Grassroots Southwest Politicking and Sustainable Business

TAG LINES

megaphone We have just seen the global rise of a new party's approach to elections, accessing, in the process, ways that this nascent 'greening' of politics might affect sustainable business and renewable energy. The coming ballot, barely a week away, means that all sorts of my normal correspondents are in the thick of hard-fought attempts to impact legislatures, and thereby make a contribution to a process of improving communities, making them more powerful and less noxious.

I wonder what would happen if I started with a question. "Why do we have elections?" Another inquiry that might be fun to initiate a dialog would be "What are elections for?" I'm not sure whether people would laugh or scowl, but I'd bet that one or the other reaction would predominate. People would laugh for different reasons: probably the most common would be that a listener would think first something like 'That's obvious!' and then would go, 'Oh, but I couldn't answer that question. Ooops!'

The scowlers, meanwhile, would consist of a lot of characters: 'guy's a commie, betcha a grand;' 'to raise my darned taxes, that's number one;' 'to run the show, idiot, now go away;' 'the heck that's s'posed to mean?' But, inveterate gambler that I am capable of being, I would have to say that I'd wager that a huge proportion of these doubters, at least 75%, and possibly much bigger would be unable to give a cohesive answer.

Yesterday, I wrote, "'Politics,' as opposed to political economy or sociopolitical engagement, is almost exclusively about gaining access to institutional power centers. Elections are the primary, though not the exclusive, means that people think about when they ponder who gets to run the government, determine the energy policies, decide where and how to build the concomitant power supply networks, and so on and so forth."

800px-darlinghurst_court_house And I like that proto-definition of contemporary electoral politics, with the addition of 'Government' in front of "institutional power center." But what exactly is a 'government institutional power center(GIPC)?' Since I'm nothing except another common citizen, I'm not sure myself. But I could give apt examples. A GIPC is a courthouse, or a few courtrooms in a strip mall, where all manner of empowering and disempowering activities take place; a GIPC is a legislature, where all manner of empowering and disempowering activities take place; and I could go on, probably for pages and pages and pages, about what constitute good examples of GIPC's.

I have an assertion about this though. For most folks, and that would include this common citizen typing away just now, most of the time this thinking--'yeah, the judge;' 'yeah, the Georgia Senate;' 'yeah, the traffic court'--is pretty vague. What really takes place in the two specific GIPC's that I mentioned is not something that most folks could give an accurate disquisition about.

And this means that most of us aren't capable of passing judgment, let alone having much effect, on what happens in a courtroom or a Congress, except to say, 'that's fine,' or, alternately, 'that's terrible.' This is a dangerous situation for anyplace that wants to remain a democracy. People can hardly be the arbiters of what they don't really follow or comprehend.

All of that is fodder for another essay. I digress here because so much energy goes into reporting on, talking about, financing, managing, and carrying out elections, at the exact same moment that most of the participants in the electoral process don't actually know how the cash-out of that process happens.

And that leaves out of the question entirely that well over half of the adult population, citizens eligible to play a part in the only democracy-game in town in many places, have zero functional relationship, as citizens, with the electoral process, let alone effecting any sort of impact on the underlying GIPC's--which also include such matters as the 81st Airborne Division of the United States Army, Hartsfield International Airport South of Atlanta, the Federal Penitentiary on the near Southeast side of town (where Eugene Debs stayed a few years, for the crime of speaking about the conscription law passed by the President who promised to 'keep us out of war'), and so forth.

It's the highway maintenance crews; it's the police sub-stations and jails; it's the water that we drink; it's the disappearance of the waste and rubbish and garbage that we create; it's the electricity grid and the sewers and the port facilities and the bridges, and I could go on. All of those things, that complex of services and productive activities and modalities (like roads and wires and such), are easy to take for granted.

But they are not facts of nature; they are artifacts and constructs. And if people don't know how to take care of them, don't know how care is taken in such cases in fact, well then, organized others, who do know how, are going to see that the care takes place according to whatever they think are appropriate standards.

More citizen involvement requires more citizen understanding. What the United States of America needs is not another election in which people carp and blame and then carry on the same old game. What the USA desperately needs is a huge, ongoing, eternal civics lesson in democracy.

Such a context, of involvement and agency, would have to encourage people to participate by showing them how to participate, encourage people to participate by offering educational sessions about the underlying issues, encourage people to participate by letting them have input about how things ought to happen, whether the upshot of such a putative mandate were solar panels for an apartment complex or a learning lab on every block that included instruction in retrofitting houses according to strict conservation standards.

And here's the situation in regard to this material that this humble correspondent will more fully develop later. Nobody running for government as Democrat or a Republican is explicitly operating a campaign with an agenda of the sort that I just outlined. A few, mainly Democrats, at least pay mention to some of what I'm purveying here.

So why do we have elections? One capsulization is to say that we have elections to determine who writes the checks at all of the GIPC's, and to a lesser extent, who manages the ongoing work of the GIPC's, and to a lesser extent determines the policies and procedures for actually doing the daily work that GIPC's do.

Susan Welch and a few colleagues have written a serviceable book, Understanding American Government, that presents a touch-the-surface overview, in 720 pages, of the gigantic topic that folks have to pay attention to if they want to be able intelligibly and intelligently to think about elections. But as just another common citizen, I have a lot to learn about this process, and where that admission leads me is to the demand that part of government's job is to make the task of being a good citizen easier, both attractive and fulfilling, as well as accessible.

An aspect of elections that Professor Welch details is that elections are about how 'interest groups' use elections to make things happen in a fashion that is useful to whatever their interests are. Military contractors, prison contractors, highway contractors, hospital architects, and on and on and on, all of them want more funding for more, so that they can continue to contribute, and receive funding to do so.

Thus, electoral work has also become a primary means of doing social justice and community work, since people do have an interest, that they often organize to project, in social justice and decent community life. Getting the radiation study done; making sure that the training center actually operates in a community-friendly manner; finding tutors who can help our kids with their math and English; the examples are basically limitless.

But the election is not social justice, nor does it guarantee community improvement. That again needs ombudsmen-like characters, or honest and dedicated public servants who can form majorities in the GIPC's, or--and this is the point of what I write, and much of the work I've done in my life--organized and empowered citizens who can insure that a people's agenda informs the SOP.

A huge trope on the web now follows the title of a recent publication, Electoral Politics as a Redistributive Game. In such a view, different pluralities of citizens can bargain, campaign, and otherwise engage with the State in order to make the checks issued go in one direction or another, thus effectuating a contract here for a $1.5 billion dollar killing machine, or, there, a hundred contracts for $15,000,000 libraries, community centers, community power production installations, school and community renewable energy programs, etc.

As things stand now, however, what proportion of people have the organizational means and human capital and resources to play this game? Most people, for the most part, lack a 'seat at the proverbial table,' so to say. The Energy Justice Network, the Blue-Green Alliance, and the people of Vermont pretty generally are just a few of the populations and organizations about which I've written that, as the gamblers like to put it, have a 'chip and a chair' when the dealing starts.

But that doesn't include a majority of people, at least in terms of organizations over which they have any sayso other than writing checks. Most people only watch. And a strong-democracy, participatory democracy, ongoing stewardship, in a word citizenship has to mean more than observing, and perhaps, less than half the time, making electronic inputs or pulling a few levers or punching some buttons every few years or so.

As I pointed out yesterday, certain of our most foundational Founding Fathers envisioned governance as the development of methods to keep majorities from becoming powerful enough to do anything. Whether through design or devolution, those visions seem to have come to pass. However, this humble correspondent still hopes to play some small part in helping to bring about a different outcome.

The nature of social democracy requires ongoing input; it necessitates citizens who can and do participate; it makes certain that access and tools and learning are apropos to folks' acting like citizens, day in and day out. Since that is what I value, since that is the prime mover in my agenda, this achieving of a participatory, people-power paradigm, that is how I judge elections.

If they encourage more citizen engagement, power, and growth, then they are successful. Otherwise, they are operating counter to the interests of democracy and as such ought not to exist, unless the purpose of their existence is to harm or destroy democracy.

This is what Ralph Nader meant in yesterday's posting, when he spoke of a government of, by, and for the people, instead of 'of Exxon, by General Electric, and for Ford' and so on. How to go about that transformation is a topic of depth and delicacy that such a common citizen as I have little qualification to judge. But I'm always interested in adding to the conversation.

FDR famously said that "All politics is local," and Mark Rudd, whom we will listen to in the rest of this article, has told his colleagues in New Mexico, "the road to Washington runs through Santa Fe." New Mexico's politics include, in addition to all of the complex and simple aspects of government that I have noted, issues of Native American lands and administration, as well as present expressions of a national conquest that stem from a hundred sixty years ago. In short, the complex history of that particular place is essential background for following what's up just now in New Mexico.

An observer can state, generally, that fault lines of class and creed and national theft and language and ethnicity create a intricately layered concoction of competing agendas in New Mexico. And while we will take note of just a few particulars of that, in relation to the current efforts of Mark Rudd there, I have a ton more to learn before I could write intelligently about it.

Origins are important though. Therefore, in speaking about Mark Rudd's current efforts for progressive politics in New Mexico, rather than delve into the Gordian knot of Southwestern history and society, this humble correspondent will speak briefly about Mr. Rudd's origins, as an activist, as a participant, as a citizen who admits that he made many misjudgments but still wants to learn and grow and play an ongoing citizen's role.

INTRODUCTION

Saying that Mark Rudd has a colorful history equates with calling the Sahara noonday sun bright. The child of immigrant parents on the Jersey side of suburban New York, he grew up "culturally Jewish" and critical of the surfaces of things--'why precisely did people not know about the holocaust?'--making the connection between Nazi consciousness and White supremacy at about the same time that he discovered Jack Kerouac.

Moreover, he perceived powerful parallels between German depredations and the U.S. incursions into Vietnam. Vietnam, and the murderous campaigns there conducted in his name, developed into "an obsession" that alienated him from any sunny-side-up view of America.

He ended up at Columbia in 1965 and ensconced in Students for a Democratic Society(SDS). And here, things take a decidedly radical and venturesome turn. As a leader of a student strike against racism on campus, Rudd faced a combination of radicalization by frustration and radicalization by identification, specifically with Che Gueverra, whom he lionizes still and in whose thrall he found himself after he visited Cuba prior to college.

He and a couple of comrades led an SDS breakaway faction that became the Weather Underground, devoted to armed resistance to the State. Though nominally at the head of this operation, Rudd describes himself as "in over my head" and constantly demoting himself away from top positions. In an abortive plot to bomb Fort Dix, in New Jersey, three of the bombers died, and the entire scene began to unravel.

The background for this young Jewish intellectual's maturation includes the influence of Communists and other radicals from the the 1930's and '40's. 1930's communists formed predecessor organizations to Civil Rights groups like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, for example, as such volumes as Red Activists and Black Freedom document.

The SDS itself grew out of 'industrial democracy' formulations that traced roots back to socialist and Industrial Workers of the World organizers during WWI. SDS's direct, lineal descendant was the Student League for Industrial Democracy(SLID), which only changed its name in 1959.

Of course, with Rudd's emphasis on an anti-racist agenda, the various Black Nationalist and Black Power thinkers prominent during the same period were also part of the influential background for this young radical's transition from a militant activist to a violent revolutionist. Certainly, the iconography of the Black Panthers, for instance, supported a violent revolutionary approach.

More important still, for Mark Rudd today, are the various programs and interventions of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee(SNCC), especially the organization's work in Mississippi. Rudd's promulgation of nonviolent methods of transformation especially make SNCC's successful efforts in the South noteworthy.

Of course, the brusque yet still cordial Mr. Rudd himself came up through the Students for a Democratic Society, its roots in socialist and anarchist forms visible to such an observant youngster as Mark, who was aware of the Wobblies and other radicals from America's past who created the predecessors to SDS itself. In 1969, he was the Columbia chairman of SDS, on the eve of the formation of the Weathermen.

The Port Huron Statement, an SDS manifesto, while it is not the foundation of his current work, may offer revealing insights into the course that this compassionately wily and amazing fellow has traveled. Its words seem applicable in any event.

"We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit. When we were kids, the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world: the only one with the atom bomb, the least scarred by modern war, an initiator of the United Nations that we thought would distribute Western influence throughout the world. Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people -- these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men. Many of us began maturing in complacency."

In many ways, many portions of that remarkable document must have called out to Mark Rudd, with his hatred of bigotry and imperial war. "In the last few years, thousands of American students demonstrated that they at least felt the urgency of the times. They moved actively and directly against racial injustices, the threat of war, violations of individual rights of conscience and, less frequently, against economic manipulation. They succeeded in restoring a small measure of controversy to the campuses after the stillness of the McCarthy period. They succeeded, too, in gaining some concessions from the people and institutions they opposed, especially in the fight against racial bigotry."

Undoubtedly, any examination of this complex historical figure has to examine the ideology of the Weather Underground and Mark's role in that process. However, Mr. Rudd himself has done a lot of reflection on his life and times. He has written a well-received memoir, Underground: My Life With SDS and the Weathermen. And he has highlighted the tragedy of his choices and his country.

His experience of a documentary film reconnected him to the emotional tenor of the time. He speaks of "(t)he grief that came with the knowledge of what our country was doing in our name, a grief so overwhelming it produced the conviction that it was absolutely imperative to act against the outrages of empire. The easiest reaction to grief is anger and violence, both justified back then in the theories of armed revolution. Thanks to the rare opportunity to see myself as a very young man which the movie afforded me, I finally understood why I had acted."

As a fugitive in New Mexico, in the early 1970's, "I got to know New Mexico, and I fell in love with the place. I’m literally in love with the land and the people, and that’s where I want to be.," Rudd writes. So he's stayed there, rooted and radical in his call for a rooted democratic militancy that learns from the lessons of his life.

Since his avoidance of prison, as a result of the government's refusal to reveal the FBI snitches who implicated him, he has concentrated on reorienting himself to the present scene and finding the basis to continue resistance, to keep fighting for a better world. Of course, he also taught college math for many years, while he created a life for himself and, with his family, moved toward a participatory presence in the polity which he chose.

MARK RUDD'S COALESCENCE WITH DEMOCRATS IN THE SERVICE OF SOCIAL DEMOCRACY AND SUSTAINABILITY

I have had the opportunity to write back and forth with this soldier of transition for a short while, and he this week responded to a set of questions that I sent him. His crusty good humor--I'll hope--came through when he first replied. "What you want is a book, not an interview. I'll get to this in the next couple days, ok? I'm going to try to be brief because it's hard for people to read a lot of words."

Of course, all that I produce is a 'lot of words,' a "depth textuality" that, for better or worse, I passionately defend. On the other hand, 'yo comprone." I wrote back, "I totally 'grok' what you're saying. And your response is just what I was hoping for. Even the briefest briefing, plus optional links, leads, 'go to school, buddy!' rants, all are perfect."
Before the narrative gets there, however, a few points updating Mark Rudd's general presence in New Mexico make sense. As noted above, he's been teaching, mainly algebra, at a popular junior college in Albuquerque. One of the obnoxious 'rating services' that guides students to easier and 'funner' academic experiences indicated that Mark Rudd got a 5.0 (out of 5) for the 'fun' part, and he merited a 4.3 for 'easiness.'

Some of the students in his classes commented on the site. Their brief texts are telling, all but one supportive or even adulatory about Mr. Rudd, despite his acknowledged revolutionary past.

Mark Rudd also show up in a beautiful online document, Democracy for New Mexico as one of the 'good guys,' willing to pay more than lip service to advancing precepts of majority rule and social justice. What is most striking here is the way that a 'frontier outpost' often noted for its hidebound conservatism is a much better sinecure for this lifelong radical progressive than are the so-called 'liberal' environs of his native New York.

In addition, Mark Rudd has long stood for electoral opportunities to advance community agendas. In particular, he was early on behind the candidacy of Jerry Ortiz y Pino, a markedly progressive member of the Democratic Party, for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Ortiz y Pino's presence in the virtual world strongly suggests that his is a campaign for people power and public involvement at all levels of governance.

Not only did Mark Rudd, long before a formal campaign filing, 'put his money where his mouth is'--the announcement read, "Fundraiser at The Guild Theater (Nob Hill) sponsored by Mark Rudd," but he also remained active, in a door-to-door, show-up-for-meetings, and 'walk-the-walk' sense from the primary through the present general election struggle that is coming to a head right this minute.

An important element of Mark Rudd's work over the years, congruent with his recent foray into campaigning for Mr. Ortiz y Pino, has been in the nature of a specific sort of anti-imperial, pro-alternate-energy stance. He has risked his credibility as a Jew, and invited the sorts of calumnious attacks reserved for 'traitors,' by arguing that Israel is fundamentally wrong in its current National policies and that America's foreign and energy policies tie into that Israeli error.

Since this is territory that I intend to explore at length, Lord willing and the creek don't rise, for today's essay I merely direct readers to a marvelous audio file that presents Mr. Rudd and an opponent in a chilling exchange about Israel today. Mark Rudd's contentions: that "many Israelis believe they're in N.J.;" that the general attitude of people and government flows from "Occupation, 101;" and that the resultant view, "Smash them, kill them, murder them, eventually they will submit" also leads to a sense of ultimate superiority and victory, are more or less incontrovertible, if one cares about data.

His deduction from the geographical and historical facts of the region, and from the fact that this "single strategy of murder is not working" is evocative of the prophets of Abrahamic religion--basically, Jew and Christian and Muslim altogether. Those who advocate militarism as a solution for Israel in this context, he says, are, purely and simply, "suicidalists." Whether enough people other than this humble correspondent will listen is an open question.

Here, then, is an interview with this character of world history, up close and personal.

First of all, can you briefly break down the dynamics and patterns and other aspects that you see as most important in understanding this particular historical moment?

"I'm leery about making grand observations. Forty years ago I was so positive that the US military defeat in Vietnam signalled the beginning of the end for the US empire that I put my life behind that belief. I could say that it appears that with the crash of 2008, the defeats in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the election of Barack Obama, neo-conservative ideology is kaput, totally discredited. But there's a principle of politics that trumps all others: "You never know." I like to believe that we're at the beginning of building a progressive movement that will shift power from the corporate and banking and military elites over to the side of the people. The goal is building a social democracy in this country. But I could be wrong."
--

How about your background? What elements of your experience, if any, might be useful for readers to learn that generally would be hidden away?

"Growing up Jewish right after World War II gave me an appreciation for anti-racism. I've written about this in an essay on my website, 'Why were there so many Jews in SDS?.' My point is that Jews such as my family, immigrants, could still be critical outsiders to this society. I'm not sure that's the case anymore."
--

How about a quick telling of what you're up to now, possibly including ideas and insights that online searches might not reveal?

"I'm mostly involved in the attempt to turn the Democratic Party into a party of the people, make it what it should be. We're working on the local and state level, trying to unite community organizing and environmental organizing with electoral organizing. It's tough work. I tell people here that the road to Washington runs through Santa Fe."
--

Many people believe that instrumental means will salvage the American prospect, for example social networking, computer and telecommunications technology, renewable energy; do you buy this, and why or why not?

"I agree with Malcolm Gladwell's observations in his recent New Yorker piece, "Small Change." He talks about strong ties and weak ties. Social networking creates weak ties between people, but you need strong ties to change people's minds and move them to action. That takes real relationships. Which are usually built in person. Old fashioned 'organizing.' Nothing wrong with electronic communication for speed, though. It beats a mimeograph machine any time. (You might ask What's a mimeograph machine? It has something to do with a typewriter. But What's a typewriter?)."
--

Other people point to the need for consciousness, reflection, action that are interrelated as a necessary bulwark for transformation; what's your take on such a statement?

"Where do people's ideas come from? Mostly their friends. We have to build a movement of lots of friend relationships, especially among people who don't already agree. Consciousness, reflection, action, more reflection, etc., is wonderful, obviously, like a good piece of apple pie and ice cream, but how do you get to that point?"
--

My experience is that, more so than in any other area of understanding, U.S. citizens are ignorant of history; does this seem reasonable to you and is it important and why or why not?

"Henry Ford notoriously said, "History is bunk." It was in his interest to keep people ignorant. Thank god for Howard Zinn."
--

A big part of jump-starting social movement is finding models that can apply to real communities that are struggling; do any models seem interesting/important, etc. to you, and how so?

"At the moment I'm studying the civil rights movement, especially the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in Mississippi. Most young people have never themselves experience mass movements, so I urge them to go back and learn about the mass movements of the 20th century. For me the gold standard is SNCC, since their organizing method was democratic, horizontal, developed leadership, and built on relationships. Their guide was Miss Ella J. Baker, who was the source of SDS's radical democratic vision, too, known as 'participatory democracy.'"

Right now I'm particularly interested in successful community organizing which is joined to electoral strategies. The issue of power is primary, but there has to be a mobilization of the disenfranchised. That brings us back to SNCC in Mississippi. I urge everyone to read Charles M. Payne's, I've Got the LIght of Freedom, a case study of the organizing tradition which SNCC used in the Mississippi Delta."
--

Many people, myself included, speak regularly about 'community' and 'communities;' how is this an important, or perhaps, an inadequate idea? What thoughts to you have in this regard?

"We might benefit by going back and finding out about the civil rights movement's 'beloved community.' "
--

Winston Churchill's comment about democracy seems apt to me, despite his execrable side-deals with fascism; is a commitment to democracy, and a 'strong' conception of democracy at that, essential?

"I can't imagine what Winston Churchill said about democracy. I'm willing to accept an 'F' on the test. Walt Whitman said (according to Allen Ginsberg), 'Without love there is no democracy.' In theory our goal and method is democracy."
--

What sort of analysis is important to develop about media? Have you read any of my material about Peoples Information Networks? Any comment?

"Don't know what Peoples Information Networks are, but I'll google it. I get much of my info from Amy Goodman, Democracy Now; also the Nation and the New Yorker. I concur with the standard left analysis of the mainstream media. However, I do think that the web has great potential: we found out about Abu Ghraib {in Iraq} much earlier in the war than we found out about Operation Phoenix, a similar intelligence-gathering torture and murder operation run by the U.S." in Vietnam."

What about the proto and actual phenomena of populist reactionaries of any political stripe?

"It's amazing to me how fast the right has built a populist base (obviously they have money, but so do we). We'd best get off our a**es and get organizing. They're way ahead of us in channelling mass discontent with their easy answers that ultimately benefit the corporate elites. 'Government bad' is a powerful message; the left has nothing comparable or as easy to grasp. I've been playing around with 'The government has responsibility for the well-being of the people and the planet,' but that's got too many words and a few too many concepts, {so it's} hard for people to grasp."
--

What is at stake in these social and technology and political and energy-policy debates for citizens? For communities and societies? For the world?

"Not much, only the future of life on the planet."
--

Any questions that I missed here?

"How about violence and nonviolence? Don't use violence. It doesn't work. Here's what I've learned: 'Don't mourn, organize!'"

This humble correspondent will be writing, eventually, about how 'violence,' and as a result 'non-violence' are basically bogus concepts, that we have to articulate our positions in terms that are more graphic and historically specific, or we're not going to be saying much. But that's grist for another mill.

For now, this will suffice. The Weathermen formed in the aftermath of the FBI's Chicago assassination of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Black Panthers. These two were among at least a dozen Panthers murdered by authorities, while the country was slaughtering a hundred thousand a year, more or less, mainly civilians, in Southeast Asia. In such a context, being 'against violence' doesn't strike this humble correspondent as an adequate 'order of battle,' as it were.

But I'm sure as shootin' willing to talk about it. As I'm fond of saying, "If you're waiting on me, you're backing up."

CONCLUSIONS

To an extent, the particular coalition that one backs is not the primary issue in any political debate. At least a few Republicans are dandy people with dandy ideas for human progress. Probably a substantial number of Democrats extol the potential and work for the realization of more than a few aspects of actual democracy. Yet, objectively, the parties are Demopublican and Republocrat, more or less indistinguishable in considering the big picture of how politics play out at the National and International levels.

The essence of democracy is taking part, which involves much more than yelling, whining, or demonizing; it means, at a bare minimum, struggling to make matters better, to find practicable solutions. A subtle concomitant of this is that one must respect all participants, even those with whom one disagrees. One may cast aspersions at those who merely moan and cavil, but any honest partaker of the steamy democratic mire is a colleague, even if ever diametrically opposed on matters of policy and principle.

The juxtaposition of citizens from Georgia and elsewhere, who have become feral proponents of Green politics, with Mark Rudd, who returned from a feral 'Underground' life to become a Democratic Party activist, perfectly illustrates this argument that participation is more important than program, that from the respectful dialog of differing viewpoints can emerge public policy that can truly liberate human beings, and possibly salvage humanity. Involvement is the life blood of majority rule: otherwise, whatever the quorum finesse permits, no majority is ever likely to be real.

The applicability of all of this to the present moment lies in the indisputable fact that America has not had a participatory democracy--outside of the infrequent evolution of a Vermont--in half a century or more. Furthermore, in many places--folks should come to Georgia sometime for an extended stay--to assert the presence of democracy at all is questionable.

The sum of these arguments is that the labor ahead of us is not about electing a particular party. It is not about winning a race. It is not even about getting control of a particular GIPC, such as the House of Representatives. Instead, our task is to overcome the initial barrier, of playing a regular part in ongoing dialog, debate, and determination of policy and program.

And this is basically impossible as an individual hero. The only way to make consistent participation practical is through an organized presence. Thus, the final assessment must favor what Mark Rudd and Mother Jones and, bless his railroaded heart, Joe Hill, all said, the latter before he was shot to pieces by a firing squad under the auspices of the murdering state of Utah: "Don't mourn: organize!"

The litany appears repeatedly: the facts and positions that Mark Rudd and his comrades advanced in the 1960's and '70's, which he and cohorts continue to advance in updated forms, were neither wrong nor impossible to impose. Rather, the strategic approach to winning adherence to the evidence, and achieving acceptance of the the positions, was in error. The difficulty of politics is that good ideas, even brilliant thinking, accomplishes little without an organizational structure both that reflects those realities and conceptions and that empowers the institution of those realities and conceptions.
He also makes a key concession in favor of Constitutional forms and the potential inherent there for 'human rights.' Specifically, "the dropping of our federal charges, in October, 1973, completely changed my view of the importance of civil liberties and constitutional rights. Having experienced first hand protections of the rights of the accused, I could no longer call them 'bourgeois civil liberties.' They are real and worth defending."

Ever a critic, this humble correspondent would cast a skeptical eye on this conclusion, outside of a significant expansion and alteration of the thesis. My experience, if only historical, of Richard Pryor's observation about jail, that it was "Just Us" Black people, and not any form of "justice," is simply too insistent to ignore.

Finally, Rudd's continuing striving for impact and improvement leads to the contention that America's empire, its energy orientation, and its paradigm of business practice, need to say the least significant modification. No simulacrum of 'sustainable business' is even vaguely plausible otherwise. Mr. Rudd articulates these ideas powerfully, for those willing to listen.

"This year I visited Israel with my family for the first time. I learned that far from being culturally retro, which is the way I used to think of it—a small, socialist, anti-materialist nation—Israel is really an avatar, way ahead even of California. Israel is America’s future: militarized, racist, religio-nationalist, corporate, riven with so many internal splits and hatreds that only the existence of a perpetual enemy keeps the nation from exploding. If we don’t organize to stop the current direction in this country, thirty years from now we will be Israel."

AFTERWORD

"Come gather round people, wherever you roam,
and admit that the waters around you have grown.
And accept it that soon you'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth saving,
Then you better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone..."

And indeed, the times indicate change no matter what our fondest desire for stability might be. Moreover, nature's possibilities rule out any potential for 'going back,' despite the reactionary fantasies of all manner of so-called conservative and proto-fascist pundits for a return to 'the good old days.'

In natural historical terms, however, a thousand years is less than one per cent of the long swath of the human condition, itself much less still of the earth's flight through space. So ranting that 'the end is near,' 'change or die,' while such statements undoubtedly contain some measure of truth and wisdom, cannot count for much as prediction.

'America could be like Israel in thirty years.' Or some huge breakthrough could lead to a colonization of space, allowing the opening of a truly 'endless frontier' hoped for by capitalists everywhere. Or a dystopia could come, bringing an oppressive, proto-fascist nightmare into existence, replete with fake smiles and plenty of prisons.

Or, hope against hope, the long labors of the likes of Mark Rudd and this humble correspondent could bear fruit, yielding an orchard of social democracy and a garden of strengthened communities joined in a terraced world network of Peoples Information Networks. Or, probably most likely, some muddling through of the always-entrepreneurial forms of capital, despite the heavy burden of financial domination, will permit a continuation of the frisson of tension and alienation that are the watchwords of existence now.

Whatever the future brings, the present gives people a chance to choose. And renewable energy, participatory democracy, and the other propositions that this humble correspondent keeps propounding seem like the only likely sources of 'sustainable business' on the shelf just now. Though that could be 'just me,' Mark Rudd is not the only one who might have a similar view.

This focus on a grassroots movement that such old hippies and rebels as this common citizen and his far-flung cousins promote may be the only counter to the wealth and predominance that flow from empire's thrust for universal dominance. Mark Rudd speaks to this point directly.

"I learned about the Vietnam War... that it was not a well-meaning mistake. It was part of a global strategy for American domination of the world. That explanation has proven accurate over the course of the next forty-five years in understanding such seemingly disparate phenomena as the current war in Iraq and the availability of cheap blueberries from Chile in the winter."

In an interview about his position vis-a-vis empire, Mark Rudd deepens this notion in such a way that adherents to a 'business...better' approach might hear echoes of the positions advanced by this humble correspondent. Mr. Rudd is speaking about his divergence into armed struggle, and what should have been his priority instead.

"I was beginning to doubt the wisdom of the armed strategy we were engaged in. That it isolated us, split the movement, etc. That it was the wrong strategy. We should have been building the mass movement, building SDS, too, while all the while arguing for anti-imperialism."

The way that this ties into electoral politics will be an argument that I develop in more detail later. However, the reader might examine a recent work by Stanford political scientist Karen Jusko, "The Electoral Foundations of Redistributive Politics" and gain an inkling of the intersection that does in fact exist.

"In countries where electoral geography favors the representation of low-income citizens, we observe greater overall reductions in income inequality through redistribution, and higher levels of social spending." In other words, community, organization, solidarity, and democracy can combine to induce one version or other of 'beloved community,' to which Mr. Rudd--and this humble correspondent--have heretofore referred.

Che Gueverra, rest his Red soul that fought so fiercely for justice and liberation, once said precisely this. “'At the risk of sounding ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.'”

This does not mean that only those who carry automatic rifles are capable of profound feelings of communal adoration. It does mean that people who honestly promote revolutionary transformation generally act out of some love of life, of nature, of the human prospect on the planet earth.

Gaia, renewable energy, participatory politics, all fit together. Without them, sustainable business is at best a cruel joke.

Photos:
Mark Rudd

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Non-standard font styles will be removed, but basic text formatting like bold and italic will be preserved.

Full HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Non-standard font styles will be removed, but basic text formatting like bold and italic will be preserved.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

FMR Icons

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.