imc indymedia

Los Angeles Indymedia : Activist News

white themeblack themered themetheme help
About Us Contact Us Calendar Publish RSS
latest news
best of news




A-Infos Radio

Indymedia On Air

Dope-X-Resistance-LA List


IMC Network:

Original Cities africa: ambazonia canarias estrecho / madiaq kenya nigeria south africa canada: hamilton london, ontario maritimes montreal ontario ottawa quebec thunder bay vancouver victoria windsor winnipeg east asia: burma jakarta japan korea manila qc europe: abruzzo alacant andorra antwerpen armenia athens austria barcelona belarus belgium belgrade bristol brussels bulgaria calabria croatia cyprus emilia-romagna estrecho / madiaq euskal herria galiza germany grenoble hungary ireland istanbul italy la plana liege liguria lille linksunten lombardia london madrid malta marseille nantes napoli netherlands nice northern england norway oost-vlaanderen paris/Île-de-france patras piemonte poland portugal roma romania russia saint-petersburg scotland sverige switzerland thessaloniki torun toscana toulouse ukraine united kingdom valencia latin america: argentina bolivia chiapas chile chile sur cmi brasil colombia ecuador mexico peru puerto rico qollasuyu rosario santiago tijuana uruguay valparaiso venezuela venezuela oceania: adelaide aotearoa brisbane burma darwin jakarta manila melbourne perth qc sydney south asia: india mumbai united states: arizona arkansas asheville atlanta austin baltimore big muddy binghamton boston buffalo charlottesville chicago cleveland colorado columbus dc hawaii houston hudson mohawk kansas city la madison maine miami michigan milwaukee minneapolis/st. paul new hampshire new jersey new mexico new orleans north carolina north texas nyc oklahoma philadelphia pittsburgh portland richmond rochester rogue valley saint louis san diego san francisco san francisco bay area santa barbara santa cruz, ca sarasota seattle tampa bay tennessee urbana-champaign vermont western mass worcester west asia: armenia beirut israel palestine process: fbi/legal updates mailing lists process & imc docs tech volunteer projects: print radio satellite tv video regions: oceania united states topics: biotech

Surviving Cities africa: canada: quebec east asia: japan europe: athens barcelona belgium bristol brussels cyprus germany grenoble ireland istanbul lille linksunten nantes netherlands norway portugal united kingdom latin america: argentina cmi brasil rosario oceania: aotearoa united states: austin big muddy binghamton boston chicago columbus la michigan nyc portland rochester saint louis san diego san francisco bay area santa cruz, ca tennessee urbana-champaign worcester west asia: palestine process: fbi/legal updates process & imc docs projects: radio satellite tv
printable version - js reader version - view hidden posts - tags and related articles

OPINION: After Genoa: A Democratic Revolutionary Movement?

by Guy Berliner Saturday, Jul. 28, 2001 at 9:54 AM

After Genoa, all doubts should have vanished: We ARE living in revolutionary times. But where will that revolutionary potential lead, and what can and should we do about it?

If there were still any doubts in anyone's minds that we

find ourselves in revolutionary times, that there is afoot

in the world a movement for revolutionary, democratic

social change that represents, in the words of Susan

George, "the most beautiful hope in thirty years," the

hundreds of thousands of people in the streets of Genoa

should now have totally extinguished such doubts.

And yet, we are faced with the question, "Where to from

here?" Many possibilities compete for our attention. We

have a variety of tactics to choose from, of ideological

"wares" for sale. What points can unite us? What can we

say definitively about our strategies or tactics?

Each of these things warrants careful consideration:

Points of unity: what fundamental principles do we share?

Strategy: a long term plan of action.

Tactics: the particular short term strategems on the field

of battle, differing from one battle to another, that can

advance our strategy.

Our points of unity must inform both our strategy and

tactics. Here's a rough sketch of some things we might

agree on: That there is an elite clique in our society

that has seized inordinate control of almost every aspect

of our culture, our economy, and our politics, in our own

and many other countries. That the elites in different

countries, like in the feudal days of old, are incestuous

and bear more affinity to each other than to their own

countrymen. That the consequences of this are urgent and

dreadfully harmful for human wellbeing and ecological

survival. That the capitalist system of social relations

is deeply implicated in this state of affairs. That

"the system" is radically defective, does not and cannot

effectively represent the interests of the majority as it

claims to, and an effective democratic change must work

against the systemic dynamics that perpetuate injustices,

and that such change must of necessity be brought about by

a "force majeure" imposing itself from outside that system,

and cannot be wrought solely working within it.

These points more or less sum up much of radical politics

today. Unfortunately, we seldom get past the tedious

repetition of these points and this analysis. But this is

where the really challenging and important work ahead lies:

vision for the future, and strategy and tactics to get us

there. And this is where humility is called for.

I don't have much precise wisdom to offer anyone on these

matters. I'm as much at sea as anyone else once I get past

the analysis of what's wrong and start to talk about what

we can and should do about it. But I can think of at least

a few principles to guide us at this crucial task.

One thing I think we can agree on: A democratic revolution

must, by definition, engage the majority of people. It

must be "of, by, and for the people." If we radicals

talk in jargon, if our discourse becomes a closed little

universe for initiates only, then there's no hope of

such a discourse encouraging "the people" to become

the least bit interested in the struggle we advocate.

That includes this essay. Even here I have made little

attempt to carefully weigh my message so that it would be

radical, visionary, yet also highly accessible to anyone

not initiated to radical, visionary politics. I haven't

done it, not because it can't be done or isn't urgently

needed, but because I simply don't have that skill yet.

Another thing we can agree on, practically a mere corollary

to the last: we must not do anything that isolates us

from the majority of people. Why would we want to do that,

and who benefits from it? It has been said that the first

principle of the PR biz in defeating popular opposition

to ruling class prerogatives is: Isolate the radicals.

We must, on the contrary, do everything to enlarge our

movement to include the broadest participation of the

immense majority of people whose interests are disserved

by the current world system. Clearly nothing less than

such a massive participation -- greater than anything

heretofore -- can effectively confront and defeat the

forces arrayed against us.

I would maintain that this last point, in most cases,

is a strong, practical argument for nonviolence. One

of the surest ways for the powerful to isolate and

demonize their radical opponents is to brand them as

"violent," "irrational," and "lunatic." Having said this,

people everywhere understand that there is a place for

legitimate self defense. People everywhere will tend to

honor and identify with principled and disciplined self

defense. This requires much self discipline in resisting

provocation. If our actions are motivated mainly by anger,

this self discipline and restraint becomes difficult. This

brings to mind another point also raised by Susan George:

In Sun Tzu's _The Art of War_, the aspiring warrior is

urged not to do "that which would be most gratifying to you

in the moment," but always to do "that which your enemy

would least like you to do." And, as a practical point,

the scope for effective use of force in our movement

is highly limited, when the forces of repression are so

overwhelming and so exclusively at the disposal of our

opponents. To fail to acknowledge this and act on this

knowledge could be suicidal.

It should also be clear, that to the extent that our

movement is greatly enlarged, it will yet further

embolden those within it to take risks to bring about

change. People must, as a matter of survival, constantly

make a calculation, "Do the odds of this or that action

effectively serving the cause of freedom for us all,

outweigh the risks and costs to myself?" Few people

have any desire to be martyrs, especially for a hopeless

and ineffectual cause. But against this is balanced the

fact that militant action can also embolden others. We

cannot discourage everyone from taking on unusual risks,

because some of those who do so, and succeed, become heroic

examples that can advance our movement dramatically. And

in a cynical age, we need heroes, so there's nothing wrong

with that. It's a difficult problem fraught with danger,

and we should never encourage martyrdom or egomania of

any kind. And yet, we should recognize the fact that some

people will be deeply inspired in a spiritual way to take

unusual risks to advance our shared struggle.

Another point we ought to agree on: Different tactics and

methods of organization are necessary for different groups,

at different times and places.

I would argue that this militates strongly against the

philosophy of "vanguardism," the idea that a revolutionary

cadre should form a "party" and attempt to apply central

direction, organization, and discipline to the rest of

the movement.

Of what use would a revolution be that succeeded in

overthrowing one ruling clique, only to supplant it

with another? Every ruling group devises an ideological

justification for its dominance. History is littered with

revolutionary struggles that degenerated in just this way.

"Vanguardists" sometimes make cogent arguments that,

in the face of the overwhelming power of our opponents,

which they have gained as small but well organized

minorities, a similar level of organizational discipline

is called for on our part. This is "our only force

multiplier." ( But while it

is true that organization is key to success in every

undertaking, particularly revolution, not one of us knows

the secret to organizing a democratic revolution. By

definition, such a thing must engage the energies of the

majority of people. A revolution organized by a group

operating on different principles than those of the new

society it professes to fight for, and led by different

people than the majority on whose behalf it claims to act,

is a practical impossibility.

Armies might conceivably fight to protect democratic

societies without themselves being organized in a

democratic fashion, but only if they are subservient to

an already existing democratically organized society. But

the army that must fight for the democratic revolution

we hope to bring about must be of an entirely different

sort than the conventional authoritarian one, since the

democratically organized society is what we are trying

to bring about in the first place (and since it doesn't

exist yet, an "undemocratic army" can't be subordinated

to it! --QED). An undemocratic "vanguard" can only bring

about an undemocratic state, since there's no mechanism

to hold it accountable, whereas a democratic society must

be self-actualizing, built from the beginning of the same

stuff as it consists of at the end.

This brings us back to strategy -- and the need for

humility. Since the democratic revolution that we are

working for is in some ways unprecedented, there are no

ready-made models at hand. Like any organism or ecological

system, it is a spontaneously emergent order. And there

is not a mind that can comprehend in its richness all the

wonders, all the interconnections between all the parts of

such a thing. Thus, in a certain sense, it is misleading

to speak of "strategy." As with the growth and development

of a seed or an embryo, it's not that there isn't an

intricate, spontaneous order that arises, seemingly as

if by some "plan." It's just that, while we can observe

this order, and sometimes even usefully intervene at some

points in it, we cannot plan it out in detail. No real

human society, no human language, indeed, no complex

phenomenon of any kind is every planned in this way.

Thus, we should reject the sclerotic ideological

straitjackets that have enjoyed too much prestige for

too long on the left. Our discourse and our methods of

organization ought to be both radical yet practical. We

should eschew jargon and dogma of every kind.

The great and fatal mistake of leftists inspired by Marx

and Engles was in thinking that, because one could make a

systematic analysis of the contradictions of capitalism,

that therefore one could devise a systematic method of

overthrowing capitalism and building a new society. It

wasn't utopianism that killed hope for a democratic

revolution, so much as the hubris of its planners.

Our challenge, then, is to imagine how a society

could operate with many autonomous organizations at

many levels, cooperating in a spontaneous, organic

democracy, with no one giving the rest orders and

expecting them to march in lockstep. This is the way

every actual organic being functions. And as we imagine

such spontaneous self ordering, we should look for

ways to participate in bringing it about here and now,

in our very movement. Fortunately, this is already in

fact happening, and it is precisely in this way that a

democratic revolution will be "built," and "built from the

beginning of the same stuff as it consists of at the end."

Report this post as:

Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 4 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
anarchist? peter kropotkin Thursday, Aug. 02, 2001 at 5:03 AM
who are you and what is this? vincent bevins Friday, Aug. 03, 2001 at 5:54 AM
Re: who are you and what is this? Guy Berliner Friday, Aug. 03, 2001 at 3:18 PM
technique for automatic cooperation Atrek Saturday, Aug. 04, 2001 at 12:07 AM

Local News

Change Links September 2018 posted S02 10:22PM

More Scandals Rock Southern California Nuke Plant San Onofre A30 11:09PM

Site Outage Friday A30 3:49PM

Change Links August 2018 A14 1:56AM

Setback for Developer of SC Farm Land A12 11:09PM

More problems at Shutdown San Onofre Nuke J29 10:40PM

Change Links 2018 July posted J09 8:27PM

More Pix: "Families Belong Together," Pasadena J02 7:16PM

"Families Belong Together" March, Pasadena J02 7:08PM

Short Report on the Families Belong Together Protest in Los Angeles J30 11:26PM

Summer 2018 National Immigrant Solidarity Network News Alert! J11 6:58AM

Watch the Debate: Excluded Candidates for Governor of California M31 5:20AM

Change Links June 2018 posted M28 7:41AM

The Montrose Peace Vigil at 12 Years M22 8:01PM

Unity Archive Project M21 9:42AM

Dianne Feinstein's Promotion of War, Secret Animal Abuse, Military Profiteering, Censorshi M17 10:22PM

CA Senate Bill 1303 would require an independent coroner rather than being part of police M10 9:08PM

Three years after OC snitch scandal, no charges filed against sheriffs deputies M10 8:57PM

California police agencies violate Brown Act (open meetings) M02 8:31PM

Insane Company Wants To Send Nuke Plant Waste To New Mexico A29 11:47PM

Change Links May 2018 A27 8:40AM

Worker-Owned Car Wash on Vermont Closed A27 5:37AM


lausd whistle blower A11 6:58AM

Website Upgrade A10 10:02AM

Help KCET and UCLA identify 60s-70s Chicano images A04 8:02PM

UCLA Luskin: Casting Youth Justice in a Different Light A02 6:58PM

More Local News...

Other/Breaking News

Irrémissible, l'inhumanité acquise en héritage S26 6:37AM

Addendum: Benjamin Tucker American Mutualist: Tucker Did Not Advocate Voting in Businesses S25 11:45PM

OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center Celebrates 25 Years with the House of Hope Gala S24 7:10PM

Against the Rent Madness and For a Nonprofit Orientation! S24 11:56AM

Cybermonde, cyberguerre, cyberespace, cyberterrorisme S24 6:35AM

Paraphysique de psychosomatique S22 6:58AM

Chuck Grassley: Women Abusing, Animal Murdering, Illegal War Supporting Criminal S22 2:58AM

Finance Capitalism and the Digital Economy S21 4:45PM

Muselières syndicales, muselières patronales S21 7:19AM

Jeff Bezos, Amazon, The Washington Post, Whole Foods, Etc S21 2:50AM

Why Choose Nut Milk Over Cows' Milk S21 1:01AM

Antrhopocène, le grand effondrement S19 9:53AM

Abolir l'économie S18 11:18AM

The Dictatorship of Corporations S17 5:26PM

18 Lethal Consequences Of Hunting S17 3:13PM

Paraphysique de l'outplacement déontologue S15 6:51AM

Shopping du bashing S14 8:42AM

After Lehman Brothers, Experts Say Global Financial Crisis Can Happen Again S13 8:28PM

“Animaniacs in Concert!” Starring Voice Legend Rob Paulsen S12 9:30PM

Probabilités de fin d'humanité S12 6:49AM

Florida Area of Migrant Farmworkers Denied Right to Construct Health Clinic near NaplesCIW S11 2:57AM

Steer clear of work morality! S09 12:10PM

The Shortwave Report 09/07/18 Listen Globally! S06 11:23PM

August 2018 Honduras Coup update S06 12:28PM

Brett Kavanaugh Filled The 5th Circuit With Execution Judges S06 6:14AM

Augusta Georgia Woman Gets 5 Year Prison Sentence for Writing About Russians Crime Acts S05 8:29AM

Paraphysique de contextualité S05 8:29AM

Crisis Regulation in Global Capitalism S03 3:39PM

More Breaking News...
© 2000-2018 Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Unless otherwise stated by the author, all content is free for non-commercial reuse, reprint, and rebroadcast, on the net and elsewhere. Opinions are those of the contributors and are not necessarily endorsed by the Los Angeles Independent Media Center. Running sf-active v0.9.4 Disclaimer | Privacy