On: “divide & conquer”


Jan Slakov

Greetings rn-list,   May 23

One of the aims of this list, as I (Jan) understand it, is to help build
unity amongst the diverse people and groups which are fighting corporate
globalization and its effects.

Todd Gitlin recently spoke on the (on the Canadian Broadcasting Company
(CBC)'s) _Ideas radio program.  He is now a sociology professor, and the
author of several books, most reccently "The Twilight of Common Dreams." In
the 60's he was a leader of the SDS and a prominent figure on the New Left.

His message, paraphrased below by Caspar Davis <•••@••.•••>,
describes how what was once a more unified effort to work for social justice
has become factionalized:
  His thesis is that the common dream of a just and equitable society was
  abandoned about 1970 in favor of the pursuit by various groups such as
  (initially) blacks, then women, gays, handicapped people, chicanos etc of
  their own special interests. This splintering was accompanied by the
  decline of organized labor as a moral force.

  Today, Gitlin sees a strong interest among young people in betterment of
  the human condition but points out that they are completely disillusioned
  not only with politics but with the possibility of a political solution. He
  points out that during their whole lives there has been no coherent
  humanitarian left, and that they therefore have no concept of such a thing.

  Gitlin also points out that with the globalization of capital, any
  effective leftist movement must also be global. He says that no such
  movement exists, but is not entirely without hope that one may be born.

Caspar Davis, like many of us, believes that such a coalition has been born
in the movement to resist the MAI.

(The crucial next step, deciding how to move ahead with the forces mobilized
against the MAI, is THE issue for us now, but not the topic of this posting.
But we will discuss it in the future. So, if you want to contribute some
indight to this discussion, you could write to Richard and I both at this
address: <•••@••.•••>.)

The topic I want to develop some more today is that of getting beyond
Richard wrote, reflecting on Caspar Davis' comments above:

My `latest thesis', based on these latest observations, is that we can
trace back to c 1970 the `factionalism campaign' which has so thoroughly
fragmented American politics by this time in 1998, and which is reflected
in our manifesto (below).  This `factionalism campaign' was born of
Nixon-era cointelpro activities and each year becomes more systematic, more
divisive, and more frightening.  The prelude to Hitler in Germany was a
massive polarization between a Communist faction and a Fascist faction.  In
some sense the "average attitude" in Germany was near the center: but the
"average" only existed in theory, everyone had abandoned the center, as
reflected in the famous quote about "the center cannot hold".

      (3) Political activists must rise to the challenge of this
      strategic opportunity -- it is time to move beyond our special-
      interest causes and find a path to solidarity and the collab-
      orative pursuit of shared objectives. Foremost among our tasks
      is to build bridges cross the gulfs dividing factions such as
      liberals & conservatives, believers & non-believers, labor &
      environmentalists, etc.

                     We are all in this together!

By the way, this particular paragraph, I believe, is in serious need of
repair.  In Europe "liberal" means "neoliberal", and in any case the
examples given are simply inadequate.  Suggestions invited.

I am sure Richard's wanting to repair this part of the manifesto has been
influenced by the following comments we got:

>>but the thing that turned me off the most was the following...
>>>       (3) Political activists must rise to the challenge of this strategic
>>>       opportunity -- it is time to move beyond our special-interest
>>>       causes and find a path to solidarity and the collaborative pursuit
>>>       of shared objectives. Foremost among our tasks is to build bridges
>>>       across the gulfs dividing factions such as liberals & conservatives,
>>>       believers & non-believers, labor & environmentalists, etc.
>>>                      We are all in this together!
>>labour and environmentalists definitely... let's unite.
>>(after all, we're the people power, right?)
>>believers and non-believers is another extremely good question to address
>>since many traditional forms of activism do not adequately address
>>but what on earth is he talking about uniting liberals and conservatives
>>for?  i see little of redeeming value in either ideology, and if they were
>>any more united, they'd be fascist (see the U$A system of government as an
>>who is the "we" and what is the "this" that we are all supposed to be in
>>together?  i would like to increase the gulf between myself, my
>>co-workers, my friends and family, and the liberals which currently run
>>this country.  i think we are going to need to learn to fight the right,
>>rather than trying to accomodate them.  sorry to harp on this class war
>>bit, but there are definitely a few people who exploit many people, and it
>>is not in the interests of the many to be trying to get consensus with
>>those few. 
>>may you walk in peace,
>>but may you stand your ground...

Richard replied:

I see we have a terminology problem in the manifesto.... I was using
"liberal" in the American sense, which means somewhat the same as
"semi-left" or "progressive", and is nearly the _opposite of "neoliberal"
or "liberalisation" in the sense used by globalist rhetoric.

The "we" is everyone who genuinely believes in democracy and
self-determination and an end to corporate rule; "this" is the condition of
being dominated by corporate rule and victimized by globalization.


I had also replied, to say that I feel we can work with (or at least
dialogue with) just about anyone, although possibilities for collaboration
can be severely restricted if there are wide differences of opinion! For
instance, at the time of the February Gulf crisis, I entered into a dialogue
with a journalist whose reaction to my letter-to-the-editor on that topic
was that "he couldn't disagree with me more". And indeed, to my mind, his
arguments justify a criminal assault against the people of Iraq.

However, months later, I discovered we can work together on opposing a
forest spray program here in Nova Scotia. 

...I try keep in mind, when faced with people I find "dense" or
"wrongheaded" or whatever adjective I might use to discredit their views,
the challenge Gandhi gave us, when he said that each of us has a piece of
the truth...


Mike Nickerson, of the Sustainability Project, has a rather good story of
overcoming factionalism that I would like to close with.

The anecdote is recounted in _Measuring Well-Being, a booklet the Project
has produced (which you can find online at

"During the 1997 Canadian Federal Election, an unusual relationship formed
between two candidates running in Leeds-Grenville: Joe Jordan of the Liberal
Party and Peter Bevan_Baker of the Green Party. Listening to the Green Party
perspective, Mr. Jordan found himself resonating with Mr. Bevan-Baker's
appeal that we consider the long-term perspective when making decisions.
Furthermore, Mr. Jordan detected that the audience also shared Peter's concerns.

After taking his seat in the House of Commons, Mr. Jordan met with Mr.
Bevan-Baker and the author of this booklet [Mike Nickerson] to discuss how
we might bring this long-term perspective into public use. Mr. Jordan
committed to introducing a Private Member's Bill in the House of Commons to
represent the integration of the long-term perspective into general
accounting proceedures [i.e. replace GDP with a better way of measuring how
"well off" we are]; Mr. Bevan-Baker and the Sustainability Project agreed to
collect material for the bill and devise a public outreach and education
campaign to cultivate the political will needed for the bill to be taken

BTW, if you would like to contact Mike Nickerson, you can write to him at


Dialogue is a skill we can certainly use. (A note on styles: My preference
is for avoiding confrontational dialogue but most of us know that Richard,
who thrives on dialogue, will launch into arguments quite happily... Bear
with him; you'll be contributing to his education!)

all the best, Jan

Creo que el mundo es bello, 
que la poesía es como el pan, 
de todos. 

(I believe the world is beautiful
and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone)

Roque Dalton

Jan Slakov, Box 35, Weymouth, NS, Canada B0W 3T0  (902) 837-4980
Democratic Renaissance messages: Mail to: •••@••.•••
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             Bring corporate globalization under control.

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