Based on Pamphlet for The Organization for a Free Society
Table of Contents
Introductions: Nice to Meet You
· Hey, You!
· Why This Was Written and What’s Inside
· Some Quick Disclaimers
1. Foundations: Our Tool-Box
· Holistic Politics
· The Basics: Identity, Community, and Culture
· Language: The Ole’ Blah Blah
· Shared Practice: The Things We Do Together
· Institutions: The Actual Stuff
· Space: Where Should We Plant Our Flowers?
· Intention: In Itself or For Itself?
2. Analysis: What’s Wrong
· Warming Up
· Negotiating Identity
· Racism and White Supremacy in the US…Still?
· Immigration (Mainly) in the US
· The Nation: Oppression Of and By
· Religious Communities: Oppression Of and By
· Interlude: A Bit of Holism Can’t Hurt
· Integration as a Solution?
· Fine, Then Separation?
· Multiculturalism and Other Liberal Pastimes
3. Alternatives: Intercommunalism
· Dream a Little
· Dotted Lines
· Identity: Your Choice, More or Less
· Communal Self-Determination
· Autonomy (Within Solidarity)
· [Inter](Nationalism): The Particular and the Universal
· Teeth: Institutions and Space
· Flex That Flexibility
· Intercommunalism: Thinking Big and Summing Up
· In Case This Sounds Vague, Throw Some More Holism on It
4. Strategy: From Here to There
· Vision Before Strategy
· Waking Up
· Organizing: Trust Me, It’s Worth It
· Autonomy Within Solidarity (Yes, We Like to Prefigure)
· Living the Dream
· Taking Space
· Content and Form
Conclusions: If Not Now, When?
· Things Aren’t So Hot Right Now
· But It Ain’t All Bad
· Mission Statement: The Organization for a Free Society
· Some Resources
~ Nice to Meet You ~
Do you have an identity?
Yes. The answer must be yes.
Are you part of a community?
Again, yes. Maybe you don’t feel it, or maybe yours is under attack, or maybe it could use some creativity and intention, but yes…we should talk about it…
Do you have a culture?
This is easy, huh? Yes, you do, even if you don’t think about it much, or it doesn’t strike you as particularly special. Still, you’ve got one.
Anyway, those are three pretty easy ways to convey that this pamphlet is for anyone and everyone, particularly those concerned with questions about community – race, ethnicity, religion, nation, and other community affiliations – in terms of the oppressions people face, how life ought to be instead, and how we might get from here to there.
Why This Was Written and What’s Inside
In this pamphlet, we are going to crash through a pretty dense, provocative, and important field of thought. We’re going to do it in a clear-cut and simple way, because neither you nor I have time or energy to read or write long, academic texts. Let’s just get down to it, ok?
Oppression of people based on their race, ethnicity, religion, nation, or community identity is not a thing of the past, not a thing to read about in history books about the Inquisition, not gone because apartheid in South Africa collapsed. Those oppressions are not just products of feelings nor the individual actions carried out by a handful of white-hooded idiots. They are part of a sophisticated system of domination and exploitation, and they are woven deeply into the fabric of this society and the world at large.
In the next pages, we will try to make all of that clear, by agreeing on terminology and some assumptions that are guiding us, by drawing from countless intelligent and experienced people who have thought and written this before us, and mixing all that with the very obvious practical experiences we have all had. After we clear that out of the way, we’re going to move on to envision an alternative and present a constructive idea of how the world could be instead. After that, we’ll get to the practical stuff: how to get from here to there. We have to know what we want to change in order to figure out what we want instead, and we have to know that in order to figure out how we want to get there. Then we can go and do it.
Some Quick Disclaimers
First of all, I am an individual and I wrote this pamphlet. But I am also part of an organization, the Organization for a Free Society (OFS). I am writing this as myself, but on behalf of a larger group (and informed by thinkers and fighters of all sorts). So, some of the ideas are mine, some are mine shared with others, and some are borrowed. Even my ideas aren’t really mine, because I came to them through listening and seeing and reading a million other things. Sometimes I say I, and sometimes I say we, and even I/we am/are not exactly sure which is more appropriate.
Secondly, and connected to that, I want to be upfront about the fact that since I am a human being (was this obvious?), I have an identity as part of multiple communities, all shaped by the institutions and spaces I come from (we’ll get to all that…). In other words, I am biased – obviously. I suppose we just have to deal with that. Everyone will read this differently, different parts will be more or less relevant to different people, and there’s not much to do about it. As a friend of mine once remarked to me with his thick Brooklyn-Italian accent: “It is what it is what it is – simple as that” Certainly couldn’t have said it more poetically myself.
Next, this is only one pamphlet in a series. This one is about community affiliations like race, nation, religion and so on, but by no means are those the only elements of life that concern us. You won’t find nearly enough on class, gender, sex, power, ecology, imperialism, or those other social spheres in this pamphlet. We think all of those are of equal importance – and we will get to why we think that in a moment – but we did have to buckle down and focus on this particular thing or else this would have been a book and not a pamphlet, and my attention span isn’t solid enough to write a book right now. This is already pretty long (yeah…sorry about that…).
Finally, this pamphlet cannot possibly cover in detail all the things it needs to cover, even in terms of its stated aims. It would be crazy to claim that this is all you need to know about these issues, considering that some of the most intelligent thinkers in history have written volumes on this topic, and some of the most passionate and courageous fighters have spent their entire lives in struggle focused on these issues. The 30-or-so-page pamphlet is only a trigger. Maybe it will get you thinking, or reading more, or writing (even if what you’re writing is an angry email to me). Maybe you will pass it on. Maybe it will inspire you to add to this. Maybe it will convince you to join the fight.
Chapter 1: Foundations
~ Our Tool-Box ~
Even though this pamphlet is specifically about community in its different forms, community is only one of what we consider to be essential spheres of social life. Those other spheres include: class/economy, gender/sexuality/child-rearing/kinship, and power/authority, all wrapped up in this earth and our environment and with an international dimension as well. We think all of these spheres are fundamental to human life, and all bound up with one another, such that you can’t really understand the world by analyzing only one, or by valuing one as more important than the others. We call this complementary holism, and you can find more on that in a book called Liberating Theory, as well as in articles on Z-Net by people like Michael Albert and Chris Spannos.
As far as we can tell, the world is organized in a way that a network of oppressions (capitalism, racism, patriarchy, authoritarianism, environmental degradation, imperialism, etc.) basically produce and re-produce one another, making it impossible (and silly) to think about one without having – at least in the back of our minds – the understanding that the others are contributing to the issue simultaneously. We understand that capitalism works in coordination with racism, that patriarchy plays an integral role in community relations, that the environment is influenced by authoritarianism in government, a