Remembering Tomorrow: From SDS to Life After Capitalism, a memoir by Michael Albert, is a must read for every young organizer serious about winning long-term, systematic change in the world. It critically analyzes the social movements of the past with the goal of building the stronger, more explosive and powerful movements of the future. Rather than ignoring persistent movement problems, it asks the hard questions that far too many experienced organizers avoid. Its look at the sixties and decades since, addressing culture, political events, and especially activist organizing, presents history not only honestly, but as we need it. Its focus on vision and strategy challenges our current over emphasis on only critique. Its exploration of what type of society we really want by way of historical examples and experiences is truly remarkable.
How can we bring more people into our movements; even make our movements gravitationally attractive and compelling? How can we make it easier for people in the movement to lead normal lives? How can we relate to new and broader audiences? How can we frame reforms in a radical context, and direct them towards future social gains? What role should militancy play in the movement? What might a revolution in the
He explains how by thinking strategically and focusing on vision, we can provide the inspiration needed to overcome cynicism, counter critics, and draw masses of people into the movement- retaining instead of losing them, with an ever growing commitment.
Remembering Tomorrow is a true gift to young leftists- providing the knowledge they need to begin a life-long journey of political organizing and radical change. It is a timely addition to left organizing- at a point when the need for energetic young organizers to join in the development of vision, not only within the economic sphere, but also for kinship, culture, politics, and education, is greater than ever before. While each lesson from Remembering Tomorrow can be a powerful tool in and of itself, the central message of the book- that vision and strategy can give people the inspiration to fight and as such should be central to movement organizing- is a lesson that each of us should bring to broader audiences. Michael presents this theme perfectly, saying:
"If a person thinks a society promoting solidarity, diversity, equity and self-management is potentially attainable, then for him or her to say it should be morally off the agenda and therefore that people should not try to define it, explain it and forcefully advocate for it, would be to say that humanity should stop progressing…"
The memoir follows Michael Albert's life, from his college experiences as a young organizer with Students for a Democratic Society, to his work as a founder of South End Press, and finally to the creation Zmag and Znet, and the development of Participatory Economics (Parecon)- the visionary anticapitalist economic model- with Robin Hahnel. It incorporates lessons not only from Albert's life, but also from the lives of his friends, classmates, and fellow organizers. Drawing on his experiences at each stage of his life, Michael explores the positives and negatives of many trends in activist organizing- with an eye towards improving how we build movements. Analysing how we could forge a powerful Left formation- and what that would look like and require from us- is something that we do far too seldom.
While exploring the book, readers are engaged with diverse organizing experiences- from student organising at MIT, UMass Amherst, and the
Remembering Tomorrow provides countless examples of where strategic action could have yielded vastly different outcomes- from what was learned organising with SDS to that organisation's tragic death; from the civil rights movement to the movement against the War in Vietnam; and from the Women's Movement to advocacy for an entirely different form of visionary economic system. Albert is always up front where the movement could have acted more strategically, and his role in those actions, be they successes or failures.
Taking it further, Michael explores how Participatory Economics could be the economic basis for a future society; a society whereby humans could organize an advanced industrial society in a manner which promotes solidarity, diversity, equity, self-management and efficiency. Weaving together issues of sex, gender, race, and class, of what has been and of what could be, of people and their lives, places and their conflicts, and events and their implications, all culled from personal experiences, makes for a wonderfully human book that is also inspiring and edifying.
All-in-all Remembering Tomorrow: From SDS to Life After Capitalism sheds light on many of the movements of the past; renewing debate on many so-called "settled" issues, and starting new discussions on the issues that many leftists fail to address. It serves as both an extraordinary introduction for new leftists and a sobering wakeup call for experienced ones. I recommend it for all those who are serious about struggling to win a better world.
Note: Readers who enjoy Remembering Tomorrow and wish to further explore the need for our movements to develop vision and strategy, should also consider reading ParEcon: Life After Capitalism, and Realizing Hope: Life Beyond Capitalism and visiting Zmag.org
Brian Kelly is an Organizer with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). You can contact him at [email protected]. For more information about Students for a Democratic Society, visit www.studentsforademocraticsociety.org or e-mail [email protected]