Dear Lee, Thanks for forwarding Michael's article, which inspired me to become a ZNet Sustainer and to sign up for the forums. After the article, below, I'm including a response I sent to Michel. By the way, the New Dawn article, "New World Order and What To Do About It", is now on the cj website. rkm ============================================================================ Date: Sun, 19 Mar 2000 11:47:42 -0800 To: •••@••.••• From: •••@••.••• (Lee van der Heiden) Subject: ZNet Commentary / March 19 / Michael Albert / Vision Matters Dear Richard, I've followed cyberlist for almost a year now. I believe the following commentary is relevant for a Democratic Renaissance. BTW - The New Dawn article was superb. My compliments to you. Lee ---<fwd from ZNet Commentaries>--- If you pass this comment along to others, please include an explanation that Commentaries are a premium sent to Sustainer Donors of Z/ZNet and that to learn more about the project folks can consult ZNet (http://www.zmag.org) and specifically the Sustainer Pages: http://www.zmag.org/Commentaries/donorform.htm. Here then is today's ZNet Commentary... --------------- Vision Matters By Michael Albert So far I have sent out an economic vision and strategy commentary each of the past eight Sundays. I assumed we would quickly agree that we don't have but that we do very much need a shared economic vision, and that to get one we need to collectively debate visionary ideas, junk what we don't like, come up with any new features we need, and finally settle on something we can collectively espouse. But since it seems that we don't in fact agree about the importance of this agenda, here I want to re-visit the claim that having shared vision and program is a prerequisite for an effective mass movement. Imagine you are organizing folks for the upcoming Washington IMF/World Bank demonstrations. Or that you are giving a public talk about poverty, or that you are making a presentation in an economics class, or that you are hanging out in a bar chatting with workmates. Someone says, okay, I know you hate what people are paid in our society. You hate our society's jobs. You hate the way its decisions are made. And you hate its competition and profit seeking. So what do you like? What should people earn? How should we arrange jobs? How much power should people have? What kind of workplace or budgetary decision-making should we have? How should goods and services be allocated? What economy do you want instead of capitalism? My experience is that folks skeptical about activism raise just these questions, yet few leftists can compellingly answer them. If there aren't any alternatives to present institutions, these skeptics rightly reason, then seeking systemic change is foolish. If we must have wages paid the way they are now, jobs organized the way they are now, decisions made the way they are now, and profits sought the way they are now, then even if we somehow change some other aspect of our economy, these basics are going to overwhelm any momentary gains, and everything will eventually wind up back where it was or worse. So why seek hopeless change? We can logically rebut such cynicism by noting the important gains movements have won in our history: the end of slavery, women's suffrage, child labor laws, the end of Jim Crow racism, the forty hour workweek. But no matter how high we pile such historical evidence, our reports of past victories won't assuage everyone's doubts about contemporary prospects. To become motivated, most people need to see how economic life could be more fulfilling and how their actions could contribute to such ends. To become motivated, doubtful people need to encounter credible, positive, inspiring aims, over and over, coming from many activists in many venues, all more or less synchronizing what they say for mutual reinforcement. In other words, to become active typical citizens need to repeatedly encounter inspiring organizers with shared vision and strategy. And it isn't only that activists lacking shared vision won't inspire and sustain motivation. Sensibly choosing tactics and usefully stringing together campaigns to reach sought goals also requires shared vision. Vision provides hope and motivates effort, yes, but it also organizes our criticisms and orients our struggles. Vision motivates participation and it informs strategy. Strategy in turn prevents reactive and dysfunctional politics. Yet amazingly, even though there is lack of motivation, reactive organizing, and dysfunctional politics all around us, there is not only little agreement in our movements about either vision or strategy, there is also little effort to rectify the confusion. For example, ZMI is a school that Z holds each summer. Some folks arrive very new to left thought and activity, of course, but many others arrive with an amazing wealth of practical experience. Nonetheless, even in its congenial atmosphere and with its highly motivated constituency, very few who come to ZMI can confidently present an economic (or kinship or cultural or political) vision and strategy. And the same holds true of organizers I meet when I go out to speak with local community groups or on campuses. Many have well formulated understandings of the oppressive dynamics of current institutions, to be sure, but few are clear about what they want in place of current institutions and about how to attain it. Is all this a problem? Is it part of why our movements are weak? Is attaining shared vision and strategy at least as important as enumerating for the fourteen thousandth time that corporations are authoritarian, that poverty hurts, and that profit shouldn't go before people? Or are clear and compelling vision and strategy irrelevant, so that we only need to describe more perfectly how current injustices operate and what our immediate targets should be, and then watch the barricades go up? Parecon itself may or may not be a compelling economic vision, and likewise for the strategic insights I have offered over these past few weeks. But what seems absolutely certain is that if parecon isn't worthy then we need to figure out something else that is. And whether we start with parecon or with something different and better, we need to collectively refine, enhance, and learn how to argue for a vision, as well as how to extrapolate strategy from it. In short, to succeed our movement needs economic vision and related long and short-term program. For that matter, it also needs kinship, cultural, and political vision and program. Of course, not everyone has to be working on developing all this vision and program every minute of every day. But don't quite a few of us have to put some serious energy into that creative task? And at the very least, once visions are enunciated and refined, don't we all have to understand them and make them our own and become good at explaining what we want and how we are going to collectively go about getting it? ============================================================================ Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2000 To: Michael Albert <•••@••.•••> From: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••> Subject: re: Vision Matters Cc: Dear Michael, Someone forwarded me your article "Vision Matters", which led me to the ZNet site (http://www.zmag.org)... I looked over your recent commentaries and also joined the Sustainer program. I've published several articles myself, in various magazines, and I can see that our perspectives have much in common. On the one hand, there's the existing NWO elite regime, and on the other hand, what do we do about it? It is necessary to continually try to awaken people to the reality and implicatons of the NWO, and it is equally necessary to help create a collective vision of a new world. If I understand correctly, your approach to 'creating a vision' is to focus on economic arrangements and to propose a framework for economic relationships that is more equitable and more conducive to a livable world. My own emphasis re/vision is different, but complementary. I focus on political considerations and the need to replace elite rule by genuine democracy. This leads into considerable discussion about what democracy is, really, and how it can be allowed to operate. I've just published an article along these lines which you might find of interest, "The New World Order and What To Do About It": http://cyberjournal.org/cdr/NWO_What_to_do.html My belief is that if we cannot achieve democracy then other reforms are ephemeral, and if we do achieve democracy then our economic and other policies will be worked out through the democratic process. As to how democracy can be achieved, I envision the following scenario... 1) A movement crystallizes around a core agenda of replacing elite rule by democracy, and achieving a livable, sustainable world. (Seattle may have been the spark for this). 2) The movement, as it evolves, develops a functioning democratic process. In particular, it learns how to bring new constituencies into the movement and to harmonize the agendas of its constituencies on a consensus basis into an agenda of action and a program for a new society. 3) By this process, the movement grows to super-majority dimensions and is able to field a winning slate of candidates at all levels. 4) Thus elected, the new officials carry out their mandate: implement the democratically-derived program of the movement. 5) The movement has then become the participative, collaborative framework for civil society. Its process continues, and that is the society's democratic process. Formal elections become a formality only, and formal government serves as an administrative/implementation agency, not a policy-making body. (This is in fact how government operates today, with real policy making being done offline by our friendly wealthy elite.) I'll be posting "Vision Matters" to the cyberjournal lists, along with this letter to you. I'm eager to publish your reply as well, if you have the time to send one. Looking forward to the forums, rkm http://cyberjournal.org ============================================================================ Richard K Moore Wexford, Irleand Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance email: •••@••.••• CDR website: http://cyberjournal.org cyberjournal archive: http://members.xoom.com/centrexnews/ book in progress: http://cyberjournal.org/cdr/gri/gri.html A community will evolve only when the people control their means of communication. -- Frantz Fanon Permission for non-commercial republishing hereby granted - BUT include and observe all restrictions, copyrights, credits, and notices - including this one. ============================================================================ .