My Resoc Interview
By Milan Rai 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?
There's no guarantee, but I believe that institutions under democratic control are generally less harmful than centralized power. That means workplaces should be under the control of the people who work there, bearing in mind the interests and concerns of people affected by that work. It also means neighbourhoods under the control of people who live there, bearing in mind the interests and concerns of people affected by that community. And that should go for industries and economies and for cities and regions. Wealth should very largely be abolished or dispersed amongst us all. In other spheres, we need to find ways to balance freedom and privacy and anonymity with responsibility and accountability and social bonds. To give people some leverage, some support, from outside the family or community, while not undermining the family or community.
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 and act because it is possible that what I do will be of benefit to those who suffer from Western power, or those who are at risk. I write and I act because it is possible I can contribute to the building of a powerful and radical peace movement that will halt and reverse the race to confrontation and destruction. I know that my writing and organizing have helped and strengthened some people. As long as I'm being helpful, I have to keep trying and keep improving what I do. Frankly, I act and I write because I'm compelled to, by rage at the world as it is. In the next year I hope to do more of these things. In particular, to help stop an escalation of the confrontation with Iran. In the next ten years, I hope to help build a much stronger, much more radical peace movement in Britain, through an evolving network of organizers, trainers, publications, websites and funders.
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?
We definitely need international political forms. I think healthy transnational organizations will grow out of the interaction between top-down initiatives (such as the World Social Forum, which created an open, grassroots-oriented space through a self-starting, self- appointed executive structure) and existing grassroots-connected national institutions. Quite what this interaction will be, I don't know. I find the idea of a transnational radical organization tremendously exciting.
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?
Radical political organizations should try to embody their values in their structures and their operations. For libertarian socialist or radical pacifist groups, if possible, this should include a balanced job complex, where all those working in an economic unit should have an equally fulfilling and empowering balance of tasks. Peace News, where I work, does not have such a structure, so I cannot in good conscience say any more on thus topic.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered this interview because I felt guilty at my lack of participation in the rest of the ReSoc project. I've regularly scheduled time to take part in the mutual commenting process. Just as regularly, more urgent tasks have swamped my day and absorbed those allocated times. Honestly, I don't think I've said anything that won't be said by dozens of other respondents (probably more concisely or cleverly), so the perceived net benefit to 'the movement' or ZNet of my spending 45 minutes on this is pretty close to zero. Why didn't other people respond? Because of more urgent tasks swamping their days, because of the perceived net benefit of their response being low. Because they don't have web-enabled mobile phones that allow them to respond in fairly 'dead' time during a train journey where they were planning on clipping newspapers.