[Contribution to the Reimagining Society Project hosted by ZCommunications]
I realize we were asked to have our essays between 3,000 – 5,000 words and that "The Reimagining Society Project is entirely about positively and innovatively proposing vision and strategy for the future." But this essay will be considerably shorter and focused on one particularly positive, though maybe not-so-innovative vision and strategy – because it’s not really a new idea. Throughout this forum there already has been, and undoubtedley will be more, calls for solidarity and organizing – building larger movements – finding strength in numbers and out of diversity, unity.
This essay is another one of those.
"La otra campaña" is spanish for "The Other Campaign." It was devised and carried out by the EZLN in Mexico. The plan was to tour the country, listen to others speak about the problems they faced and build relationships with other groups resisting neoliberalism.
The proposal of uniting organizations under a common banner is not new. David Graeber did just that in this same forum
We are at the point where we can begin to perceive the outlines of how [we] can knit together on a global level, creating new forms of planetary commons to create a genuine insurgent civilization.
I agree. We can perceive them, have been perceiving them and should begin creating them in our local areas: associations of organizations that reflect the kind of organizational structuring we would like to see in a good, free, humanist society. All that we have found inspiring and hopeful in the numerous essays on a participatory society or a participatory economy or a participatory polity, much of it can be put into practice today.
If we want participatory self-management, or participatory democracy then I think we can start utilizing them.
In the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex alone, where I am from, there are dozens of various leftist, radical and progressive groups and lots of them, even those that share the same cause, are isolated from one another. Before we can knit them into national or international associations we should first start knitting them together locally.
In our own cities we can and should create mass associations of autonomous councils, which could be represented by a delegate chosen by the participating group, and because we want each group or organization to have participatory self-management – that is to say we want us all to have a say to the degree we are affected – these associations should be voluntary and decision making left to those participating.
Suppose the Dallas Burrito Project does not want to participate in a "milk box" event organized by Queer Liberaction and the DFW-PPS, and is not affected by the occurrence of the event. Then they should not be a party to making a decision on when, where and what strategies the participants should use. But should they feel inclined to participate or can show that they are affected – perhaps they wanted to set up at Mockingbird Station on that date, at that time and felt the other event could prevent homeless people from betting fed – then it would be reasonable to allow them to have a say.
Perhaps in our deliberation we see a special relation to issues like the environment or health care or employment, and delegates help mobilize a campaign so that it’s not just a handful of protesters but a much larger group. Or maybe through our deliberation we also find ways to organize skill and knowledge sharing.
The point is that if we’re here in this forum then the odds are we already know what we don’t like and, for the most part, agree on what we do like. We don’t want top-down authority. We have been burned too many times to want to repeat the mistakes of the past. We know we want some good old grassroots democracy; we want to have the helm handed over to us, the people, and not some technocratic group of elitists or "coordinators."
Just like the communal, workers and consumer councils discussed by Albert, Hahnel and Shalom, these delegates could come together to learn about one another, to discuss ongoing issues, to deliberate proposals for direct action, report back to their groups and once a decision has been made: act. We can and should bring La Otra Campaña straight to the Empire, today.
The finer details can and should be worked out by those who may decide to do this. Many of us are already participants in various groups and know that locally there are dozens of other groups who would be likely candidates for forming such mass associations. All we need to do is give a little nudge and start a dialogue – much like Michael Albert has done with this forum. Over time, it is reasonable to expect that the associations would grow and blossom, and hopefully produce a stronger, wiser and more vibrant social movement for peace, justice, liberty and democracy.
And as Albert has asked before so many times, if not now, when?