My Resoc Interview
Each Resoc participant has been asked to answer five questions in a succinct interview for the project. All the replies will appear within the Resoc site, starting soon, in the order they arrive. Substantial replies, however, may also appear as ZCom Articles, as in this case.
1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what you reject, but what are you 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?"
Instead of capitalism, I prefer Participatory Economics, which some may call participatory socialism, including self managed workers and consumers councils, balanced job complexes, remuneration for duration, intensity, and onerousness of work, and participatory planning.
I believe these institutions can ensure classlessness and will efficiently produce not only the goods and services people choose to have, but simultaneously also solidarity, equity, diversity, self management, and ecological sustainability.
Of course these new institutions are just the core essentials of delivering economic freedom to future populations, not a blueprint for a whole economy, but in one form or another I think they need to be enacted in place of private ownership of means of production, remuneration for property, power, and or output, corporate divisions of labor, and both market and centrally planned allocation.
For the polity, I prefer Participatory Polity including popular assemblies as a central component of participatory democratic legislation, plus parallel innovations in courts and executive functions to make these realms equally consistent with self management and justice. I think such gains, which are again just what is necessary for freedom and whose broad strokes we would establish in future practice, can together give power to the people, as well as optimally allocate talents and capacities in legislative, legal, and programmatic matters.
For culture/community, I think the main task is to structurally protect and preserve the cultural practices of all communities, and particularly minority communities, so long as those communities have free entry and exit and do not impinge on other communities having equal freedoms. In any event, one must make institutional changes that remove tendencies toward racism, ethnocentrism, religious bigotry, etc.
For gender and kinship, in addition to laws and other economic and political protections that eliminate agism and guarantee sexual choice and gender equity, I think there must be changes in the structure and practice of family life to ensure that women are not unduly burdened and that men are included in all sides of social life. Not only should legal, cultural, and economic innovations ensure feminist outcomes, so should the operation of basic kinship institutions.
For ecology, other than contextual policies that future citizens adopt to protect the environment as they deem desirable in light of future events and options, I think the critical gain is to have an economy that accounts accurately for full social and ecological costs and benefits and has no internal drive to accumulate, and that of course allows citizens to decide outcomes in a self managing way. This will take us beyond sustainability to husbandry.
Internationally, beyond gains from domestic changes that eliminate structural economic and geopolitical motives for war, international exchange should itself reduce rather than enlarge differences in national wealth as well as protect national rights and agendas. Ultimately, internationalism should guarantee that in time all citizens everywhere enjoy the best conditions that any citizens anywhere enjoy.
2. Next, someone at the same event asks, "Why do you do what you do? 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 speak, write, teach, and build and maintain media institutions, in hopes that this work will contribute to social change that transforms societies. I keep at it in the face of frequent setbacks because I think my activity has helped at least some people develop views and undertake actions of a radical and even revolutionary sort, and because such activity is quite obviously necessary even if not yet sufficient for success.
My goals for the coming year are to help mature the Reimagining Society Project into a effort that develops interim international organization as well as to help stabilize the operations of ZCom where I work - and to enrich my and ZCom's ties with Venezuela, in turn learning from the Bolivarian Revolution and perhaps even providing aid to it.
My goal for ten years is to be part of and enjoy confidence concerning the ultimate effectivity of a new International that federates dozens of national organizations into a powerful and thriving force for revolutionary change. I don't expect we will win a fully liberated world in ten years, but I do think we can reach a point, perhaps even in ten years, where a still to be fully realized victory appears more or less inexorable.
I hope, also, that the work I do in media will play a part in raising associated consciousness and commitment, and that the work I do on parecon and related vision will either itself serve as a vision for such a new organization, or spur creation of still better vision serving that essential role.
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?
If and when I get such a message I will be very hopeful because I think developing such an organization is essential for major gains to occur. Indeed, I see trying to help make this happen as my highest personal priority.
If the proposed organization was close enough in main commitments to my own commitments, I would be very eager to join it - if - (1) I thought it had good prospects to grow in numbers and range of members involved, (2) I felt it was truly serious about winning change, as compared to merely play acting at it, and (3) I felt its programmatic and strategic approaches were positive and flexible enough to have hopes of success.
To find evidence of these virtues I would assess who was involved, the tone of their outreach, their stated vision and broad strategic commitments, the organizational structure and norms of the project, and its immediate plans.
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, I believe our current efforts should certainly plant the seeds of the future in the present as best we are able to do so to avoid hypocrisy, to show evidence of what we seek, to test our visions, and to benefit people in the present. This means we should prioritize planting future seeds in present endeavors, though sensitive to both what is now possible and what is now desirable.
For me, while we can't have the full blown liberated future in the present, we can, for example, have an organization that to the degree currently possible incorporates self managed decision making at the levels of chapters and participants, utilizes equitable norms regarding finances and resources generally, employs balanced job complexes in work assignments, applies just norms and procedures for adjudicating disputes, maintains internally feminist and anti racist policies and structures, and prioritizes the continuing education and quality of life of all members.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered to help reveal shared and also contentious views among Resoc participants in hopes doing so might enlarge the former and resolve the latter, thereby moving toward new projects and perhaps even new organization.
For those who did not answer the questions, I suspect in many cases they would say, "I am too busy." I admit that I find this response disturbing. A second frequent reason might be, "I think vision is fruitless," which I also find disturbing.
First, I don't think everyone is quite as busy as they typically claim to be. Rather, I think we all tend to exaggerate our lack of time, even to the point of deluding ourselves - not least because it sounds good to be "busy."
Second, and even more so, saying only that we are too busy to do "x" - whatever "x" may be - conveniently avoids admitting our preferences for doing other activities ahead of "x". If I say I am too busy to do "x," however busy I in fact am, the meaning is that in my view "x" is less important to me than anything that takes as long as "x" that I am already doing. Saying I am too busy could mean doing "x" is less important than taking an hour walk, or watching an hour TV show, or spending an hour doing nothing at all, or it could mean that life and death matters are taking up all my time, however much I would like to deal with "x".
To do this interview, for example, took me maybe two hours. So if I didn't do it and I said it was because I was too busy it would mean, whether I wished to admit it or not, that over the next few weeks there is nothing I am going to do that will take two hours that I think is less important than doing the interview. Otherwise I could cancel the other involvement or I could delay it, in order to do the interview.
People don't like saying "no." People don't like giving reasons that have substance that others can assess. And people apparently also don't like hearing the whole truth about other people's motives. These are reasons why we typically say "I am too busy" as if this was as definitive an explanation as saying "I am out of the country," or "I am in jail," or "I am sick" - but it isn't.
So, what about not doing this interview? Maybe one person is skeptical that discovering shared or contentious views matters, or can be done this way. Or perhaps another person doubts his or her ability to answer without embarrassment, or at least in a useful fashion. Or maybe someone thinks going on record is risky, or doesn't want to be part of a group, or doesn't want to even roughly define their political views. Or maybe someone thinks dealing in any degree with vision is a fool's errand or at any rate not particularly important, because there is no better future to be had. In any event, whenever anyone doesn't do something, some reason must exist beyond the person's busy-ness quotient.
Finally, third, while people no doubt have an hour or two they can bend for a quick task, if they so choose, clearly after attending to their jobs and families, etc., people nonetheless do have way too little time available for activist work commensurate to building a serious movement seeking to win a new world.
That said, I think movements need to stop bemoaning this lack of time as if it is unalterable, or using this lack of time as an excuse, again as if it is like a law of nature, and instead prioritize making social demands about shortening people's work days and establishing movement practices that free up members' time.
Indeed, I focussed on this question because I think the "too busy" excuse often obstructs honest and productive relations. Indeed, it may even be a good idea to urge, as part of planting the seeds of the future in the present, that we ought to try to eliminate this excuse from the daily processes of a new organization.