My Resoc Interview
By Joe Emersberger at Oct 27, 2009
1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what
you reject, but I wonder what are you for? What institutions
do you favor that will be better than what we have for the economy,
polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you have vision for?
Basically, I favor extending the democratic process to the economy – especially workplaces. If you work for someone – as most of us do – then you spend much of your life under dictatorial rule, but you are taught not to notice, never mind object.
The debate over democracy in the political arena has been won a long time ago. Almost everyone claims to favor democracy. However, many people, including progressives, accept a lack of democracy in the economy. If this were not the case, then you hear much more talk about abolishing markets and corporations rather than regulating them.
Markets, for example, allocate resources through a system of one dollar one vote. This is a mechanism no one would seriously put forward for making political decisions. Imagine getting more votes than other people on Election Day because you have a higher income.* Now imagine if the most common counterproposal to such a rigged voting system was that income be redistributed so that the voting would (depending on the extent of redistribution) approximate a democratic system. In the political arena, the counterproposal would be widely rejected because we are no longer conditioned to believe that making laws and regulations are tasks too complex for people to decide democratically. People would say “abolish one dollar, one vote altogether – don’t tinker with it”.
*Aside: Indirectly, people already do get more votes through lobbying and other ways in which wealth buys political influence. My point is that no one would come out say “Let’s get rid of the pretence of equality on Election Day through a system of one dollar, one vote”.
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?
I write because I think I have something to say that isn’t being said often enough. I write to encourage more people to write and speak and organize. We are fortunate to be living in an era when the historical evidence for the value of such activity is overwhelming. We can point to the abolition of slavery, racial desegregation, labor legislation, gay rights, overthrown dictators and countless other progressive victories around the world. All of these have been won by people questioning, and eventually rejecting, assumptions about how things have to be. A goal of mine is to explore the use story telling to convey politically useful facts and ideas. The more varied and creative our approach to communication the better I believe. I think leftists tend to undervalue imaginative writing.
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?
Like all people answering this question, I’m already contributing a significant amount of time and energy (and even money) into political activity of some kind. If this new organization is asking me to expend even more of my scarce resources then how does that compare with simply doing a bit more of what I am presently doing?
For example. suppose Narco News, Znet, Medialens, Counterpunch, VenezuelaAnalysis, and FAIR all send me emails at the same time asking me for funds (or to contribute essays) for a significant expansion of their operations. I would wish that I could help them all. The reality is that I cannot. I would either give a little bit to each or give all to one of them (and feel bad for the rest.)
I would feel much more enthusiastic about a proposal (sent by all these groups collectively) asking for help so that they can combine their efforts.
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 not? If yes, can you say what, very
roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an
organization you would favor?
Yes, our organizations should practice what they preach. They should be democratic. They should be free of sexism, racism and classism. They should value meaningful participation among members. Lack of participation should be seen as problem.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others
did not answer it?
I answered because I think the Resoc project has potential and because I feel the demands on my time were not unreasonable. If people say they are “too busy” to answer I think they most likely mean “the stuff I’m working on now is more politically useful or personally fulfilling than I foresee the Resoc project becoming.”
If the project takes off fewer people will find themselves “too busy”.