time for revolution is now!
by G.S. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
September 22, 2005
Wir brauchen nicht einen Hurrikan
But it didn't turn out so well. A hurricane came across the Gulf, tracking towards Mahagonny, a hurricane that caused the “night of horrors.” They had barely got into their fun when the radio announced, “A hurricane is moving toward Mahagonny!” Then two rowdy locals burst in shouting, “Pensacola is destroyed! And the hurricane is headed straight for Mahagonny.” Leokadja Begbick, the madam of the saloon and whorehouse shouted triumphantly, “Pensacola! Pensacola! The sheriffs have been struck dead and the just perish with the sinners.”
And Joe sang
In this prophetic opera, the full title of which is “The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”, Mahagonny can be seen as metaphor for what is proclaimed ad nauseum to be “Western civilization”, where everything is for sale. It's first performance, March 9,1930 in the Neue Theater in Leipzig, caused what Lotta Lenya, Kurt Weill's widow, said was described as “the worst theatre riot in history.” Some additional comments on the opera and Germany at that time (and the U.S. at this time) are in “The Gold Rush”, at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Greed/GoldRush.htm .
As happened in Mexico in the immediate aftermath of the great earthquake, also in the United States immediately following Katrina's devastation of New Orleans and much of the Louisiana and Mississippi coastal area, a tremendous surge of grassroots efforts spontaneously rose to meet the most urgent needs of the people. And, just as importantly for the long-term, many within this movement are insisting that we, the ordinary people and not the government's bureaucracies and their wealthy corporate cronies, must determine what is needed and how it is to be done. They are insisting, basically, that we must govern ourselves, and do so in a manner completely contrary to the way the dominant political system functions. It is a demand for true face-to-face democracy, a demand, as the Zapatistas say, for government from below, for governing ourselves without hierarchical power structures.
One of the many grassroots efforts underway is that of the People's Hurricane Relief Fund and Reconstruction Project (PHRF) and Community Labor United (CLU). Becky Belcore <email@example.com> and Curtis Muhammad <firstname.lastname@example.org> are first-hand sources for information on this massive drive to seize control of our own lives. Days after Katrina struck, PHRF stated, “the people of New Orleans will not go quietly into the night, scattering across this country to become homeless in countless other cities while federal relief funds are funneled into rebuilding casinos, hotels, chemical plants and the wealthy white districts of New Orleans like the French Quarter and the Garden District.”
― The article “Winning the Water War”, at http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/rbr/rbr3_water.html, tells of successful mass mobilizations in Dublin and other Irish cities against attempted water tax increases in the 1980's and 1990's.
― The book ˇCochabamba! Water War in Bolivia by Oscar Olivera tells of the dramatic mobilization that in 2001 forced the government to cancel its privatization concession of city water and sewer services to Aguas del Tunari, an international consortium headed by a Bechtel subsidiary. Remarkably, the mobilization even crossed class lines in that Bolivian city of a million people.
― The group Massachusetts Global Action http://www.massglobalaction.org/, based in Boston, works with local communities that are organizing themselves to oppose governmental and corporate actions contrary to their interests. One of the projects of this group is “Our Communities, Our Water”. Jason Pramas <email@example.com> said their approach, as I understood it, is to focus on precisely the problems that concern a particular community, but to do so within the framework of global consciousness.
― An article titled “Rights Fight: Townships in rural Pennsylvania take on factory farms ― and corporate rights” in the July/August 2005 issue of Dollars & Sense tells of the ongoing struggle against corporate industrialized hog raising with its concomitant contamination of the townships with massive amounts of stinking pig shit. According to the author, Adam D. Sacks <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Citizens realized that the issue was not really the factory farm or the sludged field. The issue was who has the right to decide what happens in our communities.” [emphasis added] Sacks founded the Center for Democracy and the Constitution http://www.constitution411.org.
These four examples, and the grassroots mobilizations of the Zapatistas and of groups and individuals responding to the destruction of New Orleans represent, I'm positive, only a tiny numerical sample of struggles all over the world by people with a rising consciousness of how corporations, governments and all the other agents of giant capitalism are raping the earth and almost all of us.
Our task, as I see it, ought to be to contribute to this rising global tide of 1) opposition and 2) direct actions focussed on and limited precisely to gaining control of our own lives. I am in the initial stages of forming a network aimed at doing just that. The idea for such a network came as a result of my last e-mail distribution, as described in the following:
In the e-mail on the damage disrespect does to the “left” in general by undermining mutual trust (now posted at http://site.www.umb.edu/faculty/salzman_g/Strate/Notz/2005-09-14.htm), I mentioned speculations following hurricane Katrina. The response I got was surprisingly large and positive, inspiring the idea that it would be good to begin networking (among those of us who wish to) in order to exchange ideas about what we need to do to help save this world, and how to go about doing it. An interesting exchange with John Spritzler <email@example.com> started things, and subsequently I wrote the following.
Asunto: Re: Disrespect hurts the "left" by eroding mutual trust
De: George Salzman <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Fecha: Fri, 16 Sep 2005 15:05:59 -0500
Para: John Spritzler <email@example.com>
CC: Chris Herz <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Joe Bageant <email@example.com>,
Dave Anderson <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
Saurabh Asthana <email@example.com>,
Peter Werbe ,
Richard Mandel <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Oaxaca, Friday, September 16, 2005
I found your comments here about respect for people very refreshing. I think there is a theoretical basis in Marxism for the disrespectfulness characteristic of so many on the Left. Marxist theory sees hope for a communist society in the workings of impersonal laws of society, laws which operate independently of the subjective aims and desires of individual human beings. Thus Marx often expressed contempt for working class people in the concrete (arguing that they were de-humanized by capitalism and driven only by self-interest) while viewing the working class abstractly as the historical force for progress. In contrast, I believe that the basis for hope in achieving a society based on the values of equality and solidarity and democracy is precisely the fact that most ordinary people want just such a society and indeed they try to shape the little corner of the world over which they have any control with these anti-capitalist values, which is the only reason why there are positive human relations of mutual support and trust and love in our capitalist society despite the attacks on these values by the ruling elites whose values are the opposite ones of competition, inequality and top-down control. The Marxist framework logically implies disrespect for ordinary people. The latter framework implies profound respect. If you would like to see how I and others have been trying to apply this latter framework to building a revolutionary movement, please see our web site at http://www.newdemocracyworld.org. My article The Communist Manifesto Is Wrong is one in particular that develops this point about respect in connection with Marxism.
All the best.
Yes, you may certainly use what I wrote as you wish.
And yes, we share the same faith in the basic decency of ordinary people. I look forward to staying in touch.
I read a bit of the website, which seems pretty well done and thoughtful. I did not find your article, "The Communist Manifesto Is Wrong", which interests me very much. My belief is that Marx was indeed very elitist and that he may have given too little credit to the impulses of individuals to shape a better society, and too much weight to the "machinery of economics" to shape everything. But it strikes me at first glance that David Stratman is probably overstating the logical necessity of Marx being contemptuous of ordinary working folks. In any case, I think that theoretical debates between Marxists and anti-Marxists are not what is needed to stir the chords of discontent among the oppressed and to motivate them to act. We middle-class intellectuals are probably marginal as long as we stay outside of the actual struggles. Of course I include myself in this group. Painful but I believe true.
The article about the Communist Manifesto is at http://newdemocracyworld.org/manifesto.htm and a page with links to other articles by myself on a variety of topics (not Marxism) is at http://newdemocracyworld.org/john-other-articles.htm. I agree that debating Marxism is not key -- building a revolutionary movement is. But Marxism is so pervasive among so many who wish to build a revolutionary movement, even influencing people who do not think of themselves as Marxists, that some theoretical understanding of the question we have been discussing often helps people relate much more positively to their friends, co-workers and neighbors.
Best to you.
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