rn> Beyond Left & Right: a personal view


Richard Moore


These comments recently crossed my desk...
    ...For any sane Marxist, the reason to be nervous of a
    suggestion that we should make alliances with American
    far-right groups, religious fundamentalists, movements in
    defence of small property or movements in favour of
    traditional community is not some sense of ideological
    purity. It's historical memory - in particular, the memory
    of what happened in the last century when movements like
    these gained power in most of Europe, and in particular the
    memory of what happened to left-wing intellectuals when
    those movements came to power.
    To: "Richard K. Moore" <•••@••.•••>
    Subject: Re: "Talking with the Enemy" - beyond left & right
    Gosh I feel like singing now: "It's a small world, after
    all, it's a small world after all, it's a small, small
    world."  Right meets left links are both naive and dangerous.
    This sounds more like a self-indulgent and useless therapy
    session to me. All of this comes from a silly Hegelian
    notion that there is a common ground to everything. Maybe
    sometimes we should call evil for what it is--EVIL.

I'd like to bring this discussion down to a personal level. 
I have a close relative, an extended family member, who
happens to be a fundamentalist Christian.  Let's call her

Now G, it turns out, is a wonderful, warm, compassionate
woman, who does her best to live an ethic in the tradition
of Jesus or St. Francis.  Her generosity sometimes shames
me.  I refuse to look at her as an enemy, in fact I
love her as a sister.  On the other hand, she believes all
sorts of things which to me are weird, naive, and
politically dangerous.  Here are a few...
    1) Our societal decline is due to loose liberal values.
    2) The political failure of Washington is due to liberal
       pressure groups, particularly gays.
    3) The US always tries to 'do good' with its foreign policy.
    4) Conservative politicians are truthful, whereas liberal
       politicians lie to get votes.
    5) The Bible is, more or less, the literal truth, as revealed.

On the other hand, she believe a lot of things that I don't
have any problem with:
    1) Schools should have smaller classes and be more locally
    2) Pornography should not be so readily available to minors.
    3) Politicians need to be more honest, accountable, and
       representative of their constituencies.
    4) We need a lot more ethics in public life and a lot less
    5) Corporations shouldn't be allowed to pollute the 

The central question for us, I suggest, is this: Is it
possible for us to create a better society, in such a way
that both G and I would be happy with the outcome?  Or to
put it in the negative, Is it necessary, as a result of the
'revolution', for one of us to 'lose' and the other to
'win'?.  Is there no 'win-win version' of society that both
conservatives and progressives can be happy living in?

Perhaps someone would like to argue the other side, but it
seems to me that a win-win version of society is clearly
possible.  We would each need to give up some things
(compulsory Bible study in schools, compulsory study of
Chomksy in schools), but we could have a lot of good things,
like honest politics, better schools, sustainable economics,
etc.  We could both be happy with the changes, even if we
each retained our separate gripes about the human condition
in general.

As I see it, what 'the movement' needs to be is the 'coming
together of people' to _listen to one another, to _agree on
the 'good things' that we all want, and _agree-to-disagree
(as we do today in society!) about some other things, like
abortion and the Bible.  From this perspective, we would
want to engage the 'other' early in the process, and not
have our 'coming together' be a matter of special-interest

The revolution that makes sense to me is the victory of
common sense over ideology, not the defeat of one ideology
by another.  I'm not interested in any alliances with
right-wing groups, but I'm not interested in participating
in a leftist movement either.  Why don't we check our
ideologies at the door, along with our six guns, and get
together to figure out what kind of society would benefit
all of us and all of our families?


And then reality hits home: How come G and I never talk
about politics without getting into the same old pro-and-con
arguments?  Why don't we ever talk about 'common benefit'

There are of course many reasons, from habit to the fun of
seeing the other one get all wound up.  But part of it is
our beliefs about 'getting results' politically.  The
paradigm we all use is 'join a special interest group'.  If
you're a progressive, join progressive groups and vote for
progressive candidates (if you can find them).  Similar for
conservatives.  Hence, we see each other as political
enemies, each supporting the wrong candidates. No wonder
that our political conversations naturally gravitate toward
this 'open wound' between us.

By now, we should realize that this 'special interest'
approach to political effectiveness is not serving us very
well.  Both sides try to vote for 'lesser-of-two-evils' and
neither ends up with the society they want.  And because we
attach ourselves to polarized causes, as a strategy, we see
no value in discussing things together at the grass-roots
level.  We both know, in our hearts, the other is never
going to switch sides, so what's the point, politically,
of discussion? 

So my suggestion to the movement is to build on the paradigm
that we've seen emerging since Seattle and at Porto Alegra. 
People are finding values and objectives that they can agree
on - in response to globalization and hyper-captalism - and
they are leaving some of their other differences aside. 
This is only a start, but I think its a start in the right

As a movement, we need to move beyond 'pseudocommunity' and
engage in the tougher questions of developing movement
strategy and new-society programs.  We need to go through
the necessary 'chaos' stage and get all our stuff out on the
table.  Then the movement can begin to build _ongoing
cohesion and substance, and not just rise like a pheonix at
each gathering of the global institutions.

And, we need to extend the base of supporters beyond those
already attracted to the movement.  Grass-roots
conservatives are not served by rampant capitalism anymore
than the rest of us, and environmental collapse threatens
all of us equally.  The Titanic is steaming toward the
iceberg, and we're all on board together.  Instead of
grabbing the helm and steering to safety, we're debating
whether the deck chairs should face left or right.

When I talk about 'beyond left and right' I'm talking about
a creative process of listening and dialog between friends
and neighbors, not any alliance between ideologically-
aligned groups.

I've included below the 'stages of community' as stated by
John Bunzil in "Simultaneous Policy" 


    "Pseudocommunity can be described merely as the reaction of
    a group of people who are seeking to form a community and
    start off, as soon as they meet, by pretending they already
    are one..."

    "Chaos is the period when the cloying politeness and
    pleasantness of pseudocommunity finally gives way to the
    participants revealing their true prejudices and irritations
    about each other. This manifests itself as well-intentioned
    but misguided and competitive attempts to heal and convert."

    "Emptiness is the stage at which the participants come
    gradually to realise the futility of their chaotic and
    competitive attempts at healing and converting one another."

    "In [the final, community] stage a soft quietness descends.
    It is a kind of peace.  The room is bathed in peace.  Then,
    quietly, a member of the group begins to talk about
    herself...[etc. etc. etc.]...And community has been born."