My Resoc Interview
By Yotam Marom at Nov 13, 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?
What would be better in the realm of economy and politics is more participation and democracy, a more equitable division of tasks and wealth, a society that provides for all of its citizens, and councils where everyone has a say as a producer, consumer, and citizen. In terms of kinship, I think we can and should be living in a society that allows people to define themselves however they want, that affords people equal rights regardless of those definitions, that takes into account that people are different and have real, human needs beyond social construction, that those needs should be nurtured and provided for in a communal and solidaristic way, that sexuality should be an open and liberating act, that gender or the lack of it should be an empowered and intentional decision, that youth should be empowered, and that families and other social arrangements should be supported by the society as a whole. In terms of culture and community, I think all groups have a right to self-determination, and that people have the right to organize their lives around cultural, religious, or other community-defining aspects however they see fit insofar as they allows for solidaristic, cooperative, and equitable relations within those communities and between them. I believe we can live in a sustainable way with one another, as well as with our natural environment. I believe we can build structures for living that are more communal, less alienating, more intimate, and allow us to both be part of a group and to be empowered individuals. I believe we can create institutions that unlock and empower people’s human potential, and that support and reinforce values of solidarity, communalism, egalitarianism, diversity, intimacy, and self-management.
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 live communally because I think it’s vital to live the revolution we wish to see as much as possible, because it makes us honest, genuine, experienced, and happy. I organize because I think alternative institutions on their own cannot accomplish the part of revolution that requires a direct confrontation with the forces that constrain and govern the way we live. I educate because I think that is an important tool in the process of radicalizing people, training them to be active, inspiring them to imagine, and preparing them to live in the world we will create as we struggle and win. I am a revolutionary because I find it painfully unacceptable and completely unnecessary for the world to be the way it is, because I can imagine another world, and because I wouldn’t know what to do if not to fight for it.
I hope, in the coming years, to be part of the formation of a serious Left that seeks to overhaul capitalism, patriarchy, authoritarianism, racism and other oppressions at their roots; that is organized, committed, serious, and a trustworthy alternative to the forces of mediocrity, fear, greed, and hierarchy that claim there is no alternative; that is creative and imaginative in its method, genuine and honest in the practice of its values during struggle, bold, passionate, and explicit in its vision and prescription, and direct and confrontational in its struggle.
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?
Part of my process of deciding what efforts, projects, campaigns, or organizations to participate in relies on the role I might have in those things. I am not interested in joining a project that belongs to someone else, or where my views are only relevant if they fit the party line. I want to be part of an organization that is open and dynamic enough for me to feel like a leader within it, for me to feel like the process is transformative, critical, and truly accountable to its members, for it always to feel like a work in progress and a project I am helping form, rather than one I am joining after the fact.
I find this important for two reasons. On one hand, only this latter type of organization truly represents radicalism, in that it is brave enough to go to the roots of any question regardless of where the answers might lead, and in that it is democratic enough to incorporate a variety of voices. At the same time, though, this is important in a personal, human sense. Movement life should be empowering and fulfilling, so movements should actively provide the space for that to take place. This is a critique both on movements that are openly organized hierarchically (like some Communist parties), and groups that claim to have no leadership, thereby often exerting the most tyrannical and least accountable forms of leadership there are.
In terms of its content, an organization I would consider joining would have to have a broad analysis - including class, race, gender, power, the environment, imperialism, and more - as opposed to a monist approach. It should be full of critical thinkers ready to change their ideas given changing realities, and dedicated to a serious but also fun and creative struggle. An organization I would join should see the importance both of building alternative institutions to live within, as well as struggling and confronting oppression, and should see the process of the organization itself as relevant to its product as well.
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 one of the most serious downfalls of what is often considered to be "the Left" is its general and traditional apathy towards the ideas of dual power, the building of alternative institutions, and the daily living out of the revolution to the greatest extent possible. While I wouldn't necessarily expect everyone in the organization to live communally or find fulfilling and financially-sustainable collective work as I do and have, I would expect all of us to intentionally work to live lives in which we practice as much as we each personally can of the world we wish to create in general. That should include intentional, communal relationships within the organization, and it should include a constant struggle to transform more and more aspects of our lives to match the world we wish to create.
A revolutionary movement/organization should help facilitate institutions that represent, on a community level and within itself, the values we struggle for in the world. This acting out of the revolution our lives strengthens us for revolutionary struggle, proves to other people that we are serious and genuine about another world, provides us with much-needed experience, and betters our own lives while we fight. We are not only fighting for our grandchildren, but also for ourselves, and not all of the social transformation we are fighting for must wait until the state, capitalism, patriarchy, racism and so on finally collapse. There are ways to work, live, consume, fight oppression, and treat one another that can propel us closer and closer to winning the world we wish to live in, while improving drastically the lives we live now as we struggle. The struggle, too, must be beautiful.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered it because I want to participate in the development of the Reimagining Society Project, which I think has enormous potential to become at least a forum for the exchange of revolutionary ideals, and perhaps a revolutionary force of its own. I think others haven’t answered it because they live busy lives in which they tend to rationalize putting off things that are outside their immediate set of responsibilities, which stress them out for a variety of often justifiable reasons. I don’t hold it against them, although I imagine that many of these people, were they to sit for a moment and carry out a cost-benefit analysis of writing this interview, would probably write it much sooner than they might otherwise.