dialog w/Greg Moses re: revolution analysis


Richard Moore

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From: Greg Moses <•••@••.•••>
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Subject: scary theory

Richard--I want to note two sentences from your reply to my message:

  1) But we no longer live in more-or-less democratic societies, at least
     not in North America.

  2) We must replace our oppressors across the board.

I find these sentences very troubling.  If sentence one is true, then a
whole range of options would be foreclosed, i.e. voting, letter
campaigns to congress, etc.

I am reminded of the abolitionists who took
such a position (Garrison, etc.).  Frederick Douglass eventually
disagreed with such an outlook, and he declared his right to treat
American democracy as salvageable.  I find it hard to believe that
things look worse for us today than they looked for Douglass when elites
owned slaves.

But the problem of sentence one is aggravated by sentence two.  If there
are no democratic alternatives, then how do you plan to carry out the
replacement activities?  Any theory which routinely embodies oppression
in a class of people, not in the structure of oppression, is a
blood-thirsty theory in the end.

Finally, it must be said that "hegemony" has no single cause and will
thus be defeated by no single movement.  When King went to Albany
(Georgia) he called for "Freedom Now!"--but he soon learned that such
terms do not translate themselves into clear goals.  So he later focused
upon "public accommodations" in Birmingham and "voting rights" in
Selma.  This CADRE movement, too, will have to focus on particular
issues, one at a time.  "Replace the oppressors?"  Such logic
unnecessarily personalizes a complex structural issue--hegemony runs
through each of us--and neglects the more difficult work of framing
issues for constructive resolution.  Like Douglass, I find myself
troubled here.

Take care--GregMoses


Dear Greg & list,

Thanks Greg for your `alarmed' response.  When I talk about _revolution I'm
totally serious, and when people start reeling from the implications of
that, then I know they're beginning to take the idea seriously.  I grow
weary of forums which talk all the time about radical solutions and
revolution, and which amount to nothing but theoretical gamesmanship, an
amateur branch of academia.

I'm very glad you found these sentences troubling; they _are troubling:
  1) But we no longer live in more-or-less democratic societies, at least
     not in North America.
  2) We must replace our oppressors across the board.

These are not `concepts' that I propose that people `adopt' because they
are `desirable' or `advantageous' -- they are rather my best assessement of
what the facts happen to be.  One can question, at least in the case of the
US, whether there was _ever a workable democracy.  Chomsky describe in some
detail the `Madisonian' concept of democarcy, which was that `the country
should be controlled by those who own it', and Madison was the main
architect of the Constitution.

The Social Democrats (in Europe) and the Democratic Party (in the US)
represented a brokering of popular and capital interests, a working out of
the terms of their implicit `partnership'.  This arrangement _seemed to
provide a modicum of democracy, but it can perhaps be better understood as
a _co-option of democracy.  Democracy _should be about _power being vested
in the people, instead under social-democracy we've allowed capital to have
the _power (especially in foreign policy and economic sectors) and have
satisfied ourselves with an _economic payoff.

Now that the elite have decided to stop sharing the economic spoils with
northern populations, the last vestiges of even a co-opted democracy have
been discarded, and the fact that we have for centuries actually been
living in an _oligarchy is becoming apparent to more and more people.

A whole range of options are indeed foreclosed -- that is, they are no
longer politically effective.  You can describe that as _scary, but what is
scary to _me is seeing people running around doing things that can have no
effect, wasting the scarce activist energy that is so necessary if we _are
going to make any real difference.

I do not, by the way, say American democracy is unsalvageable, quite the
opposite.  Contrary to many who consider themselves revolutionary in their
perspective, I think the US Constitution, and the Western national systems
in general, _must be the centerpiece of a democratic renaissance.

It is the competitive-party system and the traditions of power brokerage in
Washington (& Ottowa, & London, & Brussels, et al), and all of those other
outside-the-constitution customs which are non-democratic, much more so
than the Constitution itself.  Despite the Madisonian defects, I think it
is fair to say that the Constitution _permits genuine democracy, if the
people have the gumption to stand up _together and _without violence and
create it -- for the first time.  This is entirely a _structural argument,
by the way, and it is a structural solution that is being proposed.

As for whether `hegemony has no single cause' that is a matter of empirical
fact, not of theory, and conditions have changed considerably since the
Selma marches.  If anyone disputes that the capitalist elite are swiftly
pulling in the reins of global power today, I would like to see the
evidence.  King lived in the days when the social-democrat program seemed
still to be operative, and in JFK we had in my opinion the last effective
and genuine champion of that paradigm to occupy the White House.

Any endeavor must of course "focus on particular issues, one at a time",
but in the case of overcoming corporate power that does _not mean issues
such as the `environment' and `the MAI', it means instead such issues as
`educating activists about the futility of single causes', and `ecouraging
the formation of broad coalitions'.

These are _abstract historical and theoretical topics -- though ultimately
personally important to all of us -- and I must use metaphorical language
to keep the paper from getting so _dry it ignites on your screen!  So I say
things like "replace our oppressors across the board".   This is _not a
personalizing of the problem or of the `enemy', I'm _not talking about
lynching politicians or corporate executives -- I'm simply summarizing in a
pithy way the the fact that the social-democrat arrangement is dead and we
need to create a coalition which has the strength to elect a `clean-sweep'
slate of candidates and take power peacefully.

I also use military metaphors, such as the phrase "as futile as laying palm
leaves before tanks".  But _please, `read my lips': I am _very strongly
opposed to any violent approach to political change in the `north' (ie
`first world').  _Only peaceful revolution is feasible or desirable.  On
both moral and strategic grounds I and cadre fully embrace Ghandian

But Ghandi's work in India was _highly _confrontational, he was _pushing
the British and pushing them _hard and he (and all his followers and
collaborators) eventually _defeated British Imperialism, and British
leaders were stinging mad about being defeated!  Similarly, non-violent
revolution today will be a matter of `assembling forces' and finding ways
to `launch campaigns' against the system and to `confront' and `overcome'
corporate power and political corruption.

In talking about confrontational strategy -- which is what we need to be
doing -- one could use chess metaphors, or military metaphors, or perhaps
others.  It just so happens, perhaps becuase of being exposed to thousands
of films with military themes, that the military metaphors `work' for me.
But _please, read them as they are intended; the context should make that
perfectly clear.