My Resoc Interview
By Bertell Ollman at Nov 30, 2009
1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, i understand what you reject, but i wonder what you are for? What institutions do you want that you think will be better than what we have, for the economy, polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you think is central to have vision for?
The black comedian, dick gregory, once said - "if democracy is such a good thing, let's have more of it". I agree. But the main reason it doesn't work very well in the u.s. Is that it is restricted to the political sphere, and only to a small part of that (mainly voting in elections every two or four years), but the lack of any democracy in our economic, community, educational and cultural lives - as evidenced by the role that money, private property and privilege plays in all of them - seriously distorts the workings of democracy in our politics. In short, for democracy to be the rule of, by and for the people (which is a good short definition of democracy), in our politics or in any other area of our lives for that matter, it must exist everwhere.
Thus, democratic institutions must be set up throughout society at enterprise, local, regional, national and global levels and should involve a mix of workers / consumers / and community control as well as elected representatives of larger geographical units who would also have the responsibilit to provide coordination for the smaller geographical units that fall within them.
2. Next, someone at the same event asks, "why do you do what you do? That is, you are speaking to us, and i know you write, and maybe you organize, but why do you do it? What do you think it accomplishes? What is your goal for your coming year, or for your next ten years?
In part, it's because as a member of the broad working class (which i understand as all those who are forced to sell their labor power to earn a wage or salary that allows us to buy the things we need in order to survive), i share the interests of this class (the great majority in our society) in using democracy, such as the one described above, to solve our major economic, ecological, social, etc. Problems. Most of the material, scientific, organiztional, etc. Means for doing so are already available.
And in part, given who i am as an individual, i can't do otherwise.
Will it work? Probably not, the stakes are too high not to give it everything i have.
3. You are at home and you get an email that says a new organization is trying to form, internationally, federating national chapters, etc. It asks you to join the effort. Can you imagine plausible conditions under which you would say, yes, i will give my energies to making it happen along with the rest of you who are already involved? If so, what are those conditions? Or - do you think instead that regardless of the content of the agenda and make up of the participants, the idea can't be worthy, now,or perhaps ever. If so, why?
Probably not, because i am already doing more that i consider political important than i have for, and at 74 the time available to such activity becomes less and less. Still, i am very impressed by all such developments, and always try to learn as much as i can about them. So i never say never.
4. Do you think efforts to organize movements, projects, and our own organizations should embody the seeds of the future in the present? If not, why? If yes, can you say what, very roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an organization you would favor?
In principle "yes", but there is always a trade-off with getting things done, so compromises between the two are often necessary.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
Because i very much respect the people involved in this project and want to be kept informed about how it developes, though i am not sure about how much i will be able to participate.
As for those who haven't answered, i can't be sure, but my guess is that - like me - they didn't have the time, and also they may have found the questions too general, too disconnected from our current situation, especially the economic and the ecological crises and the wars. But also the host of conditions - also the results of capitalism - that provide most of the material and other means for resolving these problems (a key marxist insight). For even visions of a better future need to be rooted in some analysis of the main problems and possibilities in the present - if only to stimulate our thinking about a better future. I know this always happens to some degree, but it is probably a good idea to make these connections explicit, even in the kind of questions found above.