
They have, for example, low population densities,
considerable natural resources, and mono-cultural cohesion.

And unfortunately, Sweden has now been seduced into the
EU.  Under the thoroughly undemocratic Brussels regime,
the undermining of Sweden's system is now only a matter
of time.  Brussels is fully committed to
neoliberalism's "free-trade" corporate agenda.  Sweden
will be forced to open up its economy to
multinationals, to dismantle its semi-socialist
programs, and its people will be vulnerable to the same
exploitations and decline in quality-of-life that the
rest of us are experiencing a bit earlier.

The bottom line lesson from Sweden is that you cannot
preserve a livable society in one nation -- not while
global capitalism runs the rest of the world.  Holdouts
will be picked off one by one.  Fuhrer Bush's "Axis of
Evil" identifies only the first in the queue.

best regards,

From: "jeanette thomas" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: John Spritzler: "NO, VOTING WON'T WORK"
Date: Tue, 6 May 2003 07:45:49 -0400

excellent, thank you

From: CAROLYN BAKER <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: John Spritzler: "NO, VOTING WON'T WORK"
To: •••@••.•••

I would like to refer you to a website that raises
profound doubts about the possibility of there being a
clean election in the U.S. in our lifetimes. Perhaps
you have already seen it. It is

I must agree with Spritzler: Voting will NOT work. We
are now living in a fascist empire. We have no more
hope of changing our government through the ballot box
than did Germans in the 1930s. The 2004 elections are
already a done deal. What we need are spiritual and
emotional tools to sustain us in the dictatorship in
which we now live.
Carolyn Baker
Professor of History,
El Paso, Texas USA


Dear Carolyn,

Nice to hear from you, from the Lone Star State, from
Bush's training ground.

Where there is life there is hope.  Let us not give up.
I read a book about an American GI who found himself
behind enemy lines in Italy during World War II. 
People hid him and gave him shelter.  In doing so they
risked their lives.  If the GI had been discovered, the
Nazis might have executed entire families.  He asked
them why they were taking these risks  They said it
wasn't really for him -- instead they felt the need to
do SOMETHING to oppose fascism, even if it was mostly
symbolic.  I suggest that we need their kind of spirit,
not resignation.

all the best,

From: "Brian Hill" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: John Spritzler: "NO, VOTING WON'T WORK"
Date: Mon, 5 May 2003 09:46:36 -0700
Organization: Institute for Cultural Ecology

I'm leaning toward agreeing with John Spritzler, esp.,
when, according to T. Hartman, that 90+% of the money
in politics in this country today is corporate money -
corporations own our government.  And now we learn that
the Ripublicans own the voting machines.

Its becoming  more obvious why grass roots turn to
revolutions - lets hope this one will be electronic.


Dear Brian,

As usual, thanks for taking the time from your mobile
activism to share your thoughts with us.  I'm still
looking forward to the response you promised in our
earlier discussion about 'civilization collapses' and
'tribalism'.  I think that will open the door to some
very useful dialog.

I'm not sure what you imply with your hope for an
electronic revolution.  Perhaps you see that as the only
alternative to armed insurrection.  I invite you to

It is obvious that the net has given us a lot.  I
certainly make use of it as much as I can.  It is great
for sharing information, for discussions, and for
organizing real-world activities.  But I think it has
severe limitations as well -- and over-dependence on it
can be a fatal mistake.  For one thing, it can be
easily taken away from us whenever elites perceive it
as too threatening.  For another thing, it leads us
into remote networking instead of on-the-ground
community building. 

Also, the net brings some grave dangers.  Many folks
actually believe that some kind of online voting could
lead to a genuine democracy.  They don't have a clue
about the actual dynamics that would govern that kind
of mass online activity.  "He who moderates rules", so
to speak.  I am well aware of the power I have in
controlling the discussion here, for example.  I do my
best to use that power wisely.  But I tremble at the
prospect of online populism of the variety that would
be permitted by our ruling elites.  "Press this link if
you want us to nuke China".  Propaganda plus instant
action plus invisible vote counting.  Very dangerous.


From: "Book Worm" <•••@••.•••>
To: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Remove     Too Many Known Fascist/ Right Wing Sources
Date: Thu, 8 May 2003 08:07:16 -0700

Please remove. Some of your articles you forward are
very accurate. However, you also pass on a lot of
disinformation from fascist sources trying to build a
populist base (technique of the oligarchies that installed
Hitler and Mussolini). No thanks. PS American Free
Press and their blatant anti-worker stances mixed in
with a few criticisms and disinformation of the
capitalist looting system of the oligarchy is a prime

    From: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
    To: <•••@••.•••>
    Sent: Wednesday, May 07, 2003 9:03 PM
    Subject: USA: Secret Group Manipulates Vote Machines


Dear Book Worm,

You raise a very important issue: Who do we listen to? 
Who do we learn from?.  I'm surprised others have not
objected more to my use of such a wide variety of
sources.  My Middle East coverage, for example, uses
many sources that are outright anti-Israel.  I use
right-wing sources, Marxist sources, Russian sources,
and many others.  I seek out useful information and I 
consider the motivation of the source to be separate
from the quality of the information provided.  In
fairness, I do often trim out blatant and provocative
propaganda sections, while retaining the informative
parts.  In other cases, I include the blatant sections
for the express purpose of refuting them.

I am puzzled by one thing.  You object to my use of a
source like the American Free Press because you feel
the underlying agenda of that source is dubious.  But
why then do you not object to my use of mainstream
sources such as the NY Times or the Guardian?  Those
are clearly the vehicles of elite propaganda.  Despite
their liberal rhetoric, their basic agenda is to offer
"anti-worker stances mixed in with a few criticisms and
disinformation of the capitalist looting system of the
oligarchy".  Why are those sources OK to use,
selectively, while the American Free Press isn't?

Beyond the question of "Who do we listen to?", there is
the question of "Who do we work with?".  Your answer,
presumably, would be that "we progressives" need to
band together in opposition to "everyone who has
right-wing ideas".  How convenient that is for the
ruling elites!  Us folks down at the bottom fight with
one another while those at the top laugh all the way to
the bank.  Clinton carried the phony banner of
"humanitarian intervention", while Bush carries the
phony banner of the "patriotic fight against
terrorism".  Neither President has been either liberal
nor conservative; both have been PR fronts for
corporate imperialism.  Our struggle is not about
ideology; it is about power.

In the article below, we hear from a Republican, former
Marine, and ex-weapons inspector: Scott Ritter.  He
asks "peace activists to reach out to Republicans like
himself and raise the constitutional issues and
uncomfortable facts that Bush has run roughshod over". 
He is suggesting that genuine liberals and
conservatives work together against those who oppress
us and who lie to us.  I think he makes sense. 
Regardless of our values and beliefs, we are all in
this together.

I don't agree with the agenda of the American Free
Press, and I don't agree with Ritter's suggested
political strategy.  But I do believe we all need to
listen to one another, to all sides, and to learn to
dialog together.  We can learn to work together
pragmatically for our mutual salvation.  Any other path
surrenders us to the divide-and-conquer tactics that
elites have used for millennia to suppress us.

as i see it,

Date: Thu, 08 May 2003 14:35:17 -0700
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Bill Thomson <•••@••.•••>
Subject: MIDEAST ACTION:  Thursday, 5/8/03-1 (PM--USA:EST)

Date: Wed, 7 May 2003 21:31:10 -0400
>From: Carolyn Diem <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Scott Ritter calls for impeachment

    Ex-weapons inspector and former Marine Scott Ritter is
    calling for regime change in Washington. 
    By Jan Barry

05/05/03: (VIAW)Scott Ritter may be the Bush reelection
team's worse nightmare. The former UN chief weapons
inspector in Iraq and card-carrying Republican is
barnstorming America with a blunt message: George W.
Bush's war on Iraq was waged on a "bodyguard of lies."

"We need regime change, and we need it quick," Ritter
told a gathering of peace activists in New Jersey on
Sunday. "George W. Bush does not have the
represent the American people, if he told a lie. And he
told a whopper."

That whopper, said Ritter, was claiming that the US
government had evidence that Saddam Hussein was hiding
massive amounts of weapons of mass destruction and that
was why Iraq must be invaded. The facts, he said, are
that "the inspections worked. The United Nations did
disarm Iraq."

"I want the president impeached because he lied to the
Congress of the United States," Ritter said. "He may
well go out and tell another lie about weapons of mass
destruction" being found amid the rubble in Iraq. But,
Ritter said, any scheme to plant evidence would run
afoul of professional soldiers like those he served
with in Gulf War I. "I can tell you, my fellow officers
won't sustain that lie."

Ritter is a former Marine major who worked as a weapons
inspector for the United Nations in Iraq from 1991 to
1998. These days he's an antiwar activist on a mission
to pacify Washington, DC.

"What happened in Baghdad last month was not in
accordance with international law. What happened in
Baghdad last month was a west Texas lynching," Ritter
said at New Jersey Peace Action's annual dinner, where
he was the guest of honor. "President Bush is
implementing a policy of imperialism."

Ritter said Americans who don't want the United States
to go the way of all empires -- which, he said, die of
indigestion -- will have to fight an historic political
battle over the nation's future. "We can't allow a
bunch of neoconservatives to hijack America," he said.
"It's not a right-wing fraternity pin -- the American
flag, we own it, the American people."

Ritter said he has been taking his blunt message to
college campuses and other forums around the country.
And when anyone demands that he support the war in
Iraq, he replies: "What part of war do you want to
support?" and describes in graphic detail the hell hole
of war.

Recounting the story of a Marine in a battle in Iraq,
Ritter said that a soldier is only one face of
patriotism. "Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you
to the other face of patriotism -- the people of the
United States. ...The other face of patriotism is the
American citizen who gets up in the morning" and
carries out the duties and responsibilities of

"If you give up now, you are giving up on American
democracy," he said. Ritter urged the assembled peace
activists to reach out to Republicans like himself and
raise the constitutional issues and uncomfortable facts
that Bush has run roughshod over. Among those facts, he
said, is this glaring one:  "Bush was a deserter from
his unit during the Vietnam War. He doesn't know what
it means to support the troops."

Jan Barry, a Vietnam veteran, is a journalist living in
New Jersey. Jan is also an editor of VAIW and a
contributing editor of Intervention Mag. Link:

From: Derek Tattersall <•••@••.•••>
To: •••@••.•••
Subject: Re: Transformation: How deep must the scalpel go?
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 2003 20:16:14 -0400
User-Agent: KMail/1.4.3

  rkm> I would re-frame this.  I would say that those of
    us who have some insight into the situation need to
    find some way to turn that insight into effectiveness.
    In that regard I have a particular proposal, one that I
    have been developing in parallel with others. I propose
    that 'we' organize a conference/gathering focused on
    your very question, of "how to proceed".  Using the DF
    process or an equivalent.  I hope we can talk about

Hi Richard,

I've been a long-time member of the rn and cj lists.

The above made me want to ask you if you've read the
book -- which is sort of an interim report --
"Alternatives to Economic Globalization (A Better World
is Possible)", Drafted by a committee from The
International Forum on Globalization, which includes
David Korten and many other "guides" in the
anti-globalization movement.  I'm interested in hearing
your opinions on the breadth of ideas in that report.

They are one group that have been doing much the same
kind of conference/gathering work, and seem to be
heading toward this same question now of "how to

Which also brings me to ask you about David Korten's
website, "People-Centered Development Forum", and the
program of "Living Economies".


The grounding in modern insights into evolution of
biosystems, and the basic argument for creating a
network of local stake-holder controlled economies  to
replace the capitalist "suicide economy" as David calls
it, is echoed in much of what you say in this latest
post about replacing the current system.  The biologist
would call it "succession".  If you haven't read
Sartouris' essay at this site, I wholeheartedly
recommend it.  It gives an interesting biological
rationale for believing it is very possible to totally
replace the current system with a more "mature"
societal "ecosystem", if you will -- without needing to
wait for the current system's "breakdown".

Anyway, just wondering if you've followed this thread
of David's work.

I'm also intrigued with this whole discussion of DF. 
I've had past experience with facilitation of various
forms and believe very much in it's potential.

Don't have much else to say, except I love where this
thread is going :-)

take care,

derek t


Dear Derek,

Many thanks for your contribution to the discussion.  I
went to the PCDF website and looked over the material
that you recommended.  It's very good stuff, and I pass
your recommendation on to all of our readers.  Your own
summary of the points serves well, and I won't try to
improve on it.

The ideas of Korten and his colleagues are broad and
well grounded.  From my perspective, they cover about
50% of what needs to be covered, and that part is
covered very well.  The missing 50% has to do with

As I see it, understanding is not enough to bring about
change, and neither is any attempt to build alternative
economic systems within the current system. Such
attempts have been made many times in history.  They
often look promising at the beginning.  But if they
ever get to the point where they actually threaten to
change the system -- when they become visible on elite
radar --- then the regime always finds a way to crush
them.  This can be done through legislation, taxation,
building codes, outright suppression, and in many other
ways.  Such attempts are like building sand castles to
hold back the tide.

Capitalism is like Shiva -- the god of both creativity
and destruction.  We are all familiar with the
destructiveness of capitalism, but we sometimes
underestimate its creativity.  It has evolved very
creative methods of destroying whatever stands in its
path -- the path usually called 'economic growth' but
more accurately named 'concentration of wealth in elite

What we really need to be building is not so much
alternative economic systems, but rather alternative
political systems.  When we accomplish that, then
alternative economic systems will be a piece of cake. 
This leads us into our next article.  It is excerpted here,
and the full article is posted to newslog.


From: "Janet McFarland" <•••@••.•••>
To: <•••@••.•••>
Subject: New Democracy
Date: Mon, 5 May 2003 10:38:08 -0700

A New Democracy Editorial
(May-August 2002)


There is nothing more necessary for the success of
popular struggle in the coming years than a worthy
revolutionary alternative to aim for. This alternative
must inspire confidence that we can create a truly
democratic, humanly fulfilling, successfully
functioning new society.

There are developments in the struggle in Argentina
that bear on this question and which may have great
impact on all of us. In the weeks after the popular
uprising of December 19-20, people began to meet on
street corners in Buenos Aires and elsewhere to
consider how to take further action against the
corralito- the government decree impounding the bank
savings of small savers. These informal meetings led
rapidly to the creation of more than fifty popular
assemblies in Buenos Aires alone, involving thousands
of people, with weekly meetings of an
inter-neighborhood assembly.

The concerns of the assemblies moved quickly from the
corralito to the economic and political system in
Argentina. In another promising development, the
assembly movement and the piquetero movement of the
unemployed and poor peasants have joined forces. The
piqueteros have operated for several years in the
countryside, blocking highways with mass sit-ins to
pressure the government to provide economic assistance
to the poor.

The assembly movement is an important exercise in
direct democracy. It is still fragile and at
considerable risk of being high-jacked by the unions
and political parties of the left. From our admittedly
scant knowledge, however, it seems to be exactly the
kind of development that can lead to an authentic
democratic revolution in Argentina.

The key obstacle to the success of direct democracy is
the belief that ordinary people are not competent to
govern society. This belief is not only endemic to
capitalist assumptions about people; it is also central
to what has been the chief anti-capitalist
philosophy -- Marxism. Capitalism and communism turned
out much the same-as class societies in which a small
elite holds the power -- because they are based on the
same view of people: that human beings, capitalists and
workers alike, are driven by self-interest; that
economic development is the basis of human development;
that economic forces drive history; that elites act,
while ordinary people -- unless they are thrust onto the
stage of history by economic forces beyond their
control -- are only acted upon.

This view of people can never result in a democratic
society. It can only lead to tyranny of one form or
another. The moral of the Communist experience is not
that "revolutions always turn bad," but that
revolutions based on a capitalist view of people always
turn bad.

We began New Democracy in 1992 because we felt we had
found the basis for a revolutionary alternative to all
the existing systems. We had found it not in a text of
Marx or Lenin or in some economic or historical theory.
We had found it right in front of our faces--in
people's everyday lives. We formed New Democracy to put
this new idea of revolution on the popular agenda.

We reasoned that the core of any political vision is
its view of people: their values, their aspirations,
their strengths and weaknesses, their role in creating
the present society and their ability to create a new

The starting point of a new, world-wide revolutionary
movement is an understanding that ordinary working
people are motivated not primarily by self-interest, as
capitalism would have it, but by their belief in
solidarity and mutual aid; that the everyday struggle
of ordinary people to provide for their families and to
create supportive human relationships is the source of
the good in society-both the material wealth and
whatever positive human values may exist within it;
that the struggle of ordinary people to humanize the
world and to fill it with meaning is the force that
drives history; that the class struggle is a struggle
over the texture and meaning of human life and of the
values that should shape it; that the successful
conclusion of the class war requires the revolutionary
transformation of society with working class values of
solidarity, equality, and democracy.


Dear Janet,

Thank you so much for this article.  It is one of the
best things I have ever read.  I love the focus on a
belief in people.  Anyone who doesn't believe in people
does not believe in democracy.  In that way, the Right
has a wisdom that the Left lacks.  The Right, at the
grass roots, wants less government.  They want people
to run their own affairs -- at least that's their
rhetoric.  The Left always wants a strong government,
and hopes that it will be benevolent.  That will never
be. Where the right errs in its failure to perceive
that less government -- on its own -- simply leads to
tyranny by other means (corporate power).  Before less
government can be helpful, there needs to be an
alternative system.

The Argentinian assemblies show us what that
alternative will look like.

thanks again,

Date: Mon, 05 May 2003 10:13:05 -1000
To: •••@••.•••
From: Claudia <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: John Spritzler: "NO, VOTING WON'T WORK"
X-Declude-Spoolname: Dc33f6e8200405691.SMD

At 05:00 PM 5/5/03 +0100, you wrote:
    "By making people place their hopes on some elected officials
    rather than on themselves, an electoral strategy eliminates
    any realistic basis for radical goals, and forces movements
    to trim and adapt their vision and message to what they
    believe is possible within the limitations of the established
    structures of power."

well sure...except that the usual option is Maoist tyranny


Dear Claudia,

If at first we don't succeed, we must try, try, again.




    For the movement, the relevant question is not, "Can we
    work through the political system?", but rather, "Is
    the political system one of the things that needs to be
    fundamentally transformed?"

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