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requirements subvert our values, and has to operate with limited means under harsh pressures. Not surprisingly problems arise, ranging from budget deficits and personal disputes, to shortages of resources, time, or energy, to structural inadequacies in changing contexts.
But these facts of life do
not justify ignoring progressive aspirations and aims. Three broad areas of
our activities give rise to opportunities for hypocritical backsliding that
are then rationalized by improper claims about what “has to be”: race,
gender, and class.
(1) Our institutions are not yet racism free, but this doesn't give whites license to establish and celebrate a racist division of labor or a racist culture in them.
(2) Our institutions are not yet sexism free, but this doesn't give men license to establish and celebrate a sexist division of labor or a sexist culture in them.
(3) Our institutions are not yet classism free, and this shouldn't be a license for an elite possessing capital or managerial prerogatives to establish and celebrate a classist division of labor or a classist culture in them.
(1) and (2) above are
overwhelmingly established, as well they should be, but (3) is generally
deemed a juvenile or utopian excess.
In the case of racism and
sexism, due to the good work of activists, there is very little confusion at
least about the principles involved. For someone in a progressive
institution/project to say, “We need to have a racist/ sexist division of
labor and a racist/sexist environment and culture in our institution” to do
good work, would be greeted with incredulity, derision, and rejection.
On the other hand, in an
overwhelming majority of our progressive alternative institutions and
projects, it is the norm for those wielding most decision-making power (and
often others as well) to openly assert that “we need to maintain a
corporate-style division of labor and environment and culture in our
institution,” and their doing so is seen as a sign of maturity and
seriousness, rather than of hypocrisy and self serving ambition. This current
“class situation” is a storm waiting to explode.
Now we come to Pacifica,
the single largest U.S. media institution progressives have any positive
relation to, much less any say over. Its future is critical.
The problem at Pacifica is
not so much that some leaders have become enchanted with their own authority
and oblivious to the goals of the radio network. It is not that some leaders
have used their authority unwisely, capriciously, even vengefully. It is that
Pacifica's structure, like that of many progressive institutions, replicates
the class relations of typical corporate capitalist structures throughout our
society, with large funders sometimes replacing owners, but with managers and
other order givers in typical autocratic roles. When those taking orders
comply such structures appear stable and efficient, at least in some limited
sense. But the structures are never just and fulfilling for those who are
disempowered, nor do they promote internal and external anti-classist
The crisis at Pacifica is
that the classist foundation of one of our largest institutions has run amuck
and thereby incited its listeners and workers into resistance, in turn
provoking repressive reaction, in turn awakening a wide array of aspirations,
not always perfectly expressed or manifested, but rising to a pitch finally
polarizing the elites—as always—into the most autocratic and authoritarian
patterns imaginable in this context, likely even against their personal
The solution to all this is
not band-aid corrections or a cooling off period or even a redress of
autocratic decisions to fire various people, as positive as such partial steps
could be. The solution is to restructure Pacifica with a clear understanding
that this undertaking is an exemplary act, coerced by the
disenfranchised and aimed at providing a model for other progressive
institutions and attention to progressive values as we try to do regarding
structural matters of race and gender.
This is an opportunity to
go to the heart of the class relations in our institutions and to embark on a
struggle to correct them. To be radical is to get the bottom of things. We
hope that in the Pacifica crisis some radical righteousness prevails.