My Resoc Interview
By John Cronan Jr at Nov 14, 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?
I want a society free of oppression and exploitation, where people have self-management in every sphere of social life. The most developed of my visions for the future is in the economic realm—it is called participatory economics. It’s an economy based on worker and consumer councils, democratic and participatory planning, balanced work for empowerment, and income based on effort and sacrifice.
Likewise, I imagine a similar council or assembly structure for a new government—one based on a federation of neighborhood assemblies and councils.
I envision new gender relations where the social imposed distinction in gender roles between men and women have disappeared, and room has been made to incorporate equally other genders outside and in between the man/woman binary. Furthermore, people will be able to express their sexuality freely and enter into different types of sexual and familial relations. This will require implementing new and different institutions beyond the traditional monogamous relationship and one family household. Perhaps experiments in communal living and others.
I envision an intercommunalist society that replaces racism and extreme nationalism. Various cultural and ethnic communities will be able to have the means and resources to ensure their survival and freedom, and to do so in a way that upholds self-determination. It will allow people to “wear different hats” and not have to swear allegiance to one particular group: They can be both a certain religion and part of a certain nation, without having to choose.
I envision an outlook on ecology that values the relationship between earth and all its creatures—one that doesn’t put economic growth and production over a health planet. This will require an economic system like participatory economics that has a pricing sytsem able to measure the true social costs of economic transactions. It will also require an educated populace that is aware of and is concerned about global environmental destruction.
This is only a fraction of society, and not all of the institutions are completely worked out. However, in thinking of new institutions we need to keep in mind the goal of allowing people and groups of people proportionate decision-making ability in decisions that affect them, and that expand the scope of human freedom.
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?
Well, first off, let’s clarify what I do. I help to organize various sections of people—in my life mostly young people and workers—into organizations that can both make their lives better and be part of a larger movement for systematic change. I also write about issues to try and educate people and offer alternatives to the current system. The goal is to create institutions that are self-managed and based on a new value system, so we can learn to be new people and building the seeds of the future in the present. At the same time, these new institutions become a powerful force that is able to contend for power in society as a whole—ultimately dismantling oppressive institutions and transforming them and building new ones.
I do this because it improves peoples lives—including my own because I have a stake in systematic change. I also do it because I believe, and I don’t think I’m alone, that people can do a lot better than we currently are. I don’t believe that children need to starve while others grow fat; or that white people should rule while people of color obey. I don’t believe it has to be inevitable that our planet will warm beyond habitability. And we won’t know if that’s wrong unless we actually attempt to implement new institutions that are expected to garner positive outcomes. As it stands today, the world is filled with institutions that foster greed, competition, anti-sociality, exclusion, and other horrible attributes.
My goal for the next few years to help build the capacity of social movements in whatever ways I can. This will entail fighting for demands from those in power, as well as building out own infrastructure, so that we don’t need to rely on those in power as much for the things we need. In the short and long-term, I believe that a necessary step to doing these things is to build a new revolutionary organization or multiple ones. This will provide a space for revolutionaries to discuss vision and strategy, and to coordinate the implementation of a program to do so.
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?
I would definitely be open to the prospects of a new organization. However, I think the process needs to be intentional and with clear guidelines. We must recognize that much of the Left has failed and this is for a reason. A new organization cannot be formed solely on the basis of what we are against but also what we are for. Also, regarding intentionality, there needs to be a focus on the active recruitment and political development of potential members. The organization cannot be based on any open calls or the like.
The organization would also have to have a focus that values the centrality of oppression and overcoming it in all spheres of life—not just one or two, as is typical of Left groups of the past. And it must be non-dogmatic on its strategic approach; instead it should realize that different strategies are called for in different contexts.
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?
I think it is absolutely essential that our own organizations embody the seeds of the future in the present. The implications of doing this are that our organizations should not replicate oppressive norms, like racism, sexism, heterosexism, authoritarianism, and classism. This means that our organizations should be primarily controlled by the oppressed sectors of society—workers, people of color, women, etc—as proportionate as possible. This also means that our program should strive to implement reforms and eventually revolutionary ends that lead to the liberation of oppressed groups.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered this interview because, as I understand it, the Resoc project was meant to serve as a forum where organizers, activists, and intellectuals could debate and formulate vision and strategy with the intention of identifying common ground; and possibly, to indentify the level agreement on vision and strategy needed to unite around in a revolutionary organization. The questions posed in this interview seem to be a step towards accumulating the information needed from Resoc participants to gauge agreement on various issues. Moreover, I believe that the lack of an organized revolutionary Left is a huge missing link in the fight for a new world; therefore all efforts to tackle this problem should be supported.
I suspect that others did not answer it for three reasons. First, they might have taken part in Resoc, but they never had any faith or confidence that it was a worthwhile project. Second, others may have taken part in Resoc enthusiastically at first but were not happy with the results, so they decided it wasn’t worth it to do the interview. Third, others noticed that there were Resoc participants who wrote essays and commented frequently whom they agreed with, and they figured they would do the interview and answer in a way similar to themselves.