My Resoc Interview
By Hester Eisenstein at Nov 11, 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 institutions that would replace the current complex of capitalist institutions cannot, in my view, be designed in an abstract way, in a vacuum. Rather these would have to evolve from a powerful social movement or movements that would start to reshape the social, political and economic landscape. It was the increasingly powerful bourgeois class that overthrew feudal structures in favor of the new parliamentary or democratic capitalist system that was shaped in from the 17th century onward. But Marx's vision of the new proletariat having a similar effect in creating the next stage of history has had to be modified in the light of the history of organized Communism and by the changed nature of workers, including the vast influx of women into the paid workforce, the rise of indigenous peoples political activism, and the other transformations in working conditions we are now familiar with. New structures are being developed in the Bolivarian "revolution" led by Hugo Chavez, but these are co-existent with the dominant bureaucratic structures of the Venezuelan political economy. How to carry this further? I think it is up to those who are actively struggling to create alternatives on the ground.
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?
My writing seeks to influence and help shape the path to be taken by international feminist activists and scholars, in the light of how skillfully capitalist interests have diverted women's movement energies away from a revolutionary path. See my new book, Feminism Seduced: How Global Elites Use Women's Labor and Ideas to Exploit the World (Paradigm, 2009).
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?
This is impossible to answer in the abstract. But in general I am part of organizations that are directly related to my own circumstances: e.g. my union (the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY). Although it did not take off, the Labor Party initiated by Tony Mazocchi similarly was linked to labor unions. If there were a new political party forming, for example, would it not have to start at a very local level with people who had already worked together on a series of projects, to create trust and a sense of shared purpose?
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?
The seeds of the future... In principle of course one would want an organization to be anti-racist, feminist, anti-homophobic, committed to democratic decision-making. But since we don't know the future, I can't see beyond this. Mainly any organization must take into account the needs and desires of its members, and grow organically out of specific campaigns. I can envisage coalitions of such groups, which would each start from its own agenda, e.g. immigrant rights.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I am sympathetic to the project of creating some kind of new energy and organizational structure for the left. But I am frankly skeptical that this can be done on-line. Can't speak for others!