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POST-ELECTION REFLECTION: WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE? George Lakey1 Eugene M. Lang Visiting Professor for Issues in Social Change Swarthmore College Faculty Lecture Since the election I have heard many people say, “Barack Obama asks for our help -- how can I help?” That‟s what this speech is about, bottom line: how we can help. Political realities put big constraints on any president including Obama. As Bill Clinton learned in his Presidential effort to advance gay civil rights in the armed forces, the Oval Office looks much more powerful from the outside than it does from the inside. During Obama‟s campaign he was somewhat cautious. I noticed particularly his health care promises. Did you notice that he didn‟t take on the private insurance companies in his health care proposal? He was very careful not to. I am told that Obama does consider the most sensible health care system for the US to be the one that flourishes in the rest of the industrialized world: a national public insurance system. It‟s often called a single payer system. He decided not to go for that, because he didn‟t want to take on the private insurance industry that makes enormous profits out of the status quo. So right there we can learn about how cautious Obama felt he needed to be even before taking office. Obama already knows that he is not going to be Emperor Obama, or the leader of a huge mass movement struggling for fundamental change. He is going to be in the Oval Office and to some degree managing an empire -- at least that‟s what he is expected by certain forces to do – he‟s expected to manage an empire. And so we might want to take an independent stance that is supportive to Obama‟s best instincts, and also pushes him at the same time. 1 From Joy Charlton’s introduction of George Lakey: “George has authored seven books on non-violent social change, peace and organizational development, has taught peace studies at colleges and universities around the world and as peace activist and organizational trainer has led 1500 workshops on five continents. “George has been an activist with organizations that work on the local state, national and international level. He was arrested for the first time right down the road in Chester, PA as part of the civil rights movement. Over the last two years based in the Lang Center, George has been a mentor, trainer, teacher and friend to numerous members of the campus community. And at the Lang Center he has been an energetic presence famous for his pies.” Thanks to Shandra Bernath-Plaisted for transcribing the lecture. 2 I am thinking about the time when John Kennedy was in the White House. The civil rights movement was expanding rapidly and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., went to the White House and reportedly said, “Mr. President we need your pushing in order to get a civil rights act passed in this congress.” President Kennedy reportedly said “You know Dr. King I would so much love to do that. However, it just won‟t work, it is not feasible politically. I am interested in being re-elected in „64 because I would like to be a two-term president and there is no way I will get re-elected if I push for a civil rights act.” Dr. King, not entirely surprised by that response, had a backup plan (so useful when negotiating to have a back-up!). He reportedly said “How about this: use the bully pulpit of the White House to make a statement to the American people saying racism is a moral issue.” President Kennedy reportedly said, “You know I agree with that, of course I know racism is a moral issue. However, even that would be more then I can do politically.” And so Dr. King went back to Birmingham, Alabama where colleague Fred Shuttlesworth was already building the Birmingham campaign, the nonviolent movement there. And Dr. King, adding his prestige and the resources of his organization, supported the nonviolent conflagration that black people were creating there, to the level where President Kennedy was forced to be on the phone with Roger Blough, head of US Steel, and others in the power elite in the country. Powerholders felt forced to respond to the nonviolent dislocation of an industrial city like Birmingham. They agreed to the civil rights act and Kennedy was able to get it passed. Here is a cautionary tale for us. Kennedy unable to do something that probably to most of us in this room would seem very elementary. He didn‟t think it was. What needed to happen was he needed to be pushed. And then the political situation changed in such a way that Kennedy could do what he wanted to do all along. So my lecture has this goal: to offer a place for us to stand and to move from. To do this I am drawing from a research-based model for social change that I have worked on for years. It‟s been published, I continue to tinker with it, I get called upon to apply it.2 And that‟s what is on the handout, a five stage developmental model for making profound social change.3 I invite you to follow along, on the handout, and see what content I have put into the stages with regard to our present situation here in November of 2008. 2 The most recent version is in David Solnit, ed., Globalize Liberation (San Francisco: City Lights, 2004). A book-length version is Strategy for a Living Revolution, a World Order Book (NY: Grossman, and San Francisco,: W.H. Freeman, 1973). Revised and published as Powerful Peacemaking (Philadelphia: New Society Publishers, 1987). 3 See appendix of this document for the handouts. 3 Stage one, cultural preparation. One of the most important tasks to accomplish in this stage when we‟re serious about change is vision. I had a chance once to lead an electoral referendum campaign. We put a peace- related question on the ballot in Philadelphia. Since I didn‟t know anything about electoral campaigning I brought in a consultant who was used to working with the Kennedy family and others; his trade in life was running around doing campaigns. I asked, “Please teach us how to do an electoral referendum campaign so we can win.” He began his session with us in a surprising way. “I just want to be very upfront about something, I just want you to know that I‟m not as arrogant as I may seem to be when I start explaining this. My real view of social change is: we in the electoral field are actually the come-after people. We‟re the people who come along in the process at a later point. “What I most admire, actually, is the work that you folks do, because what you activists do out there organizing and working on issues is you name, you identify the issues, you discover the problems that people are having, you name those, you define them. “Then what we in the electoral arena do, this is what all of us electoral campaign people do, is we scan the issues that are getting generated by grassroots movements, and we choose the ones that look like they might help us win in the upcoming campaign. Our candidate may actually believe in those issues and those goals. But in any case, the way electoral politics works is that we look to you to uncover the issues that we can then run on.” One reason why the 1930s and „60s moved the U.S. decisively forward in the 20th century is that vision work had already been done. Some historians and sociologists have noticed that in the 20th century the US lagged behind some other countries with regard to democracy. Look at our twentieth century history. You‟ll find us lagging behind some other countries, and then in the „30s, there is an explosion and we almost join some of the European countries in democracy indicators, for example, and then we fall behind again. In the „60s, we move again, getting nearer to the countries in the lead like Canada and Scandinavia. The important thing there to notice is that in those explosive decades where we did such remarkable work, there were elements of vision that were already present in the climate of ideas. Social security, for example, already existed as a concept, a well-formed concept, which made it easier for Franklin Roosevelt to reach out and grab it. We had a vision-friendly atmosphere where the Tennessee Valley Authority, another step forward in our country, was conceptually there “waiting” to be implemented. 4 One way to be supportive to Obama is to generate elements of vision that would make it possible for him -- if there is sufficient pushing and sufficient political opportunity -- actually to make change we can believe in. A current example of our not being quite there yet is the famous/notorious $700 billion for financial bail-out. As some of you know who came to my lecture on Norway, (I‟m working on a book on the history of Norway) as a case study, a kind of laboratory for substantial social change. The Norwegians ran into a financial meltdown in the early „90s -- something like what we are experiencing now -- „91-„93. And guess what it had to do with? It had to do with private banks speculating like crazy on property values. I know you wouldn‟t believe banks would do such a thing. It was a terrible crunch; it looked like Norway was going off a cliff. So what did the government do? It stepped in, took the two largest banks that were in this kind of trouble -- simply took them over. They fired the top management, made sure the shareholders didn‟t get a dime. And then the Norwegians put those banks back together as responsible institutions, so in a few years they were functioning. They didn‟t bail out the other banks, so the other private banks that were in big trouble had to make do, had to handle it or simply go bankrupt. Bankruptcy was okay with the Norwegian government because it was very interested in creating a system of accountability, of transparency, of responsibility and not allowing this thing to happen again. Those other private banks definitely got the picture: if we engage in this tomfoolery again, the government will either take us or we will go down beneath the waves and that will be that. In other words the private sector in Norway knows bailout is not a possibility, we cannot be irresponsible and then run to daddy and ask for help so we can live to do it again. What‟s going on with the present financial meltdown, as you know, is very international. But different counties are experiencing it to different degrees. What about Norway? I learned that the economy is moving along just fine. Norwegians so cleansed the system of corruption and toxic assets that there is little impact. They are just proceeding with their budgetary plans for next year as they had been and the finance minister says, in effect, we have it handled, we cleaned that up. The reason they can operate that way, that the smart option was available to them is because they already had a vision of the people being in charge of their economy. That‟s been a vision in Norway for a century. The people should be in charge of the economy, democracy should be real and holistic, rather than democracy confined to one compartment. Since, in their view, the people should be in charge of the entire country -- their own country, including their own economy -- then when some Norwegians misbehave, you simply deal with them in the way I just reported. Why hold back? Misbehavior is an opportunity to increase democracy in the system. Instead of, as in our case, banks 5 misbehave and the powerholders say, "Uhhh, how can we give the owners help, how can we help them out?" Another current example is the auto industry. Yes, business cycles do exist. They have not been outlawed in Scandinavia; there are business cycles there, too. But if people have vision, then your response to the downturn of a business cycle can use the opportunity to change the economy to make real people‟s values. One of the things I learned on my last research trip was that Norwegians created a new public institution called the House Bank, dedicated to giving low interest mortgages to people who wanted to build modest houses in Norway. Some years ago they put that bank on the shelf ready for the next business downturn. When the next recession loomed, Norway took the House Bank off the shelf and did a national campaign. “This is your big chance to build or buy a house. If it‟s a modest house, and you have any credit at all just come to the bank and get low interest loans, because we want to enable as many Norwegians to be in their own houses as want to.” Home ownership jumped into the 90 per cent. When people get a new house they want a new refrigerator, new sofa, and this policy move strongly stimulated the economy. It was a win/win. This is not rocket science, or at least Norwegians don‟t think economics is rocket science. They think economic and fiscal policy is an opportunity for people to run their own country, according to a vision. In that case the vision was: let all Norwegians who want to own their own houses, be able to own their own houses. What‟s the big deal? So, that‟s what I would suggest can happen in stage one as we enter the Obama era. We can be creating vision of how we want our country to be. For example let‟s say that Detroit is run by arrogant and incompetent managers, who‟ve refused to bring their products into line with the future of the planet. (During the Q&A you can shoot me down for saying that.) In that case, if we did our stage one work we‟d be ready for their collapse. There were some indications, ten to twenty years ago that they would be that arrogant and incompetent; this is not a sudden revelation. When they drive their collective car into the river and ask for help, we can say “Oh the opportunity has arrived for re-structuring.” Why should those valuable facilities remain in the hands of those who are so incompetent, so arrogant, and so clueless? So we take the auto companies and we put them to work making the things that enable our economy to become sustainable. A California friend of mine had to wait two years to get solar panels for his roof, because the Germans were buying them up. The Germans bought up panels and other sustainable technology they have a clue about the planet. The US has Detroit. If we had a vision about this stuff, just as the Norwegians had the house bank on their shelf, we‟d have “The Plan for Greening Detroit.” When Detroit manifests what any 6 of us could have predicted it would do, we take our plan off the shelf, we take Detroit over, and we put those workers to work. Obama‟s absolutely correct that those workers should work, but he needs a vision. We could let go of cars and put them to work making the technology needed for environmental sustainability. Why shouldn‟t a place dedicated to the intellect like Swarthmore College is, be a place out of which vision should come? Well of course I could talk the entire time about visionary elements about the cultural vision that we need for our society, the respect for nature, the redevelopment of cities, I mean there‟s so much and you all could add to the list, but let me run on to analyses. Who are the opponents? The value of analysis in stage one The most successful movements are those who know specifically who their opponent is, or who their opponents are. Now sometimes this is not difficult, for example in anti-colonial struggles. “The British are here, we know they don‟t belong here, let‟s throw them out.” It can be harder inside a society to know who the opponent is. I recommend a film that‟s just been acquired by McCabe Library called Iron Jawed Angels. It‟s a movie about Alice Paul and the struggle for women‟s suffrage. That was a woman who knew her opponent! There were some women in our society at the time who were saying “But Woodrow Wilson, you know he‟s very thoughtful, he‟s very intellectual, he‟s been a professor at Bryn Mawr” and so on. knew very well that Woodrow Wilson was stopping women from voting. Alice Paul took Wilson on, successfully. That‟s a whole story that I won‟t tell now except to say it‟s a great story for every Swarthmore person to know because Alice Paul was an inspiring and hard-headed person who knew exactly how to wield nonviolent action in a very powerful way. Part of her genius was that she could identify the opponent. There is a lot of holding back among activists in saying who their opponent is. Presidential candidates can‟t identify the opponent out loud because they often get campaign contributions from that source. So that makes it a little difficult for them to denounce the way in which, as a class, rich people are over and over standing up against the progress that we need to make. As a class, not as individuals because there plenty of rich individuals who on our side, but as a class they block us. And we won‟t find major party presidential candidates saying, “This a demographic block that stands in the way.” Yet we have to notice what goes on in history and who it is that comes out to stop progress over and over and over. I should refer briefly to this political dynamic -- that still exists -- of using racism to manipulate people and maintain the status quo. One of the striking times was during the civil rights movement, when after all that grassroots pushing, President Lyndon Baines Johnson finally said “OK, we need a war on poverty.” 7 When LBJ announced the war on poverty we find that the taxation for the money for the war on poverty was drawn mainly from the pockets of blue-collar workers. And this was noticed by white workers. That‟s how the seed was sown politically for what we‟ve seen ever since: racially coded messages from the Republicans to work class resentment. White working class people often feeling that money is being taken from their wallets and put into the hands of “the undeserving.” Why did LBJ take the money largely from workers? To protect rich people from increased taxes that they could‟ve paid, in order to pay for the war on poverty. That was the Democratic Congress and that was a Democratic President. Structurally building in a dynamic, that for well over three decades now has been a canker, a sore in the American body politic, building in racism in that way, was the responsibility of the Democratic Party leadership, largely funded by and consisting of the rich. We need to get more clarity about who the opponent is. Let me just make one more reference to current events. Current events are absolutely fascinating aren‟t they, for what they are teaching us about how things unfold? You know that AIG accepted money from taxpayers as a bailout; the number I have is $154 billion. They turned around and gave half a billion dollars to themselves in bonuses. Does that tell us something about how the system of entitlement works? Now that, that is the kind of pressure that President Obama will be facing when he is in the Oval Office. That set of expectations. “Bail us out, we‟ll give the bonuses as we choose, we‟ll spend the money as we choose, we‟ll the automakers will use the money for cash flow not for planetary sustainability. We‟ll do this and we‟ll do that. We funded your campaign, and we funded the campaign of most of the Democrats who are in office, and that‟s what we expect.” That‟s the kind of circling -- of buzzards I am tempted to say -- that circles around in Washington. And we‟re going to have to be willing to name the opponent and take it on, I believe. Our self-image – another part of Stage One Every oppressed people internalizes message that they don‟t deserve the best. We organizers find that over and over. Health care is a particular interest of mine right now and I run into people who really don‟t know that we should stand on our hind legs and say, “We deserve the best health care, how about we get the health care the Senators and Congress Members get, and pay for it what they pay?” I find so many people who don‟t know we deserve better then we‟ve got. I do tell them about Norway when I return from my research trips, or tell them about other countries in which people have it much, much, better then we do. 8 Amazingly, some people don‟t respond “Why don‟t we have it that good?” Instead, some start making up excuses for why its kind of okay that we don‟t have it as good, why we have, for example, slums. Some countries decided half a century ago, "Slums are not good, let‟s get rid of terrible housing and homelessness." And that‟s it. I bicycled around an industrial town in Norway all day looking for a substandard house. I finally found one, just before supper, one substandard house. That‟s because Norway decided as a matter of national policy slums are not a good idea and so they rolled up their sleeves and got rid of them. Its not rocket science. But I find so many Americans who are passive accepters of injustice – even rationalizers of injustice. That‟s part of stage one: for us to respect ourselves, for us to respect each other, and encourage each other to respect ourselves. Stage Two, Building our organizations When people become self-respecting, have an analysis of what‟s going on, and have a vision, they‟re ready to do substantial organizing. The good news is that we already have a lot of skills in that area, and we can also learn from achievements in other countries. I know a lot of you care about service, that your orientation toward society is as helpers. Helpers want to enable people‟s lives to get better in the short run as well as in the longer run. The trick is to integrate that service approach into movements for structural change rather than service being instead of structural change. An example of integrated service was Gandhi‟s emphasis on the constructive program as part of throwing the British out of India. In our own history we had the Black Panther Party‟s program of breakfast and medical care, in parts of cities where that was ignored and not provided for. Anarchists call this pre-figurative politics: putting into the present the institutions that we want to be on a larger scale down the road. One of the reasons I believe it‟s really important is because it helps to build our self-confidence. Its scary to go about trying to making profound change. There are always a lot of experts to tell us we don‟t know enough, or it will never work. Where can we get the self-confidence from? If we‟ve created a co-operative method for achieving something that previously had been done in a harshly authoritarian way, if we do that and it works, we say, “Oh we know how to do something, too.” And the development of those organizational skills and that kind of solidarity with each other can pay off in the next stage. Stage Three, Direct Action Campaigns/Confrontation 9 Here‟s an example from activist success in the U.S. that I think applies in our immediate situation: the campaign in the late „50s early „60s to stop atmospheric nuclear testing. The US at that time and the Soviet Union were testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere. I am so aware of the youth of many of you, and how incredible that may sound to you. Nuclear weapons tested in the atmosphere spew off radioactive stuff called strontium 90, which that fell into the grass and was eaten by cows, and comes out in radiated milk. Now it‟s true that might be helpful, you open the refrigerator at night you don‟t want to run the light on, you reach inside, you know glowing milk could have some use. However, how much leukemia do you want in your children? Not that much, maybe not at all. So a national campaign was founded in Philly to end nuclear testing. (I still can‟t quite believe the government used to do that. I campaigned against it, I demonstrated against it, and still, looking back, it‟s hard to believe that Republicans and Democrats alike were actually using our tax money to poison our babies!) Let‟s learn from it. From that campaign spring a couple of valuable lessons about working with difference. There were peace leaders from around the country in a large room in Center City Philadelphia. The chief organizer explained that we need two organizations for the campaign. We need a moderate liberal group that will focus especially on full page ads in major newspapers, lobbying efforts, and petition drives. We also need a group of nonviolent warriors who will do radical things, who will commit civil disobedience, who will take on the establishment in dramatic and confrontive ways. And we‟ll start both of those organization right here in this room because both approaches exist in this room. The organizer went on: I want you to look at each other and pledge that you‟re not going to waste your time attacking each other for your differences. That we‟re not going to have the moderate liberals over here saying “Oh you, you‟re undermining the campaign by indulging your anti-authority tendencies -- what is it, a problem with your father or something?” And people on the other side saying “You liberal moderate types, you sell-outs, you have no idea what the realities of power are.” The organizer, a Quaker named Larry Scott, said, “wWhat I want is for us to start out a with a division of labor, and be able to respect each other for that, and then go for it and not have an internal fight all the time. Let‟s have both organizations free to do their things strongly and clearly. Then we‟re going to win.” And win they did: Kennedy and Khrushchev signed a pact giving up atmospheric nuclear testing. Some friends of mine sailed a sail boat into the Pacific Ocean, right into the nuclear testing site. That and other nonviolent confrontive tactics provided the moral edge of the movement. The moderate liberals did brilliant lobbying backed by strong public education. The division of labor worked. 10 Another immediately relevant lesson comes from that campaign. At one point in 1961 or so, a Quaker delegation visited with John Kennedy in the Oval Office. The meeting was supposed to be about a half hour, but it went over an hour because Kennedy seemed more and more intrigued. Finally what the President said -- this was reported to me by a friend of mine who was in that conversation -- , “You folks need to make way more of a commotion than you do. You have no idea what its like to sit in this chair and be surrounded by the military industrial complex as I am. I need countervailing power; you folks need to be out there, putting the pressure on so I can do the things that you want me to do. I cannot do what you want me to do, if you don‟t put the pressure on me to do it.” I wouldn‟t be surprised if President Obama tells us that one of these days, but he doesn’t need to if we already know it. If we already act that way, if we already know that he needs that pressure. I‟ll tell you about a current dream of mine: to start a health care campaign that has a specific limited goal that is realizable, but at the same time could be in alignment with the large-scale change that we need in healthcare. I understand that Barack Obama believes in national public health insurance as the best way to deliver health care, a kind of Medicare for all. Governor Rendell is on record saying the same thing. Giving up private insurance companies and shifting to a public insurance system that pays all the bills is the way to go. It‟s much less expensive (the U.S. pays about twice per capita what countries with national health insurance pay, yet has forty-five million uninsured!). It‟s probably the only system the U.S. can afford at this point, and it would actually work far better based on the experience in all other industrial countries. Governor Rendell, and presumably Barack Obama, settle for efforts at modest reform in today‟s failing system because they apparently believe we can‟t win the thing we really need. The trouble is, Rendell lost his reform plan, put forward because it was “politically realistic.” What’s been missing is Stage Three activity – a major grassroots nonviolent direct action campaign. Yes, the private insurance industry and their allies can beat Rendell and Obama if there‟s no division of labor among us advocates, and all our eggs are put in the basket of lobbying. If the civil rights movement had confined itself to lobbying, Southern black people still wouldn‟t get coffee at the lunch counters or have the right to vote! I‟m imagining in stage three lots of direct action campaigns, lots of them, over all kinds of issues. Sometimes we‟d be partners with our President, assisting him to do what he would like to do but needs countervailing pressure to “force” him to do. Sometimes we might go beyond Obama, as we needed to go beyond President Kennedy on the Vietnam quagmire he was sinking the country in. The main thing is that we‟d be taking responsibility for bold action and using the craft of social movements to increase democracy. 11 Stage Four, Mass Noncooperation when the Powerholders Resist Needed Change If there is continued resistance from the power holders despite stage three- intensity direct action, it‟s necessary to go to the next level, and engage in mass non- cooperation. Again we can learn from the experience with President Kennedy and consider applying it to President Obama. Let‟s recall the story I told earlier. In 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr., talks to President Kennedy, and gets a refusal to take bold action against racism. Then the people of Birmingham, Alabama, dislocate their city through mass nonviolent action, or as we often call it these days, “People Power.” Then President Kennedy then says, “Oh yes, I‟d better act,” and Congress is led to pass the Civil Rights Act. A little while later Kennedy‟s successor, Lyndon Johnson, didn‟t see how to persuade Congress to pass a voting rights act – not until the Selma civil rights activity became a mass campaign in 1965. Then LBJ could act, and in the end he proclaimed to the media, “We have overcome.” Hillary Clinton during her primary campaign last year still wanted LBJ to get the credit for that victory of the grassroots. Democratic Party power brokers are not very fond of people power. Presidents taking the credit is not a new idea, of course. In the 1930s President Roosevelt didn‟t put muscle into passing the Wagner Act – which established the right of workers to have unions – until a mass movement of workers made it politically viable. Roosevelt then took credit for it. Mass non-cooperation? We do know how to do that in this county. Think of the „30s mass sit downs, factory occupations, and now again in 2008 autoworkers in Detroit conducting a sit-in and achieving their goal. I would love to see the autoworkers and their environmentalist allies occupy auto factories on behalf of making solar panels and the technological infrastructure for the planet, rather than internal combustion engines that our President-elect appears willing for them to make. I‟ll bet they would prefer to make products that will benefit their grandchildren, benefit a sustainable future for our country. And what they‟re making now offers no future for this country, right? We can the auto company owners to be on the side of planetary destruction, based on their very clear track record. It will surely take mass noncooperation to retire the mis-managers and put this valuable industry on the right track. Now we come to a moment of truth. Please take a look at your handout.4 4 See Appendix, Handout 2. 12 This is the difficult time, this is the time when you have to encounter your highest hopes or worst fears about the society your working with. I personally go back and forth, many people I know go back and forth as we contemplate this question. Is our society really set up in such a way that it‟s dedicated to destruction, to planetary destruction? Is our country anti-democratic in its sub-structure, as shown by its alliance with dictators over many many years, and the democracy we enjoy is superficial? Or is democracy real -- we‟ve fought for it over the years, so is it real? What‟s truly going on? I feel obligated to expose you to a grim possibility, because that‟s not the side that gets taught in courses very much. This perspective is what I regard as the kind of thing your parents may have sat down with you at some point and said we need to have this talk, something like that. I mean, it‟s not the kind of thing you would tell a ten year old necessarily, but something you might tell a fifteen year old. So let‟s read the handout I‟ve distributed, which lays out the grim possibility in a chilling way.* First a Yale economist and Federal Reserve governor, Henry Wallich, says this difficult, difficult thing, although he isn‟t writing it as if it‟s difficult for him to say. He was writing in Newsweek Magazine. At the time some environmental economists were suggesting that it might be necessary to shift from the goal of expanding the Gross National Product to a steady state model for the sake of planetary sustainability. Wallich was responding in his Newsweek column to that claim. “Growth,” he wrote, “is a substitute for equality of income. So long as there is growth there is hope, and that makes large income differential tolerable.” In other words, if growth of the national income pie stopped, the majority would look at the piece of the pie allocated to them, and strongly protest. Wallich wrote, “If GNP per capita stops rising, is everybody to remain at his current income level, like wage-earners during the late, lamented wage-and-price freeze? The low-income classes would hardly put up with that.” In other words, it may or may not make sense from the planetary point of view to freeze the GNP, but we can‟t do it because the lower orders will get restless, and we can‟t have that. They will clamor for redistribution of wealth, and we can‟t have that. So because we want to keep the wealth distribution what it is, we have to disregard what some ecologists are saying. He doesn‟t quite say this, but that‟s the implication: let‟s get our priorities straight -- what do you want, the planet or the current arrangement of privilege? But Brzezinski, who is still flourishing, still very prestigious, was also a Newsweek columnist at the time He took the next step on this by attacking environmental economists while exploring the political implications. He summarized Wallich, and then wrote, “Those promoting zero growth as a means of advancing egalitarianism in 13 American society have probably not considered the degree to which American capitalism might become openly coercive without further economic growth.” American capitalism might become openly coercive. “Coercion would be used to protect privilege in the setting of economic stagnation and relative absence of opportunity. The result would be loss of liberty.” We are warned that, in the wings just off stage, is the police state, waiting to handle us if we get too uppity, if we get too obstreperous, if we start demanding a redistribution of income. That‟s what Brzezinski is saying, and he is not fringe. You would expect an extreme Marxist to say this, but Brzezinski is anything but that; he is often called a neo- con. But he said, this is the reality, folks: if people clamor on a mass scale for redistribution of wealth then we will have to bring out the police state, and we don‟t want to bring out the police state, we like “democracy,” so give us a break. Come on, stay with the program. I just feel obligated to let you know this, not because I hope it‟s true. I hope it‟s not true. I hope that it‟s not true, but it might be. Now the thing is there are going to be, in a group this size at the lecture tonight, political disagreement about whether or not Brzezinski is letting us in on how the upper level of powerholders see things. Some people are going to say, “no way, no way, we are really one hundred percent democratic in this country,” and that‟s great, and I really hope that‟s true. An advantage of what I‟m offering tonight, of this way of thinking about the next eight years, or the next sixteen years, is that in order to act together we don’t actually have to reach agreement about this question, we don’t have to decide. We can have our arguments late at night, but we don‟t have to build our strategies based on it. We can do stage one, stage two, stage three, stage four, and then if the fascists come out, they come out. If they don‟t come out – good! We‟re happy, right? The young civil rights workers in the South didn‟t count on the KKK being there. SNCC thought, “Maybe we‟ll be able to do this demonstration without the Klu Klux Klan, and that would be fine with me,” But on the other hand if the KKK comes out, it‟s very smart for us not be shocked. Let‟s not be naïve, let‟s be realistic. Maybe they come out and if they come out let‟s be prepared for that, let‟s get our alliances built and our nonviolent tactics ready. The model I‟m offering here does not assume the worst. However, it offers a way to win even if the worst happens. Stage Five, the Power Shift 14 A fifth stage might be needed, in case the system remains so resistant that that power needs to be re-distributed. A power shift has been forced nonviolently in a variety of countries. We have here at Swarthmore a student team creating a non-violent database, and one of the kinds of non-violent struggle that they seem to like very much is the cases of overthrowing dictatorships and creating power shifts. We are creating the first ever non-violent database that covers a variety of kinds of movements and different kinds of issues. The cases where there is a military dictatorship standing in the way of people‟s progress, and then through people power that dictatorship is overthrown, is a kind of case that we might especially need someday, maybe not. But I just feel obligated to say that sobering thing just in case. The encouraging thing, on the other hand -- I want to end on a note of encouragement, because somebody has recently won an entire presidential election based on hope – would be to try a way of thinking about change that isn‟t resolutely naïve, and isn‟t resolutely cynical. It‟s encouraging to try a way of thinking that supports us to be united in the ways that we can be. This five stage model gives us a chance to bring tremendous creativity to the enterprise. Some of the factional fights that have happened politically in my fifty years of social change work have diminished people‟s creativity. What we most of all need if we are creating a new society is creativity. And my favorite social change movements that have happened in our own history have been those that have been creative, in which music and other cultural expression have flourished along with the growth in numbers. Post-election, we have the chance to build that kind of movement. 11/17/08 APPENDIX Handout 1: STRATEGIC MODEL FOR CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN Five Developmental Stages (based on researching profound social movements) Stage One: Cultural Preparation Primary tasks: Vision – what are the institutions desired, the goals for structural change? Analysis – what are the power dynamics surrounding the achievement of the vision? For example, who will seek to block this change? Self-image – what changes do the activists and oppressed need to go through to sustain them through the struggle? 15 Stage Two: Organization-building Primary tasks: Inventing organizational forms through which the hard-core activists can maintain a steep learning curve. Developing pre-figurative practices and institutions through experimentation. Skill-development in coalition-building across racial, class, and other lines. Stage Three: Small scale direct action campaigns Primary tasks: Clarify nature of “campaign” and use of nonviolent direct action Experiment with multiple campaigns on large variety of issues Celebrate victories Escalate with those issues that (a) resonate with masses of people, and (b) bring more- than-usual repression from powerholders. (Ex., civil rights sit-ins in Deep South.) Stage Four: Mass noncooperation Primary task: Maintain balance between (a) need to compromise to declare victory (Ex. 1961 Freedom Rides) and (b) need to escalate the struggle to make opposition more transparent and widen the movement. (Ex. 1963 Birmingham campaign to force JFK to get behind civil rights bill.) Moment of truth: Is a series of revolutionary reforms available or must there be a nonviolent revolution? Stage Five: Power shift, establishing parallel institutions Primary tasks: Manage transition, nonviolently oust powerholders, abolish illegitimate institutions, transfer allegiance to new institutions, elect new leaders, Truth & Reconciliation. Handout 2 COULD THERE BE A “MOMENT OF TRUTH” FOR THE U.S.? Cautionary disclosures from scholar/policy-makers Yale economist discloses an uncomfortable presumption Henry C. Wallich wrote a regular column for Newsweek in the early „70s. He was on the board of governors of the Federal Reserve as well as a Yale professor. Some environmental economists suggested it might be necessary to shift policy from expanding the Gross National Product to a “steady-state” model, for the sake of sustainability. Wallich responded. 16 “Growth,” he wrote, “is a substitute for equality of income. So long as there is growth there is hope, and that makes large income differentials tolerable.” In other words, if growth of the national income pie stopped, the majority would look at the piece of the pie allocated to them and strongly protest. Wallich wrote, “If GNP per capita stops rising, is everybody to remain at his current income level, like wage-earners during the late, lamented wage-and-price freeze? The low-income classes would hardly put up with that.”5 Equally Establishment political scientist takes it the next step Zbigniew Brzezinski, also a Newsweek columnist at the time (later National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter and now a Johns Hopkins professor) later attacked the environmental economists while exploring political implications. He summarized Wallich, then wrote, “Those promoting zero growth as a means of advancing egalitarianism in American society have probably not considered the degree to which American capitalism might become openly coercive without further economic growth. Coercion would be used to protect privilege in the setting of economic stagnation and relative absence of opportunity. The result would be loss of liberty. . . .”6 These highly-reputed scholar/policy-makers have let the cat out of the bag: our vaunted civil liberties depend on our not getting uppity and strongly challenging privilege. Like the African Americans who in my lifetime were jailed and killed for demanding an end to racial privilege, U.S. citizens can expect what Brzezinski delicately calls “coercion” if we look too closely at how the economic pie is distributed or what the planet might need. As harsh as this picture is, I also believe that, like the activists in the civil rights movement, we can prevail if we give up denial, ground ourselves in reality, and “keep our eye on the prize.” George Lakey, firstname.lastname@example.org 5 Newsweek, January 14, 1972, p. 6a. 6 Newsweek, March 27, 1972, p. 54. Italics mine – GL.
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