rn: moving towards a liberated society


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,  Aug. 18

The title for this posting might more aptly be: "Moving Toward a Liberated
Society or MAJOR LIST CATCH UP" :-) (or "taking some time to read & reflect")...

Richard is busy writing his book on Globalization and the Revolutionary
Imperative and I am pretty busy too. And being methodical is not one of my
strong points.

So, it's time to go back to some messages we got a couple weeks ago.

Ruth Caplan, Past Co-Chair of the Alliance for Democracy had a comment on
Bill Ellis' posting of Aug. 4 on NGGs (non-governmental governments). 

First, to put us in context a bit, here are the closing lines of Bill's post:

...     The problem today is not to envision the future, but making it happen
by DOING more ourselves.  Is there a way to use cyberspace to move beyond
the limited form of democracy we've had since 1776? In that "first phase of
democracy" we were limited by communication that took days or weeks, and by
the lack of experience in people power.  Today we have nanosecond
communication and a long history of "representative democracy." Can we
develop a "second phase of democracy" by just DOING more of what people are
already DOING?  Can we develop programs of mutual aid among communities
world wide?  Can we self-organize and system of direct democracy?
        I think we can and we are.

Bill Ellis
PO BOX 137
Rangeley ME 04970-0137 USA
URL: http://www.nonviolence.org/tranet/

Date: Wed, 5 Aug 1998 15:31:58 -0500
To: •••@••.•••
From: •••@••.••• (Ruth Caplan)
Subject: Re: readers comment on P Isaacs & NGG's

Hi Bill, Sorry to inject the voice of the cynic, but what local communities
can do is under serious threat by capital liberalization, i.e., removing
all restrictions on the movement of investment funds.  Corporations are
determined to reign supreme over capital by getting international treaties
negotiated which will ban all such restrictions on investment flows.  The
MAI is the most pernicious example.  It would give corporations the power
to sue the federal government for damages even over state and local laws
which they claim violate their rights under the  MAI.  Parallel efforts to
limit any regulation of capital flows are now appearing at the IMF, in
bills like the African Growth and Opportunity Act, and in other
multilateral agreements.   Nafta already has this language which has been
used by Ethyl Corporation to sue the Canadian government and which recently
resulted in the Canadian government agreeing to overturn its law banning
Ethyl's gasoline additive MMT.  Talk about trampling democracy!

Readers may want to check out the booklet, "MAI:   Democracy for Sale?"
which is on my website, <www.greenecon.org/MAI>

If we let these rules be put in place it will be very hard to change them
and even harder to pursue our vision of localism.  I personally put aside
my work on economic alternatives (also on my website under GANE) to fight
the MAI. This is a very critical time.

In solidarity, Ruth

Derek Tatersall, whose comments on the NGG (non-governmental government)
idea (posted Aug. 2) struck some resonance on this list, sent us a lead on
an "Organization for a Liberated Society". 

Date:   Fri, 31 Jul 1998 11:00:40 -0300 (ADT)
From:   Derek Tattersall <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Re: request for comment on Bear River workshop, and Re: cj#804

RKM wrote:...

Dear rn friends,

Allow me to encourage you to send in your thoughts and responses to the

As you may recall, as sent to the list on the 14th, we came up with
following agenda for the stages a movement would have to go through:

     1) Things we can do now to build a movement:
        a) encourage personal empowerment
        b) help disseminate useful and accurate information and analysis
        c) facilitate harmonization of citizen activism

     2) What a widespread grassroots movement could hope to achieve:
        a) to establish vibrant democratic processes at local, national,
           and international levels
        b) to shift the balance of political power to democratic control

     3) How established democratic processes can build a livable world:
        a) limit / control corporate power
        b) `implement' sustainability, rights for all, and peaceful
           resolution of conflicts at all levels
        c) further pursue (1a) and (1b), above

Derek responds:...

I like the agenda, and the issues expressed in terms of "Vision, discomfort
level, means".

One aspect of activism which adhere's to the "think globally, act locally"
philosophy is that of Community Economic Development.  One of the greatest
problems for "personal empowerment" is the lack of community self-
sufficiency -- the Bigness of our institutions, both political and
economic, has a direct bearing on the feeling of powerlessness that is so
prevalent in society.  Considering Maslow's heirarchy of needs, I think
having more control over basic economic and political issues is the first
step in citizen empowerment.  I believe this has to come from the community
level.  I would like to see more discussion of local, sustainable economic
development issues such as local ownership of production (ie., worker co-
ops); Community Loan Funds, which provide capital for such local production
initiatives; and Community Land Trusts, which take land off the speculative
market, and put it in the hands of the community -- promoting housing and
other land uses that meet the needs of community members, rather than those
of absentee landlords.
     On a political level, to me one of the most overlooked issues is that
of municipal government, which is at the same time usually the level at
which the seeds of citizen activism most firmly takes root, and which holds
the greatest potential for citizen involvement.
     It seems to me that the community level is the easiest area at which
to create co-operative, empowering institutions, and thereby present
effective alternatives, both political and economic.

One other note:
     Who on this list has heard of the Organisation for a Liberated Society

(OLS)?  To some it may seem flaky at first sight, but basicly a group of
activists have hammered out 5 very broad principles, the attainment of
which would arguably constitute a liberated society.  The first step of the
organization is to get people who agree with these five broad principles to
sign up on their web site, with the goal of reaching 1 million members.
At that point, the belief is that there will be enough of a foundation to
start hammering out an effective movement for a liberated society.
     Sound nutty?  well, maybe - but you'd be surprised at some of the
people who have added their names to the fully-searchable list.  There are
over 1000 members after 3 months, a web forum hosted by Znet and mirrored by 
dozens of other sites, and local chapters starting to spring up from members
contacting other list members identified in their area.

Anyway, check out the website at:  www.olsols.org

Here's a blurb from the web page:

      OLS is defined by five principles that indicate clearly the broad
paths OLS is likely to follow when OLS has the means to have an impact. The
principles are what we are about.
      When OLS has one million members who attest to its five principles,
the principles will be enlarged and enriched, as will OLS structure and
program. Until then, the only OLS goal is to grow and the only      
responsibility of its members is to recruit, recruit, recruit...and, if you
like, develop local chapters with local programs. 
      Is this enough agreement and task orientation to galvanize and
sustain OLS? 
      The immediate OLS agenda is to do the patient work of outreach and
      consciousness-raising to make possible ambitious national program and
structure. Building a foundation is no less worthy then putting on a
roof--and generally comes first.

      But will the foundation we create based on signing up members to OLS
based on the five principles leave us with too little agreement among OLS's
members for them to jump into programmatic campaigns once the time comes?
OLS members think that the prospects of a million people working on
program, and pulling in still more people as well, will give everyone
involved motivation, incentive, and a sense of responsibility more than 
sufficient to sustain arriving at and working on shared program and
structure when the time comes. 
      The only way to test this belief is to try it.

      Defining Principles of the Organization for a Liberated Society.
        A society is more liberated to the extent that fewer people are
denied human rights or opportunities or in any way oppressed due to race,
religion, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual preference, property ownership,
wealth, income, or statist authoritarianism and exclusion. Reducing and
ultimately removing such hierarchies of reward, circumstance, status, or
power would improve society.

        A society is more liberated to the degree that it fosters
solidarity such that its citizens, by the actions they must take to survive
and fulfill themselves, come to care about, promote, and benefit from one
another's well being, rather than getting ahead only at one another's
        A society is more liberated to the degree that its citizens enjoy
comparably rewarding and demanding life experiences and equal incomes,
assuming comparable effort and sacrifice on their parts to contribute to
the social good.
        A society is more liberated to the extent that its citizens are
able to democratically influence decisions proportionately as they are
affected by those decisions and have the circumstances, knowledge, and
information required for this level of participation.        
        A society is more liberated to the extent that diversity is
fostered and nourished in social relations, in relations with nature, and
in all dimensions of life.         
      In essence, society will benefit to the extent we can reduce
oppression and increase solidarity, diversity, equity, and democratic
participation and influence. If you agree with the principles already, and
you would feel good about arguing on their behalf and telling other folks
about OLS so they might join, then please use the join button to the top
left or immediately below to add your name to our membership tally and to
make our project yours too. 
      On the other hand, you may agree with the five principles but feel
strange about advocating them or about urging other folks to join OLS.     
If so, please consider the the rest of the content of this site.  Or
perhaps you find yourself disagreeing with one or more of our five
principles. This may signify a real disagreement in aims between you and
us, or it may be a problem with the words we have chosen to convey our
      Perhaps they seem to you to mean something other than what we intend.
Therefore, before moving on, and to see if your doubts arise only from our
poor communication, you might want to consider this. 
        As we understand the principles, and as we intend their meaning,
taking our logic in reverse, to disagree with the first principle suggests
          You would favor changes in our society that create more division
of opportunity and circumstance based on race or religion, or         
          You would welcome more difference in quality of life based on
people's gender or sexual preference, or
          You would favor more economic division due to wider disparities
in wealth and income, or         
          You would advocate more difference in political power. 
        Or, for the rest of the principles, you might
        disagree because you think that other things equal:
          For our society to pit its members against one another to an ever
increasing degree would improve things, and so you would advocate it, or 
          For our society to have less diversity would be a gain, and so
you would advocate it, or 
          For our society to have more people who cannot influence events
that impact them would be positive, and so you would advocate it, or 
          For our society to have disparities of wealth and circumstance
even wider than now would be good, and so you would advocate it.
        Well, okay, if some of these are your view, then we should agree to
disagree, for now, at least. OLS is not a place you would want to hang your
hat. Perhaps down the road a way... 
        But if these eight reverse views, so typical of mainstream U.S.
media and business, don't strike you as worthy, please go back and take
another look at our five principles and consider their practical import
again. Maybe you do agree with us, but our language got in the way the
first time through.