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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.
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         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.
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       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.
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                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
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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
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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.”
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        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.
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       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
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        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.
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        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.
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     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.
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       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, glakey1@swarthmore.edu




5
    Newsweek, January 14, 1972, p. 6a.
6
    Newsweek, March 27, 1972, p. 54. Italics mine – GL.

								
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