1. At a public talk someone asks you, "okay, I understand what
you reject, but I wonder what are you for? What institutions
do you favor that will be better than what we have for the economy,
polity, gender, race, ecology, or whatever you have vision for?
I argue for democratic participatory planned socialism, something like the Pat Devine model. I stress the advantages for environmental sustainability. I don’t usually get asked about gender and race. If asked, I would argue that capitalism tends to divide people by race, fostering a racial hierarchy, whereas socialism would have no such tendency within its institutions since it lacks a class of exploiters who gain from dividing the working class (not a new idea I admit). On gender, I would argue that socialism would provide the basis for genuine gender equality for various reasons: public goods such as childcare would rank high in economic priorities, the paid workweek could be shortened.
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 hope to contribute to the replacement of capitalism by a new socialism, which would not just mean a better world but the chance for human civilization to survive. My goal for the next year is to contribute to the formation of a serious left organization or party in the US, and within ten years for such an organization and associated movement to be in the position to contest for power in society.
I also try to help the left in China and Russia, where I often visit and give talks.
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?
If I were asked to join, and to devote energy to, a new left or socialist organization, if its principles fit in with mine (were close enough, needn’t be perfect fit), I would join and work to build it. I am doubtful that a truly international organization of this type can be formed — the world is too diverse and the political power that lies behind capitalism exists primarily at the nation-state level. I am focused on a US left of socialist organization that I hope would have ties with organizations and movements in other countries. So the plausible conditions are that some folks would get this process started, and I will join up.
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 not? If yes, can you say what, very
roughly, you think some of the implications would be for an
organization you would favor?
We should try to embody the values and processes of the future society in our organizations to the extent possible. Nothing is more radicalizing and mobilizing than for people to become involved in a movement that embodies the values of a future society. However, I don’t expect perfection in this regard. The struggle to transform society is not the same as living and working in the new society. There are requirements of building a movement for radical transformation — the need to unify large numbers of people, the need for leaders who can inspire and unify masses of people, the need to be ready to deal with whatever means might be used by those who run the current system to defend that system even against a majority determined to replace it. This conundrum has in the past produced successful movements for transformation that, once in power, were ill fitted to build the new society. I hope we can overcome this problem this time, with the experience of the earlier ultimately failed efforts as lessons from which we can learn.
5. Why did you answer this interview? Why do you think others
did not answer it?
I am on AMTRAK with my computer and finally have time to go through my back email messages. Some others are probably too busy, others may be unsure of the value the project.