(1) At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what you reject, but I wonder what you are for? What institutions do you want that you think will be better than what we have, for the economy, polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you think is central to have vision for?
I think less in terms of institutions and more in terms of processes. Capitalism is more than a set of institutions but a process of exploitation that is advanced through various institutions. So, I begin with the need to end or transcend capitalism and commence a process that leads to the end of exploitation and classes.
In order for this to happen—which for me means socialism, which can only be socialism if it is democratic—society will need to be reorganized in such a way that production is, ultimately, no longer for profit and goods are produced to both meet the needs of the people along with being produced in a way that does not hurt the environment.
There will need to be economic planning at the national, regional and local levels. Ultimately economic planning will need to take place at a global level so that the uneven division of wealth on this planet is not reproduced. The economic planning will need to factor in the needs of a specific geographic area; what can be produced in that area and for what markets (as well as what can be produced for markets outside of that respective region). Such planning will need to involve grassroots people as well as experts, which means that there needs to be an educational process that actually engages grassroots people.
The economic approach taken must be won that addresses the structural inequality that is produced by capitalism. This means that there cannot be an assumption that we all start on an even playing field. Resources must be put into addressing the “underdevelopment” of various communities, ethnic/racial groups, etc. But this also must be taken into account in overcoming the gender division of labor. In this sense, the institutions that are constructed under socialism must be those that aim to repair the damage created by capitalism (as well as the damage that resulted from earlier systems). This includes the damage to the planet; to various peoples; and to women.
(2) Next, someone at the same event asks, "Why do you do what you do? That is, you are speaking to us, and I know you write, and maybe you organize, but why do you do it? What do you think it accomplishes? What is your goal for your coming year, or for your next ten years?
I do what I do as a leftist writer and activist because I cannot imagine a more meaningful life. I look around at people who are, on a daily basis, attempting to make sense out of the insanity of capitalism. But I also believe that in order to respond successfully to oppression, one must build organization. For this reason I get frustrated with those who believe that electronic organizing can substitute for personal interaction—face to face—with living human beings.
I have many goals over the next number of years. For one, I want to retain my health and spirit to fight back and to resist oppression. Second, I want to be a part of constructing a political party of the radical Left that links together activists and leaders from progressive social movements with the objective of social transformation. Third, I want to work with an even broader assortment of progressive activists committed to the more immediate struggle for structural reform under capitalism.
(3) You are at home and you get an email that says a new organization is trying to form, internationally, federating national chapters, etc. It asks you to join the effort. Can you imagine plausible conditions under which you would say, yes, I will give my energies to making it happen along with the rest of you who are already involved? If so, what are those conditions? Or – do you think instead that regardless of the content of the agenda and make up of the participants, the idea can’t be worthy, now,or perhaps ever. If so, why?
I would be very excited by such an effort, though I would also have a certain amount of what I believe to be healthy skepticism. Though an internationalist, I believe that social struggles largely take place within the context of a nation-state. Thus, while I would be excited about an international organization I would want to understand how it was run; how decisions were made; what would be the impact of such an organization on decisions that take place in a national setting; This is particularly important when one factors in that the USA is at the center of a global empire and that imperial consciousness infects much of the population, including segments of the Left.
That said, I would want to know that such an organization:
• Had a strategy for the achievement of socialism that recognized the different concrete conditions of various nation-states, yet never forgot the class struggle—domestically or globally.
• Was committed to left-wing anti-imperialism (and, as such, did not conciliate right-wing populism and right-wing anti-imperialism).
• Took up the active struggle against racism, national oppression, male supremacy/patriarchy, hetero-sexism and class oppression.
• Integrated the struggle against environmental catastrophe into the overall work of the organization.
• Had a democratic decision-making process.
(4) Do you think efforts to organize movements, projects, and our own organizations should embody the seeds of the future in the present? If not, why? If yes, can you say what, very roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an organization you would favor?
Yes, they should try. The decision-making process needs to be such that there is broad, democratic discussion leading up to the ultimate, agreed upon conclusions. Debate needs to be encouraged. Term-limits should exist for leaders such that they are not in positions of top authority for more than 10 years (give or take a couple of years) without a break before being able to run again.
The organization must practice criticism/self-criticism where members reflect on their work and make efforts to improve it. In such a situation, criticism cannot be a weapon but must be a vehicle for the improvement of the members and the organization as a whole.
The organization should attempt to build institutions for learning whereby members and friends can have educational and cultural exchanges. There should be an effort for members and contacts to learn from the cultures of different groups, including learning histories and languages. This will necessitate a sophisticated media operation whereby members, friends and constituents learn about struggles taking place around the globe.
(5) Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others did not answer it?
I answered this because I believe that these are the sorts of questions that leftists need to be answering. We need, however, to unpack the answers and not take them for granted.
One of the difficulties that we face, including within this particular project (RESOC) is that there is an insufficient amount of dialogue. Individuals make statements, assertions or arguments, but there is little back and forth between the writers themselves. There are comments posted to some of the essays, but it is not necessarily going where it needs to go.
My conclusion from this is that in addition to having a space for individuals (and groups) to advance their views, there needs to be space for organized exchange. This may encourage others to actively participate.
Part of the difficulty in getting others to participate, in my opinion, revolves around the demands and pressures that people are experiencing in their everyday lives (and in social struggles) as well as a certain level of passivity that is connected to cynicism. In other words, the question that many people ask is, in one form or another, “…where is this going?” To that degree the RESOC process will need to be tied together at some juncture, perhaps leading to locally-based discussions alongside cross-border exchanges and discussions concerning strategy and vision.