Possible Ideas for Going Forward
Around the world powerful and diverse possibilities are in struggle. We the signers of “Some Possible Ideas for Going Forward” think one high priority for progress is activists developing, discussing, and settling on priorities around which to organize multi issue activism in coming months and years. We hope this document can help inspire more conversations within groups and movements that, over time, come to a synthesis. We do this in the spirit of self organization – and as a rejection of preformed inflexible programs and agendas imposed on activists from above. We believe only program that is fully understood and owned by grassroots participants can win lasting change.
To try to help, we have assembled some familiar programmatic ideas rooted in diverse movements and projects. We signers do not each individually necessarily support every single programmatic suggestion given here. Indeed, perhaps none of us supports every single suggestion much less all the specific wording. Instead, we all support having a widespread discussion of these worthy ideas and of other ideas that emerge from the process, to arrive at widely supported program for left activists.
Some Possible Economic Programmatic Ideas
A left agenda might, for example, pursue four central economic goals – better quality of daily economic experience, more fairness, better production priorities, and increased mutual compassion.
For example, new economic program might seek: (1) a law forbidding capital export and relocation without community and worker agreement, and (2) a law delineating punishments for employers who impede nationally mandated economic reforms. Likewise, it could seek controls on work day and work week length – for example seeking 30 hours of work for 40 hours pay. It might demand that the maximum penalty for owners violating the spirit and intent of such laws would be nationalization of their businesses under the management of currently employed workers.
Similarly, new economic program might propose: (1) reducing inequality, (2) reorienting productive potentials to meet social needs, and (3) enlarging economic democracy.
For example, new economic program might propose sharply progressive property, asset, and income taxes, with no loopholes, as well as a dramatically-increased minimum wage, say $20 an hour, and perhaps a guaranteed income for all, coupled with a new profit tax that would be proportional to inequities in each firm’s pay scale. The more oppressive the pay scale, the higher the profit tax.
Due to a new minimum wage law, minimum pay would rise dramatically. Due to a new pay equity tax, industries with a more equitable pay scale would have more after-tax resources. Not only could more equitably structured firms use these extra funds to further improve work conditions and increase their social contribution, they could generally out-compete less socially responsible firms. New property and asset taxes would dramatically diminish differences in wealth.
New economic program might usefully label all these innovations redistributive and repeatedly explain why redistribution from the rich to the poor is both morally justified and socially essential. Perhaps this part of a new program could be called “reclamation of stolen riches.”
New economic program could seek a comprehensive full employment policy arising from campaigns to rebuild infrastructure and, in particular, to attain sustainable energy policies, as well as via the shift to a shorter work week. It could include comprehensive adult education and job training, and a comprehensive social support system for those unable to work, whatever the reason.
Moreover, beyond material equity, new economic program could also advocate that workers should all have work conditions and responsibilities suitable to their personal development and to their responsibility to contribute to society’s well being. Why should some people endure boring, dangerous, subordinate, and rote conditions, a new movement might ask, while other people enjoy challenging, fulfilling, empowering, and varied conditions? New program could reveal that fairness is not only attaining equity of wealth and pay, but also equity of conditions of work and life.
Using this principle as a long term touchstone, new program could seek to build and support workers’ councils empowered to conceive, demand, and work to implement job redefinition as well as to win increasing say over the pace, goal, and organization of work for the workers who do it. Such a program could emphasize that work can and should be a demanding but rewarding part of people’s lives, rather than an alienating, debilitating, energy and dignity sapping affront to people’s life potentials.
Regarding investment priorities, new economic program could propose tax incentives for socially useful production and tax disincentives and indeed, legal prosecution, for wasteful and socially harmful production. This would help foster production to meet real needs and potentials. Indeed, such a new program could indicate precisely how to successfully regulate, punish, and even nationalize under workers control any business or industry deemed by an independent citizens bureau and public plebiscite to be destructive of the public good. While this might initially point at Walmart scale businesses, in time, of course, it would get at capitalist institutions per se.
Of course, major change in economic priorities that a new program could emphasize could include a massive cut in military spending. Further, new program could propose that existing military bases be converted to centers for ecological clean-up, to new schools for local communities, to workplaces for developing low income housing, or to new centers of clean transportation or energy production. Funding for the new centers of social creativity could persist simply being the old military funding now put to desirable ends and similarly resident GIs or others seeking new employment could be retrained on site, to work in the converted bases.
Regarding economic democracy and participation, new program could work for the formation of consumer and worker organizations to watchdog product quality, guard against excessive pricing, advise about product redefinition, and participate in plant, industry, and community collective consumption decisions with open books and full investigative rights. Beyond these first steps, new program could clarify that the ultimate goal is the full democratization of economic decision making and the initiation of a national public project to develop new institutions for work, consumption, and allocation.
In short, new economic program could: (1) ratify the public’s suspicion that the basic problem with our economy is that capitalist institutions make capitalists prefer war production, persistent unemployment, and homelessness to a working class able to demand a bigger piece of the pie and control over what kind of pie is baked; and, (2) propose uncompromising changes that redress existing grievances, create conditions hat are more just and humane, and establish a new balance of power conducive to winning more fundamental changes, including new defining institutions in the future.
Some Possible Education Programmatic Ideas
A new education program could note that existing schools create subservient and exploitable future workers by providing most students minimal literacy, virtually no dignity or sense of self worth, plus maximum training in enduring boredom and obeying orders.
New education program could explain that schools accomplish all this destruction and distortion by incorporating differences in teacher-student ratios, in resources per student, and in teacher expectations and training—all on top of different conditions of home life, community relations, access to information and comfortable learning conditions, that simply multiply the injustice.
To foster educational change new program could highlight the need to overcome corporate agendas and existing institutional pressures with our own alternatives. It could reveal that to have good education for all we must have a society promising full employment at jobs that require and utilize people’s full capabilities, including facility at decision-making, ample knowledge about society, and expectations of success and participation.
New education program could also pressure for specific pedagogic changes in how schools and classes are conducted both during school hours, and also for surrounding communities in off hours. To enumerate these changes, new program could advocate a national debate about curriculum reform, improved teaching methods and enriched teacher-student relations, improved resources for schools, and increased community involvement and benefit.
New education program could also seek specific goals for education. For example, to reduce class size to a maximum of 20 students per teacher in all schools and to equalize resources per student across all schools, including architecture, computers, books, and food, and, of course, to guarantee free education (through college) for anyone who wants it.
New education program could seek specific funds to staff all schools at night for community meetings and remedial and adult education. Space to meet and engage with others is a huge factor in successful community organizing, and perhaps public schools, at night, could become that space. And finally, new program could seek that funding for education comes from corporate profit taxes and from private progressive taxes collected at the national level to guarantee that regions attain educational parity.
Some Possible Race Programmatic Ideas
New program addressing the pivotal problem of race in the U.S. and societies around the world could seek to ensure that people can freely have multiple cultural and social backgrounds and commitments, including providing the space and resources necessary for people to positively express their views, celebrations, languages, and values.
New program addressing race could explicitly recognize that rights and values exist regardless of race, religion, or cultural allegiances, so that while society protects all people’s right to affiliate freely, its core values are universal for every community.
New program addressing race could guarantee free entry and exit to and from all cultural communities including affirming that communities that do have free entry and exit can be under the complete self determination of their members, so long as their policies and actions don’t conflict with society’s broader norms of equity and justice. This could include amnesty for immigrants and open borders for all refugees.
But, mainly, new program addressing race could prioritize directly redressing violations of race equity and justice. For example, new program could emphasize confronting the institutions of racist and national oppression, seek community control of police, end mass incarceration, and could seek to reverse the legacies of these same phenomena by way of reparations for Black and Native American communities. New program might categorically reject the notion that “…a rising tide raises all boats…” and the notion that broad and progressive economic reforms such as those supported elsewhere in this call ipso facto resolve racist and national oppression.
New Program addressing race could therefore go beyond universal aims to highlight specific measures needed to repair the damage of hundreds of years of oppression to racial and cultural communities. This would necessitate examining all areas of life including the economy, education, healthcare, politics and law enforcement, in each case seeking to determine innovations required beyond those that are universal for all, precisely to avoid bias that leaves racial communities with less than universally acclaimed and sought benefits.
Some Possible Gender/Kinship Programmatic Ideas
New program addressing the pivotal problems of gender and kinship could emphasize the need to not privilege certain types of family formation and sexuality over others but instead to actively support all types of families and lifestyles consistent with society’s other broad equitable norms and practices.
It could promote children’s well-being and affirm society’s responsibility for all its children, including affirming the right of diverse types of families to have children and to provide them with love and a sense of rootedness and belonging. It could minimize or eliminate age-based permissions, preferring non-arbitrary means for determining when an individual is old or young enough to participate in economic, political or other activities, or to receive benefits/privileges.
It could respect marriage and other lasting relations among adults as religious, cultural, or social practices, but reject marriage as a way to gain financial benefits or social status.
It could respect care giving as a valuable function including making care giving a part of every citizen’s social responsibilities, or pursue other worthy means to ensure equitable burdens and benefits.
It could affirm diverse expressions of sexual pleasure, personal identity, and mutual intimacy while ensuring that each person honors the autonomy, humanity, and rights of others.
It could seek to provide diverse, empowering sex education, including legal prohibitions against all non-consensual sex.
And mainly, given the world we now live in, new program addressing gender and kinship could fight to reverse decades of discrimination’s residual effects and persistent elements, including protecting the rights of women to control their own bodies on the one hand, and to enjoy equal benefits and responsibilities throughout all parts of society, thus seeking abortion rights, day care opportunities, and equal payment requirements.
Some Possible International Relations Programmatic Ideas
Today’s policy makers view foreign policy as a way to maintain a flow of riches and wealth out of other countries into one’s own, while ensuring fealty and obedience and curtailing efforts at establishing new relations of true national independence much less social renovation anywhere in the world to avoid their having a showcase effect. In contrast, a proper foreign policy for any country would respect the integrity of other nations and simultaneously seek a human-serving society at home. New foreign policy program could emphasize:
• Cessation of all arms shipments abroad.
• Cessation of any aid abroad intended for the hands of police or other potentially repressive agencies, such as occupying armies.
• Elimination of all U.S. or other nations’s overseas military bases with half the funds saved from such closings returned to the Home country for solving domestic problems and half applied to aid to poor countries in the form of no-strings attached infrastructure improvements, job and skills training, equipment grants, food aid, and privileged buyer status for many goods on the international market.
• An end to the use of military force as an instrument of national policy.
• Use of aid and trade, and foreign policy in general, to demonstrate and provide solidarity with struggles for social justice, democracy, and self determination everywhere in the world to benefit all parties, but mostly those who are weaker and poorer.
Some Possible Health Programmatic Ideas
A new health program could emphasize that civilized health care and conditions for our society must involve three main components: prevention, universal care for the ill, and cost cutting. At a minimum a new health program might seek:
• Improved preventive medicine, including increased public education about health-care risks and prevention, a massive campaign around diet, laws against and penalties for corporate activity that subverts health in employees, consumers or neighbors, and provision for community centers for exercise and public health education.
• Universal health care for the ill, including a single-payer system with the government providing comprehensive and equally fine coverage for all citizens.
• Reassessment of training programs for doctors and nurses to expand the number of qualified health workers and to better utilize the talents of those already trained rather than simply aggrandize those at the top of the pyramid of all involved.
• And, as well, civilian review over drug company policies including price controls and severe penalties for profit seeking at the expense of public health up to and including nationalization under civilian control and workers self management, plus similar attention to the medical impact of all institutions in society—for example, the health effects of work conditions and product definitions and components.
Such a campaign could point out that the single-payer system would save tens of billions on billing, collection, and bureaucracy, but, perhaps even more important, would improve the quality of care for all and move us toward a caring and mutual aid conception of life, rather than me firsts. It could also advocate saving billions more, to be allotted to preventive medicine and treatment, by establishing limits on the incomes of health professionals and the profits pharmaceutical and other medical companies could earn. If additional funding was required, it could come from punitive taxes on unhealthful products such as cigarettes, alcohol, and unsafe automobiles, etc.
The overall guideline for health program would be that illness should be reduced as much as possible, the quality of health care should be raised as much as possible, and the costs of these improvements should be paid by those who have gotten rich at others’ expense.
Some Possible Ecology Programmatic Ideas
A new ecological program could establish a department of ecological balance to develop a list of necessary clean-up steps, energy innovations, and steps to reduce global warming and mitigate its impact, and, in general, policy to preserve the ecology.
Beyond this, new ecology program could argue that clean-up funds should come from a reparations tax on current polluters and prior beneficiaries of unclean industrial operations.
The critical innovation in a new program’s approach to ecological sanity, however, could be to open a national public debate about the relation between our basic economic and social institutions and the environment. For example, new program could begin the process of clarifying that we need institutions attuned to ecological costs and benefits and that we must experiment with non-market approaches to allocation, rather than trying to police the inevitable ecological ill-effects that markets routinely produce.
And, of course, new ecology program that was sane, much less highly worthy, would have to formulate a truly massive campaign to turn the tide against global warming, water depletion, and other life threatening trends.
Obviously the above list of programmatic possibilities, culled from projects and endeavors around the world, could be enlarged to include, for example, more comprehensive immigration program, drug program, infrastructure program, diversity program, arts and culture program, science program, and so on. In addition, the ideas offered could be refined, improved, and altered as grassroots experiences require.
Recent progressive electoral efforts and mass campaigns around the world have revealed a huge reservoir of desire and of creative willingness on the parts of large sectors of populations, and very especially young people, to seek change. Many of those newly participating in progressive activity are already within reach of supporting these and additional programmatic ideas as they are refined and augmented by grassroots voices.
Ultimately attaining worthy new program will entail thinking outside the box, as many emerging struggles around the world have urged, noting that the box is capitalism, patriarchy, racism, and authoritarianism. The box is the imposed mental straitjacket of thoughts and practices typical of all too many countries’ political life.
As just a few current prominent examples, why couldn’t the energy generated during Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president in the U.S., Jeremy Corbyn’s victory as opposition party leader in the UK, or Podemos’ electoral attempts in Spain come over to sustained, militant commitment to suitably refined and improved programmatic ideas of the sort we propose in this document?
Campaigns need money, often a serious stumbling block, but Sanders, for example in the U.S. case, has reached 5 million donors giving an average of over $25 each. Why couldn’t a program like what is offered above, but adapted and improved, attract all those 5 million people and many more, in the U.S., and do comparably well elsewhere in the world, attracting aroused constituencies to contribute creatively to plans for on-going mass activism?
Similarly, in the U.S., as its current prominent case, Sanders has suffered immeasurably at the hands of what he calls rigged elections, as have others here and elsewhere, but another general problem, even beyond the structure of elections, is the corporately organized, profit seeking, and horribly motivated media that operates in country after country. Why couldn’t a prominent campaign built around new program include renovating electoral practices and also taking back communications in countries around the world, which are certainly desirable aims in their own right, as well as bedrock steps on the path to larger programmatic successes?
Despite current progressive electoral energy and, in some places, major movement gains, we have a long way to go to win lasting fundamental change. Partly vile institutions at the core of our society manipulatively and coercively twist our motives and awareness. Partly a right wing surge is also occurring. And partly the public has still not thrown off cynicism and a trembling fear of enduring even worse outcomes if we try to seek better. However, it is not impossible for people to take that crucial step. And when that happens, the massive support many popular projects have lately revealed could become a foundation upon which to go further in the coming period.
We offer the many programmatic thoughts in this document hoping to encourage a movement-wide discussion of where we go and what we stand for as we all attempt to counter the forces of darkness and irrationality with light, hope, and vision.
Michael Albert, Z Communications / U.S.
Greg Albo, Centre for Social Justice / Canada
Gar Alperovitz, The Next System / U.S.
Bridget Anderson, COMPAS / UK
Kehinde Andrews, Organization of Black Unity / UK
Gordon Asher, Activist/Scholar / Scotland
Omar Barghouti, BDS / Palestine
Walden Bello, Focus on the Global South / Philippines
Elaine Bernard, Labor and Worklife / U.S.
Peter Bohmer, Economics for Everyone / U.S.
Gene Bruskin, US Labor Against the War / U.S.
Leslie Cagan, Peace and Justice Organizer / U.S.
Noam Chomsky, Internationalist / U.S.
Savvina Chowdhury, Rachel Corrie Foundation / U.S.
Alexandre Christoyannopoulos, Activist/Scholar / UK
Marjorie Cohn, Activist/Scholar / U.S.
Ben Dangl, Journalist/Editor / U.S.
Heather Day, CAGJ, / U.S.
Cindy Domingo, Electoral Activist / U.S.
Steve Early, Labor organizer / U.S.
Joe Emersberger, UNIFOR / Canada
Barbara Epstein, Activist/Scholar / U.S.
Mark Evans, What About Classism / UK
Vincent Emanuele, IVAW / U.S.
Francis Feeley, Activist/Scholar, France
Ann Ferguson, Activist/Scholar, U.S.
Laura Flanders, The Laura Flanders Show / U.S.
Bill Fletcher, Talk Show Host / U.S.
Bill Gallegos, Environmental Justice Trainer / U.S.
Irene Gendzier, Activist/Scholar / U.S.
Andrej Grubacic, Global Commons / U.S./Balkans
Arun Gupta, Independent Journalist, U.S.
Thomas Herndon, Univ. of Mass. / U.S.
Sam Husseini, IPA / U.S.
Bruno Jantti, Investigative Journalist / Finland
Antti Jauhiainen, Parecon Finland / Finland
Robert Jensen, Activist/Scholar / U.S.
Ramsey Kanan, PM Press / U.S.
Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence / U.S.
Matt Lester, Economics for Everyone, / U.S.
Joris Leverink, ROAR / Netherlands/Turkey
Rodolfo Leyva, Middlesex University / UK
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun / U.S.
Auset Marian Lewis, Journalist / U.S.
Mandisi Majavu, Activist/Negritude / South Africa
Ben Manski, Liberty Tree Foundation / U.S.
David Marty, Activist/Scholar / Spain
Binu Mathew, Countercurrents / India
Scott McLarty, Green Party / U.S.
Robert W. McChesney, Univ Illinois / U.S.
Suren Moodliar, Global Action / U.S.
Larry Mosqueda, Movement for Justice & Peace / U.S.
John Narayan, University of Warwick / UK
Immanuel Ness, CUNY / U.S.
Eugene Nulman, Critical Social Research / UK
Paul Ortiz, University of Florida / U.S.
Garry Owens, Kindle the Flame / U.S.
Leo Panitch, Socialist Register / Canada
Michael Parenti, Activist/Scholar / U.S.
Cynthia Peters, City Life/Vida Urbana / U.S.
Justin Podur, Activist/Scholar / Canada
Philippe Prevost, Activist/Scholar / France
Nikos Raptis, Activist/Scholar / Greece
Jack Rasmus, St Marys College / U.S.
Paulo Rodriguez, Activist Scholar / Belgium
Jerome Roos, ROAR Magazine / The Netherlands
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, Internationalist / Portugal
Saskia Sassen, Internationalist / U.S.
Lydia Sargent, Z Communications / U.S.
Stephen Shalom, New Politics / U.S.
Marina Sitrin, Lawyer/Author / U.S.
Norman Solomon, RootsAction / U.S.
Sarah Stockholm. Showing Up for Racial Justice / U.S.
Eric Stoner, Waging Non Violence / U.S.
Paul Street, Journalist/Author / U.S.
Verena Stresing, Activist/Scholar / France/Germany
Bhaskar are Sunkara, Jacobin Magazine / U.S.
David Swanson, WarIsACrime / U.S.
Laurie Tuller, Activist/Scholar / France
Fernando Vegas, Retired Supreme Court Judge / Venezuela
Tom Vouloumanos, NDP / Canada
Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper / UK
Greg Wilpert, Real News / Ecuador/U.S.
Cat Zavis, Network of Spiritual Progressives / U.S.
Florian Zollmann, Activist/Scholar / UK/Germany
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An interesting exercise to assemble possible ideas for moving forward from 75 quite different authors, many of whom I have long admired.
Why does the collective assemblage seem to be so much less than the sum of the parts?
It is no criticism of the editors of ZNet or of the individual authors nor of the ideas collected in this document to suggest that this procedure did not work very well in practice.
Of course it does not necessarily work better to gather face to face at a conference or meeting.
We all know that interesting talks are given, exciting ideas are shared and then we all go home with little more than some pleasant or frustrating feelings.
We have thousands of good proposals, but little consensus on how to advance them in collaboration with each other.
Many things “could” be done [62 mentions), or alternatively “might” “would” or “should” occur [30 more].
Less sense of how we accomplish these goals and who takes responsibility for taking the next steps.
Let’s go on writing, talking and planning!
“Let’s go on writing, talking and planning!”
Plans are underway to facilitate this, Paul.
This ZNet forum does not seem to have much traffic. 12 comments over six days, seven of them either mine, or responses to mine. Apparently ZNet does not have an especially wide readership.
I mistakenly thought that ZNet was the primary publishing venue for this “Possible Ideas” paper. I have since come across it on the Truthout site, which uses the proprietary Disqus software, which is a considerably more capable, (thought still relatively primitive), discussion platform.
There is also more discussion ‘traffic’ there. 86 comments as of now, which at least matches, (actually it exceeds it by one), the number of signatories of the article.
Anyway….I have posted my original comments (from above) over there, hoping to engender more interest in discussion of a concrete plan of action.
In view of the present state of the world , It seems very moderate to me. Should it still be allowed for a firm not to work for the common good ?Shouldn’t every firm allowed to operate not pledge to have the utmost respect for the environment , the people and the employees?Shouldn’t damage have to be avoided and repaired and irreparable damage forbidden.Should private appropriation of territory , science or information be allowed?…
Thought this is a pretty good outline, but I’ve been in the ‘movement’ for going on 40+ years now and have seen a number of variations of these come and go. Nevertheless, I’d like to contribute another topic that seems to be conspicously absent, and that is a subprogram on Justice/Jurisprudence. I’ve subscribed to ZMag pretty much since it started, and I think I’m pretty safe in asserting that there’s nary an issue that doesn’t have one or two articles on topic. If you assert universal health care, then surely universal legal care should be there as well. And disportionate access and use of the legal system both by the wealthy and corporations should surely be addressed. These are just a couple of points – I’ve no doubt there are several others that should be included.
This article is clearly the product of a lot of thoughtful input from many people whose ideas and experience are deserving of our respect. The article claims in its title that it will present “ideas for going forward”, but it only points us toward an objective, it does not outline any specific ideas for “going forward” toward that objective.
The article is an admirable effort to define comprehensive policy program proposals that progressives would support. It does not, however, address the question: “How?”, except in the most general and non-specific way.
Surely we all know that it is one thing to walk through the toy store, with empty pockets, picking out every item that we think would fulfill all our desires, but surely we all also realize that filling our pockets with the currency required to acquire what we desire is a prerequisite task to actually HAVING what we desire.
We think we know what policies are needed to make the world a better place? Fine. But HOW do we acquire the political power to implement these policies?
After over 3000 words spent defining WHAT, defining the policies we would desire, we get a couple of hundred words that lay out only very generalized ideas about HOW to go about attaining our policy objectives.
In the article’s ‘Conclusion’ section, it states:
“As just a few current prominent examples, why couldn’t the energy generated during Bernie Sanders’ campaign for president in the U.S., Jeremy Corbyn’s victory as opposition party leader in the UK, or Podemos’ electoral attempts in Spain come over to sustained, militant commitment to suitably refined and improved programmatic ideas of the sort we propose in this document?”
C’mon, folks…..Is calling for something as broadly general as a “sustained, militant commitment” a sufficiently useful proposal at this point in History?
The article goes on:
“Why couldn’t a program like what is offered above, but adapted and improved, attract all those 5 million people [Sanders supporters] and many more, in the U.S., and do comparably well elsewhere in the world, attracting aroused constituencies to contribute creatively to plans for on-going mass activism?”
“Contribute creatively to plans for on-going mass activism”? That’s the ‘plan’? How? How are “aroused constituencies”, once attracted, going to “contribute creatively to plans for on-going mass activism”? Through what mechanism? Through what process?
It’s the ‘how’, folks. Not the ‘what’. We got plenty of ‘what’. We got ‘what’ comin’ out the ole wazoo.
Who has ANY ‘how’?
The article touches only briefly on the principle problem, which is that the full power of the mass media is aligned against us, but does not address that problem other than to propose yet more toy store solutions that we have no currency in our pockets to acquire.
The article points out that we have a rigged political process, and a mass media owned and controlled by our adversaries, standing in our way. To address that, the article says we’ll just “renovate electoral practices” and “take back communications”. So…in other words, we’ll just fix the cause of all our problems by fixing the cause of all our problems?
Isn’t that what this says? With due respect, is saying that really useful?
I’m not meaning to sound unfriendly to the product of so many people’s admirable efforts. I’m rather only wanting to point out that these efforts do not address, in a realistically specific way, HOW we should go about accomplishing the policy proposals they set out for us.
With all due respect, folks, policy proposals are in VERY abundant supply, (with a relative worth to match, according to the laws of supply and demand). Our much more immediate need is to arrive at a realistic concrete PLAN for accomplishing our objectives.
I have a plan…..I have an actual concrete, real-world, step by step plan of action.
When are we going to table the presentation of new policy proposals, and open the floor for presenting proposals for concrete plans of action?
63 Webber Road
Brookfield, MA 01506
The floor is yours; let’s hear your plan.
Thank you for your interest, good citizen Vincent. Please forgive me for the delay. My wife and I run an organic farmstead, and with our last snow just melted off a few days ago, it is a very busy time of year.
I would be eager to carry on a discussion of my ‘plan’, in great detail. I’m not sure if the comments section to a ZNet article is the proper forum for doing so, but it seems to be what we have for now. Perhaps Mr. Albert could create some kind of mechanism on his communications network?
Because my time for writing is limited again today, (there is work that needs to be done so we can get some seed down as soon as possible), I am going to take the ‘lazy’ way out, at least for today, and copy a correspondence I had a few weeks ago with people who belong to a list serve. The list is owned and run by a person overseas, (in Russia), and has many members in many nations, so some of what I write below is addressed to an international audience, but most is relevant to a preliminary explanation of my ‘plan’.
Please note that this explanation is NOT the plan itself, which is, as I mentioned, an actual step by step plan. Perhaps as time goes by, and if there is any interest, we can discuss the plan itself in detail.
This copied correspondence runs to nearly 3400 words, (about the same length as the ZNet article), so anyone with any interest should save it for when they have time.
Here is the correspondence:
There is nothing new under the sun, and ‘the plan’ is not rooted in ‘brilliant’ new ideas. It is rooted in the very thoughts and feelings that all who long for peace and justice already have. It will likely not seem ‘new’ to any thoughtful person. Perhaps it has crossed your minds. It is surely likely that you are thinking the same sorts of ideas, which perhaps is a good signpost, maybe the only signpost, to judge when an idea’s time has come. (As I said, the feeling is growing insistently stronger in me that this idea’s time is fast approaching).
All of us have surely known despair, as those simple ideals, peace and justice, can sometimes seem like the delusions of fools, in the world of “steel-eyed death” (B Dylan) in which we live.
Our periods of despair tend to confuse and dissipate any clarity we acquire during our times when hope and faith fill our hearts. It is this ‘cycle of confusion’, as we move through these repeating rhythms of hope and despair, that prevents us from seeing the simple path we must follow.
If we want to create Democracy, then we must start DOING Democracy. If we want to forge Democracy in our nations, then we must start practicing democracy in our own political affairs. We cannot (yet) control our governments, but we can control our own selves. We can control how we conduct our relations with one another.
I don’t know how things go in any other place, or in any other nation. In the US, on the American Left, people talk incessantly about Democracy, but when we organize groups, these groups are NOT, (at least none I’ve ever seen in 40 odd years as a politically ‘conscious’ person), democratic. They are inevitably controlled by cliques of ‘insiders’. (I’ve often been invited to join these cliques, but have always resisted).
Look at the HUGE irony exposed by the Occupy Movement. Even as these people, guided as they were by the sectarian ideology of Anarchism, put up the elaborate pretense of ‘direct democracy’, it was always common knowledge that the REAL power was held by a small group of ‘insiders’. Everyone KNEW this. And yet the charade of ‘democracy’ was played out. (I wrote a piece on this a couple or few years ago: https://www.laprogressive.com/ows-authority/ ).
What we are doing at this moment, in this act of discussion, is Democracy in its purest and most elemental forms. We are using these ‘magic’ tools at our fingertips to join our minds and spirit together in common cause.
What we need to do is to fashion this technology into better tools, so that we can advance from this ‘elemental’ form of Democracy into a form that will give us the power to deliberate and make decisions, and then to delegate democratic authority to act on those decisions.
If I were a software engineer, my first step toward putting this ‘plan’ in motion would be to write the code. But I don’t know how to write code, so I (we?) will have to attract others to that task.
How to do that? Well…indeed it gets more complex…..(so much easier if I were an engineer, but I am only a carpenter).
What is ‘democracy’? Can it really even work? Have any of us not asked ourselves those questions? As we all have no doubt heard, Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, “Democracy is the WORST form of government, except for ALL the others”. He also reportedly said, “The best argument against Democracy is a conversation with the average citizen”.
Indeed, when we witness the degree to which the citizenry are uniformed, or worse, misinformed, and are ruled so easily by their primitive desires, it is hard to hold to faith that we are qualified to make the most important decisions that rule our lives.
How can we unravel this Gordian puzzle? Slashing through it with a sword, as Alexander cut through the knot, does not solve the puzzle. It only leads us away from a solution. Haven’t all the swords wielded so well, by so many, through all these 100 centuries, only proven that?
I would offer that we must think of the most basic foundation of ‘democracy’, if we are going to understand what it is. We must define the foundation before we take up our hammers and saws, and begin to build our house. And I am quite sure that until we understand what it is, our attempts to practice Democracy will be too feeble, and/or flawed, to endure.
I would offer that Democracy is akin to a ‘religion’. It is, however, a ‘secular religion’, rooted in elemental morality, rather than in belief in some form or other of supreme being. It can be practiced together by atheists and devout religious believers alike, because the morality on which it is based is the root of ALL human morality, including the base of every true religion on Earth.
Democracy is rooted in the primeval moral code of respect for one another. It is upon this simple code that the very possibility of human ‘civility’, human ‘civilization’, itself is based. Each generation exerts great amounts of effort to pass this code, the ‘genetic’ legacy of civilization itself, to the next generation, as every parent strives to teach their children the same lessons. That is how the legacy of our attempts to become civilized, have been handed down across the 100 centuries. From parent to child.
“Share your toys. Don’t hit your smaller sister. How would you like it if your larger brother hit you? If you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them”.
There is good reason that this simple rule, which has often been called the “Golden” one, is at the root of every religion, as it is at the root of all human morality.
Democracy is built upon the foundation of this moral rule. We want our own rights to be respected? Then we must respect the rights of others. We want our own interests to be protected? Then we must, in all our thoughts and deliberations, consider the interests of all others, not just our own.
Surely we all can see that simple ‘majority rule’ is not Democracy. A majority can be every bit as tyrannical and cruel as any despot, as any lynch-mob demonstrates so well. We surely all know the old ‘joke’. Two wolves and sheep sitting down together to vote on what to have for lunch, are not practicing democracy. The will of the majority must be constrained by the rights of every minority, down to the rights of every individual citizen.
These basic precepts may try our patience to review, but in my own experience they MUST be thoroughly reviewed, for they are VERY poorly understood by my own fellow citizens, even as these good citizens pretend that our nation is the pinnacle of ‘democracy’ itself.
We must reinforce our awareness that Democracy is first and foremost a moral code, and as such, it is akin to a religion. It is something that it’s adherents must ‘believe in’, or else it cannot, will not, function at ALL. A set of rules, laid down in even the most nobly written ‘constitution’, will not a democracy make, if those under its purview do not adhere to Democracy’s most basic moral code.
It is upon this bedrock moral code that we must undertake to build a fully functioning democracy, using the power of these ‘magic’ tools at our very fingertips. We do not need to, indeed we cannot, wait until we achieve the power of governing our nations to do this. We can, we have the full ability to, at our fingertips, do this NOW!
The initial purpose will be to unite our resources, and to make democratic decisions in the use of those resources to build channels of communication with other citizens.
The means of communications are the means of power. Remember….ALWAYS remember….that under democracy the object of ‘the game’ is to get the most people on our side. In order to get people on our side, we must communicate with them. The mass media are mostly already captured under the control of our opponents. We must undertake to build new forms of mass media, new channels of communication, that will allow us to communicate with tens and hundreds of millions of people.
A daunting task? Indeed. But if we do not achieve this most basic objective, we will FAIL our cause. It is every bit that simple. If we cannot communicate with ‘the folk’, we cannot get them on our side. They will be on the side of those who CAN and DO communicate with them.
Let’s look, albeit briefly, at some numbers here. I have seen estimates that in the US there are as many as 14 million people, and perhaps many more than that, who have a well developed (in relative terms) “progressive” political consciousness. We are now seeing many of them, for example, being mobilized by Senator Sanders. These people have no means to unite their resources in ongoing ‘struggle’ for peace and justice. They are willing to contribute their resources to a cause they believe in. Senator Sanders’ efforts to raise money are going very well. But what happens when this charade is over, and he is sent home? Those citizens can either “hold their nose and vote for Clinton”, or else go home and chew on their anger, disappointment, resentment, and frustration.
Frustration is one of the most difficult emotion for people to bear up under. It is easily relieved by apathy. The is the end result of this process. If they end up in a dead end ally of frustration, they will turn to apathy. They will seek to amuse themselves with hedonistic diversions.
Imagine if these 14 million people had some means to unite their resources on an ongoing basis. What if they were willing to pay $5, or $10, per month to be an actual ‘member’ of an organization. Imagine that this organization was itself a True Democracy, and that more than merely members, these people were full ‘citizens’ of this democracy, and were called upon, through a well defined democratic structure, to make the decisions that control how the money they contribute should be used, (spent, or invested, or put to whatever purposes that money lends itself).
Do the math. 14 million, at a mere 17 cents per day apiece, ($5 per month), would be $70 million per month. Hmm…What if they were so enthusiastic they would be willing contribute 34 cents per day, ($10/month). $140 MILLION per MONTH. (And so on).
If these kinds of sums were focused on communicating the simplest most inspiring basic message of justice and peace, and if the structure we built were indeed TRUELY democratic in its function, and thus served to inspire its citizens in the manner in which decisions are made, would there not be a good chance of attracting even more people? What if there were 20 million? (and so on)
Imagine if every firebrand ‘leftist’ seeking to inspire ‘the people’ actually had a organization, (beyond a small powerless sect, or NGO, or affinity group), a truly democratic organization, in which people had their own voices, their own rights, as citizens, to entreat people to join?
In that sentence is the key to understanding what it means to be a ‘leftist’ or a ‘progressive’. At the root of Democracy lies the bedrock concept of the Common Good. We do NOT need ‘socialism’, or ANY ‘ism’, to define our aspirations. TRUE Democracy defines them quite well enough.
There will be but one requirement for membership in our True Democracy. To become a ‘citizen’, with the full rights and protections of citizenship, every person must swear her or his genuine belief in the bedrock moral precepts that define ‘democracy’. The purpose of Democracy is to protect the best interests of the Common Good. The Common Good is made up from the interests of each and every citizen, together, as a whole. Every citizen must be a ‘believer’ in this basic moral code.
Those who want to use ‘democracy’ to advance clever schemes to promote their own narrow interests at the expense of others, at the expense of the Common Good, will not be welcome. We will give them full access to our open source software, and urge them to use it to go build their own version of ‘democracy’ somewhere else. Wish them good luck. And we’ll confidently stack up what we will accomplish against what they do.
If we want democracy, then we must DO democracy, we must practice it, we must believe in it, we must have faith in it, for it is, before it is anything else, a bedrock moral code.
Consider the list-serv. When I joined my first list-serv, (around 2001, if I recall), I recognized immediately that this technology provided the basic means of two-way communication among a defined group of people that could be used to facilitate democratic decision making among the group.
Every list-serv (unless they have changed in the past few years) provides a ‘control panel’ that affords those who have access to it the power to grant or deny various privileges to the members of the group.
List-servs are not democratic, of course, because they are ‘owned’. They are thus dictatorships. All authority and power is invested in the hands of the owner(s). The better ones are benevolent dictatorships, but the simple software on which these groups are built grant total power to the owner(s).
The owner then may delegate the authority of ‘moderation’. Many list owners keep this authority for themselves. Many grant it to trusted lieutenants, who then serve at the will of the owner.
We do not need to reinvent the wheel here. In that basic form are the three basic elements of a formal democracy. We just need more developed software to define them, and to allow them to function.
In a list-serv there is an executive function, (the owner), a judicial function, (the moderator), and the legislative function, (the membership). What separates a list-serv from being an actual democracy is merely that the rules are set at the top, by the executive, and reserve all power to the executive. (And the executive is limited in what she or he can do by the limitations of the software).
There is no reason that the software on which this form is built cannot provide for actual democratic functioning. To build it into Democracy among millions, it must obviously be layered into a representative hierarchy.
At the basic local level would be local ‘citizens groups’, These could be issue affinity groups, or they could be geographically defined neighborhood groups. At this level there will be ‘direct democracy’. The citizens will be the legislature.
At the next level will be district groups, (which in the US should be based on Congressional districts, to prepare for the eventuality of this structure being a part of the nation’s political process). These groups, also functioning through the highly refined ‘list-serv’ technology, would be made up from elected representative of the local citizens groups. At the next ‘federated’ level, (which would be the state level in the US), will be ‘list-serve’ type groups made up from citizens elected by their local groups, and/or by district groups, to represent them. At the national level, a national ‘legislature’ will consist of people connected, right from their home computers, who have been elected from/by the lower levels.
The judicial branch, the ‘moderators’, will also be built into a hierarchy. It is this branch that moderates the translation of individual citizens’ rights, in the daily functioning of the group. It can be VERY difficult, for example, to define the line where freedom of speech crosses the boundaries of decent civility. It’s an excruciatingly difficult job, but someone has to do it. If officials violate the group’s rules, someone has to censure them.
If a citizen feels that her or his rights have been violated by a moderator’s decision, she or he will have a defined course of appeal.
The executive function can be very straightforward, made up of elected officials, or it can be developed into a more creative form. (The prototype organizational chart I’ve attached envisions the executive branch functioning through a network of ‘councils’).
Anyway…this is getting very long….(I know)…but you did ask for ‘the plan’. Too mundane? Are we hoping to gallop off with the wind in our hair, sabers raised, shouting our passion out our passion in an elemental cry of battle? I just don’t think that we (yet) have any direction in which to spur our steeds at the charge, that is going to serve our purpose.
If we want to have Democracy, then we must start to DO Democracy.
I have done a lot of work on this over the years. I have a booklet in pdf format if anyone would like to see it. I haven’t actually looked at it in years, and don’t really know if it’s any good. LOL…. It contains (if I recall) a prototype ‘constitution’ that could define this democracy. Or, if I didn’t put the ‘constitution’ into the booklet, I do have a written prototype ‘constitution’. For now, I will attach to this email a prototype ‘organizational chart’, which I also have not actually looked at in years. At the most basic local group level, the numbers of groups can, and must be, ‘scaleable’. I don’t know what an ideal size would be. I have participated on list-serves that had as many as a thousand members, for example, but that was putting a LOT of pressure on the upper limits of what is practicable. There are approximately 900,000 people, if I recall, in each US congressional district, so the local groups, feeding into the district groups, may very well be numbered in the hundreds. Obviously, all this material only provides a prototype for demonstration purposes. A ‘constitution’ cannot be the work of one person. It must be the subject of analysis of a seed group of experts, before being held forth for ratification.
I trust that the pathway for such a group to progress from being a democratic group focused on fundraising, (in order to create clear channels of communication, to fund publications, radio and TV, and/or the production of movies with inspiring democratic themes, and/or the funding of talented musicians to create inspiring popular songs, to provide patronage for artists, or for talented authors to write novels, and (especially) children’s books to teach and/or promote democratic moral themes, comic books, teen magazines, etc, etc, etc), to becoming an intrinsic part of the nation’s political process, (a political party), is self evident.
OK….Whew!….LOL…mercifully for you all, I am nearing the limit of my writing energy for one day. (I also wrote my previous note today). If anyone is interested in seeing the .pdf copy of my booklet, ‘The True Democracy Project’, let me know. (But please remember, I haven’t actually looked at it in years, and simply can’t remember if it’s any good or not…LOL. I wrote it in 2008).
As I explained in my previous note, I have been working since then to try to lay the groundwork for this. (I really am a carpenter by trade, and as every carpenter knows, the foundation must be built before the house. We must slog through the dirt and mud long before it’s time to install the fancy and pretty cabinetry).
And as I also tried to explain, there is a LOT of cultural resistance, in the form of rampant individualism, that stands in the way of a project like this in the US. This degree of rampant individualism, at the expense of any sense of our common cause, is being fomented with keen intent, of course, by the Power Elite, through the subliminal messages, (actually pretty direct, not subliminal), that are blasted into people’s consciousness, with hypnotic flashing colored light, each and every day. (In the US the average citizen watches TV for nearly 5 hours each and every day).
Best to all…
What I would like to see, RZ, is an emergency meeting – perhaps hosted by ZComm but organised and facilitated by the organisations, groups and individuals who are discussing this document – at which we could refine the existing proposals as well as discuss and plan for its implementation. A kind of World Social Forum – but with real focus and urgency.
Thank you for these comments, good citizen Evans. With due respect, I don’t agree that holding a physical meeting is necessary, or even the best approach.
I am here now. You were here recently, (a couple or three hours ago). We were not here at the same time. But we are ‘meeting’ nonetheless. This is the ‘magic’ that this technology affords us.
A physical meeting will be limited to people who live close by, and people who can afford the great expense of travel.
A meeting devised on this technology affords the opportunity for ALL to ‘attend’. All can attend without even being required to be here all at the same time.
Mr. Albert has put in a lot of work and effort into creating a communications network, which we are using now. Tools could be created that would facilitate a more capable and valuable discussion than is possible in this comments section.
One to one communications are easy. Many to one communications are extremely difficult. Many to many communications also present problems that must be adequately addressed in order to facilitate useful communications.
Mass meetings using digital technology present problems that require sophisticated tools to facilitate. It is within our capability to create such tools.
I could not care less if the meeting was in the flesh or not – as long as it was serious.
I’m all in favor.
Does the “discussion” happen on comments thread? What is this “process”? Can we see the various arguments pro and con from the signatories? Because we had IOPS (there is still a faint heartbeat ) where few of these Left Luminaries joined in, we have Next System, where a few contribute, we have Left Forum where a few throw down. Is this a real assemblage with a real focus?
Occupy showed us that the old ideological fissures have not gone anywhere and a popular front needs something to fight FOR.
The ope is that discussions will take place in diverse ways, diverse places – so, for example, in organizations, living rooms, dorms, or wheverever, and yes, also in blogs, forums, or whatever, online.
Very nicely laid out. Thanks folks. 🙂