My Resoc Interview
By Mark Becker at Nov 18, 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?
This, of course, has long been a critique of the 'anti-' movement, something I first ran into when I became an activist at a young age. Since then I've consciously tried to frame things in a positive manner, and so I don't necessarily run into this problem that much anymore.
Specifically on the issue of institutions, theoretically at least I tend toward the pro-state side of the communist/anarchist division, wanting to believe that under true democratic control that government institutions will advance our (as opposed to elite) interests. Venezuela seems to be the clearest current example of this.
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 emerge out of the anabaptist wing of the radical reformation which deeply influences my sense of social justice which informs and motivates my activism. I never know if this makes sense, and I've never found a good way (or a reason to?) to talk about it with others.
I first was an activist because of the idea if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem, and for a while I considered myself to be a terminal altruist. But now I really don't know what motivates us, why some of us try to make the world a better place and others try to make it worse.
I have a certain amount of respect and admiration for people who remained true to their beliefs even through the darkest times, so I guess my goal is just continuing the good fight (rather than capturing power over a short term horizon).
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?
Well, we join organizations we think are worthwhile. So, if I agree with its goals and don't think it is redundant of other efforts or unnecessarily spinning its wheels, I'd probably join. My one hesitation is always that we get spread too thin to be effective at anything. But I think I'd need a specific example to respond in more depth.
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?
Very definitely, especially in terms of how we treat each other. I don't understand left groups that are unkind to their members or others. It makes me wonder what kind of world they envision--that treating people humanely is not important as long as resources are distributed equitably, or that somehow once we take power we'll suddenly become kinder and gentiler? It makes me wonder whether my vision and priorities are different. Isn't how we treat each other part of a new, better, and decent world?
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did
not answer it?
I answered because of repeated badgering and guilt tripping. I assume that others don't answer because of my original hesitation--the questions are too vague, too general, too unrelated to my realities, and given our busy lives why take the time for something that does not seem that useful?