An open space for global conversation
Robin, delegating power to government isn't a line-item budget, and individual issues are not usually on the ballot. When people give government the power to tax, because they feel that government needs the power to tax, they are also giving government the power to do other things, like wage wages, torture, develop kill lists, etc.
Suppose that I feel that I am incompetent to manage my own affairs, and you are both competent and willing, so I give you full power of attorney and have you designated my guardian to manage my affairs for me. You might be an honest person and do a good job. Or you might be a dishonest person and rip me off, as happens many times in real life. Before I give you power of attorney and have you appointed my guardian to manage my affairs, I really should get to know you very well and have some way to keep track of what you're doing and to revoke any powers I gave you at any time that you abuse them.
We don't know our elected government officials very well. In many cases they turn out to be the exact opposite of what we thought they were. We don't have full oversight of what they do. And we have no way to revoke any power we gave them during the time they are in power, the ONLY time they are supposed to represent us--all we can do is ask Congress to impeach them and that's something that Congress has never done because it would set a bad precedent and make people feel they had some control over their representatives.
Reformers want better candidates and better laws. But reformers, candidates, and laws, are shaped by the system they are working within. I highly recommend Philip Zimbardo's book, The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil, for an analysis of how systems shape behavior. Revolutionaries want direct democracy where the system itself is abolished, nobody has power over anyone else, and nobody can do anything without a direct vote of the people. Some people would experience severe loss. I, for example, would lose my Social Security, my subsidized senior housing, and would probably die. But the world would be a better place and billions of people who are currently dying due to capitalist imperialist policies, would have a chance at life. I agree with peace activist S. Brian Willson that, "We are not worth more, they are not worth less." Other opinions may vary.
In other words, it isn't a question of what to reform and what to abolish, particularly since reforms granted by one administration or Supreme Court ruling can be taken away by a future administration or Supreme Court ruling, but a question of whether power should remain with the system or be restored to the people. It wouldn't be revolutionary if this or a future administration abolished the NDAA, since subsequent administrations could restore it. It would be revolutionary if government no longer had the power to do things like that and supreme power over government was vested in the hands of the people. Vesting supreme power over government in the hands of the people is the dictionary definition of democracy, but it is the actual definition of anarchy. Anarchy means no government. It means no rulers, but it doesn't mean no rules. It means that rules have to be decided upon by the people, not by a small group of 1%-funded political puppets.
In organizing NatGat, the people involved didn't go to the President, Congress, the Supreme Court, or local governments and ask for an agenda. We here on Occupy Cafe don't seem to feel a need to ask elected representatives to set an agenda for us or make decisions for us. We feel competent to do the things we need to do. We're doing this because we feel a need to do this and because we believe that we can do this. We don't have a leadership council meeting in secret to tell us what we've decided. That in and of itself is revolutionary rather than reformist.
There are many people who, for various reasons, have been trying, often successfully, to co-opt Occupy away from direct democracy and back into failed politics as usual. They, like the system they prefer and wish to work within, will also fail. Occupy is either revolutionary or it too will fail. Reforms are just temporary concessions by those in power and do nothing to alter the power structure. Unless we alter the power structure from one of hierarchy to one of equality, we will have just wasted our time and passed the problem on to future generations, if there are any. A few more mishaps at Fukushima and other aging nuclear plants, and the problems will be moot.
I would say anarchy is more about organization than laws or rules, and it is not about vesting power over government, but rather the complete abolition OF government. This is actually one of the problems I've seen in the Occupy movement, that whereas some people "decide" upon what rules or principles or platforms, etc. they are willing to embrace, it ultimately will not cover everybody. This was especially true about the concept of deciding upon whether to embrace a "diversity of tactics" or agree upon certain prospects the movement would take up. Consensus and decision making are perhaps necessary in terms of figuring out how to move forward, what to do with money, equipment, etc. but at times it can have the effect of empowering the majority to direct the movement in ways individuals are not keen to follow and so feel marginalized.
Conversely I find myself rolling my eyes when people declare certain General Assemblies to be "hijacked" by certain interests who want to _________(fill in the blank here)_________. If there is a more militant/alternative element at the GA's, its important to recognize that if this is a truly inclusive movement, it will need to include those elements if indeed it expects to live up to its rallying cry of speaking for the 99%.
Beyond that, I would question whether abolishing NDAA or social security is revolutionary. Perhaps it might be "reactionary" with respect to the fact that they are returning to a previous state (one in which those mechanisms do not exist), but essentially the same systems (US government, fueled by corporate $) remain in place. In my opinion, revolution is both a redistribution of primacy and the creation of a new order and set of relationships that are fundamentally antithetical to the oppressive state in question. Whereas the United States was created as the most modern attempt at political organization, our current political institutions are suffering because they cannot make decisions at the same rate that our technology allows us to believe they should. For instance, in the 18th century, it would have taken years to truly integrate perspectives from various colonies and states, so indirect democracy/republicanism made sense. Today, with the communications revolution that allows everyone to talk to each other in the time it takes to press "send" on an email message, we can now receive and disseminate information quickly and directly, and are demanding political infrastructure that reflects such attitudes to what should be.
If a movement was to build a new structure that served as a complete break with the system as it is now, THAT would constitute a revolution in the sense that the fundamental operating system/organizational structure is different. To my mind, that precludes the existence of the United States, nation-states, or capitalism as it currently functions. A revolution would offer something new and "outside the box". An example might be the "Global Square" that coders are attempting to build. http://roarmag.org/2012/02/global-square-call-for-coders/ Whether this new system will be forced into a "revolutionary war" is another question altogether, but it seems power elites are usually parasitical and have a vested interested in ensuring the continuity of power, meaning how to continue exploiting the resources of others and appropriating wealth for themselves. Eliminating the existence of $ from politics would perhaps be revolutionary on the other hand, because that has never really happened before, and the result would be a drastically different set of political relations.
As for the relationship between reform and revolution, I think one of the best examples was the strategy of the IWW. While they asserted that in the short run they would fight for wage-increases, workers rights, and more benefits, their longer-term strategy was that of "abolishing the wage-system."
"Between these two classes a struggle must go on until the workers of the world organize as a class, take possession of the means of production, abolish the wage system, and live in harmony with the Earth." http://www.iww.org/en/culture/official/preamble.shtml
In this respect, a clear articulation must be made that shows how short term objectives fit into the longer term strategy, though I don't believe it should take precedent over it, or else the "revolutionary" tactics will be lost to more "pragmatic" suggestions. Today, it seems like unions have completely forgotten this second, more radical point, and don't consider it a viable option. Yet perhaps that is the only real way to implement a complete rupture with the dominant system that is killing the planet while exploiting those without money. Ultimately, revolution is a daily endeavor that (hopefully) exists in every moment of waking life.
My own rambling ideology :)
Although I quoted the common dictionary definition of democracy, MS, that is, vesting supreme power over government in the hands of the people, this would, in practice, mean that government had no power over people and that therefore there was no government in the sense of a power structure that could govern people. It would mean self-governance or anarchy rather than government by rulers. Reformers want a more benevolent tyranny, anarchists want no tyranny at all, that power be vested in the people rather than in great and petty tyrants.
The corporations, as usual, have given billions of dollars to the major political parties to fund their 2012 election campaigns, and the Democratic Party has used part of their corporate billions to attempt to co-opt the Occupy Movement. They've been more successful in some places than in others, but it was a deliberate strategy. I happen to know some of the Democratic Party movers and shakers here in San Diego, and back when we still had an Occupy emcampment I happened to walk up to a group of them just as one was sayng, "We need to keep a low profile and take this step by step." Why do you need to keep a low profile if you're not doing anything wrong? What would be taken step by step other than a deliberate plan? I then watched them hijack the GAs and turn OSD from an attempt at direct democracy to a pro-government, flag-waving, voter registration campaign.
I'm glad you agree with me about NDAA and similar reforms, but I disagree that "...the United States was created as the most modern attempt at political organization..." Please read this brief essay: The Counterrevolutionary Constitution The United States as a country and a government was created, as some of the Framers stated clearly, for the purpose of ensuring that those who owned the country would always run the country.
Personally, although their preamble may state that their long term purpose is abolishing the wage system, if that were really the case I don't think the Wobblies would bar people who are not part of the wage system from joining them. It may be a situation like that of the Constitution of the United States, where the Supreme Court has ruled that the Preamble is not part of the document proper and has no authority.
I agree with, admire, and respect your statement that, "Ultimately, revolution is a daily endeavor that (hopefully) exists in every moment of waking life."
Where we appear to differ is that I think that reformist efforts, like fighting for higher wages, workers' rights, and more benefits, serves to perpetuate and strengthen the wage system and is self-defeating with regard to any long terms efforts to abolish that system.
"Reformist efforts, like fighting for higher wages, workers rights, and more benefits, serves to perpetuate and strengthen the wage system and is self-defeating with regard to any long terms efforts to abolish that system."
I agree that reform is aimed at making more civil a tyrannical government, but when a population is dependent on that tyrannical government to survive, they are not interested in sawing off the branch they're sitting on. In a sense, the analysis is short term, where people think they can get small concessions because they are "realistic".
Problematic because as you say, "realistic" concessions will never change the paradigm, so that they are essentially irrelevant to greater structural shift.
Similarly problematic is the fact that revolutionary force is often thought to take immense work and organization, so it seems unbearably burdensome and ultimately too massive of a project to realistically be undertaken. Hence my line about revolution as an everyday practice, in that spontaneous, direct action that perpetually identifies, challenges, and dismantles systems of oppression is much more relevant, and consequently will serve the public much better. The revolution at some point will have to be taken out of the future and into the present, and the sooner we do that, the sooner real change can take place.
Regarding the U.S., yes it was created to ensure the continuity of power, but that power was only able to exist through agreement of the powerful, property-owners. It was not a revolution that fully represented the poor, but it was a historical stepping stone away from monarchy towards an aristocratic republic and representational democracy in which private interests were protected through various mechanisms. It was an experiment in a continent wide decision making process, though exclusively controlled by the privileged. After centuries of new struggles we have gotten to Occupy, but it is still functioning in the framework of the United States governmental process, where special interests are given priority in a system that favors capital.
For a successful "revolution" to take place, it will need to articulate a clear, encompassing critique of the state of affairs, fully diagnose the problem, and provide a comprehensive "treatment" strategy in which a program is implemented that fully addresses the needs of its supporters. Marxism attempted this project, as well as various Anarchisms, and now the so-called "Global Justice Movement" seems to be heading in this direction (with Occupy perhaps being one manifestation) , but until it creates a sustainable trade network that can BDS the tyrannical elite and its coercive power relations and protect itself from external threats that would seek to maintain the existing order, it will remain a protest group, reacting to problematic policies (NDAA) instead of creating and implementing their own.
"I agree that reform is aimed at making more civil a tyrannical government, but when a population is dependent on that tyrannical government to survive, they are not interested in sawing off the branch they're sitting on."
For millions of unemployed, underemployed, and homeless, the branch has already cracked and they have no safety net.
Those who still have a branch to cling to, are being rewarded for sawing off the branches necessary to the survival of their friends, family, neighbors, and billions of people in other countries. Capitalist imperialism provides benefits for the few at the expense of the many.
For example, those who have jobs in the military or working for defense contractors or mercenaries, may be supporting their families, but their "work" is the business of killing other equally human and equally worthwhile families. The genocide-for-profit industry upon which the United States was founded and which is still, with the exception of the prison-industrial complex, its economic mainstay, is a rotten branch that must be sawed off if we are ever going to have a peaceful world with economic and social justice for all.
People who rationalize killing innocent babies to get more defense contracts for drones and bombs are not "realistic" even if they and their families depend on that industry for survival. They are totally out of touch with reality.
I'm sure you've read stories of heroic soldiers who threw themselves on enemy grenades and were blown up, but by doing so they saved everyone around them. People in the military and defense industries understand and honor such sacrifices, yet they can't seem to carry it over to anything other than grenades. Why is sacrificing one's life to save others an honorable act in the case of grenades, but not in the case of drone bombs or nuclear weapons? Perhaps it is because some people consider only those around them to be human and worthwhile, but consider others to be less than human and therefore not worthwhile.
Many of those involved with Veterans for Peace are dependent upon government benefits to survive. They are fully aware that without war, the US government could not survive and they would no longer receive those benefits. Yet they oppose war. They were once willing to sacrifice their lives for their country, but they learned, as General Smedley Butler did long ago, that they were sacrificing their lives for the 1%, not for the 99%. Now they are willing to sacrifice their lives for the 99%.
Short term selfish interests only seem realistic to short term thinkers and selfish people.
Any real revolution within our hearts must involve long term empathic and compassionate thinking. The children of the "me generation" are at the heart of Occupy, they were the victims of short term selfish thinking, and they care about everyone, not just about themselves. They have already accomplished the impossible, getting a nation that worshiped money to stop idolizing the rich and begin to see through the lies. I believe that people who can accomplish the impossible, can do anything--even revolution.
"Capitalist imperialism provides benefits for the few at the expense of the many."
Yes, but as long as capitalists keep paying soldiers to do it and keep importing cheap gas, who complains besides environmentalists? The moral argument that "genocide-for-profit" is bad directly contradicts the moral argument that the freedom to make a buck is the American way. Soldiers learn how to kill and fuck up other nations' economies. That is a marketable skill that makes them employable.
I agree whole heartedly that profit warps and distorts values by motivating people to think of themselves and their personal gratification while dismissing the effects of others or justifying horrifying consequences.
"Short term selfish interests only seem realistic to short term thinkers and selfish people."
unfortunately, we are living in a country where the Kardashians get 40 times more media coverage than ocean acidification, and most people don't want to be involved in something as complex and depressing as politics. They want to be able to fill up their gas tank at a reasonable price so they can get to the McDonalds drive-through before and after working in a cubicle for 8 hours. Perhaps "selfish" might also be likened to (willfully) ignorant people.
Hopefully occupy can catalyze that revolution of consciousness and co-create a system that truly expresses it. I would assume $ (and its corrosive nature) would have to be the first casualty though.
During one of our conversations today, I was asked to share the name of a movie that I have been promoting on social media.
This movie was created by a group of young people.
I could not remember the movie name during our discussion (a senior moment).
The name of the film (available on YouTube) is called "Owned and Operated".
Available from Crackin Films on http://www.crackinfilms.com/ .
Hope that you enjoy.
Denny Cormier (Occupy Santa Fe)
Hi Denny! I watched that slick ad for the Venus Project. I'd like you to watch this shorter video:
My criticism of the Venus Project is that all electronics and high-tech gadgets require coltan, and that there simply isn't enough coltan on the planet to provide a Venus Project lifestyle for more than a tiny faction of the global population. And the same thing goes for many other minerals that are now sourced from Africa.
I also don't particularly care for the phrase "resource based economy." The earth is not a resource. It is our mother and our grandmother. If everything that humans needed to survive hadn't been provided to us for free by nature, not a one of us would be here,. It was the commodification and privatization of that which was given to us for free and nurtured us for tens of thousands of years, that is the problem. Grandmother earth is not a resource or commodity and is not ours to exploit, but to care for and to treat with gratitude and respect.
I have lived for many years in third and fourth world countries, off the grid, in mud huts with thatched roofs and dirt floors, without running water, electricity, or any modern appliances, and I was perfectly happy. I had food, clothing, shelter, leisure time, and nature all around me. In fact, it was in such circumstances that I completed an accredited college degree by home-schooling myself and taking standardized tests, scoring in the top quarter of the 99th percentile in the ecology subsection of the Graduate Record Exam in biology. I'd have had a perfect score but one of the questions was based on a knowledge of calculus with which I was not yet familiar.
I've lived with and without technology, and I feel that life is better without. I feel that "progress" and "technology" are euphemisms for genocide and consist primarily of turning living things into dead things. Perhaps when NatGat is over, you or I could start a topic to discuss this issue.