My Resoc Interview
By Matthew Rothschild 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?
I have minimal and maximal wishes for society. The minimal ones, on the economic front, are along the lines of Scandinavian social democracy: universal health care, income supports so no one lives below the poverty line, a full employment economy that emphasizes green jobs and local self-sufficiency, a high minimum wage, generous Social Security, full year paid maternity and paternity leave, generous paid sick leave and vacation time.
Essentially, we need to build a floor of decency for every individual so no one goes hungry or is coerced to work at an unsafe or oppressive job just to survive and so everyone has the capacity to be with their loved ones when they need to be. Also, we need to get rid of the legal fiction that corporations are persons, and entitled to the rights of persons.
On foreign and military policy, the United States needs to initiate unilateral nuclear disarmament and help lead the world away from the abyss. We should withdraw from our bases around the world, and let each nation determine its own future. We cannot be an empire and a democracy. We need to choose one; we need to choose democracy.
On politics, the minimal wishes are full public financing of elections, instant runoff voting, the abolition of the Electoral College, and fusion to allow people to vote for a major party candidate on a minor party ticket.
The maximal wishes on the economy include abolishing the Federal Reserve Board and bringing its power into the hands of Congress; breaking up the oligopolies that roam the land and rule the roost; establishing democratic decision-making on the products and services that we want to provide.
Politically, in the United States, we need to arrive at proportional representation so that third parties have a chance to flourish.
More broadly, we need to move beyond the nation-state, beyond patriotism and nationalism. These inculcated concepts breed violence and war. If we truly believe that all people are created equal, we shouldn't be privileging those who simply are born arbitrarily within some predefined borders.
The institutions that could bring these changes about include a reinvigorated labor movement with laws that are actually enforced against union-busting; a progressive third party that consistently challenges for power, first locally and then nationally; and a reconstituted Security Council where no one country has a veto and where seats on the Security Council rotate randomly.
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 do what I do, which is progressive journalism, because it's where my skills and interests intersect. And I do it politically because I believe ideas matter, and that engaging in the arena of ideas is important. Here in the U.S., it's crucial first to prevent reaction from sweeping the country, and second to push a majority of the people forward toward demanding an urgent end to the U.S. empire, to tackle global warming, and to dismantle the primitive capitalism that is practiced here.
It's hard to point to direct, quantifiable accomplishments at any given moment, but the history of the civil rights movement, of the women's movement, of the gay rights movement shows that we can move the culture in a progressive direction over a relatively short period of time.
My professional goal for the coming year is to secure the financial future of The Progressive and to reach more people in print, on radio, on the Web. One of my goals for the next ten years is to make sure there is a smooth handoff as I ease out of The Progressive and make way for others to lead.
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?
Yes, I can see joining a new organization that promises to advance the cause of progressivism and democracy. I'm a joiner. I sign petitions. I'll do what I can, though my time is limited. The ideal conditions are having a critical mass of committed individuals in many different countries.
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?
Yes, organizations should be democratic, with maximum input and participation from members as far as establishing policies and goals and campaigns.
5 .Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered this interview, belatedly, because I believe in the Reimagining Society Project. It's crucial that we envision the future that we want, and I appreciate the collaborative nature of the project. I can't speak for others as to why they didn't answer. I can only speak for myself as to why it took me so long. And the answer is simply a lack of time and too much work. My job at The Progressive absorbs a huge chunk of my time, and there is always another task, seemingly urgent, that needs to be done, especially on the fundraising side. So it's hard to justify breaking away. And when I'm not at work, I need to be at home. But I view answering this as akin to going to a demonstration (which I did recently against Obama's Afghanistan escalation). It's important movement work, and I needed to make time for it, finally. Sorry I didn't get to it sooner.