A Way Forward?
[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]
I'm delighted and flattered to be part of the exchanges about efficacious ways to move forward so that we can emerge somehow from the insanity. I wish I could be more optimistic about fundamental change. I have a nice lengthy essay to share with people but decided to junk it because of some second thoughts about it. Seems like I've been involved in quite a smorgasbord of left activities since the sixties: new-left activism, SDS, anarchism, Trotskyism, NAM-style democratic socialism, the socialist-feminist breakoff from NAM (Solidarity), the Greens, and a host of specific movements (anti-war, environmental, etc.). A lot of community work too. In the midst of all this I've done plenty of writing, a good deal of it within the neo-Marxist, critical Marxist, or post-Marxist discourses. At this juncture, after more than 40 years struggling within and around the American left, I feel that answers about political strategy are more difficult to find. In my thinking it's difficult to locate anything resembling certitude - one of the reasons I decided to junk the original essay I wrote. Having made this point, I still believe any serious movement for social transformation in this society ought to address most if not all of the following:
1. An anti-imperialist politics. This means coming to grips with the barbarism of U.S. foreign and military policy, the permanent war economy, and the national security state - all factors in destroying the world and subverting democracy here. For me this perspective ought to be central.
2. An ecological model of development - and politics. This means a comprehensive rethinking of corporate-based growth with its predatory view of nature, its sickening use of resources, its fetishism of growth, its fast-food economy including MacDonaldization of the workforce, its horrific reliance on animal-based agriculture (responsible for more than 35 percent of global warming and the most egregious use of natural resources, including water). A strong dose of animal-rights consciousness would not hurt either.
3. A mode of change organically tied to diverse social movements: feminist, ecological, anti-war, gay/lesbian, animal rights, etc. There should be an ecumenical openness to the large variety of grassroots struggles.
4. Embrace of a process of democratization that enters into all spheres of public life, beyond government, beyond the economy.
5. Social priorities involving a large-scale shift of resources from the military, intelligence, and prison/law enforcement complexes, toward the obvious range of public needs, goods, services, and programs. This used to be called a "conversion" process.
6. An agenda revolving around the dismantling of corporate power, a violent, destructive, predatory, corrupt form of domination that currently seems to colonize just about every realm of government, the economy, and society. Further: other dimensions of change will depend upon how far we can go in an anti-corporate direction. The failure of even the most modest efforts to "reform" health care indicate, once again, just how difficult this task will be.
7. Fundamental change requires a center of gravity outside the party duopoly: both Republican and Democratic parties are so basically corrupt and worthless as tools of change that we should be finished with discussions about how best to push the Democrats "leftward", once and for all. These "debates", in my opinion, are a total waste of time.
8. From the above it might be concluded that my view of the best political "strategy" would be something along the lines of what emerged with the European Greens in the 1980s, only more radicalized. So here, I guess, I've fallen into the tendency of identifying a perspective about how best to move forward. I don't feel especially certain or optimistic about this - much less dogmatic. (Those days are gone!) Since Leninism won't work in the U.S., and social democracy has its own severe limits, this might be a useful point of departure. My feeling is that, given the woeful state of American society today and the great threat to the planet posed by the ruling elite, many of us would be at least provisionally content with something like Swedish social democracy at its best. From here, that sounds utopian. But what seems axiomatic from what I've outlined above is something more akin to a revolutionary departure from our militarized state capitalism that seems headed toward fascism. Do I feel optimistic about this possibility? Of course not. But as a personal matter I plan to continue working hard to change the world as if there is every reason in the world to be hopeful and optimistic.