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[The following is a close transcription of episode 92 of the podcast titled RevolutionZ and it’s titled Dealing with Differences. It is broadly about the strategic issue of movements continually strengthening, or not. You can access all episodes on various platforms via the RevolutionZ archive and help page]
Suppose movements have good outreach. They have new people joining, and suppose they also retain members. This much still needs work, but if we get there, will we have steadily strengthening movements? Almost, but not quite.
We will have dealt with growing the membership, but we also want a membership whose quality keeps improving. Instead of Better Fewer, but Better, we want, Better More, and also Better.
But what is a better member? Put differently, if Samantha or Salvador is a member, what changes make Samantha or Salvador a better member over time?
Once Samantha develops a greater understanding of the theory, vision, and strategy of the organization—not simply as someone who can repeat it, but as someone who really understands and can evaluate it, apply it, and improve it—she becomes a better member. Same for Salvador.
Once Salvador develops stronger ties to others in the organization and becomes more deeply involved in various aspects of the organization, as his life permits, he becomes a better member. Same for Samantha
These presumably uncontroversial observations reveal that when any person joins, he or she shouldn’t just dangle in the wind with no ties and no implications. There should be a process that uplifts each member’s knowledge, confidence, capacities, involvements, and connections.
Enlarging ties and capacities by way of serious and careful training and welcoming involvements must be a priority. It doesn’t require deep analysis to understand this point. Historically, however, there does seem to be a serious level of commitment and clarity needed if a project, movement, or organization is to act on this point. Thus, it is advisable to have structured means to welcome new members, to share ideas with new members, to involve new members in decisions, events, and projects, and to have programs of enrichment and development. All of this should be systematically undertaken as a priority. Then we will have growing numbers of members each of whose level of involvement becomes steadily better.
Around the world activists argue that we should show that “another world is possible.” We should be internationalist. We should generate solidarity. We should reduce racial, gender, sexual, political, and economic hierarchies. We should seek ecological sustainability. We should demand peace and justice. But activists report: “We are fragmented. We are less effective than our cumulative size, energy, and wisdom warrant. People repeatedly, naggingly, and divisively dispute vision, strategy, and tactics with one another.” Two values we all universally favor, solidarity and diversity, can speak to this problem.
Solidarity celebrates entwinement—we will both benefit if you and I empathize and act on behalf of one another. But solidarity also embraces the idea that we disinterestedly respect one another’s plights and possibilities out of a sense of human community. We all act on both these aspects considerably already, but to the extent that our natural empathetic inclinations have been worn down by vicious market competition—something that has certainly happened somewhat to everyone in modern societies—we can consciously nurture them back into prominence. A proviso, however, is that of course we should not pursue solidarity to the point of disallowing sober critical evaluation.
Solidarity isn’t blind allegiance or unquestioning support of one another, but we should certainly put a high burden on refusing to offer aid and logistical support to other radical and progressive actors. Informed and reasoned solidarity is mutual aid. Diversity means that in pursuing our own agendas we also pay attention to preserving and exploring options that others favor even when we have doubts about their logic or efficacy. We shouldn’t put all our eggs in one basket, lest we misjudge and having explored no other options, leave ourselves powerless, disarmed, and otherwise inadequately prepared to redress our error if our favored basket is flawed.
Both individually and in organizations we should celebrate differences and, when possible, should keep alive varied approaches so that everyone benefits from lessons and accomplishments others attain. That is, we understand an “insurance” logic to favoring diversity to ward off making grave errors. We also understand an “exploratory” logic to seeking diversity, so that we gain benefits from many more paths explored than we can ourselves embark on. We shouldn’t diversify into micro-fragmentation, but we should pursue diversity well beyond homogenized unity.
We understand the immense benefits of mutual aid. We need to transcend the dehumanizing ills of aloof individualism. We understand the gains of avoiding uniform approaches. We need to welcome the positive educational and vicarious benefits of advocating varied explorations. Can we massage these insights into explicit ways to deal with movement differences?
One kind of difference that plagues movements is about focus. Prioritize race. No, prioritize gender. You are both wrong, prioritize class. Authority? No, prioritize sustainability. War and peace? No, prioritize LBGTQ liberation.
For every major area there are folks who think it is primary. They think everything else should be understood in reference to the prime area. If you don’t see things their way, then you aren’t really their ally. Advocates of different focuses butt heads. Why? And what’s the solution?
People butt heads this way because we in fact live in a multi-dimensioned world in which different aspects of life profoundly and very differently impact our possibilities. Some people identify primarily via their roles and circumstances in one part of life, say family. Others situate themselves primarily in reference to another part, say economy. We get feminists, labor organizers, nationalists, peace workers, environmentalists, gay activists, disability activists, and so on.
This partitioning of the main focus of different individuals is not going to go away. And, in fact, this partitioning of priorities for individuals is desirable because individual people have different priorities due to their different life experiences, conditions, and insights. They are experientially attuned to address different aspects of life with their organizing energies. In any event, regardless of whether we like this or not, there is no point bemoaning it. It will not cease.
There are two widely proposed solutions to the ensuing differences, but in practice it turns out that they are not solutions at all. The first approach to unifying is for someone to say, hey, the conflicts are no problem. We should all do our own thing, but we should all also recognize that one particular thing (and it always turns out to be the speaker’s thing, of course) is above the rest. My thing is the organizing principle, the heart of the matter, the core concern.
We may each address everything, that’s fine—or only part of it all, that’s fine too—but we should all do whichever we prefer in light of the defining, foundational priority that I espouse and which you all need to agree with me on. And then the speaker says this central priority that should contour how we understand everything else should be smashing the state. Or perhaps the speaker says it should be uprooting patriarchy. No, it should be transcending capitalism, or attaining peace, or winning multi-culturalism, or sustainability, says the speaker.
The idea of marching behind one banner that elevates one focus—even as everyone can also focus on their own personal priorities—doesn’t work because every constituency wants its domain to be the elevated one. Worse, people in each constituency rightly realize that the minute some other focus than theirs is elevated, theirs will be subordinated. Passions run high. Unity does not emerge via from the most broadminded exaltation of one focus above all others.
The second approach to unifying disputing actors is called coalition building. We do not get behind the banner of one school of thought and practice—not even if we each retain our own autonomy and focus but must prioritize another’s conceptual and programmatic priorities all the time, above ours. No, we all instead get behind one tiny morsel of thought and practice that we can all enthusiastically support. We join hands for ending a particular war, or for pursuing some other mutually acceptable short-term aim that we can all agree on, and we are silent, when in each other’s presence, regarding everything else. We avoid rocking the coalition boat. We practice least common denominator politics. The aim we all share, we steadfastly share. The rest we studiously ignore. It isn’t that such coalitions are worthless. It is that such coalitions, on their own, don’t produce lasting, mutually supportive unity. In fact, to a considerable extent, they institutionalize separation.
Here is an alternative to trying to get folks to accept one overarching banner or to only celebrating a least common denominator coalition. We build a we might call a bloc. We take the left, the whole broad left—and we will see how we can define that in a moment—and we call that whole thing a bloc. If your group wants to be in it, fine, it has to assent to providing people-power and other support for the bloc’s overall agenda while also, autonomously, developing and pursuing its own focused agenda as well. The same holds for my group. The same holds for every other group.
The peace movement pursues peace and supports the whole bloc. The movements against racism, patriarchy, poverty, or homophobia, pursue their agendas, and support the bloc agenda as well. And what is the agenda of the whole bloc? It is the sum of the agendas of all its components. It is their greatest common sum—not their least common denominator—including all the differences.
This is not as odd as it might at first seem. It is precisely what a society is, the totality of all its components, differences and all. In our case, we just add that the totality’s components must be mutually respectful and supportive, even about their differences. The resulting bloc is the active left. Maybe some people or groups think they are part of the left but just can’t abide being part of the bloc. Okay, you are in the bloc, or you aren’t, and the bloc is, or aspires to be the active left.
Maybe some people or groups aren’t welcome. Their commitments are clearly contrary to the bloc’s central allegiances. Fine. It happens. Those in the bloc operate as an encompassing combination of components: a movement of movements. The anti-racists get aid and benefit from the energies and assets of the gay liberationists and the peace activists. The peace activists get aid and benefit from the energies and assets of the environmentalists and the anti-capitalists. And so on, around and around, for all those in the bloc, each getting mutual aid from all others in the bloc. In contrast, those outside go it alone, which gives them a big incentive to join, of course.
The leadership for the emergence of agendas in each facet of life comes from the people most affected by that facet of life, which means from those most attuned to it, those most focused on it – not individuals, but large and representative movements. Everyone appends the insights of the rest of the bloc to their own insights in the totality of their thinking. Friction is abided. Difference is part of life and of activism too. Unity of this broad type is deemed so beneficial that attaining it dwarfs worries about differences – save for the most egregious. And at the same time, differences aren’t confused, ignored, or made subterranean or put destructively forefront. They are instead treated to serious, informed, and often vigorous debate, and abided in their place.
Is there a mindset that can sustain such commitments among folks with different priority focuses? We think there are two, at least. The first will be held by only some folks, most likely, says society is a product of the impact of different spheres of institutions and contexts – economy, polity, culture, kinship, international relations, and ecology – each powerfully influencing all our life prospects while dividing people into different and often opposed constituencies. There is no a priori assertion of the importance of one such focus above any other – of economy compared to polity, culture, or kinship, or vice versa – but instead their relative effects on life and their centrality to efforts at change are determined only in practice.
In societies like the U.S., the evidence is seen as overwhelmingly indicating that all these spheres of life and their influences are fundamental, and that all of them generate defining influences and pressures that mold the rest of society and contour possibilities so greatly that to dramatically transcend the limits of any one of these phenomena requires that we address them all. With this attitude, the need to combine autonomy and solidarity in our organizations and movement building seems self-evident. We have no choice. We arrive at the bloc.
Luckily, a second viewpoint exists that could support this bloc approach and which can be held even by people who themselves continue to personally believe that one particular sphere of influence is fundamental. This second view can be held, that is, by people who believe that women in homes should address kinship prioritizing implications for class struggle, or that workers in firms should address pay scales firstly prioritizing women’s liberation, or that peace activists should address wars with prioritizing attending to race, or vice versa, each favoring one sphere above all others as the central focus for strategic calculation, whichever the operationally dominant focus might be.
The mitigating view keeping this bloc denying inclination at bay is to realize that attaining solidarity without a preferred prioritization (be it around class, gender, race, or whatever) is vastly superior to seeking universal prioritization around a preferred focus and failing miserably to attain that prioritization. If I think patriarchy (or capitalism, or racism, or war, or whatever) should be the main underlying organizing focus even for other issues – but I have the additional understanding – then my view about my favored area doesn’t matter to my attitude toward being part of a bloc. I understand that not everyone is going to agree with me about prioritization, so that requiring that everyone must agree with me in my prioritization of one sphere of life above all others as the only route to solidarity will not yield solidarity. It doesn’t matter if I think that were we to get solidarity based on my prioritization we’d be in better shape, because I know it isn’t going to happen. And, likewise, I know that while forming coalitions will sometimes have merit, coalitions will not yield full solidarity either. So I should argue for my beliefs when people are interested in discussing such matters, but I should prefer that people with other views help each other and help me, and that I, in turn, help them as they help each other – rather than that we all compete. This type of thinking, can, if sincere, support the bloc approach.
One of the things that can prevent such insights from becoming majoritarian is that typically an advocate of prioritizing class or race or any other particular focus not only thinks they are right, which is fair enough, but actually wants to be right and wants others to be wrong more than they want to win change. This desire is what breeds real trouble.
We should all want a better world. If you say the route to a better world is by way of paying priority attention to class, and she says, no, we should prioritize gender, and he says, no, it ought to be race, and so on… still, we should all want some approach to succeed way more than we want our own viewpoint to be advocated if it isn’t succeeding. Isn’t the best way forward – supposing that more than anything else we all want to succeed – to insure ourselves against the error of our all adopting one wrong approach or all going separate ways? Therefore, shouldn’t we advocate an overall design that preserves and explores many approaches, even as we personally argue the benefits of whatever one we most favor?
In other words, it turns out that even if I think a single focus approach would be intellectually best, so long as I am sufficiently humble to respect the possibility that I could be wrong about my favored sphere’s priority, then I ought to favor the bloc approach. In any event, if I am remotely realistic, I ought to advocate the bloc approach because the real world alternative to the bloc is not my preferred idea of unity behind my banner, which simply won’t happen whatever banner I may favor, but no unity at all.
What other differences that divide? Different activists can pursue different ultimate aims or visions, not just different priorities, and we might reasonably intuit that this too would be a primary source of differences that can cause conflict. However, for the moment, the only serious dividing line over what we want for these areas is typically over whether we seek to ameliorate the ills of existing institutions while taking their permanence for granted (therefore being reformist); or whether we seek to replace existing institutions with new ones that accomplish needed functions in fundamentally new ways (therefore being revolutionary).
Some feminists and gay rights activists want new institutions for socialization, nurturance, and family life. Others think modest variations of the existing family, marriage, and living arrangements—plus changes in mindsets—will be sufficient. Some anti-racists feel that new community structures are required to eliminate root causes of oppressive cultural relations. Others feel some new laws and changed mindsets within the rubric of existing defining relations will relieve suffering as much as it can be relieved. Similarly, some argue that our government institutions for adjudication, legislation, and collective implementation of shared aims are corrupted by the ills of other spheres of life and need only some revisions and corrections to be optimal. Others argue that we need new ways of accomplishing essential political functions that in their underlying logic propel rather than trample our most impassioned values. Some argue that our economic institutions for production, consumption, and allocation are essential or even alone possible and simply need correctives to prevent deviations from sensible outcomes. Others argue that we need fundamentally new ways of accomplishing essential economic functions that propel rather than violate our highest aspirations. Some say we have to treat the ecology differently within the rubric of existing structures. Others say that treating the ecology differently requires new structures. In short, some want to patch up society while maintaining its defining features. Others want to transcend society’s defining features to attain a wholly new structure. Is this difference an unbridgeable chasm or can the two camps constructively interact? It depends.
If the reformists are intent upon preserving existing relations on behalf of existing elites and are only interested in ameliorating suffering when doing so is consistent with enlarging the continued benefit of those elites, then their conflicts with honest revolutionaries will be hard to bridge. The revolutionaries will rightly repudiate the reformists’ elevation of the rights of elites to primary position and will reject these types of reformists’ bottom-line callousness to the conditions of the poor and oppressed.
However, if the reformists sincerely believe that ameliorative change can eliminate harsh ills and are intent on accomplishing that without regard for preserving elite advantages—thinking only that the preservation of elite advantages is likely, but not favoring it—then it should to be possible to work together and have mutual respect. These types of reformists and revolutionaries should each respect the other’s honest concern and informed opinions, and seek gains when possible together, and, quite importantly, the reformists should not want to be right, but should instead hope that it will turn out that more desirable changes than they anticipate are possible.
Likewise, if the revolutionaries seek fundamental changes without attention to the impact on those most afflicted and if they are callous to short and middle term gains, then their conflicts with honest and caring reformists will be hard to bridge. The reformists will rightly repudiate this type of revolutionaries’ callousness to fighting to improve the immediate conditions of the poor and oppressed. But if the revolutionaries sincerely believe in the possibility and desirability of fundamental change but also respect and seek immediate gains for those suffering most now—trying to bring both agendas into mutual accord but never losing track of the immediate needs of the downtrodden—then it should be possible to work together with mutual respect and benefit.
Worthy revolutionaries want near-term higher wages, better work conditions, affirmative action, a shorter work week, immigration reform, equal access to quality eduction, legal reform, free childcare, free health care, paid maternity and paternity leave, shorter work weeks, new housing, clean air, climate sanity, peace, a change in the rules of international exchange, and so on and so forth, just as do well-meaning reformists. The difference is that when the reformist fights for such gains it is not part of a project to transform defining institutions. The reformist feels that to seek fundamental change is futile, or unnecessary, or even worse, that it would disrupt interests of elites held in high priority.
But the sincere reformist who believes fundamental change is not on the agenda but who would certainly celebrate if it were achieved, should of course not be scared that others pursue such change and should not pray for their failure. And similarly, the sincere revolutionary should not disdain reforms, per se, and should not pursue fundamental change in a manner callous to the immediate potentials of people suffering the ills of today’s policies and institutions. If these conditions are met on both sides, then even though the differences in outlook and aims are profound, mutual work and mutual dialog ought to be possible. If the conditions aren’t met, then mutuality is unlikely, and rightly so.
What makes it possible for reformists and revolutionaries to meet these conditions?
• First, the humility of each side to respect that, after all, it could be wrong.
• Second, the recognition of each side that, in fact, the other side really is also motivated to reduce injustice and to increase fulfillment.
What will be the nature of operational differences?
• Reformists will consider it a misuse of energy to talk about basic institutional dynamics and to advocate their replacement. They will feel that talking about revolution will reduce energies for seeking truly possible change and perhaps even obstruct some folks’ allegiances to efforts at needed change.
• Revolutionaries will talk not only about an immediate goal, but also about basic institutions and will offer long-term vision and try to develop lasting infrastructure to pursue continuing gains leading to larger and larger movements. They will feel that to forgo these focuses not only reduces the likelihood of long-term revolution, but even undercuts prospects for immediate reforms.
Revolutionaries will deny, that is, that application of energies to future aims as well as to immediate ones distracts from winning gains now, and will feel instead that without hope for continuing trajectories of change all the way to a new society, most people will be unlikely to join campaigns for just immediate gains, feeling that even if such campaigns are won they will in time be rolled back as underlying defining relations reassert themselves.
Is this difference intractable?
An advocate of the ideas developed in the episodes of RevolutionZ, for example, would not only advocate for higher wages, a shorter work week, or peace, but also develop consciousness of underlying structural causes of associated ills, plus allegiance to inspiring visions, hope and desire for fundamental changes, awareness of long-term strategy, and seek increases in movement organization and infrastructure. In contrast, the honest reformist would put all his or her energies solely into describing a reform and building activism on behalf of the immediate change to benefit those suffering.
The differences are intractable at the level of ideas, values, and even aims, but they are not so intractable that each activist has to regard the other as an enemy. Each can welcome the extent of the other’s contribution. Each can avoid arrogantly suggesting that the other should not even exist.
Okay, but beyond differences over reform and revolution, what about the existence of different visions of what institutions we should have in the future? When there are different visions, with different advocates for each, is that a difference we can handle constructively?
There is no universal answer. The issues are to what extent two different visions yield two different short term agendas. And to what extent the differences represent different understandings of how to attain essentially the same just conditions of fulfillment, or to what extent they represent different definitions of what fulfillment is, and even who to fulfill?
As an example, suppose an advocate of market socialism says I seek markets, councils, remuneration for output, public ownership of productive property, and workers’ control all on behalf of equity, diversity, solidarity and self-management, including classlessness. In contrast, an advocate of participatory economics, as per many RevolutionZ episodes, says I seek participatory planning, councils, remuneration for effort and sacrifice, collective ownership of productive property, balanced job complexes, and worker and consumer self-management on behalf of equity, diversity, solidarity, and self-management, including classlessness.
The former says of the latter that she strives for more than is possible, giving up too much output and risking incursions on privacy, etc. The latter says of the former that he seeks contradictory aims settling for institutions that fall short of his values. This is an honest disagreement. It can be intense, of course, but there is no reason for it to yield unbridgeable hostility. This type difference can occur regarding economy, as in this example, or regarding any other dimension of social life.
Different visions that arise to attain essentially the same state of grace via different institutional allegiances can compete for support and validation through partial implementation, via their direct appeals and, of course, by their logical arguments. A person advocating one such visionary approach should not be upset if it turns out that the values she seeks to attain require another’s institutional recommendations. Our values are principled. Institutions are means to ends. Conflicting visionaries, while the issue of which vision is to be implemented is undecided, will seek many and varied short term gains, and these will overlap greatly, affording the possibility not only of debate but also cooperation.
Suppose instead of the above happy situation, the advocate of what he calls market socialism pursues the stated institutions on behalf of elevating those who have a monopoly on training, education, empowering tasks, and the levers of day-to-day decision making power—what RevolutionZ episodes have called the coordinator class—to a dominant position in the economy. This advocate of “market socialism” wants to eliminate capitalist rule to replace it with coordinator class rule. The advocate of participatory socialism, in contrast, wants to eliminate not only the source of capitalist rule, but also the source of coordinator rule.
For the market socialist, the economic vision serves firstly managers, engineers, and others who monopolize decision making skills and levers, and then serves other workers secondarily. For the pareconist, the economic vision serves all who work, eliminating class differentiation.
This is a different kind of difference than favoring different institutions with the same values in mind. It is more basic than a dispute over what institutions can achieve shared values. In this more intractable case, the difference is rooted in the underlying values themselves, not in different understandings of the logic of particular institutions or aims for attaining shared values. It isn’t analysis in question, but rather values and specifically class allegiances. It would be delusional to deny that this second kind of visionary difference constitutes big trouble for unity. But so it should.
Dealing with difference doesn’t mean papering over disputes about our defining, central values. Those differences have to be admitted and, when intractable, they should be labeled as such. We can still communicate rationally rather than in some kind of verbal joust mode. We can still address evidence and logic rather than constructing personal assaults. But what is unbridgeable is… unbridgeable.
Many differences among activists are about what we should be doing in the present or over some span of time leading to a better future. Such differences are about activist strategy and tactics, not about vision.
• Strategy is our view of the broad process of gathering support for change and developing means of manifesting that support to win a sequence of alterations in society and to finally attain new defining institutions. Part of strategy is deciding our focus—-not just issues but constituencies to organize. Another part of strategy, however, is deciding on organizational structure and whether to operate locally or nationally, whether to work in electoral arenas or not, and so on.
• Tactics are the methods we employ to attain short term parts of strategy. Tactics include demonstrations, strikes, leafleting, modes of presentation and communication, conferences, polling or get out the vote methods, civil disobedience, and so on.
Confusing the issue further, people who have different focus or vision may agree about aspects of strategy and tactics. On the other hand, people who agree on vision and focus can disagree about strategy or tactics.
Regrettably, when differences over strategy and tactics exist, they often become debilitating. For example, suppose we have two activist camps. They each advocate the same values and they also advocate the same long-term institutions to attain these values. Regarding what they ultimately want, they are united.
One camp, however, says that in fighting against the mental and behavioral dictates of current structures, and to overcome opposition, it is essential—even though they wish it wasn’t—to utilize what they call democratic centralism, an approach to organization which in practice bears a huge resemblance, they admit, to the organizational structure of the Ford Motor Company. They say we need to use this ugly methodology to win, otherwise we will be disjointed and easily fragmented and trampled. They don’t worship this type of organization, they just think conditions make it necessary.
The other camp argues, instead, that such hierarchy is not a powerful aid to winning classless goals and will also be uncongenial to and disempower working people, as well as instill the wrong values and inclinations in our movements. Contextually it is a loser, in addition to having damaging side effects, says this advocate of the second approach.
In other words, there is a dispute over what is called Leninist organization. It could be a debate over goals—if one side thought this structure was good for the long haul—but, as noted in the case indicated here, it could also be solely about means. One side says the means will subvert the end. The other side says rejecting the means will subvert the end. We have to use it, and aggressively prevent it from trampling our aims. What do we do?
We think the answer is dictated by reality. We explore both options. Trying both will be the reality, since both inclinations strongly exist, so we might as well celebrate trying both. Two camps, two approaches. The key thing is that we should all hope that one works. We should see which works by trying both. It is that simple. There is no reason for either side to want to be right, to feel it is important that they be right. What matters is to find out what is, in fact, right. If both sides are being honest, both should hope that an approach which avoids the use of authoritarian structures will prove viable and effective. After all, both views want a society without such structures. If both sides are honest, both should agree that if a new world can’t be attained without using interim authoritarian structures, at least to a degree, then such structures will have to be utilized—with their ills carefully guarded against. On two sides of this divide, people feel very strongly. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be mutually respectful. If the difference is strategic, as in the case when there are shared long run aims, there is no reason to be anything but respectful. Of course if the difference is really over vision, then we may be back to an intractable situation.
Take another example. Do we choose in our demonstrations violent confrontations, civil disobedience, or peaceful legal displays without any conflict at all? These alternatives do not reflect abiding principles. With very few exceptions, everyone agrees that all of these approaches could make sense in some cases, and also won’t make sense in some other cases.
We have a strike. We picket. Scabs arrive. It may make sense to block their entry to the firm by non-violently clogging up routes of axis or perhaps even to block them forcefully. Very few leftists think that to advocate such choices reveals oneself to be unworthy. Likewise, very few think that someone who argues that such an approach, in a given context, is unwise because it overextends our means, invites repression that we can’t ward off, and will alienate potential allies, is unworthy for thinking such thoughts. The matter is contextual, not universal. That’s what characterizes tactics. There can be a large onus against a certain option on grounds that the option has intrinsic qualities that typically tend to be counter productive. But ultimately each issue is, nonetheless, its own issue. What if there is a disagreement?
For example, what if there is to be a large demonstration and some people want violent confrontation, some want active civil disobedience, some want passive civil disobedience, and some want peaceful legal marching? Then what? The issue isn’t what single way of thinking about such choices is right. The main issue is to realize that diverse ways of thinking are going to exist, and thus to determine what attitude, in light of that diverse reality, is most constructive. And the answer is what it has been throughout this discussion. We understand solidarity. We understand diversity. We know the price of fragmentation. We know the price of all eggs in one broken basket. So we all agree that celebrating different strokes for different folks makes more sense than seeking homogeneity—whether we like all the strokes that folks might opt for or not.
On the other hand, your stroke shouldn’t trump my stroke, or vice versa. The goal is to manifest our energies in ways that build a movement and raise social costs able to win sought ends. If we all agree on that, we may disagree on how any particular tactic contributes to or even hurts the cause. But the idea that one approach should imperially displace other’s that are also highly valued and supported should be obscene to everyone, even those favoring that particular approach. One stroke for all violates diversity just as surely as ruling out options from the top violates diversity. So, we can all easily see that we have to have a multi-tactic movement, just as we have to have a multi-focus movement. There is no other route to significant unity.
Multi-tactic doesn’t mean, however, that we all choose what we like with no attention to the implications our choice has for others. If my choosing tactic x would preclude your choosing tactic y which you prefer, then we need to negotiate so that I can do x and you can do y and the two undertakings can not only both occur, but, to the extent possible, can mutually benefit. Of course, negotiating like this can be difficult, but as a first step, agreeing that we ought to do so can’t hurt and may well lead to the obvious insight that actions can occur at different times, in different places, with different preparations.
And having said all this, this is Michael Albert signing off until next time for the podcast titled RevolutionZ.