A movement without a program?


Richard Moore

Dear rn,

I've received two primary criticisms regarding the
'Manifesto for global transformation', which was posted on
19 Jan. The first was about 'decentralization'.  Most people
seem to be afraid of that idea, due I suggest to our long
confinement in hierarchical cages.  Nonetheless, that fear
is there, and in response the Guidebook will approach that
material in quite a different way, showing more respect and
understanding for how people feel about these issues.

The other criticism was about the vagueness of the program
offered in the Manifesto.  For this, a special section seems
warranted (below).  I'm eager to find out you, our rn
activist community, respond to these ideas.

fire away,


b. A movement without a program?

    "The first step is to penetrate the clouds of deceit and
    distortion and learn the truth about the world, then to
    organise and act to change it. That's never been impossible
    and never been easy."
    - Noam Chomsky

 I have suggested that we - the global community - need to find a
 way to come together, develop a common vision of what kind of world
 we want to create, and build together a movement to bring that
 world into existence. Before proceeding with these ideas, I must
 acknowledge that this is a very unusual proposal for how to build a
 movement. Most movements start with an identified 'problem' - and a
 specific idea for a 'solution'. The movement then grows by rallying
 people around awareness of that problem and support for that
 solution. Environmental activists, having identified 'environmental
 destruction' as the problem, then built a movement around 'legal
 protections globally' and 'right-action locally' as the solution.
 In our case, without such a concrete solution, how can we expect to
 draw people to our movement? Why do I think a 'solutionless'
 movement can succeed? And why do I advocate this approach in
 preference to any other kind of movement?

 The answer to these questions begins with the nature of the
 'problem' that our movement is intended to address. That problem is
 a very broad one indeed - the entire world system, from bottom to
 top, needs to be fundamentally transformed. For our movement to
 offer a concrete 'solution', that solution would need to provide an
 entire plan for a new society. It would need to show exactly how
 our economies can become sustainable, how they could provide an
 acceptable level of prosperity, and how we are to deal with the
 over-population problem. The plan would need to show how
 governments can be made responsive to the needs and wishes of
 people - and how the rise of new elites could be prevented.

 The organizers of the movement would need to come up with a
 'comprehensive design for society' and then hope the people of the
 world would adopt it. In some sense, the organizers would be
 following in the tradition of utopian thinkers like Plato with his
 'Republic', or Marx with his 'dictatorship of the proletariat'.
 Such efforts have either been universally ignored by societies, or
 else when implemented they have turned out quite differently than
 the vision predicted.

 I simply do not believe that some person or group is going to
 succeed in designing a plan which is so complete and so appealing
 that most of the world's people will be willing to adopt it - and
 forsake the system they're familiar with. And even if this
 happened, there would always be a question we'd ask with our
 fingers crossed: "Have our designers thought of everything? Might
 there be a fatal bug somewhere in the system that will come back to
 haunt us?"

 Another reason our movement can't offer a concrete plan is because
 of the immense diversity of societies in the world. How can any one
 concrete 'design for society' be appropriate for Manhattan Island,
 the Indians of Peru, and New Zealand sheep ranchers? The plan would
 need multiple versions, suitable for different cultures and
 different conditions. If utopian efforts have failed historically,
 how could we hope to come up with a dozen successful utopian
 variants all at once?

 Furthermore, consider the immense diversity of values, customs,
 world views, and religions throughout the world. If the plan
 aligned its perspective with any of these ideological factions,
 then that would tend to alienate the others. On the other hand, if
 the plan attempted to be 'value free', that might create problems
 of its own. One would need _some foundation on which to base the
 new design, and a reference to _some kind of values in order to
 prefer one policy over another.

 In fact there are literally hundreds of individuals and groups
 advocating one or another plan for society. Some call for universal
 adoption of a new nature-based spiritual path; others continue to
 seek a worker's revolution and world socialism; still others seek
 global adoption of some strategic reform measure, such as the Tobin
 Tax. In this way potential energy in support of fundamental change
 is dissipated into myriad competing initiatives, none of which will
 ever be able to muster a dominant constituency.

 For all of these reasons, I believe that no prepackaged 'plan for
 society' can be the basis for building a successful global movement
 for fundamental change. We must find some other means of rallying a
 movement together, and then the movement itself must take
 responsibility for developing its program, or programs, for
 society. If the movement is to be the vehicle by which the people
 of the world find their common voice, then it is entirely suitable
 that the movement also be the vehicle by which they reach a common
 understanding of what kind of world they want to create.