What Else Can You Show Me?
This is chapter five of the book Occupy Strategy – which is the third and concluding volume of the series titled Fanfare for the Future. In coming weeks we will follow up with more excerpts from this volume, but we hope many readers will order it from our Online Store for yourselves, and then to pass on to others. The introduction can be found here.
“A moment’s insight is sometimes
worth a lifetime’s experience.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
What demands might movements string together into a program, or the core of a program, bearing on all sides of life? And, more so, how does one even think about such a thing?
The goal of a program for some movement or organization is that working on its focused campaigns and winning them would augment movement outreach and participant desire, enrich movement members’ consciousness, reach beyond the movement into other people’s habits and beliefs making them more receptive both to additional campaigns and to seeking a whole new social system, meet real and worthy needs within and outside the movement, display and enrich and even begin implementing future aims, and enhance movement means of winning steadily more gains.
“If all the economists were laid end to end,
they would not reach a conclusion.”
– George Bernard Shaw
Let’s take a possible example. Someone proposes a campaign–that would be one among a few that would occupy people’s focus–that the movement work to raise the income of doctors. To evaluate that as a central idea for a campaign one must ask, will fighting for the aim and winning it have the desired effects? The answer is, no, it would not. It would aid a constituency that is already doing too well, economically–both in terms of its share of income and its share or power or influence. It would do little or nothing to aid those one should want to aid. It would establish and ratify values and structures at the heart of the current system, not values and structures that lead toward a new system. It would be highly unlikely to lead to new movement relations and habits welcoming to most of the population, as compared to, say, welcoming to only doctors, and perhaps lawyers or engineers hoping to be the next beneficiaries. But if this proposal is not good, then what might be good?
Suppose we start by thinking about the situation of working people all over the world. One thing very typically true of economic life is that a great many people work long hours, and yet many others don’t have enough work to do and are underemployed or even unemployed. Of course, the share of social product people receive for their labor is also typically–at least for those in the working class–much lower than desirable.
Given our underlying analysis of class–and particularly of owner/coordinator/worker relations, and given our aspirations for new workplace features such as balanced job complexes, self-managed decision making, and equitable remuneration–can we come up with a campaign that might appeal greatly to working people, deliver desirable and deserved benefits, arouse new consciousness leading to new desires, and empower actors more than before? That is how we need to think, to arrive at something we can really get behind.
Okay, suppose the organization or movement pursues this line of thought and comes up with shortening the working day, perhaps in a plant, or industry, or whole country, or even internationally, as a possible campaign. This is immediately good for those who are working too many hours–but what about those who are under-employed or unemployed? Well, here too, the proposal is good. If those who are now working too much work less, there will be work available for those now working too little.
But another problem arises. We are concerned not only about workload, but also about income, which is each person’s share of the social product. Suppose I was working 70, 60, 50, or even 40 hours a week. Suppose the demand is that everyone works, at most, 35 hours a week. It gives me more free time. It gives those who weren’t working before things to produce. But, what if I was just getting by, say, in my income level, before? When I am cut back in the hours I work, my income drops, and I can’t afford that. Suddenly I move from liking the program, to fearing it.
What can we do? Our simple demand to cut hours won’t work as is, but why does my income have to drop if my hours drop? Why can’t my hourly wage increase, as a part of the change, so I wind up getting the same income as earlier, or even more, but now for less hours of work?
The answer can be, should be, given our analysis–from two main places. The total work done in a firm is what it was before. Now, however, the workers are each working 35 hours, but there are more of them. With the increased hourly wages, the overall wage bill for the total labor has climbed quite a lot. Where does that extra payment come from?
The first place is profits. Profits can drop as far as the movement is able to push them down. The second place is the incomes of the 20% of the workforce that was, before, earning five, ten, and even fifty times what the average employee was earning–the coordinator class. And how does that work? Do we really want to slash their hourly wages? Some day, yes, of course, remuneration, we believe, should be for the duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labor. No one can earn five, ten, and fifty times what the average is, with that norm. But for the moment our demand can be simpler than that, even though we can talk about our long run values in our effort to win it. The coordinator class members–engineers, doctors, lawyers, high level managers and CEOs, etc. in the workplace, industry, or country–whichever is the focus of the campaign–are cut back to 35 hours, too. But they keep their old hourly wages, with no increase per hour. So now they are working fewer hours and earning less, overall, than they were before, due to their shorter hours.
But there is still another problem. Getting a campaign right isn’t rocket science, but it does take some serious thought and care. If the empowered workers of the coordinator class are now each working only 35 hours–and let’s say before they were averaging 50 hours–who is doing the work that their lower hours are no longer able to accommodate? The answer has to be, those who were not doing it before. Sometimes other workers–members of the working class–can step right in, but other times they will need to learn the skills and gain the circumstances to do this type of labor as part of their overall workload. So there is a transition during which we have job training leading to more diversified job definitions. What occurs while the training is still happening? The coordinator class members keep doing the empowered tasks, but for the reduced income level of reduced hours, and their hours drop only as more people are able to take up the tasks they no longer do.
In one campaign, we have addressed issues of work duration, remuneration, and division of labor–and we can fight for it putting forth our full analysis and aspirations, so that when we win, we have paved the way toward more gains to come.
“I hate the giving of the hand
unless the whole person accompanies it.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Let’s take another example. The effort to win change depends, in part, on communications. This is partly a matter of movements having their own alternative media methods of outreach, but also inevitably involves mainstream media messages.
So what might be a useful media campaign to be part of a movement program? Good media of our own must be free from internal organizational structures and policies that would compromise its ability to deal with its subject matter honestly and fully.
This means our media must not contain racist or sexist content and should not have racist and sexist divisions of labor, income differentials, and behavioral assumptions. This is generally acknowledged on the left, though sometimes not practiced perfectly. But good media also can’t be classist because then it will not deal well with issues of class in society.
But not being classist means good media can’t be profit seeking, as that would lead to it being unable to honestly address matters of private ownership and profit seeking in the larger society.
Not being classist also means good media can’t sell advertising thereby biasing toward attracting audiences with disposable income as well as away from content that will diminish audience attentiveness to ads, much less challenge commercialism.
Not being classist also means good media can’t be organized to empower and enrich a few who occupy elite slots, while disempowering and paying much less to those occupying subordinate positions. Any media that has that old corporate division of labor will not deal well with challenging that type of arrangement, or even with noting its existence in the broader society.
Good media also cannot have top-down decision making, whether by owners or by those who monopolize empowering work. If media has top-down decision making, it will not do a good job with issues of power, and particularly self-management in the broader society.
We don’t have good mainstream media, and we won’t until we have transformed all of society, but we can win changes that move mainstream media in a desirable direction consistent with our long run aims.
A good mainstream media program might, therefore, focus on:
- diminishing and finally eliminating racist and sexist media features
- reducing and eventually eliminating private ownership
- challenging and eventually overthrowing the old division of labor to ensure that all workers are comparably empowered
- challenging top-down decision making and, in its place, moving toward workers self-management
- challenging and finally eliminating ads as a revenue source
- challenging and reducing income differentials among workers, finally achieving equitable remuneration.
However the above set of aims would have a hollow ring if our own media aren’t practicing what we preach for the mainstream–and all too often they aren’t.
Our media typically aren’t for profit, but they do have major donors who are largely in command. They do have the old division of labor and internal class division. They do have top-down decision making by those who monopolize empowering work, and those with their hands on funding. They do take ads, and they do have a wide disparity in wage levels.
A possible approach to media is, therefore, a three-pronged campaign.
First, we might have an international campaign called Press the Press. The campaign demands labor sections, peace sections, women’s sections, and so on, in newspapers and other media. And it demands that these new sections be staffed by activists with experience addressing the topic–operating in an anti-classist manner. This, in turn, means demanding self-managed decision making by employees in these divisions of mainstream media institutions. And it means demanding remuneration only for how long people work, how hard they work, and the onerousness of conditions some may bear. And it means getting rid of the old division of labor by dividing up empowering work among everyone so that each worker has a comparably empowering work experience. And, finally, as much as is now possible, it means polling the actual needs of readers/viewers, not financial bottom lines, including not having ads, but accepting donations.
To fight for sections of mainstream media operating as indicated above is fighting for gains very much worth having. It is fighting for gains which by their logic point much further, for example, to renovating the whole of mainstream media, not just the new sections. It permits fighting in a manner that produces awareness, enables participation, and inspires new aims.
Then, for our own Alternative Media, we could have the second part of our effort, a Media Rectification Campaign. This might address the flaws in our media structures, urging our media to constructively install workers’ self-management, equitable remuneration, balanced job complexes, and a non market logic that rejects selling users to advertisers.
Finally, a third campaign we could have as a part of a media program would be Alt Media Creation which aims at creating alternative mass media with new classless internal structures–quickly becoming for that reason, a model that can legitimate the Press the Press campaign.
The idea is that the combination – Press the Press, Alternative Media Rectification, and Alternative Media Creation – all guided by anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-classist vision and all seeking institutional structural reforms in tune with its values, would not only go a long way to addressing contemporary media problems, but would also serve as a model for campaigns for other parts of society.
If this campaign rang valid to people, and garnered widespread support and participation, then it could become a media part of movement program. If not, then we would need to come up with some better way to address problems of media. For surely these problems are among the most important we face in the effort to reach out and develop massive, informed movements to create a new world.
“I cannot and will not cut my conscience
to fit this year’s fashions.”
– Lillian Hellman
Consider one more example. A full program is going to address all the dimensions of life deemed central to winning social change and a new society. What, then, might be a component of program related to matters of gender and sexism?
Following the same type of thinking as with the above two other examples, one might imagine a movement having a kinship campaign. The harder element will be that much that needs doing in this realm is not about demanding new “rules,” but simply implementing them, ourselves, in daily life. There are, however, exceptions.
For example, the burden of individualized daycare is extreme, and one plank, or aim, could be generalized publicly funded daycare that is legally required at all workplaces beyond some minimal size.
What about the period immediately preceding and following childbirth? Paid leave would certainly be a step forward. But there is a problem. If women get leave in their final months of pregnancy, and then, say, a year at the outset of each new child’s life, than an employer would be wise–albeit not very humane–to think twice about employing many women. If I employ a woman, there will be significant periods when she will likely be away, and I have to pay her, and I also have to get her work done–perhaps by paying others overtime, or hiring a temporary replacement, or whatever. If I had employed a man, no such problem.
Indeed, in Venezuela, some years ago, when a very advanced maternity leave law was passed, this is precisely what employers realized and acted on–reducing their inclination to hire women, and even trying to replace them. The government’s solution wasn’t to turn its back on women giving birth and becoming mothers, but, instead, to extend the same rights to men becoming fathers. This is like the case above, where we propose a change in hours of labor and then follow the implications to refine the aim to have additional beneficial effects and to eliminate unwanted negative effects.
Of course, additional demands in relations between men and women could address additional matters: full abortion rights, but also appropriate focus on women’s health in general, as compared to excessive preoccupation with men to the exclusion of women. Free health care generally, for that matter. Equal pay for equal work. Alterations in child rights, full gay and lesbian liberation from restraints and violations–one can go on.
Another potential plank of a kinship sphere related program, for example, could be to push for a change in the laws that convey partnership rights (hospital visits, end of life decisions, etc) and economic benefits (health insurance, tax benefits, co-ownership of property, pension/social security benefits, etc) to some family arrangements and not to others. This is already happening throughout the world as the gay liberation movement wins gains in the legal redefinition of marriage. But the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples is a narrow gain. In reality, families are much more complex. The nuclear family–as defined by two adults who are romantically involved and their offspring–is not a real reflection of the family that many people experience or would aspire to. One could imagine that group arrangements, multi-generational households, cohabitating friends with or without kids, and many other combinations of consenting people who are committed to caring for each other and acting together as a household should not be underpriviledged as compared to households that fit the “traditional” form of husband and wife with children.
Alterations in child rights could also be part of the program, starting with lowering the voting age and decoupling children’s income from their parents, through high taxes on inheritance, and government payments to children in poverty. Another area of work could be an overhaul of the education system to give children more say in self-managing their own education, providing uniform funding for public schools (rather than property tax based funding), and free college education.
These programmatic aims could be part of a campaign that would open the door to gender equality, new living arrangements, and new opportunities for children to control their own lives.
The above discussion of possible campaigns that we might sum together into a possible program is brief and in no way prescriptive. The campaigns could constitute a substantial part of a full movement or organization program, which would also, given the views of Fanfare, presumably also address matters of culture, politics, ecology, and international relations, at least–all to allow work in these critical domains, pushing forward consciousness, winning support and participation, winning gains that benefit people, planting seeds of the future in the present, etc. On the other hand, in a particular place, at a particular time, a program might very well have none of the mentioned campaigns and be the better for it.
In any event, a program doesn’t have to do everything imaginable or even everything desirable. A program is time bound. Maybe only a year’s program makes sense. It may well be confined to a city or region or country, or it could be international, and in any case, wouldn’t be mandatory for all actors, but would have some focusing on one part, others focusing on another part. And in any event it would be flexible, adapting in light of lessons regarding what works well, and what doesn’t.
Campaigns and a program, modulating and morphing over time and from place to place, ideally contribute to a path forward, a path to where one wants to wind up.