Having studied the results of the many question ZCom poll that sought reactions to a host of positive assertions drawn from roughly 100 Reimagining Society Essays, it seems clear a large subset of ZCom users share significant aspirations and approaches.
In that light, I revisited those materials and tried to piece together a single question about joining or not joining an imagined new membership organization. Just how much support would such a new organization, with features chosen to be consistent with the overwhelming majority of respondants to the poll, attract?
The poll would query not about an International that would combine lots of existing groups, projects, movements, and parties, as indicated in The Proposal for a Participatory Socialist International – but about a single new membership organization, with its own chapters, policies, program, politics, etc.
In a few weeks, if this poll idea seems sensible, we would put a one question poll up on ZCom and strongly urge users to post their answer and, in the event that they wish to, also a blog or comment explaining their answer – all of which would display together.
Before deciding whether to make such a new poll live, however, we would like to get feedback on the idea, and also on possible wording of the one big question.
Thus…here is a draft of POSSIBLE text for such a poll.
First, do you think it makes sense to have such a one question poll?
Second, do you think the wording of the one big question is okay, or that it needs some alterations?
Regarding alterations, if possible, please don’t just say we should make it better, clearer, shorter, or whatever – but instead, if you can, please propose actual changes you think would help.
To indicate your views, you can just comment on this blog post. Then we can all discuss comments, and consider how to proceed.
Commenting here, in other words, will impact our actions, so please take some time to do so.
A (draft of a possible) One Question Poll
IMAGINE an organization is established in your country, including that is has a chapter where you live, and that it has other chapters in your country and in many other countries as well, and that it has the defining features listed below…and has no additional features that you significantly dislike. On hearing about this new organization, would you:
- be eager to join and promptly sign up
- join, but without excitement
- not join, but with some hope the organization would prove positive
- not join, and be somewhat upset at the organization’s existence fearing it might to more harm than good
- not join, and be very concerned about the organization’s existence, feeling pretty sure it will do more harm than good
Here, then, are the defining features that the proposed organization hypothetically embodies as a basis for the poll taker to decide his or her reaction to it…
The organization, as some general priorities:
- is anti capitalist.
- seeks to transcend 20th Century market and centrally planned socialism.
- flexibly explores and advocates long term vision sufficiently to inspire and orient current activity, but without seeking detailed blueprints that transcend needs and knowledge.
- centrally addresses economics/class, politics, culture/race, kinship/gender, ecology, and international relations without privileging any one focus above the rest.
- sees social strategy as largely contingent on place and time and therefore continually provides means for revision of shared views in light of new evidence, including constantly updating its analysis, vision, and strategy.
The organization seeks a new political system for a new society that:
- facilitates all citizens deliberating sufficiently to arrive at well-considered views and to participate in decision-making in all realms
- utilizes transparent mechanisms to carry out decisions as well as assess that they have been carried out correctly.
- conveys to all citizens a self managing say in legislative decisions proportionate to effects on them whether via grassroots assemblies/councils, or communes, various forms of direct participation or representation and delegation, and/or voting options such as majority rule, some other voting algorithm, or consensus, etc., as needed to attain self management.
- offers maximum civil liberties to all, including freedom of speech, press, religion, assembly, organizing political parties and other organizations, and dissent
- promotes diversity so individuals and groups can pursue their own goals consistent with not interfering with the same rights accorded to others
- builds solidarity among people and fairly, peacefully, and constructively adjudicates disputes and deals with violations of social norms and laws, seeking both justice and rehabilitation.
- supports all community members contributing to solving problems and exploring possibilities to ensure that there are no political hierarchies that privilege some citizens over others.
The organization seeks a new economy for a new society such that:
- no individuals or groups own the means of production (land, mines, factories, etc.) such that ownership is social and doesn’t impact anyone’s decision making influence or share of income.
- payment for labor provides everyone morally fair shares of the social output and economically and socially effective incentives, rejecting payment according to property, bargaining power, or the value of personal output, and instead establishing that workers who are able and who work longer at socially valued labor, including their own training, earn proportionately more for doing so; workers who work harder at socially valued labor earn proportionately more for doing so; and workers who work under more onerous conditions earn proportionately more for doing so, while those who are unable to work receive a full and fair share nonetheless.
- there is no authoritarian workplace decision-making by any elite operating above the workforce and instead, workers have a say in decisions, to the extent possible, and over time, proportionate to effects on them, where this is sometimes best attained by majority rule, sometimes by consensus, etc., in accord with diverse conditions and the characteristics of different types of decisions.
- there is no corporate division of labor of the sort common to both capitalist and 20th century socialist economies in which roughly a fifth of the workforce do overwhelmingly empowering tasks and four fifths do overwhelmingly rote, repetitive, and, in any event, disempowering tasks – and, instead, each worker enjoys conditions of work suitable for him or her to be sufficiently confident, informed, and empowered to participate effectively in decision making, which includes having a socially average share of empowering tasks, whether this be accomplished by balanced job complexes or some other suitable new design of work.
- allocation would not occur by market competition or top-down dictate, but instead by decentralized cooperative negotiation of inputs and outputs consistent with self-management, whether this be accomplished by participatory planning by workers and consumers councils, or by some other suitable method.
The organization seeks gender and kin relations for a new society that:
- seek to eliminate hierarchies of reward of influence based on gender or sexual preference
- do not privilege certain types of family formation over others but instead actively support all types of families that are consistent with society’s other broad norms and practices.
- promote children’s well-being and affirm society’s responsibility for all its children, at the same time as affirming the right of diverse types of families to have children and to provide them with love and a sense of rootedness and belonging.
- minimize or eliminate the use of age-based designations, preferring non-arbitrary means for determining when an individual is old enough, or young enough, to participate in certain economic, political or other activities, or to receive certain benefits/privileges.
- respect marriage and other lasting relations among adults as religious, cultural, or social practices, but reject the idea of legal marriage as a way to gain financial benefits or social status.
- respect care giving as a socially valuable function including ensuring that it doesn’t disproportionately fall on women, including making care giving a part of every citizen’s social responsibilities or other worthy means to ensure equity.
- affirm diverse expressions of sexual pleasure, personal identity, and mutual intimacy while ensuring each person honors the autonomy, humanity, and rights of others.
- provide diverse, empowering education about sex, as about all social relations including legal prohibitions against any kind of non-consensual sex.
The organization seeks ecological relations for a new society that:
- account for the full ecological costs and benefits of economic and social choices so that future populations can make informed choices about levels of production and consumption, duration of work, self reliance, energy use and harvesting, husbandry, pollution, climate policies, conservation, consumption, and other aims and activities as part of their freely made decisions about future policies.
- foster a consciousness of ecological connection and responsibility so that future citizens are well prepared to decide policies regarding animal rights, vegetarianism, or veganism, etc., that transcend sustainability, and even husbandry, consistently with their ecological preferences and their broader agendas for other social and economic functions, as they freely decide for themselves in future settings.
The organization seeks cultural and community relations for a new society that:
- ensure people can have multiple cultural and social identities recognizing that which identity is most important to any particular person at any particular time will depend on the person’s situation and assessments.
- explicitly recognize that rights and values exist regardless of cultural identity, so that all people deserve self management, equity, solidarity, and liberty, and so that while society protects all people’s right to affiliate freely and fosters diversity, its core values are universal.
- guarantee free entry and exit to and from all cultural communities in society including affirming that communities that do have free entry and exit can be under the complete self determination of their members, so long as policies and actions don’t conflict with society’s laws.
The organization seeks international relations in a new world such that:
- international institutions put an end to imperialism in all its forms, colonialism, neo colonialism, neo liberalism, etc.
- international institutions are internationalist in that they diminish economic disparities in countries’ relative wealth while also protecting cultural and social patterns interior to each country from external violation and facilitating international entwinement and ties as people desire.
The organization’s broad action agenda or program, while of course regularly updated and adapted, nonetheless always:
- seeks to incorporate seeds of the future in its present projects at least regarding class, race, gender, sexual, age, and power relations.
- seeks to constantly grow support and membership among the class, nationality, and gender constituencies it claims to aid.
- seeks to learn from and seek unity with audiences far wider than its own membership including emphasizing attracting younger generations and affirmatively empowering younger members and of course participating in, supporting, building, and aiding diverse social movements and struggles.
- seeks changes in society both for citizens to enjoy immediately, and also to establish by the terms of its victories and even more so by the means used in its organizing, a likelihood that citizens will pursue and win more change in the future.
- seeks to connect efforts, resources, and lessons across continents and from country to country, even as it also recognizes that strategy for different places, and times will differ.
- seeks short term changes by its own actions and programs and by support of larger movements and projects as its affected members decide, both internationally and by country, and also more locally, including addressing global warming, arms control, war and peace, level and composition of economic output, agricultural relations, education, health care, income distribution, duration of work, gender roles, racial relations, media, law, legislation, etc., as its members choose.
- seeks to develop mechanisms that provide financial, legal, employment, and emotional support to its members so that its members can be in a better position to participate as fully as they wish and negotiate the various challenges and sometimes negative effects of taking part in radical actions.
- works to substantially improve the life situations of its members, including aiding their feelings of self worth, their knowledge, skills, and confidence, their mental, physical, sexual, and spiritual health, and even their social ties and engagements, leisure enjoyments, etc.
- sets up internal structures and defines its action agenda to facilitate everyone’s participation in the organization, including, when possible, offering childcare at meetings and events, finding ways to reach out to those who might be immersed in kinship duties, aiding those with busy work schedules due to multiple jobs, etc., monitoring and responding to sexism, racism, classism, and homophobia as they may be manifested internally, having diverse roles in projects suitable to people with different situations, etc.
- seeks means to develop, debate, disseminate, and advocate truthful news, analysis, vision, and strategy among its members and also in the wider society, including developing and sustaining needed media and means of face to face communication, etc.
- uses diverse methods of agitation and struggle from educational efforts to rallies and marches, to demonstrations, boycotts, strikes, and direct actions, etc., to win gains and build movements.
- places a very high burden of proof on utilizing violence, including cultivating a decidedly non violent attitude.
- assesses engaging in electoral politics case by case, including cultivating a very cautious electoral attitude.
The organization’s structure and policy:
- seeks to be internally classless and self-managing including structuring itself so that a minority who are initially disproportionately endowed with needed skills, information, and confidence do not form a formal or informal decision-making hierarchy, leaving less prepared members to follow orders or perform only rote tasks.
- strives to implement the self management norm that "each member has say proportional to the degree they are effected" in its decision-making structures.
- guarantees groups of members rights to organize “currents” and guarantees these “currents” full rights of democratic debate
- welcomes internal debate and dissent, making room, as possible, for contrary views to exist and be tested alongside preferred views.
- respects diversity, so that continental, national, regional, city, and local chapters can respond to their own circumstances and implement their own programs, so long as their choices do not interfere with the shared goals and principles of the organization as a whole, or with other local groups addressing their own situations.
- provides extensive opportunities for people to participate in organizational decision making, including engaging in deliberation with others so as to arrive at the most well-considered decisions, including implementing mechanisms for carrying out collective decisions and for the membership to assure that the decisions have been carried out correctly.
- strives to provide transparency regarding any actions by elected or delegated leaders with a high burden of proof for secreting any agenda to avoid repression, etc.
- provides the membership with a mechanism to recall any leaders or representatives who the members believe are not adequately representing them.
- provides internal means for fairly, peacefully, constructively – and non destructively – resolving internal disputes.
- apportions empowering and disempowering tasks among its members to ensure that no individuals control the organization by having a relative monopoly on information, etc.
- incorporates its members in developing, debating, and also deciding on proposals, and treats lack of participation as a serious problem to be addressed whenever it surfaces.