Volatility

April 21, 2011

Online Organizing

Filed under: Internet Democracy — Russ @ 9:07 am

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While I don’t have a fully fleshed-out concept yet for how a movement could organize online, I wanted to jot down a few notes.
 
1. I think almost everyone agrees that in the long run the Internet is no substitute for real life meeting and working together. This is especially true since movement-building requires foundation actions sustained over a long period of time. These actions, whatever they are, take place in the real world, not online. The only significant online action is information exchange, which I’ll get to below.
 
So a primary goal is to use the Internet to form relocalization and democratizing groups in the real world.
 
2. As these groups are formed, they can coordinate and form a rudimentary confederation online. Again, real confederative activities will ultimately have to take place in real life.
 
3. In the meantime, we communicate information about the state of our polity and economy. Here I think we could fruitfully divide our labor if we had a significant number of blogs dedicated to similar transformational goals. These blogs could confederate under a “brand name”, link to one another, and delegate among themselves responsibility for regular reporting on particular topics.
 
Here’s some examples of what I think are the most important subjects: The state of the Bailout, failure of bank reform, corporate welfare, unemployment (and the phoniness of “job creation”), inequality of wealth and income, the SCOTUS and courts, globalization, the state of the money supply (including MMT), energy issues, the Permanent War, civil liberties, the Land Scandal, the health racket bailout, net neutrality and other Internet issues, intellectual property, corporatist ideology, and Food Sovereignty (farm issues, biofuels, GMOs, the Food Control structure).
 
That list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, but those are the things that immediately came to mind.
 
And then there’s the many affirmative topics of agroecology and sustainable food production, distributed and decentralized energy, alternatives to money, land redemption, tallying protest actions, home schooling toward a goal of better citizenship, alternative medicine, non-fossil fuel crafts, every kind of decentralized and/or non-capitalist production, every kind of community-building endeavor, democratic ideology. Again, those are just some examples.
 
So for example if we had fifty bloggers, each could agree to take special responsibility for one or two of those and to regularly report on it. Of course everyone would also be free to write on anything else as well.
 
4. Everyone would also have a responsibility to try in various ways to spread the word around the web.
 
5. If resources allowed, it would also be good to have one or more online forums, where larger-scale discussions to could take place.
 
6. Although we might start with a relatively broad mission statement, at some point it would be good to draw up a platform. But that could wait till later. (I’m sorry I got sidetracked from my plan for a mock Convention at this blog, but I’ll get back to that shortly. That exercise should help discover what we really agree upon.)
 
7. We know we can’t rely upon the Internet to always be available for this kind of organization. So as soon as some real life confederative action is taking place, one of the first goals has to be setting up a redundant, real-world communication system, including a plan for print media.
 
So there’s some notes about the Internet.
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58 Comments

  1. Reads like a good plan-worth a try. But acknowledge that there will be disagreements & coalitions.For example-you didn’t mention immigration. I’ve lived in SoCal for 35 yrs & watched the region break into ghettos & privileged areas(diverse educated professionals from all parts of the globe)Regional experience will affect your collection of bloggers-bonding some & offending others. How do you propose dealing with this? I think the US would work better if it were divided into regions. The Feds R too big and the states too small-like the porridge tale.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 21, 2011 @ 11:23 am

    • Yes, I imagine there will be lots of disagreement to hash out. We’ll have to take that as it comes. I agree that the US as currently set up makes zero sense as an entity. Since my entire project revolves around decentralization, it follows that I’d support any level of breakup into smaller, more rational regions.

      The reason I didn’t mention immigration is because it’s invariably blown up into a political red herring and used by the elites for divide and conquer purposes. It seems to me that the return on investment of discussing it is negative.

      My position on immigration is simple:

      The best thing for both American and Mexican workers would be the eradication of NAFTA and the rest of globalization. It’s the economic elites who want unrestricted immigration of unskilled labor, so there’s yet another reason American workers, if they want to improve their condition, must fight to destroy those elites. There’s zero utility in turning one’s anger on the immigrants themselves.

      And I’ll add, although this is a “reformist” position, that anyone upset about rampant immigration of unskilled workers should support all policies which would relax restrictions on immigration of skilled labor, especially professionals. The liberal establishment and media wouldn’t be so pro-immigration if they themselves were exposed to its economic pressures. Fortunately, as part of the expanding liquidation, the elites are finally getting around to this assault on professionals as well. That’s another sign of how the system is cannibalizing itself, gradually wiping out its own support base.

      So if people agreed on that line, we could write based upon it. But I feel that there’s more pressing things to focus on, so I only express that position if it comes up. Usually I ignore the issue, for the reason I gave.

      Comment by Russ — April 21, 2011 @ 3:19 pm

    • Natalie: I completely agree that the U.S. needs to be broken up into manageable separate self directing entities. Please clarify your “…states too small…” comment. Were you thinking geographically or population wise or a combination of the two or some other criteria or combination of criteria. Do you think California is too small to be a separate independent nation? One in nine folks, in what is now known as the U.S. of A., live in California and it has considerable geographic size, especially when compared to states east of the Mississippi River. Additionally, it has only been part of the U.S. for 160 odd years, was part of Mexico and Spain for the 300+ years prior and belonged to the Native Americans for the tens of mellenia prior to that. So we have our own heritage. Becomng a separate entity would be easy, we can feed ourselves (and a good part of the world), have access to the ocean, a vibrant multicultural society that is innovative etc. Sounds like a winner to me. We just need to work up a new social contract.

      Comment by jm51 — April 21, 2011 @ 8:15 pm

  2. Russ-Forgive me for an off-topic reference. Prompted by your recent post, I recalled Solzhenitsyn’s Letter to Soviet Leaders and his reference to the zemstvos of 19th century Russia. Though he was trivially stigmatized as a purely slavophile theocratic authoritarian, barely veiled in this work is the central ideal of radical democracy.

    Comment by barfield — April 21, 2011 @ 2:30 pm

    • Thanks for the reference, Barfield. I haven’t read it, nor have I read the literature of the Russian populist movement, though I imagine there’s lots of material there as well.

      Comment by Russ — April 21, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

  3. The idea of an online confederation to me is to fish people out, tag them geographically and get them working on existing projects or equipping them to start localization initiatives.

    I’m not interested in seeing a Wiki of Corporatist malfeasance. I want to see what other people are already doing to transition from dependence on industrialism and to shield their communities from Federal Government overreach.

    Comment by Ross — April 21, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    • I’d like to see it do both. While there are some people who by inclination jump directly to relocalization, many more gradually will come to it partially in response to the destructive way they see the world going. Finally, we’ll have to do our best to convince those who understand corporatism but are completely confused about what to do that relocalization is the answer. I expect that if a movement is to be built, it’ll need to organize many of the second type and convert many of the third type.

      So I do think the crime reportage needs to continue, even as we also write about what to do and what we’re doing. Especially since we can expect the system to assault our efforts.

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 1:59 am

  4. Your response was right on target.Extrapolated from “Murder City” Ciudad Juarez & The Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.NAFTA
    (Clinton & Salinas)crushed peasant agriculture in Mexico & sent millions of campesinos fleeing north to the US to survive.The average wage in Juarez went from $4.50 to $3.70 & the increased shipment of goods created perfect cover for movement of drugs.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 21, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

    • Yup. And all the effects were intended and calculated ahead of time. By now I don’t think any of these globalization shills were “mistaken”. They were all conscious criminals.

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 6:41 am

  5. To Jm51/ The regions have already evolved based on groups who settled there and determined the cultural base, economic specialization, new immigrants drawn to those economies, cultures and climates. No, CA would definitely not be a region. Northern CA has more in common with the Pacific NW while SoCal would align with AZ, NM, NV and maybe Utah. The regions have been relatively defined for sometime: The Northeast, Middle Atlantic, South, Midwest, Southwest, Mountain, & Northwest. There are some states that straddle but would find their place(people would move around) as govts redefined themselves.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 21, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

    • Natalie; (my following comments only address the west coast) If we take the determinants you have listed “economic specialization, new immigrants drawn to those economies, cultures and climates.” then the line of demarcation you espouse “Northern CA to the Pacific NW” is a west to east line. (also it is unclear from your resonse where Northern CA starts).It is much more accurate to draw the line in a north to south direction using the coastal mountain ranges as the divider. The people east of the ranges (especially in OR and WA) have the same traits and connections (you list) with the folks in ID, MT, WY, and NV. The cultures west of the ranges are separate and also connected by your criteria. At least currently.

      Additionally, you state ” The regions have already evolved based on groups who settled there”. There is actually a great migration taking place, up from the south and in from the east that is changing this area forever.

      The goal (of spliting off any region from the war criminal/corrupt DC empire) should be to build an open society that welcomes all who are willing to join and live by the social contract.

      The task (at least partially)being placed on the table by the contributors to this website is developing a social contract that recognizes the inherent rights and responsibilities of human beings and ensure sufficient safeguards to prevent society from degenerating into a corrupt criminal enterprise and to guarantee the accountability of the People’s government to the People and the People to each other, individually and collectively.

      Comment by jm51 — April 22, 2011 @ 5:52 pm

  6. Organizing around watersheds, or at least water resources makes the most sense to me. This could eliminate national boundaries as well. I’m also interested in a mock trial of crimes against humanity by our continuum of federal leaders like they did on the streets to get the military to arrest Mubarek.

    Comment by tawal — April 22, 2011 @ 9:20 am

    • Did you see my post linking to John Wesley Powell’s old map laying out a proposed division of the American West into watershed districts?

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/john-wesley-powells-watershed-districts/

      I’ve always loved that idea.

      I’ve also mentioned how somebody ought to draw up indictments against today’s criminal elites. One could probably use the same counts as they used at Nuremburg. If I recall correctly, the main counts were crimes against peace (aggressive warfare), conspiracy against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These and if necessary their transpositions to robbery might be sufficient. (I personally classify all bankster and corporate robbery as crimes against peace, just as much as literal warfare.)

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 9:50 am

  7. Thanks Russ. I thought I heard the watershed idea here first. I’ll take a look at the links more closely.

    Comment by tawal — April 22, 2011 @ 10:17 am

  8. http://www.counterpunch.org/amin04192011.html
    This a remarkable update on Egypt.

    Comment by tawal — April 22, 2011 @ 10:24 am

    • Thanks, tawal. That looks interesting. I bookmarked it for later.

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 1:06 pm

    • tawal, thank you so much for this link. Since the ‘end’ of the Egyptian revolution I haven’t had a source for following events there, and wrongly assumed the same old same old was in place -just different names.

      ” …Taqadum Al-Khatib before a packed house. The young man had indeed fulfilled on his pledge to the military general. “The street” had spoken and the Egyptian youth had delivered. ”

      This is great news and a well written article, and also proof that a leader is indispensable to any organization: it is just the nature of things. The difference is in whether the leader is chosen or is a despot ruling criminally -bullying with banks, tanks, police on the ground, and nuclear weapons. I’m afraid that without a strong legitimate leader, the criminal emerges in every situation. So, ultimately, rule of law and a strong Constitution is essential.

      Interesting, that nowhere to be seen is the so-called GOOGLE hero.

      Comment by LeeAnne — April 23, 2011 @ 10:28 am

      • Did that guy disappear? He showed a lot of signs of being a stooge, but I haven’t been sure what he was.

        Comment by Russ — April 23, 2011 @ 4:05 pm

  9. Russ,
    Great, let’s do it. I am willing to commit to a blog or so.
    I believe the primary focus ought to be on the positive way forward, by re-localizing and inspiring people to cut their economic and emotional ties to the current corrupt elites. We must still write essays about how and why they are corrupt, and what they are up to, but we must primarily inspire ourselves and others by action and meetings in person where we hear each other’s voices.

    Comment by Publius — April 22, 2011 @ 11:26 am

    • Cool. I agree that the primary focus must be affirmative, since as slowly as knowledge of the tyranny is spreading (which is why we need to keep writing about that as well), it’s still spreading faster than any good ideas about what is to be done. I think direct economic and political democracy and the transformation beyond fossil fuels is the answer, and that’s the kind of movement I’d like to help bring together.

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 1:11 pm

  10. Help might be forthcoming from sites that are already linked. I found you through Naked Capitalism.
    Don’t know how fast you want to move, but alternative rock groups (I think Arcade Fire & Muse may be like-minded) could initially attract a large following. Going media with celebrities & social networks may not be inspiring to thoughful planners like yourself, but they bring in the numbers. Kunstler complains no one listens to him-but he hasn’t tried very hard. Maybe 1st step for you is to put down the general precepts into formal print that can be circulated-like a revised Declaration of Independence.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 22, 2011 @ 11:41 am

    • Yes, I do need to write a concise manifesto.

      I don’t know why you think I disparage any channel of communication which looks promising. I just haven’t yet been involved with it. I’m busy with this blog and the relocalization group, so I haven’t yet thought out strategies like that. I agree that those are good ideas.

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

      • Natalie & Russ: yes, we must bring in the artists, the musicians. I am currently involved in a project to create a “concert series” that has the real goal of bringing like-minded people together to talk about these issues.
        The music and art will be reasons or excuses to joyous occasions to come together. People need something positive and spiritual like music and art to give meaning to their struggles. And the musicians and artists you mention, and those we all like (I am fond of Greg Brown, Mason Jennings – midwestern stars, for example) support our goals in their lyrics and art.

        So let’s use these great artists to bring the movement together. I am willing to help with this.

        Comment by Publius — April 23, 2011 @ 1:01 am

      • Sounds good, Publius. Have you written about it at your site?

        Comment by Russ — April 23, 2011 @ 3:07 am

  11. Hello,

    I’ve been working on my own organization in Kitchener/Waterloo, southern, Ontario, Canada that is seeking to make some meaningful change.

    While it is still quite new, with my partner I have put up an outline of our vision of how we want to change Canada for the better; it is in the About section:

    http://www.c-sir.com

    We have started to compile a list of those we meet that are interested in local community meetings as well. We have plans to engage in media activities once we have more information from our research studies. For now we are establishing our visibility and trying to associate with a university to be eligible for government research grants which will be possible if we come up with good policy decisions.

    Comment by Strieb Roman — April 22, 2011 @ 12:02 pm

    • Hi Strieb. I’m glad to see anyone who’s working their way toward new visions. Your emphasis on decentralization is good.

      Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 1:01 pm

      • Thank you, I hope you consider me an ally and if you want to organize together you have my email.

        Comment by Strieb Roman — April 22, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

      • OK, Strieb. Thanks.

        Comment by Russ — April 22, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

  12. As soon as my husband and I are settled somewhere and I can think straight, I’ll help in any way possible. I know quite a bit about the unschooling movement and that’s a potential place for allies.

    We need lawyers. Lots of lawyers.

    Comment by Janice — April 22, 2011 @ 4:25 pm

    • Hmm, if we intend to rely on the integrity of the courts, that sounds like building on sand. I agree that we need to try to fight on legalistic fronts, but I tend to see that as a supplement to civil disobedience rather than primary. That’s for the long run.

      You’re right that schooling is one possible place to find a bridge between seemingly opposed forces.

      Comment by Russ — April 23, 2011 @ 3:10 am

      • I’ve decided that if I can survive on our income, I’ll start a kind of free university and teach the skills (computer literacy, writing, media analysis, sociopathology–self-defense in a pathocracy–, and logic) that students can apply to any field in which they wish to engage.

        I see a group of lawyers of our mindset as simply a back up for self-defense. I would expect to be sued by somebody for providing free or collective education. Maybe I’m just paranoid.

        Comment by Janice — April 25, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

      • That’s a great idea, Janice. I’m not sure offhand how you can be sued, but I don’t doubt there will be all kinds of bizarre assaults on us.

        Did you see my posts on community education about the Land Scandal?

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/land-scandal-community-education/

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/land-scandal-community-education-ideas-toward-an-outline/

        There’s lots of good ideas in the comment threads there as well.

        Comment by Russ — April 25, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  13. There are a lot of organizations out there working for change, so there’s probably existing groups people can join. Russ, are you on the p2p-foundation mailing list? A lot of good links get posted there.

    http://p2pfoundation.net/P2P_Foundation_Email_Lists

    Comment by Karl — April 22, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

    • Thanks, Karl. I’m not on their mailing list yet, but I’ve often gone to the P2P site. I’ll check out the mailing list.

      Comment by Russ — April 23, 2011 @ 3:11 am

  14. To: Jm51 My comments were general…as are these. You can go vertical or horizontal as you choose. The pops in the mountain states have changed quite a bit. A lot of wealthy individuals escape urban problems and enjoy the health and recreational benefits of places like Park City, Jackson Hole & Sun Valley. They meet up with existing groups and it’s an interesting mix. Nor Cal starts above LA below Santa Barbara. People have been pouring out of CA for years-To Oregon (progressives/environmentalists) to AZ (sun loving conservatives) to NV (looking for low costs & tax breaks)and back home to points wherever. Let’s concentrate on the future. The watersheds-future available resources are the key. People can reorient themselves as they usually do-though that takes time due to economic and family ties.
    I have traveled extensively (& off the Interstates)in the 48 -missing only Maine & Wisconsin. There are really local communities in the Appalachians-down through Carolina & West. There are people there who speak dialects difficult to understand. It would be tough integrating with them-at least initially. Let’s agree on your last paragraph..& Kudos to Russ for being our “fearless leader.”

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 22, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

    • Thanks, Natalie. I agree with Jm51’s last paragraph as well, along with much of his constitutional draft which he excerpted in other comment threads.

      Comment by Russ — April 23, 2011 @ 3:16 am

  15. Way off topic here, but I’m pretty sure you’ll find this of considerable interest, Russ:

    http://newleftreview.org/?view=2884

    Comment by paper mac — April 23, 2011 @ 2:54 am

    • Thanks paper mac. I bookmarked that along with the piece tawal linked above. I’ve been meaning to check back in with the progress of things in Egypt, which I’ve somewhat lost track of lately.

      Comment by Russ — April 23, 2011 @ 3:15 am

  16. Hi Russ. I’m guessing you have never noticed my handle before. I’ve been a scattershot poster at BS, NC, and a couple of the other blogs that have been trying to disseminate what has happened to our nation. I lack your and some other commenter’s philosophical depth so I’m a wee diffident.

    Anyhow, I’m so excited about your post that I’m compelled to make myself known here. This is right up the main alley of my thinking. I have gotten together with two other Midwesterners. “Carla”, with whom you’re probably familiar from the handle she uses on Baseline Scenario, where she’s a regular commenter, is from Ohio. “Ann” is from Wisconsin, and I’m from Arkansas. We’ve started a blog. We call it simmeringinthemiddle.com. The activity you’re talking about is just what we’re interested in promoting.

    This post comes right on time for me because getting all of us organized who have been studying, sharing information, talking to each other about the corporate take-over of America has been on my mind for at least several months. Some time ago I decided “Hey. We talk (write) about it all the time. We repeat a lot of ideas. We agree on a lot. Are we ever going to do something?” Whenever I would post that thought, though, I seemed to get studiously ignored. Finally someone said “No offense, but who are you, anyway? You don’t even have a website.”

    “Oh! I need a website to establish trust.” So, long story short, I got together with Carla and Ann and we started a blog. Now I find myself thinking, “Now what?” We have a couple of posts up. It’s an interesting pursuit, but it was never my goal just to have my own Internet space. I really don’t care about that. What I want is to see the partial consensus that we’ve been developing here in the blogosphere be developed into productive activity. That’s why I’m excited to see someone who has some established blog-cred, if you will, talking about pulling us together to organize. And, Hey! You suggested we all start by starting blogs, and Carla, Ann and I already have!

    So! Are we all going to meet over here on your blog to create our assignments? Is this for real? What’s next?

    Comment by jonboinAR — April 23, 2011 @ 10:15 pm

    • Hi Jon. Yes, I’ve seen you around. I’m glad to hear that you guys started a blog which you want to dedicate to the citizen movement. That’s one of the things we need.

      Judging by this comment thread the consensus is that people are sick of discussing the crimes* and want to discuss What To Do. So that looks like it should be the main focus. My next post, in a day or two, will survey the possibilities.

      Then, based on our interests and the activities we’re already involved in, we can decide on who wants to specialize in writing about which line of action.

      For example, the other night I attended a meeting about setting up a time bank. So sometime this week I’ll put up a post about that.

      We could meet here to discuss what was just done and what to do next. Maybe a monthly progress report. I don’t know how much time and energy people have for blogging in addition to real-life activities, so I don’t know what level of online activity people want to set as the goal. It would be good to get some feedback on that.

      BTW, commenter Ross above in the thread is also from the Midwest and is involved in this stuff. I forget whether anybody else is from there.

      *Still, if anyone does want to take responsibility for a particular issue and keep abreast of it, that would be good.

      Comment by Russ — April 24, 2011 @ 6:02 am

  17. Suggest including issue of how higher education has been hijacked.
    Govt money went to academic corporatists who bought lots of property & established fiefdoms. Tuition soared so now families can’t afford college wo govt assistance. Currently,only one-half of incoming freshmen @ UC Irvine come from CA. Admin says rest can’t qualify or pay. Edu is broken from the cradle (broken families) to the very top.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 24, 2011 @ 10:10 am

    • Good idea. The college scam is one of the most pernicious going today. That’s why the other day I suggested that unemployable student debtors will be a valuable target audience.

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/where-will-we-find-the-first-wave/

      Toward that goal we’ll need to document the crime. I guess that’s one more series I’ll have to write.

      Here’s an earlier post on the subject:

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/11/21/student-loan-indenture/

      And that’s in addition to the way the universities are increasingly neoliberal indoctrination centers in the content of the curricula.

      Comment by Russ — April 24, 2011 @ 1:00 pm

    • Natalie, see my reply to Russ above. This is my main area of expertise and interest. Edu is truly broken from cradle to ivory tower.

      Comment by Janice — April 25, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  18. Russ,

    Still checking in whenever I can and I continue to appreciate your efforts here, as well as your comments at NC.

    At the moment, I’m facing a difficult personal situation which doesn’t leave me with much time, however I came across an article by Dan Hamerquist, in which he discusses Madison, Egypt, the possibility of a general strike, among other things, and you might find parts of it interesting, perhaps even relevant to your own work.

    Here’s a couple of excerpts:

    “These moments of explosive insurgency will always resurrect obstacles to their development that will have to be countered. But this shouldn’t obscure the main point – that a mood of rebelliousness is emerging in new places, globally and in this country, and it is showing evidence of a greater staying power.

    “….even if ‘Madison’ falls short of Badiou’s “…event…the sudden creation…of a myriad of new possibilities”, the changes in political context that it announces will positively impact the potentials for radical work. Tipping points in popular moods are hard to estimate, but it is still possible that we may discover proof from ‘Madison’ that what we thought was impossible yesterday is here today…”

    http://www.khukuritheory.net/students-of-these-movements-not-their-stupid-professors/

    Comment by Frank Lavarre — April 25, 2011 @ 7:41 am

    • Thanks, Frank. That Khukuri site is interesting. I’ve read some stuff there before.

      I hope your personal situation works out.

      Comment by Russ — April 25, 2011 @ 9:41 am

  19. Russ,

    I’m pretty pleased with the positive responses you’re getting.

    One aspect of the political that we haven’t touched much upon previously is the role of fiction in shaping beliefs. Fiction is all about the willing suspension of disbelief, which allows people to drop political self-defense mechanisms and actually consider opposing ideas (unless you get too ham-handed with things). One of the things I want to do is develop works of fiction that present movement ideas and ideals in non-threatening ways that allow them to be properly considered for what they are. Think the opposite of “Atlas Shrugged” and update the vehicle from a pompous, long-winded novel to a visually arresting graphic novel, and
    you have the recipe for viral success.

    The point is that part of on-line organizing is using it to bring to bear time-honored techniques for making new ideas palatable. It’s not enough to focus on true believers, you need to reach out to those who do not yet believe. This sentiment was set forth in Murray Rothbard’s no-longer confidential memo to the Volker fund, in which he describes how to drive the neoliberal agenda (he calls it libertarian) into the mainstream using Leninist techniques. Neoliberalism has a lot to teach us about how to build and sustain a movement across generations.

    Comment by Tao Jonesing — April 26, 2011 @ 1:01 am

    • Those are excellent ideas, Tao. One of the reasons I read so much about Lenin and his movement even though I reject authoritarian communism is because he was such a strategic and tactical genius. Classical fascism, and now the neoliberal variety, copied many of the techniques Lenin pioneered.

      And when I write about the need to develop a post-oil democratic ideology, I’m thinking directly of how conservatism built itself up over decades, starting in exactly that way.

      Agreed on the fiction. I started a novel last year, but dropped it because I didn’t really have time, and the writing was excruciating and the results mediocre. I don’t think that’s my forte. Maybe I’ll try again sometime, but probably not. Regarding the graphic novel, are you familiar with Clifford Harper? He’s done lots of excellent work graphically depicting economic and political democracy in simple, powerful ways.

      Comment by Russ — April 26, 2011 @ 2:12 am

  20. This sounds good. Does anyone have any web forums up that we could use to discuss these things? It would be good to have this set up into different topics, and also have the postings more easily accessible.

    Getting people out and involved should be first and foremost. It isn’t quite so important exactly what they are doing, be it tutoring kids, saving a historic neighborhood theater, fighting to save the green space in their area. Anything that gets like minded people together, involved in the people around them, and learning how to succeed as a team will be useful. It would also bring a sense of community that is often severely lacking these days.

    There will no doubt be many differences as to what shape things ultimately should take, and really, this is probably for the best. Different methods and different issues will attract different people. It also seems that most of us view this for what it will be – a very long, multi-pronged, generational battle. Different groups will be working in different ways, but we also have to find a way to connect them in some form.

    Russ-
    Also want to take the time to reply to a couple of points you made in the last post:

    “Even according to the reformism you say you could accept, we’d still be talking about a complete overhaul. People can’t pressure politicians for that in the same way they can if they’re nothing but gun fanatics who don’t really care about anything else.”

    True, people can’t, but I was thinking creating organizations that could. Politicians often times as tugged by the strings of those they see as being able to tug on the strings of the people, rather than the people themselves, as they are malleable. Angering people sympathetic to the Palestinians isn’t a big problem for most politicians, because they think that any voters of theirs that might be turned off by that can easily be swayed by other issues. On the other hand, they know if they go against Israel, AIPAC will slaughter them.

    To my record this hasn’t been tried much for most of the issues we care about. The closes I can think of is the AARP trying to protect Social Security, and that seemed to work out pretty well. The problem I’ve seen is that most left-leaning groups see themselves as fundraisers for the Democrats.

    “Besides, the record is that where it comes to issues of economic rationality and justice, no matter what promises politicians make, they break them.”

    True, but this is a problem not of the system itself, but the people within the system. At the moment we have people who listen to politicians and then vote against their direct interests, even within a system where they have free access to all the information they need. If they are so easily manipulated now, who’s to say that a new system will work better?

    It’s part of the problem I have with those that would throw their weight behind supporting the Green Party. Even if we put in the blood and sweat needed to make that party work on a national level, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it start compromising for power.

    As such, I see the focus as being on organizing and informing people, not in changing the system (or perhaps we’re saying the same thing and disagreeing on terminology).

    Comment by Chatham — April 26, 2011 @ 4:23 am

    • Hi Chatham, I think you have the right idea about getting involved in the community as a value in itself (as long as it’s not some kind of astroturfing which is actually harmful).

      I’d love to see someone put together a forum dedicated to the democratic relocalization struggle. It’s not a job I can undertake by myself since I don’t have the resources or expertise. But I’ve seen some good forum formats (and some crappy ones), and I understand that there’s open source software available, although I don’t know offhand how good the free software formats are.


      “Even according to the reformism you say you could accept, we’d still be talking about a complete overhaul. People can’t pressure politicians for that in the same way they can if they’re nothing but gun fanatics who don’t really care about anything else.”

      True, people can’t, but I was thinking creating organizations that could.

      Actually, by “people” I meant organizations. It just looks like agendas which involve a broad suite of reforms have a perfect record of failure. The only non-corporatist agendas I can think of which have held their ground, let along continued to advance, are single-issue pressure groups. (I just wrote that in the plural, but really the NRA is the only good example I can come up with offhand.)

      We’ll see if the AARP fights for Social Security once the austerians try to drive in a wedge by saying something like, “anyone now 55 or over gets to keep the whole deal, everyone younger will be liquidated.” The criminals have already floated deals like that. The record of practically all liberal and special interest groups nowadays is to double-cross everyone who’s not already grandfathered in, and often them as well.

      “Besides, the record is that where it comes to issues of economic rationality and justice, no matter what promises politicians make, they break them.”

      True, but this is a problem not of the system itself, but the people within the system. At the moment we have people who listen to politicians and then vote against their direct interests, even within a system where they have free access to all the information they need.

      That this is primarily a problem of the system itself is one of my fundamental precepts. I always emphasize the objective structural criminality over the subjective crapulence of individual criminals. The system is intentionally set up to empower organized crime. Madison admits as much in Federalist #10 and 51.

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/federalism-and-the-corporate-gangs-madisons-federalist-10/

      https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/28/madisons-federalist-51-corporate-power-vs-the-naked-citizen/

      It’s part of the problem I have with those that would throw their weight behind supporting the Green Party. Even if we put in the blood and sweat needed to make that party work on a national level, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it start compromising for power.

      It almost certainly would, because that’s the nature of the structure. Representative pseudo-democracy is a form of political and economic elitism. So obviously those it empowers will naturally become steadily more criminalistic. That’s the attrition of the system.

      As such, I see the focus as being on organizing and informing people, not in changing the system (or perhaps we’re saying the same thing and disagreeing on terminology).

      ….who’s to say that a new system will work better?

      I’m certain that the focus must be to organize and inform people toward broad-based relocalization action. The eventual goal of this is the complete transformation of the system.

      Why should we believe positive democracy will work better? Because it’s the opposite of an elitist system. Because it will retain all power at the true level of its sovereignty, at the level of decentralized democratic communities run by the citizens themselves.

      It’s true that I can’t guarantee this would maintain its integrity for the rest of history. But now that we know how political and economic elitism does nothing but fail and tyrannize, this democracy is the only path forward which can possibly work. You know the saying, “democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others”? We now know that representative government is among the others, and that by democracy we can only mean direct council democracy. Now that we’re so harrowingly familiar with the rational absurdity and moral depravity of this elitism, this democracy is the only rational and moral path available.

      Finally, why would anyone with any desire for freedom and sense of human dignity still want to live under the thumb of any of these fraudulent “elites”? Even if you really think reform of elitism is possible, the question remains: Why would you consider it desirable?

      It’s time for humankind to take adult responsibility for itself. Among the crutches we need to cast off is the worst, that we still need some version of parents, no matter how abusive, to tell us what to do.

      Comment by Russ — April 26, 2011 @ 11:53 am

      • “It just looks like agendas which involve a broad suite of reforms have a perfect record of failure. The only non-corporatist agendas I can think of which have held their ground, let along continued to advance, are single-issue pressure groups.”

        Actually, this is what I was thinking. Have an array of strongly focused single-issue groups, and pressure people to support those (or the ones they like) rather than give any money to politicians (or even worse, political parties). The problem I’ve seen is that most groups organized by the left are very general, and as such are very easily co-opted. If there were a strong interest group that would, say, support a fringe tea-partier against a quasi-liberal democrat merely because the tea-partier is for less foreign military adventures, I’d consider that a good thing.

        I think in terms of movements and ideas we should generalize; in terms of issues, we should focus.

        Come to think of it, the ACLU is another good example of how an organization can focus directly on it’s goal and be very useful. We need more of these focused, targeted groups.

        “Finally, why would anyone with any desire for freedom and sense of human dignity still want to live under the thumb of any of these fraudulent “elites”? Even if you really think reform of elitism is possible, the question remains: Why would you consider it desirable?”

        Because I don’t see them as having to be elites. Sure, they have power and abuse it, but that happens in systems at all levels, but there’s still reasons why this is useful when people organize. They are treated as elites mainly because people are willing to defer to them and give them such power. If people are willing to do this, they will be willing to do this no matter what the system is – see how a powerful person on a neighborhood committee can hold up things for years, or office politics. If people are willing to give up their power to others, they will, and others will also try to take what power they can. Localizing power adds some benefits, but it also adds some drawbacks.

        There are two other major reasons why I wouldn’t want to start out by completely changing the system. The first is that there are many, many unforeseen possibilities of what could happen, and many of them could make things substantially worse. I think history shows this pretty well. The second is that we, as a people, have not even attempted most of the opportunities for positive change within this system.

        The truth is founding and getting a new system to work will most probably be massively more difficult than trying to affect change within the current system. It would require long established, well connected and organized groups to keep from falling apart. If a group thinks that working within the current system is too difficult, I don’t have much faith in it building a new system.

        To be honest, I’m relatively happy with the system we have now, all things considered. I’d say if you look at the US from a period of about 1910-20 to 1970-80, we made pretty considerable progress, in terms of infrastructure, the social safety net, civil liberties, desegregation, freedom of speech, environmental protection, and a whole host of other issues. Since there’s so much good that can be done within the system (even if it’s difficult), I’m loathe to start out by trying to throw it out for another system which could be much, much worse.

        Comment by Chatham — April 27, 2011 @ 2:14 am

      • I guess now we are disagreeing about terminology. By definition if you surrender your sovereignty to parasites they become “elites”, using that term not to connote merit, of course, but coercive power. And such power is by definition abusive, since it’s illegitimate. As a human being I absolutely refuse to surrender my human birthright to rule myself and to have access to the land. Those are two primary reasons (and there are many secondary ones) why even “well-behaved” elitism must perish. But as I’ve demonstrated with evidence hundreds of times, this system is a terminal kleptocracy which can never be reformed. It’s vile beyond redemption.

        The liberal “progress” myth you confess to still subscribe to was never anything but an ornament of the profitable stage of capitalism and of the fossil fuel surplus. You need to inform your beliefs with historical context. Since the 70s we’ve been in the period of the terminal decline of the profit rate (because all sectors are mature and true competition would render profiteering untenable) and incipient Peak Oil. These are the reasons all the “progress” you laud is now being completely liquidated.

        This system you still applaud after all the crimes it’s already committed and destruction it’s wrought has vastly worse terrorism in store for us. Here’s where it wants to take us:

        https://attempter.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/part-4-the-full-fury-of-the-new-feudal-war-the-intended-end-state/

        I defy you to name a single trend line which isn’t accelerating directly in that direction, exceot for the small beginnings of a will to resist and reject this fate completely and absolutely. Appeasement and “reform” can never constitute such resistance and rejection. As I already said, the empirical record is one of total failure, yet reformists still want to keep doing the same thing which has failed every time, expecting a different result.

        As for the cliche that uncertainty is frightening and therefore “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know”, I think nothing could possibly be worse than the consummation I describe in that linked post. That final death of humanity is the only thing I fear. And the abject surrender of our birthright to even reformist elites is what I loathe. I’ll reply to the cliche with another saying, one which truly encompasses humanism and democracy: “Those who would surrender freedom for security will get neither and deserve neither.”

        I always add to that, surrendering freedom and security (security from the tyrannical state and corporation) for the sake of material luxury also leads to losing and deserving to lose that as well. As we’re now seeing, everywhere we look.

        Comment by Russ — April 27, 2011 @ 5:29 am

      • “Those who would surrender freedom for security will get neither and deserve neither.”

        I’ve always found that quote to be very poor. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t advocate that to an extent, as that’s the nature of all law and organization – forfeiting of some freedom. Even if you have an anarchist organization, and make every decision by complete consensus, you still are restricting freedom, even if its because of that consensus. Government is, I would say by definition, a restriction of freedom.

        Comment by Chatham — April 27, 2011 @ 7:42 am

      • That’s a straw man. Freedom does not mean chaotic license. Only this system exalts that, for the rich and powerful.

        By coincidence, just this morning I got around to reading this essay I had bookmarked

        http://newleftreview.org/?view=2884

        and the very first paragraph describes perfectly what I mean by trading away freedom, so I’ll just quote from it:

        Two developments were responsible for making ordinary, apolitical Egyptians feel they could no longer carry on with their normal lives. The first was the dissolution of the social contract governing state–society relations since Nasser’s coup in the fifties. The contract involved a div0it exchange: the regime offered free education, employment in an expanding public sector, affordable healthcare, cheap housing and other forms of social protection, in return for obedience. You could have—or at any rate hope for—these benefits, so long as domestic or foreign policies were not questioned and political power was not contested. In other words, people understood that they were trading their political rights for social welfare.

        And where does this trade-off inevitably lead?

        From the eighties onwards, this contract was eroded, but it was not until the new millennium that it was fully abrogated. By this time the regime felt that it had eliminated organized resistance so thoroughly that it no longer needed to pay the traditional social bribes to guarantee political acquiescence. Viewing a population that appeared utterly passive, fragmented and demoralized, the regime believed it was time for plunder, on a grand scale.

        That’s obviously what’s meant whenever anyone uses that quote.

        Comment by Russ — April 27, 2011 @ 9:56 am

  21. I left a comment this AM on the pragmatic side, referencing simmeringinthemiddle, but didn’t see it on the thread. This one is a concern re moral underpinnings of members in the relocalized democratic groups. Over time & at every level, leaders will emerge-those that (usually) are more intelligent, educated & have the desire to lead. These traits/instincts can be used for the good of the group, or develop into an abuse of trust & a power grab. How can a small agriculturally based community protect itself from this common human weakness? If it can’t, a lot of time & energy will be wasted in realignments.Successful small farming groups have been based on religion or strict ideological compliance.This new movement would be too large & diverse to follow that paradigm.

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 26, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

    • Do you mean your comment in the newest thread? It’s there.

      The basic answer to the issue of petty tyrants arising amid a democratic confederation is that nobody would be willing to work with scum like that. Even if somehow they were unable to send him packing, they could simply move to the democratic community next door, and the little tinpot would be isolated, wither and die.

      As for democratic communities, I don’t envision them as pacifistic. For self-defense and keeping the peace vs. whatever residuum of crime might still exist (the vast majority of crime is directly or indirectly from socioeconomic causes, and I expect this would fade out under economic democracy; but nobody thinks all crime would disappear), there would have to be some sort of citizen militia. That’s a citizen responsibility. The existence of mercenaries, either soldiers or police, is always a sign of decadence at best.

      As for an agricultural confederation, while its fundamental ideology must comprise economic and political democracy, there’s still vast room for differences in social, cultural, spiritual views beyond that. The confederation would only refuse to allow any sort of oppressive confinement, anywhere.

      Comment by Russ — April 26, 2011 @ 1:58 pm

  22. Stimulating repartee between Chatham & Russ. My instincts go with Chatham. Elitists will always emerge. The tension among patricians, populists & “the mob” is eternal, and I fear the mob the most. Picked up a copy of Fukuyama’s new “The Origins of Political Order” great time to read it.
    Russ-can you direct me to a “relocalization” group in OC or No San Diego County?

    Comment by Natalie Golovin — April 27, 2011 @ 8:35 pm

    • I don’t know much about groups in California, and so far as I know no one’s set up a national listing site where such groups could list themselves. (That’s another online project which would be worthwhile and that somebody ought to do.)

      But I did this search which seems to offer some leads:

      http://search.aol.com/aol/search?s_it=wscreen-searchboxhtml&q=san+diego+sustainability+transition+town

      You can check that out, and play around with other search terms. If there’s anything out there with a web presence, you’ll find it.

      Comment by Russ — April 28, 2011 @ 6:53 am

  23. […] rhizomes. The ideas developed here could then be adapted to all sorts of local conditions.   The online organizing we discussed can function both to help organize the local groups and to develop this network.  8. Then, once […]

    Pingback by Some Movement Basics « Volatility — May 17, 2011 @ 1:45 am


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