(1) Could you please identify what you think are the core defining features and institutions of society that need to be changed i.e. economic, political, cultural, gender/sexual, ecological, etc.?
I think that we face authoritarian and exploitative and unjust relationships in many areas of social life. There are distinctions we could draw between 'core defining features and institutions', 'urgent priorities' and, perhaps, 'personal commitments'. There are also different levels of change: policy change (assuming institutions as they are); changes in power relations (altering institutions at a deeper level); and transformation/replacement (which means growing alternatives alongside existing institutions, and building the capacity to radically transform or do away with some current institutions, replacing them with new social forms).
Apart from capitalism, the state, racism, patriarchy, homophobia and ecological destructiveness (to follow the sequence in the question), which I think other respondents will address, there seem to be many other defining features of the problems that we face. Are they also 'core'? I'm not sure, but they seem highly important and with widespread significance.
For example, if we want future generations to re-create, maintain and develop a new social order, we need to consider carefully how we raise those future generations, and, in particular, how we not only grant children rights, but give them the human, technical and financial support that can empower them to use those rights in reality, not just 'enjoy'
them in the abstract.
Another question that deserves attention is the relationship between human beings and other animals. Decisions in this area have significant impacts on patterns of agriculture and industry.
Of course, each of us has to make personal commitments to the areas in which we think we can or ought to make a constructive contribution, whether or not others think they are 'core'.
(2) What are your goals for this change, do you seek to reform them, if so with what changes, broadly? Do you seek to fundamentally replace these institutions with some others? If so what do the replacement structures look like, what are their defining features, of course in brief?
My vision is one of fundamental replacement of many present-day institutions, including managerial wage-system corporate rule. The defining features of those new institutions would be equality, the decentralization and rotation of power, the empowerment of every participant, the allocation of resources to enable every citizen to fulfil their creative and social potential to the extent possible, freedom from restraint to the maximum extent possible, diversity of social forms and equality of cultures within a framework of universal human rights.
For example, the corporate hierarchy and investors' rule would be replaced by direct democracy on the shopfloor and at higher levels of federation, and by social ownership of society's productive resources. I support the principle of balanced job complexes, which ensure that empowering and disempowering tasks are shared (roughly) equally between all working people.
In such a society, the state as we know it would be abolished and replaced by a form of self-government through workers' councils and/or community councils controlled by their members without superior intermediaries or authorities or managers.
Going back to the family, I think there are a diversity of different social forms that might help us to meet our needs for equality and freedom, and I think we should build on existing and previous historical experiments. I think that the intentional community and the extended family might well merge in the future, with a wider array of responsible carers involved in family life and a wider array of life options for children, elders and others needing care. So, for example, I think that children should have the right to choose the adults/family they live with, and should have the opportunity to take part in wider community decision-making ('voting', and so on) as soon as they wish to. John Holt made these and other useful suggestions about thirty years ago, and his arguments seem to me as relevant as ever. I find the idea of a 'balanced life complex', with the sharing of caregiving throughout society, highly attractive.
With the human/animal rights question, I think that within a free society there will be diverse communities with different norms on the exploitation of animals, but that the trend will continue to be one towards greater rights, particular for more complex species with a greater capacity for pain of various kinds. I think that a charter of rights for animals (quite possibly with a hierarchy of rights for a hierarchy of species) would be a natural counterpart to any charter of rights for humans.
(3) Who do you think the strategic actors are in achieving these goals i.e. political parties, workers, women, queers, immigrants, particular countries or regions, etc?
When we talk about 'strategic' actors, we're coming up against the same question as with 'core' defining features of society. Currently, I get the sense that British progressive movements - maybe this is a Western phenomenon - see change being made by social movements of ethical consumers, social enterprises, youth, Black people, immigrants, lesbians and gay men, women and so on, with only a limited role for organized labour or for political parties.
I don't doubt that the social movements will be enormously important, but I also think a critical task for those interested in a revival of anarchism and/or libertarian socialism is to break down the barriers between the newer social movements and the labour movement. I guess to an extent this is happening with the newer, activist-oriented parts of the labour movements. Building unity between working people - and militancy in challenging investor and managerial power - is going to be crucially important in securing many of the deep changes we are seeking.
As for political parties, I can't help thinking that the most important part of change at the party political level is to have strong, deeply-rooted grassroots movements acting outside as well as inside normal political and legal channels, movements that can apply pressure to political parties of all stripes, holding them to commonly-held values and collectively-devised programmes for change ('non-reformist reforms').
Lots of people have maintained, starting possibly with Marx, that deeper social changes will come first in the most powerful nations, because changes in weaker societies will be stamped out or curtailed by those who hold global power. At the same time, there are clearly opportunities throughout the world for those wishing to create more humane societies. I wouldn't expect any particular country or region to play a particularly 'strategic' role in the transition to a more worthwhile world.
At the same time, I think it's generally recognized that popular movements in the rich North have an enormously important role in restraining the violence of their states, to create the political space for social experimentation in other parts of the world.
(4) What tactics do you see being centrally used in achieving these changes i.e. voting, direct action, media action, strikes, demonstrations, etc.?
Here the difficult word, once again, is 'centrally'.
I think it can be helpful to divide social action in the West into four quadrants. One is power: party politics, parliaments, government, and corporate leaderships of various kinds (executives, large investors, financial institutions and so on). Another is the media:
corporate/independent, national/regional/local, print/broadcast/web. A third sector is civil society: NGOs, religious organizations, trade unions, women's associations, cultural and community groups, and so on.
The final quadrant is the general public, as encountered at home, at work and in the street.
(In the Global South, things look a bit different, as there aren't always party politics, parliaments, or varied media, though all four quadrants exist in some form. It might be appropriate in many parts of the South to re-design the diagram to give due attention to foreign governments, international financial institutions, private investment coming from outside and transnational corporations, as a sector all by itself.)
The point of the diagram is that different tactics and strategies are appropriate in different sectors, even within a single campaign.
The purpose, generally, is to mobilize pressure within the three last quadrants to place intolerable pressure on those who hold power, to alter policy. Having altered policy, we seek to change the institutions of power, to give more of a voice to stakeholders or representatives of stakeholders (future generations, other species, and so on). In all four sectors, we seek to seed and develop new institutions that can embody and amplify our shared values.
I don't think that, in global terms, any tactic should be excluded or raised to pre-eminence. What's needed is to judge the particular situation in a country or region, and the needs of a particular campaign. In the West, I cannot see a justification for violent action, defined as action that harms or threatens physical harm against human beings.
We should also heed Chomsky's warning not to consider any tactic as inherently 'radical' (or 'reactionary'). Goals can be radical; tactics can help or hinder us in achieving our goals, but they aren't in themselves litmus tests of political correctness or acceptability.
It used to be that major strands of the anarchist and libertarian socialist movements saw The General Strike (or 'The Mass Strike') as the death blow to capitalism. This may or may not be accurate. What interests me is building up the strong bonds in local, national and international groups and networks that are necessary to challenging corporations and the state, and which one day might be strong enough to effect major social transformations. A political general strike, in North America or in Europe, would be built up of millions of knowledgeable, confident and committed individuals with the personal and group skills needed to grow and maintain a modern movement, the determination to make deep sacrifices when necessary, and the strong personal relationships and group bonds that enable you to endure. Rather than concentrating on the tactic, I think it is probably more fruitful to concentrate on developing the people and the forms of organization that nurture knowledge, confidence and commitment.
The question is about tactics, but I think it's worth saying a word about strategy. As I understand Noam Chomsky's argument, he suggests that what is needed in the West is a two-stage strategy. First, the building of a broad-based mass movement committed to basic reforms - a living wage, universal free healthcare at a decent level, freedom of expression, strong heath and safety rules that are enforced, and so on. (At this point, we'd add survival conditions in relation to greenhouse gases and climate
change.) Secondly, once these basic reforms are achieved, a more radical movement that grows up to challenge the institutions of power in a more fundamental fashion. The fundamental point is that what is sought is 'non-reformist reform' - badly-needed changes that are not regarded as conferring legitimacy on present-day institutions or seen as the end-point of social change.
(5) How do other perspectives, which have different ideas about societal change, fit into your strategy and vision?
We know very little about making social change, and especially about making the change from an authoritarian, sexist, racist, ageist, homophobic, capitalist society to a radically different society. Someone once pointed out that Marx used the previous transitions from slavery to feudalism, and from feudalism to capitalism, to provide analogies for the change from capitalism to socialism, but that this was fundamentally flawed because all of those historical changes were from one class society to another class society, but what we are facing now is the change from class society to a classless society, and that must mean a different kind of social change. I think we can generalize that to other social spheres also. We're looking for something quite new.
We don't know much, so we should try to be companionable with each other as we argue together about things that are not well understood, and as we band together to seek urgently needed changes in the world, hoping to build on these to create the possibility of deeper transformations.
Having said all that, I would like to say something about some other perspectives circulating in the West. Among the other perspectives are those of Leninism (Trotskyism, Maoism and Stalinism being variants) and terrorism (launching a violent assault on powerful institutions, immediately). I think both of these are temptations for frustrated activists as they expend themselves in building movements which inevitably have much more limited achievements than were hoped for. I know and respect people with a commitment to Leninism, and I recognize that an enormous amount of good work has been done by Leninists, I do regard Leninism in all its varieties as an elitist threat to the liberatory potential of our movements. Much the same goes for the terrorist approach.
I am also concerned by the prevalence of other perspectives which can be put under the general heading of magical thinking (in fact, I think that terrorism as defined above also fits under this heading), such as New Age mysticism, primitivism, conspiracy theorizing and so on.
I hope that people of different faiths and commitments can work on immediate issues, and that together we can develop a libertarian socialist vision and practice, and a strategy that is rooted in the social realities we confront, rather than in fantasies or fears.