The first part of this two part essay, inspired by the multi authored Twenty Theses for Liberation, urged the need for flexible, continually updated, shared vision able to help unify countless ecological, economic, electoral, judicial, gender, sexual, racial, cultural, anti war, and internationalist activism into a multi-faceted, mutual-aid-empowered whole. Cribbing from the twenty theses it then proposed some possible visionary commitments that activists, projects, organizations, and movements might discuss, refine, and correct to achieve such shared, continually updated vision.
Well, okay, suppose an international movement of movements that favors fundamental shared vision convenes. Would its participants then say that we face an all or nothing endeavor? Would we chant “we want the world and we want it now”? Would our flexible regularly updated shared vision cause us to believe that to seek anything less than our whole vision would be worthless? Would sharing a core vision cause us to think that we must first attain a new economy, a new polity, a new everything or tipping points brought on by the old economy, old polity, and old everything would guarantee climate, income, and fascistic catastrophe? Would a shared vision cause us to say that unless we attain fundamental change all at once we will drown or burn to oblivion? Would we say that to demand anything less than everything is to sell out?
Well, no, hopefully advocates of shared vision would not say any of that. Hopefully we would tirelessly seek a new world, but also understand the difficulty and duration that attaining a new world will entail. Hopefully with shared broad vision we would know that the effort to avoid climate catastrophe, resource catastrophe, income, gender, and racial catastrophe, as well as fascist catastrophe can’t wait until after we have won a new society. Hopefully we would commit to comprehensive fundamental change but not proclaim “win everything now or win nothing ever.” Hopefully we would instead proclaim “win enough now to avoid catastrophes, then win more until we have won a fundamentally transformed, newly civilized, and newly ecologically desirable world.”
But in light of the twenty theses visionary proposals (or anything that arises from anything like them), and also in light of knowing that attaining fundamental change will take longer than the time available to avoid climate and other catastrophes, and also knowing that social, economic, and environmental conditions that affect strategy differ from place to place and from time to time, is there sufficient shared strategy to agree to to unify a movement of movements?
To answer that question, the twenty theses propose that a movement of movements will need liberatory projects, organizations, and movements able to slow catastrophic trends as they also move us toward a new society fully freed from such dangers. Such liberatory projects, organizations, and movements will need to facilitate learning, preserve lessons, provide continuity, and combine and apply energies and insights to win changes and sustain support for members. But are these proposed inclinations sufficiently common to Degrowth, Solidarity Economy, labor, feminist, anti racist and anti war practices, among others, to be refined, improved, and explicitly shared by wide swaths of the left?
The twenty theses additionally propose that to ward off current catastrophic dangers while we seek to win shared vision will require organizing that counters cynicism with hope, that incorporates seeds of the future in the present, that grows membership and commitment among the class, nationality, cultural, age, ability, and sexual/gender constituencies to be liberated, and that wins reforms without becoming reformist.
The twenty theses propose that doubt about the possibility of a better society is a primary impediment to people seeking fundamental change. Therefore to combat cynicism rooted in doubt and to engender informed hope should be a permanent organizing priority. Liberatory organizing should always offer and clarify the merit of vision and the efficacy of activism even as it indicates, details, and explains the pains people currently endure and the tenacious obstacles to change people currently confront.
To arrive at, collectively implement, and then monitor that well-considered decisions decisions have been carried out admirably, the twenty theses propose that liberatory organizing should provide extensive opportunities for members to participate in organizational decision making and in deliberations with others. The theses propose liberatory organizing should facilitate everyone’s participation including, when possible, offering childcare at meetings and events, finding ways to reach out to those who might be immersed in kinship duties, striving to meet diverse accessibility needs, and aiding those immersed in busy work schedules.
Likewise, a liberatory organization should provide transparency regarding all actions by its elected or delegated leaders, including placing a high burden of proof on keeping secret any agenda, whether to avoid repression or for any other reason. Liberatory organizing should provide a mechanism to recall leaders or representatives who members believe are not adequately representing them, as well as to provide means to fairly, peacefully, and constructively resolve internal disputes.
To be liberatory, the twenty theses also propose a movement’s structure and policies should approximate as well as circumstances and priorities allow, the self-management norm that “each member has decision making influence proportional to the degree they are affected.”
Liberatory movements should be structured so that a minority who are initially disproportionately equipped with needed skills, information, and confidence cannot form a decision-making hierarchy that leaves less-prepared members to perpetually follow orders or perform only rote tasks. To that end, the twenty theses propose liberatory movements should apportion empowering and disempowering tasks to ensure that no individuals or sectors of members have a relative monopoly on information or access, and no subset of members has disproportionate say whether due to race, gender, class, or other attributes.
For example, a liberatory organization should monitor and work to correct instances of sexism, racism, classism, ableism, transphobia, and homophobia, not only in society but in itself, including having diverse roles suitable to people with different backgrounds, personal priorities, and personal situations. A liberatory organization should guarantee and celebrate members’ rights to organize “currents” or “caucuses” with full rights of democratic debate and should allow dissenting views to exist and be tested alongside preferred views. Likewise, a liberatory organization should ensure that national, regional, city, and local chapters, as well as different sectors can respond to their own circumstances and implement their own programs as they choose so long as their choices do not block other groups equally addressing their own situations or deny the shared goals and principles of the whole organization.
Liberatory organizing should utilize relevant, flexible shared strategy guided by continually updated shared vision to consistently progress toward lasting, fundamental change. So is it plausible that theses twenty theses proposals are sufficiently common to Degrowth and other potential movement of movement members to help inspire within and among them a wide conversation seeking shared strategy to augment shared vision in turn able to plant the seeds of the future in the present to enhance hope, to test and refine ideas, and to learn lessons able to inform strategy and vision even as we currently combat oppressive class, race, gender, sexual, age, ability, and power injustices? Could a movement of movements based on continually refined shared vision and strategy constructively address the way its members mutually interrelate? Could it establish internal norms that support building exemplary workplace, campus, community, and still more encompassing institutions that represent and refine the values the movement of the movements offers as liberating alternatives to the status quo it combats?
The twenty theses strategic proposals are not original, nor even unusual. They are, however, rarely explicitly and collectively enunciated much less discussed across projects and countries to arrive at a shared set of strategic views.
The twenty theses propose that liberatory organizing should constantly grow membership among the class, community, nationality, and gender constituencies it aims to liberate. It should learn from and seek unity with audiences far wider than its own membership. It should attract and affirmatively empower young people and reach out to and organize people currently critical and even hostile to its aims. It should participate in, support, build, and aid diverse social movements and struggles beyond its own immediate agendas. It should explicitly and respectfully address critical and even hostile constituencies in communities, on campuses, and at work. Once widely discussed, refined, and shared, is it even hard to conceive of collective explicit unity about such matters?
The twenty theses propose that liberatory organizing should also seek, develop, debate, disseminate, and advocate truthful news, analysis, vision, and strategy among its members and especially in the wider society. It should develop and sustain needed media institutions and means of face-to-face communication as well as use diverse methods of agitation and struggle—from educational efforts to rallies, marches, demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, occupations, and diverse direct action campaigns—to win gains and build ever wider support. And the twenty theses propose that to sustain deeper unity, liberatory organizing should develop new forms of cross-constituency and cross-issue mutuality. New blocs of activist movements, campaigns, and organizations should at times take as their shared program not a least common denominator component that they all individually favor, but the totality of their individual priorities, even including their differences, so that each movement, campaign, and organization in such a bloc aids the rest and all thereby become dramatically more powerful.
The twenty theses also propose that liberatory organizing should seek changes in society for citizens to enjoy immediately, while it also establishes by its words, methods, and the ideas it broaches and broadcasts a likelihood that all involved will pursue and win more change in the future. So liberatory organizing should seek short-term changes of its own conception by its own actions, but also seek short term changes that others conceive by supporting other movements and projects internationally, by country, and also locally. It should collectively address climate change, arms control, war and peace, the level and composition of economic output, agricultural relations, education, health care, housing, income distribution, duration of work, work organization, gender roles, education, health care, racial relations, immigration, policing, media, law, and legislation. Liberatory organizing should seek to win gains by means that reduce oppression in the present and that prepare circumstances, methods, and allegiances to win more gains in the future. It should struggle to win reforms in non reformist ways.
Following the wise choices of countless past and current activists, the twenty theses also propose that liberatory organizing should embrace a diversity of tactics suited to diverse contexts that best serve flexible, resilient strategies informed by shared vision. And they propose that liberatory organizing should connect efforts, resources, and lessons from country to country, region to region, community to community, workplace to workplace, campus to campus, community to community, and home to home even as it also recognizes that strategies and tactics suitable to different venues and different times will differ.
The strategic proposals of the Twenty Theses for Liberation propose all the above as possible commonalities to consider. So, are its strategic proposals worth discussing to try to find shared strategic commitments to augment shared vision for a movement of movements?
The twenty theses urge that liberatory organizing will need to focus not solely on immediate tactical success or failure—such as stopping a meeting, completing a march, or winning a vote—but also and even mainly on broader matters such as how many new people we reach, what commitments among participants we enlarge, and what infrastructure we create. The twenty theses urge that activists should combine respect for the urgency to address immediate injustices with the patience that major long-term change requires.
The twenty theses advise that a movement of movements should understand that vision orients aims, strategy informs program, and tactics implement plans. For each, the twenty theses propose that a movement of movements should pay close attention to immediate implications to advance today’s campaigns, organization, and consciousness, but also to implications for longer run prospects for those immediately involved and for those viewing from a distance. More, a movement of movements should provide financial, legal, employment, and emotional support to its members so they become steadily better able to participate in and navigate the challenges and sometimes negative effects of taking part in radical actions.
Indeed, the twenty theses propose that successful organizing should substantially improve the current life situations of its members, including aiding their feelings of self-worth, their knowledge, skills, and confidence, their mental, physical, sexual, and spiritual health, their material conditions, and even their social ties and engagements and leisure enjoyments. It proposes that successful organizing should take a positive approach in all interpersonal and organizational matters. It should always seek ways forward. Successful organizing should address disagreements and failings not to cancel others or extoll self, but to find ways all can progress successfully.
Finally, the twenty theses propose that liberatory organizing should understand that we are all different and that successful insights and paths forward are inevitably found, communicated, and advocated by some people earlier than by others. Liberatory organizing should welcome such leadership but also guard against lasting differential empowerment. The twenty theses thus propose that a key personal contribution of any leading person or group should be to elevate other persons or groups.
So, do the the seven broad theses that bear on vision discussed in Part One of this article and the thirteen broad theses that bear on strategy discussed here in Part Two sufficiently accord with Degrowth aspirations—and, for example, feminist, anti-racist, Solidarity Economics, labor, anti-authoritarian, and anti war aspirations—to warrant Degrowth’s consideration of them and critical intervention to improve them and to then advocate for them to help seek flexible, broad vision and strategy to unify a movement of movements?
The Twenty Theses for Liberation document says its first goal is to establish that organizers and diverse movements would benefit immensely from a widely shared positive perspective, and that we would all benefit from a framework for coalescing around shared vision and strategy to identify shared aims and to leverage collective power to win immediate reforms on a trajectory of societal transformation.
But one might reasonably ask, would it even matter if activists were to arrive at such a shared outlook in a country, many countries, or even around the world? Would it matter if people who now mainly address and seek anti-sexist, anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian, anti-ecocide, or anti-war gains were to all share a unifying core vision? Would it matter if behind calls to enrich and align struggles in different places and for different aims, there arose a considerable shared strategic perspective? Would it matter if multitudinous environmental, feminist, labor, inter communalist, internationalist and other efforts each backed the agendas of the rest to that each showed up for the actions of the rest?
If not, then there’s no need to think further on sharing these or any other theses for liberation. But if such a shared stance could assist each progressive, radical, or revolutionary project, campaign, institution, or movement and could especially align them into much more effective mutual aid than they now share, then wouldn’t it be wise to seek to arrive at shared vision and strategy?
The Twenty Theses for Liberation asserts that its second goal is to move forward from identifying the need for a widely shared visionary and strategic framework to propose a particular draft framework for collective engagement. Are the twenty theses flexible, general, rich, common, and broad enough to sustain a productive discussion? After refinement and improvement, could they generate shared, effective advocacy? The twenty theses come from countless movements, experiences, and organizations. They were collected and put forth by 31 co-authors and six host organizations and have now accumulated a bit over 300 signers though of course no signer proposes them as the only possible formulation. For that matter, likely everyone who has signed has concerns or misgivings about at least some of the theses.
Indeed, across the broad spectrum of progressive and radical movements, there are sure to be initial reactions that the twenty theses are too long, too specific, lack something favorable, include something unfavorable, go beyond our means, utilize imprecise or un-preferred terminology, or are just something that no matter how worthy, will likely be ignored. So what? We should not stop at or be stopped by initial doubts. As the theses assert: “Our hope is that these concerns are not a stopping point, but a starting point for undertaking further examination, discussion, debate, improvements, and refinements towards a shared basis, however different it might look from this draft, for future activism and organization building.”
So how might such a final shared viewpoint emerge? By people talking, writing, reading, and proposing with one another, in person, in periodicals, and in organizations. The result the theses advocate wouldn’t be a fixed, unchangeable stance. Shared vision and strategy would instead continually alter in accord with new experiences, contexts, and insights. The result would be a continued, collective process of refining, adapting, and utilizing a unifying framework. It would build and sustain a culture that unites around shared vision and strategy—and isn’t that the work of building a movement of movements? It would bring separate agendas into powerful solidarity with one another. And isn’t that a path toward victories?
And so, the question arises yet again. Would it be productive for Degrowth’s many advocates to participate in such an endeavor? Would Degrowth’s participation be good for the endeavor and thus worth Degrowth’s attention? And would it also be productive for Solidarity Economy, feminist, LGBTQ, anti racist, anti war, border, prison and justice, electoral organizing and on and on to each participate in all their many facets in such an endeavor, and also good for the endeavor that they each do so and thus worth their involvement? That is the hope of this essay.
It is easy to say it won’t happen. But shouldn’t we all want Degrowth advocates and indeed all advocates of progressive, radical, and revolutionary change including ourselves to seek unity via seeking sufficient shared vision and strategy to sustain an international movement of entwined, mutually supportive, multi focussed movements?
The Twenty Theses for Liberation are at 4Liberation.org. Its thirty one initial signers are: Kali Akuno, Michael Albert, Renata Ávila, Ramzy Baroud, Medea Benjamin, Peter Bohmer, Fintan Bradshaw, Jeremy Brecher, Urška Breznik, Noam Chomsky, Savvina Chowdhury, Devriş Çimen, Mark Evans, Andrej Grubačić, Jason Hickel, Kathy Kelly, Arash Kolahi, Bridget Meehan, Sotiris Mitralexis, Jason Myles, Cynthia Peters, John Pilger, Matic Primc, Don Rojas, Stephen Shalom, Alexandria Shaner, Norman Solomon, Cooper Sperling, Yanis Varoufakis, and Brett Wilkins.
Its six host organizations are: ZNetwork, DiEM25, Academy of Democratic Modernity, MetaCPC, Real Utopia, and Cooperation Jackson.
Even all that and the 300 plus current signers is not enough. Not nearly. But more is possible—isn’t it?
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